Sunday, March 31, 2013

Review: Breaking Point

Breaking Point
C. J. Box
Joe Pickett/Book 13
Putnam/March 12, 2013

It was always good to see Butch Roberson, Joe thought—a hardworking, upright local business owner whose daughter was friends with his own. Little did he know that when he talked to Butch that day in the forest, the man was about to disappear. He was heading into the mountains to scout elk, he said, but instead he was running. Two EPA employees had just been murdered, and all signs pointed to him as the killer. 

As the manhunt organized itself, Joe heard more of the story—about the tract of land Butch and his wife had bought to build their retirement home on, until the EPA declared it a wetland. About the penalties they charged him when he balked, new ones piling up every day, until the family was torn apart by debt . . . and finally, it seems, the man just cracked. 

It was an awful story. But was it the whole story? The more Joe looks into it, the more he begins to wonder—and the more he finds himself in the middle of a war he never expected and never wanted. Powerful forces want Roberson not just caught but dead—and the same goes for anyone who stands in their way. Every man reaches his breaking point. Joe Pickett may just have reached his.

I recently started this series and have simply devoured it!  The character of Joe Pickett is an ordinary man who finds himself in some extraordinary situations.  I've come to like not only Joe but his wife Marybeth and their daughters.  The secondary characters that populate the small Wyoming town of Saddlestring make for interesting reading.

Joe is back doing what he loves, in the great outdoors, taking care of not only the local wildlife but the hunters who make Joe's work interesting and sometimes dangerous.  Joe is far from perfect, having a tendency to mess up but he sure does try to do what is right even when it would be so much easier to look the other way.

One thing about this series, whether you have strong feelings either way about hunting, it gives different perspectives on the subject.  You may not change your person viewpoint but it does give you something to think about.  Breaking Point focuses on the government and individual rights.  How the government can bend and even break what a person would perceive as obvious rights is scary.  Box explores the repercussions when one man's rights are abused.  Breaking Point drove home the fact that this can happen to anyone.

If you enjoy mystery and suspense set among the beautiful outdoors, give the Joe Pickett series a try.  

Rating:  B+

Joe Pickett Series ~

Open Season
Savage Run
Trophy Hunt
Out of Range
In Plain Sight
Free Fire
Blood Trail
Below Zero
Nowhere to Run
Cold Wind
Force of Nature
Breaking Point

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

ARC Review: The Wanderer

The Wanderer
Robyn Carr
Contemporary Romance
Thunder Point/Book 1
Harlequin/March 26, 2013

Nestled on the Oregon coast is a small town of rocky beaches and rugged charm. Locals love the land's unspoiled beauty. Developers see it as a potential gold mine. When newcomer Hank Cooper learns he's been left an old friend's entire beachfront property, he finds himself with a community's destiny in his hands. 

Cooper has never been a man to settle in one place, and Thunder Point was supposed to be just another quick stop. But Cooper finds himself getting involved with the town. And with Sarah Dupre, a woman as complicated as she is beautiful. 

With the whole town watching for his next move, Cooper has to choose between his old life and a place full of new possibilities. A place that just might be home.

Happiness is a new Robyn Carr book!  When the setting is on the beautiful Oregon coast, that just sweetens the deal.  I've enjoyed Ms. Carr's Virgin River series and I'm sure there will be some comparisons but The Wanderer and its Thunder Point setting stand on its own.

Hank Cooper is in for a surprise when he lands in Thunder Point.  It isn't at all what he expected - not the town or the property his friend left him.  Soon he comes to know not only the town but the people, especially Sarah Dupre.  Hank is a lone who really doesn't want to be alone, he just doesn't know it yet.  The property and Sarah bring out this need to not only feel needed but to belong.  I liked how Carr brings Hank around to seeing that it is okay to not only want but need to stay in one place.

Sarah Dupre is a woman with a lot of responsibility.  Sarah is kept busy juggling her job, raising her teenage brother and her Great Dane Ham.  She's looking for a good, stable town to raise her brother Logan.  She hope's to find that in Thunder Point.  One thing I appreciated in this story was seeing Sarah and Logan interact.  It's a delicate balance between being big sister and stand-in parent and Sarah isn't perfect but her heart is in the right place.

Hank and Sarah work well as a couple.  We can see how they become comfortable as a couple which is a nice change from some romance where the hero and heroine continue to fight the obvious.  It wasn't a rushed romance but developed at a slower pace, due I think to how busy they both are with responsibilities they can't easily shrug off.

I liked a number of the secondary characters and can easily see myself anticipating their stories.  Thunder Point has that small town feel Carr is known for but still has plenty of influence from the outside world, giving readers a number of different issues to relate to.

I'm sure Ms. Carr's fans might miss trips to Virgin River but Thunder Point will no doubt have them coming back for more.

Rating: A-

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Review: Pivot Point

Pivot Point
Young Adult/Suspense/Futuristic
Pivot Point/Book 1
HarperTeen/February 12, 2013

Knowing the outcome doesn’t always make a choice easier . . .

Addison Coleman’s life is one big “What if?” As a Searcher, whenever Addie is faced with a choice, she can look into the future and see both outcomes. It’s the ultimate insurance plan against disaster. Or so she thought. 

When Addie’s parents ambush her with the news of their divorce, she has to pick who she wants to live with—her father, who is leaving the paranormal compound to live among the “Norms,” or her mother, who is staying in the life Addie has always known. Addie loves her life just as it is, so her answer should be easy. 

One Search six weeks into the future proves it’s not. In one potential future, Addie is adjusting to life outside the Compound as the new girl in a Norm high school where she meets Trevor, a cute, sensitive artist who understands her. In the other path, Addie is being pursued by the hottest guy in school—but she never wanted to be a quarterback’s girlfriend. When Addie’s father is asked to consult on a murder in the Compound, she’s unwittingly drawn into a dangerous game that threatens everything she holds dear. With love and loss in both lives, it all comes down to which reality she’s willing to live through . . . and who she can’t live without.

I want to give a big Thank You to Nath for recommending this book. Once I started it, I didn't want to put it down!

I liked the premise of this right from the start.  It's that premise, the ability to see the future and choose between two different paths, that drives the plot.  The main character of Addie Coleman is a combination of inexperienced teen, intelligent young woman and someone who's integrity is at the core of her character.  Addie isn't perfect, she makes some presumptions that prove to be incorrect but she learns quickly and proves her loyalty to friends and family.  What more could you ask of someone?  

The story switches between Addie's two potential futures.  West handles the switching very well.  The reader is given enough of each future to drive the story and maintain interest but not give too much away.  I kept wanting to read more from each Search point of view until I couldn't decide which one I wanted most!  

The people in Addie's life are an eclectic mix of smart, loyal friends as well as some who are only after what they want and will use Addie to reach their goals.   The romance and suspense are well done and add to the character development.  This may be a world with people of amazing mental powers but it's also a world like our own making it easy to relate to Addie, her family, friends and there lives.  

The thing about Pivot Point is that no choice is the absolute perfect choice.   We see how Addie's choice will not only affect Addie but the people she cares about the most.  Which is why it's such a difficult one to make.

Rating: A

Pivot Point Series

Pivot Point
Unnamed Sequel (February 2014)

Sunday, March 17, 2013

ARC Review: Making Him Sweat

Making Him Sweat
Meg Maguire
Contemporary Romance
Wilinski/Book 1
Harlequin/Blaze #740/February 19, 2013

She's hitting below the belt… 

Round 1 
In this corner is admittedly romantic Jenna Wilinski, who’s inherited a rather seedy boxing gym from her estranged father. With it, she can realize her dream of launching an upscale matchmaking business…provided she can take on the very intimidating—and wickedly hot—boxer who stands in her way!

Round 2 

In the far corner is former pro boxer Mercer Rowley. He’s the only one who can protect his “home”—even if it is a little run-down— from his determined and feisty little opponent. But man, once the gloves come off, his hands just want to touch her everywhere…This matchup is too close to call. But no matter which contender comes out on top, the other is sure to enjoy every minute of it....

Well, I finished it.  It took far too long to read for a Blaze.  I can't say I ever really got into the story or the hero or heroine.  I was interested in the setting of the fight school and the people it attracted.  The matchmaking business didn't do anything for me.  It felt like Jenna could have started any business, it was only there for conflict with the gym.

Jenna Wilinski knows very little about her father, only that he loved his gym more than her or her mother.  Or so she thought.  Jenna learns her father isn't necessarily the man she thought he was and while the revelations are important to her character development, it's the development of Jenna and Mercer's relationship that I was more interested in seeing develop in a more believable scenario.

Mercer Rowley is a man with a rough exterior that holds an intelligent, kind-hearted man a woman can appreciate.  I liked Mercer up to a point. He is a man loyal to a fault, who stands up for his friends but he didn't stand up for himself.  If a person won't stand up for themselves, why should anyone else?  That really bugged me.  I wanted him to get mad about the situation he finds himself in.  At the unfairness of working so hard for someone and something and then having it giving away to someone (Jenna) who doesn't appreciate what it truly is.  I think Mercer just wasn't alpha enough for me.

Unfortunately, Jenna and Mercer never really clicked for me.  I just couldn't see them together.  Mercer was too rough around the edges, needing a woman who could hold her own.  Jenna came across as too needy when it came to men and relationships.

While Jenna and Mercer's story didn't work for me, what I saw of the hero and heroine of the next book sparked my interest.  Hopefully, they will come through where Jenna and Mercer didn't.

Rating:  C-

Wilinski Series

Making Him Sweat
Taking Him Down (July 2013)
Driving Her Wild (October 2013)

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Review: Calculated in Death

Calculated in Death
J. D. Robb
In Death/Book 36
Putnam/February 26, 2013

On Manhattan's Upper East Side a woman lies dead at the bottom of the stairs, stripped of all her valuables. Most cops might call it a mugging gone wrong, but Lieutenant Eve Dallas knows better.

A well-off accountant and a beloved wife and mother, Marta Dickenson doesn't seem the type to be on anyone's hit list. But when Eve and her partner, Peabody, find blood inside the building, the lieutenant knows Marta's murder was the work of a killer who's trained, but not professional or smart enough to remove all the evidence. 

But when someone steals the files out of Marta's office, Eve must immerse herself in her billionaire husband Roarke's world of big business to figure out who's cruel and callous enough to hire a hit on an innocent woman. And as the killer's violent streak begins to escalate, Eve knows she has to draw him out, even if it means using herself as bait. . .

I always look forward to spending time with Eve, Roarke, Peabody and the rest of the crew and Calculated in Death simply reminded me why.  These characters have become such a part of my reading history, I can't imagine being without them.

Dallas and Peabody catch a case which on the surface looks like a mugging but there are too many clues that point to something more sinister than a mugging gone wrong.  One thing that stood out for me was the depth of character of the victim, Marta Dickenson.  I felt we really got to know her through her family, friends and coworkers.  That doesn't always happen but rather we get the basics and maybe some emotions from those that are grieving.  With Marta there was a full picture of who she was and what was important to her.

The mystery surrounding Marta's murder wasn't much of a mystery.  Not to the reader or to the cops.  It was all a matter of building the case and pulling the bad guys out in the open.  There were moments when the case got a little too confusing for me with the multitude of potential suspects.  Dallas' murder board was getting crowded and I found myself wishing I had my own board just to help keep track of all the players.

We do get to see how Eve and Roarke's relationship has become a comfortable fit for both of them.  You really can't imagine one without the other which says a lot about Eve and how far she has come as a character.

Calculated in Death shows why this series has maintained it's fans and longevity.  

Rating: B 

Monday, March 4, 2013

ARC Review: Trapped

Kevin Hearne
Iron Druid Chronicles/Book 5
Del Rey/November 27, 2012

After twelve years of secret training, Atticus O'Sullivan is finally ready to bind his apprentice, Granuaile, to the earth and double the number of Druids in the world.  But on the eve of the ritual, the world that thought he was dead abruptly discovers that he's still alive, and they would much rather he return to the grave.  

Having no other choice, Atticus, his trusted Irish wolfhound, Oberon, and Granuaile travel to the base of Mount Olympus, where the Roman god Bacchus is anxious to take his sworn revenge - but he'll have to get in line behind an ancient vampire, a band of dark elves, and an old god of mischief, who all seem to have KILL THE DRUID at the top of their to-do lists.

This is a series that continues to deliver excitement, complex plots and wickedly evil adversaries for Atticus and friends to fight.  Sometimes, there does seem to be a few too many of those evil adversaries for Atticus to handle, as was the case in Trapped.  A little too much going on, I would have preferred more focus on Atticus and Grauaile's changing relationship and fewer interruptions.

The story has a lot of action, tension and what I've begun to think as Hearne's trademark humor.  Smart, dry and self-deprecating on Atticus' part.  With Oberon, well he has the humor just as I would imagine a dog would have.  Makes me want my own Oberon.

The way Atticus and Granuaile's relationship has evolved is not only satisfying but makes sense since they've spent so much time together (twelve years).  They also have developed a deep respect for each other and their abilities.  This is more evident on Atticus' part since Granuaile already had some hero-worshiping going on.

Hearne does well keeping this reader's interest.  The only time I find myself wavering is when the mythological history lessons begin. Then I wish I had a fast forward button.  This may only be a personal preference but after the fast pace of the rest of the story, it becomes hard to downshift to the slower gear.

I do like how the different mythologies are connected to Atticus and his world.  But sometimes it becomes a little crowded and greater focus on one or two would have given a more streamlined feel to the story.  Even with those few minor problems, I found Trapped to be entertaining and the series as a whole one to recommend.

Rating:  B

The Iron Druid Chronicles

Hunted (June 25, 2013)