Monday, April 27, 2015

ARC Review: Part Time Cowboy

Part Time Cowboy
Maisey Yates
Contemporary Romance/Western
Copper Ridge Series/Book 1
Harlequin/April 1, 2015

Sadie Miller isn't expecting any welcome-home parades on her return to Copper Ridge. Least of all from part-time rancher, full-time lawman Eli Garrett. The straight-laced, impossibly hot deputy sheriff glares at her like she's the same teenage hoodlum who fled town ten years ago. But running from her demons has brought Sadie full circle, ready to make a commitment at last. Not to a man, but to a B and B. On Garrett land. Okay, so her plan has a tiny flaw…

Eli works too hard to let a blonde ball of trouble mess up his town. But keeping an eye on Sadie makes it tough to keep his hands off her. And if she's so wrong for him, why does being with her feel so right?

When I think of Oregon, ranching doesn't come to mind. So it was a pleasant surprise to find a story about ranching set in Oregon. I was curious to see if the setting would give the story a different feel from one set in the more traditional Montana or Wyoming. The main difference is Copper Ridge, the fictional town, is on the coast so we get some mention of the beautiful Oregon coastline. Other than that, this story could have been taken place in any number of ranching areas.

Coming home can be a profound experience. Good or bad, coming home has an impact on the person we were when we left. For Sadie Miller, coming home is filled with frayed nerves and uncertainty. Sadie's departure from Copper Ridge was not a joyous occasion, rather it was more a run-for-your-life situation. She has since been running from one place to another, never really finding the right fit. Sadie thinks it's time to settle somewhere so she heads back to Copper Ridge. It seemed a little odd that she would sign a five year contract for the B&B when she has spent the past ten years wandering across the country. I found it a little hard to believe Sadie would have such a turnabout. She is the opposite of her high school crush Eli Garrett.

Ah, can you not like them? They make is easy to overlook the smell of hay and horses and simply concentrate on the way their Wranglers fit them so well. Even though the hero, Eli Garrett is a deputy sheriff, he still helps his brother Conner at the family ranch. Eli and Sadie had a run in years ago when Eli was a new deputy. That encounter set off a series of events in Sadie's young life that Eli has no idea about. When he does find out his reaction says a lot about his character. He is not only horrified but sorry about the part he inadvertently played. Eli's main problem is he takes on too much responsibility for others which leads to guilt when things don't work out. Yes, there were times when I just wanted to smack him and tell him he is not everyone's parent.

Sadie and Eli get off to a rocky start when Sadie rolls back into town. It's only made worse by their past and their current proximity with Sadie living on the ranch. It's inevitable they will run into each other and those run-ins lead to all sorts of trouble. The sexual tension is done just right with Eli's old man, uptight attitude against Sadie's fun loving, easy going ways. Loved the friction these two generated!

Even though this is technically not the first story in the series, there is a novella that comes prior, Part Time Cowboy, it is a solid start and makes me look forward to the next two books. Next up is Connor's story. He is Eli's older, drunken brother. Followed by the sister, Kate's story. Both sound like they will be good reads based on the blurbs and what I know of the characters.

Rating: B

Copper Ridge Series ~

Shoulda Been a Cowboy (novella)
Part Time Cowboy
Brokendown Cowboy (May 26, 2015)
Bad News Cowboy (July 28, 2015)

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

ARC Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses

A Court of Thorns and Roses
Sarah J. Maas
A Court of Thorns and Roses/Book 1
Bloomsbury Children's/May 5, 2015

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she's been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.

My first Sarah J. Maas book and I'm already looking forward to the next one! Maas leads the reader along on an adventure worthy of the name. Since this was my first experience reading Maas, I kept my expectations open, as always hoping for a good story. What I got was that and much more!

The world Feyre lives in is so far from where she came from, not in distance but in circumstance. She is the provider for her little family consisting of her father and two sisters. Feyre's main goal is to feed her family. That's it. She has no real hopes for the future because she doesn't dare think about the future. It's too depressing. So when she finds herself taken across the Wall and into the land of the Fae she is all about surviving and finding a way back to her family. It's not because she has such great love for them, no, what she feels for them is responsibility. A promise made is a promise kept. Feyre always keeps her promises. The struggles Feyre goes through with the obligations to her family, her desire to leave them and the responsibility for them behind adds more depth to her character.

Feyre may only be nineteen but she is an old nineteen. She has had to shoulder the burden of her family for many years. It is that burden which leads her into the world of the Fae and the High Lord. What Feyre learns about the Fae and about her host is stories are sometimes just that. But there is also some truth to the tales of the Fae. Feyre's experience in Tamlin's court lead her into a world of both beauty and horror. She not only forges grudging friendships, she also makes a profound impact on her host, the High Lord. Tamlin is heavily conflicted over his feelings towards Feyre. This is evident in how he treats her, at first wanting little to nothing to do with her, then spending more time with her, almost as if they are becoming friends.

Both Feyre and Tamlin are well drawn characters filled with strengths and flaws defined in ways to pull the reader in. The romance is filled with friction and I liked how the conflict played out not only between Feyre and Tamlin but also between the secondary characters who are loyal to Tamlin. This loyalty is in direct conflict with their feelings towards the new human in their realm. The Fae in general have little liking for humans, with Tamlin's followers barely tolerating Feyre in the beginning. Over time, Feyre wins over not only Tamlin but some of his most staunchest allies.

If I found any thing wrong with the story it would be the slower pacing at certain points. I would find myself wanting the characters to just get on with it. They know what they should do, they've thought it through, now do it! I think I became inpatient simply because the rest of the story was so very good!

This is said to be similar to Beauty and the Beast but I think the same can be said of many a romance whether it was intended by the author or not. And yes, Tamlin can literally turn into a beast but some heroes can be quite beastly without going all furry. If the comparison to the tale of Beauty and the Beast turns you off, don't let it turn you off of Feyre and Tamlin's story.

Rating: A-

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

TBR Challenge: Simply Irresistible

Simply Irresistible
Rachel Gibson
Contemporary Romance
Chinooks Hockey Team/Book 1
Avon/January 1, 1998

Georgeanne Howard leaves her fiancé at the altar when she realizes she can't marry a man old enough to be her grandfather, no matter how rich he is. Hockey superstar John Kowalsky unknowingly helps her escape, and only when it's too late does he realize that he's absconded with his boss's bride. This bad boy isn't looking to be anybody's savior but his own. Still, a long night stretches ahead of them—a night too sultry to resist temptation. 

Seven years later, Georgeanne and John meet again. She is on her way to becoming Seattle's domestic darling and he is past his hellraising days. Shocked to learn that he has a daughter, John's determined to be part of her life. Georgeanne has loved John since the moment she jumped into his car, but will he risk the wrath of his boss, and one final chance at glory, to prove that this time his love will be everlasting?

Another month gone and another book off the TBR pile. Yeah! At this rate ... well, I'll always have a TBR pile but it does give a false sense of accomplishment. :)

This month's theme was contemporary. While I have read a few of Rachel Gibson's books, I own more than I've read. Simply Irresistible, and the series as a whole have popped up as recommend numerous times, which no doubt is why I picked them up.

Now, I'm not much for watching sports. Mostly because I find them boring. Slow with lots of down time, except for hockey and soccer. Those I'll watch. Not necessarily a whole game but I've been know stop and watch a while when channel surfing. So I was happy to see the hero was a professional hockey player. Turns out the downside was there is little hockey playing going on. I would have liked to read more about the culture these often violent men live in.

At first, I found Georgeanne annoyingly southern. Nothing against southern women but Georgeanne seemed to exemplify all the southern female clichés. She played helpless and batted her eyelashes to emphasis her poor little me cliché. After her and John's night together, we jump forward seven years and Georgeanne has become more secure in who she is and her abilities to take care of herself. She was definitely more likable.

John was okay in the beginning. He had this gorgeous woman in distress practically begging him to save her. He's a guy so he helps her out. She drives him crazy with her incessant chatter but he decides to focus on her luscious body instead. He does point out her nonstop talking and how he doesn't care about the stories she tells about people he doesn't know. Georgie is a little offended but that doesn't stop her from having a one night stand with the hunky hockey player.

Seven years have past without any contact between John and Georgeanne but that is about to change. Georgeanne has done well for herself, becoming part owner of a catering business. John is captain of the Chinooks hockey team and has left his drunk and disorderly lifestyle behind. When John finds out he has a daughter he is determined to be in her life. He's also mad as hell at Georgeanne for not telling him. I don't blame him but he did leave Georgeanne with the distinct impression that he wanted nothing to do with her. So in her defense, I can see why she didn't tell John. Plus, he broke her heart.

So they come to an agreement to allow John to get to know Lexi, the little girl. Of course there are some bumps in the road as well as a few very large potholes before they get to their happy ending. The part before those big potholes was probably my favorite part, seeing them slowly becoming a family. But then everything gets messed up and John and Georgeanne are at odds with Lexi in the middle. I'd say Lexi is my favorite character in the book. I never did really warm up to John or Georgeanne.

There is a secondary romance which I would have liked to see more time spent on developing but it is secondary so no such luck. I have a feeling I might have liked the hero and heroine more than John and Georgeanne.

So, going on the blurb, it was a fairly predictable romance and while I liked some parts, it left me feeling a bit disappointed.

Side note: I did read the second book in the series, See Jane Score, over five years ago and liked it a heck of a lot better. Link to review is below.

Rating: C

Chinooks Hockey Team Series ~

Simply Irresistable
See Jane Score
The Trouble With Valentine's Day
True Love and Other Disasters
Nothing But Trouble
Any Man of Mine

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Review: The Scribe

The Scribe
Elizabeth Hunter
Contemporary Fantasy/PNR
The Irin Chronicles/Book 1
Self Published/October 15, 2013

Hidden at the crossroads of the world, an ancient race battles to protect humanity, even as it dies from within.

Ava Matheson came to Istanbul looking for answers, but others came looking for her. A reckless warrior guards her steps, but will Malachi’s own past blind him to the truth of who Ava might be? While ancient forces gather around them, both Ava and Malachi search for answers. 

Whispering voices. Deadly touch. Their passion should be impossible... or it could be the only thing that will keep them alive.

A shout out to Kristie from Ramblings on Romance for recommending The Scribe. I might have missed this wonderful fantasy and missed adding Elizabeth Hunter to my list of authors to read. 

Ava Matheson has traveled the word, photographing some of the most beautiful and brutal scenes. She comes to Istanbul to meet with a doctor she hopes can help her. Ava hears voices in her head. It's hard for her to be around crowds for obvious reasons. She thinks she's crazy but still holds out a small hope something can be done to "fix her", or at least lessen the voices. What she finds in Istanbul is far more than she expected and leads her into a world she could not have imagined. The world Hunter has created is fascinating for its history as well as how the inhabitants exist in concordance with our world. 

It's through these revelations Ava meets Malachi, a man who shadows her moves and the others who stalker her. Malachi wants to keep her safe but has to earn her trust first. Their relationship is a jagged mess of misinformation made believable through circumstances. Malachi has a mission which doesn't include falling for Ava. All that is set aside when he realizes she is much more than he thought, not only to his fellow Irin brethren but to himself. 

Ava is a strong heroine. She is accustomed to being on her own so she knows how to take care of herself. Her intelligence is evident when she eludes the Grigori when the try to follow her. I found her to be very likable. She doesn't intimidate easily and can hold her own with Malachi and his brothers. Malachi is equally a strong hero. He gives so much of himself for his brothers and then for Ava. It was wonderful to see how the relationship between these two develops into to an enduring love affair. 

The pacing is kept tight with just the right amount of tension and mystery. As more is revealed about Malachi and his brothers in arms, we also learn about Ava's connection to the Irin and her importance to the Grigori. The Grigori are the ancient beings who prey on women, making them desire the Grigori until they will do anything they are told. Then, the women are used and discarded like trash. It is these evil men Malachi and his brethren fight. The long held hatred between the Irin and the Grigori only builds as Ava and Malachi search for answers about Ava's ability and how it plays into the future of the Irin.

The feel of the story takes on not only a suspenseful romance but an exotic tone filling the senses with the sights, sounds and smells of Istanbul. It is an exotic location and Hunter's writing makes the reader want to absorb every essence that is Istanbul. I've never been there, and you wouldn't find it on my top ten list of places I want to visit. But now, now it might just make that list. 

The Scribe is a wonderful blend of romance, suspense, action and paranormal. One word of caution - there isn't a Happily Ever After at the end of The Scribe. Rather, this is the beginning of Ava and Malachi's story and it continues into the next two books of the trilogy. 

Rating: A

The Irin Chronicles Series ~

The Scribe
The Singer
The Secret

Thursday, April 9, 2015

ARC Review: Last One Home

Last One Home
Debbie Macomber
Ballantine Books/March 10, 2015

Growing up, Cassie Carter and her sisters, Karen and Nichole, were incredibly close -- until one fateful event drove them apart. After high school, Cassie ran away from home to marry the wrong man, throwing away a college scholarship and breaking her parents’ hearts. To make matters worse, Cassie had always been their father’s favorite -- a sentiment that weighed heavily on her sisters and made Cassie’s actions even harder to bear. 

Now thirty-one, Cassie is back in Washington, living in Seattle with her daughter and hoping to leave her past behind. After ending a difficult marriage, Cassie is back on her own two feet, the pieces of her life slowly but surely coming together. Despite the strides Cassie’s made, she hasn't been able to make peace with her sisters. Karen, the oldest, is a busy wife and mother, balancing her career with raising her two children. And Nichole, the youngest, is a stay-at-home mom whose husband indulges her every whim. Then one day, Cassie receives a letter from Karen, offering what Cassie thinks may be a chance to reconcile. And as Cassie opens herself up to new possibilities -- making amends with her sisters, finding love once more -- she realizes the power of compassion, and the promise of a fresh start.

Last One Home is not what I would consider a straight up romance. There is a romance but the sisters' relationships and their attempts at reconciliation is the driving force of the story. The main focus is Cassie and her desire to get back in touch with her sisters whom she has not seen since she left home at eighteen. Years have gone by with little communication between the sisters but that's all about to change.

Cassie Carter has done a lot of hard growing up since she left home as a teenager. Her marriage ended in disaster and she was lucky to get away. Cassie moves to Seattle with her twelve year old daughter to give them a better life. She's close to her childhood home but distant enough to give her the fresh start she's dreamed of. Part of the new life Cassie envisions for herself and her daughter is their own home. That's were Habitat for Humanity comes in along with Steve Brody.

Steve Brody is a workaholic and has no patience for anyone he thinks is a slacker. He allows his first look of Cassie to set his mind to the type of person she is. He really should learn not to judge a book by it's cover - or in this case, a person. Cassie doesn't let Steve's surly attitude get to her and stop her from making her dream of home ownership come true. I understood how Steve's past colored his objectivity when it came to Cassie but being a jerk right off the bat didn't exactly endear him to me.

Cassie's sisters, Karen and Nichole started off as immature bitches. They were still holding grudges against Cassie and her leaving without knowing the full story. It turns out their lives were not as perfect as they thought. Cassie showed how much she had matured by moving beyond the past and welcoming her sisters into her life. There were times when I felt sorry for Cassie and how everyone was treating her. The people in her life assumed they knew things about her and judged her on those assumptions. Some of the scenes evoked such strong emotions for Cassie, it took me by surprise.

It's not only Cassie Steve becomes closer to but also her daughter Aimee. Cassie and Aimee are a package deal. Cassie would do anything for Aimee and I did enjoy their close relationship but there were times when Cassie needed to take charge and be the parent, not the friend. Aimee was too manipulitive when it came to getting her mom and Steve together. She pushed and Cassie should have taken charge of the situation but she didn't which left me frustrated.

I really don't know how Cassie found the time to work as a stylist, volunteer as a women's shelter, put in hours at Habitat for Humanity and raise her daughter. When did this woman sleep? Add in a new romance and I had to wonder how anyone could realistically keep this schedule. Good thing this is fiction!

The plot takes a few turns which were mapped out early on so no real surprises. There are some emotional moments but ultimately, it's an easy, predictable story.

Rating: C+

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

ARC Review: Vanishing Girls

Vanishing Girls
Lauren Oliver
Contemporary Young Adult
HarperCollins/March 10, 2015

Dara and Nick used to be inseparable, but that was before – before Dara kissed Parker, before Nick lost him as her best friend, before the accident that left Dara’s beautiful face scarred.

Now the two sisters, who used to be so close, aren't speaking. In an instant, Nick lost everything and is determined to use the summer to get it all back. 

But Dara has other plans. When she vanishes on her birthday, Nick thinks Dara is just playing around. But another girl has vanished, too—nine-year-old Elizabeth Snow—and as Nick pursues her sister, she becomes increasingly convinced that the two disappearances may be linked.

In this edgy and compelling novel, New York Times bestselling author Lauren Oliver creates a world of intrigue, loss, and suspicion as two sisters search to find themselves, and each other.

The relationships between sisters can run the gamut of best friends for life to wanting to choke the life of out each other. With Dara and Nick, it runs somewhere in between. They are only eleven months apart with Nick being the elder. Nick also wears the title of perfect older sister to Dara's rebellious little sister. They each feel they have very defined roles in their family. There are a lot of underlying issues both sisters have with each other, not the least of which is resentment. Nick resents Dara for having to clean up the messes her rebellions make and Dara resents Nick for always being first and best.

The sisters' relationship is not the only one explored but it is kept central to the story. The secondary relationships allow the reader to see how Dara and Nick relate to the people in their lives. So much of the push of the story hinges on finding the truth of what happened on the night of the accident. Through experiencing memories of before the accident, we see how Dara and Nick's relationship had begun to deteriorate with neither one of them knowing how to fix the ever growing rift between them. I loved how even while you feel the animosity between them, there is still the underlying love they will always have for each other.

The plot twist took me by surprise and being surprised took me by surprised. (You know what I mean.) I usually, but not always, figure out what the twist is or at least have some clue before the big reveal but not this time. This time when I read the plot twist my reaction ran along the lines of "wait...what?" I had to re-read the section in order to absorb what had happened. A shrink might say I didn't see it coming because I didn't want it to be true. Whatever the reason, I didn't like it and I'll leave it at that.

Even after my reaction to the plot twist, I still enjoyed the overall story. Oliver can write, there's no denying it. She is able to make her characters feel an array of strong emotions all while conveying those emotions to the reader, making this story a page turner.

Rating: A-