Monday, March 30, 2015

All the Light We Cannot See/Anthony Doerr/531 pgs./March challenge

Two characters on converging paths: Marie-Laure, blind since the age of six, living in Paris with her father, the locksmith for the Museum of Natural History; and Werner, living with his sister, Jutta, in an orphanage in Germany. Werner is quite brilliant when it comes to electronics--especially repairing radios. He is seen as an asset to the Germans as Hitler is taking a stronghold in Germany; as a result, Werner "earns" a place in the brutal Hitler Youth academy. Marie-Laure, now twelve years old, and her father flee the now German occupied Paris, arriving in Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure's reclusive great-uncle lives; her father may or may not be carrying with him an invaluable gem. Alternately, Werner is becoming a product of his Hitler Youth training. Years into the war, Marie-Laure's and Werner's paths cross--leading up to that point and its aftermath makes for a compelling and unforgettable read. Highly, highly, highly recommended!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands / Chris Bohjalian / 288 p.

This story is at once tragic and hopeful. Emily/Abby is a teenage girl who already makes questionable choices. When a nuclear disaster claims the lives of both of her parents---with her father being blamed for the disaster--her decision to run is just the first of many more dangerous and life-threatening situations in which she places herself. The story is told in first person and jumps all over the place chronologically. But this makes sense because it matches Emily's mind and emotions.

I was amazed at how well the middle-aged male author could be the voice of a teenage girl. That voice was aided by the young woman who narrated the audio version. At the end of the book, I learned just how important she was. It turns out that Grace Blewer is the author's daughter. Besides the narration, Grace also helped her father with the language, phrases and thoughts of a teenager girl.

There is a quite a bit of profanity and discussion of sexual situations and this makes it an "adult" level book.  But I would recommend it to older teens as well.

Second Chance Hero / Jeannie Moon 240 p.

Second Chance Hero / Jeannie Moon 240 p.

The worst happens, soldier Tom Albanese dies on the hospital table with his nurse fiance preparing to her best to save his life.  Her day goes even worse when his girl friend makes an appearance.   When  she goes to treat Tom's commander, she collapses.  He sees her pain and tries to cushion her fall.

Back stateside, Owen Kent cannot put the nurse out of his mind.  And he is speechless when he realizes the nanny he is sent to pick up is the nurse.  Kim doesn't remember meeting him.  She is putting the army and Kandahar out of bounds for any talks with him.  She carried Tom's secret with her.  Tom's family is taking his loss hard.  She is not going to reveal his duplicity.  She needs help getting through this.  Owen has a fixing habit that he can't break.

Warrior Heir / Cinda Williams Chima 426 p.

Warrior Heir / Cinda Williams Chima 426 p.

For Jack Swift, it is a normal Ohio day.  He snarfs down breakfast and speeds out the door, forgetting to take his all important heart medicine.  At the soccer tryouts, he sends his opponent into the net without trying.  Somehow he feels stronger even without his heart medicine.  Without any warning and knowledge of why, Jack is the focus of a man hunt.  With the help of his aunt and non-warrior friends he escapes.  He is surprised when his Aunt Linda shares with him that he is a descendant of a long line of ancient warriors.  These warriors are used settle dissension between the houses of magicians --and they fight to the death.  He is overwhelmed with learning the art of fighting, learning the rules of combat as well as wizard skills, and keeping up with his education.  A budding friendship with a girl who seems to understand him, is nipped in the bud when she must move away.   When the action is moved to England, the heat is turned up in the hunt for him.  When a near exchange with an opposing wizard nearly kills him, his trainer takes him to a hideaway to wait for the killing tournament.  He seeks to find his own way through is quagmire of death, deceit, and war, to a solution for all.

First in the Heir chronicles.

Long, Hot Texas Summer / Carolyn Brown 240 p.

Long, Hot Texas Summer / Carolyn Brown 240 p.

Stubborn, sassy, Loretta left her husband once she found him in the barn with his arms around a neighbor lady.  She packed up and left with their daughter before he knew what happened.  17 years later she appears uninvited back in his life on the ranch when she is realizes that their daughter has not intent to leave the ranch and finish her education.  Nona has fallen in love with a rancher and she is just as stubborn as her parents. She's not going back to school away from Travis.  Loretta finds she hasn't stayed away from her ex- long enough, he still make her long for him.  And Jackson is bound to find a way to keep her.  He's being extra careful this time.  And the hussy who broke them up...she's back but Loretta's not going to put up with anything from her.

Betting the Rainbow / Jody Thomas 294 p.

Betting the Rainbow / Jody Thomas 294 p.

Two sisters gave up their dreams to work the family farm.  When a poker tournament comes to town, Dusti Delaney decides this is the opportunity to get enough money for Abby to finish her last year of nursing school.  She enlists Kieran O'Toole to teach her the finer points of the game.  Some sparks begin to fly between them but he is a Gentleman.  He refuses to stand in her way of her dream.

Around the bend on Rainbow Lane, Ronny Logan is setting into a home after spending a year travelling.  She's enjoying the solitude and is not interested in sharing it.  Neighbor, Austin Hawk, senses her reticent.  He, too, has issues.  But something is slowly growing between them and could blossom if they only let it.

Nice character development along with some very funny quirky minor characters.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Last One Home/Debbie Macomber/320 pages

This story is about three sisters and their relationships as adults.  One of the sisters was involved in an abusive marriage and this story follows her as she rebuilds her life.
Debbie Macomber's books usually grab my attention right away and this title did too.  The primary story-line was interesting but the secondary characters weren't well-developed and the ending of the story seemed abrupt.

The Country of Ice Cream Star/Sandra Newman/629 pages

Ice Cream Star is a young woman living somewhat innocently in a dystopian America when her older brother's epidemic illness thrusts her into the leadership role for her small band of children. What follows is a wrenching struggle for survival for herself and her people as she attempts to find a cure to her brother's disease.

Analysis - An impressive exercise in creativity, this book involved peoples from various cultural groups and is told by the narrator in a pidgin English that becomes almost comfortable by the end of the book. 

Originality is the strong suit of this novel. But that originality also makes it hard to classify. While it is dystopian, it is firmly anchored in a very real America. While some aspects of the storyline seem science fiction-ish, the content is not hard-line science fiction. Its epic length and unusual language may make this book a challenge for some. But it is worth a read. The depictions of familiar places that have been shambled by the rigors of war and disease and the emotions wrought by its main character make it a worthy read.

Monday, March 23, 2015

My Sunshine Away/M. O. Walsh/20th Century Challenge

Growing up in an upper middle class neighborhood in Baton Rouge seems to be almost like a Norman Rockwell painting of Southern idyllic life. Children playing together, cookouts, colorful crepe myrtles and college football all sound like the perfect childhood. But when 15-year-old Lindy Simpson in attacked just down the street from her own house, the neighborhood takes on a darker side. Several suspects emerge, including the narrator of the story. His obsessive love, crossing the line into stalking, makes his own mother wonder about his involvement. Through his eyes, we see how life was before and after the attack and how he tries to set things right.

Beautifully written, this story truly captures the magic of growing up in a close-knit neighborhood with all the underlying currents of secrecy and dysfunction. This was a very fast read, mainly because it's hard to put down.

Death of a Liar/M. C. Beaton/261 pages

Hamish MacBeth's new case involves more than just murder. There's a lot going on in the small village of Cromish, one of the outlying parts of MacBeth's territory. Religious scams, smuggling, and drugs are all part of the crime. In addition, there are two new possible love interests, as well as two former fiancées to distract Hamish.

Another delightful cozy by the master!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

House of Echoes / Brendan Duffy / 384 pages

Wow!  I received this ARC from "Arcs Around the Library" and couldn't have chosen better!  Due for release on 4/7/15, it is destined to be an immediate bestseller. " In this enthralling and atmospheric debut suspense novel, one young family's dream of a better life is about to become a nightmare".  This is evocative of Stephen King at his best...without all the foul language.  The characters are well drawn, realistic and empathy inspiring.  The plot is clever, peppered with Revolutionary War era letters and anecdotes, and sinister enough to cause the reader to double-check locks, avoid shadows, leave lights burning, and beware real estate bargains.  Mental illness, bullying, faith, sacrifice, and what comprises family are themes carefully and craftily woven into the tale of terror.

"Better and easier were almost never the same thing."

Falling Up / Shel Silverstein / 176 pages / Deceased Author November Challenge

Just Delightful!!  It has been years since I read one of Mr. Silverstein's poetry books and I had forgotten how laugh-out-loud funny and entertaining they are.  Mr. Silverstein's illustrations are critical to the understanding of some of the poems and nearly all would make excellent read-a-louds.  Mr. Silverstein certainly had not forgotten what it was like to be a child.  He most assuredly kept his childish sense of humor...

High Profile / Robert B. Parker / 2980 pages / Deceased Author November Challenge

Chief of Police Jesse Stone is pressured to quickly solve two homicides in Paradise, Massachusetts.  A controversial talk show host was hung from a tree on the outskirts of the city and his current (pregnant) girlfriend's dead body was discovered several days later in a dumpster.  Suspects are legion, including four ex-wives.  While Jesse is investigating this high profile case, he asks his girlfriend, Sonny Randall, to serve as bodyguard to his ex-wife, Jennifer, who claims a recent rape and a stalker.  Parker's intricate plot machinations and Sonny's interactions with Stone's ex-wife provide excellent counter balance in this prime time thriller.

The Sound and the Fury / William Faulkner / 348 pages / Deceased Author November Challenge

One of the greatest novels of the twentieth century, this is a tale of a family's dance with tragedy.  The Compson Family strives to fulfill their role as an important family in post civil war Deep South.  They must  cope with a manchild, Benjy; the beautiful, rebellious Caddy; the haunted, neurotic Quentin; the brutal cynic Jason; Dilcey, one of their black servants; and run-around Quentin (Caddy's illegitimate daughter).  As is true of most of Faulkner's works, The Sound and the Fury deals with the moral uncertainties of an increasingly dissolute society.  Pair this reading with a visit to Faulkner's home in Oxford, Mississippi and become familiar with one of the giants in American literature.

The A.B.C. Murders / Agatha Christie / 248 pages / Deceased Author November Challenge

Although the murders are named for the railway guide (ABC) found at the scene, it soon becomes frighteningly apparent that the killer is, in fact, murdering by the alphabet.  First a person whose name begins with A in a location that begins with the same letter; then B; then C...and the pattern becomes manifest and the authorities rush to Thwart the murderer's next attempt.  Retired sleuth Poirot and inspector Hastings rush to prevent more deaths.  Is Alexander Bonaparte Cast the guilty party?  This is a mini tour of England led by both scallywags and intrepid heroes.

Family Honor / Robert B. parker / 322 pages / Deceased Author November Challenge

In this installment, of the Sonny Randall saga, Sonny and Richie have split up after nine years of marriage.  Sonny can't reconcile Richie's ties to organized crime (His father and uncles are members of the mob.) with her and her father's careers in law enforcement.  There is no doubt they love each other...but...  Sonny is tasked with finding a missing girl.  She has been hired by the girl's parents who are well-to-do, involved in politics, and involved in a somewhat unusual hobby.  Although her methods...and friends...are somewhat unorthodox, Sonny is more than successful.  Of particular interest in the Parker novel is Sonny's relationship with the missing/found girl and her sage mentoring.

"The more things you can do the more choices you have...the less life kicks you around."

Gunman's Rhapsody / Robert B. Parker / 289 pages / Deceased Author November Challenge

Wyatt Earp was a country boy from Illinois.  He wanted to be his own man.  He doesn't take much pleasure in shooting, just does what he has to do and moves on.  During the winter of 1879, he and two of his brothers and their womenfolk move from Dodge City to Tombstone, Arizona.  Virgil becomes City Marshal and Wyatt his deputy.  He and Morgan Earp also work as undercover men for Wells Fargo.  Wyatt had tired of Maddie, his live in love interest, and is attracted to the showgirl, Jessie Marcus.  When Wyatt and Josie act on their attraction, Johnny Behav, Josie's live in love interest, immediately becomes their enemy and starts rumors creating trouble for the Earps.  Tensions escalate and culminate in the Gunfight at the OK Coral.  This may well be the best Robert B. Parker book I have read/listened to.  Well researched and well written, this atmospheric western vividly recalls the Wild West and places it within the broader historical context with frequent "Chronicles."  Refreshingly, the objectionable language present in much of Parker's writing is, for the most part, missing.  Ed Begley, Jr. does an excellent job performing the story.  This might be an excellent companion piece to Epitaph by Mary Russell.

"It's not just what you do.  It's how you do it."

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie / C. Alan Bradley / 373 pages / 20th Century Fiction

Eleven year old Flavia de Luce is an aspiring chemist with a passion for poison.  Her scientific mind and her disenchantment with her vain older sister prompt her to spike her sister's lip rouge with poison ivy - to observe its effects!  A murder on the premises of the family home, Buckshaw, causes Flavia to mount her dead mother Harriet's old bike, Gladys, to investigate the murder and clear her father's name.  In the course of her investigations, she uncovers rare stamp thefts, a mysterious death, and the excitement and adventure she craves.  This is an eminently amusing portrayal of one spunky eleven year old in 1950's Britain...with perhaps too much courage and daring...a most likable heroine!

Hickory, Dickory Dock / Agathie Christie / 344 pages / Deceased Author November Challenge

Hercule Poirot is bored and aggravated - bored because it has been some time since he's had a mystery to solve, and aggravated because his secretary, Miss Felicity Lemon has made three mistakes in typing his letter.  She never makes mistakes and reveals that she is concerned about her widowed sister, Mrs. Hubbard.  Mrs. Hubbard has recently taken a position as matron at a hostel.  A series of odd thefts has occurred.  Why would anyone steal such things?  Of course, Mr. Poirot discovers not only why someone would steal them, he determines who the thief/thieves are.  Muder complicates the plot.  This engaging mystery by a master mystery writer challenges the readers powers of deductive reasoning while entertaining and informing.

Echoes / Danielle Steel / 324 pages / 20th Century Fiction

This heart-wrenching/heart-warming novel spans the twentieth century.  It begins in 1915, when Beatta Wittgenstein meets a dashing French officer, Antoine de Vallerand, at a Swiss resort.  They immediately fall in love.  Both families forbid the union.  Beatta's family is Jewish and German, and Antonie's is Catholic and French.  Beatta and Antoine hope that with time their families will reconcile with them.  Unfortunately, World War II erupts, and Naziism and a stubborn father prevent this hope's realization.  Beatta and Antoine have two daughters, one of whom, Amadea, is called to become a Carmelite nun.  The horrors of World War II are vividly portrayed as well as is the courage, heroism, and faith of the protagonists.  I did hear echoes of the Sound of Music as I read this one...

Vanishing Girls/Lauren Oliver/357 pgs.

Sisters Nick and Dara were inseparable before the accident. The accident leaves Dara's face scarred, and her relationship with older sister, Nick, estranged. In addition, the girls' parents are recently divorced--so there are issues aplenty! Told in chapters before and after the accident, Dara and Nick tell their stories in such a way to keep the reader in suspense. The story peaks when Dara goes missing--shortly after a local nine year old girl had been reported missing. It's a very compelling story, and one that I think young adults would highly enjoy.

Echo/Pam Munoz Ryan/587 pgs.

Playing hide and seek, Otto finds himself alone in a forbidden forest. He stumbles upon three mysterious sisters who leave him with a prophecy,  a promise, and a harmonica. It's not an ordinary harmonica--it produces music no other harmonica can produce. Decades pass, and the harmonica finds its way into the hands of three very desperate people: Friedrich in Germany, Mike in Pennsylvania, and Ivy in California. This is a beautiful story of magic, fate, and how the lives of these three people are intertwined, and impacted by music--and one special harmonica. It's part fantasy, with a dose of historical fiction. Highly recommended!

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Professor and the Madman/ Simon Winchester/ 242 pages

Another book club title!  This one was just okay in my opinion.  The man who helped write the Oxford English Dictionary from a criminal insane asylum did have an interesting and shocking story.  However, the middle of the book was very, very dry.   So, perhaps worth a read, but I also think I could have looked up stuff about him on the internet, found out the highlights, and then moved on satisfied...

March Challenge/ SCCCLD

March Challenge

Mulling over March, the phrase 'Time Marches On' popped into my head.  

So, for your March Challenge, march over to the shelves and find some historical fiction that takes place in the twentieth century.  To jump start your search, check out the link on novelist for a list of titles.  Historical Fiction set in the Twentieth Century

Those are worth one extra point, but if you really want to score big, find a title that involves historical fiction and time travel.  That's worth two points!  

For more idea's visit Novelist.  
Just be sure to stay in the Twentieth Century for most of the story.  

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Liar & Spy / Rebecca Stead / 180 pages

     This Mark Twain nominee is about Georges who has moved to an apartment since his father lost his job and their house.  His mom is always at "work" and he is bullied at school.  How will he ever get through this year?
     He meets a boy in his apartment building who runs a "spy club".  through his relationship with Safer and his sister Candy, Georges eventually resolves his problems; even the state of denial he has been living in about his mother.
     It is an okay book, but not great.  On the cd, the narrator says Georges with a hard "G" which is not how to pronounce his name so I'm not sure the author really knew that either.  He wouldn't have had a problem with his name if he had actually used a French pronunciation.  Of course, I'm sure that the kids would have found some way to pick on him.

The Lock Artist/Steve Hamilton/304 pages

After experiencing a horrible tragedy at age eight, Michael's response to the trauma is selective mutism. He is taken in by his uncle but never speaks a word. Fast forward to the summer before his senior year, and his life takes an interesting turn. He has two talents: drawing and picking locks. The latter starts him on the path that defines his future.

This was my book club selection for the month. It was well received by the group. The story is told in what is a fairly common style these days, that is, it jumps back and forth in time. With the exception of the chapters talking about the tragedy that affected Michael and present day, the timeline of the story is very tight, covering only a year or so. reports that a movie is in pre-production, so this is probably a good one to read now before it becomes hugely popular because of the movie.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Dreams of Perfection / Rebecca Heflin / 263 pages

This is a really delightful modern romance with down-to-earth (though more successful than average) characters.  Darcy Butler is the romance novelist with a ticking biological clock.  Josh Ryan is the successful lawyer with a heart of gold.  Darcy's friends and family all play their parts in this wonderful story.  I found myself able to relate to the characters; many of them were just like my own friends and family.  The story had a bit of mystery along with the romance - how could Darcy Butler's book character have come to life?  The author leads the readers without giving the whole plot away.  The new Dreams Come True series will be on my must-read list.

Monday, March 16, 2015

The keeper: a life of saving goals and achieving them / Tim Howard / 309 pgs

Coming from a great 2014 World Cup showing, Tim Howard, USA's Team Goalie has released his memoir.  Soccer Fans will enjoy Howards play-by-play descriptions and insider details of some of his most memorable games.  They will also like his opinions of the many famous coaches he has trained under.

What really makes Howard's book stand out though, is his openness and honesty as he recounts his struggles growing up with Tourette's syndrome.  As a kid Tim Howard was Hyperactive and obsessive compulsive, but was not diagnosed with Tourette's until he was in 5th grade.  Interestingly, Tim's overactive brain actually helps him micro-focus when he is playing on the soccer field which has led him to his outstanding 15-year career.

Tim Howard is a spokesperson for people with Tourette's, and volunteers his time to help kids learn to live with the syndrome.  His personal story along with anecdotes from the kids he's worked with gives understanding and character to a misunderstood condition.

Recommended for all, Middle School age and up.

The Bishop's Wife/Mette Ivie Harrison/345 pages

Linda Walheim is the title character. She's used to her life being interrupted by the demands of the ward. When a distraught father comes to their house in the middle of a cold Utah night with his young daughter, she does what is expected of her and cares for the child while the man consults with her husband privately. Did the wife and mother merely walk away from her life with her family or is there something more sinister happening? Additionally, another ward member is facing death, and secrets from his past start to come to the surface. Did his first wife die in an accident or did she have a disease? No one really knows or remembers.

Harrison gives the reader some insight into the Mormon church but don't expect a hard-hitting expose on the church and its teachings. The stories and the mysteries in the book have great promise but don't completely deliver on the build up. I was hoping for something more, but it is entertaining and worth reading. At the very least, I learned more about the Mormon church.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Doll Bones // Holly Black / 244 pages

     This award winning book (Children's Book Award) for children is creepy, somewhat scary, and totally addicting.
The characters, Poppy, Alice, and Zach have been friends since first grade.  They are now on that brink of change - middle school.  They have been involved in an imaginary game involving dolls and action figures when Zach's dad throws his characters away.  Zach can't deal with this action on the part of his father, but he can't tell his friends.  It causes a lot of conflict in the story.  The reality story is a journey that they go on to bury an antique doll and this quest involves quite a bit of risk.  It is disturbing on many levels.  Is the doll really communicating?  What dangers are they meeting on the journey?  Will they run out of money?  Will it break their friendship?
     It was riveting to find out what would happen next, but as an adult, I had a lot of difficulty with the things they did like run away on a bus with very little money and no idea about what sort of crazies are out there.  I didn't like it to the point that I wouldn't recommend it to anyone younger than 10.  I think that they made one poor and dangerous decision after another and the fact that the doll gets buried instead of one of them truly shows that it is fiction.  It could definitely be worthy of discussion if kids read this book.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Lost & Found/Brooke Davis/310 pgs.

What an interesting debut novel! Millie Bird, seven years old, and quite precocious, is abandoned by her mother in a department store. The mother is distraught over the death of her husband, Millie's father. This is basically a story of how individuals handle grief, old age, and death--all in the course of a little girl trying to find her way back to her mother. The book is told through various characters' voices, making for an insightful and compelling (and often humorous) read. Highly recommended!

Crazy Love You/Lisa Unger/338 pgs.

This is one of the creepiest books I have read in awhile! As an adult, Ian Paine is the successful graphic novelist of the "Fatboy and Priss" series. Priss wields the power in the series, and seeks revenge on Fatboy's behalf. The series reflects, to some extent, the difficult childhood Ian endured. The question is: is Priss "real" or a figment of Ian's imagination. The answer becomes critical when Ian meets Megan, and wants to build a life with her. Priss, however, has other ideas. There is psychological tension throughout the novel, leaving the reader with a very unsettled feeling. Recommended.

Treasure on Lilac Lane / Donna Alward 330 p.

Treasure on Lilac Lane / Donna Alward 330 p.

Wounded veteran Rick Sullivan returns home, seeking solace after a tour of duty that leaves him a cripple, only to lose his beloved mother.  This former star athlete finds it tough to find a job and to keep his promise to his mother to stop drinking.  This is not the man Jess Collins had been close to.  And she admits that she isn't the same either.  Drinking is a big issue for her; and she is not shy about voicing her opinion about his drinking.  She keeps him at arms length as he struggles to avoid drinking.  Not the easiest start for a romance.  An attraction is there.  Both have secrets that must be shared before they can move on to a life together.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Diamond of Darkhold / Jeanne DuPrau / 285 pages

     This is the fourth book of the City of Ember series.  It came out sometime after the first three books and I missed it.  It was a satisfying conclusion.  Lina and Doon must return to Ember to try to help everyone in Sparks.  It is a book that is hopeful because even though the people are really experiencing hardships, they work together as a community.  The Troggs (another family from a different area) are trying to be survivalists and are the villains in the book, but are helped in the end.  The potential is there in the end for a new, brighter future society.  Great conclusion to a really great series.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Sleeping Murder / Agatha Christie 287 p. Dead author

Sleeping Murder / Agatha Christie 287 p. Deceased author

Gwenda Reed finds just the perfect house.  It feels so right.  She buys it and starts fixing it up before her husband joins her there.  She finds herself turning intuitively towards a wall and having to redirect her steps to the door when she wants to go to the dining room.  She lies in bed dreaming of the perfect wallpaper for the nursery only to discover it once was there.  She is becoming rather uneasy about her dream house.  When she suddenly remembers a long forgotten horrific incident from her childhood about Helen and this house,  she is so distrait that they talk with a friend of a friend, Jane Marple.  Miss Marple counsels them to let the sleeping murder, yes murder, lie.  They're intrigued and can't help themselves but start an investigation of sorts.  

Maybe This Christmas / Sarah Morgan 377 p.

Maybe This Christmas / Sarah Morgan 377 p.

BFF Tyler O'Neil and Brenna Daniels are going to stay that way if Tyler has anything to say about it.  Single father, ex-skiing champion has soured every relation but this one.  And he is not going to lose this one.  Brenna, ski pro, has been in love with Tyler forever.  Tyler is clueless as to her true feelings for him.  When they are forced to stay together, it's pure torture for her.  And he finds himself thinking more about her.  She gets along great with his daughter.  In fact, they both are working to make this the most memorable Christmas since Jess's mom sent her to Tyler.  She finds herself thinking that perhaps this year she could get her dream Christmas present.  

Third in the series about the O'Neil brothers.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Bouquet List / Barbara DeLeo / 195 peages

Yasmin Katsalo is a Greek-American returning from a field study in Borneo to find her mother has left her father to return to Greece and her family's wedding hall and restaurant is struggling to make a profit.  Determined to live life on her own terms after a nearly-fatal encounter with Dengue fever, Yasmin sets out to seduce the restaurant planner her father hired to turn the business around - the restaurant planner also happens to be her brother's childhood best friend.  Will the serious and focused Lane Griffiths even notice her advances?  Can Lane ignore the vibrant Yasmin for the sake of his relationships with the rest of her family? 

This romance proves that when opposites attract - sparks will fly.  A fun read that will leave you wanting more.

The Bull Rider's Family / Leigh Duncan / 219 pages

Emma Shane arrives at her new job as chef for the Circle P Ranch only to interrupt the funeral for the man who hired her.  With nothing but an unsigned contract and determination to provide a better life for her four-year-old daughter, she finds the kitchen and gets to work throwing out the food left out for hours during the funeral.  The son of the former owner, Colt Judd, finds a strange woman throwing out food at his father's funeral and releases all his grief and worry by yelling at her and telling her to leave.  What follows are arguments, compromises, and frustrated desires until they both learn that everything they have ever looked for is with each other.

This author has done a beautiful job in creating memorable characters who seem true-to-life.  The four-year-old is adorable and curious; Judd's mother is patient and kind even in her grief.  Judd's brothers have the strong family bonds that Emma is looking for.  This is a wonderful story of love that lives in the real world with other people around.

Snowbound Surprise for the Billionaire / Michelle Douglas / 250 pages

Addie Ramsey has lived on her father's cattle farm her whole life and is dreaming of adventure overseas.  When her father passes away and her two closest neighbors need to sell their properties as well, Addie figures it's time to sell out and live her traveling dreams.  The buyer is the ruthless Flynn Mather, who will do anything to turn a profit.  Knowing of Addie's skills, he makes the one condition of the sale that Addie will stay and work the farm for two years.  Bound by loyalty to neighbors who are like family to her, she reluctantly agrees.  To cure Addie's wanderlust, he invites her to Germany on a business trip as his personal assistant.

The main characters are well-thought-out and evoke real emotions.  The settings are wonderfully described.  This is a story of the two characters falling in love.  While the story is interesting, the ending was a bit disappointing, and the romance left much to be desired.

The Valquez Bride / Melanie Milburne / 185 pages

Teddy Marlstone is a children's book illustrator who still suffers a limp from a broken hip when she was 10 years old.  She has lived in Marlstone Manor all her life, but finds out that she must marry within a month in order to keep the manor out of her cousin's hands due to the conditions in her father's will.  Worst of all - her father chose the groom - the gorgeous Alejandro Valquez, notorious Argentinian playboy.  Will they suffer the required marriage of 6 months to inherit their property or find the love of a lifetime?

The characters have a little depth to them, though the author tends to tell everything they're thinking rather than imply it through their words and actions.  The overall plot has been done before in books and movies.  This is a typical romance; a quick, fun read.