Review

Christmas in Winter Valley Jodi Thomas

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Published: Harlequin
Date: 24th September 2019
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

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Christmas in Winter Valley is a great example of why I love Jodi Thomas’ books. I have never been to Texas and most likely never will, but I do journey there through her writing. The scenery and sense of country permeates the story. To me it feels like real life ranching and cowboys.

I loved all the characters, the two Holloway brothers at home while brother Griffin is away. Elliott the one that manages the books side of the ranch and Cooper who likes to roam the country on a horse. Then there is Tatum, no more about him, only to say I adored him, but you got to have the surprise of meeting him. Tye Franklin is an older man who rides into the ranch looking for a job and he too is a delight.

There is plenty going on with them all, a number of women running about the place, some like chickens without heads, but they add to the fun. The plot goes along at a wonderful pace and there is always something happening. As well, there are lots of laugh out loud moments, I love the sense of humor is this book.

It goes through December, leading up to Christmas, so its perfect to read before Christmas. You’ll either read it really fast because it almost reads itself, or you might be like me, reading it slowly in small pieces because you want to prolong your time with the Holloways. Five star read.

Review

Met Her Match. Jude Deveraux

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Published: Harlequin Mira
Date: 17th September 2019
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

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Met Her Match was a read I really enjoyed. It has lots going for it.

  • the heroine Terri is just delightful, she pretty much runs the show and the lakeside area her Dad is responsible for. She sorts problems, rescues people and generally has a heart of gold. She is very competent, and can swim wonderfully well.
  •  Terri isn’t popular in the town area. Supposedly as a teen she’s beaten up boys and ruined relationships. Well that’s according to the town gossip. Believe what you will.
  • there is a feud going on between the town and lake areas, and the town people tend to look down on the lake people.
  • Terri has a great Dad, and a sheriff friend who stands in as an uncle and they both value Terri highly. (As they should)
  • There is the mystery of Terri’s mother who left town when Terri was two years old, abandoning Terri and her husband. (Or … did she?)
  • And then there is Nate. Big, handsome Nate – engaged to Stacy the mayor’s daughter, who happens to be overseas, so Nate, due to someones trickery ends up staying with Terri. Together they are a team, and Nate it turns out “can fix anything”.

I loved my visit to Summer Hill – Virginia, its well written and humorous. I’d be very happy to visit again.

 

Review

Rival’s Break. Carla Neggers

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Published: Harlequin – Mira
Date: 27th August 2019
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

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Rival’s Break  is #9 in the Sharpe/Donavon  series and I hadn’t read the previous books. Of course I prefer to read a series from the beginning but sometimes a later book just invites! There are quite a few characters to take in straight away. However Carla Neggers deftly gives enough information about each of them so that I can enjoy the story.

The setting is delightful – I have a weakness for books set in Maine and we also visit Ireland and its beautiful west coast. The characters themselves are a mixture of Maine and Irish and they mingle very well!

The book has a fun cast, art thief detectives, FBI, MI5 and MI6, an art thief (reformed)  and a priest to name a few of the varied roles. Many of them are either related to each other or married into a family. And half the time they seem to be trying to figure out what the other knows and is up to!

We start out with a stolen painting, a mysterious food poisoning on a yacht and links to some of the characters, makes for a mystery that soon has my brain whirling and wondering and desperately endeavouring to stay away from the back pages to peek! (I refrain – barely!) I did have one person in mind and it turned out I was on the right track, although I didn’t know the motivation.

I liked this story mostly for the characters, so varied and loveable. The mystery was interesting. I would have liked a little more action as the book tended to rely on a lot of dialogue rather than fast action. However I think it reads like a cozy mystery.

Would I read more in this series after my first foray into it? Yes I would because I’d want to find out more about the characters and what they have done and will do next.

 

 

Book Connections, Review

Five Favourite Author Books in 2019

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Favourite authors are authors I’ll always buy their books, or most likely pre-order them so they arrive soon after publishing date. Most of them don’t appear in our shops at all or take a week to get there. I did win Under Currents which was very nice. I love a win, who doesn’t! However Nora won’t lose out because I’ll buy the audiobook for my sister as she is a fan too.

Book Cover Nalini Singh is one of my favourite authors from recent years – like the last decade! Her Psy/Changeling paranormal series is the one of hers I enjoy the most. Wolf Dance takes us back to San Francisco and the wolves den, plus the emergence of a new kind of E Psy. I loved the warmth and wit, the catch up with past characters, and the dual between darkness and goodness. Plus two new main characters who were such fun and of course had good sparks flying between them. Memory is one gutsy heroine and I loved her nose to nose encounters with Alexei the wolf changeling. Five stars from me of course. Ouch I want the June 2020 book now. Thinking I might go back and start rereading this series via audio.

book coverThere is no doubt about it – Nora Roberts knows how to write great romantic suspense. There are times of intensity and times of a wonderful family, friendships blossoming and gardens getting big time makeovers. I loved how both Darby and Zane overcome the awful things life has dealt them. Darby’s ninja skills especially were something to admire for sure. Zod the dog – what a darling. Britt – Zanes’s sister, another strong woman. So much to love and cheer for, so much to be sad about. Five stars from this reader.

book coverOne sister disappears, the other – Ryan, is called upon to take care of two girls – seven and five, who seem shell shocked and withdrawn. Add in one parent who is working out on a submarine and rarely heard of. The grandparents have their own stress with Ryan’s dad having had a heart operation. The sister who has disappeared seems to be key to the whole family situation.  A mystery that slowly unravels and a family that eventually realigns itself. Very engaging read.

book coverAh, Kristan Higgins can sure write a book! Such a mix of characters, some strong – some weak. What a great mother Emma is, Riley such a delightful teen. And yes to Tess! I think she is a rampaging 2/3 year old. What havoc she caused, would love to see her as a teen and young woman! For another character – what is it like to carry a secret that scars for life? We see what it is to be a great Dad, and a terrible Dad. Great story, full of emotion, sadness and joy, some humour – the trademark of KH. And by mistake I ordered two of these books – just too overly keen!

book cover I enjoyed this latest novel of Wendy Wax. I liked the author angle, showing the tough world of publishing and having to produce. And then there is  the angst of falling out with your best friend. That happens!  Mother / daughter relationships also feature. They too have a wonderful relationship but what about if there is a secret lurking in there? All the main characters are flawed, in a very realistic, relatable way. There is struggle, and  forgiveness is not easily extended. And I loved the photo at the front of the book of Wendy Wax’s aunt in a stunning wedding dress. I can see how a story needed to be written!

Book Connections, Review

Five Books that Explore Family Complications

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Families most likely by their nature are complicated, I guess we can all point to our own complications. And so when books explore these various complications a) we nod our heads or b) we think “well thank goodness that didn’t happen to us”.

Book cover Lucy’s own mother is dead and she would really welcome a mother figure. However her mother-in-law Diana is not that friendly a figure. She is aloof, unemotional, stands by strict beliefs about money and spends her time on a very good cause. When Diana ends up dead – the question is who did it and why? I didn’t like Diana at the beginning but I warmed to her eventually, I listened to this one on audio and that version was well done.

A middle grade book that introduces to us two twelve year olds who discover their dads are in a relationship and they want their daughters to be “family”. Initially the daughters are horrified! Then a firm friendship is formed in spite of their quite different personalities. The dads have their issues because they aren’t alike either and they stop the relationship to the disappointment of the girls. I thoroughly enjoyed this middle grade book and was delighted by all the plot twists and turns.

book coverA family complication happens in this YA novel and so Aria and her mother move provinces in Canada. One of the complications is that on a night out on Halloween Aria spies her father in another house with a young child on his knee and  the woman who answers the door is pregnant. Well! And there is a second complication but I am not saying a word because I hope some of you read this novel.  It explores what it is to be different, to harbor a secret, and it takes a hard look at bullying. Loved the touch of romance and development of the characters. K. A. Tucker I am so a fan.

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This book fits only loosely into family complications, because really its about friendship complications.However what about when friends eventually work through all the relationship complications over a long number of years and recognise that actually they are family. That’s how this one works out, along the way exploring alcoholism, dieting, secrets and deceit. I enjoyed this book although I didn’t love it. I was so happy it was a library borrow!

Book Cover What happens when one sister steals or seems to steal the man you are to marry right from under your nose. Going to be complicated for sure and it is. It’s either fight or flight and Lena chooses flight and I sympathise with her on that. When she returns home ten years later its because her Dad has been diagnosed with Alzheimers and its all hands on deck. Herself, her sister and brother plus their Dad must deal. In the dealing there is much exploration of memories, of forgiveness and the difference between forgetting and not forgetting. Plus there is a twist that is well signalled and ties in well to the title. And a second twist that I wasn’t that happy with and meant I scored it 4 rather than 5 stars.

Review

Things You Save in a Fire. Katherine Centre

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Published: Harlequin
Date: 13th August 2019
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

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Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center is a short book. No! Not really! But that’s how it felt because I just loved reading it and it just went by far too fast. Always a sign of a good story.

One heroine who has a dark past that has left her angry, bitter and with a “keep your hands off me or you’ll be sorry” kind of attitude, even if its just a sympathetic hug.

Cassie is a firefighter and skilled paramedic. She knows to work alongside men she needs to be the best… and she is. When her mother needs her she reluctantly moves to be with her and start afresh. The men at the new fire station aren’t going to make it easy for her, the rookie provides an interesting new experience for her and life with her mother turns into something more than she was expecting.

Just when I was thinking to myself something is missing – you’ll know if you have read it, or when you read it – wham it arrived in a huge plot twist that was so good.

I loved how Cassie evolved, how she showed courage on so many fronts, how skilled and calm she was with her work. I loved how she came to know the power of forgiveness. And well… what I love most in a book – love and a happy, satisfying ending!

Review

Kiss by Jill Mansell

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Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Date: 1st August 2019
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

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Kiss by Jill Mansell was first published in 1993. This is a new edition being published this year. I didn’t realise that when I first undertook to read and review it, and it made me a little cautious. After finishing it, I have mixed feelings about it. It was fun, it made me chuckle at times, and read well as almost historical fiction at this point in time!

There are a number of characters and relationships and happenings. Some of the relationships made me raise my eyebrows and one seemed really too unbelievable, but luckily didn’t last long. It’s set in England with a little trip here and there further afield.

Izzy in her later thirties is one of the main characters, a singer who believes in living life and having fun and not worrying too much about finance. Katarina her seventeen old, more serious daughter is more inclined to be the adult in the family. Izzy as the book opens has one guy for two nights, another for another two nights, works two nights and has one night for herself. However an accident puts an end to that whole scenario.

Gina who causes the accident, takes Izzy and Katarina in when they have to leave their flat because they can’t pay the rent. She – Gina,  has just had rid herself of a no good husband who features further in this story in a completely yucky way. She flounders around for quite awhile but eventually through many trials actually finds someone she loves.

Well they all do – eventually. While not my favourite Jill Mansell book, I didn’t mind spending awhile  in the wacky world of these characters.

 

Review

The Huntress. Kate Quinn

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Published: HarperCollins
Date: 2019
Source: Library

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I first heard of The Huntress by Kate Quinn from the Modern Mrs Darcy Summer Reading Guide 2019. I wasn’t sure if it was for me, but I put in a reserve for it at the library and in due course it arrived. Would I read it? Do I want to know about all the bloodshed and evil of the WW2 time in yet another historical fiction book? I decided to read a few pages and see how I went.

After five pages – I was hooked. The writing and tone of the book just reeled me in. The story rotates around three characters’ points of view. There is Ian an Englishman who lost a brother in the war, he is a journalist, suffers from post war trauma from his time as a journalist during it. Now he is part of a small team hunting Nazis down and bringing them (hopefully) to justice. Along with him is Tony a European with Polish/Hungarian blood, younger than Ian but still a good foil to him and very useful as “the charming good guy”  of the pair.

Nina forms the third member of the team, she is Russian and grew up in harsh conditions, survived and became a pilot in the Russian army, in a women’s division known as the Night Witches. What a character she is. She Is hard bitten and tough, a razor wielding vixen. But look closer and just maybe there is a softer side to her. I have to say I came to adore her.

Jordan lives in America in Boston, hers is the third POV. She is young and loves to photograph people. She has a new stepmother and new little sister. She has a fiancé who while he seems right for her, perhaps isn’t. I found myself totally hooked into the relationship that Jordan and her stepmother form. I loved Jordan’s love for her little stepsister Ruth and her protection of her.

We toggle between a few time periods – during the war getting Nina’s back story and then after the war in 1950 Ian and Tony and Nina working together to find the woman who has eluded them but they are compelled to track down.  As well Jordan’s timeline tracks along at about the same time in Boston. It totally works.

I loved the tiny pieces of humour in the book that made me smile,( Ian’s reading material being one)  while every moment I had I was  picking  up the book to see what was going to happen next in the nail biting, yet slow, patient, tracking of The Huntress. Bring to this story your own experience of hiding from something or someone and if you are like me you’ll hate the crime but possibly feel for the hunted.

Extremely well written, informative and thought provoking. I highly recommend it.

Review

The Golden Hour. Beatriz Williams

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Publisher: William Morrow
Date: July 9th 2019
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

It pays to stay with The Golden Hour! It weaves in and out of timelines and tells the lives of two seemingly unrelated, different women. Elfriede and Lulu.  Elfriede we meet in the early 1900’s, in Germany. As a young woman she is married to a German baron, however she suffers from post natal depression – something really not understood in those days. It leads to a number of events.

We then have Lulu in the early to mid 1940’s – war time. And does she have an interesting back story. She finds herself in The Bahamas in Nassau during the war. There she develops a relationship with the Duchess of Windsor and her husband.  I found this aspect really interesting, and I do think Beatriz Williams drew some interesting and well researched aspects to this couples personalities and lives and values.  Lulu meets up with and falls in love with Benedict Thorpe – a rather mysterious man, who appears and disappears often.  Only to return rather often bearing bruises and scars.

Its wartime, so there are spies and strange disappearances and even murders. Some of what happens is based on history, some of the people we meet were actual factual people. Although of course all the main characters are fictional.

At times the continual weaving back and forth of time lines and the two women annoyed me. I like a straight forward timeline! However exercising patience rewarded me and I really became involved in the story and liked it very much. A few revelations at the end I didn’t see coming which of course really is a plus.

There is a reference in the author’s note  to The Infinite Sea, a book I very much liked, and now want to go back and refresh my mind by rereading it. Johann, a German, we again meet in The Golden Hour, in a minor but still very interesting way, was in The Infinite Sea.

A well written, insightful and clever piece of historical fiction.

 

Review

Jackson – Eternity Springs:The McBrides of Texas

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Published: St Martin’s Press
Date: 25th June 2019
Source: Publicity – St Martin’s Press

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Emily March is branching out of Eternity Springs into Redemption – Texas. It seems that this is the first in a trilogy, and its Jackson’s story. However his two cousins Boone and Tucker look like they will have their day in the sun.

The two communities are well linked, and there was some inter linking of the two towns that was very pleasant.  The part that amused me the most was that we see a slightly different side to Celeste – the all knowing angel of Eternity Springs. Here in Redemption her cousin Angelica is all set to oversee the Inn that Jackson and his brothers establish. Angelica is very into dented halos and imperfection and I just loved her dress sense.

Jackson is wounded – his ex wife has every excuse under the sky to prevent him from being with their daughter Haley. It breaks his heart. He has lost his passion for life and most especially his great love of music. Will he ever regain it back?

Caroline the heroine of the story is someone who has had to stand strong. She has lost the love of her life and now must start a new chapter.  And she does that beautifully by deciding she wants to open an independent bookshop. Well who can argue with that? And I noted it has a quilt shop right next to it. I so want to visit Redemption!

From half way through this book it began to move along at a great pace with enough “flies in the ointment” to keep things interesting. It reeled me in. I guess I’ll be back for more! And I am just noticing the cover perfectly fits the book.

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photoFind Emily at her website.