February 29, 2012

The Cowboy's Family by Brenda Minton

I almost rated this book only three stars. But then I thought about it more and more, and discovered that there were actually quite a few things I appreciated about it.

After the death of his wife, Wyatt really hasn't gotten back into the swing of things. Sure he's still out there working, taking care of the two daughters he loves, and just getting on with life, but he isn't really moving on. So when the preacher's daughter, Rachel starts coming around, helping with the kids, he's not really prepared for the feelings he has for her either. And Rachel has pretty much given up on love, she lives with her parents to take care of her ill mother and hasn't had love come her way despite wanting it for so long. So she's given up and just devotes herself to her work in the ministry and helping others around town. The two don't seem too prepared for a relationship, but they can't deny that there is some spark between them.

The kids were great in the book. My favorite characters actually. Wyatt wasn't too bad either. Confused, loving, clueless, he did the best he could and seems to be a great guy without being unrealistic. Rachel is nice too, and a caring person. I just wish more of her back story would have been included. The author hints at so many things but never really comes out and says a lot of what Rachel refers to. They have a quiet chemistry between the two of them, and it works. Its rather sweet actually.

My biggest complaint with the book would probably be pacing. It does so well for awhile and then the ending just kind of shoots off like a rocket and goes way too fast. It really did feel too rushed and made the ending seem fake to me. But the rest of the book was good. Nice plot ideas, easy writing. Since this is a Love Inspired one I actually expected not to like it. I haven't had too good of luck with that type. But this one, unlike most of the others isn't really preachy. Sure it mentions elements of Christianity, but it doesn't shove it down your throat, which is nice for people just looking for a gentle read. And another result is that there are no sex scenes in this book, just some light kissing.

A very nice sweet romance. If the ending hadn't been rushed it would have been almost perfect.

The Cowboy's Family
Copyright 2011
218 pages

February 28, 2012

Maddie Inherits a Cowboy by Jeannie Watt

A different take on a Western romance, but still, not as good as it probably could have been. I just couldn't really connect to the characters in this one, although I liked the theme.

Madeline is headed out to visit a ranch. A ranch that she inherited a share of when her brother died. It hasn't been doing as well financially, but that's not the real reason she's going. She needs to hideout for awhile as she's under investigation for academic misconduct. Even though she's not guilty, she still needs to get away from it for awhile. Her brother's partner, Ty isn't too thrilled about the visit though. He doesn't like the way Madeline questions his business running tactics and he can't really look at her without remembering what happened to her brother Skip. Skip's death is something he blames himself for and he hasn't really been the same since the accident. But Madeline isn't the type to let him hide from her, and he does find himself a bit attracted to her.

Madeline is a little too hard nosed for me. I know that's the way she's supposed to be, but it comes off as irritating sometimes. Especially when she rushes forward aimlessly. Considering she's a college professor, I guess I just expected her actions to be more thought out. Ty is a bit irritating too. He has this martyr vibe going on and its not attractive, even if Madeline thinks so. He's real I guess, but just not as likable as I'd like. And since they're both out on an isolated ranch we really don't have much contact with a whole lot of other characters in the book. So its mainly just the two of them to keep us entertained.

I did like the western ranch theme of this book. Anyone running an organic cattle ranch is something I can get behind. And launching a professor into the middle of it is a good twist. Although I did think that the chores and the running of the ranch seemed greatly watered down from what I would have expected them to be. Granted, I don't know a lot about the business, but it just seemed too easy. There is a sex scene in this book, but it was fairly mild in my opinion. The rest of the book read fast and was an easy read, didn't require a lot of concentration.

Ok romance, nothing special. But nothing I would rush out of my way for definitely.

Maddie Inherits a Cowboy
Copyright 2011
283 pages

Their Little Princess by Susan Mallery

I was actually pleasantly surprised by this book. I'm not really even a kid person and I liked it. Which considering its a romance that revolves around a kid that's saying something.

When Tanner learns that he has a child, it doesn't come as a surprise per say. He'd already agreed with the mother that they were going to give the baby up for adoption. But when he goes to look at his newborn daughter he realizes that he can't give her up. So while the mother jet-sets to California, he becomes a single father. And doctor Kelly Hall goes from not liking this father to be to really admiring him. Enough that she offers to help him buy baby stuff and help out the first couple of weeks to get him adjusted to the infant. What she doesn't expect is to fall for him though, especially when she has so many things in her past that she has to overcome too.

Tanner is a great guy. He has flaws, but isn't afraid to jump headfirst into anything. And he's pretty awesome for wanting to raise his daughter by himself. So many guys wouldn't want to do that. Yes I know he's fictional, but he seems very real. Kelly was good too. She had some shadows in her past and had to work through them and find some self acceptance. And that's a good lesson right there and a good draw to a realistic character. The baby played a somewhat lesser role in this book, despite it being the main focus of the story.

Considering this book was all about a baby, it was more than just feedings and diapers and baby stuff. Which actually that was kind of weird because the baby played a small role next to the romance story. It was more Kelly and Tanner doing stuff and getting stuff ready for the baby as opposed to taking care of her. But it was still a good story. There are some long sex scenes in it, so if that's not your thing, you probably shouldn't read it. I liked how everything progressed and the book had a good pace to it.

I would try this author again. She has a nice style and the romance was a good read.

Their Little Princess
Copyright 2000
246 pages

February 27, 2012

He Calls Her Doc by Mary Brady

I have to admit, I really didn't understand this book. It was an easy enough read, but some of the character's actions just didn't make a whole lot of sense.

As the new doctor in town, Maude has a lot to tackle. First off, the townspeople remember her as a kid. Second, she's a woman. And third, she's just not the doctor the townspeople seem to want for their town. Add in a handsome doctor currently working as a tour guide, who also happens to be her late friend's brother, and Maude has other worries. Because Guy doesn't seem to like her, and he's dealing with his brother's daughter too who has come to live with him. A good many townspeople want him to be the doctor, and are prepared to run Maude straight out of business. She's not sure if she can ever earn their trust, and she's not sure how Guy feels about her either.

I like Maude. She seems a good person and is able to stand up for herself. And she's laid back, kind, just an overall well rounded character. Guy on the other hand I don't understand. He's got some weird emotions going on and his instant attraction to Maude is a bit strange as well. Then there's the whole history between them that never really gets explained but is mentioned several times. That just made me more confused rather than helped me understand the dynamic between them. There's several side characters, but none really get too much time except for Guy's niece, who serves as a problem for the two characters. But even she takes a backburner to the medical plots these two doctors have.

The romance was ok. I didn't understand the chemistry so it could have been better. And there are sex scenes in this book, just so you know. The medical stuff was somewhat interesting, although I'm not sure how realistic it is since I'm not a medical professional. The plot went really fast and wrapped up a little too neatly and quickly. And the little side plots made the book kind of dance all over the place. And that wasn't the only thing dancing all over the place, sometimes the characters went from doing one thing to another in the space of a paragraph and it read real choppy at those times. It was an easy read, and didn't require much thought, but I think it could have been developed a little better.

Not the best of the romance genre. I'm not sure I'd recommend it to anyone.

He Calls Her Doc
Copyright 2009
243 pages

February 26, 2012

Tangled Web by Cathy Gillen Thacker

Well this was certainly an unusual romance. And although everything is somewhat plausible there were some elements to this book that I wasn't sure what to think of.

When news of his father's business failing reaches his ears, Chase has to come back from the rainforests to see what's going on. His father's young widow, Hope, is seemingly running the business the best she can, but Chase's mother, bitter from her breakup with Chase's father which she thinks was caused by Hope, is determined to get Hope thrown out of the company. Hope has other secrets too, secrets that Chase is determined to find out. But he can't help but be attracted to her. And he likes her son, which is technically his half brother, and enjoys spending time with him. But do to that means to get a little too close for comfort to Hope.

Hope I didn't find quite believable. Her story is plausible in many ways, and its a shame that such things can happen in our world, but they do everyday unfortunately. But she has an awful lot of coincidences that come together for her. And she's inconsistent in her feelings as well. Chase is a little too good to be true as well. He seems quite selfless and never makes mistakes and it just makes him feel like he's quite real. Yes, yes I know its fiction, but the characters should still be lifelike. I did like the son, he seemed very plausible and like an actual little boy.

The plot kind of meanders about and honestly, there is some uproar that I don't really think was needed to make the book interesting. The romance and character development was interesting enough. And I think the side story of the business was enough to carry the book as well. As a result, adding more into it made it a bit muddled. The romance, I really don't think was something that would happen in real life. But hey, I could be wrong, I'm no expert. There is a sex thing, so if that's not your thing, you have been warned.

Ok romance. If I happened to run across anything else by this author I would probably read it.

Tangled Web
Copyright 1992
217 pages

February 23, 2012

The Cowboy Takes a Bride by Lori Wilde

**This review is part of the Amazon Vine Program**

Yay for cowboy romances! Seriously, I think they're about my favorite type of romances. Something about a guy in a stetson does a girl good. At the very least I get to live vicariously.

When Mariah inherits a little piece of ranch land from her estranged father, her first thought is to sell it and get out of there. She's a city girl, and even though she's down on her luck, she has some plans for herself. But that changes when she comes into contact with Joe Daniels. Joe is a widower, and still grieving, but there's something about him that gets Mariah's attention. And the feeling is mutual as Joe starts to feel a spark he thought long gone after his wife's death. But they can't seem to keep from arguing, and Mariah plans on leaving, so their's is a relationship that just won't work. At least not in their minds.

I like Mariah, she's spunky, has an idea of what she wants, but at the same time can remain aloof. She protects herself. And I can understand that completely. Its hard to get out there all the way after you've been burned. Which makes Joe a good match for her. He's been burned too and isn't interested in rushing into anything. And hey, he's a cowboy, that's always a good attribute. The side characters were ok. I liked some better than others. Ila I found annoying and kind of unneeded. She was just a side plot to throw in some interest I think and so her personality didn't come through very well. Mariah's father, while dead, actually played a pretty big role and I think the author did a good job of describing him and why he was the way he was.

For a romance, this was pretty funny. There were some good punch lines here and there and I found the book amusing. The plot too wasn't as sappy as I thought it was going to be, considering it involved a wedding planner. I actually like how the author kept it mostly realistic. Now since this is a romance there is sex and sex descriptions and that sort of stuff in it. But that's pretty much par for the course when it comes to these books. The writing for the rest of the book was southern and homey and easy to read.

I liked it. I would probably read more from this author. A nice way to round out a long stressful day.

The Cowboy Takes a Bride
Copyright 2012
348 pages

Four D by Gregory Morrison

**This book was received as a free advanced reader's copy**

I'm really not sure what my feelings are on this book. I enjoyed some aspects of it, but really didn't care for others. I can see it appealing to a limited audience, who like the sort of haphazard action the characters take.

Four D is actually four stories in one, loosely related to each other through the characters emotions and also what I consider their mental delusions. The first story involves a man who lives in a world where things disappear and a being/person/something named Space is a companion for him. Things are fleeting there but happiness must be found somehow. The next story has Elise, who is lost in a place of rooms with no way to get out. Or at least none that she's found yet. But she knows that she has to keep going. The third story, possibly my favorite out of the four, has Luidgi, a man who has become bored with life and just wants to find some happiness and excitement. It leads him on a path to self destruction that almost has him spiraling out of control. The last story, and the shortest, I'm still not sure what it really was about. It went quick and seemed to involve a person that encounters a supernatural being that shows him different visions/things that change his perspective on life.

I couldn't really connect with any of the characters. In Space, he is just plain mad and hard to follow, at least through my eyes. Elise also has some mental issues and split personalities and seems disconnected from reality as we know it. Luidgi, while I didn't particularly like him, had some realism for me and I think that's why I liked that story best. He reminds me of someone I used to know who also slowly started self-destructing and pushing everyone away. It was a sad thing to watch. The last story I had so much trouble following that I can't really comment on the character too much as I feel I don't know enough about him.

Since this was four short stories there were four different styles to the book. The first one was jumbled, garbled, and was much like descending into the mind of a mad man. And I'm not sure if that's the way it was supposed to be or not. Either way, it was difficult to read. The second story was interesting, and while I couldn't connect to Elise, I did enjoy reading her story. You almost had to root for her as she made her way through the different doors. Luidgi's story since it rang so true with my experiences I liked, although the dialogue was somewhat stilted at times. The last story was just as hard as the first to get through, and I really didn't enjoy it at all. I think a re-edit on that one might be called for. It was too short and too rushed to get much out of.

An interesting book. Not something that would appeal to the masses, but those that like odd stories and character studies may find it intriguing.

Four D
Copyright 2011
172 pages

February 21, 2012

Cerulean Dreams by Dan O'Brien

**This book was received as a free advanced readers copy**

O'Brien has a very distinctive writing style. I hesitate to call it masculine, but I do feel that it may attract more of a masculine crowd. I'm not saying those who like a feminine tone won't like this book, just merely stating the ideas that flitted through my head as I read it. I thought the premise was interesting myself, but I just couldn't connect to the characters.

In a place called Orion, human beings are connected directly into the system. A company called Cerulean Dreams has everybody on the grid, and they are seemingly content that way. And everybody stays in Orion because the desert outside wouldn't allow anyone to live, or so they've been told. So when Alexander, in his pursuit of finding a murderer who's been preying on young girls, comes across one of these girls and they have to flee the city for reasons that are somewhat unknown to them, he learns just how hard Cerulean Dreams wants to keep everybody in the dark. And if they make it out of the city, they have no idea what may lie in store for them.

Alexander was interesting to say the least. He was a strong character, and very convinced of his convictions. He was actually admirable in that way. But he has some strange tendencies too, which are in part brought on by his world and the events that happen to him. Dana, the girl, is kind of a strange character too. She starts off all knowing and quickly falls to the role of a damsel in distress. I think I would have preferred her to be one or the other consistently through the book. And the main bad guy was somewhat odd in his motivations too, although he made a very compelling threat.

The plot started out as sci-fi, drifted into philosophical and then returned to sci-fi. The problem was the ideas didn't mesh in a way that was cohesive and supportive of each other. I think that maybe letting it all be sci-fi and removing such elements as the creature "the Mimic" and other philosophical things would have made a smoother read. They were actually all really good ideas, but perhaps better suited to two different books. And the ending was a bit rushed and kind of threw a curve ball in with no real answers. I would have liked to have seen several different plot elements elaborated on more to support the ending. But I did like the writing, the dialogue was nicely done and the descriptions were crisp in tone.

Not a bad book. I think there are ideas that could be expanded on but any sci-fi person will probably like it.

Cerulean Dreams
Copyright 2011
345 pages

February 20, 2012

The House at Riverton by Kate Morton

I had heard a couple people talk about this book, so curious, I decided to check it out. I didn't really get into it though.

Its the early 1900's and at Riverton, the servants keep to their own and let their "uppers" rule pretty much everything. One servant in particular, is Grace, who early on starts serving the younger daughters of the family and grows close to them. Or as close as a servant can. One of the sisters, Hannah, she stays with for years as a ladies maid and helps her cover secrets. Including what really happened that night a famous poet died. The story follows Grace and the family for many years, as they reach new steps in their lives.

I couldn't connect to any of the characters. There just wasn't enough there to make them real to me. And their lives were very foreign from mine, which normally doesn't matter with book characters, but for some reason it did with these. Even the main character of the book, Grace, who leads us through this story, she was more telling their stories than her own and I couldn't relate to her either. She seemed nice and loyal enough, but not interesting.

The pace was very slow. And somewhat jumpy as we went from the present to the past through Grace's eyes. She tended to relate a lot that wasn't even the main premise of the book. More memories than anything. It wasn't terribly written. In fact, it had a nice flow to it, but a slow one. The elements of the time seem to be spot on, so you can tell the author did the research. And there's nothing really offensive in this book in regards to sex, cussing, etc.

I'm not sure if I'd read anything else by this author. It just didn't grab me.

The House at Riverton
Copyright 2006
470 pages

February 15, 2012

The Baker's Apprentice by Judith Hendricks

I read the first book in this series, Bread Alone, and enjoyed it. This book I didn't think was as good. It wasn't terrible by any means, but it just didn't hold the charm that the first one did. And I wouldn't recommend reading this one without having read the other one first.

Wynter is now a part owner of the bakery where she churns out Artisan bread. She's got a boyfriend, Mac, who runs hot and cold at the best of times, but she's crazy about him. Even though her divorce isn't final she's picking up her life and moving on. So when they hire a new person at the bakery, and their younger assistant Tyler throws a fit, she's not sure what to do to keep the peace. Mac keeps acting stranger too and Wynter just wants to live a normal happy life, without all the drama, but doesn't seem to be able to get the chance.

Wynter kind of ticked me off in this book. It may be a somewhat spoiler, but I dislike her thoughts about abused women in this book. Its insulting and insensitive and while her partner Ellen showed more compassion, Wyn was not very kind. And that made it very hard for me to connect with her character. She also seemed to have a lot of drama in her life, which is exhausting. Her boyfriend too wasn't the greatest, I honestly, even at the end of the book couldn't figure out why she liked him so much. There was no compelling reason to like him because he was mostly a jerk who needed to grow up and face his demons.

The plot kind of bounced around too. There were so many storylines that just didn't really connect with each other. I always like when they talk about the bakery, but the whole separate story about Mac I really didn't find interesting at all and it messed up the rest of the flow of the book for me. What was great about this book were the different bread recipes that were included. I'm always a sucker for food books, so this worked to my advantage, especially since I'd like to learn to bake a better loaf of bread. So the food elements were good at least.

Not as good as the first. I'm not sure if I'd read the third book if there was another one to come out.

The Baker's Apprentice
Copyright 2005
384 pages

February 13, 2012

Bitten by Dan O'Brien

***This book was received as a free advanced reader's copy***

This was a supernatural crime mystery type of book. It had a good plot, the pace was a bit off, but the characters were good. And it looks like it may be the start of a series, which sounds interesting.

Lauren Westlake is headed to a sleepy little town up North on the trail of a case. A series of strange, possibly supernatural killings have happened, and a new murder has brought her here. The local police force, while resentful at first, soon appreciates her help when another murder occurs that is just as grisly as the first. And it won't be the last either. But Lauren's even got a little romance going as well, with a mysterious man who seems older than he really is. But since the town is full of strange surprises it doesn't alarm her. The cold blooded killer is still on the prowl, and Lauren knows she has to stop him, but its going to be tougher than she thinks.

I liked Lauren. She's pretty no-nonsense and won't take any crap. But at the same time she kind of seems unsure of herself as well. She does fall a little fast for her love interest, but hey, chemistry can happen that way sometimes. The police are also pretty no-nonsense but they are believable for the most part. And I liked the O'Brien gave them some backstories. I was a little weirded out by Hecate, unless she appears in the rest of the series (if it is in fact a series) she just seemed out of place and like an afterthought in this book. Her character and conversations almost made the book unbelievable (well unbelievable in the scope of a supernatural novel anyway). She just didn't seem authentic.

I will say that there is a lot of gore, violence, sex, and wildly colorful language in this book. I'm thinking that if you're sensitive to any of these things, it probably won't be to your taste. But the gruesome did make it a good horror story. It was descriptive and very visual. The conversation I felt a bit strange. I'm assuming this is modern time and the language was a bit formal for now, although I did like that he used northern expressions for some of the characters. I guess for a supernatural suspense, it just seemed like poetic language mixed in between cusswords, and it didn't come off natural. The idea of the killer and the backstory behind it was unique. I actually liked the twist that O'Brien put on the werewolf myth. It was different.

I would read the next in this series and will probably look for it to hit shelves. I'm eager to see if it puts a different spin on another supernatural being.

Copyright 2011
274 pages

The Journey by Dan O'Brien

***This book was received as a free advanced readers copy***

Ok, I freely admit that I really just did not get this book. But I enjoyed the language in it for the most part, and thought it was interesting. It just made me feel a little dumb.

A being called The Lonely sets out on a journey. There a shape shifter called the Crossroads points him in the four directions of the compass, to meet a different kind of being at each end. To the North, a being of logic, the South, one of passion, the West something a little more wild, and to the East, something peaceful. Each of them has a lesson to impart and only after speaking with them can he continue on his journey, to try to figure out who or what he is and why is on this journey in the first place. And ultimately the journey is about knowledge.

The Lonely was kind of pretentious. I'm not going to lie. For a guy who claims to now know what's going on or where he is, he sure does like to argue with these all powerful type beings and try to show them up. But hey, at least he has spunk. The beings themselves are all very different from one another, and that's in both appearance and the messages that they have to impart. I actually think I liked the South the best out of all of them, just because she was a little wild and warm. She'd probably be a good friend. The last figure kind of confused me as I wasn't sure the lesson he was trying to drive home.

So aside from the book making me feel like an idiot with some of its ideas, I did like the imagery. I could actually picture the different places that the Lonely visited and enjoyed the concept of finding a different person in each direction. It was just the conversation (and this book is mainly conversation) that left me at a loss sometimes. I don't consider myself a genius or anything, but some of it was pretty high level and I don't think it could be enjoyed by a wide group of people, I certainly had some trouble in parts anyway. This book is probably for a chose few who like philosophy and figuring out life's lessons and deeper meanings. Its definitely one of those books you have to think about.

I'm still pretty confused and may have to go back and read it again just to see if I can figure a little more out. But considering I read for pleasure I'm more likely to be distracted by something a little more brain friendly.

The Journey
Copyright 2011
176 pages

February 12, 2012

Being Caribou by Karsten Heuer

I wish I liked the cold. I would love to do something like Karsten and his wife did in this book. But alas, the Alaskan and Yukon wilderness is not for me.

Karsten and his wife decide to follow a caribou migration.....on foot and skis. The total trip lasts about five months and they go hundreds of miles. They sleep in a tent and just try to keep up with the herd, I'll while carrying only what they can on their backs and avoiding predators like grizzly bears and wolves. Supplies are dropped along the way for them, but its still a very tough journey, but one that is ultimately rewarding as they learn quite a bit about the caribou. With the calving grounds at risk for being exploited for oil, they feel that the trip is necessary to help preserve the land for the caribou.

Karsten as a narrator was pretty good. There are times where I think he's a bit unfair at describing his wife, but ultimately he admires her, and I'm sure she'd probably be snarky too when writing the book because of the sheer amount of time they spent with only each other. The main focus is the caribou and traveling though, so there really isn't a lot of description of people they encounter with the exception of a few airplane pilots who pick them up or drop off their food for them.

If you think the main focus of this book is going to be the caribou, it isn't. This book is more about the total journey itself. Sure they mention spotting the caribou and some of the migration and some other facts, but just as much time is given to their camping supplies and relationship with each other, and the wilderness in general. Its more of a trip book. I'm sure their documentary probably focuses more on the caribou themselves. Which is just fine, but I would have loved to have them go even further in depth about caribou than they did. But hey, they included some great pictures of the animals and some scenery shots as well, so it was nice to put visuals to the book. As a warning, this book does take a stance against drilling for oil in the arctic, so if you're for it, this may not be a read for you.

Very interesting and informative, and just a good read in all. I would definitely look to see if this author or his wife have more books out.

Being Caribou
Copyright 2005
233 pages

Town in a Lobster Stew by B.B. Haywood

This is the seconds book in the Candy Holliday cozy mystery series. I have to say I enjoyed the first one more. This one wasn't terrible, but it wasn't stellar either.

Candy is surprised when a local woman calls her asking for help. The woman's friend is missing and her secret recipe for lobster stew has been stolen as well. Not wanting to get mixed up in a bunch of things again, Candy reluctantly agrees to help, but quickly finds herself in the middle of things as she is chosen to help judge the Lobster Stew contest and discovers that the stolen recipe has been entered. When another local ends up murdered it just adds to the case and Candy has to find out what happened, even if it means putting herself in danger again.

Candy is ok as a character. She does a lot of things but I never really feel connected to her. I guess her emotions are never put on display along with her detective skills. Her dad is a little better, but he's not really in this book too much. Her best friend Maggie at least is a little more flamboyant and has more personality, but she can act extremely immature at times too. There are plenty of side characters, but we're never really given a plethora of information to become connected to them either.

These mysteries are hard to solve. In fact there are minimal clues and it always ends up a twist, which can take some of the fun out of it. I at least like to have a fighting chance at guessing who the murderer is. I don't want it to be too easy, but it shouldn't be near impossible like this one was. This book had a very slow moving pace as well. It just didn't hold my attention and it actually took me a week to finish this book, when it should have just been a cozy evening read. Thank goodness for the recipes at least. All about lobster they looked delicious, even though getting lobster around here will be near impossible.

An ok mystery. Not the best, but slightly entertaining to read. I'll probably look into the next one in the series.

Town in a Lobster Stew
Copyright 2011
365 pages

February 05, 2012

Liver Let Die by Liz Lipperman

Don't order the foie gras. If you don't take anything else from this book, at least take that. As you may have guessed, this is a cozy/foodie mystery.

Jordan is getting by at her job, writing personals when she would rather be working in the sports section. So when an opening comes up (temporary mind you) for the food column, she reluctantly takes it. And after a unique experience at a restaurant involving foie gras, she gets pretty famous for her column. But then her waiter shows up dead at her apartment complex and she gets a little more than she bargained for too. When a few more murders happen, well that's just icing on the cake and some of the evidence seems to point at Jordan making her a suspect.

I like Jordan. I like that she can't cook and writes a food column. It shows just how much people can bs which is completely truthful. She also has a lot of spunk and isn't afraid of standing up for herself. Her love interst Alex, I really didn't get. It was hard to figure out his motivations anyway, but at least he seemed to be a good guy. And she has an interesting group of friends and neighbors, and I thought they added a charming balance to the story. They were kind of kooky, but still extremely nice.

For a mystery, I have to say I kinda knew what was going to happen from the beginning. And even the bad guys were pretty easy to guess, although there were a ton of them. So I won't give it a full five stars as a result. I like a little more mystery to my mystery. The romance element was ok, but I would have liked for there to be more. Since it was a foodie book, I was happy to see recipes at the end, but food played a smaller role in the book itself. This book was more abou tthe mystery and perhaps friendship as well.

A good beginning to the Clueless Cook mystery series. I'll definitely read the next one.

Liver Let Die
Copyright 2011
278 pages

A One-Of-A-Kind Family by Holly Jacobs

I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by this book. The cover and title made me believe it was going to be something incredibly different (and yes I know I should start reading the back cover, but that just spoils the surprise). It had a great message, and a little romance to go with it.

Anna is a life coach for an organization that helps the developmentally disabled. Part of her job is to go out to her client's homes, and help them to learn to be more self sufficient. So when she gets client Colm, and his twin brother Liam, who is his guardian, she's thrown a little off kilter. Liam is very handsome, but stern, while Colm is an absolute joy to work with and capable of so much more than he's been allowed to do. Anna becomes very attached to both men, and is a little unsure of how to proceed with Colm due to his brother's overprotectivness. She wants him to be all that he can be, but Liam just wants to keep him safe, even if it means being overprotective. And she feels for Liam more than she should for a client's guardian.

Anna is a very joyful person. She just wants to do what's best for her clients. Actually she comes off a little too perfect at times, but hey, its a romance, its expected of the heroine to be amazing. Liam was a little more standoffish but I felt his character was very believable. And I also understood his attraction to Anna, considering that most people wouldn't be able to have a romance with someone who has an adult dependent living with them. Since she was in that line of work, she was a good fit. Colm was absolutely charming, and I actually did picture him as an eight year old (which is what his mental capacity was said to be at) so I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not since he was actually a grown adult.

I did like the idea of this book. It took a subject that's usually not talked about, and made it into a romance. Yes, the romance actually took a backburner to the rest of it, but it was still a good read. And it was very informative about the developmentally disabled community and the troubles it faces. And yes this was a romance novel, but there was no graphic sex in it. There actually was barely any kissing, so like I said, the romance was more of a a side story. But it was a quick read, and kind of a happy theme, so it was pleasant.

One of the better romances I've read lately. I would read more by this author.

A One-Of-A-Kind Family
Copyright 2010
309 pages

February 03, 2012

Super Suppers Cookbook by Judie Byrd

As of 2/3/12 I have made 36 recipes from this book.

Ok, this is your average cookbook. I actually don't know too much about the Super Suppers franchise, but from this book I'm assuming its one of those make ahead and freeze type of places. Which, judging by this book, its only part of the goal of this book, because there were a good many recipes that you could neither make ahead, or freeze after done. I'm not saying that the book is all bad, but its probably not what someone would expect who is a Super Suppers franchise.

The book is broke up into many sections; Tips & Techniques, Beef, Pork, Poultry, Seafood, Vegetarian, Bread Grain & Rice, Salads, Vegetables & Fruit, and Desserts. The tips section mainly involved how to peel, grate, and cut things and a few other cooking techniques.

The next section was Beef. Most of these recipes ranged from the common, to a few exotic dishes. A surprising favorite was Steak Soup. It was a huge hit with the family. The Asian Beef and Vegetable Wraps were good, but didn't really work the way the book said they would and were a bit of a mess to eat. The Cranberry Sweet and Sour Meatballs, were a little on the sweet side, but a good quick meal. Sadly the meatloaf was a greasy mess. Now the Swedish Meatballs, those were worth having again. They were absolutely delicious.

For Pork there were quite a lot of chops on the menu. And I actually haven't really made any of the chops but rather focused on some of the other things in the chapter. The Ham and Corn Chowder was very creamy and very good. I would make it again. Likewise with the Baked Potato Soup. For Sweet and Sour Pork, I also found the recipe easy to make and delicious. The Jambalaya wasn't spicy at all and was very good.

Poultry had some hits in it too. The Amish Chicken and Rice was easy to make but extremely bland. The Chicken Dijon was also pretty bland, and I wouldn't waste my time making it again. Now the Maple-Mustard Chicken was very good, and the Parmesan chicken was good too, even if it did reheat soggy. Sadly the Thai Chicken Wings were a good idea, but again, bland.

Seafood was kind of a bummer chapter. The Crab & Artichoke Pasta was something that sounded delicious, and actually wasn't very delicious. The Seafood Divan though was very good, although the whitefish was a little soggy and not as appetizing. I did like the Shrimp Scampi, the sauce was tasty. The Shrimp in Cheese Sauce might have been good, but it burned very easy, and that trashed the dish. While the Shrimp Stir-Fry was too salty to be good. There were also recipes for crab cakes and other dishes, but I haven't gotten around to those yet.

Vegetarian dishes of course involve a lot of pasta and egg dishes. Pretty common fare. I made the Chinese Noodles but they were very faint on taste, but they were easy to make. I did like the Caesar Pasta Salad, although I had to add a lot more dressing to made the taste strong enough. The same was true with the Hot Orzo Salad, although it did have a strong lemon flavor.

Bread, Grain & Rice is kind of an odd chapter. Not something I'd expect to see in a book like this actually. But it had a couple good things to make. The Spanish Rice I actually made with duck stock instead of chicken, but it was still good, but took way longer to cook than the book said it was. The Stuffed Greek Bread was absolutely amazing. I plan on making it again. There were some cheesy biscuits that were pretty easy to make and they tasted good, not Red Lobster's by any means, but it still rated pretty high.

I never delve much into the salad part of books. Salads to me are just throwing together what you have in the fridge. But I did make a few things. One of those things was the Steamed Broccoli Salad with Pine Nuts and Raisins, which was good, but I didn't care for the nuts and raisins in it. The Spinach Salad was wonderful too though and the Maple Vinaigrette that went with it was spectacular. The maple definitely came through.

Vegetables and Fruit. Well that's just what it sounded like. The Incredible Baked Beans were incredible. Just as good as any fancy ones you'd get in a can, and probably healthier. The Potatoes Cordon Blue were also very good, but kind of watery despite it being cooked for longer than it called for. Everyone's probably made Roasted Vegetables, and this was a pretty standard recipe, but I do think they tasted just the way they should have. I also liked the Spinach with Lemon and Parmesan, unusual flavors that came together well. Unfortunately, the Baked Asparagus with cheese was somewhat tasteless.

And finally we come to desserts. I'm not really a dessert person, but other people like it, so I make it for them. And they liked the ones out of here. The No-Bake Chocolate Cookies were good, but took almost two days to set up correctly. The Hello Dolly Bars were delicious, but a bit overly sweet. And lastly, the Bread Pudding was simple to make and tasted much like the normal recipes.

My biggest complaint about this book is the way its binding. After only a few uses the pages started falling out. And it didn't lay flat on the counter which also made it hard to use. I ended up punching holes in it and tied it together with string to hold it together. It works, but I shouldn't have had to do that.

So the overall thing to take from this book was that things were extremely easy to make, but often bland and required quite a bit more seasoning to make them worth eating. There were some stand-outs though, and this is a good book for a busy person as it does offer the tips for making ahead. I can't say its something I would refer back to very often, but it does have a few recipes that I would make again. Its standard fare, with a few twists, and its a book for the whole family to enjoy.

An Unlikely Match by Arlene James

Ack! Yet another romance that is far below par. I'm not choosy when it comes to romances, but I like them to at least make sense. And this one just didn't do it for me.

Asher knows that when he is called in to help a family friend, that it will be anything but simple. Devoted to his career, he does try to make time for his triplet aunts, but really is too busy most the time. And considering the client is Ellie, who is his younger sister's friend, he really doesn't want to be involved. Ellie's grown up, and a little too much to his liking, especially since after his divorce he's promised not to get involved again. He isn't relationship material, but Ellie can be pretty compelling.

The characters were terrible in this book. Asher is not a good leading man. He's arrogant, a jerk and I really can't see why Ellie likes him. Ellie, when I wasn't confused by her being called Ellen at times, wasn't that great either. She was too simpering and weak, and while she seemed to be a nice person, I think she was looking for love in all the wrong places. I actually liked the side characters in this book better. They were colorful and had better personalities.

This book was very very preachy. I didn't realize it was going to be a Christian romance novel, so while there are no sex scenes, it more than takes up space with endless prayers to God and saying about how faith rules their lives. I can handle Christian fiction when it isn't preachy, but this was over the top. The romance part of it too was just a little blah. Like I said before, I just couldn't figure out the chemistry between the main characters.

Not a good one for me. I'll be staying far away from the Love Inspired series from now on.

An Unlikely Match
Copyright 2011
217 pages