March 31, 2012

Apron Anxiety by Alyssa Shelasky

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

This was a very enjoyable read. I'm a sucker for foodie memoirs at any time, but this one took it beyond the usual. And the writer is so quirky that it was funny as well. But I do have to say, it didn't really inspire me to cook myself, but her exploits in the culinary world were interesting.

Alyssa always knew she was going to be a writer. And she does pretty well in that aspect, ending up in New York writing for some well-known magazines. But then she meets and falls in love with a famous chef and moves to Washington D.C. with him and things change for her. Stuck in the relationship that has its highs and lows and mostly loneliness, she turns to food as a way to help herself feel better, and discovers that she likes cooking. And of course her writing progresses to cooking so a blog develops out of it and her career is formed as well. Despite the rocky love life, she has something that she can fall back on.

Alyssa does a lot of name-dropping, and that's kind of what drives me nuts about this book. It actually is probably what keeps it from being a five star book. Because she does it in such an obvious way, and not a gracious way. Its ok to be proud of your accomplishments and share your successes, but there's also a way to do it that doesn't rub people the wrong way. And I think she crossed that line once in awhile. It just got dreary. Her personal relationships are a lot more interesting in the book. The dynamic she has with her friends and family is endearing and I enjoyed the book when she focused on those people rather than the famous ones. It just showed a little more heart I think.

Her style of writing is very funny and even if she gets down on herself sometimes, she sees the humour there too. I could have easily kept reading had her book been longer. She just has a tone and style that makes it hard to put down. Actually I stayed up way later than I normally do just to finish the book because I was enjoying it. And her descriptions of food are very approachable too. She's got the right idea when she doesn't approach food as a food snob, but rather as someone who just enjoys it and wants to learn. And the recipes didn't seem too bad either, although there weren't really any that had me rushing out to buy ingredients. But I'm sure there are some I'll get around to someday.

A very interesting book. I would definitely read another book by her if she decides to publish again.

Apron Anxiety
Copyright 2012
260 pages

March 28, 2012

The Chocolate War by Richard Cormier

What a strange, disturbing little book. I honestly have very mixed feelings about it. And not for the disturbing parts, I actually liked those. What I didn't really like about this book was the style of the writing, which is probably weird on my part I guess.

Jerry is just trying to fit in at school. After the death of his mother and the loving but distant relationship with his father, he needs something else in his life. So he goes out for the football team. And you would think that would be where things get interesting. But no, Jerry's school is a little different. It's a prep school for the middle class, and underneath it all is a secret organization of boys who's main purpose seems to be creating mayhem. They like to "assign" tasks, and in this case Jerry has to forgo selling chocolates in the school's annual sale. And something so harmless doesn't seem like much at the time to Jerry, but it quickly becomes much more sinister.

I never really connected to Jerry as a character. We're given a little bit of his background and his emotions, but never all of it. And I think that made the book wanting a bit. Heck, I'm still not even sure why he didn't want to sell chocolate although I feel like I should know. And the rest of the kids weren't exactly endearing either, although I think that was kind of the point. I think the only character I did like was Jerry's father, and he didn't even play much of a role. But at least he was sympathetic and a little bit of light shone in the book.

The concept behind the book was brilliant. Peer pressure, sinister schools, the animalistic side of humans. There was a lot of different themes here. And it was definitely a dark and disturbing book with some lessons hidden here and there. But the writing, I just couldn't get into the style of writing. The lack of connection to the characters was one thing, but reading it in half a regular book and half through a teenage boys eyes was tough to do. Now granted I've never been a teenage boy, but I should at least be able to sympathize a little bit right? I just had so much trouble enjoying the pace and flow of the book and getting caught up in it. I was actually a bit glad when it was over, not because I hated it, but because it was tedious for me to read in that voice.

Fantastic idea which sub par writing, I'm not sure if I'd attempt the sequel or not. Although the ending is a bit ambiguous which I actually liked for once and it made me curious.

The Chocolate War
Copyright 1974
191 pages

March 26, 2012

The Sheriff of Sage Bend by Brenda Mott

Blah, I seem to be going through a rash of average romances. Nothing with spark, nothing with sizzle. Just an average entertaining story that has a slightly different plot from the others. I'm guessing that's my clue to stick to another genre for awhile.

When her sister goes missing, the last person Miranda wants to work with is Sheriff Lucas. After all, he left her at the alter several years ago and she's never really gotten over it. But she misses her sister terribly and is very worried about her and its enough to put her back into close contact with Lucas. But there's a sizzle there and despite her worry about her sister Shannon, she feels drawn back to Lucas. And he feels the same way, but there's too much bad blood in his family and he worries that he carries it too. So to protect Miranda, he'll stay as far away from her as he can.

Why is it that romance heroines always seem to be slightly dumb? Shannon for instance, her decisions do not make any logical sense to me in this book. In fact they are the opposite of logical. Miranda is a little better but she can be way to headstrong sometimes. Headstrong to the point where her actions seem unbelievable actually. Lucas was about the same way. But at least he acted like his profession and generally followed normal people activities as he was out and about. All the other characters weren't really fleshed out so they didn't leave an impact on me in any way.

A kidnapping is a pretty exciting plot. Too bad the author had to take the story development to less interesting. But I don't want to give too much away so that's all I'm saying. The hunt for Shannon is a compelling reason to bring Miranda and Lucas together though, and that does help the romance. And the romance even got kind of steamy, which is a plus side when you're reading these types of novels. I just wish she had focused as much on everything else as she did the romance, it would have made this book spectacular.

Not a bad romance, but very much like several others you could read. There was nothing really to make this stand out from the crowd.

The Sheriff of Sage Bend
Copyright 2007
267 pages

March 25, 2012

Child of Grace by Irene Hannon

I had a hard time sinking into this romance. It just didn't pull you in, and while it had a compelling story, it just wasn't catching for me for some reason.

Kelsey moved to a small Michigan town to run away from some troubles. Or rather not run but she had to alter her life after a traumatic experience. But it can't completely leave her, because the experience let her pregnant and confused about what's going to happen in her life. And when army doctor Luke moves in next door she isn't sure whether to be scared of him, or attracted to him. And then she has to work with him on a charity case so they're thrown together pretty quickly.

I liked Kelsey. I thought she was strong and that her character acted appropriately for her experiences. But Luke I just didn't get. He seemed very two-dimentional and honestly didn't have some very good attributes to his character. If I were Kelsey, I certainly wouldn't have gone for him. But to each their own I guess. I actually liked the side characters. Luke's sister Hannah was pretty entertaining.

Kelsey has a lot to overcome, but for how exciting her past is, the book actually moves quite slow. And it gets kind of boring at times. I also thought the romance was only so-so. There just wasn't chemistry there. And since this was love-inspired it was a christian book. But it wasn't overt or preachy, so that wasn't too bad. I just think that this book could have used some time to develop the plot a little more, instead of rushing it, especially towards the end.

Ok, but I just wasn't thrilled with the characters. I think this could have had the potential to be a very very good book. But it just didn't spend the time it could have in developing itself.

Child of Grace
Copyright 2011
280 pages

March 24, 2012

Familiar Lullaby by Caroline Burnes

Apparently this book is one of a series. But I didn't know that before reading, and guess what? It didn't matter, this did just fine as a stand-alone. And it was cute, although the romance wasn't the greatest.

Familiar has a pretty busy life for a cat. When he's not investigating crimes, he's pursuing his ladylove Calico Clotilde who sometimes accompanies him on his escapades. He has his work cut out for him this time though. A baby has been left on Clotilde's people's doorstep and the mother is nowhere to be found. But reporter Lily knows more than she's telling, and cop Mel is determined to find out what's going on. But his preconceived notions may make things harder on them all. And Lily is determined not to trust him.

The cats are probably the greatest characters in this book. They have a lot of personality and are probably the smartest out of the bunch. Lily is pretty good too. She's against abuse and willing to do something about it, and that's incredibly admirable to me. But she also is pretty illogical at times too when it comes to Mel. In fact, their whole relationship is just plain strange. They are practically strangers, then BAM! All of a sudden they are in love and I felt like I missed entire chapters of the book. And Mel's not even that great of a leading man. He isn't a very nice person in my opinion.

I loved how the cats helped with the investigation in this book. It added some levity. Because it really did go over some hard topics. And the knowledge of abuse was uncanny. I wouldn't hesitate to say that the author has had experience with abuse in some form. Because she said exactly how it felt and the thoughts that run through your head when it happens and why it is so hard to leave. So there's some valuable lessons in this romance novel. Although I hesitate to call it a romance, because really the romance was not a very good part of the book. It just wasn't believable at all. But the rest of the plot was exciting, and the intrigue was good.

I would definitely read another of this series. Mainly because I like the cats so much. They made a normal romance into something a little more.

Familiar Lullaby
Copyright 2001
249 pages

March 20, 2012

Burning Ambition by Amy Knupp

Mmmm, firefighters. Ok, now that I've had that moment, this book was about firefighters. But not all manly men firefighters, the main character, is of course, a woman. And it was an ok romance, but it needed some more follow through on some of its plot lines.

Faith is used to having to prove herself. As a woman firefighter, things are just not in her favor in a male dominated job. And she wants no special favors, especially since she has the chief as a father and has to live up to that expectation too. The Captain of her squad makes things difficult too. For one he's incredibly handsome, and attracted to her too, but that's not what she needs when she's trying to prove herself to the rest. For Joe Mendoza, being captain is a tough job, but he's aiming at a promotion, and falling for Faith isn't exactly the quickest way to earn that promotion.

Faith is a decent character. She's a strong woman, wants to do what's right by her family, and just as passionate about things in her personal life as she is about her work. But I was so disappointed with the follow through for her character. It starts out with her trying to prove herself in a male dominated position, and then that quickly goes away as the romance takes over. It made her seem not as real to me as a result. Joe too was a little disappointing. He wants things so badly, but I never really understood why he wanted Faith. Sure she was cute, but what were the other reasons? He only knew her in a business setting so those qualities there aren't necessarily the ones that she would have in her personal relationships.

But I'm done ranting about the characters. The plot was actually decent. Firefighters have exciting jobs so reading about them can be exciting too. We even got to travel along to a few fires through the book and while I don't know if the scenes were accurate as I've never been a firefighter, they seemed authentic enough. The romance was ok, the sexy scenes were pretty steamy, but the rest of it was kind of stilted, which is probably a result of the odd chemistry the two had. I just wish the author had stuck to some of the plotlines instead of adding more in throughout the book. It would have made it seem better developed.

Ok, if you like firefighters it'll probably be up your alley. Otherwise, it was your average romance.

Burning Ambition
Copyright 2011
281 pages

March 19, 2012

City of Scoundrels by Gary Krist

***This book was received as part of the Amazon Vine program***

This book was compared to Devil in the White City. And while they were both about Chicago, I do have to say that I think Devil in the White City is the better book. It was more engaging. But it was still a very interesting book and had its moments.

City of Scoundrels details twelve very tumultuous days in Chicago's history. Starting with a blimp crash of one of Goodyear's first blimps, to a kidnapping and murder, to rampaging race riots, these days in history would change the politics and mood of Chicago forever. The politicians who ran the town reacted to these events in ways that would be criticized and questioned as the years passed. Amidst the major events were the smaller stories too, of people who lived during these days in Chicago and who felt the direct impact of what was happening.

The biggest "character" in this book would probably be Big Bill Thompson, the mayor during the twelve disastrous days. It explained his running campaigns, politics, and a little bit about his personality in general. He was supposedly a likable guy, but I really didn't care much about him either way. The other people didn't focus as heavily in the book, but a few had interesting stories. Like a couple of the men involved in the blimp crash. You're introduced to them and then WHAM, tragedy strikes. Very compelling anyway. On a polar opposite though was the small running story of a woman who was secretly engaged to be married, but to be honest I couldn't stand her and wish she wasn't in the book. She just seemed pretty self centered what with everything else that was going on in Chicago at the time, even right down the street from her. That and her story was just kind of frivolous, no meaning in a book full of meaning.

The plot drug on. I had a hard time finished this book. It was chock full of interesting facts about events I had never heard about. But it was tedious to read and wasn't very smooth or engaging. I did learn a lot, especially about the race riots and the blimp crash. I actually had never even heard of a blimp crash outside of the Hindenburg before so I found that incredibly informative. And I liked the list of resources and notes at the end. The book was definitely well researched.

A smoother writing style and this might have been right up there with Devil in the White City. I would probably still read another book from this author though, despite not being able to fully immerse myself in this one.

City of Scoundrels
Copyright 2012
273 pages

March 18, 2012

This Time For Keeps by Jenna Mills

I didn't think this was one of the better romances I've read lately. In fact, I just didn't enjoy it at all despite the main character being Scottish. Which is usually a plus in romance novels for me. But not this one, this one held no charm at all.

After the breakup of their marriage two years before, things have changed in both Meg and Russell's life. They were recovering from tragedy, and grew apart, and then when Russell left, everything was turned upside down in Meg's life. But she had to pull herself out of the gloom when his sister had a baby. And then when his sister died, it was just Meg and the baby, who she loves immensely. But with Russell back in town, the divorce papers still not signed, and the affairs to be set in order, Meg is deeply afraid that she will lose the child and be alone again. And she never did get over Russell, so just his presence is enough to throw her whole world for a loop.

Meg was a bit strange. She had a lot of emotional baggage, which is understandable, but she took it to extremes at times. I also thought that the way the author treated alcoholism was completely insulting. It made it seem an easy thing to get over and its not. Russell was a jerk in my opinion. He was so wrapped up in his own needs that he thought he was write about everything. And he doesn't really come around ever, he still pushes everything back on Meg. Honestly I'm not quite sure what Meg even fell in love with him. He was just completely unlikable. And like most romance novels, the child was no more than a mere prop in the book.

I didn't really care for the plot either. The whole concept of them still being married two years later and brought together by a child just seemed very contrived. They didn't seem to even really care for each other beyond sexual attraction, and even that wasn't very exciting. And the whole town acting the way they did, that was a bit unrealistic as well. The romance part of this romance was pretty tame. It was more a book about them whining about their problems and then deciding maybe a little romance thrown in was ok. Nothing really tied together too well.

I wouldn't read it again or recommend it. I'm not even sure I'd be on the lookout for anything else from this author.

This Time For Keeps
Copyright 2010
314 pages

March 15, 2012

Family Be Mine by Tracy Kelleher

Well this was an interesting take on a romance novel. Not so perfect heroes and heroines actually worked out pretty well. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it.

After finding out on the day of her wedding that her fiance is gay, Sarah definitely isn't having the best of days. Add to that that she's pregnant and she's not really sure where her life is going to turn at this point. But she has good friends and family and they're always there for her, even if it means sending her to a swim therapy class. There she meets Hunt, a rich man recovering from cancer and chemo. They like each other, even if it means making fun and when it turns out Hunt's business partner is married to her friend, they start spending more time together. So much time that she moves in with him as her pregnancy progresses since she needs some help with mobility. And from there, something more sparks for them that they both find unexpected.

Sarah is a very sweet person. But she can be pretty sassy too. And her being pregnant just adds a whole new element to the story. The hormones and all... Hunt was a little too perfect, he didn't seem real at times. And to be honest, I didn't really understand the attraction between the two. Sure they were both nice people, but they didn't have anything in common with each other. And the dog, of all the ways to try to liven up a book, I really wish authors wouldn't use dogs as comedic relief as it just seems too contrived.

Like I said before, I found the mix of somewhat weak characters refreshing. It was nice to know that they had some flaws and that they were almost like real people. They even had trouble training that dog. The romance was pretty light, a mild sex scene (with a pregnant woman, that was weird) and some kissing and that was about it. And the story moved at a good pace. A little fast, but then again most romances are that way. They must have some kind of word allotment that they can't go past. Or at least the ones I've experienced seem shorter than your average fiction book.

Pretty decent read. A good romance for a rainy day I'd say.

Family Be Mine
Copyright 2010
249 pages

March 13, 2012

His Country Girl by Jillian Hart

Hmm, glad to be back amongst the decent romance novels again. Its amazing how you can get into a streak of bad ones. But anyways, I digress. This romance was pretty enjoyable. Sure it had a few flaws, but they weren't enough to spoil the book at all.

Sierra Baker is a nervous wreck. Her little boy is due for surgery and since he's all she has after her husband left both of them, she can't really contain what she feels. So she has mixed emotions when little Owen gets his miracle wish fulfilled in the form of Tucker Granger, a rodeo cowboy she grew up with. But Tucker turns out to be a surprise. He's excellent with Owen and she finds herself becoming very attached to him. But that's not what either of them want because Sierra doesn't want upheaval in her life and Tucker isn't the type to settle down. But there is an attraction there, regardless of what they want to feel.

I think Tucker was my favorite character in all of this. He seemed like a good down to earth guy who wasn't afraid to just be himself. And he had believable emotions and motivations. Sierra, I haven't quite decided on her yet. She was very very skittish. Which is somewhat understandable, but she changed her mind so easily on everything that she wasn't as believable as Tucker. Owen, the kid, was ok too. He bounced around the book in a cheerful haze for the most part and was genuinely kid-like.

The sick kid theme is actually one I haven't read before. I'm sure there are plenty of books out there that involve that theme, but since this was the first one I read it was unique. And I liked it. Although I think a little more drama could have been squeezed in. The romance was satisfactory. Since this is a Love Inspired it was kind of slow going and tame. But at least this one wasn't very preachy like some from that romance line can be. In fact it was very tolerable. And the romantic parts were pretty tame as well, maybe a few sneaky kisses. The ending was kind of rushed, but that was probably the most noticeable problem with the book, and still not a huge deal.

A nice smooth read with likable characters. This is a romance that I wouldn't hesitate to recommend to fans of the genre.

His Country Girl
Copyright 2011
218 pages

March 12, 2012

Billionaire M.D. by Olivia Gates

Wow, I'm a bit amazed at how much I disliked this book. And I was so encouraged by the handsome man on the front cover and the synopsis of the back cover. But it was not what I expected at all.

When she wakes up, Cybele doesn't know where she is, who she is, or who the handsome man leaning over her is. But she knows she's attracted. Slowly her memory comes back in patches, she was married but her husband died in the accident that injured her. She's pregnant, but her husband was a paraplegic. And this handsome man taking care of her is a doctor and good friend of her husband's and maybe more. But she doesn't feel loss for her husband, only growing attraction for this man which confuses her even more and makes her think she's an awful person. She has a lot of recovering to do, and a lot of memories to regain before she can figure out what's going on with her life.

I'm not sure I understand Cybele. For someone who lost her memory she doesn't really fight that hard to get it back. Maybe she doesn't want to know, but I wouldn't just take everything a handsome stranger says to be the truth either. Especially since she's supposed to be a pretty intelligent person. Rodrigo I can't stand at all. He's controlling, egotistical, and treats Cybele terribly in my eyes. Even if he was the most handsome man on earth it wouldn't make up for his personality. Since we are only really treated to these two characters for the majority of the novel, there aren't any standout characters to take a break with as well. We're stuck with these two unlikable people. And I never really did figure out how he's a billionaire as advertised by the cover.

The plot was so far out there at points that I just couldn't believe some of the things. I don't want to spoil anything but all the conflicts are resolved so easily and in such bizarre ways that I almost laughed out loud in incredulity at some of the pages. Their problems all had such easy solutions (and convenient) that it was just unbelievable. But hey, at least the sex scenes were hot, that's something I guess. I just couldn't get past the whole plot being unbelievable and the main character being so controlling and secretive. Set off my warning bells.

Obviously I didn't enjoy it. There were just so many wrong paths to take and the author took them. I would not recommend this romance at all. I've read good romances, but this just didn't qualify for me. Hopefully the author's other works are better.

Billionaire M.D.
Copyright 2010
182 pages

The Baby Agenda by Janice Kay Johnson

I thought this romance was merely average. It might have had a good idea, but the characters were just lacking in it. There was no connect-ability there.

Moira has always struggled with her self image. So much so, that when she shows up to an event and sees her current boyfriend there with someone else, she ends up having a one night stand with a man who calls her beautiful. And that's all it can ever be, because little does she know, Will is going to Africa to build hospitals. And he's earned it after raising his three younger siblings. But then Moira discovers she's pregnant. She doesn't really want Will's help, but she knows she does at least have to let him know. And her plans are changed when she learns he won't just sit idly by while she has his baby.

There really wasn't any chemistry between Moira and Will. Moira is extremely needy and can be exasperating at times, well more than just times, she's pretty irritating throughout the book. She is supposed to be a strong career woman but she has a lack of self esteem that's astounding. Will is a little better, but he has some mixed emotions going on too. And I actually found him quite controlling. Definitely not someone I would ever consider being in a relationship due to his need to control Moira and look out for her "best interests." I did like Moira's best friend. He has a good head on his shoulders and was considerably nicer than everyone else in the book.

The whole having a baby after a one night stand has been done quite a bit. But I like how she sent the guy to Africa as a way to separate the two of them. The romance was very slow in this book though (well aside from the one night stand) and after awhile it was almost laughable at how nothing was really happening except for Lamaze classes. I just found it to be slower than normal. But it was a quick read, and those that are into the whole pregnancy baby theme will probably enjoy it. I just thought it could have used more to the plot than that.

Not great but not terrible. An average romance in a sea of romances.

The Baby Agenda
Copyright 2010
249 pages

March 08, 2012

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

**This review may contain spoilers**

This is the third book in the Hunger Games trilogy. I was completely blown away by the first book (well aside from the writing style itself) and the ideas that it presented. And as such, was very eager to devour the next two books. The second book proved to be lackluster, and this one followed in its footsteps unfortunately. It provided a decent ending, but after the Hunger Games, it just didn't have the excitement the first one did. And if you haven't read the first two books yet, don't go any further, go give them a read! This is not a stand-alone type of book.

Katniss is now with the rebel District 13, but Peeta is still trapped by the Capitol and President Snow. She isn't sure what she wants to do and wanders around aimlessly while everyone tries to convince her to be the "Mockingjay" and a symbol for the rebellion. When she finally decides she has to do something for Peeta's sake, she still isn't sure how she feels about it, but she gets back into the swing of things and tries to make a difference. But it could cost her so many things that are important to her life.

Katniss is always pretty unlikable. But in this book she's unlikable in the bad way, not the unique way. She just doesn't have very many redeeming qualities at all. Gale too isn't the greatest of characters. I almost feel like they deserve each other. Even Peeta isn't written as brilliantly as he was in the first two. He's a mere shadow of himself and while some can argue that's the point, I think it could have been done better. I did like reading about the people of District 13 though, there's was an interesting culture. And I actually liked President Snow in this book. Finnick and some of the other side characters were remarkable as well. So maybe I'm just the weird one.

Whereas the 2nd book moved too slow, this one moved too fast. Too much going on, not enough description of the important things. And the last part of the book felt like a dungeon crawl in some sort of role playing game. It was just stiff and didn't flow naturally. And its all still told through Katniss' eyes. And she's not the best narrator. I think a 3rd person perspective would have given this series so much more. Even the world building aspects would have been better. Like the other two books, there is a lot of violence in this one, but at least its realistic violence, even if it is gory. I don't want to spoil too much, but I think the end was well written and believable, so that saved this book a little bit too. The concepts are fantastic, its just the execution that could be worked on.

Not the best ending it could have been, but at least it was something. I can tell you, at the very least, I'll probably reread the first book a few times over. An interesting series to be sure.

Copyright 2010
400 pages

Silent Night in Dry Creek by Janet Tronstad

Oh my, remind me to never visit Dry Creek, I don't think I could stand it. What a terribly boring story. I just couldn't bring myself to like it at all.

Due to some stupid mistakes in her past, Jasmine is an ex-con. But she's out now, she's learned her lesson, and she's even found acceptance in the church. Not to mention she found her long lost father in Dry Creek and he's accepted her wholeheartedly. So when she hears from her ex-boyfriend, who got her into prison in the first place, she's very frightened. Which brings in lawman Wade who is recovering from an injury. The townspeople think he'd be the perfect person to guard Jasmine and keep her safe. But the personalities of the two tend to clash, and he's not real thrilled with being back in Dry Creek anyway.

These characters have way too much drama and strife and they tend to forget the drama as quick as they bring it up anyway. Jasmine does not seem like a 43 year old. Actually she kind of acts like an idiot, a very young idiot. Her character just wasn't very realistic. Then there's Wade, he's pretty much cardboard. Not a whole lot of substance going on there. And the townspeople are unconvincing as well.

First off, a plot to pay a healing lawman to follow a girl around is very shallow. Luckily they drop that idea pretty quick, although it is strange it doesn't get mentioned past the few first pages of the book really. Then we lead in to the fact that the rest of the plot is basically about a Christmas pageant. And by the sounds of it, not even a very good one. It simply wasn't interesting. The ex boyfriend being threatening is something, but in the end very anti-climactic. I also just didn't get the romance between the two main characters. There really isn't any chemistry there and they could have been brother and sister the way they acted around each other. Since this is a Love Inspired book, there is quite a bit of Christian aspects to the book, which, considering its about a Christmas pageant makes sense. And nothing goes beyond a few steamy kisses.

Not very good, but at least it was a quick read. I think I'll try to avoid other romances by this author.

Silent Night in Dry Creek
Copyright 2009
205 pages

March 07, 2012

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

**Warning, this review could contain spoilers**

Ok, so I have to admit I've become fully blown obsessed about this series. I even want a little Mockingjay pin that I would actually wear and show my geeky side with. That being said, I'll never rate this book five stars despite my obsession because of some of its errors. But in the end, I can't wait to read the 3rd book (although I suspect that's more because of the first book than this one) so I can't rate this one too poorly.

Catching Fire is the second book in the Hunger Games trilogy. Do not try to read this book as a stand-alone. You will be completely lost. These are the kind of books that should be read in order. And you won't regret reading the first one anyway, so if you haven't read it yet, go start there.

After winning the games with Peeta, the first joint winners ever, Katniss returns home to District 12. There she tries to get back to her life, but nothing is the same. And when the six month tour of the districs comes around, as a winner of the Hunger Games she is compelled to go and put on the show that she and Peeta are madly in love, even though she's not sure what her feeling are. And worse yet, the President of the Capital, knows its just a ruse, and he suspects that others think the same when signs of rebellion start appearing all over the districts. Eager to stop the rebellion in its tracks, he makes some not so veiled threats to Katniss, and she finds that she is not as safe as she thought she was.

Katniss has never really been a likable character. And that's actually ok. Its kind of refreshing to have a main character who isn't likable. Peeta on the other hand, is just as charming as ever. I would have really liked to see more character development for everyone else though. There are so many important people in Katniss' life that it seems a shame they are never really fully explored. Although her clothing designer does get some great moments in this book.

My biggest complaint about this book would be the pacing. I understand its a middle book, but really, it is just mainly filler. Instead of taking an in-depth look at the different colonies they tour, more time is spent on Katniss' wardrobe. And I just don't understand that. Same with the action at the end, it didn't take long at all and by all accounts it should have been the largest part of the book. But it was just too rushed. I did like that we got a little bit of what was happening after the games filled in though. It would have been nice to see them but at least Collins kept us in the loop. I'm also not a fan of Collins use of the first person, I think this story would gain so much more by being in the 3rd person. We'd get more background on the world and things that aren't as important to Katniss but are important to a reader.

It was good to get more background but after Hunger Games I expected much much more from this book. I am still very eager to read the 3rd book though!

Catching Fire
Copyright 2009
391 pages

March 05, 2012

A Texas-Made Family by Roz Denny Fox

I have to say that the main character really ruined this book for me. She was just a little too much to take in and considering the plot wasn't that exciting, it would have helped to make her likable. I've read some of Fox's other work and it wasn't bad, but this, this just wasn't good.

Rebecca wants better for her kids. That means, unlike she who was raised in a Mennonite community, they are going to have the opportunity for education, and they'll know the value of a dollar. After all, she works two jobs just to keep them afloat. So when her daughter starts seeing a boy and her grades slip, Rebecca is very upset. She approaches the boys father to see what can be done, but he's more interested in getting her to go on a date as opposed to actually fixing things. He's not that close to his kids after being in the army, and while he's trying to fix that, he knows he can't control them. So while he cares about Rebecca's situation, he'd much rather they work together (and be together) while they're talking to their kids.

So some of these issues I have with the characters could be considered spoilers. You have been warned. Rebecca is an absolute mess. She whines about money constantly, in front of her new beau and any others that happen to be listening. And it just gets old. Honestly I can't really see why Grant was interested in her, I would have been turned off by that alone. There really isn't any chemistry between the two either. The kids, they weren't very realistic. The youngest daughter acted about half her age and the younger son, while ok, didn't really act his own age either. The two oldest were very flighty and angry, which could be realistic, but sometimes it took it to extremes.

The plot was slow and boring. Which is unusual for a romance. They are usually a bit faster pace. But with the exception of some action at the end, they didn't really do anything aside from go on a few dates. And that ending, jeez, talk about all over the place. I was reading and from one paragraph to the next I thought I missed a few pages because they did an abrupt 180* with all their plans in the middle of a conversation. It was just plain weird. Since this is a romance, there is a sex scene in it, but only one, and it was very quick.

Not a very good romance. It wasn't quite a one star, but it was darn close. I can only hope if I run into more of Fox's books that they're better.

A Texas-Made Family
Copyright 2008
243 pages

March 04, 2012

Cop On Loan by Jeannie Watt

This was pretty standard fare for a romance novel. Strong hero, feisty yet vulnerable heroine, and a plot that keeps you guessing. So it wasn't anything out of the ordinary, but it was still a decent read.

Tony is in town on temporary assignment, he's filling in for a cop that is out in the precinct. So when his life gets more complicated with the introduction to Jasmine Storm, he is less than happy. But when she thinks someone is breaking into her home, it gives him a good enough reason to offer to rent her basement. He's about to get kicked out of his other place because of his dog, and he feels the need to protect her. But her boyfriend isn't too happy about it either, and he's the least of Tony's worries. He can't get attached to this girl, he's got to go back to Seattle and undercover at some point, but there's something in him that wants more than his usual solitary life.

I wasn't a big fan of Jasmine. She's vulnerable one minute, strong the rest, and it just doesn't mesh well. Combine that with her list making and she was just a little strange. Although she did have a cool cat. Tony was a little better. He had a sense of humor and plenty of flaws, and he was willing to recognize those flaws. I'm still not sure why he is so attracted to Jasmine, must be from living in close parameters with her. The other characters in the book weren't really given that much time so they weren't really developed at all.

The whole cop going to live with a girl who may or may not be being house invaded actually wasn't that interesting of a plot for me. Maybe if there had been more instances of real danger, instead of just small things, it might have shown more of a thrill. But more time is dedicated to her dates with her boyfriend than actual danger. Still, it was an interesting read and the characters interacted well. There were a few steamy scenes but nothing too extreme. Definitely not as risque as some others books that I have read. And it didn't move too fast, it had a fairly steady pace.

Not too bad. Good for those who like the romance genre. A pretty solid 3.5 I'd say.

Cop On Loan
Copyright 2008
307 pages

March 03, 2012

Blind-Date Bride by Jillian Hart

I'm not sure this author has ever been to Bozeman, MT. I lived there for three years, and I've got to say, considering this book supposedly takes place there, it just doesn't feel like Bozeman to me. Except for the tater tots at the Mexican restaurant, that was authentic.

Brianna gets stood up again. This blind dating business isn't obviously for her. But then, Max Decker is also stood up. He wasn't really ready to date anyway, just felt pressured into it, but as he and Brianna strike up a conversation about their failed dating experiences, he feels drawn to her. But they've both got some issues from their past aside from the dating. Brianna has PTSD from a robbery and Max too has been caught in the line of fire, being that he's a cop. It makes both of them have some serious trust issues.

Brianna was very very timid. Every page you expected her to break. Now granted she had been through a very traumatic experience, so she had reason to be, but she just seemed like she'd blow away in the wind. And then there's Max, who is the exact opposite, except for his worries. He was a little too tough. Actually I think about the worst character in the book was Max's half brother who lived with him. For a kid that went to getting into trouble in L.A. to this squeaky clean do good kid in Bozeman, it just didn't seem realistic. Frankly I can't consider most kids acting the way this one did.

The plot was kind of feeble. And it was way too rushed. Everything happened so fast that it seemed the couple had barely gone out on a few dates before they loved each other so deeply. It takes time to get to know someone, more than a week or two. And aside from them dating and a few minor issues, nothing really happened in the book. It was just them going places with each other. And considering those places were in Bozeman, it didn't even ring authentic for me. I kept picturing real places and the book's just didn't line up. This was a Love Inspired romance, and unlike the other by this author that I read, this one was very preachy. Scripture quoted everywhere and faith turned too outrightly. Granted, its my fault for reading this book knowing what type it was, but the author's other one wasn't this way.

I wasn't a fan. I liked the author's other book about a soldier, but this one was just a little too sappy and fast-paced to take.

Blind-Date Bride
Copyright 2009
208 pages

The Water Baby by Roz Denny Fox

This was an unusual romance. It had a lot going on, but surprisingly the pace was somewhat slow. Just not what I'm used to from Harlequin novels.

Temple has been looking for his daughter for awhile now. She was kidnapped by his ex-wife and he hasn't heard from them in weeks. So when he sees a tv interview with his daughter's picture, he becomes alarmed when he realizes that she was on a yacht that was blown up. He rushes to Galveston to find her only to discover that she won't let him near her. The only one she'll let near is Daisy, the shrimper who rescued her from the ocean. Having regressed quite a bit, his daughter is only fit to be around Daisy, who had to put her life on hold to help this little girl. Temple realizes that he'll have to stay on the island until his daughter is better, but he's not sure what he thinks about Daisy.

Daisy is actually a really good character. I like that she's a shrimper, which is usually more of a masculine job. It gives her strength and makes her interesting. She's compassionate too, she'd have to be in order to take care of this little girl that is just thrust into her life. Temple on the other hand I didn't like as much. I thought he did way too much of a personality change in the beginning and the rest of the book on he just doesn't seem authentic. In fact, most of his motivations are really hard to align. The little girl, Becca, since she's mute most of the novel is more of a prop for Daisy to take care of too. She does have a little personality, but really Daisy is the lead of this story.

Explosions, rescued girls, gun shots; this is a pretty exciting tale. But it reads rather slow and drawn out because its more of a character building type of book. And that's just fine. I'm just glad it had a little excitement and a plausible storyline. Since this is a romance its got some risque scenes in it, but there's really only one and it goes pretty quickly. The rest of the reading is about Daisy interacting with other characters and taking care of Becca. There are a few scenes of Temple doing his thing, but not many. I think the length on this book was pretty good, any longer and it might have gotten boring, any shorter and I would have felt cheated.

Decent enough romance with some action. I can't say I'd really seek the author out, but I didn't mind reading this at all.

The Water Baby
Copyright 1996
299 pages

March 02, 2012

A Cowboy's Redemption by Jeannie Watt

Yikes, this book just went a little too fast. And it could have been really exciting and interesting. Characters were decent, but not spectacular too.

Kira Jennings needs to make a business deal, especially if she wants to make it in the family business. Her brother Bryce, is her main competitor, and there's no love lost between the two. So when she heads into the country to talk to a property owner, Jason Ross, she knows its going to be tough. Jason and Bryce have a history and it resulted in Jason being sent to prison for awhile. Kira isn't sure what happened there, but she does realize that it is going to make this business transaction hard. Add in a fire and some underhanded dealings and things certainly stay exciting for the two.

I liked Jason. Even if he is considered a felon he's an all around good guy. A bit bitter perhaps, but that's understandable. And he has a love for animals which is nice. Kira didn't have much of a personality for me. Sure she wants to belong to her family and do her best, but that's really all the personality we get for her. It would have been nice for her to open up a little more. The brother, of course, was a jerk. He only served as the bad guy in the book, no other sides to him.

I'm not used to having a guy who's been in prison as a main character. It was an interesting twist. And the fact that he's running a ranch, while common in itself, makes it a little different as well. Add in a wealthy family trying to get something from him and yes, that part of the plot is pretty standard. But the felon thing, that's not. So a little twist, not huge, but interesting. As this is a romance, there are romance scenes. You have been warned if that's not your thing. Honestly the worse thing about this book is the pace. It just went way too fast in my opinion. Slow it down a bit and it might have been a little better.

Just an average romance. Nothing too special but not a terrible read. Good for a rainy day I suppose.

A Cowboy's Redemption
Copyright 2009
246 pages

The Soldier's Holiday Vow by Jillian Hart

What a sweet little book. Definitely one of the kinder romances that I've read in awhile.

When she falls down an old mine shaft with one of her students, September knows that they will be rescued. But she still worries. And then her worry increases when she's rescued by none other than Mark Hawkins. Mark was a friend of her late fiance and brings back several painful memories for her. But slowly he inches his way into her heart as she recovers, despite her determination not to let anyone close again. She never wants to hurt that much again. Mark too isn't sure what he wants, his life as an army ranger is dangerous, and he's not sure if he would be a good match for someone as a result. But there's something too kind in September for him to resist.

September is a very sweet person. And she has a lot of grief. Its painful to see some of her emotions sometimes as they feel very real. And Mark honestly is too sweet and good to be real. But I think I like him anyway. Romance novels aren't always realistic in that sense, but a girl can dream there's a guy out there like that. He just seems like he'd be cute in that boy next door way and would treat a girl right. September's sister is the only one I really didn't like. I know she was trying to be protective or something, but she was just a little too harsh.

I really enjoyed the plot. It didn't even need the rescue in the beginning. An old army buddy helping out a grieving girlfriend seems just right. Like something the deceased would have wanted for his friends. Now this was a Love Inspired but I was pleasantly surprised to find that it wasn't preachy at all. And I appreciated that. Made it an easier read for me and I could really sink in and enjoy it. I do wish it had been longer though. And since its Love Inspired, there are no graphic scenes in this book, just kissing. So if you were worried about that, rest assured, no vicarious passion to be found here.

A very nice little romance. I would definitely read something by Jillian Hart again.

The Soldier's Holiday Vow
Copyright 2009
214 pages

March 01, 2012

Jenna's Cowboy Hero by Brenda Minton

I've read one of Minton's other books and enjoyed it. This one, not as much. It wasn't a horrible book, but it just didn't hold the charm that "The Cowboy's Family" did, even if it does take place in the same fictional town.

Adam isn't very happy when he has to go back to Oklahoma. But with his cousin's death, the camp he invested in either has to be sold or worked on to get it running. And he could use some shine to his name considering his previous football career included quite a bit of him losing his temper and making himself noticed. What he doesn't expect though, is to meet Jenna, when he returns to Oklahoma. But Jenna isn't really looking for anyone. She has two boys to raise and a missing leg from her time in Iraq and she knows that a relationship probably isn't going to happen for her. But she does want to be Adam's friend and get the camp running.

So little character development in this book. Backstories are hinted at but rarely go in depth as much as they should. We know a little about Jenna's time in Iraq but hardly anything about her childhood, which is the whole motivation for her wanting the camp so it should have been described. Adam we know a little more about his past but I just didn't feel he was connectable as a character. He tried to claim to be a bad boy, but he really wasn't from anything shown in the book. The two kids were kind of two dimensional. They more served as props.

The camp was a nice idea, but it ran kind of slow and there wasn't really any serious conflict in the book. Which made it read quick, but that's not always a good thing. Being that this was a Love Inspired Romance I expected religion to be in it, but unlike Minton's other one, this one was kind of preachy and it turned me off a bit. I can handle a little bit but I have trouble believing there are people out there that talk like the people in this book do about religion. Especially since all the characters in the town seem to do it. But as you may expect, since this is a Love Inspired, there are no risque scenes, so appropriate for almost all ages if you will.

I didn't really like it. Characters could have been better, plot had more conflict, and less preaching would have been great. I'll probably still read more of Minton's books though since I liked her other one.

Jenna's Cowboy Hero
Copyright 2009
211 pages

Maid for the Single Dad by Susan Meier

I was very surprised by this book. It has a character that's been in an abusive relationship, and it acknowledges that there's such a think as verbal/emotional abuse. And better yet, all the characters acknowledge that there's such a thing. In a world that only really pays attention to physical abuse, this is kind of huge.

Ellie works for Happy Maids and while her boss is away, she's kind of running the business. So when rich guy Mac comes around needing a live in maid and nanny (something Happy Maid's doesn't normally do) she finds herself taking the job in order to appease him since he's an important client. But living with Mac isn't what she thought it was going to be. For starters, she loves his two kids, and she may even start to admire Mac too. But after her past abusive relationship she's not very good at trusting. And neither is he after being burned by the kid's mother.

I really appreciated Ellie's character. She took herself out of abuse and made herself strong again. But she still has trust issues, and that is very very real, especially with abuse victims. And then there's Mac. First off he knows verbal/emotional abuse is a serious thing which makes him super fantastic in my book. Then he's just plain good to his kids. He can be a little overbearing and controlling at times, which set my alarm off for poor Ellie, but he realizes what he's doing is not right, changes it, and apologizes. Which makes him ok, so long as he doesn't repeat the pattern. The kid's were cute too, although the one was just a baby and didn't get much book time. The little girl though was very sweet and it was nice to see the chapters with her in it.

The whole live in maid thing was probably pretty standard, but I liked it. I can imagine something like this probably happening in real life, although the whole bit with the kid's mother wasn't even really needed in my opinion. Just extra elements to the plot I guess. Unfortunately the ending did get rushed on this book, like I see with so many other romance novels. Since this is a romance novel you'd expect there to be sex, but there really isn't any, so if you're not a fan of that this could be an ok book for you. The rest of it was a quick read. But like I said before, what really stood out in this book for me was how the author handled abuse, it was worth reading just for that.

Definitely a good read. And I'd probably read more by this author. In addition to romance, she knows what she's talking about!

Maid For The Single Dad
Copyright 2010
248 pages