Review: Courting a Cowboy by Patricia McLinn

Courting a CowboyReviewed by Lynn Reynolds

Sophie Vandercook works as an instructor at Mrs. Forestell’s Academy. She tells friends about having an absent husband and plans to convince them by trip to Wyoming. She’s actually using the trip to go visit her brother.

Nate Abbott has been corresponding with Sophie. But when she walks into the store he’s in, he doesn’t recognize her. Then eventually the light bulb clicks on for us, as we read their interaction. But something is amiss. The ranch hands will have you chuckling. They remind me of the male version of the ladies of River City from “The Music Man”.

The ranch hands think of Sophie as part of their family. How the ranch hands feel about Sophie is like how the lost boys felt about Wendy. And yet everything they know about Sophie, up until now, was based on letters that they received. But Sophie doesn’t realize what a flim-flam her brother was. The ranch hands respect her and don’t want to let her know the truth.

Nate seems to be a man that keeps his feelings close to the chest – makes me wonder if it was because of a woman. Sophie is as stubborn as they come. It will be interesting to see who wins this war.

I love the character named Doughy. I grew up watch Bonanza and thinking that Doughy would fit right in. He would be just like Hop Sing. My family watched the show religiously and I could picture Doughy cooking up a storm for the Cartwright family.

I love how Patricia describes the surrounding landscape. She’s like an artist putting bold colors on a canvas – but her canvas is paper. She also has a way with words. Sophie, at times, uses some pretty big words. I have to wonder if Patricia had to keep a dictionary or thesaurus handy. It also has me wondering if Sophie uses the big words so that people won’t get too close. I also get the impression that Patricia knows quite a bit about ranch life.

I fell in love with everyone at the OS. Sophie has a couple of women that she writes to at the Academy where she works. I wonder if Patricia will continue the adventures of the OS and have the story revolve around Alice. It will be interesting to see if she gets her own story.

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: Courting a Cowboy

Review: Off the Shelf by Lucy Felthouse

off the shelfReviewed by Lynn Reynolds

Annalise Berger is trying to take care of her sexual needs before she has to go to the airport. She’s a woman that travels a lot. I envy people that can travel all over the world. Her mother calls to give her some motherly advice.

Once Annalise is at the airport, she ends up in the bookshop. There she meets Damien. This is a sweet romance for Lucy. It had just the right amount of sex with just a hint of more to come. But Lucy has left me wondering.

In one scene there is a naked guy at the hotel that Annalise is staying at. Has Lucy left it that there is going to be a sequel? Is there going to be more for Lucy and Damien? You may want to stop by her web site, http://lucyfelthouse.co.uk/, and see if you can find answers to these questions or to see what else she has written.

This is a perfect book to take to the beach or if you’re in between flights and you only have a little time in which to read. You want something that is going to grab and hold your attention from the first and until the very last page. You want something steamy and that will fuel your imagination. You can never go wrong when reading something written by Lucy Felthouse.

Buy: Off The Shelf (Xcite Romance)

Rating: ★★★★☆

Review: Paris in Love by Eloisa James

Reviewed by Karin

I absolutely love this memoir! J’adore! It is a book to be enjoyed and savored — and one I will likely reread either if I am visiting Paris again or only hankering to visit Paris again.

The book is made of little sound bytes — or if you will, word bytes — of the small daily events that occur in a family uprooted to a new city where the teenage boy who is bilingual goes to Italian school and finds it more difficult than his previous school, and where the city sparkles with the Eiffel Tower and pastry shops and little known shops, restaurants, and pastries. Yum!

I love the honest interactions of family, raising an 11 year old daughter and a teenage son. Eloisa James is married to an Italian man who grew up in Florence. That is interesting to read also.

My advice: run out and buy this book. Or get it from Amazon. ( not sure if available for Kindle.)

Rating: ★★★★★

Buy: Paris in Love: A Memoir

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Review: Mockingjay (Hunger Games Trilogy, Book 3) by Suzanne Collins

Brief Overview: 13 Districts rebelled against the Capitol. 1 was supposedly destroyed while 12 suffered under a harsh treaty for 75 years. Now we’re back at the beginning and once more 13 Districts are rebelling. This time is different though, because this time the rebels have a cause and a face of the revolution: Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire. The Capitol has Peeta, captured from the Quarter Quell, and they wield him like a weapon against Katniss. Can she survive a broken heart?

WTF? No seriously, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot…???

“Are you, are you coming to the tree?
Wear a necklace of rope, side by side with me.
Strange things did happen here.
No stranger would let it be if we met up
At midnight in the hanging tree.”

Wishlist: Katniss needs to sing to Peeta, like a lot and happy songs or songs about hope. Her singing made an impression on him at 5, she should sing that song again! Break down all those shiny memories in one fell swoop. :D

My 10 Favorite Scenes:

Not in order of preference or sequence in book.

  1. Katniss figuring out how Snow is really using Peeta. Angst! Angst! Angst!
  2. Brainwashed Peeta (attacking Katniss). Well, until I realized there’s wasn’t a cure-all for it. Stupid shiny memories.
  3. Real or Not Real. This was a good one…

    “You’re still trying to protect me. Real or not real,” he whispers.

    “Real,” I answer. “Because that’s what you and I do, protect each other.”

  4. Peeta figuring Katniss out. Not that she tries to help him sort it all out. She runs a bit too often for my tastes.

    “Ally.” Peeta says the words slowly, tasting it. “Friend. Lover. Victor. Enemy. Fiancee. Target. Mutt. Neighbor. Hunter. Tribute. Ally. I’ll add it to the list of words I use to try to figure you out. The problem is, I can’t tell what’s real anymore, and what’s made up.”

  5. Peeta trying to remember the truth about them. Can we say ouch? So freaking awesome… the angst!!!

    “I must have loved you a lot.”

  6. Declaration of Love. Such as it was… (who else wanted more to this scene? I did!)

    “You love me. Real or not real?”

    I tell him, “Real.”

  7. Who is Peeta? The most telling sentence Katniss ever said…

    “You’re a painter. You’re a baker. You like to sleep with the windows open. You never take sugar in your tea. And you always double-knot your shoelaces.”

    He also likes the color orange.

  8. Peeta remembers? It looks like it with these sentences but he still comes off as damaged beyond repair in the epilogue. Sniff.

    “Katniss. I remember about the bread.”

    and

    “Let me go!” I snarl at him, trying to wrest my arm from his grasp.

    “I can’t,” he says.

  9. Katniss killing President Coin. Needed. Though, I won’t lie the aftermath of that is pretty confusing. Being trapped in Katniss’ head did not give a big picture view of what was going on outside her impromptu prison/isolation. I bet the movie will do it better.
  10. Katniss and Gale parting. Gale is bitter, but he was not a good match for Katniss. She’d lose herself completely in his hatred. In broken Peeta, perhaps our equally broken Katniss can heal?

Conclusion: The Hunger Games Trilogy is not a romance. It’s a dystopian warfare driven trilogy with romantic elements. If it was a romance, the ending would have been sweeter, Peeta wouldn’t have been brainwashed and his character mutated (I once did this to a fanfic character, oomph, cheated the whole story, so I know what I’m talking about here). He should have been fixed more than he was at the end.

Peeta was the driving force of the romance in the story, because Katniss never truly confessed in a declaration of love (to herself or to Peeta, though she does tap dance around it several times). At least not like how we know them in the romance genre. At best it was halfhearted, and while “Real or Not Real” was good, it could have been better. For example something like, “Real. I love you Peeta and here’s why…” With Katniss blind and resistant from the beginning to her feelings she needed to really open up at some point to Peeta.

“All those months of taking it for granted that Peeta thought I was wonderful are over. Finally, he can see me for who I really am. Violent. Distrustful. Manipulative. Deadly. And I hate him for it.” – Katniss

So in effect, warping Peeta warped the romance. He had all the best lines too between them, which you can see when you check out my favorite scenes between the books.

Also, I get that PTSD would have been prevalent, but romances as we define them in the genre mean a real HEA, where the characters heal each other and not merely survive together (and watch their kids play on top of mass graves… shudder).

“Oh, that I do know…Katniss will pick whoever she thinks she can’t survive without.” – Gale

Additionally, I don’t buy that Katniss would have had children with Peeta. That was a no-go from the get-go.

I feel all this could have been fixed with an additional chapter or longer epilogue. I doubt I am alone in this.

What really needed to be addressed and was never addressed, was Katniss’ statement to Peeta revealing that Haymitch orchestrated the romance on her part during the first Hunger Games. She implied most of it was Haymitch, but not all of it was Haymitch. If Peeta had latched onto that semantic like a pitbull we could have gotten somewhere with her. :P

Final thoughts: So yes, I was disappointed with the romance, but the trilogy is a good one. Peeta makes the series for me, no question. I would reread it for him alone.

Bonus: 74 Books to Read if You Love the Hunger Games

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Buy: The Hunger Games, The Hunger Games Trilogy Boxed Set, The Hunger Games Trilogy (digital)

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Review: Never Wager Against Love (Kellingtons, Book 3) by Maureen Driscoll

never wager against loveHero: When Arthur Kellington was younger he saved a Romany fortune teller from a terrible situation and got his fortune told in repayment. He was told his true love would be shot and he’d be too late to save her. With news like that, Arthur decided to never fall in love. But he doesn’t try very hard to stick to that resolution when he meets the heroine.

Heroine: Vanessa Gans, bastard daughter, and an agent of the Crown, is chasing after two criminals and potential spies. She steals Arthur’s horse, but soon discovers that Merlin is very obedient to his master. When he catches up with her and insists on helping her find these bad guys and pursue the treasure, she’s not sure it’s a good idea. He’s a civilian and could get hurt… or at least that is what she tells herself. In truth, she’s scared of her reaction to him.

Review: Like the previous novel, Never Miss a Chance, this one has overlapping parts. Occasionally within the story there is some POV changing to Kellingtons who are not the main character, as they have some significant cameo run-ins with their significant other. It’s worth reading the series in order not to miss them.

Strengths: Arthur – he believes in Vanessa, let’s her take the lead, and throws himself in front of a bullet for her.

Weaknesses: I figured out the bad guy during his initial scene in the story. It took some fun out of the treasure hunting aspect of the tale.

Sexiest sequence: Making love in a vault!

Last minute thoughts: Is it Liam’s romance yet? Pout! I am desperate to read his ducal romance!

Rating: ★★★½☆

Buy: Never Wager Against Love (Kellington Book Three)

Review: Thoroughly Kissed (Charming, Book 2) by Kristine Grayson

Summary: What would you do if you woke up 1000 years from now on another continent with a language that sounds like yours but isn’t? In Emma Lost’s case she learned as fast as she could and became a teacher. Smart move, until her new boss thinks she made it all up because she doesn’t have proper citations. He’s threatening to fire her, her magic is coming in decades too early, and she’s got to cross the US to the west coast before any major disasters happen – like falling for Michael Found.

Should You Read Charming, Book 1? Emma is first introduced in Utterly Charming, which I haven’t read, so no, it’s not necessary to read it first. However, references are made and some are not thoroughly explained, so it’s up to you.

Review: Thoroughly Kissed is thoroughly charming! Kristine Grayson tackles the woebegone Sleeping Beauty fairytale set in modern day mid-west US with wit and humor. This road trip romance features crazy restaurants, mutating housecats, and a bloodless battle in a national park. You’ll believe in magic when you’re done.

Favorite Scene: When Michael is visited by the Ghost of Christmas Future/Present also known as Merlin.

Best Side Character: Darnell the cat, especially when he talks.

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: Thoroughly Kissed

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Review: Too Wicked to Wed (Lords of Midnight, Book 1) by Cara Elliott

too wicked to wedHero: The Earl of Killingworth, Connor Linsley, is not your usual Earl of the Realm. He works for a living earning money from his gambling den and brothel that carters to men of the peerage. He hides this fact from others by pretending to be just any other high roller in the establishment. Like any alpha he keeps his heart guarded, but the fiery Alexa gets to him like no other could – when she lays claim to half of his business and refuses to give it back!

Heroine: Lady Alexa Hendrie is fierce. She tracks her brother to The Wolf’s Lair and demands of Connor his location. The price for that information is a kiss (and it will knock your socks off and Connor’s too). Later unbeknownst to her, Connor is robbed at the gaming tables and from his safe. When his pledge of half the business (which is exchanged for money from a friend) comes across her path–while she’s dressed as a man playing cards–she wins it and uses it to blackmail Connor into helping her locate her wayward brother.

Review: The story really picks up the pace when Connor gets shot and the two of them flee to Linsley Close, Connor’s abandoned estate by the coast. There they pose as newlyweds while Connor convalesces. It’s pretty funny when the housekeeper walks in on them to bring Connor sustenance. These two lovebirds have got some pretty blistering chemistry. There’s lots of kissing – the really hot kind!

I also like the other lords who are Connor’s friends: Gryff and Cam. Gryff is going to have to lay off the booze, it’s not that attractive, but his other qualities make up for it (for now). Cam is seriously hot and a thief. I want to read his book. Yum!

Favorite Quote:

“Why the devil does she feel she must take such awful risks?”

“Is that a rhetorical question,” asked Cameron. “Or do you wish for an honest answer?”

[…]

“Because she loves you. She’s willing to risk anything to win your heart.” Cameron crossed one booted leg over the other. “And you, you ungrateful cur, ought to have your teeth kicked out through your arse if you don’t appreciate what a rare and wondrous gift that is.”

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: Too Wicked to Wed (Lords of Midnight)

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Review: Catching Fire (Hunger Games Trilogy, Book 2) by Suzanne Collins

Brief Overview: Against all odds, Katniss and Peeta survived the Hunger Games and became the first ever dual victory. A little hope is a good thing, but too much leads to disaster. President Snow is not happy and he lets Katniss know it. But Katniss has already put her foot in it and alienated Peeta, so there’s no help from that corner. Then the Quarter Quell (every 25 years there’s a special version of the Hunger Games) is announced and it seems once again the rules are changed specifically for District 12’s starcrossed lovers. They’ve got to go back into the arena and this time it doesn’t look like either will be allowed to win.

Fandom Comments:

Team Peeta or Team Gale?

No contest. Team Peeta.

Gale never stood a chance.

Peeta killed Gale’s chances in Hunger Games and then wiped him off the map in Catching Fire. You got to love our boy with bread!

Side comment – Capitol sensibilities sound like the Romans’ again with their feasting parties where it’s natural to puke to make room for more gorging on the provided banquet of food. A tour guide called the Roman “puke rooms” vomitoriums when I was at a Roman site in Turkey last year, but I think they had the wrong word? Because the definitions I find online of the word mean an opening that allows a hoard of people to fast exit a building. Anyway, back to the point, Romans (and the Capitol) lived to eat and Katniss and Peeta are horrified by that, because to them, you should eat to live.

What I didn’t like – Katniss and Peeta’s show and tell with the Gamemakers. Really? Peeta, I get to an extent because he can paint like nobody’s business, but why Rue? Rue was Katniss’ friend and not his. I also think Katniss should have shot the arrow at the Gamemakers again through the force field chink, even if doing so messed up the setup for the Quarter Quell. She was smart enough to do it. Why a dead dummy of Senaca Cane? Honestly.

My Top 10 Favorite Scenes from the Hunger Games:
Not necessarily in order (either by preference or in sequence with events in the book)…

  1. Katniss can shoot! When all the tributes watch her with the bow and arrows during training and then want to team up with her for the games. Pretty funny, especially because Katniss doesn’t want the victors who could help her win, she wants the rejects.
  2. Rooftop Picnic. And cuddling on the train. And hungry kisses.
  3. Finnick Giving Peeta CPR. Katniss thought he was kissing Peeta and is so confused. Haha.

    I pull an arrow, whip the notch into place, and am about to let it fly when I’m stopped by the sight of Finnick kissing Peeta. And it’s so bizarre, even for Finnick.

  4. Katniss realizing Haymitch lied about saving Peeta:

    “We had to save you because you’re the mockingjay, Katniss,” says Plutarch. “While you live, the revolution lives.”

    The bird, the pin, the song, the berries, the watch, the cracker, the dress that burst into flames. I am the mockingjay. The one that survived despite the Capitol’s plans. The symbol of the rebellion. It’s what I suspected in the woods when I found Bonnie and Twill escaping. Though I never really understood the magnitude. But then, I wasn’t meant to understand.

    I think of Haymitch’s sneering at my plans to flee District 12, start my own uprising, even the very notion that District 13 could exist. Subterfuges and deceptions. And if he could do that, behind his mask of sarcasm and drunkenness, so convincingly and for so long, what else has he lied about? I know what else.

    “Peeta,” I whisper, my heart sinking.

  5. Peeta and Katniss on the beach.

    “Because I don’t want you to forget how different our circumstances are. If you die and I live, there’s no life fore me at all back in District Twelve. You’re my whole life,” he says. “I would never be happy again.”

    I start to object but he puts a finger to my lips.

    “It’s different for you. I’m not saying it wouldn’t be hard. But there are other people who would make your life worth living.”

  6. Before the Quarter Quell when Katniss knows she will grieve Peeta, if he dies.

    “No one really needs me,” he says, and there is no self-pity in his voice.

    It’s true his family doesn’t need him. They will mourn him, as will a handful of friends. But they will get on. Even Haymitch, with the help of a lot of white liquor, will get on. I realize only one person will be damaged beyond repair if Peeta dies. Me.

    “I do,” I say. “I need you.”

    He looks, takes a deep breath as if to begin a long argument, and it’s no good, no good at all, because he’ll start going on about Prim and my mother and everything and I’ll just get confused. So before he can talk, I stop his lips with a kiss.

  7. Peeta’s nightmares:

    “Peeta, how come I never know when you’re having a nightmare?” I say.

    “I don’t know. I don’t think I cry out or thrash around or anything. I just come to, paralyzed with terror,” he says.

    “You should wake me,” I say, thinking about how I can interrupt his sleep two or three times on a bad night. About how long it can take to calm me down.

    “It’s not necessary. My nightmares are usually about losing you,” he says. “I’m okay once I realize you’re here.”

  8. When Haymitch says to Katniss…

    “You know, you could live a thousand lifetimes and not deserve him.”

  9. Katniss against the World, Protecting Peeta. She knows she has to kill Peeta to keep him from being tortured by the Capitol, after they’re taken out of the arena. When she comes across Haymitch and he says…

    “So it’s you and a syringe against the Capitol? See, this is why no one lets you make the plans.”

  10. Peeta’s interview on TV. He’s so good at these.

    “But I have to confess, I’m glad you two had at least a few months of happiness together.”

    I’m not glad,” says Peeta. “I wish we had waited until the whole thing was done officially.”

    This takes even Caesar aback. “Surely even a brief time is better than no time?”

    ”Maybe I’d think that, too, Caesar,” says Peeta bitterly, “If it weren’t for the baby.”

What are your favorite moments from Hunger Games?

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: The Hunger Games, The Hunger Games Trilogy Boxed Set, The Hunger Games Trilogy (digital)

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