Tuesday 30 April 2024


Finished April 29
Familiar by J. Robert Lennon

I've had this book for a few years, and finally was moved to read it. It is a rather odd book, but compelling. I got this book as part of a book subscription series from Powell's in Portland, Oregon, and it a special edition, signed by the author and with a little leaflet that gives information on both the book and the author and has an interview the bookstore did with him. This book also contains discussion questions should you choose to read it as a book club. 
The main character, Elisa Brown, is driving home from Wisconsin to New York, a trip she makes annually to visit the grave of her younger son Silas who died in an accident at the age of fifteen. As she drives, she thinks and ponders the crack in her windshield, and lets her mind go where it will. She is partway through Ohio when suddenly things change. 
The crack in the windshield is gone. Her car window is closed, her clothes are different. She realizes that the car is a different car. She pulls over on the shoulder and looks around the vehicle. She sees a binder for a conference. When she looks inside there are receipts and confirmations, and she finds her name and job title. This is not the job she has. Her purse is the same, but there is a different phone. She finds herself paying close attention to things. She isn't panicking or scared, but she is very aware. When her phone rings and it is her husband she answers, worried something might be wrong, either with him or with their other son Sam. But he is just checking that she's on the road and he sounds sweet. This scares her, because that isn't something he's ever been. 
As Elisa gets back home, and adjusts to her husband, her job, her life, and that fact that both of her sons are still alive, she looks for answers. What happened? 
This is a book that will keep you reading, looking for answers alongside Elisa. It is a book that is disturbing and completely surprising. 

Monday 29 April 2024

Somewhere Towards the End

Finished April 28
Somewhere Towards the End by Diana Athill

This is a collection of essays about various subjects around aging. It was an absolute delight to read. Written by Athill when she was eighty-nine (she lived to the age of one hundred and one) she has personal reflections on many topics. Athill was an editor and writer and her skill with words shines through here. 
She talks about relationships, sex, children, friendships, gardening, drawing, reading, writing, and health. She isn't afraid to be honest about her feelings, her mistakes, or her life choices. This book won the Costa biography award and I found it a joy to read. 
She lived a full life, and took joy in many things, and her attitude is refreshing. There are sixteen pieces here, with a postscript that I loved. 


Finished April 28
Busted by Karin Slaughter

This novella is in the series featuring Will Trent, an investigator with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), the state equivalent to the FBI. Here, Will is undercover and headed towards his assignment, one that took a lot of effort and planning to set up his identity. He's stopped at a convenience store for an icee, but the machine is super slow. As he's waiting a cop arrives and comes in to use the washroom, but after that things begin going very wrong. 
This is fast-paced, with a lot of action including a chase scene. There are a few bodies, many stories that don't stand up to scrutiny, and an unexpected mastermind behind the crime. 
Despite the short length of the story and the fast pace, you don't need to be familiar with the series to enjoy the read. If you are familiar, there are a few subtleties that make it even better. 

There's Always Plan B

Finished April 28
There's Always Plan B by Susan Mallery

This is an interesting mix of romance and domestic situations along with a touch of the supernatural. Carly is moving back to her childhood home, a large old stone house that her great-grandfather imported from England. Her parents ran it as a bed-and-breakfast, and her mother Rhonda has continued that since her dad died a few years ago. Carly is moving back because her very recent divorce leaves her with no home, and her mother could use the help. She'd like Carly to eventually take the house over so that she can retire. 
Carly's husband quit his high-paced, high-income job with plans to buy a boat and sail to Hawaii. That means that he isn't paying child support until he starts working again. Carly's fifteen-year-old daughter Tiffany isn't happy about the move, but we see her making the effort to adjust. As Carly finds the B&B has declined in visitors a lot since her dad's death, she uses her skills and contacts to find ways to bring in more guests. One of those is promoting the ghost the building is supposed to have. Carly has memories of the ghost from her own youth and believes strongly in the reality of this paranormal existence. One of the season's first visitors however is a man who specializes in debunking such things, and Carly must work as part of a family team to convince him otherwise. 
This book does have romance, but it isn't the central plot to the book, and there is more than one man who is interested in Carly. She must deal with the changes for all three generations of her family, teenage dating issues, issues with her ex-husband, as well as the financial issues facing the B&B. The ghost is an important part of the plot, but the book feels like part of a larger story, not a standalone. 
Many of the characters lack depth, several plotlines are left open, and the ghost story felt like it needed more explanation. 

Plot Twist

Finished April 23
Plot Twist by Erin La Rosa

Romance author Sophie Lyon had a hit with her debut novel, but the deadline is fast approaching for her second novel, she's spent most of her advance and she's coming up against a writer's block. She thinks maybe it's because she's never actually been in love, and she's decided to try and figure out why. That entails meeting up with her previous partners and seeing what they think. 
Sophie lives in L.A. and her best friend Poppy Montrose is from a well-known Hollywood family. Poppy's father and both brothers are actors, and her mom is a publicist. Poppy though has gone a different direction and owns a popular luxury spa. Sophie lives in a small home behind the large house of Dash Montrose, the younger of Poppy's brothers, so Dash is her landlord. Sophie had a crush on him as a teenager, and now that he's in her life more, some of those feelings are coming back. 
As Sophie meets up with her former boyfriends and girlfriend, she learns a bit more about herself and why those relationships ended. She also finds that she has trust issues, and that becomes a plot point here. 
Dash is another voice in the novel. He's not had an acting job in a while, and that's partly by choice. He's got a personal issue that he's overcoming, with some help. He also has found an interest that may be a way forward for him, and that's kind of interesting too. 
This is the second book in a series, but I haven't yet read the previous one. Sophie is a likeable woman, who's got a strong sense of self outside of her love life. Dash's struggles feel realistic here too. 
I found the use of Instagram as a story device kind of interesting. 
A fun read with some serious issues brought in. 

Sunday 28 April 2024

The Summer List

Finished April 22
The Summer List by Amy Mason Doan

This is a story of friendship, of miscommunication, and of secrets. 
Laura grew up in the small lake town of Couer-de-Lune in northern California. She was adopted by parents older than most of her peers, and resented her mother's strict ways and churchgoing habits. She was closer to her father, a man who was quieter, yet still very much a part of the community. Every summer, when her mother went to an adult church camp, Laura and her dad did a project, getting more complex as she grew older. 
Just before she moved to junior high, a girl and her mother moved into a dilapidated house just across the lake. Laura was given a cake to take over to welcome them, and this act caused her to meet Casey and make a connection as close as family. 
Laura's mom wasn't a fan of Casey's mother Alex, a rather free spirit, who made her money making strange art projects for wealthy collectors. But she let the friendship grow and even let Laura sleep over on Saturdays as long as she attended church on Sundays. 
But something happened back at the end of Laura's senior year that drove her to change her plans and go to a university far away and lose touch with Casey. 
Laura is now 35 and receives an invitation to go back to Casey's place for a weekend. She isn't sure she wants to, but curiosity and the longing for her old friend take her back. 
The women find that Alex has created a scavenger hunt, one of her signature games, for the two women that will bring them closer, but also unveil memories and secrets from the past. 
There is also another story of a young teen girl beginning at a camp, in some unknown time, as she struggles to understand why her mother brought her there, what has changed so drastically in her life, and how she can cope. 
I found the friendship compelling, and the unravelling of the past, both good and bad told in a way that showed feelings in both times and felt believable. The miscommunication was the thing that felt off, something so easily fixed if only someone had tried harder at the time. 
Overall, I enjoyed the story and the characters. 

Jack and Joe

Finished April 20
Jack and Joe by Diane Capri 

This is the third full novel in the Hunt for Reacher series which follows FBI agents Kim Otto and Carlos Gaspar as they hunt down information on Jack Reacher. They have become aware by now that they haven't been told the real reason behind their case, and they are also aware there is some sort of rivalry around it between their boss and one of the highest ranking political advisers in the country. So, while they are pawns of a sort, they are thinking pawns and occasionally make moves that take them in directions that lead places that advance their knowledge in ways their boss may not always want. 
Here, Kim is off to interview a woman who worked for Reacher and took over a case when he was demoted. She wants to find out more particulars around that case and the cause of the demotion. She travels to an army base in North Carolina, Fort Bird, but her interviewee doesn't get there as expected and she ends up finding new information possibilities, as well as a family that isn't fans of the man she's looking for information on. 
As she and Gaspar reconnect and dig deeper into this time, they find connections to Jack's brother Joe and begin to learn more about him, his friends, and a woman who meant a lot to him. 
An interesting book, but the travel that happens in this series gets tiring after a while. Another plane, another rental car, another antacid. I like the slow plot development though. 

Polly Fulton

Finished April 17
Polly Fulton by John P. Marquand

I heard of this book when I was reading The Trouble with You by Ellen Feldman. The main character in that book mentioned some of her favourite reads and I decide to track a few down. This is one of them. The book is really interesting. It is a character study of a woman in her thirties, set during World War II. Polly Brett, nee Fulton is a woman who was born wealthy to parents who were born middle class. Her father had good instincts, and an eye for machines and created a small empire. He was friendly and talkative and took people at face value. He also was a good judge of character in some ways, and wanted his daughter and son to be happy. 
Polly was sent to a private girls' boarding school where she blossomed after a short time going to a school nearer to home where she struggled to fit in. She went on to Bryn Mawr College, and after some time at home married. 
Her marriage is a big part in the novel as is her relationship with her father, B.F. She is close to both of her parents in different ways. She is comfortable in the world that her father operates in, and intelligent and informed enough to hold her own in conversation. 
As the book opens, Polly has made a sudden decision to go to her country home in the Berkshires. It is winter and snowing, yet she is both testing her staff at the house to see if they are keeping the house ready at all times, and able to pay the high rates she must pay to get there when she wants to. The house evokes both memories of different times earlier in her marriage, as well as times before then as she looks through old scrapbooks. 
A crisis with her father's health helps these thoughts along as he speaks to her of her husband, the life he wanted her to have, and the man he thought she should marry, Bob Tasmin. 
While the major part of the novel is written from Polly's viewpoint, there is some written from Bob's as well, and this is critical to what unfolds later. 
Polly has come to understand that her husband is cheating on her, and rather than turn her head the other way as many women of her time and station do, she decides to face it head on, with a real effort to understand the situation. This also forces her to understand herself better and that is the revelation of the novel and its core. 
I really enjoyed the dry humour here, as well as the character of Polly herself. I'm so glad I was led to this novel. 

An Unhallowed Grave

Finished April 16
An Unhallowed Grave by Kate Ellis

This book continues the Wesley Peterson mystery series. Here we have a woman found hanging from a tree, staged to look like a suicide. As the police begin to uncover her history, they find that she has connections to others in the area from deeper in her past. 
An archeological team is working in the area, and uncovers a body nearby that is from five centuries before. As the team makes other finds, connected with the change in religion from that earlier time, there is also a more personal story about a local family and the larger community that worked for and interacted with them. 
I really enjoy having the archeological finds mirror the case that the police are working on. Here, we have the young woman working for the wealthy local family, looking after their children, and being blamed for something that may or may not be their fault. There are also elements of infidelity in both timelines, and a tragedy. 
I also liked how Wesley's personal life had a relation to the story as his wife looks for a child care provider that she can trust as she prepares to go back to work. 
This is a slower-paced mystery, and there are many small side plots that are interesting as well. I like seeing the various reappearing characters develop through the books. 

Tuesday 23 April 2024

The Darling Songbirds

Finished April 15
The Darling Songbirds by Rachael Herron

This novel is the first in a series set in the small California coastal town of Darling Bay. The Darling family has its roots in this town, even if none of them live there anymore. Hugh Darling, the last man who did, recently died, leaving his three nieces the properties that he owned: a saloon, a hotel, and a cafe. The only one still in operation is the saloon and it is barely holding its head above water. The nieces who inherited were famous in a small way as a singing group. Their mother had been a singer, but never made it big before she passed away. The girls, Adele, Molly, and Lana were just starting to make it in Nashville when their father passed away suddenly. They all handled it differently and the group fell apart.
Adele is the one who has now come back to town to deal with the legacy, and she finds memories and realities that she must deal with. 
The hotel isn't habitable, nor is her uncle's living quarters above the saloon, and the bartender who was expecting to buy the saloon soon is wary, a little resentful, and undeniably sexy. As Adele learns of the state of things and faces the realities of the situation, she finds herself unexpectedly warming up to staying for a while. 
This book has music woven through it, and the sadness of family members earlier than expected. It has themes of addiction and mental health issues, and the setting of a small town where people know each other's stories. 

The Man I Never Met

Finished April 8
The Man I Never Met by Elle Cook

This contemporary romance has a fun and intriguing plotline, with some side plots that also provide interest. The main story is told around Hannah, who lives in London and works in marketing. She lives in a two bedroom flat with a garden that she loves, and is friends with her older landlady Joan who lives next door. Her best friend Miranda used to live there with her until she moved in with her boyfriend. Hannah is close to both of them and goes out for dinner regularly with the couple. She has a weekend tradition with Joan where they exchange greetings and coffee over the fence with Joan provided different flavours or Nespresso and then they rate them. 
As the book opens, Hannah gets a phone call from the U.S. that turns out to be a wrong number. The man who called, Davey, is calling for a job interview. After a short conversation, they both express interest in talking again, and soon begin texting and more. He gets the job and they discuss his move to London, and she helps with his questions and such, and it's fun to watch the relationship develop. Until suddenly things don't go so well. Davey doesn't arrive on the flight he said he'd be on, and it takes time for Hannah to find out why. 
There are other things going on in Hannah's life. She has a planned winter vacation to Thailand coming up with a friend, and is also preparing for Miranda's wedding in a few months. And Joan is also dating and sharing her experiences. 
I liked the characters and the vulnerability that many of them had. I liked seeing the different relationships that Hannah has: a close bond with her parents, her close friendship with Miranda and her boyfriend Paul, her friendship with Joan, as well as her friendship with George. 
There are a lot of emotional ups and downs in the book, and plots that keep me wanting to know more. 
I liked seeing Hannah's development in her professional life as well. 
An enjoyable read with some depth to the stories. Reading the note at the back of the book about how this story came to be was an extra element that made it even better. 

Friday 19 April 2024

My List for Classics Spin #37

Classics Club hosts a spin every once in a while challenging you to read a classic that is on your TBR list. 
I've done some in the past and decided to do this one. (#37)
Here's the link.

You list 20 books and then see what comes up in the spin and read the book for that number on your list. 

My list for the spin:
1.     Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
2.     Dracula by Bram Stoker
3.     A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
4.     Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
5.     East of Eden by John Steinbeck
6.     Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
7.     True Grit by Charles 
8.     Persuasion by Jane Austen
9.     Songs of Kabir by Kabir
10.    Roxana by Daniel Defoe
11.    The Sorrows of Young Werther by Goethe
12.    Roughing it in the Bush by Susanna Moodie
13.    Westward Ho! by Charles Kingsley
14.    Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope
15.    The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot
16.    The Light Princess by George MacDonald
17.    Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
18.    Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes by Robert Louis Stevenson
19.    Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann
20.    Kim by Rudyard Kipling

I Should Have Stayed Home

Finished April 8
I Should Have Stayed Home: The Worst Trips of Great Writers edited by Roger Rapoport and Marguerita Castanera

This is a reread for me. I read it years ago, but brought it to a class I was teaching as a part of a Readers' Advisory exercise where the students had a few minutes to examine a book and then do a recommendation. The student who got this book said that she wouldn't recommend it as the stories were all white people complaining about other cultures. I certainly hadn't remembered it that way, but fair, it had been a while since I read it, and also, I, being white, might have missed that back then. 
So I reread it. 
The book was published in 1994 and contains 50 stories, an introduction, and an afterward. The money raised from sales of the book went towards Oxfam. 
* The introduction is by American novelist and travel writer Mary Morris. She talks about a keynote address she gave that consisted of strange and amazing things that happened to her while travelling. She talks about the things you remember are the bad things that happen and that humour is the most important thing to keep with you, and how food can bring back memories better than most other things. Her anecdotes from unusual food to illness to police encounters. 
* Sex and Coq au Vin by Chilean-American writer Isabel Allende tells of her first visit to Paris where she and her then-husband who cooked their own French meal while camping in the Bois de Boulogne.
* All the Way with LBJ by journalist and political writer Muriel Dobbin tells of a trip with President Johnson as part of the White House press corps which started as a trip to Australia for the funeral of the Prime Minister and turned into a multi-day tour of Asia just before Christmas, with the last stop being Rome, Italy on the way home. 
* Into the Denki Furo by Jeff Greenwald, American writer, tells of his experience with a electric bath in Japan
* Night of the Army Ants by poet Mary Mackey recounts the time in Guatemala where she and her sister splurged for a good hotel only to wake in the middle of the night when army ants went through the building, including her bed. 
* How I Became a Purveyor of Caviar and Champagne on the Trans-Siberian by Alev Lytle Croutier, Turkish-American playwright, tells of her 1960s era trip from Siberia to Europe, where she had naively changed all her money to rubles upon entering the USSR only to find out she had to spend them before leaving. She ended up spending it all on caviar, vodka, and champagne at the final stop before leaving the country, and selling it to her fellow passengers on the rest of the trip.
* A Winter's Night by Eric Hansen, travel writer, on his arrival back in New York City with hardly any money in the winter, and surviving a night in Grand Central Station.
* Non-Stop to London by Michael Dorris is about his flight misadventures on one trip.
* Entering Paradise by Judith Greber is about a much-anticipated trip to Bali that began with misplaced documents and a night with multitudes of insects.
* Enlightened Sahib by journalist Dominique Lapierre is about his first foray into the slums of Calcutta as the guest of a Catholic priest.
* Thousand and Two Nights by Pico Iyer is about his first trip to Egypt as a young man with his Swedish girlfriend and the endless sexual harassment she faced.
* The Dirt on Mudbaths by Alice Kahn has her remembering her very first trip ti an Illinois resort and the prank her and a friend pulled.
* Borderline Blues (with Herpetile) by Richard Harris is about the time he accidentally had a small lizard when he arrived at the US border coming back from Mexico.
* Not in Kansas Anymore by Joe Gores tells of his adventurous trip out of Africa after living in Kenya for three years.
* I Think Our Driver Is Stoned: The Slow Road from Istanbul to Herat by Rick Steves is a tale of a wild bus trip.
* Maddening Madagascar by Lisa Alpine tells of her family's encounters staying in hotels that turned out to be full of prostitutes.
* Tail End by Suzanne Lipsett is the story of an unpleasant experience when she tried to a fellow traveller a favour.
* Seeking the Mother of Immortal Bliss: The Temple at Vallickavu by Nami Mann tells of going after her daughter to the site of a religious guru.
* Chimgan by Claudia J. Martin is about travelling through eastern Russia as the only woman in a ski group tour. 
* The First and Last Meal by Carole L Peccorini is about her experience as an Earthwatch volunteer in Borneo and an unexpected encounter with an orangutan.
* And There's the Rub by Stacy Ritz is about a strange massage in Belize.
* Sahafin American by Larry Collins tells of his adventure trying to get a scoop as a young journalist in the Middle East.
* Adrift by Joe Cummings tells of his impulsive and harrowing trip to see Krakatau.
* The Flight from Hell by Donald W. George is about a trip home from Jamaica that had several mishaps.
* Ai Yi by Molly Giles is about a stormy boat trip in Mexico.
* Rafting the Sewers of the Rhineland by Louis B. Jones tells of the crazy trip by inflatable boat he and a friend took down the Rhine.
* A Tourist in Haiti by Larry O'Connor tells of a strange tour he took there.
* Travels with Suna by Shirley Streshinsky is about a strange occurrence on an Air India flight.
* Lost and Found by Tony Wheeler has two stories, one about a stolen car and one about a stopover mix-up.
* Poles Apart by Georgia Hesse tells of an adventure to the North Pole.
* A Caribbean Tale by Abigail Wine is about her first adventure in Cuba and the hospitality of a local family.
* Camera Karma by Robert Holmes has three stories: one of rock-climbing in England's Peak District, one of a wedding in central Algeria, and one of his first major National Geographic assignment in Northern Pakistan.
* An African Christmas by Paul Theroux is about a time he made a getaway from a situation in Zambia.
* The Yi-Ching: A Yarrowing Experience by Katherine Neville tells of a prediction she was given that came true in an unexpected way. 
* The Existential Washing Machine by Adrianne Marcus describes her encounter with a washing machine in a rented Paris apartment.
* Donner Party by Scott Christopher Green tells of a freshman trip with his gymnastics team in a traffic jam in a California heatwave.
* Somewhere Under the Rainbow by Barbara Kingsolver is the story of a dress code violation at the Rainbow Room in New York City.
* The "Daggy" Challenge by Christopher P. Baker is about his attempt at a shortcut in Costa Rica.
* Beltless in Bali by Burl Willes tells of a theft in the night.
* Getting Away from the Promised Land by Evelyn Kieran is about her trip to Egypt with other writers for an adventure magazine.
* Passage to India by Helen Gurley Brown is about exploding aerosols in suitcases, missing flight documents and (my take here) an annoying husband.
* First Date with Misadventure by Richard Bangs is about a secret experience on his first camping trip.
* Libidinous Finns by Linda Watanabe McFerrin tells of an overnight train trip to Paris.
* Salt Lake City by Nightfall by Susan Dunlap is of a disappointing motel.
* The Worst Bus Ride in All Mexico by Janet Fullwood is self-explanatory.
* The Best Restaurant in Town? by Marcia Muller and Bill Pronzini is of a bad eatery in Idaho.
* Puerto Plata: Just Say No by Barbara Ann Curcio gives us the combination of a bad hotel and bad weather.
* All Dressed Up and Nowhere to Go by Stan Sesser is the story of the lack of public washrooms in Nepal. This one does leave one feeling that he was culturally dismissive.
* Trouble in Terontola by William Petrocelli is about three different bad experiences that all involved this Italian town.
* Maui for One by Roger Rapoport tells of an assignment that took him to Maui right after his divorce.
* Bad Things Don't Happen to Me by Jan Morris says that she's had no bad travel experiences.
* The Afterward explains how this book came about.
So, the contents weren't exactly as I'd remembered them, but with the exception of one tale they didn't exhibit bad attitude towards local inhabitants. 

Friday 12 April 2024

The Half of It

Finished April 6
The Half of It by Juliette Fay

This novel is centered on fifty-eight-year-old Helen Spencer. Helen is the mother of three adult children, Barb, Sam, and Danny, and the grandmother of one. Before the pandemic hit, Helen's mother Annabella Iannucci had come to live with her family in North Carolina, but she died a few years after the move. When Helen's husband Jim died suddenly shortly afterward, Helen learned his secrets as well. 
The story starts in the present with an unexpected encounter with a man, Cal Crosby, from Helen's past. It then jumps back to Helen's girlhood where she joined track as a way to use the energy she had within her. We see her friendship with Francie Hydecker, a girl who went her own way, a way that included horses and ceramics. And we see the friendship that developed between teenage Helen and Cal. 
As the book moves back and forth between the present, where Helen is very involved in her daughter Barb's life, and Cal has also taken on a caregiving role with his young grandchildren, we learn what led to the rift between them, as well as what led to other rifts in Helen's life. 
As Helen begins to build a new life in Massachusetts, where she's moved to join Barb's family, she also reconnects with her past and must make choices that lead to new beginnings and new friendships.
Although it covers a lot of time, this book moves at a fairly quick pace, and the characters make the book come to life. This is a story of love, of regrets, and of hope.  

The Painted Drum

Finished March 31
The Painted Drum by Louise Erdrich

This novel has several timelines, with all of them related to a sacred drum created by an Ojibwe man during a difficult time in his life. The story begins with an Ojibwe woman Faye Travers, who works as an appraiser and antique dealer with her mother. As part of their business they value and clear houses as part of estate sales. When she is called to appraise and clear a home of a man in her own community, she is not surprised to find indigenous artifacts there, as his family is descended from an Indian agent who worked on the North Dakota Ojibwe reservation. What surprises her is that she finds herself compelled to take one of these artifacts, a drum, without listing it as part of the estate contents. She finds the drum calls to her and she treats it with the respect it deserves as she quietly searches for the people it came from. 
The book takes a jump back as we learn of a legend that is related to the creation of the drum, and then forward as the drum is returned to Bernard Shaawano whose grandfather created the drum. The story then moves us into the future as the drum plays a role in the lives of another Ojibwe family that is struggling. 
This is a story that I found myself taking my time to read, stopping to go over passages, and thinking about what Erdrich is telling us here. Slow-paced and with an element of magic realism, this story will return to you long after you have finished reading it.  

Tuesday 9 April 2024

Get a Life, Chloe Brown

Finished March 31
Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert

This is the first book in a series around three sisters, Chloe, Dani, and Eve. I found this story really interesting, with the main character Chloe being drawn as a more complex character. The family is a wealthy one, but Chloe has finally made the jump to living in her own apartment. Part of the reason she lived in her parents' multigenerational home was her chronic illness, fibromyalgia, which she developed after a bad bout of pneumonia. When a car out of control nearly hits her as she is out for a walk, she realizes that she has to take chances and live a riskier life because anything could happen to her at any time. Chloe has made a career as a web designer, so she works out of her own home and sets her work expectations around how she feels. 
Chloe is a big listmaker and she's made one for her fresh start. It's not a long list, but she is also a person who, when she sets goals, accomplishes them. 
The superintendent of the apartment she lives in is Redford "Red" Morgan, and he is having a bit of a hiatus from his earlier life after a bad breakup that also touched on his livelihood as an artist. His friend Vik, who owns the building offered him the position when he came back home from London as a temporary haven. Vik enjoys keeping the tenants happy and is patient and kind. Somehow, he started off on the wrong foot with Chloe, but after rescuing her from a situation of her own making, the two start to talk to each other and open up. 
This is a romance for sure, but it is also a story of two people each a little wary due to past relationships, who have their own pains and dreams, who began to share those with each other as they grow closer. I also appreciated that it has a cat.
Truly enjoyable. 

Friday 5 April 2024

Lone Wolf

Finished March 30
Lone Wolf by Diana Palmer, Kate Pearce, and Rebecca Zanetti

This is a collection of three short novels all with a wolf as part of the story. 
The first one is Colorado Cowboy by Diana Palmer. This story has twenty-three-year-old Esther Marist is a real jam. Esther had fled her mother Terry's house in Aspen, Colorado after her mother's latest boyfriend Darrin pushed her mother down the stairs in a temper. She has her purse, but not her phone, and isn't really dressed for the winter weather. Esther is afraid to go to the police as Darrin had indicated he had contacts there. She ends up getting a ride from a middle-aged couple driving a semi who drop her off in northern Colorado where she told them she had friends. She ends up on the doorstep of Iraq war veteran Butch Matthews who works for the wildlife service and has a wolf he rehabilitated as a pet. The story is cute, but a little too sweet for my taste. Esther seems worldly wise in some ways, and completely innocent in others. She grew up in boarding schools, but has no friends. She's eager to please and only wants a happy home in her future. As the man hunting her grows near, it is Butch and his friends, who've become hers, along with long-lost family that save the day. 
The second story, The Wolf on Her Doorstep by Kate Pearce is set in the ranching country of California, and was the best story in my opinion. Beth Baker works at the Garcia Ranch and is in charge as the novel opens, with the Garcia family on vacation. She grew up in the area and her brother is a mechanic at the family-run gas station. Beth is also raising two young men, her own son Mike who is home for the summer from college, and her ex-husband's son Wes, who works as an apprentice carpenter in town.  One of the cabins on the ranch is currently rented by Conner O'Neil, a Navy SEALS veteran, and because he hasn't shown up for his weekly supplies from the general store, Beth agrees to take them up to him. Beth has another worry, as her ex-husband Sean has written her son from prison trying to get back into his good books. Beth knows the violence that he's capable of, but Mike was too young to remember the abuse. Wes is with Beth because Sean killed Wes' mother and she offered him a home. Conner has a wolf pet named Loki who accosts Beth soon after she gets to the ranch. I liked Beth as she's no fool, she's capable of a lot of things and has survived some bad times with grace. The chemistry between Beth and Conner was nicely done, and both were drawn as realistic people. A satisfying read. 
The third story is Rescue: Cowboy Style by Rebecca Zanetti and set in rural Wyoming. Hallie is on the run from something and when she crashes her car into a fence in a storm, she made her way to a clubhouse for local cowboys, following the only light she could see. She meets one of the men who own a large ranch in the area, Trent Logan. He's very pushy and although he doesn't force himself on her, he does make some questionable moves and talks in a very sexist way. Hallie has stumbled on something a little mysterious here that she struggles to understand as she still tries to find a way to save herself from what's chasing her. There was a wolf that followed her from her car, and it seems to have been tamed by someone and seems fixated on looking out for her. By the end, there is some sense of what the wolf represents. Hallie is a woman who has a college education, but seems a little helpless, and doesn't seem to put up much resistance to Trent's advances or sexist outlook. This story bothered me in a lot of ways. It seems to be the story referenced by the series indicator attached to the book, Redemption Wyoming, #1. 
All three novels have ex-military men as the male love interest. 

The Plot is Murder

Finished March 22
The Plot is Murder by V.M. Burns

This is the first book in a series set around Samantha Washington, the owner of a mystery bookstore in a small town on the shores of Lake Michigan. Samantha, a schoolteacher, has always dreamed of becoming a successful mystery writer, while her husband Leon dreamed of owning a bookstore specializing in mysteries. The mystery bookstore part of the dream is about to come true, but it is a bittersweet reality for her though, as part of the money to buy the old downtown building came from her late husband Leon's life insurance. Before he died, Samantha promised Leon that she would buy the brick brownstone, open the bookstore and start writing a book. 
The bookstore is coming together, with the bookshelves getting built by a local Amish craftsman, and books on the way. The grand opening is scheduled for just two weeks from day the story begins. Samantha has also started writing a mystery in the apartment above the store that she and her two toy poodles Snickers and Oreo now live in. She has a lot of support. Her two nephews, Christopher and Zaq, her sister Jenna and brother-in-law Tony, her mom, and her grandmother Nana Jo all support her and pitch in wherever they are needed. When the real estate agent who sold her the building and then, later, tried to stop the sale, ends up dead on her doorstep, she must rally all the troops. 
Interspersed with the main story are snippets from the historical mystery novel Samantha is writing. Set in England just before World War II, the novel is both an escape and a creative endeavour for her. Nana Jo and her group of senior friends are a delightful addition to the action as they work their networks to gather information and put it all together. So is Dawson, the star university football player with an interesting skill set who soon joins the household and store staff. 
This cosy mystery has humour and a good plotline. The characters are beginning to form here, with Samantha, Nana Jo, and Dawson the most developed so far. It was fast moving and I was intrigued by the story within a story.