Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Ever After

Ever After (Nantucket Brides Trilogy, #3)Ever After by Jude Deveraux
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hallie discovered quite by accident that she had inherited a house from a man she had never met. If she hadn't returned without warning to her house that afternoon, looking for a missing envelope of important documents, she never would have walked in on her stepsister impersonating her and signing papers to take possession of Hallie's unexpected inheritance. While it wasn't especially shocking to learn her stepsister had deceived the executor of the will and was attempting to defraud her, it most certainly was shocking to discover she now owned a house on the island of Nantucket, and it was even more shocking to find out that she had a private physical therapy client waiting for her in said house. Most shocking of all was the revelation that her newly acquired home came with two ghosts: the Tea Ladies, who died a couple of centuries ago and yet never stopped fixing their famously elaborate teas.

The sisters' matchmaking talents are legends among the islanders, and soon Hallie finds herself locked into and out of rooms, drenched by thunderstorms so local the neighbors aren't aware they occurred, supplied with endless quantities of fabulous sandwiches and cakes, and falling for her gorgeous patient with the huge extended family.

Jamie Taggert isn't pleased with the way his identical twin got him to Hallie's house on Nantucket Island, but he acknowledges he needs physical therapy to rehabilitate his knee after a skiing accident, so he agrees to let Hallie treat his leg--and ONLY his leg. Unlike most men, who can't wait to disrobe, Jamie refuses to let anyone see his scarred body. He fears pity and goes out of his way to avoid it, usually by avoiding people altogether. His aversion to pity runs so deep, he lets Hallie believe he's just a rich playboy rather than admit he acquired most of his scars--both physical and mental--when his humvee exploded, killing his friends and nearly killing him as well.

Although the attraction between Jamie and Hallie is strong, painful secrets and ingrained beliefs threaten to separate the pair, and it takes some clever conniving on the part of the departed to teach them to have faith in the strength, reality, and longevity of their bond.

I love that Deveraux is now writing about the next generation of the Taggert/Montgomery family. Such a treat to get a glimpse into the happily ever after of some of my favorite characters of the past! I actually stayed up late two nights in a row, despite being seriously sleep-deprived, just because I couldn't stop reading.

Many thanks to NetGalley and to the publisher for letting me read an Advance Reader's Copy (ARC) of the third book in this series in exchange for my honest review. I can honestly say I absolutely loved it! It's truly delightful to read a romance novel written by an author who likes and appreciates men and depicts them pretty realistically.

For reader's advisors: story and character doorways are both pretty strong, as is setting (ghosts and the non-creepy haunted house). There is some sexual content, but not especially explicit, and there is a little bit of swearing.

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Saturday, June 20, 2015

Eighth Grave After Dark

Eighth Grave After Dark (Charley Davidson, #8)Eighth Grave After Dark by Darynda Jones
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The eighth book in the series picks up about eight months after Book #7 left off. Charley & Reyes have long since moved to sacred ground to avoid being shredded by twelve demon hellhounds, Cookie and Uncle Bob are about to get married, and Beep will be born very soon. It's a fast-paced whirlwind of a book, full of both humor and suspense, as well as some swearing and sexual content. Great fun, with enough twists and turns to have readers flipping back a few pages to make sure they got it all.

For readers' advisors: story doorway is primary. Some swearing and sexual content. Often popular with fans of Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Wicked Autumn

Wicked Autumn (Max Tudor, #1)Wicked Autumn by G.M. Malliet
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

First in a series of contemporary British cozy mysteries set in the village of Nether Monkslip.  Featuring Max Tudor as the sleuth--a former MI5 agent turned vicar.  No one liked Wanda Batton-Smythe, but murder her?  There hasn't been a murder in Nether Monkslip in decades, perhaps centuries.  And this one was definitely premeditated.

For reader's advisors: story & setting doorways are primary, character is secondary.  A few swear words here and there but no sex or on-screen violence.

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Make Your Home Among Strangers: A Novel

Make Your Home Among Strangers: A NovelMake Your Home Among Strangers: A Novel by Jennine Capo Crucet
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I'm giving up on this one. I find myself making excuse after excuse not to pick this book up to finish it because I just do not like the main character. She lies and makes stupid choices all the time and for no good reason, doing all kinds of unnecessary damage to herself and others. I can't stand spending time with her, and I'm having a hard time seeing how any college would think she were smart enough to be accepted, which makes the foundation of the story completely unbelievable. I was really expecting a book that told the story of a first-generation Latina college student trying to cope with unfamiliar customs and traditions, which I guess this is, but she'd have a much easier time adjusting if she were a nicer, smarter person with even an ounce of common sense. :( I'm basing my review on the first 115 pages of the book, so feel free to take my opinion with a grain of salt if you read the whole thing.

I received an Advance Reader's Copy (ARC) from the publisher via BookBrowse in exchange for my honest review.

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Beyond the Sunrise

Beyond the SunriseBeyond the Sunrise by Mary Balogh
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I should really know better than to read/listen to a romance novel written before the mid-to-late 1990s at the VERY earliest (aside from Jane Austen's novels, of course).  Balogh is one of my favorite historical romance novelists, but this early work of hers is awful.   It's kind of interesting as a historical spy novel set in Portugal & Spain during the Napoleonic Wars, but as a romance it fails miserably.  The heroine does nothing but humiliate, emasculate, and lie to the hero, even when her mission no longer requires secrecy, and yet the reader is supposed to believe he would STILL fall in love with her?!  Um, no, that's not how that works.  Men respond to authenticity, not the contempt Joana demonstrates for all men as she manipulates, flirts with, and controls them like puppets on a string.

The book perpetuates the myth that if you have sex with a man who lusts after you, that means he'll automatically fall in love with you.  Um, no, also not how that works!  A man has to care about and respect a woman in order to fall in love with her.  Lust is just lust.

The story could have wrapped up in half the time if only Joana had told the truth as convincingly as she continued to tell lies; had explained why she wanted the French colonel to follow her; had been honest, genuine, and/or kind; and had enlisted Robert's help instead of deliberately making him think she was a French spy.   There were flashes of excellence in this novel, where you could glimpse the writer Balogh would become, but there were also plot holes and faulty premises enough to have me ranting at my car stereo for hours (see above about the unnecessary length of the book).

I strongly do not recommend this one.  The narrator does her best, but she can't make up for a terrible story.

For readers' advisors: setting doorway is primary.  Story is secondary, I guess.   There is some swearing and a lot of sex.  Seriously, no one could have energy for that much sex while trudging around the hills/mountains of Spain & Portugal in wartime with no shelter, no trust, no safety, & not much food.  No one.

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Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Goodnight Train

The Goodnight TrainThe Goodnight Train by June Sobel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The goodnight train gets set to roll. It's being shined, and filled with coal... that looks remarkably like cookies or cinnamon rolls--yum! This bedtime story board book is delightful, with the children's beds and a bathtub for the skunk making up most of the train's cars. Anthropomorphized animals are the train's conductor, porter, etc. The pajama-clad tots ride the train up the mountain, through the tunnel, around the town, across the plains and fields, until everyone is asleep and arrives home.

The rhythm of the words fits the pacing of the story, and the illustrations are fabulous--fun for little kids but with lots of jokes that will tickle the funny bone of older siblings, parents, and grandparents. My toddler loves it, and even after dozens of readings, I'm still noticing new clever visual gags.

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