Saturday, November 29, 2014

Christmas In Venice by Joanne Walsh - A Book Review

I love second chance type stories and this one delivered.  This story is about Lorenzo di Grechi and his ex-wife, Ashlynne.  

Ashlynne is traveling, on her way back home to spend the holidays with her parents in England when the weather causes a delay in Venice, Italy.  Stranded at the airport, Ashlynne is surprised to see Lorenzo also at the airport.  He invites her to spend the layover with him instead of being stranded at the airport until it reopens.  This is where the story begins to get really good for me.

Lorenzo and Ashlynne find quite quickly that the chemistry between them hasn't grown cold.  The problem is, Ashlynne is not ready to let go of the past.  Their divorce was brought on by a tragic event in their lives and she has never set it all to rest.  Enter into the mix is the past scheming of Lorenzo's former personal assistant and you have a toxic mix.

Claire, who was working as Lorenzo's personal assistant at the time of the divorce, was an instrumental part of the break-up.  She came to Ashlynne in a time of personal tragedy and set about to bring doubts into Ashlynne's mind of Lorenzo's commitment to the marriage.  

The divorce and it's aftermath brought on a moment of epiphany for Lorenzo.  He was a workaholic to the extreme and was faced with his obsessions with work being a large part of his marriage failing.  Finding Ashlynne at the airport is a gift to Lorenzo.  He now has the chance to make things right between them again.

But, can Lorenzo convince Ashlynne that he has changed?  Or will the ghosts of the past threaten to destroy any chance for a reconciliation between them?

I loved this story.  The characters have a depth that held my interest.  I loved the humor and tender moments of the relationship between Lorenzo and Ashlynne just as much as the snarky side.  The struggle that each goes through as they try to make peace with each other is painful to read due to the raw feelings they experience.  Yet, it is also a time of wanting to cheer them on as they gently make their way through the emotional mine field to find each other.

The book is relatively short which makes it a great read is you are wanting something that is light fare.  Christmas in Venice is book number 4 in the Christmas Around the World series.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Cowboys for Christmas - by Liz Talley, Kim Law, and Terri Osburn - A Book Review

Typically, I have always been leery of reading anthology books that are based in the same location and time period.  This book was a pleasant surprise.

Cowboys for Christmas is a compilation of 3 separate stories.  Three friends, Claire, Georgia, and Mary Catherine, have come together for Mary Catherine's wedding.  Each of these women will be faced with choices that are life altering.  

Claire has always felt love for Mary Catherine's brother, Tyler.  When they were teenagers, they had a drunken one night stand.  Each remembered the event but never faced it in the light of day.  Claire was over weight at that time and couldn't believe that Tyler would want to sleep with her except that he had taken part in a bet with his friends.  Tyler, always was attracted to Claire.  Her weight was never an issue.  When she left him after their time together, he never understood why she had gone.  Now, she is back in Holly Hills, Texas, and he is not about to let her get away again.  

Georgia is a volleyball coach at an ivy league school.  She left Holly Hills after to get away from her horrible childhood.  Growing up in poverty, she set goals for herself that did not include ever returning to Holly Hills.  Taking part in her friend's wedding, Georgia makes the journey back to Holly Hills and meets the local veterinarian.  The fireworks between these two start firing off right away.  Can this small town vet convince Georgia that she can find a new life in Holly Hills, despite the past?

Mary Catherine is getting married to a man she went to school with.  At a time when she should be glowing with happiness, Mary Catherine is miserable.  Her overbearing stepmom has taken over her wedding, turning it into a 3-ring circus that she hates.  Her stepmom has her convinced however that this spectacle is exactly what a young woman of her breeding should do, especially when marrying a young doctor.  As Mary Catherine slowly sees pieces of her life being chipped away from her by the expectations of her fiance and stepmom, Mary Catherine is falling apart.  What makes things worse is that she has never gotten over her first love who owns on the ranch next door.  As her wedding day draws near, she has to face the decision of whether to marry her fiance as planned, or take a chance on recapturing the past with her first love.

The three stories, while each could hold it's own separately, blend well together.  There is just enough overlap to tie them together yet enough original material in each to make the stories interesting.  One story in the set, Georgia's story, was a harder read for me.  While it followed the timeline of the stories really well, the writing was hard to stay with.  I found myself skipping ahead a few times to get through it.  Over all though, the stories worked together and I found myself enjoying the book for the most part.

The Navy SEAL's Christmas Bride by Cora Seton - Book Review

The Navy SEAL's Christmas Bride by Cora Seton
This was a book that kept me laughing.  Former Navy SEAL, Dan Hemmins, goes to a friend's home for the Christmas holiday only to meet his match.  Typical of many Navy SEAL stories, he is a very alpha male type character with an ego that is off the charts.  He is competitive by nature and is a bit sexist in his opinions about women.  

Another guest at the holiday celebrations is Army soldier, Sarah Metlin.  Sarah is nearing the end of her time in the Army and is trying to decide whether or not to sign up for another tour or go ahead and get discharged.  She is a very frustrated soldier.  Sarah comes from a military family of males who are condescending over her not being more than a regular soldier.  It frustrates her to no end that because she is a woman, she cannot train to become a SEAL.  

When Dan and Sarah meet, it is instant chemistry.  The snarky comments abound as they diss each other's choice of military branch and service.  Underneath the jokes however is the beginnings of attraction.

Dan is planning to start a training program for civilians who want to experience the training SEALs go through.  Looking for investors and others to help launch the program, Dan completely overlooks the option of inviting Sarah to consider taking part.  Besides, what would a female have to offer such an endeavor, right?  Dan quickly finds out that Sarah can more than keep up with him.

Having his competitive side sparked by Sarah, Dan begins challenging her to a series of exercises.  Each one ends up with bets being made.  Dan learns fast that Sarah is not the dainty little lady he sees, but is a well trained soldier who can hold her own.  

I loved the competitive side to each of the characters.  Dan had to learn to accept that woman can be just as well trained as a man.  Sarah had to learn to accept that she will never be a SEAL, but can offer much just being who she is.....a top notch soldier.

There are ups and downs in their budding relationship.  Each has to work through their own emotional baggage.  The worst being Sarah's feelings of being held back and put down by the men in her life.  She comes to terms with it and finds out that she can command respect without the job title of being a SEAL.  

Throughout the book, there is much humor.  As the bets become more outlandish, the hilarity ensues.  At times, you wonder what a character is thinking when they act or say something totally boneheaded, but then you next cheering them on as they finally get things right.

Overall, the book is one that I thoroughly loved.  It makes for a fun read that has me now looking for more titles by Cora Seton to add to my reading list.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Rocky Mountain Miracle, by Christine Feehan - A Book Review

Rocky Mountain Miracle is a story that tugs at your heart.  It is a story of healing.

Cole Steele is a loner.  He is a man with a past that has haunted him for decades.  Rumors and gossip in the small town near his ranch make the old wounds fester causing him to become even more isolated.  After the death of his estranged father, Cole has returned to his father's ranch to keep it running and be a guardian to his teenage brother, Jase.  Like Cole, Jase is also dealing with a painful torment of memories.  Both were deeply abused and tortured in their past by the very person who should have kept them safe.

Maia Armstrong is the local vet who cares for the animals of the ranches in the area.  When we met her, I was silently cheering her on.  Cole and his brother had gone to a diner and before they even got fully into the diner, they heard the local gossips spouting off.  Maia stood up to the locals and defended Cole.  In her quiet way, she was able to silence the gossips with an ease that had me admiring her.

Cole and Jase ask Maia to help them with a seriously injured horse whom Jase has been bonding to.  They drive through a blizzard to reach the ranch in time to save the poor creature.  Due to the blizzard and needing to be close to tend to the horse, Maia ends up spending an extended time with the two brothers.

During her stay, accidents are happening on the ranch.  In one event, Maia is injured.  We learn through the events that Cole is not who the townspeople believe him to be.  The pain of his past has brought about a lifestyle that has helped him to cope with the nightmares from his youth.

Cole and Maia are drawn to one another.  Her gentle nature is calming to the brothers and she serves as a bridge bringing them closer together.  As with Ms Feehan's other books, this one contains both intrigue and a bit of the paranormal. Someone is working against the brothers, but who?  What do they have to gain?

Overall, the focus of the story is the healing that both brothers experience in the gentle nature of Maia.  Christmas has always had a darkness to it in the brothers' lives.  Through Maia, they are able to learn to shed that darkness and enjoy the beauty and love of the Christmas season.

Undefeated, by Melissa Cutler - A Book Review

Undefeated, by Melissa Cutler, is a fun read.  I am new to this series.  While this is not the first book in the series, I was happy to find that it can stand alone.  The story takes place in a town called, Destiny Falls, New York.

The couple in Undefeated are a quirky couple when you look at them at face value.  Liam McAllister is a former Army combat medic with issues.  He now runs a gym where MMA fighters train.  A former fighter himself, Liam has been sidelined from fighting due to the risk of death if he takes another blow to the head in a fight.  Yeah, even being on the top of the ranks, the constant blows to the head during previous matches have left their mark on him.

Enter into this equation a yoga instructor named Marlena Brodie.  These two are a strange combination.  When I first read the intro about these two, I thought that this would either be a strange combination or it would work well.  In this case, it worked really well indeed!  Marlena is a woman escaping a bad relationship.  She meets Liam by chance and their meeting is connected to the final straw in her relationship with another man.

The story starts out with Marlena recovering from a brutal attack. Liam has taken her in to help her recover.  Their relationship starts out as friends but quickly becomes more.  As the story progresses, they really steam up the story with the intimate side of their relationship.  (Can we say graphic here?)

The storyline really takes a turn when someone from Marlena's past comes back and threatens her future with Liam.  She is faced with a choice.  She can either continue with Liam and risk his life or turn away from him forever.  Her decision marks a tense moment in the story and has devastating consequences.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

A Bit of Rambling

Hard for me to imagine, but I have actually gone nearly a week without reading a book.  UGH!  Life is crazy here this past week.  My Mr, likes to tease me about the books I read.  One of his favorite comments regards the ads that show up on my Kindle when it is turned off.  His funniest is when he jokingly asks me if the ads were chosen according to the books on my Kindle, what type of books or products would the ads be selling?  To this, I really have to say that I would rather not find out.  LOL  With all the "smut books" that are on the Kindle, I am certain that some embarrassing ads would be involved.  The term "smut books" is a running joke with Mr. and I. If he doesn't call it porn, that is.  I have an old VHS tape cabinet that is filled with 3 series of books by Christine Feehan.  That is affectionately called the Smut Cabinet.

I am still undecided about whether I prefer the ebooks or the paperback books.  Both have their place in my collection.  I love the convenience of my Kindle. However, I also can appreciate the feel of the actual books.  One of my prized collections is the entire KGI series by Maya Banks, which she autographed for me.  Yep! The entire series in paperback are all autographed.  They are carefully tucked away and I read the ebook versions.  Can't have the covers on the autographed copies to become worn looking!

I am quickly being won over by ebooks.  The lower cost and convenience are a plus.  I find myself trying out new authors using the Kindle.  If I really like a book, I will order a paperback version of the book to add to my collection.  That seems to be working great for me.  Reviewing books has offered me the opportunity to read many new-to-me authors and genre of books.  It is always a new adventure when reading a book from an author I have not read before.  I have been pleasantly surprised at the number of them that I look forward to reading more of their books.  With winter fast approaching, the extra reading will become a favorite pastime for me.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

In the Field of Grace, by Tessa Afshar - A Book Review

This book was an unexpected joy to read. I have always loved the Bible story of Ruth. Her quiet strength and her devotion to her mother-in-law, Naomi, has always been an inspiration to me. When I saw this title, I looked forward to having time to read it. In the Field of Grace is based upon the Bible story, but tells a more detailed accounting of her life. In my opinion, it takes a lot of creative licensing to write the storyline while still staying true to the basics.

The story begins with Ruth's life in Moab. It takes us through her meeting Naomi's son, Mahlon. And their brief courtship and marriage. We walk with Ruth as she and Naomi go through the deaths of Mahlon and his brother. Their hardship in Moab before Naomi makes the decision to return to Bethlehem. As they tarry along the way towards Bethlehem, Naomi stops and tells her daughters-in-law that they need to go back to their families in Moab. One makes the choice to leave, while Ruth makes the decision to continue to accompany Naomi.

Naomi's grief over losing her sons has taken her into a state of depression and bitterness. Having already become a widow, losing her sons has become more than she can bear. She doesn't want Ruth to continue to Bethlehem with her, but agrees after hearing Ruth's passionate response. Ruth knows that her life in Moab will not bring happiness. Naomi and her family had brought Ruth much joy to her life that she had never before experienced from her own family. As she spent more time with them and in her marriage to Mahlon, she turned away from the gods of the Moabites and accepted the God of the Israelites. She no longer to look upon the human sacrifices of the Moabite religion without feeling horror. In her heart, she had fully converted to the faith of the Israelites.

Ruth knew that by going to Bethlehem, she would be sacrificing any hope of having a marriage and children. She knew that the people there would likely never accept her. It was her love and devotion to Naomi, the woman she referred to as her true mother, that caused her to set aside any unease over the future.

Once in Bethlehem, live was a struggle for Ruth. Naomi was still battling depression and the sight of her old home set Naomi further into her withdrawal from life around her. It would take prayer and much work on Ruth's part to bring peace to Naomi. During this time, they were very poor. As was custom of the Israelite lifestyle, Ruth was able to go to the fields and glean from the harvested grain left behind from the threshers. This was a custom to help provide for the poor and destitute in their community. Each day, the women would go to the fields and gather the stalks of barley or wheat to take home. This was their way of providing food for their families.

Boaz, a wealthy land owner and relative to Naomi's late husband, allowed Ruth to glean from his fields. He took pity on her and offered protection as well as made certain that she was allowed to gather ample amounts of harvest to support her and Naomi through the upcoming winter. Boaz' attraction to Ruth was not welcome in the beginning. He was a widower and still mourned the loss of his wife & children. Being a man of stature in the community, he also was hesitant with pursuing Ruth due to her being from Moab.

Throughout the story, you begin to get a more personal look at what the lives and Ruth and Boaz was like. What did it take for him to overcome the prejudice that Israelites had towards Moabites and decide to take Ruth as a wife? We get a glimpse at the personal struggles that Ruth went through in having to step far out of her comfort zone to go to Boaz when slept at the threshing floor and offer herself to him.

The story then takes you through the first portion of their marriage until after the birth of their son, Obed. In the story, Ruth and Boaz each faced great personal struggles during that time. Overall, the story is a sweet one that adds layers of depth to the story of Ruth. I would not encourage people to look upon this story as a Biblical representation of the events, but the overall feel of the story is well done. Though the author does give a long representation in the end of her resources, I have not read each one personally. For that reason, I make that disclaimer. I did thoroughly enjoy the story though. It makes the story of Ruth much more personal and thus gives it deeper meaning.