The Ultimate Western Blog Tour: Guest Post by Lindsay McKenna + Giveaway

Western-blog-tour-image_FINAL

As part of The Ultimate Western Blog Tour, I’m hosting Lindsay McKenna, talking about the latest book in her Jackson Hole series, Out Rider. When I reviewed Out Rider back in May, I fell in love with the cast and crew of this series, particularly all of the wonderful working dogs who are such a big part of all the stories in the series. If you enjoy slow-burn romances with hot heroes, strong heroines, and heroic (and beautiful) canines, you’ll love Out Rider and the Jackson Hole series.

Inspiration for OUT RIDER, a guest post by bestselling author Lindsay McKenna

I always write “close to the bone.” It’s an ancient writer’s way of saying: what I write is true, but I’ve fictionalized it because no one in their right mind would believe if I tried to say it was the truth.

Well, maybe you would believe it. But I find inspiration for OUT RIDER in my own ranching/farming background. I grew up in the Wild West (literally). I’m a real Californian, born in San Diego, California. But my father had a lot of Eastern Cherokee blood in him and like the seasons, we migrated/moved every 9 months. I lived in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Idaho, Montana and Oregon. I counted one time and realized we’d moved 22 times by the time I was 18 years old and left for the U.S. Navy.

We always lived in rural areas, raised our own beef, had a milk cow, rode the neighbor’s horse or had one of our own, milked the cow daily, had goats, had a huge garden, was canning by nine years old and raising chickens, ducks and geese, as well. As soon as my legs grew long enough and my foot could reach the accelerator and brake pedal on the tractor, I was driving the tractor. I started driving our old Ford pickup at the same age. I felt very fortunate to have that kind of childhood. Not many get one like this nowadays.

I acquired my first horse, Pretty Boy, a two-year old sorrel stallion with four white socks and a wide blaze down his face when I was 12 years old. I paid $45.00 for him. He had been rounded up with a large herd of Mustangs in southeastern Oregon, which is part of the Great Basin (desert), and cowboys brought them to Klamath Falls, where we were presently living. My horse was slated to be killed and ground up into dog food, as was the rest of his herd. He got lucky and got me, instead.

He was a wild Mustang and I tamed him with love, care and attention. I broke him to ride and he never bucked once. We had an idyllic year together. It got so that when he’d lay down in the barnyard to snooze in the afternoons, I would come and snuggle up behind his front legs, my head resting on his shoulder. We had that much trust in one another.

OUT RIDER comes directly out of my horse/Western background and upbringing. I loved writing about Dev and her horse. I also liked putting Sloan Rankin as a blacksmith/horse shoer who was a Ranger in the Great Tetons National Park. Sloan is a military vet, was a K-9 handler for the Army in Afghanistan. His Malinois, “Mouse” (Dutch bred), retires when he leaves the Army. Man and dog are inseparable.

Lucky for Sloan, when he pulls over after seeing a horse trailer bearing a palomino in it, blows a tire, he stops to help the owner. Dev McGuire is grateful for Sloan stopping to help her change the tire. And when she finds out that he works out of the Tetons Ranger station, it’s a pleasant shock. She’s just been assigned to the Tetons because she’s a US Forest Ranger herself. And Bella, her yellow labrador, is also a retired K-9 Army bomb sniffing dog. These two people find they have amazing parallels. But they are going to need every bit of their courage and combat savvy to thwart a villain who is after Dev. He wants to settle an old score with her and he’s just gotten out of prison, tracking her down.

I love writing about what I know. I believe that when you write ‘close to the bone,’ you can bring in the five senses because one has lived it, and it’s easy to record and share with the reader. Enjoy!

out rider by lindsay mckennaAbout Out Rider: With her return to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, New York Times bestselling author Lindsay McKenna shows how love can find a way out of the darkness…
A fresh start—that’s all Devorah McGuire wants. As a former Marine and current Ranger with the US Forest Service, she’s grown accustomed to keeping others safe. But when the unthinkable happens, she can only hope that a transfer to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, will allow her to put the past behind her for good.
Dev’s mentor at Grand Tetons National Park is fellow canine handler and horseman Sloan Rankin. He shows Dev the spectacular trails, never knowing the terror that stalks her every move. Despite her lingering fear, Dev feels an attraction for Sloan as wild as their surroundings.
With Sloan, Dev can envision a new life—a real home. Unless a vengeful man fresh out of prison succeeds in finishing what he started…

About the author: A U.S. Navy veteran, Lindsay McKenna was a meteorologist while serving her country. A pioneer of the military romance genre in 1993 with Captive of Fate. Her heart and focus is on honoring our military men and women. Creator of the Wyoming series and Shadow Warriors series for HQN Books, she writes emotionally and romantically intense suspense stories. Visit her online at her website, LindsayMcKenna.com.

~~~~~~ TOURWIDE GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

Harlequin is giving away an all-expense paid 3-night luxurious stay for you and 3 guests at The Resort at Paws Up in Greenough, Montana! To enter click here or on the image below:

August 5_Lindsay McKenna_sharable

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This post is part of a TLC book tour. Click on the logo for more reviews and features.

Interview with Author Sharon Lynn Fisher + Giveaway

Today I would like to welcome my fellow Seattle-ite, Sharon Lynn Fisher, who recently published the Ophelia Prophecy (reviewed here). It’s an absolute terrific science fiction romance, sort of Frankenstein meets Romeo and Juliet. Only an SF writer could make that combination work, and it so does!

Marlene: Welcome Sharon! Can you please tell us a bit about yourself?

ophelia prophecy by sharon lynn fisherSharon: Thank you for having me!

Okay, you left that one wide open, so let me see …

Besides being an author, I’m senior editor for SilkWords, a “pick your own path” romance short story site. I’m also mom to a sassy seven-year-old. I live in Seattle. Like any good Seattleite I enjoy doing outside things (hiking, rock climbing, biking). But it rains for nine months of the year so also I love to read and watch movies and good TV. I’m an INFJ, and an Aries. I like cupcakes and shoes. I have a freaky orange cat.

Marlene: Describe a typical day of writing? Are you a planner or pantser?

Sharon: Being a half-time single mom and also having another job, there’s really no such thing as a typical day in my life. When I’m writing something new, even less so. Some days I may not write more than a few paragraphs, and others I may write 10 or 15 pages. But I do find I need some dedicated headspace for writing. I need to say to myself, “I’m writing,” and cut off from social media and other unrelated tasks.

I’m a reformed pantser. After having to completely rewrite my first novel from page 1, I realized that fully pantsing things is a form of self torture (at least for me). It leads to writer’s block and panic attacks. I still completely pants my first chapter, but after that I write a one- or two-page synopsis and work from that. Nothing too detailed or it takes all the fun out of the writing.

Marlene: What can we expect of The Ophelia Prophecy?

Sharon: It’s a post-apocalyptic Romeo and Juliet story with exotic locations and lots of action. The romance between the hero and heroine — a human woman who’s lost her memory and a member of a human/insect transgenic race — is a slow burn that boils over suddenly once the substantial obstacles are overcome. I know what you’re thinking: “Insects, ew.” It’s not like that. Trust me.

Marlene: If The Ophelia Prophecy was turned into a movie who would you want to direct it?

Sharon: Hmm, I’ve never thought about that one! Christopher Nolan seems to be the go-to guy for sci-fi these days. Actually, who directed Orphan Black? I LOVE that show. I want that guy. I want that actress, too.

Marlene: What made you choose science fiction as your genre? Especially science fiction with a romantic bent?

Ghost Planet by Sharon Lynn FisherSharon: I always answer this question with “it chose me.” And it’s true. I had mainly written fantasy romance up to the point I wrote my debut novel, Ghost Planet. While I did make a conscious decision to try my hand at sci-fi, I did not know it would mark a long-term shift in my writing. I enjoy the research so much, and it really opened up a whole new world for me. I’d been struggling to come up with what I felt like were original ideas for fantasy.

As for blending sci-fi with romance, I don’t think I’ve ever written a story without romance. It may be that I never will!

Marlene: What do you hope to say to people with your writing?

Sharon: Considering some of the social issues I raise in my stories, oddly, nothing. I want my readers to escape to another world. I want them to keep turning pages because they can’t stop. I love this quote from a recent review: “Her books, so far, are the exact kind of high-quality popcorn that I’m looking for when I need a mental vacation.” My work is done here.

Marlene: What projects do you have planned for the future?

Sharon: I have a third Tor book coming out early next year, Echo 8. On my blog I describe it (unofficially) like this: Parallel-universe romantic suspense that explores possible connections between quantum physics and psi (also a Bermuda Love Triangle between a parapsychologist, an FBI agent, and an energy vampire).

I plan to write a sequel to Ophelia based on the other couple, Iris and Carrick, who are set up in this first book. I also have another stand-alone in the works. I don’t want to say too much about that one, but it’ll be my trademark blend of sci-fi, fantasy, and romance, set in modern-day Portland.

Marlene: Because I’m a librarian, I love to ask this question: Who first introduced you to the love of reading?

Sharon: Because I’m an author, I’m embarrassed to say: I don’t know! Ack. Maybe my father? My mother says I learned to read by pointing at words in the newspaper and asking him what they were. I’ve had a passion for reading for as long as I can remember. It could very well be that I introduced myself to the love of reading.

Marlene: What’s the book that you most want to read again for the first time?

Sharon: I think I’d have to say the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Marlene: Tell me something about yourself that I wouldn’t know to ask!

Sharon: I sometimes have dreams about things that actually happen. Kinda stupid things. Nothing like winning lottery numbers. One time I dreamed I was walking down the street with a friend and glanced over and saw an alligator walking next to us. The next day I went to a restaurant I’d never been to before — a little bistro that had opened in an old house. I went to use the restroom, and when I flipped on the light, I saw they’d put a large plastic alligator on a pile of rocks in the bathtub. I wrote this rather useless talent into one of the characters in Echo 8.

Marlene: Morning person or night owl?

Sharon: I have an appreciation for mornings. They feel fresh and creative. But they are easily wrecked by other people speaking to me or expecting me to do things. I think I’d better go with night owl. (Especially considering my clock says it’s 10:01 PM as I finish this.)

Ophelia Prophecy Blog Tour Button

Sharon Lynn Fisher Author PhotoAbout Sharon Lynn Fisher

A Romance Writers of America RITA Award finalist and a three-time RWA Golden Heart Award finalist, Sharon Lynn Fisher lives in the Pacific Northwest. She writes books for the geeky at heart—sci-fi flavored stories full of adventure and romance—and battles writerly angst with baked goods, Irish tea, and champagne. Her works include Ghost Planet (2012), The Ophelia Prophecy (2014), and Echo 8 (2014).To learn more about Sharon, visit her website or follow her on Twitter.

~~~~~~GIVEAWAY~~~~~~

Sharon is kindly giving away three copies of The Ophelia Prophecy, one each to three lucky winners! For a chance to win, use the Rafflecopter below:

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Review: The Cottage on Juniper Ridge by Sheila Roberts

cottage on juniper ridge by sheila robertsFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Women’s Fiction
Series: Life in Icicle Falls #4
Length: 384 pages
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Date Released: February 25, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

How to Change Your Life…

Can a book change your life? Yes, when it’s Simplicity, Muriel Sterling’s guide to plain living. In fact, it inspires Jen Heath to leave her stressful, overcommitted life in Seattle and move to Icicle Falls, where she rents a lovely little cottage on Juniper Ridge. And where she can enjoy simple pleasures—like joining the local book club—and complicated ones, like falling in love with her sexy landlord, Garrett Armstrong.

Her sister Toni is ready for a change, too. She’s got a teenage daughter who’s constantly texting her friends, a husband who’s more involved with his computer than he is with her, and a son who’s consumed by video games. Toni wants her family to grow closer—to return to a simpler way of life.

Other women in town, like Stacy Thomas, are also inspired to unload their excess stuff and some of the extra responsibilities they’ve taken on.

But as they all discover, sometimes life simply happens. It doesn’t always happen simply!

My Review:

This is a sweet treat of a book, and not just because all the characters discuss their problems with regular applications of Sweet Dreams Chocolate from the local chocolatier.

Speaking of Sweet Dreams Chocolate, it is terrific to see how all the lovely people who starred in the previous books in the Icicle Falls series, (Better Than Chocolate, Merry Ex-Mas and What She Wants) are doing now that they have their own HEAs.

Better than Chocolate by Sheila RobertsBut the main characters of The Cottage on Juniper Ridge are Jen Heath, who rents the titular cottage, her sister Toni, and local resident Stacy. They are each, in their various ways, influenced by Muriel Sterling’s latest book, Simplicity. (We also know Muriel from Better Than Chocolate, and why she needed to get some simplicity in her life.)

Jen reads Muriel’s book, and decides that it is time she got some of her own simplicity back. Her life in Seattle has become so busy with the drudgery of two jobs to pay for a condo she can’t afford that she hates her life. So she buys into the siren song of Muriel’s book to the point where she rents a cottage in Muriel’s home town of Icicle Falls and puts her condo in Seattle on the market.

Jen is reaching for a simpler life where she has time to do things she enjoys and kindle some new friendships. She wants to find the joy that she used to have.

What she finds is a hunky landlord who is also a firefighter. She falls into insta-lust, but he thinks she’s a complete flake for turning her life over so irresponsibly. He’s already been in love with one irresistible but irresponsible ditz, and he’s not interested in doing it again, even though he adores the child that came out of his impulsive first marriage.

Jen creates a new life for herself, and hopes that her landlord will eventually get the stick out of his ass and see that the sparks they generate could lead to a real relationship. Garrett, in turn, tries to force himself into a relationship with someone steady and solid. It takes him a long time to realize that the heart wants what it wants, and that looking for the fun in life does not necessarily make Jen selfish, childish or even remotely flakey.

While Jen is getting her new life together, her sister Toni is searching for someplace where her family can not just get away from it all, but disconnect from the electronic gizmos that are always distracting them from each other. It turns out that the little Washington town that her sister moved to on a whim may be the perfect place to find her family again.

Icicle Falls resident Stacy just needs to declutter her life. It takes a cosmic push for her to realize that she doesn’t own her stuff, she has so much stuff that it owns her. It takes a lot of effort, and some whole new ways of thinking, for Stacy to find a channel for her love of finding beautiful things.

Icicle Falls sustains and supports them all.

Escape Rating B+: Like all of the Icicle Falls series, The Cottage on Juniper Ridge is primarily a story about the supportiveness of strong friendships. In this case, the friends are the members of the Icicle Falls Book Club, a group of women who share books, chocolate, and a chance to unwind in a place where everyone understands what the others are going through. It’s their once-a-month break for some “me time” with the BFFs who will be there for them, no matter what.

Jen Heath comes in from the outside, but her shared love of books and the general friendliness of the town is enough to get her adopted by this tight-knit bunch of marvelous women. They help each other through whatever needs to be shared and/or listened to. We all need a group like this in our lives, but it’s hard to find!

The tying element of Muriel’s book, Simplicity, resonates with each of them differently. They are all over-worked or over-committed, and the book makes them stop and think about ways they can de-stress their lives, just a bit.

While it is the story of Jen’s journey of self-discovery that drives the book, Stacy’s story had a tremendous amount of resonance. It’s not just that she has been letting her hunt for beautiful bargains fill her empty nest, but how many memories she has invested in what to other people looks like “stuff”. At the same time, it was great in Stacy’s story to see a long-term marriage that is happy, where the husband is supportive and generally terrific and the couple feels lucky to be together.

Where so many stories ignore women who have achieved their happily ever after, in The Cottage at Juniper Ridge we see a whole range of experiences, from Jen’s search for true love to Toni’s need to reconnect to Stacy’s search for her own purpose within the context of a continuingly happy marriage.

Icicle Falls continues to be a marvelous place to visit, filled with people you’d love to meet. I can’t wait for the next book!

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Q&A with Lori Foster + Giveaway

Lori FosterToday, Reading Reality is part of Lori Foster’s Getting Rowdy Blog Tour! Read my review of Getting Rowdy here and enjoy this Q&A from Lori.

Marlene: What is your favorite scene from the book and why?

Lori: I based the video book trailer for Getting Rowdy off my favorite scene: Avery showing up at Rowdy’s apartment, soaking wet from a furious rain, insistent that he follow through on sensual promises. :::sigh::: Rowdy needed her to do that, and somehow Avery knew. If you haven’t seen the book trailer, it’s here on YouTube.

honor's splendour by julie garwoodMarlene: Book you most want to read again for the first time?

Lori: Honor’s Splendour by Julie Garwood. Ooooh, I just love, love that book! Also Lion’s Lady and The Bride and… well, all of her historicals. I also love historicals by Catherine Coulter and Johanna Lindsay and Amanda Quick… good stuff!

Marlene: What projects do you have planned for the future?

Lori: I just finished Dash’s story. Dash is the brother of the hero from the first book, Run the Risk. I think readers will be surprised with Dash now that it’s his turn to reveal his soul. I know I was surprised! I kept thinking, Dash, you devil! Lol.

And now I’m ready to get started on Cannon’s book. Cannon (You met him in Getting Rowdy) will actually star in the first book of a new series set for Sept 2014. I really enjoyed him in Getting Rowdy, and he has a larger role in Dash’s book, Dash of Peril (April 2014) so I hope readers like him as much as I do!

Marlene: What are some words your family and friends would use to describe you?

Lori: Hmmm… I actually just asked them, and here’s what they said:

Compassionate, considerate, kind, animal lover, grounded and organized, and from one of my sons: Small and Feisty, but also faithful and considerate.

Awww… I have such wonderful family and friends!

Marlene: Are you a morning person or a night owl?

Lori: Morning! I’m usually up by 4:30 am and by 9:00 pm I want to be in my PJs. I’m usually dragging off to bed by 10 or 10:30 pm. I’ve always been something of an insomniac, and about 6 hours in the bed is all I can take.

blog-tours-Lori-Foster

~~~~~~GIVEAWAY~~~~~~

Lori is kindly giving away a paperback copy of Getting Rowdy to one lucky winner. To enter, use the Rafflecopter below.

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Review: Hell’s Belle by Karen Greco

hells belle by karen grecoFormat read: ebook provided by the author
Formats available: ebook, paperback
Genre: Urban fantasy
Series: Hell’s Belle, #1
Length: 254 pages
Publisher: Self-published
Date Released: June 14, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Half vampire, half human, Nina Martinez spent most of her life underground as part of an elite secret team of government agents that quietly take down rogue monsters, the human world none the wiser. She moves back to her hometown of Providence, RI to keep an eye on the recent uptick in supernatural activity, and to help run the bar she co-owns with her aunt.

Her attempt at a “regular” life, not to mention a budding relationship with smoking hot FBI agent Max, is cut short because of a string of ritual murders targeting the city’s community of witches.

But Nina’s investigation unearths deadly secrets from her long buried parents. Now the target of supernatural assassins, could Nina be the most dangerous vampire hybrid to ever exist? No wonder she can’t get a date.

My Review:

Booker at the 2011 Time 100 Gala
Booker at the 2011 Time 100 Gala

The story starts with the main character fangirling over the real-life mayor of Newark, NJ, Cory Booker, as he kicks vampire ass into the afterlife. And it just rocks.

After Booker books out of the story, we move up the coast to a dive bar in Providence RI, which is every bit as seedy as Newark, and I didn’t know that was even possible. Our heroine thought she was taking a timeout from her work in Blood Ops, the special branch of the Department of Defense dedicated to permanently dealing with supernatural bad actors, but a vamp stalks into her bar with the not so hidden agenda to stake Nina, and suddenly it’s all hands (and fangs) on deck.

In the process of figuring out why this one rogue vampire is determined to get Nina, she discovers that there is a lot more to her half-vamp/half-human heritage than anyone in her life has ever bothered to tell her, starting with the tiny detail that she isn’t half-vamp/half-human after all.

While the secrets and hidden truths keep boiling up out of the past, and the rogue keeps culling the supernatural population as a way of building up power, Nina has to deal with all her new-found powers going out of whack; a ghost who wants to possess her in order to get revenge on the rogue, and an FBI agent who isn’t sure whether she’ a possible suspect or a possible sex partner or possibly both. Nina’s sure he can’t handle the truth he keeps claiming to want.

The demon running for mayor of Providence may be the most normal part of the case!

Escape Rating B: This first book is one hell of a journey of discovery, both for the heroine and the reader; Nina discovers she only knew half (maybe) of her own story, and the reader discovers Nina’s world. There’s quite a lot of urban fantasy worldbuilding going on in this story.

The concept of a “Blood Ops” unit as an official arm of the DOD is both fun and scary. If there were supes, there would also be Men and Women in Black to take them out. Nina’s snark about the BO division of the DOD makes for great gallows humor.

There are a whole lot of supernatural types and tropes mixed into this soup. Vamps, weres, ghosts, banshees, witches, druids and even hell-hounds of both the good and bad persuasion and even demons. It’s going to take an entire series to straighten out who the good supes and bad supes are. Sounds like fun.

But the action follows Nina. Her heritage makes her strong, but the hijacking of her self-discovery has made her vulnerable, and it’s that vulnerability that makes her interesting as well as potentially dangerous. And definitely endangered. Neither Nina nor her team is quite sure yet whether she is bait or slayer or some of each. Only time will tell. Watching her come to terms with her new knowledge about herself and her place in the world makes her worth watching.

But I’m very much afraid that a demon politician strikes way too close to reality.

Hells Belle Banner 450 X 169

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: The Original 1982 by Lori Carson

The Original 1982 by Lori CarsonFormat read: ebook provided by the author
Formats available: ebook, paperback
Genre: Women’s fiction
Length: 243 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Date Released: May 28, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

It’s 1982, and Lisa is a 24-year-old waitress in New York City, an aspiring singer/songwriter, and girlfriend to a famous musician. That year, she makes a decision, almost without thinking about it.

But what if what if her decision had been different?

In a new 1982, Lisa chooses differently. Her career takes another direction. She becomes a mother. She loves differently—yet some things remain the same.

Alternating between two very different possibilities, The Original 1982 is a novel about how the choices we make affect the people we become—and about how the people we are affect the choices we make.

My Review:

If things were different, everything would be different. In Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, it’s called the other leg of the trousers of time.

If you could choose one decision in your life, and go down the other path, what would you do?

Telling this version of her story, Lisa chooses differently. In her alternate version of 1982, she chooses to become a single mother to her baby, instead of having an abortion. In the other 1982, Lisa has the little girl she names Minnow, instead of a semi-celebrated musical career.

In neither version of her life does she have a happily ever after with Minnow’s father, a slightly older and somewhat more famous Latin-American singer. Gabriel Luna wasn’t capable of making a family, or even being faithful. In the original 1982, he was simply the first of several addictions. In the Minnow-future, Lisa did a better job of leaving him behind sooner, if only for the sake of her daughter.

But what this story does is imagine, not just one simple change, but how that one instant affects an entire life. Lisa has a child instead of an abortion. With Minnow in her life, every single thing that happens after is altered, and so is every person who walks part of her journey with her.

She continues as a waitress instead of making a career on the road as a singer-songwriter. The people who would have been her bandmates forge their careers with other bands. But the music is part of her soul. It sometimes takes a backseat to making a living, motherhood, or simple exhaustion. But she never gives up.

In the end, she is still a singer-songwriter, but it all happens differently. And she has Minnow. It might have been. But it didn’t.

Escape Rating B+: One of my favorite poems is Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken”. The Original 1982 is Lisa’s re-imagining her whole life as that road. Reaching mid-life, we all struggle with these kinds of questions, wondering what would have happened if we’d taken the other fork at too many important bends in the road, dealing with regrets about what might have been.

Instead Lisa writes them out as a story for herself, and for her niece, comparing her two lives. She doesn’t pull too many punches. She doesn’t think that her life would have been easier if she’d chosen to keep Minnow, only that it would have been vastly different.

It’s telling that in neither future does she get the guy. He’s not the dream. Her daughter was the dream.

Because this book was written by Lori Carson of the Golden Palominos, there’s a meta question about how much of the story is autobiographical. It reminded me of Carly Simon’s famous song, “You’re So Vain”, and the persistent rumor that the subject was Warren Beatty. Or Mick Jagger.

I wonder who Gabriel Luna was in Lori Carson’s life. If there was such a person, or persons.

But we’ve all faced choices where we wonder what might have happened if we’d picked the other road. This story, this other 1982, makes you stop and think about those choices.

If you knew then what you know now, what would you do? The problem is, you never know then what you know now. We choose, we live the lives that stem from that choice. No going back, except through works of imagination. But those other lives, they haunt us just the same.

TLC
This post is part of a TLC book tour. Click on the logo for more reviews.
***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: SEAL of Honor by Tonya Burrows

SEAL of Honor by Tonya BurrowsFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher
Formats available: ebook, paperback
Genre: Romantic suspense, Military romance
Series: HORNET, #1
Length: 352 pages
Publisher: Entangled Select
Date Released: May 28, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

It’s a good thing Gabe Bristow lives and breathes the Navy SEAL credo, “the only easy day was yesterday,” because today, his life is unrecognizable. When his prestigious career comes to a crashing halt, he’s left with a bum leg and few prospects for employment that don’t include a desk.

That is, until he’s offered the chance to command a private hostage rescue team and free a wealthy American businessman from Colombian paramilitary rebels. It seems like a good deal—until he meets his new team: a drunk Cajun linguist, a boy-genius CIA threat analyst, an FBI negotiator with mob ties, a cowboy medic, and an EOD expert as volatile as the bombs he defuses. Oh, and who could forget the sexy, frustratingly impulsive Audrey Van Amee? She’s determined to help rescue her brother—or drive Gabe crazy. Whichever comes first.

As the death toll rises, Gabe’s team of delinquents must figure out how to work together long enough to save the day. Or, at least, not get themselves killed.Because Gabe’s finally found something worth living for, and God help him if he can’t bring her brother back alive.

My Review:

This team is a mess. The story, however, isn’t, even though it does have a few moments that are sticky when things shouldn’t be. And not-sticky when they should be.

<sigh> Let me explain…

Two Navy SEALs are forced to retire after a fairly mundane car accident, Gabe Bristow and Travis Quinn. If the only easy day for a SEAL was yesterday, it’s pretty clear that for Bristow, life was way easier as a member of SEAL Team Ten. For Quinn, not so much.

But it’s not Quinn’s book.

Bristow’s the one with the leadership qualities. He’s the guy who can make a SEAL team, or the bunch of highly qualified misfits that gets recruited by “HumInt Consulting, Inc.” to become a private hostage rescue team, follow anybody’s orders willingly.

About those misfits, well, let’s just say that it’s really obvious there’s going to be a book about each one. For the purpose of this first story, the fact that these guys are all still jockeying to figure out whose ass is badder makes for a lot of laugh out loud moments…but it does interfere with the operation they’re supposed to be on. Which is all part of the fun.

It shows that the team is neither all military, which it isn’t, nor is it ready for the job it has been shoved into. The team’s story is how they pull together and get themselves out of really, really deep foo-foo without losing anyone.

Gabe Bristow’s story is learning to live with who he is now. His leg is busted up too bad for him to ever go back to being a SEAL. That’s why they retired him. This is his life, and he can still do a lot of good. He just has to accept that it is what it is.

Part of that acceptance comes in the package of Audrey Van Amee. She’s the sister of the man his team is supposed to recover. She is also an asset. She speaks Spanish like a native, her brother was kidnapped in Colombia, and half of Bristow’s team doesn’t have any language skills.

Audrey not only throws herself into a lot of situations that she shouldn’t, she talks to herself about the fact that she’s walking or running or leaping headfirst into a situation that in the movies always ends up with the heroine getting captured or killed, but she does it anyway. Sometimes she seemed brave, and sometimes not.

SEAL of Honor wouldn’t be romantic suspense without the romance. So the sister of the kidnapping victim, meaning Audrey, and the leader of the rescue team, in the person of Gabe Bristow, naturally have way more chemistry together than they can manage to handle, in spite of, or maybe because of, the heightened tension of the situation they find themselves in.

And let’s not forget about the kidnapping. Bryson Van Amee was in the import/export business. The problem is that Bryson had been doing a little bit of dealing in, let’s call it the shady side of the business. He hadn’t quite reached the dark side yet, but he was getting there. So there are multiple gangs of bad dudes either involved with his kidnapping, killing off the dudes involved with his kidnapping, or threatening the possibility of his rescue from his kidnapping.

Escape Rating B-: On the sticky where it shouldn’t have been side, the heroine was not in the least bit squeamish about having sex with the hero after having been kidnapped at gunpoint by a bunch of drug-running thugs that she had seen murder several cops. And again in the house of a known drug-dealer, admittedly in more plush surroundings. On the not-sticky where it should have been side, she wasn’t willing to let Gabe use the violence necessary to let them escape from said murderous drug-running thugs.

The romance between Gabe and Audrey definitely had a high insta-love quotient. And the whole business where he decides that she doesn’t really love him, that it’s all just the intensity of the situation, well, I wanted to wring Gabe’s neck. That is one of my least favorite misunderstandammit tropes.

One of Gabe’s team members is a Cajun named Jean-Luc. My personal opinion is that there is only one Jean-Luc for this “generation”, and this was the wrong quasi-military. Your fantasy may differ and YMMV.

But the teambuilding aspect of the story, or rather the fact that they do one hell of a lot of fumbling and screwing up, that part was incredibly fun to read. It was great to read about a para-military team that just plain does not have its act in gear.

The suspense part was well done. There was so much double-faking going on, it took most of the book to figure out who was on first. All the bad guys blamed each other, and they kept the good guys (and the reader) plenty confused until the very end.

sealofhonor-tourbutton

A version of this review was originally published at Book Lovers Inc.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: South of Surrender by Laura Kaye

South of Surrender by Laura KayeFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher
Formats available: ebook, paperback
Genre: Paranormal romance
Series: Hearts of the Anemoi, #3
Length: 400 pages
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Date Released: May 28 ,2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Chrysander Notos, Supreme God of the South Wind and Summer, is on a mission: save Eurus from his death sentence, and prove his troubled brother can be redeemed. But Eurus fights back, triggering vicious summer storms that threaten the mortal realm, dangerously drain Chrys, and earn the ire of the Olympic gods who ordered Eurus dead.

Laney Summerlyn refuses to give up her grandfather’s horse farm, despite her deteriorating vision. More than ever, she needs the organized routine of her life at Summerlyn Stables, until a ferocious storm brings an impossible—and beautiful—creature crashing down from the heavens.

Injured while fighting Eurus, Chrys finds himself at the mercy of a mortal woman whose compassion and acceptance he can’t resist. As they surrender to the passion flaring between them, immortal enemies close in, forcing Chrys to choose between his brother and the only woman who’s ever loved the real him.

My Review:

South of Surrender falls somewhere between north and west. Yes, I know the compass points aren’t laid out that way.

However…

I’m talking about Laura Kaye’s Hearts of the Anemoi series, and the way the books feel/read, at least to this reader. YMMV.

North of Need by Laura KayeNorth of Need was positively luminous. Sunlight sparkling on new-fallen snow shiny. Not just original, but absolutely awesomesauce (review here). And it set the bar incredibly high for the rest of the series.

West of Want left me (actually us, see Stella’s and my dual review at BLI) definitely wanting. Insta-love, not enough world-building or relationship-building, and very much of a multiple deus-ex-machina ending.

Now that we’ve reached Chrysander Notos, the god of the south wind and summer, the story and the storm are both starting to come to a climax.

West of want by Laura KayeSomething is horribly wrong with Eurus, the god of the east. He’s responsible for all the bad stuff that has happened in the story so far. The question is, what’s the matter with this dude? It sounds like he has one heck of a lot of “daddy issues”, but we don’t get much of an explanation. What we do know is that the pack on Olympus have sentenced him to death for his evil in West of Want.

Meanwhile, the story starts with him pounding Chrys into godlike bits, the same thing he’s been doing all summer. Eurus has managed to steal a ring from their father that has power over all the wind gods. The fact that their father Aeolus created such a ring may be a tiny part of the explanation for the aforementioned “daddy issues”.

Aeolus is not a candidate for father of the millennium, or even the year, let’s put it that way. But we don’t quite get enough to explain Eurus’ brand of bwahaha evil. He’s pretty far out there.

We do get a love story between Chrys and Laney Summerlyn, because he falls unconscious through her barn roof at the end of one of his epic stormy battles with his brother.

Two things are different about this, Laney has retinitis pigmentosa, so she’s nearly blind (see Tanya Huff’s Blood Ties for the last time I’ve seen this used in paranormal romance) and Chrys has lost so much control he crashes as a Pegasus.

Laney may be mostly blind, but she knows that the horse she cared for during the night had wings, and that when she woke up in the morning in the horse’s stall, she lay cuddled with a man. A man who disappears when her ranch foreman comes to check on the damage.

Chrys just knows that Laney is the first person he’s been able to let touch him without panicking. And we’re never clear on exactly why he panics, only that he’s been doing it for centuries. So yes, we have the insta-connection thing going on.

Escape Rating B: While it added more dimension to Laney’s character that she was dealing with her blindness, the romance still hinged on the insta-connection between Chrys and Laney as well as his issues with not being touched. Which weren’t explained as well as I might have liked. I liked them as a couple, but I just didn’t get what his original trauma was.

There was a lot more action and downright plotting and planning going on in South of Surrender than in either of the previous books. Chrys, Zeph (West) and Boreas (the actual North Wind) have to take care of Eurus before he either takes care of them or comes into his own season. Or before the Olympians just plain kill him. The whole god-plotting and double-crossing was added a lot of zing to the second half of the story (along with some thunderbolts and a tornado or two).

South of Surrender ends with a bang that pulls out all the stops, tissues and heartstrings. I am looking forward to East of Ecstasy, because I really want to see whether Eurus goes down or gets redeemed.

A version of this review was originally posted at Book Lovers Inc.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: A Beautiful Heist by Kim Foster

A Beautiful Heist by Kim FosterFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: ebook
Genre: Contemporary romance
Series: Agency of Burglary & Theft, #1
Length: 289 pages
Publisher: Kensington Publishing (eKensington)
Date Released: June 6, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

Everyone has a talent. Some are just more legal than others. Cat Montgomery steals jewels for AB&T, the premier agency for thieves in Seattle. Career perks: good pay, great disguises, constant adrenaline rush. Drawbacks: the possibility of jail time…or worse. Now she’s taken on a lucrative side job—recovering a priceless Faberge egg for an alleged Romanov descendent.

Though Cat is working solo, there are plenty of interested players. Her FBI ex-boyfriend is nosing around, as is her former mentor-turned-nemesis. Then there’s the sexy art thief helping—or is he hindering?—her mission. If her luck holds out, this could be the case that allows Cat to retire with her conscience and her life intact. If not, it’ll be her last job for all the wrong reasons…

My Review:

Everyone loves a great caper story–that’s what made Ocean’s Eleven so popular–twice!

A Beautiful Heist is just that, the story of a great caper, a high stakes robbery (the penny-ante stuff isn’t any fun) but it’s more than that.

In the midst of that high-stakes robbery we have one of the classic forbidden romances: the thief and the cop, well, FBI agent, who have fallen for each other and can’t manage to fall out.

Rose Trellis Faberge EggAnd then there’s two of the greatest stories ever told, all wrapped up in the beautiful object being stolen, one of the missing Fabergé eggs and the secret inside. There are secrets within secrets within secrets.

Cat Montgomery is a thief, and she’s very, very good at her job. It is a job, she even has a real employer: AB&T, the premier thieving agency in Seattle. As long as she plays by the rules, the job has a lot of perks.

The problem is that AB&T is a real employer that files real tax returns, and Cat hasn’t. So when the IRS comes calling for back taxes, Cat takes a very risky side-job for someone she can’t check out properly. She thinks she’s returning one of the lost Fabergé eggs to the Romanov family.

Instead she’s stealing one of those treasures from a Romanov descendant and giving it to, whom exactly?

Stealing it back turns out to be much, much harder than the original theft. The egg’s new owners turn out to be very, very nasty people. But Cat feels like she has to right the wrong she created. No matter what it costs.

Because Cat’s not sure who is betraying her, but someone certainly is.

Escape Rating B: A Beautiful Heist does remind me a lot of one of those great caper stories, because those movies are usually built with multiple plot misdirections that layer one on top of another, and keep you guessing until the very end.

The overarching story is the caper itself. Cat stealing the egg, and then, stealing it back. Everything else fits under that big umbrella. Maybe the better picture would be circus tent.

There’s also Cat’s redemption story. Cat is still trying to forgive herself for her sister’s death. Penny died in an auto accident because Cat wouldn’t steal something from another student’s locker. Cat still hasn’t forgiven herself.

Then there’s the love story between Cat and Jack, Cat’s once and future love-interest. They did break up, because, well, a thief and an FBI agent, that’s a recipe for disaster. But they broke up because they thought they should, not because they were really done with each other. They’re so obviously not.

And speaking of Jack, the way that Cat and Jack resolve their differences revolves around the secret of the egg, which turned out to be a humdinger. This particular bit of mythology, which I’m desperately trying not to give away, was one that I haven’t seen before. The egg, yes, the Romanovs, yes, this particular thing inside the egg, no. And very cool.

TLC
This post is part of a TLC book tour. Click on the logo for more reviews.
***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s On My (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 4-14-13

Sunday Post

People filing tax forms in 1920
People filing tax forms in 1920

I wonder how many people in the U.S. are spending this weekend frantically doing their taxes? Not a pretty picture, is it? We did ours early this year, but last year we filed an extension, so I’m in the position of one of those people in the glass house not being able to throw stones.

And isn’t e-filing a wonderful thing?

Speaking of wonderful things, the winners of all the giveaways from last weekend are in the process of being notified. I haven’t heard back from everyone yet, so the announcements will be in next Sunday’s Post.

There is still plenty of time to enter Sheila Roberts’ tourwide giveaway of a $25 eHarlequin Giftcard and along with print copies of the latest book in her Icicle Falls series, What She Wants.

Big Boy by Ruthie KnoxThis weeks’ complete recap:

B+ Review: Lucky Like Us by Jennifer Ryan
A Review: Big Boy by Ruthie Knox
B Review: What She Wants by Sheila Roberts
Guest Post by Author Sheila Roberts + Giveaway
B+ Review: The Trouble With Sin by Victoria Vane
C+ Guest Review: Star Trek The Next Generation: The Stuff of Dreams by James Swallow
Stacking the Shelves (41)

What’s coming up this week?

First, I have to kiss a dog.

I Kissed a Dog by Carol Van AttaTomorrow my guest will be Carol Van Atta, the author of I Kissed a Dog, the start of a new paranormal romance/urban fantasy series about werewolves and other creatures. I’ll also have a review of this rather fun start to a series that just might fill the Sookie-sized hole in your reading schedule.

Thursday my guest will be Jenny Davidson, talking about her rather spooky book about immersion in real-life gaming, The Magic Circle. That story was one to read with the lights on.

And the week ends with The Magic Touch Blog Hop. But there’s magic all week long!