Must Love Mistletoe: A Review

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Must Love Mistletoe is the first of Christie Ridgway’s novels this pedometer geek reader has read (and with full disclosure, this e-book was gifted to me (along with several others) by the author for joining her website), but it won’t be the last. This is the extended review.

As an aside, I have read Christie Ridgway’s Romance column in the monthly “Book Page” magazine for quite a few years without realizing she was an author in her own right. Once I realized this, I decided I wanted to read at least one of her books. Her insights into the romance genre (and her monthly picks of the Best Romance of the Month) are definitely worth reading especially if romance is a favorite type of  read.

Must Love Mistletoe

By Christie Ridgway

Published by Avon Books, 2006

ISBN: 978-0061140204

This novel is a contemporary romance that features not just one, but two, second-chance romances.

Bailey (yes, like George!), who claims to hate Christmas, is drawn home to take over the family store, The Christmas Present, when her mother Tracey goes off the rails after the breakdown of her second marriage to Dan. Bailey is not happy with the situation, and she is convinced she can and will get her mom back managing the store so that she can quickly return to her safe, corporate life in LA.

Bailey is not the only returnee to the city of Coronado. Her first love, bad boy Finn, is home taking care of his beloved Gram, who is gravely ill. When they meet again after ten years apart, sparks ignite despite Bailey’s fear of love and commitment. Will they stay together permanently, or is it just a quick fling to fill the days until the 25th? Until Bailey returns to her safe life; until Finn returns to his life as a cleaned-up, respectable bad boy-turned-pirate?

All the while, Tracey is in the throes of depression based on an ’empty nest’ situation. She is sure that her husband Dan is cheating on her, just like her first husband (and father to Bailey) did. But can they reconcile and find common ground based on new interests? What about the store? Will they once again work together? Or will it close its doors forever?

Two romances in one make this a unique novel, but there are a few WTT (what-the-tuck) trends seen (at least one hair-tucking incident, a few smirks, but NO green-eyed characters noted!).

There are some spicy scenes, but they are not overly graphic in this Christmas-themed tale. Each chapter is prefaced by Bailey’s Christmas notes, which are tidbits of Christmas lore. This makes for an interesting approach to the upcoming chapter. This pedometer geek reader absolutely loved Ridgway’s breezy (language) style throughout (perhaps it echoes my thoughts), but here is an example written from Bailey’s perspective:

“At thirty, Finn had developed a taste for tall fat women with hair the improbable color of a tequila sunrise. That was the problem with men—they never once realized that no real female had breasts the big or hair that red.” (page 26)

 

 

 

 

 

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The Wife Between Us: A Review

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The Wife Between Us, written by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen, was the last First Reads Goodreads giveaway (Advanced Readers’ Edition/uncorrected proof) that this pedometer geek reader had the pleasure of reading. This partnership has written a terrific thriller, and this is the extended review.

The Wife Between Us

By Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

Published by St. Martin’s Press, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-13092-1

From the back cover of this uncorrected proof:

You will assume you are reading about a jealous wife.

You will assume she is obsessed with her replacement–a woman who is about to enter a new marriage with the man she loves.

You will assume you know the anatomy of the relationships.

Assume nothing.

Read between the lies.

This blurb sums up this twist-filled thriller, which is told from the perspective of Vanessa, the wife who is newly divorced from Richard Thompson.

As Vanessa’s life seems to spiral out of control (she is living with her aunt; she is drinking too much; she contacts Richard’s fiancée one too many times), the reader wonders what is going on. Is she an unreliable narrator, or is she the sanest person around? What is the connection between Vanessa and Nellie?

Because this is to be a (nearly) spoiler-free review, this reader will say that the story is riveting. The characters seem, on the surface, to be obvious and simple, but they are anything but; they are complex with layers as the narrative unfolds.  The story is laid out in such exquisite slowness that the reader flies through the pages to figure out how all the connections work.

This is a read that will keep the reader guessing until the very end, and even when it starts to make sense, another surprise (or three) is right around the corner.

To say it simply, this thriller is brilliant. It may be the best book this reader has experienced this year. For reading it is an experience. Certain passages were re-read to appreciate the twists. This reader is looking forward to reading another novel by this writing duo.

A few quotes from the book of interest:

“Gaze detection, it’s called—our ability to sense when someone is observing us. An entire system of the human brain is devoted to this genetic inheritance from our ancestors, who relied on the trait to avoid becoming an animal’s prey.” (page 3)

“She is oblivious to what I have done to her.
“She is unaware of the damage I have wrought; the ruin I have set in motion.
“To this beautiful young woman with the heart-shaped face and lush body—the woman my husband Richard, left me for—I’m as invisible as the pigeon scavenging on the sidewalk next to me.” (pages 3,4)

“She has no idea what will happen to her if she continues like this.
“None at all.” (page 4)

“I was happy, I think, but I wonder now if my memory is playing tricks on me. If it is giving me the gift of an illusion. We all layer them over our remembrances; the filters through which we want to see our lives.” (page 96)

 

Bring Her Home : A Review

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The most recent Advanced Reader Copy, which was received through a First Reads Goodreads giveaway, that this pedometer geek reader had the pleasure of reading, was David Bell’s Bring Her Home. This is the second of his novels that this reader has read, but it won’t be the last. In fact, there are a couple more sitting on my shelves just waiting to be read, but I digress. This is the extended review.

Bring Her Home

by David Bell

Published by Berkley, 2017

an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC

ISBN: 978-0-399=58444-2

As the cover blurb of this thriller states, “the fate of two missing teenage girls becomes a father’s worst nightmare.”

For single parent Bill Price, his missing daughter Summer is his worst nightmare. Not only has his wife died in a tragic fall in his kitchen a year or so earlier, but her death was first witnessed by said daughtert,the one who discovered her body. With this tragedy in both of their pasts, Summer and Bill have had a somewhat strained relationship ever since. Bill wants to hang on even more tightly to protect her; she is acting out in typical teenage rebellion fashion with friends, Haley, Todd, and Clinton.

That is, until the day Summer and Haley go missing.

As the novel opens, two girls have been found in a nearby city park…both badly beaten beyond recognition. One girl is dead (Haley) and one is clinging to life (Summer), and Bill is at Summer’s side as slips in and out of a coma. Will she remember her attackers? Will she be able to let the police, Detective Hawkins, and her dad know what happened?

Disturbing allegations and questions about the teens emerge as one family buries their daughter, and another wants answers especially when the circumstances change.

What seems like an open and shut situation suddenly morphs into a twist-filled read. Bill sets out on his own to find out what happened, and his loosely controlled anger over events sets him on a collision course with the police, Summer’s friends and classmates, parents and neighbors, and his sister Paige. Searching for the truth may cost him everything…and leads this reader to wonder how much we really know about our own children (and what secrets they may be keeping).

The title comes from the plea written on a sign posted at the makeshift memorial in the park where the girls are found, yet isn’t that what every parent says when a child disappears, “Just bring her home.”

The review is purposely vague in order to avoid spoilers; however, suffice it to say, that the main character of Bill Price is a flawed human being, often acting out as a distraught parent might. His decisions, good or bad, are understandable by anyone in a similar situation.

 

 

The Swallow’s Nest: A Review

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The latest uncorrected proof copy of a novel received through a First Reads Goodreads giveaway was Emilie Richards’ The Swallow’s Nest. This was not the first of this author’s novels, which this pedometer geek has read, nor will it be the last based on this story. This is the extended review.

The Swallow’s Nest

By Emilie Richards

Published by Mira Books, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7783-2000-5

What does it take to be a mother? What makes a family a family? Emilie Richards answers these questions in this poignant novel.

A surprise of a baby brings out the maternal feelings of not one, but three women who wish to mother this child created at a low point in the father’s life.

Graham has just gone into remission from Burkitt’s lymphoma so his wife Lilia throws him a celebratory party.  When Marina, the mother of his child, appears at the door, she dumps a screaming three-month-old Toby into Lilia’s arms, and the party comes to an abrupt end.

What a surprise! At least to Lilia, who is blindsided. This leaves their marriage in upheaval over Graham’s betrayal. Returning to her family in Hawaii, she considers all of her options, finally deciding to take on the role of stepmother to Toby. The breach between Graham and Lilia slowly heals, and with no contact or support from Marina during this time, Lilia has truly become Toby’s mother and wants to adopt him, making him officially her son, but then the unthinkable happens.

Now Lilia has to fight for custody of him when two other women, Marina and her mother-in-law Ellen, want the same thing. Love for the same toddler may just tear these women apart as they fight for the right to hold on to Toby.

This novel explores what it means to be a mother. Is it biological, or is it the one who spends the time day after day caring for every need? How about grandmothers and how do they fit into the picture?

It also explores family dynamics as well, particularly regarding estrangement. The title is appropriate for the similarities between the habits of cliff swallows and the characters in the story. It also fits with the lifestyle blog that Lilia Swallow Randolph writes.

As the trio deals with their complex lives, the courts will render a decision that will affect them all.

Poignant, tender, and complex, this story will resonate for anyone who has ever been betrayed by loved ones, for anyone who has loved a child whether related by genetics or not, for anyone who has gone through the pain of dealing with custody, or for anyone who has a dysfunctional family. Or as Lilia thinks to herself, “Family was messy, and nothing that had been decided today was going to be easy.” (page 503)

As this copy was an uncorrected proof, there were a fair amount of errors in the text (incorrect words, missing quotation marks, typos, etc.) that were needed to be fixed; however, after borrowing a published copy, this reader noted that they appeared to have been corrected in the final edit.

The review was necessarily vague to prevent spoilers. Having said that, this emotional story was really worth reading, and this reader especially loved the resolution of the story as it provides for a happily-ever-after for all concerned. Aloha!

 

 

 

 

 

Come Sundown: A Review

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The latest ARC this pedometer geek completed was Nora Roberts’ Come Sundown. It was received as a First Reads Goodreads giveaway. This was not the first of her novels to have been read by this reader, nor will it be the last. This pedometer geek reader has read some of her standalone novels like High Noon, and some of her series books like the Key Trilogy as well as some of the Eve Dallas series of novels written under her pseudonym, J.D. Robb. Here is the extended review of Come Sundown.

Come Sundown
By Nora Roberts
Published by St. Martin’s Press, 2017
ISBN: 978-1-250-12307-7

Nora Roberts is a prolific writer. Glancing over the list on the opening pages of the book, this reader quickly counted well over 100 novels published under her name, and more than 40 novels published under her pseudonym, J.D. Robb. Her writing is found in various anthologies as well. (According to her Goodreads author page, she is the author of over 200 works of fiction.)

Roberts writes in various genres: romance, fantasy, suspense, and mainstream fiction, yet her writing is always fresh. She deftly blends genres as well, and this is seen in the story, Come Sundown.

Without providing too many spoilers, it can be said that drama and suspense go hand in hand with this story of two “prodigal locals” who return home to Montana. Each individual has been gone for several years as the novel opens, yet their paths back couldn’t be any different.

The first is Alice Bodine, a young woman. On her way home, she is ready to be reunited with her family after her self-proclaimed emancipation and departure a few years earlier. Alice is kidnapped by a man who uses and abuses her over a period of years, forcing her into a “marriage” to bear him sons.

The second is Callan Skinner, a horseman who has wrangled horses in Hollywood for years. Returning home, he is hired by Bodine Longbow to help with the Bodine family resort and ranch. Dealing with old grudges, accusations of killing young women, and finding a love all play into his story.

Roberts flips between the past and present in telling the story. Their intertwining stories come to a head when Alice finally escapes her captor and finds her way back to civilization and her family. Her twenty-five years of abuse are slowly revealed, pealing back the layers of her brainwashing.

Can Alice recover after the many years of abuse? Will her past haunt not only her, but the present generations? Alice’s life in captivity and her return to her family were some of the most riveting parts of the novel for this reader. I found myself rooting for her, hoping that she might escape the abuse of Sir (this is what he expected her to call him).

With a large cast of characters, the novel is complex, compelling, and suspenseful. It also has enough romance between several characters to keep anyone who loves to read romantic suspense happy, yet the romantic scenes are tasteful and not particularly graphic. There were enough twists and turns to keep a reader reading late into the night, too.

The quotations from various writers (poets, novelists) before each part of the novel were thoughtful beyond the story. Of particular note was the quote from Robert Frost:
“You’re searching, Joe, For things that don’t exist; I mean beginnings. Endings and beginnings—there are no such things. They are only middles.”

Keeping the characters straight might require notes as the Bodine family line is multi-generational, (or at least it was difficult for this reader*), but don’t let this deter anyone from diving into the story.

* This reader usually has two or more books going at any one time and this was not an exception while reading this novel. Because of this, some details of the family connections were probably lost while reading. As a precaution, read it without those distractions.
Since I have several of Nora Roberts’ unread novels in my possession, I think I need to read them, and this time reading each without compromising enjoyment by reading any other book at the same time.

Redeeming the Pirate: A Review

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As a member of Chloe Flowers’ review team, this pedometer geek reader received the opportunity to read her newest Pirates and Petticoats novel; however, this reader couldn’t convert the file that was given. Hence, the e-book was purchased so that it could be read and reviewed. This is the extended review of Redeeming the Pirate.

Redeeming the Pirate
By Chloe Flowers
Published by Flowers & Fullerton Publishing, 2018
ISBN: 978-1633039780

Taking up where Pirate Heiress (the previous novel) ends, this is the story of Drago Viteri Gamponetti (AKA Gampo). While it is not strictly a sequel, many of the characters (the twins Jacqueline and Julien and the rest of the Sauvage family) make their appearance in the book. In fact, it is Jacqueline’s illness that introduces Sister Eva, the healer, to Drago and his world (his crew).

Drago Gamponetti is a pirate…okay, a privateer, as he frequently mentions. As a privateer who steals for the French king, he is coerced into stealing a precious relic from a cathedral in New Orleans. It’s a do-or-die mission for him, and it is to be his last mission, or so he believes.

Enter Eva, a scarred and vulnerable thief. Having sought sanctuary with the Ursuline order years earlier, she is now a novitiate nun and healer. Summoned to heal a sick young girl, Jacqueline, Eva meets the pirate.

From the beginning, there is tension between the pair. Eva wants to safeguard the relics (and exacts a promise from Drago to do so), but it may cost him his life to comply as it is Drago’s mission to steal them. Clashes between the two lead to love, but is it possible to change a blackguard? To redeem a man whose soul is irredeemable? Can Eva learn to trust him? Is he trustworthy?

Set during the Battle of New Orleans, this romance has intrigue, humor, and swashbuckling moments. The author brings to life the battle, which could have easily been won by the British. Whether it is historically accurate is immaterial as the author sucks the reader into the drama of Drago, Eva, and the other characters including the pirate LaFitte, who plays an integral role in saving New Orleans from the British fleet.

This reader’s only real complaint is the over abundance of typos, missing words, wrong words, etc. An extra set of eyes during proofreading might have prevented many of them. It is hoped that the print version has been corrected as the romance is worth reading and a great addition to the other Pirates and Petticoats series novels, which feature feisty heroines and daring men (see previous reviews of the Chloe Flowers’ novels).

One discordant note is the cover. The cover, while gorgeous, depicts a beautiful young woman dressed in an empire waist gown peeking around a curtain, yet this seems unconnected to the reality of the story. Throughout the novel, Eva describes herself as disfigured, wearing a veil to hide her face. She also wears a nun’s habit. Despite the disconnect between the story and the cover, the romance is a fun read.

Almost Missed You: A Review

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The most recent First Reads Goodreads giveaway book that this pedometer geek reader had the pleasure of reading was Almost Missed You. Written by Jessica Strawser, it is her debut novel. This reader looks forward to reading her second novel, Not That I Could Tell (which will be reviewed here some time in the not-so-distant future). In the meantime, here is the extended review of Almost Missed You.

Almost Missed You
By Jessica Strawser
Published by St. Martin’s Press, 2017
ISBN: 978-1-250-10760-2

The Advanced Reader Copy describes the novel thusly:
“The secrets we shouldn’t keep. The past we should let go.
Imagine your perfect vacation day at the beach, drink in hand, and taking in the cool ocean breeze. Your adoring husband in the hotel room with your three-year-old baby boy, the love of your life.
Now imagine them gone, erased from existence, the life you thought you knew, the man you thought loved you, and the spaces between what was meant to be and what is now—a nightmare that is your new reality.”

Missed chances, missed connections, and the almost-happened are just some of the ideas behind the events of this novel. The tale unfolds, moving back and forth between the past and present, and the characters Violet, Finn, Caitlin, and George (not to mention their children) deal with secrets, lies, and perceptions.

Beginning with the random meeting of Violet and Finn on a Florida beach to the sudden disappearance of their son Bear, who is taken by his father Finn, there is the story of their in-between, both together and apart, and what brought about the events which brings them to the present.

Their friends Caitlin and George have an equally compelling story, which is interwoven and twists around Violet’s and Finn’s. This further entangles the truth from the lies for both of these couples. How these two stories all fit together makes for a complex and engrossing read of suspense and mystery, one that this reader thoroughly enjoyed.

In an attempt to avoid spoilers, this review is necessarily vague; however, it is definitely worth the read.

Questions arise (and are answered). What will a parent do to protect a child? What will a parent do for the love of a child? And how will lies of omission and commission affect these two couples? And imagine if…

Daily Prompt: Churn

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via Daily Prompt: Churn

This should be posted under my regular blog; it is NOT a book review.

Churn! Churn! Churn!

Paraphrasing the Byrds’ song

To everything (churn, churn, churn)
There is a season (churn, churn, churn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven

I could go on with the paraphrased lyrics, but won’t (you probably can sing it yourself and insert church in the appropriate places). The point: with each new revelation of what is going on in this country, my stomach churns, churns, churns. Staying positive is difficult, and I am sure I am not alone in this.
Do you churn, churn, churn, or are you one of the 37% who are happy with our leader?

As for me, I need to go take some antacid.

Exiting soapbox mode…

Dunbar: A Review

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The latest book that this pedometer geek reader read was Dunbar, which was received through Blogging for Books. It is a literary novel written by Edward St. Aubyn, who has also written several other novels including Never Mind. This is the first novel of his that this reader has read, but it may not be the last. This is the extended review.

Dunbar
by Edward St. Aubyn
Published by Hogarth, 2017
an imprint of Crown Publishing Group
a division of Penguin Random House, LLC
ISBN: 978-1-101-90428-2

“They all want to play Hamlet” is a line from a play, “The World of Carl Sandburg” by Norman Corwin. People often read “Hamlet”, too, as part of their education, but that is not true for Shakespeare’s “King Lear.” When friends and family were queried, this reader could not find one person who had ever read the play, and only one person who had ever seen the play. She told me she had difficulty with the flowery language, making the understanding of the play itself difficult. Even asking online friends, this reader could only find a handful of those who indicated they had read “King Lear.”

In truth, this reader has never read “King Lear” either so that having the opportunity of reading the novel adaptation, Dunbar by Edward St. Aubyn, was both a pleasure as well as a daunting undertaking as literary fiction is not a favorite genre.

This modern day retelling of the play is in the Hogarth Shakespeare series: a series of commissioned novels written by current, successful (in their own right) authors. This is the first of these this reader has read, but during the reading, it sent this reader back to commentaries to further understand the story of King Lear; however, it is not necessary to do this to recognize the power of this tale.

Now, about the novel. In a nutshell, Henry Dunbar, the leader of a global media company called the Dunbar Trust, has decided to nominally withdraw from holding the reins of his company and give over control to his three daughters, Abigail, Megan, and Florence, with the help of his best friend and attorney, Wilson. Nominally, that is, as he still retains some control.

Yet, Florence, his favorite daughter, doesn’t want to be involved with the company and is disowned for her honesty, and his other two scheming daughters want Dunbar out and convince all that he is crazy, secretly lock him away in a sanatorium, and set out to take over the company completely. The machinations of these two and his own physician, who joins forces with them, are particularly evil.

Florence only wants what is best for her father, fears for his safety, and is actively looking for him despite her older sisters’ actions of hiding him away.

Two factions emerge, those who are trying to destroy Dunbar and those who genuinely want what is best for the man (and his company). In the meantime, Henry and his friend from the sanatorium escape. This causes major upheavals for Dunbar as he nearly goes crazy and dies on the snow-covered, windy, slippery slopes as each faction races to intercept him. Will Florence and those helping her find him first, or will Abigail, Megan, and their entourage be there first, thus hushing him up permanently?

Like the play itself, this story is full of avarice, power, money, double-crosses, and betrayals, but it is also about reconciliation, redemption, and forgiveness. The whole range of the human condition is explored, especially in the character of Henry Dunbar. In the end, just as it appears that Dunbar’s humanity is restored, it becomes tragic with an ending that brought tears to this reader’s eyes.

Overall, this novel has all the complexity of Shakespeare’s play in a more understandable format. Set in modern times, it shows the machinations of a corporate takeover and what lengths some people are willing to go through to accomplish the feat, including murder. The characters are complex, and Dunbar in particular shows the most complexity and change throughout as he begins to doubt his own sanity.

Be forewarned: the novel has adult themes including sexual situations and drug use.

Am I glad I read it? Yes. Would I have purposely chosen this book to read? Probably not; however, the story drew me in and kept me in thrall until the very end. I think that is the power of this tale of a man and his dysfunctional, scheming family.

Bad Deeds: A Review

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The latest First Reads Goodreads giveaway novel this pedometer geek read was an Advance Uncorrected Proof of Lisa Renee Jones’ Bad Deeds, a Dirty Money novel. Knowing that it was an uncorrected proof, it became easy to overlook the many tiny errors and typos, which this reader presumes were corrected in the final published novel. This is the extended review.

Bad Deeds
By Lisa Renee Jones
Published by St. Martin’s Press, 2017
ISBN: 978-1-250-08384-5

Knowing that this was the third book in the series, this reader took the time to read the two previous books (Hard Rules and Damage Control) prior to reading this one. This was fortunate because there is no way to jump into this series at this point; it is absolutely necessary to read the first two (and the author posts a disclaimer to this fact, at least in the copy I had. On the other hand, she also gives a quick recap of the previous two novels ending with picking up where this one begins as well as includes a list of the main characters with pertinent information about each). Because they were read several months earlier, there were enough details that were forgotten. I don’t think the same would be true if read sequentially, one right after the other.

Regardless, this novel continues the love story of Shane Brandon and Emily Stevens. It also continues Shane’s and Derek’s power struggle for control of their family business, Brandon Industries. Much of the struggle is over whether the business remains legitimate or continues down a dark road that involves illegal drugs and the Martina drug cartel.

Like the previous two novels in the series, there is the love-hate relationship between the brothers; there are also their father and mother, who both know how to pull strings of their own. Added to this, there is deceit, there is sex, there is money, and there are double crosses (and plenty of unsavory characters). And no one in the family is safe from the machinations of others, both inside and out (of the family). This includes Emily, who has secrets of her own.

The comparison to a chess game (as is shown on the cover) is highly appropriate as the pieces (read: characters) change with each move. Who will win? Who will lose? (Including who will live and who will die?)

Written from the perspectives of Shane, Emily, and Derek, Jones finishes the novel with a dramatic cliffhanger (and according to the note addressed to her readers, even she wasn’t sure what was next for Shane, Emily, Derek, and the others). It is to be hoped that End Game, the final book of the Dirty Money series, will answer these questions. All I know for sure is that I have plans to read it as soon as I can get my hands on a copy because I have to know how all the dangling threads will be stitched up. (And yes, it has been ordered.)

These were the first of her novels I have read, but they probably won’t be the last. This novel, as well as the previous two, has complex characters with emotional depth. There are some adult situations and language, too. I suspect her other series might be the same.