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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

In Katrina's Wake - Donald L. Canney (Non-Fiction)



Released September 2010

www.upf.com

In Katrina's Wake details the hard work put forth by the Coast Guard during the 2005 hurricane season. Most of the media focused on New Orleans during that time, but there were many affected in Florida too. The book opens with the rescue of a fishing crew off Florida's coast and then follows Katrina's path of destruction to Louisiana.

My knowledge of New Orleans following the hurricane is limited to what the media showed. Clearly from the photographs, U.S. Coast Guard interviews and first-hand accounts, there was far more to the devastation than the media shared. I fully understand having read this book just how much effort went into rescuing people while also keeping the Coast Guard members safe from panicky people who thought of themselves before the welfare of others.

Despite mandatory evacuation orders in New Orleans, only about 80 percent of the residents opted to leave their homes. This left tens of thousands at risk. The U.S. Coast Guard ended up saving more people in two weeks than they typically do in a five- or six-year span. In addition to the huge numbers needing rescuing, Coast Guard stations were subject to looters stealing their computers, phones and other important supplies. Some Coast Guard stations were destroyed by the storm itself. Many Coast Guard members were also dealing with the loss of their own homes.

Within In Katrina's Wake are photos of U.S. Coast Guard activity and the aftermath of the hurricane. Taking the narrative and photos into account, this offers a much clearer image of the impact the hurricane had on the area. It's a fascinating read and one that is certain to evoke tears from time to time.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Simply Irresistible - Jill Shalvis (Contemporary Romance)



Released October 2010

www.hatchettebookgroup.com
www.jillshalvis.com

There's nothing like a cold, rainy day to help you lighten your reading pile. With my kids glued to their game system and household chores done early, I pulled out some books, found a cozy place near the heater and spent an afternoon engrossed in books.

Jill Shalvis' latest release, Simply Irresistible, takes the reader to Washington State. Maddie Moore's mother has died and she and her half-sisters have inherited their mother's coastal inn. Given that Maddie's just lost her job and loser boyfriend in one shot, she's ready for a change of pace. She just needs to convince her sisters that renovating the inn is the best plan of action. Not an easy task because they want to sell quickly and get back to their lives elsewhere.

Though she's sworn off men, Maddie's first day in Lucky Harbor finds her enjoying the attentions of Jax Cullen. When she learns Jax is the handyman the sisters need to hire to fix up the inn, she's uncertain how well this will work out. The last thing she wants is another man to ruin her life, but Jax is incredibly hard to resist!

Simply Irresistible pulls no punches. Sparks fly immediately and Jax and Maddie are unable to keep away from each other. Of course there has to be conflict, but it's all internal and up to Maddie to overcome. I definitely liked that option over the overused evil ex-boyfriend returns and wants to kiss and make up technique used in so many romances. Even though it's a minor change of pace, it meant the world to this reader to have that fresher option.

For a true feel-good romance, you definitely can't do better than Jill Shalvis. I'm eager to see what's brewing for Maddie's sisters. Their stories are to come.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Love Finds You in Deadwood South Dakota - Tracey Cross (Christian Romance)




Released August 2010

www.summersidepress.com

When her husband dies, Jane Albright isn't too upset. He was a hard, potentially abusive man, so she and her young son are likely better off without him. That's until she learns that he'd never paid his debts and that the owner of her land, freight company and home, Franklin Lloyd, is giving her three months to move on. Jane manages to convince him to give her six months, but she's pregnant and finding a company willing to take on a woman to transport freight is a huge, seemingly impossible challenge.

Franklin Lloyd quickly becomes enamored with Jane and her young son. However, he knows she's too full of pride to accept charity or agree to another marriage of convenience, so he's determined to watch her back until he can come up with a plan that allows her to pay off the debt as easily as possible without hurting her pride.

Love Finds You in Deadwood South Dakota is another entry into the "Love Finds You..." series. Tracey Bateman/Tracey Cross is a skilled author and I've enjoyed many of her books over the years. Her characters are always strong and likable.

There is another layer to this story that I don't want to reveal as it happens later in the book. It adds incredible tension that truly had me on the edge of my seat wanting to physically get inside the book to smack some sense into a few characters. The story definitely draws you in and keeps you on edge until the situation is resolved.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Home Outside - Julie Moir Messervy (Landscaping)



Released January 2009

www.taunton.com

Julie Moir Messervy's award-winning landscape design guide is a must-have. If you struggle with garden design, you'll find this book to be an invaluable resource. If you simply want different ideas for your existing garden space, you'll still find Home Outside to be a great addition to your library.

Filled with beautiful photographs of gardens of different shapes and sizes, Home Outside: Creating the Landscape You Love offers a wide array of garden and patio designs. Each garden incorporates outdoor living space so that you add square footage to your home without having to pay hefty construction costs. If you've ever wanted an outdoor kitchen or a tranquil location to kick back and relax on a sultry summer evening or crisp fall day, Home Outside is going to help you achieve your goals.

The book begins with an introduction in garden design. As you progress, you learn about landscaping on a budget, creating your dream garden one section and a time and getting a layout for your garden design. You'll learn how to plan a garden around a slope, come up with a themed garden design or plan a great outdoor space for entertaining. The book is fill of ideas and base plans to get you started.

I loved how the author included before and after pictures of many different homes. You get a great idea for the basic lay of the land and how the homeowner's ultimate goals turned their newly purchased home and yard into their own personalized living space. With so many pictures giving you ideas, you'll find this to be an amazing resource for your own garden and patio landscaping goals.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Love Finds You in Sugarcreek Ohio - Serena B. Miller (Amish)



Released July 2010

www.serenabmiller.com
www.summersidepress.com

With her aunts getting older, Rachel Troyer is hoping she can persuade them to give up their bed and breakfast. She has enough money for them to retire for good and enjoy the rest of their lives. However, their Amish beliefs have them determined that they must continue to offer their home to others.

When a stranger shows up in Sugarcreek, the aunts are only too happy to take him and his young son into their home and lives. Rachel is less than pleased. She's uncertain about Joe Matthews, he's hiding something and she's determined to unravel the truth.

Joe Matthews is on the run and he simply wants to find a place where he and his young son can start again. When he's offered a job helping to repair and maintain the Troyer sister's bed and breakfast, he thinks things might finally be looking up. However, Rachel's suspicions and her job as a police officer have him on edge. Can he finally find a place to call home or will Rachel's suspicions destroy everything he and his son need?

Love Finds You in Sugarcreek Ohio is a charming romance. It incorporates Amish culture with American culture. I found myself intrigued with this small Amish village and all the residents within it.

There is the romantic angle between Joe and Rachel and the mystery regarding Joe's past that keep the reader hooked. It's a well rounded story that will delight those looking for a gentle romance with strong characters.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Bound, Branded & Brazen - Jaci Burton (Erotic Romance)



Released March 2010

www.penguin.com


 Bound, Branded & Brazen features a trilogy of novellas set in Oklahoma. Following the death of their uncle, Jolene McMasters asks her sisters to return home to the family ranch. Each novella in this book revolves around a sister's romantic entanglements.

In Bound, Valerie McMasters never thought she'd return to the ranch. She's spent years getting her medical license, working her way into a private practice and forgetting about the husband she left behind. Now she's back and her attraction to Mason is stronger than ever. But she's not set up for ranch life, no matter how great their sexual encounters may be...

Branded finds Brea trying to come to terms with herself. She's had men tell her she's no good at sex, and she's convinced she's a failure. So when the man of her fantasies, a ranch hand named Gage, tries to show her otherwise, she's not sure if he's simply saying it to get what he wants or if she's been wrong about herself.

The final novella, Brazen, features Jolene. Jolene's remained at the ranch all these years and she's definitely fixated on her ranch hand Walker. However, no matter what moves she makes, Walker rebuffs her every advance. She knows he's into her, so why the cold shoulder when things start to heat up?

At heart, this is a contemporary western romance packed with sizzling sexual encounters. The plot of each sister's quest for fulfillment is strong and accentuated by the steamy sex scenes. To me, this is what erotic romance should entail. There's a solid plot with steamy sex in the background, not the other way around.

I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the McMasters sisters and wouldn't mind trips to the ranch in the future. They were all likable and I'd love to see what happens next.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

One Lane Bridge - Don Reid (General Fiction)




Released October 2010

www.davidccook.com

From the first page, something about One Lane Bridge held my attention firm to the pages. Before I knew it, I'd finished this charming tale of one man's unusual discovery. It's the perfect book for cozying up on a cold snowy or rainy day.

J. D. Wickman and his wife are empty-nesters with a little dilemma on their hands. One of their waitresses is stealing money. They trust these women and can't imagine one of them would hurt them that way, but the evidence is clear and they must now face the task of determining which woman is the thief.

They also are concerned with their college-aged daughter. After an attack on campus, their daughter is shaken up and wants to come home and  take a semester off. J. D. seems okay with the decision but his wife is less than thrilled.

All of these becomes a minor concern to J. D., however. One night while out driving, he loses his cell service and his car overheats.  He walks up to a small farmhouse to ask for help and discovers an unusual family. They don't have a phone. The woman is very sick and they can't afford medical help or groceries. J. D. wants to help them out, but the husband is too proud to accept charity.

When J. D. returns the next day with his wife in tow, J. D. makes a shocking discovery. It makes him and those around him doubt his sanity. J. D. is determined to unravel the truth about this family and find out what led him to them in the first place.

One Lane Bridge may be a Christian novel, but it's a feel-good story that anyone will enjoy. It's not preachy and is, instead, part general fiction, part mystery with a dose of paranormal tossed in. The characters, setting and themes all work flawlessly at holding the reader's attention from start to finish.

As a side note, the author Don Reid is the same Don Reid of the Country group the Statler Brothers. I'm not a huge country fan, but it's obvious that Don Reid has incredible talent when it comes to storytelling. If you want a lighthearted read that keeps you guessing, One Lane Bridge is a great choice.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Twelve Wicked Nights - Nadia Aidan (Erotic Romance)




Released November 2010

www.penguin.com

Attorney Isabella Andreu returns to her hometown shortly after her fiance announces it's over. The coward didn't even tell her to her face, he broke up with her via the phone. It's the holiday season and Isabella is ready to help out in her family's bakery and enjoy her time off.

Navy SEAL Justin Rourke has been friends with Isabella for as long as either can remember. When Isabella's mom calls him because she's worried about Isabella driving in the blizzard hitting Virginia, he sets off to find Isabella and bring her to his home.

Stuck in Justin's home for one snowy evening is incredibly difficult. A game of strip Scrabble leads them to realize they can't ignore their sexual yearnings. When Justin learns that he's about to be deployed, Isabella asks for one special gift. She wants Justin to provide her with every sexual experience possible.

For whatever reason, I couldn't get into Twelve Wicked Nights. It wasn't the characters; I actually liked their strengths and weaknesses. I think it was the fact that the different nightly sexual trysts (bondage, spanking, blindfolds, etc.) were the entirety of the plot. The plot simply revolves around the different styles of sexual encounters. I don't mind sex and I'm definitely no prude, but sex, sex and nothing but sex grew tiring. I couldn't see the couple building a true, lasting relationship just on the basis of sexual desires and little else.

There is a little conflict thrown in to the mix, but by that point the story had already lost me. I just didn't care about what each character decided after that.

If you want a story that involves little more than one sex scene after the other, you'll enjoy this book. If you like a strong plot with sex to spice things up, you may want to bypass this story.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Track of Sand - Andrea Camilleri (Mystery)




Released October 26, 2010

www.vpbookclub.com
www.penguin.com

Inspector Montalbano awakens to find a horse has been beaten, killed and dumped right outside his Sicilian beach home. Determined to find the savages, Montalbano begins his investigation.

He discovers the woman missing her prized horse but soon learns another horse is also missing. His case leads him to the world of horseracing and even the mafia. When Montalbano's home is broken into, he realizes he must be onto something. Keeping those around him safe and finding the horse's killer may be challenging, but he's certainly up to the task.

I've never read other Montalbano mysteries, so this was a new experience. The stories are written by Camilleri who lives in Italy, but translated into English by translator and author Stephen Sartarelli. This isn't a lengthy book by any means, it's barely 258 pages. However, the mystery is meaty and keeps you hooked. I also appreciated the notes in the back that help clear up Italian words or phrases. I've taken a little Italian and knew many of them, but when it came to culinary dishes having the extra explanation was greatly appreciated.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Somewhere Along the Way - Jodi Thomas (Contemporary Romance)




Released November 2010

www.penguin.com
www.jodithomas.com

Following on the heels of June's Welcome to Harmony, Somewhere Along the Way continues sharing stories about residents in Harmony, Texas.  Reagan Truman is about to celebrate her eighteenth birthday. She wonders if she and Noah should be more than friends and also finds someone new who catches her eye.

Attorney Liz Matheson is new in town, ready to start life on her own and away from her slightly domineering mother and man-hating sister, Claire. When Liz meets her strange building mate, she's shocked at how powerful her attraction is to him.

Gabe Leary wants to be left alone. How he ended up trading kisses for answers to Liz's prying questions is beyond him, but he's defenseless against his strong attraction to her. However, secrets from his past keep him from wanting to bring her into his life of seclusion.

Hank Matheson, Liz's brother, still wants nothing more than to marry Sheriff Alex McAllen. She's just as determined to keep their relationship as it is. She cannot see reason behind marriage when everything is perfect the way it is.

A stranger comes to town and spends her time crying in the graveyard. No one knows who she is or why she's there, but Harmony's residents hope they can change this lonely woman's life.

Events culminate when Reagan is injured. Suddenly, a town full of good friends and secretive strangers converge to help the young woman. When the dust settles, no one will remain unchanged.

Somewhere Along the Way is extremely powerful and gripping writing. It's full of passionate moments, hidden secrets and likable characters. Given that, there were a number of subplots and when all was revealed, I felt a little cheated. Not by the way things ended, but that everything seemed resolved at the speed of light. That rush to a conclusion didn't work for me. I wanted more. Hopefully with the next book in this series, I'll get to see exactly where each character is and how they are doing.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Grace - Shelley Shepard Gray (Christian Romance)




Released November 2010

www.harpercollins.com
www.shelleyshepardgray.com

With Christmas just around the corner, the Brenneman's are looking forward to a huge family gathering and no guests at their bed and breakfast. Unfortunately, a letter arrives announcing an unexpected guest. This letter is followed by another surprise guest who desperately needs a place to stay.

Levi Bender is trying to avoid a painful past and really wants to hide out at the Brenneman Bed and Breakfast. The last thing he wants is to get dragged into a family gathering. Melody Gingerich is pregnant and alone. All she wants is to avoid community gossip and being away from her home in the latter stages of pregnancy seems like the best solution.

While Melody and Levi may want to keep their secrets, Katie Lundy is determined to find out what brought these two strangers to her parents' home. She's not thrilled that their arrival has turned the family holiday into a flurry of activity, but her attentions turn to discovering Levi's and Melody's secrets.

Grace is a charming holiday novel. I started it to fill a few minutes while waiting for dinner to cook and ended up unable to put it down. I was taken in by Melody especially who is so emotionally and physical torn up that the reader can't help but hope that her time at the bed and breakfast really turns things around.

Best of all, there are recipes in the back. I'm thrilled the author included them because the recipe for cinnamon rolls using a yellow cake mix is on my list of things to do during today's very rainy day!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Sexiest Man Alive - Diana Holquist (Contemporary Romance)




Released October 2007


www.hatchettebookgroup.com
www.dianaholquist.com


While she's gained many clients by doing seamstress work out of her home, Jasmine Burns doesn't want the opportunity of a lifetime to pass her by. Famed costume designer Arturo Mastriani is hiring and she wants the job. The problem is Jasmine lacks self-confidence, especially around men.

Surprisingly, especially to herself, Jasmine wows Arturo after she runs out of her interview and leaves her design books behind. She lands the job and learns she will be working closely with Hollywood heartthrob Josh Toby, the name given by Jasmine's psychic sister as being Jasmine's one true love. Jasmine's nerves are making it hard to be around Josh, but it's obvious there's a spark if only she could find a way to feel comfortable around him.

Sexiest Man Alive has been sitting on my shelf for years. I don't know what kept me from reading it. Jasmine, despite her insecurities, is a lot of fun and Josh definitely oozes sex appeal. It was obvious once I started reading that this was not the first time Jasmine's been in a book. Turns out that Jasmine's sister, Cecelia, was the leading lady in 2006's Make Me a Match. Amy, the psychic sister, also appeared in her own book in 2008's Hungry for More.

I found the romance and storyline in Sexiest Man Alive to be quite charming. I don't know that I'd put it on my keeper list, but it's been out long enough that you'll find it for a bargain. For that reason, it's definitely worth reading during your down time.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Montana Glory - R. C. Ryan (Contemporary Romance)




Released November 2010

www.hatchettebookgroup.com
www.ryanlangan.com

The final entry into R.C. Ryan's McCord series finds Zane McCord falling head over heels for a single mom. Riley Mason is hired to get the books balanced at the McCord Ranch and she couldn't be happier. On the run, she needs a place where both she and her four-year-old will be safe.

It isn't long before Riley realizes she doesn't want to live without Zane, but she can't expose the family to the danger from which she is running. Meanwhile, Zane knows there is something more to Riley, and he wants to get to the bottom of her secrets.

Montana Glory offers a couple sub-plots. First, the long-running mystery about the supposed treasure on McCord property finally reaches a conclusion. Readers will learn whether Coot McCord was simply a storyteller. The other storyline involves Coot's sister and the ranch foreman Cal who are in love but too blind to see the truth. Readers will finally discover if there is a happily ever after for the older pair.

Characters from the past two novels, Amy and Jesse (Montana Legacy) and Wyatt and Marilee (Montana Destiny) appear frequently in this novel. You'll learn what the couples are up to now. Plus, you get to know Riley and her precocious four-year-old daughter Summer. They are a great match for Zane who's always been a bit of a playboy.

Montana Glory ends the series on a very positive note. But at the same time, I do hope in the years to come we might get to experience the family as they've aged. Maybe returning a couple decades later to share more of Summer.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Book News - Home Outside by Julie Moir Messervy Wins Gold Medal

Home Outside: Creating the Landscape You Love has won the 2010 Garden Writers Association Gold Medal Award for Best Book Writing.

As changes in the housing market have homeowners planning renovations instead of relocations, Messervy suggests moving beyond the walls of the house to the landscape outside.While many homeowners are comfortable with do-it-yourself home decorating, design and renovation, it's often a different story when it comes to tackling landscape design. That's where Home Outside comes in.

In Home Outside, Messervy demystifies the art and practice of landscape design by introducing her easy, tangible and yet intuitive six-step process that helps professionals and homeowners transform an ordinary property into a unique and personal "home outside." Developing a "home outside" not only expands the amount of valuable living space, it also increases the pleasure one gets from the property as a whole.

Home Outside is a user-friendly guide that features clear and concise writing, beautiful photographs, before and after images, diagrams, green tips and case studies, which help illustrate that good landscape design is approachable, affordable and attainable.

Watch for the review of Home Outside to be posted next week.