Saturday, November 2, 2013

More Reviews for Fall, 2013 - Part II

What a shock, two posts in two days!  An eclectic bunch in this posting, a few non-fiction audiobooks, continuing my fascination with presidential assassinations and a book on the Apollo 11 moon mission.  Unfortunately, a lot of these reads were just so-so for me - 3 1/2 is the common theme here.

Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold by Ellen O'Connell

Book Description:
EYES OF SILVER, EYES OF GOLD is a story of romance and family conflicts set in Colorado in 1885.

Anne Wells has embarrassed her rigidly proper family since she was a child with occasional but grievous lapses from ladylike behavior. They blame those lapses for the disgraceful fact that she is a spinster at 28.

Cord Bennett, the son of his father's second marriage to a Cheyenne woman, is more than an embarrassment to his well-to-do family of ranchers and lawyers - they are ashamed and afraid of their black sheep.

When Anne and Cord are found alone together, her father's fury leads to violence. Cord's family accepts that the fault is his. Can Anne and Cord use the freedom of being condemned for sins they didn't commit to make a life together? Or will their disapproving, interfering families tear them apart?

Pursuing my new love of Westerns, I enjoyed this story about the struggles endured between Cord, a young half Native American man and Anne, the young woman he marries while under duress and trying circumstances in 1880's Colorado.  In dealing with prejudice and the everyday ups and downs of their new marriage, they manage to respect one another and fall in love, all while partnering together, training and breeding his horses. Good story but as much as I liked it there was a lack of real emotion when there should have been more. I felt at arm's-length with the two of them. Still it was very good and I will read more by this author.  One of those books I've heard of and finally got around to reading.


The Devil in Music by Kate Ross

Book Description:
The Regency dandy and amateur sleuth Julian Kestrel is back in his fourth mystery - and this time he confronts murder far from home in the sensuous, turbulent Italy of the 1820s.

Traveling on the Continent with his ex-pickpocket valet, Kestrel finds himself caught up in the mysterious and murderous world of the opera. Four years ago, the Italian marquis Ludovico Malvezzi was murdered, and Orfeo, the young English tenor he had been training for a career on the glittering operatic stage, disappeared.  As Kestral is irresistibly drawn into the baffling case, he encounters suspects at every turn: a runaway wife and her male soprano lover; a liberal nobleman at odds with Italy's Austrian overlords; a mocking Frenchman with perfect pitch; a beautiful, clever widow who haunts Kestrel's dreams; and the missing Orfeo, the penniless protege who just might be a political agent.  And when the killer strikes again, Kestrel's quest for answers spirals into a crescendo of passion, danger, and music as he risks becoming a ruthless murderer's next victim.

I had mixed feelings over this mystery, first off, it was very clever and I did not guess in a million years who Orfeo really was, so it had me there!  But, there were some areas of the book that dragged.  Julian doesn't even enter the scene until Part II, after the entire first part leading up to the murder of the marchese.  I did find myself getting a bit bogged down with all the Italian characters and wondering why this, why that, but by the end it all made sense.  About the end, well, I think about 25 pages could have been edited out .  The entire ending and wrap up just seemed to go on forever!  Once we knew the truth and all secrets revealed, she should have wrapped it up.  Still, I thought it was very good overall, and I'm sorry we lost such a fine author in the late Kate Ross.  This is a wonderful, thoughtful series for fans of historical mysteries.


Naughty in Nice by Rhys Bowen (audio)

Book Description: 
Lady Georgiana Rannoch has once again been called into service by Her Majesty the Queen. This time she's sent to Nice on a secret assignment that's nothing to sneeze at-recover the Queen's stolen snuff box.

As much of an honor as it is to be trusted by Her Majesty, an even greater honor awaits Georgie in Nice-as Coco Chanel herself asks Georgie to model her latest fashion. But when a necklace belonging to the Queen is stolen on the catwalk, Georgie has to find two priceless items-and solve a murder.  How's a girl to find any time to go to the casino?

This time Georgie is at the French Riviera and as usual, wherever Georgie goes, murder and mayhem ensues. I enjoyed this on audio, Georgie hob nobs with Coco Chanel while modeling in a fashion show and loses a priceless necklace belonging to the Queen of England. Then she stumbles upon the dead body of a not very well liked millionaire in his pool! This one had it's moments, but not as humorous and the other books, plus Darcy's not in it much.  For the majority of the time, Georgie is angry and heartbroken over him, yet finds solace in the arms of a debonaire Frenchman. All in all, not my favorite in the series, but still I love Katherine Kellgren's narration which is tops!


To Love and to Cherish by Patricia Gaffney

Book Description:
Anne Verlaine's four year marriage to Geoffrey, Lord D'Aubrey, was a living hell. Her only comfort was her lovely new home--the village of Wyckerley in the heart of Devonshire. And even more irresistible was her attraction to Christian Morrell, "Christy," the vicar of All Saints Church. He looked like an archangel, his strength something palpable, his golden-haired handsomeness a source of light in her dark life.

Anne's husband had once been Christy's closest friend, but war and life had scarred Geoffrey inside and out.  Now he was going to leave her behind in Wyckerley, with the shocking truth of their marriage still hidden as deeply as his dangerous plans.  Anne had no right to want Christy to love her, and no choice but to need him, even though she risked his ruin...and her own.  But he was everything to her.  She would defy this world for him...and the next.

I'm not sure where I stand on this book.  In many ways it was a good, solid story with wonderful characterizations, and I wanted Anne and Christy to get together and live happily ever after.  You are rooting for them.  Of course, just as you think all will be well, the worst happens.  I was uncomfortable with what was going on, for I dreaded what was going to happen - and of course it did.  Fortunately it does end well, but it's a rocky road getting there and there's a lot of emotional hand wringing getting there.  Because of Anne's unhappy marriage, there's a pall over much of the book, Christy being the shining light with his golden mane of hair that is waiting for her - if she can only get to him!  Some of this book reminded me of a Lorraine Heath book, A Rogue in Texas, but I won't reveal why.  First for me by this author.


Animal Magnetism by Jill Shalvis

Book Description:

Co-owner of the town's only kennel, Lilah Young has lived in Sunshine, Idaho, all her life.  Pilot-for-hire Brady Miller is just passing through.  But he soon has Lilah abandoning her instincts and giving in to a primal desire.

It's Brady's nature to resist being tied down, but there's something about Lilah and her menagerie that keeps him coming back for more.

Sexy contemporary romance of Brady Miller, Alpha ex-military he-man who returns to Sunshine, Idaho where he grew up. A loner and not someone that sticks around in relationships, he has trouble coming to terms with the fact that he is falling in love with the irresistible 5'4 kennel owner who he can't keep his hands off of. Both are prepared to keep their affair light and temporary, but is it a realistic scenario after a month? Of course not, and that's the rub. I enjoyed reading about Brady and Lilah's courtship and ultimate HEA, but Lilah's back breaking work load and dedication to her job is a bit too saintly to swallow, but she makes up for it in bed. ;) Quick read and first by this author for me.  Will continue with series.


A Lady Never Surrenders by Sabrina Jeffries

Book Description:
When the youngest Sharpe sister hatches a plan to gain marriage offers, the straight-laced Bow Street Runner Jackson Pinter knows he'll do whatever it takes to ruin her scheme...
Lady Celia Sharpe hopes that if she can garner offers of marriage from several eligible gentlemen and show her grandmother she is capable of gaining a husband, she can convince Gran to rescind the marriage ultimatum for her. And if that plan doesn't work, at least she'll have a husband lined up. But Bow Street Runner Jackson Pinter seems determined to ruin her plans by disapproving of every suitor she asks him to investigate. It's only when she and Jackson work together to solve her parents' murders, plunging them both into danger, that she realizes why--because the only man he wants her to marry is himself!

I just couldn't finish this one, the two lead characters were so annoying, I had no desire to find out what happened to them. I wound up skimming all the way through to the end just to see what happens regarding the parents' murder mystery and who did it, since I did invest a lot of time in the series and wanted to find out at least who killed their parents.  Even that was a bit anti-climatic.  I'm afraid this is good-bye to this author for now.  I just wasn't thrilled by this Hellions of Halstead Hall series at all with the exception of one book, How to Woo A Reluctant Lady.


The Untamed Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley

Book Description:
To redeem her family’s disgraced name, Lady Louisa Scranton has decided to acquire a proper husband. He needs to be a man of fortune and highly respectable in order to restore both her family's lost wealth and reputation. She enters the Marriage Mart with all flags flying, determined to find the right bachelor.

But Louisa’s hopes are dashed when the Bishop of Hargate drops dead at her feet—and she is shockingly accused of murder! Soon, Louisa’s so-called friends begin shunning her, because the company of a suspected killer is never desirable in polite society.

The problem comes to the ears of Detective Inspector Lloyd Fellows, by-blow of the decadent Scottish Mackenzie family and an inspector for Scotland Yard. He has shared two passionate kisses with Lady Louisa–and vows to clear her name. For not only does he know she’s innocent, he recognizes he’s falling for the lovely lady.

Fellows is Louisa's only hope of restoring her family's honor—and it is he alone who intrigues Louisa in a way that may be even more scandalous than murder…

A novella in the Highland Pleasures series, this is the story of Lloyd Fellows, the untamed Mackenzie (although he seems to be to be the tamest of them all! ) who falls for Lady Louisa, the sister of Mac's wife Isabella.  Louisa who is accused of murdering a bishop at a tea party of all places! Can he clear her name and win her hand at the same time? Entertaining but not as good as her full length novels. It's rare to find a good novella, often they are just too short and rushed.  Nice cover though. ;)


The Wicked Deeds of Daniel Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley

Book Description:
Daniel Mackenzie lives up to the reputation of the scandalous Mackenzie family—he has wealth, looks, and talent, and women love him. When he meets Violet Bastien—one of the most famous spiritual mediums in England—he immediately knows two things: that Miss Bastien is a fraud, and that he’s wildly attracted to her.

Violet knows she can’t really contact the other side, but she’s excellent at reading people. She discerns quickly that Daniel is intelligent and dangerous to her reputation, but she also finds him generous, handsome, and outrageously wicked. But spectres from Violet’s past threaten to destroy her, and she flees England, adopting yet another identity.

Daniel is determined to find the elusive Violet and pursue the passion he feels for her. And though Violet knows that her scandalous past will keep her from proper marriage, her attraction to Daniel is irresistible. It’s not until Daniel is the only one she can turn to that he proves he believes in something more than cold facts. He believes in love.

Daniel Mackenzie was always a likable promising young man and his story was pretty good, albeit it took a little getting used to Violet, a con artist.  I had to get past all of that and realize she really wasn't dishonest... well almost.  It wasn't easy, considering she hits him over the head with a vase and thinking he's dead, leaves him in the street in front of a doctor's house in London before she flees the country.  But, I digress... They have a whirlwind romance - amazingly - considering how she treated him and as usual, everything the Mackenzie's do is with a certain panache.  Daniel is no exception, he has a bit of all of his uncles and father in him - which makes him irresistible and fascinating.  He steals every scene he's in and Violet, I'm afraid, paled in comparison.  Despite that I enjoyed Ashley's latest installment in this Highland Pleasures series.


The Wolf Next Door by Lydia Dare

Book Description: 
Ever since their failed elopement years ago, Prisca Hawthorne has taunted, insulted, and in every way tried to push him away. If only her heart didn't break every time Lord William Westfield left her...

Lord William throws himself into drinking, gambling, and debauchery and pretends not to care about Prisca at all. But when he returns to find a rival werewolf vying for her hand, he'll stop at nothing to claim the woman who should have been his all along.

Can Prisca forgive the unforgivable, or are the moon-crossed lovers going to be forced into a battle of wills that could be fatal?

This was probably my least favorite of the first three books in this Westfield Wolves series, primarily because it took forever for Will and Prisca to consummate their marriage! All the teasing going on through the whole thing, the constant bickering and then all the delays drove me crazy! I didn't like the way he lied about what happened in the cabin between them either.  Then at the final ending when he claims her it seemed - eep - anticlimactic?  Overall though I still liked it, there is something about this series I enjoy and it's a quick read.


The Taming of the Wolf by Lydia Dare

Book Description:
Dashiel Thorpe, Earl of Brimsworth, has spent his life fighting the wolf within him. But when the full moon rises, Dash is helpless. A chance encounter with Caitrin Macleod on a moonlit night inadvertently binds the two together irrevocably, and Dash's impulsiveness plunges them both into a nightmare.

Caitrin Macleod is no quiet country lass, but a witch with remarkable abilities. But when it comes to Dashiel, she's as helpless to fight his true nature as he is. Her senses overwhelmed, she runs back to the safety and security of her native Scotland.

But Dashiel is determined to follow her—she's the only woman who can free him from a fate worse than death. And Caitrin will ultimately have to decide whether she's running from danger, or true love.

I'm surprised I liked this book as much as I did, for I wasn't overly fond of Caitrin in the last two books. She's still cranky, but not as much here. She and Dash (who we meet in the previous reviewed book) get together after he inadvertently claims her on the full moon by biting her neck. Little does she know the meaning of this  (she is now his mate for life) and only got angry at him for biting her. He is at a disadvantage because he doesn't know she is a witch, yet she knows he's a Lycan.   These crazy kids!  What a mess!  They journey from England to Edinburgh where he enlists the help of her father to get her to agree to marry him.   Most of the story is how he wins her over and he learns how to be a mannerly werewolf - oops, I mean Lycan.  Not bad, but not great either.  I think this series is losing it's oomph.


Rocket Men: The Epic Story of the First Men on the Moon by Craig Nelson (audio)

Book Description:
A richly detailed and dramatic account of one of the greatest achievements of humankind.  At 9:32 A.M. on July 16, 1969, the Apollo 11 rocket launched in the presence of more than a million spectators who had gathered to witness a truly historic event. It carried Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Mike Collins to the last frontier of human imagination: the moon. 

Rocket Men is the thrilling story of the moon mission, and it restores the mystery and majesty to an event that may have become too familiar for most people to realize what a stunning achievement it represented in planning, technology, and execution.

Through interviews, twenty-three thousand pages of NASA oral histories, and declassified CIA documents on the space race, Craig Nelson re-creates a vivid and detailed account of the Apollo 11 mission. From the quotidian to the scientific to the magical, readers are taken right into the cockpit with Aldrin and Armstrong and behind the scenes at Mission Control.

Rocket Men is the story of a twentieth-century pilgrimage; a voyage into the unknown motivated by politics, faith, science, and wonder that changed the course of history.

I hard a hard time at first with this on audio for it is VERY technical. Basically, it's the story of the space race and NASA leading up to Apollo 11, beginning at the end of WWII through the mission in 1969 and then about the lives of Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins after the mission and what they did with their lives. The last hour of the book could have been pared down to 15 minutes easily and I could have done without the author's political leanings.

I can't help chuckling that the author's name is NELSON - as in Tony Nelson?  Ring a bell, anyone: Get it?  ;) 

A Spear of Summer Grass by Deanna Raybourn

Book Description:
Paris, 1923

The daughter of a scandalous mother, Delilah Drummond is already notorious, even amongst Paris society. But her latest scandal is big enough to make even her oft-married mother blanch. Delilah is exiled to Kenya and her favorite stepfather's savannah manor house until gossip subsides.

Fairlight is the crumbling, sun-bleached skeleton of a faded African dream, a world where dissolute expats are bolstered by gin and jazz records, cigarettes and safaris. As mistress of this wasted estate, Delilah falls into the decadent pleasures of society.

Against the frivolity of her peers, Ryder White stands in sharp contrast. As foreign to Delilah as Africa, Ryder becomes her guide to the complex beauty of this unknown world. Giraffes, buffalo, lions and elephants roam the shores of Lake Wanyama amid swirls of red dust. Here, life is lush and teeming-yet fleeting and often cheap.

Amidst the wonders-and dangers-of Africa, Delilah awakes to a land out of all proportion: extremes of heat, darkness, beauty and joy that cut to her very heart. Only when this sacred place is profaned by bloodshed does Delilah discover what is truly worth fighting for-and what she can no longer live without.

I've really enjoyed Raybourn's Lady Julia series, but found her one paranormal vampire book underwhelming.  Here, I found a nice surprise.  There were parts that I loved about this book, the descriptions of Africa and the wildness of it was great.  But... the actual storyline between Ryder and Delilah was lackluster, virtually no romance or tenderness, falling far short into that department.  They had what seemed to be a "non-courtship" which left me feeling short-changed.  I wanted more.  Still I loved their characters which were vividly drawn as were all the side characters, as well. mI only wish there had been more meat in the love story, but I love the cover!


Goddess of the Rose by P.C. Cast

Book Description:
When modern-day Mikki ends up in the strange Realm of the Rose, Hecate has been waiting for her. So too has her gorgeous guardian beast, who soon has Mikki swooning. But to save the realm, Mikki will have to sacrifice her life-giving blood.

I wasn't as into this storyline as much as some of the previous books in this Goddess series, but it was still pretty good. It gets off to a good start in which Mikki, a young single woman looking for love inadvertently finds herself in this other "world" in which she is a high priestess for the goddess Hecate and must tend these amazing roses. The guardian of the Realm of Roses is a man-beast like the Minotaur only he's kind of sexy and she is attracted to him for she had been dreaming of him before she came to this world.  Sounds bizarre, but it works... kind of.  Still, I was a bit bored with all the roses, roses, roses talk, but overall not bad.


Killing Lincoln by Bill O'Reilly (audio)

Book Description:

A riveting historical narrative of the heart-stopping events surrounding the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.  The book recounts one of the most dramatic stories in American history—how one gunshot changed the country forever. In the spring of 1865, the bloody saga of America's Civil War finally comes to an end after a series of increasingly harrowing battles. President Abraham Lincoln's generous terms for Robert E. Lee's surrender are devised to fulfill Lincoln's dream of healing a divided nation, with the former Confederates allowed to reintegrate into American society. But one man and his band of murderous accomplices, perhaps reaching into the highest ranks of the U.S. government, are not appeased.

In the midst of the patriotic celebrations in Washington D.C., John Wilkes Booth—charismatic ladies' man and impenitent racist—murders Abraham Lincoln at Ford's Theatre. A furious manhunt ensues and Booth immediately becomes the country's most wanted fugitive. Lafayette C. Baker, a smart but shifty New York detective and former Union spy, unravels the string of clues leading to Booth, while federal forces track his accomplices. The thrilling chase ends in a fiery shootout and a series of court-ordered executions—including that of the first woman ever executed by the U.S. government, Mary Surratt. Featuring some of history's most remarkable figures, vivid detail, and page-turning action, Killing Lincoln is history that reads like a thriller.

Knowing almost nothing about the Lincoln assassination I found much of this book interesting, though having listened to Killing Kennedy, I found I preferred that in comparison to Killing Lincoln. O'Reilly's narration is in his usual style, and whereas it was fine with Killing Kennedy, I found it grating at times here, not sure why, but it did.  Maybe he needed to get the bugs out with this one, and with Killing Kennedy he'd fixed some stylized mistakes and it was smoother and not as rushed and sensationalist sounding.  Still, I found the lead-up to the assassination amazing as well as the final days of the Civil War.


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