Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The month that was July

It’s taken me longer than I planned to get this post up and running. I did really well and read 14 books. Many of them were rereads and to try and keep this post somewhat reasonable in length, I’m just going to highlight the books I read for the first time.

A Hearing Heart by Bonnie Dee

The heart conveys messages beyond what ears can hear.

After the death of her fiancé, Catherine Johnson, a New York schoolteacher in 1901, travels to Nebraska to teach a one-room school and escape her sad memories. One afternoon, violence erupts in the sleepy town. Catherine saves deaf stable hand, Jim Kinney, from torture by drunken thugs.

As she takes charge of his education, teaching him to read and sign, attraction grows between them. The warmth and humor in this silent man transcends the need for speech and his eyes tell her all she needs to know about his feelings for her. But the obstacles of class difference and the stigma of his handicap are almost insurmountable barriers to their growing attachment.

Will Catherine flout society’s rules and allow herself to love again? Can Jim make his way out of poverty as a deaf man in a hearing world? And together will they beat the corrupt robber baron who has a stranglehold on the town?

I’ve read a number of books by Bonnie Dee now and enjoyed them all. I read a review that Aztec Lady did a while ago and it stayed in the back of my mind, simmering, until I got an EReader. Now that I have a Kobo, there was no reason not to give this one a go.

As with all the other books I’ve read by this author, I enjoyed this one too. It was a simple story about a young man who was deaf and couldn’t speak and the local teacher. Katherine comes to Jim’s rescue when he is being dragged by a number of drunkards who took exception to his deafness. She had traveled west in order to escape the sadness of losing her fiancé a few years ago. She finds herself very drawn to Jim and recognizes that although he can’t hear or speak, underneath he is very intelligent and just lacked the right person to unlock his world.

Jim is equally drawn to the beautiful young teacher but sees the differences in their stations and feels any relationship beyond teacher/student is impossible, but deep inside and with plans for the future, he couldn’t help but hold out a small hope.

Bonnie Dee writes books that are tender and poignant and while her heroes tend to be more on the beta side, they are still very appealing and A Hearing Heart is no exception. The conflict comes from external sources rather than any kind of misunderstanding really. I’m glad I remembered and read this book.

Grade: 4 out of 5

Risk Everything by Sophia Johnson

Upon a moonless midnight, his face in shadow, a silent man came riding...Could it be? Is it him, so far from his lands and his people? Meghan can make no mistake, not when her heart cries out his name: Rolf MacDaidh. She had loved him once, in secret - and now the man they called the Lord of Vengeance wanted her...To Rolf, Meghan of Blackthorn is more precious than gold. But he must forget his bygone dreams of her as his bride and remember that she is no more than a captive now. Yet her beauty bewitches him still - and her spirit kindles a passionate desire that cannot be tamed...

Have you ever read a book that you know drives you batty, that you know you shouldn’t like, but you can’t help but read it nevertheless? I believe we call these guilty pleasures. Such is the case with Risk Everything. I was reading it while at the RWA conference and despite all the events and meetings going on around me, I still managed to steal time to read this one – even though it drove me batty. It’s a Medieval and already this year I’m way ahead of where I was last year in reading this genre.

Meghan of Blackthorn is not your typical medieval miss. Instead she’s quite the warrior type. She is out hunting when she is captured by Rolph MacDaidh. He was a friend of her childhood, but now he holds her brother responsible for the death of his wife and child and plans on using Meghan to gain his revenge.

At first Meghan frustrated me with her warrior ways. I kept wishing these two would just sit down and talk things over, but they didn’t. By the time I either got used to Meghan or she mellowed somewhat, I’m not sure which, I was really starting to enjoy this book. And then Rolph did something so very unforgiveable. I hated what he did to the heroine and never really did forgive him it by the end of the book.

But still, the story kept me reading it even in the middle of a conference so I consider that a good sign. Although the grade isn’t that high for this one, oddly enough it doesn’t really reflect how compelling I found it. And I do want to read the others in this series so I’m thinking that’s a good thing!

Grade: 3.5 out of 5

Lady Isabella’s Scandalous Marriage by Jennifer Ashley

Lady Isabella Scranton scandalized London by leaving her husband, notorious artist Lord Mac Mackenzie, after only three turbulent years of marriage. But Mac has a few tricks to get the Lady back in his life, and more importantly, back into his bed.

I’ve been jonesing for this one ever since reading The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie. While I didn’t expect to be knocked over the head with this book like I was Lord Ian, I was hoping that still I would really enjoy it. And, joy of joys, I did!

We got to see quite a bit of Mac and Isabella in the first book and though I can’t say for certain, I would recommend those planning on reading this book should read the first book, well first. One, because it’s a great book and two, because we get a glimpse into the troubled marriage between the hero/heroine of this one.

First off, they were both very appealing characters in this book. That’s a big plus. I was already predisposed to liking them both and it continued on in this book. It was never a lack of love between the two of them that tore their marriage apart so going in, the reader can already sense the love. Rather it was Mac’s wildness and an inability to communicate that drove them apart. They are both passionate people and theirs was a ‘love at first sight’ kind of marriage. They eloped the night they met without getting to know how the other one ticks that caused such contentious issues. And Mac was on one of his many absences when Isabella suffered a tragic loss. And his drunkenness and childish attitude doom the marriage.

But since a lack of love was never the issue, Mac spends the next several years growing up and when an opportunity arises for him to spend time with Isabella and show her that he has changed.

I really enjoyed this ‘marriage in trouble’ book and ended up being quite pleased with it, but waiting for the next one in the series.

Grade: 4.75 out of 5

The Missing by Shiloh Walker

Her psychic gift drove away the man she loved— and years later has drawn him back to her…

As a teenager, Taige Branch hated her psychic gift. No one could understand—except for Cullen Morgan, the boy who stole her heart. He did his best to accept her, until his mother was brutally murdered—and he couldn’t forgive Taige for not preventing it.

Now a widowed father, Cullen Morgan has never forgotten Taige. But what brings her back into his life is another tragedy. His beloved little girl has been kidnapped, and Taige is his only hope of finding her. Working together against the clock, Cullen and Taige can’t help but wonder whether—if they find his daughter in time—it isn’t too late for the overpowering love that still burns between them…

I was really blown away earlier this year when I read Broken so when I saw this one was out in MM size, it was almost a given that I’d be giving it a read. While it didn’t blow me away as much as Broken, still I thought it good enough that I was glad I read it.

I really loved the start of the book; the young love between Taige Branch, the heroine and the loner with the strange talents and Cullen Morgan, the wealthy young man who visited the coastal town every summer. I loved reading about the growing love between them and how accepting Cullen was of Taige’s gift. And it was very touching. But then I ran into the same kind of problem I did with Risk Everything. Cullen did something so nasty to Taige that I couldn’t really forgive him for it. I know he was very angry at his mother’s death and lashed out at Taige. But he did in such a cruel way.

So while the book worked very well as a mystery, it kind of failed a bit as a romance. It was clear that had his daughter not gone missing and he needed Taige’s help in finding her, he never would have reconnected with Taige and all the ugliness would have gone unresolved and Taige still would have carried the burden of it. Even after he reconnected with her, he was still planning on just leaving for a while.

So, as a romantic suspense, the suspense worked but the romantic didn’t. But I love her writing enough to certainly keep reading her.

Grade: 4 out of 5

The Lost Enchantress by Patricia Coughlin

Long ago Eve Lockhart discovered that the ancient magic that was her birthright could cost her everything. So she vowed to create a normal life and was convinced she'd succeeded-until a long-lost family talisman resurfaces. A prize beyond price, the hourglass pendant ignites the fevered interest of mysterious forces who'll risk anything to possess it-forces that include one very seductive man...

The priceless pendant isn't the only thing Gabriel Hazard wants from Eve. For nearly two centuries he's searched for the hidden magic that can break a spell and grant him the one thing he craves. But he isn't alone in wanting the pendant-or Eve's magic.

Now Eve has no choice but to break her long-ago vow and claim her power, her dream of everlasting love-and her destiny.

Many years ago I read a couple of historicals that she wrote, Lord Savage and Merely Married. When I saw she was coming out, finally, with another single title book, I knew I wanted to read it but since it was a trade size, the price was a bit scary. Then, when I got the Kobo and could get it cheaper as an ebook, I went for it.

When I started reading it though I was a bit surprised as for some reason I just assumed it would be another historical. But it wasn’t. Instead it’s a contemporary with a bit of the paranormal thrown in.

Eve Lockhart has magical abilities but since she felt they lead to a tragedy in her youth, she has done everything she can to deny them. Instead she’s become a journalist who refuses to do anything magical. That is until she sees a pendant that she is strongly attached to at an auction and unknowingly uses her talent to wrest it away from Gabriel Hazard who needs it for its magical properties. When he visits her, trying to get it back, she refuses to sell it, but she does agree to let him use it for whatever mysterious purpose he has up his sleeve.

This book was another winner – I had a lot of them in the month of July! Both Eve and Gabriel make for fascinating characters. At first Gabriel has no plans to do anything with or for Eve, but she does have something about her that changes his mind. I thought he made for quite an interesting hero.

But the real draw for me with this book was Eve. I loved how protective she was of her grandmother and sister and niece. She really is the glue that holds them altogether. She is dead set against acknowledging her magical abilities, but slowly, over the course of the story, she begins embracing them once more.

I hope Ms. Coughlin doesn’t take as long this time to come out with another single title book. Though when she does, I’ll be there.

I'm crossing my fingers that when I post this live it looks alright because goodness knows it sure is looking wonky in the compose view!!!

The new job is turning out to be not nearly as busy as the old one and I have lots of time on my hands. I did part of this at work whilst trying to stretch time and I did it in a word doc and then emailed it to my home email. Looking at it in compose view, the words are huge and all smooshed together. I'm just going to cross my fingers and hit publish post now

Fingers crossed.............


Lori said...

See, I was able to forgive Cullen, because he was a teenager when he was so awful to Taige. We all do stuff in the heat of anger and hurt that we regret. Especially when we're teenagers. I thought it was so poignant and sad.

nath said...

It looks okay, except that you have white background.

You did read some pretty good books apparently :) I'm curious about the Patricia Coughlin... I've been into magical stories and this one seems to fit the bill :)

Kristie (J) said...

Nath: LOL - the font seems to have a mind of it's own and it does have those odd white spaces, but it looks pretty good considering how it looked before posting. I thought about trying to fix it, but Blogger just doesn't seem to like it when I do a post in Word first.
July was a remarkably good month reading wise. If you read The Lost Enchantress, I'll be curious to see what you thought of it :-)

Lori: It was very poignant and sad wasn't it? And yes, he was young and hurt and goodness knows we can be very selfish when we are so young. But I think what got me was he just walked away - for good seemingly - even though he did have regrets later, he never checked to see how Taige was doing. He KNEW how sensitive she was underneath her tough exterior, yet he never tried to say he was sorry, not until he needed her. I think it was that, that kept me from forgiving him.
But I did think the book is very well written and can lead to interesting discussions *g*

Rosie said...

Can't believe we were reading LADY ISABELLA'S SCANDALOUS MARRIAGE at the same time. I wish I'd known you'd read MISSING as well. We could have chatted about it in our spare time.

Mollie said...

I really enjoyed Lady Isabella's Scandelous Marriage as well. Can't wait for the next in that series. I really need to read some Shiloh Walker I guess!!!

azteclady said...

I'm so glad you liked A Hearing Heart, Kristie!

And of course, Ms Walker's writing as well!

nath said...

Oh, you write your post in Word before? My advice then is when you copy/paste from word to blogger, select the "Edit HTML" tab. Then, once it's pasted in blogger, go back to "Compose" and do the modifications you want like adding links, bold, italic, etc. Hope it helps!

Leslie said...

A little wonky but still fine. :)

Hmmm... I need to read Shiloh Walker - have heard good things about her writing. I even have a few of her books on the tbr pile.

Good reading month & RWA is a huge bonus!

Kristie (J) said...

Leslie: I've quite enjoyed her books that I've read so far. I'll be curious as to what you think of her. And she's great fun in person.

Nath: I don't usually do it in Word first, but I have time on my hands at work now - hopefully not much - so I do it in a doc at work. But most of the time I do it straight in Blogger.

AL: It was your review that made me want to read it. I should go back and link to it so others can read it too!

Mollie: Wasn't it good?? I was a tad worried that it would pale in comparison to TMOLIM, but it didn't. And yep - I like me Shiloh Walker.

Rosie: LOL - we didn't get a whole lot of spare time did we? But still it would have been fun to chat about them.