Book Review: Bet on A Cowboy

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

The publisher provided me with a copy of this book to review via NetGalley.

Bet On A Cowboy is a nice love story that puts a cowboy out of his comfort zone. Typically a cowboy will end up falling in love on his ranch, to a woman that is somehow involved with ranches or horses herself. But that’s not the case in this book, as he is knee deep in a reality TV show in Vegas at the time.

I really enjoyed the characters in this story. Griffin McAlister was a one time bull rider on the rodeo circuit who had to put his dreams on hold due to injury and now works on his families ranch. He’s a hard worker, knows how to charm a lady and has great looks. Desperate to make money to help pay for his mothers cancer treatments he agrees, though somewhat hesitantly, to be a part of a bachelor TV show called Finding Mrs. Right. Maggie Sullivan is the shows director, she’s a bit of a plain Jane, and doesn’t take no for an answer. I find it incredibly refreshing to find a main female character in a romance novel who isn’t drop dead gorgeous, perfect curves, lovely hair. Maggie is smart, does her job well and while she does have a decently curved body she hides it under baggy clothing, though I’m not sure I can see a director of a reality TV show running around dressed like that.

The humor along the way is a great addition along with the banter between Maggie and Griffin at certain points. He’s used to flashing women a smile and having them fall at his feet, but Maggie isn’t so easily swayed and challenges Griffin at nearly every turn. And it’s this challenging side of her that appeals to him. Nice to see a guy fall in love with a normal looking woman while being surrounded by gorgeous women all grabbing for his attention and his pants.

Though their relationship is a bit slow to grow, for obvious reasons – he’s on a reality show trying to find a wife in order to get money for his mothers cancer treatment and she is the show director – when it did finally get to the point where they knew they were falling for each others it got better. When they suddenly make the move from friends to lovers it seemed a bit weird, obviously they each have feelings for the other though they have no admitted it yet, though more annoying to me is how Griffin almost instantly assumes she will end up pregnant. Sure it can happen, but that’s his first thought and the first thing he says to her.

Throughout the story there is the strong presence of family and it’s importance. Griffin is doing this to help his mother and ease the financial burden of her cancer treatments, Maggie wants to be able to pay for IVF treatment since she wants to be a mother and Griffin’s family also makes an appearance at the beginning and more so at the end of the book when the show is set to film at the family ranch.

I have to say I really enjoyed the ending of the book, even if it felt a bit rushed, as Maggie and Griffin put everything on the line for love. It’s not entirely what I had expected to happen but was happy with it. I would certainly recommend this book to those who enjoy western romances and will look for more books written by Julie Benson in the future.

This and other reviews can also be found at Exploring All Genres.

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Book Review: The Wrangler

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The publisher provided me with a copy of this book to review via Netgalley.

The Wrangler is the fifth book in Lindsay McKenna’s Jacksone Hole series. However you do not have to read any of the previous books to enjoy the story, though I would suggest at least reading the previous book The Last Cowboy to get a better understanding of Griff’s relationship with his brother Slade, but it is certainly not a requirement. Because I had read The Last Cowboy before stating in on this book I came into it with a relatively large dislike of Griff. After how he treated Slade I doubted he could do much to redeem himself in The Wrangler.

Val Hunter has left her job at the Air Force to return home to help her grandmother, Gus, run the family ranch, a place that has very few happy memories for Val. Having grown up with an abusive father Val has a very difficult time trusting me, refusing to let them get close to her or opening up to them and rightfully so. Her transition from a withdrawn, damaged, standoffish woman to someone who could once again live a happy life filled with love was a great part of this book. It gave Val’s character a lot of development and showed that not everything happens easily or right off the hop. While she is not the strongest main character I have seen she was certainly a nice change from your typical strong female who needs no help and is perfect right from the beginning.

Gus, Val’s grandmother, was a very good addition to this story. She’s an old ranch woman who is tough and stern, doesn’t take crap from nobody and isn’t afraid to put in some sweat equity even with her bad hip. She really is the backbone of Val’s transition, along with Griff. I really enjoyed how she stood up to Curt Downing and put him and his little minion in their place. She also adds that sense of family to the story, after all she’s the only family Val has left.

Griff has changed a lot. After losing his job on Wall street after the markets crashed he has returned home to Jackson Hole. After struggling at first, mainly because his brother Slade refused to accept him back and because Griff is inexperienced at ranch work, he has found his place and works hard at the local feed store. It’s hard work but he loves it, and it shows that he has begun to embrace his heritage as a Wyoming bred ranchers son. Showing that he has a good work ethic, is respectful, kind, a bit shy and willing to put himself in dangerous positions is a major selling point, and goes a long way to redeeming himself from his previous ways.

While all the characters are enjoyable for various reason, I have to say my favorite is probably Curt Downing. Even in the book The Last Cowboy he was the perfect villain and he continues to be so in The Wrangler. He’s rich, he’s rude, very few people like him and he has his dirty hands in just about everything. He is definitely the type of person you love to hate.

There were a great number of small subplots within this book. Between both Griff and Val trying to overcome their pasts and start on their futures, the feud between Griff and Slade, the presence of a drug cartel and FBI investigate of it, along with the romance itself. So while certain things did distract from the romance aspect of the book I don’t think it took away from it all that much. One aspect I liked was the tie in to The Last Cowboy, having Slade present in this book and showing the brother finally putting their past and their feud behind them for good, they still have some work to do on their relationship but it’s gotten better.

The love between Griff and Val is slow to develop, mostly due to Val being so withdrawn and resistant to men, but also because Griff is respectful of her aversion to men. Because of this he doesn’t try to speed things up even though he feels an attraction to her and believes on many occasions that Val may be developing feelings for him. Through working together on fixing up the ranch they slowly go from co-workers, to friends and then at the end falling in love.

Though slow going at points the ending does make up for it, when Griff and Val finally come together and let their passion and love take them to the next step. Of course Gus’ reaction to it made for a great laugh. Leave it to good old Gus to point something obvious out to the pair in her typical manner.

This and other reviews can also be found at Exploring All Genres.

October Projects

Is it seriously October already? This year has flown by way too fast for my liking. It felt like yesterday was January. But since there is nothing I can do abotu how fast or slow time goes by I’ll just have to soldier on. So October is going to be a relatively busy month for me. I have NaNoWriMo prep to do, which yikes I haven’t even started yet even though I mentioned last week that I was going to be starting it. I have an enormous list of books I want to read this month, not only because I love books but I also am going to prepare book reviews ahead of time for the month of November so I can concentrate nearly all of my time on writing my novel instead of reading and working on reviews. The list sits at around thirty books right now, which should be doable if I keep up with them. Of course there’s one big thing that could interrupt that plan.

That one thing, is MMO’s. After quitting Star Wars: The Old Republic back in August I took a complete break from gaming. I have to admit it was nice to focus on something other than games for a while, namely reading books. However, with the latest World of Warcraft expansion out now, some of my old SW:TOR guildies still poking me about playing Rift and some other guildies wanting to start back up int SW:TOR my gaming side has flared up big time. I have started playing Rift casually, it’s free to play until level 20 but I’ve nearly hit that mark already. So now I need to make a decision, which game will I decide to play during what little free time I have? Wow, SW:TOR or Rift? I can only afford to play one so I don’t have the option of picking up all three, because honestly if I could afford it I would never leave my computer in order to give each game the attention it deserves. Oddly enough I’m kind of leaning towards WoW. Oh but wait! My best friend also recently started telling me about Lord of The Rings Online, which is also free to play, and showing me all the horse mounts you can get. Dang! Now I want to play that one too. At least it’s free?

So as you can see I have a slight gaming dilemma on my hands. Oh, did I also mention I really want to play board games lately too? I blame watching all the Table Top episodes on Geek and Sundry for that. Nothing wrong with board games though since it’s something I can do with my husband and son.

So needless to say, October and November are going to be extremely busy months for me but I am definitely up to the challenge. The first step though is to make a very large to do list, since I live off of lists and without them my world turns to chaos and is taken over by procrastination. I better get to it, the first day of the month is already past the half way point. Wish me luck!

NaNoWriMo Prep Time

In a little over a month NaNoWriMo will be starting up once more. This yearly event that happens every November, and now more recently June and August thanks to their summer version, gives writers the opportunity to challenge themselves and truly write when there may have been distractions and reasons not to. For the month f November writers will attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.

This will be the third year I have been participating in NaNoWriMo and I am very much looking forward to it. I’m hoping to keep up with my winning streak, though I won’t go into my failures with the summer version of this challenge, and once again hit my 50,000 word goal.

Though I have a month before this starts I’ve already begun to work on planning what I will be doing this year. Yesterday I pulled out my notes and files from last year and began seeing what I had got done, what had been changed from the original plan as time went on and what needs to happen next. The plan was to write the second novel in a series, the first of which I wrote during last years challenge. Knowing I would need a quick refresher on where I left off last year I took the time to read over things. Then an idea hit me, a great and wonderful idea. So I began frantically writing it down not wanting to lose it. A good thing right? Wrong!

The problem? It had nothing to do with my plan for this year and was in fact the makings of a new novel. Dang! The thing is, I knew that if I didn’t give this idea some attention, and it’s still currently nagging me for more, than come November I wouldn’t be able to concentrate on what I wanted to write because this other idea would be shoving it’s way into the light. So for now, I’m jotting down these ideas and hoping I have enough time before NaNoWriMo starts to work out a plan for my intended writing project.

My other small project before NaNoWriMo starts is to do a massive amount of reading so that during the month of November I still have book reviews to post in amid the NaNoWriMo updates since nearly all of my time that month will be devoted to writing and not reading. I have a list of books that take top priority for this, namely those I was send for the purpose of reviewing and have already begun to work down that list, I am hoping I can get them all done by October 31st.

Will you be participating in NaNoWriMo this year? Do you know what you will be writing or are you a write by the seat of your pants type?

Book Review: Skin

My Rating: 2 out of 5 stars.

The publisher provided me with a copy of this book to review via NetGalley.

Skin is a collaboration between Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins. It is part of the Mike Hammer series, however you do not need to read any of the other books to follow the story, though in a way I wish I had to get a better sense of who Mike Hammer is and to see the previous cases he had worked on. This short story covers the discovery and investigation behind a gruesome pile of human remains found by Mike Hammer on his way home from a meeting. Only a severed hand at the scene tells them that it is or was a human.

A young beautiful reporter, Melodie, arrives on the scene and interviews Mike and his friend/fellow investigator. Though Mike is nearing retirement (or perhaps has retired, I wasn’t too sure) he insists on being involved in the case. She mentions to Mike about previous cases that may tie into this one and does some investigating of her own. But neither of them foresaw what was to happen next. When Melodie goes missing it’s up to Mike to figure out what happened to her before the murderer kills her as well. In the end Mike finds the guy, and thanks to something Melodie says, takes matters into his own hands right before the police arrive.

Now, whether it was because I have not previously read anything in the Mike Hammer series or because it was a short story I didn’t find myself draw into the story as much as I had hoped I would be. I found Mike Hammer to be dull at the beginning when he and his friend Pat were talking at the scene. I just wanted them to do something more interesting. Even as the story progressed Mike Hammer was not an interesting character, and while I was somewhat impressed with the ending I can’t say this story was anything special. The conversations were a bit dry, even when they were talking about the case, either standing at the crime scene or sitting in a diner discussing the horrific details while others listened in during their meals (most of which ended up leaving because of that).

One problem I did have was with the formatting of the story. Not sure if it was simply the version I received or not but I found the foreword and the actual start of the story were mashed all into one paragraph making me confused as to where the real story started. I have to read that first paragraph a good two to three times in order to find the break that signified the end of the foreword and the start of the story. If you are looking for a quick read in the Thriller/Mystery genre, or more from the Mike Hammer series, then this short story is worth checking out. However if you are looking for a longer length in-depth mystery novel then this is likely not what you are going to pick up but still could prove a good little read.

This review and others can also be found on Exploring All Genres.

Book Review: Blood Maiden

My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

The author provided me with a copy of this book to review.

Much like vampires and werewolves, Dragons are a generally overused genre. It is hard to come by a book that involves dragons that doesn’t seem to be a repeat of every other dragon related book. However Christine Schulze managed to give dragons a refreshing view with Bloodmaiden.

That being said, I did find a few issues with the book. The first chapter or two felt slow, which isn’t always an issue as I realize the book has to start somewhere and often establish a bit of background and character development. However, once over that tiny hump the rest of the story seemed rushed, perhaps a bit too much for my liking. I realize that when a book involves characters doing a lot of traveling, like the ones in this one were doing, the book can become very dull and repetitive very quickly. And considering the characters had to travel between four different kingdoms in order to save the day so to speak, it would have been an absolute snore of a read to have chapter after chapter going on about them traveling. Now there were helpful bits along the way to speed the character through their travel, which basically boiled down to magical transportation at the end of each part of their quest. It was an interesting concept and certainly helped to avoid the inevitable travel time.

The character interactions along the way were fairly good. Though I wasn’t entirely surprised when certain relationships were introduced, perhaps I’m just good at predicting these kind of things. One little twist in the story I did enjoy was involving Tash’s true identity along the way. That part I had no clue of until it jumped out and bit me. Sometimes the most unexpected of surprises are the best. Of course I also didn’t expect her close relationship with Pan and Brydon. So the book was certainly full of surprises.

Overall I thought the book was good, it had an interesting storyline, fairly well developed characters and a well written plot. My biggest concern was that it was a bit too rushed, like the ending was being forced upon the reader without giving enough story to reach the ending. I think I would have liked to see the story flow a bit slower, add some extra elements to the story so that its not a case of travel, talk to dragons, get what your looking for, teleport our and then loop back to the beginning and travel once more. I certainly would not be opposed to visiting the books setting again, seeing how the characters have grown since the end of the book and get more history about the lands and beings within.

This review and others can also be found on Exploring All Genres.

Book Review: If You Ask Me

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Who doesn’t love Betty White? Growing up watching The Golden Girls I fell in love with Betty White and all the other ladies on that show. If I could choose any woman to have as a grandmother, my top pick would be Betty White.

While this is not the first biography that she has written it was certainly a great little read. Betty covers such a great variety of subjects in this books, sharing her feelings on animals, working in show business, being married and other aspects of life. Her humor throughout parts of the book had me laughing out loud, which caused weird looked cast my way from my husband. It was great to read up on several of Betty’s adventures in life, including when she met Koko the gorilla. This part was adorable, especially as she described their first meeting. Koko sat with Betty in her cage and pulled gently at the collar of her blouse because at that time the gorilla had a bit of a fascination with boobs. A simple word from her trainer stopped the gorilla but I can only image Betty’s shock in that moment.

It was funny to read her talking about how after so many years in show business there was almost no new questions whenever she was being interviewed. Even so she tried to give a different answer each time to stop from being too repetitive. And the following quote is probably my favorite from the book.

A few years ago I was asked one of the standard questions for probably the umpteenth time: “Is there anything you haven’t done in your career that you would still like to do?” Well I had just seen Meryl Streep and Robert Redford in Out of Africa for the third time, so the answer was automatic: “Yes, Robert Redford.” And I was surprised to suddenly find it true!

I think that is the best answer likely ever given during an interview. After all, what else could one say when having to answer a question they had already answered so many times in their life? It’s that sharp wit and humor that I love about Betty White.

Not only does the book share her stories but there are also a great number of pictures of Betty White throughout her life. Some are during award ceremonies, like the time she won the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2012 Screen Guild Actors Awards, but also from various sets she worked on, to one showing her when she joined the American Women’s Voluntary Services at the beginning of World War II.

If you are a fan of Betty White, old or new, or simply enjoy reading biographies and memoirs then this book is definitely worth checking out. I plan to keep my eyes pealed for her other books to see what other stories she has shared about her life.

This review and others can also be found on Exploring All Genres.