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Book Review: Smokin’ Six Shooter by B.J. Daniels (Series, #4)

October 27, 2015 Leave a comment

Book Review: Smokin' Six Shooter by B.J. Daniels (Series, #4)Summary:
Dulcie Hughes comes to Montana from the big city of Chicago when she mysteriously inherits property.  She immediately runs into Russell Corbett, a local rancher who isn’t too keen on some city woman sniffing around the old Beaumont property.  Dulcie doesn’t want to be distracted from uncovering the years’ old mystery at the Beaumont property, but Russell just can’t let himself let her investigate on her own.

Review:
I may be an academic librarian, but I also have public librarian friends, and one of them gave this book to me as an extra she had from the publisher.  I kept it around because who isn’t in the mood for some light romance sometimes?  Plus, there are definitely Harlequins that strike my fancy.  This….wasn’t really one of them.

Here’s the main problem with the book.  The title and the cover are incredibly misleading for what you’re actually going to get, and that’s a pet peeve of mine.  As a friend of mine (who also read it) said to me, “There’s no six shooter in the book.”  It sure sounds like it’s a big plot point doesn’t it?  But….there’s no six shooter.  There are guns, yes. But not six shooters.  The cover and title make it sound like the hearthrob is some sort of sharpshooting cowboy, but he’s…neither.  He’s a modern day rancher. Who drives a combine. Oh and he and his father hire a rainmaker to try to make it rain because the ranchers need rain.  Sorry but none of that strikes my sexy bone the way that a sharpshooter would. WHICH IS WHAT I THOUGHT I WAS GETTING.

Let’s ignore for a moment that I would have self-selected out of this book if the title, cover, and the actual blurb (not the one I wrote above) had been accurate.  What about the actual book?  Well, the mystery is good…ish.  It had lots of twists and turns, and the final chapter just had one too many.  I read the last chapter out loud to my husband, and he said it felt like an episode of “All My Circuits” (the over-the-top robot soap opera on Futurama).  Which is true.  That said, I certainly didn’t figure out the mystery. Because it was so ridiculous.  But there’s an entertainment factor in that that I appreciate.  However, if over-the-top twists and turns are not your style, you’ll be disappointed by the last chapter of the book.

The romance and sex was sorely missing.  Our heroine gets one incredibly quick (and I don’t just mean quick to read, I mean a quickie) sex scene, and that’s it.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t pick up Harlequins for the story.  I do expect a lot out of the sex scenes though, and this one felt like a throwaway. A “oh do I really have to write one? Fine, but it will be ludicrous and quick.”  I kept reading thinking that surely this was just a teaser and there’d be a nice long steamy scene in here somewhere. But no.

So, Harlequin readers who don’t mind the love interest being a combine-driving modern day rancher who does not have a six shooter with most of the focus of the book being on its over-the-top mystery with just a touch of a romance scene will enjoy this book.  The quality of the writing is fine, so long as this is the type of story the reader is after, they won’t be disappointed.  Just don’t be misled by the title….or the cover….or the blurb.  And maybe grab some popcorn for the last chapter.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Gift

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Counts For:
Bottom of TBR Pile Challenge

Previous Books in Series:
Shotgun Bride
Hunting Down The Horseman
Big Sky Dynasty

Book Review: I Am Hutterite by Mary Ann Kirkby

July 26, 2011 3 comments

Woman in traditional Hutterite garb in a field.Summary:
Mary Ann Kirkby recounts her unique childhood in her memoir.  She was born into a Hutterite family.  The Hutterites are a religious sect similar to the Amish only they believe that living communally is a mandate for Christians.  Mary Ann recounts her childhood both in the religious sect (her particular group was located in western Canada), as well as the journey and culture shock she went through when her parents left the Hutterites when she was nine years old.

Review:
I actually read this memoir because of the situation in which I first ran into Hutterites and have been fascinated with them ever since.  For a couple of years, my father and brother lived in Montana.  I went to visit them and was shopping in Victoria’s Secret at the mall and rounded the corner to discover traditionally-garbed Hutterite women buying thongs.  I had no idea what a Hutterite was, but instantly hunted down my brother elsewhere in the mall to find out who these people were.  All that the “English” seemed to know about them was that they lived in a commune, dressed kind of like the Amish but different, traveled all together to town in a few big vans, and the Hutterite women were always buying thongs at Victoria’s Secret.  Hutterites are rather quiet about their lifestyle though, so when I stumbled across this on a new releases list, I knew I needed to read it to find out more about the community.

This is a completely fascinating memoir that I devoured in one day.  Mary Ann is able to see both the faults and the beauty of various experiences in her childhood with the clear eye of an adult.  Yet simultaneously she harbors no ill-well toward either the Hutterites or her parents or any of those who made her transition from a Hutterite girl to an “English” woman more difficult.  Kirkby writes with a sympathetic ear to all those she encountered in her life, which is a refreshing change in the memoir genre.

Additionally Kirkby’s writing offers an immersion into the fascinating world of communal living with a religious belief system to hold it all in place.  Kirkby recounts a childhood where no homes were kept locked, everyone was always welcome in everyone else’s home, and most meals of the day were eaten communally with your age-mates.  In fact, one of the biggest changes for Kirkby when her family left the Hutterites was suddenly needing to interact with her siblings on a regular basis instead of her same-age female friends.  She also had trouble understanding the English need for privacy in the home or the relative silence with which meals were eaten.

Another point of interest is that Kirkby’s father was from a Russian family that was persecuted in Europe and had to run to Canada to escape the Nazis.  His father sought refuge and a sense of safety in the community of the Hutterites.  Conversely, her father who grew up in this safety found himself craving more freedom than the strict rules and constructs of the commune would allow for.  The book thus not only recounts a unique girlhood and insight into the Hutterite way of life, but also addresses the age-old question of freedom versus security.

Anyone interested in the Hutterite communities or unique childhoods will absolutely enjoy this memoir.  It is well-written, intriguing, and contains not a trace of bitterness.  I highly recommend it.

5 out of 5 stars

Source: Amazon

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Book Review: Crime Scene at Cardwell Ranch by B.J. Daniels

September 8, 2010 Leave a comment

Man in cowboy hat looking into the distance.Summary:
Dana doesn’t want to sell the family ranch in Montana, but her siblings are insistent and without her mother’s new will, she doesn’t have a leg to stand on.  The sale gets held up when a body is discovered in an old well on the ranch.  A new marshal is brought in from out of town to investigate, and it’s none other than Hud, Dana’s ex-fiancee.  Can they find the killer?  Can Dana save the ranch from her greedy siblings?  Will renewed love overcome old hurts?

Review:
This is a Harlequin romance novel, and they are not meant to be super-serious or make you ponder life.  It’s light reading akin to viewing the hot summer blockbuster movie.  So does it do its job?

The murder storyline is just complex enough to be compelling but not so complex that too much thinking is required, so plot-wise, Daniels does a good job.  The characters are fairly well-rounded, and Daniels eloquently presents a true-to-life modern Montana and not the romanticized vision of the old west often seen in books.  (My brother used to live in Montana, so I’m speaking from experience here).  Hud and Dana are sigh-inducing as a couple, but are also still believable.  Their love story could happen in real life, so that makes for an enjoyable read.

However, Harlequin romances are definitely supposed to be romance.  I was expecting at least one good sex scene.  What you get is a scene that, I kid you not, consists almost entirely of he kissed her breasts, there was passion, they went to sleep.  I’ve seen better sex scenes in historical fiction that wasn’t even marketed as romance.  Is this a Harlequin thing?  Are they supposed to be that clean?  I definitely remember them being a lot more hot and heavy when I was 15, but well, that was 9 years ago.  In any case, this sex scene left much to be desired.  Much.

The book also suffers from a lack of good editing.  This definitely isn’t Daniels’  fault.  Daniels makes mistakes most writers will make periodically in a book this long, but the editor failed to catch them.  I’d say there are around five easily noticeable errors in the book.  I find it easy enough to roll my eyes and continue on. If that sort of thing bothers you, though, you should be aware.

Overall, Daniels provides an intriguing modern day crime mystery set in rural Montana with a touch of romance and sex that happens off the page.  If you like light, fairly clean genre fiction with a dash of intrigue, you will enjoy this book.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Amazon

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Book Review: 600 Hours of Edward by Craig Lancaster

September 1, 2010 2 comments

Man standing on a horizon.Summary:
Edward likes facts and order, and his life revolves around them.  Every morning when he gets up he records the weather in his town of Billings, Montana, as well as the time of his awakening.  Every night at 10pm he watches a taped episode of Dragnet.  He buys the same groceries every week on Tuesday and does his best to avoid left-hand turns when driving.  Edward does not work.  He has a hard time interacting with people.  He can’t seem to understand them, and they have a hard time understanding him.  But 600 hours of his life are about to happen and change everything, daring him to open back up to the world and give it a chance.  Daring him to step outside of his comfort zone to make his life more than he ever dreamed it could be.

Review:
This is an extraordinary look into the mind of someone with Asperger’s syndrome.  Asperger’s syndrome is an autism spectrum disorder that causes great difficulties in social interaction, odd language use, and repetitive behavior commonly compared to obsessive-compulsive disorder.  In lieu of presenting us with an odd neighbor who we later discover has the illness, Lancaster brings us into the mind of the person with Asperger’s syndrome and shows us how the world looks to him.  Edward finds the world to be a rather confusing, disorderly place.  He can see when his behavior upsets people, but he doesn’t understand why.  His attempts to make sense of the world via rituals are heart-wrenching to read.  Yet the narrative also does an excellent job of demonstrating the good intentions of someone with Asperger’s who doesn’t realize his behavior is frightening or abnormal.

Edward’s life may be full of rituals, but it also is full of people–his parents, his therapist, his neighbors, his old high school workshop teacher.  The commonality between them all is that they see the good in Edward and are willing to work with him and be patient in order to keep him in their lives.  They see him for the good man struggling with an illness that he is.  Of course, Edward is not left with a free ride. The people around him expect him to do what he can to function better from taking his Fluoxetine every day to faithfully attending his appointments with Dr. Buckley and pushing his own boundaries.  It is a message of the hope that is possible when everyone involved works to overcome a mental illness.

There were two draw-backs to the book, however.  One was that the repeated summaries of Dragnet episodes every chapter were quite dull.  I think after a couple, the reader would still have gotten the point of ritual by saying “then I watched Dragnet” without actually summarizing the episodes.  It was a lot of narrative space taken up to make a point that was already made with the much shorter recording of the weather and waking times every morning.  This is minor and easily skimmed over though.  My other issue is actually that I think the book ended too soon.  I think the point at which it ended was chosen for some sense of supposed literary quality rather than telling the whole story.  I would like to have seen at least a bit more of Edward’s transformation.  It felt a bit short-lived.

Overall this book helped me understand people with Asperger’s syndrome better than I ever had before.  I highly recommend it to fans of contemporary fiction, fans of memoirs as it reads like one, and people seeking to understand Asperger’s syndrome better.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: free copy from the author via the LibraryThing Member Giveaway program

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