Tag Archives: western

Recent Reads

11 Mar

Destiny’s Captive by Kate Lyon

I was really looking forward to reading this novel because I liked Lyon’s Hope’s Captive a lot. Sadly, Destiny’s Captive didn’t live up to my expectations. Sure, partly it might be because my expectations were too high, but I dunno. IMO, Destiny’s Captive felt different and was missing most of the things I liked about Hope’s Captive. With Destiny’s Captive, I liked the prologue, yes, and that Lyon again conveyed a sense of the time and history in the novel. Or that the hero had loved his first wife. But other than that?
The romance felt forced and I didn’t get a feel for it. I thought the characters were bland and generic. In particular, I had problems with the heroine. I admit, stubborn (spirited, feisty,…) heroines always have it a bit difficult with me but really, the heroine here says one thing and does another a few times too often for me to not think her a silly cow. Throw in a too jovial governor, servants who are nearly friends, spirit guides, and a few loose ends, and my impression of Destiny’s Captive went slowly but steadily downhill after the prologue.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Never Let Me Go is written in a simple, understated style and told in a conversational tone. It’s set in a world resembling ours and sharing its history but with something that feels a bit off right from the start. The novel follows the lives of three people who grew up together at a kind of boarding school and is told by the only one still living at the end of the novel. I think of this novel as a dystopian novel although I often see it called science fiction.
There’s a strange passivity in Never Let Me Go. The characters seem detached from the “normal” world around them. They do what they are told, and even after the reveal-all near the end – that mostly just blows (IMO) and is far from having the great impact on the characters (and the reader) than one might expect from such a scene – they more or less meekly go on with their life. There’s no explanation why the characters just accept their fate even though they are clearly educated and can (for some time at least) roam freely (this is even more true before the reveal-all near the end). There’s also no explanation how this world works. Never Let Me Go “tells and not tells,” “asks and not asks.”
But honestly, I can’t make up my mind about this novel. What I know for sure is that I loved the writing and I liked to read the dissection of actions and emotions that take so much room in this novel. I also liked that, like the children in the story, the reader is “told and not told” what is going . Never Let Me Go is like an elephant that is missing its legs and its trunk and now is just floating. Depending upon my perspective, I either think it offers a lot to think about, or it’s somewhat pointless because it’s resting on nothing much. Really, it’s back and forth for me.

Recent Reads

23 Dec

Pairie Moon by Maggie Osborne

Living on a rundown farm at the edge of a small Texas town, Della Ward is haunted by the bittersweet life she once lived with an adoring husband who died too soon. Once a laughing, carefree soul, Della is now a widow with only guilty memories for company. Until the day she sees a rugged stranger riding across the prairie toward her house. His presence awakens Della’s heart, but she can never imagine the ways this man will forever change her life.

Lawman James Cameron believes in settling debts and living by honor. It may have taken him ten years to arrive at Della’s door, but he’s finally here and is determined to tell her the truth about the day her husband died. But one look at the woman whose picture he has carried with him for years and he knows that the truth may destroy them both. For Cameron will have to face the past and force Della to do the same before either of them can have a future . . . or each other.

Prarie Moon is a poignant story of two lost people finding each other. It’s also a slow-paced story that follows Della and James on their way to Atlanta where Della wants to look for her daughter whom she had to leave behind when she came west several years before.

I loved the first two thirds of the novel. I loved how Della slowly fell for James, how they had time to get to know each other, and how their attraction grew stronger and stronger. And as an added bonus, James had been halfway in love with Della for years just based on a photograph he had of her. So when he realizes that Della is actually attracted to him, too, he nearly can’t believe it. Only of course, there is a big obstacle on the way to their HEA, one that seems unsurmountable. Knowing you could have what you longed for for many years and knowing if you tell the truth, it won’t happen…lots of angst.

But I only liked the last few chapters. I don’t know, I just had the impression that the story fizzled out and the way Della’s quest for her daughter ended left me feeling “huh?” I thought it more a deux-ex-machina device than really part of the story. I guess I needed more explanation there to really buy it. (4/5)

~ * * * ~

Dime Store Magic by Kelley Armstrong

Paige Winterbourne was always either too young or too rebellious to succeed her mother as leader of one of the world’s most powerful elite organizations–the American Coven of Witches. Now that she is twenty-three and her mother is dead, the Elders can no longer deny her. But even Paige’s wildest antics can’t hold a candle to those of her new charge–an orphan who is all too willing to use her budding powers for evil…and evil is all too willing to claim her. For this girl is being pursued by a dark faction of the supernatural underworld. They are a vicious group who will do anything to woo the young, malleable, and extremely powerful neophyte, including commit murder–and frame Paige for the crime. It’s an initiation into adulthood, womanhood, and the brutal side of magic that Paige will have to do everything within her power to make sure they both survive.

I’m rather sure this is my favorite novel in the Women of the Otherworld series so far. I liked the bigger world in this novel and thought the characters interesting. Paige’s life is losing track fast and most of the time, all she can do is react but there is one thing she’s determined to keep at all costs: Savannah. I thought her brave that she didn’t just roll over and gave Savannah up. Savannah seemed like a fairly typical teenager although at times she seemed to have more of a clue than Paige. And Lucas…I really liked him. A nice difference from most male characters in romance novels. And I love that Armstrong’s characters sound different from each other.

Two problems: the way the Coven is represented in this story…I just can’t see it as “the world’s most powerful elite organizations” and I don’t understand why it’s so important to Paige to be its leader expect maybe because she inherited the position from her mother. Second, the romance between Paige and Lucas – talk about undeveloped. There’s nothing and then one evening, they jump into the laundry and that’s it. I was surprised because based on what went before I actually thought there would be no romance in this story, maybe in a later novel. And it actually was not a realy problem because I don’t read this series looking for a romance but now that it was there, I was bothered by the the lack of build-up (there’s one small hint that Lucas might be interested). (4/5)

PS: I’m already halfway through Armstrong’s Industrial Magic.

TBR Challenge: “A Reason To Live” By Maureen McKade

16 Dec


Info: TBR Challenge 2009

Theme for the month: not sure if there is one
In my TBR pile since: May 2007

Genre: western romance
Published: Berkley Sensation, 2006

Availability: oop

Monthly theme?: ?

Why I bought this novel: lots of other readers like this novel

How could I refuse the wish of a dying man?

May 30, 1865: During the War, I watched over too many young boys in the hospital, comforting them as they cried out for those they loved, as they whispered their final thoughts to me. Keepng a record of their names, families, and last words seemed a small tribute to their sacrifice — until the war ended, and I found a new mission in life.

I would visit the loved ones of those poor soldiers and deliver their messages so that some comfort could be found even in grief…

But Laurel Covey never expected to find a man like Creede Forrester — an ex-gunslinger who rode all the way from Texas to Virginia in the hope of finding his son and ended up saving her from a band of ruffians. It pains her deeply to tell him of his boy’s death, and she believes that in his heart, Creede blames himself for driving his son away. But there is something more to this rugged, weary man. Something that draws Laurel closer to him … something she cannot resist…

[word in bold were in italic in original]

A Reason to Live is my first novel by Maureen McKade so I don’t know if it’s typical for her. What I know is that it’s not a typical fluffy romance. A Reason to Live is aptly named. It tells the story of two people who are both not sure for what, how or why they should continue to live.

Laurel Covey is a widow and was a nurse in the Civil war. Now that the war is over, the only thing that keeps her going is her promise to deliver the last messages of soldiers to their loved ones. She’s estranged from her family because of her marriage, her husband is dead, and her sanity is slowly giving way.

Creede Forrester is an ex-gunslinger who reformed when he met his wife. But his wife is now dead for some years and his son, who signed up as a soldier in the war, seems to have died. The only thing Creede has left is his farm and he now no longer cares. He leaves to find out what happened to his son. That’s how he meets Laurel.

Laurel is an intensely caring woman. As a nurse, she was given the task to decide which wounded soldiers had the best chances to live and therefore were the first the doctors would look at. This and all the other things she saw during the war is haunting her more and more now and she fears she’s slowly but surely losing her mind. She wants to keep her promise to the dead soldiers and then she doesn’t care (and knows) what will happen. There isn’t room for something or someone else.

This is why she isn’t happy about Creede’s insistence to accompany her on her journey. But accompany her he does and slowly he falls in love with her. And Laurel, despite her best intentions to keep others out and her fear of her growing insanity, starts to care for Creede, too.

I liked the slow development of the love story. Both Laurel and Creede are people deeply scarred by their experiences. They are both different now from what they were like when they were twenty. But it’s this difference that gives them a chance to fall in love with each other.

Although handsome, Creede was someone she wouldn’t have looked at twice five years ago, but after everything she’d gone through, she’d learned to see beyond a man’s appearance. And she’d come to respect and appreciate Creede’s kindness and integrity. (168)

By the way, isn’t it nice that the heroine isn’t so blown away by her attraction to the hero’s appearance that she can’t think straight? Equally nice I thought the fact that they could sleep beside each other without giving in to their attraction all the time.

So yes, I liked the love story and thought it convincing. But I also thought it suffered a bit under the frame of the story. The frame of a journey was fitting for Laurel’s (and Creede’s) character development but it also made the different stops of the journey appear more episodic in that each stop showed a different facet of how the war had ravaged the land and its people. Laurel and Creede meet ex-slaves, ex-soldiers, women who lost their husbands and had to fight for themselves, and so on. Each encounter added something new to Laurel and Creede’s character development but still, it also seemed slightly too episodic and educational in a “let’s mention/show/check off this” kind of way to me.

But as much as I thought the portrayal of a war’s impact on the population too educational in that way, it were these parts that touched me the most. In these parts, A Reason to Live isn’t easy to read. War is horrible. But it also shows that amidst all these horrors it’s possible to find love and a reason to live.

As did both Laurel and Creede in the end.

Verdict: A very strong 4/5.

TBR Challenge: “Cherish” By Catherine Anderson

19 Aug


Info: TBR Challenge 2009
Theme for the month: new-to-you authors or authors you haven’t read in a long time
In my TBR pile since: November 2008

Anderson, Catherine - Cherish
Genre: Romance / Western
Published: Avon Books, 1998

Availability: still available

Monthly theme?: I’d planned to read another book for this month challenge which would have been a better fit for its theme, but RL got in the way. Lucky for me, I’d read Cherish a few days ago. Since it was in my TBR pile for nearly a year, and I’ve only read one book by Catherine Anderson several years before, I thought it a close enough fit for this month’s theme to use it as my book for the challenge.

Why I bought this novel: I can’t remember.

He Longed For…

Race Spencer’s gunslinging days are far behind him. He is now a respectable rancher, but it’s a solitary life. But then Fate lead Race to an earthbound angel–lost and alone, the sole survivor of an outlaw attack–and even his hardened heart is moved. He sweeps the ivory-skinned beauty into his arms and carries her away from danger.

A Woman to Cherish

When innocent Rebecca Morgan wakes up in a stranger’s embrace, she knows her life has been changed forever. Though Race’s touch makes her blood sing and stirs up emotions in her she never knew existed, she knows this man has a fearsome reputation. And though her life may depend on him, she doesn’t know if she can trust him. Can it really be love she sees in her rescuer’s dark eyes?

Cherish tells the story of Rebecca, an innocent, sheltered, cheek-turning bible thumber, who travels west with her family and a few other families to join the other members of their church who already settled near Santa Fe one year ago. On their way, they are attacked by outlaws and all members die horribly except Rebecca, who ran and hid.

She witnessed the massacre. Although this is told in flashbacks, what Rebecca saw is not sugarcoated. The women were raped while their husbands stood by and implored God to help them (their faith forbids violence). Then both men and women were shot.

Rebecca not only loses her family, her friends, and her innocence in regard to what humans are capable of on that day, she also loses her faith. She’s faced with the age-old question of how God could let this happen to them when they did nothing wrong, when they lived according to his laws all their life. It’s no wonder that Rebecca goes into shock after what she saw.

That’s when Race finds her. He and his men were on their long way home, driving cattle to Race’s ranch, when Race heard gunshots and went to investigate. What he sees nearly turns his stomach and he’s used to quite a bit with his gunslinger past. It’s there, amidst all the carnage, that he sees a slight blond girl who looks like she’s praying. Race soon realizes the girl is in shock, and then the outlaws are back and he has to fight for his life and the girl’s life. He’s outnumbered, so he promises himself that his last bullet is for her, to spare her the fate of the other women.

Race and Rebecca are saved in the nick of time by Race’s men. Only a few outlaws escape. Race takes Rebecca with him because there is nothing else he could do. He soon figures out that it wasn’t chance that made the outlaws attack Rebecca’s family and her friends. He is also very intuitive in understanding what’s going on with Rebecca, no matter that their backgrounds couldn’t be more different:

That was the most heartbreaking part of it for Race, knowing how awful her situation must seem to her. A naive, religious young woman, sheltered all her life from every kind of evil, suddenly alone in the world where her only chance of survival was to seek sanctuary in the arms of a gunslinger, the very epitome of all she deplored. (127)

Of course, Race probably wouldn’t use a word like “epitome.” He can’t even read and he often doesn’t know what Rebecca is saying when she uses one of her “highfalutin tongue wagglers.” This often leads to funny misunderstandings, especially concerning the relationship between men and women, and it provides the much needed comic relief in this story.

Cherish is a bleak novel. In Cherish, bad things happen. And they happen again and again because the outlaws didn’t get what they wanted the first time (money) so they come back. People and animals get wounded or even die as a result.

As the only surviving member, Rebecca is the last person alive who knows where the money is. With all that is happening to her, it’s no wonder Rebecca has anxiety attacks right up until the end of the novel. She’s totally dependent on Race. Only he can keep her attacks (somewhat) in check. When she can’t see him or hear his voice she’s often paralyzed with fear. She hates herself for that but she can’t help it and so she does all she can think of to not make him send her away.

Race knows that Rebecca’s behavior isn’t healthy but he doesn’t know what to do. He also discovers that he has a very black nature to his side where Rebecca is concerned. It would be so easy for him to take advantage of the situation and make Rebecca his. “By the time Rebecca came to her senses–which he feared she eventually would–he’d have her snubbed to a post and hobbled.” (223) It’s something that disturbs him greatly.

It’s also something that develops slowly. Sure, Race thought Rebecca attractive right from the first, but as he tells her, a man can keep himself in check. But he has to discover that probably isn’t true for him where Rebecca is concerned. During the time it takes them to reach his ranch (several weeks), she becomes more and more important to him so that at one point, he even thinks of her as his soul. And probably because of the violence around them, Race’s concern, love and tenderness for Rebecca appear all the more special and precious.

In a way, this is more Race’s story than Rebecca’s. He’s quite often the POV character, and he’s the one doing the rescuing and healing. I thought the way how this hard and rough man discovered his tender side and found love one of the best things about this novel. Race is unbelievably intuitive where Rebecca is concerned. He knows what to say and how to draw her out. He’s honest and open no matter what it costs him, and there is nothing he wouldn’t do for Rebecca.

The question of free will, of deciding what to do and what not to do, is a theme that weaves throughout the story, and not only in relation to men and women and their dealings with each other. Rebecca chose to run and hide instead of helping her mother, her father, and her friends. Not fighting back is what her religion demands, true, but hiding makes her a coward in her eyes. It also makes her suffer from survivor guilt and torments her endlessly. Her loss of faith is connected to that, and so it’s not wonder that religion plays an important role in this novel.

Despite the constant threat by the outlaws, the story unfolds slowly but it is well-paced. There are not loose ends and it offers more descriptions than dialog. For me, the beauty of Cherish lies in watching Rebecca struggling with the beliefs she had all her life when they get confronted with reality, how they tie in with the question of free will, and how Race helps her to find a new perspective on life just as Rebecca helps him. One of the last scenes in this novel shows how this is all coming together in a very satisfying way.

Final thoughts:

  • Cherish is a novel where the title actually fits the story.
  • While Rebecca is well-liked by Race’s men, and they would lay their life down for her, there are actually no overtly sickly sweet scenes where she dazzles them all with a toss of her hair and a sweet smile and they fall all over themselves to please her. Yeah!
  • I wasn’t convinced that Rebecca was in love with Race. She was too dependent on him for that for my liking. But the epilogue helps there and it also provides a nice conclusion to what happened to Race as a child.
  • Why is it that when I read older novels (pre 2000) I often think that this novel wouldn’t have been published like that today and what a shame that would be? (Mind, I’m not talking about the one’s with jerks masquerading as heroes.)
  • If not for the Race the psychologist and a very few too drawn-out scenes near the end, this would have been 5/5.
  • I would love to read the story of Race and Rebecca’s son who kidnaps the schoolteacher and then marries her the Apache way.

Verdict: Really, really good (4,5/5).