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27 January 2012

Magnificent Passage

Magnificent Passage by Kat Martin was her first published book. It has just been reissued after more than twenty years.

Samantha (Mandy) Ashton lives with her father at Fort Laramie in the Dakota Territories. Mandy's cousin Julia lived with her father - the governor of California - before she was sent to finishing school back East. Now, after spending the summer together at Fort Laramie, Julia's father is sending someone to bring her back to Sacramento City. But Julia has no intention of going. She is in love and has a plan to run away with her fiancee.

In order for Julia's plan to work, Mandy must agree to pretend to be Julia. They look enough alike that someone sent with a description who only saw one of them would be fooled. By the time Mandy reaches Sacramento, Julia will be married. Mandy agrees to the plan for her cousin's sake - and because she is up for an adventure.

What Mandy did not count on was who would be escorting her to California. Travis Langley, who she briefly met two years earlier and cannot get out of her mind, and his friend are the governor's most trusted men. And Travis was raised by the Cheyenne and knows the route better than most.

Martin's first book is what you would expect of a romance about a young woman being escorted across the wild county that was the US in 1867. But before your brain goes to the stereotype of romance books, note that her characters are great and you will not be able to put down this book. Martin's slow building of interest between the characters combined with Mandy's secret identity makes for a fun read.

Martin, Kat. (2011). Magnificent Passage. New York: Vanguard Press.

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25 January 2012

Birthmarked (Birthmarked #1)

Birthmarked by Caragh O'Brien is the first book in her trilogy by the same name.

Gaia lives with her parents in Warfton, on the shore of what was once Lake Erie. Her father is a tailor and her mother is a midwife. Gaia, just sixteen, has just helped deliver her first baby without her mother's assistance. Wafton is dependent upon the walled city it surrounds, called the Enclave.

The Enclave produces the microprotien and provides water for the people of Warfton. In exchange, each month the first 3 babies delivered by each midwife are given to Warfton. Those children are adopted by the families within the walls and raised as their own. At the age of thirteen, the kids can choose to come back to Warfton or keep their new life. No one ever chooses to come back.

Gaia returns home from advancing her first baby and finds her parents have been arrested. She is not content to sit by and wait for their possible return. She must find a way inside the Enclave to find her parents. For people who live yards from the wall, the people of Warfton know very little of what goes on inside the wall. But Gaia will risk everything to rescue her parents from a system she is starting to have doubts about.

O'Brien has created a dystopian civilization that fans of the genre will love. Her characters are beginning to think for themselves after being raised to believe the propaganda forced upon them. Birthmarked promises to be an interesting trilogy.

O'Brien, Caragh. (2009). Birthmarked. New York: Roaring Brook Press.

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20 January 2012

One Week as Lovers

One Week as Lovers by Victoria Dahl continues the story of Viscount Lancaster who was introduced in A Rake's Guide to Pleasure of the Huntington series.

Nicholas Cantry is Viscount Lancaster - who inherited a title with a lot of debt. He must marry a woman with a large income if his family is to keep living within their class. Now Lancaster is engaged to a woman he does not love. On the same evening that he finds her in the arms of another man, he gets a letter saying that an old friend has died. Nick decides to visit Cantry House, the home the he grew up in located in Yorkshire, and pay his respects.

Cynthia Merrithorpe technically grew up in the manor down the road from Cantry House. But, in fact, she spent most of her time with her best friend Nick - until he inherited and moved to London. When her family's debt go bad enough, her step-father offered her in marriage to pay that debt. However, the man she was to be married to was a cruel man and Cynthia decided to jump off of the cliff instead. The housekeeper of Cantry House saw her jump.

What she did not see was that Cynthia landed on a ledge a few feet below. She has no desire to die. And she is in possession of her uncle's journal that says he hid treasure in one of the caves along the cliffs. With Cantry's housekeeper as her only confidant, Cynthia is living in the hidden passages and the attack of Cantry House and searching the cliffs for treasure that can buy her freedom (and that of her younger sister as well).

When Nick arrives home - partly as an excuse to flee London and the marriage he needs but does not want - and partly to remember his childhood friend, he interferes with Cynthia's plans. And her attempts to break into his room at night and scare him off do not go exactly as intended.

Victoria Dahl has quickly become my favorite romance writer. She can craft a great story with compelling, likable characters and her romance could thaw glaciers. If you are not a romance reader due to the horrible stereotypes of the genre, pick up a Dahl novel and prepare to have your mind changed. Her contemporary novels and her historical novels (in spite of the titles) are equally wonderful.

Dahl, Victoria. (2009). One Week as Lovers. New York: Zebra.

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17 January 2012

Love in a Nutshell

Love in a Nutshell by Janet Evanovich and Dorien Kelly is what you would expect a book co-authored by Evanovich to be - a quirky, fun read.

Kate Appleton has move into her parent's lake house, The Nutshell, in Keene's Harbor, Michigan. Her plan is to turn the huge house into a bed and breakfast. Unfortunately, she used most of her saving on a divorce and doesn't have the cash to pay for the repairs the house desperately needs. So, she needs a job.

Matt Culhane owns the Depot Brewing Company. Lately there has been a series of small mishaps that are costing Matt money. Since Kate needs the money to pay off a mortgage and do repairs and Matt needs a spy he hires for at minimum wage with a $20,000 bonus if she finds the person trying to sabotage the brewery.

With her usual humor, Evanovich and co-author Kelly have created a highly readable romance that will delight fans.

Evanovich, Janet and Dorien Kelly. (2011). Love in a Nutshell. New York: St. Martin's Press.

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14 January 2012

Against the Storm (Raines of Wind Canyon #4)

Against the Storm by Kat Martin is her fourth book in the Raines of Wind Canyon series, which has now extended beyond the Raines brothers into stories of their close friends.

Maggie O'Connell is a successful photographer living in Houston, Texas. She has a big art show coming up and is working on her first coffee table book. But lately she has been getting threatening notes left on her car. When she stumbles across Trace Rawlins, a security specialist and former Army Ranger, she decides to hire him.

Trace is a professional but does not really want to work with Maggie at first. He has a bad history when it comes to redheads. But someone is obviously after Maggie and she needs his help. Even with someone after her, Maggie needs to work. But it seems that her stalker can find her whether she is in Houston or on the Gulf. He is either really good at blending in, because she has been watching for familiar faces, or he has some other way of following her.

The more Trace investigates, the more sophisticated the stalker seems. He will have to do his best work to keep Maggie safe while trying not to fall in love with her.

Martin writes great suspense novels with a romantic twist. This series is a good choice for fans of romantic suspense who need something to read next.

Martin, Kat. (2011). Against the Storm. New York: Mira.

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10 January 2012

Quaking

Quaking by Kathryn Erskine is the story of a teenager finding her place in the world.

Matt (short for Matilda) has lived with every distant relative she never knew she had. Now her third cousin is taking her to yet another home. She will be living with Sam and Jessica and their adopted son, Rory in a small town in Pennsylvania.

By now Matt has closed herself off to people. She is used to not staying anywhere long as the people get tired of her or need to focus on their own children. Now she is with this Quaker couple who are preaching peace.

At school there is no peace. Matt's World Civ class is taught by a man who thinks if you are against the war in Afghanistan then you are anti-American. The houses of worship in town, that are calling for an end of the war, are starting to be vandalized.

Erskine has written a well-crafted tale of Matt's learning to trust people again as her desire to fight for peace outweighs her need to stay hidden. Quaking has a similar feel to Speak though not quite as dire. It is a great book that will make readers think about the US's place in the world.

Erskine, Kathryn. (2007). Quaking. New York: Philomel Books.

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08 January 2012

Those in Peril

Those in Peril by Wilbur Smith is like two thrillers in one.

Hazel Bannock is the head of the Bannock Oil Corporation. She inherited the title from her husband when he died, but she is more than up to the task. She has been increasing the size and power of the company. Each year, she and her daughter take the yacht from South Africa to a small island in the Seychelles for Christmas.

This year, the yacht will be taken over by pirates. But Hazel is not on it. She is at one of the oil fields and planned to met her daughter on the island. Now Cayla Bannock, 19 years old, is being held captive by one of the most ruthless bands of Somali pirates. They plan to get a lot of money out of Hazel Bannock, but not necessarily return her daughter.

Head of security at the oil field, Hector Cross, has become the most important man in Hazel's life - because he has the skills and the men to rescue Cayla once they figure out where she is being held.

With any American author this would be two books - the first a kidnapping and rescue attempt, and the sequel and all-out war between Bannock oil and the pirates. Because Smith created the perfect tension builder in the middle of the book. He showed a family trying to get back to its normal life after a kidnapping. Everything is going along like the troubles are over. But readers can see that there are many pages left in the book and their brain begins to worry.

The second half of the book is a battle to destroy the pirate lair and insure that the pirates leave the Bannock family alone forever. The illogical blood feud that the pirate, Tippoo Tip, imagines will not end if any of his male relatives is alive to continue the campaign. These are not the sailing-ship pirates of yore, but radical Islamic terrorists who happen to have fast boats and do not stop to "right" a wrong against them.

Smith is a thriller author who will suck readers in and keep them engaged until the last page. Look for more of his books to be reviewed in the future.

Smith, Wilbur. (2011). Those in Peril. New York: St. Martin's Press.

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04 January 2012

Captains Courageous

Captains Courageous by Rudyard Kipling is the tale of one boy being whipped into shape.

Harvey Cheyne is the spoiled son of an American millionaire. His father owns railroads, among other things. Harvey spends his time with his mother traveling. Though the travel was meant to give Harvey a broader understanding of the US and the world, he has become an obnoxious fourteen year old with little to contribute but his allowance.

When Harvey and Mrs. Cheyne set sail for Europe, Harvey falls off of the boat. He is fished out with the cod and placed on a fishing boat, the We're Here. When he tells captain Disko Troop that his father is a millionaire, Troop thinks he is ether lying or mad from his dunk in the Atlantic. Harvey is told that they will not abandon the fishing season for the ramblings of a boy. He will join them for the season and will be taken to Gloucester when the boat is full of fish.

Harvey spends the next months learning to be a man. He works for the first time and learns skills. He holds his own on the ship and for the first time feels pride in himself and not in his father's money. And he is earning $10.50 per month (significantly less than is $100/week allowance).

Kipling has described life upon the sea in a late 1800s fishing boat as if he had fished himself. He knows the slang and shanties and all of the rigging of a sailing ship. Written in 1897, this small classic is worth a re-read.

Kipling, Rudyard. (2004). Captains Courageous. New York: Signet Classics.

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