Glitter Baby – book review

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Glitter Baby
by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Release Date:  January 1, 1987
Publisher: Avon
Standalone*
Number of Pages: 429
Paperback
Source:  Warren Public Library
Chick Lit**
Rating:  NC-17
Read 5/2/18 to 5/4/18

The thing that would make the most sense is to start this review by explaining my asterisks above. I’m listing this book as a standalone.  *I think it was originally intended that way when it was written because, from what I can find, there’s not much of a connection to this story and the first story of the Wynette, Texas series where Goodreads lists it as .5 of that series.  Also, most .5 books are not over 200 pages let alone over 400 pages.  As for my other asterisk, I just don’t feel I can list this as a contemporary romance book.  **Yes, there is a romantic element to this book.  In fact, there is more than one relationship that can be looked at here.  But contemporary romance?  Not by my definition.  I’ll get into that more in the meat of my review.

This story was not at all what I expected.  Between the description of the book and the classification of contemporary romance, I was not expecting this story to spend one (very short) chapter on Glitter Baby before jumping to the past and giving us the story of Belinda, Glitter Baby’s mom.  I’m certainly glad the story took that turn because, although I didn’t like Belinda from the start, those chapters gave me the only ounce of sympathy I had for the character and truly helped me to see her motivations throughout this book.

This story is actually quite a complicated tale of highly dysfunctional mother/daughter relationship. At its heart, this not about either of them falling in love or finding their knight in shining armor.  It’s about Belinda’s weaknesses as a mother and a human and Fleur’s (aka Glitter Baby) slow journey to true emotional independence.  As much as I loathe Belinda and her husband Alexi, I loved seeing Fleur pull herself up by her bootstraps over and over again, coming out stronger and stronger each time.  It’s not about Fleur finding a man to complete her.  It’s about Fleur figuring out how to complete herself and, in the process, learning to forge relationships outside of her mother’s realm.  She learns who she is, not who she is told she is.

Truly, the word hate is too tame of a word to explain my feelings toward Belinda.  Alexi is also lower than pond scum and I cannot even begin to fathom his sick mind.  Yet, what Belinda does seem so much worse to me.  That she’s oblivious to anything but her own wants and needs doesn’t make it any better.  Being self-centered is a character flaw, not a biological crutch.

Now, there are a few notes I want to make that will sound enigmatic until you’ve read the book.  But I don’t want to give spoilers so I’m going to try to word these things in such a way as to not give a lot away. 

There is a scene where Fleur realizes Jake is carrying a gun.  This causes her to remember some things he had told her about Vietnam.  At that moment she has a sense of panic and fear for things Jake may or may not have done while he was in Vietnam.  It’s so judgmental and raw and I was so mad at Fleur while reading that, but I was also understanding her fear and horror.  Then I thought of all of our vets from all of our wars and how they not only have to deal with their own memories and self-judgment, but also the judgment of those that could not possibly understand what they had been through.  It was a very real and well-written scene.  This, in a roundabout way, leads to another wonderful scene when Jake realizes he’s not alone in his feelings and he can maybe help others in the same boat by writing about his experience.  Beautiful.

Glitter Baby is about so much more than love and the mother/daughter relationship.  It’s about acceptance of oneself and acceptance of others.  It’s about friendships, real and manufactured.  Although this story will rile your gut and give you a sense of doom while you wait for that other shoe to drop, ultimately it’s a story of hope.

One last note…once again SEP finds a way to have a book written in the late 80s not seem too dated (of course there’s talk of Vietnam and certain fashion icons and movie stars that make it obvious of the years it takes place).  Emotions are emotions no matter what generation they’re being set in, so if the writer is good those other things (like mentions of Christie Brinkley and Twiggy) just fall to the wayside.

5 stars

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The Sugarhouse Blues – book review

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The Sugarhouse Blues
by Mariah Stewart
Release Date:  May 15, 2018
Publisher: Gallery Books
Book #2 of the Hudson Sisters series
Number of pages:  384
Kindle Edition
Source: ARC from Net Galley
Chick Lit/Contemporary Romance M/F
Rating: PG
Read 5/6/18 – 5/11/18

If you read the first book in this series, The Last Chance Matinee, you may know already that this book isn’t going to end with a neat bow tied around it and everything resolved.  The Hudson Sisters series is almost like a saga.  The first book was mostly about Cara, but the reader gets a lot of back story and also learns a lot about sisters Des and Allie.  Well, this story mostly focuses on Des with more pieces of Allie’s story getting filled in.  Although, I have to say, this one is much more focused on the one sister than the first book was.

I have to preface the remainder of this review by saying that I think the book should only be read if you have read The Last Chance Matinee.  I have read a few reviews of those that haven’t read the first book and still enjoyed this story.  But since I know the depth and idiosyncrasies of the relationships involved that you’ll be missing if you skip ahead to this one, I strongly urge you to read these books in order.

Des was my favorite of the sisters from the very beginning.  I can’t tell you exactly why.  Maybe because I can relate to the misunderstood middle child…even though she had no idea she was a middle child until recently.  I also quickly fell in love with Seth from the first book so it was wonderful to follow the path Des and Seth take to finding what they really want.  You can’t help but to root for these two.  And honestly, is there anything Seth can’t do?  Mayor, veteran, farmer, photographer, etc., etc.  He’s truly a jack of all trades!

Although this story is mostly about Des, I can’t help but be intrigued by Allie.  I by turns loathe her and want to give her a hug.  The chip on the woman’s shoulder is bigger than the sun.  I am chomping at the bit wondering what went down between her and Ben on the 4th of July and cannot wait to read the next story, which I’m sure will focus more on her.  The other plus to Allie is her daughter.  Nikki is so much fun and the way her mom feels about her helps to humanize Allie.

This book was a bit slower for me than the first book, but it was still amazing.  I can’t help but think the first book was more rounded since, of course, the author had to give us more info on everyone to set the groundwork.  I only hope the next book is either not the last book, or it’s a bit longer to give us a true ending to the Cara/Joe and Des/Seth stories.  While I understand why these individual books are not neatly wrapped up at the end, I hope for the series to be wrapped up to the extent there are no danglers left over.

4 stars

**I received an ARC of this book courtesy of Net Galley and the publisher. All opinions expressed in this review are my own and given freely**

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Mail Order Cowboy – book review

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Mail Order Cowboy
by Maisey Yates
Release Date:  May 1, 2018
Publisher: HQN Books
Book #1.5 in the Gold Valley series
Number of Pages: 93
Kindle Edition
Source:  Amazon Pre-Order
Contemporary Romance/Western M/F
Rating:  XXX
Read 5/2/18

At under 100 pages, this is a super quick read.  That doesn’t take away from the story at all though.  I really enjoyed this book and was rooting for Savannah and Jackson from the start.  They were both just amazing people and deserved to be happy.

I know there are quite a few people out there that don’t read the .5 books in a series because they tend to be shorter and therefore have instalove.  Believe it or not, this story did not feel like an instalove story.  Part of that is the way the author wrote the passage of time.  This story covers a few months.  There are time jumps, but it doesn’t seem forced and I never felt as though I was missing out on anything.

I know I’ve said it for the last two books in this series, Cowboy Christmas Blues and Smooth Talking Cowboy, but I’ll say it again.  I’m glad I decided to start purchasing Maisey Yates’ books instead of going on the library waiting lists.  She is just a phenomenal writer who gives me all the feels.

4.5 stars

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The Pecker Briefs – book review

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The Pecker Briefs
by Sawyer Bennett
Release Date:  April 17, 2018
Publisher:  Big Dog Books, LLC
Book #7 in the Legal Affairs series
Number of pages:  314
Kindle Edition
Source: Amazon Pre-Order
Contemporary Romance M/F
Rating: XXX
Read 4/28/18 to 5/1/18

I usually love, love, love Sawyer Bennett’s books. They suck me in and don’t let me go until I’ve read the last page. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen with this particular book. You may think it’s because it’s book #7 of this series and I haven’t read the others. That’s not so. I didn’t even realize it was the middle of a series because this story is truly a book that can work as a standalone. There just wasn’t that extra something that kept me engaged.

Now, that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy this story. I truly did. Ford and Viveka are both great characters and their chemistry is wonderful. Ford is so thoughtful and caring even though that’s kind of the opposite of what your first impression would be. Viveka has so much grit and determination you can’t help but admire her. Their chemistry is easy and laid back even with the explosive sex they have. There’s a comfort in their coupling, and that’s not a bad thing.

There were some editing issues that drove me batty. But honestly, they weren’t that bad. It’s just my bad habit of picking up every single misplaced punctuation mark or misused word. I’m sure there are very few people who picked up on the things I did. I suppose those few things could have taken me out of the story more than I realized and therefore messed with the flow. I’m just not sure what my issues were.

This was still a fantastic read. I love the title and the play on words. I love this author. As you can see, it’s still getting quite a decent rating from me. I’m just used to giving her 4 and 5 stars for her stories. I really can’t get enough of her Cold Fury series. So, if you’re a new reader to Sawyer Bennett I would advise reading Alex first. And then maybe a bit further into that series. Then circle around back to this one. If you’re already a fan of this author, you’ll enjoy this story. It’s just not as explosive as the others.

3 stars

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Random Ramblings #9

Guys!  I got a job!  In fact, I went on the interview and got the job the same day my last Random Ramblings post was posted, way back in March.  Since I skipped last month’s post due to other personal things going on, I’ve already been working for a while.  It’s at an independently owned local coffee-house.  Brand new.  I was originally going to be a barista (and still will be once I have time to learn all that milk steaming/foaming stuff), but since I have a lot of cooking experience I spend most of my time in the kitchen.  Besides coffee and tea we also serve some sandwiches, soups, salads, and baked goods.  It’s a part-time gig, like I was looking for.

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My oldest baby, Josh, graduated from Specs Howard since the last time I talked to you.  He now has is certification in Digital Media Arts.  Unfortunately, many jobs in that field want you to start as an intern.  Well, in order to pay his bills he has to work full-time and can’t really take 6 months or more off to do an internship.  The good thing is that his current employer has jobs in his field…there just aren’t any openings right now.  But his boss knows he has the certification and he’s very supportive of Josh moving up and out of the warehouse so will put in a good word when (if) a job opens up.

I’m super excited to tell you that we booked our flight out to see our youngest baby and his wife.  We’ll be heading out to Washington at the end of June.  I can’t wait to see them and get to explore the Tacoma/Seattle area.  I lived many years on the west coast, but all were sent in southern California.  I’ve never been to the Pacific Northwest! Any must see places you know about, please let me know.  Kirsten, my daughter-in-law, is also looking for a good beach to go to with sand.  We plan on driving the couple of hours to visit the Pacific Ocean, but she said she heard most of the beaches out there are all rocks.  Not that we won’t still enjoy ourselves, but after traveling all that way we’d love to lay down a blanket and relax on a sandy beach for a bit once we get there.

I honestly haven’t been up to much since I started my new job right at the same time my mother-in-law passed away.  Between training, working, and dealing with her estate (it makes us all sound rich to say it that way…we’re not and she definitely wasn’t) I just have been dead tired every day.  In fact, yesterday was the first day I went to the community center to work out.  I used to go 3-5 days a week for yoga and Body Pump.  I got a yoga class in yesterday and hope to make it to the Body Pump class this morning as these are my only weekdays off this week.  I need to get back into the swing of things.  For both my physical and mental help as well as my energy level.

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I hope everyone has been getting the chance to take their books and e-readers outside to take advantage of the fact that it’s Spring.  Around these parts I should say “finally Spring”.  I’m sitting on my back patio in the sun to type this up so I’m definitely going to take advantage of the good days when we have them!  Plus, I have some ARCs I’m beyond excited to get to.  Somehow I have 5 for books being released on May 29.  I can’t wait to share my thoughts on them all with you.  

Happy Reading!!!

 

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The Hookup – book review

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The Hookup
by Erin McCarthy
Release Date:  May 8, 2018
Publisher:  Loveswept
Book #1 in the Jordan Brothers series
Number of pages: 255
Kindle Edition
Source: ARC from Net Galley
Contemporary Romance M/F
Rating: XXX
Read 4/26/18 to 4/28/18

A couple of years ago I read this author’s Fast Track series and really enjoyed it for the most part.  Somehow she fell off my radar after that though.  When this popped up as a potential ARC I knew the name sounded familiar.  When I realized this book was by the author of those books I was all over it.  Man, this story was awesome.  I’m so glad to have Erin McCarthy back on my radar!

Although there were quite a few things in this story that made me laugh, I wouldn’t consider this a light-hearted book in any way.  In fact, it is quite a gut punch a lot of the time.  I was in tears more than once.  Not because the hero or heroine were bad to each other, but because others were really not so great to them.  There were also so many tender moments.  The author did an excellent job of taking a potentially hot and steamy scene and adding a lot of heart, then taking a tender moment and giving it humor, then taking a humorous moment and turning it steamy.  So many emotions.

I can’t say that Cain wasn’t a glutton for punishment.  He definitely has his reasons for being the way he is, but that doesn’t’ really excuse all of his behavior.  But I can’t help but be furious at his family for acting like he’s done something wrong and that he’s caused all the problems.  I’m sure we’ll get his brother’s side of the story in the next book, and there may be a good reason for his actions.  Yet that will still never excuse the way Cain was treated in the aftermath of all that happened.

As for Sophie, I’ve unfortunately seen it in real life too many times.  The offspring doesn’t fit into a mold the parents can or want to understand and therefore make said offspring feel “less than”.  No matter the praise for her brains and her accomplishments, Sophie is still made to feel like she’s not “normal” by her own family…the people she loves and should love her with no conditions.

Reading the story of Sophie and Cain is like taking the first big hill on a roller coaster.  It climbs up and you can feel that anticipation of knowing that once you reach the top you’re going to go careening at a fast and unstoppable pace.  I loved it!

5 stars

**I received an ARC of this book courtesy of Net Galley and the publisher. All opinions expressed in this review are my own and given freely**

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Right Where We Belong – book review

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Right Where We Belong
by Brenda Novak
Release Date:  October 31, 2017
Publisher:  Mira Books
Book #4 of the Silver Springs series
Number of pages:  400
paperback
Source: Warren Public Library
Contemporary Romance M/F
Rating:  R
Read 4/25/18 to 4/28/18

There are parts to this story that I love…and parts that I didn’t love so much.  I’ve found it’s always good to start with some of the positives.  The pacing of this story, for the most part, is wonderful.  There is a lot to fit into these pages…a crazy ex-husband in jail, a crazy ex-girlfriend who’s pregnant, two young children who are confused, a badly timed attraction between the H and h.  So much going on!

There are things about Gavin I should hate.  He’s not a bad guy, by any means.  He does end up making some questionable decisions though.  Which brings me to my least favorite character in this book (I hated her more than the serial rapist!), Heather.  Gavin’s ex-girlfriend is ridiculously shallow and selfish.  I hated that Gavin couldn’t see her true colors and, although he kept telling her he wasn’t ready to get back with her, he often defended her saying “she wouldn’t do that”.  Oh buddy, yes she would!

It was bothersome that Gavin let things progress with Savannah when things were so crazy and up in the air with Heather.  But again, I couldn’t hate the guy.  There’s just something about him.  I guess that’s what Savannah saw!  And to be honest, Savannah wasn’t really in a place to be getting involved with anyone either.  Whether as a one-night stand, a friends with benefits, or a boyfriend, none of those are what were best for her or her kids.  Alas, she took on at least one of those things.  Since there was great chemistry between Savannah and Gavin, I guess I can forgive her.

I’ll admit that Brenda Novak had me on the edge of my seat toward the end.  I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop for poor Savannah.  I won’t give any spoilers, but that high tension I was under due to the awesome writing just didn’t end in a satisfying way for me.  Some of the things that happened and were discovered were great, but other things felt very rushed by the end, and, certain story arcs just didn’t get the attention or wrap-up they deserved.

It was great to have some past characters from this series take a bit more of a role in this book than they have previously.  Gavin definitely leaned on his mom and brother, Eli, for moral support when needed.  He may not have told them everything, but it was realistic to me that he would at least include them a bit with his turned-upside-down life.

Although I wasn’t totally satisfied with this story, I wasn’t unsatisfied either.  In fact, it’s pretty great.  I just wanted (expected?) more after the last book, Until You Loved Me, was so fantastic.

3.5 stars

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