Friday, December 29, 2017

"The Life of John Wesley Hardin" by John Wesley Hardin

Today’s book was about the notorious outlaw John Wesley Hardin. When I was young, I remember ads on the TV for Time Life Books about various historical figures, one of which was John Wesley Hardin whom they claimed was “so mean he once shot a man just for snoring!” Now whether or not that was true or simply a tall tale, I still don’t know as there was no mention of such an act in this book.

John Wesley Hardin certainly lived an active and adventure-filled life. During the course of his life, he was employed in a number of different jobs. He spent time as a school teacher, a cattle herder, a gambler, and a number of other jobs that I never would have guessed at.

He did not start out intending to become an outlaw. At the time, he was a young man living in the southern states after the end of the civil war. He killed a man in self-defense, and knowing that in that time and place he would be killed as a murderer without any hope of a fair trial his father sent him away to keep him safe until such a time when he would have a fair chance under the law. (Mob rule often brought about hangings without any sort of trial, fair or otherwise.)

From what he tells about his life and actions in this book, he rarely shot first unless it was clear someone else was out to kill him. Also whenever he was able, he would give the other shooters the chance to surrender without killing them. He may often have found himself on the wrong side of the law, but he comes across as essentially a decent man with a good heart, though he also is clearly a man who had no qualms when it came to killing someone.

John Wesley Hardin was married to a woman named Mary. Though he was often away on cattle drives, he loved her deeply and did his best to keep her and their children safe from harm when he knew there were men seeking to either kill or arrest him. While he was willing to allow a sheriff to arrest him if the man had a warrant & could guarantee his safety from any angry mob seeking to hang him, if the man seeking to take him in did not have a legal warrant, Hardin would fight to stay free, not worrying about whether or not he killed anyone in the process.

While he was not what we today would consider a righteous man, he did live by a more personal moral code than many men in his position likely did. He was definitely an interesting man living in interesting times. He knew a lot of people we might consider as notorious outlaws or famous lawmen and counted a number of them as his friends.

This book continues on to include his death and accounts of the trial of his killer afterwards. While not my favorite of biographies thus far, it did contain a lot more information about his life than I had previously known, and I am glad that read it. It is a short book, but if you take the time to read it, I hope you will also enjoy it.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

"Claus: Legend of the Fat Man" by Tony Bertauski

In honor of the holiday season, I have started reading “Claus: Legend of the Fat Man.” Having grown up watching all the Christmas Holiday specials, the basics of this story were already familiar to me. This version, however, was a bit different, though no less entertaining than all those wonderful old holiday cartoons.

In this book, Nicholas Santa, his wife Jessica, and their son Jon have gone on an adventure seeking to reach the North Pole. They began the journey by ship, then hired some Inuit guides to help them travel the remainder of the way. However as the weather in this extremely northern portion of the globe turns horribly bad, their guides abandon them during the night, taking the food & other supplies with them. Abandoned as they are, with only one tent for shelter, they are surely doomed.

In an attempt to find help for his family, Nicholas is separated from them and captured by a group of elves who haves lived undetected at the North Pole for centuries. Their leader intends to use Nicholas to deliver a plague that will wipe out all of humanity.

In the meantime, Jessica and Jon are rescued by a rival group of elves who do not wish to destroy anyone. They had left their homes when Jack seized control and have been on the run ever since.

This book tells the story of both groups of elves and how the North Pole came to be the home of the jolly man we have come to know as Santa Claus. I found this to be a very interesting and unusual tale. It was both quite different and very similar to the various versions of his story that I remember from childhood. Everything was well thought out & explained in a way that made it seem quite reasonable, and I consider this one to be well worth reading this holiday season. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did.

This was the Boxed set version, so it also contained two other books. The second one was “Jack: The Tale of Frost.” This book takes place about 200 years after the end of the first book, and tells the tale of both Jack Frost and his best friend. It shows how technologically advanced they have become, and how those advances have benefited humanity as a whole. But it also shows that the elven who was once known as Janack still has a great hatred of the “warmbloods” and how he had ages before laid plans to destroy them. Now that those plans are nearing completion, what will become of the human race?

I thought this was a very interesting story. While parts of it were quite obvious as to what was going on, that made them no less entertaining than the parts of the book that weren’t so clear at first. Yes some of his tale was included in the first book, but only peripherally. The majority of Jack’s story was more than just a tale told from a different perspective.

The third book in the box set, “Flurry: Journey of a Snowman” was just as good as the first two books in the collection. In this book, Oliver and his mother are returning to her childhood home to live with his grandmother as Oliver’s mother had lost her job and they had nowhere else to go. Oliver’s grandmother is extremely strict and there are a great many rules that they must follow if they are going to remain living there. There is also a great mystery surrounding the estate. There is no wifi or cell signal at the house, though there is an old windmill on the property that appears to be electrified. At night there seems to be something wild and dangerous roaming about outside. There is also a living snowman that sometimes appears and seems to be quite protective of Oliver.

All 3 of the books in this set are quite enjoyable and I would recommend reading them this holiday season if you have the time. Of the three, my favorites were “Claus: Legend of the Fat Man” and “Flurry: Journey of a Snowman.” I’m glad I took the time to read all 3 of them and would encourage others to read them as well, but those two were the ones I liked best out of this collection.

I hope everyone has a great holiday. Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

"Broken Ornaments" by Angie M. Brashears

I received an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) of this book.

Before I start talking about this book, I feel the need to warn the reader that this book involves a woman who was trying to escape from an abusive ex-husband. While there is not too much violence taking place in this story, there is some. It is a necessary part of the story, but I recognize that it could be troubling to some readers.

This book is the story of a young mother who is struggling to make ends meet, raise her 4-year old daughter, and to find a way for the two of them to escape from her abusive ex-husband. She describes herself as being “broken.” It is also the story of a young man who seems to be almost at a loss about where his life is going. He has had a troubling few years and appears to be seeking a new purpose.

Jase has just quit his job, but his business partner asks him if he would do him one last favor and check in on a woman who seems to need help. When he meets Casey, he winds up rescuing her from a beating by her ex-husband. Then he helps her to rescue her daughter, whom the babysitter had left tied up in the empty apartment when she ran off with Casey’s ex-husband. The two of them had taken everything; all the furniture, toys, as well as Casey’s escape fund, leaving absolutely nothing behind. Unable to leave these two alone in those circumstances, Jase takes them with him, hoping to find a way to help them, and maybe even himself as well.

Casey and her daughter have been through the wringer, yet though they have had more than their fair share of problems, there remains a shred of hope in their hearts. But can they come to trust the man who appears to have come to their rescue, or are they just too “broken” to begin to trust anyone ever again? There is so much more to this story than I have room to talk about in this review, and even if I had the room I would hate to spoil the ending for you. It is definitely worth reading.

I greatly enjoyed reading this story. It took me through the full array of human emotions several times over. The interactions between the characters contain a heart-wrenching sense of reality about them, as if the author has known someone who lived through a similar situation at some point. I didn’t want to put it down until I was able to find out whether or not there could be a happy ending for any of the characters involved.

Friday, December 15, 2017

"Charming the Highlander Laird" by Verlin Underwood

I received an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) of this book.

This story is the sequel to the book “Lady Nellie.” It starts about 6 years after the end of the first book with the leannan sith Una escaping from her in imprisonment in the unseelie realm. Her daughter Tara, who has inherited her mother’s magic, senses Una’s escape and realizes that her mother will soon come seeking revenge against those who had previously thwarted her evil desires.

While Tara has always feared using her magic, she realizes that she now needs to learn how to use and control her powers if she is to have any hope of defeating her mother and protecting her family. She sets off to the small town of Haddington to seek the help of a fairy who is known to run a “school” to help those who are half-fae learn to use their magic.

It seems that the fate of her family will depend on Tara finding help learning to use her powers before Una can return home with an army of men who have been enchanted to want nothing more than to do whatever she asks of them. The question is, can Tara learn enough, quickly enough, and is she strong enough to defeat her mother’s Magic?

I enjoyed this book even more than I did the previous one in the series, though both were very good. This book had a number of different types of fae, from both the seelie and unseelie courts, so we get to see much more of the magic being used in this realm. The story is well-written and engaging. There were a few typos here & there, but they were very few and very minor. Overall, I would definitely recommend reading this one.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

"Her Wild Journey: Seeing Ranch Series" by Florence Linnington

I received an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) of this book.

This was the story of Cadence Hurley, A young woman with a limp who has just arrived in Shallow Springs, Wyoming Territory. She came as a mail-order bride, however the man she came to marry has fallen on hard times. He no longer has the means to support a family and so offers to pay for her return trip to Baltimore on the next day’s stagecoach.

Rather than leaving the next morning, Cadence decides to remain in Shallow Springs. She hopes to make a new start there rather than return to a town where she has no one and no job waiting for her. In fact, her situation in Baltimore had even been so bad that at times she had been forced into living on the streets. Deciding to remain in town, she hopes to find employment before her existing funds run out.

As luck would have it, the town’s teacher is retiring. Cadence has never officially worked as a teacher, but she has had experience in teaching the children in a household where she had at been employed as a governess. After passing a few tests to prove that she has the skills and knowledge required to teach the town’s children, she is immediately hired.

Cadence is offered space at the Winding Path Ranch during her first 6 months as the school’s teacher. During her stay there, she gets to know a Ranch hand by the name of Beau. He has worked there for the past 6 years, and while there is an attraction between them, neither is willing to give into it. They have each lived with years of disappointments and hardships. In the face of their pasts, how can they trust that the future might offer anything different?

One of the things I really liked about this book was the strong and capable main character we see in Cadence. She is determined not to allow her injured leg to hold her back. While she does have her weaker moments, she far more often stands up for herself. She is no “shrinking violet” to feel lost or to give up in the face of hardships or the lack of a husband. She possesses a strength and a tenacity that I haven’t often seen in a mail-order bride story.

I did catch a very few typos in the book, but only a very few. There were definitely not enough to truly distract from the story. Overall, it was a very good book and I enjoyed reading it a great deal. This is definitely one book I would recommend, especially for those who enjoy reading mail-order bride stories.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

"Our Man on Earth: The Swithen Book 1" by Blaise

Today’s book was about the birth of Merlin. Sired by a demon on a human woman, he was meant to serve their evil purposes in much the same way as Christ had been born to save mankind. The woman they chose, however, was determined not to give in to the fiends. She opposed them every step of the way and fought to prevent her child from being used as a force for evil. But could she remain true to her faith and strong enough to save both his soul and protect mankind?

This story was based on early tales of Merlin and other Arthurian stories written in around 1200 A.D. The characters within have been greatly expanded on and more fleshed out than they were in their original form, thus making them more appealing to modern readers. A good portion of the book is devoted to Merlin’s mother and takes place before his birth. This may seem a strange way to start, but it does give us great insight into both her character and what happens once Merlin is born as well. Without her influence, Merlin would have likely been used as a force for evil rather than someone destined to help Arthur eventually become a great and noble King.

I have always loved Arthurian legends & stories, and this one was no exception. I greatly enjoyed reading this author’s tale of how Merlin came to be born and of what his fate was meant to be, as well as how his mother was determined to prevent him from being used as a force for evil. I think it is the first story I’ve read that started before Merlin’s existence. Most of the tales that I can recall usually start with Arthur rather than Merlin’s birth. This story definitely kept me wanting to read to the end, despite the number of grammatical errors it contained.

The errors were not bad enough to make me want to stop reading as the story itself was quite captivating. Still, I do wish the book had seen another round or two of editing before publication. I am actually looking forward to reading the next book in this series once it has been released. (As I mentioned above, I do greatly enjoy Arthurian tales, and this one definitely left me wanting to know what will happen next.)

Firefax by A. M. Vergara

During the Revolutionary War, there are rumors of a city of gold that is hidden on an island whose location is known only to the Firefax fam...