Monday, October 13, 2014

Talking After Midnight by Dakota Cassidy

Marybell Lyman is notorious for two things:
Her look. The wicked hairstyle, multiple piercings and practiced sneer that say: "Stay back—I bite."
Her voice. The syrupy lilt that's her bread and butter at Call Girls, the prim little town's flourishing phone-sex company.

Hunky handyman Taggart Hawthorn is mesmerized by the contradiction: such sweet tones inside such a spiky shell! He wants to know more about mysterious Marybell, to hear more of her sexy talk—all for himself.

But Tag's attentions, delicious as they are, have Marybell panicked. She's been hiding a long time. She's finally got a home, a job and friends she adores. She won't have it all snatched away by another stupid mistake—like falling in love. So when Marybell's past comes calling, she and the Call Girls will prove no one handles scandals like a Southern girl!

This is one entry into a longer series that doesn't work particularly well as a standalone- at least for this reader. The characters are all too quirky and there are too many of them to take in all at once. It is hard for me to understand why Marybell went to such lengths to hide her identity, and harder still to understand how/why Tag's entire life went down the drain- perhaps these questions would be answered by reading the earlier books in the series. I also found the southern drawl exaggerated and sometimes quite irritating. And as for the Magnolias, I cannot imagine why anyone in town tolerates them. This book was just too over the top for me and I'm not certain I'll be looking for others in the series.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Since You've Been Gone by Anouska Knight

In one tragic moment, Holly Jefferson's life as she knew it changed forever. Now—to the external world, at least—she's finally getting back on her feet, running her bakery, Cake. But inside, she's still going through the motions befitting a twenty-seven-year-old widow.

Then she meets Ciaran Argyll. His privileged and charmed life feels a million miles from her own. However, there's more to Ciaran than the superficial world that surrounds him, and he, too, is wrestling with his own ghosts. Will Holly find the missing ingredient that allows her to live again—and embrace an unknown and unexpected tomorrow?

I wanted to really love this book, but at times it felt like I was reading two different stories with only vague connections. Holly, her bakery, her house, her friends- these make for a wonderful read as she tries to survive each day as a widow. Ciaran, his ex-fiancee, his father, his personal assistant- these make for an aggravating and incomplete read that left me frustrated. I don't know if more exposition was cut from the final product, or if some of these storylines should have been cut completely instead, but they made the book a very uneven read for me. An ok read, but only because Holly and her situation are so compelling.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Before I Go by Colleen Oakley

Twenty-seven-year-old Daisy already beat breast cancer three years ago. How can this be happening to her again?

On the eve of what was supposed to be a triumphant “Cancerversary” with her husband Jack to celebrate three years of being cancer-free, Daisy suffers a devastating blow: her doctor tells her that the cancer is back, but this time it’s an aggressive stage four diagnosis. She may have as few as four months left to live. Death is a frightening prospect—but not because she’s afraid for herself. She’s terrified of what will happen to her brilliant but otherwise charmingly helpless husband when she’s no longer there to take care of him. It’s this fear that keeps her up at night, until she stumbles on the solution: she has to find him another wife.

With a singular determination, Daisy scouts local parks and coffee shops and online dating sites looking for Jack’s perfect match. But the further she gets on her quest, the more she questions the sanity of her plan. As the thought of her husband with another woman becomes all too real, Daisy’s forced to decide what’s more important in the short amount of time she has left: her husband’s happiness—or her own?

This moving and deeply personal novel is a wonderful read. Watching Daisy as she tries to come to terms with a terminal cancer diagnosis by searching for her replacement is heartrending. Watching her turn away from Jack, her mother, and her best friend shows how isolating such a diagnosis can be. As she fixates on Jack's graduation to make all their years of sacrifice worth it, you can feel her pain that she herself will not complete her degree, or work in her field, or have children. The book is sad but redemptive as Daisy and Jack stumble through her remaining time and work to just carve out a space to be together. Highly recommended.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Unmanned by Dan Fesperman

Not very long ago, Darwin Cole was an F-16 fighter pilot. He was a family man. He was on top of the world. Now? He’s a washout drunk with a dishonorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, living alone in the Nevada desert and haunted by an image beamed from one of his last missions as a “pilot” of a Predator drone—a harrowing shot of an Afghan child running for her life.

When Cole is approached by three journalists trying to uncover the identity of the possibly rogue intelligence operative who called the shots in Cole’s ill-fated mission, Cole reluctantly agrees to team up with them.

But in our surveillance culture, even the well intentioned are liable to find themselves under scrutiny, running for their lives, especially when the trail they’re following leads to the very heart of that culture—in intelligence, in the military, and among the unchecked private contractors who stand to profit richly from the advancing technology . . . not merely for use “over there,” but for right here, right now.

This latest offering by Dan Fesperman is a timely look at the ethics and possibilities of expanded drone warfare. The narrative pace is good but I wasn't as engaged by the characters as I normally am in a Fesperman book. The journalists especially seemed poorly drawn with nowhere near enough information about their backgrounds and motivations to make me feel invested in their story. Cole was a very strong character, and both Sharpe and the AF investigator looking for Cole are wonderful characters even though they only appear briefly. I certainly thought the journalists were very inept and poor at their jobs which rather undercut their involvement in this plot. All in all a good read, though I recommend The Double Game as a better example of Fesperman's talent.