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review 2019-11-05 10:49
Eddie & Gardenia (Eddie #3) by Carolyn Haywood
Eddie and the Gardenia - Carolyn Haywood

Eddie has a pet goat named Gardenia who gets into too much trouble for Father to put up with, so Uncle Ed offers to have Gardenia on his ranch in Texas to live, and Eddie to stay with them for a few months.





I found a 1960s copy of this on a recent thrift store trip and was initially curious about it because 1) I'm always a little curious about old books in shops and 2) gardenias are my favorite flower. So happy I took a gamble on it because this story is seriously adorable!

Eddie is a little boy who has a pet goat named Gardenia. As much as he loves her, she is a handful! Gardenia really does it one day when she chews up the cloth roof on Eddie's dad's new Buick. Fed up with all the recent damages, Eddie's dad lays down the law and says the goat has to go. He suggests that Eddie write to Uncle Ed in Texas and see if he'll let Gardenia live on his ranch there. Eddie writes this letter and waits. Not only does Uncle Ed agree to take on the goat but he also invites Eddie out for a few months to live on the ranch and visit with his cousin Georgie.


But the trip doesn't turn out to be as straightforward as you'd think. Eddie travels with Gardenia to Texas by train, but en route the goat manages to free a flock of chickens AND ends up getting moved to the wrong truck, nearly ending the story before it's begun. Luckily, Uncle Ed swoops in in time and sorts things out. But even at the ranch, getting Gardenia acclimated is more of a process than anyone anticipated.


It's a charming story full of humor and love of family and nature, just the sweet journeys of Gardenia trying to live her best goat life. There are some dramatic moments, but nothing too violent or scary. This story would also serve as a good primer for young readers as far as introducing them to ranching terminology and lifestyle customs.

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review 2019-10-22 08:24
Restoring Christmas by Cynthia Ruchti
Restoring Christmas - Cynthia Ruchti

Alexis Blake has one chance to land her own show on the Home Project Network and nothing-not an uncooperative client, a job site without indoor plumbing, or a challenging videographer-is going to stand in her way. Elsie, at seventy-plus, is far from the ideal client, but she knows exactly what she wants her fieldstone house to look like, and no designer can tell her otherwise. Gabe Langley, the man with the camera, is caught in the middle and it is his wisdom and warmth that just may be the bridge that will bring these two women together. Can they restore more than just a house and bring about special, almost lost forever Christmas memories?






Interior designer Alexis Blake, based in Algoma, Wisconsin, is challenged to do a complete home remodel in just eight weeks, a project that could potentially put her name on the map in the home design industry. One other challenge -- the process is to be televised!

Alexis goes to meet with George Langely, a seasoned videographer she's hired to film the project. The surprise and dismay she's hit with when she discovers George has suffered a back injury that will have him out of service for a minimum of several weeks! George sends a Plan B in his stead: his grown son Gabe, also an experienced cameraman.

That's only the start of the hangups & hiccups of this reno. Alexis goes on to battle weather delays, crew disputes, and a myriad of stress sandwiches centered around a money pit of a farmhouse (the one Alexis is expected to turn around) and its cranky, elderly owner, Elsie Raymond. But let's not let Alexis off lightly. Nope, let's also add in her having to camp at the Langely residence when her hotel in town is hit by a skunk attack and no other rooms appear to be available anywhere else in town for the next eight weeks she needs to complete this challenge.

This little novel has a limited amount of space to present and then solve all these issues, but somehow our MC Alexis pulls through. Not well, mind you, not IMO... but she at least gets the job done on some level.

So how can I love the first Christmas story so much but leave this book with a 2 rating? Believe me, I'm as surprised and disappointed as you are! Not that this story didn't have its merits... there were just a lot of things that didn't work for me this time around. Let me break it down:

* Truth be told, Alexis is one seriously irritating MC most of the time. Nearly everything seems to annoy her on some level. Girl has zero chill. As charming as Gabe is, he deserves a better female counterpart.

* It also strikes me that Alexis is not all that great a designer if she's ONLY interested in foisting her own design plans on her client without listening --- really listening --- to any of their ideas, concerns, likes / dislikes, etc. She deems these kinds of clients as "uncooperative" and only seems concerned with advancing her career, not honestly taking into consideration that someone has to actually LIVE in the place after she leaves. Might want to incorporate at least a few things THEY might like. Just sayin'.

* I had a hard eyeroll when I read that Gabe and Alexis were inspired by real-life flippers Chip and JoAnna Gaines from HGTV's Fixer Upper. I know they have their fanbase, and if you're in that group -- here you go, this book's for you. I personally find them a bit cringe.

I loved Elsie, the prickly, elderly homeowner. She likes what she likes and is unapologetic about it. Her way of being endearing in a rough-around-the-edges way was adorable (if you've known those kinds of people in your life and know how to love them). I loved her reveal of where she goes when she takes off for days on end!

The jokes and dialogue ran somewhat corny. The Christmas holiday IS mentioned throughout this storyline, but the overall cozy vibes of the season were not as noticeable as in The Endless Christmas. That was my main issue with Restoring Christmas -- while I loved Elsie and the Langely men, much of the story was just so SLOW and DRY. For such a short book, I was struggling to just finish it already.

I also think it was a bad move on Ruchti's part to force readers to go online to find out the full ending to this book. Way to isolate and cheat some of your readership.

FTC Disclaimer: Worthy Publishing kindly provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own.

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review 2019-05-26 06:47
The Weather Girl by Amy Vastine
The Weather Girl - Amy Vastine

Summer Raines knows when it's going to rain. She can feel it. That's why the local weather girl's so good at her job. Too bad she couldn't have foreseen the tumultuous arrival of Travis Lockwood, everybody's favorite star NFL quarterback. Make that former star NFL quarterback. Sidelined back to Texas after an injury, the golden boy is trying to steal her precious on-air time. Summer is reduced to reporting from… football games. It's enough to make her quit and become a storm-chaser like her parents. She's stuck with a career that's going nowhere and a man who delights in her refusal to be charmed. Falling in love isn't nearly as easy as predicting the weather.





Summer Raines, a meteorologist for a small news channel in Texas, has her work environment turned upside down with the arrival of former NFL quarterback Travis Lockwood. Recently suffering a career-ending shoulder injury, Travis has been hired on as the station's new sportscaster, even though he has zero experience in this position. Tensions at the station rise between him and Summer when her boss tells her he's shaving 30 seconds off her weather segments and giving them to Travis so he can bond with his new audience. Summer points out that the sports segment is already one minute longer than weather, but her boss is unmoved. Summer is forced to shelve her new idea for "This Day In Weather History". 


Feeling bad about his part in the scheduling upset, Travis does his best to reach out to Summer to develop a friendship. Acknowledging that the change is not directly his doing, Summer is open to the idea. Additionally, Travis tries to go to the station boss to try to get Summer her 30 seconds back. Observing their off-camera banter around the office, their boss decides he has a better idea. He'll send them out as a duo, Travis reporting sports from the field, Summer following with the weather. 


Spending all this extra time with Summer, both on and off camera, Travis begins to see the unique quirks that make her special. What many find irritating, Travis finds adorable: Summer's ability to accurately predict rain 100% of the time, just off her gut intuition, regardless of what weather technology says; her tendency to deflect uncomfortable moments by blurting weather trivial; her trick of calming her mind by picturing enemies being sucked up into an F5 tornado.


At the same time, Summer sees things she likes about Travis. Discovering his talent for nature photography, she encourages him to push through fear and take risks to go for what he truly loves, regardless of pressure his family puts on him. Advice she doesn't really follow herself... but she still puts it out there LOL. She has her dream job of traveling the world reporting on weather dangled in front of her multiple times, but she keeps putting it off for fear of leaving her grandparents... even though they're basically screaming at her to go for her dreams already!


I had a laugh at the passage that describes Travis's love of photography: "Travis photographed things he thought were cool to look at when he traveled... It was his way of remembering the places he'd been."


Umm, yeah... isn't that kinda the case for everyone? LOL


When the duo of Summer & Travis brings record high ratings for the station, their boss decides to make them the face of the weather team. Senior weatherman, Richard, is not happy. Neither is newscaster Rachel, who has eyes for Travis. Suddenly, technical glitches and mishaps start to happen with unusual frequency, all focused around Summer... green screen errors, teleprompter errors, her public appearances mysteriously canceled, even set lights crashing down, nearly taking out Summer. But is the blame on Rachel or Richard? Are they working together? 


It's a cute, clean romance with a dash of mystery. Only 2-3 kisses and a smidge of hand-holding in the whole story. The plot moves a little slow at times but the friendship that grows between Summer and Travis is sweet enough and has enough entertaining light conflict / butting-heads moments to make the read worthwhile.


Plus, who's not down for a story that includes a cat fight on a parade float! 



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review 2019-04-05 16:26
One More Sleepless Night by Lucy King
One More Sleepless Night (Mills & Boon Modern Tempted) - Lucy King

She's going to take her life back... one sizzling night at a time! It used to be Nicky Sinclair's nightmares which kept her up all night; those 3 am silences were her worst enemy. So now she's following doctor's orders – rest, relaxation and plenty of therapeutic Spanish sunshine. Only she hasn't counted on sharing her tranquil retreat with her best friend's brother Rafael, whose presence is anything but peaceful! With his beguiling eyes and smoldering smile, he quickly becomes a very welcome distraction. After all, if she's struggling to sleep, why not find something else to do with her time..?! 





On doctor's orders, 29 year old Nicky Sinclair, photojournalist and creative, adventurous, globetrotter type, takes a trip to Spain to try to relax and hopefully experience a break from her insomnia troubles of late. With help from her best friend, she lands a nice place to stay. Just as she's getting comfy though, there appears to be a second, unexpected tenant ... Rafael, the brother of Nicky's best friend!


After a misunderstanding involving a pan swung at Rafael's head and some expected arguing back and forth about who has rights to the vacation spot, they settle on a way to share the place. No surprise, Rafael has a flirty side to him that he just can't help but shift into. He has a corporate job he takes very seriously, but having casual hookups with pretty ladies is how he lets off steam on his off-time.


Nicky admits she appreciates the look of him, but claims her sex drive has puttered out. Rafael claims he sees her as a sexy siren but she snaps back she's "about as attractive as a sack of potatoes". If that doesn't dissuade him, she has her grandmotherly way of speaking that ought to seal the deal ... "Heavens!" "My goodness, me!" When she really lets her true emotions fly, Nicky admits she did "ogle his bottom". The minx! LOL


There's a period where Rafael seems confused with what to think of her or how to act, claiming "should've realized there was something not quite right with her", even going so far at one point as to call his lust for her an "aberration".


Odd pairing, these two, for sure. But not in a cutesy, "isn't it great when opposites attract" way... this reader just did not click with this pairing. They had the ideal setting, just not that great a story or character development between them. The dialogue was also pretty cliche for much of the book, which distracted from the plot's potential momentum. It had its fun moments, but Rafael came on pretty strong and Nicky flip flops on what she thinks she wants.... that dynamic sometimes works in romance stories but here the balance felt constantly off just a hair... enough to make the whole thing a bit of a flop.


It's decent for a light and breezy poolside read, but don't expect too much more from this one.

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review 2019-02-14 08:43
The Twelve Dates of Christmas by Susan Meier
The Twelve Dates of Christmas (Mills & Boon) - Susan Meier

The perfect business arrangement? 

When entrepreneur Ricky Langley offers Eloise Vaughn the help she needs, in exchange for her attending twelve Christmas parties as his date, she can't refuse. Yes, Ricky's handsome, and devastatingly charming, but this is about business. If only her racing heart would get the message! 

Ricky has his own reasons for hating Christmas. But with each date that passes Eloise opens his eyes to the spirit of the season…and opens his heart to a totally different future….






Super successful entrepreneur Ricky Langley bumps into Eloise Vaughn at a business function, gets to talking with her for awhile before offering her a ride home after she's had an upsetting day. Talking with her and hearing of her struggle to find decent job prospects, he sees something of his earlier less successful self and offers to help. He offers to use his business contacts to get her interviews with some of the best companies in the city. In return, Ricky asks Eloise to pose as his date for twelve parties / functions he's expected to be at over the course of the holiday season. 


Not long ago, Ricky suffered a tragedy. Since then, he's had to navigate the pity of friends and business associates, many who now want to see him get back in the game but hesitate to bring up the subject. He's hoping the presence of Eloise will shift the focus off of him. Eloise is hesitant to agree to the plan, not wanting to be perceived as a charity case... but being desperate for employment has a way of making the ego step aside. 


Once the "dates" start, each time proves an opportunity for Eloise to show off her secret fashion designer skills. She crafts amazing creations out of secondhand finds that secretly leave Ricky breathless (you'll notice the girl loves herself an open back look). Eloise has her hands full making their coupledom seem realistic during the holidays. Ricky has his reasons for hating the Christmas season. But the more time they spend together -- no surprise, this being a romance --- she has a way of turning his heart. 




Ricky is able to get Eloise to divulge her secrets but remains resolutely tight lipped about his own. The more he learns about who Eloise is, the real her, the more he comes to respect her. His resolve to not actually get involved with her emotionally begins to break down. Though Eloise has plenty of fun during her time with Ricky, tensions rise between them as it dawns on her that several dates have passed and Ricky has done virtually nothing to help her job prospects as he promised. Naturally, there's a calling-out scene where she brings this to his attention. He's defensive about it at first, but eventually acknowledges he's dropped the ball. When he does start to put focus on getting interviews lined up for her as promised, he hits a wall himself. He begins to understand her struggle. Ricky also sees how cold and short-tempered he's been with his own staff, dismissing his own unnecessarily harsh behavior as "professionalism".


It's a clean romance for the most part -- 200 pages to get to a first kiss, no sex whatsoever. It took a little time for the plot to really get going, most of the fun happening after the tequila shots scene (always the way, isn't it LOL). There's a surprising amount of honest self-reflection among these characters, set in realistic situations of struggle, which I appreciated. Definitely a fun one for the holidays without being overdosed on holiday sap. 

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