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review 2018-11-15 21:52
Maude March on the Run (Maude March #2) by Audrey Couloumbis
Maude March on the Run! - Audrey Couloumbis

The papers call Maude notorious. But 12-year-old Sallie knows her big sister didn't do the things the stories say . . . not on purpose anyway. In fact, she and Maude have made a fresh start and are trying to live on the up-and-up. But just when the girls are settling into their new life, Maude is arrested—and before you can say "jailbreak," the orphaned sisters are back on the run! In the sequel to the critically acclaimed The Misadventures of Maude March, Newbery Honor winner Audrey Couloumbis once again takes on a dizzingly fast, delightfully rowdy, and altogether heartwarming ride through the old west—proving that half the fun of any journey is the getting there.

Amazon.com

 

 

 

 

The saga of the March girls continues! Maude is now sixteen while little sister Sallie is twelve. They're still technically in hiding, and keeping their true identities on the DL proves to be a continuous struggle. Maude started insisting on taking back her womanly way of dressing while tomboy Sallie prefers to keep on with the menswear look they've been rocking. Maude potentially blowing their cover stresses Sallie out but she tries to keep her calm by keeping her nose buried in her beloved dime store novels (though now she reads them from a different perspective, having now lived the "novel" life herself).

 

My heart went out to him. I'd learned there was more to being a hero than the glory parts. The glory parts wore a little tarnish if you looked real close. It didn't make the hero any less of one.

 

To make matters even more complicated, local outlaw the Black Hankie Bandit has recently been apprehended and brought to trial in the girls' new town of residence. All the lawmen suddenly in the area has the March girls sweating a bit! At one point, Maude IS recognized at the diner where she works. She's arrested but Sallie and friends bust her out, forcing the sisters back on the run yet again. 

 

 

Speaking of these adventures, this book includes a much more detailed map of the March sisters' travels than the last book offered. While I found the first book's actual adventure elements more entertaining than in this sequel, I feel this sequel offers more humor and as readers we get deeper into the emotional bond between Maude and Sallie. But seriously though, there are some really great one liners in this one:

 

Re: a gunfight: "The earlobe is a surprisingly messy place to get shot."

 

"Reputations are easier to pick up than put down."

 

"Things happen in this world that cannot be properly understood unless you were there in the midst of them."

 

"If the story won't make you cry, the spelling will."(Maude)

 

 

The feminist undertones are slightly stronger in Maude March on the Run than its predecessor. The novel as a whole spotlights Maude wanting to be her own boss while Sallie pushes to get the same level of respect as the boys around her. She points out how people only use the term "you girls" when someone wants to silence the girls' opinions or objections. Certainly important themes young female readers will benefit from experiencing! Hopefully these stories, historical fiction though they may be, will serve as a source of empowerment for the young female audience they draw in. 

 

Plus, super cute telegram style dedication at the start of the book -- I've never seen anyone else do this before!

 

 

 

My review for Bk 1: Misadventures of Maude March

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2018-09-08 18:21
When Mountains Move (Free #2) by Julie Cantrell
When Mountains Move - Julie Cantrell

In a few hours, Millie will say “I do” to Bump Anderson, a man who loves her through and through. But would he love her if he knew the secret she keeps? Millie’s mind is racing and there seems to be no clear line between right and wrong. Either path leads to pain, and she’ll do anything to protect the ones she loves. So she decides to bury the truth and begin again, helping Bump launch a ranch in the wilds of Colorado. But just when she thinks she’s left her old Mississippi life behind, the facts surface in the most challenging way. That’s when Millie’s grandmother, Oka, arrives to help. Relying on her age-old Choctaw traditions, Oka teaches Millie the power of second chances. Millie resists, believing redemption is about as likely as moving mountains. But Oka stands strong, modeling forgiveness as the only true path to freedom. Together, Bump, Millie, and Oka fight against all odds to create a sustainable ranch, all while learning that the important lessons of their pasts can be used to build a beautiful future.

Amazon.com

 

 

 

* WARNING: If you haven't read the first book in this duology, INTO THE FREE, there are spoilers below. 

 

 

So here we are in the second book and Millie has made a choice regarding a direction for her life. She remains unsure if it's the right choice, but it is a choice nonetheless. She knows she loves Bump, but does she love him enough to make it last forever? She's at least willing to give things a try. 

 

Moving forward as newlyweds, they relocate from Mississippi to Colorado, where Bump's Mississippi boss owns a ranch. Bump is hired as the ranch manager, his boss hoping that Bump's skills with  horses will turn the property into a thriving livestock business. In return, Bump hopes to set aside start up money for his own veterinary practice. The Andersons are getting the property to live on rent free, but the house on site is, to put it mildly, ROUGH.

 

While Millie is elbows deep in Suzy Homemaker mode, she struggles with a secret from her old life in Mississippi that she hesitates to reveal to Bump. Almost as if on cue, who makes a surprise arrival at the new homestead by Millie's Choctaw grandmother, Oka. Oka knows a thing or two about secrets and facing hardships head-on. Her presence becomes a much needed ballast for Millie while she gathers strength to face her fears and have that all-important but tough conversation with her husband.

 

To complicate things though, Bump seems to be a little too friendly (in Millie's opinion) with their new redheaded neighbor, Kat. Millie begins to wonder if Bump regrets his decision to start this new life with Millie, which once again leads her down the path of thoughts of whether she herself was too hasty in her own choices. 

 

Though this story is supposed to take place during the years of World War 2, it didn't have much of that feel for me. Minus the occasional mention of food rations, dreaded telegrams from the War Dept. or use of pickup trucks, this could easily be set a hundred years earlier. I was a little disappointed by this, as I'm a huge historical fiction junkie who looks forward to being immersed in the time period I'm promised as the reader, but in this case I could overlook it because of the good story and the important themes behind it.

 

Once again (as she did with Into The Free), Cantrell illustrates the power of having a good support system around you as you move through life, people who honestly believe in you and truly want to encourage you to pursue your dreams. With Bump and Millie, it's also a pretty honest look at the rougher edges of marriage. How do you hang in there when the rosy glow fades a bit and real life sets in? It's tough because Bump was pretty likeable in the first book, but here he gets progressively less so. When Kat comes on scene, Bump's actions get slyly more and more disrespectful toward Millie, the way he dismisses her hard work or knocks her cooking in front of others, just as an example. Meanwhile, Millie is silently showing / battling symptoms of PTSD... but when your husband gets to where he seems annoyed by your very presence, how do you talk about such things?

 

Millie hangs in there though and eventually finds the means to craft a moderately happy life for herself. Personally, I don't really buy what Bump has to say near the end of the book. I'd even go so far as to say she settled. And it irked me that Bump makes himself out to be so innocent and Millie ends up being the apologetic one... Sure, Millie has moments where she catches herself wondering about River, but looking at Bump... there are some scenes in this story that looked seriously shady from a wife's perspective. I do kind of get Millie's line of thought when she explains why she's made these choices, but I couldn't help but close the book feeling that there had to be something so much more fulfilling out there for her than what she ended up with.

 

* For book groups: the most recent edition of the paperback includes discussion guide and writing prompts. 

 

Something else to note -- while another of Cantrell's books, The Feathered Bone, has been packaged to match the new covers of Into The Free and its sequel When Mountains Move, I believe The Feathered Bone is actually not tied to Millie's story, but in fact its own separate story. 

 

 

 

FTC DisclaimerTNZ Fiction Guild kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own. 

 

----------------

 

My reviews for Julie Cantrell's other books:

 

Into the Free (Free #1)

The Feathered Bone 

Perennials

 

 

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review 2018-07-27 08:05
Gathering Courage (memoir) by T.A. McMullin
Gathering Courage: A Life Changing Journey Through Adoption, Adversity, and a Reading Disability - Ross McMullin

Award-winning Gathering Courage author, T. A. "Terry" McMullin, knows as well as anyone that hard times are a part of the journey of life.  Gathering Courage is about Terry's journey, who was born in an orphanage, then adopted, and made a foster child by her parents. Because Terry struggled with reading, comprehension, and spelling, she was placed in a foster home at the age of nine.  Terry was failing in school and no one knew how to help her. From deep within, Terry developed an internal desire to excel, no matter the obstacle, no matter the situation. Pushing adversity, rejection, and a reading disability aside, Terry gathered the courage to enroll in college. While attending college, Terry taught herself how to read and study while working nights and weekends to pay her tuition and living expenses.  Because of dyslexia, Terry worked much harder than most students. For ten years, she remained diligent and focused on the goal of achieving a college education and a teaching certificate. Step by step and class by class, Terry succeeded, and walked across the stage to receive a Bachelor's and Master's degree from Texas A&M University. Terry's life transformed from a broken-hearted child who could barely make out words in elementary school to a successful teacher who encourages young people to work hard and achieve their greatest aspirations.

Gathering Courage is an inspiring life-changing journey not only to be read but also to be passed on as an encouragement to others. What started as a thought, then words on a napkin, set the dream in motion to form sentences on paper. The dream grew and the formation of a book developed into a purpose, a mission - "To Make Life Better."
Amazon.com
 
 
 
As a child, author Terry "T.A." McMullin discovered she had dyslexia. A school administrator suggested to McMullin's parents that she be taken out of the home and placed in a foster home as part of the therapy for her reading disability. There wasn't much argument given to this plan, as Terry had a pretty rocky home life as is.
 
Terry's very existence was the result of a relationship her then 25 year old biological mother was having with a 24 year old already-married man. She was not wanted by either of them. She was adopted pretty early on in life, but over time began to feel rejected by her adoptive parents. Preferential treatment was given to her younger brother Oliver, the only biological child in a home of adopted ones. Time and again, Terry's adoptive parents proved themselves verbally cruel, untrustworthy and self-centered. As part of her so-called dyslexia therapy, Terry was temporarily placed with a family on a farm. The family themselves were not so bad, but Terry suffered a sexual assault from a next door neighbor before being returned to her adoptive parents.
 
 
Though she may have had little encouragement at home, Terry found happiness within her involvement in her school's 4H program. The 4H club provided opportunity to attend events hosted by Texas A & M University. While at one of these events, Terry meets a professor from the university's Animal Sciences department, who is taken with her and encourages her to apply to A & M's science program. Though initially nervous to entertain such dreams (because of her dyslexia), Terry decides to take the leap. Prior to applying to A & M, Terry takes remedial math courses at a local junior college. Once accepted to A & M, over the course of a number of years, Terry goes on to obtain two degrees from the university: a Bachelor's in Agricultural Science and a Master's in Education. Out of school, Terry went on to have jobs teaching science and special education classes as well as courses for the visually impaired. She also developed curriculum used by both civilian and military schools across the country.
 
There's a straightforwardness to the writing style that moves along at a lovely cozy pace. There's also the relatability factor. Though readers may not always entirely connect with Terry's specific combination of struggles, there IS something here that I imagine most any reader can nod to or think on at least on some level. Her story is a testament to the power of having positive influences / people in one's life, how a simple kind word... just the display of someone having faith in you... can sometimes be enough to move mountains.
 
 
"Words of affirmation have the power to break chains and heal many wounds. Gentle words spoken so tenderly are hidden deep inside of my being and are some of the best gifts I have received." ~T.A. McMullin
 
above: inscription McMullin added to the copy I was sent
 
 
 
Additionally, McMullin uses her story to urge readers to move through life with "an attitude of gratitude" as some like to call it... Remind yourself of all the little successes that add up within each day rather than beating yourself up over the occassion setbacks or perceived failures. 
 
McMullin's way of telling her story, as well as certain details of her life she relates, reminded me a bit of the life and books of Temple Grandin. Similarly inspiring, that's for sure!
 
McMullin supplements the text with illustrations of her own feather sketches as well as full color, relevant photos pulled from either her own collection or those of friends. 
 
 
FTC Disclaimer: BookCrash kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own. 
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review 2018-06-16 09:36
Love Held Captive (Lone Star #3) by Shelley Shepard Gray
Love Held Captive (A Lone Star Hero’s Love Story) - Shelley Shepard Gray

Major Ethan Kelly has never been able to absolve himself of the guilt he feels for raiding a woman’s home shortly before he was taken prisoner during the Civil War. He is struggling to get through each day until he once again crosses paths with Lizbeth Barclay—the very woman he is trying to forget. Life after the war is not much different for former Captain Devin Monroe until he meets Julianne VanFleet. He knows she is the woman he’s been waiting for, but he struggles to come to terms with the sacrifices she made to survive the war. When Ethan and Devin discover that their former colonel, Adam Bushnell, is responsible for both Lizbeth’s and Julianne’s pain, they call on their former fellow soldiers to hunt him down. As the men band together to earn the trust of the women they love, Lizbeth and Julianne seek the justice they deserve in a country longing to heal.

Amazon.com

 

 

 

POTENTIAL TRIGGER WARNING: This novel addresses the topic of rape. 

 

 

During the Civil War, Major Ethan Kelly and his men were pushed to do many things they weren't proud of, but did it they did in the name of survival. One regular unsavory task was raiding the homes of innocent people for supplies to help keep the troops alive. Lizbeth Barclay's home was one of the properties raided by Kelly and his men. Unbeknownst to him, prior to his arrival she had not only suffered the deaths of her family members but also a sexual attack and mutilation by another soldier. 

 

Years later, Kelly and Barclay cross paths once again --- he as a hotel guest, she one of the hotel housekeepers. Though they don't immediately remember their past interaction, Major Kelly's memory is jarred when he sees the long scar running down the side of Lizbeth's face, a scar he never forgot even if he and Lizbeth never got on a first name basis the first time around. 

 

Kelly's friend and military comrade, Captain Devin Monroe develops an acquaintance with Julianne Van Fleet that, on his end, quickly grows into an honest love for her. But when she reveals her own story of some of the unpopular methods she resorted to to survive the war and care for her ailing grandmother, Devin struggles to make peace with it all. He questions whether he can make a life with someone with such a past. Though he's tempted to walk away at first, with some time to consider he realizes Julianne's actions were no worse than any men he served with who were similarly driven to survive. Devin once again comes to Julianne wanting to offer her a chance at a life rich in love, respect, and fidelity. But before the couple's dreams can take flight, their plans are stalled with the threat of former Army acquaintance Colonel Adam Bushnell.

 

When Devin and Ethan and their ladies all come together to share their stories of struggle, they find one common denominator among all of them: Bushnell. At different times, Bushnell terrorized both Lizbeth and Julianne. Devin and Ethan further reveal that these ladies weren't his only victims, not by a longshot. His face scarred by smallpox and hard living, Bushnell likely got in the habit of assaulting women rather than wooing them because his low self-esteem convinced him women would never give him the time of day otherwise. Determined to put a stop to Bushnell's assaults, the men rally the troops (as in, calling in even more Army buddies) to hunt the man down.

 

In addition to the duel romance stories going on here, as well as the manhunt scenes, this novel, like its two predecessors within this series, includes chapters detailing the mens' experiences in a Civil War POW camp, giving the reader an idea of how those months & years of imprisonment reshaped their spirits, inevitably changing them forever. 

 

I'm just going to say it: This book had the worst title of the series. Get beyond the title though, and Love Held Captive (man, that title gives me hard cringe though -- just screams bodice-ripper) is actually the BEST story in the trilogy IMO.  While the previous two books were enjoyable but, if I'm being honest, a little on the forgettable side, this one came alive with much more real characters full of humor, honesty and depth. Julianne's story really inspires empathy in a reader, making one think on maybe not be so quick to judge someone living life in a way that doesn't line up with how we would do things. Take time to consider the limited options they might be forced to choose from.

 

Bushnell is just the right amount of despicable without becoming cartoonish and Major Kelly and Capt. Monroe are just good solid dudes. Especially Devin. Major Kelly, coming from a privileged background and well-to-do family, can come of as slightly snobbish from time to time, but Devin is quick to set him straight and Kelly is open to learn when he oversteps. Lizbeth was a bit overdramatic for me at times, and though she never became one of my favorite characters (I'm too busy shipping Devin & Julianne!), she did grow on me a little by story's end.

 

So there you go! If you, like me, found the first couple books in this series fun enough but maybe a litle flat, don't duck out just yet! Definitely get into this one because the Lone Star series, at least as I see it, is one where author Shelley Shepard Gray left the best for last! 

 

FTC DISCLAIMER:  TNZ Fiction Guild kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own. 

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review 2017-05-15 15:01
Just Needed Edited a Bit
No Country for Old Men - Cormac McCarthy

This book takes place in Texas in the 1980s. I don't know how many people saw the movie, but the book adds a lot more depth to the characters that I really enjoyed. That said, I thought that it got a bit too long though. Once we get past a certain point in the book it just felt like things were being too dragged out. The book is divided between following Llewellyn Moss (Moss) who comes across a dying man and some dead men. When he inspects the truck he finds heroin and two million dollars in cash. This leads to many different players trying to track Moss down. Some are good (Sheriff Bell) and some are bad (Anton Chigurh and Carson Wells). 

 

Even though I already knew how the book was going to end, I kept hoping for a different ending. Moss came to life for me, but I really wanted to tell him that he was being an idiot throughout the book. The entire book really is a case study in McCarthy showing how Texas in the 1980s had changed so drastically from what it used to be before. 

 

The character of Sheriff Bell was the one I had the most pity for though while reading. He really is trying to stop what is coming for Moss and his wife. At one point in the book, we had I think 12 people dead and even more bodies coming. 

 

The main reason why I didn't give it five stars though was that it just felt overly long. After a certain point the book started to drag and I honestly didn't think there was much more story to tell. The book also jumped back and forth a few times with Bell narrating something that had happened, but we as readers then had to go and read about it after he had already foreshadowed or just flat out told us. So that to me left things a bit off. 

 

The writing also at times just got a bit confusing. McCarthy seems to loathe writing who was saying what. So a few times I had to go back from the beginning of paragraph to even figure out who was speaking at certain times. Also, and this once again was just a few times, the dialogue just didn't feel realistic. At other times it did, you can feel people's terror talking to Anton, but sometimes I thought that McCarthy was just trying too hard. 

 

The ending leaves us with Bell contemplating another future for himself once he starts to realize that things have changed so much that he may not have the stomach to be a lawman anymore. 

 

 

Bank:
April 15: $20
April 17: $23. I read "The Wangs Vs the World", electronic pages 368.
April 24: $28. I read "Dream Wedding", electronic pages 512.
April 25: $28. Landed on BL and had to post a vacation photo or tell a story about a vacation.
April 29: $31. Read "Whitethorn Woods", 354 pages Kindle edition, $3.00
April 29: $34. Read "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep", 256 pages;$3.00.
May 4:   $37. Read "The Ghost Brigades" Paperback, 346 pages; $3.00
May 8:   $42. Read "American Gods" Hardcover, 465 pages; $5.00.
May 8:   $45. Read "Moon Called" 298 pages Kindle edition; $3.00.

May 13: $50. Read "Solitude Creek" 434 pages electronic; $5.00. 

May 14: $53. Read "No Country for Old Men" 320 pages Kindle edition; $3.00

 

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