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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 2019-06-21 23:45
Albert of Adelaide by Howard L. Anderson
Albert of Adelaide - Howard L. Anderson

Having escaped from Australia's Adelaide Zoo, an orphaned platypus named Albert embarks on a journey through the outback in search of "Old Australia," a rumored land of liberty, promise, and peace. What he will find there, however, away from the safe confinement of his enclosure for the first time since his earliest memories, proves to be a good deal more than he anticipated. Alone in the outback, with an empty soft drink bottle as his sole possession, Albert stumbles upon pyromaniacal wombat Jack, and together they spend a night drinking and gambling in Ponsby Station, a rough-and-tumble mining town. Accused of burning down the local mercantile, the duo flees into menacing dingo territory and quickly go their separate ways-Albert to pursue his destiny in the wastelands, Jack to reconcile his past. Encountering a motley assortment of characters along the way-a pair of invariably drunk bandicoots, a militia of kangaroos, hordes of the mercurial dingoes, and a former prize-fighting Tasmanian devil-our unlikely hero will discover a strength and skill for survival he never suspected he possessed. Told with equal parts wit and compassion, ALBERT OF ADELAIDE shows how it is often the unexpected route, and the most improbable companions, that lead us on the path to who we really are.





In this anthropomorphic work --- Howard Anderson's debut novel --- we meet Albert, an orphaned duck-billed platypus living in Australia's Adelaide Zoo. One day Albert makes the bold decision to escape the zoo, starting an adventure that will take him across the Outback in search of Old Australia, a fabled place rumored to be a land of liberty, promise, and peace.


On his travels, the only property to Albert's name is an empty soda bottle. Before long, he meets Jack, a pyromaniac wombat with a handlebar moustache & drover's coat. They join up, traveling together to (on Jack's suggestion) Ponsby Station, a rough mining town filled with crews of bandicoots and wallabies.  After a long night of drinking, Jack ends up getting Albert into quite a bit of trouble. What starts as an innocent trek for Albert quickly progresses into more of a life on the run.


Right from the start, this novel brings on the social commentary, in regards to humans and their irresponsible behavior towards the planet. There's also something of the immigrant experience story, what with each character having their own various reasons for traveling / moving in hopes for a better life, things they're looking to escape... but Anderson brings a twist to that theme. Anderson also touches upon the topic of racism. In one notable scene, platypus Albert approaches a business only to find a sign that says "We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone who isn't a marsupial."


Though there is something of a childlike vibe to the story --- touches of Wind in the Willows, maybe even a little Watership Down --- READERS, TAKE NOTE: THIS IS NOT A CHILDREN'S NOVEL. It has very definite adult themes as far as the levels of alcoholism, crime, violence, depression, etc. There are scenes of animals cutting the throats of their foes, these moments informing Albert that this land he finds himself in is no fairytale, one WILL die out here if not careful! 


Though Jack is not always the most likeable character in his actions, you can count on him to bring the comic relief in the heavier scenes. Take the early meeting between Jack & Albert, for instance: Albert has been traveling long and hard, he's out of food and water, scared of his surroundings, bumps into Jack who asks, "What brings you out this way?" Albert replies, "Adelaide" to which Jack answers back, "Mmmm... always a woman." 


There's also a cake joke in here where ... well, I couldn't help it, it made me think of the ongoing cake joke that runs through the videogame Portal.


While on the surface, I would say this story would be a good recommendation for lovers of Westerns, I would argue that it could, at least on some level, also be interpreted as allegorical, a parable for the need to earnestly pursue one's dreams in a world suffocating under the weight of sheep mentality.  The happiest moments come when Albert finds the confidence to shake off societal expectations and embrace who / what he is on the most basic, organic level. He learns to stop getting caught up in the why or why not of a scenario and just embrace the experience itself, as is. 


All the characters are fun, but what really kept me reading was wanting to know more about this mysterious Muldoon character. Throughout the novel, he seems this terribly important and powerful figure, but is only spoken of in the vaguest terms. 

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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 2019-05-26 05:54
Stormy Serenade by Suzanne Michelle
Stormy Serenade - Suzanne Michelle

How could she feel so involved with a man she'd known only twenty four hours? Top photographer Kiki Andrews and returned to Texas to photograph country singing sensation Stoney Blue for Lifestyle Magazine, never imagining the chemistry that would draw them into each other's arms. It was an impossible mix - two careers on a collision course, and a younger man who was her ideal mate. She was a worldly professional, not a teenage groupie chasing a star. She had a job to do; nothing would get in her way. Except the perfect man and the moment she couldn't allow to escape.





Hotshot NYC-based photographer Catherine "Kiki" Andrews's most recent assignment gives her the opportunity to return to her hometown of Houston, TX. Her mission: photograph 24 year old rising country music star Stonewall "Stoney" Blue while he's on tour and submit the photos for a feature in Lifestyle Magazine. Stoney's success story --- an honor graduate of MIT who worked a civil engineering job by day and played bars and nightclubs at night until one of his singles caught fire on the music charts, encouraging him to make his music gig full time. 


Right from the first meeting, the chemistry between Stoney and 29 year old Kiki is undeniable. While Stoney is quite open with his flirtations, Kiki struggles with her feelings battling her sense of professionalism. She has other hang-ups as well: For one, she's not a fan of country music, and she's a little uncomfortable with the fact that Stoney is younger than her. 


A few hours with Stoney wears down her defenses. Less than 24 hours in, they're making out. Less than 48 hours... there's topless action. Stoney is one smooth country boy! Or so you might think. But as the story goes on and more of these interactions go down, it becomes clear that Stoney may be 24 but he has the seduction style of a 15 year old: make out, boob grab, repeat.... was it good for you? LOL 


Kiki's work quality starts to suffer as her personal interest in Stoney increases, so for the sake of her employment she has to think fast and get back on track. But in romance novel magic, the plot creates opportunity for her to do that by spending even more time with her crooner. 


The relationship is cute enough by fling standards but long-term? Nah, not believable. Stoney has A LOT of growing up to do. A solid relationship built on teamwork doesn't mean your lady just does whatever you want without having interests of their own. But of course our two main characters, stars in their eyes, are fully confident they can overcome anything. It'll be a cute enough read for country music fans, but nothing all that swoon worthy here for me. 

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review 2019-05-19 04:47
Corporate Affair by Stephanie James (aka Jayne Ann Krentz)
Corporate Affair (Silhouette Desire, #1) - Stephanie James,Jayne Ann Krentz

Under Kalinda Brady's cool silk surface was a smoldering heart waiting to be set afire. But she hadn't expected the sparks to fly with Rand Alastair, artist and fisherman, the stranger whose caresses left her yearning for more. Kalinda had come to Colorado determined to avenge a lost love. She had arranged the set up, and her ex-fiance had taken the bait. But she was shaken by Rand's powerful embrace, torn between her passion for revenge and hunger for this lover who conquered her heart, stole into her world and proceeded to make it his own.





Two years ago, Kalinda Brady's father died, leaving her CEO of his data processing firm. Engaged to be married, her fiancee dumps her when he finds out the company is heavily in debt and possibly in danger of being liquidated. Not long after the split, Kalinda gets word her ex-fella has run off and married another business woman with quite a bit more wealth than Kalinda's family ever had. Kalinda then spends the next two years working her tail off to get the company back in the black.


Now that the company is doing quite well again, Kalinda has a chance to carry out her revenge plot. She reaches out to her ex, luring him into agreeing to a romantic mountain getaway weekend. Only, romance is the furthest thing from what she's after. She knows this guy hates to be humilated so that's exactly what she sets out to do. But until that meetup time, she's got a couple extra days in the small resort town outside of Denver where they agreed to meet up. It's there that she meets Rand Alaistair --- potter, art gallery owner, fisherman, maybe local lothario?


He's certainly handsome enough to be a nice distraction but the last thing Kalinda is looking for is to be someone's weekend fling. But once Rand sets eyes on something he wants, his determination is unwavering. He gets Kalinda to agree to dinner with him one night, which --- no surprise --- turns rather hands on once the plates are cleared. The deal isn't entirely sealed though. Kalinda, though she might feel a "passionate curiosity" towards Rand, isn't interested in casual, easily dismissed hookups, so she distances herself for the rest of the evening. But Rand won't be deterred. He gets her to agree to a picnic the next day, where she tells him of her revenge plans against her ex. Rand quickly calls the idea stupid and dangerous and does everything in his power to stop her from following through. She eventually agrees with his logic, decides not to go through with the plan. But when she gets back to town, who's ready with news of a merger attempt on her company ... but her ex!


Just when she's at her wit's end, fearing she's about to lose her father's company and there's nothing she can do to stop it, good ol' Mr. Persistent, Rand, shows up at her door with a plan to save the day. Turns out he's no country bumpkin fisherman but actually a cutthroat businessman well versed in company takeovers, and he's pretty sure he knows exactly how to save the company and win Kalinda's heart for good.


This story isn't going to be the most popular read with much of today's female audience, I'd wager. Rand is pretty persistent, borderline too forceful in his attentions toward Kalinda. Even though she herself admits behaving in a "my mind says no, my body says YES" manner, she vocalizes no a lot, which Rand tends to push through til she says yes... which these days could spark quite the discussion on date rape / rape culture... but let me clarify here and now that Rand never takes it that far. When it seems like Kalinda is being coy, he continues to push. When she without hesitation firmly says no, he backs off and calmly gives her a ride home... which I think makes all the difference in whether one can like this character or not. 


There's still the dated, sometimes cringe-inducing dialogue / interaction between these two (this story was originally published in the 1980s) but honestly, I find that's part of the fun of reading these more vintage stories... being able to step back and laugh and praise the advancements we've made. 

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