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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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review 2017-03-06 11:41
The High Divide by Lin Enger
The High Divide: A Novel - Lin Enger

In 1886, Gretta Pope wakes up one morning to discover that her husband is gone. Ulysses Pope has left his family behind on the far edge of Minnesota’s western prairie, with only the briefest of notes and no explanation for why he left or where he’s heading. It doesn’t take long for Gretta’s young sons, Eli and Danny, to set off after him, leaving Gretta no choice but to search for the boys and their father in hopes of bringing them all home. Enger’s breathtaking portrait of the vast plains landscape is matched by the rich expanse of his characters’ emotional terrain, as pivotal historical events--the bloody turmoil of expansionism, the near total demise of the bison herds, and the subjugation of the Plains Indians--blend seamlessly with the intimate story of a family’s sacrifice and devotion.

Amazon.com

 

 

 

 

1886 Minnesota. Gretta Pope wakes one morning to see her husband, Ulysses, off on a trip. Naturally, she expects him to return from this trip but he does not... instead, she finds she is only left with a mysterious and vague note from him. The note shows that he had intentions to leave like this for some time but Ulysses doesn't explain why. So now Mrs. Pope finds she's basically stranded out on the western prairie with two young sons and no ideas for income -- a stressful position to be left in, as the Popes were struggling financially, already in the dodging-the-landlord phase of things. Gretta's oldest son, Elijah, takes it upon himself to travel across the wild western territory to try to track down his dad. He's silently watched his father for years, noticing a brooding restlessness to Ulysses' spirit, always fearing that one day the man might try something like this disappearing act, perhaps never to come back.

 

Elijah doesn't tell his mother of his plan to sniff out his father's whereabouts, deciding instead to sneak out alone early one morning with the intention of hobo-ing it alone. But wouldn't you know his curious little brother, Danny, finds a way to shadow him until they reach the train tracks, where Elijah discovers him. Danny doesn't make his presence known until the train is moving, so Elijah has no choice to let little brother tag along. It does make Elijah nervous, traveling with Danny, as Danny has a mysterious illness that leaves him with crippling or otherwise debilitating headaches, nausea, sometimes even periods of black-out (It's not directly named in the book, but much of what IS described of Danny's condition made me think of possible epilepsy).

 

Gretta is understandably pretty distraught when she discovers what her sons have done. She tries to go on her own mission to find them but her efforts quickly prove futile, so she decides it's maybe just best to hold down the home front until all her men get back. Unfortunately, that decision means she has to fight off the unsavory, suggestively salacious offers on how she can pay off her debts from her somewhat skeevy landlord, Mead Fogarty. 

 

While her guys are trekking all over the territory at different points, Gretta is left with little else for company than her own inner thoughts on motherhood and her marriage, which she admits had been showing signs of strain of late. She wonders if this flight of Ulysses is partly her doing. She also has to field gossip floating around town about her, thanks to meddling Mead. Meanwhile, her sons are on a great adventure that has them not only uncovering never-before-known facts about their father's life before his family man days, but they also get quite the education on the plight of the Plains Indians and the decimation of wild buffalo herds, via their introduction to real life historical figure William Hornaday.

 

Historical fiction aside, when you break it down there are basically three main storylines woven together here -- that of Gretta as a wife and mother, that of Ulysses as a husband, father and Civil War veteran, and that of the two brothers trying to figure out what the heck is up with their parents lately. Personally, it took me about 100 pages or so to get honestly invested in the plot. While I did enjoy the descriptions of the time period and the details of individual characters, there was still something somewhat lacking to really get me sucked into the pages. Much of what was moving my reading along was a simple mild curiosity as to how Ulysses's disappearance would be explained. That, and I really enjoyed the story of strengthening brotherhood between Elijah and Danny. 

 

I am glad I stuck with it! The closing scenes of the novel offer a nice pay-off for time invested. When the explanation for the father's disappearance is ultimately revealed, it involves touching upon some pretty heavy topics. I had to chuckle and nod knowingly at Elijah's reaction to the reveal, which amounted to a kind of ticked off, "UGH! This could've been handled so much better!" Haha, been there, kid! 

 

I also recommend reading the afterword essay by Lin Enger that gets into some of the true history behind the novel's inspiration. The story behind the buffalo nickle was a fascinating bit I never knew before! 

 

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review 2016-11-13 00:00
Josey Wales: Two Westerns
Josey Wales: Two Westerns - Forrest Carter You can't really read this book without imagining Clint Eastwood as the title character.
In the first book, it tells how Josey Wales became a guerilla fighter in the Border Wars after the Union killed his family.
After the war, the rest of his group head off, lured by talk of amnesty but he can't give up that easily.
He keeps fighting for what he thinks is right, as the price on his head grows bigger. He makes friends along the way, forming his own band of "kin".
Like most good leaders, he inspires those around him to be more than they think they are, and he will put himself in danger first to protect them.

The second book sees one of his friends taken prisoner by Spanish/Mexican rurales, so he gives up the life he's made and heads off to rescue him.
Again, he pulls in unlikely allies as he fights against the odds for one person.

Both books are action packed, violent when they need to be, peopled with well written characters, although a bit heavy on the "civilised people bad, downtrodden people good" message.
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review 2016-09-14 08:54
The Misadventures of Maude March by Audrey Couloumbis
The Misadventures of Maude March - Audrey Couloumbis

Eleven-year-old Sallie March is a whip-smart tomboy and voracious reader of Western adventure novels. When she and her sister Maude escape their self-serving guardians for the wilds of the frontier, they begin an adventure the likes of which Sallie has only read about. This time however, the "wanted woman" isn't a dime-novel villian, it's Sallie's very own sister! What follows is not the lies the papers printed, but the honest-to-goodness truth of how two sisters went from being orphans to being outlaws—and lived to tell the tale!

Amazon.com

 

 

 

 

Sallie March, our narrator, is an 11 year old tomboy living in what we know think of as "the Old West days". Her parents are both dead, victims of yellow fever, so she and her teen sister, Maude, have since been living with their matronly aunt, Ruthie. While running errands with Ruthie one day, the girls become innocent, victimized bystanders in a shootout. Aunt Ruthie is killed instantly by a stray bullet. {I loved that on that fateful day, Aunt Ruthie, having quite the day already, speaks the unfortunate line: "Some days it isn't even a good idea to get out of bed."}

 

Now really orphaned, the girls spend some time living under the roof of Reverend Peasley and his wife. Stifled by too many rules and Mrs. Peasley's tendency to overwork Maude and her sister for selfish gain, Maude reaches the end of her rope. The last straw is when Mrs. Peasley tries to push Maude into a marriage with a much older man.

 

The March girls decide to make a break for it. Their journey requires them to pose as boys as to not arouse suspicion (you know, two young ladies traveling alone, can't be up to any good...) but hope their travels will soon take them to a new town where they can start over. It's no easy road though. Because Maude sorta borrows a couple of the Peasley's horses to aid her getaway, she gets labeled a wanted horse thief. Through a few other misunderstandings, she also wracks up the charges of bank robber and murderer and boom! -- the March girls are suddenly starring in one of Sallie's beloved dime novels! Every time they get their hands on a newspaper, Maude's legend seems to grow! But it's not just the stains on their reputations they're fighting. Additionally, these sisters face up against blizzards, mountain lions, rattlesnakes, food shortages, finding themselves having to evade police, even being taken hostage by REAL criminals!

 

What starts as a sort of comedy of errors grows into a heartwarming story of sisterhood and taking care of family, no matter what. This story is full of honest chuckles, especially from the wit of young Sallie March, who has sass for days!

 

Ben Chaplin broke some snow going around the cabin, huffing and puffing as he told us he dreaded a winter that snowed him in as early as December. "I don't mind being snowed in, but there's still January and February still ahead of us. By then I start talking to myself."

 

"My aunt Ruthie used to talk to herself all the time," I said. "So long as she thought no one was around to hear."

 

"What did she talk about?" Ben Chaplin asked.

 

"The shortcomings of other people, mostly," I said. It surprised me that he found this funny.

 

For readers who are fans of novels which include maps, this book features a pretty adorable one! Definitely recommend this fast, fun adventure for any and all lovers of Western comedy!

 

If you end up enjoying this book as much as I did, the adventures continue in Maude March On The Run! 

 

Note To Parents: Though this novel is geared toward middle-grade readers, there is some mild violence to be aware of: some scenes mention a toe being shot off and one character being stabbed through the hand. The criminals in this book are of a bumbling, comical sort though, so even the more violent scenes are lightened with humor. Still, heads up on that in case you want to monitor what your child is reading and prefer to do a pre-read yourself. 

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