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Sunday, September 13, 2015

Ripple Effect Novellas--IMMERSED Review

The last Ripple Effect Novella is IMMERSED by Jennifer Griffith.

Konichiwa! It's graduation day for Lisette Pannebaker. She knows several languages and parts of many others and has developed a language immersion company. She has it all planned out, along with marrying her college sweetheart. Only he actually has used her all along and dumps her right after the commencement ceremony.

All she can do is shove off into uncharted waters, offering her services as a language immersion specialist. Unfortunately, due to Lisette's gorgeous looks, her clients misread her services, expecting escort services she has no wish to offer. Dating clients is a no-no in her book. It's either dump her company and go back to work for her father's company answering phones, or get uglier.

She takes her Aunt Corky's advice and gets a make under. It's bad teeth, disgusting wigs and moles--all of which ensure that she can safely go back to work unmolested.Eh bien.

Then she meets Erik Gunnarson, a businessman from Iceland. He needs her to put a shine on his English. The more time Lisette spends with Erik, the more she finds out how kind and sweet and brainy he is. He doesn't seem to notice how ugly she is. In fact, as time goes on, she's tempted to do away with more and more of her disguise.

Erik asks her to accompany him to an awards banquet. There she finds out he's been hiding a secret of his own--one that could decide the course of their relationship.

This book is all about appearances and learning to look beneath them to spot the sweet, caring, intelligent individual. I give this book four umlauts out of five because, like the other Ripple Effect novellas, I think it should be a full length book. Otherwise it was a sweet read. Zero bad language, zero sex. Some nice kisses. Danke, Jennifer.

Totally get IMMERSED by Jennifer Griffith here.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Ripple Effect Novellas--SECOND CHANCES 101 Review

The fifth book in the Ripple Effect Novellas is SECOND CHANCES 101 by Donna K. Weaver, a favorite author of mine.

Francie Davis spent years catering to an abusive husband. She feels like she's been trodden under foot by him and by life. But now he has died and she finds life opening up in ways she never expected. Her son gets accepted to Harvard and goes off to school, leaving her to pick up the fragments of her life.

For one thing, she has to get a job to support herself while she goes back to school. She's so broke that she has to grow and can her own food. She also goes to work at the university as an assistant for several professors, one of whom yells at her on her very first day. The other hits on her.

Alex is dealing with a crazy ex who wants to move to France with her boyfriend and their Gothic-loving daughter, Sam. That's the last thing their daughter needs. She's starving herself into stick figuredom in a bid for attention.

Unbeknownst to Alex or Francie, Sam meets Francie under an assumed name. The two hit it off and soon Francie is teaching Sam how to cook and can and Sam is helping her garden. Both are helping each other come back to life.

I really loved this book. I liked the idea of Francie finally getting a chance to shine. I'm glad she pulled herself up by her bootstraps and made something of herself instead of sitting back and moaning about her insurmountable problems. I think she's a good role model. I also loved how she finds a way to help Sam bloom into a well grounded young lady in spite of the damage her own mother has inflicted. I think a good motto for parents is the same one as the medical motto: First, do no ill.

The book is well written, poignant, and timely. I loved the characters and plot. The only thing that keeps it from being 5 radishes is it's too short. I know it's a novella, but this potato needs to be a full book. I give it 4 and a half jars of pickles out of five.

If you'd like to purchase SECOND CHANCES 101, you can do so here.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Ripple Effect--LOST AND FOUND Review

Ripple Effect book number 4 is LOST AND FOUND by Karey White next.
Workaholic Blake is on a mission from his dead grandfather: he has to retrieve a box from a girl his grandfather once dated and lost. Unfortunately he couldn't find the woman and is heading home to go back to work.

Lydia Sutton has been on a mission of her own: to have an adventure--the first one of her quiet life. Unfortunately her entire summer has gone by without one smidgeon of excitement. She's boarding the plane for the flight home when she meets her adventure in the form of a movie star look-alike.

Their flight is delayed and Blake and Lydia take a step into the unknown. She suggests that they work together to find the box and he agrees. The two sleuths hunt down Grandfather's old flame, only to find that she has passed away. They're stopped at every turn. The box works its magic for all involved.

I enjoyed this book greatly. It, like Lydia's leap of faith, paid off in hours of enjoyable reading.

You can find this book here.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Ripple Effect Novella--RIGHTING A WRONG Review

Number three Ripple Effect book is RIGHTING A WRONG by Rachael Anderson.

As soon as Jace kisses Cambri, his best friend, she bolts for parts unknown, never to return for years on end. While she's gone, she gets her degree in landscape design and builds a successful business.

Jace can never replace her, however. He tries with other girls, but it never works. He can't forget the girl who kissed and bailed.

Cambri's curmudgeonly father develops health problems and she temporarily returns to Bridger to take care of him. He refuses to be grateful for anything she does, which includes re-designing his whole yard. He stubbornly undermines everything she wants to do.

Her secondary goal is to avoid Jace Sutton, out of shear embarrassment because she never called or wrote after her headlong race to get away. His goal is to avoid her and to keep his family hardware business afloat.

But Bridger is a tiny town. You're bound to meet even the people you want most to stay away from.

Jace just can't seem to stay away, even though she has crushed his heart. He's  there to do everything she needs, just like the great best friend he was before. Finally she starts to realize just what she's lost, but fears it's too late to begin again.

I enjoyed this second chance book. It's a sweet thought to be able to go back and fix the mistakes you made with your first love. I would have liked a little more spice, but was glad not to have to deal with sex or bad language. I give this sweet romance four out of five shrubberies.

You can buy RIGHTING A WRONG here.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Ripple Effects--SILVER LININGS Review

The second Ripple Effect romance is SILVER LININGS by Kaylee Baldwin.


Eden Torresi has major stuck-in-the-mud karma. Because of her mother's cancer bills, she finds she has to drop out of college, sell her house, and get a job at Silver Linings, an old folks home. Her life seems to be caught in a holding pattern like the old folks at work.

Drew Westfall has family problems. They want to control everything about him. He takes off, getting rid of his trust fund to a charity. He makes his way to Bridger, Colorado, arriving in a snowstorm. The nearest place to find a haven is with Silver Linings and its cute young caregiver.

The wonderful old people of Silver Linings have nothing other to do than matchmake, and no one to do that for than Drew and Eden, who never stood a chance.

I found this story charming, full of heart and...well...silver linings. The writing was fresh and the characters likeable. I give it four out of five happy faces. I'd have loved to hear more about that sizzling kiss. I'd also have liked to have the whole story fleshed out a bit more. I'd like to have known the old people's stories a little better. Clearly, though, it's a novella, which means it's exactly right for its size. Can you fault me for wanting more? Thank you, Kaylee. I loved your book.

You can purchase SILVER LININGS here.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

GALDONI Review

My back log of reviews is staggering. I guess I'll chop into it today along with writing another less mysterious ending for SUMMERHOUSE.

My review today is for GALDONI by Cheree Alsop.

Kale is a Galdoni, genetically engineered by the government as one of its multi-species gladiators forced to fight to the death in an arena while massive amounts of betting cash change hands. It's enough money to keep the Academy pumping out warriors forever. The problem is that the Galdoni have no freedom, no ability ever to leave the Arena alive. Fighters are bred to viciously attack, without mercy, and ask for none in return. They are told it's a matter of honor.

 Kale, however, escapes when the Arena is temporarily closed (a slight plot hole I wish had been better explained). He is beaten and scarred and near death when friends find and hide him, nursing him back to health. He hides his massive wings and, for the first time, gets to go to school and learn something other than killing tactics.

We find that Kale isn't as much of an animal as some of his classmates, even. His choices ennoble him. He begins to let himself bask in the life-giving affection of his new friends--especially of Brie, while still asking the question, "Do I really have a soul?"

His time in the sun is short, however, because Galdoni are "vicious animals" to be rounded up and systematically slaughtered or returned to the Academy and their old non-lives. He knows he's going to have to go back in, if only to break the system. Kale and his friends devise the best plan they can think of. You'll have to read the book to see if they were successful.

I really "got" this story. For decades I fought in armour with sword and shield in a re-creative setting. I fought through the pain of massive welts, bruises, and sometimes cuts, feeling the life course through me as I plunged through the line of men, whacking as many as I could. The main difference being that I didn't kill anyone permanently. That would have ended the game for me. I also wasn't forced to fight. I did it for the camaraderie and fun of it. There was a certain rush in knowing you'd bested a man several inches taller and pounds heavier. It gave me a confidence I hadn't had as a child.

I give it one out of five daggers for violence (it's not a Disney movie, but it's also not going to wake me up screaming at night). I'll call it a one alarm fire in the romance section, mainly because the love sprang up seemingly from almost nowhere, but it's sweet--mostly giving Kale something to live for. I give Kale major kudos for having morals and standards despite being raised without any.

My reservations are these:

1. How did Kale learn early on to have compassion if he'd never seen any?
2. Why didn't they always target the guy's wings? That would grounded the fighter, making it easier to kill him.
3. Why didn't the unlucky Galdoni, after they banded together, overpower their guards and escape? They could have done it without even killing the losers.
4. What other animal characteristics did their makers use?
5. Armour weighs a ton--especially chain-mail. Plate, which is what these guys were wearing, weighs only slightly less. It's why castles had moats--because it sank straight to the bottom. Armour is difficult to run and fight all day in, let alone fly in. How did they get off the ground?
6. I wish there had been a little more initial fear when Brie met this hulking bird monster who had been trained to kill from infancy. He's more like a demon than loveable boyfriend material. That would have made it all the sweeter when she finally fell for him.

This book was well-written, interesting, and engaging. I liked the characters. I wept for David and worried over Kale, a little like Brie did.

GALDONI by Cheree Alsop is a great book to curl up with your husband or boyfriend with. He won't gag over it because of the fighting, and you won't because of the sweet sense of hope they weave together.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Ripple Effects--HOME MATTERS Review

More after I pick up the boys. Actually picked up the boys and had two days worth of fun. So now on to the Ripple Effect books.

The first book in the Ripple Effects series is HOME MATTERS by Julie N. Ford.

Olivia Pembroke knows the drill but thinks she'll never make it as an actor. When she tacks down a sweet job at Home Matters, it's a dream come true. She gets to act the part of a designer but someone else does all the lumbering around.
The show's premise is based on giving homeowners a choice. They can choose to move into a new house they saw with William Blaine, handsome realtor. Or they can go nuts over having their old home renovated using Olivia's "designing expertise" and Pete's finesse.
Unknown to the raspy producers, Olivia really can design and has great taste. She just can't get anyone to take her seriously, least of all William, who she has the hots for. When the real designer tries to chisel her legs out from under her, it's Pete standing by to screw things up for her. Or so she thinks.
Pete finally hammers home the idea that Olivia has something to spring for joy about. Unfortunately it's almost too late and Olivia's plumb job is nearly wrenched away from her. She bolts for home, only to find things aren't quite as they seem.
Julie nailed this clean and sweet romance. I give it a lug wrench up.

You can find this book here.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

RIP Roberto

Roberto has passed away. The details of his death are at best shadowy and may or may not have included a dose of Benedryl.

I first met Roberto at the same time I met my Aunt Nita. Both of them had come up from Uruguay to marry (and live with) my Uncle Ray. Nita is tiny and fiery as a ghost pepper but also extremely generous. She loves animals and her daily tea party of matte and soapapillas, and has a delightful sense of humour. I really miss Aunt Nita. (I don't get up to Utah to see her very often.) She always provided the leavening in the house between Uncle Ray and the kids.

For years Nita was a labour and delivery nurse at Utah Valley Hospital. In fact, she was both my mother's nurse when I was born, and mine when my daughter was born. She made that whole process much easier to bear.
She always fed us until we passed out from bloating when we went to her house. Sometimes she didn't really have the means to, but she always fed people. And her food was great. She made some of the best chicken ever. (I'll provide the recipe later.) And her ka-ka dip was to die for, despite the name.

Roberto was colorful, irascible, and could mimic a thousand different voices and laughs. He'd also peck your ear off if he had the chance, since he was a grumpy old parrot. Their stories are bound together.

Roberto's entry into this country was, if anything, questionable. He's actually an illegal alien. My sweet Aunt Nita didn't want to quarantine him for months, so she got him drunk on tequila and carried him over the border in a shoe box. At least that's what she always told us. I believe her. She's fully capable of lawful circumvention in the pursuit of caring for those she loves.

For years that bird sat in his cage or in a tree in the back yard, taunting people with possible ear loss and cracking nuts with his big beak. Sunflower seeds always littered the ground wherever he was. He'd call my cousin Erika in precisely Nita's voice and accent. "Eighty-kaaaaa!" Or it was Uncle Ray (Harold Ray, sometimes called Hal). "Hald Drey!" or "Hal!" The bird also mysteriously swore in Spanish. I couldn't figure out how that happened, since Nita was always very careful never to say "sheets" as it was too close to a swear word. It was always "leenens." That was her favourite joke.

Once I stayed with them during the break-up of my first marriage. I was alone in the house. Nita and Ray were away at work and the kids were off living their own lives. The house was tomb-silent except for...

Maniacal laughter. Gales of it.

Already freaked out of my head at what I thought my ex might do to me, I was pretty squirrelly. I grabbed up a bat and went charging through all the rooms to see who was skulking around in a locked house. Bedrooms? Check. Living room? Check. Kitchen? Check. Ba...Basement? Check. Phew.

Then I heard it outside the front door.

Muhahahahahahahaha!

That bat nearly took the head off of...

Roberto as he sat on the front porch in his cage, "laughing" at the children walking past on their way home from school. I swear he sounded like an axe murderer.

Nita also kept horses, llamas (one once spat in my sister's hair) and dogs. The dogs ranged from Piquola, a beagle so ancient he leaked when he sat down, to Schnausers, to a phalanx of fairy-like miniature greyhounds, like rats on chopstick stilts, who had few teeth and would go absolutely bananas when she announced an S.N.A.C.K. Those dogs were hilarious. We'd play with their little flippety tongues and vie for the chance to test their spelling skills.

Once we visited them at Thanksgiving. We loved to play with Erika, who was between me and my sister Janelle in age. We three musketeers were entrapped at the table, long after everyone else had choked down my mum's gag*dressing*gag. (Disclaimer #1: My mum is a FABULOUS cook of everything but turkey dressing. And egg plant. And turnips. But everything else is absolutely delicious. Okay wait. Her cattail pancakes are pretty wretched too.)

We couldn't leave, caught in a Sisyphean dilemma. It was either eat, and thus die of an exploded stomach, or sit there and petrify into glum-looking gargoyles. I thought we were all well on our way to stone when Erika got up and left the table. Janelle and I exchanged looks of utter disbelief. How had she gotten a reprieve? And how could we get a similar stay of execution?
It wasn't until we heard the dogs in the back room, projectile barfing, that we knew the truth. But how could we, then, get those dogs to come back to the kitchen and do the same thing for us?
Clearly we were eventually sprung from the trap. The funny thing is, I don't remember how. It may be that the statute of limitations on dreadful dressing simply ran out.

A couple of years ago my mountainous Uncle Ray headed off to the Electronics Lab in the sky. He and Nita had always, inexplicably, shared a water bed. To this day I don't know how she managed to do it without getting bounced right back out or rolling towards him the second she got in.
When he died, the house seemed to echo with his ghost, puttering around in his workshop downstairs, sighing from his chair near the TV. By that time, I had my own family and lived in a different state. It was difficult to get up there to see them very often.

The last time I went to visit, Nita was still the pint-sized dog-whisperer and purveyor of matte and dinner. She plied me with stories of her travels, tales of her doggies, and titbits about her friends and children. I got reacquainted with her dogs, took some casserole to the llamas, and petted the horses.

At one point I strayed too close to the big beautiful tree in her back yard. Before I could turn around, Roberto nearly beaked me in the head. Only fancy ducking saved my ear from extinction. That thing was probably well over fifty five years old and still trying to send people to the hospital.

As per my daughter's news at her last visit, things have changed slightly. Nita no longer lives in the house she shared with Uncle Ray and her children for longer than thirty years. The animals are gone, and she has been remanded to a care facility. Which she apparently hates. She has escaped on numerous occasions with a purloined knife stuffed down her cleavage. They're not certain how she keeps finding those. She bemoans the fact that someone has swiped her car and dogs, and tries to get people to spring her, with that same Nita sense of humour.

I think it'll be time, soon, to go visit her. If I don't hurry, she might actually get away. There is still also the questionable demise of Roberto. I wonder if I'll ever really know the details of that story.
RIP, Roberto.

&*&*&*&*&*&*&*&*&*&*&*&*&*&*&*&*&*&*&*&*
Nita's Fabulous Chicken Wings Recipe 
 --5 lbs chicken wings (broken in half and de-tipped)
--1 C. soy sauce
--1 C. brown sugar (can be white if you don't have brown)
--2 T. vinegar
Optional:
--1/2 C. chicken broth
--1 tsp. ginger
--2 crushed garlic cloves 

Marinate chicken in the sauce. Place chicken in baking pan with lid (or foil). Bake at 375 degrees for 1 1/2 hrs. Baste occasionally. Sauce may be frozen and thawed for more batches.
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(Disclaimer #2: This computer is, for some reason, a picky old British hag. To cut down on the vast number of jagged red lines, I have bowed to her nagging and written in English English.)