Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Attracted to Fire - DiAnn Mills

Let me start by saying that this is the first book by DiAnn Mills that I have ever read, and it didn't take long for me to decide that she rocks.  The book is set in present day on a large ranch in Texas.  The story is set around three main characters, with roughly ten supporting characters.  The story revolves around two Secret Service agents working to protect the President's daughter, whose life has been threatened. 
As far as romance is concerned, "Attracted to Fire" is about as hot as it gets in the women's Christian fiction genre! The attraction between the two main characters was very well written.  For that reason alone, I'm giving it five stars.
The plot was detailed and well-planned out.  The suspense was real, and I felt it.  I worked hard to solve the puzzle before the bad guy was revealed.  The author did a fantastic job of giving clues here and there so that the reader had a shot at figuring it out.  Some of my assumptions were right, others were incorrect. 
The author obviously did considerable research on the Secret Service prior to writing the book.  That not withstanding, I would have really dug more information about the Secret Service, because it is such a.... secret.  I did appreciate the research done on recovered drug and alcohol addicts.  This was also worked in with sensitivity.
My critique for this book is a big one.  I'm talking about the graphic design job on the cover of the book.  First, the design itself is completely lame and is not up date with current styles.  Strictly because of this, I questioned whether I would like the book before I started it.  Secondly, and most importantly, it's obvious the graphic designer did not even read the book.  For instance, the woman on the cover has short, brown hair.  Recorded many times in the book is that she had medium-long red hair with blonde highlights, which is much more feminine and exciting.  Also, the two people on the front of the cover are wearing business suits.  This is ridiculous for an assignment protecting the President's daughter on a ranch in Texas, and nowhere in the book does it say that they wore suits.  On a lesser note, the background of the cover is of a Texas desert.  Actually, the ranch is described as being beautiful and lavish, as you would expect for the Vice President's personal home.  I also am making a soft recommendation not to put the face of the man in the book on the cover, because it limits the imagination of the woman reading the book.  I am aware that many publishing houses do not allow the author to approve the final design, so in no way do I blame DiAnn Mills for this.
I enjoyed reading this so much, that I told my husband mid-book that it was the best novel I had read in a long time.  I stand by that original statement, and am looking forward to more books from DiAnn Mills.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Gingham Mountain - Mary Coneally

By now you know "Gingham Mountain" is the third and final book of the "Lassoed in Texas" trilogy by Mary Coneally.  Let's get to it...
After the impressive plot in the first book of this trilogy, the second and third book fell flat by comparison.  I give credit to Mary Coneally for using plots which were different enough that even when reading the books  back-to-back, I never felt a sense of déjà vu.  The plot in this one was relatively interesting, but more low key than the first book.  The villain in this book never struck me as very dangerous, and there didn't seem to be very much risk among the characters. 
I regret that the author set this book in a different town.  "Gingham Mountain" was set in Sour Springs, TX when the first two books were set in Mosqueros, TX.  I presume this is because the author felt oil could not be found in West Texas, but could be found in East Texas, which is necessary for the plot to succeed.  I'm not sure I share her opinion, though.  Knowing the backstory of the characters in previous books adds value to the books that come later in a series.  I don't believe the trade off was worth it.  I felt like I was losing all the progress I had gained by getting to know the other supporting characters based in Mosqueros, TX. 
Both towns are completely fictional, although there is a present day Sour Lake, TX.  If you visit the Sour Lake page on Wikipedia you will quickly learn that Sour Lake, TX was previously named Sour Lake Springs, TX.  It is the oldest town of the county of Hardin, and is located in east Texas (just as Sour Springs is in "Gingham Mountain") on the Texas-Louisiana state line.  It was a boom town of the very early 1900's due to the discovery of oil.  Sour Lake is also know as the birthplace of Texaco and is still today one of the oldest oil-producing fields in the world.
You might think that is justification for changing settings.  I agree, but none of this information was shared with the readers.  I will give the author props for working in the other characters quite a bit considering how far removed they were from the town of Sour Springs.  One of my favorite chapters was when Grace reunites with her sister, Hannah.  The portrayal of Grace, Daniel, and the Reeves boys was a perfect picture of what a stranger's impression might be the first time they met these characters.  It was made hilarious because, due to the second book, I was already familiar with this family and knew why they acted the way they did.  Overall, the book was well written and interesting, but it wasn't a page-turner like the first one.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Calico Canyon - Mary Connealy

I'll keep this review short since the last review of book 1 in this series was so long.  "Calico Canyon" is the second book in the "Lassoed in Texas" series that I am reading right now.  After being blown away by book 1 ("Petticoat Ranch") I'm a bit disappointed in book 2.  The level of suspense, careful writing, and different perspectives between characters just wasn't as interesting.  In "Petticoat Junction" each character, including the lead vigilante, was so well written that I could identify with their different perspectives and understand where each person was coming from.  I didn't ever get a good bead on why the villain in book 2 was bent on the main character's destruction and what he had to gain from it.  I wish that had been clearly identified early in the book.  On a positive note, the attraction between the main characters was well written.  I also thought the author did a very good job of writing the evolution of the unmarried, single young lady into a married mother of five boys. 
I am rolling into book 3 now and still loving the series.  Even considering the criticism, this series has been exciting and fun. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Petticoat Ranch - Mary Connealy

That I'm reviewing this book is a fluke. Let me tell you about it... Since I review books for publishers and authors, I’m rarely out of reading material. However, a couple books that I requested recently went into production and haven’t been delivered yet. Thus, a lag in read time. So I headed to our local Christian book store for an inspiring, recreational find. The cover of a book can really sell it for me and when I saw the trilogy "Lassoed in Texas" I thought it just might be perfect. What cinched the deal was that this was a trilogy that I had never started and here it was all bundled up for me in one book. The entire trilogy was new to me and so was the author, Mary Connealy. Since do not often need to purchase a book, when I do purchase one I tend to grab established, never-failed-me author types such as M.L. Tyndale, Catherine Palmer, or Mindy Starns Clark. I'm glad I chose Mary Connealy!

Now that I have completed the first book in this trilogy, it's time for the review.

"Lassoed in Texas" is the name of the series, and "Petticoat Ranch" is the first in the series. This novel length story is about a widowed woman with four daughters. After saving a man from the clutches of vigilantes, she agrees to marry him for practical reasons. If you think this storyline sounds familiar, think again. The entire book was a twisting, turning vigilante mystery that kept me happily on my toes the entire time. Just when you thought it was over – BANG – another aspect of the storyline weighs in. I couldn't put this down! There were nights that I was up reading well after I should have been asleep. The author uses a perfect balance of fun, romance, and mystery. The writing is hilarious, and reflected so well both a man and woman's point of view that laughed continually. The picture of life with a household of four daughters was so realistic hat I could have sworn the author was a mother of four girls herself. Guess what? She is!

If you choose “Petticoat Ranch,” you can be confident that not only will you be fully transported to Texas you will also get to enjoy excellent writing. Mary Connealy is raising the standard, and I'm afraid that all of a sudden a lot of future reading I do is going to taste vanilla in comparison.