Monday, December 28, 2015

Reading Recommendations

Reviews by Kristy McCaffrey

As 2015 comes to a close, here's a few great reads you might want to check out.

Eyes of the Wild
Eleanor O’Hanlon

I picked up this book because of the section pertaining to the gray whales of Baja, a place near to my heart. And Ms. O’Hanlon’s recollections of this are spot on. But I also enjoyed the sections about wolves, bears and horses. She relates myth alongside science and observation, blending it all into a magical view of the richness of life on earth. Her eloquent prose will calm and enchant. A beautiful read for those desiring a deeper connection to wildlife.

* * * *

Capture The Night
Cheryl Pierson

Alexa Bailey is on a vacation in a Dallas hotel when a mad faction of the Irish Republican Army takes over, killing many and capturing hostages. She manages to elude them and stumbles across an injured police officer—Johnny Logan. He’s in bad shape, so she does her best to keep him alive. They’re soon aided by a Vietnam veteran named Daniel, who isn’t quite right in the head. The terrorist leader, Kieran McShane, is cold and crazy but intelligent enough to keep you guessing until the end. Amidst all of this, Johnny and Alexa fall for each other and you’ll be rooting for their happily ever after. This is a complex story that unfolds slowly but kept me riveted.

* * * *

Dance Of The Winnebagos
Ann Charles

In this engaging mystery, Claire Morgan has accompanied her grandfather to the Dancing Winnebagos RV Park in southern Arizona to keep an eye on him and his elderly pals as they carouse for women. But when Claire discovers a leg bone in the desert, her natural curiosity leads her into a whodunit concerning a mine. She must also contend with Mac Garner, a sexy geotechnician exploring the area for his Aunt Ruby, owner of the RV park. ‘Dance of the Winnebagos’ is a fun-filled ride starring a cast of colorful characters. With laugh-out-loud dialogue and a smoldering romance between Claire and Mac, this was a story I couldn’t put down. This is the first book in The Jackrabbit Junction Mystery series and I certainly look forward to reading the rest.

* * * *

Luck of the Draw
Julie Lence

Royce Weston first meets Paige at the poker tables when she tries to swindle him for her abusive father. When their encounter ends in a family tragedy—with Paige nearly dead—she appears at his doorstep thanks to Royce’s younger brother. Having lost her memory, she must rely on the Weston’s to care for her. In repayment, she stays on to tend house and cook for them, since there hasn’t been a woman in residence for some time. But Royce doesn’t trust her, believing her presence to be a ruse; at some point her true colors will show themselves.

‘Luck of the Draw’ is a wonderful read with well-drawn characters in a western setting. The romance between Royce and Paige unfolds slowly, with a satisfying arc. Royce is a bit of a hot-head, and Paige is the perfect foil to heal his past heartaches. I always enjoy a Julie Lence novel.

* * * *

On The Edge: The Art Of High-Impact Leadership
Alison Levine

Alison Levine is a mountaineer and polar explorer, and has completed the Adventure Grand Slam—skiing to both the North and South Poles, and summiting the highest peak on each continent. She was the captain for the first American Women’s Everest Expedition in 2002 and has worked on Wall Street as well as serving three years as an adjunct professor at West Point. A popular speaker and consultant in leadership development, her unorthodox advice includes: look for teammates with big egos, when making progress turn around and change direction, practice sleep deprivation, don’t try to overcome weakness, and success can be a problem.

Drawing heavily from her experiences in the mountains, she provides real-life examples of what it can mean to be under-prepared and not work together as a team. Both can lead to catastrophic circumstances, especially in extreme outdoor environments, but her insights are easily applicable to the business world. One chapter discusses ego and the need to be surrounded by people who have a big one. Not to be confused with arrogance, teams need members who are good at what they do and know it. When scaling Everest, no one wants to get caught behind a climber suddenly seized by a crisis of confidence.

She drives home the point that failure should be embraced. Not reaching a summit imparts valuable lessons to a mountain climber, knowledge that can make the difference on a subsequent attempt. Never underestimate the need for a strong network and always remain agile, both can be reasons that lead to being left behind. And, while it may seem obvious, be good to people. Trust and loyalty will follow.

On The Edge showcases leadership skills gleaned from extreme environments, but the principles are suitable for corporate cultures, running the local PTO, or raising a family. Ms. Levine’s writing style is engaging and humorous, and her expertise leaps confidently from the page. Like any good adventure writer, she seamlessly brings you into her world, making the experience personal and intimate. And, while she has your attention, she imparts wisdom that just may help you run a better business, coach your child’s soccer team, or perhaps climb a mountain.

* * * *

Cheryl Strayed

This book is a wrenching tale of a woman trying to find a way to love and mother herself, a journey many women must endure, whether they’ve had terrible childhoods or not. Ms. Strayed’s memoir is stark, shocking, and incredibly authentic. For that, I give her kudos. This is less a story of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail than it is about narrowing one’s life so that the truest self can be found. She was a lost soul, having endured an abusive father, the death of her beloved mother too young from cancer, and her own hand at destroying her marriage. She is also caught up in heroin and no boundaries when it comes to men. Hiking the trail doesn’t solve her problems, but it does help her see herself in ways she never did before. A well-written book I couldn’t put down.

* * * *

Pam Grout

A wonderful book to help rethink one’s view of the Universe. If you liked ‘The Secret’ then this book is a natural extension of that idea. We all have access to the field of potentiality, meaning that our thoughts create our reality. Ms. Grout does a fine job of putting it all into perspective, along with a dose of humor. This book is a fast read but it will take time to perform the 9 experiments she suggests. Some worked better than others for me. I fully acknowledge that my own inner restraints and fears likely affected the outcome at times. Some of the ideas, such as looking for the miraculous in everyday life, I’ve done for  so long that it was nothing new to me. Still, it was a pleasure to read this book and experiment with the ideas presented.

* * * *

Forget Me Not
Jennifer Lowe-Anker

This memoir by Jennifer Lowe-Anker is a tribute to her late husband, Alex Lowe, who was considered by many to be one of the best climbers in the world at the time of his death. This is a love story and Jennifer shares their blossoming relationship, marriage, and family life with three sons in great detail. I couldn’t help thinking what a wonderful gift this book is to her children. A climber herself, she understands her husband’s deep need to push himself in the outdoors; but while motherhood calmed those urges in her, Alex was forever caught between his passion for the mountains and his deep love and loyalty to his family. Those on the outside may never understand this lifestyle, but Jennifer shows what it means to love someone as they are, although she certainly wasn’t always happy that Alex frequently spent months away from home. When he’s lost in an avalanche on Shishapangma in 1999, she holds nothing back in sharing her grief but also the healing. Her involvement with Conrad Anker—Alex’s best friend and likewise a world-renowned climber—is also addressed. She and Conrad would marry, and he would help to raise Alex’s sons. Perhaps only together could the two of them heal their grief over losing a man they both loved so much. I’m indebted to Ms. Lowe-Anker for sharing the stories of her life with Alex. His was a unique spirit, gone too soon.

* * * *

Blood Curse
Kat Flannery

In the 1700's, Pril Peddler is a gypsy living in Virginia. She cares for her dead sister's daughter, a girl reputed to be gifted with the greatest of all clan powers, known as a Chuvani. To lift a blood curse placed by the girl's mother, the formidable Monroe family seeks to kill the child. Pril has powers of her own, but her fear and strong sense of protection of the girl keep her from fully exploring those abilities. Kade Walker also searches for the child, for reasons of his own. His vow to protect Pril and the girl are soon at odds with his original motives, and his growing love for the gypsy woman is an unwanted distraction. Ms. Flannery has crafted a taut story deeply embedded with gypsy lore, along with the fanatical fear of witches that permeated the time period. Pril and Kade's love grows slowly, and surprising betrayals and revelations will keep the pages turning.

* * * *

Dirty Little Secret
Jennifer Echols

Bailey Wright is an 18-year-old fiddle player living in Nashville and recently pushed aside by her family because younger sister Julie just got a recording contract. Forbidden to play by both her parents and the record executives, Bailey becomes the “dirty little secret” that could ruin her sister’s fledgling career. This has made Bailey understandably bitter. While her parents tour with Julie, she’s shipped across town to live with her grandfather, and she convinces him to let her play in makeshift bands that roam the local mall. Bailey is a bit of a prodigy, and it’s not long before cute Sam Hardiman recognizes it. He invites her to be a part of his band; she agrees, because not only is Sam the hottest boy she’s ever met, she also desperately misses performing.

When I started this book, I really didn’t think it would interest me. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The love story between Bailey and Sam is full of so much passion and angst, I couldn’t put it down. This is the Young Adult genre, so it’s not overly graphic, but underneath is a sweetness that surprised me, especially when they lose their virginity to one another. But the real soul of this story is the deep connection that Bailey has to her talent and to her music. It’s not just a part of her—it’s the only way she knows to navigate the world. And it takes losing it to make her realize how much she needs it.


  1. I'm making note of every one of these books. I have little time to read "for pleasure" since I read all day for work, so it's great to have a "go-to" list of books that I can know will be great reads and I can get lost in them. Thanks, Kristy, and thanks for including CAPTURE THE NIGHT!

    1. My pleasure Cheryl. CAPTURE THE NIGHT was a great read! So many books, so little's to a great 2016 for you and Prairie Rose!