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.

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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.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Ornament by P.A. Estelle

Please welcome Penny Estelle to my blog today. She's got a wonderful new Christmas novella to share.

Twelve years ago Jim Rustle packed up and left his home in Idaho and hasn’t looked back.  He gets quite an awakening when Lisa Parker, whom he hadn’t seen in all those years, breaks into a business meeting and uses some colorful adjectives to tell him just what she thinks of him.

Sparks fly between the two when he decides to follow Lisa home and sees what has happened in his absence.  Is the anger stemming from the present, or from the past?

It’s Christmas time.  Can an ornament from years past help heal betrayals that have festered for years?

Available at Amazon and Kindle Unlimited

~ Excerpt ~

A black cowboy hat sat low on her head, shadowing her face.  Light brown straight hair with white blonde streaks throughout swayed almost to her waist.
The sign, Wagner, INC, was in large block letters above a double door that was opened. The receptionist at the desk, Dani according to the name plate, was on the phone, taking a message.  Her hair was black and cut in a perfect short bob. Dani looked up to see the woman standing in front of her.  She sat back in her chair, staring at the visitor, and finished the call with “I’ll have Jim call you as soon as he is done with his meeting, John.”  The receptionist’s eyes never left the face of the woman standing in front of her.
Dani took her time hanging up the phone and finishing writing the message.  “May I help you?”
“Jim Rustle,” was all the woman said.
The corner of Dani’s mouth rose.  “I’m afraid he is in a meeting and will be busy most of the afternoon.  I can take your name and ask him to call.”
The woman was looking behind Dani at the closed door that said James Rustle on it.  “No need.” She walked past Dani and headed to the door.
“Wait!  You can’t go in there!”  The composed Dani was anything but.
The woman threw the door open. The office had a large desk made of rich cherry wood. Opposite it stood two small padded chairs of deep brown leather.  On the other side of the room stood a small conference table with blue prints spread out all over it.
The woman, once again, saw none of it.  Her eyes were trained on the man sitting behind the desk.  For a split second, the words caught in her throat.  She hadn’t seen Jim Rustle for twelve years.  His dark brown hair was clipped short.  His smoky gray eyes were as hypnotic as she remembered.  He wore a pair of navy suit trousers, a navy vest, and a white long sleeved shirt, with the top two buttons undone.  The suit jacket was draped over his chair.  The man was more handsome than when he walked out of her life, if that was possible.
“Jim, I’m sorry but this…this woman just went right by me when I told her you were busy and couldn’t be disturbed.”  Dani was clearly distraught.
Before he had a chance to answer, the woman walked to the desk and leaned her hands on it.  “You selfish, arrogant, self-absorbed, SOB.  Are you so important you can’t find time, yet again, to spend Christmas with the one person in this world that thinks the sun rises and sets in you, no matter how many times you have chosen to put everything and everybody else above her?  Not to mention the woman who raised you and made it possible for you to go to college so you could sit in this office and be the overblown ass that you have become?”
Fire was shooting out of her hazel eyes and her chest was heaving with anger.  The two men that were sitting in the meeting and Dani, standing at the door, were watching with their mouths hanging open.  They had never seen someone talk to their boss like that and walk away without limping.
Something flickered in his eyes – anger, guilt, or maybe appreciation in what he was seeing.  “Men,” he said, never taking his eyes off the woman, “we’ll finish this meeting later.  Dani –“
“Don’t bother. I know how important your time is.”  Sarcasm dripped with every word. She turned to leave.
“Lisa,” he said stopping her.  “I see you still aren’t married.”
Lisa closed her eyes as if praying for restraint.  Her words didn’t have the disdain in them when she said, tiredly, “Annie doesn’t have much time, Jim.  Give her a break.”
* * * *
Thanks so much for taking a look at my new Christmas story, The Ornament.

I write for all ages, from the early reader to adults. My books range from picture books for the little ones to fantasy and time-travel adventures for ages 9 to 13. I also write adult stories, including family drama, contemporary, paranormal and historical westerns romances under P. A. Estelle. I was a school secretary for 21 years. My husband and I moved to our retirement home in Kingman, AZ, on very rural 54 acres, living on solar and wind only.

More about my books can be found in the following links:

Museit Up Publishing

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Release Day ~ Alice: Bride of Rhode Island by Kristy McCaffrey #mailorderbride #sweetromance

Alice: Bride of Rhode Island is now available exclusively at Amazon and in the Kindle Unlimited program.

Read it today!!

50 brides, 50 states, 50 books...released in 50 consecutive days.

Don't miss this groundbreaking collaboration between 45 authors.

Learn more about each book, as well as the free prequel, here.
Join us at the American Mail-Order Brides Facebook page for release updates and exclusive giveaways.

Sign-up for Kristy's newsletter to stay updated.

* * * *
American Mail-Order Brides Series
Alice: Bride of Rhode Island
Book 13

Fleeing her stepfather and an arranged marriage in Newport, Alice Endicott finds work as a seamstress at the Brown Textile Mill near Boston. When a devastating fire destroys the factory, she and all the girls face dire unemployment circumstances. But hope arrives when their manager, Roberta McDaniel, shares the Grooms’ Gazette with them. Each woman will choose a husband and become a mail-order bride. As Alice’s friends—Lottie, Leora, Judith, Beth, Lessie and Josie—embrace the idea, she too becomes caught up in the excitement of a grand new adventure.

When fisherman Frank Martel contacts her, Alice can’t pass up the opportunity to return to Rhode Island despite her stepfather’s presence. Upon arriving at the train station in Tiverton, however, Frank neglects to meet her.

James Martel is shocked to find a woman at the rail depot claiming to be his brother’s fiancĂ©e. Even more surprising is her connection to a man who ruined James’ father years before. When Frank confesses that he can no longer wed Alice, James steps forward to fill the role since the beautiful young woman holds the key to avenging the Martel name.

Can Alice convince her new husband that their marriage is worth saving once she discovers his subterfuge? And will James learn that love is more important than revenge?

A sweet romance set in 1890 America.

* * * *

As soon as Alice had arrived at the office of Martel Fishing Enterprises, the older Mr. Martel had sequestered himself away with Frank, her betrothed. Frank—with the same dark hair as James but shorter in stature—hadn’t appeared too happy to see her, barely shaking her hand. She had a sinking feeling she’d soon be headed back to the train station.

She ruminated over what she should now do. She didn’t have enough money for a return ticket. Besides, she had nothing to return to. All her good friends from the factory were in the process of departing for their own new husbands and lives. And besides, Massachusetts wasn’t really her home. 

She exited the stifling atmosphere of the office and wandered down to the stone pier, holding her bonnet in her hand and enjoying the crisp breeze upon her face. In the distance lay the Atlantic Ocean. The Sakonnet River must be more of a tidal inlet than a true river.

She stopped and closed her eyes; for the briefest moment the weight of the past several weeks left her. Seagulls squawked, and a breeze blew wisps of blonde tendrils that had escaped her bun across her cheeks. The odor of fish—thankfully not as pungent as at the rail station—and briny air accosted her, and tears burned her eyes as she thought of her father. Gavin Harrington had truly loved the sea, maybe even more than his wife and daughter.

Into each life some rain must fall. The words of her papa’s favorite poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, filled her mind. Well, it would seem her life was drenched at this point.

Alice decided that whatever the Martel brothers had in store for her, she wouldn’t leave Rhode Island. She would simply have to find work...somewhere. Somehow she’d get by. She would never return to the home of Daniel Endicott.

Footsteps from behind signaled the approach of, she guessed, Frank Martel, but she was surprised when his older brother James stood beside her and leaned forearms on the railing. In the distance, a steamship called the Queen City slowly approached.

“Do you like the sea, Miss Endicott?”

She nodded. “If I’d been a man, I would’ve worked on a ship. I can think of nothing more liberating than being at sea, sailing to some unknown land. It must be terribly exciting.” She glanced at the elder Martel and was taken aback by the contemplative gaze he bestowed on her. The frock coat was gone; the cuffs of his white tailored shirt were rolled to his elbows, revealing muscled forearms. With his hat also discarded, the breeze lifted his tresses with the gentlest of caresses, putting her in mind of a pirate from her school books.

Unsettled, she returned to staring straight ahead before continuing. “Let me save you the trouble of an uncomfortable conversation. I’m not completely witless. I’ve gathered that I’m not as welcome here as Frank’s letters had conveyed. I’ll just be on my way, but if it wouldn’t trouble you, I’d like to watch the water for a bit longer.”

“We’ve not been acquainted for long, but witless is hardly a description I’d apply to you.” He took a deep breath. “It’s true. Frank isn’t in a position to marry you. He’s promised himself to another.”

“I see.” Humiliation engulfed her. Beth had been right—she should’ve waited for Mr. Hughes of Iowa to respond. Now, she was left with nothing.

The man beside her shifted, reminding her she wasn’t alone. From the corner of her eye, James Martel appeared...nervous. But that couldn’t be. He was imposing, stalwart, and remote. A man who seemed shaken by very little in life.

“I’d like to offer you an alternative.” He cleared his throat and faced forward.  “I’ll marry you.”

Shocked, Alice faced him. “I beg your pardon.”

His eyes met hers. “If you’ll have me,” he added.

Panic threaded through her. She’d been prepared to wed Frank. His letters had shown an earnestness towards her, along with a good dose of humor. James appeared to be the furthest creature from whimsical. Then again, Frank had obviously not been truthful. Perhaps wittiness wasn’t a good measure of a suitable husband.

“I’m no charity case, sir. You don’t have to do this. I’ll figure something out.

“As I understand, you left a situation in Massachusetts that was somewhat...desperate. Do you have family here that would help you?”

She considered her stepfather and his mansion in Newport. “No, I don’t.”

James watched her intently. “You couldn’t go back to your father?”

“My father is deceased.”

James raised an eyebrow. “He is?”

“My stepfather is still living, but he and I are distant.”

“And why is that?”

Alice stared at this man who had offered to become her husband. He was a stranger. Becoming a mail-order bride was more difficult than she’d imagined. She truly was in over her head. “I’d rather not say, sir. I don’t know you.”

His response was silence.

“May I ask why you would want to take a woman you don’t know to be your wife?” she blurted. “You’re very handsome. Surely there’s a woman you fancy.”

His piercing gaze had her shuffling uncomfortably from foot to foot.

Then, he smiled and her breath caught. He had certainly been handsome in the stoic stance she’d only ever seen of him, but when he grinned, a boyish, rakish appeal snagged her as if he’d reeled her in on a fishing line.

“I accept your compliment,” he said. “The truth is, I wasn’t planning to marry. Running our fishing fleet keeps me busy, but Frank was irresponsible in how he handled this situation, and I feel compelled to rectify it.”

“You sound like a knight in shining armor.”

She wished he would stop grinning, as she was swiftly losing her train of thought.

“I like that,” he said. “Will you let me rescue you, Miss Endicott?”

Alice didn’t know what to say. She knew the correct answer was no. But looking into Mr. Martel’s eyes, more deep blue than green, much like the ocean beside them, fate tugged at her, whispering in her ear. Life is a grand adventure. Her papa had told her such when she was young.

James Martel represented a new beginning, and perhaps it wasn’t altogether a bad one.

“Yes, Mr. Martel,” she answered quietly. “I’ll marry you.”

Copyright © 2015 K. McCaffrey LLC