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Florence Grace by Tracy Rees

Florence Grace by Tracy Rees

I was somewhat torn on how to review this particular book. Let me begin by saying the audio book narrator was fabulous and the book was actually a lot longer than I had expected. The beginning and end of the book were wonderful. It was the middle of the book I had some issues with.

The story follows Florrie Buckley, a young girl from the wild moors of Cornwall being raised by her grandmother. She is a special girl with a strong intuition that is taught by a London born school teacher and the local wise woman. Before her grandmother dies, Flory learns her mother comes from a powerful London family, called the Graces, that disowned her when she married a low-born Cornish man. Florrie is then sent to live with the Graces.

In London, Flory meets her extended family members. The Graces are obsessed with power and status and to that end are not easy on Flory as she transitions from Florrie Buckley to Florence Grace. Some of their actions are downright cruel. She is close with her cousin Sanderson and feels a very close kinship with her other cousin Turlington. Turlington is the heir to the family, but is also the black sheep that is disowned on a regular basis. Florrie is miserable in London until she meets to people – Rebecca, the daugther of the local cheese shop owner, and Jacob, an orphan boy Florrie becomes friends with. These two people, along with Turlington, become the sole sources of comfort in her life. There is love won and lost, and the rediscovery of who she is and what she wants out of her life.

I’m not going to put any spoilers in here. However, my biggest issue with the book was Florrie’s relationship with a man that is no good for her. Like her friends point out, there is not way she can be with him. When she is with him, she is so torn by her feelings she loses sight of who she is and has become. Most of the middle of the book I was regularly annoyed with her for her actions with the man. Unfortunately, it’s nothing I haven’t seen with actual women and men who are bad for them. That being said, it’s still annoying.

This book is written as a historical fiction and follows the dynamics and societal rules of the day, but primarily focuses on Florrie and her emotions. You don’t see the flashy balls or the verbal batting that is so interesting in Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters novels. Additionally, the vocabulary, phrasing, and topics are definitely not the same as if it was written in the time period.

I was going to give the book three marks, but I feel like this is a book I’d read again. It has some sage advice and some very interesting parts. It also teaches lessons about being true to yourself and admitting what you really want in life. It awakens ideas of what some people will do in order to achieve power. For people who enjoy drama, this is a great book. Those who don’t enjoy drama may not like this. A good way to recommend it is if you like Emma and Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen, you’ll probably like this book.

My rating:

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The Pitbull Dog Breed: A Comprehensive Pitbull Owner’s Manual, Including Breed Specific Techniques by Edward Stenson

The Pitbull Dog Breed: A Comprehensive Pitbull Owner’s Manual, Including Breed Specific Techniques by Edward Stenson

I actually found this book to be somewhat pointless. It’s only 40 pages long (which I didn’t realize when I bought it offline). The book gives you a brief overview of the breed history and breed characteristics. It gives the general training methods for the five basic commands, not breed specific. You can find the same instruction in any training manual. That’s pretty much all, there isn’t any depth to the book. It’s literally just an overview. I have no idea why it’s labeled “comprehensive owner’s manual”. As a new pitbull owner I was really hoping for more. There are better books out there – I found them. Some are much more in-depth on the training side and some much more in-depth on the history side but most fall into a good mix that’s more than just an overview.

My rating:

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And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

My husband and I listened to The Orient Express last year and it made me realize how much I liked Agatha Christie. Her Ms. Marple series and And Then There Were None have been on my TBR list for a while. When we had another trip last week, we downloaded And Then There Were None to listen to on the way. I am no longer surprised by how great her books are.

The story begins describing the journey of eight people as they travel to Soldier Island. Each person got a letter from someone they knew inviting them to spend a week for various reasons. Each person accepted. When they arrive at the island they find a butler and a maid…but no one else. There hosts are not there. Just after dinner, the group gathers in the parlor for after dinner drinks. A mysterious voice booms into the quiet room accusing all ten people in the house of a murder. Shortly after, people begin to die and not die simply. Their deaths follow a pattern set forth in the poem Ten Little Soldier Boys poem that is posted throughout the house. What follows is a series of confessions, old memories, deaths, suspicion, and confusion. The book is so well written it is difficult to determine who the killer is and why. You learn all the stories of the accused crimes and determine for yourself if they are guilty or not.

The characters are well developed and thought out. Even the characters who die early you still get a really good feel for who they are. The background stories are interesting and give a great depth to the story line. You never feel like you are back in time reliving the events, but are getting a synopsis from the people that were there with all the emotion and clarity they choose to offer. This makes the retelling even more interesting as each one has been accused of murder. To be able to see if each character views him or herself as guilty is fascinating. Furthermore, you get to see how fear and suspicion affect people in a given situation. The things people do and the way they change under stress and constant fear was very interesting to see as well. I actually think the ending was the most brilliant part.

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes murder mysteries or wants to get in to mysteries. It’s a completely clean book – no sex, no drug usage, no foul language, and the murders almost all occur ‘off screen’; the ones you do read are not gruesome, cruel, of violent in any way. The language is interesting without being confusing. The mix of characters unique and adds to the story. All-in-all are wonderful read.

My rating:

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Wait Until Dark (Night Stalkers #3) by M. L. Buchman

Wait Until Dark (Night Stalkers #3) by M. L. Buchman

So this is were I thought the Night Stalkers series began to lose some of its interest for me. I’d have to say the main female character was not as developed or as interesting as I’d hoped. The male lead and supporting characters were fantastic, but the Connie, she was just kind of blah to me.

Connie joins the Night Stalkers as a mechanic & gunner. She appears in I Own the Dawn briefly but she doesn’t really say anything. When she is introduced in this book, she is a quiet introvert with an amazing mind and skill as a mechanic. She comes off as very robotic actually, something the other mechanic (and love interest) Big Jim Wallace remarks on. You find out she drove herself to SOAR in search of answers about her father’s death (he died in a secret helicopter crash when she was eight). Because she was left alone at such a young age and because she is so smart, she never fit in and now is having trouble becoming part of the crew and dealing with getting close to people. That’s pretty much the story. Big John is great. He’s interesting and unexpected throughout the book and loved being able to see a different side of him. Emily Beale is present as well which is nice, but Kee and her husband are not really in the book until the end.

Overall the book was good. I just could never connect with Connie. She just seems kind of blank to me. You have her background and her emotional struggles, but she just never felt like a solid, deep person to me like John, or Kee, or Emily did. The story line was also different. Most of it didn’t occur in the middle east like the other books did. It didn’t feel like there was as much action as there was in other books, not nearly as rough-and-ready. More a smooth jazz to a rock beat. It is a good book, just not the best in the series.

My rating:

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I Own the Dawn (Night Stalkers #2) by M. L. Buchman

I Own the Dawn (Night Stalkers #2) by M. L. Buchman

This is probably my favorite book in the Night Stalkers series. It is the second in the series, but I think it’s probably the most interesting. The story follows Kee Smith, a mixed race tough girl who survived the Street – capital S and as she describes in the book, it’s a place you survive not somewhere you live. The love interest is Lieutenant Archibald Stevenson III. A really nice all-around guy who comes from high class but is down-to-Earth and really likable.

The story picks up when Kee is assigned to the D Battalion of SOAR. Right off the bat she makes it clear she wants nothing to do with Emily Beale and helping to create a “girlie-chopper”. It’s funny to watch her go from thinking Emily Beale is just a cute little waif who has no skills to being terrified and impressed by her. Kee takes her place as gunner in Emily’s chopper and seeks only to do her job and prove she belongs there. On one of her early missions, she helps to rescue Dilya, an orphan refugee from a gun battle. The girl clings to her and Kee becomes her guardian without even realizing it. The story then begins to be told by Kee, Dilya, and Archie. The author blends seemlessly through the three, giving different points of view and interesting insights into what is going on in each person’s head. The love story between Kee and Archie is almost a battle developing as it grows between the two individuals – Kee fighting with everything in her to not get close to people and Archie just wanting to love her and Dilya.

The book is emotional, tumultuous, and wonderful. I loved the addition of Dilya. She is a fascinating character and it’s interesting to see how her culture clashes with that of her new guardian’s. The relationships in the story that Kee develops are fraught with hair-thin trust and emotional baggage all over the place, but the author makes her coming to terms with emotions and attachments believable and not awkwardly rushed. As always, the battles and military lifestyle add an interesting and realistic backdrop to the entire story and provides insight into the different characters. I also enjoy learning the small tidbits of middle eastern life that appear in the novels.

My rating:

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Christmas at Peleliu Cove by M. L. Buchman

Christmas at Peleliu Cove by M. L. Buchman

I bought this book because I loved Christmas at Steele Beach so much. I was kind of surprised I didn’t like this book as much. The book covers the love story of two characters that were present in Christmas at Steele Beach but not really involved.

The story follows Petty Officer Nika Maier, the Loadmaster for Sly’s hovercraft. Nika has a really mottled history of grief and pain and won’t let anyone close. She feels out of touch and detached from her fellow soldiers. The closest she’s gotten to anyone is her present crew. He past relations were short and physical with no emotional connection. In comes Lieutenant Clint Barstowe, an Army Ranger that shakes her world up. His past is barely less filled with pain than hers. A busted marriage has left him as leery of women as Nika is of men. The two start a rocky and emotional relationship that leaves both of them shook up.

I did enjoy the book. It was filled with ups and downs and puts you through a wide spectrum of emotions. I just didn’t seem to connect with the characters as well as I have as I did in other books. Nika is a very hard individual that is trying her best no matter what she does. You learn the most about her when she becomes emotionally vulnerable throughout different incidents in the book. I did like how the author developed the characters and how you could see them changing throughout the book. There was a depth to the Lieutenant that you don’t realize at first as you read through the sections of the book told from his point of view. I would have like to have seen this pulled in to a full length novel. There was definitely areas that could be expanded and the relationship could have developed at a more realistic pace and you could see them settled in the relationship instead of just kind of falling into and then ending. If you are someone who enjoys military romances, this is probably a great book for you to read. It doesn’t connect with the Night Stalker story line much but the characters are present, so if you love the series this could be a good read as well.

My rating:

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Christmas at Steel Beach (Night Stalkers #9) by M. L. Buchman

Christmas at Steel Beach (Night Stalkers #9) by M. L. Buchman

This is actually the second or third time I’ve read this book. It’s more of a novella and an add-on to the Night Stalkers series. I love the Night Stalker series and this book is about people connected to the Night Stalkers and not actually members.

The story follows Chief Steward Gail Miller as she assumes her new post as head chef on the Navy vessel currently housing the SOAR 5D division (though she doesn’t actually know that).The love interest is Chief Petty Officer Sly Stowell who is craftmaster of the ship’s hovercraft. Gail arrives to a kitchen in shambles and ends up in an accidental volunteer position on an active mission. While she is trying re-sort the kitchen, she is forming relationships with Sly and the women of SOAR. Her settling in is upended when she is faced with a man from her past waving an interesting transfer in front of her that may open up new ways to reach a dream she has. In the end, it is up to her whether to take the transfer or stay in her new home.

I love this book. It is short but full of life. The interactions between the characters are so believable and interesting. It is always fun to read how M. L. Buchman develops his characters emotionally. The book isn’t packed full of battle sequences but it definitely feels like everything moves along very well and in a regular speed. Your interest is kept throughout and there isn’t anywhere that it drags along. I highly recommend it for a short military romance read, a must read for anyone who likes the Night Stalkers series, or a fun Christmas read for anyone looking.

My rating:

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