The Sunday Post and Stacking the Shelves–Updated Pony Pix!

The Sunday Post is hosted by Kimba of The Caffeinated Book Reviewer. This is a weekly meme where we can share news of the week and highlight new books received.

Here are some updated pictures of the Morgan twins born this spring. 

This is from June.  They were still pretty small and skinny.

This is from last weekend.  They are being taught basic ground  manners, like how to stand and how to lead.  They will be going to their first horse show in September, where they will have to stand and be led around the ring.  Because they are babies and their brains are about as big as a pea, they have a very hard time doing that.  Weanling classes are fun to watch, because you never know what the silly little things will do.

This is the older twin.  She is a bay.  See how nicely she is developing?  She is very cute.

This is the younger twin.  Look at her!  Her lighter chestnut coat shed out, revealing her liver chestnut coat.  I love her!

Look at that pretty face!! 

Here is the happy family after lessons have ended.

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Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews to share new additions to our library. Click here to learn more about it.

New Arrivals at the Café:

Most of these were delightful surprises.

 

Rough Justice: The DC Comics Sketches of Alex Ross by Alex Ross

Blood Moon (The Drake Chronicles) by Alyxandra Harvey

The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron

Black Bottle by Anthony Huso

The Moonstone and Miss Jones (Phaeton Black, Paranormal Investigator)  by Jillian Stone

Adaptation by Malinda Lo

The Diviners  by Libba Bray

Fathomless by Jackson Pearce

How to Tame a Willful Wife by Christy English

 

Cleopatra Ascending (A Shadow’s Edge Novel) by Maureen Lipinski

Shifter’s Destiny (Harlequin Nocturne) by Anna Leonard (Yes, it is about a shape-shifting unicorn.  You didn’t really think I could pass this one up, did you?)

I also received the new issue of RT Book Reviews.  I love flipping through this magazine.

A great big thanks to the publishers for their continued support!

What did you get? Please leave links and share!

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Review: Lead Me Home by Vicki Lewis Thompson

 

Title: Lead Me Home

Author:  Vicki Lewis Thompson

Publisher: Harlequin Blaze

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Thanks to his skills with difficult horses, trainer Matthew Tredway has traveled all over the world. And his new gig? The Last Chance Ranch. But after a chance glance at the ranch’s hot little blond cook, Matthew’s libido is immediately set to sizzle!

Chef Aurelia Smith has been trying to tempt the ranch hands with mouth-watering concoctions, with less-than-stellar results. But when Matthew is sent in to intervene, his attraction to Aurelia boils over.

Before long, they’re cooking up a storm, in and out of the bedroom. But Aurelia knows that while she might have led her horseman to bed, she can’t make him stay….

Review:

Whenever I get into a reading slump, I find myself reaching for a Harlequin category romance.  I don’t know why, but these things always seem to get me back on a reading track.  Maybe because of the formula, and because I know that despite all adversity, the protagonists will find a way to get together.  I’m not suggesting that they are all 5 star reads, but I find a great deal of comfort in the formula.  I have only read a few titles under the Blaze imprint, and so far, they have been quick, satisfying reads, so I  gravitated to one of these.

I picked Lead Me Home to load on my Kindle because of one thing:  the hero is a horse trainer.  I am always a sucker for a book with horses.  I am also extremely critical of stories featuring horses, because there are certain ways we do things at the barn, and then there’s the way everyone else does things.  Usually, it is in sync with how I expect horse care and horse training to be described.  Sometimes it is not.  With the exception of young Lester’s “natural” riding abilities, and the abbreviated time spent training Houdini, the unruly stallion, I didn’t have much to complain about with the horse scenes.  I would like Lester to come and show me how to canter on a runaway horse, because I am having a heck of time cantering on one of my mares.  Of course, Lester was helped out by a jerk throwing a rock, so maybe under different circumstances, he would have a problem, too.

Anyhoo, getting back to the book, Matthew is a huge guy, 6’5” and solidly built.  He is a muscle machine.  I am assuming that he’s training quarter horses, and my only other nitpick is that he is a big guy.  Quarter horses aren’t huge horses(well, except for their rear ends).  I am thinking that he looked pretty silly on Houdini, unless the stud was built like a brick sh!thouse, too.  I know how ridiculous my trainer looks on one of my mares, and she isn’t a small horse.  Oh! I am wandering off track again! Sorry!  Let’s try again!

Matthew is a famous horse trainer, probably along the lines of Clinton Anderson.  He is a published author, and everyone recognizes that he is a horse training expert.  He jets all about the world, working his equine mojo.  He also feels detached from people, and has no real committed relationships.  Both of his parents have passed away; his mother when he was a young child, and his father just a few years ago.  His father was so devastated by his mother’s death that he was an emotionally distant care-giver.  Matthew found completion training horses, and his training gifts have made him wealthy.

Aurelia, on the other hand, works at a bank.  She is very satisfied with her job, but she has taken an extended vacation to fill in for her aunt, who is off on her honeymoon.  Aurelia is working at Last Chance Ranch as the cook, and she is having a blast tormenting the ranch-hands with her gourmet cooking.  While she is a wonderful cook, the cowboys don’t like the weird things she is trying to feed them.  I loved this – Aurelia is trying to expose them to new food, and they just want to run for cover.  They are afraid of her food!  They think it is gross and inedible.  They sneak it out of the kitchen and feed it to the dogs.  They can’t even pronounce the names of these new dishes; how can they possibly eat this stuff??

Poor Matthew is immediately asked by the cowboys to set Aurelia straight and to save them from her goofy food.  She is just too nice for them to tell her how they really feel, so they are going to throw Matthew under the bus and make him to do.  He wants to taste her food for himself, because during his travels, he has learned to love food.  He isn’t afraid of new things!  I felt an instant bond with Matthew – any guy who has an open mind about food is all right with me.  Thankfully, I found a guy who enjoys food, too.  He even eats the gross stuff that Aurelia’s cowboys balked at – livers and yucky stuff like that.  Give me  tender goat that has been simmered in a curry sauce and I’ll be your friend forever.  The organ meats, though, that is another matter altogether.

Matthew and Aurelia hit it off right away.  It’s lust at first sight, and Matthew has the added bonus of yummy home cooking.  Their steamy affair is moving along full steam ahead, both of them acknowledging that this is just a short time, no strings attached romp.  Until they both get in over their heads.  Then Matthew makes a wonderful suggestion to Aurelia, as way to keep them together, but she rejects the idea, without even thinking about it.  And that is what irritated me about Aurelia.  She is so adventurous about about everything else,  but when the guy who seems to be the love of her life suggests as plausible way for them to be together, she shuts down and shoots him down.  Maybe he didn’t go about bringing up the topic in the right way, but, heck, he’s a horse trainer! What does he know about women!  Just kidding.

Lead Me Home is a quick, entertaining read.  It’s obvious that it’s part of a series, and I liked the characters enough that I will scrounge up more books in it.  This isn’t a perfect read, but it was engaging, the protagonists weren’t jerks, and it got me out of my reading slump.

Grade: B/B-

Review copy purchased from Amazon

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Review and Giveaway: Horseplay! by Karma Wilson & Jim McMullan

 

Title: Horseplay!

Author:  Karma Wilson

Illustrator: Jim McMullan

Publisher: Little Brown and Company

 

Review:

Poor Farmer is confused.  His horses are so exhausted that they sleep the day away.  Farmer  knows that they aren’t working that hard, so he’s worried that something is wrong with them.  One night, he hides behind a hay bale and he catches them in the act!  What is going on at night? Horseplay!! Lots and lots of horseplay!  These silly horses stay up all night long goofing off, and that leaves them much too tired to work. 

This is a pretty funny picture book.  The horses keep finding ways to outwit Farmer and continue to have their fun.  That’s a remarkable accomplishment since horses have brains the size of a walnut.  Farmer gets mighty worked up each time he catches his horses being naughty, and the colorful art captures his frustration with a great deal of humor.  The illustrations are cartoony and fit well with the lighthearted tone of the book. 

GIVEAWAY!

Little Brown and Company has a copy of Horseplay! for one lucky reader.  Not sure if you want to enter?  Here are some sample pages from Horseplay!  Look at those exhausted ponies!  Look at that frustrated Farmer!

I love this one!  Farmer has been outwitted by the sly ponies!

 

Fill out the widget below to enter for your chance to win a finished copy of Horseplay!  I want a young reader to enjoy this book, so entering is easy!  Only two entries.

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The Sunday Post–May 27 Edition

The Sunday Post is hosted by Kimba of The Caffeinated Book Reviewer. This is a weekly meme where we can share news of the week and highlight new books received.

We had a very exciting week at the barn!  One of the mares had twins! This is very, very unusual, and we are all very thankful that both were born happy and healthy.  They are both a good size, too.  Mom, Dee Dee, is doing great!  Dee Dee is Elle’s (my horse) mom, and I am still astonished that she was carrying twins.  Where did they fit?  I took this picture three days after they were born.  Look at those legs!  I love that they both have little white marks on their foreheads, too.  The larger one was born first, and she is a bay.  The small filly is a chestnut.  If any of you are interested, I will periodically post updates as they get bigger.

She may be only a few days old, but look at this little lady fly!

Here is the happy family going out for a jog.  It’s important to keep in shape with regular exercise, even when you are a horse.

 

Check out my current contests! See the Contest Widget on the Sidebar to enter!

New Arrivals at the Café:

Changeling by Philippa Gregory

A Long Way From You by Gwendolyn Heasley

Lady Can Never Be Too Curious by Mary Wine

The Girl Behind the Scandalous Reputation by Michelle Conder

I also purchased a new coffee maker and a new Netbook. I’ll have info about those next week after I fiddle around with them for a while.

A great big thanks to the publishers for their continued support!

How was your week?  Please leave links and share!

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Review: The Cowboy Takes a Bride by Lori Wilde

 

Title: The Cowboy Takes a Bride

Author: Lori Wilde

Publisher: Avon

ISBN: 978-0062047755

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Ex-champion bull rider-turned-cutting-horse cowboy Joe Daniels isn’t quite sure how he ended up sleeping in a horse trough wearing nothing but his Stetson and cowboy boots. But now he’s wide-awake, and a citified woman is glaring down at him. His goal? Get rid of her ASAP. The obstacle? Fighting the attraction he feels toward the blond-haired filly with the big, vulnerable eyes.

When out-of-work wedding planner Mariah Callahan learns that her estranged father has left her a rundown ranch in Jubilee, she has no choice but to accept it. Her goal? Redeem her career by planning local weddings. The obstacle? One emotionally wounded, hard-living cowboy who stirs her guilt, her heartstrings, and her long-burned cowgirl roots . . .,

Review:

Spring is in the air (actually, it is more like summer, with unseasonal highs in the 80s), so I have been reading a ton of romance.  I had very good luck with Entangled Publishing’s Indulgence line, which was helmed, briefly, by Lori Wilde.  After she was offered a contract with HarperCollins, she stepped down to devote her time and energy to writing.  When The Cowboy Takes a Bride, the first of her Jubilee, Texas series, hit store shelves, I couldn’t resist snapping it up.  I love cowboys and horses, so this book had my name written all over it.   I had a mixed reading experience, partly because I do love horses, though.

Mariah Callahan is an down on her luck unemployed wedding planner.  When she discovers that her estranged father left her a ranch in Jubilee, Texas, she has no choice but to drive from Chicago to check the place out.  Three months of job hunting has left her in precarious financial straits, so discovering that she’s inherited a house is the answer to her prayers.  Until she sees the ramshackle cabin and meets the surly cowboy who lives next door.  Now she just wants to sell the dump and get on with her life, but can she resist Jubilee’s small town charms?

I loved the start of this book.  Mariah, exhausted after driving from Chicago to Texas, discovers a naked cowboy in what she believes is her horse trough.  Only it isn’t her ranch she’s stopped at, it’s Joe Daniels, her father’s good friend and business partner.  Joe isn’t impressed when he finally meets Dutch’s daughter, and he thinks she is heartless for turning her back on her father.  What Joe doesn’t realize is that Dutch abandoned Mariah and her mother, and her childhood was spent moving from one wealthy household to another, as her mother, a domestic servant, struggled to raise her alone.  Mariah is bitter and resentful that Dutch dumped her and her mother so he could train cutting horses, and now that he’s dead, there is no hope of reconciliation.  She’s also resentful that Dutch treated Joe like a son, while she didn’t receive any scraps of his attention. 

The first half of the book drew me in and kept me engaged in the story.  I love small town settings, and Jubilee, despite all of the drama, seemed like a peaceful place to set down some roots.  I could understand Dutch’s attraction to the town.  The cutting capital of the world, it was immediately clear why he drifted there in the first place.  With big dreams to win big money with his horses, he needed to be right in the heart of cutting horse country.  After selling a promising prospect to Joe, he even had a place to call home, dilapidated as it was.  I could see the old cowboy living in the battered cabin, finally being content enough to try to plant some roots.  Unfortunately, an unexpected illness put an end to his dreams.

Joe is devastated by Dutch’s death, which occurred two years to the day after the death of his wife in a riding accident.  Joe is suffering, reeling from the loss of the two people he loved most.  He doesn’t understand the chip on Mariah’s shoulder; nor can he understand that she’s not openly mourning Dutch’s death.  While Mariah is cool and reserved, and not about to wear her heart on her sleeve, Joe is more open with his feelings.  Everyone knows he is suffering, and the small community bands together to keep on eye on him.  When Mariah arrives in town, she, too, finds the community welcoming and caring.  At first put off by their interest in her, she discovers that being neighborly, something didn’t get much of in Chicago, isn’t a bad thing.  I found that the various secondary characters helped keep the plot moving, and helped to ground Mariah.

What I didn’t like, and where the plot started falling apart for me, were all of the references to Sleepless in Seattle and the long winded dialogs when Joe and Mariah started opening up and sharing their feelings with each other.  I just didn’t find the conversations interesting, and the emotions fell flat for me because of that.   The tension between them seemed to evaporate.  Mariah kept holding Joe’s love for his horses over his head, too, even though he proved, time and again, that he was nothing like her father.  To be complete, Joe needed roots and someone to share his dreams with, but Mariah refused to believe in him or the promises that he offered to her.  It just frustrated me that she wouldn’t give him the chance he deserved, and so her lack of trust in him felt forced to me.

Grade:  C+

Review copy purchased from Amazon

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Review: My Favorite Mistake by Georgina Bloomberg and Catherine Hapka

 

Title: My Favorite Mistake

Author: Georgina Bloomberg & Catherine Hapka

Publisher: Bloomsbury

ISBN: 978-1599906423

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Tommi, Zara, and Kate are all elite riders on the A Circuit. Tommi, the billionaire heiress, is training a young horse to prove she can make horses a real career. But when her new beau, Alex, convinces her to skip a horse show to party in the Hamptons, the results could be disastrous. Zara, the celebutante wild child, is finally taking her riding seriously. Until the new "nanny" her dad hires threatens to upstage Zara’s party girl status. Then there’s Kate. She doesn’t have money to burn like the others, but she does have Fitz, the barn’s resident hot guy. But when the pressure of being a working student builds, Kate’s perfectionist tendencies threaten to get in the way of her relationship and her riding.

Readers who are growing out of the Canterwood Crest series or searching for an A-list fix have found just what they’re looking for in the A Circuit series.

Review:

If you have been following the blog, you know that it’s no secret that I love horses and books about horses.  When I first saw the A Circuit, I was so excited to read it that I almost expired from heart palpations.  Seriously!  There are so few books around that offer an accurate view of horse shows and owning horses that I was instantly curious to see where this book fell.  Would it feel authentic?  Yup. it did, so I was eager to read the next book in the series, My Favorite Mistake.

I wasn’t as charmed this time around, because I have a hard time relating to the wealthy protagonists.  While I feel right at home with Kate, and could emphasize with her financial struggle to compete in the horse show world, her fellow barn buddies did not endear themselves to me.  Tommi, at least, didn’t grate on my nerves like Zara did, and I even appreciated her internal struggle when she receives an offer on her project horse, Legs.  An aggressive rider from another barn wants to purchase him, but Tommi has serious reservations about his continued health and happiness if she sells him to her.  This  concern for her horse’s welfare totally redeemed her in my eyes.  When she started flaking out and putting her new boyfriend ahead of her dreams and ambitions for the future, I got annoyed with her, because she never seemed to be the wishy-washy type.  She didn’t seem to be the kind of girl to put a boy ahead of the goals she has been striving to conquer, and I did feel let down by her sudden change of personality.  The internal conflict about Legs did win her lots of brownie points, though.

Zara is just an annoying, selfish brat.  Both of her parents are celebrities, and they are both busy advancing their careers and are often not home.  Zara feels that she is not at the top of their priority lists, and she acts out to get their attention.  She comes across as self-centered and unlikable, though she occasionally manages to pull through and actually think about somebody else.  Everything is handed to her on a silver platter, including her awesome horses.  She doesn’t appreciate anything she has, and she goes out of her way to annoy her father.  Too bad he doesn’t pay any attention to her, which makes her act out even more.  I don’t feel that her character is developing much, and I think that is why she is my least favorite of the three very different protagonists of this series.

Kate is having some issues this time around.  I was so disappointed with her by the end of the book, because so much of what is troubling her could be easily solved if she would just open up and confide to her friends.  Kate is anal, bordering on OCD, and she is starting to really harm herself as she continues to push herself at the barn and at shows, finding little time to take care of herself or even eat.  She puts so much pressure on herself to be the best at everything, and in the process, she is compromising her health.  What made this so frustrating is that she has some wonderful friends who have the means to help her.  They genuinely like her and want what’s best for her, but with all of the barn drama, they don’t notice that she is suffering.  Even boyfriend Fitz is too caught up in himself to consider that Kate might be having some serious issues, even after seeing the evidence first hand.

Even though this installment of the series didn’t hit all of the right notes for me, I still enjoyed it and the view into the competitive world of showing hunter/jumpers.  It isn’t much different from the Morgan circuit – everyone is out to have the class of a lifetime and win.  While we don’t have half as much money, or nearly as much drama at our barn, we still manage to have just as much fun. 

Grade: B

Review copy provided by publisher

 

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Cowboy Crush Review: One Brave Cowboy by Kathleen Eagle

 

Title: One Brave Cowboy

Author: Kathleen Eagle

Publisher: Harlequin

ISBN: 978-0373656257

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Behind the bravado was a complex man. War hero. "Indian cowboy." Walking wounded in search of answers. Cougar needed to build a new life, and he’d start with what he loved most. Horses. Which brought him to the Double D Wild Horse Sanctuary. And into the orbit of ranch volunteer Celia Banyon and her very special son.

The boy had suffered an unspeakable accident, and his mother felt unspeakable guilt. But something about Cougar brought her back from the brink. He represented her chance to be a woman again. Now, suddenly, one name wasn’t enough for what they could have if they’d just let themselves. Healing. Love. Family. Forever. In fact, the possibilities were endless….

Review:

I think this is the first book I have read by Kathleen Eagle, and I can guarantee that it won’t be the last.  I enjoyed this story very much, and quickly came to love Cougar, the emotionally fragile hero.  Both Cougar and heroine Celia are carrying around a ton of baggage, so it was gratifying to see them learn to lean on each other and not bear all of their guilt and remorse alone.  If ever two people needed and deserved each other, it is these two characters.

Cougar is a former soldier.  He is like a leaf in a stream, though; aimless, undecided, and struggling to find direction in his life.  He is suffering from PTSD, so when he meets Celia, a divorced mother suffering from her own difficult past, they are drawn to each other like the kindred souls they are.  Their attraction for each other is instant and spontaneous, burning quickly out of control.  I bought completely into their romance because they are both so desperately lonely.  They need each other, and they deserve the peace and comfort they find when they are together.  I loved the romance; it’s blazing hot yet sweet at the same time.  I felt reassured that they would find their happily ever after, even with all of the issues plaguing them.

Celia is divorced, and her ex is a complete and utter jackass.  I could not stand this selfish guy!  All he’s after is a hefty insurance settlement for the injuries suffered by their young son Mark.  Even though Greg was one-dimensional, it was fun hating him.  There are some villains that you just love to hate, and Greg is one of them.  He belittles Celia every chance he gets, he mocks Cougar every time they meet, and he sees his son as a large bank account.  He does not deserve a HAE, though it would be fun to see him suffer a life-changing event and transform himself into a decent human being. 

I loved the subplot of the book, too.  Cougar is looking for an inner peace, and he chooses to pursue it through his love of horses.  He has adopted a wild mustang, and he intends to train it for endurance events.  Both Cougar and Mark connect with the wild horse, and their training sessions help to heal them both.  This was a story thread that I found compelling.  I have horses, and even when they are being less than cooperative, I still enjoy every minute I spend with them.  The stress of the day vanishes the moment I step into the barn. 

If I had to nitpick about the book, I have to say that the problem resolution was too easily won and too overly simplified.  There are huge mental and emotional issues at work here, but they are all but erased by the end of the story.  Despite this, I could not put the book down once I hit the halfway point.  Now I have to backtrack through Kathleen Eagle’s prior releases, because I am dying to learn more about the secondary characters in One Brave Cowboy.

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Cover Shot! My Favorite Mistake by Georgina Bloomberg and Catherine Hapka

I loved The A-Circuit, so I’m super excited to see that there will be a follow-up book.  The horse is a cutie, but I am not so sure that I like the model.  I certainly don’t like what she’s wearing.  I can’t image tackling a few jumps dressed in that!  It would make Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction appear tame.  Wearing that is like wearing flip-flops to work your horse; just think about what you might step in, and better yet, a steel or aluminum shod hoof trampling on your toes.  Despite the fashion disaster that’s waiting to happen, I can hardly wait to get my hands on My Favorite Mistake by Georgina Bloomberg and Catherine Hapka.

Tommi, Zara, and Kate are all elite riders on the A Circuit. Tommi, the billionaire heiress, is training a young horse to prove she can make horses a real career. But when her new beau, Alex, convinces her to skip a horse show to party in the Hamptons, the results could be disastrous. Zara, the celebutante wild child, is finally taking her riding seriously. Until the new "nanny" her dad hires threatens to upstage Zara’s party girl status. Then there’s Kate. She doesn’t have money to burn like the others, but she does have Fitz, the barn’s resident hot guy. But when the pressure of being a working student builds, Kate’s perfectionist tendencies threaten to get in the way of her relationship and her riding.

Readers who are growing out of the Canterwood Crest series or searching for an A-list fix have found just what they’re looking for in the A Circuit series.

In stores March 2012