Novella Review: A Cowboy Unmatched by Karen Witemeyer

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I don’t read many Inspirational romances because I don’t like having the religious aspects shoved down my throat.  I took a chance on A Cowboy Unmatched because the cover is cute, and because it’s a novella.  I figured it couldn’t be too overwhelming considering the length, and there are several other books by the author I am itching to try, but I wanted a less expensive introduction to her writing.  After reading this, I am game to give a few others a go.

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Review: Paiute Princess by Deborah Kogan Ray

 

 

  Title: Paiute Princess

  Author: Deborah Kogan Ray

  Publisher:  Farrar Straus Giroux

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Born into the Northern Paiute tribe of Nevada in 1844, Sarah Winnemucca straddled two cultures: the traditional life of her people, and the modern ways of her grandfather’s white friends. Sarah was smart and good at languages, so she was able to link the worlds. As she became older, this made her a great leader. Sarah used condemning letters, fiery speeches, and her autobiography, Life Among the Piutes, to provide detailed accounts of her people’s turmoil through years of starvation, unjust relocations, and violent attacks. With sweeping illustrations and extensive backmatter, including hand-drawn maps, a chronology, archival photographs, an author’s notes, and additional resource information, Deborah Kogan Ray offers a remarkable look at an underrepresented historical figure.

Review:

I have had Paiute Princess on my TBR for a while now, and after reading Black Elk’s Vision, I was inspired to pick it up.  Sarah Winnemucca’s life is told through vivid, lush illustrations that accompany the moving prose of her life.  From her early childhood gathering food with the women of her tribe to her struggles to keep her traditional way of life from being erased by the encroaching white settlers, all Sarah wanted was the peaceful life her tribe had enjoyed for generations.  This was not be to, however, and she was forced to watch as her people were moved from their tribal homelands to reservations.  Once on the barren lands allotted to the Paiute tribes, they suffered from the corruption of the men running the Indian Agency.  Hardship and hunger became her new way of life, and Sarah used every scrap of cleverness she could muster to lobby for aid for her people. 

I am not sure how to rate this book, because it made me feel many, many emotions, mostly sadness and despair.  Once again, I wonder how I would have handled the cruel fate handed out to Sarah Winnemucca and her people.  They were stolen from, lied to, and left without the resources to provide for themselves after their land was taken away, often after the murder of women, children, and the elderly.  This chapter in the story of this nation makes me angry and upset because I know that we are better than that; we are supposed to be the good guys.  After learning about the struggles Sarah faced, and the courage she displayed, I doubt that I would  have been as clever and resourceful as she was.  Could I have been an Army scout, riding into danger and helping the people who were responsible for stealing my way of life away from me?  Could I have left my family for extended periods to study with people who viewed me with suspicion and dislike? I don’t think so.

The story ends on a hopeful note, but after reading the included information at the back of the book, it was clear that Sarah was not accepted in either the world of the Paiute or the world of the white settlers.  She walked firmly between the two, searching for a place where she belonged.  Her grandfather was a wise man, but not even his initial acceptance of the settlers and his letter of friendship from explorer John Charles Fremont could save the tribal lands of his people.  I think what bothered me the most about this picture book was learning that, after fighting for the rights of her people, Sarah died in 1891.  She was 47.  The government was still enacting legislation to liberate the traditional homelands of native peoples and forcibly stamp out their cultures.  This continued until 1934.  This bothered me.  A. Lot.

Grade:  B/B+

Review copy provided by publisher

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Review: Dead Reckoning by Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill

 

   Title: Dead Reckoning

   Author: Mercedes Lackey  & Rosemary Edghill

   Publisher: Bloomsbury

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Jett is a girl disguised as a boy, living as a gambler in the old West as she searches for her long-lost brother. Honoria Gibbons is a smart, self-sufficient young woman who also happens to be a fabulous inventor. Both young women travel the prairie alone – until they are brought together by a zombie invasion! As Jett and Honoria investigate, they soon learn that these zombies aren’t rising from the dead of their own accord … but who would want an undead army? And why? This gunslinging, hair-raising, zombie western mashup is perfect for fans of Cowboys vs. Aliens and Pride & Prejudice & Zombies.

Review:

I haven’t read anything by Mercedes Lackey in a long, long time, and I don’t think I have ever read Rosemary Edghill, and that’s something I would like to rectify, because I enjoyed Dead Reckoning. Though there are some pacing issues at the end, and few too many convenient coincidences, I found my time  with Jett, White Fox, and Gibbons well spent. These characters were easy to like.  I do wish White Fox had been given more depth and more page time.  I loved Gibbons, and thought that she could probably talk her way in to and back out of Fort Knox with a bucket full of gold bars.  She was never content to take anything at face value; she had this all-consuming need to understand the how and the why of everything.  I loved how this drove Jett nuts.  She was more than willing to accept what she saw with her own eyes, and didn’t need to overthink anything.  Gibbons had an annoying habit of getting on her last, frayed nerve, and there was nothing Jett could do once her new acquaintance got on a roll.

I feel that I am still a recent convert to zombie-dom.  I wouldn’t even consider reading a zombie book until after a few reviews of The Enemy and The Forest of Hands and Teeth prompted me to read outside of my comfort zone.  I’m so glad that I did, but I am still a bit squeamish when it comes to rotting corpses.  I can’t be too scared, or I start to feel anxious and worried and I am torn in agony over putting the book aside or mincing cautiously through the pages.  Dead Reckoning was downright creepy in a few parts, but the horror elements weren’t the focus of the story.  If you are looking for a gross out, zombie rampage, you won’t find it here.  Instead, you’ll find a western that’s more medical thriller than zombie apocalypse, with steampunk elements thrown in for good measure.

What made this book for me was the character interaction.  White Fox was the peacemaker between Gibbons and Jett, whose constant head-butting kept me turning the pages.  In the years just after the Civil War, Jett is desperately searching for her twin brother.  She doesn’t believe that he’s dead, and he’s the only family she has left after the devastating war.  Masquerading as a  boy, she pretends to be a gambler and gunslinger, thinking that she’ll encounter less trouble if everyone thinks she is a male.  Having witnessed the looting and destruction of her home by Northerners, she doesn’t have much trust for them.  Fleeing from certain death at the putrefying hands of a zombie army, Jett encounters White Fox and Gibbons – both Yankees and both to be viewed with suspicion.  When Gibbons, who is too clever by far, immediately sees through her disguise, Jett is even more wary of them.  Her continued safety depends on her ruse, and she doesn’t trust either of them to keep her secret.

Though they are very different, both Gibbons and Jett are strong, outspoken women.  Gibbons has gotten grief because of her “outlandish” ideas and demeanor, but she refuses to be something that she’s not.  She prizes science and thinks that if she only looks hard enough, she’ll find a rational reason for everything.  Even an apparent zombie horde.  She has no patience for simpering females, or their ridiculous clothing.  Jett, on the other hand, enjoyed wearing frilly gowns and attending parties.  She blames the war for changing her life so drastically, and she believes that after she locates her brother, she can go back to her idea of normal.  They couldn’t be more different, but they both share the courage and resourcefulness to try to stop the zombie army.  Neither of them has a personal stake in this fight, but they won’t ignore their moral obligation to save the countless lives that would be lost if they didn’t put a stop to it.  They made a great team, I would love to see them take on another fight in the future.  I feel that White Fox was seriously underutilized here, and would like another chance for him to prove his mettle.

Dead Reckoning is a fun read with zombies, a Western setting, and steampunk elements.  The pacing was a bit off near the end as the villain rambled on without end, gloating about his superior intellect and forthcoming victory. Despite that, this is a fast, popcorn read with a cast of diverse personalities that are thrown together and forced to stop a zombie army – even though one of their number doesn’t believe in zombies.    

Grade: B/B-

Available in Print and Digital

Review copy provided by publisher

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Interview with Beth Williamson (Emma Lang), Author of Matthew

Beth Williamson is the author of many romances, many of them featuring my favorite kind of hero – cowboys!  Beth has a new series hitting stores, The Circle Eight, written under Emma Lang.  I asked Beth to drop by the virtual offices to chat about her new smokin’ hot series.

[Manga Maniac Café] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Beth Williamson] Romance novelist, cowboy lover, dreamer, reader & wordsmith who also writes as Emma Lang. Gluten free, love mac & cheese & Reeses. I’m quirky & a bit goofy.

[Manga Maniac Café] Can you tell us a little about MATTHEW?

[Beth Williamson] MATTHEW is the first book in a new series called The Circle Eight. I’ve set the series in the Republic of Texas, beginning in 1836. Matthew is the oldest of eight Graham siblings, who finds himself responsible for his family and in need of a wife. Hannah marries him knowing full well it is a marriage of convenience. The story is their journey from strangers to lovers to true love.

[Manga Maniac Café] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the book?

[Beth Williamson] I love to write series about a family, traditional or non-traditional. I wanted to create a new family series in a timeframe. I decided on the Republic of Texas, an important time in Texas history and one that required you to be as tough as the land itself.

[Manga Maniac Café] What was the most challenging aspect of writing the story?

[Beth Williamson] I haven’t written anything in the 1830s timeframe. I had to do a significant amount of research to make sure I was true to the historical period. Creating the right mix of grit and realism, courage and hope.

[Manga Maniac Café] What are three things you would never find in Matthew’s saddlebags?

[Beth Williamson] I love this question!  You would never find apples, a deck of cards or peppermints. He doesn’t like apples, likes peppermints too much and never learned to play cards.

[Manga Maniac Café] Why do you think romances are so popular? Why did you decide to write them?

[Beth Williamson] Romances have been popular for a hundred and fifty years. Why? Because they allow the reader to become someone else and fall in love. The reader feels right along with the hero and heroine – the joy, the anger, the heartache and the triumph. They appeal to the romantic in all of us, just like romantic movies, only better. :) I enjoy reading romances immensely, and when I decided to write books, romances were my genre of choice.

[Manga Maniac Café] What makes cowboys so sexy?

[Beth Williamson] I think it has to do with how a cowboy was the ultimate gentlemen, by word of mouth of course. Helping stranded women, damsels in distress, being a hard man that lived and worked hard. I like a man that puts everything he has into what he does. Cowboys remind me of modern day knights – a code of honor drives them, and they earn their spurs.

[Manga Maniac Café] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Beth Williamson] There are so many! I have a degree in writing from NYU, so I studied the greats. Shakespeare of course, was a huge part of life for me for a while. I also read all kinds of genres. My absolute favorite writer is Stephen King. In terms of romance… let’s see Lynn Kurland, Johanna Lindsey, and Mary Balogh for historicals in general. For Westerns, Joan Johnston, Elizabeth Lowell, Leigh Greenwood, Jo Goodman, and Lorraine Heath.

I think Elizabeth Lowell’s Only series had some pretty “hard” western men. I knew that’s what I wanted to write about. And although they aren’t your typical men to inspire warm and fuzzy feelings, they feel everything deeply. Nothing is done unless it’s done right.

[Manga Maniac Café] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Beth Williamson] I listen to music when I write, or it has to be uber quiet – either will work for me. I generally like to listen to AC/DC when I’m writing. I also need to have my imagination engine engaged in my brain – if I don’t read, I can’t write so I have to read regularly. Last, no distractions like tv, hubby or my kids.

[Manga Maniac Café] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Beth Williamson] Oh heck, probably The Poky Little Puppy. That was my favorite book when I was a little girl. Read it a jillion times I’m sure. I have always read, from the time I can remember. I don’t think you can write unless you are an avid reader. They are two halves of the same coin.

[Manga Maniac Café] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Beth Williamson] Sleep… well no that’s not true, I guess I fantasize in my sleep too don’t I?  Really though I am a wife (married 22 years in April), and mother with two boys (age 20 and 15). I also work full time as a technical writer. Interestingly enough, I have a knack for writing both romance and technical documentation. One is my passion, the other is what pays the bills. Someday I hope to write romance full time.

[Manga Maniac Café] Thanks!


You can learn more about Beth and her books by visiting the following websites:

Website: http://www.bethwilliamson.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/bethwilliamson

Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/authorbethw

You can purchase Matthew from your favorite book seller, or by clicking the link below:

 

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Novella Review: Red Winter by Clark Hayes

 

Title: Red Winter

Author: Clark Hayes

Publisher: Pumpjack Press

ISBN: B005GLEU68

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Sheriff Early Hardiman has seen a lot of bad things in his life, but nothing could have prepared him for the first Vampire to visit the Old West. It’s 1890 and winter is closing like a noose around tiny LonePine, Wyoming. When the snows come and the train stops and the passes are buried, there’s only one way to leave LonePine — boots up in a pine box. For Sheriff Hardiman, once one of the fastest guns in the West, it’s another four months of watching over the foolish and the foolhardy and praying for spring. At least he has the lovely Miss Grace, his new wife and former madam of the infamous Pearl, to keep him company. Then a murderer turns up out of the cold and dark. People are being killed and not in the usual way, either — they are dying hard, tortured and drained of their blood. Worse, it appears Miss Grace may be next on their list.

How do you kill someone who just won’t stay dead? It will take more than a steady hand filled with a blazing six shooter if anyone in LonePine lives through the Red Winter.

Fans of "The Cowboy and the Vampire" (Midnight Ink, 2010) know that LonePine will see its share of Vampires in another 120 years. But in 1890, no one had yet imagined the kind of terror Jericho Whistler brings with him to Wyoming when he hunkers down for a long winter of feasting on humans.

Review:

I picked up this novella because I was in the mood for a story with a winter setting.  We had just gotten a fresh coating of snow, so I thought it would be fun to curl up under a comforter and stay warm while reading about characters who weren’t as cozy as I.  Better yet, the western town of LonePine is being terrorized by a murderer, and the residents are cowering in fear, wondering who will be next to meet a bloody, violent end.

Early Hardiman is a mostly reformed gunslinger.  He is the sheriff of LonePine, a tiny town where nothing much happens.  Until a series of grisly murders destroys the usual peaceful streets.  With winter closing in and a killer to track down, Early has his hands full.  Can he capture the murderer before more of his friends are brutally slaughtered?  When a stranger comes to town, Early is immediately suspicious.  As the body count rises, he is convinced that Jericho Whistler is involved in the crimes.   But Jericho is dead.  Or is he?

I loved the western setting of Red Winter.  It’s 1890, and the town is both small and isolated.  One good snowfall with trap everyone in town, leaving them sitting ducks to the murderer preying on the citizenry.  I liked the gruff Early, too.  He is far from perfect, but he takes his job of protecting his neighbors seriously.  Early believes he’s seen death in all of its awful forms, but even he is aghast by the degree of violence  committed against the victims.  The bodies have been dismembered, blood spattered everywhere.   The sense of urgency is overwhelming.  Early has to capture the murderer before he strikes again, but he isn’t having much luck.  And he just killed his only suspect.  Some days it’s just not worth getting out of a warm bed.

I was totally engaged in this story from the first page, and I read it in one sitting.  Early is a flawed but likable character.  He’s under an incredible amount of pressure to stop the murderers, and the stress is making him cranky.  He doesn’t believe in the supernatural, even when all of the evidence points in that direction, and his dismissal of Joe’s warnings results in yet more deaths.  Early’s reluctance to believe in undead assailants worked perfectly in this story.  Why would he accept that vampires exist?  He believes in things he can see – fists and guns and a hanging noose – but a monster that delights in pain and bloodshed?  Not going to happen.

This is a short, exciting read with a super bad villain you will love to hate, and a reluctant hero you want cheer for. 

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by Bewitching Book Tours

 

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Interview with Elysa Hendricks, Author of This Heart for Hire

Elysa Hendricks is the author of several romances, and her latest book, This Heart for Hire, just hit the Kindle.  Elysa stopped by the virtual offices to chat about her new western romance.

[Manga Maniac Café] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Elysa Hendricks] Elysa Hendricks is 5’6" tall. She has brown eyes and curly hair. She’s a reader, a writer, a daughter, a wife and a mother. All else is subject to change without notice.

[Manga Maniac Café] Can you tell us a little about your book, This Heart for Hire?

[Elysa Hendricks] THIS HEART FOR HIRE is a gritty western historical romance. A convent reared innocent, and a gunslinger with no memory are thrown together during a perilous trip across the west Texas frontier in 1870.

[Manga Maniac Café] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Elysa Hendricks] I was weaned on TV westerns like Rawhide, Wagon Train, The Rifleman and Have Gun Will Travel, John Wayne movies and the myths of the old west, so when I first started writing romance I was drawn to the American western frontier time period. Since each character I create represents a small bit of me, Christina Goodwin the heroine in THIS HEART FOR HIRE reflects the innocent girl I once was. I enjoyed watching her struggle and grow as she faced and conquered the hostile, wild environment of the Texas frontier. It kind of reminded me of surviving junior high school.

[Manga Maniac Café] Why do you enjoy writing romances?

[Elysa Hendricks] I’m a total believer in the power of love. Watching two people struggle against the odds and the obstacles that life throws in their paths to find love is rewarding. While in "real" life Happily Ever After’s are often scarce and fleeting, in a romance I can live the fantasy. And in writing romance I can help others do the same.

[Manga Maniac Café] What was the most challenging aspect of writing the book?

[Elysa Hendricks] All the research I needed to do and finding a way to incorporate it while not overwhelming the story. I was fascinated with how the reality of the old West both differs and at the same time is the same as what I learned in history class and watching TV and movies. I wanted to convey to the reader a true sense of time and place while providing them an entertaining escape from reality. A difficult and challenging task.

[Manga Maniac Café] What are your biggest creative influences?

[Elysa Hendricks] The world around me is so full of interesting stories and fascinating people it’s difficult to pinpoint just one thing or person who influenced me to attempt being a writer. But if I had to name one person it would be my high school English teacher, Mr. Olsen. He taught me how to diagram a sentence (something I no longer remember how to do) and to love the written word.

[Manga Maniac Café] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Elysa Hendricks] An idea, writing material (pen and paper or my computer) and time.

[Manga Maniac Café] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Elysa Hendricks] I’ve been reading since I was about five-years-old, so I can’t say which book sparked my interest in reading, but I do know that The Flame and The Flower by Kathleen Woodiwiss turned me on to romance, especially historical romance.

[Manga Maniac Café] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Elysa Hendricks] I love to read. I garden and enjoy doing creative crafts.

[Manga Maniac Café] Thanks!!


You can learn more about Elysa by visiting her website

You can order This Heart for Hire by clicking the Amazon widget below:

Story Blurb:

Abandoned by his father and betrayed by his half-brother and fiancee on the eve of his wedding, JAKE GALLAGHER no longer believes in love. Though he longs to go home, his undercover work for the Texas Rangers keeps him in a lawless Texas border town. Even though it jeopardizes his mission he refuses to stand by and watch outlaws rape and murder a young woman. Getting shot and losing his memory wasn’t part of his plan.

While fleeing from her stepfather’s plans to steal their ranch, CHRISTINA GOODWIN witnesses her brother’s murder and is left in the hands of a merciless band of outlaws. Raised in a strict convent, Christina has little knowledge of men or the world, its dangers and temptations.

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