Tag Archives: published: 2013-01

The Heart of Texas by R.J. Scott

The Heart of Texas

The Heart of Texas by R.J. Scott

Series: Texas, Book 1
Published by: Love Lane Books on January 30, 2013 (2nd Edition)
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)

Riley Hayes, second son of the Hayes family, leads a charmed life. His family owns the incredibly successful Hayes Oil. And with Riley’s father, Gerald, nearing retirement, he’ll surely leave it to his children. But when the plan for control is outlined, Riley learns he’ll be getting far less than his older brother. That is, unless he gets married–for love–and stays that way for a year.

Riley’s beyond upset, but he has a plan to get back at this father. He contacts Jack Campbell, son of one of Gerald’s biggest rivals, with a proposition. Jack’s gay, and Riley enlists him to get married to fulfill the terms of Gerald’s agreement. Jack’s reluctant, obviously, but one thing Riley has learned as a Hayes is how to manipulate people. And so Riley’s plan to get his fair share of the company while upsetting his father by masquerading as gay and marrying into a rival family looks like it might just work out.

But there are a few things Riley didn’t quite count on. For one, Riley’s father and brother will not go down without a fight. And they both might just be even more heartless than he’d ever imagined. There’s also the issue of Jack. As Riley spends more time with him, he can’t help wondering if maybe he wants something more than what their contract stipulates. But could that really be true? And if it is, could Jack want him back?

We all have those moments when we can’t help thinking our family is dysfunctional. Some of us have them more often than others, but they’re still there. But what we don’t ever realize is that maybe we’re not quite as bad as we think. Unfortunately for Riley, the opposite is true. And he’s stuck trying to sort through the question of whether our family can define us. Or can we really rise above it all to be our own person?

Riley and Jack are such an unlikely pair. And it’s interesting to see how they come together–not only just the two of them, but their families as well. Though it’s all very intense. And way more any two people should have to go through.

Content warnings: violence, domestic violence, discussions of sexual assault

Prairie Silence by Melanie Hoffert

13641970Title: Prairie Silence
Author: Melanie Hoffert
Published: January 8, 2013
Pages: 248
Publisher: Beacon Press
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

While Melanie Hoffert was quick to leave her North Dakota home when she got the chance, she has always felt a longing for everything that said home represents. There’s a dissonance between the comforting aspects of home and family and the silence that it imposes on those who may not fit the expectations of their community. But Melanie is determined to explore this disconnect and try to reconcile these aspects of her life and self, planning to spend a harvest at home helping on the farm. Her journey is one of self-discovery, learning things about her friends and family she hadn’t noticed before, and understanding what it means to call the prairie home, even if it’s not where you will live out your days.

This book resonated for me on so very many levels. For starters, Melanie’s family farm is about 30 miles from where I grew up. The places (and even some of the people) she mentions in this book are extremely familiar to me. The sense of community, the descriptions of life growing up where she did–are all things from which I can draw some very direct parallels. I’m also someone who left North Dakota when I finished college, taking the first chance I could get to be somewhere else. I did end up going back for a few years, but have since moved on again. And many of the same reasons and beliefs and worries that Melanie shares in her book are things I’ve felt.

But beyond all that, what the author has done here is construct an incredible narrative that I think will resonate with anyone who has ever left home and spent time trying to reconcile what it means to leave home behind. I also think even those who stayed where they grew up can find moments in this book that speak to them, as the author examines how we all find our place in our community and the reasons people choose to stay. And, of course, anyone who has ever felt like they’re a bit of an outsider in their family or who has ever felt like they couldn’t be completely open with those who are closest to them will identify with Melanie’s journey and join her in the revelations that she makes as she finishes her harvest retreat and decides to return to the city.

This book was the winner of the Minnesota Book Award for Memoir & Creative Nonfiction in 2014, and it’s clear why. Not only is the story raw and moving, but the writing is compelling, engaging, and descriptive. This is definitely an author I plan to watch for in the future…

Greenwode by J. Tullos Hennig

23571391Title: Greenwode (The Wode, Book 1)
Author: J. Tullos Hennig
Published: January 17, 2013 (Re-released October 28, 2014)
Pages: 370
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (Re-released by DSP Publications)
Publisher Website: link
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

I’m going to simply start off by saying this was incredible! This refreshing and unique take on the tale of Robin Hood had me gripped to every single page. I love when an author can take a time-honored tale and truly make it her own, telling it in a way that hearkens enough to the original legend but has enough new layers to tell a new story. The layers that J. Tullos Hennig has added here are indeed many, but they also feel very natural to the story. There’s almost an air of realism to this fantasy and even an element of historical fiction through the portrayal of religion and the quest of zealous Christians to stamp out anything they view as “pagan” or “evil”. It’s also a true coming-of-age tale for both Robyn and Gamelyn (and, of course, Marion, too, though we don’t quite see as much of her here). The only disappointments I have are that I let this sit on my shelf for so long before reading it and the fact that I don’t have the sequel at hand to pick it up and start in on it immediately. Definitely one of the best fantasy novels I’ve read in some time and certainly one of the better books I’ve read recently overall. Very highly recommended!

Title: Oscar
Author: Laura Warby
Publication Date: January 10, 2013

Rating: ★ ★ ★  ☆
When his dog, Comet, runs away, quiet and reserved Oscar crosses paths with a mysterious stranger. The dark-haired, green-eyed boy keeps showing up and before long Oscar finds himself more fascinated than he ever expected. A wonderful coming of age tale that keeps one guessing for roughly the first half and ties things up nicely.

Title: The Stable Boy
Author: Megan Derr
Publication Date: January 17, 2013

Rating: ★ ★ ★  ☆
I’m a huge fan of Megan Derr and I think I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read that she has written. And I did enjoy this one, too, though it doesn’t measure up to her other work. The biggest issue, I think, is just how short this is. There are a number of things going on this story and things that happened before this story and it all comes across as rushed and, at times, is even a bit confusing. But it does come together in the end, which is what I think redeems it enough to get 3 stars from me.

Title: The Foxhole Court
Author: Nora Sakavic
Publication Date: January 15, 2013

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Review: Much like many of the reviews I’ve read since I finished this book, I picked it up without any real expectations. It was available for free and looked mildly interesting, but it definitely surprised me and made me incredibly glad I took that chance.

Neil Josten has been running from his past for as long as he can remember. When his skill in a sport known as Exy get the attention of a recruiter at Palmetto State University, however, he has a decision to make: keep running or take some time to pursue playing the sport he loves. And the fact that the team’s new star player is someone that he knew in his past seems like a point in the favor of either decision.

The way Nora Sakavic builds the world and slowly introduces the characters is something that really keeps the reader engaged (at one point, I sat down to read a chapter and got up nearly 10 chapters later) and demonstrates a skill in storytelling that I haven’t seen in a while. One has to suspend some disbelief to accept aspects of the story (I just settled on the idea that it takes place in the near future to explain some of the differences in societal norms and regulations), but Sakavic makes it very easy to do so. For a book that is touted as having m/m romance elements, it is a bit light on that front (they’re mostly hinted at in this book), but I expect they will continue to build in the future books in the series.