Monday, August 31, 2015

Review: Born on the Bayou

Born on the Bayou: A Memoir by Blaine Lourd

Publication Date: 08/18/2015
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Imprint: Gallery Books
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Pages: 224

(Received for an honest review from Gallery Books)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, itunes

Blaine Lourd on the WEB: Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads

Excerpt from Born on the Bayou, courtesy of Amazon's Look Inside feature


In the tradition of the modern classics The Tender Bar by J.R. Moehringer and The Liars’ Club by Mary Karr, Blaine Lourd’s meaningful debut Born on the Bayou is a powerful gothic memoir set in the bayous and oil towns of 1970s Louisiana.

In honest, confessional prose, Born on the Bayou—a rollercoaster rags-to-riches story—transports us to a pocket of the South where Lourd learns how to be a man from the two people he looks up to the most: his larger-than-life father, “Puffer,” a prominent figure in the oil business, and his successful older brother, Bryan. With an eye turned perpetually toward the gruff and distant Puffer, Lourd illustrates how those closest to us can cause the most hurt, even as we seek their approval.

Whether he’s learning how to skin a duck at age ten, enjoying his first beer at thirteen, or detailing the finer points of ride-on lawn mowing, Lourd gets to the heart of being a Southerner with rawness and grace. From his early childhood through his eventual pilgrimage to the West Coast, he beautifully details what it means to have tangible roots to a place so ingrained it is a part of your own being.

From barreling down the low country roads in a shiny Thunderbird to chasing women and learning to be a gentleman, Born on the Bayou is one man’s struggle against the forces of family love, loyalty and obligation, and the ties that keep us tethered to our roots no matter how far we run.


Blaine Lourd is a Los Angeles businessman. But his poignant new memoir, Born on the Bayou tells the story of a young boy growing up in "Cajun" country. This is a father-son tale that will make you smile, make you nostalgic and make you contemplate the relationships in your own life. Lourd is a born storyteller and his book is both raw and sentimental. Readers who love non-fiction and memoirs should not miss this one. It was amazingly detailed and full of sharp intellect and a true sense of family. Lourd proves that you might take the boy out of the Bayou but you never take the Bayou out of the boy!

I read non-fiction on occasion and truly enjoy it. I have often found that true life experiences are sometimes more interesting than most fiction. Memoirs are a favorite of mine for a lot of reasons. I like the intimacy that the reader gets from the story. It's like being a part of that person's life for a little while. I like the realistic portrayals of hard times and good times. I like the honesty in it. And wow, did Blaine Lourd deliver with his new memoir, Born on the Bayou. 

This is such a good memoir. I found myself wondering things about when I wasn't reading it. Lourd has a wonderful voice for writing. His storytelling ability is memorable. I think this is one that will stick with readers for awhile. It is basically, a father-son story. Lourd tells about his life in Southern Louisiana and how it shaped him into the man he became. It has everything from hunting to chasing women and will draw the reader like bees to honey.

Lourd grew up in the 70's during the oil boom and subsequent collapse in the early 80's. His father, known to many as "Puffer", was a trucker who taught his boys about becoming a man. It is a candid story that doesn't hesitate to show the good and the bad of this man's life and how his influence changed his sons for the better and the worse. I loved the admiration Lourd felt for his older brother and his acceptance of his fathers flaws. I found myself wanting to know more than even the memoir provided, a rare thing in non-fiction for me.

This is also a rags to riches kind of story. Blaine Lourd didn't stay in the Bayou, but the Bayou never left him, even when he became a big shot in the big city. For one thing is shows the American Dream is still real and is still happening. There are those who still come up hard, but come up strong. Lourd's book exemplifies what hard work will get you and how you must never forget where you came from. The sense of family is strong in this book, the sense of tradition and a dying way of life. We may be becoming a more urban society as opposed to the rural society of the past, but is that good or bad?

Bottom Line:

This was an amazing story. I can't recommend it enough if you like this kind of reading. And if you don't and you're looking to broaden your horizons a bit, this is the memoir to do it with. Excellent, storytelling. A strong intellect and sheer raw honesty. It's a great read and I hope this isn't the only story we get from this author. He certainly knows a thing or two about telling a good story!

Born on the Bayou is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

About the Author:


Mr. Lourd is one very rare coonass. Maybe the rarest ever. Most such swampified individuals are quite content, proud and happy to live out their lives in the marshland mists: and deservedly so. They are born Bayou—sanctified by its unique churches and irreverent history. Blaine Lourd was, however, not content. So, he dredged, dodged and danced his coonass self away from his particular corner of the swamp and into the flash world of Hollywood’s gilded gentry. It tore him down and then rebuilt him: brick by painful brick. But he never once considered abandoning the intrinsic sincerity and integrity of the people and place he was born to. The result: a man with the intense loyalties, brutal honesty and deep sense of twisted humor so characteristic of the denizens of the Bayou, and the financial and social sophistication to become—and be— one of the Lourds of Los Angeles. I know and love this man. Read his fascinating story and you will too.

Review: This Gun for Hire

This Gun for Hire by Jo Goodman

Publication Date: 04/07/2015
Publisher: Penguin Group
Imprint: Berkley
Genre: Historical Romance
Pages: 384

(Received for an honest review from Berkley)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Indiebound, itunes

Jo Goodman on the WEB: websitefacebook, goodreads


"Perfectly crafted"—PW (starred review)Jo Goodman, a premier writer of western romance and the author of In Want of a Wife, is back with a sensational new novel for fans of Linda Lael Miller and Joan Johnston

He’s got a job to do…

Former army cavalryman Quill McKenna takes pride in protecting the most powerful man in Stonechurch, Colorado: Mr. Ramsey Stonechurch himself. But the mine owner has enemies, and after several threats on his life, mines, and family, Quill decides to hire someone to help guard the boss’s daughter. Only problem is the uncontrollable attraction he feels toward the fiery-haired woman who takes the job.
…but she’s a piece of work. 

Calico Nash has more knowledge of scouting and shooting than cross-stitching, but she agrees to pose as Ann’s private tutor while protecting her. But between her growing attraction to Quill and the escalating threats against the Stonechurches, Calico will soon have a choice to make—hang on to her hard-won independence or put her faith in Quill to create the kind of happy ending she never imagined…


This Gun for Hire is another great western historical romance from Jo Goodman. Goodman is an author that has great range, writing about everything from The Revolutionary War to the Old West and she does it all with flair and detail. This is the story of the bodyguard and the bounty hunter and how they come together to protect a prominent mining family who is receiving threats. Goodman doesn't pull any punches. Her characters have strength, integrity and often a feisty attitude and this book is no different. This one is a little on the lighter side than Goodman's usual fair and readers who love that distinctly western edge to their romances will love it!

Jo Goodman is one of those authors that I often feel is overlooked. She has been around for a long time and has written some very engaging and wonderful reads. But I think the fact that she doesn't stick to a particular genre has hurt her a bit and that is unfortunate because more readers need to check her out. Her writing is very detailed and rich. She uses not only humor and vitality, but the darker side of human nature as well. The Gun For Hire has a lighter side to it that is fun and enjoyable to read. It may not have as much darkness or angst as some would like, but I found it to be one of my favorites by this author. 

Characters Quill and Calico balanced each other in a delightful way. The banter between them was easy to follow and a lot of fun. I liked the way her sassy attitude complimented his larger than life cowboy persona. Calico was a rarity in the old west, a female bounty hunter. She had guts, she could use a gun and she also had that sensual side that reminded me of Sharon Stone in the movie, The Quick and the Dead. Quill was the handsome lawyer, turned bodyguard. He had a duty to protect and a sexiness that exuded from him. Together these two made the romance aspects of this book smoulder. Though, I felt the romance wasn't the main plot of the book, it certainly gave the reader what they wanted in a steamy relationship between two strong characters.

I think the western part of the story was the main focus of this book. But it was not like the romance was an afterthought. It added a spark to the story for sure. I liked the fact that Goodman took a good western and enhanced it in such a way that readers of both the romance and western genres would find it appealing. It was a good balance, but I found myself focusing in on what was happening in this mining town, who was behind all the shenanigans and the threats against the Stonechurch family. 

The secondary characters were as full detailed as the main characters and Goodman set a very good pace for this read. I think there is a lot here for readers to enjoy and I hope that more of you will check out other books from this author. Goodman is a favorite of mine and I hope she will become a favorite of yours too. If you are looking for a book with romance and historical appeal, This Gun For Hire is a great choice!

This Gun For Hire is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.

I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

About the Author:

Jo Goodman is a USA Today bestselling author who has written multiple series, including the Hamilton Family series and the Thorne Brothers series. Jo lives in West Virginia.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Review: As Lost As I Get

As Lost As I Get by Lisa Nicholas

Publication Date: 08/18/2015
Publisher: Penguin Group
Imprint: InterMix
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Pages: 225

(Received for an honest review from InterMix)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Koboitunes

Lisa Nicholas on the WEB: Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads

Excerpt from As Lost As I Get, courtesy of the author's website


From the author of The Farther I Fall comes an action-filled romance in which two lovers discover that the best thing about being lost is having someone find you...

CIA operative Lee Wheeler is glad to be back in the field, even if the assignment is at a backwater station in Colombia--what he considers punishment for crossing lines in an attempt to save his brother's life. Either way, he's ready for action. But he never could have predicted the action he's about to get...

Doctor Zoe Rodriguez is in charge of a clinic in a tiny town on the edge of the rain forest. She's still dealing with a traumatic experience she had in Mexico--a trauma she wouldn't have survived if it weren't for Lee. So when they unexpectedly cross paths again, unresolved wounds rise to the surface, and their mutual passion flares to life.

But when a new threat reveals itself, Lee and Zoe's reunion takes on echoes of the past that may ruin their chance for a future.


Lisa Nicholas returns with a follow up to her successful debut novel, The Farther I Fall. Her newest book, As Lost As I Get is a romantic suspense thriller that will have readers on the edge of their collective seats. Danger is around every corner of the Colombian jungle in this heart stopping story that has that suspenseful edge, as well as, a good solid romantic connection. Readers looking for a new author in romantic suspense genre can't go wrong with Nicholas. Her sophomore effort is just as satisfying as her debut and comes with a cast of characters that are well defined and a plot that is gripping and full of energy. 

The Farther I Fall was a great debut novel and I'll have to say that I was somewhat skeptical that the follow up would be as good. Sometimes when an author comes out with an outstanding first novel, it's a little bit hard to top. Nicholas proves that theory wrong with As Lost As I Get. I could see the author's growth in her writing with this one on every page. Her characters showed much more depth, their back stories were easier to follow and more fleshed out and Nicholas did a wonderful job of making them relatable even though most of us readers will never be CIA operatives or doctor's in a foreign land. But that's the beauty of romantic suspense, we get all the action, but none of the real danger!LOL

Lee and Zoe have a past, which is one of favorites ways to start out a romance. They already have a connection, something that ties them together and gives the story somewhere to go right from the start. In this case that start is a bit more intense than most. Lee is, in a sense, Zoe's knight in shining armour. Their shared past involves Lee rescuing Zoe after being kidnapped. Now, they find themselves once again in a situation where their lives are on the line and intensity of the situation only inflames their feelings for each other. Nicholas gives readers a great balance between the action and the romance in this one.

I liked the fact that the lead character, Zoe, wasn't a damsel in distress. She was a woman who could handle herself in some pretty dangerous situations. Her commitment to helping others was also a quality that I loved. Lee might be the big muscular type that you might expect for a CIA operative, but he also had a big heart and he wasn't afraid to use it. Nicholas made these characters stand out and stand on their own and that was refreshing. Usually in this genre you run the risk of making your characters either too strong or too weak. This one has a good balance in every aspect of the story.

Bottom Line:

I wasn't entirely sure how Nicholas was going to work this one out in the end. You have two strong characters who love their work and no real way for them to be together on a normal basis. But I shouldn't have worried, the solution Nicholas found was perfect for the characters and for the story. Nobody gave up anything and everybody was satisfied, including me as a reader. A great second effort from an up and coming author in the romantic suspense genre.

As Lost As I Get is available now from your favorite online retailer.

I'm giving this one 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

About the Author:

Lisa lives in Michigan with a tiny ridiculous dog and possibly more cats than is sensible. If she's not writing, she's feeding her story addiction any way she can: raiding Netflix, pillaging her local bookstore and library, and (most recently) tearing her way through the comics archive at Marvel.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Review: Still the One

Still the One (Animal Magnetism - Book 6) by Jill Shalvis

Publication Date: 04/07/2015
Publisher: Penguin Group
Imprint: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 320

(Received for an honest review from Berkley)

Purchase: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Indiebound, itunes

Jill Shalvis on the WEB: website, blog, twitter, facebook, goodreads

Books in the series

Animal Magnetism

1. Animal Magnetism
2. Animal Attraction
3. Rescue My Heart
4. Rumor Has It
5. Then Came You
6. Still the One

Coverart: Click the Image for a larger, clearer view of the covers in this series.

Excerpt from, Still the One, courtesy of the author's website


Love is a dare in the sexy new romance by the award-winning New York Times bestselling author of the Animal Magnetism novels and the Lucky Harbor series... 

Darcy Stone is game for anything—except sexy Navy vet and physical therapist AJ Colten, the guy who’d rejected her when she’d needed him most. Now the shoe is on the other foot and he needs her to play nice and help him secure grants for his patients. Unfortunately Darcy can’t refuse. She needs the money to fund her passion project: rescuing S&R dogs and placing them with emotionally wounded soldiers.

AJ admits it—Darcy is irresistible. But he’s already been battle-scarred by a strong-willed, vivacious, adventurous woman like Darcy, and he’s not making the same mistake twice—until he and Darcy are forced to fake a relationship. Growing closer than they’d ever imagined possible, Darcy and AJ have to ask themselves: how much between them is pretend? What’s the real thing? And where does it go from here?


Jill Shalvis brings readers the sixth book in her Animal Magnetism series, Still the One. Shalvis is a master at weaving a story that is both relevant and heartwarming. Reader's who are looking for a feel good story with lots of humor and charm will find this one irresistible, but there is also an edgy vibe to the book that will interest readers who are looking a little deeper. Shalvis takes on two issues in this book, retired service dogs and physical therapy patients who need more rehab, after the insurance money runs out. A great new read, from a seasoned writer!

Reader's who are familiar with this series and with Jill Shalvis' writing in general know that Shalvis has a real knack for writing characters that speak to readers in unique and different ways. In Still the One, we have two characters that contrast each other well. Darcy is recovering from a serious accident which has completely changed how she views life. I think Darcy's character is a little hesitant, a little fearful and is a woman who is trying to find herself again. I know that there are many readers out there who will be able to relate. The fact that she is using her own funds to find homes for retired service dogs is a cause that really spoke to my heart, since I am in need of a diabetic service dog myself. A great cause to champion as a character and as an author. 

AJ is a strong man. He is a confident, take charge kind of person. He see's a need in the lives of his physical therapy patients and he tries to solve that need. I think he will appeal to those readers who enjoy a hero that protective and intense. Finding the funds to continue helping others is a worthy goal and makes AJ, super appealing. Shalvis writes both characters in the book with such care, it is easy to see that she is moved by them as completely as the reader is.

Six books into this series, I think Shalvis has hit a good stride here. This is my favorite of the series so far, mostly because it hit home for me a bit with the service dog aspect of the story. But there is a lot for a reader to love about this book. I loved the humor that Shalvis uses and she made me want to visit a little town like Sunshine, Idaho. Her attention to detail drew me in and kept me glued to the pages. Certainly, not one readers will want to miss.

Bottom Line:

I always enjoy a book that doesn't make the romance the only interesting part of the story. I love a good romance, but I want a little substance to and I think Shalvis gives reader that perfect balance. Darcy and AJ have a shared past. They have some obstacles to overcome both in their romantic lives and in their personal lives. I liked the fact that they weren't perfect. They were real and that made all the difference. Shalvis knows how to write good characters and readers will not be disappointed with this one! 

Still the one is available NOW from your favorite bookseller!

I'm giving this one, 4 out of 5 apples from my book bag!

About the Author:

Jill Shalvis is the author of several popular series including the Lucky Harbor Series (It Had to Be You; Always on My Mind; Forever and a Day); the Animal Magnetism series (Rescue My Heart; Animal Attraction; Animal Magnetism), the Wilders series (Instant Attraction; Instant Temptation; Instant Gratification), and the Sky High series (Strong and Sexy; Superb and Sexy; Smart and Sexy). Her baseball-themed romances include Slow Heat and Double Play, and she also appears in anthologies such as He’s The One.