Carson Tinker’s A Season to Remember is a Must-Read for Crimson Tide Fans

carsonA Season to Remember: Faith in the MIdst of the Storm B&H Books, May 1, 2014

I am diehard Crimson Tide fan, and in 2011, I was saddened by the devastation that a tornado caused in Tuscaloosa on April 27th. I remember hearing the news reports that a Crimson Tide player, long snapper Carson Tinker, had been ripped from his house by the storm and was later found in a field across the street. I was shocked when I learned that his girlfriend had been killed in the storm. The tornado wreaked havoc on Tuscaloosa and its inhabitants. So, when I saw that Carson Tinker had written a book about it, I was eager to get my hands on it.

In Tinker’s own words, the storm was terrifying in its intensity and devastating with its aftermath. Left injured and bereft, his book is one about healing, coming to terms with loss, and turning to his faith to get him through the hardest time of his life. I didn’t realize how badly he had been injured, how, without dedication and tenacity, his football career could have ended on April 27, 2011. Instead, Tinker persevered through surgeries, wound treatments, and rehabilitation. He even underwent a skin graft in the locker room after a game. Now that is a man who wants to play some football!

Tinker’ story eventually moves from his healing to the 2011 football season, and I love this part of the book. I remember that season, watching the games. Feeling anticipation build with every win and knowing in the back of my mind and all Tide fans’ minds that the words “national championship” were quietly rolling around. Tinker takes the reader through each game. He gives insights into his teammates and coaches, especially Nick Saban and his approach to the team and the game. He explains Saban’s “process” and how the focus is never on winning or losing. I thoroughly enjoyed the firsthand account of what was happening on the field and off, what was going through the minds’ of our players, and what each victory meant to Tinker and the Tide overall.

But this book is about so much more than football. It is about one man’s approach to life and to discovering how he wants to live that life, the path he takes to achieve his goals, and the decisions he makes to live his life in the manner that best suits him. Carson Tinker (as the title suggests) is man of deep faith and that faith plays a huge role in the decisions he makes and the way he lives his life. I’m not a religious person, so I did find the book to be a bit preachy when it comes to faith and God, but, in spite of that, I enjoyed Tinker’s personal account the of storm and playing on a championship team. He definitely has a great outlook on life and quite a bit of wisdom to share.

My Crazy Crush on Michael Merrick

Well, if you’ve read my blog before or seen my reviews on Goodreads, you already know that I love The Elementals series by Brigid Kemmerer. And what’s not to love? Four attractive brothers who also happen to control water, fire, air, and earth. Four hotties whose personalities and temperaments are as unique as the abilities they possess. You’ve got quiet Chris, who may not say much, but when he does, shut up and listen because you’re about to hear something important. And if you piss him off, get away from the water because you’re gonna get drenched. Hotheaded Gabriel who reacts first and apologizes later…sometimes. He’s as hot as the fire he controls and more than likely to burn someone before they can hurt him. Steady, loyal Nick, who hides himself and his secrets behind an air of calm that becomes a hurricane when you threaten his loved ones. And then there’s Michael. Michael Merrick who put aside his dreams of becoming a professional baseball player to raise his brothers after their parents died. The oldest brother who keeps food on the table and clothes on his brothers’ backs by running a landscaping company, while raising three troublemaker boys and trying to have some semblance of a life and a relationship.

I confess that I didn’t like Michael much in the beginning of Storm. Let’s face it. He seemed like a bit of a jerk and rather controlling of his brothers, and not very nice to Becca. But then came the scene that made me:

sobbing

You guessed it….

THE PANCAKE SCENE!

Just in case you are not like me and have not re-read that scene 8,991 times, let me give you a refresher:

First, let me set the scene. The morning after a school dance that ends in a massive fight on the athletics field, Chris, Gabriel, and Nick haven’t returned home and Michael has gone to Becca’s (she was Chris’ date to the dance) to find out what happened the night before. Michael is injured and after some doctoring, Becca’s mom insists on feeding him, so he and Becca are parked at the kitchen table eating pancakes:

He picked up his fork and cut a piece of pancake. “Smiley faces?” he said, spearing some with his fork. “Mom gets into her cooking,” said Becca.

Michael must have liked the pancakes. He cut another piece. “I forgot what that was like.”

“Cooking?” she said.

He didn’t look up. “Having a mother.”

pancakesOH.MY.GOD!

I was runny, gooey pancake batter after that. Michael might as well have been eating my pancake heart because he cut it into a million pieces with those three little words. And I totally loved him for it! In one sentence, Meanie Michael became I Miss My Mom Michael, quickly followed by My Favorite Merrick Michael. (Hard to keep them all straight, isn’t it?)

And then that scene was soon followed by:

“There was a fight. Just boys from school. Chris— we ran them off. But something happened. Lightning started chasing us across the field or— I don’t know.” Again, she [Becca] didn’t have the right words. “But when it started, he gave me his cell phone and told me to get his brothers.”

“Jesus, Becca .” Michael set his jaw and looked off across the field, then back at her. “I’m his brother, too.”

Where we see that Mr. In Charge is actually vulnerable and scared and freaking out over what could have happened to his brothers, and we realize he is carrying the weight of the world on his broad, nicely muscled shoulders, and that raising Chris, Nick, and Gabriel is the hardest thing he will ever have to do, and they don’t even appreciate all that he does for them, and now they’re missing! PANIC!

Okay, deep breaths.

So then, Spark comes along with those Michael/Gabriel scenes and just when I think I can’t heart Michael anymore, Kemmerer delivers Spirit and a Michael who reaches out and saves a lonely, hurting kid and puts a roof over his head when no one else in the world seems to want him. Michael is already raising three brothers. He certainly didn’t have to take another person under his wing, but he does and, while I am no Grinch, that just made my heart go:

grinch heart

And with Sacrifice, we lucky, lucky readers are finally going to get inside his head!!! I can’t wait to see the way he thinks, feel what he feels, and see Chris, Nick, Gabriel, and Hunter through his eyes. What’s it like to raise three brothers while trying to hide their elemental abilities and hopefully prevent a war that could kill them all? How does Michael cope with so much responsibility?

Seeing the fifth Elementals book posted on Goodreads.com made me squeal with delight, but then I really looked at the title, and my eyes narrowed, and my heart did this odd constricted thing, and I might have stopped breathing for a half a minute.

S-A-C-R-I-F-I-C-E.

Oh no, no, no, no. I do not like the sound of that at all. That is a very foreboding word. What or, more importantly, who exactly is being sacrificed???? It better not be my precious Michael! We already know that he’s a throw-himself-on-the-grenade type of guy. He would do anything – ANYTHING – to protect his brothers. This could be bad, very, very bad. Kemmerer wouldn’t kill off a Merrick brother, would she? WOULD SHE????

Clearly, I am going to be on tranquilizers until Sacrifice is released (and yes, possibly sporting one of those oh-so stylish straitjackets), but even a potential emotional breakdown is worth it for a chance to see the world from Michael Merrick’s point of view.

In the meantime, I will be stockpiling tissues and counting down the days, hours, minutes, and seconds until Michael’s book is firmly clenched in my greedy, obsessed, possibly neurotic, and totally in love hands, which according to online posts is tentatively scheduled for October 2014. It can’t come soon enough!

In the meantime, Nick Merrick’s book, Secret (#4 in The Elementals series) comes out next Tuesday. Check out my post about that awesome book and pick up a copy next Tuesday!

Nothing bad about Badluck Way by Bryce Andrews

Wolves and ranching will never co-exist. Despite government-overseen reintroduction, despite reimbursement for predation, wolves are hunters and cattle are easy prey. As soon as I read the blurb, I knew this memoir wouldn’t end without blood being spilled. Yet Bryce Andrews’ easy voice and excellent writing drew me, and I was uncontrollably along for the collision when predator and unintended prey met.blw

A first-hand account of life on a modern day cattle ranch, Andrews has a wonderful way with words and a voice that is strong and draws the reader in. His descriptions of the beauty of the ranch and the land in Montana read smoothly and are not bogged down in excessive detail. His concise yet poetic way of “speaking” truly makes this memoir. He can make you laugh with one sentence and have you yearning for the wild mountains of Montana in the next.  His words paint a picture before your reading eyes until you feel as if you are standing knee-deep in a Montana winter with snow battering your face and the wind burning your skin. It’s rare an author can capture such a scene without overtelling and dulling the sensation, but Andrew’s succeeds and excels at it.

I appreciate the author’s honesty. Nothing is sugar coated, not the description of the wolves’ kills or the daily grind or the grim task of dealing with cows maimed by predators. This is what life on a ranch is truly like. It’s a glimpse into a world and a life that most of us will never know, and Andrews made me both relieved and saddened by that fact as I read.

I wasn’t certain I wanted to read this book at first. I love wolves. I followed their reintroduction into Yellowstone and read every book on the subject I could get my hands on. With this being a cattle ranch set in the wilds of the west, I knew there would be wolf encounters, and I had a pretty good idea of how a ranch hand would deal with a wolf; yet Andrews surprised me. He seemed as enchanted with the wolves as I am. In fact, in his first encounter with one, he was too awed to do anything other than watch. In the end, the hardship of trying to co-exist with wolves and the gruesome actions that must be taken to stop predation changed Andrews, but not in the way I was expecting. I think Andrews says it best himself: “The ranch’s two predominant qualities were beauty and brutality.”

The Redemption of Callie and Kayden – Let’s Hope Book 3 Redeems the Series

2013 is winding to an end and, all in all, from a book perspective, it wasn’t a bad year. I read 110 books. Some were fantastic, some were so-so, and some were so forgettable that I already can’t remember them, but I discovered new authors and new series, and started up this blog.

I began the year on a high note, reading Altered by Jennifer Rush. Wish I could have ended it on a good note, but my last book of 2013 (unless I can read another one in the next four hours) was The Redemption of Callie and Kayden by Jessica Sorensen, which left me wanting a lot more out of our deeply troubled, angst-ridden lovers. Admittedly, I should have reread the first book in the series before picking up the second one because I didn’t remember anything about the first book except at the end Kayden is left bleeding to death on the floor and his survival is in question.

And if you’ll allow me a bit of a derailment here, what does it mean when you can’t remember a book that you have read in the last 12 months? Does that mean you have a bad memory or that the book wasn’t worth remembering? Or that you read too many books to remember them all? I’m not sure what it means, but I do know this: If a book is good enough, I can remember it long after I have closed the cover and put it back on the shelf.

So, getting the train back on track….I started reading Redemption and had no idea who Seth was, but I certainly found him annoying and a bit too pushy when it came to Callie and the decisions she needed to make for herself. Also, I felt there was too much sex and not enough actual dealing with their problems, especially Kayden. I wanted to see more of him in this book, more of his inner turmoil, more of his coming to terms with his abuse and self-abuse, but every time he seemed to be getting somewhere it was time for more sex with Callie. I get it. They are young little lust bunnies, but how many times do we really need to read about them having sex? It stopped moving the story forward and became repetitive.

I thought it was rather annoying that the culprits in both cases (those who abused Callie and those who abused Kayden) conveniently just disappeared in the end with no retribution being paid to either. Seems to me that there is a lot to explore in bringing those people to justice and how that would affect their victims. Perhaps we’ll never know or perhaps that will be explored in books 3 and 4. I also wanted more of Luke. He started out as an important character in Redemption, but faded into nothing when they got to the beach. What was he running away from? What was gnawing at his insides and making him restless and unhappy? We didn’t find out, but that issue (according to the blurb on goodreads.com) will be addressed in book 3 when the story switches to Luke and his love interest. I am looking forward to Luke as I think he will be an interesting character to get to know. He still felt like a stranger at the end of Redemption.

The ending felt rushed to me, especially Kayden’s meeting with his brother. So many messy things to address and fight over and forgive, and yet it was all wrapped up in a neat little package and over way too soon. Overall, the book was disappointing. I will still read the third book, just to see if Luke’s story is better.

And speaking of better, let’s hope 2014 gives us loads of great reading, new writers, and lots of books to blog about. Check out my post about my most anticipated books for the rapidly approaching New Year and Happy Reading to All.