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Monday, July 6, 2015

Normal by Graeme Cameron

Release Date - April 2015

Graeme Cameron

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

One thing that stands out with Normal is the main character. He's a sadistic, sick, demented killer who may seem to fit in, but the truth is he has a holding cell in his basement where he imprisons and then kills women for fun. His latest victim, well he's kept her alive than he has others. But, the real change happens when he's at the grocery store. He meets Rachel and falls for her. He now has a desire to change, but that's going to be tough when he still has a victim in his basement and police who are desperate to solve the string of murders that he's responsible for.

It's really hard to feel any sympathy for the main character. He's demented and I wanted police to get him and lock him away for life. Therefore, it was hard to sympathize with his fascination and "love" for Rachel.

That said, the writing in Normal is gripping and very disturbed. The author did a great job creating a creepy character that gets under your skin. I had the same goosebumps as I did when I learned the guy whose locker was next to mine in high school had been put in jail a few years after graduation for raping several women. That "eww" factor is hard to ignore throughout Normal. Kudos to the author for creating a fictional, very creepy character.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Girl She Used to Be by David Cristofano

Release Date -

David Cristofano
Grand Central Publishing

Release Date - March 2009

While I received this book years ago for review, I couldn't get into it back then. Years later, I pulled it back out to give it another shot, as I really do like the plot for The Girl She Used to Be. In the end, it's the characters I still struggled with.

For two decades, Melody Grace McCartney's been on the run, part of the witness protection program. She and her parents witnessed a brutal murder, one committed by a mobster. While the mobster was able to find and eliminate her parents, Melody has remained out of his reach. Until now...

Bored of her current living situation, Melody fakes a problem and readies herself for another change of location, name, and career. Before the move is finalized however, the mobster's son does find her and offers her a chance at a life she's never experienced, the chance to be herself. All she has to do is turn her back on the government and put all of her trust in him.

There in starts a book that's part crime drama and part romance. The Girl She Used to Be did hold my attention, but after Melody meets Jonathan I started to lose interest. Melody came off as a strong, tough female lead, but she turns a bit sappy when she meets Jonathan and starts making decisions I had to question. Falling in love so quickly, especially with the son of a man who you know is dangerous and has played a role in the death of others, including your parents, I just couldn't understand why someone so smart would make such a foolish decision.

In the end, I still liked The Girl She Used to Be, but I didn't love it as much as I did in the beginning.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Hope Harbor by Irene Hannon

Release Date - July 7, 2015

Irene Hannon

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Michael Hunter's come to Hope Harbor after the loss of his wife. When he arrives and finds the only hotel in town is shut down, he's at a loss. He never expects a local resident to take him in. Especially not after hearing she's been an unfriendly recluse for a number of years. He's just hear to deal with his tragic past, the last thing he needs is to find romance.

Tracy Campbell meets Michael Hunter when he causes her to crash her bike. She's back in Hope Harbor to run her family's cranberry farm and a local charity. With her time spread thin, she never expects to get help from Michael, but he seems insistent on paying back the kindness he's received from the town's recluse, so Tracy lets him in. She refuses to let him into her heart, however. She's had her chance at love and failed miserably.

It doesn't take long before Tracy and Michael realize there is a mutual attraction at play. Given their pasts, they cannot find love again, can they?

Hope Harbor is a sweet romance with many characters who have suffered some form of loss. There are four main stories taking place in this novel, however, so you end up getting involved with four sets of characters. You have Michael and what caused him to give up on love. Next, there's Tracy and the secrets of her marriage. There's also the town recluse, Anna, who lost both her husband and son in little time, and no one knows the real story. Finally, there is a young teen who has a secret of her own and gets some characters to think about where they are, where they could be, and she becomes a catalyst for change.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Second Helpings at the Serve You Right Cafe by Tilia Klebenov Jacobs

Release Date - April 2015

Tilia Klebenov Jacobs
Linden Tree Press

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

I loved Tilia Klebenov Jacob's Wrong Place, Wrong Time. Give that, I was eager to read Second Helpings at the Serve You Right Cafe. Sadly, I didn't find this one anywhere near as appealing or enjoyable.

Eden Rose owns the Serve You Right Cafe and her employee, Emet First, has a bit of a past that, for some, makes him a less than desirable character. Emet served almost 10 years in prison, but he's thriving at the coffee shop and is making many friends. Unfortunately, the brother of the woman he just dated is determined to ruin Emet's life, and Emet has to carefully watch his every move if he wants to stay out of prison.

Let's start with the fact that it was supposed to be a romantic novella. It is a short read at just about 200 pages. As for the romance, I just didn't see much basis at all for a romance. There was a date that led to the possibility of a romance, but it really just kind of stopped at that point. I'd say it is more of a cross of general fiction and suspense with a small dose of potential romance.

The characters are okay, but none of them grabbed me and made me want to know them more. There's the flighty old couple in the park that really didn't seem to have huge importance in the story. Eden Rose is okay, but just okay so that's not a strong selling point. Mercey, Emet's date, seems far too ignorant given her education. She seems smart enough to know her family is toxic, yet she's stuck around for far longer than she ever should have. Then there is Emet who I feel is the strongest character of the bunch, just topping Mercey's brother, another strong character, albeit one that I simply couldn't stand.

In the end, this is one of those books that I could take or leave. It's not horrible, but certainly nothing I'd want to read again.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

First Time in Forever: A Puffin Island Novel by Sarah Morgan

Release Date - February 24, 2015

Sarah Morgan
HQN Books

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

She's lost her job, her long-time boyfriend dumped her, and the cherry on top is that her estranged half-sister is dead and made Emily Donovan guardian to a six year old. Emily wants nothing to do with a child. She's not cut out to be mommy material, but right now, her focus is getting the child to safety. As Emily's half-sister was a Hollywood starlet, the paparazzi are hot on Emily's heels. Keeping Juliet away from their prying eyes is her number one concern.

Taking up her friend's offer of a summer cottage on Maine's Puffin Island, Emily hopes the little girl will be safe. She never expects to gain the attentions of a local business owner, Ryan Cooper. It isn't long before Juliet (now called Lizzy for her safety) is longing for a solid family life with Ryan and Emily living happily ever after. Emily, however, is just out of one bad relationship and wants nothing to do with another one.

I love the Maine islands, so the setting was an instant hit with me. Emily is likable, once you get to know the reasons why she fears the water and children so much. Ryan is also likable, though I found Lizzy was the show stealer. She calls it as she sees it, and I always like having a precocious child egging hesitant characters along.

First Time in Forever is a charming romance that did leave me wanting more. There was the hint of a story to come between Lizzy and a set of twins that I am curious to see if the author meant to cover in later novels, or if I'm simply reading too much into it. There are also Emily's friends who should be getting their own romances. Plus, the mother of the twins and town ice cream parlor owner deserves her own story too.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Full Tilt by Rick Mofina

Release Date - February 2015

Rick Mofina

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

When teens come across a woman on fire, police never expect the case to take a very dark turn. In the hospital, the badly burned, dying woman tells the lead detective "there are others." Soon enough, a second body is found. What appears to be a murder-suicide becomes a journey into a madman's mind as more bodies appear.

For journalist Kate Page, the case becomes a priority. Two decades earlier, Kate's parents died. She and her sister were with foster parents when the car they were traveling in went off the road and into the river. Kate's sister was never found. Now, her sister's necklace has turned up at the first crime scene. Her gut instinct that her sister survived now seems to have validity. As police refuse to share more information, Kate decides to look into the murders, the disappearance of a girl who would have been around her sister's age, and see if she cannot unravel the truth.

From the moment I began Full Tilt, I was hooked. The story is mostly Kate's, but there are chapters were you get to see into the killer's mind and even some of the victims' insight from time to time. The suspense keeps you on your toes, and while it's apparent who the killer is, the fun in this story comes from the characters trying to outsmart him.

Along the way, there were a few decisions made that I didn't understand. I couldn't get how police or Kate were blinded to things that jumped right out at me. However, they were never enough for me to lose interest.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Shelter Us by Laura Nicole Diamond

Release Date - June 2015

Laura Nicole Diamond
She Writes Press

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Following the tragic death of her infant daughter, Sarah Shaw is lost. Though, years later, she has two sons, she cannot move past the loss of her daughter. She walks a thin line between depression and trying to cope with being a wife and mother. One day, she spies a homeless woman pushing a stroller. The urge to help this woman becomes overwhelming, even if it means keeping a secret from her husband. When the young, homeless mother needs help, Sarah realizes how far she will go to help a virtual stranger, no matter what the consequences may be.

Shelter Us is told entirely from Sarah's point of view. This makes it easy for the reader to identify with Sarah and the choices she makes. It's definitely a roller coaster ride of a story. You may agree with Sarah's decisions or you may not, but you'll definitely get why she does the things she does.

On a more personal level, I lost a baby when I was 16 weeks along in my pregnancy. I got Sarah's grief. While my baby was not one I could hold and had spent quality time with, I know the feeling of loss and how long it lingers. For the record, 23 years later, I still think about that baby. It does leave a bit of a hollowness, and I fully got Sarah and really loved her story.