Note to Readers

Roundtable Reviews receives many galley and ARC copies for review. Please understand that the finished copy may differ from the copies we have reviewed.

I have not received any compensation for writing this post other than a free digital or galley copy of the book. I have no material connection to the publisher, agent, or author whose book/s I am reviewing. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for providing many of the books you see reviewed here.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Need You Now - James Grippando

January 2012

James Grippando

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

The toughest part of this review really is just how much of the plot to give away to present the plot. There are lots of layers involved that the book jacket doesn't touch upon, but the book jacket really doesn't go into the full implications of the story at hand either and that makes it tough.

Things start with Abe Cushman and Gerry Collins. Cushman is a NASDAQ chairman who is arrested for a massive Ponzi scheme that nets him billions of dollars. Rather than face jail, he commits suicide. Cushman was like a father to Gerry Collins and Gerry now has very some very angry investors on his hands. Gerry also winds up dead, but his death is at the hands of a murderer.

Three years pass, financial advisor Patrick Lloyd is in Switzerland to supposedly meet the Bank of Switzerland's managing director, though he cannot imagine why they want to meet with a Wall Street newbie.This begins a nightmarish quest to unravel where Cushman's millions are because someone is convinced Patrick's ex-girlfriend, Lilly Scanlon, knows where Gerry hid the money and that Lilly revealed everything to Patrick.

With Lilly and Patrick not sure who they can really trust, Patrick knows one thing, he needs to unravel what really happened with Cushman's Ponzi scheme if he's going to get out of this situation alive.

There are other things going on within Need You Now too. A strong part of the story line involves Patrick's real identity and the reason he met Lilly in the first place. That aspect is revealed a few chapters in, so readers know things other characters don't early on. This leads to complications on which characters within the book are really trustworthy. I found myself questioning a few of their motives many times.

As the story does rely heavily on aspects of Ponzi schemes, something that I got sick of with Bernie Madoff, I found my hardest time was staying involved in the story. There were times when I felt like I'd seen it all before, yet I am a huge fan of Grippando's novels, so I had to keep reading. There's also the issue of the overplayed Lady Antebellum song, "Need You Now," coming up in the story and after that I couldn't get that song out of my head.

In the end, I still enjoyed the story, but not as much as I do the Jack Swyteck novels. For me, that series remains a favorite.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Balancing Act - Patricia Davids

Released August 2011

Patricia Davids

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

After a crash on snowy roads leaves ballerina Cheryl Steele with a broken foot, she has no choice but to recuperate while her ballet director recasts her starring role in a ballet version of Alice in Wonderland. During her recovery, Cheryl agrees to help with her rescuer's twin daughters. There's one problem, Cheryl's back in a town she left long ago due to a troubled childhood. If Sam Hardin learns her real identity, he may not look as kindly upon having her as a house guest.

Meanwhile, Sam's five-year-old twins are hoping that Cheryl decides she loves them all so much that she never wants to leave. When things don't look to be working in their favor, they decided to try to force the adults in their lives to realize they were meant to be a family.

Balancing Act is a cute, quick romance. During the busy holidays when a quick read is the best option, Patricia Davids story is both heartwarming and moves swiftly to the final page. This is a Harlequin Heartwarming novel, a reissue of a Love Inspired novel. It's suitable to any reader looking for a gentle romance without sex or violence.

With well developed characters and great chemistry because the adults and children, readers will enjoy this cozy tale of romance.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Bentleys Buy a Buick - Pamela Morsi

Released August 2011

Pamela Morsi

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

One thing jumped out at me the minute I started reading The Bentleys Buy a Buick. This isn't your ordinary romance. The hero and heroine are a happily married couple with a home, business and loving son. There's no development of a new relationship to get past. If you've always read romances and wished you could see what happened after the couple married, here's your chance.

After years of being a stay-at-home mom, Erica Bentley's back at work. She learns quickly that gossip rules the office and that the demands of working, parenting and keeping house are not as easily balanced as one might hope. Her husband, Tom, is equally busy running his auto garage that specializes in classic cars. He has a bigger problem on his plate. He learns his best friend is having an affair, and Tom is torn between telling the man's wife or hoping the man comes to his senses before he has to fire him and let the truth come out. He's also busy restoring a Buick Roadster for an elderly woman who really hopes Tom will want to buy her "Clara" after putting so much work into her.

Soon, the gossips in the office have targeted Erica due to her friendship with one of the doctors in the hospital where she works. They decide to start gossiping about Erica's marriage being in trouble. It doesn't take much before Erica fears Tom may be having an affair with "Clara." She's determined to fight for her man, no matter what it takes.

Because The Bentleys Buy a Buick does involve a married couple who are well into an established marriage, I really enjoyed the focus. Granted, I also, at times, wanted to knock some sense into both Tom and Erica because their secretive behavior was driving a wedge into their marriage and neither seemed smart enough to realize it. With the mix of humor and romance, I found myself really enjoying each page and hoping the author will consider writing other stories about married couples in the future. It was an exciting change of pace.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Angry Birds: Bad Piggies' Egg Recipes: Various

Released December 2011

Rovio Mobile

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

There's no doubt that Angry Birds have become an incredibly popular game, leading to a line of stuffed toys, apparel and other goods. Now comes a cookbook that features the one thing the piggies covet -- eggs.

This whimsical cookbook is filled with egg recipes. Recipes range from breakfast dishes to omelets suitable for lunch of dinner. With 40 recipes in all, there are dishes to suit every taste and budget. I admit, I wasn't sold on a cookbook that features nothing but egg recipes, but then I came across one that is so simple, yet so delicious that I realized there's more to this cookbook than I was expecting.

This recipe is very simple and involves pouring a couple teaspoons of heavy cream into a greased custard cup , even a muffin tin will do, and then breaking an egg into it. Sprinkle the top of the egg with salt, pepper, chives and cheese and bake until the yolk is set. It's so easy, yet so incredibly delicious.

You don't have to be an Angry Birds fan (though I admit I am) to find enjoyment in this cookbook. If you need a few ideas on unique holiday dishes that don't take long to prepare or cook, Angry Birds: Bad Piggies' Egg Recipes is perfect.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Good Girls Don't - Victoria Dahl

Released September 2011

Victoria Dahl

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

After her family's pub and brewery is burglarized, Tessa Donovan can't help but notice Detective Luke Asher. Her brothers may warn her off him, but Tessa finds Luke to be irresistible. He can't be all bad can he?

Luke isn't fond of his co-workers thinking he's the father of his partner's soon-to-be born child, but he's not about to turn his back on her either. He knows that Tessa's brothers think he's scum, but he's determined to make things work with Tessa, even if it means sneaking around behind their backs. As things heat up with Tessa, he starts to wonder if he'll ever be able to win their trust.

Meanwhile, there's a case to solve. Someone stole the brewery computers and it's up to Luke to find out who took them and why.

Good Girls Don't hooked me from the start. It's obvious that Tessa's brothers are hugely overprotective, and there is a reason that readers will learn about as they delve into the book. The mystery regarding Luke's partner's baby also serves as a secondary storyline. I liked Tessa and Luke's chemistry and couldn't wait to see how things ended.

One thing that struck me instantly is that I need to see Tessa's brothers get their own stories. I'm looking that up as I type this to make sure this is the first of a trilogy, and it is. There are two additional books released this fall that match each brother with a woman. I'll need to find those two novels. I also hope that at some point, Luke's partner finds her own special someone.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Getting Lucky - Kayla Perrin

Released August 2011

Kayla Perrin
Harlequin Spice

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Apparently, this is part of a series, and somehow I missed that. Being part of a series might explain why I struggled to like any of the characters. In a nutshell, you have three best friends, all have suffered bad relationships or breakups and aren't quite sure what to do next. I've read Kayla Perrin before and really liked her writing style and storylines, so I'm surprised that Getting Lucky turned out to be a huge dud for me.

Annelise is five months pregnant and madly in love. However, she's been in a bad relationship before and isn't ready for marriage, even if the baby's daddy is. With her happiness, she's upset her friends are miserable. Soon, she has a brilliant idea.She invites her friends to Mexico for a week of R & R. What they don't know is that she's arranged to have two male friends "surprisingly" meet up and hopefully hook up with her friends. If they find out, it may threaten their friendship.

Lishelle is stunned when she learns her ex-boyfriend is getting married. She can't get him out of her mind and wonders if she made a mistake when she let him go. Claudia's self-esteem took a beating no thanks to her ex and rumors of her sexual trysts with him make it really hard to find or trust another man. When Mr. Right appears, her hesitation may end up costing her a chance for a true romance.

Given how "nice" Annelise's cop friend and his brother were supposed to be, I'm kind of surprised they agreed to a lengthy blind date with two women they didn't know. It's that aspect that made the entire plot seem implausible. Not to mention, I wish I had the kind of  money were I could decide on an impromptu vacation to an all-inclusive tropical resort. I know cops and they don't make the kind of money necessary for a surprise trip of that nature. Even local news anchors don't really make that much money. Maybe there are people who can take a vacation at the drop of a hat, but what kept playing through my head was "only in fiction."

I had issues with the characters too. Granted this is an erotic romance, so there will be steamy sex scenes, but it seemed all these women thought about and they were quite happy to have one-night stands at the drop of a hat. Again, I know there are women out there like that, but certainly not in my crowd. One-night stands are far too risky in this day and age in terms of safety and potential sexually transmitted diseases. As a result, I found it impossible to connect with any of the characters making it really hard to like the book.

I do hate finding fault in books, but sometimes it just jumps out and makes me really dislike a story. That's what happened with Getting Lucky. I finished it, but wish I really could have thrown it against the wall and called it quits in the beginning of the story.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Detective's Accidental Baby - Jacqueline Diamond

Released February 2012

Jacqueline Diamond

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

The next entry into the Safe Harbor Medical romance series focuses on nurse Erica Benford. Readers of this series know Erica best as Owen Tartikoff's (The Surgeon's Surprise Twins) scrub nurse.

The last thing Erica wants is a child in her life, but a one-night stand with a hunky detective leads to an accidental pregnancy after the condom breaks. Erica decides the best thing to do is to go through the pregnancy and put the child up for adoption.

Sherlock "Lock" Vaughn grew up in foster care after his adoptive parents proved to be duds. He's not about to let strangers raise his child. He's determined to prove to Erica that he'll make a great single dad. Proving this is tougher than it seems, however, because Erica is equally determined to prove that his ideas of parenthood are nothing like the reality.

Lock has a few ties to characters from past Safe Harbor books too. He and his brother run a detective agency and their secretary is Patty from Falling for the Nanny.

The Detective's Accidental Baby is a quick, easy read that throws in a surprise I didn't see coming. I won't go into it here, but if you've been reading the series, there's a secondary storyline that focuses on another character I really like. It was interesting to see her pushed into a situation that strengthened her place in books to come.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Happy Haulidays Winner Announced

Congratulations to Jennifer Miler, blogger for Where the Best Books Are. She and one of her readers won Chronicle Book's Happy Hauliday's Contest.

For those who didn't win, enter "haulidays" when checking out and earn free shipping and up to a 35% discount.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

What Happened to Hannah - Mary Kay McComas

Released February 2012

Mary Kay McComas
William Morrow

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

I recently had the pleasure of reviewing What Happened to Hannah for Amazon Vine. Loveswept romance fans may recognize the author's name. She's back with a full-length novel that really made an impression. Check out the full review here.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Forgetful Lady - Jacqueline Diamond

Released December 2010 (Reissue)

Jacqueline Diamond

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

 The Forgetful Lady is not a new novel. Jacqueline Diamond wrote it back in 1984. It was then reprinted in 1986. Because this is a Regency-era romance, it doesn't feel dated. Women were treated differently back then often having little say in their choice of spouse. If you take a look at your own family's genealogy, as I have, it's refreshing to know that women's rights have come so far. One of my husband's distant relatives had to marry her older sister's older husband in the early 1800s when her sister died in childbirth with their 12th child. Letter's that others documented make it clear she was unhappy marrying a man 20 years her senior and becoming an instant-mom to nieces and nephews ranging in age from infancy to late teens, but she couldn't go against her father's wishes. It was just a way of life back then.

Within Jacqueline Diamond's novel, the heroine Lady Elizabeth Fairchild is in love with Lord Meridan, her family's neighbor, and hopes to impress him during a fox hunt. Unfortunately, she's thrown from one of his horses and loses her memory. Her brash attitude and insistence on telling others the truth makes her the talk of the town, and not in a good way. All Beth knows is that Lord Meridan blames her for his friend's death and she can't remember what she did. Unless she can, Lord Meridan may never see her as worthy of his hand.

Within The Forgetful Lady, there is a lot of catty behavior. Beth's mother had me wanting to strangle her, and her sister was honestly no better. Had I been Beth in today's world, I would have left and never returned. They were really horrible. Lord Meridan's really not much better. He's arrogant, unbending and absolutely maddening.

Yet it's those same characteristics that really prove that Jacqueline is a master at creating characters. You may hate some and love others, but it's clear that characterization is her strong suit.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Last Chance to Win $500 in Free Books from Chronicle Books

The final day to enter to win Chronicle Books' Happy Haul-idays contest is today. You have until 11:59 pm EST to enter. Do so by posting a message here:

Good luck to all who have entered!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Fall From Pride - Karen Harper

Released July 26, 2011

Karen Harper

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Fall From Pride is a gripping romantic suspense, but it almost has a strong mystery/suspense storyline that makes me think mystery readers will enjoy it.  It's also the first book in Karen Harper's "A Home Valley Amish" series. I'm thrilled there will be two more stories because I'm curious to see how the author resolves a few things in future novels.

Sarah Kauffman loves painting and her series of Amish quilt square paintings done on the side of local barns is drawing attention. However, when an arsonist burns down one of the barns, arson investigator Nate MacKenzie heads into Amish country to investigate. When a second barn burns to the ground, it becomes clear that someone holds a grudge, but is that grudge with the Amish or with Sarah?

Nate being an Englisher and Sarah being Amish poses a problem in terms of their developing any kind of relationship. If Sarah and Nate decide to test the waters of their growing attraction, Sarah must abandon her family and face being shunned by the Amish community. Nate being an Englisher with a job that keeps him on the move can't abide by Amish rules. It poses a conflict that romance fans will really enjoy.

All in all, I loved the story and the characters in Fall From Pride. There are two more stories to come, and I can't wait to see who appears in the next story and what challenges they will face. Now that I'm done reading, I can't wait to get into the kitchen to test out the recipe for Half-Moon Pies provided on the author's website. After reading so much about them, my mouth has been watering.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Last Icon - Steven Travers

Released November 15, 2011

Tom Seaver
Steven Travers
Taylor Trade

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Many baseball fans know the name Tom Seaver. I won't call myself a MLB fan, but I grew up with a brother who followed the Red Sox almost religiously and later married another die-hard fan. For virtually all of my life, like it or not, I've been immersed in baseball since I was a young child. Tom Seaver really played for the Mets. While his career ended with the Red Sox, he was a Met's player from 1967 to 1977. What follows in The Last Icon is a look at Seaver's childhood, college years and progression into a very long run in MLB.

There are things in The Last Icon that really kind of shocked me. It's hard not to pay attention to the salaries some athletes make.  In comparison, Seaver was one of the lowest paid I've come across. Author Steven Travers, also a MLB player, lists Seaver's salary over the 20 years he was with the Mets, Reds, White Sox and Red Sox and it came to just under $5.9 million. There are baseball players earning far more than that after just a few years, and some I don't feel deserve what they earn. Granted, 25 years have passed since Seaver retired, but still. Look at the Yankees' contract with A. J. Burnett, one that cost them $82.5 million over five years and he went 32-35. By comparison, Seaver was making a paltry amount.

The Last Icon covers all of Seaver's years in baseball and progress into where he is now. For me, that's one of the best parts. By the end of the book, you learn about his vineyard and the wines he and his family produce. All in all, it's a comprehensive look at both the MLB player and the man. There's more to this biography than just the sporting side thanks to this very personal, in-depth look.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Craving Perfect - Liz Fichera

Released July 25, 2011

Liz Fichera
Carina Press

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

It's short and sweet, but I really did enjoy Craving Perfect. At under 300 pages, it takes little time to read this romance, but I like quick stories, especially in the busy holiday season. I think many readers will understand the main character, Grace Mills, she's not perfect but really wants to be. Anyone, teen or adult who's ever muttered "I wish I looked like her..." has been in Grace's shoes.

Grace Mills, owner of a popular bakery/coffee shop, is tired of having big feet and an extra 30 pounds that just won't go away. She wants to catch the eye of the gym hottie, Max, but falling off the treadmill isn't the best way to do it. Humiliated, she heads home to hide out for a few days before trying again. What she doesn't know is that she has caught the eye of Carlos, one of the gym's employees, and he just wishes she would notice him and not that arrogant Max who does little more than ridicule Grace behind her back.

Soon Grace finds herself in an alternate reality thanks to a seemingly magical treadmill. In this new world, she's not only a perfect size two, but she's also engaged to Max. Sometimes, being perfect isn't as much fun as it seems...

Craving Perfect is a fun read. I find it annoying when size eight women think they're too fat, so I was afraid I'd dislike Grace, but she turned out to be someone I felt a connection with from virtually the first page. I think you need to keep an open mind as to how Grace g travels between the two realities because it's highly implausible, especially in the beginning, that she did bounce back and forth between the two worlds simply by hopping on a treadmill, but towards the end I came up with an explanation that worked for me and that's really all that mattered.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Freebies from Oceanview Publishing

Oceanview Publishing is offering three e-books for free. Head to Amazon and grab your free Kindle downloads ASAP.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Happy Haul-idays from Chronicle Books

With the holidays approaching faster than many of us would like, it's time for Chronicle Books "Happy Haul-idays" contest. For those who didn't hear of this amazing festivity last year, Chronicle awards one lucky reader and one lucky book review blogger with the chance to win $500 in books. This year, they're adding a third winner - the blogger chooses a favorite charity to receive $500 in free books.

Most children and adults love books, so if you're anything like me, the thought of $500 in free books is enough to make me giddy! However, I learned about 10 years ago that not every child receives encouragement to read. My neighbor's son was 10 years old and had bounced from school to school without learning how to read more than toddler books. His reading and spelling skills were atrocious. By spending a lot of time in our house surrounded by books, he discovered Gary Paulsen's books and developed a passion for reading. The Children's Literacy Foundation strives to help children in Vermont and New Hampshire learn to read and develop a passion for reading. The organization does not receive state or federal funding, so all books come from generous donations from area residents and businesses. I feel they deserve a batch of books in time for Christmas.

It's up the blogger to create a list of books they'd love to be able to buy, something I have no problem doing! Given that, here is this year's list:

Children/Young Adult:

Ready to enter? All you have to do is comment on this post. Feel free to list any books I may have overlooked! There are lots of exciting options at Chronicle Books.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Bull Rider's Secret - Marin Thomas

Released July 2011


Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Brody Murphy's secret is what keeps him on the move. He doesn't call any specific place home and he's as happy as he can be traveling from rodeo to rodeo. His winnings provide him with just enough cash to move to the next location. He never expects to befriend a teen boy and end up working for the boy's mother.

When Kat's ranch hands walk off the job because they refuse to take orders from a woman, she fears she could lose her job as the ranch foreman. Hoping to keep up with her duties, she offers Brody a job. She never expects to fall in love with him, however, and he's not exactly the staying kind.

The Bull Rider's Secret is a short and sweet romance that takes little time to read but leaves you happy you spent time with Brody, Kat and her son. There's some conflict, but it doesn't mask the growing attraction between Kat and Brody. Over all, this is a fun read that most Harlequin fans will definitely enjoy.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Until There Was You - Kristan Higgins

Released November 2011

Kristan Higgins

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

In high school, Posey Osterhagen fell head over heels for the high school bad boy, Liam Murphy, until the day he completely ruined her prom. Though the pair never even dated, the things Liam said stuck with Posey. Now he's back in town with a daughter in tow and Posey fears she'll fall for him all over again. Staying away from him would be so much easier if her parents hadn't opened their arms and German restaurant to both Liam and his daughter.

The harder Posey tries to avoid Liam, the more she finds herself spending time with him and falling all over again. Now he's a widower, and he definitely puts his daughter first, so even if things fell into place, would Liam even want someone like Posey in his life?

Until There Was You is not a bad read, but I don't know that it's one of my favorites by Higgins. The chemistry between Liam and Posey works well. I loved the many of the minor characters, including her brother and his partner. It was Liam's in-laws that drove me nuts. For a "bad biker boy," I really expected to see him stand up for himself more often. The other issue is that Posey, very similar to Liam, also lets everyone take center stage and never puts herself first. From her witchy cousin who I really never liked to Posey's idiot ex-boyfriend, everything she does is to please them. She's almost too nice and I really would have liked to see her completely flip on someone, just once.

The wit and humor that go hand in hand with Higgins writing is still strongly in place. That's half of what makes me love her books so much. Many of her characters call it as they see it and don't mind saying so and it's for those moments that I couldn't stop reading.

Monday, October 31, 2011

People Still Live in Cashtown Corners - Tony Burgess

Released October 2011

Chizine Publications

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

People Still Live in Cashtown Corners... Bob Clark is the quiet, likable owner of a self-serve station in Cashtown Corners. He and his helper, Jeremy, provide townspeople with gas and a friendly smile. That is until the day Bob snaps and decides that killing people is the only way to ease an uneasiness deep within.

This is not an easy book to read. It's dark and gripping, but weirdly the author opens up painting a serene picture of a quiet town and the reader gets to know the main character first. Once that bond is formed and you're involved in his life, you learn he's a serial killer. It's definitely disturbing liking a serial killer.

Then I reached the crime scene photos and became confused. I wondered if I somehow mistook the "fiction" novel for being a true crime book. The pictures are convincing and had me fooled. Kudos to the author for taking a fictional story and making it seem incredibly real.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Busy Reading

I know posts are behind, but I've been busy writing an e-book about senior homes for a client and that's involved reading a lot of material on laws, choosing senior homes, etc.

I am slowly working my way through a book that's rather disturbing. In this book, the "hero" is a kindly gas station owner who discovers a passion for murder. As the murderer starts out as someone you like, it's definitely an unusual read that I, so far, highly recommend.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Wonder of Your Love - Beth Wiseman

Released October 2011

Beth Wiseman
Thomas Nelson

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

The last thing Katie Ann Stolzfus wants is to be confronted by her deceased husband's mistress. Yet, that's exactly what happens. Katie Ann is trying to raise her newborn son without help of the infant's father and having the mistress in the picture is not comforting. Falling in love is the last thing she wants or needs.

Eli Detweiler raised his children alone after his wife died in childbirth. He's in Canaan, Colorado, for a wedding and feels an immediate attraction to Katie Ann. With his relatives and Katie's neighbor rooting for this mismatched couple to fall in love, can Eli convince them that he's raised his family and simply wants to travel the world now.

The more time Eli and Katie Ann spend together, the more they realize that maybe the plans they've made are not what God has in store.

I liked most of the characters. There is one in particular who I felt came off as abrasive, especially at the end of the book, but it wasn't enough to affect my enjoyment.

The Wonder of Your Love is a cozy Amish romance. It's the second book in the Land of Canaan series. Having missed the first novel, I do feel it works well as a stand-alone novel. Given that, I have a feeling where the third book is heading and am very intrigued to see how things turn out.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Lethal - Sandra Brown

Released October 2011

Sandra Brown
Grand Central Publishing

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

If you haven't read any reviews for Lethal yet, avoid Amazon's reviews. I made that mistake before starting the book and two give away major plot twists.

I loved the premise behind Sandra Brown's latest. Lethal follows the drama and mystery surrounding a warehouse shooting. Lee Coburn is suspected of killing seven men at a trucking company and is on the run. Police, FBI agents and a mysterious entity known only as "The Bookeeper" all want him found.

Honor Gillette, a widow, is preparing cupcakes for her father-in-law's birthday celebration when her four-year-old daughter announces there is a sick man outside. Honor goes to investigate and finds Lee. He takes both Honor and her daughter hostage. Her husband hid something of great value before his death, and the car accident that took his life may not have been an accident at all. Honor feels as though she has no choice but to stick with Lee until the truth is revealed.

As usual, I found it hard to put Lethal down. Even when ten-hour work days meant I had to stop reading, I found myself wondering how the book would play out. I'm glad this week has been a little less crazy leaving me time to fit in some reading.

Now that I'm finished, I had a hard time with a few things. Without giving spoilers, I just need to say that "The Bookeeper's" identity baffles me. I didn't see it coming and quite honestly, I don't think it fits at all.

The other complaint involves the ending. I think that there may be more to come, but I'm not sure. I can't find anything about Lee Coburn to suggest this is a first in a series, but the ending really makes me wonder.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Significant Changes to the NEC 2011 - Jim Dollard and Michael Johnston

Released August 2010

Delmar Cengage Learning

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Significant Changes to the NEC 2011 highlights all major changes in the National Electrical Code. The format of this reference guide makes it easy to find exactly what you need when you need it. Everything is laid out to be as simple as possible with color photographs, quick summaries and then detailed sections that cover each change in as much detail as possible. At the top of the page is a quick symbol that categorizes the change whether it is a new entry, relocated entry, revision or deletion.

For example, one of the changes regards Locking and Indicating (225.52 C and D). A shaded box presents the language of that code and below that is a box that summarizes what the change entails. To the left is a longer section that details the importance of that change. In this case, the change allows an electrician to "lock" disconnects in an "open position without the use of a special locking device." 

A sample of significant changes or additions include:
Height of Working Space
Raceway Seals
Concrete-encased Electrodes
Ground-fault Protection of Equipment
Simultaneous Presence of Flammable Gases and Combustible Dust

The reference guide starts with a table of contents, goes into each change and then ends in a detailed appendix.The lay-out makes it easy to follow and quickly helps you find what you need.

The reference guide is a little bulky at almost 8 by 12 inches. It's not going to be a book that easily fits in a tool box, but it is one you should keep available at all times.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

From Ashes to Honor - Loree Lough

Released September 2011

Loree Lough
Abingdon Press

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

In the Bible, it says "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." That plays a pretty important part in From Ashes to Honor. I don't like giving reviews that have spoilers, but to really review this book, I have to start by saying that anyone reading this book expecting a Christian romance is going to be sadly disappointed. The book's ending is as far from an expected ending in a romance as is humanly possible.

From Ashes to Honor is the first book in the First Responder series. It's well-written and I liked many of the characters, but by the end I was really disgusted. Up until that point, I'd been led to believe I was reading a romance, but I don't know if I could qualify it that way at the end. It's extremely realistic and sad at the same time.

Mercy Samara is a NYC counselor and sees her share of the fall out after 9/11. One of her patients, police officer Austin Finley is showing so much anger that Mercy recommends desk duty. Austin's not happy with that choice and ultimately leaves the police force.

For Austin, 9/11 will forever be the day that he dodged a call from his twin brother only to learn that call was his brother saying goodbye after realizing that he would never make it out of the World Trade Center where he worked. Austin also lost his partner that day. He's angry and even madder with Mercy for being the reason he is demoted.

Years later, the pair meet again in Baltimore. Austin is now a paramedic and Mercy is a high school guidance counselor. They click and the romance begins. The problem is Mercy doesn't believe in God and Austin could needs her to believe. He's putting everything he has into convincing her because he cannot commit to a woman who doesn't believe.

One thing that immediately came to mind is a show Morgan Spurlock did. He had a series called 30 Days. During this series, either Spurlock or someone hired to do the show would enter a situation/job that made them very uncomfortable and had to fully immerse themselves in that situation for 30 days. There was one episode where a very Christian woman had to live in an atheist family's home. Many of her actions towards this family bothered me, but it's when she attended an atheist group meeting that she started learning of the cruel behavior people in this group were experiencing. Supposed Christians treated many of these atheists cruelly making me wonder if they simply don't read the Ten Commandments or feel they are above those teachings.

I got that same feeling from From Ashes to Honor's very abrupt ending. Mercy didn't believe, therefore she wasn't good enough. I liked her character, she had valid reason to be angry with God. Because of the treatment she received in the end, however, I definitely disliked the book.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Heartstrings and Diamond Rings - Jane Graves

Released October 2011

Jane Graves
Hachette Book Group

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Alison Carter is sick of failed relationships. After her latest beau suggests they add her friend to their bed, Alison gives up. She decides to spend some money and rely in the services of a highly-recommended matchmaking service.

Brandon Scott's grandmother died leaving him in control of her matchmaking business. Brandon knows real estate, not dating, but he needs the money to make a down payment on an old warehouse. He knows the area is prime for apartments. He decides to play role of matchmaker and collect as much money as possible before anyone realizes he's a fraud. What he doesn't expect is to find himself falling in love with his very first client.

Now that Brandon has fallen for Alison, he's stuck. If he admits he's a fraud, he'll lose his money. If he continues setting her up on matches, he may lose the only woman who's ever set his heartstrings humming.

Heartstrings and Diamond Rings is another great entry into Jane Graves' titles. I liked both Alison and Brandon, but I admit that it was Alison's friend Heather (Tall Tales and Wedding Veils) who really had me snickering. She's definitely one to call it as she sees it and that means no holding back where Brandon's concerned. I also really enjoyed Alison's father because he is brutally honest. It's refreshing to have characters really speak their minds.

This is a fast, fun read that is certain to keep you entertained.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I Used to Know That: Geography - Will Williams

Released June 2011

Reader's Digest

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

My teens sat on the front deck with me as I started reading I Used to Know That: Geography. While my husband and kids are know-it-all's when it comes to geography, my days of a travel agent help me out some, but all of the Eastern European countries baffle me. I simply know too little about them to be even close to accurate at guessing their locations, capitals or physical features. This good is a godsend for anyone who struggles to know some of these important facts.

I Used to Know That: Geography is broken into helpful sections that include each continent, rivers, oceans, maps, population counts and other important facts. We spent hours drilling each other on the capitals of countries throughout the world or even those in the United States. We struggled to name the ten largest seas. While they guessed Black Sea, it is on the list but in the tenth spot, South China Sea is in fact the largest. I'm still not convinced that the Gulf of Mexico counts as a sea though. We also went into the nicknames of all the states to see who could match them.

It is the state nicknames where I lost a little faith and have something to teach the author and the book's editor/s or fact checkers. Vermont comes from the French words Vert + Mont = Green + Mountain. The state's nickname is NOT "The Great Mountain State," it is the GREEN Mountain State. I was disappointed that that mistake slipped through. In the end, it made me question if there are other inaccuracies within the book because with more than 750,000 copies sold, there are some people who are now either questioning what they learned in school or wandering around with incorrect information.

I would have loved to give this book high praise and tell everyone to rush out and buy it, but that slight doubt on how many other errors might be within the material bothers me. It's such a great book, but to have found an error of that magnitude is discouraging.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Heart of Evil - Heather Graham

Released July 2011

Heather Graham

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

I'd like to say I cared about the characters in Heart of Evil or that they drew me into the story, but quite honestly this is the first time I've really disliked one of Heather Graham's books. If I hadn't been reading it for review, I wouldn't have finished it. As is, it took me two months to finally reach the ending, and that really is disappointing.

Following her father's death, Ashley Donegal of Donegal Plantation, is in charge of this year's Civil War reenactment. She never imagines the event will end up with her finding the body of one of the reenactment's actors. When other people disappear, it becomes clear there is a deranged killer on the loose, one who is targeting those closest to Donegal Plantation.

Jake Mallory is being plagued by horrific dreams involving Ashley, a woman he once loved. When he the Krewe of Hunters, a special crimes investigations unit that looks into paranormal angles, are called in to investigate a death at Donegal Plantation, he knows this will reunite him with the woman who turned him away years ago. Upon arriving in the town, he's welcomed by the ghost of a woman who obviously needs his help.

As Jake and Ashley work together, they learn that events from the Civil War era are definitely behind the current murders. Can they solve the crime before the killer targets Ashley?

I expected a lot from Heart of Evil but it really fell short. There are too many characters and none of them seem to be fleshed out well enough for the reader to form any connection. The plot ambles on and quite honestly it reached a point where I eagerly anticipated the killer again because the killer seemed to be the only character to give off any strong emotion. When Jake and Ashley decided to give their relationship another go, I didn't care. It's simply sad to not care about anyone in a novel.

The storyline is okay and definitely has some strong points, but overall, it moved slowly and until I reached pages in the range of the 270's nothing seemed to compel me to keep reading. By that point, the book only had about 100 pages left.

I read a galley copy that hopefully received editing before the print version hit stores. In a few areas, I had to go back and reread sections because the character's name suddenly switched in the middle of a scene. Given that, I went into Barnes and Noble last weekend to compare the version I had with the final copy and sure enough those same inaccuracies appear in the paperback release. When paying $8 for a book, the reader should have to struggle to keep track of which character is really speaking.

Heather Graham's fans may want to consider reading a snippet of the book before purchasing it. It's not the worst book I've ever read, but it's definitely not a strong example of the author's writing. Nothing about it compels me to read other Krewe of Hunters books.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Plugging Into Real Worship - Andrew P. Logan, Sr.

Released January 2007

Xulon Press

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

In Plugging Into Real Worship, Pastor Andrew Logan explains the importance of regular worship.  Many know that my experiences as of late stink quite frankly. I worked for a church daycare as a teen and loved that pastor, he was down to earth and treated everyone with respect. I remember going to a service in another church and learning that the pastor "welcomed" each new female member of his church in a very intimate way, as a teen I was horrified to learn that he'd slept with most everyone in the church over the age of 18. As an adult, I've sampled a few churches and they seem very high school cliquey. It's a major turn-off.

The last time I went, my husband had been forced to work overtime for four weekends in a row and, at the time, we had one car making it hard for me to drive five miles to the church. After his four weeks of mandatory OT, we went to church. The pastor's wife sat in front of us and whispered to her friends, "Oh, look, the sinners decided to show their faces today. I don't know why they bothered." This was followed by a round of giggles and stares. We never returned. I know I'm not the only person out there who is disillusioned with religion because of situations like this. Therefore, I read Plugging Into Real Worship guardedly because it seems to me that some of our religious leaders are not very Christian at all.

I immediately enjoyed Pastor Logan's honest, straightforward nature. The writing style is friendly and engaging. It's not overly long like so many non-fiction books I've read. The brevity keeps you reading. The subject matter is broken into "reasons" and each is clearly presented. "Reasons" include:
  • God Demands It
  • Worship Expresses Gratitude
  • Worship Prepares us for Sanctification
  • Worship Brings Compassion and Mercy
  • Worship Provides Protection and Victory
  • Worship Invites God to Meet With Us
  • Worship is a Heavenly Transaction
  • Worship Closes the Door to Sin and Iniquity
  • Worship Blesses Others Around You
  • Worship is the Way to a Fruitful Life
  • Worship Brings Healing and Deliverance
  • Worship Brings Ordination for Service
Passages from the Bible help demonstrate each point giving clear imagery into situations where disobeying God's commands cost someone dearly and how worship saved them.

I was delighted to see that Pastor Logan included a section on things a pastor shouldn't do. It's short, but something that I think needs to be said. All in all, there are some good lessons to be learned from Plugging Into Real Worship, so don't overlook this one.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Long Trail Home - Vickie McDonough

Released October 2011

Vickie McDonough
Moody Publishers

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Abandoned by her immoral father at the age of 12, Annie is overjoyed when she comes across The Wilcox School for the Blind. She fakes her blindness in order to finally have a loving home. Seven years later, Annie hides the truth from everyone except the woman who took her in because if the truth came out, they could lose everything they've established over the years. Caring for the blind children is all that matters to these two women.

Riley Morgan left his home after his younger brother's death to fight in the war. Knowledge that his fiancee was awaiting his return kept him going. He hasn't been home in years and is shocked when he learns Native Americans slaughtered his parents and destroyed much of the only home he's ever known. Wounded, he heads off to visit his fiancee only to learn while he was at war she married another man. He ends up at the Wilcox School for the Blind where he becomes their handyman in exchange for room and board.

It doesn't take long before Riley and Annie fall in love. However, he's already had one woman lie to him and Annie isn't sure how he'll react when he learns she is not blind. Is love in store for these two?

I really enjoyed Long Trail Home. There is some underlying conflict with the school, but that takes backstage to the developing relationship with Riley and Annie. Like any couple, they have things they need to work on, but unlike many romances where I feel the conflict drags on too long, I found the issues in their romance were handled at a very realistic pace. That made the story completely enjoyable.

As the end of the book neared, I simply wasn't ready for it to end. I really wanted to keep going and see what happened next. Kudos to the author for drawing me in and keeping me entranced from start to finish.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Vampire Art Now - Jasmine Becket-Griffith & Matthew David Becket

Released September 2011

Jasmine Becket-Griffith

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

I can't draw. I'm great at doodles, but ask me to draw a person and trust in the fact that you'll get someone with hands the size of their head, legs that are misshapen with knees the size of a bread loaf and eyes that look seriously deformed. Yet, art fascinates me. I adore Monet and Renoir, basically anything to do with the Impressionists.

Given that, I eagerly dove into Vampire Art Now because while some of it is rather grotesque and frightening, it's art. (I must apologize to my daughter who was engrossed in her history homework when I walked in and showed her the images of some very creepy looking dolls, thus making her jump about four feet in and air as she screamed. Sorry I laughed, but the look on your face was hilarious.) For anyone who buys this book, they're in Chapter 4: Graveyard Grotesque.

In a world fascinated with vampires, Vampire Art Now is going to impress many readers, movie enthusiasts and even TV fanatics. If you watch True Blood, have read or seen Stephenie Meyer's Twilight books and movies or go back to the roots with Bram Stoker, Bela Lugosi and Nosferatu, you'll really enjoy this art book.

The collection of drawings, photographs, paintings and sculpted items are broken into a number of categories:

  • The Aristocracy & Victoriana
  • Vampiric Vixens
  • Contemporary Goth and Urban Undead
  • Graveyard Grotesque
  • Vampire Hunters and the Hunted
  • Undead in the Darkroom
  • Cartoons and Comics
  • Bloodlust and Bittersweet Romance
  • Dracula and His Disguises
  • Gothic Quarters

The book closes with a listing of the artists who contributed their art for this project. The directory includes websites, emails and the works of art appearing in the book. When you're looking at the art, each piece includes a description into the history or idea behind the artistic work. It's incredibly thorough and, at times, pretty creepy.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Night Strangers - Chris Bohjalian

Released October 2011

Chris Bohjalian

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

I grew up on a steady diet of Dean Koontz and Stephen King. Eventually, I progressed to a local horror author Joe Citro. I've read Chris Bohjalian's newspaper column for years and read Midwives years ago, though I'm not sure if I liked how things panned out. I've laughed at some of his stories and been deeply touched by others. Given that, I wasn't sure if he could pull off horror.

The Night Strangers is a story that really hits home, mainly because I live two miles from the lake where the plane crashes. I have National Guard planes regularly flying over my house for training, we see coast guard helicopters from our back yard when they're either performing their job or training and we line up well with Plattsburgh's airport and see those planes fly overhead year round.  Just down the road near a golf course in Milton, there are a number of geese who make their summer home in a small pond. They always are in the road, wandering the homeowner's yard or flying in huge numbers after getting spooked. I know the area and know how many Canadian Geese are in the area and that makes the story very personal.

Shortly after take off from Burlington International, Captain Chip Linton finds his plane in serious trouble. He flies into a number of geese destroying the engines. He opts to make a landing on Lake Champlain because it's August, the water is warm and it's the safest option. As long as he keeps the plane level, it will be a perfect landing. Unfortunately, a ferry turns away sharply creating a wave that causes the plane to flip and 39 passengers die.

To start fresh, Chip, his wife Emily and their twin daughters Garnet and Hallie move to an old Victorian in New Hampshire. In the basement, Chip comes across a door that is sealed tightly with exactly 39 bolts. As if this isn't creepy enough, the town has taken an unusually disturbing shine to the twins. These men and women, who call themselves "herbalists," spend as much time as possible with Garnet and Hallie and are always bringing food to the Linton's home. At first, it seems innocent enough but then Chip and Emily begin to wonder if there is something more going on.

The Night Strangers is a ghost story. It's also a mystery with strong paranormal leanings. The setting fascinated me because I knew many of these places. My grandmother lived in Barnet, I have relatives in St. Johnsbury and have been over to the White Mountains in NH many times. Having a familiar setting added to the ambiance. I loved that aspect.

What I didn't love was the naivety of some of the characters. I realize Chip was recovering both mentally and physically from his crash. Emily was trying to hold her family together. The twins being 10 were immature. However, as the "herbalists" continued their creepy ways, and they are creepy, I really wanted to see Emily take action. As a mother, I would have been concerned over the attention to my children way before Emily showed any concern. I struggled a bit with her character because she seemed far too accepting.

I'm really not sure what to make of The Night Strangers. I didn't hate it, but it is not my favorite book either. Yet, I couldn't stop reading it because I had to know how things ended. I do suggest reading the author's Sunday column in the Burlington Free Press though. I think it is among his best work.

Monday, September 12, 2011

What I'm Currently Reading

One of the books I'm currently reading (I always have more than one book going at a time) is taking me a little longer than I planned. Mainly because I'm halfway through the story and still haven't decided if I really like it.

I've been a fan of Chris Bohjalian's Burlington Free Press column for years. His daughter Grace was born shortly after my son. I remember spending countless Sunday mornings reading his column eagerly as I nodded and agreed with his take on parenting vs. mine. Our kids are now learning to drive at almost the same time, the only difference is while my son wasn't in a hurry to learn to drive, my 15-year-old daughter was begging to get her permit the same day she turned 15. Thank God it was Labor Day and offices were closed!

I admit I like The Night Strangers so far but I'm also struggling because I just don't get it. There are things going on that leave me baffled as to how some people can be so blind, but I don't want to stop reading either because I need to know that the characters in the book smarten up at some point. Maybe I'm just more protective of my kids because I work from home and they're rarely out of my sight...

The other book I'm reading grabbed me from the start and it's been a struggle to know which book to read. Bohjalian's book is on my Nook and far more convenient to take outside while enjoying the crisp autumn air. Sandra Brown's Lethal is definitely gripping though, it's just bulkier to carry around. Brown fans MUST buy this book though. I was hooked from the first sentence.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Borders Going Out of Business Sale

For anyone with a Borders in their area, the final week of the going out of business sale is in full swing. I went into our Burlington, Vermont, location yesterday and was amazed to find a CD I'd been looking for for $4. Needless to say, I was extremely happy. Everything, including the furnishings, are priced at 70 to 90 percent off. Our location had tons of books left.

As for the CD, Seasick Steve is a blues musician I came across on the BBC show Top Gear. He was on showing off the guitar he made from old hub caps. He's quite fascinating and has one of the saddest stories I think I've ever heard, so I'm happy he's gaining a following.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Surgeon's Surprise Twins - Jacqueline Diamond

Released October 2011

Jacqueline Diamond

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Bailey Wayne's pregnancy is advancing faster than she expected. Since agreeing to be a surrogate for her older sister, Bailey's been forced to pay her medical bills because her sister and brother-in-law are waiting to finish a huge deal before they have cash flow. In exchange, they're letting Bailey live rent-free in an investment property.

Bailey is shocked when Dr. Owen Tartikoff shows up at her house planning to move in. He's co-owner but sharing the house with a doctor who goes out of his way to be miserable to his staff isn't Bailey's idea of fun. Unfortunately, she has no other option, she can't afford rent and her bank account is drained leaving her without cash for medical appointments either.

Owen has his own secrets. His brother and sister-in-law never told Bailey that they asked him to donate sperm. When he agreed, he didn't know a surrogate was involved. The more he time he spends with Bailey, the more he comes to love her. When he learns she has no money left for medical doctors and that they've been making her pay the bills, he insists on performing a prenatal check and ultrasound for free.  That's all it takes for him to realize that giving up his children will not be easy, especially when he's falling in love with their mother.

The Surgeon's Surprise Twins is another offering from the Safe Harbor series. If you've been following the series, you'll enjoy catching up with previous characters. If you're new, Owen and Bailey's story does work as a stand-alone novel.

I was expecting to really dislike Owen. His character has been horrible in previous novels, yet I really grew to admire him. Bailey I've always liked, but her sister, Phyllis, is a piece of work. I really hope she disappears from future stories because she's just a nasty person. Jacqueline Diamond does excel at creating characters you either love or hate. If Ms. Diamond decides to include Phyllis in a future novel, I'll be curious to see if she can make her likable given her actions and attitudes throughout this book.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Everything We Ever Wanted - Sara Shepard

Released October 2011

Sara Shepard

Harper Collins

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth for the Amazon Vine Program

I've read a few of my daughter's "Pretty Little Liars" books, and find Sara Shepard  to be very good at creating characters I either love or hate. That's the thing, I expected to feel passionately about the characters in Everything We Ever Wanted and it simply fell short.

The story revolves around a dysfunctional family living in Philadelphia. The story switches back and forth between the different characters' points of view, but it's easy to keep track of who is speaking.

Sylvie Bates-McAllister's grandfather founded Swithin School and now she heads their board. When she receives a 9 p.m. phone call informing her that her adopted son Scott is suspected of leading a hazing incident that killed a young boy, Sylvie's world is ripped out from under her. She immediately calls her other son, Charles, to relay the news and ask for a family meeting to discuss the situation.

Charles does not get along with his younger brother. In their teens, an incident between the two led to the breakup of Charles and his girlfriend. He's never quite forgiven his brother. Worse, Scott bounces from job to job, barely made it through Swithin and seems to have no motivation to do something with his life. Scott seems content living off the family's money. All of that makes Charles really resent Scott.

Charles's wife, Joanna, isn't sure of her place in the family. All she knows is that she finds herself attracted to Scott and the more Charles pulls away from her, the more she comes to rely on Scott for friendship and support.

Quite honestly, so much of this book was unnecessary. If Sylvie had simply taken the time to talk to her sons open and honestly, she could have learned the truth from the very beginning. She came off as a very lousy mother. The same goes for the problems between Charles and his brother and Charles and his wife. I reached points where I wanted to grab each character and tell them to sit down, talk about their feelings and move on. However, that would have ended the story after a couple chapters, so I realize things had to drag on.

For me, the book didn't move quickly. Things seemed to drag on far longer than necessary. By the time I reached the ending, I never felt that I'd connected with any of the characters and simply didn't care how things played out. That's never a good sign.

I suppose for readers who really enjoy dysfunctional families who seem to have no skills at discussing their issues with one another, Everything We Ever Wanted may be a great choice. I'm really sad that I didn't enjoy this book as much as I have the author's young adult novels.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Two I Didn't Finish for Reasons I'll Explain

I'd expected a quiet summer with a son preparing to narrow down his college options and a daughter finding work babysitting. That didn't happen, nor did the promises that they'd do the majority of the housework and laundry so that I had more time to work. I've been working a lot for sites like Populis Creates, Wikio and Demand Studios, as well as writing and editing for a few companies on Amazon MTurk and setting up a writing team for a new editorial position with an online web directory.

Given that, I have two books I'd started reading and meant to finish so that I could get the reviews posted, but the publishing companies took the ebooks down this week and I've only half read them. I thought I had 60 days, but apparently they'd only given me a 30 day license, so my bad.

Given that, I'd like to promote them anyway.

Jill Marie Landis writes romance novels and I've always loved Come Spring and Summer Moon. I was eager to read her new mystery Mai Tai One On. I was a few chapters into the book, so I have no idea how it ends. What I do know is that the beginning was enthralling.

Em Johnson runs her uncle's tiki bar because her divorce left her finances in bad shape. Things go haywire when the body of a man is found in their luau pit. Worse, the dead man is not one of Em's or her uncle's favorite people. When the investigation looks at her uncle as a possible suspect, Em decides she needs to try to unravel the mystery.

T. Marie Benchley's  Once Wicked Always Dead was a different story. I'd tried to start reading it but just couldn't get into the story. It sounds great - a woman's parents die, she learns her husband is having an affair, so she leaves her jet-set lifestyle and heads to Montana to run her family's ranch. Things aren't much better there because developers want the land and will do anything to drive her away.

It sounds right up my alley, but after a number of attempts to get past the first chapter, I had to switch to something else for a while. I'd hoped that a break might be all I needed, but now I'll never know.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Lake Eden Cookbook - Joanne Fluke

Released October 2011

Joanne Fluke

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Fans of Joanne Fluke's Hannah Swenson cozy mysteries rejoice because the Lake Eden Cookbook is being released on October 1st. The hardcover book contains favorite recipes from every book and a few new ones.

Even if you've never read the series, this is a cookbook first and foremost, but there's a story mixed into the pages. Every recipe has a history in Lake Eden and the characters stories, including a few secrets, are revealed along the way. Learn about Winnie's trip to the morgue or Andrea's first attempt at making Hannah's lemon meringue pie.

There are new recipes within the book. A sampling of them includes:

Razzle Dazzle Baked Brie
Bourbon Brownies
Herb's Herb Biscuits
Hannah's Chicken Salad
Peanut Butter and Jelly Pie

As usual, I went for one of the more absurd recipes to give it a shot. A couple years ago, I made Pork and Beans bread thinking there was no way it would be edible and it really was yummy. This time I went for the lobster bisque made using Campbell's condensed green pea soup and condensed tomato soup. Surprisingly, it works, though the 1/2 cup of sherry was too strong for me, it drowned out the lobster, so I'll make it again cutting it to 1/4 cup.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

1105 Yakima Street - Debbie Macomber

Released September 2011

Debbie Macomber

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Debbie Macomber's latest Cedar Cove novel catches readers up with a few characters from previous entries. There's actually a few different stories going on in 1105 Yakima Street, but after a few chapters, I had no problem keeping track of the different plots. There's also a summary of the characters and relationships in the opening of the book to offer some guidance along the way. I've read some of the Cedar Cove series, but not all of it, so I relied heavily on that summary.

Things start off with Rachel Peyton leaving her husband Bruce and her step-daughter behind. Rachel's pregnant and Jolene's animosity and Bruce's unwillingness to take action have caused Rachel unneeded stress. Her blood pressure puts the baby at risk, so walking away is the best thing for Rachel and her unborn child. Bruce isn't quite as willing to let go, but Jolene is thrilled that she's won.

Olivia and her brother Will face a difficult choice when their mother forgets she's cooking a meal and the resulting fire destroys her kitchen. They realize she and her husband both need to be in an assisted living home, but convincing the couple of this will take some effort. Meanwhile, Will's ex-flame is getting married putting him in a bad mood and everyone knows that the perfect woman for Will is right in front of him, only he's too blind to see it.

Linc and Lori have their own issues. Lori's dad is sabotaging Linc's new business and continues to keep sabotaging things unless Lori comes to her senses and leaves him. Cut off from the family fortune, Lori and Linc must move to a smaller, less expensive home and cut all ties to Lori's family.

These are only a handful of the stories occurring within 1105 Yakima Street. Every character from past stories makes an appearance and has some kind of challenge to overcome. The writing is light with just the right amount of tension. Things set up nicely for the remaining book in this series set during Christmas. This second-to-last book is a fun summer read and one I am sure Debbie Macomber fans will love.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Playing Dirty - Susan Anderson

Released August 2011

Susan Andersen

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Ava Spencer suffered the utmost in humiliation when Cade Gallari made it clear he'd only slept with "the fat girl" as part of a bet. Now she's 10 years smarter and she's not about to fall to his charms again. She owns a mansion where he needs to film his latest documentary and she needs the money, but she will handle this as the business transaction it is and nothing more.

Unfortunately, Ava finds herself struggling to resist his charms. Cade wants to show Ava that he's truly sorry for his actions of the past, but he isn't sure what to do to get her to believe he never meant to hurt her. As his passion for Ava grows, he finds himself desperate to get her to forgive him so that they can have the future they deserve.

There is definite sizzle between Ava and Cade. I did, at times, find her rather whiny. She was overweight as a teen and cannot move on with her life. Per the book, she's a size 12 and turns men's heads, yet she still will not move on from the hurt caused by both her mother and Cade. For as strong a heroine as she seemed at times, her insistence on fretting over her weight seemed out of character. At one point, she shows up during filming wearing a tight fitting dress knowing it will drive Cade crazy. She clearly knows men like what they see, yet she still worries about her weight incessantly.

Ava has two best friends who co-own the mansion. As I read Playing Dirty, I found myself wondering if I'd missed previous books in this series. It turns out I had because Bending the Rules 2009) is Poppy's story and Cutting Loose (2008) is Jane's story.

There's also a secondary plot involving stolen jewels hidden within the mansion and a criminal desperate to find them. This minor plot adds conflict that I'm not sure was necessary to the story, but readers who enjoy romantic suspense may enjoy having this slight mystery to break up the interactions between Cade and Ava.

Playing Dirty is a fun romance. I wouldn't say it's a keeper for me, but it definitely did keep me reading from start to finish. I've read many of Susan Andersen's romances and this isn't a favorite, but her fans will certainly enjoy the last book in this Wolcott Mansion trilogy.