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Thursday, May 31, 2012

And She Was - Alison Gaylin



Released February 2012

Alison Gaylin
HarperCollins

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Decades ago, Brenna Spector watched her sister get into a strange vehicle and drive off never to be seen again. Since that day, Brenna can remember even the tiniest details of everything that goes on in her life and the world around her. This rare disorder provides her with a photographic memory that helps her solve crimes that baffle the police.

When she's asked to help solve the disappearance of a local woman, Carol Wentz, Brenna gets caught up in another missing child case that brings her sister's disappearance to the forefront of her mind once again. Similarities between the cases are too hard to ignore.

I'll start by saying I loved And She Was, but I was also a little disappointed in the familiarity between this book, which looks to be part of a series, and the television series Unforgettable. There are many comparisons between this book and the show. At first, I thought I'd stumbled onto the book series from which the TV show was born, but that's not the case.

Those niggling comparisons distracted me from time to time. I've since found that the TV show is spun from a 2008 short story by J. Robert Lennon called The Rememberer. An comparisons between And She Was and Unforgettable seem to be coincidental, though I couldn't help but keep thinking about the show while reading this book.

Despite this, I couldn't stop reading And She Was. I started reading and ended up finishing the book in one sitting. Thankfully, it was a lazy holiday afternoon with nothing on the agenda.

At the bargain price of $6, you don't have to spend a lot for a read that will stick with you. I'm eager to read more about Brenna. There's the great start to a series in this book, and I hope there's a lot more of Brenna to come.




Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Summer Nights - Susan Mallery



Released July 2012

Susan Mallery
Harlequin

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Summer Nights is book 8 of Susan Mallery's popular Fool's Gold series. If you're unfamiliar with the town, don't worry, this book does stand alone. If you're a follower of the series, you'll love catching up with Heidi and Rafe (Summer Days), the Stryker brother's mom, and other favorites like Montana and Simon from Only Yours. All of the key players in the town of Fool's Gold have their spot in this book, including the pet elephant.

Shane Stryker is done with women. He's putting his heart and soul into building his horse ranch, including his new barn/stable and, perhaps less importantly, his new house. After all, a man can only live with his mother and her beau and his brother and his fiance for so long without going nuts.

Ready to let off a little steam, Shane heads to the local bars where he spots a sexy siren dancing on the bar. He can't shake off his attraction to her. He's been burned once by his now ex-wife, and the last thing he needs is another temptress in his life. He'd rather get set up with the librarian his mom suggests.

Little does Shane know that the bar-dancing siren is the town's librarian. When Annabelle Weiss asks him for horse riding lessons in preparation for an upcoming festival, he's not prepared. The more he spends with her, the more he can't help shaking the overwhelming chemistry between them. The last thing he needs is to get involved with another very sexual, very tempting woman.

Shane and Annabelle both have demons from their past. Watching them struggle with past relationships was fun and the chemistry between this pair is strong from the start. Shane is every woman's fantasy cowboy. He's sexy, strong, smart, and his interactions with local children warmed my heart. Annabelle's tough too. She's been through a messy marriage where she was more of an object than cherished wife, and her determination to be loved is clear. Romance readers will love the internal struggle both face.

Summer Nights also sets up the next novel perfectly. It's Charlie, the tough firefighter's, turn. Looks like the author is pairing her with the remaining Stryker brother, Clay, and I imagine that's going to be a fiery combination. Look for Summer Days in June, Summer Nights this July, and All Summer Long in August.






Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Grammar Girl's 101 Troublesome Words You'll Master in No Time - Mignon Fogarty



Released July 2012

Grammar Girl
St. Martins Griffin

Grammar Girl is a name many online writers know and rely on for helpful hints. Her latest book, 101 Troublesome Words You'll Master in No Time, is one I highly recommend. What's in this grammar guide are many of the most common errors I come across when editing articles.

Many feel the English language is the hardest of all languages to learn. The number of verb tenses, words spelled similarly with completely different meanings, and slang throw people off. Even those who grew up speaking American-English struggle with some words. Mignon Fogarty, aka Grammar Girl, tackles 101 of the more difficult words that trip people up.

I was thrilled to see some of my favorites in here. She covers how to capitalize certain words, how to spell out certain words (email over e-mail), and discusses my favorite messed up word - lay vs. lie. You go toward a door, not towards. You live in the South, or you can live in southern New York. I was happy to see black vs. African American brought up. I have friends who feel offended if people call them African American because they and the ancestors they know of were born in the U.S.

There are more words covered in here. Each word is given examples of their usage through quotes from books, movies, and TV shows.

There are some words not included in this book that I come across all the time -- Elicit vs. illicit, discrete vs. discreet, farther vs. further, assure vs. ensure. It's for this reason that I recommend writers pick up all of Grammar Girl's guides. Each book contains helpful tips that improve your writing and help you master all of the nuances of the English language.


Monday, May 28, 2012

Cottage by the Sea - Robin Jones Gunn



Released July 2012

Robin Jones Gunn
Simon & Schuster

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Shortly after launching her new business as a wedding planner, Erin Bryce receives a call that her father's had a stroke. Erin rushes to his side, despite the fact that his new wife and Erin do not get along. After spending a few days with him, Erin knows he's fine and returns home.Her business takes off, and she couldn't be happier. Months later, a second call comes in. He's had a massive stroke and this time, it's serious.

Erin drops everything to be with her father. When his wife walks out and doesn't return, Erin knows she must remain and care for her father. This one choice creates potential problems. It also forces Erin to get to know her father in ways that she'd never taken the time to do before. Spending weeks in her father's cottage on the coast of Oregon may be exactly what Erin needs.

Cottage by the Sea is touching and often brought tears to my eyes. There are things that occur that had me fuming a bit, right along with the main character, but as you read on, you learn that not everything is as it seems. This is a Christian novel, but it's never preachy making it suitable for any reader in my opinion. If you enjoy women's fiction and love coastal settings, you won't go wrong picking up a copy of Robin Jones Gunn's new book.


Sunday, May 27, 2012

Susan Mallery Q&A - Summer Days, Book 7 of Fool's Gold


New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery has entertained millions of readers with her witty and emotional stories about women and the relationships that move them. Publisher’s Weekly calls Susan’s prose “luscious and provocative,” and Booklist says, “Novels don’t get much better than Mallery’s expert blend of emotional nuance, humor and superb storytelling.” Visit Susan online at www.susanmallery.com.


Tell us about SUMMER DAYS.

 

Summer Days is the perfect beach read. It’s funny, romantic, sexy, and it’s light both in tone and in actual weight – you can toss the paperback into your beach bag and go. (It’s also available wherever ebooks are sold.)

Heidi Simpson had a vagabond childhood with her grandfather. The one thing she wanted most in the world was a home of her own. Now, in her late 20s, she finally has one, but her ranch is put on the line by a scam her grandfather pulled in order to pay for a friend’s surgery. Rafe Stryker is the son of the woman whose money was stolen, and the first of the Stryker brothers to move to Fool’s Gold. He’s on a tear when he arrives, determined to protect his mother’s interests at all costs.

Since possession is nine-tenths of the law, neither is willing to leave the ranch until a judge can decide the matter. Sparks fly right from page one between Heidi and Rafe! The people of Fool’s Gold take sides in a pretty hysterical way.

You can find Summer Days wherever books are sold – bookstores, online, even the grocery store check-out line. You can read a free excerpt on my website, www.susanmallery.com or in the free app for iPhone and Android (www.mobileroadie.com/apps/susanmallery).

 

Who are these Fool’s Gold cheerleaders I keep hearing about?


Oh, the cheerleaders are beyond fabulous! This year’s squad is made up of 60 Fool’s Gold super fans who are earning prizes all summer for telling other readers about Fool’s Gold. They’re driving around with Fool’s Gold car magnets, wearing Fool’s Gold T-shirts, handing out bookmarks like candy to everyone they meet.

For those of my followers who have never read a Fool’s Gold book, tell us about the small town known as the Land of Happy Endings.


Summer Days is the seventh book in my series set in fictional Fool’s Gold, California. Fool’s Gold is a small town in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. It’s a quaint place where people truly support each other – mostly with casseroles. And margaritas. Women rule in Fool’s Gold. For many years, there was a man shortage, which is just now beginning to level out, thanks to the town’s efforts to bring in some pretty spectacular men.

Fool’s Gold is the most popular series I’ve ever written. In fact, last year, one of the Fool’s Gold books hit #3 on the New York Times and #8 on the USA Today bestsellers lists. Those were personal bests for me and very thrilling.

Each book is written as a standalone, which means that you can jump in and start with Summer Days, and you won’t feel lost or confused. While previous characters make an appearance, you don’t need to know their stories to understand this one.

Why did you decide to write about three cowboy brothers?


With each year’s Fool’s Gold books, I try to create heroes who represent iconic male archetypes. The men of Fool’s Gold have been athletes, businessmen, pilots, surgeons. Each is a leader, powerful in his own way. His strength goes deeper than the physical. He does what’s right even when it’s not easy. When he falls, he falls hard… and he loves forever.

This summer, three cowboy brothers will ride into Fool’s Gold on horseback in Summer Days, Summer Nights, and All Summer Long. The Stryker men represent everything I love about a cowboy hero. They are protective, honest, tall and strong. And wow, do they do nice things to a pair of blue jeans!

Since this is Fool’s Gold, these cowboys come with a special twist – humor. Rafe is undone by Heidi the Goat Girl. Shane has to teach the local librarian how to do the ancient Dance of the Happy Virgin – while riding a horse. And Clay, the youngest, made his fortune as a Hollywood butt double.


What’s next for Fool’s Gold?


In Summer Nights (July), Shane Stryker will meet Annabelle who, oh my WORD, do I love! Annabelle is my gift to all the librarians who have supported me so wonderfully over the years, putting my books into readers’ hands with a fervent, “You’re going to love this!” Annabelle is a librarian who defies the stereotypes – she’s fashionable, modern… a dangerous, pint-sized sexpot, as far as Shane is concerned. He’s completely undone by her the first time they meet, so much so that he can’t even remember his own name.

Then comes Charlie, to be paired with Clay in All Summer Long (August). Oh, Charlie. She’s so tough and oh, so wounded. She’s got that hard-as-nails firefighter exterior, but when it comes to matters of the heart, she is as vulnerable as they come. Something happened in Charlie’s past that has made her afraid of intimacy with a man. She’s the kind of person who tackles her problems head-on, much to Clay Stryker’s delight. She’s determined to learn how to be with a man, and she’s decided to ask Clay to teach her.

Watch Roundtable Reviews this week for the review of Summer Nights.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

One Breath Away - Heather Gudenkauf



Released June 2012

Heather Gudenkauf
Harlequin MIRA

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

One Breath Away... That's how I felt reading this book. I found myself holding my breath as the armed gunman, the children, the teachers, the police officer, and the parents waiting nearby waited to see what would happen.

In a small town, a gunman walks into a school and takes a classroom hostage while the townspeople and police wait in fear not knowing who he is or what he wants. Officer Meg Barrett must follow the rules despite her instincts as a mother to rush in and save the children. A grandfather waits outside not knowing if his estranged daughter's children are okay - their mother lying miles away in a hospital room recovering from a serious accident. Inside, students don't know if it's safe to leave or if the gunman, maybe even more than one shooter, are lurking outside their classroom doors.

One Breath Away starts with one simple phone call from a frightened teen to her mother in that hospital bed and then progresses to the events happening both inside and outside the school. Readers learn only as police do what the gunman wants, who is hurt, and how the students and parents are coping not knowing what's going on yards away.

A few years ago, there was a school shooting in a nearby town. The gunman wanted his girlfriend to pay for breaking up with him and went to the school to find her. Thankfully, there were no children in the school that day, but the shock and uncertainty as police went on the manhunt to find him still puts shivers up my spine. While no children were hurt, people did lose their life that day. One Breath Away brought me back to that, the events of Columbine, and so many other horrific school shootings. It's the type of story that often crosses my mind when I'm parked outside my kids' high school and I watch students open the locked doors to anyone who knocks...

Everything in Heather Gudenkauf's novel plays out in a realistic manner. Minutes pass as the story passes between Meg, the mother far away in a hospital bed, the teenage girl who so frantically wants to save her brother who is in the class that's being held hostage, the school teacher who's trying to keep her students safe, and the grandfather who doesn't want to lose another family member. It's a powerful read. It's one that keeps you on the edge of your seat.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Grilling Gone Wild - Peggy Couch



Released June 2012

Fox Chapel Publishing

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

With summer fast approaching, and many areas experiencing summer-like spring weather, it's time to fire up the grills and cook outdoors. Grilling Gone Wild explores a number of recipes for beef, chicken, fruit, pork, seafood, and vegetables. There are recipes for spice rubs, marinades, and basting sauces. You'll find recipes for sides, desserts, and main entrees. This cookbook contains an assortment of recipes designed to inspire and delight.

Because it was hot and sunny all weekend, I put the cookbook to the test. My teens picked out a few recipes they wanted to try, and we went shopping. On the menu was:
  • Cheesy Potatoes with Bacon
  • Beer Braised Grilled Chicken
  • Balsamic Herb Ratatouille
  • Fruit and Cake Kabobs
Because I have teens with wildly different tastes, I had to make some alterations. My daughter only eats boneless chicken breasts, while my son prefers thighs on the bone. My son won't touch ratatouille, while it's one of my daughter's favorite meals. We had to leave the bacon off my daughter's potato as she only eats shellfish or boneless poultry, beef and pork will never cross her lips. Despite this, it's easy enough to match their tastes, and we came up with an amazing dinner. The recipes are easy to follow, take little time in terms of preparation, and definitely hit the mark on a hot spring/summer evening.

Grilling Gone Wild is a great book to have on hand as the temperatures climb. Pick up a copy and put your grill to good use.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Making Piece: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Pie - Beth Howard



Released April 2012

Beth M. Howard
Harlequin

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

First off, have Kleenex handy when reading Making Piece. I admit I can tear up at the smallest things - Hallmark ads, a momentous event with my teens, a touching movie - and Beth Howard certainly had me tearing up. This really is a poignant story of love, loss, and pie.

Shortly after asking her husband for a divorce, Beth Howard received the call that I think most women fear. Her husband was dead. Not that it was her fault, but the author blamed her demand for a divorce as being the thing that "broke" his heart. While coping with her grief, Beth set off on a journey exploring one item that took her back to her childhood, pie.

Pie is how her parents met. It's something that bonded her with her father. It's also the one thing that she gave up a lucrative career to work in a bakery making pies. Pies became her way of dealing with her grief and moving on with her life.

Making Piece explores this journey from start to finish. It's a powerful story that had me in the kitchen on an almost-90 degree day making strawberry rhubarb pies. (Though I admit I cheated and used the organic pre-made crusts I had sitting in the freezer. It was too hot to bother making the pie crust too.) My rhubarb patch is overflowing, and as I'm the only one in our house that eats rhubarb, I'm always trying to find ways to use it up. Making pies and freezing them works for me!

My grandmother - and I think most of use learned pie making from our grandmothers - never used butter or vegetable shortening in her crusts. Lard was the thing she said was essential to making the perfectly flaky crust. I used to use lard exclusively too, but a vegetarian daughter makes it hard to stick to that, so I'll be testing out the author's crust next time.

I'm thrilled I read this book. It brought to light the dessert that I love and is often overlooked to today's trend of molten lava cakes, cupcakes, and creme brulees. If you want a touching memoir that inspires you to get into your kitchen, you really need to pick up Beth Howard's Making Piece.

Visit the author's website devoted to pies at The World Needs More Pie.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Death in the Delta - Molly Walling



Released October 2012

Molly Walling
University Press of Mississippi

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Death in the Delta: Uncovering a Mississippi Family Secret is a non-fiction mystery/autobiography that unwinds slowly as the author attempts to uncover the truth behind the death of two black men. She never knew her father had been arrested for killing two men, and many in the family would rather forget the situation. Everyone has a different story and Molly Walling wants to uncover the truth.

After serving in the military, Molly's father became an esteemed newspaper editor. One night in 1946, her father stood accused of killing two black men in the Mississippi Delta. With an all-white grand jury and the respect of many in the town, the case never got past a grand jury. Death in the Delta details the author's exploration of the case as she interviewed family members, witnesses, and sought newspaper accounts.

Death in the Delta moves slowly, yet it has to be that way. While you're reading, you actually feel like your part of the investigation. You learn new facts and try to put the pieces together. This makes it a very unique read. It stands out as being unlike anything I've read before for that reason.

Moving beyond the mystery, it's also an intriguing look at American history and racial tension in the 1940s. My biggest concern once I started reading was how much enjoyment I'd get out of an autobiography for a person I'd never heard of. As an autobiography, there's a strong personal side to this story that can make it hard to connect because none of the characters are people you know and the case was seemingly buried long ago, but there's just enough mystery to keep you involved. It's that tinge of mystery and wanting to know the details involving the murder that kept me hooked.




Monday, May 14, 2012

Uneasy Fortunes - Mandi Ellsworth



Released June 2012

Mandi Ellsworth

Cedar Fort

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Uneasy Fortunes is a very enjoyable Christian historical western romance. I enjoyed getting to know the characters and watching them move past their abusive histories while learning what true love entails.

Jack's world changes when he learns his drunken father sold all of their livestock. When Jack's father dies, Jack also learns the ranch he thought he would inherit is all that's left to pay off his father's debt. Jack takes a job at a nearby ranch where he must work for free for five years to pay off the remaining debt. Something happens at that ranch that leaves Jack shaken.

Five years pass, and Jack finds himself on the doorstep of the Betteridge ranch looking for a new job. Will Betteridge takes him. Will's daughters, particularly the elder daughter, isn't as thrilled to have a man staying on the ranch. June, however, cannot deny that both her young son and her father have taken a shine to Jack.

June's mistrust of men is clear. As a teenager, her school teacher brutally raped her. Because that teacher had connections, nothing became of the case. June's an unwed mother who society frowns upon. The last thing she wants is another no-good male living at their ranch.

Soon, June finds her feelings for Jack are changing. Jack can't deny that June is taking up his every waking thought. Is it possible to fix the damage caused by your past and learn to trust again?

I truly enjoyed Uneasy Fortunes. I've always been a sucker for historical western romances and this one definitely warmed my heart. As a Christian novel, it's not preachy, which I appreciate, and still displays a level of passion that occurs in any normal romance. 

I liked Jack. He was a solid, decent man who I think many women want in their lives. June was also enjoyable, though she does one thing towards the end of the book that niggled at me. I don't want to give away spoilers, but it just seemed out of character.

In the end, I definitely think that Uneasy Fortunes is a worthwhile read for anyone who enjoys historical western romances. It's got the right mix of romance and angst that leads to some pretty memorable characters.




Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Taste of Home: Cooking School Cookbook



Released March 2012

Taste of Home

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

I've been a huge fan of Taste of Home for years. The magazines are always filled with delicious recipes, not necessarily the healthiest out there, but they work and usually satisfy a craving. Plus, I find many of the less healthy recipes are easily converted to something a little healthier simply by switching things like butter with olive or grapeseed oil.

Taste of Home: Cooking School Cookbook is a huge collection of some of the best Taste of Home recipes. This selection focuses on their cooking school and each recipe contains instructions that anyone can follow. Sections in this cookbook include:
  • Appetizers
  • Baking
  • Beef and Pork
  • Better than Takeout
  • Beverages
  • Breakfast
  • Desserts
  • Poultry
  • Seafood
  • Side Dishes
  • Soups
  • Vegetarian
There's also a comprehensive reference section and an index that makes it easy to find a specific recipe. Heading back to the beginning, there is a section on equipment you should have in your kitchen, including knives, pots, pans, and skillets. The most useful part of this book for a beginner would be the section on measuring correctly. Given this, that's also where I had reservations. If you're a beginner, novice, or pro, I highly recommend purchasing a digital scale and using recipes that have weight measurements over the standard cup/teaspoon/tablespoon. It's impossible to mess up a recipe when using weight measurements. I wish that the Taste of Home: Cooking School Cookbook did that. I know from experience that a cup of store-bought flour can be a number of grams heavier than King Arthur flour.

That reservation aside, I marked a full week's menu of recipes I wanted to try. The one I made last night was Lemon Chicken Tortellini. It's a very simple, delicious recipe that I think anyone could make. The instructions are extremely precise and some ingredients are things that you'd have on hand anyway.  I did have to run to the store for the red pepper, baby spinach and frozen tortellini. Lemons, salt, pepper, hot sauce, Parmesan cheese, garlic, chicken broth, butter, and flour are staples in my home.

This recipe was a winner. It took little time to prepare, and it suited all members of the family, including my daughter who eats boneless chicken breast and little else when it comes to meat. I'm always on the look out for new chicken dishes and this is a keeper. Best of all, you can make it ahead of time and pop it in the freezer for a later date.

Taste of Home: Cooking School Cookbook has more than 400 recipes and includes loads of color photographs to guide you along the way.










Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Almost Alcoholic - Robert Doyle, MD and Joseph Nowinski, PhD



Released April 2012

Robert Doyle, MD
Joseph Nowinski, PhD
Hazeldon

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Are you on the verge of becoming an alcoholic? Do you have a loved one who you feels drinks too much? Almost Alcoholic looks at stories involving people who were a few steps short of being a true alcoholic. These people needed to look at their habits and change before alcohol over took them.

Anyone who has watched a loved one dying from alcoholism is unlikely to follow that path. At least that's what I hope you'd take from that horrible experience. I spent a weekend with my aunt as she succumbed to years of alcoholism, Lyme Disease, and Hemochromatosis. The trio of diseases/conditions left her a shell of who she really was. I lost a shopping buddy, a friend, and a family member to alcohol.

I sat in the hospital room hundreds of miles from my home as doctors told my uncle they needed to find hospice care that his insurance wouldn't pay for. Home nursing agencies said she was abusive to them in the past and therefore they refused to come back to his home to help care for her. I tried to assuage her fears of the "green hospital meanies" trying to poison her IV bags, the shape shifter who came into her room and raped her if her blinds weren't left exactly (using a ruler) 12 inches open with flowers placed in the center of the gap and the bathroom light turned on. I listened and agreed as she told me to use her company jet (by that point she thought she controlled both the CIA and Bank of America) to come visit her every day. Jaundiced, weak, and in horrible pain, this is what an alcoholic's end of life looks like.

After her death, I took a look at my drinking habits, not that I drank a lot, but I did share her social anxiety, and knew that I could be at risk. I admit I do drink, but it's a case of one or two beers on the weekend when company is over. Having read Almost Alcoholic, I started to realize how easy it would be for me to stop drinking completely.

Take it from me, this is the type of book anyone who drinks should read. Almost Alcoholic is part of the Harvard Medical School's "Almost Effect" series. It's an easy read, full of information, and likely a guide that can change your life if you let it.


Monday, May 7, 2012

Double Time - Jane Roper



Released May 2012

Jane Roper
St. Martin's Press

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Jane Roper's Double Time takes a very poignant and often hysterical look at parenting twins. This book made me laugh, brought tears to my eyes, and occasionally brought out the "Oh, I've been there and know..." moment.

I'm a mom, not of twins, but while pregnant for the third time, I miscarried two months into the pregnancy. A month later, I was sicker than ever before and returned to the doctor. She discovered I was still in fact pregnant. I was told that miscarrying one twin and having the second twin survive is more common than you'd think. It broke my heart that I lost a twin, especially when this was my second miscarriage - my first pregnancy ended during the fourth month of pregnancy - but I was also overjoyed at the thought that I did have one survivor who hung in there.

It's for that reason that I spent some time jealous of the author's pregnancy and resulting birth that led to twin daughters. I know she struggled, but then as a mom of two, having one child isn't a walk in the park either. I obviously haven't had twins, I have, however, mentored a teen who had twins when she was 16 and I would take the twins overnight to give her a break. They slept through the night from the moment she brought them home. I remember waking up in the middle of the night freaking out that they'd stopped breathing because they'd never wake up in the wee hours. They'd go down at 9 p.m. and wake up at 6 a.m. like clockwork. Every baby is different, so what the author experiences as a mother of twins may or may not be what someone else with twins goes through.

A few other things I noted while reading the book. One of them is rather personal, but the author makes a comment about the changes to her breasts after she'd finished nursing. I also dropped a cup size, but the thing that really cracked me up was the change in nipple size. Been there and I don't understand why it happens. My best friend and I simply can't come up with a reasonable explanation for that or why our feet increased by a size after pregnancy...

Another involved how child rearing should get easier, not harder, as the children aged. I'm not sure how old the author's twin daughters are now, but I warn her that once they hit teens, you simply aren't prepared. My son was a breeze, always has been, but the "girl drama" that my daughter goes through during a school day hits with the force and unexpectedness of a freak thunderstorm. Moods change frequently, and no one told me just how hard it can be.

That's what Double Time became for me. It's so refreshing to read another mom's experiences raising her kids. We all have our struggles and sometimes it's nice to hear another's issues and commiserate.







Saturday, May 5, 2012

A Callahan Wedding - Tina Leonard



Released May 2012

Tina Leonard
Harlequin

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

If you haven't read other books in the Callahan Cowboys series, I highly recommend starting from the beginning. I picked up A Callahan Wedding thinking it would be a stand-alone novel, and it really doesn't work out. There are too many things I didn't get that left me feeling like I'd wasted my time starting with this book.

Jonas Callahan never got over the fact that the love of his life, Sabrina McKinley had another man in her life. He's been in Ireland hunting for his aunt, but he returns to the family ranch with a fiancee in tow. He never expects to see Sabrina carrying a baby who is a miniature of himself.

Jonas is determined to marry Sabrina and give his son his name, but Sabrina's not ready to settle until Jonas proves he's really ready for an instant family. It becomes a battle of wits as the two butt heads.

There's also a side plot involving what really happened with the Callahan siblings' parents. That part never went fluidly for me. This is why I'm sure had I read the other stories, things would make more sense. I also had a hard time understanding Jonas's attitude towards his aunt, it often seemed juvenile, and then Sabrina's attitude towards Jonas also confused me. One minute she seems to weaken towards him and then just as quickly she's back to talking about returning to Washington D.C. Her on-again, off-again attitude wore thin, and I really didn't like her character as a result.

Once a clue into Sabrina's past was revealed, I started to understand things a little better. This is why I'm certain that had I read the books in order, I would have loved A Callahan Wedding. I highly recommend buying the entire series and working through them one at a time.


Friday, May 4, 2012

Lonely Planet: The World's Best Street Food



Released April 2012

Lonely Planet

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Hands down, this book is a keeper. Lonely Planet's The World's Best Street Food is part travel guide, part cookbook and is filled with recipes I plan to make.

I reviewed the book for Amazon's Vine program. To read the full review, click on the book image at the top of the page.

The Back in the Swing Cookbook - Barbara Unell and Judith Fertig



Released August 2012

Barbara Unell
Judith Fertig
Andrews McMeel

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

The Back in the Swing Cookbook is not only a cookbook designed for breast cancer survivors, but it's also a cookbook suitable to anyone looking to improve their diet. So far, I've tested one recipe, it's all I had on hand for ingredients, and it was a winner!

I grew up in a neighborhood where moms stayed home and generally if you got into trouble, more than one "mom" caught on. Getting away with anything was difficult. One of those "moms" lost her battle with breast cancer. I still remember the last time I saw her. I was Christmas shopping, she'd just gotten the all-clear from her doctor and was overjoyed. Five months later, I learned she'd died. The cancer had come back, in her liver this time. It broke my heart. I know during chemo and radiation that fried rice was the only food she could keep down. The rest of the time, she was a great cook and I think she would have loved this book.

The Back in the Swing Cookbook starts with desserts. A nice touch because dessert doesn't have to be bad. The other sections are:

Breakfasts
Beverages
Appetizers/Snacks
Salads/Side Dishes
Soups/Stews/Risottos
Main Courses

Some recipes immediately jumped out at me and have me hitting the grocery store today. The Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Pineapple-Cream Cheese Frosting are first on my list. They sound great and unlike most recipes, the authors use items like honey in place of sugar.  In fact, there is a solid section on sweeteners, such as stevia, agave nectar, and then the artificial sweeteners I avoid like sucralose and saccharin.

Pan-Seared Chicken Breasts with Artichoke Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto and Asparagus is the dish I plan to make tonight. These are only the start. There's a banana nut bread/cake recipe that sounded amazing, and a lemony chicken dish served with a side of quinoa. I'm iffy on the quinoa though. I had it once and it was so horribly bitter that no one could eat it. I'm not sure if it was outdated leading to the bitterness, we bought it at a local health food store, so I don't think that's the case. I'll likely substitute couscous instead.

After many recipes are Q&As, quotes from cancer survivors, and informational tidbits about the benefits of certain foods, exercises, or healthy living practices. This turns it from being a total cookbook into an informative and supportive guide.

If you are a breast cancer survivor or know one, The Back in the Swing Cookbook is a must. It's earning a place on my keeper shelf.


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Island Apart - Steven Raichlen



Released June 2012

Steven Raichlen
Forge

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

I recently had the pleasure of reviewing Steven Raichlen's (The Barbecue Bible or How to Grill) debut fiction for Amazon Vine. If you like Nicholas Sparks books, you'll love this one.

My full review appears on the product page at Amazon.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Emory's Gift - W. Bruce Cameron



Released September 2011

W. Bruce Cameron
Forge

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Many are likely familiar with Bruce Cameron's bestselling A Dog's Purpose. I, however, adored the television show 8 Simple Rules and know him best from the book that led to the show.  (8 Simple Rules starred the late John Ritter, Kaley Cuoco of Big Bang Theory, and Katey Sagal of Married With Children). Emory's Gift is his latest release, and it's another win for fans of animal fiction.

Charlie Hall's reeling from the death of his mother and his father's withdrawal. When Charlie's dad throws himself into a new business venture, Charlie is left alone for hours a day. He doesn't fit in at school, often becoming the target of a bully, and simply doesn't have someone to talk to or offer guidance. That all changes when Charlie comes face to face with a grizzly bear while out fishing.

Emory's Gift is easily an adult or a teen fiction story. It's really Charlie's coming of age tale, but there's almost a paranormal aspect to the tale that will appeal to all ages. I admit, I couldn't understand how the paranormal theme would carry the story, yet I didn't want to stop reading because I really felt urged to uncover the mystery. For that reason, the book became impossible to put down.

I can't say this was my favorite book. It did take paths that I ended up questioning if I'd have loved the novel rather than liked it had the author done things differently. Yet, I also find myself drifting back to plot points thinking about how I could easily relate to some things Charlie endured and that made it pretty hard to forget.