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.”

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A Sweethaven Homecoming - Courtney Walsh



Released August 2012

Courtney Walsh
Guideposts

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

The continuation of the Sweethaven series shares Meghan's story. When the Nashville star learns her ex has leaked nude photos of her to the press and filed for sole custody of their twins, Meghan's forced to return home to fight for her children. It's bad enough she discovers this on a national television show, but worse is that her new album's been released and her manager urges her to let Nick take the kids so that she can focus on her career. But, she's a fighter. This means facing her past, the present, and her future and waging war against the only man she's ever loved.

A Sweethaven Homecoming does catch the reader up with other characters in the series. You'll find out if Tom and Lila's marriage will last. Discover what happens with Campell now that she's found her father and grandfather in one shot. And, you'll also see if Meghan and Jane can move past the death of Jane's son and return to the bond they once shared.

If you haven't read the previous story, you'll still love this second book. It works well as a stand-alone novel. Everything is briefly explained, so there's nothing confusing that requires an understanding of the characters' backgrounds and pasts.

The writing flows smoothly and keeps you hooked to the pages. That's one thing I appreciate with Courtney Walsh's books. They are Christian, but they don't preach and certainly are as enjoyable to secular readers as they are to Christian ones. If you're looking for a gentle tale about the bonds of friendship and love, you won't go wrong with A Sweethaven Homecoming.



Sunday, July 29, 2012

Lakeside Family - Lisa Jordan



Released August 2012

Lisa Jordan
Harlequin

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Almost 10 years after giving birth to her daughter, Josie Peretti must track down the child's father. It's not an easy task knowing he wanted nothing to do with them, but Hannah has leukemia and none of Josie's family is a match for a bone marrow transplant. She just wants Nick to get tested and move on, and becomes increasingly frustrated when he makes it clear he plans to be part of their lives.

Nick Brennan never knew he had a daughter. His mother kept him from ever knowing. He's missed the first 10 years of Hannah's life and he will not let that happen again, even if Josie is trying her hardest to keep him at arms length. He only hopes he has the strength and patience to turn Josie around.


Lakeside Family is a tender Christian romance from Harlequin's Love Inspired line. It can get a little preachy at times, especially as Nick and Josie try to overcome past hurt. Despite that, their love for one another is so sweet and so touching that it's hard not to get lost in their story.

If you want a gentle romance that's packed with emotion and characters  you'll love, you can't go wrong with Lakeside Family. This is apparently part of a series, and I can't wait to find the previous title, Lakeside Reunion, where Josie is first introduced.



Thursday, July 26, 2012

I Couldn't Love You More - Jillian Medoff



Released May 2012

Jillian Medoff
Five Spot

The full review for I Couldn't Love You More appears at Amazon. In a nutshell, it takes a while to settle in and get to the main plot, but once it does it's an amazing read.




Sunday, July 22, 2012

Desperate Housedogs - Sparkle Abbey



Released October 2011

Sparkle Abbey
Bell Bridge Books

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Pet therapist Caro Lamont is with one of her clients, Kevin Blackstone, trying to uncover why his German Shepherds have suddenly taken to growling and barking at things in the backyard. When they escape and attack a landscaper, Caro is baffled, but thankfully the landscaper doesn't take any legal action. Later, Kevin is murdered and Caro, as the last known person to have seen him, becomes a suspect.

Not wanting her good name to be dragged through the mud again, Caro decides to do a little sleuthing of her own. She soon realizes she has a steadfast alibi, but her alibi moves her friend to the top of the list of suspects. Caro can't have that. As the homicide detective keeps telling her to butt out, Caro simply doesn't listen and keeps learning more about the goings-on in Kevin's neighborhood, and with any luck, her novice sleuthing won't really land her in a tough spot.

Desperate Housedogs was a really charming cozy mystery. I've read other series involving animals, and this one stands out as one of the best in terms of likability of the characters. It did have its weaknesses, but I could overlook them. For me, the biggest was that the actual murder was a little too easily predicted. It was apparent to me why Kevin's dogs were acting that way. The fact that a pet therapist, a supposed professional, missed it was odd.

There's a secondary plot between Caro and her cousin Mel. Their grandmother left a valuable brooch to "her favorite granddaughter" and both feel they hold that honor. Given that, they steal the brooch from each other every time the opportunity presents itself. I'm intrigued that the second book in this series is now going to be told from Mel's point of view. That is a unique twist that I'm looking forward to.



Saturday, July 21, 2012

A City of Broken Glass - Rebecca Cantrell



Released July 2012

Rebecca Cantrell
Tor/Forge

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Hannah Vogel is in Poland with Anton, her adopted son, covering the St. Martin festival. Her stories have put her in trouble before, but she's honest and determined to share news of all that goes on in the 1930s. She soon learns that thousands of Jews were shipped to Poland from Germany, and she heads to the stables where these thousands are being held. There she finds a familiar face, the woman, the wife of Hannah's friend Paul, is about to give birth and tells Hannah that she had to leave her two-year-old daughter locked in a closet. When the woman and infant die, Hannah keeps her promise and starts searching for someone in Germany who can get to their house and rescue the child.

Meanwhile, Hannah's former lover returns after two years. Lars is back and he saves Hannah when she's taken by two SS officers and driven across the border. Now that she's in Germany, Hannah and Lars must save the child and get back out of Germany without getting caught.

I'd never read any of the previous Hannah Vogel novels, so I think that was a serious disadvantage. While the story flowed smoothly, I had this niggling feeling that I'd missed things along the way. Once I learned this is the fourth book in a series, it finally made sense. Many of Hannah's relationships seemed well established already, and that's where I was confused. I'd missed the other books and therefore had missed the beginnings of those relationships.

Given that, I really need to go back and read the books in order. A City of Broken Glass didn't work for me as a stand alone. It's powerful writing and certainly kept me on the edge of my seat, but I really wished I'd learned how Lars and Hannah first met, how Anton came into her life, and how she knew Paul.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Little Night - Luanne Rice



Released June 2012

Luanne Rice
Pamela Dorman Books

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

I'd heard from a few friends that Luanne Rice's latest book was awful when compared to her previous books. I admit, that led to my hesitation to start reading Little Night. I love Ms. Rice's novels, but friends were saying this book is darker and depressing. I wish now that I hadn't listened to them.

Clare Burke and her sister Anne were always close. With a father who was happier drinking and fooling around with other women, the two learned to depend on each other. When Anne marries a controlling, abusive man, he pulls Anne away from her family. Not willing to lose her sister to an abuser, Clare makes one attempt to save Anne, and almost succeeds, only he shows up right as Anne agrees to leave him. He attacks Anne, Clare attacks him with a burning log, and Anne supports her husband sending Anne to jail for two years.

Just shy of years later, the sisters have never spoken again. One afternoon, Clare receives a letter from the niece she hasn't seen in decades. The young woman is on her way to New York City and hopes she can stay with Clare. Meeting her niece for the first time in almost 20 years is an experience that leaves Clare seeking answers and wondering if her sister is beyond anyone's reach.

I adored Little Night. It's powerful. Anne makes horrible decisions yes, but then I have a friend who keeps marrying abusive men, and I don't know why she puts herself through it time and time again. Like Anne, she's smart, yet cannot seem to avoid making horrible choices. I think that's part of the draw. As absurd as some of these situations may seem, they do happen.

Grit is a tough cookie, and she's dealt with things that would horrify most anyone. Watching her come out of her shell really heightened the powerful narrative. Paired with Clare and Clare's long-time beau, it was fun watching Grit evolve. Her years of abuse ring true, especially with some of her self-destructive behaviors. That's what happens though, especially to those who didn't have a mother strong enough to protect them.

I have a feeling it's the ending that throws most readers off. I won't give spoilers, but I think Luanne Rice handled the ending honestly and realistically.

Little Night is a poignant story that's told with brutal honesty. Domestic violence isn't pretty. It does affect the psyche of those involved. That's what this story shares with all who read it.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Bone Wires - Michael Shean



Released July 19, 2012

Michael Shean
Curiosity Quills

Book Review by Jen Beams


I went into this book expecting a simple and quick James Patterson-style murder mystery. Michael Shean wrote much more than that.

The story takes us forward in time to a setting similar to that of George Orwell’s 1984, where advertisements cover the world, surveillance is everywhere, and business has nearly taken over the world. It begins as a simple, but twisted homicide investigation in which victims are found dead with their spines carved out of them. This is just the “sexy case” detective Daniel Gray needs to advance in his career and receive all the technological perks that come with the next level badge. This simple investigation slowly evolves in to a complicated mess of corruption and danger in which Gray himself is a key pawn.

I was impressed with Shean’s realistic imagination of the future. It wasn’t too far-fetched but instead gave a believable take on where technology and capitalism are taking us. The story was a bit complicated to follow at times but that complexity is what set it apart from the average murder mystery story. It was totally  unpredictable and I love that in a mystery.

Bone Wires is a compelling story filled with surprises, drama, suspense, and a fantastic ending that left me thinking, “wow, that was a good book.” The list price for print is $12.99 and that’s a little high (I only buy books I will read more than once), but I would definitely pay for the ebook ($3.99). I hope to see more from Shean.


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Threat of Darkness - Valerie Hansen



Released June 2012

Valerie Hansen
Harlequin

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

After saving a toddler's life, Samantha Rochard never expects to find herself in danger. Her work as both a nurse and child advocate does put her in some intense situations, but someone wants Sam to give a package that the toddler's caregiver supposedly slipped her. Sam doesn't have the package, and she has no idea what her attacker is talking about.

Years earlier, John Waltham broke Sam's heart when she left. She soon discovers he's back and he's determined to work as lead detective on her case. He won't let anything happen to the woman he loved.

Per the cover blurb, the main aspect of the story involves a young boy that Sam is trying to protect from his abusive, "powerful" father. That is a sub-plot, it's not the main plot. As that's the storyline I was eager to read about, I was disappointed with how it seems thrown in at the last minute.

I'd love to say that Threat of Darkness swept me away, but it honestly didn't. At 200 pages, it's not a long book, but I'm fine with that. Usually, I can read a Harlequin in one sitting, but this one took me a few days. The plot seemed rushed, which rarely happens in a Harlequin.

I tried to pinpoint exactly what I didn't like, and I think it came down to both Sam and John not being believable for me. As a nurse and advocate for abused children, I expected her to have a good deal of common sense and intuition. Yet, she acts clueless when her attacker keeps demanding a "package" dealing with a case of a toddler who'd ingested drugs. All of this happens in the parking lot after the toddler is saved. I would have thought she would have immediately gone back inside to alert the police working that case, yet she doesn't.

She never tells John what the attacker demanded, she simply brushes it off as a failed purse snatching until a few days later, telling herself that needs to protect the druggie teen who was watching the toddler. When it's apparent someone's been at her home, John goes to her rescue, yet misses vital clues the "attacker" leaves behind. Again, Sam doesn't tell him what her attacker said at the hospital. When her car is ransacked, he offers to drive her home, yet neither of them think about grabbing her purse or keys from the ignition before leaving the scene. she finally tells him what happened at that point, and the investigation aspect finally begins, but even then it seemed like a half-hearted attempt.

All of this happens in just the first few chapters, and it made me lose confidence in either Sam or John really being as intelligent as you'd expect given their career choices. I really just didn't like them.

In the end, it was a struggle for me to finish Threat of Darkness. I know others have read and loved the book, but I simply couldn't get past Sam's lack of common sense, and John's lack of skills that I would expect a detective to have.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A Knitter's Home Companion Video

I'm working on the review for A Knitter's Home Companion. In the meantime, here's a video for inspiration.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Night Journey - Goldie Browning



Released September 2011

Goldie Browning
Storyteller Publishing

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

A weekend away at her brother-in-law's wedding seems perfect for Emma Fuller. When she and her husband, Zan, return, she'll begin undergoing infertility treatments. She doesn't know they're staying in a haunted hotel, and she certainly doesn't expect to have ghosts targeting her. It seems she's not a stranger to this hotel that was formerly a hospital for cancer patients. When an accident puts her in a coma, she's sent back to the 1930s where she's pregnant and trapped in another woman's body. Meanwhile, Zan must protect her today because some shady professionals will do anything to procure Emma's heart for the daughter of a popular senator. Time's running out for both Zan and Emma.

The premise behind Night Journey is truly appealing, especially to anyone who enjoys paranormal romance. I loved Zan and Emma's story, and admit that once the story changes to the past, I had to adjust and get into the historical aspect. It was a little shocking to have grown to love two characters and then be tossed into a new story and have to get to know new characters.

Once I'd settled in, I was hooked and couldn't wait to reach the end. If you want a book that keeps you turning the pages, even if it means forgoing sleep, you won't be disappointed with Night Journey.


Monday, July 9, 2012

My Dead Friend Sarah - Peter Rosch



Released April 2012

CreateSpace

Book Review by Jen Beams


The story of a man attempting to save the life of a stranger who appeared in his reoccurring dreams in which she was kidnapped and tortured to death makes a thrilling, mystery novel. At least, it should.

Peter Rosch’s My Dead Friend Sarah has great potential but was executed differently than advertised. This story does make for a great emotional account of the struggles of alcoholism as faced by the main
character, Max. When Max, a recovering alcoholic, finds, literally, the girl of his dreams, he decides the best way to protect her is to pursue a “friendly” relationship with her. Although he has promised never to lie again, he keeps the dream and his stalker-like ambitions from his wife, friends, and family. He fails to inform the woman, Sarah, that he’s been dreaming of her death for the past few years. We hear from Sarah’s point of view as she mistakenly falls in love with Max, however most of the story was around Max’s struggles with alcohol and his inability to stay away from the bars. It tells excellently and in great detail the effects of his addiction on his mother, sister, father, and wife.

Personally, I would have wanted to hear a few chapters from the point of view of the wife. The end is also almost too predictable, and it was a slow read for me. I wanted it to be more of a thrilling mystery. Would I pay the list price? No, but I might have taken it out at the library.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Movement of Stillness - Jacqui Derbecker



Released November 2011

Jacqui Derbecker
Balboa Press

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

I dove into Movement of Stillness hoping to keep an open mind. This is not my usual forte, and given that I do believe in ghosts, I can see where automatic writing could be a possibility, so I'm not a skeptic when it comes to ghosts, but I'm not as trusting of psychics. I've seen the inner workings of a so-called local psychic's business, and it was clearly a sham; so when it comes to psychics, I will say I'm a skeptic. Given that, I think your interest in Movement of Stillness is dependent on your beliefs.

Movement of Stillness is a self-help guide written by Jacqui Derbecker, but this isn't your typical writing. She channeled the spirit of Edgar Cayce. If you're unfamiliar with Edgar Cayce, he was a psychic and founder of the Association for Research and Enlightenment. During readings, he would go into a trance, and never remember what was said after. He'd also often use third-person rather than first-person when talking about himself. He died in 1945.

Movement of Stillness shares Edgar Cayce's idea about what will happen after the Mayan calendar ends on 12/21/12. This is where the book gets interesting. Some of what is said is reasonable. We're entering a new age where we need to make changes on a personal level. It's the only way issues like bullying will stop. I'll buy that. However, there are other aspects that seem too comical for me to even consider them as possibilities. The thoughts of having homo-luminous (Man - light) simply brought to mind the sparkly vampires in Twilight that just seem ridiculous.

The basic principle is that after 2012, we enter a new age. Edgar Cayce's prophesies, "All Truths," are the new laws we should follow. This starts by giving up EGO (Edging Grace/God Out), until humans give up EGO, they cannot become enlightened. The ultimate goal is to find ones spirit ("Original Self"), become true to yourself, and eventually take on a "homo-luminous" form, reach the metamorphosis, and become divine.

This is one of the first times, I struggled to figure out how to review the book. Honestly, I didn't care for it. I found myself having to flip back to past pages to figure things out. And after reading chapters and having to continually go back and forth, it grew tiring. I'm sure there are true believers in this type of thing who will take a lot from this book, but I wasn't one of them.






Saturday, July 7, 2012

Free Books from 7/7 to 7/8

Free This Weekend! Saturday 7/7 & Sunday 7/8 



What do murder, multi-million dollar real estate deals, and Faberge' Eggs have to do with each other? Find out in The Deal!

Everything about Jonah Gray screams success - expensive clothes, a Park Avenue penthouse, and a seven-figure income. A cutthroat, rainmaking New York city commercial real estate broker, Jonah craves opulence and power. He beds models, romps the globe on the weekends and sees the world as his for the taking. Jonah Gray has it all. Or at least he had it all.

When a friend presents Jonah with the deal of a lifetime, Jonah jumps at the chance. All Jonah has to do is act quickly, invest half a billion dollars in prime NY office buildings, and collect a huge payoff. But this golden opportunity is anything but. Within days of signing on, Jonah is mysteriously thrust into the epicenter of an international and personal scandal. Forced to explore a whole new territory where he can trust no one, and where danger, death and deception lurk at every corner, Jonah will learn some painfully hard lessons about the quest for easy money. Closing this deal could mean losing everything.



What happens when you mix Boxing, Hedge Funds. & Murder with Fidel Castro? Find out by reading The Castro Gene!

The Castro Gene, by best-selling author Todd Buchholz, is seamless, suspenseful and shocking.

After killing a man in the ring, Luke Braden quits boxing. While toiling as a security guard and yearning to reinvent himself, Luke is swept up into the high-flying domain of Paul Tremont. Tremont, the hottest hedge fund hand around, has a penchant for the dramatic - and a disquieting need to control.

Being Tremont's protégé has its perks - Luke trades in his ratty basement apartment for a penthouse view, his gym clothes for designer suits. But there are strings attached - and Tremont is pulling the strings. Why does Tremont need a washed-up boxer? The answer lies not in what Luke is, but who he is: Luke Braden is the only man who can execute Tremont's diabolical scheme.

Fidel Castro risks one last trip to the U.S. And one man will be forced to stand in his way. Luke is in for the fight of his life - or the fight for his life. Intricately plotted with unexpected twists and breathtaking turns, The Castro Gene is a knockout.



From reality to Renaissance Florence, this story is haunting!

Longing for escape from his mundane existence as a Stanford computer science major, Jason Lind signs up to play Fortuna, an online role-playing game set in Renaissance Florence. From the first, fateful mouse click, Jason tumbles into the vibrant, lush, and anonymous world of Fortuna.

Swept up in this highly complex, highly addictive game of fame, fortune, and power, Jason quickly transitions from casual gamer to compulsive player. Soon tangled up in a steamy virtual love triangle, Jason becomes obsessed with breaking Fortuna's code of anonymity. But Fortuna is anything but fun and games, and when a sizeable debt incurred in the game spills over into reality, Jason is forced to leverage the legacy of his father, a high-tech legend killed in a car accident years before, to pay off the debt.

What started as a great escape may only leave Jason trapped, as the game that transported Jason deep into the past exposes a shocking, present-day reality. In the world of Fortuna, it's not how you play the game; it's if you survive.



Miami in June: it's raining, it's pouring, but the life of criminal defense attorney Mary Magruder Katz is anything but boring-especially when she gets caught up in a whirlwind of three different cases.

Judge Liz Maxwell's job, sanity, and reputation are at stake, and she needs Mary to ferret out wrongdoing in Miami's courts. Solving this case won't just mean going out on a limb; it will mean risking life and limb. Luis Corona, a family friend of Mary's boyfriend, Carlos, needs help with a legal matter that, to Mary's horror, turns out to be a terrorism charge. And this case will leave some catastrophic damage-and unwelcome notoriety-in its wake.

Just when Mary thought things couldn't get worse, Carlos gets in his own nasty legal quandary-one that could cost him everything. Three cases. One Mary. One torrential downpour of turmoil. Can she weather the storm? Ride out the cold front that settles over her once-hot romance? Salvage what remains of her-and her clients'-reputations? For Mary Magruder Katz, this month's forecast calls for trouble.



In the city that never sleeps, evil is wide awake. From the bright lights of Times Square to the dark alleys of New York, the Ladykiller is at work - and at prey.

Four women savagely murdered on the mean streets of New York. The Ladykiller leaves no trail, no clues. The pressure is on for NYPD detective Dave Dillon: either he solves the crime, or he can kiss his job goodbye.

When Dave joins forces with Megan Morrison, a beautiful young social worker, the search for a cold-hearted killer leads to a hot romance. But a host of forces threaten to intrude: Nita, Megan's jealous mentor, would delight in derailing the romance between Dave and Megan, as would Jamie, a determined detective with her own not-so-hidden agenda. And Dave's shadowy past is never far behind.

The clock is ticking for Dave and Megan. Will they close in on the shocking truth behind the crimes, or will it close in on them? In the world of the Ladykiller, passion can turn deadly in a New York minute.




There's evil at work in the City of the Angels. Time is running out. And Sammy Greene is playing with fire.

Fired from her job as a TV producer, Sammy Greene gets a second chance when she lands an after-midnight show at a small radio station in LA. It's December 1999, days before the dawn of the new millennium. With Y2K looming and the Santa Ana winds threatening to turn the city into a fiery inferno, LA is on edge, and Sammy's listeners are burning up the phone lines predicting the end of time.

When a listener calls in to report the discovery of a burned body, Sammy starts to investigate and to her horror, learns that the victim is the wayward daughter of an old friend. As she blazes a trail to find answers, Sammy realizes that this death was no accident. All signs point to murder-murder conveniently obscured by the raging wildfires. But Sammy's investigation takes a chilling turn when she uncovers a sinister plot that could claim thousands of innocent lives.

Friday, July 6, 2012

2012 Christy Award Nominees


2012 CHRISTY AWARD NOMINEES ANNOUNCED (Some nominees have been reviewed by Roundtable Reviews, others are in the works and links will be added when available.)

CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE
My Foolish Heart by Susan May Warren (Tyndale House Publishers)
Larkspur Cove by Lisa Wingate (Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group)
Wolfsbane by Ronie Kendig (Barbour Publishing)

CONTEMPORARY SERIES, SEQUELS, AND NOVELLAS
The Amish Midwife by Mindy Starns Clark and Leslie Gould (Harvest House Publishers)
Dancing on Glass by Pamela Binnings Ewen (B&H Publishing Group)
The Touch by Randall Wallace (Tyndale House Publishers)

CONTEMPORARY STANDALONE
Dry as Rain by Gina Holmes (Tyndale House Publishers)
Promises to Keep by Ann Tatlock (Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group)
Words by Ginny Yttrup (B&H Publishing Group)

FIRST NOVEL
An Eye for Glory by Karl Bacon (Zondervan)
Southern Fried Sushi by Jennifer Rogers Spinola (Barbour Publishing)
Words by Ginny Yttrup (B&H Publishing Group)

HISTORICAL
Forsaking All Others by Allison Pittman (Tyndale House Publishers)
Mine is the Night by Liz Curtis Higgs (WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group)
Wonderland Creek by Lynn Austin (Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group)

HISTORICAL ROMANCE
A Lasting Impression by Tamera Alexander (Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group)
The Maid of Fairbourne Hall by Julie Klassen (Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group)
To Die For by Sandra Byrd (Howard Books, a division of Simon & Schuster)

SUSPENSE
Over the Edge by Brandilyn Collins (B&H Publishing Group)
Pattern of Wounds by Mark Bertrand (Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group)
The Queen by Steven James (Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group)

VISIONARY
The Chair by James L. Rubart (B&H Publishing Group)
Forbidden by Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee (Center Street, a division of Hachette Book Group USA)
Veiled Rose by Anne Elisabeth Stengl (Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group)

YOUNG ADULT
How Huge the Night by Heather Munn and Lydia Munn (Kregel Publications)
Merchant’s Daughter by Melanie Dickerson (Zondervan)
Waterfall by Lisa T. Bergren (David C Cook)

The Christy Awards are also online at:

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Cooking from the Farmers Market - Jodi Liano



Released June 2012

Weldon Owen

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

I love spring and summer because I can get out into my garden and start eating fresh fruits and vegetables again. This year has led to a glut of blackberries, our vines have never done so well. Having a cookbook to inspire me with new ideas and things to try is even better.

Jodi Liano's Cooking from the Farmers Market taps into the best parts of summer. The book starts with a grid of the different types of produce you'll find at the farmers market and gives an idea of when to look for the items. Some of them will vary depending on the weather and the location.

When looking through cookbooks, there are two things I look for: lots of pictures and recipes that sound unique and nothing like I've come across before. Both of these were hits with Jodi Liano's cookbook. The pictures had my mouth watering, and then as glancing through I found a number of recipes I'm dying to try. One of them is on the menu tonight: Chicken Thighs with Roasted Apricots. I love apricots and pairing them with crispy chicken thighs sounds delicious. Add in my son's outstanding rice pilaf and the Warm Beans with Lemon Vinaigrette, and that sounds like an ideal private family dinner for a hot summer's night.

I can't wait to get started working my way through the recipes in Cooking from the Farmers Market. While there are some that have meat, there are just as many that vegetarians will be happy eating.


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

White Lies - Jeremy Bates



Released May 2012

Jeremy Bates
Oceanview Publishing

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

On her way to start a new job in the Cascade Mountains, Katrina Burton makes a rash decision and picks up a hitchhiker in the pouring rain. She knows it's risky, but he looks young and chilled to the bones. When his drunken behavior is too much for her to take, she tells a lie to get him out of her car. She never expects to find that he's a co-worker, and he's not happy with the way she treated him.

To exact his revenge, he decides to put Katrina on the spot by getting her to throw a party for all the teachers at the cabin he is certain she does not have. Both he and Katrina never expect that her one lie will lead to a night of murder and desperation.

White Lies is a good read, but had Katrina been a smart person making wise choices, like I'd hope of a single woman, the premise would never had carried. Katrina really is as clueless as they come. I'd like to think that every woman out there knows never to pick up a hitchhiker. But, she does and goes on to keep spiraling her lie. After learning that “dangerous” hitchhiker is a co-worker, she could have simply told him that his actions were frightening and that's why she lied about her destination. Easy, honest, and not the route she takes.

I also hated Zach's character. He's a drunk, sure, but he honestly couldn't tell his actions in the car were threatening? And then to become vindictive just bothered me. Given that, as the story unravels, I felt anything that happened to him, he had it coming.

I'll leave it at that. I can't totally fault White Lies for being a bad book, because I did feel compelled to read every word. However, I didn't ever like the characters and, therefore, felt what happens was totally their fault for being so naïve and idiotic.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Susan Mallery Speaks to Librarians about the Appeal of Romance


New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery was asked to speak this summer at the American Library Association national conference in Anaheim, California, on a panel called “Isn’t It Romantic?” Mallery’s latest book, SUMMER NIGHTS (Fool’s Gold book 8) is dedicated to librarians who have done so much to introduce readers to her books. This is the speech she prepared.


The appeal in romance is that our books offer readers a celebration of community. Romances are all about connecting. Sure the boy-meets-girl part is fun and exciting, but often what really brings a reader back again and again are the connections made within the novel.

Most romances happen in a larger context of relationships. Families and friends play an important role. We want to experience falling in love with a hunky guy, but we also want a sense of belonging. The most popular books feature a cast of usually likeable, sometimes annoying, generally realistic characters who are amazingly like people we know. Or people we get on an emotional level.

These other characters, sometimes seemingly unimportant, can be the glue that holds our books together. Our hero and heroine are revealed through their relationships with secondary characters. The gruff solitary man who unexpectedly cares for a wounded puppy wins our heart forever. The exhausted single mother staying up until midnight to frost cupcakes for her son's first grade class reminds us of ourselves. While the romance is central to the story and the reason we think we read "those kind of books" I believe the real truth is we love the sense of community a romance brings to the table. The sexy guy on the cover draws us in, but the heroine's relationship with her sarcastic best friend turns out to be just as satisfying and meaningful.

The majority of romance readers are women. Women are usually the keepers of relationships in their lives and the lives of those around them. We are the ones who maintain the friendships, remember birthdays, make sure each of our children has a moment to feel special. We can spend a weekend with our girlfriends and when we get home, still think of something we could have told them. When I travel to a writers’ conference and hang out with my writer friends for days, then return home and get a call from one of them, my husband can't believe there's anything left to say. I've tried to explain there's always more to talk about but he just shakes his head.

 

In our lives we want friends and family. We want connection. Romances offer that in our fiction. We can meet women we want to have lunch with and men we want to fall in love with. Romance isn't man against nature or man against himself. It's man and woman falling in love in a much bigger context. One or both of them have a family, there are friends, coworkers, pets. It's a real world populated by the funny and the strange and if done well, it's a world we want to return to again and again.

For years now, romances have been written in groups. Trilogies, sisters, brothers, a band of warriors. Sherrilyn Kenyon gives us her immortal warriors. Debbie Macomber gives us Cedar Cove. In between lie stories only limited by the imaginations of the writers who create them. It is the combination of the familiar and the unknown that draws us back.

I started writing in category romance. I wrote about 80 books for Silhouette. I wrote about sisters and cousins and brothers and even neighboring sheik kingdoms. The longer a series went on, the more readers responded. When I moved into writing single title, I continued with families. One day a very successful writer friend sat me down and said, "Write about a town. It's limitless."

From that very intelligent advice, my Fool's Gold series was born. www.foolsgoldca.com It's a small town set in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. I started with the idea of a town suffering a man shortage, which gave me the chance to put women in non-traditional jobs. I decided to write the books in trilogies, with the idea each trilogy would stand on its own, allowing readers to join at any point. By the second Fool's Gold trilogy I'd realized the man shortage wasn't that interesting, but the non-traditional jobs were, so modifications were made.

 

Reader response has been terrific. They love the town. Mayor Marsha, California's longest serving mayor, is a fan favorite. I keep track of previous heroes and heroines using a data base and often feature births in subsequent books. I use social media to increase the level of connection with my readers. We have the usual interactions, but there is another level on my Facebook page, www.facebook.com/susanmallery. Readers help me name characters, pick careers and suggest new businesses for the towns. When a former heroine is due to give birth, readers usually vote on the gender of the baby and offer name suggestions. Next year three new businesses will open in Fool's Gold and each one of them is the result of something a reader said to me.

A romance can take place nearly anywhere, in any time. We have smart ass heroines who rescue themselves, timid virgins and librarians who dance on bars in our books. Every romance writer has a specific vision for what she wants to write, but what we all have in common is connection. Sisters who are drawn together because of a dying parent. Vampires fighting enemies while protecting the women they love. Handsome dukes who marry the most unlikely of spinsters, drawn to her against all odds, in part because she takes care of her younger siblings.

In romances we find the relationships that matter most to us personally. Those who adore babies in books can be endless entertained by the antics of newborns. If you prefer sexy, sassy heroines, there are dozens of writers to give you exactly that. The appeal of romance is how the stories speak to us so personally. They show us women who are brave, who overcome odds, who always have a snappy comeback and in the end find not just love, but also a place to belong. Romances celebrate the very best of us, and that ideal state is often illustrated in the connections our characters make with each other.

Romances are a reading escape that also touches the heart. Romances affirm what is most important to each of us—the people we love, who love us back.