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.”

Monday, November 26, 2012

Indiscretion - Charles Dubow



Released February 2013


William Morrow

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Summers in the Hamptons seem like a dream come true for many. Author Harry Winslow and his wife Madeleine are one of the area's power couples - Harry for his talent and Madeleine for her beauty and amazing culinary skills. It's at one of their gatherings that Claire meets Harry, Madeleine, their young son, and Madeleine's best friend Walter Gervais.

The Winslow's embrace Claire openly and draw her into their lives. By the time the summer ends, they're off to Italy on a grant for Harry's next book. Claire, however, doesn't want the summer to end.

Indiscretion is narrated by Walter, a man who knows the story but wasn't there for all of it. I liked that aspect, it drew you into the story but left a bit of mystery with the "what happens next." By the time you reach the conclusion, you've definitely formed a strong bond with the characters and don't see things coming.

What I did find odd is that I liked Claire. Realistically, she's not the most likable character, yet I still felt myself drawn to her and almost understanding of some of her actions. As I read the story, I felt it had a bit of the edge that the television show Revenge has, only it's not truly along the same lines. It's that allure of the elite in the Hamptons and wanting to be part of them.

Indiscretion isn't your typical novel. It's part romance, part general fiction, and a whole lot of real life drama that's handled in a very honest way.



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Monday, November 19, 2012

Better Than Chocolate - Sheila Roberts



Released October 2012

Sheila Roberts
Harlequin

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Sheila Roberts' Better than Chocolate builds up the setting for what could be a very long, satisfying series. Welcome to Icicle Falls, a quaint town where everyone knows each other, and Sweet Dreams Chocolate Company is one of the towns largest employers. When Samantha Sterling learns her step-father ran the company virtually into the ground, she's floored. Worse, the bank is calling in their note and if she can't come up with the payment by the deadline, she'll lose the company that her great-grandmother founded.

Samantha heads to talk to the new bank manager, Blake Preston, but he's less than helpful. With her sisters help, they decide the key to success is to host a chocolate festival in their town before the deadline hits. It's going to be tough, but Samantha doesn't want to lose everything her family has built and put dozens of workers out of jobs in an already tough economy.

Blake hates not being able to help Samantha, but his new job requires him to be tough. If there was another way to help the Sterling family, he would. Pressures on from his boss, and he's at a loss how to show Samantha that he truly does care about her business.

Sheila Roberts does more than create a romantic story in Better Than Chocolate, she creates a town where there are many other characters deserving of their own romance. I fell in love with this town and would love to have been part of the chocolate festival. The romance between Blake and Samantha does at times feel like an afterthought. The key focus on the story is getting the town set up and then figuring out ways to help Samantha save the company. There's focus on Samantha, her grieving mother, and her sisters.

Once it's clear that Samantha and Blake do have feelings, it was well into the book and from that point on, things regarding their romance seemed rushed to me. I'd almost say the majority of this book is more women's fiction than true romance for that reason.

One of Samantha's sisters fights a possible romance with a single dad, and that's the story that really caught my interest. I certainly hope the author gives him a chance in a future book. I adored Luke and his precocious daughter, so I really want to see him again.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Deborah Reardon's Blue Suede Shoes



PRESS RELEASE:

Deep in the woods of Wisconsin, Little Mary Martin has been missing for five weeks. Thirty-one year old Clare Paxton opens the door to her childhood friend Derek and his discovery. Little 4-year-old Mary Martin had been missing and all that was left were her articles of clothing and a large pool of blood. Having interrupted her criminal psychology degree for her mother's feigned illness, Clare's unending questioning of her own life's choices is heightened by this tragedy. Clare embroils herself in the investigation because of her personal mistrust of Mary's parents while romantically conflicted with the Chief of Police.

Blue Suede Shoes is an engrossing criminal drama that takes dramatic twists and turns in a small Wisconsin town that has been torn apart by tragedy. Clare, a woman with an unfinished dream of leaving behind her hometown, finds herself drawn into the investigation of a young girl’s murder after her lifelong friend Derek finds a critical clue. From that point on, secrecy, gossip, suspense, and betrayal lead the narrative to its fast-paced, climactic ending.

Deborah Reardon’s first novel does an excellent job of examining life in a small town where there can be no true secrets. Gossip, suspense and betrayal weave a tangled web for the residents of the often-unnoticed town of Danfield, Wisconsin. As tabloid media coverage and paparazzi haunt family homes and polarize the population, rich connections between characters and an ever-looming presence of suspicion carry this crime drama and make it a page turner for all readers.

About the Author:

Deborah Reardon dabbled in writing through out her youth. She took a hiatus from working in the banking profession and decided to pursue a more rigorous approach to her writing. Reardon was uniquely inspired by the Wisconsin writing community where she lived when she began writing the manuscript for Blue Suede Shoes. Today, living in Texas, Reardon is working on the sequel to Blue Suede Shoes.
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Friday, November 16, 2012

Life of Pi - Yann Martel



Released October 2012 (Reissue)

Yann Martel
Mariner Books

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Life of Pi is reissued just in time for the movie release. This story shares the tale of Pi Patel, short for Pisces, a zoo keeper's son. Pi's raised in India, but his father decides to move the family to Canada. When the freighter they're on sinks, Pi finds himself stranded in the ocean on a lifeboat that also carries a orangutan, hyena, zebra, and tiger named Richard Parker. What follows is Pi's account of their journey through shark-infested waters that spans almost a year. 

I admit, I struggled, really struggled with the beginning of Life of Pi. The build up to the shipwreck took too long given the philosophical feel to this novel. I don't do philosophical well I'm afraid, and that's not the authors fault. Once the actual story took place, I was hooked. I loved seeing what happened next. Now that I'm done the book, I can't wait to see the movie, though I admit I have reservations because every preview I've seen just shows Richard Parker. I've seen nothing of the rest of the animals.

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Heron's Cove - Carla Neggers



Released August 2012

Carla Neggers
Harlequin

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Colin Donavan and Emma Sharpe, both FBI agents, first met at the Sisters of Joyful Heart in Maine. Their relationship is blossoming, but Colin, as an undercover agent, heads off on an assignment and disappears. His family is worried and Emma, too, has concerns after receiving a phone call alerting her to his danger. When Colin does return home, Emma wants to relax, but the presence of a Russian jewelry designer changes things. Tatiana Pavlova wants Emma's help because someone wants to steal a prized collection and they'll stop at nothing to achieve their goals.

I had a hard time settling in with this story, and I'm pretty sure I know why. I never read the first book in this series, and I felt like I was tossed into the middle of a relationship. Given that, I highly recommend reading the first book, Saint's Gate, before starting Heron's Cove.

That said, I have always loved Carla Neggers' novels. The setting for Heron's Cove really struck me. It's a fictional Southern Maine town, but it's so true of areas like Ogunquit. I've been there so many times that it's like a second home. The feel of the Irish pub really rang true for me. The salty air and chilly October breeze, I could feel and smell them as I read.

I would like to read Heron's Cove again, once I've worked my way through Saint's Gate. I have this feeling that had I met the characters in the beginning, I would love this novel rather than like it.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Uncle John's Fully Loaded 25th Anniversary Bathroom Reader - Bathroom Readers' Institute



Released October 23, 2012

Bathroom Reader

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Uncle John's Bathroom Reader books have been a mainstay in many bathrooms for the past two decades. I know, I've visited many friends' and relatives' houses and found one of the books sitting near the toilet. That's what the books are for, informative, often humorous reading in the one place where you have all the quiet you need for reading.

Uncle John's Fully Loaded 25th Anniversary Bathroom Reader is the latest, lengthy collection of true stories, trivia, and facts you'll be able to tuck away. I learned a lot reading this book, and I spent a good portion of the time laughing out loud too. There is a ton of information presented. You can learn who was originally slated to star in the blockbuster Alien movie series that eventually starred Sigourney Weaver. Find out how many hairs are on the average human's body. Discover exactly how Apple got started and how much some of the companies earliest investors lost by backing out of a business model they felt was doomed to fail. Read stories about typos that truly changed the intention of headline stories. You'll also find current bloopers like Mitt Romney's "Amercia."

Each category has "short," "medium," and "long" stories so that you never have to leave a story unfinished. Topics range from Bathroom Lore and Stage and Screen to Forgotten History and Toys and Games. There are dozens of categories and topics.

This is a must-have and the perfect present for any teen, man, or woman. This is not a gender-specific book. It's a great addition to every bookshelf or bathroom. In fact, I think I'll be ordering a few copies to give to many of the people in my family who are hard to shop for.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

He's No Prince Charming - LuAnn McLane



Released October 2009

LuAnn McLane
Signet

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Most romance readers know that the stories tend to get formulaic. Boy meets girl, discord occurs, boy and girl go their separate ways, then they reunite after deciding they're being ridiculous. He's No Prince Charming tries to avoid that for the most part, and that's what really hooked me.

Dakota Dunn's lived the life most people only dream about. She was a pop star at 16, and now years later, her label's dumped her, and it's time to start anew. She heads to her family's lakeside marina/fishing camp to see if she can come up with what music higher-ups want - an edgier, take no prisoners country sensation.

It's in the fishing retreat that Dakota meets Trace Coleman. He's a former rodeo champ who has a few chips on his shoulders. He's been managing Willow Creek Marina and Fishing Camp and is shocked to find the pop princess in her family's cabin. Sparks fly and Dakota knows that she wants Trace in her life, but he's been burned before and isn't really sure a celebrity will be willing to stick around for the long haul.

There is plenty of romantic tension between Trace and Dakota. What I loved is that Dakota knew what she wanted and wasn't going to take no for an answer. Trace, like many guys, is simply overjoyed to have a passionate, sexy woman after him, so he goes with the flow. You might think that makes for a boring premise, but I found just the opposite. Because there were few silly arguments, the story focused simply on building the romance and turning those first sparks into a believable relationship. I loved that.

There's a secondary story involving the camp's fishing guide, Grady, and the cook, Sierra. They've harbored a secret crush on each other for years, and Dakota decides to take Sierra under her wing and make sure Sierra gets what she wants too. That romance is also fun to watch develop, though it didn't overtake Dakota and Trace's romantic story.

In the end, this is a fun romance that I easily read in one sitting. It's not long or complex. It's sweet, simple, and leaves you with the warm, fuzzy feelings that a romance novel should impart.






Friday, November 9, 2012

Before Meds After Meds - Duane Law, L.Ac.



Released September 2012

Duane Law, L.Ac.


Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

I think this book review needs to go into a bit of my history. I offer high praise to Duane Law, L.Ac.'s Before Meds After Meds and hope everyone dealing with anxiety or depression gives it a try.

When it comes to anxiety and depression, my take is that most of the medical profession still has a long way to go. Granted, it's been more than ten years for me and I hope doctors have become a little smarter, but my story is pretty clear and very scary. I had my first panic attack in bed when my daughter was two years old. I went to the ER where we were convinced I was having a heart attack and after an EKG showed what I call a "skip a beat," they put me in the ICU saying I was likely correct. I waited 12 hours to have a cardiologist look at me. He said there was nothing wrong and sent me home and told me to see my usual doctor.

I did that and she put me on Toprol XL saying that since I was a stay-home mom and unlikely to be under any stress, I had a condition known as supraventricular tachycardias. Toprol made me sluggish and weight gain became an issue, but she said I needed it, and I trusted her being a doctor and all. After more than a year on Toprol, the attack returned after both my father and father-in-law were diagnosed with cancer less than a month apart. I was sent to a cardiologist who found nothing wrong again, other than the skip-a-beats I've had since childhood, and he added digitalis to the mix. When digitalis didn't work, he told me to try a calcium channel blocker, Cardizem. I ended up in the ER a day later with a blood pressure of 70/40 and dropping.

It's at that point that I gave up on traditional doctors and went online. I found panic disorder and went to a specialist who helped me wean off the medications I'd been on, it took six months. I learned to change my diet, take supplements, and use Bach's Rescue Remedy if the stress got to be too much. That changed my life.

Many of these are the same techniques discussed in Before Meds After Meds. Duane Law discusses fasting to clear the system, changing your diet, and adding supplements to your daily regimen. He also gets into Yoga and meditation (I've found Tai Chi to be most helpful), aromatherapy (I highly recommend lavender), and massage and/or acupuncture. I know many of these methods work. I'm living proof of it. I just wish a book like this had been available 10 years ago!


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Offers from Premier Digital Publishing

This in from Premier Digital Publishing:

Feel that chill up your spine? It’s Premier Digital Publishing’s November Killer Thriller Promotion! Indulge your darkest thriller needs with a huge collection of our Thriller and Suspense titles. Choose from historical WWII fiction with spies and Nazi’s and Third Reich rising in Ib Melchior’s “Sleeper Agent”, horror and action at 30,000 feet in Charlie Charters’ “Bolt Action”, the don’t ask don’t tell killer suspense of Lucian K. Truscott IV’s “Army Blue”, Fiona McIntosh’s hard-boiled Scotland Yard  DCI who is hunting a trophy-taking serial killer in “Beautiful Death”, Ken Bruen’s deadly heist in “American Skin”, and Ozzie Cheeks’ “Claws” a killer carnivore catastrophe and so many more.


Get the hottest, newest and cold-bloodiest Thriller and Suspense titles that we have to offer at great prices up to 70% off, as well as FREE titles throughout the promo for you to get your cold clutching claws on. We won’t keep you in suspense…this amazing promo will only be around until November 18th. Don’t let these horrifying and pulse pounding mysteries, thrillers and suspense titles turn into cold cases…hunt down yours now!
Hunt PDP on Facebook and stalk us like serial killers on Twitter to get up to the second news on promos, FREE eBooks and great industry and author news.

Monday, November 5, 2012

New Book Helps Empower Women Through The Art Of Self-Pleasure

Devi Ward’s debut novel "Shake Your Soul-Song! A Woman's Guide to Self-Empowerment Through The Art of Self-Pleasure” will be released on November 5, 2012.

LOS ANGELES, CA (October 15, 2012) – Devi Ward, an internationally recognized sex expert, personal coach, and dance instructor, announced today that her debut novel "Shake Your Soul-Song! A Woman's Guide to Self-Empowerment Through The Art of Self-Pleasure” will be released on November 5, 2012.

“What I offer to you in this book is medicine,” says Devi Ward. “I share with you the tools that I myself have used and continue to use, to cultivate a deeply aware, intimately connected, and truly loving relationship to my sexuality, sensual pleasure, and the song of my soul.”

“We live in a culture that teaches us to fear, ignore, and repress our sexuality. Women are largely uneducated about their full pleasure-potential, and are discouraged from exploring their own unique style of healthy sensual expression,” says Devi. Shake Your Soul-Song presents the idea of using pleasure as a path to self-empowerment and soul connection.

Devi is known for her non-judgmental advice, understanding, and openness. In her book, she uses candidness to make the sometime awkward subject of sex, comfortable and fun.

“Shake Your Soul-Song is written as a guidebook to support you in reawakening to the pleasure, joy, and sensual connection already residing within. I focus on giving practical, effective and enjoyable methods to develop pleasure in your everyday life,” says Devi.

Having been sexually molested as a child, Devi helps heal women who have had painful sexual experiences to overcome any barriers holding them back and reach their true potential for sexual pleasure.

“I recommend approaching this book as a journey of self-discovery,” says Devi.

In "Shake Your Soul-Song!” Devi teaches The 4 Principles of Pleasure, which are Physical, Sexual, Emotional, and Spiritual. Each of The 4 Principles of Self-Pleasure uses practical and fun tools designed to effectively connect, heal, awaken, and transform every woman’s heart, body, mind & soul.

"Shake Your Soul-Song! A Woman's Guide to Self-Empowerment Through The Art of Self-Pleasure” is currently available for pre-sale. Order your copy for only $11.99 at http://femininemergence.ca/the-art-of-self-pleasure-for-women/.

Devi has been on a path of Sensual Awakening and Spiritual Embodiment since 1993. She became a Monk of The Ishaya Order in 1999, and practiced The Ishayas’ Ascension Meditation until 2008, when she took refuge with Lama Tashi Dundrup, and became a Vajrayana Tantrika, in the Shangpa Kagyu Lineage. She is a Certified Tantric Healer and International Authentic Tantra Educator.

Devi is the Founder of Feminine Emergence and Co-Founder of Authentic Tantra. She calls upon her own experience of sexual healing & personal transformation to empower women in fully embracing their sacred sensuality. She specializes in using sensual awareness as a vehicle for personal transformation, life-empowerment, and spiritual growth.

Devi passionately believes that the key to accessing personal potential & soul empowerment lies in the full integration of human sexuality with spiritual consciousness. Find out more about Devi Ward at www.feminine-emergence.com.

Love Unscripted - Tina Reber



Released January 2013

Tina Reber
Simon and Schuster

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Love Unscripted was not what I was expecting. First, this is probably the longest romance I've had in a long time. There was no short and sweet speed to Tina Reber's book. At over 700 pages, there was plenty of time to get to know the characters, learn about their fears and strengths, and even meet a number of the minor characters. This is part of a series, so I loved really getting to know Ryan and Taryn. Second, it paints a complete, and pretty detailed image, of the life of a celebrity. I know paparazzi are shameless, but I never thought of how bad fans can be. Yet, when you think about, with celebrities like Adele getting sent death threats against her newborn child, some fans are really that horrid.

Taryn Mitchell is a prosperous business woman. She is a partner in her friend's catering firm, she is part owner of a few wineries, and she owns her own pub in Rhode Island. When Ryan Christensen ducks into her bar one day to escape some overzealous fans, she never expects to fall head over heels for him.

Taryn's been hurt before. Her last boyfriend/fiance turned out to be a cheater. Other guys have been no better. The last thing she needs is to become embroiled in a romance with a man who is desired by many, including A-list actresses who make it very clear that he's out of Taryn's league.

Ryan wants Taryn to be part of his life, but he's been burned before too. Can this A-list actor and a woman from a quiet coastal town survive the media frenzy to follow?

Love Unscripted had me hooked from the start. I think many women can only imagine what it's like to fall in love with a star. (I've had a crush on Johnny Depp for as long as I can remember - since the day I laid eyes on him in Nightmare on Elm Street and then 21 Jump Street.) Yet, I know I'd never survive that lifestyle. Watching Taryn's resolve grow, crumble, and grow again comes off as very realistic. She certainly had her moments when I wanted to smack some sense into her, but I also understood her hesitance.

I've read Tina Reber's Q&A on if she is an actress using a pseudonym, and apparently she's not. My hat is off because her research proves she took her time learning everything she could about the life of a celebrity and the bodyguards hired to keep them safe. I can't say I have first-hand insight on the matter, but I do remember when my sister-in-law was a volunteer at a local hospital, Robert Redford's daughter gave birth to a child. Keeping his arrival to meet his new grandchild low-key took some doing. It's really a shame that there are people out there who make their money becoming little more than a parasite.

I'm not sure where this series will lead, but I'm eager to find out. I can't wait to see what happens next in Taryn and Ryan's story.






Saturday, November 3, 2012

Far From Perfect - Barbara Longley



Released October 2012

Barbara Longley
Montlake Romance

Montlake Romance is a new line from Amazon. I recently reviewed Barbara Longley's Far From Perfect for Amazon Vine and wanted to mention it over here. If you enjoy contemporary romance and really love character-driven romances, you need to check this book out. My review appears in Amazon.

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Secret Keeper - Kate Morton



Released October 2012

Kate Morton
Atria Books

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

To me, The Secret Keeper isn't just another run of the mill offering, this is a truly amazing piece of fiction that kept me guessing, and even then I didn't see the ending coming. It spans decades and shares the story of two women trying to make the most of the hand they've been dealt.

She's just 16 when Laurel Nicolson spies a strange man approach her mother and call her by name. Laurel is horrified when she sees her mother stab and kill that man. Police come and Laurel shares her account, but she leaves out the one detail that the man called her mother by name. This wasn't a random stranger, not the stranger police and family assumed he was.

Fifty years pass and Laurel, now an actress, returns to her family's farm for her ailing mother's 90th birthday. Laurel mother's memory is fading, and she often calls for people she knew long ago and never told her family about. Laurel decides now is the perfect time to unravel what really happened so many years ago. Looking through old pictures her mother had locked away is the first step into revealing her mother's hidden past.

Set in England in three time periods, The Secret Keeper flows effortlessly between past and present. The novel starts in the 1960s with Laurel witnessing the crime. For the rest of the book it switches between the WWII era and present day with the story focusing on either Laurel or her mother, Dorothy.

The setting itself reminded me of my mother's own childhood. She was young in WWII, but remembers things like food rations, and I've heard some stories of my grandmother's experience in Birmingham during the war with bombing occurring far too frequently. It wasn't until my own adult years that I learned of one bombing that broke open a wall so that the basement of a factory was flooded. A dance was being held that night for the workers in the basement and my grandmother at the last minute opted not to go. That decision saved her life.

The Secret Keeper presented a very emotional, gripping story that tops my list of memorable reads. This would make for excellent book discussions, especially as you try to unravel the truth alongside Laurel.




Thursday, November 1, 2012

Help Your Kids Get Better Grades - Gary E. Howard




Released June 2012

Gary E. Howard

Book Review by Jen Beams

As we began our first steps into the world of education, we quickly found that there is no manual for learning. Gary E. Howard has attempted to give one in Help Your Kids Get Better Grades.

The book is perfectly styled for middle school students and some high school freshmen. Therefore, I find the title to be improper. Howard writes his book to a student and so it should be titled as such. Also, school is not all about grades. They are important and they are helpful when it comes to applying to college and to jobs. As I read the book I found that his goals were more centered around organization and learning skills. A letter on a paper will not help you in a college course, only the organization and content you take away from a class will.

Secondly, the book is out of date. Howard states that students should only have three computer skills; to send and receive email, to use a search engine, and to type a report on a word processor. In today’s
world, students, even in middle school, use computers for much much more. The basic computer skills of a 7th grader should include making power point presentations, citing sources, computer research skills and understanding, and Internet safety along with those skills Howard stated. Howard also presents the anecdote explaining that schools no longer have lockers because of drug problems. I have yet to visit a high school or middle school without lockers. Most students need both in order to survive the day without breaking their backs with text books. Finally, Howard covers only three different learning styles when in fact there are nine now defined.

Howard also endorses quick study guides and guessing. Quick study guides, the sheets you can buy from Staples on certain courses are generally not helpful. They offer information that sometimes contradicts that of the teacher and sometimes not everything the course requires you to understand. This doesn’t mean that either set of information is wrong, but it’s much better to stick with the teacher’s information as it is their class. Guessing is never a good idea. Teachers use assessments to better understand where students are
in their understanding. Guessing can give the false impression that a student knows the material when they might not. I’m not suggesting that students should leave answers blank, but there’s a big difference between following intuition and just plain guessing.  Students should be taught to do their best on a test but not to place their education in the hands of “lady luck”.

Howard does give many valid and helpful tips for studying and note-taking, though it would be more beneficial to list alternative ways to take notes and to study. Howard suggests that all notes should be taken in one note book and later organized into master binders. I personally found it more helpful in middle and high school to have small binders assigned to each class I was taking in which I would keep all of my notes, homework assignments, papers, and assessments for that specific class.

I recommend parts of this book as a reference for ideas and strategies to all middle school students and parents of struggling students. Howard’s study and organization tips can be helpful to many, but I wouldn’t advise putting faith into everything the book says.