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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, December 31, 2012

A Fresh Set of Eyes - Liz Strange



Released July 2012

Liz Strange
MLR Press

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

The second novel in Liz Strange's David Lloyd Investigations series, A Fresh Set of Eyes is loosely based on the true story of the West Memphis Three. In this case, the mother of a boy jailed for a crime she is certain he didn't commit asks David to take another look into the murder that occurred ten years earlier. The three boys arrested for murdering young brothers have always proclaimed their innocence, yet they were arrested and found guilty despite there only be circumstantial evidence.

David looks at the case and agrees the investigation and resulting trial were shoddy at best, and a key witness was never found. Balancing his relationship with his case, David will not stop until he's uncovered the truth.

I liked Missing Daughter, Shattered Family, but I loved A Fresh Set of Eyes. If you've never heard about the West Memphis Three, it's a case worth looking at. There are two cases I've followed since my teens - that's one of them. I like the author's take on the case, and I enjoyed the outcome. I've also enjoyed watching David and his partner grow closer. All in all, this is a winner.

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Sunday, December 30, 2012

APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur: How to Publish a Book - Guy Kawasaki & Shawn Welch



Released December 2012

Guy Kawasaki
Shawn Welch
Nononina Press

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

First off, I'd like to thank the authors for dishing out a moment of truth. I'm members of a few writing forums, and there are so many people will tell a writer that it's easy to publish a book a month if you put your mind to it. While it is possible to self-publish a book a month, it won't be of quality. I've read hundreds of books over the years, and books that were rushed are always obvious.

The authors go on to say that there are bad reasons to write a book, and of all the horrible books I've read, many times, I've had the author tell me that their friends and family members LOVED the stories they tell at parties and urged them to write. It's nice to hear the author list that as a reason NOT to write a book. If you want an honest guide to self-publishing something worthwhile, you need to read APE: How to Publish a Book.

 Each chapter is clearly laid out and packed with vital information. Things start out with the advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing and continue into e-books vs. print books. Obviously, the author's ties to certain companies lead to somewhat biased opinions on the equipment  you should use, I definitely disagreed with them in that chapter, but then that's because I'm just as biased about finding computers that use as few parts from FoxConn as is humanly possible and then have my son build it for me.

It then progresses into writing and editing your book. The advice there was spot on, and I would suggest before anyone writes a book, try a NanoWrimo competition in November to see if you can make the words just spew forth without wanting to stop and edit as you write. It's a good way to train yourself to simply write.

From there the chapters cover choosing a book cover, publishing, distribution, and marketing. They answer questions, sum up each chapter with things to remember, and give step-by-step details into how to convert and upload your document to an e-book site, using Amazon as an example. I personal have mixed feelings against Amazon. If you've read the article by Martin Bekkelund about DRM with Amazon, you'll know why.

APE is available in paperback and Kindle edition. I've included the link to the Kindle edition for one reason. The book is full of links and while they're included in the paperback version, I would say it's going to be a pain for people who have multiple links to look at. With the e-book, you can at least click the links. That said, I am disappointed that the e-book is only available with Kindle. I have and prefer my Nook. It looks like after 90 days of exclusivity with Amazon, they'll branch out, but in three months, with the number of books I read, I'll likely have moved on.
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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Magic Moment - Angela Adams



Released December 2012

Angela Adams
Crimson Romance

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Magic Moment shares the tale of Chase Donovan and Laura Roberts. Laura is the bookkeeper at Chase's father's company, until she's interrogated by the FBI, and suddenly resigns. Chase is unaware of any of this until he finds Laura bound and about to be raped and murdered by men who state they're acting on his father's orders. Unwilling to believe his father would be behind such a heinous crime, Chase offers to keep Laura safe while they figure out what is going on.

Soon, Chase realizes that his father may be involved in shady dealings. The only way he can think to keep Laura safe is by having her marry him and announced she's pregnant. Chase knows his father's always wanted a grandchild, and this may be the only way to buy enough time to figure out what is happening.

I have to admit, I liked Magic Moment more than I first thought I would. There were aspects of the story that I found highly implausible, such as Laura insisting that she not be taken to the hospital after she's kidnapped, beaten, and almost raped, definitely molested, by the two men. That Chase went along with it was odd to me, there could have been internal damage or brain injuries from the beating that required immediate attention. But, it's a fictional story, so I went along with it.

As the story progresses, there are really no surprises. Just a relationship between two people dealing with incredible circumstances who somehow find love despite all. It's a pleasant story that's not too long, not too short, and offers plenty of sizzle as things progress.



Saturday, December 22, 2012

Broken Promises - Donna M. Zadunajsky



Released June 2012

Donna M. Zadunajsky

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Broken Promises starts with the first person view of someone, the reader has no clue at this point, who is in a mental institution for some crime, you don't know what really occurred. All the readers knows is that the person did something to free a friend from an abusive relationship.

The story then backtracks to the life of Clare, her daughter, and her abusive, alcoholic husband. When Clare's husband announces he wants to start anew in Naples, Florida, where he's closer to his parents, Clare hopes this will be the start of a new life with the man she loves. These parts are told in the third person, but there are segments when the original narrator jumps back in. His or her identity is not revealed until the end of the book, and that does keep you guessing.

The rest of the story focuses heavily on Clare's relationship with her husband, who is abusive, a drunk, and a cheater - Clare knows all three. While I did find the book gripping, it also bothered me. My best friend is just ending her second abusive marriage, so I realize women all over the world fall into that pattern, but I've never understood how smart women fall for these men's tricks. Clare seriously seemed too intelligent to put up with her husband's crap and it drove me nuts that she stayed with him, even when she knew that he was nothing but trouble. When a "friend" of Clare's suddenly shows up, having moved south to follow Clare, and now wants to live with Clare and her family, as an intelligent woman, I would have been suspicious of her actions. Clare willingly played along though. I find it simply maddening.

Readers know that all of my reviews are based on "is it worth the price." In this case, I'm not sure I'd be happy paying the asking price of $15.95, $12 if you order through Amazon. The $9 Kindle price is better, but I'd honestly look for this one used. It's good, but it's not keeper material to me.

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Monday, December 17, 2012

The Burn Zone - James K. Decker



Released February 2013

James K. Decker
Roc

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

With humankind headed for disaster, an alien race called the Haan helped save everything, but the truth is that they've saved little. Sam Shao discovers the truth when her adoptive father is arrested and leaves behind key to what the Haan are plotting. There's a biological weapon set to go off and kill everyone within the Burn Zone.

Sam and her father have been surrogates to Haan infants for years, so she knows more about this alien race than many. Sam sets off to rescue her dad, but some Haan are hot on her heels and want her silenced. One of the Haan, Nix, is given orders to assassinate her, but he realizes she was his surrogate and acts as her protector instead. It's up to Sam to save the human race, but she's just one young woman, and it may take a miracle.

I've said before that I'm not a huge fan of science fiction. One of my biggest issues is the names that writers always give their alien characters, they're never easy to pronounce. I did run into that issue with The Burn Zone, but the storytelling was so gripping that I found myself no longer caring.

There's a touch of romance to the story between Sam and one of her friends. The relationship between Nix and Sam is touching. The evil Haan certainly make you dislike them. In the end, everything pulls together to create a fluid, riveting tale of good versus evil. This is a wonderful story and one that is apparently first in a series, so there's certainly more to come.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Capitol Hill - Jayne J. Jones and Alicia M. Long



Released September 2012

Jayne J. Jones
Alicia M. Long
Beaver's Pond Press

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

This has to be the most refreshingly honest and funny book I've read in quite some time. Capitol Hill introduces Alison Amundson, a young woman from South Dakota who's landed her dream job as an aide to a senator . Alison's first day as a Capitol Hill staffer doesn't go well when she gets stuck behind a group of students making her late to her first day of work with Senator Anders McDermott III. Things don't get much better from there.

Soon, Alison learns that her $24,000 a year paycheck means she'll be woken at odd hours with requests like "Get me the contact information for Kim Kardashian," all after working 13 hour days. The job is non-stop demands, some achievements, and lots of being blamed, even if she wasn't in the wrong. Yet, when it's announced that the senator is running for president, Alison's job becomes more demanding, and to her even more worthwhile.

I know Capitol Hill has to have been written long before Mitt Romney came into the picture, but there were times when he's who I envisioned. From the misspelled press release (pubic instead of public) that had me thinking of Romney's "Amercia" to the comments that tick off women, it could have been a page out of Romney's campaign. The authors also state who they worked for in the back of the book, so it's simply a coincidence, funny nonetheless.

I waited until after the election to start this book because I was sick of politics well before September hit. Too many negative ads, phone calls, etc., so the book simply lacked any appeal. I'm glad I waited. I've seen campaigning from another angle now, and laughed many times along the way. This is an excellent book and one I'm so glad I took the time to read.
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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Zen Diet Revolution - Martin and Philippa Faulks



Released January 2013

Martin Faulks
Philippa Faulks
Watkins Publishing

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

The Zen Diet Revolution is more than a diet book/self-help guide, it helps you change how and what you eat. Instead of throwing yourself into another diet where you follow a rigid plan and then add things as the weeks pass, you learn how to reduce your food intake, learn to make healthier choices, and feel better about your self in the long run.

Unlike many diet books, you instantly connect with Martin Zen. He's been overweight and struggled through many failed diet attempts before realizing he could use his training in Zen Buddhism to help him success. She shares those tips with the reader. The book also has a handful of recipes you can use, including handy foil pack dinners where clean up is minimal leaving you time to enjoy a favorite Yoga routine, Tai Chi, or whatever exercise works for you.

I happened to read two diet books back to back, so I found myself comparing the two along the way. I really like the recipes in The Zen Diet Revolution. I also enjoyed the opening where I got to "know" the authors. The writing after that is a little more technical than the other, so that detracted me a little. Overall, I can see this becoming a book that really helps people change their thinking process about food, if they can stick with the book and really follow the helpful advice.

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Monday, December 3, 2012

The S Factor Diet - Lowri Turner



Released January 2013

Lowri Turner
Watkins Publishing Limited

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

At the time of this review, Amazon does not have a listing for The S Factor Diet. It is available via Amazon UK.

The S Factor Diet takes a look at four critical hormones found within the body that can cause you to gain weight. The hormones are: Adrenals, Dopamine, Leptin, and Serononin. After explaining these hormones, there are self-assessments and then recipes for you to use.This isn't a long, boring guide. I found it very personable and straight to the point. Once I hit the diet plans and recipes, I was eager to get started.

Dessert, especially around my period, is a weakness, I admit it. Chocolate especially, so the serotonin-rich mocha cheesecake was a must try and definitely the right thing! In fact, many of the recipes excited me. I can't really get started until I have enough money to do a true grocery trip to get all of the items I need. Once I do, I'll really be putting the diet guide to the test.

It's kind of a shame that the U.S. Amazon doesn't have it listed. I really enjoyed reading and testing out the recipes. I've known for years that my serotonin levels are low, I never thought about dopamine though, and after taking the self-assessment quizzes, I'm definitely well over 30 on serontonin and came in at 30 for dopamine. Having that knowledge will help me start creating menu plans on my own that I know my family will love and that boost serotonin and dopamine levels.
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