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.”

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Three Graves Full - Jamie Mason



Released February 2013

Jamie Mason
Gallery Books

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

As a human, I never like sympathizing with a killer, but that's exactly what happens with Three Graves Full.

The story revolves around Jason Getty, a man who has a secret. He killed a man and buried him in his yard. Things go south for Jason when he hires a landscaping team to clean up his yard, making sure they stay far away from the area where the body is buried. Jason never expects what they find. There are two more bodies buried on his property. Bodies he had no idea were there.

Soon police are scouring his house and yard looking for evidence. Jason's fear begins to overtake him. Meanwhile, there's a young woman who is also dealing with the disappearance of her fiance, and Tessa, the police dog brought in to sniff out clues. Each character has an important place in this story.

I loved the beginning of Three Graves Full. I was drawn immediately to the characters, particularly Jason. Once his explanation into the murder is painted, I sympathized with him.

Given that, I also found myself getting bogged down from time to time. I wanted the story to focus on Jason and whether he'd get away with his crime, and switching to the other characters, particularly Leah, grew tiresome for me. I found myself in too much of a rush to get back to his story.

Three Graves Full is not a bad read, it's very compelling at times. I do suggest keeping a list of the characters so that you don't fall into the trap I did where I had to backtrack to figure out which detective was currently the center of action or if it was one of the other minor characters.


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Clover House - Henriette Lazaridis Power



Released April 2013

Henriette Lazaridis Power
Ballantine Books

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

The Clover House takes place both in present day and in the 1940s. Switches from one era to the other flow seamlessly, so there's no confusion to be found in this Henriette Lazaridis Power's debut novel.

Calliope Notaris Brown is saddened to learn that her cherished uncle died. She's inherited his belongings, so she must fly to Greece and start sorting through boxes of his treasures. She's never had a close relationship with her mother, so the trip to Greece is not high on her list. Having her mother continually pushing her to leave things. The truth about her mother's life is to be found in those things, and if revealed, nothing will ever be the same.

Clio Notaris grew up in Greece, the oldest of four children. They're a well-off family, but World War II changes everything.

The setting for The Clover House really drew me in. I've never been to Greece, though it's high on my list, my father, however, was stationed in Greece and talks about it frequently. The author talks about Greece with the same passion my father does.

The story draws you in too. Calliope and her mother come off as slightly unlikeable. Calliope can't see a good thing standing right in front of her, and her mother, well I just didn't get that woman until the secret is revealed. Then tears come to the eyes and you feel rewarded for reading every word.

This is an addicting story and a stunning debut. I can't wait to see what the author has up her sleeve in the future.


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Cyberstorm - Matthew Mather




Released March 2013

Matthew Mather

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

There's been a lot of talk about the new book by Matthew Mather, Cyberstorm. I'm not a huge techie, though my son is, and by default I hear him talk about his college courses where they are learning to "out hack the hackers." I know the dangers of computer hacking, and I also know there are some benefits to teaching hacking at the same time.

Cyberstorm poses a "what if" situation. Mike Mitchell has the same problems as many people. His in-laws aren't fond of him, his wife seems distant and he fears she's having an affair, but at the same time, he has a lot going right. He adores his toddler, he has great friends, and he lives in the heart of New York City. Things take a drastic turn for the worst when a cyber attack shuts down the Internet. With no power, no water, and dwindling food supplies, all in the heart of the Northeast's largest snowstorm, Mike, his family, and his neighbors struggle to survive.

I live in New England. We survived the Ice Storm of 1998. Thankfully, we had a wood stove for heat, but four days without power, when you're on a well and couldn't flush toilets or run water, was challenging. Getting out the driveway was hard enough, but getting down the road past fallen trees and downed power lines was impossible. That was just four days, and Internet wasn't as huge then as it is now.

When we lost power a few years ago after a massive thunderstorm, my teens were at a loss. Without access to their email and instant messengers, they simply couldn't figure out what to do with themselves, and all the board games in the world only kept them occupied for so long during those two days. That also made Cyberstorm very believable.

I fully understood Mike's issues, and it made me really like him. In fact, the characters were the driving force behind this book. The story line certainly held my attention, but I couldn't stop reading because I needed to know if things worked out for Mike and his family.

Cyberstorm is food for thought. If an event of that nature did hit the U.S., how prepared are you really?

Monday, March 25, 2013

Evidence of Life - Barbara Taylor Sissel



Released March 26, 2013

Barbara Taylor Sissel
Harlequin

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

 Abby Bennett expects to see her husband and daughter head off on their camping trip, have a week to herself, and then have a welcome back feast prepared for them the following weekend. Instead, she gets a cryptic call from her sobbing daughter a day later and knows something isn't right. The problem is Abby has no idea where Nick and Lindsey were going, if it wasn't their usual spot.

Flooding hit a Texan town, and its feared that Nick and Lindsey were swept up by flood waters. No one's found their car yet, and Abby keeps getting calls from someone who whispers or doesn't talk at all. Abby becomes the only person convinced that her family is out there somewhere and in desperate need of her help.

Evidence of Life is a very gripping, emotional story. I can't imagine the pain of losing both your husband or daughter in the blink of an eye. I was truly rooting for Abby and found myself annoyed by those around her who kept telling her to move on.

The story takes a few twists, but eventually I did get the overall picture and understood exactly what was going on, so the final few chapters were not a huge shock. That didn't detract from my enjoyment though. This is another powerful story by Barbara Taylor Sissel, and it's one readers shouldn't miss.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Dark Pool - J.E. Fishman



Released February 2013

J.E. Fishman
StoneHouse Ink

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

The Dark Pool is a suspenseful story surrounding the lives of three men. Antwon Meeps, a talented high school basketball player, finds himself in a lot of trouble when he's accused of a rape he didn't commit. Hauled off to jail and questioned, he receives help from a stranger. He has no idea how that stranger is about to change his life.

Shoog Clay, Antwon's coach, is offered the chance to coach at a college level. He's determined to stay with his high school kids in the Bronx, however. Though certain people do not like hearing no.

Then there's The Mean, a hedge fund manager. The Mean made a risky investment and his only salvation lies in Shoog Clay's answer.

What none of them know is that there are some shady Wall Street characters betting on the outcome of their situations. These men will stop at nothing to make sure that things go their way, even if it means taking lives to get their way.

The Dark Pool took a little for me to get into the story. A number of characters are introduced in a short span, and I just couldn't see where it was going. Once that aspect becomes clear, I got into the story. It just took time to reach that point.

The story keeps you on the edge of your seat. I still had issues with the characters, specifically Antwon, I simply couldn't garner any sympathy for him. He knew his friends were about to rape a woman, and he simply didn't do anything other than remove her daughter from the room so that she wouldn't have to see it happen. That immediately made me dislike him.

Once I could get past that, I did find the story to be riveting and certainly suspenseful.



Friday, March 22, 2013

I'll Be Seeing You - Suzanne Hayes & Loretta Nyhan



Released May 28, 2013

Suzanne Hayes
Loretta Nyhan
Harlequin

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

I'll Be Seeing You is a book that stands out. It's unique and certainly captivating. I won't call it a romance, though there are romantic aspects. It's a tearjerker and definitely worth reading.

Authors Suzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan never met while writing this book. That's part of what makes it so intriguing. They each chose a character, wives with soldiers heading off to fight during WWII, and then emailed each other letters back and forth based on the thoughts, hopes, dreams, and fears of their characters. Those letters became the heart and soul of this novel.

Rita Vincenzo is a 40-something in Iowa. Her husband and son both head off to fight in WWII together. This leaves Rita fearful for the safety of both and also lonely as her entire family went away in one shot. She has her friends, but it's the friendship she strikes up with another wife, Glory Whitehall, that really keeps her sane.

Glory is pregnant and has a young son. When her husband leaves to fight in WWII, Glory has her friends and her husband's best friend to lean on, but it's the letters from Rita that help Glory maintain sanity in a challenging time.

Through the months and then years, Glory and Rita strike up a lasting friendship, all through letters. They're there for support, advice, and even recipe exchanges.

Quite simply, I loved I'll Be Seeing You. It tugged at the heart, definitely had me shedding tears now and then, and I know the authors captured the thoughts and fears of a wife whose husband was fighting a war thousands of miles away. I know the realism in this book because when my great-aunt died, she left me her collection of letters written to her husband who fought in France in WWII, as well as the letters he sent to her. Look for I'll Be Seeing You in late-May.




Monday, March 18, 2013

Enter to Win James Rollins' Latest Thriller - Bloodline

Looking for something unique to read? How about if that new book was free? Now is your chance to win a copy of James Rollins' Bloodline. Click here to enter.

 



From the Publisher:
In a thrilling masterwork that will make you rethink your perceptions of life and death, New York Times bestselling author James Rollins takes you to the edge of medicine, genetics, and technology, revealing the next evolutionary leap forward: immortality.

Galilee, 1025. Infiltrating an ancient citadel, a Templar knight uncovers a holy treasure long hidden within the fortress's labyrinth: the Bachal Isu — the staff of Jesus Christ — a priceless icon that holds a mysterious and terrifying power that promises to change humankind forever.

A millennium later, Somali pirates hijack a yacht off the coast of the Horn of Africa, kidnapping a young pregnant American woman. Commander Gray Pierce is enlisted for a covert rescue mission into the African jungle. The woman is no rich tourist: she's Amanda Gant-Bennett, daughter of the U.S. president.

Suspicious that the kidnapping masks a far more nefarious plot, Gray must confront a shadowy cabal which has been manipulating events throughout history...and now challenges the current presidency.  


For this unique mission, SIGMA is aided by a pair of special operatives with unique talents: former Army Ranger Captain Tucker Wayne and his military war dog, Kane. But what should be a straightforward rescue turns into a fiery ambush and a deadly act of betrayal, as Gray and his team discover that the hostage is a pawn in a shattering act of terrorism with dark repercussions. And the danger is only beginning...

Halfway around the world, a firebombing at a fertility clinic in South Carolina exposes a conspiracy that goes back centuries…a scheme that lies within our genetic code. With time against them, SIGMA must race to save an innocent unborn baby whose very existence raises questions about the nature of humanity, asking:

Could you live forever? 

Would you live forever?





Friday, March 15, 2013

99 Cent Book Deal!



Head to Amazon to pick up your copy of Matthew Mather's Cyberstorm. I've been coughing up a storm thanks to a chest cold that progressed into acute bronchitis and haven't read it yet, but I'm hearing from others that the book is amazing.

It's 99 cents, so you can have a great read for very little money!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Severed Threads - Kaylin McFarren



Released August 2012

Kaylin McFarren

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

After her father's tragic death, Rachel Lyons moves on, taking an office job dealing in Asian antiques. She never expects to run into the man who last saw her father alive, Chase Cohen. He needs funding to take on a mission recovering an ancient vessel, and the foundation Rachel works for is his last hope. With the help of a Dr. Ying, he hopes Rachel will see past her father's tragic death and allow him to do his job.

That's not the only thing on Rachel's plate. Her brother's gotten himself tied up with mobsters. Rachel's only hope for saving her brother lies in taking a priceless artifact from the wreckage that Chase is trying to salvage.

I'd love to say that Severed Threads wowed me, but it feel short. I liked the story and chemistry between Rachel and Chase, but when her brother's story was added it seemed like overkill. I found myself far too eager to skip over his scenes, but I couldn't, so I dragged through those and ended up feeling that the extra plot bogged the potentially great romance down.


Friday, March 8, 2013

The Ivy League Chronicles: 9 Squares - E.K. Prescott, Ph.D.



THE IVY LEAGUE CHRONICLES
9 SQUARES
by E.K. Prescott, Ph.D.


WHAT IS THIS BOOK ABOUT?

The year is 1923, and Richard Wikki, a former detective from Scotland Yard and now a professor at the prestigious Yale University in New Haven, CT, misses his days of crime solving. Maize Judson has enrolled at Yale with hopes of becoming an investigative journalist. When Maize and her friend find a skeleton buried in the sand at the beach with a mysterious amulet wrapped around its fingers, she and Richard set out to solve a murder. But Richard soon finds himself following well-planted illusionary clues, and as he continues to investigate, a series of events shake the depths of his philosophical, religious and spiritual beliefs, as well as his perspective on life…forever.


WHAT MAKES THIS BOOK UNIQUE?

Although a fictional mystery, The Ivy League Chronicles: 9 Squares by E.K. Prescott, Ph.D., is filled with historical facts and events that were very real in New Haven, CT in the 1920’s. The book explores the truths about the ruling class of the United States and gives the reader a sense that there is a lot more to the world than what is actually seen. Prescott brilliantly weaves together the threads of New World Order, metaphysics, witchcraft, conspiracy, and good and evil into this first installment of the Ivy League Chronicles series. 

Holding On For Dear Life - James Campbell



Released January 2013

James Campbell

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

In 2008, three weeks before his wedding day, James Campbell received a call that would change both his and his fiancee's life. While attending a dog race, she suffered a stroke. Given her age, the last thing they expected was to face a disease thought of as being for older men and women, not 30-somethings. Holding On For Dear Life is a compilation of James' blog updates on Julie's recovery.

 First, if you can make it through this book, at least the first half dozen of so chapters without crying, I'm surprised. In the middle of my son's college's parking lot, I read with tears running down my face and not a Kleenex in sight. It's heartrending.

American readers may not recognize some of the celebrities or terms used by the author. I have an advantage because my mom is from Yorkshire. Many of the celebrities appear on BBC America from time to time. When he talks about Richard Hammond, you likely know the show Top Gear from the trips they've made to the U.S. A quick look at Wiki will clarify many of them if you're curious.

The author also makes a note at one point that until a younger celebrity has a stroke, the media simply doesn't give it enough attention. I can name three younger celebrities who had strokes, and the media still didn't pay much attention. Sharon Stone  of the movie Basic Instinct (43), Bret Michaels of the band Poison (47), and Frankie Muniz of the show Malcolm in the Middle (26) are all celebrities I immediately think of who had strokes. The media mentioned it in passing and quickly moved on.

That's why I feel Holding On For Dear Life is so beneficial. It puts the information out there in simple, emotional terms that people can relate to. It's a powerful, touching book and hopefully people rush out to read it.



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Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Explorer - James Smythe



Released January 2013

James Smythe
Harper Voyager

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Imagine joining astronauts on a voyage into space. Cormac Easton, a journalist, is given that chance when he's chosen to write about the mission from a unique vantage point. Things do not go as planned when the crew wake up from their pods to find their captain dead. One by one, others in the mission die leaving Cormac completely alone.

I don't always like sci-fi, but The Explorer wowed me. I can't imagine being alone in space, having no idea how to change my situation, and knowing that eventually you'll run out of food, fuel, and air. On that level, this book is completely terrifying.

The book starts out with Cormac alone, so it's not a big surprise. From that point out, it flips back and forth as you learn the fate of each crew member. It also views the innermost psyche as Cormac comes to terms with events that happened before and during his space voyage. You get to know what he's thinking, how his wife reacted to his leaving, and his growing relationships with the astronauts joining him.

It's a refreshing story that draws you in and holds you captive as you wait to see how things will end for Cormac.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Home by Dark - Marta Perry



Released December 2012

Marta Perry
Harlequin

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Leaving her Amish family wasn't easy, but Rachel Weaver Mason is back in Deer Run, taking over the house her late mother-in-law left her. Rachel left her Amish community to marry the man she thought she loved, but now she's a penniless widow with nothing more than the house she's inherited. Rachel would love to have her parents welcome her and her young daughter back, but the Amish customs dictate otherwise.

Rachel's younger brother does become part of her life, but it's clear that something is troubling him. When he shows up at her house convinced that someone is following him, Rachel agrees to drive him home. She too sees a strange man lurking in the bushes and starts to worry that his missing friend may not simply be off exploring the non-Amish world. Trusting in Colin MacDonald, a man she's known since childhood, Rachel hopes she can keep herself, her daughter, and her brother safe from an unknown danger.

I loved Home by Dark. There's a great blend of mystery/suspense and romance. Like usual, Marta Perry draws her reader into the Amish world. Her characters feel like friends and the setting always makes you feel at home.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

That Night on Thistle Lane - Carla Neggers



Released February 2013

Carla Neggers
Harlequin

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

As a small town librarian, Phoebe O'Dunn spends a lot of time focusing on her work and not seeking adventures. When she stumbles on a hidden cache of costumes in the library attic, she knows two of the dresses will be perfect for her sisters. There's an upcoming masquerade ball and Phoebe isn't attending, but she wants her sisters to have a great time.

Eventually, Phoebe changes her mind and decides to dress up for the ball too. Hoping no one will recognize her, she attends the ball in full costume and catches the eye of a dashing swashbuckler. The pair turn heads, and Phoebe leaves before anyone figures out who she is. Her dance partner really wants to find her, however, and enlists the help of his friend.

At heart, That Night on Thistle Lane is a retelling of the Cinderella story, but there's a twist. There is a mystery at hand that the reader is privy to along the way. There's a mysterious person in town, a stalker perhaps, and whether Noah or Phoebe is the intended victim, one thing is sure, Noah wants to keep Phoebe safe.

I love Carla Neggers writing. She lives on the other side of the state, so I usually know the settings in her books. That Night on Thistle Lane didn't grab me as ferociously as prior books have, but it was still a solid read. I start to wonder if I should have read the first book in the series and then continued with this second book. It just seemed I spent more time getting the characters down in the first few chapters and left me focused more on the characters than the story itself.


Saturday, March 2, 2013

Scattered Letters - Reshunniece Kline



Released January 2013

Reshunniece Kline

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

After her father is murdered and then her mother is found dead, ten-year-old Bellina Al-Asma finds herself heading from Switzerland to New York. In New York, she must live with an alcoholic aunt, Michelle Hosset. Bellina doesn't know she has an aunt, and her idyllic life turns upside down in her aunt's care.

In her new home, she quickly learns that her aunt expects her to earn her keep. Forbidden to attend school, Bellina is stuck in a home she quickly starts to despise. As her aunt drinks excessively, abuses her, leaves messes everywhere, and forces Bellina to then clean up vomit and other messes, Bellina longs for the life she had with her mother and father in Geneva.

Eventually, Bellina starts sneaking out and finds companionship with a neighbor, Ms. Hickens. Soon, Bellina discovers a long-hidden family secret that changes the way she views life and her circumstances.

Scattered Letters is a refreshing story. The writing is fluid and draws you in. I loved the descriptions of Geneva and then the darker, dirtier New York that Bellina meets when she arrives at her aunt's apartment. I didn't find the secret of the letters to be too difficult to figure out, but that didn't matter. I still enjoyed the story. I admit, it's hard to read as Bellina does go through some horrible mistreatment, but stick with it it's worth it.

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Witness - Naomi Kryske



Released July 2012

Naomi Kyrske
Dunham Books

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

You have no idea how hard I'm kicking myself for not picking The Witness up earlier. The Witness is one of the most riveting police procedural novels I've read. I was captivated by Jenny and the detectives and officers working hard to keep her safe.

Scotland Yard detectives never expected to find a victim alive. After finding Jennifer Jeffries wrapped up in a carpet, the victim in a line of brutal rapes and murders, they thought for sure she was dead. Then the lead detective, Colin Sinclair, finds a pulse. As London's doctors work tirelessly to save her life, Colin hopes for the best. She's their only chance at finding the killer and bringing justice for the families.

Jenny does survive, but she's been cut apart, raped, beaten, and left with tremendous physical and emotional scars. She identifies her attacker, and now faces the biggest challenge of her life, she must remain in police custody, separated from her family and friends who are back in Texas, while Scotland Yard builds a case and prepares her to testify against the son of a man with plenty of power.

The Witness is a stunning novel. It captures the devotion detectives have to their job, but also to Jenny's struggles emotionally and physically. It's impossible not to feel for this poor young woman, and to cheer her on as she learns to move over her hurdles and trust in Colin to know what's best for both her welfare and the case he desperately wants to close.

This is the first in a series by Naomi Kryske. I simply cannot wait to read her forthcoming novels. She's an amazing author.





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A Coruna, Spain, Travel Guide - David Hoffman





Released January 2013

David's Been Here


Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

My full review appears on Amazon, but I did want to point out a new series of travel guides and accessories from David's Been Here.

Items include luggage scales, anyone traveling needs to own one, sleep masks, travel pillows, passport holders/wallets, and something I thinks is incredibly well designed, the toiletry bag that had individual pockets and compartments to make sure everything is stored safely.



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