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.”

Thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for providing many of the books you see reviewed here.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Vanished by Elizabeth Heiter

Release Date - January 2015

Elizabeth Heiter
Harlequin MIRA

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Vanished is the second book in Elizabeth Heiter's Profiler series.  The first novel, Hunted, is a book I remember well. I ended 2013 reading that compelling novel, so it's fitting that I happened to choose Vanished as one of the books to end 2014 with. I definitely did not find myself disappointed with the second book in this series!

Evelyn Baine and her best friend, Cassie, were abducted almost two decades ago. Evelyn somehow escaped, but her best friend wasn't so lucky. The disappearance has weighed heavily on Evelyn and is a key motivation for her work as an FBI profiler. When the Nursery Rhyme Killer returns 18 years later, Evelyn twists her boss's arm to make sure she is there to help try to bring the killer down. It's unlikely Cassie is still alive, but Evelyn wants justice for herself, for Cassie's parents, and most importantly for Cassie.

Once again, I couldn't put Elizabeth Heiter's novel down. MIRA is known for romantic suspense, and this is an exceptional offering. There is a touch of romance, but mostly it's the criminal profiling work that kept me glued to the pages. I'm a huge fan of the television show Criminal Minds, and this book definitely is a solid choice for fans of that show.

Monday, December 22, 2014

No Weddings by Kat and Stone Bastion

Release Date - September 2014

Kat & Stone Bastion

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

No Weddings was a change of pace when it comes to romances. Cade Michaelson is a bar owner and college student working towards his master's degree. With his sisters urging him on, he agrees to their little venture of adding party planning to their business. One that he insists will not have anything to do with weddings. With that plan in mind, he knows the cakes made by Hannah Martin are the best for their clientele, but Hannah's "ice princess" attitude isn't something he looks forward too. He's had his problems with women and he's quite happy with one-night stands, or so he thinks.

Before he knows it, Cade gets talked into letting Hannah cook for him in exchange for advice on growing her bakery. Those dinners turn into more than Cade could have every imagined.

Now here is the thing with No Weddings, the book is told from Cade's point of view. That's not typical in romance novels. Cade is definitely an alpha-male type, all about the quest and conquer and not about the emotional ties. For me, that made him a little unlikeable in the first part of the book. Hannah is a tough cookie. Despite her "ice princess" status, I really liked her from the start. She does what she knows is best for her and won't let anyone or anything get in her way. When the banter between Cade and Hannah kicked in, I was hooked.

No Weddings is the first in a series, so readers looking for everything tied up in a nice package will not find it here. I expected a little more closure than I got, but the authors are clever because now that they have me hooked I have to read the others if I want that closure.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Burning Girl by Lisa Unger

Release Date - November 25, 2014

Lisa Unger
Simon and Schuster

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

The second short story in Lisa Unger's Whisper Series, The Burning Girl skips forward a few years in the future. It's been 10 years since Eloise Montgomery's husband's and daughter's deaths. She's teamed up with Ray, the detective from the first Whisper Series story, and is now working as a psychic in his private detective company.

A couple of things have been weighing heavily on Eloise's mind. A trusted friend and mentor tells her her psychic abilities have come from her family, which leads Eloise to start questioning who she really is. It also leads to the discovery that Eloise's own granddaughter has those psychic abilities. There's also the appearance of a burning girl who Eloise's granddaughter and Eloise's mentor both say is dangerous and Eloise needs to get her to go away. Eloise isn't so sure and feels she needs to find out what this angry girl is trying to tell her.

This sets the stage for the second book in the series that I am really growing to love. I do have complaints. I wish the stories were longer. Just as I'm settling in, the story is coming to a close. I would love to see the Whisper Series become a full-length novel. I would also like to backtrack a bit and see Eloise's progression over the past few years, rather than suddenly skipping ahead a full decade.

That said, Lisa Unger's writing is fluid, and I really like her characters. I am eager to keep seeing where Eloise's cases take her.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Bryant & May and the Bleeding Heart by Christopher Fowler

Release Date - December 2014

Christopher Fowler

Book Review by Bob Walch

As Raymond Land, the chief of the Peculiar Crimes Unit, explains, the individuals he oversees don’t follow the usual investigative procedures most crime investigators do.
We’ve had things going on here I could never put in official reports. You know they always say there’s a fine line between genius and madness? Well. Here the line gets rubbed out.”

Never was this more true than in this latest installment of the popular series. In Bryant & May and The Bleeding Heart, Christopher Fowler has the unorthodox crime solving unit transferred over to work under the jurisdiction of the City of London. 
This might represent a small geographical area where blue collar crime is more common than the type of more bizarre cases Arthur Bryant, John May and their colleagues handle, but, don’t worry, they’ll manage to find something suitably odd to deal with.

In fact, in this instance grave robbery, murder, and the kidnapping of the venerable ravens that call the Tower of London home all mix together for a very entertaining and amusing puzzle that will once again allow Bryant and May to showcase their singular investigative techniques. 
The most eccentric and eldest of the investigative team, Arthur Bryant may be slowing down physically but his mind is still working just fine, thank you, and he demonstrates his ability to think outside the box in this case. 
Bryant must deal with an old nemesis who makes him very uneasy, but he’s able to rein in his own fears to deal with this extremely strange but dangerous individual. Where the other detectives don’t see clues or connections between suspects, Bryant does.
Explaining to Land how he operates, Bryant says, “You do not understand the nature of our work… It’s wool-carding. Kept apart, people are fundamentally decent and mean well, but when they’re put together they get themselves into terrible knots. Our job is to disentangle, clean and reweave the fibers of social life to produce a continuous cord suitable for processing.”

This investigation with its numerous twist, turns and unexpected revelations will not only keep even the most jaded mystery fan reading, but it will elicit a few chuckles along the way as well. 
Some readers see the Bryant and May series as a CSI version of Grumpy Old Men with a little Dickens toss in for flavoring. I won’t disagree with that assessment. Christopher Fowler has carved a unique niche in the annals of crime fiction for his memorable cast of characters and he has discovered a very large and appreciative following of readers.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Sweet Damage by Rebecca James

Release Date - December 2014

Rebecca James

Book Review by Bob Walch

It appeared to be the perfect arrangement. Tim Ellison will receive a room that is close to his work and his favorite surfing location. In return, he has to keep an eye on the reclusive owner of the house, Anna London.

Although she’s just into her twenties, this mysterious, withdrawn young woman has some major issues that keep her in a self-imposed exile in her grand home.

As Anna begins to reveal bits and pieces of her past, her boarder becomes quite smitten by the delicate beauty but then strange things begin happening in the house. Obviously there’s something not quite right here (actually terribly wrong might be more accurate), and Tim must decide if he wants to remain here to uncover what’s happening her. Is Anna in danger or is she the cause of the mayhem?

Rebecca James’ debut, Beautiful Malice, was much praised and attracted readers in her native Australia and abroad. This second psycho-mystery that delves into love, friendship and betrayal in a modern Gothic setting is as entertaining and engrossing as its predecessor. The young writer has another bestseller on her hands!

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Fine Print of Self-Publishing by Mark Levine

Book Release - January 2014

Mark Levine
Bascom Hill Publishing Group

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Over the years, I have read numerous books on publishing, and I have to say that Mark Levine's handy guide is definitely one to own. He's honest, very thorough, but doesn't bog you down in details that make the reading dull.

The Fine Print of Self-Publishing covers everything you need to know about publishing your book. He starts with a discussion of vanity printing vs. self-publishing. This is a very important place to start as I've received many books over the years that were clearly written to appease an author's vanity, particularly when it comes to memoirs or autobiographies that really would never interest more than the author's family.

The guide continues through hiring editors and graphic designers to create the cover of your book, understanding a contract, finding a publishing house to use for your self-published book, and even delves heavily into the traits of a reputable vs. a poor company to choose. If you go back enough to remember all of the PublishAmerica authors who were disgruntled with the entire process, you'll understand why it is so important to do your research.

Mark Levine's guide also covers marketing your book. One thing I felt was missing in this section involved the section on getting book reviews. This has been a topic of choice among reviewers recently. There should also be a section on gracefully handling a negative review. Some authors cannot seem to do this. One recent author took to every site or newspaper who would print her scorn against reviewers who dared give her book less than four of five stars. The insults that came flying from her mouth were astounding. She's not the first either, I've had two authors, one self-published and one published with a big publishing house, send me threats via the email for publishing negative reviews. I know of another book blogger who had an author send her a box full of feces. Perhaps the author could cover gracefully handling negative reviews in the future.

If you're considering self-publishing, I definitely think you need to purchase The Fine Print of Self-Publishing, read it from cover to cover, and then get started.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Shadow Heart and Fire Heart by Pamela Taeuffer

Release Date - February 2014

Pamela Taeuffer
Open Heart Press

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

While I'm not exactly sure on the target readership for Shadow Heart and Fire Heart, the first two books in the Broken Bottle series, I would say this is new adult and geared towards the older teen. The main character is 17 and the man who wants to capture her heart is 24.

Nicky Young has grown up dealing with her alcoholic father for far too many years. After her sister is raped by a group of older boys, the family seems to spiral completely. Now 17, Nicky throws herself into plans to apply and hopefully get accepted into Stanford, and the cheer team she and her friends decide to form for a local baseball team.

It is in this cheer team that Nicky catches the eye of Ryan Tilton, a 24-year-old baseball player who is tired of one night stands and wants to find a woman of substance that he can give his heart to. Nicky seems to meet everything he wants in a woman, but she's underage and her family circumstances have jaded her to an extent. If Ryan wants to win her heart, he's going to have to be very, very careful.

Nicky has had a very rough life and that weighs heavily on her emotional growth. Physical maturity is one thing, but emotional is another and the adult in me was crying out that this kid was no where near ready for a relationship. Nothing is firmed up in the first book, so the storyline continues into the second book, Fire Heart

As much as I wanted to connect to Nicky and her story, I just couldn't find what I needed. I wondered how much of my dislike for the story stems from the fact that I'm the mother of an 18 year old and wouldn't want her anywhere near a baseball player, especially with the conversations the team mates had about the girls on the cheer team. Given that, I never found myself really liking Ryan.

I tried to go back to my own teens and the books I read. I think if I was younger and hadn't been in my own lasting relationship and had more insight into what really makes a relationship last, I would have fallen for Ryan and Nicky's story.  The chemistry is there, but Nicky's immaturity and Ryan's age just never fit well for me.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Whispers by Lisa Unger

Release Date - October 27, 2014

Lisa Unger
Simon and Schuster

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

The Whispers is a very, very quick read. If you're busy with holiday cooking and errands, this is an ideal short story to fill in a short amount of time. Per my Kindle, with my reading speed, it took me just 13 minutes to read this very short story.

Eloise Montgomery's day is starting off as normal. Her younger daughter is up and ready, but her other is doing as many teens do and dragging her feet. She stays in bed well after the alarm and begrudgingly gets ready and comes down for breakfast. In the end, Eloise wishes she had more time as both her husband and oldest daughter are killed in a head-on collision.

After the family's accident, Eloise begins having psychic visions. Not sure what to do, she knows she must act on her visions, as they could be what police need to save victims or solve crimes, even if it is all frightening to her.

This short story sets the premise for additional stories in The Whispers series. Each looks like it will be a very short read, one that fits in perfectly with waiting for an appointment, filling in a gap while holiday treats bake, or simply a quick story before drifting off to sleep at night.

As The Whispers was really short, it seemed that character relationships and development were rushed. I hope more depth is explored in the future. I liked this story, but I think I would have loved it had it been longer.

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Buried by Shelley Coriell

Release Date - November 2014

Shelley Coriell

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

It all starts with a desperate phone call. State prosecutor Grace Courtemanche never expects to hear a girl on the other end, one who has been buried alive and is begging for Grace to find her before it's too late. Refusing to give up hope on a girl who may or may not be telling the truth, Grace turns to the one man she hoped never to see again and one who has suddenly returned to town, her ex-husband.

Hatch is an FBI agent, one of the esteemed Apostles. If anyone can help unravel this crime, it's Hatch. Grace never expects to find herself facing the fact that she still in madly in love with him. He's only in town after learning a brief affair led to a son he never knew existed, and once he's done getting this boy on the right path, he plans to leave again. Can a wanderer change his very nature? Add in a cunning killer's plot and unfinished business between Grace and Hatch, and The Buried becomes very hard to put down.

Chemistry between Grace and Hatch is undeniable, but I really liked The Buried for the interactions between Hatch and his very headstrong son. The relationships formed in this novel are not always easy, but they are engaging. The investigation into the killer plays a whole other part. The killer comes off as very clever, very sadistic, and definitely in it for the game. It's hard to predict the killer's identity, so it kept me on the edge of my seat until the end.

This is the second book in the Apostle series. If you missed the first, The Broken, you really don't need to read it to understand The Buried. However, I did read it and loved that book just as much as this one, so I highly recommend it.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Meet Wisdom Man

 We can learn much from the Aboriginal people and Aboriginal Elder, Banjo Clarke, whom Camilla Chance writes about in her award-winning book, Wisdom Man.
Like the white culture in the United States that had enslaved, colonized and controlled the black man, so we have the story of Banjo Clarke, Aboriginal Elder, whose Aboriginal culture in Australia was in much danger of destruction by the white man. What we find in each of their histories is that it takes a few generations to bring some sense into the powers that be to accept all colors and cultures and learn from them, not destroy them.
Banjo is a symbol of kindness and compassion and how not to give up on humanity. In this book he teaches us all how to be kind to one another and accept people for who they are, not what color they are.
Camilla Chance became close friends with Banjo Clarke approximately thirty years ago. They became such good friends that he and his family gave permission to tape Banjo as he talked about the history of his life and his country and all that he had gone through, with the hopes that these tapes would be written into a book to share with the world. As a result Camilla Chance has written this amazing book about an amazing man, Banjo Clarke, Wisdom Man.
This was a man who endured and witnessed decades of discrimination and hardship, yet as Banjo says in the book about hatred and anger: “Them things leave you in a flash if you see someone destitute or crying out for help.” He also came to accept that part of life was being lied about, but he found a way around that one too: "If you meet everybody openly, expecting to be friends for life, you're stronger than all the liars -- easy."
The book was on the best-seller list in Australia, and an Australian documentary made about it was nominated for a Humanitarian Award. Its author Camilla Chance was also the first non-Aboriginal to receive the prestigious Unsung Hero Aboriginal Award for her dedication and work for the Aboriginal people. In addition, the book has also won award here in the USA for best Multicultural work.

A Life Intercepted: A Novel by Charles Martin

Release Date - September 2014

Charles Martin
Center Street

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

For the past 12 years, Matthew Rising has spent time in prison for a crime he knows he didn't commit, but the evidence was insurmountable. Now that the one-time football star has been released, he has one goal. He wants to find his wife, a woman who seemingly disappeared after his trial.

While Matthew knows returning to his hometown is not going to lead to a warm welcome, it's the place where he knows he must start his search. He soon comes across his wife and learns she's mentoring a teen with a very bright future in football. If Matthew coaches him, he'll violate the terms of his release, but he cannot turn his back on Audrey or this gifted teen.

A Life Intercepted: A Novel is a very emotional read, so you may want to have tissues in hand. Author Charles Martin travels back and forth over the span of time to show the development of Audrey and Matthew's relationship and also the present day relationships between Audrey, Matthew, and Dee. The changes in time came fluently, so I never had a hard time keeping up with what era I was in.

For me, the outcome of the novel, specifically who it was that set Matthew up, was pretty clear from the start. That aspect of A Life Intercepted was slightly frustrating. I wanted to climb into the book and smack the guilty party upside the head. That said, the author did a great job of making me that interested in the characters and the situations they faced.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Ask Anna: Advice for the Furry and Forlorn by Dean Koontz

Release Date - October 2014

Dean Koontz
Center Street

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Known for his suspense/horror stories, Dean Koontz mixes things up with his latest book, Ask Anna: Advice for the Furry and Forlorn. His golden retriever takes center stage in this title, offering advice to dogs in need. Throughout the book are photos of dogs, including Anna. It's a whimsical book, perfect for those moments when you just want to unwind.

Dog lovers are going to thoroughly enjoy Anna's witty responses to questions that range from dealing with a dog owner to the incessant urge to chew everything. It's a change of pace, but one that is well worth the price as every penny of the proceeds from Ask Anna go to Canine Companions, an organization that pairs service dogs with men and women dealing with disabilities.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Spectrum by Alan Jacobson

Release Date - October 2014

Alan Jacobson
Open Road Media

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Karen Vail is back. This time decades pass as she tracks a ruthless serial killer who is leaving bodies throughout New York City. The story begins with a family who is targeted by the mafia, forcing them to flee into the shadows to avoid more tragedy. Jump forward in time and Karen's starting out her long career and is assigned to a homicide in which the killer carves a specific pattern into the back of each victim's head.Two decades pass while Vail chases leads and tries to target a killer who is getting closer and closer with each step she takes.

In Spectrum, there is a lot of jumping back and forth between eras. While these jumps are thoughtfully laid out, it does require the reader to shift back and forth frequently. I found it took a bit of time to get into that rhythm, but it's worth settling in. It gives exceptional insight into Karen Vail, which is helpful if you are new to the series or it's been a while since you've read the last book.

Throughout the novel, I found myself angry for so many characters. Getting so emotionally involved definitely showcases the author's talent at drawing the reader in. While I'd figured out the killer's identity long before Vail (which is easy given the way the book is set up), I still needed to read every word to see how everything would turn out.

In the end, I found myself thinking of Karen Vail as being very much like the lead female detective in one of my favorite British shows, Life on Mars. There is the same sexism that she must fight, and she does so in very real, honest ways.

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Way of Tea and Justice by Becca Stevens

Release Date - November 2014

Becca Stevens
Jericho Books

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

The Way of Tea and Justice blends tea recipes, a historic look at tea and its uses, and then the foundations of a community/tea cafe dreamed up by Reverend Becca Stevens. Thistle Farms Cafe helps women who have been abused, addicted, and prostituted.

Blended throughout this book are stories of the survivors whose lives have changed because of Thistle Farms Cafe. There are also in-depth looks at the way teas are used, how they are grown, and what differentiates one tea from another. The benefits to teas are discusses, the manner in which they are properly brewed, and their impact on society over the centuries.

I come from a long line of tea drinkers. My mom's British, so tea was a normal beverage in our household. The recipes in The Way of Tea and Justice were a bonus in addition to the women's tales. As I read the recipes, there was one thing that I did want to mention. There is a recipe for a Rwandan Black Tea. In this recipe is a note about adding St. John's Wort for an uplifting tea. I did feel a caution should be mentioned about using St. John's Wort if you are on birth control pills. I recently took my 18 year old to discuss going onto birth control pills with her doctor and he never mentioned to her that St. John's Wort interacts with birth control. She doesn't use St. John's Wort, but I was kind of surprised he didn't bring it up, nor did our pharmacist. I feel this is important for women to know.

With that said, I think anyone who loves tea and wants recipes with a decent background into this popular drink, this book is delightful. It's also a great gift idea for the holidays. This book, some teas, and a tea set would be ideal for any tea lover.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Make My Wish Come True by Fiona Harper

Release Date - November 2014

Fiona Harper

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Originally released in the UK in 2013, Fiona Harper's Make My Wish Come True is now available in the U.S. It's a fun tale of two sisters who swap lives for a couple weeks during the holidays.

 Juliet's goal has always been to make Christmas magical for her children. Since her divorce, things have gotten harder to handle, and she's looking forward to having just a little bit of help from her younger sister this year.

Gemma has no idea how to break the news to her sister that she's jetting off the Caribbean for a magical holiday in a quiet holiday resort. Gemma's job working with movie stars has her feeling burned out and ready for some R&R. She's not looking forward to hearing Juliet flip out when she tells her.

On that dreaded day, Gemma realizes that Juliet is burned out and offers to swap lives. Juliet can head the the Caribbean for some much-needed rest, and Gemma will take over planning, shopping for, cooking, and hosting the family for the holidays. It can't be that hard, can it? Even if it does mean living next door to Juliet's infuriating neighbor, Will.

Make My Wish Come True is a fun holiday tale that takes a dash of romance, plenty of humor, and the frenzy that many of us face with holiday gatherings and mixes them into a memorable story.

I loved that once Juliet's kids talked her into accepting the switch so that she'd return to being a less frazzled mom for them, she actually ran with it. Watching her start to shed her micromanaging personality, even if it was a little bit at a time, was a highlight. However, watching the more laid back Gemma realize just how much work her sister takes on was even more fun. The dashes of romance for both sisters added enjoyment and definitely fit this holiday novel.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Christmas Ranch by Raeanne Thayne

Release Date - November 18, 2014

Raeanne Thayne

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Raeanne Thayne's latest brings readers back to Cold Creek. This time, she's starting a trilogy with the Nichols sisters - Faith, Hope, and Celeste.

The Christmas Ranch introduces Hope Nichols. After years of wandering the globe teaching English and other lessons to the less fortunate, Hope is back to spend the holidays with her still-grieving family. Her old sister, Faith, lost her husband in an unfortunate accident, and without his help running the family ranch, things have taken a turn for the worst. Hope is shattered when she learns they've shut down the town attraction - The Christmas Ranch.

Once a year, the ranch is converted into a magical Christmas attraction, complete with reindeer. Hope announces she alone will get the Christmas Ranch open in time for the holiday season. With a lot of work to do, it's not going to be easy.

Enter Rafe Santiago. The former Navy SEAL is disheartened to learn that his nephew threw a snowball containing a rock at Hope's truck and smashed her window. He is agreeable to her request that the boy work off the repairs by helping Hope out at her family's ranch. In fact, Rafe, himself, offers to help out, too. He never expects to start falling for Hope, especially when he's holding back a secret that could completely change her opinion of him forever.

If you enjoy holiday romances, The Christmas Ranch is a goodie. It actually takes place perfectly with the impending arrival of Thanksgiving both in the book and just a week away for those in the U.S.

 What I loved most about this romance is that Hope is not the typical romance heroine who gets all upset and doesn't think clearly. She remains level-headed at every moment and that really made me like her. I can't wait to see her sisters get their own chance at romance!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Excerpt From Tree of Water by Elizabeth Hayden

To celebrate the release of Elizabeth Hayden's Tree of Water, the publisher is sharing an excerpt of the book. Click here to read a chapter from this entry into the Lost Journals of Ven Polypheme series.

You can also win a copy of this juvenile fantasy novel by leaving a comment on this blog. To win a copy of Elizabeth Hayden's latest novel, you must be a resident of the United States or Canada, and your comment must be posted by 11/24/14 midnight EST.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

You Have to F*****g Eat by Adam Mansbach

Release Date - November 12, 2014

Adam Mansbach
Akashic Books

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

I clearly remember the brouhaha that occurred when Adam Mansbach released Go the F**k to Sleep. For some reason, people overlooked the clear notes that this book was adult humor and not intended for children. So I'll say it again, this is a humorous picture book for adults! If the four-letter F word on the cover doesn't clue you in, let this reminder serve as your warning.

Thankfully, my kids were not very picky eaters. I have kids who happily eat broccoli, cauliflower (especially mashed), and things like artichokes and asparagus. That said, I used to babysit a girl who refused to eat anything that wasn't yellow. Corn, chicken nuggets, canned chicken noodle soup, and boxed macaroni and cheese were it. It is with that experience that led to my enjoyment of You Have to F*****g Eat.

Once again set up as a picture book, the narrator becomes overly frustrated with a child that refuses to eat what is set in front of her. Illustrations are just as enjoyable and the narrative again paints the perfect picture. In all honesty, I did enjoy Go the F**k to Sleep more, but I think that's because it was new and unexpected.

Want to experience Adam Mansbach's latest for yourself? Check out Breaking Bad actor Bryan Cranston's reading of this humorous picture book at Audible.

Monday, November 10, 2014

My Sister's Grave by Robert Dugoni

Release Date - November 2014

Robert Dugoni
Thomas & Mercer

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Once Tracy Crosswhite was a sharpshooter, alongside her younger sister Sarah. Things changed after a competition when she went off with her boyfriend and her sister promised to drive safely in the pouring rain one evening. Sarah was never seen again.

Her murderer has been behind bars for two decades, but when Sarah's remains are finally found, evidence suggests he may not be the killer. Now a detective, Tracy teams up with an attorney, who happens to be a childhood friend, to unravel the sloppy investigative work from two decades earlier.

My Sister's Grave kept me hooked to the end. I will not deny that I had a hard time putting the novel down, but there were still moments when I struggled with some aspects. The sloppy initial police work bugged me. There's also a revelation that comes later in the book, one I won't discuss in depth because it is a spoiler, but when it is made, I wanted to smack a character upside the head.

In the end, this is a solid read, but I always consider the bottom line. I got this book for free from Amazon Prime. If I had to pay for it, I do start to question if it is worth the 12 dollars. That's my biggest hang up. It's good, but not quite that good.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Desert God: A Novel of Ancient Egypt by Wilbur Smith

Release Date - October 21, 2014

Wilbur Smith
William Morrow

Book Review by Bob Walch

If you enjoyed River God you’ll certainly really like this fifth title in the author’s “Egyptian” series. Taita, a freed slave and the Pharaoh’s advisor, is determined to destroy his country’s enemy, the mighty Hyksos.

To accomplish this feat Taita will have to travel far from home, deal with innumerable obstacles and ,for good measure, keep tabs on the Pharaoh’s two sisters. 
Since Wilbur Smith wouldn’t have it any other way, there’s plenty of action, passion and intrigue as his protagonist travels on this epic journey to make his master the most powerful of all the leaders in this corner of the world.

A fast read, Desert God offers a smattering of politics, religion, and sociology set on a stage that harkens back to ancient Egypt but, in many respects, resembles modern political and military stagecraft. It seems some things never change!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

Release Date - August 2014

Mary Kubica
Harlequin MIRA

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Mary Kubica's The Good Girl is mainly told from three perspectives and two periods of time. As you get into the flow of things, it becomes easy to keep track, but I admit I had to keep notes at first to keep the story straight.

This is a suspense about a young teacher who disappears. Her mother, Eve; the detective assigned to her case, Gabe; and the kidnapper, Colin, all tell the majority of the story. Eventually, Mia, the young teacher, joins in.

Mia is a month from her 25th birthday when she disappears. Her father is a prominent Chicago judge. She and her mother have never been incredibly close. It's before the school where she works calls them to find out where she is, and even then, Mia's father is ready to write it off as Mia being rebellious Mia. Eve isn't as convinced. She knows Mia loves her job as an art teacher and something about this just doesn't feel right.

From there, the case proceeds into a spiraling array of twists. Some I saw coming and some I definitely didn't. That made for a story that was very hard to put down. There were characters I loved, others I wasn't as thrilled with. I did find myself wanting to smack a few for being so ignorant. In the end, that just shows that the author did a good job creating characters that I could form an emotional attachment to, even if it wasn't always a positive one.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Before We Fall Contest

About a year ago, I reviewed a book by Courtney Cole titled Before We Fall. It was part of the Beautifully Broken series and featured a brooding actor and the woman he never expects to fall in love with.

If you haven't read any of Courtney Cole's series, now is your chance. Win an autographed copy of each of the books by visiting this Rafflecopter link.

Panel 0

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Competition by Marcia Clark

Release Date - July 2014

Marcia Clark
Mulholland Books

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

In what could, or even was, a story ripped right from the headlines, Marcia Clark's latest Rachel Knight novel is one that definitely brought out some emotions. The Competition is a book that once I started it, I just couldn't stop reading for even a second. This made for a very, very late night.

As the district attorney in L.A., Rachel Knight's seen a lot of things, but a mass shooting at a local high school really hits home. It first appears that the shooters committed suicide after their murder spree, but evidence soon points to the fact that they made it look that way and they're still on the run.

It isn't long before Rachel and investigators learn the killers wanted to outdo the shooters at Columbine. Worse, it looks as though the killers plan to reenact other horrific events, and to stop them, they'll have to get and stay one step ahead.

The Competition isn't an easy read, but it's a really, really good one. There were some aspects along the way that I wondered why police were so easily fooled. While I learned the identity of one gunman along with the investigators, the other was one I pegged early on. Despite that, I couldn't put the book down. The characters, the detailed look into each horrific event, and the setting all made this book feel real. If you like legal suspense and/or police procedurals, don't miss Marcia Clark's latest.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Quilted by Christmas: Quilts of Love by Jodie Bailey

Release Date - October 21, 2014

Jodie Bailey
Abingdon Press

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Taryn McKenna hasn't had it easy. Her mother died of liver cancer when Taryn was just 14 and her father always felt that Taryn and her mother had kept him from achieving his dreams. Raised mainly by her grandmother, Taryn's world is shattered when her grandmother collapses and is rushed to the hospital.

Jemma has one wish for her granddaughter and that's to forgive the past. Now that Jemma's in need of a recovery, someone must finish a quilt she was working on. There's not enough time for Taryn to do it alone. More than a decade earlier, Taryn and her steady beau walked away from each other, and this quilt offers them the chance to reunite and work through the differences of the past to see if they have a future together.

Quilted by Christmas is a gentle romance with likable characters and long buried secrets. It's a relatively short read at just under 200 pages. I liked the holiday setting and definitely enjoyed the characters, particularly Jemma. Her wit and determination helped keep Taryn from turning her back when Justin, Taryn's former beau, becomes involved in her life.

For a short and sweet romance, Quilted by Christmas is a solid choice. There is a bit of conflict, but it doesn't overshadow the storyline. The bottom line is that Taryn has a chance at true love and it's up to her to decide if the time is right. Readers will enjoy finding out what choice she makes.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Other Girl by Pam Jenoff

Release Date - September 2014

Pam Jenoff
Harlequin MIRA

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

You cannot argue with the price of The Other Girl. This Kindle novella is free. It is a companion piece to The Winter Guest.

Marie struggles with her currently living situation in WWII Poland. Her husband is off at war and her in-laws are not exactly welcoming. One night, Marie finds a young girl hiding in a barn. She risks it all to keep this girl from German officers. The problem is that help is going to come at a price. Marie is pregnant and estranged from her family, but her family are the only people she can think of at this time of need.

At just over 20 pages, this is not a novella that will take you much time to read. I have yet to read The Winter Guest, so I'm not sure where things tie together. While I liked Marie's story, I couldn't help but wonder how it will all tie together. I'll know soon enough as that is one of the next novels on my reading list.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Blame It On the Mistletoe by Nicole Michaels

Release Date - October 14, 2014

Nicole Michaels
St. Martins

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Sweet Opal Studios is Brooke Abbott's dream and she wants to see her new business become a success. She has the shop, has the crafts, but construction on the road her store sits on isn't helping. It's going to take a Christmas miracle to bring customers to her store. She never expects to find Alex Coleman lurking in the apartment above her store.

Alex watched his best friend's sister growing up, but now that he's back in town, he never expected to feel so drawn to her. However, Brooke's brother makes it clear to Alex that Brooke is fresh out of an abusive relationship and Alex needs to stay away. As the owner of the building Brooke is renting, Alex is having a really hard time keeping away. Should he risk it all and stick around to see where things lead?

This Christmas-themed romance is another quick and fun read. As the season gets busier, I always like having short romances to fill times during appointments, holiday baking sessions, and road trips to family gatherings. With the holiday season also comes the rush of birthdays in my family, so I love to have relatively quick stories. At just over 150 pages, Blame It On the Mistletoe is a quick read.

Alex definitely comes off as a romantic, the man most women dream of. Brooke is a little more cautious given her last relationship, but I loved that she didn't let the fear keep her from trying to find her dream man. The town itself and all the residents also add a level of charm to this romantic Christmas story.

Overall, I won't say it was my favorite of the holiday romances I've read so far, but for the price, it's certainly worth it!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Handbag Workshop: Design and Sew the Perfect Bag by Anna M. Mazur

Release Date - October 14, 2014

Taunton Press

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Back in the spring, I went on the hunt for the perfect handbag. My favorite purse was the target of a forgotten restaurant chocolate melting all over the inside. I washed it the best I could, but ant season and all, they found the remnants easily enough. Finding my dream purse turned out to be a huge challenge. I knew what I wanted, but the closest purses were $200 to $400, and I wasn't about to spend that kind of money. My daughter ended up finding me the closest match to my dream, even if it is a vegan purse in a light mint pastel color.

Handbag Workshop: Design and Sew the Perfect Bag offers guidance into skipping the stores and creating the bag of your dreams in the comfort of your home. It starts by looking at the basic shapes of a purse, when that purse is unsewn and laid out flat. Next it looks at the tools you need to create your purse. That's where things get tricky. Not everyone will have these supplies on hand, and it can get expensive to purchase them all. This list includes 29 items, some like tweezers you'll likely have on hand, but others like a rubber mallet or specialty sewing feet for sewing machine (or even the sewing machine for that matter) might be items you end up buying. If this is the case, you might need to weigh the cost of materials over the cost of buying a purse in a store.

The book is thorough. Each step is detailed and offers insight into the important of tidy seams, and making each portion of purse. It covers linings, hidden zippered pockets, and straps. There are plenty of pictures offering illustrated examples. As the chapters progress, different styles of purses are covered, including clutches, netbook cases, wristlets, and sling bags. The book is divided into easy-to-make purses, intermediate purses, and advanced ones.

In the end, this is an exceptional book, but I think you have to have the materials for sewing already in hand for it to be cost effective. If you're going to have to go out and buy a sewing machine, a sewing table, or other items of that nature, this may not be ideal for you. If you are set up and really interested though, I cannot think of a better guide.

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Homecoming by Robyn Carr

Release Date - September 2014

Robyn Carr
Harlequin Mira

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Robyn Carr's latest Thunder Point novel, The Homecoming, introduces Seth Sileski, a man who made a bad decision after leaving Thunder Point and changed a number of lives, and Iris McKinley, a woman who was once close to Seth until one night. Let it be noted that this is the first book I've read in the Thunder Point series, and that may have been a mistake on my part. The books do stand alone, but I didn't have the connection to the town that other readers may have.

Years ago, Seth made a poor choice right when his professional football career was taking off. Now he's back in Thunder Point, serving as the new sheriff and ready to prove he's changed his ways, especially to his father. Iris McKinley was once Seth's best friend, and he'd like to be friends again, but Iris wants little to do with him. Even he doesn't know how badly he broke her heart years ago. He's ready to show her he's not the same guy.

I don't know what it was about The Homecoming, but I just didn't connect with the characters. It may be that the town was new to me, but nothing really clicked. I guess I couldn't understand why Iris was lingering on something that happened in high school so badly, and Seth's insistence on getting to be Iris's friend came off as pushy to me. I love Ms. Carr's Virgin River series, so I was kind of surprised I didn't connect as well with The Homecoming, but it just ended up falling flat for me. That makes me think it might be one of those books where you simply need to have started the series at the beginning.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Win a Copy of Tina Seskis's One Step Too Far

From the publisher: (Note you do enter through Facebook)

Enter for Your Chance to Win One of 1,000 Advance Reader's Editions of One Step Too Far.

No, that’s not a typo – we really are giving away 1,000 copies of this #1 international bestseller months before it is available in the U.S.

This is your chance to get in on the early enthusiastic buzz about this novel. Rebecca, a bookseller from Lincoln, KY says, “One Step Too Far did indeed keep me guessing until the end . . . Even if you read the last few pages first (which is my penchant) you do not find out the answers [to questions] you keep asking throughout the book.”

If you enjoyed Gone Girl or The Husband’s Secret, we think you’ll love One Step Too Far by Tina Seskis. And, of course, we hope you’ll let us know what you think about this intricately plotted, thoroughly addictive new thriller.

So, enter for your chance to win from October 8, 2014 at 9:00 A.M. through October 27, 2014 at 9:00 A.M. You could be one of a thousand lucky readers who will receive an early copy of One Step Too Far before it goes on sale in the U.S. on January 27, 2015.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

A Little Christmas Jingle by Michele Dunaway

Release Date - October 7, 2014

Michele Dunaway

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

A Little Christmas Jingle has a lot going for it. Of the holiday-themed romances I've read in the past couple of months, this one is easily my favorite and will stick with me. Here's another great read for those who love Christmas stories.

Detective Jack Donovan is happy with the work he does on the city's animal abuse investigative unit. He's not as happy as the attention he's drawing as Mr. December for a charity calendar. He's also not thrilled that his mother works tirelessly to find him a wife. Little does Jack know, he's about to meet the woman of his dreams.

Kat Saunders works hard to save the lives of the animals in her veterinary clinic. In fact, she's opened up a no-kill shelter as part of her clinic, though it seems to be ticking off some of the area residents. She's facing a court hearing that her shelter is illegal and that the animals she rescues are being kept in deplorable conditions. Meeting Mr. December, even if it is for one night, is a good distraction, but she has her court case to focus on and a relationship is not in the cards.

The pair meet again when Jack rescues a pit bull puppy that has been tied to a dumpster and set on fire. He needs Kat to save this little guy, and he starts to realize that Kat might also be his answer to keeping his mom off his back. If they pretend to be a couple, it becomes a win-win for both of them. Little do they know that their pretend relationship is on the verge of becoming the real thing. Something neither of them feels they are ready for.

I loved A Little Christmas Jingle. It's not a long story, only about 170 pages. This makes it perfect for a couple hours of "me time" or to fit in between errands. The romance between Kat and Jack sizzles, but there's also plenty of focus on their jobs, which I liked. Jingle became an important fixture in the book, and I was rooting for him as much as I was Jack and Kat.

There are annoyances in this book, just as there are in many books, and they offer some of the conflict. One neighbor in particular who was fighting Kat and her shelter, I wanted to smack him. Yet, I also know people like that, so he was developed with a lot of realism. There's also a female character that makes a brief appearance, and she also annoyed me. What I did like is that despite them, Kat was tough enough to handle whatever they wanted to throw her way. Her strength made her one of my favorite romance novel heroines and a reason I'll be watching for more books by Michele Dunaway.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Hideaway Cove by Anna Sullivan

Release Date - August 2014

Anna Sullivan

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Holden "Hold" Abbot is on Windfall Island to uncover who the heir to the Stanhope fortune really is. His presence is a distraction to Jessi Randal, a single mom who wants to focus on her seven-year-old son and not a relationship. Hold is getting harder to ignore, however.

Balancing work, parenthood, and her growing attraction to Hold is tough. Even worse, Jessi finds a link between the missing heir and herself, her son's father returns after walking out on her when she was pregnant, and town gossip looms at every corner. Does she really have time and energy for a romance?

Hideaway Cove is the second book in the Windfall Island series. I loved the first book in the series and hoped to enjoy this one just as much. However, it feel short. I didn't like the return of Jessi's ex-boyfriend and the father of her son. It was too easy to predict why he suddenly returned after eight years of not caring. That predictability was a bit of a let down.

Jessi and Hold are a solid couple with plenty of sparks flying between them, but Jessi was almost too cautious and secretive at points, especially when she finds a link between herself and the Stanhopes.

Overall, this isn't a bad book. I still prefer Maggie's story, but I am eager to see which of the women is the Stanhope heir.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Eden in Winter by Richard North Patterson

Release Date - July 2014

Richard North Patterson 

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

I have a feeling that I would have gained more enjoyment out of Eden in Winter had I read other books in the saga. I didn't, however, and quickly found myself disliking most characters in the book. No one seems capable of telling the truth unless they're backed into a corner, and even then they excuse their behavior constantly, even if they are just clearly in the wrong.

 Adam Blaine is uncovering the truth behind his father's death on Martha's Vineyard. This truth threatens to tear his family apart, but he's equally determined to make it so that not one of his family members pays the price for Benjamin Blaine's death. As the CIA agent works to unravel the truth, he finds himself forming a bond with his father's pregnant mistress.

I don't want to say too much more about the plot, because there are things I could give away. I never really connected with Adam. If anyone in the book kept me reading, it was Carla, the mistress. I did feel for her.

In the end, I wonder if my lack of having read the previous two books was my downfall. I just couldn't connect to the story or characters and that made for a lackluster read.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Christmas at Seashell Cottage by Donna Alward

Release Date - October 2014

Donna Alward

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

I love feel-good stories, and Christmas at Seashell Cottage is definitely a feel-good holiday romance. The story takes place in my favorite place on earth, coastal Maine, so that made it all the more enjoyable.

Charlie Yang's parents may not have been thrilled by her decision to move to Maine and become a small town doctor, but she's happy enough. She cares for most everyone in the town and has a charming cottage in a beautiful coastal town. In hopes of getting to know more people in the community, she agrees to help out with the decorations for the upcoming holiday.

While working on the nativity scene, Charlie comes face to face with a man she's admired from afar. Dave Ricker is a former SEAL and as he's new to the town, he needs friends just as much as Charlie does. She doesn't want to lose her heart to a man who may leave, but it's hard to resist.

While walking past the nativity scene one night, Dave spots something and finds an abandoned newborn in the cradle. It's this little baby boy who draws Dave and Charlie together. How long can things last when police are trying to find the baby's mother? Does Charlie really want to get into a relationship with a man who has made it clear he'll be moving on?

With this charming holiday story priced at less than $5, I can't imagine not ordering a copy. It's a sweet read, nothing too taxing, and it simply warms the heart. It's not overly long, so you can fit in reading around preparing holiday meals, baking cookies, or simply sipping hot cocoa in front of the fire for a moment of "me time."

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Last Breath by Kimberly Belle

Release Date - September 2014

Kimberly Belle
Harlequin MIRA

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Sixteen years ago, Gia Andrews left her hometown. She escaped the gossip and scorn that resulted after her stepmother was allegedly murdered by her father. Now he's dying and Gia's been given the responsibility of staying with him in their family home until he dies.

With little help from her siblings, Gia faces her fast and discovers there are things never revealed during the court hearings. Is her father really guilty or has someone else been walking free for years? As she forms a relationship with the town bartender, Gia decides to unravel the truth behind the murder and try to forge a life of her on in a town that scorns her entire family.

The buzz for The Last Breath started building prior to the book's release date. There's good reason. Gia's story is told from both her stepmother's side, back in the past, and then Gia's side in the present. Readers, therefore, are given insight into things that the characters don't, yet the mystery involving the murder remains a mystery until the very end. I thought I'd figured out the killer's identity very early into the book, and I was wrong. I wasn't even close. That doesn't often happen when I read a mystery, so it was very refreshing.

With a well-balanced mix of mystery, romance, and suspense, I found The Last Breath to be a thoroughly memorable read. I'm intrigued to see more from Kimberly Belle in the future!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Swan Point by Sherryl Woods

Release Date - August 2014

Sherryl Woods

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

After her husband blatantly flaunted his affairs in front of her and then her children, Adelia Hernandez had enough and divorced him. Now she's the owner of a somewhat run-down home, but after renovations, she knows this will be the perfect place to start anew. She's been promoted to manager of the clothing boutique where she works, and she's ready to tackle this new world of being a single mom.

Gabe Franklin left Serenity after a turbulent youth. He's back, without plans to stay, and then Adelia catches his eye. The last thing he needs is to start a permanent relationship, but the Sweet Magnolias in town feel differently. They think Gabe is exactly what Adelia needs in her life, and vice versa. He never expected this one woman and her children to be the one thing he seems to need most.

Swan Point is the next novel in the Sweet Magnolia series. I've not read the others, but apparently that doesn't matter. This book worked well as a stand-alone novel.

I liked Adelia and her children, Gabe I was iffy on, but once I warmed up to his character, I really enjoyed watching him evolve and realize that the town he thought he hated might be the one place he could really call home. Their relationship doesn't bloom quickly, instead it moves at a realistic pace for a single mom who's been hurt before.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

One of Us by Tawni O'Dell

Release Date - August 2014

Tawni O'Dell
Gallery Books

Book Review by Bob Walch

Dr. Sheridan Doyle is the go-to guy in Philadelphia’s District Attorney’s office when there’s a situation that the forensic psychologist’s expertise can deal with. A local celebrity of sorts, Doyle’s public image is at odds with the real man beneath the slick veneer. 
Raised in a blue-collar mining town, Danny Doyle was a bookish child plagued by panic attacks, bullying and a family history he’s never been able to completely put behind him.
Now Doyle is back in his hometown and the trip turns into a busman’s holiday when he discovers a dead body on a walk one day. The corpse is by the infamous gallows where long ago a band of rebellious Irish miners was executed.

Ironically, the dead man is related to the wealthy mining family responsible for the miners’ deaths a century ago. Helping out the local law enforcement officials, Doyle uses his skills to create a profile of the killer but in doing so he comes precariously close to revealing some hidden truths about his own family and his youthful past.

A gripping tale that offers plenty of surprises, One of Us is a quick read but don’t be surprised if you discover the story lingers long after you’ve finished the final chapter.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Release Date - July 2013

Jojo Moyes
Penguin Books

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Ever since reading One Plus One, I've been trying to get my hands on every Jojo Moyes book I can. My journey through her past novels starts with Me Before You. If I had the money and status, this book would become a movie, which I've learned is in the works as I type this. It's powerful, honest, and oh so very emotional.

Louisa Clark's family depends on her income. Her father's job looks like it may be coming to an end, her sister is a single mom and trying to return to college, and her mother spends her time looking after Louisa's grandfather. When Louisa loses her job at a local cafe, the family is terrified of the mounting debt and loss of income.

While she'd love to take time off and figure out what to do, she has to help out. She accepts a temporary position as the caregiver to Will Traynor, a dynamic man left a quadriplegic following a horrific accident. Will's given up and not easy to get along with, but for some reason, Louisa is able to reach him and soon they become good friends.

Soon, Louisa discovers the real reason her job is to last six months. Will has decided that life isn't worth living and plans to end his life. His mother desperately wants to show him that he's wrong, and she thinks Louisa is the right person to prove it to him. The clock's ticking and Louisa is determined to make Will see that he still has a meaningful life ahead, one that might possibly include her.

Oh boy did I cry. This book is so powerful, so emotional, that I was crying like a baby. Me Before You isn't just a one or two Kleenex book, have the entire box in hand.

Choices both Louisa and Will must make are not made lightly or without serious consideration. There were times I wanted to stop reading, it was becoming almost too painful, but I also couldn't put it down. I was drawn into their lives and had to see how it ended. In the end, this confirms that Jojo Moyes skyrockets to the top of my favorite author list for good reason.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Oleander Sisters by Elaine Hussey

Release Date - July 2014

Elaine Hussey
Harlequin MIRA

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

"Sis" Blake put her life on hold following a tragic car accident. She's raised her siblings, with the help of her grandmother. Now her sister, a single mom, is about to marry a man that Sis does not believe is all he makes himself appear to be. Her brother's returned from the war, missing one leg and unwilling to leave his room. To top it off the biggest hurricane in history is barreling towards their Mississippi town. Secrets are starting to come out, and Sis must keep her own sanity while also trying to keep her family from crumbling apart and safe from this storm that is looking worse with every passing hour.

The Oleander Sisters is a charming southern tale that delves into topics like teen pregnancy, abusive relationships, the trauma of the Vietnam War, and a heavy dose of southern cooking. Sis's grandmother owns a cafe, so a portion of the story takes place in that cafe.

I liked Sis, though I also felt for her having to keep secrets and putting her own life on hold. Her reactions to those around her came off as very human and honest. Given that this was set in the 1960s, I understood the choices her sister made and also appreciated her strength and determination to do what was best for her son. Even Sweet Mama, Sis's brother, and Beulah, the woman who helped Sweet Mama raise them, are likable characters.

As much as I enjoyed the story, there was one aspect that I really missed. Perhaps it is in the final copy of the book, but all the discussion about the Amen Cobbler, I really expected to find a recipe at the end. In the copy I reviewed, it was lacking. Given that, I'm going to have to take one of my own cobbler recipes and see if I can't come out with my own version of this decadent peach and cherry cobbler that received regular mention throughout The Oleander Sisters.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Murder 101 by Faye Kellerman

Release Date - September 2014

Faye Kellerman
William Morrow

Book Review by Bob Walch

Peter Decker and his wife Rina Lazarus have moved closer to their adult children and foster son in upstate New York. Peter’s new job with the Greenbury Police Department is a bit of a drag after Los Angeles. Also his new partner, a former Harvard student with plenty of attitude, has made the transition even more onerous.

Just when he’s seriously questioning the wisdom of the move Peter is given a case that begins with a cemetery break-in but escalates quickly into something far more sinister.
A mausoleum featuring Tiffany panels has been broken into and fakes substituted for the valuable originals. Next a female student at a posh local college is murdered.

Suddenly Decker is no longer bored with his new job. In fact as he and his partner begin checking out the academic set to find the killer they stumble upon dark secrets, international intrigue involving Russia and a group of ruthless individuals who will destroy anyone or anything that stands in the way of allowing them to achieve their sinister ends. Rina and Peter will have to call upon all their past experience as the collaborate on this convoluted but fascinating case that involves much more than just homicide. 
Of the more recent novels in this long running series, Murder 101 is at the top of the list and ranks way up there with the best Faye Kellerman has written to date.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Rachel Knight Series by Marcia Clark

Marcia Clark. It's a name many people instantly recognize due to her ties to the O.J. Simpson trial in the 1990s. She's also the author of an exciting legal thriller series about D.A. Rachel Knight.

Usually, I would review these books separately, but as there is a fourth book in the series that will be getting it's own review in the near future, I decided to put these three together.

In the series first book, Guilt by Association, Rachel is disheartened to come across a crime scene. Her associate and friend Jake is found dead in a seedy motel. He's holding pornographic images of a teen boy, the same teen boy who is also dead in the same motel room. Rachel cannot believe for one minute that Jake is that type of person, but how well did she really know him?

The second book in the Rachel Knight series, Guilt by Degrees, starts with the murder of a homeless man. This man was bleeding out on the streets while dozens of people walked over or past him. A man is in jail for the murder, but Rachel's not convinced he's the murderer. Her investigation leads to another murder, the murder of a police officer months earlier, and soon she realizes the two murders may be connected.

The third book, Killer Ambition, begins with the murder of a prominent Hollywood director's daughter.  When evidence leads to the director's close friend, a Hollywood talent manager, Rachel begins her quest to uncover the truth.

If you watch or have ever watched shows like The Good WifeCanterbury's Law, Harry's Law, or even Drop Dead Diva, you'll want to read the Rachel Knight series. While each has it's own strengths and weaknesses, the one theme that remains true with the shows and books is that at the heart of the series is a strong-willed female attorney. They have their share of problems, but their dedication to their job is unmatched. That's what I like about Rachel Knight. She's human, but her goal is always to win her client's case.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit by Graham Joyce

Release Date - August 2014

Graham Joyce

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

When he was very young, David Barwise's father took him to the beach. There, tragedy struck and David's life changed drastically. Now, he's a college student and despite his mother and step-father's wishes, David returns to Skegness to work at a summer resort. As a "greencoat," David spends his days judging sandcastle competitions, handling lighting for the nightly performances, and generally doing whatever is asked of him.

It's a summer of change for David. While at the beach, he spies a man and a young boy. Trying to get them involved in activities leads nowhere, and soon realizes they may not be alive at all. Is he seeing ghosts?

There's far more to The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit. David begins to fall for a cleaning lady who has an overly protective, if not abusive, husband. He is also torn by his growing attraction to a young woman whose heritage (her mother is from Guyana), while she's beautiful, racism is high in '70's Britain, and David quickly grows tired of hearing people putting any biracial person down. It doesn't take long before you understand the truth behind the ghosts and get pulled into David's world where tempers soar in politics, relationships, and life itself.

I won't deny that the setting drew me in. I've spent time in Bridlington and Hull, both north of Skegness, so I know the allure of those coastal towns. Skegness appeared no different. Yet, it was soon David, the ghosts, and the other workers in this resort that kept me hooked. It's a different genre for me, but one that I am happy I read.