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Friday, May 30, 2014

Win a Kitchenaid and Read a Great Book at the Same Time



I loved The Glass Kitchen by Linda Francis Lee, and you'll all see a review in the near future. Meanwhile, there is something I love even more than reading and that is baking. Breads are a particular favorite, particularly sourdough bread made with a homemade starter. Given that, I have had a Kitchenaid mixer for  years and swear that, my SodaStream, and my Keurig are the three small appliances I couldn't live without.

Thanks to McMillan, one lucky entrant can have your very own Kitchenaid. From now until June 30th, McMillan is accepting entries into a grand prize drawing for your very own Kitchenaid. Ten copies of The Glass Kitchen are also being awarded to lucky winners. This is definitely worth entering!

You can also head to Twitter on June 5th at 3:00 p.m. to chat with Linda Francis Lee.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Closed Doors by Lisa O'Donnell



Release Date - May 20, 2014

Lisa O'Donnell
Harper

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Young Michael Murray and his parents live with his grandmother on a small Scottish island. The people of this island know everything that goes on, so keeping a secret is impossible.

One day, Michael overhears a secret, one that could explain his mother's changed personality and bruises on her face. He becomes determined to discover the truth. With the town quickly gossiping about his family, Michael finds being the center of the gossip is not all that thrilling and wants to uncover what really went on in his island town.

The reader knows aspects of what really happened from the start of Closed Doors, so much of this book involves watching Michael, an 11 year old, as he matures and learns more about the lives of grown-ups and the dark truths they can hide.

There really is a lot more to this story, but, as a reviewer, I try not to give away anything more than is in the blurb on the front flap of a book. It's part coming-of-age and part mystery. It's a good read, but I also had moments where I disconnected from the characters. I had a hard time with the mother insisting that that truth remain hidden. That part truly bothered me and made it hard for me to sympathize with her at all.




Monday, May 26, 2014

By Any Means by Chris Culver



Released May 2014

Chris Culver
Grand Central Publishing

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Ash Rashid's been working in public relations where his main duties involve speaking at local schools. When driving home one afternoon, he comes across a car that's crashed into a phone pole. He calls dispatch and is told no one is currently available and that he needs to secure the scene. He never imagines he'll find two bodies. Worse, 911 has a recording of a woman saying there was a third victim, and given the sounds on the recording, that third victim abducted that woman while stealing her car. Suddenly, the simple crash Ash thinks he's working is now a murder and abduction scene.

While Ash hasn't worked homicide for a while, he's temporarily reassigned and put in charge of solving the murders and the kidnapping. Ash puts his all into solving the case, even when it proves problematic.

When it comes to police procedurals, this is about as detailed and exact as any book I've read in my lifetime. The author does an outstanding job of detailing Ash's work without making it seem tedious.

There are a lot of characters in By Any Means, so you might want to have paper on hand if you are the type of reader who needs to keep track of everyone. While Ash is the definite hero, the father of one of the murder victims also plays an integral roll in the book. He's definitely going to find the killer, and he doesn't mind breaking a few laws, possible even bones, to get to the truth. With his storyline, there is some bouncing from past to present and back, but the trips back in time are italicized, so you can't miss the shifts.

Another aspect I really liked was the personal look into Ash's life. He has a wife who is tired of his long hours, failure to check in, and perhaps most importantly, her fear that he's back to drinking. This rounded Ash's character and made him more than a detective, it made him a human with flaws who struggled just like the rest of us.

If you're looking for a mystery full of surprises, with characters you're unlikely to forget anytime soon, By Any Means is a solid choice.


Sunday, May 25, 2014

Stan by Richard Wold



Release Date - October 2013

Richard Wold

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

After jumping off the George Washington Bridge and surviving, Stan Foster washes up on banks of the Hudson with no memories of who he is or where he came from. Horrific dreams plague him, however. Dreams of pits and tortured, burning humans. Working with Dr. Abigail Petrus, Stan learns he is an artist and is introduced to his agent, a woman who Stan is not thrilled with. Especially when she seems to despise the works of art he has created since his suicide attempt. With Abigail taking the shape of all that is light and good, and Lilith being dark and almost evil, Stan finds himself trapped in the middle.

As Stan becomes close to Abigail, their relationship forces him to another doctor, Dr. Uphir, a doctor who does not appear completely sane. It is there that Stan begins to wonder if he is, in fact, Satan forced to live on earth. Abigail may be his only chance at redemption.

Stan starts strong and then along the way, I lost interest. Too much symbolism was thrown at me and the focus of the book became so much on good vs. evil over the personal relationships that I grew tired of reading. I got sick of Lilith. I never developed any interest in Dr. Uphir. It reached a point where the only parts I wanted to read where the interactions between Abigail and Stan. The rest, I really glanced over just to get back to the relationship I wanted to see work out.




Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Heart Health Bible by Dr. John M. Kennedy



Release Date - February 2014

Dr. John M. Kennedy
Da Capo Press

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

As I read The Heart Health Bible: A 5-step Plan to Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease. I admit I have mixed feelings. Most of the advice is sound, but there are also aspects where I still feel shortchanged.

It is not a secret that obesity rates are climbing. I see lots of press about it being the foods people eat, but there is little discussion about the lives many are having to live. In my area, kids get 20 minutes for lunch. That time includes standing in line to get lunch, finding an empty seat, cleaning the table after eating, and then getting back to class. My daughter's school has 1,300 kids and there are four lunch periods. That means, the lunch room has 325 students, not to mention staff members, looking for seats and standing in line to get meals. It is really no different than when I was in school 20 years ago. We've all been trained to eat in a rush, which messes with digestion. I feel that is just a big a factor in today's obesity issue.

In The Heart Health Bible, Dr. John M. Kennedy discusses all aspects of heart disease and the five steps to help reverse things now. It follows the HEART principle.

1. H - Heal blood pressure
2. E - Energize the heart
3. A - Act on fat
4. R - Reduce blood sugar levels
5. T - Tackle triglycerides

I have no issues with any of that. It is the advice many doctors have been telling patients for years.

As you work your way through the book, personal stories from Dr. Kennedy's patients appear. That personal touch made this book stand out. Then I reached the section on food choices and that's where I started to run into issues. For the most part, this list is solid. Each of the sections of the HEART principle is covered with a different list.

For H, there are foods like bran flakes, beans, berries, green leafy vegetables (nothing new there), and then the meat list is halibut. That's the only meat listed. Halibut happens to be in the mid-range on the mercury list from the FDA and current guidelines recommend not eating more than six servings per month. Plus, Atlantic halibut has been overfished, putting the fish in danger of disappearing if changes are not made.

Salmon is on the E list, which is fine, IF you like salmon. The risk here is that farmed salmon is the cheapest, easiest salmon to acquire and some farm-raised fish contains PCBs, putting you at a risk for developing cancer and other diseases. Tilapia is another fish mentioned in the A list. Tilapia is rich in Omega-3s, but it also is high in Omega-6, which increases inflammation and raises the risk of forming blood clots. Read more about it at the Mayo Clinic. I start to wonder who is right, who is wrong, or if anyone really knows.

Given this, the only meats I would feel safe eating from these lists are the boneless chicken breast, bison/buffalo, turkey breast, and lean beef, all of which are currently the meats eaten in my house anyway. I was disappointed not to see favorite fish like cod, haddock, pollock, and scrod on this list.

As I ended up with just as many questions as answers, I am really not sure just how valuable I found The Heart Health Bible. You have doctors saying to monitor fish intake due to mercury poisoning, but then there are other books like these listing fish like tuna, halibut, and lake trout as the best meats to eat. It really just gets confusing.


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Providence by Lisa Colozza Cocca



Release Date - March 2014

Lisa Colozza Cocca
Merit Press

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Providence is a young adult novel, but it's one that I feel will truly appeal to any age. It took me back to one of my favorite stories - Billie Letts' Where the Heart Is.

Becky is the oldest of ten children, and she's always helped her mother out on their farm, all under the watchful eye of her abusive father. When a local boy accidentally lights their barn on fire, he runs off leaving Becky to take the blame. Becky's father is outraged and on a rampage, and the only way she can stay safe is by running away.

When she hops into an empty freight car, Becky finds a newborn baby within a duffel bag. She's helped her mother take care of many babies, so Becky knows what to do. Eventually, she makes her way into a small town in Georgia. There she and her "daughter" are taken under the wing of a local elderly woman. Becky soon must decide if she should flee before people figure out she is lying, or if she will be able to turn her lies into a new start.

I adored Providence. Granted Becky makes some really lousy decisions, but her longing for a real family and unconditional love is strong. She does very well for the infant she finds, and that's something I also appreciated. The struggles any parent faces with a child are not glossed over. There are the terrifying late-night fevers, the incessant fussing and every hour or two feedings that make you feel exhausted. Through all of this, Becky remains a very strong, determined young woman who I was hoping would find her way in this small, often nosy town.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Last Time I Saw You by Eleanor Moran



Release Date - April 22, 2014

Eleanor Moran
Quercus

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Sally Atkins came into Olivia Berrington's life like a whirlwind. The two quickly became college buddies and were inseparable until one act drove them apart. Now, Sally is dead, after succumbing to her injuries received in a car crash in New York where she lived with her husband and daughter. When William, Sally's husband, asks to meet with Olivia, she is hesitant but soon agrees. The more they talk, the more they realize Sally is not the person they believed her to be, and they begin their quest to unravel the truth about Sally.

At first, I struggled a little with the storyline. The Last Time I Saw You begins with a high-speed chase, then merges into the notification that someone is not being allowed to move in to a rental. Those scenes made no sense until later in the book. Once the book jumps to Olivia, things began lining up. From there, the book bounces back and forth from past to present as Olivia and Sally's relationship develops.

It's at that point, where I became very involved with the plot and characters. I could see where things were heading, and I had an inkling into what was really behind Sally's traits. The more I read, the more I wanted to see Olivia and William discover the truth and decide what they needed/wanted from their own futures. The writing is crisp and certainly keeps you on your toes, and that's what really makes this book an ideal choice for me.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Dog Gone, Back Soon by Dr. Nick Trout



Release Date - April 2014

Dr. Nick Trout
Hyperion

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

I generally seek out books set in Vermont. Sometimes authors get the details very right, and other times they botch little things. Dr. Nick Trout does an excellent job capturing small-town Vermont life in terms of the quirky residents and charming setting.

Dog Gone, Back Soon shares the tale of Dr. Cyrus Mills. He returns to his hometown to take over his father's veterinary practice. A larger competing practice threatens to put this smaller clinic out of business, but Dr. Mills is not going down without a fight. His training and expertise as a veterinary pathologist might just be what  it takes to show this town his skills are extraordinary.

Blended into Dog Gone, Back Soon is a bit of Dr. Mills personal life. His first date with a waitress didn't go as planned, but he genuinely likes her and wants to give it another shot. However, each attempt doesn't meet expectations, and it looks like this potential couple may never find their groove.

With this touch of romance, plenty of humor, and look into the life of a veterinarian, I really enjoyed every minute spent reading Dr. Nick Trout's story. I grew up in a household where All Creatures Great and Small was played on the TV regularly, as my mom grew up in part of Yorkshire, the county where James Herriot was a veterinarian. I'd really like to see Dr. Mills' turned into a series with more stories detailing his adventures with the animals in this small town.


Friday, May 9, 2014

The Burning by Jane Casey



Release Date - August 30, 2011

Jane Casey
Minotaur Books

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

The Burning introduces Detective Constable Maeve Kerrigan. DC Kerrigan is trying to solve a series of murders in which the killer beats and then burns the bodies of young London women. Rebecca Haworth is the Burning Man's latest victim, and once again, DC Kerrigan talks to the woman's friends and family to try to figure out who the serial killer is and stop him before he kills again.

Here's the thing with The Burning. I was engrossed from the start. I love police procedurals, especially British ones. I'm a huge fan of The Fall, and I found myself reflecting back to that show from time to time while reading The Burning. I think DSI Gibson and DC Kerrigan share a few traits that make them really stand out as intriguing characters to me.

What I didn't like is that I figured out the killer pretty quickly. I wish it had been a little tougher. Despite that, I did really enjoy the writing and am eager to read the other books involving DC Kerrigan.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Hot and Bothered by Kate Meader



Release Date - March 2014

Kate Meader
Hachette Book Group

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Jules Kilroy has been best buddies with Tad DeLuca for a couple years. As much as she'd like things to progress past friendship, Tad seems happier playing the field. Now that Jules' toddler son is starting to talk and a little less dependent on her, Jules decides it's time to get back out into the dating scene. 

Tad is less than pleased with Jules's decision. Ever since she made a move on him, he tried to do the right thing and remain friends, but that kiss sparked a fire in him that he can't ignore. He, however, has a wine bar to launch, and right now the last thing he feels Jules deserves is a man who is haunted by his past.

Hot and Bothered is the third book in the Hot in the Kitchen series. I missed the first two in the series and wish I hadn't. I have every intention on obtaining copies of these books and catching up with everyone in the DeLuca family. The relationships sizzle, aspects of the restaurants have your mouth watering, and I am just really glad I gave Hot and Bothered a whirl. It's a fun romance with characters that feel like family.


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Broken by Shelley Coriell



Release Date - April 29, 2014

Shelley Coriell
Grand Central Publishing/Forever

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Kate Johnson, a former reporter, was the first victim of the Broadcast Butcher, a sadistic killer who targets female reporters and then smashes every mirror in the house after stabbing them to death. Since her attack, she's been in hiding, caring for an elderly blind man.

Hayden Reed is an FBI agent who specializes in getting into a killer's mind. He realizes that the key to solving this case lies in everything Kate remembers. Getting her to trust him is hard, keeping from falling for her and focusing on the case is even harder.

There are a few things I want from books. I want to feel compelled to keep reading; I want to feel like the characters truly matter; and, above all, I don't want things to be laid out so that I can guess the killer just a few chapters into the book. Shelley Coriell meets all three of those requirements with The Broken. Every time I thought I had the killer's identity nailed, I began doubting myself and by the ending it was clear that the author had pulled the wool over my eyes. I need to read it again just to see where I missed the very subtle clues.

There's something else that The Broken did. While I liked Kate and Hayden, I feel head over heels for Smokey Joe, the old guy Kate cares for. Smokey Joe is a riot. I don't know where future books in The Apostles series are going, but I really hope Smokey Joe makes an appearance.