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Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Baby Bonanza by Jacqueline Diamond



Release Date - March 2015

Jacqueline Diamond
Harlequin

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

The latest release in the Safe Harbor series finally gives Lucky Mendez, the male nurse I've been rooting for, his chance for true love. Zora Raditch is carrying twins following a last-minute fling with her soon-to-be ex-husband. She's not told him she's pregnant, nor does she want to since he's happily moved on with his new wife. With the support of her friends, she's ready to be a single mom to her twins.

In addition to a tiring pregnancy, there's a lot more on Zora's plate. She's haunted by her past, she has a troublesome patient at the hospital who is becoming too much to handle, and then there is the whole issue with her ex-husband. It's not surprising that Zora has to lean on Lucky for support, but it is surprising to her that she finds herself falling for him, the last thing she really wants to do.

The Baby Bonanza is the 15th book in the Safe Harbor Medical series. A lot of time is spent catching up with past characters, a few new revelations come out that will surprise long-time fans of the series, and then there is the romance bringing Zora and Luke to the forefront. As I read, I kept thinking that it was about time they finally realized they were in love. The situations thrown at them were maddening, but read it and you'll get what I mean.








Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Accept This Dandelion by Brooke Williams



Release Date - January 2015

Brooke Williams
CreateSpace

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

If you're looking for a quick, passionate romance, Accept This Dandelion is a good choice.  Renee Lockhart really wants the position that's opened up for a morning show co-host, but she needs to get her name out there if she's going to get noticed by the show's host. With that in mind, she signs up for a local dating show, but she doesn't expect she'll actually be chosen. When she is, she's stunned, but happy that her plan may work out.

Ben McConnell is ready to show the world he's more than the playboy people think he is. This local dating show is his chance to show he's ready to fall in love and settle down. He's not just a man whose only goal is to find another woman for a one night stand. When he spies Renee's audition, he's instantly charmed by her no-nonsense, down-to-earth attitude.

As the show gets underway, both Renee and Ben begin realizing they may have found the person that completes them, but neither has been completely truthful. Can two complete strangers, opposites at that, really stand a chance at true love?

Accept This Dandelion is a lot like the short Harlequin romances I've always enjoyed for moments when I want a quick read. The passion between Renee and Ben is well-developed and only gets better. The other women competing in the dating show are less developed, but that's okay, I wanted them out of the picture anyway.

There's a bit of humor, plenty of sizzle, and a romance that you quickly root for. I can't say this is a story I'd read over and over again, but for a bitter cold afternoon, it definitely satisfied my need for a good book I could curl up with in front of the fire and enjoy in one sitting.

Seed by Lisa Heathfield



Release Date - March 10, 2015

Running Press Kids

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

For all intents and purposes, Seed is a cult. To the women, girls, and boys living within Seed, it is a caring community where nature guides Papa S. into making the rules and ordinances the community lives under.

For Pearl, her period is her transition into womanhood, something she's excited to have happen. She's ready to become one of Papa S.'s companions. That is until strangers come to Seed and she begins learning of the outside world from the teen boy, Ellis. The more she learns, the more she begins to wonder if Seed is really nature's ideal community.

From some of documentaries I've watched, Lisa Heathfield does a good job at building each and every character in Seed. There's the intense love for the community leader and the two "kindreds" who are essentially the second in command. There are all the key community members - young Pearl, the woman she knows to be her mother (Elizabeth), her siblings, etc. Each is fleshed out to be incredibly likable. There's also a mysterious character kept hidden away that reveals some of the truth about Seed.

As the story progresses, especially when Linda and her children Sophie and Ellis enter the community, readers get to see just how dangerous Papa S. is. The mysterious character reveals a lot of it, but Ellis is really the catalyst to getting Pearl to see that things are horribly wrong.

Seed is a pretty gripping story that has you rooting for Pearl and her family. It's one that is certain to stir up some lively discussions in book reading groups.


Monday, February 23, 2015

Book Release News - Kyle Prue's The Sparks



Release Date - February 2015

Kyle Prue
Barringer Publishing

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This February, Kyle Prue released the first of his The Feud series. While Roundtable Reviews simply did not have the time to fit it in for a review, we did feel it worthy of mention, especially for fantasy/sci-fi fans. Meanwhile, we have the first chapter to share with you. You'll find it below.

In addition to a sample chapter, we have great news. Order your copy of The Sparks from the author's website and receive a 25% discount! Simply visit Kyle Prue's online store and enter the coupon code BLOG25 during checkout. Note that this coupon is only good at Kyle Prue's store, it will not work at Amazon or other online booksellers.

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To read the first chapter of Kyle Prue's The Sparks, a PDF file has been set up with Dropbox. Click here to read The Sparks.




Sunday, February 22, 2015

Captured by Neil Cross



Release Date - January 27, 2015

Neil Cross
Open Road Media

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

I know Neil Cross best for the creepy movie Mama and the British crime drama Luther. Captured is the first novel of his that I've read, and I'm so glad I did.

After he's diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, Kenny Drummond makes a list of people he needs to revisit and right past wrongs. One of the people on that list is a former classmate, Callie, who he learns has since married and vanished. Kenny makes it his number one priority to find out what the police have been unable to do. He's going to find out what really happened to her.

Captured is such a powerful, emotional story. The descriptive, almost lyrical, narrative drew me in. I rooted for Kenny from the very start. From Kenny to his wife, and the P.I. to Callie's husband, each character was well developed and likable. The plot moved swiftly and kept me intrigued. With this, I'll be finding Neil Cross's backlist and working my way through those books too!


Friday, February 20, 2015

Murder at the Book Group by Maggie King



Release Date - December 30, 2014

Maggie King
Pocket Books

Book Review by Jessica Maguire

Hazel is a member of a book club whose focus is on reading murder mysteries. What she and the other members could never have imagined is that life imitates art right in front of them. Carlene Arness, Hazel's ex-husband's wife and member of the club, is murdered during a book club meeting!

Even more uncanny is that the members were discussing death by cyanide, the very substance that killed Carlene. Though her death is ruled a suicide, Hazel and the others believe otherwise. So, what do the members of a murder mystery book club (and some of them murder mystery authors themselves) do? They investigate the situation themselves, of course!

As Hazel and her roommate begin their inquiry into Carlene's death, they find that they really didn't know the woman. Carlene's past turns out to give more questions than it answers. And just about each member of the club could be a suspect, even Hazel.

Along the way, more and more information about twisted relationships, romantic and otherwise, is uncovered, leading to a shocking end. Although this novel has everything, a fast pace, intrigue, a bit of romance, and some twisted situations, I never got absorbed. Perhaps it is because I did not relate to the characters.

The characters, most in their fifties and up, seemed more like oversexed teenagers at times with regards to their boyfriends, husbands, and exes, and especially their affairs and love trysts. I couldn't help but feel like I was peering in to a coffee klatch book club complete with guns and cyanide. That alone makes the book an interesting read.




Thursday, February 19, 2015

Lovely Wild by Megan Hart



Release Date - November 25, 2014

Megan Hart
Harlequin/MIRA

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Her husband's being investigated for malpractice. That's enough of a blow for Mari Calder, but while he's on a hiatus from his job as a psychiatrist, he opts to rent out their home and move them back to Mari's childhood home, a place she desperately wants to forget.

As a child, Mari was abused, neglected, and raised in horrible conditions by her grandmother. When she was eight, she was finally rescued and spent years becoming the woman she is today. Her kids do not know the truth about her past, will returning undo everything she's accomplished?

Back in that house in rural Pennsylvania, there's a presence in the woods that many in the family sense is watching their every move. When it appears this presence is not here to welcome them, Mari must stand and fight, and that means looking back at the childhood she's spent many years trying to forget.

Lovely Wild is more of a mystery/suspense than women's fiction or romance. There are a few romantic elements, but the real depth of the story is in Mari's return to her past and discovery of things that had long been hidden from her.

That said, I had a really hard time liking her husband. I could have happily had him gone from the book and gotten just as much from it. Sections where he appeared annoyed me because of my dislike of the man. I understand why Mari clung to him, but I was on the edge of my seat waiting for her to realize that he was a jerk.

Mari and her teen daughter were my favorites. Her teen is a tough cookie and I loved the interactions between her and her mom. That made for very touching scenes that added emotional layers to this suspenseful story.


Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Wonder of All Things by Jason Mott



Release Date - October 2014

Jason Mott
MIRA

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Thirteen-year-old Ava is just one of the residents of Stone Temple affected by the crash of a stunt plane during a festival. Ava and her best friend Wash are trapped in the rubble, and Wash is wounded and dying. It's at that moment that Ava reveals a secret, she can heal people. While she saves Wash's life, it also opens her up to people from near and far coming to her demanding she heal them.

Ava's father, the town sheriff, has plenty on his plate. He's a widower, now remarried, and his wife's pregnancy is on shaky ground given her history. Above all, he is determined to keep Ava safe. Each time she heals something or someone, she puts her own life on the line. Trying to balance the public's demands with what he knows is best for his family is becoming increasingly difficult.

I loved Jason Mott's first novel, The Returned, and I love the TV series that became of it. I also loved the opening of The Wonder of All Things. I was drawn into Ava and Wash's long-time friendship and the relationships of the adults around them. Each character was created with such care that they seemed real. The setting felt real. The situation was unbearable, though. People were asking Ava to risk her own life to save someone they loved. Sadly, I'm sure if this happened today, that's exactly what would happen.

Despite all that, I felt at times that the story dragged. I found myself too eager to skip sections, particularly the flashbacks to Ava's mother. This was enough to turn a book I loved into one I thought was just okay.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Walking on Trampolines by Frances Whiting



Release Date - February 2015


Gallery Books

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Lulu de Longland never expects to wake up with her best friend's new husband, but that's exactly what happens the day after Josh and Annabelle's wedding. Shamed by her actions, Lulu begins looking at her friendship with Annabelle over the years, the hurt and joy Annabelle has caused, the friends she's made, and at the place she's in now. It's time for Lulu to decide what happens next.

Walking on Trampolines goes back and forth between the past and present throughout the novel. You see the formations of Josh and Lulu's relationship when they are teens, the obstacles that keep them from a happily ever after, and then Lulu's current life and the decisions she faces.

Realistically, the opening scene where Annabelle finds Josh and Lulu together passes very quickly, but the consequences of that night weigh heavily throughout most of the book, even if Lulu is really the main character. Annabelle and Josh have very little presence in the novel. Some of Lulu's other friends make appearances, as do Annabelle's and Lulu's parents. This novel, however, is completely about Lulu, her boss, and the people that she meets because of her job. While scenes of the past play an integral role in shaping Lulu, this story focuses mostly on where she goes from here.

I liked the story, there is a bit of a romance to it, but for the most part, it's more about a woman finding her place in the world. Lulu and her boss, Duncan, are intriguing characters, ones I liked getting to know and ones who are fleshed out incredibly well. The rest of the characters end up really just being blips on a radar. It doesn't matter though because it's Lulu that you'll really want to get to know and see how she moves on from this one mistake that threatens to break her.




Thursday, February 5, 2015

Long Walk Home by Lilian Darcy



Release Date - November 2014

Lilian Darcy
Tule Publishing Group

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Mistakes she made as a teen may weigh heavily on Gemma Clayton, but the single mom does not regret for one moment the daughter she's raised. When she overhears Bree talking about dreading telling her something, Gemma fears her daughter may have made the same mistakes.

Dylan Saddler, Gemma's neighbor, is thrilled to have his son come stay with him for part of the summer. Another mysterious guest is just as thrilling, though a little harder to cope with. Needing help, Dylan asks Gemma's daughter if she'd be willing to work as a companion to his guest.

One thing is clear to every child in the Clayton and Saddler households, there are sparks between Dylan and Gemma, and they may need a little push to realize they deserve a future that goes beyond taking care of others.

Long Walk Home is apparently part of the Montana River Bend series. I've not read other books in that series, and I certainly never got a feeling that this book needed me to have read the prior novels. It stands alone well.

Gemma and Dylan are extremely likable, and even the mysterious guest comes around to be a character I enjoyed. I wasn't a fan of this guest at first! The romance between Gemma and Dylan progresses steadily, but realistically, and soon they became a couple I was rooting for. Along with the romance, there is that element of surprise as revelations are made. It's not all horribly shocking surprises, but ones that move the plot along nicely. I really enjoyed this romance and can't wait to catch up with them in future Montana River Bend novels.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Since You've Been Gone by Mary Jennifer Payne



Release Date - February 17, 2015

Mary Jennifer Payne
Dundurn

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

There are two ways I looked at Since You've Been Gone. First, the adult part of me was horrified, engrossed, and yet curious about one aspect of the mystery. The kid at heart was engrossed with the characters, setting, and mystery. This isn't a long read, but it's one that kept me on the edge of my seat and rooting for 15-year-old Edie Fraser.

For 10 years, Edie and her mother have been on the run. This latest move has brought them from Toronto to London. Things start looking up when Edie's mom finds a job and Edie makes a couple friends on her first day at school. She misses her Toronto friends and definitely misses her cat, but starting over is something Edie's had to do many times before.

This move is different. After her first shift at work, Edie's mom disappears. Edie knows she cannot trust anyone, especially the police, so she needs to search for her mom herself. When a local boy takes the blame for stealing a donation jar that Edie actually stole, she agrees to let him help her navigate London in this search to uncover what happened to her mother.

While I didn't find the mystery behind Edie's mom to be surprising once a few secrets are revealed to the reader, I was surprised by one thing. Given their past and their reason for being on the run, I'm shocked that Edie's mother never had a plan in place for emergency situations. That's also the grown-up in me thinking about such things, especially from the viewpoint of a mother. To a teen reading this novel, that will not likely become a question that is asked.

There's a little bit of drama, mixed with romance, mixed with mystery and that kept me intrigued. This is a book that I would rate as a sleeper. You might normally overlook this book and author, but you'd be remiss if you did.




Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Twice in a Blue Moon by Cate Masters



Release Date - January 19, 2015

Cate Masters
Lyrical Press

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Since the tragic death of her fiance, Melanie Michaels has thrown herself into death defying situations for her reality television show No Boundaries. When her next adventure has her heading to the Swedish Lapland, the same area her fiance planned for their honeymoon, she knows she must go and find out what drew him to that area. The plans are to have a musher escort them through the area to the famous ICEHOTEL. The last thing she needs or wants is to find herself attracted to her guide.

Buck Wright escaped the pain of his disastrous relationship by starting over in the Swedish Lapland. He's got a new life, new friends, and doesn't want to think about his past. He works exclusively for Arctic Adventures. His team of huskies mean the world to him, and he will not let any client put them in danger, especially not some thrill-seeking reality show host. He never expects the host to be as intelligent, charming, and alluring as Melanie is.

Starting with the setting, I found myself drawn to it from the start. Even though it is 4 below as I type this (meaning I really get the cold of winter), I still found myself wanting to visit the ICEHOTEL. Next up were the characters and this is where I started to lose some of my enthusiasm. I definitely felt for Melanie. As her past is revealed, you get to see how deep her love for her fiance was. You understand why it's so hard for her to let go. Buck, I had a harder time with, though he's still likable. His reasons for moving to a new area, turning his back on his family, starting over, that just didn't go over as well with me. 

Now there's one clear reason why I ended up barely liking Twice in a Blue Moon. One of Melanie's crew - Hayden - is an impulsive little cretin who got away with too much crap. He whines incessantly, is rude to just about everyone they meet during their adventures, and simply made me hate him. Worse, I really couldn't see the purpose to his being in the story. The one thing he does to push the plot along really wasn't necessary. He was just a jerk that I never liked and it made reading the rest of the book a little less appealing because he was in it. Remove him entirely and I have a feeling I would have gotten much more enjoyment from this romance.



Monday, February 2, 2015

The Missing Place by Sophie Littlefield



Release Date - October 2014

Sophie Littlefield
Gallery Books

Book Review by Jessica Maguire

What do Shay and Colleen have in common? Absolutely nothing, except that their sons are missing. Brought together by circumstance, the two women, one from the wrong side of the tracks in California and the other from a wealthy East Coast background, must find some common ground if they are ever to see their children again. 

Taylor and Paul are about as different as their mothers are. Taylor, outgoing, popular, and handsome, is in stark contrast to Paul's reserved manner and troubled past. Yet the two became friends while working on the oil rigs in North Dakota. And now they are missing.

Were they victims of an accident and cover- up in the unsafe working conditions of the oil company? Or was it something more sinister? With no help from the oil company or the police department, Shay and Colleen must do what they can to get any information they can about their boys and that proves to be easier said than done.

Author Sophie Littlefield offers a unique look into the psyche and the effects that extreme emotional stress can have on a person. The tension created between the mothers' handling of the situation creates a perfect drama, capturing the reader's interest and imagination.

I did get a little bored with the beginning of the novel and decided to skim the first half. But when the real drama began, and the story began to unfold, I slowed down, became enthralled, and did not put the book down until I had finished.



Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah



Release Date - February 3, 2015

Kristin Hannah
St. Martin's Press

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

The Nightingale is a powerful tearjerker that I couldn't put down. It's told in two eras: present day and WWII France. Grab the Kleenex box for this one.

The story begins in present day Oregon. An older woman is diagnosed with cancer for the third time, and this time her son wants her to move from her coastal home. She cannot leave, however, without a steamer trunk full of memorabilia that takes her back to a time she does not talk about. In fact, when her son spots an ID card for a Juliette Gervaise, he begins to ask questions.

At this point, The Nightingale goes into the past. Two young girls are being forced to live with strangers after their mother dies and their father abandons them. One sister meets a boy and begins to fall in love, but the other sister does not thrive in her new situation and continues to get sent home to her father. This shapes their lives in ways they could not imagine.

In 1939, Viann Mauriac is married to the boy she met and has a young daughter and a seemingly perfect life. That is until her husband, a postman, is told he must go to war. Meanwhile, Isabelle is in another school for girls and again gets kicked out. Now at almost 19, she is headstrong and plans to make her father let her stay. He does for a little bit, but Germans soon invade Paris and Isabelle is forced to go to the country to live with her sister.

When a German captain knocks on Viann's door and announces that he will be living in their home. Isabelle resents how quickly Viann welcomes the enemy. While Viann is doing everything she can think of to keep her family safe, her sister decides to join the Resistance. As the two sisters take separate paths, the toils of war affect them both in very unexpected ways.

During The Nightingale, the identity of the older woman in the beginning of the story is never revealed. You may be able to guess, but with so many unexpected situations and so many twists, it's better to just go along for the ride and get swept up in the horrors of the war, the power of friends and family, and the will to survive. The narrative does a great job at creating the setting, the characters, and the brutality of the war.

I'd listened to the audiobook a couple months ago, but those CDs did not have the same power and effect that the book itself did. I definitely needed the Kleenex for this one and think it's one of Kristin Hannah's best.