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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Safe Harbor Medical Series #17 - The Would-Be Daddy

If you're new to Jacqueline Diamond's Safe Harbor Medical Series, each book stands alone. However, you may find yourself wanting to read up on the other townspeople and staff members at Safe Harbor, so don't be surprised if you feel that urge to start binge reading.

The Would-Be Daddy packs a special surprise. Debbie Macomber's short story My Funny Valentine is included.



Staff psychologist and foster mother Franca Brightman is sad, furious, and frustrated after she watches her foster daughter go off with the girl's biological mother, a drug dealer who got out of jail on a technicality. Franca was moments from adopting the young girl when Bridget abruptly changed her mind. Franca's given Jazz an amazing life for two years, and she is certain Jazz's mother will not do the same, especially when Bridget failed to show up for visitation repeatedly.

Dr. Marshall Davis is still reeling from the sudden announcement that his cousin is really his brother. Plus, Marshall's mother refuses to speak to him after learning he knows she and her husband adopted him when he was a toddler. He turns to Franco to both offer and receive the support they each crave.

Working together on a new support group requires Marshall and Franca to spend a lot of time together. When that time ends up in a one-night stand and pregnancy, there's no doubt that both want this child, but how are they going to make the relationship work?

One of the more touching Safe Harbor Medical series in a while, I found myself tearing up on more than one occasion. Realistically, there are several stories at play. You have Franca, the little girl she thought she would raise for life, and the girl's birth mother. In itself, that's a pretty complex and emotional story. Then there is Marshall's coming to terms with the truth of his birth and upbringing. Finally, the romance between Franca and Marshall is equally emotional. I couldn't put it down..

The Would-Be Daddy comes out tomorrow. Look for it where Harlequin romances are sold.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Ghosts: Images of War by Carrie Zeidman

I need to kick off my latest review with a little background. My daughter is in a 4 and 1 program to get her master's degree in graphic design. She's Adobe Photoshop certified. I grew up going from art museum to art museum with my parents. Ansel Adams is a master I've always appreciated. I say this because when it comes to photography that's what I'm used to. My daughter's college expects perfection, so I'm used to flawless images shaped with Lightroom and Photoshop.

Carrie Zeidman is an award-winning artist (Cupertino's 2012 Distinguished Artist of the Year) whose Ghosts: Images of War blends past and present. A brief history of the time is shown with real photos of the time. Then there are images she's taken and tweaked to add the ghostly images of soldiers, men, and woman from the different eras. I loved the idea of it. Blending past and present seemed unique and definitely something reminiscent to me of music video duets with modern day artists and those who have passed on, i.e. the recently deceased Natalie Cole and her father Nat King Cole.

This is where the review gets tricky. I loved the idea, the narrative fit perfectly, but the photography often came off as hit or miss with me. There's a "Beaches of Normandy" shot that blends the woman in the blue jacket with the ghostly images of soldiers perfectly. Then, there are others like "Union Soldiers at the Surrender of General Lee, Appomattox Courthouse" where the modern day man came off looking like he'd been cropped into the picture to me. It wasn't as seamless a transition and distracted me from the rest of the picture.

In the end, I can't say this book was a hit with me. That doesn't mean it won't be with you, but it just didn't grab me as I hoped.



Amazon is one retailer selling Ghosts: Images of War. Published in January 2016 by Swiss Creek Publications, this photographic journal of sorts may appeal to history buffs and budding photographers.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

A Heroine Who Won't Take Abuse: Read Home to Cedar Branch

Brenda Bevans Remmes creates a strong, determined heroine in Home to Cedar Branch. I've read books and seen movies where heroines stay in abusive relationships for the stupidest reasons. Therefore, I was delighted to meet Katy. When her husband does the unthinkable, she leaves. She heads to her brother's home in Cedar Branch to start a new life.



When her affair with her doctor ends in tragedy, Katy knows she must get out of the town. Though it means uprooting her children, Katy moves them to North Carolina. Her brother is willing to house them while Katy works at a local cafe and gets her life back in order. Her husband, however, may not be as willing to let Katy move on.

There is a lot to like in Home to Cedar Branch. The characters are fun, and none of them made the stupid decisions that made me want to stop reading. One character really stands out - the fry cook at The Quaker Cafe. She's a hoot! I wouldn't mind seeing more of her in the future.

Home to Cedar Branch came out on January 19, 2016. The Lake Union Publishing release is available at Amazon.com.

Friday, January 22, 2016

My Take on The Scoop on Good Grammar

When I'm not reading, keeping up with housework, or cooking the family meals, I work for a company helping with the relaunch of a travel website. I spend a huge portion of my day editing blogs, articles, and blurbs. The lack of grammar skills I've encountered, especially when I'm hiring writers, is always upsetting. I understand it though. My own daughter's teacher once told me they are not focusing as heavily on grammar because "spellcheck programs do it for today's kids." That statement still upsets me.



Margie Blumberg has come up with an intuitive guide to help people with grammar. It starts with the basics, such as what is an adverb, and progresses into the more complex stuff. Have you ever stumbled with when to use a colon? Does noun-verb agreement create a stumbling block you cannot overcome? The Scoop on Good Grammar is here to help. It's written in an easy to follow manner and has quizzes and pop culture references to help the material sink in.

Now, there are other books out there that I love, so I can't say this is my favorite grammar guide, but it takes a close second to books Grammar Girl has written. If you need to start from the very beginning with sentence structure, Margie Blumberg's is the far better choice.

Find The Scoop on Good Grammar at retailers like BN.com and Amazon.com. It's an August 2015 release from MB Publishing, so you won't have to wait long to receive your own copy!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Sorry I'd Overlooked This Gem: Introducing Detective Inspector Helen Grace

At times there were parts of Eeny Meeny, first in the Detective Inspector Helen Grace series, that were awfully gruesome, yet also very honest. Helen has her work cut out with her on this case. Someone is kidnapping pairs of people, putting them in an impossible-to-escape location, and telling them in order to get out, one of them must kill the other. Whether it's a couple, friends, or family members, no one wants to have to kill the other, but as days pass, desperation sets in. It's Helen's job to figure out who the kidnapper is and who the next victims are.

None of this is easy. Helen must keep the press from alerting the public and causing mass panic. She also must figure out a pattern to the victims, though it doesn't seem that there is one. When the pieces of the puzzle start coming together, Helen may not be prepared for what's really going on.



From the very first sentence, I was hooked. Each crime is set up with spectacular detail. You're drawn into the creepy atmosphere and left on the edge of your seat as to what the victims will do. As the "game" progresses, it gets creepier. Settings are exquisitely designed. I felt like I was in the abandoned pool with no way out.

I'm a big fan of British crime dramas like Luther, Rosemary & Thyme, and so many others. Eeny Meeny definitely let me craving more. I can't wait to read the next Helen Grace novel.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Check Out This Must-Have Book Box

From the desk of Doubleday Marketing comes exciting news. Each money, 10 lucky avid readers will be given a box packed with an upcoming release and a number of goodies. Roundtable Reviews has the details.



We would like you to be the first to hear about ChatterBox!

Think of it as BirchBox or BarkBox, but for books.  ChatterBox highlights one title a month with fun promotional items aimed at inspiring book discussion.  Every month is a different book with another chance to win.

ChatterBox is free and open for anyone to enter, but we’ll only be mailing out 10 to randomly selected winners on the first of each month.  Every month on the 15th we’ll offer a new ChatterBox and sign up form, so don’t forget to opt-in to our new ChatterBox email newsletter so you’ll be kept in the loop when a new sign up form goes up.

Our first ChatterBox giveaway is for Flight of Dreams by Ariel Lawhon. Inside, winners will receive an advance copy of the book, a discussion guide, a travel notebook and pen, a travel cosmetics case, and a set of 4 Flight of Dreams coasters with a unique drink recipe on the back inspired by the book – perfect for book clubs!


Find out more about ChatterBox and how you can enter to win on our website: http://keepturningpagesclub.com/chatterbox

Recipes for Love and Murder: A New Series by Sally Andrew



Recipes for Love and Murder: A Tannie Maria Mystery
Hardcover
Eco/HarperCollins. 9780062397669
Reviewed by Bob Walch

Author Sally Andrew combines cooking with amateur sleuthing in this new series set in South Africa. Recovering from an abusive marriage, Tannie Maria van Harten has turned to her love of cooking to not only assuage the memories of a difficult relationship but to also make a little extra money.

In her fifties, Maria loves creating traditional Afrikaans specialties and has taken to sharing her recipes with advice on life in her new newspaper column. When a woman who responds to her advice column and was in a similar difficult marriage is killed, Maria decides to play amateur detective and, along with a local journalist, she launches her own investigation.

Although Detective Lieutenant Henk Kannemeyer is not thrilled with Maria’s decision to lend a hand to the authorities, he finds her an intriguing woman and one he’d like to get to know a little better.

With a new relationship in full bloom, her successful column collecting more attention and a little informal detective work keeping her busy, one would think Maria has her plate rather full. But, the talented cook has perhaps bitten off more than she can chew and she’s about to discover murder and mouthwatering meals can sometimes make for a lethal combination.


With its exotic setting, very attractive character and smattering of actual recipes, this new series is one that those who are attracted to “foodie” suspense will want to sample. The author is already working on a second adventure for her heroine so you’ll want to devour this one before Maria returns in “Tannie Maria and the Satanic Mechanic”. 

Monday, January 11, 2016

Bob's Burgers: Medium Rare (Comic Collection Featuring the Characters From the Awesome TV Show)



I love Bob's Burgers. If you haven't caught the television series, it's quirky and very honest. I totally get Linda!

Bob's Burgers: Medium Rare is a collection of comic strips involving the characters and written by the show's staff. It's no surprise to friends and family that Louise is my favorite character. She never fails to make me laugh. It's probably not surprising that my two favorite strips in this book involved her. Her discovery of a surprise in her family's basement and her experience with time while riding a carnival ride were great.

Gene is a typical boy. He's into toilet humor and that also shined through in Bob's Burgers: Medium Rare. His talent for poetry takes the stage in this collection. That leads to Tina - the boy-obsessed teen daughter of Bob and Linda Belcher. Tina's comics revolve around movies, always around boys.

This collection combines stories from the five main characters, with appearances from customers, friends, and family. I didn't find it as entertaining as the television show. I never felt drawn in and involved in the characters' lives. Perhaps this was because stories jumped around. Louise's Unsolved Mysteries and Curious Curiosities: The Ride was in two parts, and it took a while to get back to the rest of the story. The same thing happened with other comics/stories. In the end, I would have preferred to have my stories in one shot without impatiently working my way through other stories first.

Bob's Burgers: Medium Rare came out in November 2015. Find it in retailers selling Dynamite Comics.


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Always With You - Andrea Hurst

Released in 2014, Always With You is a title I picked up for free through BookBub. It's probably a book I could have skipped and not missed much. Your enjoyment of this story will be based on your principles. Had this story been spun in a different manner, I would have loved it.



Set in California, Andrea Hurst's novel takes place mostly in the late 1970s. Cathy is a successful boarding house/cafe/natural products owner. Her store does well, and her cafe also brings in a number of people. It's the height of the busy season when a former friend Pam calls her and asks if she, her husband Jamie, and young daughter can stay at Cathy's house while Jamie, a talented new chef, has a few job interviews. Cathy hasn't seen Pam in years, but she agrees.

Their arrival marks the start of many issues. Cathy quickly realizes that Jamie is the hunk who helped her save a dog that had been hit by a car. Cathy's attraction to Jamie is instant, but he's married. Having him under the same roof is going to be torture. When Cathy's chef is hospitalized with appendicitis, Jamie offers to fill in, but that means they're now living and working together. Keeping their hands off each other may become impossible.

There's the general premise, and my issues start with the characters. Cathy is too nice. Pam is clearly a major bitch from the start, the kind of two-faced bitch that I hated in school and would never allow in my home. Jamie's an idiot for marrying Pam in the first place. I understand his reasons, but the emotional abuse she pulls makes me question why he felt it was better to stay in that environment for his daughter, who is also caught in the middle of her mother's emotional abuse. Once things worsened, Cathy should have kicked them to the curb, yet she never does. As a result, I never really liked the characters.

The story itself was very detailed, some times going overkill with details of the dishes they were making. I grew bored of the excessive detail regarding the foods they were serving and the ingredients they needed.

I want to avoid any spoilers, so I'll end here rather than going into how I hoped the story would go. If anyone else reads it, I'll be happy to share my feelings on what I expected in the comments.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Vermont Author Chris Bohjalian Nails It

Over the years Chris Bohjalian's become a favorite author and writer. I'll say writer because up until recently he wrote a weekly column for my local paper. While I was watching my two grow up from infant to toddlers to kids to teens and now to adults, I was treated to hearing of his adventures with his daughter, a girl born just two weeks after my son. There are many Sunday mornings that I sympathized with everything - good and annoying - that he was going through.



Enter Bohjalian's latest release, The Guest Room. I think this release shocked me a little more than usual. Perhaps because it seems so real, like it could have been ripped from the headlines. I don't know if I can say Vermonters are a little more sheltered, but a few weeks ago, there was breaking news of a massage parlor about 10 miles from me being raided for sex trafficking. I know it exists, but this hit a little closer to home because of the distance. The Guest Room definitely brought that story to mind. We have a tendency to think of the slime who run these operations, but what of the girls?

Richard Chapman is being the good big brother and hosting his younger, albeit more wild, brother's bachelor party in his home. He knows there will be strippers involved, but he never imagines circumstances will grow wildly out of control when one of the strippers stabs her guard to death in front of them. There's a gun shot, the second guard is also dead, the strippers flee, and Richard is left with his life in tatters. His job's on the line, his marriage is on the line, and the gossip about what went on in his home could tear his family apart.

Meanwhile, one of the strippers, Alexandra, has her own story to tell, but she's trapped. The police want to arrest her, some Russians want to destroy her, and staying alive seems impossible in this country that's completely unfamiliar to her.

Alexandra makes this novel. From the start, I wanted to take her under my wing. Her life is painstakingly developed by Bohjalian and it's impossible not to root for her. Richard Chapman makes mistakes, sure, but he's just as likable and stuck in an impossible situation. There were times I was thinking he'd be so much better packing up his family, leaving everything behind, and starting fresh somewhere exotic where his family wouldn't be the center of attention. Now there is another character involved in a minor way that had me wanting to strangle him, but sadly, I can see some acting like that. I won't go into details, but I did appreciate how Bohjalian handled him. Being so attached to the characters is what made this book hard to put down.




Friday, January 1, 2016

Loving the Characters in Tawni O'Dell's Latest

Here's a great book to kick off 2016! Due to be released on January 5th by Gallery Books, Tawni O'Dell's Angels Burning is a stunning novel of one police chief's battle to solve a case while also battling her personal demons.



Chief Dove Carnahan hides a secret from her teen years, one that she hates thinking about, but it's brought fresh to the surface when her mother's killer is released from jail right after the body of a local girl is found burned and tossed into a sinkhole in an abandoned town. With limited resources and staff, Dove lets the state troopers lead the case, but she's going to work it side by side with her romantic interest and former boss.

Dove empathizes with the victim. For much of Dove's life, she was the child growing up in a poor family in a rural setting. She's determined to solve Camio's murder, even if it means going up against a family filled with criminals, all headed up by a bitter shrew of a matriarch.

It's been about 15 years since I've read Back Roads, one of Tawni O'Dell's novels, and it made me realize just how much I've been missing. Tawni O'Dell holds no punches. The backwoods Truly family creeped me out more than a little. Even the youngest Derk was a strange child and incredibly well developed to make you want to run far away while also fighting an urge to hug him and show him what a normal family is like.

I planned to read just one chapter, which turned into two, three, and then me taking the afternoon off of my other responsibilities with my online work. I couldn't walk away. I need to go back to the beginning, round up all of her books, and reacquaint myself with this small Pennsylvanian town and all of its quirky residents.