Monday, August 30, 2010

The Life You've Imagined - Kristina Riggle (General Fiction)

Released September 2010

The Life You've Imagined revolves around the lives of four women. Maeve Geneva settled in Haven with her husband and remained there, even after he abandoned her and their young daughter. Decades later, he wants to be part of their lives again and Maeve is delighted with the turn of events.

Anna Geneva spent years as a busy Chicago attorney, but now she's back in Haven for some much needed R&R and isn't sure she wants to return to her Chicago lifestyle. When she learns her mom is about to lose the family store and her dad is suddenly back in the picture, she decides her mom might need more help than she's willing to admit to.

Cami Drayton spent years as Anna's best friend and also happens to return to Haven. Cami's father is an abusive alcoholic who's been hiding a secret. Cami's going to need her friends when the truth is revealed.

Finally, Amy Rickart went to school with Anna and Cami. The subject of many high school jokes due to her weight, Amy's slimmed down since then and is about to marry her soulmate. However, Amy still battles the demons of her teen years and that's an obstacle she's having a very hard time overcoming.

While there are many plots going on in The Life You've Imagined, it's extremely easy to keep up with each character. Chapter separations are clear from the start, so you always know who's viewpoint is being shared.

Kristina Riggle's novel is an absorbing read. It's not horribly fast-paced, yet I was still drawn into the women's lives and found myself unwilling to walk away from their stories. It's not necessarily a feel-good read, but definitely makes you reflect on your own life and choices made along the way.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Complete Guide to Prescription and Non-Prescription Drugs - H. Winter Griffith & Stephen Moore (Non-fiction)

Released November 2009

Things have been hectic around here. I have an aunt in the final stages of end-stage liver disease and she's still months away from being put on a transplant list. Meanwhile, my uncle's doctor seems happy prescribing him every medication under the sun. With that, I dug out my Complete Guide to Prescription and Non-Prescription Drugs to read up on contraindications and side effects. Sadly, I found a few medications that should not be taken together and immediately warned my uncle to question why he was using that medication with his doctor.

I learned long ago that doctors make mistakes and pharmacists are not always going to catch them. My son's ear infections were persistent in childhood so they were always prescribing a new antibiotic for him. The dosage on the last antibiotics he used seemed high to me, so I looked the Sulfa drug up in the book and found that they'd given him a dosage for a 260 pound man rather than a 60 pound boy. Thank God I did take the time to look it up. The doctor told me had I given him the listed dosage, we would have had to rush him to the ER to have his stomach pumped.

Information within the book includes pictures of the medication so that you can make sure you have the correct pill. You can check contraindications and side effects. Learn what the medication treats. 

I advise everyone to keep the updated prescription guide in their home. Sure, you can look things up on the Internet, but what if your Internet is down? In addition, Internet writers are not always fully trained in the subject on which they write. Often they are researching things online too and then rewording the information they find. Errors in understanding and writing can and do occur.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

An Impartial Witness - Charles Todd (Historical Fiction)

Released September 2010

Bess Crawford is bouncing between her home in London and her duties as a nurse during WWI in France. Transporting a badly wounded soldier back to London, she spies a young woman seeing a soldier off. The woman is crying hysterically and Bess feels bad for her until the woman turns around. This crying woman is the same woman found in the picture the wounded solider's been clutching--his wife.

When that woman is found stabbed to death, Bess comes forward to Scotland Yard to share what she knows. Determined to learn the mystery soldier's identity, Bess begins getting to know the victim's family and friends and learning their deepest secrets.

An Impartial Witness aptly portrays life during WWI. Or, at least, I'm expecting this is a realistic portrayal of life when you worried about food, your loved ones heading off to war and the effects of the war on family and friendships. I'm not fond of history, absolutely hated the classes in school, but this book brings the war to life in an extremely engaging manner. I was drawn in from the very start and felt an immediate sense of urgency to find out who killed Marjorie and why. As the clues are unraveled, you may not feel a huge sense of shock, but you're still riveted to the pages to find out how Bess would discover the truth.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

All of Me - Lori Wilde (Contemporary Romance)

Released April 2009

After her mentor District Attorney Blake Townsend dies suddenly, Jillian Samuels finds herself without a job. Her career as the assistant D.A. is over because she refuses to work alongside a man who broke her heart. Finding out her significant other was devastating and having him state he wants to reunite now that he's her boss is too much for Jillian. She leaves her job, life and friends behind when she decides to start anew in Salvation, Colorado.

Tuck Manning's life seemed to end when his wife died of cancer. The only thing he has going for him is the cabin his former father-in-law deeded to him. Tuck's shocked when the woman of his dreams appears in his cabin stating she inherited the cabin from her mentor and the battle is on to see who really owns the cabin now that Blake is dead.

While Jillian searches for Tuck's missing deed, she and Tuck agree to share the cabin. However, it's not easy when the two share an instant attraction. One of them is bound to end up with a broken heart, but neither wants to give up the only place they can call home.

All of Me continues the Wedding Veil Wishes series. A quartet of friends all gain possession of this supposedly magic veil and make a wish hoping it will come true. Jillian is the remaining hold out and definitely does not believe the veil is magical at all because she doesn't believe love exists.

From the start, I was drawn into All of Me. The characters are multi-dimensional and the setting is charming. I love the small town feel, including all the gossipy residents. I enjoyed this book so much I wouldn't mind seeing Lori Wilde return to Salvation in the future so that we can see how things end up for others featured in the story.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Just Desserts - Barbara Bretton (Contemporary Romance)

Released February 2008

As yesterday was completely gorgeous with a steady cool breeze and plenty of sun, I curled up on my freshly stained back deck to enjoy the weather. Two books in hand, I got started with Barbara Bretton's Just Desserts.

Set in New Jersey, Hayley Goldstein owns a charming bakery where she whips up creative cakes. She's a little shocked when she's hired to make a cake for rock star Tommy Stiles, but she's eager to gain the publicity. Little does Hayley know that Tommy has ulterior motives.

Finn Rafferty has been Tommy's personal lawyer for years. In fact, Tommy's been like a father to him throughout the years. When Tommy learns that Hayley may be the daughter he never knew he had, Finn agrees to bring Hayley into Tommy's life by having her create a cake for Tommy's upcoming concert in Atlantic City.

As he spends more time getting to know her, Finn realizes he's falling head over  heels for Hayley. But what happens when the truth is revealed? Will she open her heart to having a rock star dad or hate them both for deceiving her from the start?

All characters in Just Desserts were equally enjoyable. I especially loved the drummer/chef-wannabe Anton who came off as being one of those people I'd love to have to dinner. Unlike many of today's novels where the lead characters are in their 20s, Hayley is almost 40. Having characters nearer my own age is definitely appreciated.

This is a fun romance with a dose of mystery tossed in. Hayley's ex-husband is conspicuously missing and her daughter's going to all ends to see him again. Having that sub-plot added a new layer to the book. There are also two additional sub-plots. One involves Tommy Stiles impending marriage and Hayley's mother's secret. In the end, Barbara Bretton dishes up a great romance that offers unending action from start to finish.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Twisted Creek - Jodi Thomas (Contemporary Romance)

Released April 2008

Good and bad come from Twisted Creek. First, the good. This book is incredible. It's a richly written, dynamic, mesmerizing contemporary romance. The bad... It ended. That's it. The book had the audacity to end right when I was dying to see more of the different characters.

Realistically, I'm surprised I liked it so much. I'm not a fan of novels written in first-person. The author has to be on the ball to pen a novel in this manner. Tie this in with the constant switch from first-person (Allie) to third-person (Luke) and I was sure I'd hate the frequent switches. Instead, I found the change up worked.

Allie Daniel's doesn't believe good luck exists. Her mother walked out of her life when Allie was three. She's been raised by her grandparents. When her grandfather died, they came home from the funeral to find an eviction notice. Allie had to quit college to provide for both herself and her grandmother.

When a letter comes from a lawyer in Texas stating she's inherited her late uncle's property and $5,000, Allie is not convinced. First, she doesn't have an uncle. Second, Lady Luck has never smiled on her. Yet, the bank tells her the check is valid. So she and her grandmother pack up and head for Twisted Creek, Texas.

There, Allie fears this new, exciting life will all come crashing down. Not only did she inherit a place to call home, but the building also houses a general store and cafe. Her grandmother loves the townspeople and is happy preparing meals for those who come and go. Allie's kept busy running the storefront and helping in the cafe.

Best of all, Allie's neighbor, the very sexy, yet mysterious, Luke Morgan seems to be more than interested in her. Could Allie's luck really have changed?

I missed Twisted Creek when it first came out. At the time, I was building up my freelance writing business and focusing less on reviewing. What a shame I waited so long to read this book. The writing flows along at a steady pace. It's not rushing to reach the climax, at least not for the majority of the story. Instead, you're whisked into Twisted Creek where you get to know the whimsical townspeople and wonder about their deepest, darkest mysteries.

There is my problem with the book. It did end before I was ready to leave Twisted Creek. I want to read more about Timothy as he dealt with the conflict of what he dreams of doing versus what his father dreams of him doing. I want to know if the very shy Mary Lynn ever finds her happily ever after. I want some form of closure for Mrs. Deals.

I can't find that Jodi Thomas is going to return to Twisted Creek at any point in her writing, but I certainly hope she does!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Montana Destiny - R. C. Ryan (Romance)

Released May 2010

Book two in R. C. Ryan's Fool's Gold series peeks into Wyatt McCord's life. He's back at the McCord Ranch and realizing he's really home. EMT Marilee Trainer captures his attention and he's not willing to back away.

Marilee grew up an Army brat moving from location to location. She's not used to lasting friendships, let alone relationships. However, she's now the EMT in Gold Fever, Montana, and finds herself falling head over heels for Wyatt.

Little do Marilee and Wyatt know there's danger lurking around every corner. When Marilee finds another piece of the McCord gold mystery, she brings it to the family's attention. It also captures the attention of someone determined to keep her quiet, at any cost.

Montana Destiny continues the mystery involving the legendary hidden gold while bringing Wyatt and Marilee together. The blend of romance and intrigue is well handled, with equal focus on each. The passion between the two keeps you hooked.

Readers who enjoyed the first novel, Montana Legacy, are treated to glimpses into Jesse and Amy's life together. If you haven't read the first novel, you won't feel like you've missed a key aspect of the story. The author summarizes everything perfectly.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Dining with the Dollar Diva - Elizabeth Fisher (Cookbook)

Released March 2010

The basic idea behind Dining with the Dollar Diva is that all recipe ingredients cost a dollar or less. The book is packed with recipes for appetizers, meals and more. Recipes range from Oyster Stromboli to Espresso Brownies.

In this tight economy, cooking on a budget is a necessity. As much as I'd like to recommend this book, the simple truth is that the premise of the book -- all ingredients cost a dollar or less -- is not going to work for everyone. The author states her grocery store often sells many of the ingredients through 10 for $10 sales. Never have I see frozen meatballs sell for $1 a bag here. Our area discount store may offer yearly garage sales where I can get things like tofu or muenster cheese for a dollar a pound, but that's very rare, and it's been years since I've seen more than mozzarella sell for that little.

I'm not sure where the author lives, but I want her grocery store! Around here, the stores often do buy-one-get-one free after jacking up the buy-one price. They also will offer 4 for $20 deals on things like frozen meatballs or ground turkey, but that only happens a couple times a year. The author states she shops a lot at her area dollar store. Even our dollar stores have increased their prices so that all items in their stores cost $1.25, they're really no longer dollar stores.

One recipe, in particular, stood out particularly as being unrealistic. There's a very delicious sounding recipe for lobster rolls. I decided to go to my two favorite grocers and my local corner store to see what this recipe would really cost here in my corner of Vermont.

The author does use the imitation crab/lobster which will save money. Right now, at Shaw's, lobsters are selling for $4.98 a pound. The imitation crab is $2.99 for the smallest packet. I'd rather splurge and get the real deal. At Hannaford, they are 2 for $5. An eight-ounce packet of frozen shrimp is $3 at Hannaford. Shaw's only sells by the pound and that's a cost of $9. If you buy from the fresh seafood counter, the lowest current price is $6.99 a pound and you must purchase at least a a quarter of a pound.

Frozen scallops, I'm going with bay scallops because they're usually cheapest. The scallops are $4 at Hannaford, an 8-ounce bag is the smallest they sell. Bay scallops cost $5 a pound at Shaw's. Their smallest container is a pound. If I went to my local corner store, the shrimp and scallops are $9 for an eight-ounce bag and the imitation lobster is $3.49 for the 10-ounce package.

Many of the remaining items, I have on hand anyway. Horseradish is one I don't keep because my husband's allergic to it. Therefore, I'd likely skip that ingredient anyway. Mayo I do have on hand, but I've never gotten it for less than a $2, even the store brand. I always have dill in my herb garden, so that's not a problem. Lettuce is another item growing in my garden. Otherwise, it's $1.49 for the bagged store brand of shredded lettuce or $1.99 a pound. Hot dog buns is the only item that I could get for less than $1.

I don't want to condemn the book because their are some great recipes, but to get the ingredients for a dollar or less simply isn't realistic in my area. Buy it for the recipes only because not every recipe is going to save you money if you happen to live in a region where grocery prices are higher than average.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Cooking for Geeks - Jeff Potter (Cookbook)

Released August 3, 2010

Alton Brown fans take note! You need a copy of Cooking for Geeks: Real Science, Great Hacks and Good Food. Seriously, this book takes everything I enjoy about Alton's shows and combines them into a book for the beginner, novice and pro alike.

Sure some recipes may seem basic. Extremely basic actually. It may seem weird to some that there are people who cannot even scramble an egg, but I've learned from experience that these people do exist. When my neighbor came flying out her house with a smoking pan, it had simply contained olive oil and water for boiling pasta but she'd turned on her stove and forgotten all about it. It became apparent that people can even burn water if given the opportunity.

Everything you need to know about cooking is in this book. From kitchen set-up and equipment to simple tips like reading a recipe completely before getting started, Cooking for Geeks has everything you need to start preparing home-cooked meals.

The book offers more than 400 pages of tips, recipes and even interviews with geeks of today. I loved reading Mythbuster's Adam Savage share his love of science and cooking. Learn easy recipes like a 30-Second Chocolate Cake or ones that may seem a little tougher like Butterflied Chicken. By the time you're done, you'll understand that kitchen and be able to whip together nutritious meals for yourself and others.

It's a very rare event that I come across a review book that I feel I must rush out and purchase a copy as soon as it is released. This is one of those situations. I can't imagine NOT owning this cookbook and I love to cook and know more than the basics already. With outstanding recipes, entertaining interviews and witty writing, this is definitely a book you should hand your friends, family and especially neighbors who do come running out of their home with flaming pans.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Hometown Ties - Melody Carlson (Christian Fiction)

Released September 2010

Childhood friends are now all back in their hometown of Clifden, Oregon, becoming reunited with one another and dealing with the problems facing them in their middle years. Hometown Ties focuses on each friend, but it is Caroline who features prominently in the second Four Linda's novel.

All heroines in this novel are in their fifties and moving into a new stage of life.  Caroline's back from California to care for her mother, who's in the latter stages of Alzheimer's. Caroline's stressed to the max but determined to meet her mother's wishes about living the remainder of her life at home and not in a facility.

Janie is a widowed lawyer who wants to move forward, but isn't sure how to do it. She was married for so long that dating seems foreign.

Marley's done with her abusive marriage and is moving on. Her recent bout with painter's block is less than pleasing. As she throws her artistic nature into her home renovations and her painting, she isn't sure she has the inspiration to keep up with her art.

Finally, Abby's daughters have all moved on and her husband is becoming more and more distant. Marriage counseling seems to be Abby's last hope, but she's not sure she can trust her husband, a man who's constant belittling and hints that he may be having an affair have worn thin.

The ages of the heroines were a little beyond me, but I still found the story worked on so many levels. I am starting to experience the panic of your parents not being the same lively people from your childhood. The worries about health, injury and such weigh heavily from time to time. I also found myself able to sympathize with Abby because I, too, have devoted much of my time to raising kids and am now branching out into my own business ideas and the likes. I still have a ways to go before I'm in their age group though.

Nevertheless, I found myself engrossed in their charming coastal town and their lives. At the end, things did seem a little rushed and pulled together too quickly for me, but others may have no issue with it.

I am intrigued enough to find the first story in this series and make sure I keep up with the rest. I'd like to see if Abby's dream career takes off and what happens to the rest of the women.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Last to Die - Kate Brady (Romantic Suspense)

Released September 2010

Detective Dani Cole finds herself investigating the murder of a former prostitute, a young girl Dani had personally helped get off the streets.  Dani's been dealt one blow after another. Her father, a dirty cop, shot himself just feet away from Dani's room, and this murder case is Dani's return to the force. Things don't go exactly as planned when the killer targets Dani and she's pulled from duty once more.

Photojournalist Mitch Sheridan and Dani share a romantic past. When Mitch's business associate disappears, Mitch comes back to town. While police suspect the partner may have killed the former prostitute, Mitch knows there is no way. He's determined to reunite with Dani and get her help solving this case, as well as keeping the woman he once loved safe.

I do love a gripping romantic suspense. Kate Brady delivers just that with the right amount of sexual tension and a cunning, psychotic killer. I was drawn into the action from the start, as the story does move seamlessly between a number of character's keeping you on your toes.

However, despite the frequent shifts in viewpoint, I did find myself figuring out the killer's identity before it was revealed. Given that, there were still parts that I didn't quite get, so that kept me interested in reading the outcome.

All in all, fans of romantic suspense should enjoy every minute of Dani's story. Last to Die kept me reading far into the night because I simply wanted to see justice served.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Cold Hands, Warm Hearts - Jenny Jacobs (Contemporary Romance)

Cold Hands, Warm Hearts

Released August 24, 2010

Cold Hands, Warm Hearts shares the story of Char Simmons. Char's ex-husband disappeared and police have been sniffing around thinking she might know something about his criminal activities. Worse, her ex-husband disappeared right after she announced their daughter had been diagnosed with cancer. With mounting bills, Char sells their home, packs up and moves to a remote lakeside cabin she's inherited.

Max Wilson is a federal agent and happens to own the cabin next door. His boss presses him to discover all he can about Char. Before he knows it, he's falling for her and despite her situation, he knows she has nothing to do with her former husband's crimes. Proving it becomes his goal.

Jenny Jacob's sophomore attempt is an enjoyable romance with a little action tossed in. I found some of the story line regarding Char's ex-husband to be pretty predictable though. Her daughter is charming, though at times a little mouthy. Thankfully, my kids were never like that at that age! While I enjoyed Char and Max's story, it's not a book I'd place on my keeper shelf.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

When the Snow Flies - Laurie Alice Eakes (Historical Romance)

When the Snow Flies

Released August 24, 2010

Audrey Sinclair Vanderleyden is a fully trained and licensed doctor, but the town of Marysville isn't having any of it. She and her late husband bought the medical practice planning to run it as a team, but now he's dead. It doesn't matter that the drunken aging Doctor Hornsby sold his practice to A.S. Vanderleyden or that she has a written contract, he's not about to turn over his practice to a woman leaving Audrey to battle for her rights.

Doctor Nathan Maxwell can't practice following a gunshot wound to the head that robbed him of his sight. He'd always intended to take over the town practice, but now he's torn between his long-term friendship with Doctor Hornsby and his growing attraction to Audrey. As much as he'd like to help Audrey, he must help his friend keep his practice, even if that means hurting the woman he's come to love.

When the Snow Flies is a charming historical romance. I loved the pacing, the developing romance and the characters. I was a little put off by a few characters' reactions to having a woman doctor, even after she proves she is far more talented than their current doctor. Those aspects made me want to climb into to book and shake some sense into some of them.

This gentle romance is perfect for those who don't like graphic sex in their novels or teens who enjoy romance but don't find themselves loaded with options. It's a short, yet very fun read.

The Road to Christmas: A Sweet Holiday Romance Novel by Sheila Roberts

Release Date - September 20, 2022  Sit down and explore the holiday season through four sets of eyes in Sheila Roberts' latest holiday...