Saturday, December 31, 2011

Need You Now - James Grippando

January 2012

James Grippando

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

The toughest part of this review really is just how much of the plot to give away to present the plot. There are lots of layers involved that the book jacket doesn't touch upon, but the book jacket really doesn't go into the full implications of the story at hand either and that makes it tough.

Things start with Abe Cushman and Gerry Collins. Cushman is a NASDAQ chairman who is arrested for a massive Ponzi scheme that nets him billions of dollars. Rather than face jail, he commits suicide. Cushman was like a father to Gerry Collins and Gerry now has very some very angry investors on his hands. Gerry also winds up dead, but his death is at the hands of a murderer.

Three years pass, financial advisor Patrick Lloyd is in Switzerland to supposedly meet the Bank of Switzerland's managing director, though he cannot imagine why they want to meet with a Wall Street newbie.This begins a nightmarish quest to unravel where Cushman's millions are because someone is convinced Patrick's ex-girlfriend, Lilly Scanlon, knows where Gerry hid the money and that Lilly revealed everything to Patrick.

With Lilly and Patrick not sure who they can really trust, Patrick knows one thing, he needs to unravel what really happened with Cushman's Ponzi scheme if he's going to get out of this situation alive.

There are other things going on within Need You Now too. A strong part of the story line involves Patrick's real identity and the reason he met Lilly in the first place. That aspect is revealed a few chapters in, so readers know things other characters don't early on. This leads to complications on which characters within the book are really trustworthy. I found myself questioning a few of their motives many times.

As the story does rely heavily on aspects of Ponzi schemes, something that I got sick of with Bernie Madoff, I found my hardest time was staying involved in the story. There were times when I felt like I'd seen it all before, yet I am a huge fan of Grippando's novels, so I had to keep reading. There's also the issue of the overplayed Lady Antebellum song, "Need You Now," coming up in the story and after that I couldn't get that song out of my head.

In the end, I still enjoyed the story, but not as much as I do the Jack Swyteck novels. For me, that series remains a favorite.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Balancing Act - Patricia Davids

Released August 2011

Patricia Davids

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

After a crash on snowy roads leaves ballerina Cheryl Steele with a broken foot, she has no choice but to recuperate while her ballet director recasts her starring role in a ballet version of Alice in Wonderland. During her recovery, Cheryl agrees to help with her rescuer's twin daughters. There's one problem, Cheryl's back in a town she left long ago due to a troubled childhood. If Sam Hardin learns her real identity, he may not look as kindly upon having her as a house guest.

Meanwhile, Sam's five-year-old twins are hoping that Cheryl decides she loves them all so much that she never wants to leave. When things don't look to be working in their favor, they decided to try to force the adults in their lives to realize they were meant to be a family.

Balancing Act is a cute, quick romance. During the busy holidays when a quick read is the best option, Patricia Davids story is both heartwarming and moves swiftly to the final page. This is a Harlequin Heartwarming novel, a reissue of a Love Inspired novel. It's suitable to any reader looking for a gentle romance without sex or violence.

With well developed characters and great chemistry because the adults and children, readers will enjoy this cozy tale of romance.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Bentleys Buy a Buick - Pamela Morsi

Released August 2011

Pamela Morsi

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

One thing jumped out at me the minute I started reading The Bentleys Buy a Buick. This isn't your ordinary romance. The hero and heroine are a happily married couple with a home, business and loving son. There's no development of a new relationship to get past. If you've always read romances and wished you could see what happened after the couple married, here's your chance.

After years of being a stay-at-home mom, Erica Bentley's back at work. She learns quickly that gossip rules the office and that the demands of working, parenting and keeping house are not as easily balanced as one might hope. Her husband, Tom, is equally busy running his auto garage that specializes in classic cars. He has a bigger problem on his plate. He learns his best friend is having an affair, and Tom is torn between telling the man's wife or hoping the man comes to his senses before he has to fire him and let the truth come out. He's also busy restoring a Buick Roadster for an elderly woman who really hopes Tom will want to buy her "Clara" after putting so much work into her.

Soon, the gossips in the office have targeted Erica due to her friendship with one of the doctors in the hospital where she works. They decide to start gossiping about Erica's marriage being in trouble. It doesn't take much before Erica fears Tom may be having an affair with "Clara." She's determined to fight for her man, no matter what it takes.

Because The Bentleys Buy a Buick does involve a married couple who are well into an established marriage, I really enjoyed the focus. Granted, I also, at times, wanted to knock some sense into both Tom and Erica because their secretive behavior was driving a wedge into their marriage and neither seemed smart enough to realize it. With the mix of humor and romance, I found myself really enjoying each page and hoping the author will consider writing other stories about married couples in the future. It was an exciting change of pace.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Angry Birds: Bad Piggies' Egg Recipes: Various

Released December 2011

Rovio Mobile

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

There's no doubt that Angry Birds have become an incredibly popular game, leading to a line of stuffed toys, apparel and other goods. Now comes a cookbook that features the one thing the piggies covet -- eggs.

This whimsical cookbook is filled with egg recipes. Recipes range from breakfast dishes to omelets suitable for lunch of dinner. With 40 recipes in all, there are dishes to suit every taste and budget. I admit, I wasn't sold on a cookbook that features nothing but egg recipes, but then I came across one that is so simple, yet so delicious that I realized there's more to this cookbook than I was expecting.

This recipe is very simple and involves pouring a couple teaspoons of heavy cream into a greased custard cup , even a muffin tin will do, and then breaking an egg into it. Sprinkle the top of the egg with salt, pepper, chives and cheese and bake until the yolk is set. It's so easy, yet so incredibly delicious.

You don't have to be an Angry Birds fan (though I admit I am) to find enjoyment in this cookbook. If you need a few ideas on unique holiday dishes that don't take long to prepare or cook, Angry Birds: Bad Piggies' Egg Recipes is perfect.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Good Girls Don't - Victoria Dahl

Released September 2011

Victoria Dahl

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

After her family's pub and brewery is burglarized, Tessa Donovan can't help but notice Detective Luke Asher. Her brothers may warn her off him, but Tessa finds Luke to be irresistible. He can't be all bad can he?

Luke isn't fond of his co-workers thinking he's the father of his partner's soon-to-be born child, but he's not about to turn his back on her either. He knows that Tessa's brothers think he's scum, but he's determined to make things work with Tessa, even if it means sneaking around behind their backs. As things heat up with Tessa, he starts to wonder if he'll ever be able to win their trust.

Meanwhile, there's a case to solve. Someone stole the brewery computers and it's up to Luke to find out who took them and why.

Good Girls Don't hooked me from the start. It's obvious that Tessa's brothers are hugely overprotective, and there is a reason that readers will learn about as they delve into the book. The mystery regarding Luke's partner's baby also serves as a secondary storyline. I liked Tessa and Luke's chemistry and couldn't wait to see how things ended.

One thing that struck me instantly is that I need to see Tessa's brothers get their own stories. I'm looking that up as I type this to make sure this is the first of a trilogy, and it is. There are two additional books released this fall that match each brother with a woman. I'll need to find those two novels. I also hope that at some point, Luke's partner finds her own special someone.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Getting Lucky - Kayla Perrin

Released August 2011

Kayla Perrin
Harlequin Spice

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

Apparently, this is part of a series, and somehow I missed that. Being part of a series might explain why I struggled to like any of the characters. In a nutshell, you have three best friends, all have suffered bad relationships or breakups and aren't quite sure what to do next. I've read Kayla Perrin before and really liked her writing style and storylines, so I'm surprised that Getting Lucky turned out to be a huge dud for me.

Annelise is five months pregnant and madly in love. However, she's been in a bad relationship before and isn't ready for marriage, even if the baby's daddy is. With her happiness, she's upset her friends are miserable. Soon, she has a brilliant idea.She invites her friends to Mexico for a week of R & R. What they don't know is that she's arranged to have two male friends "surprisingly" meet up and hopefully hook up with her friends. If they find out, it may threaten their friendship.

Lishelle is stunned when she learns her ex-boyfriend is getting married. She can't get him out of her mind and wonders if she made a mistake when she let him go. Claudia's self-esteem took a beating no thanks to her ex and rumors of her sexual trysts with him make it really hard to find or trust another man. When Mr. Right appears, her hesitation may end up costing her a chance for a true romance.

Given how "nice" Annelise's cop friend and his brother were supposed to be, I'm kind of surprised they agreed to a lengthy blind date with two women they didn't know. It's that aspect that made the entire plot seem implausible. Not to mention, I wish I had the kind of  money were I could decide on an impromptu vacation to an all-inclusive tropical resort. I know cops and they don't make the kind of money necessary for a surprise trip of that nature. Even local news anchors don't really make that much money. Maybe there are people who can take a vacation at the drop of a hat, but what kept playing through my head was "only in fiction."

I had issues with the characters too. Granted this is an erotic romance, so there will be steamy sex scenes, but it seemed all these women thought about and they were quite happy to have one-night stands at the drop of a hat. Again, I know there are women out there like that, but certainly not in my crowd. One-night stands are far too risky in this day and age in terms of safety and potential sexually transmitted diseases. As a result, I found it impossible to connect with any of the characters making it really hard to like the book.

I do hate finding fault in books, but sometimes it just jumps out and makes me really dislike a story. That's what happened with Getting Lucky. I finished it, but wish I really could have thrown it against the wall and called it quits in the beginning of the story.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Detective's Accidental Baby - Jacqueline Diamond

Released February 2012

Jacqueline Diamond

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

The next entry into the Safe Harbor Medical romance series focuses on nurse Erica Benford. Readers of this series know Erica best as Owen Tartikoff's (The Surgeon's Surprise Twins) scrub nurse.

The last thing Erica wants is a child in her life, but a one-night stand with a hunky detective leads to an accidental pregnancy after the condom breaks. Erica decides the best thing to do is to go through the pregnancy and put the child up for adoption.

Sherlock "Lock" Vaughn grew up in foster care after his adoptive parents proved to be duds. He's not about to let strangers raise his child. He's determined to prove to Erica that he'll make a great single dad. Proving this is tougher than it seems, however, because Erica is equally determined to prove that his ideas of parenthood are nothing like the reality.

Lock has a few ties to characters from past Safe Harbor books too. He and his brother run a detective agency and their secretary is Patty from Falling for the Nanny.

The Detective's Accidental Baby is a quick, easy read that throws in a surprise I didn't see coming. I won't go into it here, but if you've been reading the series, there's a secondary storyline that focuses on another character I really like. It was interesting to see her pushed into a situation that strengthened her place in books to come.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Happy Haulidays Winner Announced

Congratulations to Jennifer Miler, blogger for Where the Best Books Are. She and one of her readers won Chronicle Book's Happy Hauliday's Contest.

For those who didn't win, enter "haulidays" when checking out and earn free shipping and up to a 35% discount.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

What Happened to Hannah - Mary Kay McComas

Released February 2012

Mary Kay McComas
William Morrow

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

I recently had the pleasure of reviewing What Happened to Hannah for Amazon Vine. Loveswept romance fans may recognize the author's name. She's back with a full-length novel that really made an impression. Check out the full review here.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Forgetful Lady - Jacqueline Diamond

Released December 2010 (Reissue)

Jacqueline Diamond

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

 The Forgetful Lady is not a new novel. Jacqueline Diamond wrote it back in 1984. It was then reprinted in 1986. Because this is a Regency-era romance, it doesn't feel dated. Women were treated differently back then often having little say in their choice of spouse. If you take a look at your own family's genealogy, as I have, it's refreshing to know that women's rights have come so far. One of my husband's distant relatives had to marry her older sister's older husband in the early 1800s when her sister died in childbirth with their 12th child. Letter's that others documented make it clear she was unhappy marrying a man 20 years her senior and becoming an instant-mom to nieces and nephews ranging in age from infancy to late teens, but she couldn't go against her father's wishes. It was just a way of life back then.

Within Jacqueline Diamond's novel, the heroine Lady Elizabeth Fairchild is in love with Lord Meridan, her family's neighbor, and hopes to impress him during a fox hunt. Unfortunately, she's thrown from one of his horses and loses her memory. Her brash attitude and insistence on telling others the truth makes her the talk of the town, and not in a good way. All Beth knows is that Lord Meridan blames her for his friend's death and she can't remember what she did. Unless she can, Lord Meridan may never see her as worthy of his hand.

Within The Forgetful Lady, there is a lot of catty behavior. Beth's mother had me wanting to strangle her, and her sister was honestly no better. Had I been Beth in today's world, I would have left and never returned. They were really horrible. Lord Meridan's really not much better. He's arrogant, unbending and absolutely maddening.

Yet it's those same characteristics that really prove that Jacqueline is a master at creating characters. You may hate some and love others, but it's clear that characterization is her strong suit.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Last Chance to Win $500 in Free Books from Chronicle Books

The final day to enter to win Chronicle Books' Happy Haul-idays contest is today. You have until 11:59 pm EST to enter. Do so by posting a message here:

Good luck to all who have entered!

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