Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Love is Murder - Sandra Brown, et al.

Released June 2012


Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Love is Murder took a long time to work my way through. That's a really good thing, as you get a lot of book for the money. The anthology contains 30 short stories, plus an introduction by Sandra Brown. Take time to read the introduction, because you'll quickly learn that the collection of stories is a tribute to the late Beverly Barton, who passed away in April 2011.

It is too time consuming to issue a brief synopsis of every story in this anthology. Instead, I'm going to share a couple of my favorites. Topping my list is a front-page sounding story of a mother who hopes after years of not knowing what happened to her daughter someone might reopen the case and discover the truth. Mariah Stewart does an amazing job at telling a story that sounds real and has an ending you won't see coming in Without Mercy.

Andrea Kane's Lockdown is another gripping romantic suspense. It's the perfect day for a wedding, and psychic Claire Hedgleigh can't seem to shake the feeling that something's about to go wrong. When an armed gunman crashes the wedding, it's up to FBI agent Sloane Burbank to save the day.

Robert Browne's Speechless tells the story of a young woman driven to spy on her boyfriend David by her mother. David takes frequent business trips, and as the woman's mother has had too many cheat on her during her lifetime, she's certain her daughter's boyfriend is just like all the others. What the young woman discovers is surreal.

Beverly Barton's Poisoned is another story that stuck with me. In this story, Olivia is certain she's been poisoned, but even worse is that she believes it is the man she loves who is trying to kill her.

William Simon's tale of a kidnapping case involving the POTUS's granddaughter, and the lengths authorities have to go to to catch the kidnapper, kept me on the edge of my seat. When the girl goes up for auction, Nicholas White must work fast to save her. I almost wish Spider's Tango had been a full-length novel.

Finally, Jon Land and Jeff Ayers team up for Last Shot. In this tale, Molly Wagner and her husband are about to lose their home to the bank. When Molly discovers a scanner has the magical powers to restore things from the past, she continues to use it hoping to fix their problems. Unfortunately, there is a high price to be paid for changing the future.

Bottom line with Love is Murder is that some stories really grabbed me and held my interest, while a few just didn't appeal to me. There are paranormals, crime procedurals, romances, and so much more in this book. It's not a book I found easy to read in one sitting, so in my mind, that makes it the perfect book that will last you a good portion of the summer.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Book of Summers - Emylia Hall

Released June 2012

Emylia Hall

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

The Book of Summers is likely one of the biggest surprises of the year for me. The premise sounded good, but as I started reading it, I couldn't see that it was going anywhere at first. What I did see was a daughter who needed to grow up and a father who needed to open up. If you're in this same spot, stick with it. Suddenly, the book turns into an amazing look back at love, loss, and family dynamics.

As a child, Beth Lowe's relationship with her mother, Marika, and father seemed solid. Summer vacations in Hungary provided Beth with memories she'd never forget. When Marika suddenly announces that Beth is to return to England with her father and that Marika is not joining them, Beth's world is shattered. Instead of family vacations, she's shuttled off to Hungary for one or two weeks a year and that's all she sees of her mother. Things go well until she discovers a long-hidden secret at the age of 16. She never sees her mother again.

Years later, she receives a package from her mother. After ridiculing her father for daring to bring something into her life, she settles down and starts to remember her past, her present, and her future.

This is a Kleenex kind of book. It's poignant, emotional, and if, like me, you make some judgments in the early stages of the book, prepare to be blown away towards the end. Given that, I do feel that a follow-up would be extremely appreciated.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Last Kiss - Luanne Rice

Released June 2009

Luanne Rice

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

In a follow-up to Beach Girls, Luanne Rice returns to Hubbard's Point, Connecticut. Nell Kilvert wants answers to the murder of her boyfriend Charlie. While Charlie's mom, Sheridan Rosslare, seems content never touching her music again and shutting herself off from most of the world, Nell isn't willing to do nothing. She hires Gavin Dawson, Sheridan's former beau, to investigate. Gavin agrees to look into Charlie's murder, and perhaps reunite with the woman who broke his heart. 

Last Kiss is a few years old now, but every now and then I'll hit a book sale and stock up on oldies that I missed. This is part mystery, part romance, and a powerful look at how different people handle their grief. I loved the story, loved the outcome, and now need to go read Beach Girls and see if author Luanne Rice has returned to Hubbard's Point again because I really want to see what becomes of the families there.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Fun News from Susan Mallery

Susan Mallery's shared a couple of fun news tidbits we me last night.

First, congratulations on Summer Days hitting #5 on New York Times! The book is available in hardcover, paperback, and the Kindle edition listed below.

Second, a copy of one of Susan's previous releases has a quote from Roundtable Reviews on it. That's always fun, but it's that this is the Dutch edition that really brought a smile to my face. The quote translates to: This is the best book I've ever read."

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Tears for the Mountain - Chris Rakunas

Released January 2012

Divertir Publishing

Tears for the Mountain is a touching, emotional look at the efforts by both the author and his travel partner Dr. Stephen Schroering shortly after Haiti's 7.0 earthquake. The pair set off to get necessary medical supplies to the New Life Children's Home, and this was not an easy mission. With very desperate Haitians looking for anything they could steal to save themselves and their families, the author and his friends faced some harrowing moments. At the same time, he also saw some things that would forever touch his heart.

Tears for the Mountain starts with the author having to defend his use of some short sentences. I find it sad that he had to include that. For me, the writing flowed perfectly capturing the tense encounters and the rush to get medical supplies to children and adults who were in desperate need of medications and bandages.

Some of the stories in this book will stick with me forever. A six month old who weighs six pounds and is literally starving to deal. My kids weighed far in excess of six pounds at birth, so that weight is simply frightening to me. There is a man with a broken leg that was set by a local healer in an improper fashion. There's also the story of a young child born with hydrocephalus, a condition that's easily treated in the United States, yet Haiti's doctors lacked the resources or perhaps knowledge to treat it.

If you've ever wondered about the inner workings of rescue efforts following a national disaster, you won't want to miss Tears for the Mountain. It's a very personal account that Chris Rakunas captures beautifully. Take note that the author is donating a portion of the proceeds from this book to New Life Children's Home.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Philosophical Practitioner - Larry Abrams

Released August 2011

Telemachus Press

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Larry Abrams' The Philosophical Practitioner is a short mystery involving a philosophical practitioner - -think counselor who uses philosophy instead of psychology. Eric is used to a variety of clients coming into his office, but he never expects one of them, a mysterious woman, to announce she's seeing him because she plans to kill someone. When he learns he's the person she plans to kill, she gives him a name and says that when he remembers that woman, he'll know why he's about to die. Eric races to figure out what he's done - if he's even done anything - and to figure out how he can prevent his death.

The premise for The Philosophical Practitioner is unique and certainly caught my attention. I had to keep reading to find out what Eric had done.  Despite this, I also found flaws with the writing that seemed to be more of a distraction. One is the obsession between the main character and his cat. I have cats, and I adore them. Given that, I now that others wouldn't necessarily enjoy my passion for my cats. Reading pages of "my cat couldn't decide whose lap to sit in or my cat greeted me and wanted immediate attention when I walked in the door" got under my skin again. There was too much focus on the main character's cat for my liking.

The other issue I had was the main character's actions. His attitude and actions seemed unrealistic to me. If I have a crazy woman threatening to kill me, I wouldn't be as dismissive as he is throughout the book. I had a hard time relating to his character for that reason.

In the end, The Philosophical Practitioner isn't a bad book, but it's not one I'd have for my keeper shelf.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Camp Cooking in the Wild - Mark Schriver, Wendy Grater, and Joanne Baker

Released April 2012

Fox Chapel Publishing

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Two authors of Camp Cooking in the Wild either work or own Black Feather Wilderness Adventure; the other is a former instructor for Canada's Outward Bound program. Using their understanding of being out in the wild, they've created a cookbook that is perfect for campfire cooking and touches on more than the heated canned foods that many campers rely on.

 The book covers everything you need to know about getting ready and cooking in the wild. It covers the equipment you need to bring, planning your menu, packing your food items, and basic cooking skills. There are loads of helpful tips in here that cover creating your fire, finding the best place to set up your cooking area, setting up a fire if it's raining, using a propane or alcohol stove, if you have one, and even how to properly clean and filet a fish. The authors also cover cleaning up when you're done and safely disposing of waste. From there, the recipes start. The organization is perfect and sections include:

Dinner, Appetizers, Side Dishes
Dinner, Main Dishes
Baked Goods

This is where the cookbook surprised me. I'm not much of a camper. I hate bugs too much to put myself in a situation where they are plentiful. My husband grew up camping, however, and I've heard his tales of his parents heating up baked beans in a can over a fire and then frying the trout they'd catch in the rivers the rest of the time. It honestly doesn't sound overly appealing. The authors blew me away with their recipes.

One of the first recipes in the breakfast section is a fruit compote. This is far from the meals I've heard of powered eggs being reconstituted with some boiled river water. Cranberry Almond Muffins,  Muesli, and Cinnamon Buns also caught my eye. For lunch, there are recipes like Chicken and Mandarin Pasta Salad and Mediterranean Potato Salad.

Skip ahead to dinner and you'll find a number of unique recipes. You'll find Sushi, Spicy Thai Peanut Tofu, Vegetarian Lasagna, and Deep Dish Pizzas. For dessert, there are recipes for Ice Cream, Camp Cake, and the classic S'mores. Finally, under baked goods, you'll find Yeast Bread, Bannock, and Cranberry Nut Bread. This isn't the camp cooking many experience out in the wilderness.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

All Summer Long - Susan Mallery

Released August 2012

Susan Mallery

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

I couldn't wait. After finishing Summer Nights, I was dying to read Charlie's story. Fool's Gold's firefighter is an amazingly strong woman, but her past definitely influences her present.

In All Summer Long, Charlie knows she must move beyond events from her past if she's going to be a good mother. Her goal is to adopt or go through in vitro in order to have the child she longs for, but after she's come to terms with her college years. She decides that Clay Stryker, former underwear model and complete hottie, is just the man to help her.

Clay is honored and a little amused that Charlie's turned to him. He'll do whatever it takes to help her, yet neither of them expect for a casual agreement between friends to blossom into love. As both have been hurt in their past, love is out of the question.

I've specifically written this review so that no spoilers from Summer Nights are given. I will not delve into what Charlie's true problem is, but I'll say that it really captures the pain she's lived with in childhood and her college years. It really helps explain why she's so strong, and even stubborn, without ever showing a weak side.

Once again, the romance is spectacular. But the thing that I really liked, Fool's Gold goes through a period of growth that makes me envious of anyone who lives in a town like this. I want to live in Fool's Gold, and if anyone knows a town that's like it, I'd love to know!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Welcome to Carson Springs - Eileen Goudge

Released May 2012

Eileen Goudge
Open Road

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Welcome to Carson Springs introduces the town of Carson Springs, California. The book shares the story of how Sam's parents (Sam is from Stranger in Paradise) met. It's the 1950's and Cora Delarosa is questioning if her husband really loves her or not. When a movie is filmed in town, the temptation of Hollywood may threaten to steal Cora away.

This is a really short story, it's just over 30 pages. Given that, it's a complete novella that draws you into the town and the characters within it. I immediately felt at home and wish I lived there. Eileen Goudge's story is followed by snippets from Stranger in Paradise and Taste of Honey, books one and two in the Carson Springs Trilogy.

The goodies don't stop there. The author also includes some of her decadent recipes. Enjoy recipes for Heavenly Triple-Decker Delight Brownies and Pina Colada Cake. My goal this rainy weekend is to make a couple pans of the brownies. I have to make two because I know my teens will devour them!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Free Book

Oceanview Publishing is giving away another free Kindle book. Details follow:

 One Day Only!
Saturday June 2, 2012
 The Kindle Deal:
The Deal
Click Cover for 
Free Kindle Download!
The Deal
Adam Gittlin

About the book:

Everything about Jonah Gray screams success - expensive clothes, a Park Avenue penthouse, and a seven-figure income. A cutthroat, rainmaking New York city commercial real estate broker, Jonah craves opulence and power. He beds models, romps the globe on the weekends and sees the world as his for the taking. Jonah Gray has it all. Or at least he had it all.

When a friend presents Jonah with the deal of a lifetime, Jonah jumps at the chance. All Jonah has to do is act quickly, invest half a billion dollars in prime NY office buildings, and collect a huge payoff. 

But this golden opportunity is anything but. Within days of signing on, Jonah is mysteriously thrust into the epicenter of an international and personal scandal.

Forced to explore a whole new territory where he can trust no one, and where danger, death and deception lurk at every corner, Jonah will learn some painfully hard lessons about the quest for easy money. 

Closing this deal could mean losing everything. 

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