Friday, August 31, 2012

Get Fluffy - Sparkle Abbey

Released March 2012

Sparkle Abbey
Bell Bridge Books

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

The second book in the "A Pampered Pets Mystery" series is just as delightful as the first. This time, it's Mel (Caro's cousin) who takes center stage. Those who read book one, Desperate Housedogs, know of Mel and Caro's longstanding feud over their grandmother's brooch. If you missed book one, Get Fluffy is still enjoyable, but having the background between Mel and Caro is an essential part of the experience.

Mel Langston owns the Bow Wow Boutique in Laguna Beach, and that puts her in the right spot to know all of the pampered pets in Laguna Beach. After throwing a glass of red wine at one of her prissier clients, Mona Michaels, during a fundraiser, shortly after being accused of giving another woman's dog fleas, Mel's had enough, even her boyfriend suggests she heads home to cool off.

The next day, Mel winds up with Mona's ritzy poodle, a pet star named Fluffy. When she drives out to Mona's house to return her, she stumbles upon Mona's body. Mel's cleared as a suspect, but her best friend isn't. While police keep telling her not to do her own snooping, much like her cousin, Mel can't resist the urge to get to the bottom of this high society murder.

I hated Mel in book one. I totally sided with Caro, but now that I've read Get Fluffy, I find I like both cousins equally. I honestly can't wait to read the next book in the series and witness more of the cousins' antics.

Mel is a spitfire with a tongue to match. Her call-it-as-I-see-it attitude had me snickering more times than I could count. If you enjoy pet-themed cozy mysteries, you can't go wrong with Sparkle Abbey's books.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Painter of Silence - Georgina Harding

Released September 2012

Bloomsbury Publishing

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

A Painter of Silence was to be released September 18th, but Amazon's already selling it, so you can get your hands on a copy now!

Set in Romania in the 1950s, readers are introduced to a bone-weary young man who collapses on the hospital steps. He's unable to talk, and he carries no identification. Luckily, a young nurse recognizes him as a boy from her childhood. He, Augustin, was the deaf, mute son of her family's cook. The pair were six months apart in age, so she knows him well. As she understands how to communicate with him, she sets off to learn about what caused this young man to wind up covered in lice and nearing death's door.

This is a poignant book where readers learn things right along with Safta, the nurse. The book travels from the time when Safta and Augustin grew up at the same time to the moment Safta realized the "John Doe's" identity. A Painter of Silence spans WWII and Stalin's reign. History buffs will adore the details Georgina Harding uses to capture the time, and I think any reader will love getting to know Safta and Augustin.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Open Books Project

User Generated eBook Program Asks Writers To Help Tell The Story

SANTA MONICA, CALIF. - (AUGUST 28, 2012): Mzure, an established leader in interactive technologies, has partnered with international eBook publishing house Osutoria Publishing to create Open Book Projects, a user-generated line of titles that will allow writers to participate in shaping stories for a chance to be published. 

“Mzure's expertise in interactive technology made it an easy fit to bring these principles to Osutoria’s eBooks and develop Open Book Projects,” said Chad McNeill, US Managing Partner. “This collaborative, interactive reading and writing experience is similar to a gaming environment where users travel through a narrative based on their decisions and interaction with gameplay. Years of building open-world gaming stories dovetail nicely into what we feel is a logical next step, a new form of entertainment built on a chapter by chapter basis.”

Open Book Projects is currently seeking aspiring creative writers who not only want to get involved in the story- telling process but who dream of becoming published authors. “Face” will be the first title launched through this collaborative writing initiative and authors whose chapter submissions are selected will receive a percent share of revenue generated by the “Face” eBook publication. Submissions that are not chosen will remain the intellectual property of the respective authors. 

 “As each chapter is revealed, ‘Face’ will grow and evolve, “continues McNeill. “We don’t know what the final piece will look like, or even what genre the story will belong to, we only know that it will be a collaborative reflection of the community that helps create it.”

Starting today through September 18, Chapter two submissions will be accepted at and will be reviewed by the Osutoria Publishing team. Winning chapters will be posted and subsequent potential authors will then have between 2-3 weeks to draft and submit the next chapter, thus continuing the “Face” story. Prospective authors and interested readers can access the first chapter of “Face” for free at

For additional information and current “Face” chapter submission deadlines, please visit the, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

OpenBookProjects is a user-generated content program that is devised of a number of titles. Launching with “Face,” OpenBookProjects invites writers to determine the story line and create a collection of individual episodes that can be strung together seamlessly to form a coherent story. OpenBookProjects was developed to give writers and readers free rein. One person begins a story without stipulating what happens next. At the end of every chapter, readers are invited to write their own version and thus develop an ongoing story that continually takes new twists and turns.

Mzure is a full service development firm specializing in interactive technology and innovative methods of content delivery. Early in the conception process, Mzure founders, Jim Bradbury and Chad McNeill, recognized a pattern in interactive technology design. While most companies were stretching their current application and interactive design capabilities to accommodate emerging platforms, Mzure’s founders realized that more specialized personnel and techniques were needed for these companies to realize their goals. Mzure delivers custom interactive content for clients looking to reach new, broad and emerging markets on multiple platforms. For more information on Mzure visit:

Osutoria Publishing is a content provider utilizing interactive eBooks to market authors’ content to an international audience. With fortified distribution channels, including Apple, Amazon and Barnes & Noble, competitive pricing policies and international marketing and public relations strategies, Osutoria Publishing prepares, markets, localizes and distributes content for various platforms and languages. Osutoria Publishing has more than 20 years of experience in the electronic entertainment industry and gives everyone the opportunity to be a published author by selecting books catered toward a digital and interactive format. Learn more about Osutoria Publishing at

An Echo Through the Snow - Andrea Thalasinos

Here's a book you shouldn't overlook! An Echo Through the Snow features a neglected Siberian Husky and a woman determined to save the dog and in turn ends up saving herself.

Don't miss your chance to learn more about the author either. Here's a brief Q&A with her:
Tell Roundtable Reviews' readers about your book.

It’s the story of how an act of kindness triggered a series of cascading events in many people’s lives.

Apparently the inspiration behind this novel all started with a Siberian Husky puppy. Tell us more about that.

The inspiration began with looking into the puppy’s background, the history of the breed. They’re different from other dogs and I was curious about them. But when I discovered the parallels between Native Americans and the treatment of many of the Peoples of the Russian Far East, I felt there was a story here that needed to be told. And particularly what happened to the Chukchi under Soviet collectivization and rule for generations until the collapse and transition into the Russian Federation. Also, I was curious as to what happened to the dogs that had been central to the lives of the Coastal Chukchi.

How much research and what kind did you put into An Echo Through the Snow?

I was ready to hop on a plane, but the realities of life wouldn’t let me. So I used the tremendous holdings of the University of Wisconsin Libraries and resources, as well as other articles and books I discovered through my travels. The most amazing cold weather photography collection, gave me current photographic ethnographies of how the Chukchi and surrounding people still live.

How does your educational background lend itself to your creative work?

While I don’t have formal training, e.g. MFA or other professional writing credentials that many have these days, I’m more driven by story and the storm of a creative idea. Being a sociologist myself, it’s often the creative tug of a social dilemma that precedes everything.

Where did you get the idea to create and then intertwine the two narratives?

While standing under a hot shower one day I realized the lives of these people were inextricably linked. The task became to allow it to happen. People tried to talk me out of it, rejected it because of it, and I suppose it might have worked more smoothly without doing that, or by focusing on one narrative or the other, but I couldn’t. That was how the story was conceived, that was how it had to be told otherwise I wouldn’t write it. It wasn’t stubbornness; it was organic, if I may use that word.

How did your real life relationship or impression of animals—specifically dogs— evolve while writing this tale?

Funny thing. As I began assembling this story, I also began assembling my own sled dog team. I started with one husky and ended up with six. My kids and I ran them for eight years through the snowy hills of Wisconsin. We had a ball!! Some of the best and fondest memories. When you have that many dogs (and YES they DID all live in the house, on the couch, sleeping in beds with my kids) you see pack dynamics and interactions that others miss when they only have one or two dogs.

What similarities do you see between Jeaantaa and Rosalie?

Both are trapped in marriages, but more importantly the dogs become more important than their lives or safety. Neither thinks of their well-being before the dogs, especially Rosalie as she moves to save Smokey. 

Who, in your opinion, is your target audience?

People who love history, animals, are curious about dog sledding, and are interested in what someone from Library Journal called, and I’m paraphrasing“…history’s darker corners.”

A Life Worth Living - Lorrie Kruse

Released July 2012

Lorrie Kruse
Storyteller Publishing

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Lorrie Kruse pens an emotionally-charged romance that readers shouldn't overlook. A Life Worth Living captures the pain and turbulent struggle as one man comes face-to-face with a debilitating injury following a tragic accident. Matthew Huntz wakes up in the hospital where he learns he damaged his spine and is now paralyzed from the waist down.

Matthew's due to be married soon, and his injury has his fiancee flustered. He's pretty sure she wants out, but she seems too polite to say so, and that only adds insult to injury. It's going to take the determination of his physical therapist to show Matthew that life in a wheelchair doesn't mean life has to end. He's determined to prove to the world that his paralysis is only temporary.

A Life Worth Living reminds me of an incident that happened when I was a teen where a friend of my brother's dove into a pool and became permanently paralyzed. He had a lot of anger too. Matthew's struggles in the book reminded me of that real-life situation so many years ago.

I really liked the realism. Matt's often snarky with those around him. His comments and their responses seem accurate to what you'd expect, and then there are the adorable actions of his young, innocent niece to throw him off course from time to time. This book is a romance, but it's also an impressive piece of fiction as Matthew adapts to the changes thrown his way.

This book did surprise me. It's a book I would happily read over and over. It's an impressive debut.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Art of Emotional Self-Defense - Sonja Carl Gilligan

Released October 2011

Sonja Carl Gilligan
Epigraph Publishing

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

The Art of Emotional Self-Defense has one goal: "To get you to feel good about yourself." The author does this by introducing you to the four feelings that shape you as a person: anger, fear, love, and pain. This all seems pretty simplistic at heart, but as you read, you really do start to take away important pieces that can help you change and improve your daily life.

Sonja Carl Gilligan's book sometimes reads like an autobiography, complete with pictures, and I think that's in part because the material within started as a very personal experiment of a sort. The book stems from a character study the author started after attending an "encounter group" in the 1960s. This led the author, her husband, and a friend to realize that people's behavioral patterns usually linked back to their mother. The husband and wife team eventually founded Fusion Groups and continued their studies of human behavior.

As I read, I found myself intrigued with the author's perceptions. In part because I started to relate to her. I have a family history of anxiety attacks. They go back to my maternal grandmother and in each case, the anxiety usually started in the 20s after the birth of a child. I've always suspected that hormonal levels play an issue, but the medical world really isn't all that advanced when it comes to studying anxiety.

When the author reached the feeling of "fear," for me, "fear" happens without explanation. I can be in the middle a relaxing activity (watching a movie in the theater, sleeping, reading a book, taking a walk, cooking a meal) and suddenly have that rush of adrenaline that something is wrong, though realistically, nothing is, it's just my overactive fight-or-flight response kicking in. For me, and people like me, fear often comes without a logical reason. The author had a reason, for myself, my children, my aunts, my cousins, and my mother - there seems to be nothing more than a genetic link. I'm still convinced it deals with hormones because in each case with older relatives, the onset of menopause eliminated the anxiety attacks completely.

As I kept reading, I found myself intrigued by her studies and classifications of people. This book does contain a lot of autobiographical content and pictures, and that really helps to personalize the author. In the end, I'm not sure how much The Art of Emotional Self Defense truly helped me. I supposed that all depends on what you want to get out of it. It did make for interesting reading though.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Mark Twain & The Colonel - Philip McFarland

Released July 2012

Philip McFarland
Rowman & Littlefield

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

If you've ever wanted a detailed historical view into the late-1800s and early-1900s, grab a copy of Mark Twain & The Colonel. Author Philip McFarland leaves no stone unturned when his look into the differing viewpoints on politics and life between author Mark Twain (Samuel L. Clemens) and President Theodore Roosevelt. At times sad and other times upbeat and witty, the detailed biographies capture the men's strengths, weaknesses, and passions in amazing fashion.

I'm not much of a history buff. My interest in history was shot down during school when we had to learn by the textbook and memorize every little detail or be ridiculed and failed by teachers. When there's no passion instilled, it's hard to find any interest in the subject. Philip McFarland changed that for me. He starts out presenting men I could relate to. Imagine losing your mother and wife in the same day (Roosevelt) or having your children die before you (Twain/Clemens). That is a pain that I simply can't imagine.

Twain and Roosevelt had different feelings on the growth of the nation. That comes through clearly in McFarland's book. Through quotes and historic events, you learn about the era and what made each men tick. This is a comprehensive look that did keep me involved. If I, as someone uninterested in history, could find the book that compelling, anyone truly interested in history will want Mark Twain & The Colonel for their keeper shelf.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Dishing Up Romance - Carolyn Hughey

Released April 2012

Carolyn Hughey
Avalon Books

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Dishing Up Romance takes contemporary romance and mixes it with a few recipes. In essence, you end up with something similar to a culinary mystery but in the romance genre. It's a great twist, and one I've been saying would be marketable for years. Quite simply, romance and food do tend to go hand in hand, especially when you're trying to impress that certain someone.

 Cassie Pirelli's job in finance ended when her firm closed their doors for good. A change of career was exactly what Cassie felt was necessary, so she started working for her father's friend launching a culinary career. Things are going great, though the money isn't the same, but Cassie's determined to make it work.

When her parents announce they're closing the family deli and plan to give Cassie the space to open her own cooking school/kitchen store, she's eager to make it work. With a handsome contractor ready to convert the space to that of her dreams, she never imagines romance might enter the picture. Does she really have time to balance the launch of a new business and the attentions of a man who takes her breath away?

The book mixes the romance with the recipes seamlessly. There are a few recipes I plan to try immediately, and tonight's goal is the "I Don't-Need-No-Stinkin'-Gateway-To-A-Man's-Heart Meatballs in Tomato Sauce" and then the "Mama's-Dreamin'-Tiny-Toes Molten Lava Cakes." I'll update the reviews to share how the recipes turned out. The addition of raisins in the meatball recipe has me curious. I know that tomatoes and raisins complement each other, so that recipe intrigues me.

As far as the romance aspect goes, Cassie is a little standoffish for my tastes. It's surprising Josh waited given all of her "friends-only" signals. Granted she's been hurt before, but I guess my thoughts on romance are far different to the average person. I've always been an "if it's there, give it a shot and find out" kind of person.

Amazon's selling this book for under $5. You can't beat that price. As this is a book that will likely end up on your keeper shelf, if only for the delicious recipes, I say go treat yourself to a romance/cookbook!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The M.D.'s Secret Daughter - Jacqueline Diamond

Released September 2012

Jacqueline Diamond

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Jan Garcia's come from Texas to launch a new egg donor program at Safe Harbor Medical. Along with Jan comes her young daughter, a girl who is headstrong and determined to get either a kitten or a new dad. Jan soon learns she'll be working closely with Dr. Zach Sargent, a man she knows well. In fact, Zach is the father of her daughter, and he doesn't realize that Jan didn't put their daughter up for adoption all of those years ago.

When Zach learns he's a a dad, his life becomes complicated. He wants to be part of his daughter's life, but his stepdaughter isn't quite as thrilled with the prospect of having to share him. Balancing work with the possibility of rekindling an old romance is challenging, but toss in a jealous child and he's out of his league.

Jan's never gotten over Zach, but can she really allow him back in her life? He hurt her badly before, so how does she know things won't play out in the same miserable fashion.

This is another in the long-line of Safe Harbor romances. Past characters make appearances, but the story is clearly on Zach, Jan, and their girls. I really enjoyed how it played out, though I admit that Zach's overprotective nature drove me nuts. I did like watching him soften as he spent more time with Jan and their daughters.

If you want a short novel to fill a few hours at the beach or while picking up kids at school, you can't go wrong with The M.D.'s Secret Daughter. At barely more than a cup of coffee, it's a book that leaves you satisfied without draining your bank account.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Real Intimacy - Kristin Hodson, et al.

Released August 2012

Kristin B. Hodson, MSW, LSCW
Alisha B. Worthington, BSW, SSW
Thomas G. Harrison, MSW, LSCW
Cedar Fort

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

I have to admit, I was a little surprised by the content in Real Intimacy: A Couple's Guide to Healthy, Genuine Sexuality. I admit to being a little biased, at first anyway, and basing that bias on a friend I had in high school. She was a member of the Latter Day Saints, and any sexually-related joke or discussion about sex in front of her was extremely taboo. She'd scold us for daring broach the subject in front of her before fleeing the area. I guess, I always figured that was just the lay of the land with that religion, and I apologize for being wrong.

Real Intimacy delves into the topics that many couples want to ask but don't know how. The guide starts with the question about intimacy. Is intimacy simply sexual or can it be more? I really like what I read!

The authors don't skip over anything. They do talk plenty about sex itself, but they also talk about the more intimate acts that make couples feel that special closeness - a simple back rub, holding hands, a whispered compliment, etc. They do discuss sex in an honest, often amusing, way, linking each chapter with real-life stories of everyday couples. They don't skip over anything either. They talk about orgasms and the genetic difference between men and women when it comes to sex. They talk about the effects of pregnancy on a sexual relationship, common mistakes people make that can dampen their sex life, and hurdles couples face remaining sexually active over the years.

They also talk about same-sex partnerships, and that, to me, was really refreshing. I live in a state where the passage of civil unions led to huge protests and some of the worst discrimination I have seen in my life. It's nice to hear a religious group not put same-sex couples down, when so many others do.

This really is a comprehensive look at what it takes to keep a marriage or partnership together. It's full of insight, personal accounts, and questions you can use to reflect back on what you've read. If you need help becoming intimate with your spouse or partner and don't know where to turn, Real Intimacy is the perfect solution.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Life Drawing for Beginners - Roisin Meaney

Released August 14, 2012

Roisin Meaney
Grand Central Publishing

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Life Drawing for Beginners captures vignettes of a group of strangers whose lives are interwoven, even if they don't at first realize it. This is a fun piece of fiction that really captures the setting well, and then draws you into each life as you try to figure out how the different characters connect.

Single woman Audrey Matthews opts to teach a life drawing course to bring in some additional cash. Five students - a young Polish man, a single dad, a young woman trying to start up a preschool, a bored housewife, and a young woman who's pregnant - all sign up. That leaves a model, and Audrey finds a single mom who needs some extra cash. The rag tag group meet weekly to learn all about life drawing.

Outside of the class, Audrey purchases a puppy she spies in a pet store window. The surly owner leaves a lot to be desired, but Audrey cannot ignore the puppy, or the fact that the pet store owner has answers to her questions about raising a training a pet.

Over a span of weeks, the connections between the men and women in Audrey's circle become clear, but no one has a clue as to what life is about to bring them.

This really is a fun story. It's not really a romance, though there are romantic aspects. It's not really general fiction either. It's a great character study, and an involving story that keeps you hooked until you reach the end.

Given that, I hope the author brings us back to Carrickbawn in the future. I have this feeling there are far more stories waiting to be told in this small Irish village.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Project Cookbook: A Homeschooling Adventure - Alicia and Anna Bodine

Released August 2012

Create Space

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

I'm a cookbook fanatic. I own a bookcase full of cookbooks and have others that never leave my kitchen. Those with tried and true recipes hold their place in my banquet. I have a few requirements for cookbooks. There should be photos, and I don't mean the photos that are so perfect you know they're fake, and the recipes should be complete. I have had cookbook authors "forget" to list the temperature, leave out ingredients only to have them suddenly appear in the directions, or put in measurements that could not possibly be accurate. When reviewing cookbooks, that's what I focus on to start.

Project Cookbook: A Homeschooling Adventure is a cute project dreamed up by a writer I know and her homeschooled daughter. Blending Bible study with cooking, they've come up with a unique spin on a family-friendly cookbook. Every recipe has a photo of the finished project, special comments, and it's clear all recipes were checked carefully before the book went to the publisher.

There are 50 recipes in all ranging from snacks to beverages, breakfasts to dinner. Desserts also hold their place within the book. Each recipe shares a character from the Bible and a quote relating to that person.

One thing I learned from this cookbook is that Alicia and I have more in common than I could imagine. I opened a page to Zuppa Toscana, my favorite soup, and was amazed at how close she's gotten it, and her comments about not having an Olive Garden anywhere close, I sympathize, ours is just under 40 miles away too. The homemade Adam's Amazing Pop Tarts look just that - amazing, as do the Gabriel's Grasshopper Cupcakes. My daughter saw the Benjamin's Bacon Cheese Cups and immediately asked if I could make them but leave out the bacon as she's a vegetarian, and the recipes are all simple enough that substitutions would not be a problem. We swapped the bacon for red bell peppers and everyone loved them.

My readers know that I always base reviews on the book price. At first glance, I wasn't sure the book was worth the asking price when there are larger, mass-marketed cookbooks for similar prices. However, this cookbook really is one of a kind and comes from the heart. That makes it stand out, and therefore changed my first impression. Everyone needs a unique cookbook on their shelf, especially one where the recipes are huge hits with all ages. Project Cookbook: A Homeschooling Adventure certainly fits that requirement in spades.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Ivy & Bean Blog-A-Bration: Week One

Everyone loves freebies! Each week for the next eight weeks, Chronicle Books are giving away a copy of one Ivy and Bean paperback and mini notes.

For week one, one lucky reader from this blog will be chose to win the weekly prize package. The lucky winner is also entered to win the grand prize package that includes: 
  • 1 set of Ivy and Bean Paper Dolls
  •  1 Ivy and Bean Button Factory
  •  1 Ivy and Bean READ Poster signed by Annie Barrows
  • 1 Set of Ivy and Bean Silly Bandz
  • 1 Set of Ivy and Bean stickers
  • AND – a super-secret really cool prize we’re working on (stay tuned!) 
This week's book giveaway is the first book in the Ivy & Bean series.

 Entering is easy. Simply leave a comment or email roundtablereviews at gmail. That's all it takes and the winner will be notified Monday morning.

Safe House - Chris Ewan

Released August 2012

Chris Ewan
Faber and Faber

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

After awakening from a motorcycle crash in Isle of Man, Rob Hale's immediate question is how was his passenger - Lena - a beautiful blonde he'd just met. Rob is stunned when no one knows what he's talking about. He is certain the head injury is not creating things that didn't exist, but no one has ever heard of this woman.

Rob's sister recently committed suicide, and her request to her parents was to hire PI Rebecca Lewis if anything were to happen to her. Teaming up with Rebecca, Rob sets out to uncover the truth about Lena and learns there is far more to this situation than he ever could have imagined.

From the first page, I admit that I was hooked in Rob's story. For a while, the reader really doesn't know if Rob's simply remembering things that never happened or if there is something going on. As Rob and Rebecca unravel the mystery, the reader gets a front seat to their discoveries and reactions. It's a lot of fun and really makes you feel like part of the story.

I do admit there is a little bit to keep track of. The story ends up jumping around from Rob's perspective, to some of the officers, and even to Lena's. You do have to make sure you're paying attention to the different characters at first. Once you have them straight, it's easy to follow the shifts.

Safe House is a UK release with Faber and Faber. Amazon does list used copies of the Faber and Faber August release, but Minotaur has scheduled a December hardcover and Kindle U.S. release. If you can't find a copy of August's hardcover release, don't worry too much because it will be available through Minotaur soon.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Fatal Dive: Solving the World War II Mystery of the USS Grunion - Peter F. Stevens

Released July 30, 2012

Regnery History

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

For anyone who's ever watched and loved History's MysteriesFatal Dive: Solving the World War II Mystery of the USS Grunion is a must-read. In 1942, during WWII, dozens of families learned that their loved ones' naval submarine vanished without a trace. For the Abele family, his wife was left to fill the role of single mom to her three growing boys. Those boys always wondered what happened to their father, the submarine's commander, and their perseverance, and a little lucky, helped solve this baffling mystery.

Fatal Dive covers all of the bases. You get to know the family, the events leading up to the disappearance, and then the quest to uncover the truth. For 70 families, the truth would finally offer closure, though for some it did come a little too late.

At the end is a quick look into each of the men on board the Grunion and more information into their lives and the messages their families sent to the Abele family after the submarine disappeared or when the truth was revealed. That, to me, was the hardest part of the book and the one that had me tearing up.

Fatal Dive is an excellent piece of non-fiction and a must-have for any history buff's shelf.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Scott Pilgrim: Precious Little Life - Bryan Lee O'Malley

Released August 2012

Bryan Lee O'Malley
Nathan Fairbairn
Oni Press

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

My introduction to Scott Pilgrim came from the movie. Scott Pilgrim: Precious Little Life is a hardcover reissue that shares Scott's battles with a potential girlfriend's seven exes. The novel starts with Scott introducing his new, albeit younger, girlfriend to his bandmates and friends. When he meets the women of his dreams, he learns he must battle her seven exes in order to date her, and dating her is exactly what he wants.

If you've seen the movie or read the books, you'll think nothing's new, but there are some new features, and most importantly it's in color, so there's definitely value to this hardcover release. At the end of the graphic novel are details into the characters and information on how the books came about.

Having read this book, I have to say now that I can see how well they did with casting Scott's character. Michael Cera did a great job. The book is just as much fun as the movie was, and I know see why there is such a huge following.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Think Outside the Diet to Make Weight Loss Last

Have you ever lost weight and gained it back? You’re not alone: that’s what happens to most dieters.  Obesity researchers Deborah Kesten’s and Larry Scherwitz’ new book Make Weight Loss Last reveals there’s more to being a successful loser than eating less and exercising more.  


The real secrets to being a successful weight loser involve addressing the underlying—and often remarkable—reasons we pack on pounds.  The weight-loss success you achieve and maintain is based on the crucial eating and lifestyle choices you make each day. Here they are:

Eat Fresh Food

Tasty or not, fast food full of added fat, sugar, and salt; and greasy, fried fare, are two of the key causes of weight gain. To turn the tide, you have to choose fresh whole food in its natural state as often as possible. Make lots of fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans and nuts and seeds your most-of-the time way of eating, with lesser amounts of lean fish, poultry, meat and dairy.

Create a Positive Relationship to Food

Although dieting, judging food as “good” or “bad,” anxiety about food, and thinking a lot about the “best” way to eat may not seem to have much in common, they are all characteristics of a “food fretter,” and increased odds of overeating and weight gain. To get off the food-fretting treadmill, perceive food and eating as one of life’s greatest pleasures. Choose wisely and enjoy it.

Focus on Your Food

Give up eating while doing other activities—such as working, driving, or watching TV. Stay mindful, keep focused, and do one thing at a time. Stop working and don’t eat at your desk.  Don’t read while you eat, don’t watch TV while you eat, and don’t drive while you eat. Instead, eat when you eat. 

Pay Attention to How You Feel                                                                                                                    

Stop yourself from eating to soothe negative emotions or out-of-control food cravings. “Emotional eating” is the #1 predictor of overeating and weight gain. To get control, pause and pay attention to your feelings.  Get in touch with your feelings before, during, and after eating. Make a conscious choice to eat for the pleasure. Eat when you have a healthy appetite and don’t allow yourself to get too hungry. Experience feel-good emotions when you eat and enjoy yourself.

Eat with Other People 

Eat alone less, eat with people more often. Eating alone can promote overeating. Snacking secretly is one obvious source of needless calories. When it’s time to eat a meal, invite others to join you at your table. Sharing mealtimes with friends, family, or coworkers will help keep you from overeating.

Dine by Design                                                                                                                      

Think about the atmosphere in which you’ll be eating ahead of time. Both the psychological and the aesthetic surroundings when you dine can influence overeating and your weight. To reap the rewards, each time you eat, design your own dining experience by creating an emotional and physical atmosphere that’s as pleasant as possible.

Feed Your Senses

Your senses have an amazing impact on your appetite and weight. Slow down and pay attention to the food before you through your eyes, ears, nose, and taste buds. Look at and notice the colors, the smells, the aromas. Pay attention to the look, the feel and the texture of the food. Appreciating food through your senses wards off overeating. Think about the food, where it comes from, and how it got to your table. Develop more appreciation in your heart for the food before you.

Quit Chemical Cuisine

Obesogens are the manmade chemicals—plastics and pesticides—which have found their way into our food supply and beverages. They wreak their havoc on weight by mimicking estrogen, a hormone that can make you fat. The solution?  Just say no. A key way to avoid consuming “chemical cuisine” is by staying away from bisphenol A (BPA) found in canned foods, bottled beverages, meat packed in plastic, and more.

Sleep More, Weigh Less

Getting enough sleep is a key ingredient in managing weight. If you sleep less than five hours a night, the odds of your becoming obese is upped by 73 percent!  Just an hour more decreases the amount of ghrelin, a hormone your body produces that can cause weight gain. Better yet, get 7 hours of sleep every night to protect yourself from the sleep less-weigh more cycle.

Get moving

Burning calories and speeding up your metabolism with physical activity helps you stay slim. Exercise also nourishes your body, mind, and soul with a flood of feel-good feelings produced by naturally occurring hormones. To optimize weight loss, exercise in the morning when your body is more likely to burn fat for energy. Keep workouts to 45 minutes or less to lower the odds of producing cortisol, a stress hormone that can activate body fat.

You can change the way you think about dieting, losing weight, and keeping it off. It works because you focus on the underlying reasons you overeat and gain weight, as well as the solutions you need to turn overeating into optimal eating.

The end result: attain and maintain optimal weight…for life.

For more information visit and

About the Authors


Deborah Kesten, MPH, is an international nutrition researcher and educator, with a specialty in preventing and reversing obesity and heart disease. She was the nutritionist on Dr. Dean Ornish’s first clinical trial for reversing heart disease through lifestyle changes, and co-principal investigator on innovative research about eating styles that lead to overeating, overweight, and obesity, the results of which were published in Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing. With more than three hundred published nutrition and health articles, she is also the award-winning author of Feeding the Body, Nourishing the Soul.

Larry Scherwitz, PhD, is an international research scientist who has specialized in mind-body research and lifestyle medicine and their link to preventing and reversing heart disease and obesity. He has extensive experience initiating and directing comprehensive, sustainable, lifestyle-change programs with heart patients and their families includes directing seven Lifestyle programs (four in the United States, three in Europe). Dr. Scherwitz’s  research—including his ground-breaking discovery linking self-involvement to risk of heart attack and death from heart attack—has been published in a numerous medical journals, including the Journal of the American  Medical Association, The Lancet, and Psychosomatic Medicine. He has also been director of research and co-principal investigator with Dean Ornish, MD, on his heart disease reversal research.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Hard Target - Alan Jacobson

Released May 2012

Alan Jacobson
Premier Digital Publishing

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Hard Target all starts with the downed helicopter the vice president and president-elect is riding in. For a helicopter that's supposed to stand up to most any attack, to have it crash land and leave the VP seriously injured and many dead is something the government cannot stand for. They want to know who caused the explosion that brought it down. FBI Agent Aaron Uziel, Uzi for short, and DOD covert operative Hector DeSantos are brought in to unravel the truth.

What they find is that this terrorist plot goes much more deeply than anyone could imagine. Staying one step ahead of a ruthless killer is never easy, but Uzi's past has proven that he's tough and not going to stand for the deaths of innocent people.

One thing that author Alan Jacobson does well is keep you on the edge of your seat. Ever since we brought a new puppy into our home, I've been doing 10 p.m. bedtimes and 4 a.m. rises to keep with the potty needs of a little one. It's exhausting. Meanwhile, my intentions on going to bed early to catch up on some sleep were waylaid by this book. I admit that terrorism and government-based suspense books aren't always my cup of tea, but Hard Target kept me involved. Bottom line, I really liked Uzi's character and wanted to get to know more of what makes him tick.

I certainly hope that this isn't the last readers will hear of Uzi. I want him to appear in future novels and hope the author turns his character's cases into a series. I'd be first in line.


San Francisco, July 31, 2012 – Day Street Press, an ebook publisher launched by the founder of a 1,500-strong writer’s group based in San Francisco, announced today the publication of its first title: Gene Pool: Unnatural Selection, a science fiction novel by futurist and author R. A. Finlayson. Gene Pool: Unnatural Selection is now available on, B& and the iBook store for the Kindle, Nook, iPad and iPhone.

“The book publishing paradigm has rapidly evolved over the past few years with the explosive growth of e-readers, but services to support independent authors have lagged behind,” explained Rennie Saunders, founder of Shut Up & Write! and president of Day Street Press. “We want to help fill that gap by helping writers who are committed to their craft publish successfully. We are very excited to bring our first title to market, and especially gratified that it is from one of the founding members of Shut Up & Write!”  

Gene Pool: Unnatural Selection would never exist and would never have made it to market without the support of Rennie and fellow members of Shut Up & Write!,” said R. A. Finlayson, Gene Pool author. “Obviously it’s an exciting day for me, but the publication of Gene Pool: Unnatural Selection marks the next evolution in book publishing where authors take control of their own destiny. As an author, I’m convinced Day Street Press is the future of book publishing.”

About Gene Pool: Unnatural Selection
Set 50 years in the future, Gene Pool: Unnatural Selection is the first of a four-part series and explores a world in which biologic engineers enable human beings to control their own evolution. For more information about the book, visit the website or Facebook or Twitter pages. Gene Pool: Unnatural Selection is available for Kindle, Nook and iPad/iPhone for $7.99 in the U.S. A free sample chapter is available on the website. ISBN Number: 9780985958268.

About the Author
R. A. Finlayson is a futurist and marketer who has spent the last 10 years helping startups and major brands launch a range of new products, from TiVo to Xbox, working alongside some of the most innovative minds of our age. He brings to his work a passion for technology and a keen eye for the products and services that are changing the fabric of our society. Formerly a journalist who covered the U.S. Congress for several daily newspapers, Gene Pool: Unnatural Selection is his first novel.

About Day Street Press and Shut Up & Write!
Founded in San Francisco, Shut Up & Write! is a group of more than 1,500 writers who meet regularly in cafes across the city to write and exchange ideas. Currently Shut Up & Write! has chapters across the Bay Area and in New York City. Day Street Press is an ebook publisher founded to help writers publish their work. Day Street Press is launching later this year a web-based service portal to provide a wide range of support services to writers, from ebook formatting support to editing, marketing and social media services. For information about Shut Up & Write! or to join the group click here.
Like Gene Pool: Unnatural Selection on Facebook.
Follow Gene Pool: Unnatural Selection on Twitter.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Skin - Max Allan Collins & Mickey Spillane

Released July 2012

Max Allan Collins
Mickey Spillane

Book Review by Jen Beams

Detective Mike Hammer faces probably the most disturbing case late into his career. When a pile of human remains is discovered on the side of the road, Hammer is determined to piece together the mystery. This determination is only fueled when a good-looking news reporter and her camera man, two of the first few at the scene with Hammer, mysteriously disappear. Somewhere out there is a deeply disturbed suspect who wants to make sure he leaves no witnesses, or detectives for that matter, to report his crimes.

As I read in the author’s note, the first author, Mickey Spillane, left manuscripts for many short stories for his co-author, Max Allan Collins, to finish and publish after Spillane’s death. This particular story is from later in Spillane's career and it seems there is an entire Mike Hammer series. I’d definitely read more of these stories. If Collins were to combine these short stories into a collection, it’s something I’d absolutely invest in.

I expected more virtue from Detective Hammer. The ending was especially cruel of him, but I'll leave it to the reader to discover what I mean. However, not having read about any of his other mysteries, I wouldn’t know about a probable backstory to his less-than-moral conduct. Part of me wanted to read more character development and more details regarding the motive of the deranged murderer, while part of me was glad to be left to use my imagination for certain aspects you come across while reading Skin. Plus, it is a short story and by its nature, would not contain as many details as a novel.

Overall, I was impressed with the story and it was a quick and easy read; perfect for the busy man or woman. I would like to read more from Spillane and Collins. 

Editor's Note: I'm going to show my age a little here, but for any reader unfamiliar with Mike Hammer, if you have a Netflix Instant Watch account, you can catch a Mike Hammer movie, My Gun is Quick. There were also three different spins on television: Mike Hammer, starring Darren McGavin, ran from 1958 to 1959; The New Mike Hammer, starring Stacy Keach, ran from 1984 to 1989; and then Mike Hammer, Private Eye, again starring Stacy Keach, from 1997 to 1998. You can get more insight into Mickey Spillane's characters through any of these.

You Can Go Your Own Way by Eric Smith

 Release Date - October 25, 2022 After his dad's death, Adam Stillwater and his mom do everything in their power to keep the family...