Monday, September 30, 2013

Non-fiction Review - Attached at the Heart by Barbara Nicholson and Lysa Parker

Release Date - August 2013

Barbara Nicholson & Lysa Parker
HCI Books

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

One thing that I immediately noticed with Attached at the Heart is the writing style. This isn't a parenting guide that is written to sound more like a textbook than helpful guide, it's personable and engaging, even when numerous sources are given.

The book is divided into eight principles:

  • Charting a New Course
  • Prepare Yourself for Birth, Pregnancy, and Parenting
  • Feed With Love and Respect
  • Responding With Sensitivity
  • Using Nuturing Touch
  • Ensure Safe Sleep
  • Provide Consistent, Loving Care
  • Practice Positive Discipline
  • Strive for Balance in Your Personal and Family Life
Personally, I never saw the need for a parenting book. I went with instincts, and that suited me just fine. For many parents, I think intuition goes much farther than taking the advice of a stranger. However, I do have friends who would definitely benefit because parenting didn't come easy to them, so it's almost like they gave up trying. That's where I think Attached at the Heart really helps.

Do I agree with everything they say? No, but I do agree with a lot of what they say and feel that makes it a very worthwhile book.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Cozy Mystery Review - The Whole Enchilada by Diane Mott Davidson

Release Date - August 27, 2013

William Morrow

Book Review by Bob Walch

Here’s another Goldy Schultz adventure to sink your teeth into. The caterer and sometimes sleuth really has her plate full this time. First, a good friend drops dead as she leaves a birthday party catered by Goldy. Hope it wasn’t something she ate!

After a fellow caterer who resembles Goldy is stabbed and then Goldy is attacked outside her own home, it looks like someone is out to get the popular caterer.

Obviously, Goldy is either being targeted for some reason or this is a mega-case of mistaken identity. Either way, it’s time to leave the kitchen to track down this deranged or confused killer who is making Goldy’s life a little too exciting.

As with the previous 17 novels in this delicious, culinary mystery series, you’ll find some mouthwatering recipes at the back of the book. You can whip up a batch of Spicy Brownies to nibble while reading or enjoy some Enchiladas Suizas or one of Goldy’s Chef Salads afterwards.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Historical Fiction Review - Somewhere Down the Line: The Legend of Boomer Jack by Timothy Martin

Release Date - July 31, 2013

Neverland Publishing Company

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Just a week ago, my family and I wanted a movie starring Richard Gere (Hatchi) that brought tears to my eyes. It was based on the true story of a dog that was so devoted to his owner that even after his owner died unexpectedly, the dog continued to sit at the train station and wait for him every day. Somewhere Down the Line: The Legend of Boomer Jack was different, yet evoked the same feelings of a dog's passion for those who loved him.

Also based on a true story, Boomer Jack was the mayor's wife's dog, but Boomer Jack loved trains. As a result, Boomer often ran off to ride the rails. Meanwhile, a drunken dog catcher was equally determined to catch Boomer simply for the reason that he hates dogs. When a stray attacks local farm animals, the dog catcher takes it upon himself to peg Boomer as the vicious dog and sets out to capture Boomer once and for all.

Sara Parsons is a young girl whose father died in a train accident. Sara bonds with Boomer Jack and feels that he is truly her pet. When she realizes Boomer is in danger no thanks to the dog catcher, she urges him to leave her, no matter how painful, but Boomer follows his instincts, even when it might lead to his capture.

Somewhere Down the Line: The Legend of Boomer Jack is a very quick read. It's only 124 pages, so you can easily have it read in just an hour or two. It's an intriguing story, despite its brevity, and certainly never felt rushed to reach the conclusion, a problem I find in novellas.

The length does make it tricky for me. As many know, my reviews are always based with the one question "Is it worth the price?" The price for Boomer Jack's story is $10 to $11, depending on the vendor. I'm not convinced I'd be okay spending that much money on this story. It's a good story, but not one I'd have for my keeper shelf. If it was a less expensive e-book, I'd eagerly recommend it, but for a small paperback that's not even the width of a pencil eraser, I think the price is a little steep.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

General Fiction Review: The Christmas Tin by Roderick J. Robison

Release Date - November 28, 2012


Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

For years, Jesse Maclean has placed a Christmas tin in his family's window, and this year his daughter asks why. He'd been trying to come up with a story to tell his family for Christmas, and her question provides the perfect answer. He's going to explain how the Christmas tin came about and why the treasures within it are more important than any gift purchased at a store.

I know it's not yet the holiday season, but stores are already putting up Christmas displays. Plus, this is the time of year when the rush of Christmas-themed stories come out. I wanted to kick off the holiday book season with The Christmas Tin.

The Christmas Tin really covers a number of decades starting centuries ago. Most of the story takes place when Jesse was a youngster and working a paper route to bring in extra money when his father heads off to the Vietnam War. There are tearjerker moments, but overall it was the message of faith that shined through and made me really enjoy the story. There's even a touch of O'Henry's The Gift of the Magi within the book. As that is my favorite Christmas story, I felt it was a nice touch.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Paranormal Review - The Returned by Jason Mott

Release Date - September 2013

Jason Mott

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

In 1966, Harold and Lucille Hargrave's world shattered when their eight-year-old son drowned during his birthday party. Now in their 70s, their world is rocked once again when Jacob returns looking exactly as he did decades ago.

Jacob is not the first of the deceased to return. Around the world, deceased loved ones are returning to their families at an alarming rate. The government is baffled. These people are not like zombies, they seem to be exactly as they were before they died, but there's also no explanation as to why the dead are returning to life. While many are happy to have a second chance with their loved ones, others are highly suspicious of what the dead have come back and that they may be here to unleash evil.

The Returned is a fascinating story. Jason Mott explains that the book stemmed from a very vivid dream he had in which he was able to talk to his deceased mother to get closure. The story goes into so many layers beyond that, however. It really delves into the human emotions of what we know of life and death.

I've learned that ABC created a television series from this book. It's been retitled Resurrection and airs March 9, 2014.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Mystery/Suspense Review - Never Tell by Alafair Burke

Release Date - May 2013

Alafair Burke

Book Review by Bob Walch

When the daughter of a legendary punk rock producer is found dead in the bathtub, her mother suspects foul play. NYPD detective Ellie Hatcher and her partner, J.J. Rogan, are more than willing to accept the teenager’s suicide note which was found in her bedroom.

As the girl’s parents exert pressure, Hatcher begrudgingly agrees to do a cursory investigation of the situation, which means talking to the deceased youngster’s school friends. The elite Manhattan prep school and its students suggest there may, indeed, be a little more to Ellie’s death. And checking out the teen’s computer exposes a rather nasty secret about the girl: she was involved in cyberbullying.

The more they dig, the more nastiness they uncover, which means Hatcher and Rogan will have to reconsider the cause of Ellie Hatcher’s death. This thriller raises some important and troubling questions about how well parents know their adolescent children and what they are really involved in.

The Ellie Hatcher series has been quite successful from its inception and this latest adventure illustrates there’s still plenty of growth left in this character as she continues to develop. Ellie has the ability to still surprise the reader and that’s a good thing, a very good thing!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Women's Fiction Review: The Sweetest Hallelujah by Elaine Hussey

Release Date - August 2013

Elaine Hussey
Harlequin MIRA

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

At first, I wasn't sure what to make of Elaine Hussey's The Sweetest Hallelujah. The story begins in 1955 in the Mississippi home of Queen, a strong black woman who shares her home with her daughter and granddaughter. Billie is a rambunctious, quite nosy 10 year old, who wants nothing more than to meet her father.  Billie's mother, Betty Jewel is a former blues singer who is currently losing a battle against cancer. Knowing her mother is getting older and not in the best of health, Betty Jewel is desperate to find someone to care for Billie. So, she places an ad in the classifieds.

After introducing Queen's family, the story bounces to a white reporter on the other side of town. This shift led to me question where the story was heading, but soon enough the plot becomes clear and I couldn't put the book down.

Cassie Malone is a widow and reporter who has done more than her fair share of stirring up trouble. Cassie cannot understand why white people feel such anger against the black community and is often on the front lines reporting against the rampant racism in their Mississippi town. When Cassie spies the ad Betty Jewel places, she feels there is a tremendous story waiting to be told and heads to Queen's home to interview the family. There Cassie learns that she and Betty Jewel have more in common than she could ever imagine.

As much as I'd love to say that people have changed, really we haven't. Living in Vermont, one of the first states to approve same-sex unions, I've seen more rampant hatred and bigotry than most. It's sad that people seem unable to accept progress and learn from the past. That's how I felt reading The Sweetest Hallelujah. I know the times were hard back then for blacks and whites who supported their cause, and I still struggle with WHY this went on for so long. That's where I developed a deep appreciation for the story.

No matter what Cassie faces, she sticks to her guns and won't back down. I loved her character's strength and determination. Betty Jewel, despite being so sick, is just as strong and wants the very best for her daughter. As their friendship formed, I found myself rooting for both and couldn't put the book down until I knew that both would be okay in their turbulent time.

Mystery Review - Tragic by Robert K. Tanenbaum

Release Date - August 13, 2013

Robert Tanenbaum
Gallery Books

Book Review by Robert Walch

He’s not the kind of person you want to cross. Longshoreman Charlie Vitteli is the new president of the North American Brotherhood of Stevedores and what he says is law on the docks. Pit-bull nasty and as street smart as they come, Vitteli has fought his way to the top and if you value your well-being, you don’t challenge him.

Apparently Vince Carlotta didn’t get the message. Vitteli’s fiercest rival has accused him of embezzlement, election rigging and other abuses. Not smart! Carlotta is now dead, allegedly killed in an armed robbery, but everyone knows who is behind the murder.

Of course proving Vitteli is responsible is going to be a nearly impossible task but District Attorney Butch Karp is handed the assignment. With his wife’s assistance, Karp is going to try to find the hired assassin and then link him to Vitteli.

It’s a challenge few would accept but Karp and his wife, Marlene Ciampi, are determined to see that justice is done even though they are putting their own lives on the line.

There are some “out of the blue” surprises and odd twists that make this latest legal thriller from Robert Tanenbaum one of his more captivating novels. One of the best known trial lawyers in the country, Tanenbaum brings an authenticity to his stories that few other authors can match.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Memoir Review: After the Fire: A Memoir in Poetry and Prose by J.A. Jance

Release Date - September 2013

J.A. Jance
William Morrow

Book Review by Bob Walch

Not the usual fare one has come to expect from this best selling suspense writer, After the Fire is a small book that opens up a portal to the personal life of J.A. Jance. Before she made it as a bestselling author, Jance struggled with a bad marriage, To maintain her sanity and deal with the unhappy relationship she wrote poetry which she kept hidden away until 1984.

Then, a year before her debut as a novelist, Jance published this little volume which chronicled the death of her marriage to an alcoholic who was abetted by her own unwitting denial and co-dependence while she tried to find herself.

Reissued in paper and as an e-book, this candid account of the author’s emotional journey will be appreciated by those who have experienced a similar situation. It is the author’s hope that her story of love destroyed and the struggle she engaged in to rise from the ashes of that destructive relationship will inspire others. She writes,

I have touched the fire.
It burned me, but I knew I lived.
It seared me, but it made me whole.
I have known the fire.
I’ll live with nothing rather than with less.
The flame is out. There’s nothing left but ash.”

Friday, September 13, 2013

Nonfiction Review: Touch the Spirit: Connecting to the Inner World of Dementia by Deborah A. Forrest Ph.D

Release Date - June 2013

Deborah A. Forrest Ph.D

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Throughout the world, rates of older adults developing dementia are increasing. Per statistics from the Alzheimer's Foundation of America, an estimated 5.1 million Americans could be in one of the stages of Alzheimer's, and 25 percent of those with Alzheimer's are taken care of by a family member. You never know when dementia could impact your life, so education is vital. Dr. Deborah A. Forrest's book, Touch the Spirit, offers guidance into the very difficult journey.

There are aspects with Touch the Spirit that made the book really stand out for me. First, this isn't just a book about Alzheimer's, though that an age-related dementia that often comes to mind when you think of dementia. The book also covers chemotherapy-related dementia, dementia related to open-heart surgery, HIV/AIDS-related dementia, Fronto-temporal Lobe dementia, Huntington's disease, Lewy Bodies disease, Parkinson's disease, traumatic brain injuries, and vascular dementia.

From there, the book delves into prevention methods that include diet, exercise, and even stress management. You'll also find the different ways you can connect with someone with dementia and how you can help them express themselves. I'd heard of some the ways, such as keeping a journal or painting, but the book also discusses sensory therapies and creating "cuing" environments.

The other things I wanted to note is that there is a rather comprehensive list of additional resources and books to read. Combined with the rest of the content, I believe that Touch the Spirit is important reading for anyone. It's going to be a very helpful guide for those dealing with some form of dementia, but it's also good information to have in mind for the future.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Contemporary Romance Review: Wedding Belles by Beth Albright

Release Date - August 2013

Beth Albright

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

I am so sad I missed the first book in the Sassy Belles series. It's on my list of books to find and read ASAP. Wedding Belles is part contemporary romance and part cozy mystery. That blend created a story that I was eager to get through in one sitting, even when life got in the way of my plans!

Vivi Ann McFadden is far enough into her pregnancy that size and Alabama's heat are getting to her. Her wedding to Lewis Heart is nearing quickly, and Vivi and her best friend Blake O'Hara Heart are in the midst of shower and wedding plans. Vivi's world starts to crash down when she learns Blake married another woman during a drunk night of dares back in college. They need to find this woman and get her to sign the annulment papers before Vivi and Lewis can get their own marriage license.

As an attorney, it's up to Blake to find this woman. But, Blake also has her hands full trying to keep up the ruse that she and her husband are still happily married, even though they're faking it long enough for him to win a senatorial race. Once that's over, Blake is free to move on to the true love of her life, a local homicide investigator. However, a nosy reporter, one with very close ties to Blake, wants the scoop and will do anything to get it.

Those two storylines mesh seamlessly in Wedding Belles. The book is packed with humor, sizzling romance, and even a dash of mystery as Blake and Vivi try to figure out what is going on with this mystery woman from Lewis' past. I cherished finding time to read the story and hated when I had to put it down!

In the end, I really want more. I am eager to find the first book and pick up the next in the series that's due out in time for Christmas.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

New Release - In The Shadows of Glory - My NBA Life by M.S. Lily Stargazer

Release Date - December 2012

M.S. Lily Stargazer
Mill City Press

Here's an excerpt from Lily Stargazer's memoir on her life with a professional NBA player.

About the Author

Lily Stargazer was born in the Dominican Republic and raised in NY. Lily grew up middle class, attending private catholic schools first through twelfth grades. She earned good grades and was involved in many activities.  After graduating from high school, Lily attended a State University in NY where she studied economics. While a freshman, Lily found herself working as a teacher’s aide at a home for troubled girls. She found her contributions personally satisfying and this would be the first of many times throughout her life that she worked with young girls in a mentoring setting. This included volunteering with the Boys and Girls Club, Big Bros, Big Sis, Junior Achievement and she even created and led a program for preteen girls encouraging personal development.
After two years of college, she transferred out of state on a whim to attend college elsewhere. After arriving at her new school she met Clay, who would become her long-term boyfriend/fiancé and a top pick NBA player. Lily went on to travel the world and experience the professional basketball life with Clay. During their relationship, she continued and completed her undergraduate education. She also worked as a model, mostly working small print jobs and music videos. Clay and Lily were involved in a relationship for over thirteen years. During that time she was amidst and surrounded by the temptations and trials that came along with fame and having millions of dollars your disposal. Through it all she was able to remain grounded.

Lily completed graduate school and received an MBA with a concentration in finance and entrepreneurship. She later worked as a business consultant, in the financial industry as a financial advisor and also the health and beauty industry as a consultant.  Her greatest passion however is to be a mentor and motivator and to inspire women to pursue and find happiness and success in their own lives. Lily’s vision is become a positive role model to women and a life coach/motivational speaker/public figure who encourages goal setting, personal and professional development while also stressing the importance of living a life of integrity.

Lily is now married with a small child and lives in Texas.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Suspense Review: Look Again by Lisa Scottoline

Release Date - April 2009

Lisa Scottoline
St. Martin's Press

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

"Have you seen this child?" One simple postcard throws Ellen Gleeson's life into chaos. After receiving the postcard in her mail, Ellen is shocked to see the face of her toddler son staring back at her. She adopted her son legally, so why he'd be on a missing child notice baffles her. Her reporter instincts kick in, and she starts to investigate. All while knowing that once the truth is revealed, she could lose custody of her son.

It's been a while since I've read one of Lisa Scottoline's novels, and I'm so glad I heard about Look Again. It's a powerful story, especially knowing the powerful bond between mother and child. I couldn't survive if someone took my children away.

Now there is one thing niggling at me, but I don't have a legal background and am not sure how things would really have worked out. Despite that, the ending fit the rest of the book extremely well, so I won't let that one niggle bother me. I don't often push aside review books for a trip to the library, but Look Again was definitely worth it.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Crime Drama Review: Malpractice! The Novel by William Louis Harvey

Release Date - June 19, 2013

William Louis Harvey

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Before you even get to the meat of the story in Malpractice! The Novel, the author fills readers in regarding the history behind the novel, a period he calls the "medical malpractice insurance crisis." I know every reader is different, but I disliked having the author tell me things that I'd prefer to figure out by being "shown" while reading the book. Given that, I ended up skipping much of the acknowledgements and introduction and simply started reading the story.

The story does open with quite a hook. An innocent one at that, a young girl playing on a swingset falls and hits her head. The story then starts introducing Paul Butler, one of the key players in the story.

Kathy Miller, now 13, is that young girl. Her malpractice trial is just getting started with Paul Butler serving as her lawyer. Much of the story details the case, as it plays out to the verdict. Readers quickly learn that Butler and the judge assigned to the case had an affair, so realistically, the judge shouldn't even be hearing this case.

That leads me to the other portion of this story. Butler is fascinated with the opposite sex, going back to one of his first sexual encounters as a teen. He's married, but that doesn't stop him from dabbling in extramarital affairs. His developing relationship with an associate at his firm is also explored in this novel, breaking up the legal suspense and turning it into a bit of an erotic romance from time to time.

I liked the malpractice side of the story. The relatively graphic sex scenes were not my thing, however. I don't mind a heated romance from time to time, but to me the sexual aspect of the story didn't quite mesh with the case at hand. It made it hard for me to really like the characters, and that made it hard to love Malpractice! The Novel.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Romance Review: Ten Tiny Breaths by K.A. Tucker

Release Date - September 24, 2013

K.A. Tucker

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Ten Tiny Breaths. Those words become the mantra for Kacey Cleary. They're words her mother repeated time and time again, the only thing Kacey has left of her mother's. At the age of 16, Kacey, her boyfriend, her best friend, and her parents were all on the way home when a drunk driver plowed into them. Kacey, battered and broken both physically and emotionally, was the only survivor in her parents' car.

Four years later, Kacey grabs her younger sister and flees their aunt and uncle's home after he attempts to molest Livie. The pair have no money, but Kacey did secure rent on a dumpy apartment in Miami, so they have that as a start. Kacey wants to keep the world away, but soon she befriends a neighbor (Storm) and Storm's young daughter. As a single mom, Storm's worked her way into a high-paying job and is able to get Kacey a position, too. Things start to look up.

Meanwhile, Kacey soon meets her other neighbor. Trent is gorgeous and soon sparks fly between Trent and Kacey. Despite her past, Kacey finds herself starting to heal thanks to Trent, but he has his own secrets. Revealing them to Kacey could put their entire relationship on the line.

This is a very emotional story, one that had me in tears, even though I was pretty sure I knew what Trent's secret was from the very start of the book, and I was right. I don't feel that aspect of the book was very surprising. However, I didn't care. I felt for Kacey, her sister, and their circle of friends and wanted to see if things would turn around for any of them.

Ten Tiny Breaths hooked me with the emotional storyline and flawed characters. It's not a very long read, but certainly satisfied my need for a powerful story.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Crime Fiction Review: Lineup by Liad Shoham

Release Date - September 2013


Book Review by Bob Walch

A young woman is raped in a Tel Aviv neighborhood. The police draw a blank when it comes to finding the rapist, so the victim’s father sets out to find the man. When the distraught father delivers the individual he is convinced assaulted his daughter, the police are glad to make an arrest and send the man before a magistrate.

Then things begin to come unraveled. The accused rapist, who works for the mafia, doesn’t try to explain why he was seen around the rape victim’s apartment nor does he attempt to defend himself in any manner. But when the case is thrown out on a technicality, the man walks free and the detective assigned to the case is fired.

Suddenly the freed man is on the run. His mob connections have soured and his boss is after him, plus another rape has occurred and the police are convinced he is the person responsible. Only by forming an alliance with the disgraced detective, fired because of his acquittal, will this suspected rapist be able to clear his name. Unfortunately, his crime connections complicate matters and place the man’s life in jeopardy.

Based on a real event that occurred in Israel, Liad Shoham has created an intriguing thriller about mistaken identity, organized crime, a man on the lam and a cop seeking redemption. Well respected in his native country and lauded throughout Europe, this novel introduces Shoham to American audiences. It shouldn’t take long before he acquires a following for his well constructed crime fiction here.

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...