Thursday, January 30, 2014

Before We Fall by Courtney Cole

Release Date - December 2013

Courtney Cole

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Before We Fall begins in the past and then moves forward to present day. As an actor, Dominic Kinkaide excels in focusing in his job and avoiding any personal connections with the people around him. His goal is to get the job done and stay out of the limelight. At one his brother's wild parties, Dominic finds himself in over his head. He saves a woman from being raped, but that leads to him having to drive another drive home rather than saying at the estate and ignoring the world around him.

When Dominic gets into a fight with a former best friend, the woman he's driving home intervenes. Police are called and find drugs in Dominic's car. He and the woman are both arrested and that starts a new phase in Dominic's life. One he was not prepared to deal with.

Jacey Vincent is disheartened when she's arrested, yet baffled when she learns that the famous actor arranged to have assault charges on an officer dropped. She soon finds herself involved in Dominic's daily existence, and she's not sure it's the right place for her. Even if she finds herself mesmerized by the dark, brooding actor.

From the start, it is clear that Dominic and Jacey have hidden pasts. That fits with the series - Beautifully Broken - and creates story that you cannot wait to reach the end. Dominic came off as very disinterested, even unpleasant at times, with just about everyone at first, but as you get to know him, it makes sense. I had to know what caused Dominic's issues with his former best friend and also what made Jacey the woman she was.

Before We Fall is packed with emotion, mesmerizing characters, and a romance that had me cheering. This may be the first book I've read in this series, but I never felt out of place. It does make me want to read the others!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The House on the Cliff by Charlotte Williams

Release Date - January 2014

Bourbon Street

Book Review by Bob Walch

Psychotherapist Jessica Mayhew should know better than to get personally involved with her patients, but her personal life hasn’t been going well recently so Jessica crosses the line. Now, hopefully, she will live long enough to untangle the mess she has stumbled into.

TV soap star Gwydion Morgan has an odd fear of buttons, of all things, and he’s sought Jessica help in dealing with this phobia. In their talk about the problem Gwydion mentions a strange dream he keeps having. Believing the dream holds the key to her patient’s bizarre button aversion, Jessica agrees to visit Gwydion’s family home and meet his parents.

While this encounter with Mr. and Mrs. Morgan is enlightening, Jessica finds that the story Mrs. Morgan shares about the long-ago death of the family’s au pair far more revealing. Sensing a link between the girl’s death and her client’s present problems, Jessica decides to play detective and do some digging into the girl’s past.

This psychological thriller with its flawed characters and foreboding, moody setting is a throwback to the Gothic novels of yesteryear. Charlotte Williams has been mentioned in the same breath as Daphne DuMaurier and Jessica Mayhew is, in many ways, reminiscent of someone who would perhaps be more comfortable in an earlier time period.

The cliffside setting of Craigfa House is the ideal backdrop for this British thriller. Readers who have a hankering for a solid Gothic thriller/romance won’t be disappointed by The House on the Cliff.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Broken by Kimberley Reeves

Release Date - November 2013

Kimberley Reeves

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Mitch was shattered when his brother gave his life to save him. Reading Adam's journal brings both pain and healing, especially as Mitch reads about a woman who Adam would spend time with between missions. As Adam's twin, Mitch heads to the ranch to let this woman know that Adam was dead. Only once he sees her, Mitch can't bear to tell her the truth and instead poses as his brother to give her the love she's always wanted from Adam.

Jessie is happily surprised to see Adam after months of not hearing a word from him. Soon, she cannot believe the changes that he's undergone and finds herself falling head over heels with the new and improved Adam. Little does she know that Adam isn't Adam at all.

I admit, at first I was a little surprised that Jessie couldn't tell the difference between Adam and his twin. The scars alone should have been a big clue, but Broken drew me in and I found I no longer cared about her missing subtle cues.

I liked Jessie, loved Mitch, and really enjoyed watching them find their way. It's a sweet romance, and I loved that there was never any huge conflict forcing the couple apart. That's become a pet peeve of mine in romances. Sure, there are times when conflict has to intervene, but it doesn't always have to occur. Sometimes, just finding your way around a new romance is enough of a challenge without having obstacles thrown your way. With Jessie and Mitch, just finding their way in a new, rapidly escalating romance was all I needed to shed a few tears and find myself very happy that I took the time to read their story.

Friday, January 17, 2014

222 Questions We Should Ask Ourselves At Least Once by Catherine Craven

Release Date - September 2013


Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Author Catherine Craven's goal with 222 Questions We Should Ask Ourselves At Least Once came from her desire to have an insightful guide to everyday life.  What is found within the book is a touch inspirational with some definite truth thrown in. There were times, however, when I also found myself disagreeing.

The author's main point is to live a better life by being more positive. One of the lines that got to me hit very early in the book. "It is our choice to become or not to become anxious." It is here that I felt the author alienated a certain group of people. I deal with generalized anxiety disorder, and it is not a "choice" I made, it is a true condition that doctors I've seen believe is linked to brain function that triggers the adrenal system to become overactive at times. I am not the only person in the world with anxiety, as I've learned through support groups. All the prayer in the world doesn't make it go away. I refuse to take medications, so instead, I have learned how to cope when panic takes over. It can hit at any time - day, night, or even when I'm sound asleep.

After that, I found it harder to really take the author's message to heart. Her advice may well work for you and I'm certain it does for her, but to say anxiety is a choice that we make, even though I'm certain she never really thought of the other aspect. Well, I just find myself disagreeing with that and, as a result, I lost interest.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Foreign Gods, Inc. by Okey Ndibe

Release Date - January 2014

Okey Ndibe
Soho Press

Book Review by Bob Walch

Ikechukwu Uzondu graduated magna cum laude from Amherst College and married an American, yet the Nigerian’s life has not gone well. In fact, a decade after he graduated Ike is driving a cab in New York and his marriage is over.

Blaming his sorry plight and inability to find a decent job with his thick accent, Ike also struggles with a drinking problem and gambling addiction. The lower he sinks, the more he blames discrimination and his former wife for his rapid decline.

Suddenly the distraught African sees a glimmer of light at the end of a long, dark tunnel. Ike discovers that there are people in New York who will spend big bucks to obtain authentic statues of foreign deities. Thinking back to his home village in Nigeria, Ike knows of an effigy that would undoubtedly interest these wealthy collectors. 
As he returns to his homeland, Ike believes he now sees a way to reverse his misfortune by stealing this sacred statue but, if anything, he is about to complicate his life even more.
This plan to steal the statue of a cherished native war god is going to set off a maelstrom that will make Ike’s former problems seem inconsequential given what he has gotten himself into now. 
A multi-faceted novel that operates on a number of levels, Foreign Gods, Inc. not only underscores the false promises and frustrations of the immigrant experience in America but also looks at the nature of religious conflicts as well as the infatuation society has with owning authentic ancient artifacts and how destructive that desire can be.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Simple Qigong Exercises for Health by Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming

Release Date - October 2013 (Reissue)

Ymaa Publication Center

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Balancing work, family responsibilities, and personal time strains any mom. For work, plagiarism is a major concern, especially when many clients have me revamping their old website content to make it sound new. I do have a tip on how to avoid plagiarism. I use Grammarly because it does the work for me, and I now longer have to pull hair out while triple checking rewrites. Seriously, you have no idea how easy it is for a simple phrase, even a repetitive one, to be counted as plagiarism by someone.

Finding time to myself is harder when I'm balancing shuffling my daughter to school, walking the dog three times a day, cooking meals, and cleaning the house. For that, I've discovered a passion for yoga, tai chi, and my latest interest Qigong (Qi meaning "energy" and Gong meaning "energy and time.) If you need to destress, while also getting exercise, pick up a copy of
Simple Qigong Exercises for Health.

The exercises presented in this guide are easy to do and take no more than 10 minutes a day. First, the book introduces you to Qigong and the flow of energy through your body. Anyone who does yoga or tai chi understands these principles. When you get to the exercises, all of which have photos to demonstrate, you may find them similar to some yoga positions. There are also clear differences. The first exercise involves more that sitting cross-legged, you also tap your teeth together, and place your hands in a position that allows you to focus on the sound  your teeth make. 

In another exercise, you squat while swaying so that the bulk of your weight moves from one leg to the other. This position shifts from one leg to the next and back to the center. My favorite, however, "Seven Disorders and Hundreds of Illnesses Disappear" involves getting up on your tiptoes and really stretching out the legs and back through a series of hand movements.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Book News - Mindful Parenting by Kristen Race

Dr. Kristen Race is a nationally recognized expert in child, family, and school psychology and founder of Mindful Life. In her new book, Mindful Parenting (St. Martin's Griffin; January 7), Dr. Race uses brain science research to explain how today's technology and over-scheduled kids increases anxiety and impedes proper brain development through the overuse of the amygdala. The book discusses the realities of raising a family in our fast paced and often frenetic world and provides hundreds of easy-to-implement solutions, both for parents and their children, to help them manage stress, create peace, and live happier lives.

Here's an excerpt from Mindful Parenting:

It’s not that adults didn’t work a lot when I was growing up. They did. My dad worked hard every weekday at his job as an attorney. He’d leave the house at 7:00 a.m. sharp and return around 6:00 in the evening. When he got home, my mom would have dinner ready for us, even though she had coached my soccer practice and driven my sisters and me all over town that day. But for my dad, that was it. He’d pour a cocktail, listen to us talk about our day, and eventually make his way to the TV, where he hoped to catch a rerun of a John Wayne movie. Or he’d pick up a book and sit and read. The next day, he’d get up, retrieve the morning news- paper from the front stoop, read it (crazy, right?), then drive in to work while listening to the radio. When he walked past the receptionist, she’d hand him a slip of paper with a few messages on it, and he’d start his workday.

Today, that same attorney drives to and from work talking to clients on the phone, wakes up and reads the news on his tablet while hearing the ping of the e-mails that came in overnight, and by the time he gets to his office, is inundated with the e-mails that came in while he was in transit, from clients wondering why they have not gotten a response yet.
My mom’s world would have been dramatically different to- day. The Saturday soccer game and one midweek practice have been replaced with a soccer club that is now a soccer business. This means she would have driven me to three practices during the week, a game an hour away on Saturday, and a tournament every other weekend. She would be inundated with e-mail reminders from teachers and school administrators, and on the way to school pickup, she would have five calls from me wondering why she was two minutes late.

The demands, the stimulation, the constant buzz—all have created, quite sadly, Generation Stress.

The reality is, I am Generation Stress. (If you read the introduction, you’ve probably gathered this already.) The irony is that I spend my working life researching stress and the brain, and creating solutions to help families become more resilient to the stress- ors in their lives. I have personally struggled with every topic presented in the pages that follow, which may have you thinking, why would I want to take advice from her? Certainly experience with my own stress has influenced my work, but my solutions are de- rived from brain science and grounded in my belief that small changes can make a big difference. I try to be intentional about practicing what I preach, and many of the solutions outlined in the chapters that follow come from trial and error in my search for ways to reduce stress and alleviate bad behaviors in my own family and in the lives of the many families I have worked with over the years.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Lethal Lawman by Carla Cassidy

Release Date - January 7, 2014

Carla Cassidy

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

It's nine below outside with wind chills reaching 40 below. I'm nestled inside with the pellet stove keeping the living room warm, but earlier I was tucked in bed with my dog and kitten and avoiding the thought of cold by reading Carla Cassidy's latest Men of Wolf Creek romance. Lethal Lawman is clearly the next book in a series, but it works well as a stand-alone romance.

In Lethal Lawman, Marlene Marcoli and her sisters are still hoping their aunt will be found alive. It's been two months, however, and there's been nary a trace of the older woman. Marlene is certain that her aunt is dead, but she soon has her own issues.

After Marlene's apartment is broken into, and then threatening notes are left, the detectives in Wolf Creek realize someone is after her and that she needs to go into hiding. Detective Frank Delaney isn't going to hide his attraction to Marlene, but he's also convinced he failed his late wife, so a new romance is not in the cards. He's not about to fail at a job, however, so protecting Marlene becomes his number one priority, even if it means being up close and personal with her.

The chemistry between Marlene and Frank is clear and quite heated. I also like the continuing mystery with what happened to Marlene's aunt. I have to say that the ending took me by surprise, and I'm a little confused why the detectives did not look at every possible angle, but it definitely ended up leading to the climatic suspense. Most importantly, the romance hooked me and now I really can't wait for the next Men of Wolf Creek romance.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Weekends With Daisy by Sharron Kahn Luttrell

Sharron Kahn Luttrell
Gallery Books

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Weekends With Daisy turned out to be a great way to start a new year! The premise is pretty simple. Missing her German Shepherd, Sharron Kahn Luttrell was uncertain she was really ready to bring a new dog into her home, but she also longed for the companionship a dog provides. I totally understand that. While her children in this memoir are younger than mine, I understand that children do reach an age where "mom" is no longer needed every hour of the day, and the void isn't a lot of fun.

In Luttrell's case, she came across a weekend trainer for service dogs. While inmates train and care for the dogs during the week, people are needed to help socialize and introduce the dogs to a range of experiences on the weekends. Figuring this was a great way to have a puppy on a part-time basis, Luttrell signed up and was approved as a weekend trainer. The resulting memoir recounts her experiences from the very first day to the moment she meets the person who receives the companion dog. Sure there are hurdles along the way, but that's all part of life.

Some books catch my eye simply because of the cover art. Who can resist the adorable face of a puppy? I know I couldn't. I was rewarded with a book that had me snickering from time to time, nodding my head in agreement other times, and even shedding a tear or two. I'm glad this was the book I started off the year with. It's uplifting, emotional, and definitely left me feeling content that I'd picked very, very well.

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

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