Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Zero-Degree Murder by M.L. Rowland

Release Date - January 2014

M.L. Rowland
Berkley Prime Crime

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

While Zero-Degree Murder is a Search and Rescue Mystery, I'm not sure I'd really classify this as a mystery.  It is a gripping suspense, but the killer's identity is apparent from the start. Instead, readers are drawn in by the lead character, Gracie Kincaid, as she struggles to keep herself and the man she rescues from falling into the killer's hands.

Gracie is a volunteer with Timber Creek Search and Rescue. Her latest rescue involves a party of hikers who get lost in California. One of those hikers is a Hollywood star. When she and her partner finds Rob Christian, he remembers being attacked, but he cannot remember more detail than that. His injuries prevent him from being able to walk far. With limited radio service in this area of Southern California, Gracie agrees that their best chance is to have her partner walk back up the trail until there is a strong enough signal to get a message out. This means staying with Rob, without any radio, until help arrives. With a killer out there, Gracie and Rob must be alert and ready to act at any moment.

I admit to reading Zero-Degree Murder in just over an hour. I was engrossed and couldn't put it down. The detail that goes into covering all aspects of Gracie's job and knowledge is amazingly thorough. That said, I wish there had been a little more into her background, but this is the first in a series, so I'm sure more is to come.

Friday, April 25, 2014

House of Glass by Sophie Littlefield

Release Date - March 2014

Sophie Littlefield
Harlequin MIRA

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

From outward appearances, Jen Glass seems to have it all. She is the proud mother of two, she and her family live in an upscale neighborhood, and she has a strong marriage. Outward appearances are not everything, however. Her laid-off husband is acting secretive, and she fears he has been cheating on her. Her daughter is showing signs of rebellion. Her son suffers from selective mutism and speaks to very few people, generally his family only. 

Things take a horrifying turn when two armed men come into Jen's house and hold the family hostage. These men do not seem intent on stealing anything, they're simply there and want the family out of the way. Trapped  in the basement with no cell phones, no way to contact the outside world, and no understanding of why the men are there, Jen and her family must push their personal issues aside if they are going to survive.

House of Glass keeps you on the edge of your seat. The reader is left clueless as to why Jen's family is the one that is attacked. Her daughter, her husband, and even Jen herself all seem like likely targets, so it becomes a question of why are the armed men there. I had my suspicions, but I wasn't even close. Usually, I can figure out the end of a mystery far in advance of the final chapter, but this one had me puzzled. I loved that.

There is very little romance in this story, something I'd expect of a Harlequin MIRA, but that didn't  matter. Instead, House of Glass delivered a pretty solid suspense story that I felt compelled to read in one sitting.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Princess of Sparta: Heroes of the Trojan War by Aria Cunningham

Release Date - April 2014

Aria Cunningham
Mythmakers Publishing

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

The Princess of Sparta tackles a unique setting, one that I have not seen used much in the romance genre. This made for a very refreshing historical romance that pulls readers from the typical Victorian England setting to the world of Greek mythology.

Helen of Sparta, at age 16, finds herself being presented to potential suitors. She's not thrilled with the way these men fight over her. Menelaus, king of Mycenae, is chosen to become her husband, and he turns out to be abusive and really have little need of her. Helen of Sparta remains hopeful that the prophecy made about her having a true love and important purpose will come to life someday.

That "someday" occurs when the prince of Troy (Paris) arrives in Mycenea. He and Helen cannot deny their passion for one another and the mutual admiration that is meant to be. Now it's up to fate to see if their love can survive the Trojan War.

Generally, I loved the characters and definitely the setting. Still, I ended up being jarred from the story. I received an ePub version, so this may not be a final copy, though I see nothing stating it is an unedited version. Hopefully, if it wasn't, grammatical errors were corrected before the final edition was issued. "Loosing" instead of "losing" or one sentence where "frescos of Grecian women carried urns..." First, the plural form of fresco has an -es. Second, I highly doubt the frescoes were carrying urns. Each time I encountered an error, I got pulled from the story, and soon enough, I was tired of having the editor alerts in my mind going off.

I do think there is merit in The Princess of Sparta, but with a list price of almost $13, I hope that the book has had a solid final round of editing before it was printed.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Kindling the Moon: An Arcadia Bell Novel by Jenn Bennett

Release Date - June 2011

Jenn Bennett
Pocket Books

Book Review by Bob Walch

The fourth book of the urban fantasy series created by Jenn Bennett and featuring Arcadia “Cady” Bell, this latest adventure continues the string of personal problems the freewheeling, sexy magician has had to deal with.

Her notorious parents haven’t been around for quite a while, but now Cady’s mother is determined to take permanent possession of her daughter’s body. To block her murderous mother’s intentions, Cady will have to uncover the evil spell her parents cast during her conception and other dark family secrets.

Assisting Cady in this task is her lover, Lon Butler, an enigmatic demonologist with a teenage son. Together this duo will discover things about Cady that perhaps would be better left buried in the past. But once they begin this perilous journey they must travel down the dark road to the end.

Obviously, if you have read the previous books in this entertaining series you’ll have to buy this latest installment. On the other hand, if you aren’t familiar with Arcadia Bell now is as good a time as any to make her acquaintance.

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Pagan Lord: A Novel by Bernard Cornwell

Release Date - January 2014

Bernard Cornwell

Book Review by Bob Walch

Add another title to Bernard Cornwell’s long running Saxon Tales. The seventh installment of the series, “The Pagan Lord”, is narrated by Uhtred of Bebbanburg. It is early in the 11th century and with Alfred the Great’s death, his son Edward now is in charge of the Saxon south. An uneasy peace exists with the non-Christian Danes who control the north.

Although Uhtred has pledged his allegiance to the new kind, Edward is not one of the Court’s favorites. Far from it. Nominally a Christian, Uhtred was raised by a Dane and he has forsaken all his pagan beliefs and the fifty year old has little time for the Christian deity he scornfully calls ‘the nailed god’.

To complicate matters, Uhtred’s oldest boy has become a priest and refuses to give up his religious vocation. Then to make matters worse, the intemperate warrior kills another priest in a fit of rage and disinherits his son.

This rash action results in banishment from the Church, but that’s just the beginning of Uhtred’s problems. His lands have been ravaged and a band of ruthless miscreants posing as Uhtred have kidnapped the wife and children of a Danish lord. On top of everything else Uhtred is obliged to find the kidnap victims and clear his name.

With a small group of his most loyal followers, the indomitable aged warrior is intent on regaining control of Bebbanburg, his ancestral holdings seized by his uncle. It’s going to be a particularly vicious and bloody campaign between the Saxons and the Danes that will once and for all drive the Danes from the Midlands. And, ultimately, this will mark the beginning of a series of conflicts that will finally solidify the sovereignty of the nation called England.

If you have followed this gripping saga naturally this latest chapter is a must read. But, for those who relish a good historical novel and haven’t yet started this journey with Bernard Cornwell, this might be a good time to do so. The history of the Middle Ages comes alive thanks to the author’s research and skill as a writer; thus, this is a very pleasant way to learn some of the important events and characters associated with the Anglo-Saxon period during the time that led to the creation of a unified England.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Game: A Thriller by Anders de la Motte

Release Date - December 2013


Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

I'm going to start by admitting, I couldn't finish this book. I wanted to love it. I loved the  premise, it reminded me a little of the Michael Douglas/Sean Penn movie The Game, after reading the blurb. In the end, the main character is not just not likeable. As a slacker, I really couldn't find any interest in him or feel bad for him. I know a few slackers, and I have no respect for them, so that personal bias came into play.

The premise is this, HP is riding the train home after a long night of partying and generally being his true, obnoxious self. He finds a cell phone and a message directed to him asking if he wants to play a game. He agrees. The rules to this game are simple - the players must complete a series of challenges. As the game progresses, the challenges become much bigger risks and threatens those who are closest to HP. His ego, however, urges him to win, but winning means someone gets hurt.

It sounds great. Anders de la Motte's experience as a police office and head of security for an IT company gives him great insight into pulling off a masterful work, but not liking the character ended up being too much for me.

Others may have an easier time and really get into the story and not focus as much on HP. Given that, I recommend giving both Game: A Thriller, and the two other books in this trilogy a shot.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Runner by Patrick Lee

Release Date - February 2013

Patrick Lee
Minotaur Books

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Sam Dryden is out for his usual run when he comes across a young girl who tells him men are after her but that she cannot go to the police for help. His training on the special forces kicks in and he helps her hide. Sam soon learns that this girl has a very rare, impressive power and some within the government will do anything to keep her captive. As the girl cannot remember anything beyond the past two months, while she's been held in a secret facility, she has no idea who she really is or if she has family out there. Sam becomes determined to keep Rachel safe, and that means putting every skill he learned while he was part of the government's special ops.

Runner starts off with a bang and never lets up. Not only did I really enjoy Sam's character, but young Rachel is a strong, likeable character too. The bad guys are clearly bad guys and watching Sam outsmart them kept me glued to the pages.

This is a story that holds your attention, has you rooting for the main characters. The bad guys made me cringe, the good guys had me cheering. That's really all I need for a book to be a keeper, and Runner definitely met those requirements.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Book Buzz 2014: Check It Out, It's Free!

Release Date - January 2014

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

I had amazing intentions with Book Buzz 2014. This is a long book, spanning more than 700 pages, and within it are dozens of snippets from books that are predicted to be bestsellers in 2014. My goal was to highlight a number of the stories in a week-long blog series, but I soon found myself facing an issue, far too many of the books had me hooked and made my must-read list.

Given that, I now have a page-long list of books I want to read. That list started growing very quickly with just the first snippets of upcoming novels. From Robyn Carr's Four Friends, a novel about a woman who suddenly learns her husband was having an affair, to JoJo Moyes One Plus One, a story about a single mom, I was hooked. It's been  years since I've read anything by Greg Iles, but I'm really excited over Natchez Burning.

There are four sections in all: Fiction, Debut Fiction, Nonfiction, and Young Adult Fiction. By the time I'd worked my way through each section, I would say that about 25 of the 40 snippets really caught my attention. Do yourself a favor, Book Buzz 2014 is a free book, don't miss your chance to find out what new releases should be making it to your reading pile.

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Grrrl of Limberlost: A Rain City Comedy of Manners by Annie Pearson

Release Date - August 2013

Annie Pearson
Jugum Press

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

The Grrrl of Limberlost isn't an easy story to follow, but it has an extremely intriguing premise. Told from the point of view of three different characters, one of the characters in the story is an unreliable narrator.

The opening scene details a very realistic-looking online murder, or is it a murder? Things suddenly switch to a Seattle coffee house. Samsara Byron is one of the rare few working on Christmas. Sam's an expert programmer who saves the world from hackers. She has a vital piece of software she's working on that she fears may be a problem if it makes it into the wrong hands, but she's also distracted by her brother who has a penchant for getting into problematic situations. Toss in the remaining two narrators, Matt, a guy who's returned to Limberlost and is desperate to keep his family safe from the gangsters who are after him, and Nicky, an odd man with unusual interests (porn farming) who is betrayed by his cousin.

As the story progresses, I suggest keeping a notebook nearby. I got lost too many times keeping track of the different characters and how they tied together. Some chapters are incredibly short, while others are much longer, and that made it hard to keep up with the rapid changes, especially in the Netgalley version I had where the Nook formatting often jumbled endings of one chapter and beginnings of the next so that there was no noticeable separation. Keeping up with the changes proved to be too much for me. I found myself only wanting the story to focus on Sam, she's tough as nails and quirky enough that I really enjoyed her. In a way, I found her to be a bit like Abby from NCIS, and that's a very good thing!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Oh to Grace by Abby Rossner

Release Date - May 2013

Abby Rossner
Vision Quest

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Oh to Grace starts easily enough. A young woman pulls up to a senior housing facility where she will be interviewing resident of that home. The story then switches to the past and Aunt Frankie begins sharing her family's history. I admit, I started, stopped, and restarted this section a number of times. It took a bit to get use to the switch from the present to the past. Along the way, I would get lost and have to backtrack to keep up with the changes in dates, characters, and stories. Yet, having listened to many of my grandmother's stories, this is also exactly how her stories would go. One story led to another and soon you had a wealth of information at your fingertips.

 Frankie's stories are told with humor and emotion. They often seem so real that they could be your own elderly relatives sharing their tales of the Depression, prohibition, and the wars. The story takes place in Tennessee and Illinois (Chicago), so there is a bit of the vernacular to get used to, but it's not enough to distract from the story.

This is one of those stories that I think I need to purchase my own copy of. Aunt Frankie's stories are delightful, but I am sure that if I read it a second, third, and even fourth time, I'd find a new level of enjoyment each time.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Robert Ludlum's The Janson Option by Paul Garrison

Release Date - March 2014

Paul Garrison
Grand Central Publishing

Book Review by Bob Walch

The third title in this new action/adventure series, the assignment private security expert Paul Janson and his partner, Jessica Kincaid, tackle involves rescuing a kidnapped woman from the clutches of Somali pirates.

Allegra Helms’ husband, Kingsman Helms, heads a powerful oil company that is trying to get its hands on as much African oil as possible. With unlimited resources, Kingsman will pay anything to obtain his wife’s freedom. But once in place, Janson and Kincaid realize that the pirates are the least of their problems.

There’s much more going on here than just freeing a kidnap victim. In fact, perhaps she is also enmeshed in a sinister plot to create a situation that would allow her scheming spouse to overthrow the local government and make Somalia his base for similar overthrows on the Dark Continent.

A series that has already attracted a new generation of readers, this is another fast-paced story that offers numerous surprises that will satisfy the demanding standards of any reader who only reads the top thriller writers.

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...