Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Quilted by Christmas: Quilts of Love by Jodie Bailey

Release Date - October 21, 2014

Jodie Bailey
Abingdon Press

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Taryn McKenna hasn't had it easy. Her mother died of liver cancer when Taryn was just 14 and her father always felt that Taryn and her mother had kept him from achieving his dreams. Raised mainly by her grandmother, Taryn's world is shattered when her grandmother collapses and is rushed to the hospital.

Jemma has one wish for her granddaughter and that's to forgive the past. Now that Jemma's in need of a recovery, someone must finish a quilt she was working on. There's not enough time for Taryn to do it alone. More than a decade earlier, Taryn and her steady beau walked away from each other, and this quilt offers them the chance to reunite and work through the differences of the past to see if they have a future together.

Quilted by Christmas is a gentle romance with likable characters and long buried secrets. It's a relatively short read at just under 200 pages. I liked the holiday setting and definitely enjoyed the characters, particularly Jemma. Her wit and determination helped keep Taryn from turning her back when Justin, Taryn's former beau, becomes involved in her life.

For a short and sweet romance, Quilted by Christmas is a solid choice. There is a bit of conflict, but it doesn't overshadow the storyline. The bottom line is that Taryn has a chance at true love and it's up to her to decide if the time is right. Readers will enjoy finding out what choice she makes.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Other Girl by Pam Jenoff

Release Date - September 2014

Pam Jenoff
Harlequin MIRA

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

You cannot argue with the price of The Other Girl. This Kindle novella is free. It is a companion piece to The Winter Guest.

Marie struggles with her currently living situation in WWII Poland. Her husband is off at war and her in-laws are not exactly welcoming. One night, Marie finds a young girl hiding in a barn. She risks it all to keep this girl from German officers. The problem is that help is going to come at a price. Marie is pregnant and estranged from her family, but her family are the only people she can think of at this time of need.

At just over 20 pages, this is not a novella that will take you much time to read. I have yet to read The Winter Guest, so I'm not sure where things tie together. While I liked Marie's story, I couldn't help but wonder how it will all tie together. I'll know soon enough as that is one of the next novels on my reading list.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Blame It On the Mistletoe by Nicole Michaels

Release Date - October 14, 2014

Nicole Michaels
St. Martins

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Sweet Opal Studios is Brooke Abbott's dream and she wants to see her new business become a success. She has the shop, has the crafts, but construction on the road her store sits on isn't helping. It's going to take a Christmas miracle to bring customers to her store. She never expects to find Alex Coleman lurking in the apartment above her store.

Alex watched his best friend's sister growing up, but now that he's back in town, he never expected to feel so drawn to her. However, Brooke's brother makes it clear to Alex that Brooke is fresh out of an abusive relationship and Alex needs to stay away. As the owner of the building Brooke is renting, Alex is having a really hard time keeping away. Should he risk it all and stick around to see where things lead?

This Christmas-themed romance is another quick and fun read. As the season gets busier, I always like having short romances to fill times during appointments, holiday baking sessions, and road trips to family gatherings. With the holiday season also comes the rush of birthdays in my family, so I love to have relatively quick stories. At just over 150 pages, Blame It On the Mistletoe is a quick read.

Alex definitely comes off as a romantic, the man most women dream of. Brooke is a little more cautious given her last relationship, but I loved that she didn't let the fear keep her from trying to find her dream man. The town itself and all the residents also add a level of charm to this romantic Christmas story.

Overall, I won't say it was my favorite of the holiday romances I've read so far, but for the price, it's certainly worth it!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Handbag Workshop: Design and Sew the Perfect Bag by Anna M. Mazur

Release Date - October 14, 2014

Taunton Press

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Back in the spring, I went on the hunt for the perfect handbag. My favorite purse was the target of a forgotten restaurant chocolate melting all over the inside. I washed it the best I could, but ant season and all, they found the remnants easily enough. Finding my dream purse turned out to be a huge challenge. I knew what I wanted, but the closest purses were $200 to $400, and I wasn't about to spend that kind of money. My daughter ended up finding me the closest match to my dream, even if it is a vegan purse in a light mint pastel color.

Handbag Workshop: Design and Sew the Perfect Bag offers guidance into skipping the stores and creating the bag of your dreams in the comfort of your home. It starts by looking at the basic shapes of a purse, when that purse is unsewn and laid out flat. Next it looks at the tools you need to create your purse. That's where things get tricky. Not everyone will have these supplies on hand, and it can get expensive to purchase them all. This list includes 29 items, some like tweezers you'll likely have on hand, but others like a rubber mallet or specialty sewing feet for sewing machine (or even the sewing machine for that matter) might be items you end up buying. If this is the case, you might need to weigh the cost of materials over the cost of buying a purse in a store.

The book is thorough. Each step is detailed and offers insight into the important of tidy seams, and making each portion of purse. It covers linings, hidden zippered pockets, and straps. There are plenty of pictures offering illustrated examples. As the chapters progress, different styles of purses are covered, including clutches, netbook cases, wristlets, and sling bags. The book is divided into easy-to-make purses, intermediate purses, and advanced ones.

In the end, this is an exceptional book, but I think you have to have the materials for sewing already in hand for it to be cost effective. If you're going to have to go out and buy a sewing machine, a sewing table, or other items of that nature, this may not be ideal for you. If you are set up and really interested though, I cannot think of a better guide.

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Homecoming by Robyn Carr

Release Date - September 2014

Robyn Carr
Harlequin Mira

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Robyn Carr's latest Thunder Point novel, The Homecoming, introduces Seth Sileski, a man who made a bad decision after leaving Thunder Point and changed a number of lives, and Iris McKinley, a woman who was once close to Seth until one night. Let it be noted that this is the first book I've read in the Thunder Point series, and that may have been a mistake on my part. The books do stand alone, but I didn't have the connection to the town that other readers may have.

Years ago, Seth made a poor choice right when his professional football career was taking off. Now he's back in Thunder Point, serving as the new sheriff and ready to prove he's changed his ways, especially to his father. Iris McKinley was once Seth's best friend, and he'd like to be friends again, but Iris wants little to do with him. Even he doesn't know how badly he broke her heart years ago. He's ready to show her he's not the same guy.

I don't know what it was about The Homecoming, but I just didn't connect with the characters. It may be that the town was new to me, but nothing really clicked. I guess I couldn't understand why Iris was lingering on something that happened in high school so badly, and Seth's insistence on getting to be Iris's friend came off as pushy to me. I love Ms. Carr's Virgin River series, so I was kind of surprised I didn't connect as well with The Homecoming, but it just ended up falling flat for me. That makes me think it might be one of those books where you simply need to have started the series at the beginning.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Win a Copy of Tina Seskis's One Step Too Far

From the publisher: (Note you do enter through Facebook)

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Saturday, October 4, 2014

A Little Christmas Jingle by Michele Dunaway

Release Date - October 7, 2014

Michele Dunaway

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

A Little Christmas Jingle has a lot going for it. Of the holiday-themed romances I've read in the past couple of months, this one is easily my favorite and will stick with me. Here's another great read for those who love Christmas stories.

Detective Jack Donovan is happy with the work he does on the city's animal abuse investigative unit. He's not as happy as the attention he's drawing as Mr. December for a charity calendar. He's also not thrilled that his mother works tirelessly to find him a wife. Little does Jack know, he's about to meet the woman of his dreams.

Kat Saunders works hard to save the lives of the animals in her veterinary clinic. In fact, she's opened up a no-kill shelter as part of her clinic, though it seems to be ticking off some of the area residents. She's facing a court hearing that her shelter is illegal and that the animals she rescues are being kept in deplorable conditions. Meeting Mr. December, even if it is for one night, is a good distraction, but she has her court case to focus on and a relationship is not in the cards.

The pair meet again when Jack rescues a pit bull puppy that has been tied to a dumpster and set on fire. He needs Kat to save this little guy, and he starts to realize that Kat might also be his answer to keeping his mom off his back. If they pretend to be a couple, it becomes a win-win for both of them. Little do they know that their pretend relationship is on the verge of becoming the real thing. Something neither of them feels they are ready for.

I loved A Little Christmas Jingle. It's not a long story, only about 170 pages. This makes it perfect for a couple hours of "me time" or to fit in between errands. The romance between Kat and Jack sizzles, but there's also plenty of focus on their jobs, which I liked. Jingle became an important fixture in the book, and I was rooting for him as much as I was Jack and Kat.

There are annoyances in this book, just as there are in many books, and they offer some of the conflict. One neighbor in particular who was fighting Kat and her shelter, I wanted to smack him. Yet, I also know people like that, so he was developed with a lot of realism. There's also a female character that makes a brief appearance, and she also annoyed me. What I did like is that despite them, Kat was tough enough to handle whatever they wanted to throw her way. Her strength made her one of my favorite romance novel heroines and a reason I'll be watching for more books by Michele Dunaway.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Hideaway Cove by Anna Sullivan

Release Date - August 2014

Anna Sullivan

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Holden "Hold" Abbot is on Windfall Island to uncover who the heir to the Stanhope fortune really is. His presence is a distraction to Jessi Randal, a single mom who wants to focus on her seven-year-old son and not a relationship. Hold is getting harder to ignore, however.

Balancing work, parenthood, and her growing attraction to Hold is tough. Even worse, Jessi finds a link between the missing heir and herself, her son's father returns after walking out on her when she was pregnant, and town gossip looms at every corner. Does she really have time and energy for a romance?

Hideaway Cove is the second book in the Windfall Island series. I loved the first book in the series and hoped to enjoy this one just as much. However, it feel short. I didn't like the return of Jessi's ex-boyfriend and the father of her son. It was too easy to predict why he suddenly returned after eight years of not caring. That predictability was a bit of a let down.

Jessi and Hold are a solid couple with plenty of sparks flying between them, but Jessi was almost too cautious and secretive at points, especially when she finds a link between herself and the Stanhopes.

Overall, this isn't a bad book. I still prefer Maggie's story, but I am eager to see which of the women is the Stanhope heir.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Eden in Winter by Richard North Patterson

Release Date - July 2014

Richard North Patterson 

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

I have a feeling that I would have gained more enjoyment out of Eden in Winter had I read other books in the saga. I didn't, however, and quickly found myself disliking most characters in the book. No one seems capable of telling the truth unless they're backed into a corner, and even then they excuse their behavior constantly, even if they are just clearly in the wrong.

 Adam Blaine is uncovering the truth behind his father's death on Martha's Vineyard. This truth threatens to tear his family apart, but he's equally determined to make it so that not one of his family members pays the price for Benjamin Blaine's death. As the CIA agent works to unravel the truth, he finds himself forming a bond with his father's pregnant mistress.

I don't want to say too much more about the plot, because there are things I could give away. I never really connected with Adam. If anyone in the book kept me reading, it was Carla, the mistress. I did feel for her.

In the end, I wonder if my lack of having read the previous two books was my downfall. I just couldn't connect to the story or characters and that made for a lackluster read.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Christmas at Seashell Cottage by Donna Alward

Release Date - October 2014

Donna Alward

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

I love feel-good stories, and Christmas at Seashell Cottage is definitely a feel-good holiday romance. The story takes place in my favorite place on earth, coastal Maine, so that made it all the more enjoyable.

Charlie Yang's parents may not have been thrilled by her decision to move to Maine and become a small town doctor, but she's happy enough. She cares for most everyone in the town and has a charming cottage in a beautiful coastal town. In hopes of getting to know more people in the community, she agrees to help out with the decorations for the upcoming holiday.

While working on the nativity scene, Charlie comes face to face with a man she's admired from afar. Dave Ricker is a former SEAL and as he's new to the town, he needs friends just as much as Charlie does. She doesn't want to lose her heart to a man who may leave, but it's hard to resist.

While walking past the nativity scene one night, Dave spots something and finds an abandoned newborn in the cradle. It's this little baby boy who draws Dave and Charlie together. How long can things last when police are trying to find the baby's mother? Does Charlie really want to get into a relationship with a man who has made it clear he'll be moving on?

With this charming holiday story priced at less than $5, I can't imagine not ordering a copy. It's a sweet read, nothing too taxing, and it simply warms the heart. It's not overly long, so you can fit in reading around preparing holiday meals, baking cookies, or simply sipping hot cocoa in front of the fire for a moment of "me time."

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...