Sunday, April 26, 2015

Hugo & Rose: A Novel by Bridget Foley

Release Date - May 5, 2015

Bridget Foley
St. Martin's Press

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

In many ways, I found Rose in the novel Hugo & Rose easy to relate to. She's a stay-at-home mom to a successful, very busy surgeon. Her kids are getting older, her relationship with her husband has settled into routine, and, in a nutshell, she's starting to wonder if this is all that life has in store for her. I was a stay-at-home mom and now am a work-at-home mom, and I've had those thoughts. Is this it?

The thing about Rose that makes her unique is that since an accident in her childhood, she has had a dream-time pal named Hugo. Hugo is exciting. He's an adventurer who joins her in amazing quests. This dream land with its sparkling pink sand, gigantic spider monsters and foul-tempered deer, and Hugo is something Rose looks forward to.

One day, the unimaginable happens. Rose is at a fast food joint she's never been to in the past, but she's desperate to appease her children. When she drives up to the window, Hugo is staring her in the face. It seems absurd that her dream-time friend is live and in the flesh, albeit a little older, but he is and it's amazing. Yet, as Rose gets to know this live and in the flesh Hugo, she starts to see that even he has flaws. What does Rose really want?

Hugo & Rose: A Novel definitely pulled me in. The writing flows well. I was half in love with Rose's husband. Hugo also has his charms. I liked Rose for a while, and then it reached a point where the decisions she made ticked me off, so I stopped feeling sympathetic towards her. The other issue is that I had this feeling that this would be a romantic tale and that's where I was sadly mistaken. There are touches of romance, but, at times, this feels more like a thriller. That's not a bad thing, but it's also unexpected and takes you down paths you did not see coming.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

House of Echoes by Brendan Duffy

Release Date - April 2015

Brendan Duffy
Ballantine Books

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Their son's being bullied, she loses her job, and he's just inherited land in the small Adirondack town of Swannhaven. For Ben and Caroline Tierney, this seems like the perfect chance to start over. They purchase a rundown estate with plans to restore it and turn it into a charming country inn.

Swannhaven does not turn into the idyllic retreat they imagined. Something is in the woods and definitely does not want them to stay. Rotting carcasses of animal bodies begin popping up around their home. And, the townspeople are also not as welcoming as they would have expected.

House of Echoes is creepy and mesmerizing all at once. The older son, the one who was bullied, as Charlie ventures deeper into the woods, readers begin to get drawn into the horrific aspects of this story. It's definitely got touches of being a horror novel, while also being a suspense/thriller.

As much as I loved the writing and characters in House of Echoes, I did wonder why it took so long to get into the actual meat of the story. Sure, you get the animal bodies and the possible sightings of something in the woods, but it's all the reader is exposed to until the storyline really explodes. At that point, it all seemed rushed. By this time, I was pretty sure I'd already figured out the basics to the mystery, which I had, so none of it felt like a big revelation.

I did still enjoy House of Echoes. You just have to be patient with the build up. Once the action hits, you will be glued to the pages as you see what happens to the Tierney family.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Sneak Peek and Contest for The Far End of Happy by Kathryn Kraft

In approximately two weeks, a book I have read and loved goes on sale. The review is coming up soon, but the Kathryn Kraft is offering a sneak peek on YouTube.

Additionally, there is an awesome giveaway that readers will not want to miss.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

In Wilderness by Diane Thomas

Release Date - March 2015

Diane Thomas
Random House

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

After three doctors all tell her she's dying, Katherine Reid buys an isolated mountain cabin and a pistol and sets off to distance herself from anyone who might care what she plans to do. She soon realizes though that someone is also in the mountains, watching her every move.

Danny served in the Vietnam War and saw far too much tragedy to want to be around people. Secluded in a run down mansion not too far from Katherine's cabin. Soon, Katherine is all he can think about.

In Wilderness is an emotionally charged mix of romance, general fiction, and given that I was born after the time period, I'll even call it historical fiction. Katherine goes through a lot early in the story, but readers only learn of the true details in bits and pieces. Same goes with Danny, who has seen far too much both in the war and at home.

The story is just one part of my interest in this book. It's the setting that also drew me in. Diane Thomas does a great job bringing the mountains to life. You can easily imagine exactly what Katherine goes through using the outhouse, dealing with the drafts and cold, and then the unease of knowing she's being watched but not knowing by whom or for what reason.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Exquisite Corpse by Penelope Bagieu

Release Date - May 5, 2015

Penelope Bagieu
First Second

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Graphic novels are always hit or miss with me. I'm delighted to say that Exquisite Corpse is a huge hit and a book that I recommend to almost any adult reader. I am going to say adult only because some of the scenes do have brief nudity. While I would be happy to let my high schooler read it, I know other parents who are the polar opposite of me. I definitely think the story line is witty, honest, and at times downright hilarious.

Zoe is a product rep at various trade shows. The truth is, she's not happy with her job, her boyfriend is a dud, and generally she's miserable. One day, while sitting at the park, she spies a man watching her from his apartment window. Zoe takes a chance and buzzes him and asks to use his bathroom.

It isn't long before Zoe is completely infatuated with this man. Thomas Rocher is a reclusive author, one going through writer's block. As Zoe becomes Thomas's muse and lover, she discovers a secret that changes everything.

I loved the story, the illustrations are fantastic, and I sat down meaning to only read a chapter or two and ended up finishing the book the same afternoon. It's a quick read and one that definitely left me with a grin on my face. Anyone looking for a change of pace that has a touch of romance, a touch of reality, and plenty of humor needs to read Exquisite Corpse.

Friday, April 17, 2015

A Brief Q&A With David Taylor, Author of Night Life

I had the chance to do a Q&A with David Taylor, author of Night Life, a historical crime novel set in the 1950s. Rather than ask the same old, same old, I try to limit Q&As to a brief number of questions that I would most want to answer. As a writer and editor for a few websites, I also know that time is a precious commodity, so I try to keep things simple.

Tracy - If you were inviting three authors, dead or alive, to join you for dinner, who would they be? 

David - Charles Dickens for the stories, Mark Twain for the wit, Hilary Mantel for the lapidary prose.

Tracy - Are you an author who needs silence when writing or do you have a list of preferred artists?

David - I do work in a quiet room, but there is often the delightful background music of my wife’s cello practice.

Tracy - If you were told you had to give up all but three books, what would they be?

David - “One Hundred Years Of Solitude” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, “The Letters Of E.B. White”, “The Encyclopedia Britannica”.

Night Life, the first title in an electrifying new historical crime fiction series set in 1950's New York, delivers a pulse-pounding murder plot surrounding complex protagonist and war veteran Detective David Cassidy, who finds himself caught between police and mafia ties. Taylor uses his vast experience writing for TV and film to make the vivid, old-time New York setting come alive more than ever before.

* * *

New York City in 1954. The Cold War is heating up. Senator Joe McCarthy is running a witch hunt for Communists in America. The newly formed CIA is fighting a turf battle with the FBI to see who will be the primary US intelligence agency. And the bodies of murdered young men are turning up in the city. Michael Cassidy has an unusual background for a New York cop. His father, a refugee from Eastern Europe, is a successful Broadway producer. His godfather is Frank Costello, a Mafia boss.

Cassidy also has an unusual way of going about the business of being a cop—maybe that’s why he threw a fellow officer out a third story window of the Cortland Hotel. Cassidy is assigned to the case of Alexander Ingram, a Broadway chorus dancer found tortured and dead in his apartment in Hell’s Kitchen. Complications grow as other young men are murdered one after the other. And why are the FBI, the CIA, and the Mafia interested in the death of a Broadway gypsy?

Meanwhile, a mysterious, beautiful woman moves into Cassidy’s building in Greenwich Village. Is Dylan McCue a lover or an enemy? Cassidy is plagued by nightmares—dreams that sometimes become reality. And he has been dreaming that someone is coming to kill him.

About the Author

DAVID C. TAYLOR was born and raised in New York City. He spent twenty years in Los Angeles writing for television and the movies. He has published short stories and magazine articles, and has had an Off-Broadway musical produced in New York. He now divides his time between Boston and the coast of Maine.

About Forge Books

 FORGE BOOKS, an imprint of Tom Doherty Associates, LLC, is a New York-based publisher of hardcover and softcover books, founded in 1993 and committed (although not limited) to thrillers, mysteries, historical fiction and general fiction. Forge includes books by bestselling and critically acclaimed authors such as Douglas Preston, Eric Lustbader, W. Bruce Cameron and Ralph Peters. Tom Doherty Associates, LLC, is also the home of award-winning Tor Books, which annually publishes what is arguably the largest and most diverse line of science fiction and fantasy ever produced by a single English-language publisher.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Bone Tree by Greg Iles

Release Date - April 21, 2015

Greg Iles
William Morrow

Book Review by Bob Walch

Those who read Natchez Burning by Greg Iles will certainly want to read the second novel in this southern gothic trilogy featuring Penn Cage. The Bone Tree picks up with Cage’s father, Dr. Tom Cage, still on the run for murder.

The Double Eagles, a vicious offshoot of the KKK, continues to be a force to deal with and a series of unsolved civil rights murders will take the principal characters to a secret burial ground known simply as “the bone tree deep” in the swamp. Deep in the swamp, this has been final resting place for over 200 years of folks who just disappear and are never heard from again.

Not only is Penn Cage determined to find his father, but he also wants to find out why he has taken flight. Obvious the Double Eagles’ interest in Tom has a lot to do with it, and some of the members of the society seem to know more about the doctor’s past than his own son.

This family quest drops Penn right in the center of some of the most important events of the 1960s, including the assassination of JFK. Somehow Tom Cage is a link to not only a number of unsolved civil rights murders but also to some of the unanswered questions left by the president’s death.

As this lengthy novel unfolds, it becomes clear that Viola Turner’s death, she was Tom’s former nurse, holds the key to some of the darkest chapters in American history. The more questions he asks and the closer he comes to the truth, Penn Cage realizes that he is getting close to exposing a group of audacious southern power brokers who range from the New Orleans Mafia and Double Eagles to political and financial power brokers.

At just a tad over 800 pages, this is a lengthy read but, as with the first novel in this trilogy, The Bone Tree is such an explosive and fast action thriller that the pages will just melt away. Even if you don’t usually tackle long books like this, you’ll be surprised how fluid the plot is and how riveting this tale of dark secrets and headline making events is.

Also, don’t worry if you didn’t read Natchez Burning . That won’t interfere with your enjoyment of The Bone Tree. This is southern fiction at its best, so give it a try; you won’t be disappointed.   

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

I Don't Have a Happy Place: Cheerful Stories of Despondency and Gloom by Kim Korson

Release Date - April 14, 2015

Kim Korson
Gallery Books

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

I have to say this, Kim Korson's I Don't Have a Happy Place certainly caught my attention. From the praise from big names like Jon Stewart, it was hard not to notice it. Then, I started reading. Watching someone drown in front of you, wow, just wow. That opening chapter had me wondering what on earth I was getting myself into. That said, not every chapter is sad, many had me laughing, some horrified me - visitor to the school playground is a good example - and some had me feeling incredibly nostalgic.

The author actually grew up about two hours north of where I grew up. Her memories of so many things struck a chord with me. Weebles, who wobble but they don't fall down; Baby Alive, a doll that pooed; a Barbie Dreamhouse, something I had and wish I'd kept it given the value of it today; and then many TV shows like Solid Gold, Charlie's Angels, and Mike Douglas. It was those chapters that I found myself most intrigued with, as it as seriously a trip down memory lane.

As the author ages, you see her struggles with depression. I also understand that aspect. I struggled with anxiety and even mild depression for years after my daughter was born. I found myself thinking that this author and I have so much in common, it's almost like she's the twin I never knew I had. From cover to cover, I ended up really liking the stories within I Don't Have a Happy Place and thinking at the end - I know what you mean.

Friday, April 10, 2015

How Many of These Children's Books Have You Read?

In April, Culture columnist released her compiled list of the 11 best children's books of all time. She came up with this list based on responses from book critics, authors, and editors from around the world. How many have you read? What would you put in your list. Culture's List of the 11 Best Children's Books

I'm proud to say I have read 7 of the 11. That means I've likely missed some great books, but there are some that I read and reread so many times in my childhood, that I don't feel bad. Given that, I do have my own list too. Many of these were so memorable that I tracked down copies when my own kids were little. That was when Internet was still hard to come by in my area, so it wasn't as easy as it is today. For one of them, there is a reason my dog's name is Sam I Am.

11.  Charlie and the Chocolate Factory By Roald Dahl

Thursday, April 9, 2015

House of Marbles - Make Your Own Rainforest by Clare Beaton

Release Date - Unknown

Clare Beaton
House of Marbles

Book Review by Bob Walch

Keeping a few interactive books handy when your child or grandchild can’t go outside to play is a much better idea than just flipping on the TV. This interactive book is perfect because it not only teaches the youngster a little bit about the rainforest and the creatures that live there but it also encourages the child to use his/her imagination.

Besides a colorful and sturdy rainforest scene that folds out and offers a backdrop, the book comes with 21 birds, insects and animals that the child can color, cut out and then play with.

You’ll also find some interesting material about the rainforest and these critters plus a glossary of terms. So if you are creating a “Rainy Day” library, this is one book you’ll certainly want to include!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Beer For All Seasons by Randy Mosher

Release Date - April 7, 2015

Randy Mosher
Storey Publishing, LLC

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

If you enjoy beer and really think about it, there are many seasonal beers out there. A crisp, citrusy lager in the summer, the range of spiced dark ales around Halloween and Thanksgiving, a hearty, chocolatey stout in the middle of winter. That's what Beer For All Seasons captures. The author takes each season and offers suggestions of the beers that match the season perfectly, and even offers a few tips on the foods to serve with them.

The book begins with a history of beer. Scattered in each chapter are plenty of colorful photographs of pints of beer, the bottles beer comes in, and even delves a bit into what cicerones do when judging a beer. There is also a beer dictionary and a guide to the glasses you should serve your beer in.

From there the book delves into each season:

Spring - a time for bock beers and the different variations. The book discusses foods of spring, such as lamb, and great beers to pair with it.

Summer - a time for grilling, relaxing in the sun, and sipping on a lager, Wit/Weisse/Weizen, Hefe. There is brief mention of the IPA in summer, something I found sad as IPAs to me are the creme de la creme of beers. The refreshing essence of citrus peel in such beers as Sculpin or the pine notes in beers like Heady Topper and bitterness of the beer definitely catches the attention of your nose first and then the taste buds of your tongue.

Fall - Oktoberfest takes center stage in this chapter. There's also plenty of talk about pumpkin beers that have become so popular.

Winter - Here you'll find discussions of holiday beers, barleywines, and even beers that pair well with chocolate for Valentine's Day. 

Along with the details of the beer, each season is covered by some of the brewfests held in various cities. Some of the mention, such as Burlington Vermont's BrewFest, is really quick. The BrewFest here sells out quickly, in fact, last year the tickets were gone the same day online sales opened. Other beer fests get more attention, such as the Alaskan Beer and Barleywine Festival. I realize there are tons of beer fests to cover in little space, so don't be surprised if your favorite festival gets just a quick mention in the listings.

All in all, the beer aficionado is going to really enjoy Beer For All Seasons. With recipes, pairing ideas, and plenty on the beers themselves, there is a lot to take in and enjoy.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Rebel Queen by Michelle Moran

Release Date - March 2015

Michelle Moran

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Sita's prospects for marriage are slim, but her father believes she has the skill and smarts to become one of Queen Lakshmi of Jhansi's protectors. While the chances of being accepted into the Queen's fold are minimal, Sita manages to do just that and soon becomes Queen Lakshmi's protector and friend.

With the British threatening to take all the Queen Lakshmi holds dear, she assembles two armies. One male army and one that Sita becomes part of, an all-women army. They all set off to protect the land and kingdom they hold so dear.

I generally hate historical anything. Rebel Queen was so different. I read the first chapter, then the second, and soon Sita had pulled me so deep into her story that I couldn't put it down. The 20 minutes I said I'd read and then get to fixing dinner turned into an hour, and then I had to pull myself away, unwillingly.

It turned out to be a very late night/morning, as I could not put Rebel Queen down. Finishing it at 2:00 a.m., when I had to be up at 5:30 a.m. wasn't ideal, but it was that good. From the narrative describing Sita's own home, one pretty much of poverty, to her amazement of her new lifestyle within the Royal Court, and then each and every person (nice or evil) that crosses Sita's path. I was totally hooked and only have high praise for Michelle Moran's story that brings India to life.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Can't Always Get What You Want by Chelsea Krause

Release Date - January 2015

Chelsea Krause

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

I loved so much about Can't Always Get What You Want. The characters, the writing, even the setting drew me in to this tender romance.

Nurse Sophie Richards is ready for a girl's night out. She has tickets to a Rolling Stones tribute band and is looking forward to meeting her best friend for the concert. Her friend Samira, however, has to cancel and suggests Sophie call Brett, Samira's boyfriend's business partner.

Desperate to avoid going alone, Sophie does agree to the blind date. Things go extremely well with their date, but Sophie is incredibly hesitant. Her track record with men isn't great. She's had her one true love, and she isn't convinced that there is another Mr. Right in her future.

Over the span of the book, the reader learns more and more about the man who broke Sophie's heart and made her so hesitant to give love another shot. By the time everything is revealed, I had tears in my eyes. Brett is such a wonderful hero. The world needs more men like him! Paired together, it was impossible not to want to see them end up together.

For an emotionally charged, truly romantic read, you cannot go wrong with Can't Always Get What You Want.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

All the Rage by Courtney Summers

Release Date - April 14, 2015

Courtney Summers
St. Martins Griffin

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

All the Rage definitely brought up rage as I read it. I hated what the poor girl faced, and I really hated the adults' reactions to this. It actually reminded me of a local story, though not completely the same, but a local football team was found to be hazing new members. Those players involved sodomized at least one player with a broom stick and everyone kept it hush-hush, until one of the victims committed suicide and questions were then asked. Even now, I'm outraged at the outcome and that the most of the perpetrators are not going to be charged for the sexual assault. It's disgusting.

In All the Rage, Romy Grey, daughter of the town drunk, is raped by the sheriff's son. The rapist's family are prominent town members, so Romy is labeled as a liar and faces deplorable treatment by her peers and the community's adults. Romy cannot even count on her former best friend, Penny, anymore.

When a yearly party occurs, one that involves the senior class getting drunk and doing things no parent would want a child doing at that age, Penny disappears, so does Romy. Romy is found and is then blamed for tying up the police while they should have been searching for golden girl Penny. It's at this point that Romy must decide if she should stand up and fight the community that hates her or crawl into the hole they seem to want her in.

Here's my take on All the Rage. It disgusted me, yet it was also gripping and drew me in. I felt horribly for Romy and wanted to reach into the pages and offer her the support she so desperately needed. At the same time, I was outraged with her mother, her mother's boyfriend, every adult within that school, and every adult within the town. I was in one word outraged. Yet, I know from headlines that this type of behavior goes on every day in every state of the nation. How dare we continue to let it!

This is a book that teens should read, their parents should read, and adults should read and finally realize that things need to change. It's a book that I see could lead to some very frank, and much needed, discussions in book groups. It's a book that I hope people do not miss.

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...