Thursday, July 30, 2015

Notice About Amazon Links

Earlier this year, Amazon notified me that due to their disagreement over Vermont state laws, they were no longer accepting anyone from Vermont to be part of their Associate's program. They said the ban remains in effect until Vermont changes its laws.

For me, this means I can no longer access image links through the Associate's program. They more recently sent an email saying that the code in the ads I've posted for the past number of years are not longer going to work unless I change them (more than 200) to include new Associate's links. As you can guess, since I cannot access Associate's, it seems pointless to have to alter the code on more than 200 pages. Their response to me was a general "whatever, do it or the links go away."

I'm not doing it. If you look at old reviews next month, the Amazon links will unlikely work. I apologize for this. I will be looking to see if other booksellers like Barnes and Noble still work with Vermonters, but I have no idea if anyone will.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Her Final Breath by Robert Dugoni

Release Date - September 15, 2015

Robert Dugoni
Thomas & Mercer

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

First, sorry for the absence. My job kept me from being able to read anything. I'm hoping to now get back to my more usual routine, as not reading for a full week becomes a stressor in my eyes.

Robert Dugoni blew me away with last year's My Sister's Grave. This was first in the Tracy Crosswhite series. I'm not going to go into that book, and if you missed it, Her Final Breath does stand by itself, though I highly recommend the first.

Tracy Crosswhite is back, though her position within the police force is on shaky grounds due to her unwillingness to do as she's told. Tracy's good at following her gut, and usually her instincts are spot on. A number of recent murders are keeping police busy, and Tracy's convinced a case that was supposedly solved years ago was the first of the serial killer's work. If she's right, an innocent man is in jail for a murder he did not commit. With the Cowboy continuing his murderous rampage, Tracy decides to ignore her captain and investigate the case that many others want her to leave alone.

Her Final Breath is just as gripping as the first novel. I really enjoy Tracy's dedication to solving crimes, even if they are decades old and have been solved through shoddy investigation. Once again, she's a powerful force. Once again, it could cost her her job. You don't have the answers until the final page.

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Closer You Come by Gena Showalter

Release Date - April 2015

Gena Showalter

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

He's been through jail and now all Jase Hollister wants is to live peacefully with his friends (once all foster brothers). He has no room in his life for women, especially not one very flirtatious woman and her quieter, very sexy sister.

Brook Lynn Dillon is trying to keep her life together, but her older sister's partying and one-night-stand ways make that very tough. Brook's two jobs keep the bills paid, but when she loses one of them because of her sister's lack of work ethics, Brook is in a panic. Jase Hollister offers her the job she needs, but how can she work for a man who makes it clear he wants no woman in his life?

The Closer You Come starts off the Original Heartbreaker series with a bang. I fell in love with Jase and his friends, and definitely loved the pairing of him and Brook Lynn. Both shelter their hearts, which makes it fun to see if they'll realize they're perfect for each other.

As is true of any romance, there are the typical hurdles that the pair must overcome. I've read so many romances now that I come to expect them. Given that, one character who is introduced is very likely to become the heroine in a future Original Heartbreakers book, so I'll be interested to see if the author can change my opinion about her.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Where They Found Her by Kimberly McCreight

Book Release - April 2015

Kimberly McCreight

Book Review by Bob Walch

When the body of a newborn is discovered in the woods fringing the campus of a local university, the residents of Ridgedale, New Jersey, are shocked but have plenty of opinions on how such a terrible event could happen.

Although she has some serious misgivings about taking the assignment, feelance journalist Molly Sanderson agrees to cover the story for the local newspaper. Molly recently has lost a child herself and her investigation is going to resurrect some painful memories.

As she begins questioning the authorities and local inhabitants of Ridgedale, Molly quickly discovers there are plenty of secrets behind the white picket fences of this idyllic community.

Told from the perspectives of three very different women, the reader, along with Molly, will untangle the sad story of the infant’s death. Kimberley McCreight’s debut, Reconstructing Amelia, received a lot of critical acclaim and was nominated for some prestigious literary awards. Where They Found Her is another powerful psychological suspense story that will take the reader on an emotional roller coaster ride.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

Release Date - June 14, 2015

Harper Lee

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Like many, I have seen the publicity, followed the story, and I was going to read Go Set a Watchman despite what critics were saying. I loved To Kill a Mockingbird enough that I kept my high school copy. My teacher knows and, while I offered to pay for it, he said he was overjoyed that one student loved it so much they actually didn't want to return it. I still have my copy and reread it once a year.

I cannot imagine anyone reading Go Set a Watchman first, but if you are planning to and somehow dodged having to read TKaM in high school, Watchman will stand alone. You really do need to read both books, however, to understand how much Lee's writing progressed from her first written book to the highly-praised prequel.

Go Set a Watchman takes place after To Kill a Mockingbird, but it was apparently Harper Lee's first written book, though publishers rejected it, so she tucked it away and moved on to her bestseller, which is technically a prequel. The characters are familiar, and I can see exactly how this probably went down. It isn't as good, but it had such promise that the author took the notes in the rejection letters, considered building on one section from the story, and crafted her brilliant bestseller.

Jean Louis Finch (known to most as Scout) is back in Maycomb, Alabama. Now in her late-20s, Scout is grown up and the object of Henry "Hank" Clinton's affections. Jem's dead, but Hank has been taken under Atticus's wing and hopes to convince Scout to marry him and stay in Maycomb for good.

While in Maycomb, Scout quickly learns that the people she's loved for so many years have changed, or maybe her childhood self never saw them the way they truly were. It's her father who she fears has changed the most, and that leads to her awakening. The people you think you know best are not as they seem.

Anyone who reads the news knows that critics are panning this book calling Atticus a racist. I really think you need to read the story, the whole story. Atticus is not that different to how he was in To Kill a Mockingbird. It all goes back to the famous quote: "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view." Every critic to say Atticus is a racist is forgetting that very important lesson. There is a reason some of Atticus's viewpoints have changed and if you read the entire book, you understand. It makes sense, especially given the era when this story was written and takes place.

I cannot say that Go Set a Watchman is as good as To Kill a Mockingbird. It's not. It does, however, capture the 1950s, the changes people faced, and the biases that still exist today. Anyone who says we have evolved from racism need to wake up and look at how transgenders, gays, and immigrants are treated today.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Within These Walls by Ania Ahlborn

Release Date - April 21, 2015

Ania Ahlborn
Gallery Books

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

It's the chance of a lifetime. Lucas Graham, a true crime author, receives a letter offering him an interview with the very reclusive Jeffrey Halcomb, a death row inmate who killed a woman and her unborn child. It's the chance Lucas needs to revive his stagnant career, and possibly win back the affections of his wife and daughter.

There's one big catch though. Lucas must live in the home where the murder was committed. Plus, this all must happen within a specific period of time. Otherwise, Lucas loses out on his chance to be the only person to ever hear Jeffrey's side of the story.

Within These Walls jumps around from news clippings regarding the murders and past residents of the home, to Lucas's and his daughter's experiences within the home, and to the past where readers learn about Jeffrey's upbringing and how he met the woman he would be accused of murdering.

I admit, there was a definite creep factor. For all intents and purposes, Jeffrey Halcomb is just a version of Charles Manson. He's creepy and I definitely didn't want to connect with his character in any way. Not that I really needed to, it's clear from the start that this book is really about the house, Lucas, and his daughter. You see, Lucas's wife is cheating on him, their marriage is dangling by a thread, and the daughter connects with neither parent.

Take a grumpy teen, put her in a house with such a brutal past, and a father who is obsessed with writing another bestseller and you have two, possibly three if you count the house, characters that I ended up never liking. The daughter just needed to open up to her parents about her feelings. and Lucas needed to take his blinders off.

Despite not liking any of the characters, I kept reading. I wanted to know how things turned out. Once I'd finished, and without giving any spoilers, I guess I just felt cheated. The writing is solid, the story line has promise, but the delivery, for me anyway, really failed.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Case of the Invisible Dog: A Shirley Homes Mystery by Diane Stingley

Release Date - May 2015

Diane Stingley

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

I admit to choosing The Case of the Invisible Dog because it was praised as being "sure to delight fans of Diane Mott Davidson." I am a big fan of the Goldy Schulz series and enjoy anything that is similar in humor and tone.

Tammy Norman is back in North Carolina after a failed attempt at a career in Hollywood. Finding a job she enjoys has been tough since her return, so she's intrigued when she spies an unusual ad in the paper. She applies and finds herself the assistant to Shirley Homes, a woman who believes she is the great-great-granddaughter of Sherlock Homes.

The job is just as unusual as her new boss. For a number of days, Tammy's only job duties seem to be sitting around and keeping the office plant alive. It isn't until a client, Matt Peterman, shows up with an unbelievable claim that an invisible dog is keeping him up all night that Tammy finds herself heading out sleuthing with her boss. Soon, Tammy realizes Matt may have been telling the truth and that someone may be out to get him.

I really wanted to like The Case of the Invisible Dog so that I'd have a new series to look forward to, but I simply could not connect to the characters. Tammy seems like she should be smart, but she certainly doesn't put her intelligence to use most of the time. Shirley is simply too eccentric to ever be likable. She never opens up to Tammy, and for that matter, the reader, so she remains an enigma and as time drew on, I no longer cared about her.

The mystery regarding the invisible dog seemed a little too easy to figure out to me. I figured out where the dog was long before the main characters, and I still can't figure out why Matt couldn't figure it out.

In the end, I finished the book, but it's a case where I wish I hadn't bothered. It was readable, but not engaging for me.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Normal by Graeme Cameron

Release Date - April 2015

Graeme Cameron

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

One thing that stands out with Normal is the main character. He's a sadistic, sick, demented killer who may seem to fit in, but the truth is he has a holding cell in his basement where he imprisons and then kills women for fun. His latest victim, well he's kept her alive than he has others. But, the real change happens when he's at the grocery store. He meets Rachel and falls for her. He now has a desire to change, but that's going to be tough when he still has a victim in his basement and police who are desperate to solve the string of murders that he's responsible for.

It's really hard to feel any sympathy for the main character. He's demented and I wanted police to get him and lock him away for life. Therefore, it was hard to sympathize with his fascination and "love" for Rachel.

That said, the writing in Normal is gripping and very disturbed. The author did a great job creating a creepy character that gets under your skin. I had the same goosebumps as I did when I learned the guy whose locker was next to mine in high school had been put in jail a few years after graduation for raping several women. That "eww" factor is hard to ignore throughout Normal. Kudos to the author for creating a fictional, very creepy character.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Girl She Used to Be by David Cristofano

Release Date -

David Cristofano
Grand Central Publishing

Release Date - March 2009

While I received this book years ago for review, I couldn't get into it back then. Years later, I pulled it back out to give it another shot, as I really do like the plot for The Girl She Used to Be. In the end, it's the characters I still struggled with.

For two decades, Melody Grace McCartney's been on the run, part of the witness protection program. She and her parents witnessed a brutal murder, one committed by a mobster. While the mobster was able to find and eliminate her parents, Melody has remained out of his reach. Until now...

Bored of her current living situation, Melody fakes a problem and readies herself for another change of location, name, and career. Before the move is finalized however, the mobster's son does find her and offers her a chance at a life she's never experienced, the chance to be herself. All she has to do is turn her back on the government and put all of her trust in him.

There in starts a book that's part crime drama and part romance. The Girl She Used to Be did hold my attention, but after Melody meets Jonathan I started to lose interest. Melody came off as a strong, tough female lead, but she turns a bit sappy when she meets Jonathan and starts making decisions I had to question. Falling in love so quickly, especially with the son of a man who you know is dangerous and has played a role in the death of others, including your parents, I just couldn't understand why someone so smart would make such a foolish decision.

In the end, I still liked The Girl She Used to Be, but I didn't love it as much as I did in the beginning.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Hope Harbor by Irene Hannon

Release Date - July 7, 2015

Irene Hannon

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Michael Hunter's come to Hope Harbor after the loss of his wife. When he arrives and finds the only hotel in town is shut down, he's at a loss. He never expects a local resident to take him in. Especially not after hearing she's been an unfriendly recluse for a number of years. He's just hear to deal with his tragic past, the last thing he needs is to find romance.

Tracy Campbell meets Michael Hunter when he causes her to crash her bike. She's back in Hope Harbor to run her family's cranberry farm and a local charity. With her time spread thin, she never expects to get help from Michael, but he seems insistent on paying back the kindness he's received from the town's recluse, so Tracy lets him in. She refuses to let him into her heart, however. She's had her chance at love and failed miserably.

It doesn't take long before Tracy and Michael realize there is a mutual attraction at play. Given their pasts, they cannot find love again, can they?

Hope Harbor is a sweet romance with many characters who have suffered some form of loss. There are four main stories taking place in this novel, however, so you end up getting involved with four sets of characters. You have Michael and what caused him to give up on love. Next, there's Tracy and the secrets of her marriage. There's also the town recluse, Anna, who lost both her husband and son in little time, and no one knows the real story. Finally, there is a young teen who has a secret of her own and gets some characters to think about where they are, where they could be, and she becomes a catalyst for change.

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