Monday, November 30, 2015

Mandy Baxter Kicks Off the Holidays With a Billionaire Rancher Book

The name Mandy Baxter immediately brought to mind the character from Tim Allen's hit TV show, but this Mandy Baxter has an appealing series that kept me wanting more.

Nate Christensen wants nothing from his late father. Not the family business and certainly not a dime of his money. He's also had it with woman who are after his family's money. Enter Chloe Benson. Chloe desperately needs money to keep her charitable organization afloat, but after meeting Nate, she doesn't have the heart to ask him for a donation. She's immediately attracted to him.

After a passionate night together, Chloe's convinced Nate might be Mr. Right. That definitely creates a problem with getting the donation she needs. She knows he hates everything about his family's money, but is it possible to prove to Nate that he can have it all?

Every ounce of Holidays With a Billionaire screams - this isn't going to go over well. Yet, despite knowing that Chloe was walking on thin ice, I found myself really liking her character and wanted her to get Nate to see the light. The spark between them was immediate, and I was rooting for them. Obviously, as is true in any romance, there is going to be the conflict, but I appreciated that the author brought it up and didn't dwell on it for chapters upon chapters. 

For a holiday romance, this one from St. Martins Paperbacks is a goodie. It's not too long, the chemistry is there, and I am eager to read more in the Billionaire's Club series.

Monday, November 23, 2015

A Taste of Sake: An Exercise in When You Just Dislike the Characters

There's one thing that always kills a book for me and that's disliking the characters. Number one of my list of complaints come characters who have a good thing in front of them, but they are apparently too blind to see it. That's my problem with A Taste of Sake.

Lyrical Shine - October 27, 2015

With a gorgeous setting, everything is set for Sauvignon St. Pierre's vineyard wedding. Her sisters, Merlot and Chardonney, are just as excited as she is. However, the crash landing of a helicopter rushes the ceremony. The St. Pierre sisters' father didn't quite nail his landing, sending his surprise guest to the hospital. Turns out he had an affair with a Japanese woman that produced one more daughter - Sake.

Sake grew up always on the move and rarely in a good situation. She's tough, not thrilled with her situation, and definitely annoyed that her one true friend, her dog, isn't allowed at the St. Pierre estate. That's where realtor Bill Diamond comes in. He's the only person Sake's met in this new setting that she trust to care for her dog. Bill also becomes the person Sake beckons every time she needs something. As Bill quickly learns, there's more to Sake than meets the eye.

I just couldn't develop any attachment to Sake. To me, her choices of words were obnoxious. Her attachment to a man that gets her into trouble with the law made little sense. And, her attitude was equally annoying. Her father was trying to do right and help her achieve success, but she didn't seem to care. Bill's slightly better, but I couldn't see his attraction to Sake, and the dog was not enough to me to bring them together. I had to force myself to keep reading, and that's never a good sign.

Heather Heyford's latest release is clearly part of a series. I haven't read any of the previous novels in the Napa Wine Heiresses series. And as fair as I try to be, I can't say after reading A Taste of Sake, that I have any urge to read the others. I have to chalk up this book as a miss and hope readers out there have better luck with it than I do.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Chilling European Mystery: Mark Edwards' Follow You Home

In a chilling mystery by Mark Edwards, readers are taken on a frightening adventure across Europe. While I remained on the edge of my seat, there were definitely moments when I wondered why on earth they didn't spill their story when they reached an embassy. That's definitely impacting my overall thoughts when it comes to the book review.

June 2015 Release from Thomas and Mercer

Daniel and Laura are madly in love. Before returning to their London home where they plan to settle down and raise a family, they decide to travel around Europe and have the experience of a lifetime. Things go south in Romania when they meet another couple. Opting to take the couple up on their offer to wake them up at their stop, Daniel and Laura sneak into an empty sleeper cabin and take a nap. When they wake up, their belongings, including their passports, are gone. The female from the other couple acts as a translator when the guard comes through looking for tickets, but the trio end up getting kicked off the train in the middle of nowhere.

What Daniel and Laura end up seeing in a house in the woods ends up destroying their relationship. They've also vowed to never speak of the events in the woods. When their friends start dying and stalkers seem to be watching them, Daniel and Laura are forced to face up to the events from Romania, if they can survive that long.

I cannot deny that Follow You Home keeps you on the edge of your seat and rooting for the couple. That said, I couldn't understand why they didn't speak up once they were with the British consulate and getting travel papers to get back to London. Logically, that's what I would have done.

The big mystery regarding the events they witnessed were revealed over time. I wasn't shocked by what they'd witnessed and one of the bigger revelations wasn't that surprising to me. However, even with these minor niggles, I still kept reading and had a really good time seeing how things turned out in the end.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Cozy Mysteries: One of My Secret Indulgences

Alibi Release Date - November 17, 2015

Cozy mysteries are an indulgence of mine, so it's not surprising that I am always eager to review a new entry to the genre. Caroline Fardig's Death by Decaf is a fun addition to the world of cozy mysteries. If you are a fan of Joanne Fluke, Diane Mott Davidson, or Jessica Conant-Park (all my favorites), check out the first novel in Caroline Fardig's A Java Jive Mystery series.

Juliet "Jules" Langley may not have made much of her music career, but she was very proud of the cafe she owned with her fiance. When he takes all of her money and runs off with her waitress, Jules is forced to return home to run a long-time friend's coffeeshop. Her first day doesn't go well. She fights with the head chef and then finds his body in the shop's dumpster.

With the police considering her their prime suspect, Jules decides to start investigating the case in her spare time. Soon, she's making enemies and up to her neck in trouble she just didn't need.

There's the mystery in Death by Decaf, but there's also the start to a romantic triangle between her best buddy and a dark and mysterious bad boy who frequents the cafe. Add a dose of Pete's grandmother, a sassy elderly woman who definitely doesn't act her age and adds dashes of humor, and this book is a clear winner.

The only thing Death by Decaf is lacking are the recipes that culinary-themed cozy mysteries usually have. I found myself craving coconut chocolate chip cookies to go with my morning latte. That's not enough to keep me from wanting to read future Java Jive books.

Friday, November 6, 2015

One Nor'Easter Changes Lives in This Holiday Romance

A St. Martin's Paperbacks October 2015 Release

Here's another Christmas romance to get you in a holiday mood. The small town of Jewell Cove is in the midst of a Nor'Easter and Officer Todd Ricker is out patrolling the snowy roads to ensure no one is stranded. He does come across a stranded traveler and brings him to the only inn that might have room left. By the time Todd and his new passenger arrive at Evergreen Inn, he cannot get home either, so innkeeper Lainey Price offers to let him spend the night on her sofa in her carriage house.

The pair have known each other for a long time, and Todd's never given Lainey the time of day. Todd may still be a hottie, but Lainey no longer cares. Christmas is here, and Lainey has other things on her mind anyway. And, none of her plans involve having any holiday spirit or attempting a second chance at love.

Christmas at Evergreen Inn is a holiday novella. It's short and sweet and really won't take many readers more than an hour or two to finish. I love the novellas that come out at this time of the year. They fit perfectly in between cooking tasks, gift wrapping, and holiday excursions.

I liked Todd's character. Lainey's was a little less enjoyable, only because she lingered on her past too much, and I'm the type that would have been like "It's your loss, I'm moving on!" When a heroine lingers and mopes, I find myself annoyed.

This is the second Jewell Cove novel I've read. The setting is my favorite part of these romances. I love this town and can't wait to return.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Disillusioned Hero Meets Determined Caregiver Heroine and Loses His Heart

Harlequin/MIRA September 2015 Release

Have you seen Hilary Swank's emotional movie You're Not You? In essence, Emmy Rossum's character in that movie reminded me a bit of Faith McCallum in Susan Wiggs' new novel.

Faith is a widowed mom of two girls and her late husband's medical bills have left her struggling to get by. Her older daughter, Cara, dreams of colleges that Faith could never afford. Her younger daughter, a very precocious child, has Type 1 Diabetes, a condition that also drives up their living expenses. Faith applies for a job caring for a quadriplegic and is stunned to get the job, even after completely missing the interview.

Mason Bellamy needs to find his mother a caregiver so that he can get back to his life in Manhattan. He bought his mom a lavish manor in the Catskills, had it fixed up to suit her needs, but she's burning through caregivers like crazy. When Alice tumbles down the stairs just before Mason's brother is heading out of state for training and his sister is set to begin a fellowship in Paris, Mason must return home until he knows she's getting the care she deserves.

From the moment he comes across Faith, Mason is enamored. She's perfect for his mother. In addition, he finds himself drawn to Faith and her daughters. Yet, Mason is engaged and ready to settle down and start life as a married man.

I've loved Susan Wiggs' novels for a long time. Starlight on Willow Lake jettisons to the top of my favorite Susan Wiggs book. I loved Mason and his whole family. Faith and her daughters were gems. The setting is magical, and their romance never seems trite or rushed. With this book completed, I am eager to round up other novels in The Lakeshore Chronicles series. I'm also crossing my fingers that the author returns to give Cara her own story.

- Tracy

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

A Christmas Romance Book Review: Home For Christmas (Sanctuary Island)

St. Martin's - October 2015

I've been spending the past few weeks really studying SEO due to a job change. One thing I've learned is that following a strict format when it comes to articles and blogs is not ideal. Given that, I'm switching things up and skipping a more formal look.

Christmas is around the corner, and that means the rush of Christmas novels is hitting stores. Lily Everett's Home For Christmas takes readers to a place near and dear to my heart, the eastern coast.

Libby Leeds rarely has to go out of her house. She's content with her job as a newspaper columnist, but she hides a few secrets. First, she's not happily married as she claims. Second, she cannot cook. Third, she doesn't live on Sanctuary Island, her family's home. After her parents died in a tragic accident, Libby left the island to live with her uncle, and she hasn't seen her grandfather since.

When her publisher informs her that she is going to host a warm, cozy Christmas for a wounded soldier and his daughter, Libby panics. She's told she will have to fake it or lose her job. Her grandfather welcomes her back, but can she pull off the rest of her lie as easily?

From the time I can remember, family vacations to coastal Maine, New York, Connecticut, or New Hampshire have been a yearly event. Sanctuary Island is set off the coast of Virginia, but I can imagine it feels much like our stay on Bailey Island in Maine. I highly recommend a stay on Bailey Island for an amazing getaway. The setting in this novel was a huge bonus and made the story so much better.

I liked Libby. Owen, well there are mixed feelings there. I found him a little hypocritical. I won't go into details, but all I could think in one section of the novel was "practice what you preach." While I liked him with Libby, I had a hard time truly liking his character for some of the novel.

Summed up, I liked Home For Christmas, but it took time getting past Owen's ignorance. That won't keep me from checking out other books in the series. I fell in love with Sanctuary Island from the very start!

- Tracy

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Heartsong Cottage by Emily March

Release Date - November 3, 2015

Emily March
St. Martins

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Heartsong Cottage is apparently the 10th entry into Emily March's An Eternity Springs Novel series. I swore I'd reach others, but I cannot find reviews, so I'm questioning myself. The town and some of the characters definitely seemed familiar to me.

In this latest entry, which does stand alone, Daniel Garrett is still reeling from the tragic death of his son and then the suicide of his wife. He left the police force and works as a private investigator specializing in missing children. Shannon O'Toole is also reeling, though her grief stems from the death of her fiance and the secret she's been hiding for far too long.

Shannon and Daniel become attracted to one another, but their pasts threaten any kind of future together. Can they overcome their fears and find true love once again?

For me, Heartsong Cottage was a little slow going in terms of building any meaningful relationship. I liked both characters, but as Shannon's secret started coming out, I couldn't help but question why she felt the need to hide it from him. In her shoes, I would have been upfront, but I guess that's just me.

Once the couple found their footing, I loved their interactions. The witty, at times, banter, the conflict as they dealt with their pasts and the potential for a new start. It all came together into a beautiful romance that left me with a tear in my eye and smile on my face.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Ninja Baby by David Zeltser with Illustrations by Diane Goode

Book Release - November 3, 2015

David Zeltser
Diane Goode
Chronicle Kids

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Here's a perfect choice for preparing your child for a new sibling. Ninja Baby tells the tale of Nina. From the moment of her arrival, Nina was something special, a real ninja. She's mastered many powerful ninja skills, including making herself seem invisible to mastering the art of hand-to-hand combat during diaper changes.

One day, Nina's not the only kid in the house. Her parents bring home the Kung Fu Master who is skilled in making adults carry him at all times and getting adults to ooh and ahh over him with a single look. Nina wants to know what makes this Kung Fu Master so powerful. She's determined to master his skills.

The touches of humor and doses of what it's really like being a parent make this a winner in my book. I definitely remember the speed at which a diaper change could go horribly, horribly wrong with the quick move of a little hand. I also remember, more than once, looking for a crawling baby who disappeared the minute I turned my back - usually finding them under the table or desk. Those segments of the book had me snickering.

Meanwhile, young children will love the illustrations, the situations this ninja and Kung Fu master get into, and the story itself. I definitely think this is a great addition to any bookshelf.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Life and Other Near-Death Experiences by Camille Pagan

Release Date - November 2015

Camille Pagan
Lake Union

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Life and Other Near-Death Experiences hooked me and hooked me hard. Right off the bat, I was angry, sad, and hopeful for Libby Miller, the story's heroine. On the same day her doctor tells her she has a rare, tough-to-beat cancer, she learns a terrible secret about her husband, one that shatters their marriage.

With little hope, Libby rents a cottage in Puerto Rico and sets off on a journey to live her final days in glorious fashion. The last thing she expects is to find the potential to start a brand new life surrounded by new friends and a man who would do anything to win her heart.

I loved Libby's story. Despite everything that's thrown her way, she approaches it with a fierce honesty that had me rooting for her. She's vibrant, courageous, and incredibly likable. The story itself has a touch of romance and lots of humor. It's a feel-good story that left me craving more.

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...