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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Basil Instinct by Shelley Costa

Release Date - June 24, 2014

Shelley Costa
Pocket Books

Book Review by Jessica Maguire

Eve and Maria Pia Angelotta are back in the second installment of Shelley Costa's mystery series. This time Maria Pia finds herself summoned to be a member of Belfiere, a secret society of female chefs. As part of the induction into the society, Maria Pia, like all Belfiere members, must get a “B” tattooed on her wrist.

While Maria Pia is busy with Belfiere, granddaughter Eve finds herself teaching a cooking class to troubled youths. However, one of her students is not like the rest. Georgia Payne shows interest and skill in the kitchen and Georgia is soon a sous chef at Miracolo, the Angelottas’ restaurant.

It does not take long, however, before "the prosciutto was about to hit the fan." Eve finds Georgia dead in the restaurant the day that Maria Pia is set to host a grand  dinner for Belfiere. Not wanting to ruin Maria Pia's dinner, Eve decides to hide Georgia's body until after the dinner. But then Georgia goes missing!

Making matters worse, Eve's cousin Landon goes missing as well and is considered a suspect in Georgia's death. The intrigue continues when Eve finds the remains of the Belfiere “B” tattoo on Georgia's wrist. Just who is Georgia and did she die trying to escape the crazy chefs of Belfiere?

Find out and pick up this gripping and engaging mystery full of action and surprise twists. And before you start reading, turn to the back of the novel to find a delicious recipe for Gorgonzola and Spiced Walnuts in Port Wine Syrup and enjoy a delicious treat while you lose yourself in the world of Miracolo. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Taste of Beirut by Joumana Accad

Release Date - September 2014

Joumana Accad

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

I'm sure I've mentioned it before, but when I was young, I lived outside San Francisco for a couple years. There, my parents raised us to try every cultural cuisine put in front of us and decide if we liked it or not. Apparently, I brought joy to the owners of a Japanese restaurant as I would delight in everything they fed me. My kids were raised the same way, and there are few cultures where they do not find the food enjoyable.

While I've had Turkish, Greek, and even African cuisine, Lebanese is something I don't see in my area. Taste of Beirut makes it possible to enjoy a sampling of Lebanese at home.

After glancing through the more than 175 recipes, I found several to try. The dumpling-like creations filled with different fillings are first on my list, especially the sfeeha that are filled with a spicy meat mixture and pine nuts. The issue is finding the ingredients. Sumac is something I adore, but it's impossible to buy without ordering it online and paying shipping.

The cookbook starts with a look at the common ingredients, then delves into appetizers, sauces, salads, entrees, and even desserts. The cuisine is suitable for vegans, vegetarians, and meat eaters alike. There are many yogurt-based sauces, but others rely heavily on tahini. Each recipe has instructions that anyone should be able to follow, and there are pictures to show you what the dish looks like.

Taste of Beirut is a solid cookbook. I can't wait to start cooking!

The City by Dean Koontz

Release Date - July 2014

Dean Koontz

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

It's been a number of years since I've read a book by Dean Koontz. The City is definitely a change of pace, straying from the horror I knew him for, and delving into a part paranormal, part coming of age, and strong suspense. I do have mixed feelings. It took me a bit to get into the book. Eventually, the slow opening turned into a riveting novel that I couldn't put down.

Coming from a line of musicians, Jonah Ellington Basie Hines Eldridge Wilson Hampton Armstrong Kirk was almost destined to be a musical great. His father walked out on him when he was just eight months old, but returned later on. While Jonah's mother was a talented singer, Jonah's dreams involved the piano. Dreams his father would squash, until a mysterious woman calling herself Miss Pearl came into his life. He soon learned to play piano and play it very well.

This is not the only thing Miss Pearl showed him. He had two very realistic dreams that would play an important part in Jonah's future. A future that would change not only Jonah, but his family and the friends he makes along the way.

The characters are what makes The City so gripping. Jonah is a smart little kid. His grandfather has a spirit that I loved, and his mother seemed like the kind of mother many kids wish they could have. When Jonah's father appears, there definitely is a more somber tone. Eventually, Jonah meets a neighbor, Mr. Yoshioka, who is linked to Jonah by the arrival of a more threatening neighbor Fiona Cassidy/Eve Adams. Fiona happens to be one of two characters that Jonah first discovers in the dreams he has.  Even Miss Pearl, a mysterious woman who tells Jonah to count her as being "the soul of the city", is intriguing. With the story bringing each of these characters to life, I ended up enjoying the build up and conclusion of Dean Koontz's latest. It's different but definitely memorable.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Dog Park by Laura Caldwell

Release Date - July 29, 2014

Laura Caldwell

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

When I first began reviewing, the one thing my editor told me was to only reveal the plot as is found in the first three or four chapters. Going beyond that she said can give away spoilers. The problem with this general rule of thumb is that so much more happens in The Dog Park, there are really three or even four plots at play, but I'll stick to the basic premise.

Jessica Champlin and her ex-husband Sebastian share custody of their dog, a mini labradoodle named Baxter. It's Jessica's time with Baxter, and they're doing their favorite thing. She takes Baxter to a nearby dog park. Her life changes on the way home. Baxter ignores her command and takes off running for young child. What she doesn't realize is that Baxter senses trouble and saves the young girl's life.

Soon, a video of Baxter saving the girl from the path of truck goes viral and Jessica's life is turned upside down. As a stylist for people, she never expected the collar and leash she'd made Baxter to gain the attention of the world, and requests begin pouring in. As Jessica and Baxter both become celebrities, they must prepare for additional changes their lives take as the weeks and months progress.

Most readers associate MIRA books with romance, and that is present in The Dog Park, but it's a little later to appear. In fact, there are two potential relationships in play, but I won't discuss them as they do not really come into play until later. The book does focus heavily on Baxter and Jess's lives, however, with a few surprises throw in. As a result, I found myself enjoying the story, but also curious at times as to when the true romantic angle was going to come into play.

In the end, The Dog Park was a pleasing read, but the actual romance played second fiddle to Baxter and Jessica's adventures, if you can truly call "adventures" and not "hurdles."

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Chase by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg

Release Date - March 2014

Janet Evanovich
Lee Goldberg

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

I didn't read the first novel in the Fox & O'Hare series. Despite that, I didn't feel lost at any point, so that's always a good sign. The Chase was most everything I hoped for. There's plenty of action and plenty of humor.

Special Agent Kate O'Hare partners with con artist Nick Fox to retrieve a priceless bronze rooster that was stolen from the Smithsonian 10 years earlier.. Chinese authorities are heading to the U.S. to pick up this artifact, and the U.S. government doesn't want to hand them a fake.

Nick knows who has the rooster, a former White House chief of staff (Carter Grove), but getting it back must be handled very carefully. Carter runs a prominent private security firm and also knows some top secret information about the government's black ops, information they cannot afford to have leaked.

Lee Goldberg wrote for three of my favorite shows: The Glades, Monk, and Psych. His Monk novels have always impressed me. As for Janet Evanovich, most readers know her best for her Stephanie Plum novels. I also read most of those novels, though I admit the constant Joe vs. Ranger love triangle grew tiresome, so it's been years since I've picked up a book from that series.

I was eager to see what a writer collaboration between Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg would bring forth, and it wasn't disappointing. My issue ended up being that Kate's father was too reminiscent of Stephanie Plum's grandmother, and Nick came off as a bit of Ranger with a touch of Joe. They didn't feel unique.While there was more action in The Chase, the romantic sparks and humorous antics of her father felt too similar to me.

Friday, July 25, 2014

How to Tell Toledo From the Night Sky by Lydia Netzer

Release Date - July 2014

Lydia Netzer
St. Martins Press

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

While I loved the premise, How to Tell Toledo From the Night Sky fell short of my expectations. It's not a bad book, it's just disjointed enough that I struggled to keep up with the story of George and Irene.

George works for the Toledo Institute for Astronomy and works to find a link between the stars and God. Irene left Toledo and her drunk mother years ago, but after creating a black hole, she accepts a position back in Toledo with the same institute where George works. What they don't know is that their mothers orchestrated a plan before they were born to have them become soul mates, though they were raised separately after reaching their toddler years. They cannot ignore the attraction they have for one another.

The topic is interesting, but there were segments of the story that I simply couldn't connect with, so I found it to easy to put the book down. Irene's current boyfriend and his fascination with an RPG was one of those storylines. I simply didn't care enough and kept itching to skip those sections. I also struggled, at first, with the flashbacks to the mothers of George and Irene, though those become more intriguing as I continued reading.

In the end, How to Tell Toledo From the Night Sky was just okay. I was not left with the feeling of "wow" that I want to get from the books I read. Yet, I also did need to keep reading to see how it all turned out. I'd say if I used a rating system, this book would get a solid three out of five.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Talking to the Dead by Harry Bingham

Release Date-September 2013

Harry Bingham

Book Review by Bob Walch

It was a sad story but not that uncommon. A drug addicted prostitute was found dead in a squalid house, murdered by an unknown assailant. What makes the case a bit more interesting is that the platinum credit card of a very wealthy man is found at the crime scene. 
Although he’s also been dead for a while, the authorities want to know what the tycoon’s connection with this woman was. Taken on face value, did she receive or take the card for services rendered or is there more to the story?

It is up to rookie Welsh Detective Constable Fiona Griffiths to delve into this mystery and find an answer. Over-intense and intuitive, Fiona has earned a reputation as being a bit odd at police headquarters in Cardiff, Wales, but, no matter, she is intent in learning all she can about the victim and her young daughter who was also found dead at the scene of the crime.

Before she is finished, Fiona will uncover secrets about this community that might be better left buried and her own past will be open to public scrutiny.

This marks Harry Bingham’s American debut and his protagonist for this captivating series will certainly find a comfortable place among the legions of U.S. mystery fans who can’t get enough British whodunits.