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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Heroes Are My Weakness by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Release Date - August 26, 2014

Susan Elizabeth Phillips
William Morrow

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Susan Elizabeth Phillips latest novel is definitely one I'm glad I didn't miss. It has a gothic feel, at times reminding me a bit of Jane Eyre and other times reminding me of Wuthering Heights, yet there's also a splash of Rebecca thrown in. In the end, Heroes Are My Weakness was addicting and lured me away from my work so that I could get the the bottom of things.

Heroes Are My Weakness features Annie Hewitt, a ventriloquist who returns to her mom's island cabin in the heart of winter, not a good time to be in Maine. With her mother's death, it's up to her for Annie knows the terms of the cabin have always been that they must reside in the cabin for 60 days a year, or they lose ownership.

Theo Harp once held Annie's heart, but that was long ago. His cruel act when they were teenagers proved the kind of man he actually was, and he's not one she wants to be around. When she learns Theo resides in a neighboring house, she's not at all pleased.

It's soon apparent that someone wants Annie off the island. Is Theo up to his usual tricks or is something more sinister at hand?

There's a touch of spookiness to Susan Elizabeth Phillips latest novel. It also has a romance that sizzles and a setting that put chills up my spine. She's long been a favorite author, and this novel, while a bit different because of the gothic feel, was one of her best.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Stories We Tell by Patti Callahan Henry

Release Date - June 24, 2014

Patti Callahan Henry
St. Martin's Press

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Eve Morrison owns her own letterpress company and her husband owns a thriving electronic magazine. Together, they are a well-known couple in Savannah, Georgia, a couple that many long to associate with. Outward appearances are not always accurate.

One night, Eve is working when police stop by to say her husband and sister were in an accident. Her sister is in a coma with swelling of the brain, her husband is saying her sister was drunk and grabbed the wheel. When doctors say her sister's blood tests were clear of any alcohol or drugs, Eve is confused. Why is her husband lying? Eve's teen daughter is another issue. She's rebelling against everyone, except Eve's sister, and now with Willa in the hospital, everything seems to be unraveling. It's time for secrets to be revealed, and for Eve to decide what the future will hold for her family.

The Stories We Tell is a solid story with a touch of mystery, a little romance, and lots of family dynamics blended together. I started it, couldn't put it down, and then cheered as Eve took control of the situation. She's tough, likeable, and determined. As she came across new facts, I also enjoyed trying to unravel truth from lies. It's a great read, and one that leaves me convinced it's time to put Patti Callahan Henry on my list of authors not to miss. If you haven't read any books by Patti Callahan Henry, I high recommend The Stories We Tell and last year's And Then I Found You.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The People Inside by Ray Fawkes

Release Date - August 13, 2014

Ray Fawkes
Oni Press

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

The People Inside is a unique graphic novel. It's one that delves away from the typical plots I see - superheroes, monsters, other worlds, or Anime. Instead, it takes a look at the relationships couples face from the meeting their eyes meet to the final moment when a relationship comes to an end. With each relationship, the different men and women learn more about what really defines them, whether it is the children they have, the love they have for one another, or realizing the moment has come when they are better off alone.

Award-winning artist and writer Ray Fawkes earned high praise with his 2012 release One Soul. Like The People Inside, it focused on relationships and humanity. I missed that one, but I'm glad I took the time to read his latest. I found myself drawn to some couples, as I knew what they were going through. Others, I found myself hoping they would realize what they truly needed. Either way, I was drawn to each story.

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Sweet Spot by Stephanie Evanovich

Release Date - July 8, 2014

Stephanie Evanovich
William Morrow

Chase and Amanda, the couple focused on in The Sweet Spot, apparently gained their popularity in Stephanie Evanovich's Big Girl Panties, a book I never read. Therefore, the couple were completely new to me, as was the author.

At the start of The Sweet Spot, Amanda owns a popular restaurant and is a little taken aback when Chase, a star ball player, chooses her restaurant. He quickly becomes fixated with Amanda and keeps returning until she agrees to go out on a date with him. As Amanda soon learns, Chase doesn't like being disappointed. His disappointment comes with a cost, one that shocks Amanda to the core at first. A scandal eventually hits and Amanda must decide if being involved with a celebrity is worth the media attention.

The Sweet Spot is not what I expected. I loved the romance between Amanda and Chase at first, but eventually as Chase's true nature comes to light, I really didn't like him. His caveman-like attitudes and enjoyment of doling out full-blown thrown her over his knees spankings annoyed me. His urgency to have Amanda drop everything, including her business, and join him on the road. I really, really didn't like him. By default, I didn't like Amanda for putting up with him and not kicking him to the curb. From that point on, I wanted the original couple back. The smart, sassy Amanda, and the overly romantic Chase who was doing all he could to prove his romantic nature.

Bottom line, while I'm no prude, I really couldn't take the change in Chase that went from Mr. Romance to Mr. Going to Spank You Whenever I Deem You've Been Naughty. That blew the whole story for me.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Virgin by Radhika Sanghani

Release Date - August 5, 2014

Radhika Sanghani
Berkley Trade

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

From time to time, I come across a book that is so refreshing I can't help but read it in one sitting. I ended up taking part of the afternoon off from my editing work so that I could finish Virgin in one sitting.

Ellie is 21, about to finish college, and not thrilled that she's still a virgin. Her first experience at the age of 17 ended badly, without ever going anywhere. She decides her goal before graduation is to lose her virginity.

What follows is an honest, often hilarious look at the things women go through, the perceived attitudes about virginity and sex, and even friendships. I was laughing out loud when Ellie decided to groom her pubes. That was the start of a book that had me laughing, agreeing, and definitely nodding along with parts of it. I think every women out there has experienced some of the things Ellie experiences.

It's the honesty that appealed to me. Romance novels have a huge market in today's world, and I know of many women, even some men, who enjoy reading them, myself included. However, the dream men you find in romance novels are so far from the types of men out there. The author herself brings it up when Ellie and her friend discuss how their perceptions of romance were shaped at a young age by watching Disney movies where the princess finds her prince charming and lives happily ever after. If you've ever had similar thoughts and are ready to see what dating and romance are really like, pick up a copy of Radhika Sanghani's Virgin and get ready for a real feel-good read.

Friday, August 8, 2014

I Love You More by Jennifer Murphy

Release Date - June 17, 2014

Jennifer Murphy

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Twelve-year-old Picasso Lane's life changes when her father is murdered. As is true of most murders, her mother is the first prime suspect,  but that changes when police find her father had not one but three wives. Any one of them could have done it. As Piper and her mother bond with the lead detective, Piper slowly starts to unravel the things she knows regarding the murder and the secrets her father had been keeping.

I Love You More is quit addicting. It's told from three viewpoints: Picasso, the Wives, and Detective Kyle Kennedy. There is one more viewpoint, that of Picasso's father, but it comes into play much later and only one time, so I won't focus on it.

 From the first page, I was hooked. I delve into any mystery novel to see if I can solve it before the detectives, and in this case, I was right, yet the author still threw a curve that I didn't see coming. I do love the element of surprise in a mystery and this one definitely surprised me.

Part romance, part coming of age, and a whole lot of mystery, I Love You More is a gripping summer read that left me craving some time at the ocean setting where some of it takes place.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Expecting by Ann Hamilton

Release Date - July 2014

Ann Hamilton

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

"What makes a book impossible to put down?" I came across that post on my Facebook feed yesterday and instantly knew the answer. There must be an immediate connection to one or both main characters. Ann Hamilton nailed it with her debut, Expecting.

 It's likely you already know some of Ann Hamilton's other work. She's an award-winning writer, director, and producer who's worked on shows like Thirtysomething, Party of Five, Gray's Anatomy, and my current viewing addiction, Haven. Her debut novel takes readers into the world of Laurie and Alan.

After struggling to become pregnant, Laurie miscarries multiple times. With the help of a fertility doctor, Laurie is pregnant again, but her and Alan's world is torn apart when they learn there was a mix up with the sperm. Laurie is carrying another man's baby.

Alan is not handling the news well, and Laurie's insistence on finding out who the donor is isn't sitting well. That donor, a college student, is just as surprised as Alan. Alan is already handling the news poorly, and Laurie's determination to get to know the sperm donor may be the thing that tears their world apart.

I've had two miscarriages, one at four months and the other at a month, so I knew what Laurie was feeling during those chapters. I don't care what anyone tells you. Whether it is the words I'll never forget that come from your OB/GYN's mouth - "Be thankful you miscarried, otherwise your baby would have been retarded or defective in some way." - to people's "You became pregnant once, so you'll do it again." My thoughts toward miscarriage fall into the line of tell someone "Sorry" and then say nothing more. My empathy for Laurie made this book feel very personal. I was drawn to her character and couldn't put the story down.

 Expecting is an emotional story. It had me tearing up at times, smiling at others. One thing is clear. This is a book that is hard to put down and captures the frustrations, joy, and pain that comes with pregnancy or the attempt to become pregnant.