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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Jack Strong: A Story of Life After Life by Walter Mosley

Release Date - July 29, 2014

Walter Mosley
Open Road Media

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

I know Walter Mosley's writing from his Easy Rawlins series. His other work is new to me. Jack Strong: A Story of Life After Life was probably the best choice I could have made when it comes to discovering his science fiction/fantasy work. As this is a novella, it was short enough to give me a taste, yet intriguing enough that I find myself curious to see if he develops this character into a new series.

Jack Strong isn't just a man, he's a patchwork man made up of the parts of dozens of different people. Each of these people have unfinished business and Jack becomes the vessel for which they can see things come to fruition. In his dreams he hears the 86-year-old grandmother who longs for her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. He dreams of the plots created by an Indian/Goan against another caste. There's a woman feeling freed by an affair she's having. A racist proud of beating a man of another color. Someone facing amputation and death. Finally, a man on death row.

For now, Jack seems to have been inhabited by Lance Richards, a man who was killed for skimming money from a casino. He soon meets Tom Grog, a member of the Convocation who is here to help him get adjusted to his new life. But, there are others watching him, and he has no idea who or why. All Jack knows is that he has souls trapped in him begging to have him fulfill their final wish.

Jack Strong ends on a note that convinces me this is just the first of many stories. While very short at under 40 pages, the novella does a great job of introducing the main characters and setting up Jack's future. I was hooked and can't wait for more.

Friday, July 18, 2014

A Wedding in Provence by Ellen Sussman

Release Date - July 15, 2014

Ellen Sussman
Ballantine Books

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

No family is perfect. Everyone has secrets, fears, and misgivings they keep hidden. This is very true of the characters in Ellen Sussman's latest novel - A Wedding in Provence.

Brody, a widower, and Olivia, a divorcee, are throwing caution to the wind and getting married. This 50-something couple feel they're better prepared for marriage now and plan an intimate wedding at Olivia's friend's inn on the Mediterranean coastline in Cassis, France. While it seems impossible to imagine anything going wrong in this idyllic spot, Olivia and Brody soon find themselves wondering what they've gotten themselves into.

Olivia's friend and husband (the inn owners) are the first to display signs of trouble when a woman shows up and causes serious tension between them. Next, Olivia's oldest daughter, Nell, arrives with a stranger on her arm, a man she just met on the plane. Olivia's younger daughter, Carly, shows up without her long-time beau, and it's clear that something is amiss there, too. Even Brody's mother is having personal issues that distract her from the upcoming wedding. As Olivia and Brody try to plan their dream wedding, they cannot help but also feel obligated to fix everything that is going wrong around them.

There are two things that surprised me with A Wedding in Provence. The first was the length. At under 200 pages, I often find stories of that length feel rushed. I never experienced that with Ellen Sussman's novel. It feels complete. The second was how drawn I was to each character. I could see the naivety of some, sensed exactly what was happening with others before they even knew it, and really couldn't wait to see Olivia and Brody get married. As dysfunctional as some of the characters were, they felt real, like family.

This ended up being a memorable read that left me feeling incredibly satisfied and very happy I picked it to review. I get a lot of books and requests for review, and I'm learning to be a little more selective, and I am very, very glad I didn't overlook this gem!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Since You've Been Gone by Anouska Knight

Release Date - July 29, 2014

Anouska Knight

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Holly Jefferson has made it two years following her husband's tragic death, but she still cannot figure how to move on. She focuses her attention on her bakery and her sister's pregnancy, but things go haywire when Ciaran Argyll enters her world.

Ciaran's former step-mother hires Holly to make and deliver a cake to Ciaran's dad. From the moment he sees her, he wants to know her better. Something draws him to her. In his world of woman who want to get to know him only for his family's money, Holly is a breath of fresh air.

With Holly battling her demons of moving on, and Ciaran uncertain that there is a woman out there that can look him and not see dollar signs, the two must decide if falling in love is worth the potential risk.

Since You've Been Gone is packed with just enough humor to keep things light. The characters are memorable, especially Holly's baking assistant who I wouldn't mind seeing in future novels. The relationship between Holly and Ciaran. I loved it. The misunderstandings they have were a bit of a pain, but conflict always finds a way into romance novels, so it wasn't unexpected. I really like that the characters didn't dwell on the subject for weeks or months, a common trend with some romances. The focus of this novel is with the main characters and whether they can overcome their own personal demons. With British wit driving the narrative, I really enjoyed the read.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Cop Town by Karin Slaughter

Relelase  Date - June 24, 2014

Karin Slaughter
Delacorte Press

Book Review by Bob Walch

They come from totally different backgrounds but Kate Murphy and Maggie Lawson end up partners on Atlanta’s Police Force. Maggie comes from a dysfunctional law enforcement family, her uncle and brother are cops, while Kate, whose husband was killed in Vietnam, crew up in a sheltered, wealthy Jewish household. 
It is 1974 and not only are the two women facing hostility within a department that isn’t ready to accept women officers, but a serial killer has gunned down five of their colleagues and Atlanta’s finest are out for blood.

Although they are not included in the official man hunt, Kate and Maggie are determined to follow their own instincts and see if they can solve the case. It doesn’t take Maggie long to realize that members of her own family are going to be key players in what unfolds here. Also we’ll discover that Kate is, unwittingly, being stalked by the killer and that adds another personal element to the thriller.

A volatile situation that involves misogyny, racism, homophobia and corruption, Cop Town is Karin Slaughter’s first standalone novel. Her long time fans will not be disappointed by this compelling story that introduces two unforgettable women. I seriously doubt that this will be the only time we meet these two characters. A sequel would obviously be in order if not a brand new series. Karen Slaughter has created a team here that rivals Cagney and Lacey as well as Rizzoli and Isles so why not capitalize on them?

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Millionaire Affair by Jessica Lemmon

Release Date - June 24, 2014

Jessica Lemmon
Forever (Grand Central)

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

He's been burned before, so love is the last thing on his mind. She's just out of a relationship where she paid a very dear price, and she's ready to show the world that she can just have an affair without falling head over heels in love. It should be so easy, but both Landon Downey and Kimber Reynolds may have bitten off more than they can chew.

When Landon realizes he cannot balance babysitting his six-year-old nephew with running his company, he takes his sister's advice and calls Kimber Reynolds, his sister's friend, to become a nanny for the week. Landon and Kimber met when he was in college and she was 16, so they are not complete strangers, but neither is prepared for the intense attraction they feel. Kimber's ready to prove to everyone that she can have a sizzling affair and walk away, so she and Landon agree to a no-strings affair that will satisfy their needs without leading to any long-term romance. That ends up being easier said than done when both begin to fall head over heels.

There are things I truly loved about The Millionaire Affair. First, there is no huge conflict between Landon and Kimber. Even when complications occur, the author strays from having it become a huge teary-eyed, name calling event that some authors lean towards. Landon and Kimber remained adults throughout the entire story. I loved that. Second, though this is part of a series, I never felt lost having not read the other books. The Millionaire Affair stands alone, thought it did leave me curious to check out the previous couples' stories.

In respect to things I didn't like, they were minimal, and basically involved the exes on both sides. I understand why Kimber's ex played a part in the story, but honesty, I would preferred not to have to experience his smarmy attitude. He's plain annoying. My dislike of him, however, is easily overlooked as he is not in the story often.

If you're after a heated romance where the focus really is on building a relationship, this is a great choice.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian

Release Date - July 8, 2014

Chris Bohjalian

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Chris Bohjalian is a well-known name in Vermont, and he gained national attention when Oprah Winfrey chose his novel Midwives as an Oprah book selection. For Vermonters, Chris had been writing for far longer, as a columnist for the Burlington Free Press. His daughter Grace was born not too long after my first child, and I enjoyed and found myself empathizing with his experiences as a new parent. When it comes to his fiction, some I haven't liked, while others I've loved, and Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands is a definite love it!

A nuclear reactor melt down in the Northeast Kingdom greatly changes 16-year-old Emily Shepard's life. Both her mom and dad worked at the nuclear plant and both are now dead. With the Northeast Kingdom evacuated, Emily ends up on the streets fending for herself and eventually a 9-year-old boy she comes across. She's suddenly forced to make tough decisions, all while knowing people blame her father, allegedly an alcoholic, for the meltdown and also make it clear in one confrontation that the blame will carry to Emily since she's the only surviving family member.

Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands starts in the present and then goes back and works up to Emily's life before the meltdown and after the meltdown. While it does jump around a bit, it is always clear what time frame she's in. She's a tough kid, though she may act impulsively from time to time (what teen doesn't?), and her struggles are often heartrending. The topic of the nuclear plant is a touchy one in Vermont, and I snickered at comments made by Emily about how she wondered what the anti-wind turbine people thought of wind power now.

I believe Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands is being marketed as general fiction, but I am certain that teens around Emily's age will love this story, too. Therefore, I recommend it also as teen fiction.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

Release Date - July 1, 2014

Jojo Moyes
Pamela Dorman Books

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Jojo Moyes burst onto the U.S. bestseller charts with her poignant Me Before You. I'd heard of the book, but I haven't read it. Therefore One Plus One is my introduction to Jojo Moyes writing. What an introduction it was!

Jess is the mother to a math-whiz daughter, step-mom to a boy whose mother and father both abandoned him, and barely scraping to get by working as a bartender by night and cleaning houses by day. When her daughter is given the chance to attend a private school, Jess is told she just needs to come up with the other 10 percent of the tuition. Jess's ex balks saying he is still struggling to find work, so that leaves her to come up with the money by herself. A once-in-a-lifetime math Olympiad contest comes up, but Jess must get her daughter to Scotland in a matter of days. With no car and no money, that isn't as easy as it seems.

Enter Ed. He's a business owner, comfortably wealthy, but dealing with  an insider trading scandal. The last thing he wants is to trek across the U.K. with two kids, a smelly dog, and a woman he hardly knows. Yet, that's exactly what he agrees to do, and it's a choice that might save him.

Hands down, this is a book I will read, read again, and then re-read yearly. Jess has it hard. Her kids also have it hard no thanks to a neighborhood bully. Ed is the character I least expected to like, yet I found myself enamored. By the time, I was involved in all of their lives, I did not want to put the book down. Actually, I didn't put the book down, and that led to a very long night and little sleep.

One Plus One is told from the viewpoint of Jess, Ed, and both children. It gave excellent insight into everyone's fears and hopes. I laughed with them, shed a number of tears, and when it was over, I felt like I was leaving friends behind Bottom line is this book is one for the keeper shelf, and I'm heading to my library to see if her other books are available.