Note to Readers

Roundtable Reviews receives many galley and ARC copies for review. Please understand that the finished copy may differ from the copies we have reviewed.

I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Somebody to Love - Kristan Higgins



Released April 24, 2012

Kristan Higgins
Harlequin

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

In Somebody to Love, Parker Welles has the rug torn out from under her feet when she learns her father's being arrested for insider trading. The mansion she and her young son, Nicky, call home is being sold, their trust funds are gone, and all she has to her name is a checking account with about $10,000 and a house she didn't know she owned up in Maine.

With Nicky heading to California for a few weeks, Parker has time on her hands. She heads up to Maine thinking she has a comfortable home she can sell. Instead, she finds she is now the proud owner if a run-down shack owned by someone who was obviously a hoarder. It's going to take a miracle to make this cabin marketable.

Parker never expects her father's trusted friend and lawyer, James Cahill to come to Maine to help her out. She can't exactly refuse his handyman skills, but he's also the last person she wants to trust. Soon, a fire between the pair is hard to ignore. Parker doesn't want to give her heart to any man, especially one who caters to her father's every whim.

There are a number of smaller plots within Somebody to Love that keeps the reader involved with both Parker and James, as well as the other residents of Gideon's Cove, Maine. Characters from past books make an appearance in this new novel. Malone and Maggie from Catch of the Day are featured prominently in Kristan Higgins' latest, as are Lucy and Ethan from The Next Best Thing.

I loved watching Parker and James work through their feelings involving the situation with Parker's father's arrest. As the pair grew closer, it lead to that satisfying "aah" moment I look for in a romance. There was one thing I would like to see addressed in a future novel, however. The book begins with James brushing off a younger woman with whom he had a fling. I'd like to see her get her own story in the future, she deserves it.











Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sunrise Point - Robyn Carr



Released April 24, 2012

Robyn Carr
Harlequin

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

I fell in love with Virgin River after reading Redwood Bend. This seemed like the ideal town to call home, a place full of friendly faces and helpful neighbors. One of the minor characters really caught my interest. Tom Cavanaugh, a former Marine, left me hoping he'd find the perfect woman. In Sunrise Point, he certain meets his match.

Tom and his grandmother run an apple orchard, and autumn is definitely one of the busiest times of the year. Tom's in the middle of hiring his seasonal crew when a young single mom, Nora Crane, appears looking for a job. He knows she's not up to the hard labor, but his grandmother insists that he give Nora a chance. Tom knows that his ideal wife is not going to come with baggage, and Nora knows that marriages never last. Yet, both of them realize they're falling head over heels with the person they'd least expect.

I've only read a couple Virgin River Novels, but this one is by far my favorite. The setting is charming, but Tom and Nora are the perfect couple, even though it seems to take them far too long to realize it. The real gem in this story is Tom's grandmother. She's a great matchmaker, even though she does is so subtly that the characters don't have a clue. I loved her and would love to see her appear in future novels.

If you desire a character driven romance packed with sizzle, Sunrise Point is the perfect choice. I can't wait to see if Nora and Tom appear in future novels.  I also can't wait to see whose story is next.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Plunder - Mary Anna Evans



Released March 2012

Mary Anna Evans
Poisoned Pen Press

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Based on the back cover blurb, I wasn't sure I'd really like Plunder. The new novel from Mary Anna Evans seemed to focus a lot on the heroine and her husband's company researching sites along the southern coast. Their jobs became difficult when an offshore rig exploded causing oil to spill out into the Gulf.

The moment I started reading, however, I become enamored with the characters.  Faye and Joe are incredibly likable, but it's the teenager they befriend, Amande, who truly won me over. That girl is a spitfire, and I certainly hope she appears in future novels.

The main plot to the story involves a law in Louisiana that states when a spouse dies without a will, the blood children of the deceased inherit his/her estate. The current spouse is able to remain in their home free of charge, but he/she doesn't gain ownership. Amande's step-grandmother is living on the houseboat her husband owned. Because he never drew up a will, Amande and her grandmother only live there for now. Eventually, ownership will transfer to Amande's absentee mother and her aunt because they are the only blood offspring from Amande's late grandfather.

When Amande learns her uncle has been murdered and that her mother is dead, it becomes apparent that someone wants the estate and isn't willing to wait for people to die off naturally before that transfer of ownership happens. After talking with a lawyer, Amande learns she is to inherit her share of her mother's estate, and that certainly doesn't please the remaining family members. When Amande's grandmother dies, the only "mother" Amande has ever known, her world seems to crumble around her. With Joe and Faye's help, Amande copes with unexpected deaths and an uncertain future.

I loved this book. Plunder encompasses old legends and a family who can't seem to keep from being greedy. In and of itself, the murder wasn't really baffling. I had the killer pegged from very early in the book. What does drive the story are the characters and the bonds they form. Amande is so incredibly enjoyable that I found myself rooting from her at the very start.

I do hope that Joe, Faye, and Amande return for many more mysteries. They're a great team and by the end of the book, they really felt like family.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

KBL: Kill Bin Laden - John Weisman



Released April 24, 2012

Harpercollins

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Based on the real events leading to Bin Laden's death, KBL: Kill Bin Laden gives a fictional account of every aspect of planning that lead up to the killing. The story starts with the SEAL team revealing Bin Laden's corpse to a retired Airborne Ranger, Charlie Becker, and then goes back in time to the intricate details of planning his hunt and eventual assassination. Events are told in chronological order, so you feel the anticipation of the hunt building with each page.

Throughout Kill Bin Laden, the reader is taken on a detailed journey where key players all shape the tale. Readers spend time in the Oval Office, in the heat of Pakistan, and in the CIA headquarters in Virginia. Because the story has real people, it feels more like a true account than a fictional retelling.

If you've read the papers or watch the news, you likely know everything about what Bin Laden did and why the U.S. needed him dead. Those aspects of the book are going to seem very familiar. What you don't get to hear is the insider details. Of course, this part of the book is the "fiction based on real events," but that doesn't matter. The suspense and tension feels real.

If you're into political or military suspense novels, you won't want to miss out. Kill Bin Laden is out in mass market paperback on April 24th, so those who missed the hardcover release have their chance to buy a copy.

Monday, April 16, 2012

A Sweethaven Summer - Courtney Walsh



Released February 2012

Courtney Walsh
Guideposts

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

More than 20 years ago, Suzanne Carter was forced to abandon her friends and never return to Sweethaven, Michigan. Now, she's dead and her daughter wants answers to her questions, particularly the truth regarding who her father really is. Campbell Carter heads to Sweethaven hoping her mother's former friends will have the answers she needs.

In Sweetwater, Campbell is helped by an attractive young man who also has ties to Suzanne's past. With his help, she and her mother's former friends begin to unravel the mystery behind her father's identity and the secrets they kept from each other.

As a Guidepost book, I expected A Sweethaven Summer to be incredibly touching. I definitely wasn't disappointed. The characters are extremely likable, and there is the touch of romance that blossoms between Luke and Campbell adding appeal.

I didn't feel the mystery regarding Campbell's father was difficult to figure out. Watching the friends unravel the past was fun though. As you get to know the characters, you'll find yourself shedding a few tears.

For a summer read, I don't think anyone will go wrong with A Sweethaven Summer. I can see this book becoming a popular, very touching, beach read.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Ninth Step - Barbara Taylor Sissel



Released August 2011

Barbara Taylor Sissel

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Years after being left at the alter, Livie Saunders receives a note from Cotton that simply states "I'm sorry." Flooded with emotions, Livie soon receives another message asking if she'll meet him. She'd wanted to put Cotton behind, even burying pieces of her wedding gown projects completed for her landscaping business. Cotton's return brings old feelings to the surface, feelings she's not sure she ever planned to face again.

For Cotton, leaving Livie was hard. After one mistake caused him to flee town, he's ready to face his past and the crime he committed. He needs to take that ninth step...

The Ninth Step surprised me. I'm never sure what to expect of an eBook, especially ones that are self-published through Amazon's program. I'd love to say everyone I've read has been amazing, but the fact is that I've ready far more works that really shouldn't have ever been published. I am relieved and delighted to say that Barbara Taylor Sissel's The Ninth Step is a stunning read and one that I'm incredibly thrilled the author shared it with the world.

From early into the book, the reader learns of Cotton's crime. Your knowledge comes far before the other characters, so you understand the torture he's going through. You also understand Livie's pain, and why so many around her feel the need to keep Cotton away. It's hard being torn between the two characters, but that's exactly what happens.

What ends up happening is that you become absorbed. It's hard to put the book down because you need to see how things play out. In a situation where there really can't be a happy ending, you're left wondering how the author will fit the pieces together in a way that leaves you satisfied. I won't give away any spoiler, but she does an amazing job. I'm so glad I read The Ninth Step and am very intrigued and want to check out the author's other stories now.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Chai Tea Sunday - Heather Clark



Released April 2012

ECW Press

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

I swore I did this review a week ago, right after finishing the final word, yet I find no record of a review. In a way, I'm glad because a week later, after reading close to half a dozen books, I can't forget the lessons learned in Chai Tea Sunday.

Nicky loves her job as a school teacher, but she also loves her husband more than anything. For years, they've tried unsuccessfully to raise a family, and when she learns she's pregnant, they're both overjoyed. A couple months before the baby is due, Nicky goes into labor. The baby is born with a genetic disease that isn't treatable. Left to mourn the loss of their premature daughter, Nicky and her husband drift apart and become legally separated.

Needing to start over, Nicky leaves her condo and job behind and heads to Africa to teach children in an orphanage. There she finds the conditions appalling and the headmaster of the orphanage to be cruel. Putting her heart and soul into her work, Nicky becomes determined to save these orphans who have no one to rely on.

I loved this novel. It brought tears to my eyes and was hard to put down as I turned pages waiting to see what would become of Nicky. Some of the plot is pretty predictable, but that's okay. It was the powerful message of hope that kept me intrigued. Despite all that is thrown Nicky's way, she continues to keep her head up. Her character's strength amazed me and really drew me into the story.

If you're ready for something really moving that doesn't take days or weeks to finish, you won't want to miss Heather Clark's novel. Chai Tea Sunday is a charming story that even a week later brings a smile to my face.


Free Book Weekend


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Saturday 4/14 &
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Two Kindle eBooks are 
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Fortuna
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Fortuna
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Michael R. Stevens

Longing for escape from his mundane existence as a Stanford computer science major, Jason Lind signs up to play Fortuna, an online role-playing game set in Renaissance Florence.


From the first, fateful mouse click, Jason tumbles into the vibrant, lush, and anonymous world of Fortuna. Swept up in this highly complex, highly addictive game of fame, fortune, and power, Jason quickly transitions from casual gamer to compulsive player.

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Book of Nathan
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Curt Weeden & Richard Marek


Rick Bullock takes the road less traveled when he quits his job as an ad exec to become director of a homeless shelter.

When Zeus, a longtime shelter resident, is arrested for murder, Rick wants answers. Convinced Zeus is incapable of such a horrific act, Rick sets off on a journey to keep an innocent man off death row.

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When this controversial discovery attracts some sinister attentions, Rick learns that Zeus's life isn't the only one at stake.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Dog Walker - Corwyn Alvarez



Released February 2012


Bell Bridge Books

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

When I first asked to review The Dog Walker, I'd read a promo stating the book followed "the tradition of Forrest Gump." That's one of my all-time favorite movies, and I guess not a good reason to choose a book. As I read, the comparisons between this book and Forrest Gump often struck me as just too much. The setting and characters may be different, but throwing in a woman much like Jenny and war vet seemed too coincidental to be a coincidence in my eyes. I couldn't get past it.

The Dog Walker is about a somewhat dim-witted 17-year-old dropout. His mother wants him to go back to school, but school was not the place for him. Instead, he starts up a dog walking business with the promise that if it doesn't work out, he'll go back to school. He plans to make sure his business works out though.

Benny's passion for dogs is clear. He relates to them and appreciates their nonjudgmental attitudes. When he's not working, he's visiting his friend, a local drug dealer, or a prostitute that his friend sets him up with. At this point, the plot of the book seems to focus on Benny's love for this prostitute and their growing relationship.

Part of me wonders, had I never read the promo likening this book to Forrest Gump if I'd have picked up on the similarities. I do think I would have. Chloe is a lot like Gump's Jenny. The vet isn't as similar, and I did enjoy his character. I found myself perturbed by Benny's mother who bounced from friendly one minute to downright cold the next. Her defeatist attitude bothered me.

I have this feeling that The Dog Walker is one of those books that readers will either really get and love, or simply not connect with at all and therefore be a book they'd rather throw at the wall. I never connected with Benny and therefore really didn't enjoy this snippet from his life.




Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Playing Dead - Julia Heaberlin



Released on May 29, 2012

Bantam Books

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

I actually reviewed this book for Amazon's Vine program. You'll find my review here. Meanwhile, I did just want to bring it to the attention of Roundtable Reviews' readers. It's definitely a mystery that keeps you guessing and really makes you want more by the time everything is revealed.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Chat with Author Eileen Goudge

Here's your chance to get to know bestselling author Eileen Goudge. This is your chance to ask questions, comment on The Replacement Wife or any of her other books, or simply gain insight into the life of an author.



Eileen is holding a chat April 10, 2012, at 8:00 p.m. EST. Head to Bookmovement.com and scroll to the bottom of the screen for the chat window. The event is open to the public and does not require you to sign in or become a member.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Free Ebooks Today through Easter Sunday


Free Today Through
Sunday April 8!

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Fatal February
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Fatal February
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Barbara Levenson
  
For half Jewish, half Southern Baptist Miami criminal defense attorney Mary Macgruder Katz, life spins out of control following a minor fender bender.

Hardly before she knows what hit her, Mary breaks off her engagement, jumps into a sizzling new romance, gets fired from her former fiancé's highbrow law firm, starts her own practice, and lands her first client, Lillian Yarmouth, the prime suspect in what's become the Miami society murder of the year.

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Castro Gene
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The Castro Gene
by
Todd Buchholz

The Castro Gene, by best-selling author Todd Buchholz, is seamless, suspenseful and shocking.

After killing a man in the ring, Luke Braden quits boxing. Yearning to reinvent himself, Luke is swept up into the high-flying domain of Paul Tremont.

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Ladykiller
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Ladykiller
by
Lawrence Light
&
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Evil is wide awake in the city that never sleeps. From the bright lights of Times Square to the dark alleys of New York, the Ladykiller is at work - and at prey.

Four women savagely murdered on the mean streets of New York. The Ladykiller leaves no trail, no clues.

NYPD Detective Dale Dillon is in a race against time. Icy cold intentions collide with red hot passion in this taut and terrifying page-turner.

With a whole new twist on crimes of passion, Ladykiller is a seductive, spellbinding tale that will grab you and not let you go.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Unwanted - Kristina Ohlsson



Released March 2012

Atria/Emily Bestler Books

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

A mother steps just outside the train doors to get cell phone service while her young daughter sleeps on their seats inside. The train leaves and fails to see the mother chasing after the train. The conductor promises to look after the child until the mother meets them at their destination. Despite these carefully arranged plans, the child vanishes from the train without a trace, even though there were dozens of people there.

Inspector Alex Recht investigates the girl's disappearance. His gut instinct is that the girl's father took her, but then the girl's body is found in northern Sweden with a message carved into her forehead. Alex and his team --Fredrika Bergman, an investigative analyst who specializes in cases involving children and women, and Detective Peter Rydh -- must unravel the clues and stop a madman before he launches another attack.

Unwanted hooked me from the start. I'm somewhat of an armchair sleuth and I like to try to solve the case before the detectives in the books I read. Given that, I admit I was somewhat surprised that it took them so long to figure out what the message carved into the girl's forehead meant. I had that aspect solved as soon as it appeared.

Despite that, the characters' quirks and distinct personalities made me really enjoy the story. It's also the first in a series featuring Frederika, which is delightful since her character was my favorite and I wanted to learn more after she makes a surprise announcement. The novel, originally written in Swedish, is translated by Sarah Death. If you're looking for a new series to start that has characters you really enjoy getting to know, you won't go wrong with Unwanted.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Lean - Kathy Freston



Released March 27, 2012

Weinstein Books

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Many men and women want simple self-help, diet plans to follow. When I read the description for Kathy Freston's The Lean, it sounded like the author had come up with a simple plan to lose weight, eat healthier, and gain satisfaction on improving your diet. Before reading it, I didn't know she was a vegan. Had I known that, I likely would have passed on it because I know from experience that vegans are extremely passionate about their no animal products lifestyle. I didn't know, until I started reading it, is that The Lean really is just a guide on switching to a vegan lifestyle. That's fine for some, but I have serious reservations for more than one reason.

The steps listed in Kathy Freston's book are simple to follow. Day one involves making sure you drink eight glasses of water a day. She does delve into the aspect I wanted to know she covered and that is that too much water impacts your health negatively too. At an area college, a student died after a hazing that involved drinking gallons of water in a specific amount of time. None of the students knew that too much water is dangerous.After that, the steps include switching from milk to vegan-friendly milk products (almond, coconut, rice, and soy milks), adding nuts to your daily diet, eating breakfast, etc. All of these are simply, clearly laid out steps that anyone will find easy to follow. The steps are set up so that you're incorporating one thing per day eliminating any sudden changes. The book ends with a comprehensive collection of recipes that I did find some great recipes that I do plan to test out.

Given that, my hesitation lies in personal experiences. I did some research and Kathy Freston is a former model. I found nothing to suggest she has any training as a dietitian. She does start her book by urging people to seek their doctor's advice before starting this diet. I hope many do, but I know the odds aren't as high because many people lack insurance and avoid the doctor unless it is an emergency. That's one of my concerns.

I know a vegan. She became a vegan in her mid-teens and swore her lifestyle was the healthiest out there. In her late-30s, she found a lump in her breast and was diagnosed with breast cancer. There was no family history and her mother and sisters have still not developed the disease. Research is still at odds, but there are some groups who feel the estrogen-like qualities soy imparts may tie in to breast cancer. However, it does leave me nervous about the over-consumption of soy, milk, tofu, and soy-based meat substitutes and cheeses.

Another issue occurred with my own daughter. She loves soy milk and used to drink a glass a day. She's not as fond of cow's milk. Her period cramps became so bad, she couldn't get out of bed for the first two days. She'd cry, and because I'm not a huge believer in using pain meds,a habit that has carried to my children, she'd suffer rather than pop a pill. After visiting the doctor, she had my daughter test different foods/beverages starting two weeks before her period. Stopping soy decreased the cramps to a minimal state. Cow's milk was another possible suspect, but after testing that out, we found that milk didn't affect her, it actually helped, and I was told there may be a link between vitamin D and reduced cramping. Caffeine was the other thing that definitely triggered the cramps. Eliminating just the caffeine wasn't enough, she had to give up her soy milk too. With that knowledge, I definitely don't like overusing soy products in my household.

Finally, when a teen I'd mentored for years got his girlfriend pregnant, their newborn son had Celiac's Disease. Wheat allergies are more common than you might think. Most vegan diets include seitan, a wheat-based meat substitute, and for anyone with a sensitivity to wheat, a vegan diet may be hard to manage.

I don't want to be completely negative, however, because Kathy Freston does raise very good points too. Eating a bowl of steel cut oatmeal is the best way to start the day. She uses stevia and agave nectar in place of sugar, something I definitely agree with, but I also use xylitol because of the link between that sweetener and the reduction of the bacteria in the mouth. I started using xylitol when it was mentioned to me as a way to help with my son's persistent ear infections. Since sweetening his tea with xylitol, he hasn't had an ear infection. I do not use a lot of agave nectar because unlike stevia that has virtually no calories or xylitol (about two calories per gram), agave nectar does have a lot calories at 60 calories per tablespoon.

The book is very proactive at pointing out all the dangers of foods non-vegans eat (eggs, cow's milk and milk products, meats, etc.) I appreciate what the author was saying, and she's entitled to her opinions, but I felt like I was being preached at from time to time. Stating that a cow's milk is designed to grow a 1,000 pound baby and then giving that as the reason people should avoid milk just came off as insulting. In the end, I think the value of The Lean depends on your attitude and personal feelings towards vegan diets.