Sunday, October 31, 2010

review: haunted echoes by julie ann howell

Haunted Echoes finds author Sarah Reddington suffering from writer’s block as she attempts to produce a second novel for her publisher. To get out of her rut, Sarah agrees to a trip to a small town on Maine’s coast. She quickly discovers a terrible history to the inn where she’s staying—a family was murdered many years ago. Soon “The Keeper” is after Sarah as well.

The book reads as children’s novel; therefore, I will review it as such (though I searched, I found nothing to indicate age level other than the fact that the author has previously written children’s books). The ending of Haunted Echoes is a bit rushed without any of the major action described. A children’s tale shouldn’t go into the gruesome details of course, but there still needed to be something more between Abby arriving to save Sarah and the actual emergence of Sarah from the inn. Until that point, the plot moved along well. Unfortunately, the dialogue is, for the most part, tremendously awkward. Here’s a scene between Abby and her daughter, Tessa (age 6):
“What is it, Mommy? Where are we?” Tessa said, rubbing her sleepy eyes.

“I do believe we are on State Road 22, or least we are supposed to be. With all this fog, I can’t be so sure, my love.”

“Are we almost to our hotel? How many more minutes, Mommy?”

“Well, I’m not sure, but according to this trusty map I just realized I was holding upside down, maybe five or ten minutes. Can you stand it, my love? Now help Mommy find the big hotel, okay?”
All the adults speak like Abby with the “I do believe” and “trusty map” weirdness. Need more? Here’s Sarah and a former journalist she hopes can tell her about the murders:
“I know you are staying at the inn. I have seen you puttering around on the grounds.” Pushing back his glasses with his feeble, crooked fingers, he studied Sarah’s eyes, as if he wanted to read her thoughts.

“Okay, I wouldn’t exactly call it puttering around, but if that is the way you would like to put it, I will go with that. And you have been watching me, really? I find that just a little disturbing,” Sarah said, annoyed with his rude and blunt delivery.
Uh, Sarah? If you want his help, you probably shouldn’t be so snotty. Haunted Echoes would be much improved with some reworking of the dialogue. Although the backstory is predictable, Haunted Echoes makes a nice children’s ghost story with an interesting twist in Sarah’s final scene.
3/5
(as a children’s book)
Review copy provided by MM Book Publicity.

Friday, October 29, 2010

review: perfection by julie metz

"A Memoir of Betrayal and Renewal," Perfection made me impatient. The back cover copy states, "Henry had hidden another life from her." Shortly after Henry's death in the memoir's open, I knew exactly what his secret was. With the swift pace of Henry's death, I expected a quick reveal of the secret; yet Metz frustratingly remained in the dark. All through her rebound with Tomas and the trip to Paris (an unnecessary detour for the course of the novel), I screamed for Metz to just figure it out. She didn't. When the revelation finally came at the end of part one, it seemed the stuff of daytime drama.

Part two did get me snickering as Metz's opinion suddenly shifts. My favorite line comes here (in reference to the other half of the betrayal): "I had listened to her book recommendations while eating her serviceable meat loaf, mashed potatoes, and oversteamed broccoli." Oh how one's opinion changes when the lies are exposed! The lightness there quickly came to an end, however, as Metz embarks upon a rage-fueled journey of contacting her husband's mistresses. While writing such vitriol may be cathartic, it hardly seems appropriate considering the daughter Metz had with the man painted so hatefully.

Thankfully, Metz lightens the tone somewhat in part three (though the venomous hatred is still there) and finally seems to move on in part four, where she begins dating. Eventually there is happiness, but I came away with an intense heaviness. The descriptiveness is excellent, but everything is dragged down by the hostility directed at the man Metz shares a child with (one hopes she never reads Perfection) and the many women involved in the infidelities.
3/5
Review copy provided by BookSparksPR.

new releases: october


review: days of our lives 45 years: a celebration in photos by greg meng and eddie campbell

To celebrate the 45th anniversary, a Days of our Lives picture book has been put together. It features current photos of course, but there are some great ones from the early days. Although publicity shots are included, this book also showcases a lot of behind the scenes looks, which makes it something special. Of particular interest to me (I work in TV) were the shots that showed the cameras and control room. (I’m a little worried for the future since the control still has 4x3 CRTs!!) Other elements featured are the props, set design outlines, and sketches for some of those amazing wedding dresses that so frequently pop up.

It also contains fun glimpses of the actors in their off time: there are hilarious pictures of Mark Hapka (Nathan) and a great sequence of Shawn Christian (Daniel) crashing Arianne Zucker’s (Nicole) dressing room as she naps with Molly Burnett (Melanie). The pictures create the impression that the cast and crew truly are a family.

Days of our Lives 45 Years: A Celebration in Photos makes a nice addition to any fan’s collection.
5/5
ARC Review
Review copy provided by the publisher, Sourcebooks.

book invasion update

Last month I mentioned that the review books had basically taken over my home. Although I still have stacks on the nightstands (because you never know what you might want to read before bed), the scattered piles are no more now that I have a new bookshelf. The one that I received from CSN Stores to review is quite attractive and fits perfectly in this odd space that I have where the kitchen, dining room, and living room all come together. It was also incredibly easy to put together—no tools necessary. I’m quite pleased with both the shelf and the fact that a it’s now a lot easier to find the books I’m supposed to review next.

I probably do need to get another shelf though since this one is already full and more books keep arriving. It won't take long for the books to takeover again.

I received a free product for review from CSN Stores.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

giveaway: edge of sight

Didn't win a copy of Edge of Sight during yesterday's Twitter party? Thanks to Hachette I have an additional three giveaway copies of Roxanne St. Claire's latest.

Read my review, then see what Publishers Weekly said:
"Bestseller St. Claire (The Bullet Catchers) touches off a bold new series with this taut, complex and intelligent page-turner, skillfully blending deep romance with labyrinthine mystery and hard-boiled action. Law student Samantha Fairchild witnesses the brutal murder of a popular newspaper columnist, but the Boston police refuse to protect her. She turns to her old friend, investigative reporter Vivi Angelino, and inadvertently walks right into the path of Vivi's brother Zach, a Special Forces officer who broke her heart when he went off to overseas combat and never wrote or called. As a killer stalks Sam and Zach and a vast conspiracy unfolds around them, the former lovers must confront their mutual attraction and their troubled pasts. Readers will thrill to this dynamic tale and its nonstop action, sweet and sexy romance, lively characters, and celebration of family and forgiveness."

The rules: Enter by leaving a comment to this post with your email (if I can't contact you, you can't win). You can gain additional entries by leaving separate comments letting me know that you're a follower (one extra each for the blog and Twitter) or have posted a link to the giveaway on your site. The deadline to enter is 11:59pm Pacific on November 20. Winners will be selected at random. Since this is from Hachette the winners must have mailing addresses in the US or Canada; no PO Boxes.

review and tour: edge of sight by roxanne st. claire

The first in a new series, Edge of Sight is action-packed. It all starts when Sam witnesses a murder at the restaurant where she’s a waitress. This isn’t the first time Sam’s witnessed a crime; she once identified the wrong man, who was then convicted (and now released thanks to Sam’s help), which means she has little credibility with the Boston PD. In fact, it could be that someone on the force is behind the harassment that starts soon after the murder…or it could be the killer! As the story unfolds, conspiracies abound and it becomes clear that Sam can trust no one but the family of her friend, Vivi, which just happens to include Vivi’s brother who Sam had a brief fling with before Zach left for war. Sparks fly when Sam and Zach reconnect and are then forced into constant companionship as Zach’s enlisted as Sam’s bodyguard. There are plenty of twists that I never saw coming along with a hot romance and a story of family.
5/5
ARC Review
Review copy provided by the publisher, Forever.

There's a giveaway with this tour! Plus, check out the following sites for more reviews and opportunities to win:
libslibrary.blogspot.com
diana-book-of-secrets.blogspot.com
simplystacie.net
cherylsbooknook.blogspot.cm
booksandmakeup.blogspot.com
justanothernewblog.blogspot.com
rockville8.blogspot.com
bridget3420.blogspot.com
mybookaddictionandmore.wordpress.com
blog.imbookingit.com
rexrobotreviews.com
kmomjdk.blogspot.com
threeboysandanoldlady.blogspot.com
masoncanyon.blogspot.com
cuzinlogic.wordpress.com
booksoulmates.blogspot.com
novelthoughts.wordpress.com
dkay401-challenges.blogspot.com
fredasvoice.blogspot.com
rundpinne.com
myfoolishwisdom.blogspot.com
avidbookaholic.blogspot.com
thebookgirl.net
ashleysbookshelf.blogspot.com
j-rabbits-corner.blogspot.com
paranormalromanticsuspensereviews.blogspot.com
marthasbookshelf.blogspot.com
chrissysworldofbooks.blogspot.com
bookslikebreathing.blogspot.com
renees-reads.blogspot.com
chickwithbooks.blogspot.com
amusingreviews.blogspot.com

giveaway: the love goddess' cooking school

Thanks to Gallery Books, I have two giveaway copies of the excellent The Love Goddess' Cooking School by Melissa Senate!

As you can read it my review, I loved the book. Below is the publisher description:
"Holly Maguire’s grandmother Camilla was the Love Goddess of Blue Crab Island, Maine—a Milanese fortune-teller who could predict the right man for you, and whose Italian cooking was rumored to save marriages. Holly has been waiting years for her unlikely fortune: her true love will like sa cordula, an unappetizing old-world delicacy. But Holly can’t make a decent marinara sauce, let alone sa cordula. Maybe that’s why the man she hopes to marry breaks her heart. So when Holly inherits Camilla’s Cucinotta, she’s determined to forget about fortunes and love and become an Italian cooking teacher worthy of her grandmother’s legacy.

But Holly’s four students are seeking much more than how to make Camilla’s chicken alla Milanese. Simon, a single father, hopes to cook his way back into his daughter’s heart. Juliet, Holly’s childhood friend, hides a painful secret. Tamara, a serial dater, can’t find the love she longs for. And twelve-year-old Mia thinks learning to cook will stop her dad, Liam, from marrying his phony lasagna-queen girlfriend. As the class gathers each week, adding Camilla’s essential ingredients of wishes and memories in every pot and pan, unexpected friendships and romances are formed—and tested. Especially when Holly falls hard for Liam...and learns a thing or two about finding her own recipe for happiness."

The rules: Enter by leaving a comment to this post with your email (if I can't contact you, you can't win). You can gain additional entries by leaving separate comments letting me know that you're a follower (one extra each for the blog and Twitter) or have posted a link to the giveaway on your site. The deadline to enter is 11:59pm Pacific on November 20. Winners will be selected at random. Since this is from Gallery Books the winners must have mailing addresses in the US; PO Boxes are ok.

author guest post: melissa senate

Author of The Love Goddess' Cooking School (and many other fantastic titles), Melissa Senate shares her favorite recipe from the novel!

My favorite recipe from The Love Goddess’ Cooking School by Melissa Senate

When my now eight-year-old son was two, I read my first article/book/website on the infamous “picky-eater.” The toddler who’ll eat Cheerios and bites of grilled cheese and that’s about it. I followed all the advice, and still my dear little Max would not eat anything green, would not eat fish or meat, no matter how delicious, no matter if his steak and green beans and mashed potatoes were made into the shape of a smiley face. Still, he’s always loved to cook with me—his basic favorites, from bacon and Swiss cheese omelets to his beloved chicken fingers. So when I was researching recipes that I wanted to include in The Love Goddess’ Cooking School, I appointed Max my apprentice, handed him an apron, and we set to work on the first recipe I needed to master along with Holly, my main character: chicken alla Milanese. “I don’t have to actually eat it, right, Mommy?” he said at least three times during the dipping of the chicken cutlets into egg, the laying of the chicken into flour and polenta, the placing in the hot pan.

Chicken alla Milanese is the signature dish of The Love Goddess Cooking School. It’s taught in the very first class of Camilla’s Cucinotta’s Italian cooking class in the apricot-colored cottage at the edge of Blue Crab Island, Maine. Chicken alla Milanese is representative to me of everything so deliciously basic, deliciously perfect about classic Italian food. “I’d like you take one tiny bite,” I told Max who was eyeing the sizzling chicken with suspicion, despite his pride at helping. “One bite and that’s it,” he said, adding, “It does smell good, Mommy.”

One bite and he’d be hooked. I knew it. And I knew that one bite of chicken alla Milanese would open up a whole new world of unplain food, simple food with flavor, rich with place.

My first attempt at chicken alla Milanese wasn’t perfect (as my fourth attempt was, which had to do with how long it cooked and heat, individual stove dependent). But as we sat down in my Tuscan-inspired kitchen in our country kitchen in Maine, Max eyed his one bite of chicken alla Milanese and very slowly put it into his mouth. “Mmm! Mmmmm!” was what he said. “This is so good! Can I have more?”

Since that day, Max has tried my spaghetti Bolognese, which is the main character’s master dish. He’s tried risotto and lasagna (which he’d never try before, crazy kid). And suddenly, he’s opened up that stubborn mind and stomach about eating more than just grilled cheese and chicken fingers. It’s thanks to the fun of cooking together and one very simple, delicious recipe. If you try Camilla’s Cucinotta’s chicken alla Milanese, I hope you love it too.

Camilla’ Cucinotta Chicken alla Milanese

4 pieces boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 cup instant polenta
¾ cup grated parmigiano-regianno cheese
2 cups flour
1 large egg
1 tablespoon olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
One wish

Pound chicken breast between two sheets of plastic wrap. On a plate, combine polenta with half the cheese. Fill another plate with flour. In bowl, beat egg with splash of water. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Coat each breast in flour, then egg, then cheese/polenta. Add one wish. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook, turning once, six minutes on each side or until golden. Enjoy!

review: the love goddess' cooking school by melissa senate

When she was sixteen, Holly’s grandma (who had a reputation for doing such things) told her fortune: Holly’s true love would like sa cordula, an Italian dish made from lamb intestines. Holly has subsequently served the dish to all her potential matches, but only when she feels it’s not really working. So she should’ve realized that John and his lovely little girl wouldn’t be in her life for long when she decided to serve him the dish. In fact, on the night she served up the sa cordula, he gave her the devastating news that he’d fallen in love with his administrative assistant. With no reason to stay in California (her roommate is moving her boyfriend into the apartment anyway), Holly returns to Maine to spend time with her sick grandma. The visit turns permanent when Holly inherits the restaurant/cooking school from her grandma, the original Love Goddess.

As Holly tries to make her way, she learns much about her grandma (through her diary), her mother (who fled the small town as soon as she could), and herself; this generational element is what made the novel for me. It gets extended when Mia, a teen wanting to learn to cook to get rid of her dad’s girlfriend (that sounds odd, but Mia’s dad thinks Mia needs home-cooked meals from the girlfriend, so Mia determines that if she can cook, the girlfriend won’t need to be around), comes onto the scene. I loved how Holly (and the others in the cooking class) helped Mia through some tough teenaged times. And it turns out Mia isn’t the only one who needs support; each member ends up helping another as they all struggle through life and love. Additionally, there were some nice parallels between Holly’s first group of cooking students and the first group her grandma had (their story is told through the diary entries).
5/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Gallery Books.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

review: 5 ingredient fix by claire robinson

I've always enjoyed baking, but have never been much for cooking. I recently decided that I ought to give cooking another try. That started me looking for a cookbook with easy recipes to get me started; that led me to Claire Robinson's 5 Ingredient Fix. As the title says, the recipes typically have only five basic ingredients. I appreciated that as it meant I didn't have to spend money on a bunch of things I would only use for that particular recipe. So far I've made two of the meals: Maple Candied Bacon and Cheesy Penne. Both were easy to follow and absolutely delicious; the bacon was a little messy though.

In addition to the recipes, Robinson lists the essential equipment for all kitchens. To my surprise I actually own most of these! This again shows how simple the recipes here are. I hate when a yummy sounding recipe would cause me to have buy all sorts of special equipment that I not only don't know how to use but have no place to store in my relatively small kitchen.

Unlike so many of the other cookbooks that have caught my eye, 5 Ingredient Fix is one I'm certain I'll reference frequently as I continue my cooking attempts. I highly recommend Claire Robinson's cookbook for anyone seeking easy to follow, yet delicious recipes.
5/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Grand Central Life & Style.

Monday, October 25, 2010

giveaway winner: simply irresistible

Congratulations to the winners of Simply Irresistible: Wanda, Lu, and edmontojb.

Friday, October 22, 2010

review: promises to keep by jane green

Such a sad, sad story in Jane Green’s Promises to Keep. Callie Perry’s life is pretty perfect (in fact, she’s a little too perfect, but that’s understandable as her story’s inspired by the author’s deceased friend), but as she approaches the five year mark so important to cancer survivors, Callie starts feeling ill. At first she chalks it up to per-menopause, but the truth can no longer be ignored when she crashes the car while driving with her mother and sister.

The story isn’t all tragedy though; in fact, the first chapters are quite light-hearted as Callie’s sister Steffi flounders through life. Steffi with all her imperfection and whimsy made Promises to Keep enjoyable; Callie, on the other hand, just didn’t seem believable (and then I felt bad for not liking someone diagnosed with such a rare cancer).

Promises to Keep also follows the trend of including recipes after the chapters. This somewhat works as Steffi is a chef; however, at times it felt like a bit of a stretch. There were chapters that didn’t really have anything to do with food or even a mention of food. The recipes worked best when they fit into the story, such as the chili recipe following the chapter where Steffi complains that her boyfriend and his stoner friends had ate the chili she made for Callie’s party.
4/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Viking.

review: love you to death by crissy calhoun

As she previously did with another CW show, Gossip Girl, Crissy Calhoun goes in depth into the first season of The Vampire Diaries. Taking things beyond the standard episode synopsis, Calhoun points out “Foggy Moments” (inconsistencies or continuity errors) and “Compelling Moments” (things Calhoun believes stand out). Reading Love You to Death while watching the currently airing second season provides a lot of insight one might not otherwise have. For example, I’d completely forgotten about Damon’s crow and what happened to it! (Turns out shooting with a crow was proving too complicated.) Also providing tremendous insight are the write-ups on author L.J. Smith and the show’s creators Kevin Williamson and Julie Plec as well as an interview with the actress who played Anna.

Since I last read The Vampire Diaries books when they originally came out in the 1990s, I truly enjoyed the “Meanwhile in Fell’s Church” section. Although the show has made changes (Elena’s not blond!), Calhoun points out just how much of the show’s storylines are inspired by what Smith originally plotted.

One small nitpick: Calhoun makes a mistake on the Dark Shadows page (throughout the book are comparisons to other vampire series—another bit I enjoyed). She states, “…its first six months featured no supernatural elements at all.” Not quite true. The six month mark is when Laura Collins arrives on scene; she is The Phoenix. This is when Dark Shadows made a decided turn, though it is not the first instance of the supernatural. Very early on the ghost of Josette Collins appears; around the three month mark the ghost of Bill Malloy appears to Vicki Winters.

With Love You to Death, Calhoun once again proves how well she knows the show she writes about (see her blog for more on both The Vampire Diaries and Gossip Girl).
5/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, ECW Press.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

giveaway: dewey

Thanks to Hachette, three people have the chance to win Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron with Bret Witter.

The review from Publishers Weekly:
"One frigid Midwestern winter night in 1988, a ginger kitten was shoved into the after-hours book-return slot at the public library in Spencer, Iowa. And in this tender story, Myron, the library director, tells of the impact the cat, named DeweyReadmore Books, had on the library and its patrons, and on Myron herself. Through her developing relationship with the feline, Myron recounts the economic and social history of Spencer as well as her own success story—despite an alcoholic husband, living on welfare, and health problems ranging from the difficult birth of her daughter, Jodi, to breast cancer. After her divorce, Myron graduated college (the first in her family) and stumbled into a library job. She quickly rose to become director, realizing early on that this was a job I could love for the rest of my life. Dewey, meanwhile, brings disabled children out of their shells, invites businessmen to pet him with one hand while holding the Wall Street Journal with the other, eats rubber bands and becomes a media darling. The book is not only a tribute to a cat—anthropomorphized to a degree that can strain credulity (Dewey plays hide and seek with Myron, can read her thoughts, is mortified by his hair balls)—it's a love letter to libraries."

The rules: Enter by leaving a comment to this post with your email (if I can't contact you, you can't win). You can gain additional entries by leaving separate comments letting me know that you're a follower (one extra each for the blog and Twitter) or have posted a link to the giveaway on your site. The deadline to enter is 11:59pm Pacific on November 6. Winners will be selected at random. Since this is from Hachette the winners must have mailing addresses in the US or Canada; no PO Boxes.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

giveaway winners: september forever romance classics

Congratulations to Laura H., Cheryl F., and drey! They each win the three titles from the September Forever Romance Classics giveaway.

Friday, October 15, 2010

review: crescendo by becca fitzpatrick

Although it’s been a year since Hush, Hush came out, Crescendo takes place only a short time later. Nora and her nemesis are in the same summer chemistry class and Nora’s relationship with Patch is on the rocks. It all went downhill when Nora asked if Patch loved her; you see, fallen angels can’t feel and Patch will be forever damned if the archangels find out he loves her. They break up and Nora makes all sorts of terrible choices that once again put her life in danger.

Crescendo suffers from many of the same problems Hush, Hush did: inconsistencies and annoyances. I cannot even begin to tell you how many times I wanted to smack Nora and her mother. Somehow they became even more annoying this time around while Vee improved. Certain elements, like Nora’s car situation, just didn’t make sense. Hey Nora, if your mom had to sell your incredibly old car to make ends meet, maybe you should think about getting a job rather than doing summer school. Oh, that’s right, you do decide to get a job, but only after you spot a much newer car you desperately want even though it’s totally going to be sold by the time you save up the money. And Mom, don’t tell your kid you’ll work something out and discourage her from taking some responsibility when you clearly are barely hanging on.

Even so, Fitzpatrick once again creates a satisfactory conclusion that also leaves enough questions to allow for another novel. Furthermore, even as I groaned about the stupidity of the characters, I wanted to find out more about Nora’s lineage. Somehow even with the issues I have, Fitzpatrick writes something I want to continue reading.
3/5
ARC Review
Review copy provided by the publisher, Simon & Schuster.

author interview: rosemary harris

Rosemary Harris, the author of the A Dirty Business Mystery series, stopped by to answer some questions about the series!

The star of your mystery series seems to have quite a bit in common with you (used to work in television, enjoys gardening). How much of you went into Paula?

More than a little in the first book. I guess that's typical with new writers, but Paula's come into her own in the last two books. In addition to a story arc, there's a series or character arc. Conventional wisdom says that your character should change - at least somewhat - by the end of the book and Paula's doing that.

Did you intend to create a series when you started writing Pushing Up Daisies?


Nope. I didn't even really think about getting published, I just wanted to see if I could put down on paper the story that was in my head. When my agent asked if it was a series I said, Absolutely!

Elsewhere you’ve stated that you write each book in pencil first. What’s your reason for doing so?

It's not easy to tell friends that you're writing a book. The reactions can be anything from a polite smile (they think you're delusional) to "cool, are they going to make a movie out of it" (you think they're delusional.) One friend walked me to an art supply store and presented me with a bag of pencils - Faber-Castell 5Bs. And now every time I start a book, I go to the same store and buy the pencils. I like the fact that it forces me to slow down. I also buy erasers.

What book (your own or someone else’s) has had the most impact on your life?

There are a lot of books that have been important to me at various stages of my life from Harold and the Purple Crayon to Small Changes by Marge Piercy to Easter Parade by Richard Yates to The Golden Bowl by Henry James to Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen. (And lots I've forgotten!) One that always stand out is The Razor's Edge by Somerset Maugham. It's about an extraordinary young man who...I don't want to tell you if you haven't read it. He just changes his life and the lives of those around him.

Any more adventures for Paula planned?

Next spring Paula heads to a New York and gets drawn into a murder investigation involving blackmail, sabotage, and horticultural homicide at a legendary flower show. The book is called SLUGFEST and it will be out next April.

review: the big dirt nap by rosemary harris

Strangely enough, for a book about a gardener, there’s no gardening that takes place here. Instead, Paula is on a press trip not far from her home to write about the corpse flower at the Titans Hotel. Of course, the article never gets written because Paula once again becomes involved in a murder mystery. This one has a lot more intrigue than the first book since the murder takes place in the present day rather than decades ago. For that reason I found The Big Dirt Nap a bit more compelling than Pushing Up Daisies. Furthermore, Paula has better motivation for continuing to put her life in danger—her best friend is missing.

As with the first book, there were quite a few characters but it was less taxing to keep track of them this time. Some were repeats from Pushing Up Daisies (Babe from the restaurant!), which made it easier, while others were either so minor that they didn’t need to be kept track of or were developed enough to give them distinct personalities.
3/5
Review copy provided by the author.

Friday, October 8, 2010

review: the secrets of newberry by victor mcglothin

It’s the 1950s in Newberry, LA and racial tensions are high. Although slavery was abolished long ago, African-Americans (particularly the women) are in many ways treated the same by the plantation owners who employ them. The women have come up with a way of keeping the peace (by sacrificing themselves), but things blow up when one man can’t keep his hands off the underage girls of the community.

In another storyline that intertwines with the rape of the girls, Hampton becomes involved with a robber named Bones. The robberies are a way to feed his family since the plantation work can be spotty as it’s reliant on the crops produced. But it turns out Bones has more in mind than robbery—he wants revenge and is willing to brutally kill high-powered men.

Newberry is filled with secrets—tragically involving the molestation of both girls and boys—that follow Hampton and his family as they flee the town. The story is intense (I had to take breaks) and full of surprises.
4/5
ARC Review
Review copy provided by the publisher, Grand Central Publishing.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

review: pushing up daisies by rosemary harris

After her divorce, Paula leaves the city to garden in a small town. She lands a position with the Historical Society to fix up the gardens at the mansion where two eccentric women lived before their deaths. As Paula explores the gardens and formulates her plan, she discovers the remains of an infant. Although it’s clear that any crime that may have occurred was long ago, Paula can’t leave the case alone and soon finds herself the target of the person who committed a terrible crime decades ago.

While it has an interesting plot, Pushing Up Daisies does suffer from having too many characters; I found myself losing track of who was who and how they were connected (it’s a small town and almost everyone is connected in multiple ways). I was also a little uneasy with how the landscape workers from Mexico were discussed; it seemed like Paula was sympathetic, but it sometimes came across as condescending. But then Paula seemed to (briefly) recognize that she had behaved inappropriately when Felix snarkily called her boss in Spanish. So perhaps the author was trying to show such tensions. I was disappointed that Felix all but disappeared after that incident. As he’s one of the potential love interests, perhaps he will show up in the next book of the series.
3/5
Review copy provided by the author.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

giveaway winners: last to die

Congratulations to the winners of Last to Die: HeadlessFowl, Karen B, Maureen, lag123, and Wanda!

Friday, October 1, 2010

giveaway: simply irresistible

For the tour of Simply Irresistible by Jill Shalvis, Hachette has allowed me three giveaway copies!

As I said in my review, the book is pretty cute. Below is what Publishers Weekly thought:
"In this heartwarming and sexy contemporary romance from bestseller Shalvis (Instant Temptation), Maddie Moore meets the man of her dreams, but must fight her inner demons to make it work. Maddie, straight out of an abusive relationship and unemployed, is trying to change "from mouse to tough girl." When she arrives at Lucky Harbor, Wash., to reunite with her two half-sisters and inspect the dilapidated inn inherited from their mother, Maddie nearly runs a handsome stranger off the road. Jax Cullen is the town's mayor, a master carpenter, and a passionate lover. He's willing to give Maddie everything if she can overcome her fear of men and vulnerability. A somewhat forced second half and overabundant telepathic eye contact are mitigated by an abundance of chemistry, smoldering romance, and hilarious sisterly antics."

The rules: Enter by leaving a comment to this post with your email (if I can't contact you, you can't win). You can gain additional entries by leaving separate comments letting me know that you're a follower (one extra each for the blog and Twitter) or have posted a link to the giveaway on your site. The deadline to enter is 11:59pm Pacific on October 23. Winners will be selected at random. Since this is from Hachette the winners must have mailing addresses in the US or Canada; no PO Boxes.

review and tour: simply irresistible by jill shalvis

Simply Irresistible is pretty cute. Upon the death of their mother, three half-sisters come together at the dilapidated inn they inherited. The women’s mom was a little scattered, so the sisters were raised separately—Chloe, the youngest, by their mom; Maddie, the middle child, by her father; and Tara, the oldest, split her time between their mother and her father’s parents (her father traveled a lot). Maddie, who grew up in Los Angeles, was the only to not spend much time in Lucky Harbor, WA (and I just have to mention how amused I always am that all these Washington towns are so close to Seattle, which is frequently mentioned in the book) and is the only one who actually wants to stay. Tara is particularly eager to sell the inn and get on with her life. Maddie, on the other hand, has just broken up with an abusive boyfriend and lost her job; she really has no reason to return home and has even more reason to stay when she almost literally runs into Lucky Harbor’s very attractive bachelor carpenter/mayor/ex-lawyer. Simply Irresistible is a romance with a secondary focus on the relationships between the sisters. They frequently argue, especially regarding what to do with the inn, but it’s clear they love each other. As Maddie explores a relationship with Jax, Chloe and Tara are encouraging while also protective. The balance between the sister story and the romance was terrific. The recipe cards from mom that start each chapter are a nice touch—a great way to get to know more about the woman who played a major part in these women’s lives.
4/5
Review copy provided by the publisher, Forever.

Be sure to check out the giveaway that goes along with this tour!