Thursday, February 28, 2013

review: the girls' guide to love and supper clubs by dana bate

Hannah is the daughter of two professors and until now has always followed their life plan for her.  When her boyfriend breaks up with her shortly after they move in together, Hannah starts to break away from the path that was set for her.  Her dream has always been to cook, so she launches an underground supper club with the help of a friend.  The problem is supper clubs aren’t 100% legal and her new landlord has political aspirations that include shutting down supper clubs just like the one Hannah’s running from his house without his knowledge.

The Girls’ Guide to Love and Supper Clubs was super-cute, but I hated that Hannah never really experienced any consequences for her outrageous behavior (and not just with the not-so-legal supper club; Hannah also curses at her employer’s human resources officer while impulsively quitting her job).  The lack of consequences made the ending to Dana Bate’s debut far too uncomplicated for it to satisfy the tension that had been building to that point.  
Review copy provided by BookSparksPR.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

review: mommy midwife by cassie miles

Although the first chapter of Mommy Midwife had me questioning whether I should read on (the first few pages of the first chapter made Olivia seem a little crazy, but an explanation came shortly), I did and was soon sucked in by the plot.  A one night stand after the death of the baby of one of Olivia’s patients created a new life.  Shortly before Olivia’s due to give birth, Troy shows up to make one last attempt to convince her to marry him.  His timing turns out to be quite fortunate as it’s the same night that someone breaks into Olivia’s home.  Now they must figure out who’s after Olivia.

Unlike many in the romantic suspense genre, Mommy Midwife focused on the suspense rather than the romance which made the plot far more believable.  I never understand why the leads of many romantic suspense books end up hopping into bed while their lives are in danger.  Furthermore, Olivia stays fiercely independent throughout the book; she’s a heroine rather than a damsel.  But despite the combined intelligence of Olivia, Troy, and their family members, they could not figure out the obvious suspect. 
Review copy provided by the publisher, Harlequin.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

review: the transformation of bartholomew fortuno by ellen bryson

The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno takes place in the days of P.T. Barnum’s American Museum, which is where Fortuno works as The World’s Thinnest Man.  There is camaraderie amongst the cast of curiosities until Barnum starts changing things.  First Fortuno witnesses Barnum sneaking in a woman who turns out to be Iell, a beautiful woman who just happens to have beard; Fortuno becomes obsessed with her despite his relationship with Matina, the fat woman.  Relations become further strained when Barnum enlists a maid to play the part of an exotic woman, which offends Fortuno’s sensibilities as he is highly opposed to tricking the audience.  There’s also a problem with fires being set at the museum causing everyone to be suspicious of each other.

Ellen Bryson’s debut is an interesting story in regards to how the curiosities were treated both by Barnum and the general public.  I enjoyed how Bryson brought the reader into the head of a curiosity by making Fortuno the narrator although he was not the most sympathetic of narrators given his high opinion of himself.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Henry Holt.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

review: the next time you see me by holly goddard jones

In alternating points of view, the mystery of what happened to Susanna’s sister Ronnie unfolds in Holly Goddard Jones’s debut novel.  Although Ronnie’s fate is always clear, how she died and at whose hand makes for an intriguing mystery.  But the mystery isn’t all there is to The Next Time You See Me; there’s also the dynamic of the rich and poor in a small factory town in Kentucky as well as varied relationships and their conflicts.  It is a well-layered novel with multi-dimensional characters that invoke sympathy even when they do horrible things (I actually felt for Ronnie’s killer).
Review copy provided by the publisher, Touchstone Books.

Friday, February 8, 2013

review: the good daughter by jane porter

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When I read the first book in Jane Porter’s The Brennan Sisters trilogy, I felt an affinity for the sister of the main character so I was pleased to learn the second book in the series centered on Kit rather than Meg.  With the focus shifted to the far more sympathetic protagonist of Kit, I enjoyed The Good Daughter immensely.  Kit is a Catholic high school teacher who is venturing into the dating scene after breaking up with her long-time boyfriend.  While dealing with her own family matters, Kit finds herself involved in the drama surrounding one of her new students.  Kit’s compassion for Delilah (who I loved in She's Gone Country and wished had a bigger role in that book) not only endeared me even more to Kit, it provided the perfect way for Porter to connect Kit to a viable romantic interest—the tough, but kindhearted man who lives next door to Delilah and knows all about the horrors she endures (thankfully Porter does not have the stepfather take his abuse as far as I feared).  Furthermore, I appreciated how Kit’s primary concern was always for those she loved; she didn’t change who she was just because there was a man on the scene.
Personal copy

Thursday, February 7, 2013

review: blackberry winter by sarah jio

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Blackberry Winter features two female leads in two different time periods living in Seattle and grieving the loss of a child.  In 1933, Vera feels she has no choice but to leave her young son alone while she cleans hotel rooms or she will lose her only source of income.  Tragically, her son disappears and the cops refuse to investigate after deeming him a runaway who will eventually return.  In the present day, a May snowstorm causes a newspaper writer to happen upon Vera’s story while researching the last time Seattle experienced a May snow.  Both stories are masterfully done with the mystery of what happened to Vera’s son Daniel unfolding in each era.  Sarah Jio alternates the time periods with each chapter, but each is distinctive enough that there’s never any confusion as to the narrator.  The characters truly come alive (Emily from The Violets of March is featured in a nice bonus for those who read Jio’s incredible debut) so that the heart-breaking emotions of Vera and Claire are felt on every page.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Plume.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

giveaway winner: this is how i save my life

Congratulations to the winner of This Is How I Save My Life: rhonda!

Friday, February 1, 2013

review: 21-day weight loss kickstart by neal d. bardnard, md

Based on a program Neal D. Barnard, MD launched through the nonprofit group he founded, the 21-Day Weight Loss Kickstart focuses on a plant-based diet that involves no change to how you exercise (though the doctor does point out that there are, of course, benefits to exercise).  Kickstart also doesn’t have any calorie restrictions because Dr. Barnard believes people on the diet will naturally consume fewer calories because they need less food to feel full.  The plan includes a number of recipes (some of which were really great in my opinion) and suggestions for convenience foods and restaurant meals.  

Now I am by no means a vegetarian, so the vegan diet put forth in this book doesn’t really work for me, but what the doctor has to say does make sense and he reports on studies to back up his claims.  Early on Dr. Barnard writes of how our diet has changed over the decades.  It’s not just that many people no longer are as physically active as our ancestors, Americans now consume 75lbs. more meat and 29lbs. more cheese than in 1909.  One should always consult a physician before starting a weight-loss plan, but the substitution of fruits, vegetables, and legumes for the incredible increase of meat and dairy is pretty much intuitive.  You can find more information along with meal plans (I like the Green Apple Oatmeal and Black Bean Chili) on the Kickstart website.
Review copy provided by the publisher, Grand Central Life & Style.