Wednesday, April 23, 2014

TLC Book Tours Book Review: Up At Butternut Lake

Author: Mary McNear
Title: Up At Butternut Lake
Publisher: William Morrow
Publish Date: April 8, 2014
Buy: Amazon
Review Copy Provided By: TLC Book Tours 
Book Blurb: 
It's summer, and after ten years away, Allie Beckett has returned to her family's cabin beside tranquil Butternut Lake, where as a teenager she spent so many carefree days. She's promised her five-year-old son, Wyatt, they will be happy there. She's promised herself this is the place to begin again after her husband's death in Afghanistan. The cabin holds so many wonderful memories, but from the moment she crosses its threshold Allie is seized with doubts. Has she done the right thing uprooting her little boy from the only home he's ever known?

Allie and her son are embraced by the townsfolk, and her reunions with old acquaintances—her friend Jax, now a young mother of three with one more on the way, and Caroline, the owner of the local coffee shop—are joyous ones. And then there are newcomers like Walker Ford, who mostly keeps to himself—until he takes a shine to Wyatt . . . and to Allie.

Everyone knows that moving forward is never easy, and as the long, lazy days of summer take hold, Allie must learn to unlock the hidden longings of her heart, and to accept that in order to face the future she must also confront—and understand—what has come before.


Review:  There are some books that just scream, "Take me to the beach and read me!" This is definitely one of those books. (I wish I had a beach to go to with this book).

Mary McNear has created a wonderful town with Butternut Lake. Like Robyn Carr and Debbie Macomber, her small town draws you in and makes you want to stay there. As I read about Allie's cabin, I could easily visualize it. I wanted to get on a boat and sail. I wouldn't mind meeting the hunky Walker Ford. either.

There are so many great characters here, Allie's son Wyatt is one of them. He's so precious. You want to reach through the pages and squeeze him.

I liked how Allie's relationship with Walker develops slowly. Her grieving process over her husband is often a little hard to understand, not the why of it, but the way she is running away to grieve and really pushing away people that want to help.

Mary keeps things clean in this book. Yes, there's sex, but it isn't over the top between Allie and Walker and that fits with the type of story that's going on here. Spicy sex scenes wouldn't work here.

There are some other characters you meet here as well, Caroline who runs the coffee shop and Jax, an old school friend of Allie's that has a secret that's ready to come out.

Both women have unique pasts and you really want to get to know them as well as Allie, and you hope for the best with them too.

This is book that I simply couldn't put down, once I started it. I can't wait for the next book!

Rating: 5 flowers




Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Great Escapes Book Tours Book Review: Small Town Spin





Author: Lynn Dee Walker
Title: Small Town Spin
Publisher: Henery Press
Publish Date: April 8, 2014
Buy: Amazon
Review Copy Provided By: Great Escapes Book Tours & the author
Book Blurb: 
When a superstar athlete's son turns up dead in a tiny town on the Virginia coast, crime reporter Nichelle Clarke gets the inside scoop. But she quickly spies a gaping hole her inner Lois Lane cannot ignore.

Determined to unravel the mystery, Nichelle fights off paparazzi cameras and an unexpected rival. She uncovers an illegal moonshine operation, a string of copycat suicides, and a slew of closets stacked with more skeletons than slingbacks. Chasing a killer who’s a breath from getting away with murder, Nichelle realizes too late the culprit has her number—and it might be up


Review:  Small Town Spin is book 3 in the Headlines In High Heels Mystery series. I absolutely love this series so far. It is a little different from the average cozy because our heroine Nichelle Clarke is a crime reporter with a nose for news.

She gets the story when a local athlete's son turns up dead. They claim it is a suicide but something doesn't seem right. And then the boy's girlfriend ends up dead! Things are starting to look fishy, really fishy and Nichelle is determined to get to the bottom of it.

Her career puts her in a different class from other cozy mystery heroines. She's got a bit more know how than the amateur sleuth. And these two kids really had a lot to live for, and no signs that they'd want to commit suicide.

Lyn Dee Walker takes a hard hitting subject and while using it a cozy that will have you laughing while you turn the pages, it will also make you more aware.

Oh and did I mention Nichelle has two guys in her life? I love the love triangles! Joey and Kyle are great. I think by the time you finish this book you may be ready to pick teams. I'm team Joey all the way. I love me a bit of the bad boy.

There's a good mixture of hilarity in with the crime solving here. My favorite scenes involve a certain restaurant/strip club type place that has some uniquely named entrees, such as the C Cup!

The best part about this story is you will think you know who the killer is (and there are so many plot twists that give you more options on the whodunit end) but when you finally find out who it was, you will be shocked!

This is a totally fun series that you shouldn't miss if you love a good mystery.

Rating: 5 flowers





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Monday, April 21, 2014

TLC Book Tours Book Review: Outside In

Author: Doug Cooper
Title: Outside In
Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group Press
Publish Date: Aug 13, 2013
Buy: Amazon
Review Copy Provided By: TLC Book Tours
Book Blurb: 
From Memorial Day until the student workers and tourists leave in the fall, the island community of Put-In-Bay, Ohio, thrives on alcohol, drugs, sexual experimentation, and any other means of forgetting responsibilities. To Brad Shepherd–recently forced out of his job as a junior high math teacher after the overdose death of a student–it’s exactly the kind of place he’s looking for.

Allured by the comfort and acceptance of the hedonistic atmosphere, Brad trades his academic responsibilities and sense of obligation for a bouncer’s flashlight and a pursuit of the endless summer. With Cinch Stevens, his new best friend and local drug dealer, at his side, Brad becomes lost in a haze of excess and instant gratification filled with romantic conquests, late-night excursions to special island hideaways, and a growing drug habit. Not even the hope from a blossoming relationship with Astrid, a bold and radiant Norwegian waitress, nor the mentoring from a mysterious mandolin player named Caldwell is enough to pull him out of his downward spiral. But as Labor Day approaches, the grim reality of his empty quest consumes him. With nowhere left to run or hide, Brad must accept that identity cannot be found or fabricated, but emerges from within when one has the courage to let go.

A look at one man’s belated coming of age that’s equally funny, earnest, romantic, and lamenting, Doug Cooper’s debut novel explores the modern search for responsibility and identity, showing through the eyes of Brad Shepherd how sometimes, we can only come to understand who we truly are by becoming the person we’re not.


Review:  Outside In is like so many coming of age stories I've read, with one exception, the main character is a guy. Brad Shepherd is a guy spiraling out of control after one of his students OD's on his watch.

I'm not really sure how I felt about the district forcing him out of his job from the start. I can see how it could happen, but I couldn't see any negligence on his part. Once this happens, he loses focus and himself and ends up in Put-In-Bay, OH.

Thanks Mr. Cooper, after Googling this lakeside town, I've decided that some day I must road trip there just to see Ohio's Perry Monument. I'm used to the one located in Presque Isle State Park, across the bay from where Perry's ship The Niagara is often docked.

This is the monument in Ohio



It is hard to believe such a normal guy can spiral down the wrong way so quickly. He takes a job as a bouncer and soon becomes caught up in drinking, drugs and more than a few sexual encounters.

I have to say, of the hookups Brad made in the course of the book, the only one that was really erotic was the one with Randy.

As things continue to go wrong Brad slowly starts to step away from the drugs. He did it a bit too easily in my opinion, especially after all the partying he did over the summer. I mean, this guy was drinking, smoking weed and snorting coke and yet he stops cold turkey.

The climax of the book ends with a death of one of the characters. It was more than a bit depressing, but not unexpected.

It was hard to like these characters. Not because they were bad, but because they were all so messed up in their own ways. You knew each one of them could be so much better that what they were. Haley was the one I felt the most sorry for. She grasped at relationships the wrong way. Astrid....well there was something about her that I just couldn't like. I wanted to smack her most of the time, along with Cinch.

Outside In, was a quick read, definitely different from the girlie books that I'm used to, but it was something that I enjoyed even as I stepped out of my comfort zone.

Rating: 4 flowers


Friday, April 18, 2014

Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours Review: The Towers of Tuscany

Publication Date: January 23, 2014
New Arcadia Publishing
Formats: Paperback, Ebook
Genre: Historical Fiction
Set amid the twisting streets and sunlit piazzas of medieval Italy, the Towers of Tuscany tells the story of a woman who dares to follow her own path in the all-male domain of the painter’s workshop. Sofia Barducci is born into a world where a woman is only as good as the man who cares for her, but she still claims the right to make her own mistakes. Her first mistake is convincing her father to let her marry Giorgio Carelli, a wealthy saffron merchant in San Gimignano, the Tuscan city of towers. Trained in secret by her father to create the beautifully-crafted panels and altarpieces acclaimed today as masterpieces of late medieval art, Sofia’s desire for freedom from her father’s workshop leads her to betray her passion and sink into a life of loveless drudgery with a husband who comes to despise her when she does not produce a son.
In an attack motivated by vendetta, Sofia’s father is crushed by his own fresco, compelling Sofia to act or risk the death of her soul. The choice she makes takes her on a journey from misery to the heights of passion—both as a painter and as a woman. Sofia escapes to Siena where, disguised as a boy, she paints again. When her work attracts the notice of a nobleman who discovers the woman under the dirty smock, Sofia is faced with a choice that nearly destroys her.
The Towers of Tuscany unites a strong heroine with meticulously researched settings and compelling characters drawn from the rich tapestry of medieval Italy during one of Europe’s most turbulent centuries. The stylishly written plot is packed with enough twists and turns to keep readers up long past their bedtimes.

Praise for The Towers of Tuscany

“The Towers of Tuscany is a delightful escape to the Siena we all love. Carol Cram has crafted a delicious story about a strong woman torn between her secret past, her love of painting and the forbidden charms of her rich patron. Hard to resist and highly recommended!” – Anne Fortier, Author of The Lost Sisterhood and the New York Times bestseller, Juliet
“Carol Cram’s lush descriptions and intriguing characters bring this dramatic tale of medieval Tuscany to life. If you love Italian art, a feisty heroine, and a page-turning plot, you will adore this novel.” – Deborah Swift, Author of A Divided Inheritance
The Towers of Tuscany has all the elements of a wonderful historical novel―a talented, frustrated heroine, a treacherous, feckless husband, and a promise to a dying, much loved father who orders the heroine on a dangerous mission. Carol is a first rate storyteller. The research is well done. Every chapter displays a fine knowledge of painting technique of the 14th century, and customs and mores of the age. The details of dress, fabric, food, are flawless. The clever dialogue and fast pace make the novel zing along.” – Roberta Rich, Author of The Midwife of Venice and The Harem Midwife
“Sofia will set your heart racing as she attempts to find what we all, in our own ways, strive to seek: love, resolution, and artistic freedom. The legacy of this story will leave you yearning for more.” – Cathleen With, award-winning author of Having Faith in the Polar Girls’ Prison

Buy the Book

READ AN EXCERPT.

Review:  I wasn't sure what to expect when I started reading this book, but I do know that when I finished it I really loved it.

Sofia is a painter. She paints panels for her father who is a great artist in his own right. But no one really knows this because in this time period, women didn't do this kind of thing, and in Italy, women were forbidden to paint.

She's got an abusive husband who seems to be on the wrong side of things she takes matters into her own hands and flees.

This book was well written and well researched. The details of the time period come to life for the reader.

Definitely a must read for lovers of historical fiction with a touch of romance.

Rating: 5 flowers


About the AuthorCarol Cram

Carol M. Cram has enjoyed a great career as an educator, teaching at Capilano University in North Vancouver for over twenty years and authoring forty-plus bestselling textbooks on business communications and software applications. She holds an MA in Drama from the University of Toronto and an MBA from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland. Carol is currently focusing as much of her attention as she can spare between walks in the woods on writing historical novels with an arts twist.
She and her husband, painter Gregg Simpson, share a life on beautiful Bowen Island near Vancouver, Canada.

Author Links

Virtual Book Tour Schedule

Monday, April 14
Review at Historical Novel Reviews
Tuesday, April 15
Review & Giveaway at Kinx’s Book Nook
Thursday, April 17
Review at Book Lovers Paradise
Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages
Friday, April 18
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Guest Post & Giveaway at Just One More Chapter
Monday, April 21
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews
Excerpt & Giveaway at So Many Precious Books, So Little Time
Tuesday, April 22
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book
Guest Post at Kincavel Korner
Wednesday, April 23
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Interview at Oh, for the Hook of a Book
Thursday, April 24
Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Interview at Flashlight Commentary
Friday, April 25
Review & Giveaway at Words and Peace

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Book Review: When The Cypress Whispers

Author: Yvette Manessis Corporon
Title: When The Cypress Whispers
Publisher: Harper
Publish Date: April 1, 2014
Review Copy Provided By: TLC Book Tours


Book Blurb: 
On a beautiful Greek island, myths, magic, and a colorful cast of mortals come together in a lushly atmospheric debut celebrating the powerful bond between an American woman and her Greek grandmother.

The daughter of Greek immigrants, Daphne has been brought up to believe in the American dream. When her husband dies in a car accident, leaving her with an inconsolable baby and stacks of bills, she channels everything she has into opening her own Greek restaurant. Now an acclaimed chef and restaurateur, she has also found a second chance at love with her wealthy, handsome fiancé.

Although American by birth, Daphne spent many blissful childhood summers on the magical Greek island of Erikousa, which her grandmother still calls home. At her Yia-yia’s side, she discovered her passion for cooking and absorbed the vibrant rhythms of island life, infused with ancient myths and legends lovingly passed down through generations. Somehow her beloved grandmother could always read her deepest thoughts, and despite the miles between them Daphne knows Yia-yia is the one person who can look beyond Daphne’s storybook life of seeming perfection to help her stay grounded. With her wedding day fast approaching, Daphne returns to Erikousa and to Yia-yia’s embrace.

The past and the present beautifully entwine in this glorious, heartfelt story about a woman trapped between the siren call of old-world traditions and the demands of a modern career and relationship. When Daphne arrives on Erikousa with her daughter, Evie, in tow, nothing is the way she recalls it, and she worries that her elderly Yia-yia is losing her grip on reality. But as the two of them spend time together on the magical island once again, her grandmother opens up to share remarkable memories of her life there—including moving stories of bravery and loyalty in the face of death during World War II—and Daphne remembers why she returned. Yia-yia has more than one lesson to teach her: that security is not the same as love, that her life can be filled with meaning again, and that the most important magic to believe in is the magic of herself.

Review:  When The Cypress Whispers is truly one of the most beautiful and beautifully written works of women's fiction that I've read in quite a long time.

Yvette brings the Greek island, Erikousa and all its inhabitants to life. This is possibly the most vivid novel that I've read. I really felt like this book was a feast for all of the senses. Everything just came to life for me as I read.

I loved Yia-yia. She was the kind of grandmother that we all dream of having. Her relationships with Daphne and her daughter help to make this novel such a wonderful read.

The story is about relationships and dreams and how sometimes the dreams we have have aren't necessarily the one's that are right for us. When Daphne comes back to the island she learns that the money she thinks is so important, really isn't.

We get wonderful snapshots of Daphne's life growing up, both on the island and in New York.

This was a wonderful read that left me with tears in my eyes at the end.

Definitely one of this year's must read books

Rating: 5 flowers



AUTHOR LINKS:

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Book Review: The Chase

Author: Janet Evanovich & Lee Goldberg
Title: The Chase
Publisher: Bantam
Publish Date: Feb 25, 2014
Review Copy Provided By: Net Galley
Buy: Amazon
Book Blurb: 
Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg, New York Times bestselling authors of The Heist, return in this action-packed, exciting adventure featuring master con artist Nicolas Fox and die-hard FBI agent Kate O’Hare. And this time around, things go from hot to nuclear when government secrets are on the line. Internationally renowned thief and con artist Nicolas Fox is famous for running elaborate and daring scams. His greatest con of all: convincing the FBI to team him up with the only person who has ever caught him, and the only woman to ever capture his attention, Special Agent Kate O’Hare. Together they’ll go undercover to swindle and catch the world’s most wanted—and untouchable—criminals. Their newest target is Carter Grove, a former White House chief of staff and the ruthless leader of a private security agency. Grove has stolen a rare Chinese artifact from the Smithsonian, a crime that will torpedo U.S. relations with China if it ever becomes public. Nick and Kate must work under the radar—and against the clock—to devise a plan to steal the piece back. Confronting Grove’s elite assassins, Nick and Kate rely on the skills f their ragtag crew, including a flamboyant actor, a Geek Squad techie, and a band of AARP-card-carrying mercenaries led by none other than Kate’s dad. A daring heist and a deadly chase lead Nick and Kate from Washington, D.C., to Shanghai, from the highlands of Scotland to the underbelly of Montreal. But it’ll take more than death threats, trained henchmen, sleepless nights, and the fate of a dynasty’s priceless heirloom to outsmart Fox and O’Hare.

Review:  The Fox & O'Hare series is a bit different from what I'm used to reading by Janet Evanovich, but it does leave me feeling like I'm having a case of deja vu. When you toss Lee Goldberg into the mix, Evanovich's crazy style ends up looking like a cross between several USA Network dramadies (Covert Affairs, Psych and White Collar)

Nick Fox is so much like Neil Caffrey that it is hard to believe I'm not reading a White Collar tie in book (except they don't write those ..at least I think they don't write those)

I think the highlight of the book is Boyd, the actor they hire to help with the cons. He's hysterical. He has that wacky crazy that you get in the Plum novels, kinda like Lula!

The book was full of action and Kate is definitely a kick butt kind of girl. More so, than any of Evanovich's other characters.

There's a lot of chemistry between Kate and Neil, but I can't picture them ever together, which is in a way kind of cool. There are too many love triangles in these books, and the way this series is written, I don't think romance between Kate and Neil would really work.

As for the con? It felt like it was going on and on and on. I knew when they completed the first part quickly that things were going to go wrong, and did they ever.

I'm going to file this series under guilty pleasure reading, even though I have no guilt about it. It was light fluffy fun.

Rating: 4 flowers



Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Book Review: Explosive Eighteen

Author: Janet Evanovich
Title: Explosive Eighteen
Publisher: Bantam
Publish Date: Nov 22, 2011
Buy: Amazon
Book Blurb: 
Bounty hunter Stephanie Plum’s life is set to blow sky high when international murder hits dangerously close to home, in this dynamite novel by Janet Evanovich.

Before Stephanie can even step foot off Flight 127 Hawaii to Newark, she’s knee deep in trouble. Her dream vacation turned into a nightmare, and she’s flying back to New Jersey solo. Worse still, her seatmate never returned to the plane after the L.A. layover. Now he’s dead—and a ragtag collection of thugs and psychos, not to mention the FBI, are all looking for a photograph he was supposed to be carrying.

Only one person has seen the missing photo: Stephanie Plum. Now she’s the target. An FBI sketch artist helps Stephanie re-create the person in the photo, but Stephanie’s descriptive skills are lacking. Until she can improve them, she’ll need to watch her back.

Over at the bail bonds agency things are going from bad to worse. Vinnie’s temporary HQ has gone up in smoke. Stephanie’s wheelman, Lula, falls for their largest skip yet. Lifetime arch nemesis Joyce Barnhardt moves into Stephanie’s apartment. And everyone wants to know what happened in Hawaii?

Morelli, Trenton’s hottest cop, isn’t talking about Hawaii. Ranger, the man of mystery, isn’t talking about Hawaii. And all Stephanie is willing to say about her Hawaiian vacation is . . . It’s complicated.


Review: Every so often I have to visit my old pal Stephanie Plum. I have to admit, 18 books have taken the sparkle off of Steph and the gang, but that doesn't mean I don't smile through the books.

It's been awhile since I visited Trenton, NJ, but I'm glad I took the time to read Explosive Eighteen. It was fun and funny and oddly, I don't think Stephanie had any cars blown up. When did that stop? OK, nothing gets blown up, but one of their skips...who Lula ends up hooking up with, sure likes to steal them, from her!

Not to worry, she still has a hard time doing her job, but what fun would it be if she actually could catch most of her skips? She also still hasn't decided between Morelli and Ranger, and to tell you the truth, I don't think I could decide either. I like the extra tension in this one that is a result of her Hawaiian vacation that went terribly wrong and leaves her with a tan line where a wedding ring used to be.

La La La...no spoilers...but the reason for that tan line is a little less satisfying than I was hoping, especially as things are a bit chilly from one of her two guys.

Then there's the matter of this photo that's getting her chased by lots of thugs and the FBI as well as an issue with Joyce. And of course there's a funeral or two. This book is a little light on Grandma Mazur and the rest of Steph's family, which is a little disappointing, because they really bring on the laughs, but when Grandma appears she always steals the show, especially with her friend Annie who makes love potions. (Lula and the love potion = hilarity!)

There's lots going on in this book, maybe too much, but it was still a good time and it has put me in the mood for more Plum.

Rating: 4 flowers




 
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