Friday, August 31, 2012

Review: Too Many Cooks by Shirley Ann Wilder

 Too Many Cooks by Shirley Ann Wilder
 Publisher: Bouroughs Publishing Group

Bitter news leads a San Diego widow and widower to true love—and to a scheme to
marry off their adult children, a plan that goes deliciously awry.

Gaetano Lorenzo was the sweetest man that the widowed Estelle Bennett had
ever met. That morning began terribly, with awful news, but now the owner and
head chef of a local San Diego ristorante was offering up Italian delights: red wine,
delicious food, walks on the beach, laughter when she’d never thought she’d laugh
again…. Estelle felt twenty-five. She and Gaetano had found the recipe for love, and
a simple variation might just get their adult children to settle down, too. A scoop of
sugar, two ladlefuls of lust, a pinch of deception and a whole 24 oz.-can of danger—
Suddenly, ingredients were coming from everywhere! But kitchens are crazy places,
and variety is the spice of life. And for anything to get cooked, things have to get

 Too Many Cooks is was a quick read, to the point of being rushed.  It basically the story of a romance that develops between two middle-aged people who are scheming to get their children together.  The scenes between Gaetano and Estelle are especially sweet, while the scenes between Alex and Gina are kind of cliche.  I didn't like the fact that the parents were milking Estelle's alleged imminent death for so long to manipulate the kids, but all in all this was a cute if cliched story.  If you like brisk romance reads, this is a great book for you. 

From the time she could hold a pencil, Shirley Ann Wilder wrote stories. Being the youngest of six
children, she was overlooked many times but found wonder and magic in reading books. As a youngster
she was especially fond of horse books and read every one of Walter Farley’s Black Stallion books.That passion for horses carried over into her adult life and with her husband and four children, raised
Quarter Horses and German Shepherds. Shirley’s other passion was writing, but it was put on hold until the three sons and one daughter were in high school.After taking numerous writing classes and amassing many unfinished manuscripts, one of her writing instructors suggested she join Romance Writers of America. Taking that advice she also joined thelocal San Diego RWA chapter has since completed six novels. She served on the Executive Board as Co-President of RWA- San Diego for 2006 and 2007 and held several other chair positions. She credits her fellow writers for the support and encouragement that has kept her writing during recent difficult times.

**I received this book via Innovations Online Book Tours in exchange for my honest opinion.**

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz
Sale Date: September 11, 2012
 Now Díaz turns his remarkable talent to the haunting, impossible power of love – obsessive love, illicit love, fading love, maternal love. On a beach in the Dominican Republic, a doomed relationship flounders. In the heat of a hospital laundry room in New Jersey, a woman does her lover’s washing and thinks about his wife. In Boston, a man buys his love child, his only son, a first baseball bat and glove. At the heart of these stories is the irrepressible, irresistible Yunior, a young hardhead whose longing for love is equaled only by his recklessness--and by the extraordinary women he loves and loses: artistic Alma; the aging Miss Lora; Magdalena, who thinks all Dominican men are cheaters; and the love of his life, whose heartbreak ultimately becomes his own. In prose that is endlessly energetic, inventive, tender, and funny, the stories in This Is How You Lose Her lay bare the infinite longing and inevitable weakness of the human heart. They remind us that passion always triumphs over experience, and that “the half-life of love is forever.”

Monday, August 27, 2012

Review: Where'd You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple

Where'd You Go, Bernadette: A Novel by Maria Semple
Publisher: Little, Brown, & Co.
Publication Date: August 14, 2012

Aloof and disinterested in socializing, Bernadette Fox is the object of morbid curiosity from her neighbors and the parents at her daughter's school.  Everything gives her a tizzy fit (cold Seattle people, weird design of intersections in Seattle, Idaho drivers, Canadians, etc.) causing trips outside her house to be major ordeal.  Trying to avoid human interactions and the ensuing anxiety leads Bernadette to basically hand over her life to her secret virtual assistant Manjula in India.

Bernadette's husband Elgin Branch works at Microsoft and is the lead on a major project. He is totally absorbed in the Microsoft culture to the detriment of his relationships with his wife and daughter. Her daughter Bee (short for Balakrishna) is 14 years old and small for her age.  They represent the bulk of her non-Manjula communications.  Despite her anxiety issues and irritability, she is a great mom to Bee.  When Bee requests a trip to Antarctica as a reward for excellent grades, Bernadette agrees to having a family vacation.

Everything starts to go to pot when a neighbor accuses Bernadette of running over her foot.  Removing her blackberry bushes at the same neighbors request just results in a fundraiser ruining mudslide.  Add in some alleged shadiness on the part of Manjula and Bernadette starts to slip even further.  Being recognized by a passerby is the icing on the cake.  Elgin, unaware of all the troubles Bernadette is dealing with, starts to fear for her metal health after several strange incidents.  When he holds an intervention, Bernadette bolts. 

Using the accumulated documents, Bee discovers Bernadette's whereabouts and we finally get to here from the lady herself. Bernadette Fox was a innovative designer; she was incorporating environmentally friendly building techniques before they were a thing.  She is a legend in architectural circles for building The Twenty Mile House plan free and entirely from materials sourced from both the sites and locally.  After the incident, Bernadette runs to Seattle and avoids any mention of the Twenty Mile House.  Elgin thinks once Bee is born that all is past but once he starts paying attention he sees her massive issues for the first time.  Despite Bernadette's issues, her help and support allowed him to be the Microsoft absorbed man he was.

Where'd You Go Bernadette is a great novel.  I totally like this book almost 100%.  The characters were well written and crafted with care- even some of the side plots that seemed superfluous were integrated with the rest of the plot. I was so engrossed: it was totally annoying to have to take breaks for work, dinner, socializing, etc. Maria Semple wrote for one of my favorite shows Arrested Development and now one of my favorite books this year. 

**This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.**

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Book Blurb: Crimson Footprints by Shewanda Pugh

When an insecure, bi-racial woman begins a cloak-and-dagger love affair with a Japanese American man, she is intent on keeping her bigoted family in the dark—albeit with devastating consequences.

On the night of her brother’s murder, Deena Hammond stumbles upon Takumi Tanaka, lost and on the wrong end of a .32. After rescuing him from the certain fate driving through the hood in a Porsche will bring, a sweet kind of friendship begins. A balm for her grief. Maybe, Deena likes to think, it happened the day her white mother killed her black father. Or maybe, it was always a part of them, like DNA gone bad. Whatever the case, Deena knows that her family would never approve, hell, never acknowledge her fast-growing love for Takumi. And had he never made love to her that way, in that unraveling, soul-searching sort of way, she could’ve done the same. But love’s a devil that way.

So, their game begins. One where they hide what they are from everyone. Anyone. And Tak understands this—for now. After all, Deena’s career hinges on the favor of her mentor and boss, his hard-ass of a father. And the Hammond family is already stretched thin with grief. Yet, each step Deena takes toward family and career brings her closer to an acceptance she’s never had. And away from him.

 Excerpt One
“I wish that I didn’t want my family’s love so bad. I wish I could be one of those people who wore
leather jackets and didn’t give a damned.”
Tak shot her a look. “You’d be musty if you wore a leather jacket in this heat.”
Deena grinned. “You know what I mean.”
He shrugged. “Who doesn’t want a decent family, Dee? It’s not much to ask for.”

Tak paused to pluck a seashell from the sand. Chipped and polished by time, it shone under the
glint of a fast setting sun. “I don’t know the answers,” he said. “But they seem to be in things like
this,” he held up the shell.
She frowned. “I don’t follow.”
He shrugged. “Well think about it. What’s a shell? It’s just a—a hard, protective outer layer.” He
hurled it in the ocean. “The same is true with family. They’re an outer layer, a protection from the
world. At least that’s what they’re supposed to be.” He paused. “Think about what happens when
you screw with an animal that has one of those hard shells. What does he do?”
“He goes into it.”
“Right. He retreats.” He thumbed the shell thoughtfully. “Now imagine if you were to rip the
shell off a turtle and expose him. What do you think you’d find?”
Deena cringed. “Something soft and hurting.
“And dead, if not close to it. So, our hypothetical turtle, who’s able to stand our shell transplant,
needs another shell, another form of protection. And so do you.” Tak handed the grooved and
sand-polished subject to Deena. She looked down at it.
“So, how’ve I been surviving all this time? What’s my shell?”
Tak grinned. “Tell you what. I’ll let you know when I crack it.”

Copyright by Shewanda Pugh

The author is offering commenters on the tour an opprotunity to win a $10 Amazon gift card. Other tour stops are here

About the Author:
Shewanda Pugh is a native of Boston’s inner city, though she now lives in sunny Miami, Florida.
She has a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Alabama A&M University and a Master’s
in Writing from Nova Southeastern University. Fueled from a young age, her passion for
crossing societal boundaries like race, class and culture, is the inspiration for both her cluttered
bookshelf and her writing. When she’s not busy obsessing over fiction, she can be found
traveling, nursing her social networking addiction or enjoying the company of loved ones.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Review: The Sweetness of Forgetting by Kristin Harmel

The Sweetness of Forgetting by Kristin Harmel
Publisher: Gallery Books
Published: August 7, 2012

Hope McKenna-Smith has hard time the last few years.  She divorced her husband, lost her mother to cancer, is dealing with a moody 12 year old daughter, struggling to keep her bakery afloat, and is watching helplessly as her grandmother succumbs to Alzheimers.  When her grandmother presents her a list of people to locate in her native Paris and a check, she thinks it's just senile ramblings.  Giving in to her daughter's nagging, she agrees to attempt to find information about her grandmother's family.  Little does she know how delving into her grandmother's past will change and enrich her life.

Digging into her grandmother's past leads to a French organization which archives family histories and stories of Holocaust survivors and those who perished. Realizing she has Jewish heritage and seeing relics of the Holocaust gives Hope a renewed sorrow for those who suffered and shines some light on her grandmother's personality.  She also finds out about the alliance between Jews and Muslims which helped her grandmother to survive.  Hope cannot even fathom the choices her grandmother had to make and the consequences of those choices.  Each new piece of information Hope unravels gives her life own life greater meaning and appreciation for the events of her past..

The Sweetness of Forgetting is a great book about the way our choices can affect future generations.  Rose's decisions trickled down to her granddaughter Hope.  Hope's journey changes her and lets her know it's ok to travel the road less traveled. She is finally able to stand up to her exhusband and as she learns about the past she gains appreciation for her past and the rich history of her family. 

**This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.**

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Review: Freak by Jennifer Hillier

Freak by Jennifer Hillier
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: August 7, 2012

Freak starts about a year after the events in Creep.  Jerry Isaac, former cop/current private investigator,  is still recovering both physically mentally from his encounter with violent killer Abby Maddox.  With rehab for her sex addiction behind her, Professor Sheila Tao is putting the pieces of her personal and professional life back together.  With Ethan Wolfe dead and gone, the only loose end is his girlfriend, Abby Maddox.  At contention is whether she was his accomplice or the mastermind of the heinous crimes which occurred a year earlier.

Shortly after Abby is charged with murder of Diana St. Clair, someone starts killing women who resemble her and carving "FREE ABBY MADDOX" and a counter into their bodies.  Jerry is contacted by his former partner Detective Mike Torrance and asked to visit Abby in prison.  Surprisingly(or not depending on how you look at it) Abby claims to have knowledge of who might be the killer and offers to provide information about the killer in exchange for a transfer to a minimum security prison.  Catching the Free Abby killer is a little too easy and Jerry gets suspicious that they haven't even seen the beginning of what Abby really has planned.  Using her entire repertoire of tricks, Abby manipulates everyone from the prison guards to her lawyer to Jerry and Sheila to accomplish her goals of escaping prison and getting revenge on Sheila for Ethan's death.  Once Abby escapes custody, it's only a matter of time before she finds Sheila and avenges Ethan's death.  When Sheila and Marianne, Jerry's estranged wife, go missing, Jerry and Torrance are racing to find both women before Abby kills them.  In Abby's clutches, Sheila vacillates between begging for the mercy of death and trying to survive Abby's attack.  When a secret accomplice shows up, Sheila starts to give up hope.
In Freak, we get more information about Abby Maddox and continues to try to convince that she was Ethan's victim as well. This just serves to highlight her ultra manipulative nature.  The secret accomplice at the end was kind of paint by numbers.  While it was supposed to be a shock, it was heavily shadowed in the beginning and kind of inevitable.  All in all Freak is a great suspenseful read just like the previous book, Creep.

**This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.**
This should have posted 89.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Review: City of Women by David R. Gilham

City of Women by David R. Gilham
Publisher: Amy Einhorn Books
Published:August 7, 2012

When her husband gets drafted into frontline service, Sigrid Schröder joins the ranks of the husbandless wives. Berlin is drained of its men and has become a city of women, children, the elderly, and the disabled. Living with her crotchety mother-in-law, Sigrid uses the cinema as a refuge from her mother-in-law's contempt and harassment. In the cinema, she meets a mystery man and has a strange encounter with her neighbor's duty year girl, Erica Kohl.   

In Berlin, everyone has their secrets and Sigrid's are piling up.  Her deepening relationships with the man from the theater and Erica gives her reason to live outside the boundaries of appropriate behavior for a good German woman. Sigrid starts to realize that complacency in the current situation is the same as being a active perpetrator of atrocities. While trying to keep all her selves separate and coming to terms with possible consequences of her actions, she is blindsided by her husband's return from the frontline.  As her secrets start coming to light, Sigrid starts acting rather than reacting to the changes around her. 

City of Women provide a peek into the intimate life of a German women. Sigrid goes from oblivious to the reality of the war to actively following her ideals.  She begins to question the government and the complacency of her countrymen.  She changes from toeing the line and staying under the radar to actively taking risks and actively working for change.  The book was a great, if a little dense, read.  It was a little hard to follow the chain of events but overall the story was very coherent and precise. 

**This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.**

Waiting on Wednesday

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

From Amazon:

In The Keeper of Lost Causes, Jussi Adler-Olsen introduced Detective Carl Mørck, a deeply flawed, brilliant detective newly assigned to run Department Q, the home of Copenhagen’s coldest cases. The result wasn’t what Mørck—or readers—expected, but by the opening of Adler-Olsen’s shocking, fast-paced follow-up, Mørck is satisfied with the notion of picking up long-cold leads. So he’s naturally intrigued when a closed case lands on his desk: A brother and sister were brutally murdered two decades earlier, and one of the suspects—part of a group of privileged boarding-school students—confessed and was convicted.

But once Mørck reopens the files, it becomes clear that all is not what it seems. Looking into the supposedly solved case leads him to Kimmie, a woman living on the streets, stealing to survive. Kimmie has mastered evading the police, but now they aren’t the only ones looking for her. Because Kimmie has secrets that certain influential individuals would kill to keep buried . . . as well as one of her own that could turn everything on its head.

I loved Keeper of Lost Causes and have already pre-ordered this novel.  Can't wait for August 21, 2012.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Review: The Undertaker by William F. Brown

The Undertaker by William F. Brown
Published:  January 2011

   If a large man with a gun asked you to explain your obituary, I am sure you would comply..  When you realize, your deceased wife is dragged in to the mess, you might decide to investigate the matter.  Peter Talbott has no idea for the dangerous journey ahead of him in his quest to clear his wife's name. A couple days of poking his nose into the matter ends with Peter on the running from the law and the mob.  Searching for evidence to shore up his theory, Peter meets Sandy Kazmarcik.  Having dragged her into the mess, he feels obligated to keep her safe.  Her judo skills, street smarts, and good looks don't hurt either.  Stumbling onto evidence of the mob's financial affairs and a conspiracy in the Witness Protection program does nothing to ease Peter's fears.  Realizing he cannot trust anyone, Peter figures out a way to expose the conspiracy without ending up dead.

    Peter Talbott was a well developed character with a quirky (California style according to other characters in the book) sense of humor.  Sandy Kazmarcik was a great foil to Peter and their relationship didn't feel forced to carry a story arc. Some of the baddies were textbook villian -- hick sherriff, wily lawyer, etc.  The concept of the novel was well thought out and well played throughout the book. There were some minor editing issues and spelling errors that put me off a bit but overall The Undertaker was a fast paced read. If you like stories about government conspiracies with a dash of romance, this book is a quick and intriguing read.