Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Review: When You Went Away ~ Michael Baron

Pub. Date: October 2009
Publisher: The Story Plant
Format: Mass Market Paperback


Only a few months ago, Gerry Rubato had everything he thought he needed from life. He was passionately in love with his college sweetheart after nearly twenty years of marriage, he had a bright, independent-minded daughter, and he had the surprising addition of a new child on the way. Then everything changed with stunning rapidity. With little explanation, his daughter ran away with her older boyfriend. Then, only a month after giving birth to their son, his wife died suddenly.

Now, Gerry needs to be everything to his infant child while he contends with two losses he can barely comprehend. And when a woman walks into his life as a friend and their relationship verges on something more, Gerry must redefine all that he knows about himself, about love, about loyalty, and about his dreams.


When You Went Away is simply breathtaking! When You Went Away is a beautifully written novel that will warm you deep inside.

When You Went Away is an extraordinary saga of one man's powerful journey through life from the heartbreaking sorrow & devastating loss of his soul mate, the distressing heartache of his daughter, Tanya, who ran away w/ an older man & raising his infant son, Reese.

When You Went Away is a poignantly written tale that is vibrant in details, crisp in detail and emotionally driven.

Told from Gerry's point of view, the beginning of Baron's brilliant novel focuses on his anguish, ennui & turmoil as he struggles w/ surviving, living for his son, finding his way & moving on.

Baron's writing is fluid. His characters are fully developed, smooth & vivacious . Baron is a gifted scribe who goes deep inside the reader & ignites a spark that electrifies the spirit!

Gerry's communication w/ his daughter, Tanya is genuine, raw & tender. Baron handles the struggles that Gerry endures effortlessly.

When You Went Away is an exquisite literary nugget not to be missed!

Author’s Website

Read an Excerpt

Many thanks to Joy Strazza, Joan Schulhafer Publishing & Media Consulting, Michael Baron & The Story Plant for sending me a free copy of this book for review.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Silent Killer ~ Beverly Barton

Pub. Date: September 2009
Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corporation
Format: Mass Market Paperback, 384pp


In A Town Full Of Secrets

To most people, men like Mark Cantrell are fine, upstanding pillars of the community, completely beyond reproach. But their killer knows better. They are sinners of the worst kind, and they must burn on earth before they burn in hell. . .

Trusting The Wrong Person

Eighteen months after her husband's unsolved murder, Cathy Cantrell has returned to her Alabama home, eager to build a new life for herself and her son. But pieces of her past are everywhere-including Jackson Perdue, the town's deputy sheriff. The spate of recent deaths-each victim burned in the same horrifying manner-leave Jack and Cathy in no doubt that a serial killer is at work, one whose rage grows more vicious each day. . .

Can Be Fatal. . .

Now as a twisted killer moves in for a final, brutal act of vengeance, buried crimes are coming to light once more. And this time, justice will be swift, merciless, and as silent as the grave. . .


Silent Killer is one exhilarating read. Barton has penned quite a mind-blowing tale.

Cathy & Jackson are intoxicating. I loved them.

Cathy suffered a breakdown after she witnessed her husband, Mark, burn to death. Cathy checked herself into a mental health facility to deal w/ the heinous savagery of her husband's murder.

Cathy also relinquished custody of her son.

Not too long after Cathy returns to town to reunite w/ her son.

Also returning is, Jackson Perdue, a man who once owned Cathy's heart. Jack returns to town, despite vowing never to set foot in Dunmore, Alabama again.

Jack is smart enough to know better than to say never. Jack accepts a position as a deputy.

He is assigned Mark's "cold case". While investigating Mark's barbaric murder, the killer attacks repeatedly. The target? Clergymen.

Barton's narration through the killer's eyes was vividly creepy. I was more than a bit squeamish.

In Silent Killer, Barton deftly shines a light on why she is a force in this genre ~ she just ratchets up the creep factor & delivers skin crawling, menacing, dastardly psycho villains effortlessly.

Brava, Ms. Barton, Brava & thank you!

What I love most about Jack & Cathy is the fact that they are so darn fiery, sensual & oh, so wounded. Their affection, respect, raw emotion & lust singe the pages. This is why I love romantic suspense so much. Not just any romantic suspense, romantic suspense that is well crafted, engaging, wickedly savory & keeps you reading late into the night wee into the morn.

Silent Killer
is a spine-tingling novel teeming w/ thrills, peril & gruesome nuggets.

Silent Killer
is rife w/ suspicion. The danger intensifies. So, is anyone safe in the town of Dunmore? Barton has you hooked from the beginning, wondering who to trust & wondering if so & so was innocent. Definitely the indelible mark of a phenomenal scribe.

Silent Killer is a terrifying, sinister ride.

Hurry! Grab a copy of Silent Killer!

Psst! Double check your locks!

Visit the delightful Beverly Barton's website & enjoy the thrills she is noted for!

Check out the UK cover!

Thank you, Beverly, for the review copy.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Lovestruck Summer ~ Melissa Walker

Pub. Date: May 2009
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Format: Paperback, 272pp
Age Range: 12 and up
ISBN-13: 9780061715860
ISBN: 0061715867


Austin Music Fest

Yay, summer in Austin!

Good food, good times. Fun for everyone!

Okay, living with my sorority-brainwashed cousin, who willingly goes by "Party Penny," is not exactly what I had in mind.

All your favorite bands

But the cute musicians I've met totally make up for it . . . like Sebastian. Swoon.

All ages welcome

So why can't I stop thinking about Penny's friend All-American Russ and his Texas twang??

Saturday & Sunday, from noon to midnight

Don't wait up!

Sunny days, late nights and a vacation full of possibilities...

This is the story of Quinn, an indie rock girl who came out to Austin, Texas for a music internship.

She also plans to spend long, lazy days in the sun at outdoor concerts--and to meet a hot musician or two. Instead, she's stuck rooming with her sorority brainwashed cousin, who now willingly goes by the name 'Party Penny.' Their personalities clash, big time.

But Sebastian, a gorgeous DJ, definitely makes up for it. Sebastian has it all: looks, charm, and great taste in music. So why can't Quinn keep her mind off Penny's friend cute, All-American Russ and his Texas twang?

One thing's certain: Quinn's in for a summer she'll never forget!


Lovestruck Summer
is one of my all time favorite books. Walker is a genius! This is the way romantic comedy is supposed to be written. Breezy, charming, fun, kicky & memorable.
I feel butterflies flitting in my stomach just thinking about this darling treasure.
Priscilla Quinn Parker ~ Quinn ~ is a fiery, saucy, indie music lovin' chick.

" I live my life in headphones. That way, I can control what I let in."

I just loved this book so much, I didn't want it to end. I was inhaling it until I was closing in on the end. I slowed my reading pace just to savor Walker's delicious nugget.
Walker captured the essence of Quinn & created an impressive spitfire. She is just fun!
I laughed, cried, fell in love & had a blast!

With an industry over saturated w/ paranormal this & paranormal that, Walker's Lovestruck Summer is a refreshing sparkling romantic getaway.

Walker is one gifted writer, she's able to create appealing, invigorating, whimsical three- dimensional characters who rocket off the page.

Quinn is simply remarkable, utterly misguided & thoroughly magnetizing. Quinn’s progression from a snotty show-off into a more unbiased young woman was skillfully devised.

"But really, it's the big picture that overwhelms me: Penny has gone Texas."

Penny aka "Party Penny" is more than Quinn's cousin or your typical sorority babe. She has her own depth, appeal & spunk! I am eager to read more about Penny & hope Walker considers revisiting this character again. *Hint* ; ).

Penny's dog, Miss Tiara is a riot!

" Oh, Miss. Tiara's a boy" whispers Penny, lowering the dog's ears. "He just likes to be in drag, and he prefers to be referred to as 'she'. There's a really cool cross-dresser named Leslie who walks around town, and Miss. Tiara has just taken to him as a role model."

Penny’s irritating frat-boy/wannabe-cowboy friend & next door neighbor, Russ (sigh) is the guy that no matter how hard Quinn tries she just can't seem to shake. Russ is the one who stimulates her senses, makes her question her beliefs & makes her feel. Russ is always calling Quinn "Priscilla" which steams her to no end. When he starts calling her "Cilla", I am in love ; 9! Let me just say, I so wanted to be Quinn ; )!

Here are a few quotes that made me feel those butterflies in my stomach go bananas:

" You know, when you smile I just want to kiss you," he says.
"I'm sorry I said that," he says, "about the kiss."

"Okay," I say, not sure how to respond.

"I meant it," he says softly. his face hovering just inches above mine. He pauses for a moment there and I stare at his big blue eyes.

Two beats later, he pulls back, sits up, and says, "But I'm sorry I said it."

Chrissy, Penny's friend & neighbor ~ Russ's roommate ~ is more than a buxom, dippy blonde. She definitely is the definition of "never judge a book by its cover".

Walker delivered a striking punch in this feel good read. Walker filled this 272 page light read w/ more substance than a 500 page tome. Brava, Walker!

There has been a bit of buzz on the cover. Some love the bubble gum cover others roll their eyes @ the cutesy presentation; the cover depicts summer romance in the HarperTeen "Beach Reads" category. I love it! I love the "beachy" look & the colors are darling! Afterall, it captures the essence of Austin's Barton Springs perfectly.

You really should grab a copy of Lovestruck Summer. Whenever you need a pick me up, escape or to just feel good inside, Walker's Lovestruck Summer is the perfect prescription.

Psst! If you usually rebuff romance, please give this book a chance to illustrate it is Walker's characters that make Lovestruck Summer radiate.

Check out Melissa Walker's website


Benny & Shrimp ~ Karen Mazetti, Sarah Death (Translator)

Pub. Date: July 2009
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
Format: Paperback, 224pp
ISBN-13: 9780143115991
ISBN: 0143115995


Why is it so impossible to get a relationship between two middle-aged misfits to work? The answer lies in the story of Shrimp, a young widowed librarian with a sharp intellect and a home so tidy that her jam jars are in alphabetical order; Benny, a gentle, overworked milk farmer who fears becoming the village's Old Bachelor; and an unlikely love that should not be as complicated as it seems.


How much are you willing to sacrifice for love? What would you give up for happiness? Would you compromise -- meet half way for that one individual that stirs your soul? Caresses your spirit?

Allow me to introduce you to Benny & Shrimp. Benny's a Swedish farmer, a 30 year old country boy, w/ cows, calves & sheep. Shrimp ~ Desiree ~ is a widowed Swedish librarian, who happens to be a vegetarian.

Benny's searching for a farmer's wife & Shrimp wants someone cultured.

Enter a cemetery of all places.

Benny's grieving the devastating loss of his mother & Shrimp's mourning the painful loss of her husband.

So, how on earth did these two to get together??? One day she smiled @ him & he smiled back...

Told in alternating viewpoints w/ heartache & hilarity, Benny & Shrimp deliver their story from their own standpoint.

Mazetti brilliantly crafted the short chapters showcasing Benny & Shrimp's outlook.

Kudos to Mazetti for describing the same moment they remembered things but just like in "real" life it was somewhat different.

Mazetti's writing is extraordinary. Sarah translated Mazetti's Swedish prose to English phenomenally w/o losing any of the mettle or vibrancy of the genuine love, frustration, pride, fear & tenderness these two wounded spirits feel.

As Shrimp voices, "Love makes others into doves, gazelles, cats, peacocks, but I -- quivering, wet and transparent - am your jellyfish."

I couldn't put down this quirky novel & found myself wondering what was going to happen next to the charming Benny & delightful Shrimp.

The cliffhanger ending leaves me eager for more...

This is a heartwarming story that proves love is for everyone!

Thank you, Caitlin @ FSB Associates for the review copy!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Turn Up the Heat: Jessica Conant~Park & Susan Conant

Pub. Date: March 2008
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
Format: Hardcover, 288pp
Series: Gourmet Girl Series, #3


Chloe Carter has a lot on her plate-exams for grad school are coming up, and her chef boyfriend needs her support as his fledgling trendy restaurant comes into its own. The staff of Simmer gets along like petits pois in a pod, everyone pulling pranks on one another now and then. Everyone, that is, except for Leandra, a waitress who treats the busboys like chopped liver-and can never take a joke. One morning, Leandra's dead body is found in a fish truck. So people start to wonder: was this just a prank gone awry? Or did somebody actually want her to sleep with the fishes?


Turn Up the Heat is the 3rd adventure in the savory Gourmet Girl culinary mystery series by noted mother-daughter scribes, Jessica Conant-Park & Susan Conant.

Turn Up the Heat shines a light on the restaurant industry & what goes on behind the scenes in our neighborhood kitchens by showcasing the lush, elegant, Simmer.

Jessica & Susan do a steller job sketching restaurant life & this is the best installment yet.
Turn Up the Heat is on fire w/ juicy tidbits on what makes or breaks a restaurant. Yummy goodness.

The whimsical cast enriches the series & are in no way padding for Chloe.

Appaulse to the talented duo for illustrating just how essential the characters are to making the Gourmet Girl series meld.

Chloe is an engaging, fiery, irresistible & fun character. She is definitely one of my favorites.

Now as much as I adore Chloe, I also love reading about the other quirky players.

Adrianna is a sheer delight. I'd love to spend the day just hanging out w/ her. I love the warm bond Chloe & Adrianna share ~ Lucy & Ethel comes to mind, as does Grace & Karen. I look forward to an even bigger role as the series progresses because she is just too much fun.

Owen. Owen. Yes, he is definitely one capricious spirit. I must say, he keeps me on my toes.

Psst! Love the name "Daily Catch", guys.

I enjoy the vibrant atmosphere the Gourmet Girl series has going on. I always feel like I'm on vacation visiting friends in trendy Beantown.

Turn Up the Heat is expertly plotted & brimming w/ red herrings. Love it! I just love a good 'ole fashioned whodunit where everyone is a suspect & you haven't got a clue. Kudos, ladies for this absorbing tale.

Turn Up the Heat is wickedly ambrosial, you will not be disappointed.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Simmer Down ~ Jessica Conant~Park & Susan Conant

Pub. Date: March 2008
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
Format: Mass Market Paperback, 304pp
Series: Gourmet Girl Series, #2


Chloe Carter's boyfriend, Josh Driscoll, is prepping for the opening of Simmer, Boston's hottest new restaurant. But at a fund-raiser featuring samples of Josh's cuisine, a trendy club owner is found bludgeoned to death-by Josh's state-of-the-art, professional-grade food processor, the ominously-named Robocoupe.

By opening night at Simmer, the list of suspects is almost longer than the line to get in. And Chloe is struggling to solve the crime before the final course is served.


How do you spell fun? S-i-m-m-e-r D-o-w-n! The 2nd installment in the delightful Gourmet Girl series is even zanier than the first. Conant~Park & Conant are more in sync & @ ease w/ their hilarious heroine Chloe. Let me tell you, friends, she is definitely full of energy. Spending time w/ Chloe is like hanging out w/ your bestie. I do my best not to sip anything while flipping the pages for fear of ruining the book... just a lil' warning ; ).

Simmer Down is as yummy as a brownie straight from the oven. It is a fast-paced read filled w/ hijinks. I just lose myself in the pages & consider the Gourmet Girl series one of my all time favorite comfort reads.

I am a moody reader & when I just can't find something to whet my appetite, I reach for a Gourmet Girl Mystery. I just adore Chloe.

Simmer Down is an animated adventure bubbling w/ humor, charm & straight out screwball comedy. You will bolt from your seat as soon as the last page is read to devour the next whimsical stew Chloe has gotten herself into.

Chloe is a well developed protagonist. Where this mother & daughter team shine is in creating engaging characters. Every character is entertaining, witty & just riotous. From the most charismatic cast member to the most unruly, these ladies keep you turning the pages.

What this duo does best is endear Chloe to the readers, foibles & all. Chloe is not your "cookie cutter" heroine, you know, all pulled together & just waiting for a body to "appear". No, she's authentic, appealing, intelligent, unassuming, self-conscious, whimsical, vacillating & exposed. She is me, she is you ~ she is every woman riding this wave we call life.

The writing is smooth, the witticism skillfully crafted & Josh... well decadent!

I think they are the perfect recipe like REESE'S PEANUT BUTTER CUPS!

When I first read Steamed, I thought Lindsay Lohan would make an excellent Chloe but unfortunately, she would be more of a hindrance & I want to see this series thrive on the screen.

Isla Fisher would make one fantastic Chloe on the big screen but if Lifetime or Hallmark did a TV verison, Amy Davidson has it hands down!