Friday, April 20, 2012

Author Comments on Reviews

I am always thrilled when I get an author comment on a review I have written. My blog is still pretty small so it doesn't happen often but when it does. it's exciting. I generally only review books that I have liked although I don't hesitate to say what I have not liked about a book even though I have enjoyed it overall. So,  I hope that an author reading my review feels I have been respectful of their work and a comment from them reinforces that. I guess my basic book geek fan persona feels flattered that an author I have enjoyed appreciated my little post. or review on one of the big bookseller sites.

The first author comment was actually from one of my absolute favorite authors- Margaret Maron.  She pasted my review to FB and I was in alt! I was debating about keeping up the blog and it helped me decide to keep going.

My blog will never be one of the big blogs and I'm ok with that.  I write it primarily to inform our library patrons about Mystery and Romance books we own or will be purchasing. I have met many of the authors I review at Library Conferences or professional expositions and I have found them almost always to be friendly and open to chatting with their readers. We have had authors come to our library or Skype into our book discussions and they have been very open to all comments.  If an author had an issue with what I wrote I would want to know, especially if I had misinterpreted a story line or plot. I think if we respect them, they will respect us.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Garden of Happy Endings by Barbara O'Neal

After tragedy shatters her small community in Seattle, the reverend Elsa Montgomery has a crisis of faith. Returning to her home town of Pueblo, Colorado, she takes refuge in a local soup kitchen. Preparing nourishing meals for folks in need, she keeps her hands busy while her heart searches for understanding.

Meanwhile, her sister, Tamsin, as pretty and colorful as Elsa is unadorned and steadfast, finds her perfect life shattered when she learns her financier husband is a criminal. Enduring shock and humiliation as her beautiful house and possessions are seized, the woman who had everything now has nothing but the clothes on her back.

But when the going gets tough, the tough get growing. A community garden in the poorest, roughest part of town becomes a lifeline. Creating a place of hope and sustenance opens Elsa and Tamsin to the renewing power of rich earth, sunshine, and the warm cleansing rain of tears. While Elsa finds her heart blooming in the care of a rugged landscaper, Tamsin discovers the joy of losing herself in the act of giving—and both women discover that with time and care, happy endings flourish.(Synopsis from B&

Random House, Trade Publication, 418 pages    5/5 bookmarks

Wow, what a thought provoking book this is. Elsa is a minister in a Seattle church who finds herself questioning her calling after the murder of one of her parishioners.  Elsa has had a long history of being disappointed by God, starting with her run in with a misogynist Catholic priest in her youth.
After being told by her church council that she needs to take a sabbatical, she ends up working with her lifelong friend, Joaquin, now a priest in their home town. She has a history with Father Jack, which led to one of her breaks with God, but they have both worked through it... or so they think. Elsa finds herself working on a community garden and developing an attraction to Deacon, the landscaper who is helping the church set up the garden.
I read this book the same week a young child was killed in a horrific accident in our state. I had a discussion with two co-workers about how hard I found it to believe that God would have a plan for us that could include such a terrible thing. Elsa has the same questions in this book.  She has kept her faith in God for most of her life even when it has been hard to do so-she has turned her back on Him but came back every time. I think that Ms. O’Neal does an excellent job in portraying the anguish that a person with a religious calling would have when they question whether their own faith is strong enough to keep going.  That said the book is hopeful and positive even as Elsa is struggling.
There is a side plot involving Tamsin, Elsa’s sister, who loses everything overnight when her financier husband disappears and is subsequently discovered to have bilked people out of millions of dollars. Tamsin has a crisis of physical loss-she has no money, no home, no job and no hope of getting any of those things in the immediate future.  Her daughter is overseas and has no idea of what is happening so Tamsin has the additional burden of keeping her circumstance a secret from her own child.
As always, Ms. O’Neal gives us a story with many layers that we can relate to even if our situation is not the same as the main character. Her characters survive life’s vagaries and find their own brand of happiness.  Isn’t that what we all strive for?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Betrayal, Bella Terra # 3 by Christina Dodd

Noah Di Luca and Penelope Alonso shared one passionate summer together. And then, when the secrets of his past threatened, Noah walked away from her without a word. Years later, Penelope must return to Bella Terra, never expecting that she will encounter Noah...or that one glance will reawaken their fiery passion. And as danger stalks the streets, she has no choice. To survive, she must once again trust the man who betrayed her.

Paperback, Penguin, 448 pages   Rating 5/5

Christina Dodd wraps up her Bella Terra series with a winner. This book tells the story of Noah, the last brother still unmarried. His past lover, Penelope, has returned to the area after the death of her mother to confirm her mother’s deathbed confession. She plans to stay away from Noah but ends up befriending his sister in law, Brooke and working as the decorator on Brooke and Rafe’s house. Needless to say, she meets up with Noah pretty quickly and the sizzle is still there.
After reading the first two books in this series, I expected suspense, but WOW!  This book is a page turner. Noah has some big secrets in his past that are about to unravel and take his family down with him if he isn’t extremely careful. Penelope has secrets of her own and she can tell that Noah is carrying a heavy burden but she isn’t sure that she is strong enough deal with her emotions about him. Ms. Dodd does an excellent job of setting up a scenario that seems impossible to end any other way but badly.
The characters from the other books play a big part in this book along with some new ones who really stir up the pot. Villainy abounds from every place  in which Noah and Penelope look for answers. There are parts of the book that seem very slightly contrived but somehow it works,  the plot stays true and doesn’t seem a stretch. The ending of the book is very satisfying with a nice twist in the last paragraphs.

Barefoot Season by Susan Mallery

Michelle Sanderson may appear to be a strong, independent woman, but on the inside, she's still the wounded girl who fled home years ago. A young army vet, Michelle returns to the quaint Blackberry Island Inn to claim her inheritance and recover from the perils of war. Instead, she finds the owner's suite occupied by the last person she wants to see.
Carly Williams and Michelle were once inseparable, until a shocking betrayal destroyed their friendship. And now Carly is implicated in the financial disaster lurking behind the inn's cheerful veneer.
Single mother Carly has weathered rumors, lies and secrets for a lifetime, and is finally starting to move forward with love and life. But if the Blackberry Island Inn goes under, Carly and her daughter will go with it.
To save their livelihoods, Carly and Michelle will undertake a turbulent truce. It'll take more than a successful season to move beyond their devastating past, but with a little luck and a beautiful summer, they may just rediscover the friendship of a lifetime.(Synopsis from B&

Trade Paperback, MIRA, 368 pages  Rating 5/5

I really enjoyed this book. It seems as though I have read many books recently where the heroine is supporting her wounded or psychologically damaged man but this time the wounded warrior is the heroine! Michelle is an interesting character as she is physically and emotionally damaged and we should instantly like her. But she is also nasty and vindictive and at first not really likable.
Carly, the other main character in the series, is also all of the things we normally admire; plucky single mom wronged by her husband and best friend, but she too has sides to her that are not very admirable. Both of these women have pasts that cause them to dislike each other but they also have a long friendship seems to be sorely needed by both of them.
When Michelle returns to run the inn her father left her years ago, she has just been discharged from a military hospital, and nothing is what she expected. Her recently deceased mother has run up the bills, added lots of unneeded parts to the inn and left Michelle’s former best friend in charge. Michelle has every intention of giving Carly the boot, but circumstances force the two women together. There have been betrayals on both sides and neither woman is ready to forgive let alone forget.

Ms. Mallery does a wonderful job of portraying two women in an awkward situation that have to just suck it up and get on with their lives. The reader thinks they know all of the reasons why they hate each other but we really only know the surface issue until halfway through the book. Both women need to find a way to coexist and put the past behind them. Michelle is dealing with PTSD and teetering on the edge of alcoholism. Her relationship with her landlord Jared is perfectly done- no Mr. Right jumping in and solving all of her problems right away. She has to work on getting better before the relationship. Carly also has to look at her priorities when a possible romance comes her way and not make the same bad decisions she has before.

There are some interesting secondary characters who provide a little villainy to the story but primarily the story revolves around Michelle and Carly which works very well. I am not sure if this is the start to a series but I would definitely enjoy another visit to Blackberry Island (Daisies and all)!

Thanks to for the egalley.