Body Heat by Brenda Novak

Body Heat  (Dept 6 Hired Guns, #2)Book blurb: Twelve people have been shot at pointblank range and left to rot in the desert sun. It’s Sophia St. Claire’s job to do something about it. She’s Bordertown, Arizona’s new chief of police—and she’s out of her depth.

Help arrives in the form of Department 6 hired gun Roderick Guerrero. As far as Sophia’s concerned, his involvement only makes things worse. Maybe he’s managed to turn his life around. And maybe he’s a good investigator. But as the bastard son of a wealthy local rancher, he has a history he can’t get past. A history that includes her.

Rod refuses to leave town until the killer is caught. He’s not worried about the danger posed by some vigilante. It’s Sophia who threatens him. Because he’s used to risking his life–but his heart is another story.


My review: Brenda Novak’s latest Department 6 novel had me wondering who the killer was right up until the end.  She throws a few possibilities out there but I didn’t figure it out.  As in the first book, White Heat, Novak describes the Arizona setting perfectly.  I could almost feel the heat and taste the dust.

I enjoyed the main characters Sophia and Rod.  She’s trying to prove herself as worthy and capable of being the police chief of Bordertown, AZ. Rod has a chip on his shoulder a mile wide but he’s determined to find the killer even if it means working with someone who doesn’t want anything to do with him.

There are interesting supporting characters who fill in the background but Body Heat is Sophia and Rod’s story.  When they finally stop fighting each other they find out they make a great team.

The pace was rather slow to begin with but picked up in the second half.  It became quite a page turner.  I enjoyed it and look forward to the next book in the series: Killer Heat.

Review ebook from Harlequin/MIRA via NetGalley

The Island by Elin Hilderbrand

The Island: A Novel

Goodreads synopsis: From New York Times bestseller Elin Hilderbrand, a new novel set on Tuckernuck, a tiny island off the coast of Nantucket. Four women-a mother, her sister, two grown daughters-head to Tuckernuck for a retreat, hoping to escape their troubles. Intead, they find only drama, secrets, and life-changing revelations.


My review: Listening to The Island was like taking a vacation.  Elin Hilderbrand’s novels usually take place on Nantucket but this time she takes us to the nearby island of Tuckernuck.

I found the relationships explored in the novel interesting.  There are two sets of sisters: Birdie and her sister India are in their 50s; Birdie’s daughters Chess and Tate are in their early 30s.  The dynamics are realistic and quite believable.  The story is told from all four points of view which always gives the reader a fuller understanding of the characters.

Birdie, recently divorced, planned a beautiful wedding for her daughter Chess and her fiancé only to have Chess call the whole thing off a few months before the event was to take place.  India, a widow, has recently experienced a personal relationship that made her uneasy. Chess called off her wedding and then received shocking news. Easy-going but workaholic Tate  is overdue for a vacation. They all decide to head to the Tuckernuck summer house that’s been in Birdie and India’s family for generations.  It has been thirteen years since the last visit but it is just as they remembered.

It was fun reading (listening) as they revisited favorite places on Tuckernuck, met friends who meant so much, and reminisced about past family trips to the island. Hilderbrand’s pace is good.  I liked how Chess’s story was revealed slowly through her journaling.  Most of the characters are enjoyable but  Tate wore a little thin at times.  I thought she was quite immature for a thirty year old woman but perhaps it was because she was back in the role of the younger sister/daughter of the group. There are a few twists along the way which make the story even more interesting. I can’t complain about the lack of an epilogue.  There is a lengthy one in which the author ties up all the loose ends.

Narrator Denice Hicks did a fine job.  Her lilting voice made listening a pleasant experience. The Island would be a great vacation read – exactly the kind of book I want when I’m going to the beach or at home wishing I was at the beach.

Review Audiobook from Hachette Book Group

1022 Evergreen Place by Debbie Macomber

1022 Evergreen Place (Cedar Cove series, #10)From the book:

Dear Reader:

Guess what? I’m falling in love! With Mack McAfee.

My baby daughter, Noelle, and I have been living next door to Mack since the spring. I’m still a little wary about our relationship, since I haven’t always made good decisions when it comes to men. My baby’s father, David Rhodes, is testament to that. I’m so worried he might sue for custody.

In the meantime, the World War II letters I found are a wonderful distraction. Both Mack and I are trying to learn what happened to the soldier who wrote them and the woman he loved.

Come by sometime for a glass of iced tea and I’ll show you the letters. Plus I’ll tell you the latest about Grace and Olivia, my brother Linc and his wife, Lori (who tied the knot about 5 minutes after they met!), and all our other mutual friends. Oh, and maybe Mack can join us…

– Mary Jo Wyse


My review: Debbie Macomber’s latest Cedar Cove novel ties up some loose ends from 92 Pacific Blvd. and continues a few story lines.  I really enjoyed the mystery of the WWII letters that Mack and Mary Jo are trying to solve.  Their story is sweet and really the main focus of the novel.

We also get to see what’s new with:

Gloria Ashton and Chad Timmons:   They’ve had a start and stop relationship and now Gloria is faced with a decision that could change a few lives.  Her father gets wind of what’s going on and decides to step in before history repeats.

Bruce, Rachel, and Jolene Peyton: Bruce and Rachel are newlyweds. Bruce’s daughter Jolene once worshiped Rachel who took her shopping and did girl things together. But now that she is her step-mother Rachel is seen as competition for Bruce’s affections.  Jolene hates Rachel and wants to go back to life the way it was before.

Linc and Lori Wyse: they met and married within a few weeks.  Lori’s wealthy and controlling father is livid about the situation and wants to make Linc go away.

There are more updates of favorite Cedar Cove residents and a few joyful events. Reading the latest book in the series is like catching up with old friends.  Debbie Macomber has built a small town and filled it with characters who are easy to relate to.  They have heartaches and happiness like  anyone and Macomber reveals all in her easygoing style.  If you’re looking for a relaxing, enjoyable book start with 16 Lighthouse Road.  Read the series in order so you can get to know the characters from the beginning.

Note:  I appreciate the list of characters (and short description) at the start of each book.  There are so many characters that the “refresher” helps a lot.

1022 Evergreen Place will be released on August 31, 2010

Review copy from Harlequin/MIRA via NetGalley

She’s Gone Country by Jane Porter

She's Gone Country

When Shey Darcy’s marriage ends she takes her kids home to Texas where they’ll be surrounded by her family.  Problems don’t magically disappear with the move and she finds herself facing new issues.  Her oldest son wants to go back to New York and his old school.  Her middle son is fighting depression and her youngest wants to learn how to ride bulls.  And if all that isn’t enough she sees a lot more of Dane – the guy who used to be her crush more than twenty years earlier.

I thought Jane Porter did a good job addressing the usual concerns of a family going through divorce.  While not delving real deep she didn’t gloss over them either.  Her characters are real – they have flaws and struggles.  The supporting characters (Shey’s brothers and mother) have a lot going on in their lives as well.  Porter gives enough glimpse into each that it’s easy to understand their motivation relative to Shey.

I enjoyed the story and the pace.  It was a quick read and an entertaining novel.  This is the first book by Porter that I’ve read and I look forward to reading her backlist.  I recommend She’s Gone Country.   A reading group guide is included.

Review copy from Hachette Book Group

Show Me 5 Saturday – Real Life & Liars by Kristina Riggle

at Find Your Next Book Here


1 Title:  Real Life & Liars by Kristina Riggle

2 Words that describe the book:  Family reunion

3 Settings or characters:

*  Mira Zielinski – wife of Max and mother of Katya, Ivan, and Irina.

*  Katya – the totally together, on top of everything wife, mother, daughter, sister.  She’s about ready to crack.

*  Irina – the youngest child of Mira and Max who arrives home with two big surprises

4 Things I liked/disliked about the book:

*  I liked how real Kristina Riggle’s characters are -the Zielinski siblings especially.

*  I enjoyed how while reading it I felt like I was watching a movie.  The descriptions and dialogue were great.  I really liked the anniversary party scene.

*  Each chapter is about or from a different character’s perspective.  The details revealed about the characters filled in a lot.

*  I liked how the title worked into the plot at what seemed like the right time.

5 Stars or less for the rating:  4/5

Real Life and Liars

Back of the book:  For Mirabelle Zielinski’s children, happiness always seems to be just out of reach.  Her polished oldest daughter, Katya, clings to a stale marriage with a workaholic husband and three spoiled children.  Her son, Ivan, so creative, is a down-in-the-dumps songwriter with the worst taste in women.  And the “baby”, impulsive Irina, who lives life on a whim, is now reluctantly pregnant and hitched to a man who is twice her age.  On the weekend of their parents’ anniversary party, lies will be revealed, hearts will be broken . . . but love will also be found.  And the biggest shock may come from Mirabelle herself, because she has a secret that will change everything.

The Blessings of the Animals by Katrina Kittle

The Blessings of the Animals: A Novel (P.S.)Back of the book: Veterinarian Cami Anderson has hit a rough patch. Stymied by her recent divorce, she wonders if there are secret ingredients to a happy, long-lasting marriage or if the entire institution is outdated and obsolete. Couples all around her are approaching important milestones. Her parents are preparing to celebrate their fiftieth anniversary. Her brother and his partner find their marriage dreams legally blocked. Her former sister-in-law—still her best friend—is newly engaged. The youthfully exuberant romance of her teenage daughter is developing complications. And three separate men—including her ex-husband—are becoming entangled in Cami’s messy post-marital love life.

But as she struggles to come to terms with her own doubts amid this chaotic circus of relationships, Cami finds strange comfort in an unexpected confidant: an angry, unpredictable horse in her care. With the help of her equine soul mate, she begins to make sense of marriage’s great mysteries—and its disconnects.


The Blessings of the Animals is a novel about relationships – mostly marriage but also parental, sibling, and friends.  And then there’s the love of and responsibility to animals. Katrina Kittle shows the beauty of  being faithful to the people (and animals) in one’s life and the fallout when that doesn’t happen.  She also shows that being faithful to someone and making him/her content are not the same thing.  In the end, we are responsible for our own feelings of contentment.

The animals in the book are wonderful.  They made me laugh out loud and also had me tearing up.  I don’t want to give away any of the joy in learning about them so I’ll just say I felt as emotional about them as I did the human characters. Cami is a veterinarian and there is nothing she won’t do for the animals.  What the animals give to her is what she would hope to receive from the people in her life.  It would have been so easy for her to just shut down when her life changes abruptly but Kittle gives us a woman who rises to meet her responsibilities to her daughter, her friends, and her job.  It’s hard but she gives it her best and in doing that she starts her life moving in a new direction.

I didn’t plan to read this book as quickly as I did but I was hooked from the first page. I enjoyed all the characters and adored the animals.  The Blessings of the Animals will be on my 2010 Favorite Books list.  It would be a great selection for a book club.

Review copy from Harper Perennial

The Life You’ve Imagined by Kristina Riggle

The Life You've Imagined

Anna, Cami and Amy were classmates in Haven, Michigan.  Before they graduated Amy photocopied a magazine clipping meant to inspire and gave a copy to her two friends:  “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.  Live the life you’ve imagined.”   More than fifteen years later the three find themselves thrown together again and life is definitely not what they’d imagined.

Anna is staying with her mother Maeve while on bereavement leave from her Chicago law firm.  Cami has returned to her father’s home after a breakup caused by her secret addiction.  Amy never left Haven and is looking forward to her wedding day.  All three have serious issues that need to be faced before they can move forward.  The young women  become almost unwitting accomplices in helping each other gain the confidence necessary to make positive changes in their lives.  Another character  needing to move forward is Maeve.  She was abandoned by her husband twenty years earlier and still holds on to the hope of his return.  Life is changing for her too.  Her lease has been cancelled leaving her without a job and a place to live. At fifty-two she has to figure out a new future.

Each chapter is from a different perspective rotating between the four main characters.  I liked that because it gave me a better understanding of each woman and allowed the author to fully unfold their history.  The voices are distinctive and move the story forward at a good pace.    When I finished reading the book I  felt satisfied with how the author wrapped things up.

I enjoy novels about small towns and the people who live there.  The Life You’ve Imagined did not disappoint.  I look forward to reading more from Kristina Riggle.

Review copy from HarperCollins

Show Me 5 Saturday – A Summer In Sonoma by Robyn Carr

at Find Your Next Book Here


1 Title:  A Summer in Sonoma by Robyn Carr

2 Words that describe the book:  Friends and Lovers (I know, that’s 3 words…)

3 Settings or characters:

*  Cassie is 29 and still dating losers until a chance meeting of a total opposite.

*  Julie is married with three kids and is tired of trying to make ends meet while never getting ahead.

*  Marty and Beth (I couldn’t leave one out!) round out the circle of four friends who’ve known each other since they were kids.  Marty feel unappreciated by her husband and is ready for change.  Beth, a doctor, was recently diagnosed with a second round of cancer.

4 Things I liked/disliked about the book:

*  I love how Robyn Carr tells a story – great dialogue, setting, and pace.

*  I liked how Julie and her husband got on track with the money issues and other personal issues.  I imagine many readers could relate to their storyline.

*  For the most part I liked Cassie’s story.  I really liked the new man in her life.  What bugged me about Cassie was also quite understandable.  She has major trust issues with guys but it wore a little thin for me.

*  I liked that Robyn Carr wrote a stand alone novel.  I’ve read her Virgin River series (love it) but it was nice to meet new characters and setting.

5 Stars or less for the rating:  3.75/5

A Summer in Sonoma

From Goodreads: They’ve been best friends since seventh grade. But this summer, teetering on the threshold of thirty, four women are going to need each other more than ever.  Life can change in an instant…or a summer. And having old friends to lean on can only up the chances of happily ever after.

White Heat by Brenda Novak

White Heat (Dept 6 Hired Guns, #1)

Back of the book: A dangerous cult has recently taken over the desert ghost town of Paradise, Arizona.  Members worship at the feet – and in the bed – of its charismatic leader, Ethan Wycliff, and obey his orders blindly.  They’ve already tried to murder one woman and they’re implicated in the disappearance of another.

Nate Ferrentino, who works for private security contractor Department 6, has been assigned to infiltrate this group.  It’s a challenge he welcomes – until he learns that colleague Rachel Jessop will be going undercover with him.  Thanks to their shared history, he’d much rather go alone…

The problem is, only married couples can participate in cult rituals.  So, like it or not – and they don’t – Rachel and Nate must pretend to be husband and wife.  There’s no choice.  Because if Wycliff isn’t exposed, if he isn’t stopped, more people will die. And Rachel might be one of them.


I don’t read a lot of romantic suspense novels and I’ve never read one by Brenda Novak but after reading White Heat I’ll be looking for more of her books.  I really enjoyed the main characters. Rachel and Nate wish they could forget the embarrassing event that took place several months earlier but they must maintain a professional attitude in an uncomfortable situation.  And talk about uncomfortable – everything from the ride to the location, the grimy trailer where they stay until going to the commune, and then the commune itself.  Novak brings the hot and dry Arizona setting alive.

The pace was great.  The suspense of whether or not Rachel and Nate would be successful in their mission had me quickly turning the pages.  That was really the best part for me because although it was easy to predict what would happen, I just wasn’t sure about how.  I wasn’t disappointed.

Novak’s bad guys were creepy bad.    The Manson-like cult leader and his number one henchman were pretty scary.   I didn’t enjoy reading about the cult rituals. Even the main characters wished they weren’t on this mission – they’d rather have been on a drug bust or any other case.  Novak did a good job developing the supporting characters giving enough detail to explain why they might be involved in a cult.  All in all, I liked the novel even though I didn’t enjoy the cult topic.

White Heat is the first in a series.  I’m looking forward to reading the next book – Body Heat.  Recommended to fans of Romantic Suspense and Brenda Novak.

Review copy from MIRA Books

The Tower, The Zoo, and The Tortoise by Julia Stuart

The Tower, The Zoo, and The Tortoise

The Tower, The Zoo, and The Tortoise is about Balthazar Jones who is a Beefeater – he lives and works at the Tower of London.  Balthazar and his wife Hebe are trying to go on with life after the death of their only child.  She works at the London Underground’s Lost Property Office where she tries to reunite lost objects with the owners and Balthazar leads tours at the Tower.  One day, it is announced that the Queen’s menagerie (gifts of animals from other countries) will be housed at the Tower and Balthazar will be in charge.  This sets in motion a string of hilarious events that had me laughing out loud.

There are supporting characters who are quite lonely.  At the same time they add to the comedy with their quirks:  the Reverend Drew whose other job would shock his parishioners; Valerie, Hebe’s coworker, who has a propensity for trying on/out found objects; and Ruby the pregnant barmaid who has a fondness for rats.  All of Stuart’s characters shine in their own way and add a great deal to the plot.

I learned a lot about the Tower of London.  Facts and trivia are interspersed throughout the novel in an easy flow that makes me want to read more about the famous inhabitants since the eleventh century.

The gentle pace, the wonderful characters, and the humorous events of the novel make for an enjoyable afternoon of reading.  The Tower, The Zoo, and The Tortoise is a gem.

Review copy from Doubleday via Goodreads First Reads

Simply From Scratch by Alicia Bessette

Simply from Scratch

It has been more than a year since a tragic accident took the life of Nick Roy, husband of Rose-Ellen (Zell).  Nick was photographing a local relief group as they volunteered in post-Katrina New Orleans. He was fatally injured on a construction site so Zell never got to say goodbye.   She’s still grieving his loss and doesn’t seem to want to move forward.  Her days are filled with tending her rescued greyhound and working on medical drawings for clients while Gladys Knight and the Pips wail away on the phonograph. Everything reminds her of Nick.

Zell meets her new neighbors, nine year old Ingrid and her dad Garrett, after her oven catches fire and they call the fire department.  Ingrid misses a mother she never knew and pretty much attaches herself to Zell.  Garrett works full time and goes to law school.  When a childcare issue comes up Zell agrees to let Ingrid hang out with her and that’s when they decide to enter a baking contest hosted by a Boston tv show which happens to star the woman Ingrid thinks is her mother.

Nick’s friends were also on the relief trip and feel a great loss.    Nick’s father requested the funeral be private (for family only) which left  his friends with a lack of closure.  They would like Zell to talk about him but try not to pressure her too much. She’d like to do almost anything else but talk about him.  Her immense grief is palpable.

Alicia Bessette’s heartfelt debut novel is about people living with great loss. It’s about the friendship they share and how they can help each other to grieve, accept, and truly live life again.  One of Bessette’s characters says “We are all connected” and Simply From Scratch is a wonderful reminder.

The Girls From The Revolutionary Cantina by M. Padilla

The Girls from the Revolutionary Cantina: A Novel

Back of the book: Inspired by their good-natured rivalry, career-oriented best friends Julia Juarez and Ime Benevides have never let anything come between them. Then enters Julia’s new coworker, Ilario, who pulls both women’s heartstrings, disrupts their friendship, and brings Julia’s career to the brink of disaster.

Looking for support, Julia turns to her other friends: Concepción, a party-obsessed dance instructor; Nina, a timid but shrewd seamstress who’s not too taken with her fiancé; and Marta, owner of the Revolutionary Cantina, who is preoccupied with the details of a Hollywood murder case. When they involve Julia in a risky scheme, she must choose between her loyalty to her friends and a chance to live the life she’s worked so hard to achieve.

Boasting irreverent, edgy humor and a clear sense of Southern Californian culture, this hilarious, insightful debut novel by award-winning author M. Padilla brilliantly captures the comforts and dangers of friendship.


While reading The Girls From The Revolutionary Cantina I found myself thinking it would make an entertaining cable television series.  After I finished reading the book it was clear why – the characters’ dialogue is great.  The emotions I felt because of what  author M. Padilla’s characters said and did ran the gamut from exasperation to sympathy.  There were moments when I stopped reading and thought  “OMG, I can’t believe that just happened!”  The first half of the book seemed a bit slow to me but it lays the groundwork for the second half drama – and there is plenty of drama. Think night-time soap drama.  It’s over the top but also entertaining.

I’ve seen comparisons to Sex and the City but I disagree.  Perhaps the two main characters could be viewed that way but add the wacky supporting cast and you’ve got a grittier comedy with a few unexpected twists.

I recommend The Girls From The Revolutionary Cantina.

Review copy from St. Martin’s Press

Georgia’s Kitchen by Jenny Nelson

Georgia's Kitchen

When Georgia Gray finds herself without a job and dropped by her coke-head fiancé she calls in a favor.   She lands on her feet in Tuscany at the not-yet-open restaurant of a chef she worked with while in school.  She finds the job description doesn’t match her expectations but she has no other prospects on the horizon. Thankfully  she has interesting and, for the most part, decent co-workers who welcome her to their kitchen.  Georgia is able to pour herself into doing what she loves most while  keeping in mind that her ultimate goal is to someday open her own restaurant  in NYC.  Her grammy always told her to “stay true to yourself and work hard enough so that you never have to ask what-if.”  There are obstacles but she won’t let them stop her in reaching her goals.  Or will she?

Jenny Nelson wrote a light and entertaining novel about a young woman looking for happiness and learning to stand on her own two feet – without a boyfriend, her best girlfriends, family, and the familiar surroundings of New York.  What she finds out is that it’s ok to ask for help when you need it.  The people who mean the most usually want to be asked.   Nelson’s characters are believable but I wish some of them had been developed a bit more.  For example, I wanted to know a little more about Georgia’s girlfriends than what they wore.  Bernard definitely has an interesting story but maybe it went through a huge edit.  That’s just a small quibble compared to an otherwise very enjoyable story.

The Tuscany part of the book was my favorite.  That and the food descriptions throughout.  Nelson had me craving good Italian food. I think Georgia’s Kitchen would be a great read for fans of Foodie Lit.

Review copy from BookSparks PR