Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Divorce Diet

Title: The Divorce Diet
Author: Ellen Hawley
Published: December 30th 2014 by Kensington
Format: eBook; Paperback, 240 pages
Genre: Women's Fiction
Source: My thanks to Netgalley and Kensington for an opportunity to read an advance copy of this book.

I am a bit too jaded to take the rantings of a twenty five year old new mother and recently separated woman seriously. Abigail and Thad have an up and coming life until their baby was born and Thad decided that he was not ready for the responsibility of marriage and fatherhood. This now leaves Abigail (not Abby) with the only choice of moving back in with her parents, figuring out her laundry, lying on applications to get waitressing jobs, using a babysitter as a therapist, using her daughter Rosie as a cuddle toy so she (Abigail) can get to sleep and realizing that losing weight through the urgings of a non-corporeal guru are not the best life choices, yet they seem to be all that she has.

With a lot of humor and a lot of redundancy, the read follows Abigail’s rhetoric about having to grow up and become responsible. Granted, the cards were stacked against her when she was comfortable in a life with no education and no job skills, but she did not need them, she had been an underground restaurateur and Thad was making a good living in his white dress shirt world, but when that came crashing down, she had to grab her bathroom scale and admit that she was no longer the person that she wanted to be.

With a seven-month-old baby girl that is the center of her life, Abigail must forge a new path, one that came from an unexpected place and has given her the artistic outlet that she longed for. Outside of her daughter Rosie, her passion has always been cooking. So why not use this as the starting point. Why not show her ex-husband that the food he always critiqued is what others need to feel healthy and whole. Why not write a newspaper column with humor and insight to teach the young and hip how to cook without being afraid of an oven or an egg. Why not create a world around your passion.

As I said, I may be jaded and could not fully connect with Abigail, but I could acknowledge the struggle that she endured and I can appreciate and respect the woman that she became. Will this book be for everyone, I cannot say, but there is something familiar about it, a little like The Undiscovered Goddess by Michelle Colston, but at the same time, it does stand on its own. It will resonate with some and others will shake their heads in wonder and frustration.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Once Upon a Grind

Title: Once Upon a Grind
Author: Cleo Coyle
Published: December 2nd 2014 by Berkley Hardcover
Format: Hardcover, 416 pages
Genre: Mystery
Series: Coffeehouse Mystery #14

I am not sure that I liked the whole “Clare has psychic abilities” thing that is prevalent in this book. I get that the premise is fairytales, but the clairvoyant thing after drinking coffee made from magic beans is a bit much to take.

The Village Blend is taking part in Central Park’s inaugural Storybook Kingdom weekend celebrating the Brothers Grimm, Mother Goose and other classic literary characters. The prologue tells of a Princess meeting up with a predator, but it isn’t until further long that we learn of the Princesses and how Clare and Matt will be drawn into their exploits.

This is where the story goes off the beaten path. Apparently, coffee beans that Matt sourced in Ethiopia have extraordinary powers and if the drinker has a special sprit or a natural gift of insight, it is enhanced by these beans which is what happened to Clare when she has a vision that she is chasing Mike’s kids into the Ramble of Central Park.

No wonder the Village Blend decided on Jack and the Bean Stalk as their theme for Fairytale weekend.

Then the story tumbles down into the rabbit hole with the Russian Mafia, the CIA, blackmail, a slam poet proposal, an underground dating club, a Sleeping Beauty poison that is only counteracted by the Keppra-based Intravenous Sensory Stimulator (KISS) and all the while Clare is deciding if she wants to leave the Village Blend in New York City to start up a new life with Mike Quinn in Washington, D.C.

There is a great deal going on in this book and I do recommend that you try and read it in large chunks so that you can keep the flow going. The whole fairytale thing is a departure for this writing team, but it works if you choose to suspend reality and just go with the happily ever after theme that they are aiming for.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting

Title: Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting
Author: Pamela Druckerman
Published: February 7th 2012 by The Penguin Press
Format: Hardcover, 263 pages
Genre: Parenting

When I picked up this book, I wanted to dislike it. Who does that? To be honest, since I have raised my children I get this gitty glee when I read a book by some young mother that is trying to reinvent parenting. Some ivy leaguer that just knows more than her mother or grandmother could ever know about what a child needs to be the Supreme Being that this new mother knows her child is.

This is where I need to apologize to Pamela Druckerman. I am sorry for my prejudice.

As I turned these pages, I found myself saying, “Geez, we should have done that”, “really, all I needed to do was …..”, “are you telling me that others knew this all along”. Makes me want to rewind the last 25 years and see if it would have made a difference. Granted, I have two adult children that have turned out very well, but still, maybe this would have prevented that very embarrassing temper tantrum in Home Depot, or the teen eye rolls. Granted, Ms. Druckerman’s children have not yet reached the teen years, but still, setting the foundation might make those years a tad bit easier.

Being a transplanted American had its share of bumpy roads, but when the author saw how unhurried the mothers of young children were, and how well behaved the children are, she was determined to find the answers. Between book research and quizzing other mother’s, Pamela Druckerman was able to find a peaceful middle between American and French parenting.

From the outside, they are vastly different. The French would never consider being a helicopter parent and find it ruins children. They feel no guilt about returning to work and placing a 4-month-old child in daycare. There are no fussy eaters since the child is introduced to varying foods early. The French child is taught from a very young age to delay gratification, in both food and actions, and that it is just as important to play by themselves as it is to play with other children. Most importantly, French children are taught how to “find their nights” by three to four months.

Ms. Druckerman did not come right out and say it, but it does appear that children are the first step towards their parents’ divorce if certain ground rules are not strictly adhered to. There is children’s time and there is parent’s time. Once 7:30pm rolls around, it is parent’s time, tomorrow they can have their time again. This seems barbaric to American culture, but it makes sense. Plus, it give the parents their much needed time together and a little end of the day romance that seems to disappear when a child comes along.

I could go on and on about the differences and logic, but this is a book that will need to be read by both of the expecting parents and possibly the expecting grandparents to make sure that everyone is onboard as to the new household regime.

My takeaway, boundaries – consistency – a few rules (not many but those that you do have will be strictly adhered to) – no loud voices – discipline in a confident tone – do not overly compliment (this will create children that need to be praised for everything they do) – listen to your children, but remember that they do not get the final say – and manners.

The French way is really a lifestyle change and unless everyone is onboard, you will get stares and comments, but then all you will have to do is look around to see who “gets it” and who does not.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Death is Like a Box of Chocolates

Title: Death is Like a Box of Chocolates
Author: Kathy Aarons
Published: September 2nd 2014 by Berkley
Format: Paperback, 304 pages
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Series: A Chocolate Covered Mystery #1

I know it was me when it came to this book. I had the hardest time keeping all the characters straight. Who was married to whom? Who was whose sibling? Was she the Mayor or the woman that worked in the hardware store? Was he the war veteran or the book author? I now know that I should have taken notes.

Michelle Serrano and Erica Russell own a combined bookstore and chocolate shop. Their small town is gearing up for a Fudge Festival with the renowned Hillary Punkin coming to judge their small competition. One yay from her and Michelle knows that her shop will get the recognition that it needs to bring in to the next level.

All that comes crashing down when Denise, the local photographer, is found dead in the chocolate shop while eating a box of Michelle’s confections.

What ensues is a tangled tale of who wants whom dead, who is blackmailing whom, and the reason behind Denise’s murder. I got lost somewhere in the middle and if it was not for the recap in the last chapter I would still be wondering whom everyone was and how everything was solved. Since this is the first book in a planned series, I am going to assume that Kathy Aarons was just setting the stage of West Riverdale, Maryland and that once her readers are invested in the characters, the future books will have a more laid back feel without packing too much in and the rush to the end of the book.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Saving Grace

Title: Saving Grace
Author: Jane Green
Expected Publication: December 30th 2014 by St. Martin's Press
Format: Hardcover, 352 pagess
Genre: Women's Fiction
Source: My thanks to Netgalley and St. Martin's Press for an opportunity to read an advance copy of this book.

Though this book has a “read that before” feel, I have to admit for one short period, I wondered along with Grace if I was just imagining it. That Jane Green was going to put a different spin on this already used plot and leave the reader with a sense of “what did I miss”.

Grace is living in constant fear of her husband’s next mood swing; she finds ways to leave her home early for her job at Harmont House where she uses her kitchen skills to cook for the women whose lives are in transition. It brings her peace and at the same time teaches skills to those who are in need.

A twenty-five year marriage has its challenges but trembling every time a door slams or her name is bellowed has Grace on edge. She somewhat knew what she was getting into when she first met Ted Chapman the world renown author and creative genius. To the outside world, she had the perfect life; it was what happened behind closed doors that had her quaking.

There was never physical abuse; it was his rages that lasted longer and longer and his finding constant fault with her. When she was near her breaking point, by serendipity her daughter Clemmie meets Beth at an Honors Dinner.

This is where Grace’s life takes a turn that has her wondering at her own mental health. Her mother was mentally unstable, the last time Grace saw her, she was living in a homeless shelter. Life with her mother was constant turmoil so living with Ted was no different. It was her sharing of this information with Beth, who was now Ted’s new assistant, which changed the dynamic of the Chapman home. Ted has been bewitched by Beth, a woman that inspires worry, a woman with her own agenda.

By the time that Grace sees Beth and the situation for what it is, it is too late. Grace’s career is over, the money is gone, many of her friends turned on her and now it is up to Grace to make the decisions. To decide what is worth fighting for and what is too far-gone to even care about.

As I said this is a plot that has been used before, yet, Ms. Green puts a slightly new spin making the reader wonder who truly is at fault in this scenario. There was a point in the book that it could go either way and that is why I continued to read. Grace is an endearingly strong woman and I was going to stick with her to the end. No matter where that end lead.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

There Was a Little Girl: The Real Story of My Mother and Me

Title: There Was a Little Girl: The Real Story of My Mother and Me
Author: Brooke Shields
Published: November 18th 2014 by Dutton Adult
Format: Hardcover, 416 pages
Genre: Memoir

I am not sure how others will interpret this book, but to me, it came across as a rough draft written by a person that was just spewing and needed to have an editor with a firm hand and a very red correction pen. Paragraphs rambled and repeated themselves, incorrect tense of words and in some cases, completely wrong words, and large sections read more like ideas than well thought out paragraphs. You would think that Dutton or Penguin would kindly pat Brooke’s hand and say, “thank you, we will take it from here”, but no, they let this drivel go on for four hundred monotonous pages.

Yes Brooke, we get it, your mother had a drinking problem and you did not separate from her the way most offspring do and until her death, you did not know where she ended and you began. This sad fact did not need to be repeated in every chapter. It did not endear you to me; it just made me sad for a daughter that was desperately trying to redeem her mother in the eyes of the public.

I am not saying that there was not love between mother and daughter; I believe that they loved each other so much that there was little room for anyone else. Unfortunately for Brooke, from a very young age, she decided to ignore her mother’s compulsive lies and chose for most of her life to believe what she needed to believe. Laughing off the stories as little white lies and making excuses became Brooke’s full time job.

By the end of the book, I was sad for Brooke. Except for the alcoholism, I was beginning to see Brooke as no different from her mother. The stories were exaggerated, name-calling of ex-boyfriends, twisting situations to where she always came out on top. Dramatic outburst and hyperbolic language seemed to be the same go to for both mother and daughter.

If you can make it to the end, there is a very loving tribute and that is where the book should have ended. But of course not, the hand of reason did not eliminate the section telling of Brooke’s purchasing yet another home and decorating it, having a breakdown of sorts and rushing out to buying new furnishing that were more along the likes of her husband and herself. Really, this should have been used as the beginning of another book. One where she is finally building her own life.

Brooke herself said that the writing of this book was not cathartic for her and I would have to say that it was not beneficial to me either. This is one of those books that is best picked up from a bargain bin or a library rummage sale.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Mr. Miracle - The Movie

Rob Morrow.....Harry Mills
Michelle Harrison.....Celeste
Britt Irvin.....Addie Folsom
Andrew Francis.....Erich
Malcolm Stewart.....Mr. Conceito
William C. Vaughan.....Andrew Fairfax

Why can movies not be a direct production of the book that they are made from?

Since I was not a fan of Mr. Miracle the book, I decided, for some unknown reason, to watch the Hallmark Channel movie version to see if my perceived issues with the book were different in the movie. Yes, they were, but at the same time, they created other issues for me.

For one, Mr. Mills in the book came across as naive, in the movie; he appears to be emulating Dustin Hoffman in Rainman, not an improvement. In the book, Erich is in a car accident and breaks both arms – in the movie, it is a skiing accident with a broken leg and a strained back. I must admit, one of the scenes in the book where Addie is trying to help him with both of his arms in casts was exhausting but very funny. That same humor was missing from the movie.

Maybe it was my interpretation, but the mothers in the movie are much younger then I call in the book and the neighborhood is definitely nicer. Plus, in the book, Mr. Mill’s does not live on the same street and I do not recall Addie wanting to work in a medical clinic. I recollect something about being a Veterinarian.

The movie was true to Celeste and Andrew. The movie infers that there might be a second book/movie that centers on Andrew and his story.

This is your typical Macomber Hallmark movie that I am sure will become a holiday staple.

Once again, either pick the book or pick the movie since they only tell the basics of the same story.

One final note – the movie is a walking commercial. Folgers coffee containers prominently displayed, giant Wal-Mart shopping bags, etc. It got to the point that I was looking for the next product placement instead of following the movie.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

May your holiday be joyful and may happiness surround it, with good things on your table and those you love around it!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Beeline to Trouble

Title: Beeline to Trouble
Author: Hannah Reed
Published: December 4th 2012 by Berkley
Format: Paperback, 304 pages
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Series: Queen Bee Mystery #4

Hannah Reed should have learned the difference between carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. When a car is left running in a garage, it is carbon monoxide that is released, not carbon dioxide. A simple Google search would have cleared this right up.

Sometimes I truly wonder why I read cozy mysteries. Usually they are simple mind candy, but then there are those authors that just continually hit below the mark. The Queen Bee Mysteries have always been below par, the writing is basic and the plots are lightweight. Oh yea, and Ms. Reed needs to learn the difference between acronyms and initials, and do not get me started on her use of bullet points.

Yada, yada, yada, food flavorists decent on Holly and Ben’s home to have a weekend away from office stresses and when one is murdered, Holly is charged because once upon a time Holly gave the woman the evil eye and everyone assumed that meant Holly was convinced that the woman was after her husband.

Turns out that Nova (the woman that was killed) had something in common with Story’s next-door neighbor Patti. That is right – they were both married to the same man and he is a mob boss out of Chicago. Are you rolling your eyes yet?

Maybe the book would not have felt so long and drawn out if there were more story lines going on. There is a little here and there about the running of the Wild Clover and Story’s relationship with Hunter. There is also a tidbit about Story’s mother involved with a new man, but all in all, there was just one stagnant plot.

Not a good book, not a good series.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Brush with Death

Title: Brush with Death
Author: Karen MacInerney
Published: May 8th 2013 by Midnight Ink
Format: Paperback, 322 pages
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Series: Gray Whale Inn Mystery #5

With many returning characters, readers of the Gray Whale Inn Mysteries will only have to get used to a couple of new faces in book number five. Very little of previous books is discussed, but when it is, Karen MacInerney does a good job in explaining past situations so a reader does not necessarily need to read this series in order.

Natalie Barnes is the owner of the Gray Whale Inn on Cranberry Island in Maine. It is the middle of winter and a slower time. Perfect to take a long needed breather and relish in the fact that the refinance of her inn is complete.

With John off the island finishing up his continuing education to keep his deputy sheriff badge, Natalie is a bit lonely, but that does not last for long went her niece Gwen must change her artistic direction to please a new gallery owner, a world renown artist visits the island and is not what she appears to be, Gwen’s mentor is found dead, Natalie’s future mother in law is now on the island and has a surprise of her own, Claudette’s daughter in law has moved in with her and is more than a handful and to top it off, Natalie’s Inn has not been refinanced, her accountant has stolen the money and Natalie might lose her property. No worries, she always has the right ingredients to make dessert.

There is a lot going on in this book. Character’s weave in and out of the story and even though parts are obvious, it does take Natalie a while to put all the pieces together.

There are a few downfalls in this book; the most glaring for me was the repeated definition of who Catherine was. The reader got it after seven times; Catherine is Natalie’s future mother in law. Did Natalie have to keep repeating it because she was unsure of whom the woman was or she had to convince herself that John was the man that she is engaged to? That was just too annoying for me.

For such a small island, it is amazing what Natalie gets herself involved in. This is an easy to read book and series that fills in a weekend. I would call it a beach read, but with the winter theme, it is better for a comfy chair and a fireplace.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Sister Eve Private Eye

Title: Sister Eve Private Eye
Author: Lynne Hinton
Expected Publication: November 25th 2014 by Thomas Nelson
Format: eBook ARC
Genre: Mystery
Source: NetGalley
Series: A Divine Private Detective Agency Mystery #1

Though this book is published through the Christian branch of Harper Collins, I would not call it a religious book. Granted, Eve is a nun, but the book is not preachy or heavy on doctrine teaching.

Sister Eve Divine (pronounced Diveen) a forty-year-old Harley riding nun that has taken a leave of absence from the convent to return home and care for her father as he recuperates from a foot amputation. Referring to her father as The Captain, Eve has always had an uneasy relationship with the man. It was her mother that ran interference between him and his two daughters. Now it is Eve’s turn to care for an ailing parent and this just might take more than prayer to see them through.

The prologue tells of Chaz Cheston, a Hollywood writer and director going to a home in New Mexico to pick up script pages. He was ambushed and days later, his body was found in a ravine.

Prior to his need for surgery, Jack (The Captain) Divine takes on Megan Flint, the girlfriend of Chaz, as a client. Since leaving the police force, Jack has opened a private investigation agency and now with his medical needs, it is up to Jack and his daughter to help prove that Megan is not responsible for the death.

No one understands why Eve became a nun instead of a police officer or private investigator; she has a knack for finding the underlying cause of a situation and people just open up to her. This is handy since Jack is a bit abrasive and is hiding a secret. Eve has secrets of her own - she is both terrified of turning into her father and questioning her desire to return to the abbey. She has been there 20 years and she is still fighting the authority that governs the order.

When it comes down to who was responsible for Chaz’s death it came out of nowhere. This character was not mentioned until the middle of the book and the end seemed like a wild grab. There is also a relationship in the book that did not add to the storyline at all. For being touted as a Christian book, that relationship with surprising. There is a lot of extra fluff thrown in and I question if it was necessary but overall, I enjoyed the book and I am glad to see that it will be an ongoing series with the next book due out early next year.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Last Goodbye

Title: The Last Goodbye
Author: J A Jance
Expected Publication: November 24th 2014 by Pocket Star
Format: eBook
Genre: Fiction
Source: NetGalley
Series: Ali Reynolds #9.5

I need to get past my dislike for half books and just accept the fact that author’s think that they are necessary. Unfortunately, this is still a work in progress for me and when it comes to The Last Goodbye by JA Jance, I am still at a loss and scratching my head. What did this book prove? What did it add to the overall series? Very little as far as I am concerned.

The first 20% rehashes her last book and reintroduces characters, which if the reader has been following the series, already know.

The next 70% briefly touches on flying to Las Vegas, Ali and B’s wedding, Christmas and trying to track down the owner of a dog that Ali’s grandson has brought up to their hotel suite the day before the wedding is to take place.

I am not sure if others will be as bothered by where the title came from, but that is so not what I was expecting from a series that usually has a twist and a really bad guy.

Oh, and the last 10% are acknowledgements.

Other than knowing that Ali and B are married, there is no reason for this book.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Ghost Wanted

Title: Ghost Wanted
Author: Carolyn Hart
Published: Published October 7th 2014 by Berkley Hardcover
Format: ebook, Hardcover, 304 pages
Genre: Mystery
Series: Bailey Ruth #5

I know, for a person that complains as much as I do about this series I should not be continuing, but yet I do. I think it is the underlying ghost thing that keeps me coming back.

One of my pet peeves this go around is that I just wish that Carolyn Hart would either use her thesaurus more or less. Still up in the air on that one. One chapter she is using SAT level words and the next she is duplicating the same words in a single paragraph. My favorite was when she used the work “intruder” three times in one paragraph that consisted of five sentences. It is enough to make you wonder if multiple personalities are writing the same book. That might be a little harsh, but there is a lack of consistency in the writing.

There is an immaturity to the Baily Ruth character. Being a Heavenly emissary, too obsessed with her appearance, on earth to help Michelle Hoyt overcome a theft charge and to get to the bottom of roses being placed around a college campus that was once the doing of a local spirit but now there seems to be far more going on. Or at least there should have been since that part of the story was kind of left dangling.

If you did not know that Baily Ruth is a redhead, do not worry, she will tell you several more times that she is. She will describe in detail her wardrobe and fingernail polish. The plot will be rehashed every other chapter and if you missed it, she will repeatedly explain who each character is.

As the investigation continues on in regards to Susannah Fairlee being found dead in her back yard and Ben, the custodian, being shot when he came upon a black clad assailant, Bailey Ruth with the help of Lorraine Marlow (Goddard Library’s resident ghost and original rose lady) set out to exonerate Michelle Hoyt before the Police Chief comes back to town and declares Susannah’s death an accident and charges Michelle with the library break in and theft.

Slight mention is given to previous books, but it is not necessary to have read them prior to this volume. Each, though associated, is an independent book that rehashes repeatedly who and what Bailey Ruth and Wiggins are.

Overly descriptive and not in a good way, half of this book could be redlined and the story would not lose any of the main substance. It is not until 2/3’s of the way through the book before the real meat of the story takes place. Unfortunately, this is too little too late.

There is a whole lot of silliness in this book and I am truly wondering why I finished, but when I came across one of Carolyn Hart’s characters saying “I fail to see how this material is helpful”, I knew that I was not alone in thinking that this book had gone off the rails.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Wait for Signs: Twelve Longmire Stories

Title: Wait for Signs: Twelve Longmire Stories
Author: Craig Johnson
Published: October 21st 2014 by Viking Adult
Format: Hardcover; Pgs 192
Genre: Short Stories
Series: Walt Longmire

Craig Johnson is a natural born storyteller. Whether it is his longer novels or his short stories, he draws in his readers and has them alternating between shaking their heads and laughing aloud.

In this collection of twelve short stories, Walt Longmire shares a little bit more about his life. Filling in gaps or rounding out other characters, Craig Johnson draws his readers in. I fell in love with this man the first time I read about his shower curtain trying to turn him into a sheriff burrito, continued my love affair when the man, while in pursuit, yelled “hi, ho creampuff” and continue on every time he and Henry Standing Bear get another one of their hair brained ideas.

It all boils down to the humor and that is what you will find in these exceptional short stories. If this is your first visit with Walt Longmire, I implore you to start at the beginning of the series. Do not judge the books by the television show because there is so much more in these pages.

Turn off the television and open the books. You will be glad that you did.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Nightmares Can Be Murder

Title: Nightmares Can Be Murder
Author: Mary Kennedy
Published: September 2nd 2014 by Berkley
Format: Paperback, Pgs 304
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Series: Dream Club Mystery #1

I am still not sure how I feel about this book. It seems to follow the same formula as other cozies, but it does give a brief glimpse of two secondary characters that are very reminiscent of the Pym sisters from Nancy Atherton’s Aunt Dimity series, so I kept turning the pages. I know that Minerva and Rose Harper are not main characters, but I was drawn to them.

The book begins with a meeting of the Dream Club, a group of women from Savannah, Georgia, who get together weekly to discuss dreams that they have had and the group helps to interpret. This is an interesting twist, but when one dream is more of a prophecy, it is up to Taylor Blake, who has recently moved to Savannah to help her sister Ali’s failing candy business, to straighten out truth from fiction.

Chico Hernandez was a womanizer but that did not stop the women of Savannah from taking dance lessons from him. When his body is discovered on the dance room floor, Taylor and the Dream Club must untangle the web of deceit and secrets to figure out who was ultimately responsible.

The first chapter throws most of the players at you and it will take a little bit to keep everyone straight but eventually you sort them all out. The city itself is as much a character as any flesh and blood person and Mary Kennedy must be a foodie since the meals and restaurants are described in much the same way as the members of the club.

Each person in the Dream Club brings something different to the table and when they put their heads together to interpret a meaning and to solve a murder, there is no telling what conclusions they will come up with.

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Rose Effect

Title: The Rosie Effect
Author: Graeme Simsion
Published: September 30th 2014 by HarperAvenue
Format: ebook pgs 304; Paperback Pgs 415
Genre: Fiction
Source: NetGalley and Amazon Vine
Series: Don Tillman #2

Like others, when it came to a sequel to Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie Project, I was equally cautious. I wondered how Mr. Simsion could match the pace and humor that made The Rosie Project a favorite read.

Don and Rosie are now married and in the US while Rosie is working on her PhD thesis and Don continues his genetics research into the predisposition to cirrhosis of the liver in mice.

Don will be the first to tell you that his is not autistic, but anyone who meets him will tell you that he is somewhere high on the spectrum. He is analytical and exceptional at problem solving and following directions but that does not mean that he will come up with the same conclusions as a “normal” person. That is what makes Don so endearing. He is trying his best to make life exceptional for those around him, yet he lacks the emotion and foresight to understand the bigger picture and therein lays the hilarity of these books.

Without consulting Don of her plan, Rosie gets pregnant and totally throws Don for a loop. He quickly sets out to understand, as much as possible, the practicalities of fetal development and interaction without understanding or getting confused by the emotional aspects. His research and bluntness cause many misunderstandings and in so doing, he is arrested and sent for counseling. Not wanting to include Rosie in his blunders, he is caught up in one secret after another, and in Don’s mind and actions, confusing hilarity ensues.

What Don did not take into consideration is that Rosie might not believe that he is father material. This was never part of Don’s calculations and once confronted with this reality, he does all that he can – which for Don means not thinking things through in a basic human rational way, to change Rosie’s beliefs.

Very much an updated version of “It’s a Wonderful Life”, Don is brought to realize that though he only thinks that he has seven friends, he has effected the lives of so many more. Every person that he has had contact with has been changed; and in helping him to understand life, Don has improved theirs.

If not better, at least on par with The Rosie Project, Graeme Simsion’s followers will not be disappointed in his latest book and I can only hope that there will be a continuation of Don’s intrinsic takes on parenting his little HUD.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Hug Machine

Title: Hug Machine
Author and Illustrator: Scott Campbell
Published: August 26th 2014 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Format: Hardcover; Pgs 40
Genre: Children's
Ages: Level 4 - 8 | Grade Level: P - 2

“Oh, No Mr. Bill” (the clay figure clown from SNL) that is exactly what the little boy in the Hug Machine looked like. His big eyes and long arms. I found myself distracted by this little guy, wanting to know if his love for hugging was going get him into trouble. No, this effusive child just loves to hug. It does not matter who or what, he is always there to give a person (or object) the hug that is needed.

The work is exhausting and pizza is needed as fuel, but at the end of the day, what the hug machine needs most is a hug himself from a very special person.

I loved the idea behind this book, that hugs make the world go round, but I do not know if I would encourage this activity. I may be over thinking, since I am not a hugger. The illustrations were muted and a little on the drab side.

I am not sure whom this book would work best for – the un-hugging child to show that from time to time it is ok, or the hugger to show that everyone does it and not just them. Either way, this book will appeal to some and others might just put it away and never think about it again.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Burning Girl

Title: The Burning Girl
Author: Lisa Unger
Expected Publication: November 25th 2014 by Pocket Star
Format: eBook
Genre: Paranormal Suspense
Source: NetGalley
Series: The Whisper's #2

Begins 14 years after the Whispers ended. Eloise is now a professional psychic and her daughter Amanda and her new family live across the country. Their relationship has mended, but Amanda does not want what her mother does to interfere with their lives.

Eloise has a partner, Agatha, that is guiding her in what the spirit world can take if she does not learn to protect herself and Ray, the police detective from the last book, is a regular part of Eloise’s life.

Agatha sparks questions in Eloise, questions of who Eloise received her talents from and now she is curious and starts her genealogical search. What she finds answers her questions, but what she was not prepared for was her granddaughter Finley having the same visions. No matter how much you try, you cannot protect the people that you love.

The Burning Girl has appeared to Eloise, she is not like the usual young girls and women that appear to Eloise. This apparition is different. Eloise can feel that something is off but she cannot put her finger on it. Agatha does not like it one bit and her advice of “Don’t let them have everything” goes unheeded.

This second book in the planned trilogy let me down. It asks questions – who is the burning girl and what does she want, are they going to let the missing wife stay missing, did the baby really die from SIDS, what exactly did Eloise find in her family tree. Maybe that was the point, to ask question and hope that the reader can hang on until January when the last and final chapter of Eloise’s life unfolds.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Mr. Cornell's Dream Boxes

Title: Mr. Cornell's Dream Boxes
Author and Illustrator: Jeanette Winter
Published: August 19th 2014 by Beach Lane Books
Format: Hardcover, 40 pages
Genre: Children's
Ages:Age Range: 4 - 8 years | Grade Level: Preschool - 3

Written as a tribute to the real Mr. Cornell, Jeanette Winter takes her readers on a trip of discovery to meet a man that left a lifelong impression on her.

When Joseph Cornell was not crisscrossing New York City selling textiles, he was caring for his mother and brother; but in his free time, Mr. Cornell could be found in his basement, making memory boxes from random items that he found as he traveled throughout the city. Items that reminded him of adventures during his life.

Mr. Cornell was a quiet man that kept to himself, he saw mostly dreams and memories that he placed in his shadow boxes to share with children and in doing so, he also shared his love of art with those that lived on Utopia Parkway and beyond.

I am not sure if this book will appeal to most readers, the concept might be a bit over a young listeners understanding, but if you can get your slightly older reader interested and follow up with making a memory box of their own, you will have a definite winner on your hands.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Easy Gourmet

Title: Easy Gourmet: Awesome Recipes Anyone Can Cook
Author: Stephanie Le
Published: September 2nd 2014 by Page Street Publishing
Format: Paperback; Pgs 240
Genre: Cookbook
Source: Amazon Vine Program

Do not confuse Easy Gourmet with easy to find ingredients. You will still be expected to use mascarpone for pancakes, sambal oelek for an omelet and shiro miso in your tofu fries. To be fair, many of the recipes have your run of the mill ingredients, but what makes this cookbook different is Stephanie Le dummying down the processes so a non-chef type can bring tempting dishes to an ordinary table.

Accompanying each recipe is a beautiful mouthwatering photograph that shows what the dish should look like. Which is always a benefit when you do not know what you are doing.

The salmon dill chowder was very good and very easy to make with mostly on hand ingredients.

This is a good book to experiment with and to be honest I have never heard of using fresh mint leaves in a mint chocolate chip cookie, but then again, that is one of the things that makes gourmet gourmet.

One of the best things about this paperback book is the unique binding. It is designed to actually lie flat on the counter so you do not have to throw another book or rolling pin on it just to keep the darn thing open.

Overall, from an experienced cook down to a beginner, this book has something to offer anyone that is looking to expand their repertoire.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Whispers

Title: The Whispers
Author: Lisa Unger
Will be Published By: Pocket Star (October 27, 2014)
Format: eBook
Genre: Paranormal Suspense
Source: NetGalley
Series: The Whispers Part 1 of a Planned Novella Trilogy

Life was good for Eloise and Alfie Montgomery. They have been married for fifteen or so years, have two young daughters and a life that others can only dream about. Eloise had always believed that the day her life would change would have an ominous feel. A something was off kind of thing, but that morning, life was normal, that is until a semi left its lane and now Alfie and their oldest daughter Emily are dead and Eloise and Amanda are trying to hold on as best as they can.

Months in a coma, a daughter suffering from PTSD, Eloise and Amanda need to start over. How do you do that when you begin to have dreams, not nightmares, but realistic visions of girls in trouble and you know that it is your responsibility to help.

What if you know that the whispering in the trees are voices that you are not yet experienced enough to understand and they are reaching out for your help?

This was an intense entry into a Lisa Unger’s writing. I have never read this author before, but I can honestly say that she has hooked me. The feeling of the book is reminiscent of Amanda Stevens, though the subject matter is different, there is something in the writing that reminds me of the other.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

If The Shoe Kills

Title: If the Shoe Kills
Author: Lynne Cahoon
Will be Published By: Kensington Trade (November 1, 2014)
Format: ebook; Paperback, pgs 214
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Source: NetGalley
Series: A Tourist Trap Mystery #3

Maybe it was me, but I have yet to figure out what the title of the book has to do with the story that was told.

I enjoyed the first two books in this series; they were a nice introduction to the tourist town of South Cove, California. This book, felt a bit off, like all the parts did not quite congeal correctly.

Jill Gardner, the owner of Coffee, Books, and More is winding down the summer tourist trade and ready to gear up for fall and winter. Ted Hendricks, an abrasive man has hit town with a new work program bringing interns to local business, but the man has another objective, he has tracked down his missing wife and before that confrontation can take place, Ted is found dead in his car.

Of course Jill is the one that has found Ted and now finds herself smack dab in the middle of the investigation - that is when she is not trying to run her shop, get caught up on her reading, eat as many pastries and cake as possible, coordinate the business owners, find a replacement coordinator for the town festival, take her dog for numerous beach runs, stoke her romance with the town’s detective and have numerous meals at the one and only restaurant in town.

As I said, for me, this book was off. Whenever there was a lull, the author fell back on the same repeated escapes for the Jill and it became a bit monotonous almost to the point that I had forgotten about Ted and his murder.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Scoop on Ice Cream

Title: History of Fun Stuff - The Scoop on Ice Cream
Author: Bonnie Williams
Illustrator: Scott Burroughs
Published: August 5th 2014 by Simon Spotlight
Format: Hardcover, 48 pages
Genre: Early Reader
Ages: Age Range: 6 - 8 years | Grade Level: 1 - 3

A short chapter book that teaches the history of ice cream, the believed origins up to its modern day history.

At the end of the four chapters, your young reader will find flags of various countries and ice cream flavors. There is also a section that will help you to teach the science behind ice cream and for those of you that want to use this as a classroom or homeschooling lesson, there is a History of Ice Cream quiz at the end.

It was surprising how much I did not know about ice cream and this easy to read book, will make both the reading and learning fun. There is no reason to rush through this book and if you wanted to spread it out over a couple of days, the flow remains and you can jump right back in where you last ended.

This is a great addition to your learning library.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Thursdays In the Park

Title: Thursdays in the Park
Author: Hilary Boyd
Published: August 4th 2011 by Quercus
Format: Paperback, 352 pagess
Genre: Romance
Source: Amazon Vine

I think I am offended by the person that called this book “granny-porn”. This is nowhere near some of the “mommy-porn” that I have come across and if a woman approaching her 60th birthday, stuck in a failing marriage meets a gentlemen and starts up a relationship, is too much for some, then I am wondering about you - there are some out there that think once you are past 50, your life should revolve around cats and rocking chairs.

After working in her health food store during the week, Jeanie spends Thursdays in the park with her granddaughter. On one of their usual outings, Jeanie meets Ray, a kind man watching over his grandson. Ray sparks an interest in Jeanie and since her own husband has not visited their bed in ten years, Jeanie relishes the attention that she is receiving.

Of course, Jeanie’s friends and family are questioning her sanity, but why should they; they have no idea the man that her husband has turned into. Or for that fact, the man that he has always been behind closed doors. When George’s reasoning is revealed, as to why he left their bed, I was neither surprised or for that matter, interested. It was a new twist, I will give the author that much.

Oh goodness, I just read another review that stated this is a “fifty-shades style book”, no it is not. I thought that this book was a sweet romance that did not involve all the silly junior high school drama that a typical 20-something romance writes about. This was a friendship that turned into more and gave a new spark to a woman that thought that she was dying on the vine.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Our Lady of Pain

Title: Our Lady of Pain
Author: Marion Chesney aka M.C. Beaton
Published: May 29th 2007 by St. Martin's Paperbacks
Format: Paperback, Pgs 256
Genre: Historical Mystery
Series: Edwardian Murder Mystery #4

After swearing that I would never read another book in this series, what do I do but pick up the next and final book of the series and midway through wonder what was I thinking.

The farce of Lady Rose Summer and Captain Harry Cathcart’s engagement is continuing, but there just might be a crack in the armor when Lady Rose realizes that another man that she had suddenly taken an interest in is weak and if there is any more danger heading her way, she will need a stronger man – someone like Cathcart. Whereas, Cathcart is trying his best to become what Lady Rose needs but he is easily distracted with business and when they are separated, they both see what the other has to offer.

Rose’s companion Daisy finally marries Harry’s manservant Beckett, but once in, Daisy is bored to tears and Beckett is turning into a person that no one in their right mind could stand being in a room with.

All of this takes place in the background as Harry takes on courtesan Dolores Duval as a client. Jealous Rose threatens the vamp and next thing you know Dolores is found dead. Yada, Yada, Yada, Rose is found to not be the murderer but that part ends too soon, so Marion Chesney or MC Beaton, depending on which version of this book that you are reading, adds in more intrigue and foolishness among the wealthy and low and behold we reach the end and exhale a sigh of relief that this is the final book in the Lady Rose Summer saga.

It is truly amazing how you can love one series (Agatha Raisin) from an author but barely be able to pick up other books that she writes in other series. Now back to Agatha and we can finally say good-bye to Lady Rose.

Saturday, October 4, 2014


Title: Rooms
Author: Lauren Oliver
Published: September 23rd 2014 by Ecco
Format: Hardcover; Pgs 320
Genre: Ghost Story

I tried, but I could not make it more than half way through this book. I lost track of who was talking, I really could not care one way or another about what was going on. This book was too meandering with no end in sight.

Ever since, Before I Fall, I have been searching for a Lauren Oliver book that I liked. I have gone through the Delirium series and Panic, in hopes that something would bring me back to the feeling that I had had for the first book, but that was not to be.

Told in the perspective of two ghosts, the reader learns of the Walker family after the patriarch Richard Walker dies and his ex-wife and children return.

Having made it through 150 pages, I cannot tell you anymore of this book, because either it had not yet been revealed or there was just nothing to tell. I kept waiting for that spark but it never arrived so it was time to move along.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Murder in the Mystery Suite

Title: Murder in the Mystery Suite
Author: Ellery Adams
Published: August 5th 2014 by Berkley
Format: Paperback, Pgs 304
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Series: Book Retreat Mysteries #1

Increasingly, cozy mysteries are taking on the reputation of plugging in a woman that is suddenly on her own, a man to the rescue, a pet, a small town, and a murder. So, in a way, this book has broken out of some of the clichés and engages the reader with a slight change and an interesting twist as to what the lead character’s purpose is.

Jane Stewart is the resort manager of Storyton Hall, a resort catering to booklovers who want to get away from modern technology and meet others with their same hobby. This is not your typical resort; it is a castle of sorts that has been transported from England to Virginia one brick at a time. Storyton has its secrets and when Jane’s Aunt Octavia takes ill, it is up to the librarian, the chauffeur, and others to train Jane in her new role as Guardian of Storyton.

That was an interesting change of pace and much more attention-grabbing than the murder mystery involving two deaths, also known as Rip Van Winkles, that occurred at the resort during a Murder and Mayhem Week where mystery lovers dress in the style of their best loved literary crime solvers and participate in a scavenger hunt with the winner being presented with a first edition book.

Granted, this prize created more interest than you could imagine when Aunt Octavia realizes that she wrapped the wrong book and it goes missing. Apparently, this book has a hidden secret that Storyton has been entrusted to keep and now Jane must retrieve it and its secret.

This mystery has very interesting characters from Hem and Fitz, the twin sons of Jane to the staff to Aunt Octavia and Uncle Aloysius even to Edwin the brother of her best friend Eloise. Each person plays their role and with this being only the first in the series, I am sure that each character will add surprise and intrigue to the goings on at Storyton Hall.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Gun Metal Heart

Title: Gun Metal Heart
Author: Dana Haynes
Published: August 19th 2014 by Minotaur Books
Format: Hardcover, 320 pages
Genre: Thriller
Series: Daria Gibron #2

Once again, another author that does not receive the recognition that is deserved. I found Dana Haynes quite by accident when I read his book Crashers. After book two in the Crashers series, he made a slight detour and brought his readers up to date with Daria Gibron, an ex-Israeli spy.

I do not know how to describe her. She is neither good nor bad, but has a burning passion to keep the playing field fair. As an independent operative that is laying low in Italy, until she recovers her strength from her last anti-terrorism battle, until that is Diego, a bodyguard that has been hired to protect a scientist that has new aerospace technology, contacts her.

Not being able to say no when a trusted friend asks for help, Daria find herself in a battle with the White Scorpions, a Serbian paramilitary group.

I will be the first to tell you that I did not quite understand all of the political playing, but that did not take away from the story of Daria and Major Arcana a statuesque ice blonde that is every bit an equal to Daria in both cunning, wit and determination.

John Broom is back and it is a darn good thing since it is not just the Serbs and their cohorts but also a group of CIA operatives that Daria had a hand in humiliating that is determined to take Daria out in any brutal way possible.

This book is not for the squeamish. There is a great deal of blood, guts and gore, but at the same time, there is the most incredible dry humor that you will read in a book. It is descriptive, it is blatant and it is funny.

Daria is a contrast, she battles demons in her dreams and her waking world is no different, she uses sex for medicinal purposes, but she loves with a deep passion and if you are fortunate enough to be her friend, she will show you how tender her hard heart can be.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Riddles in Mathematics: A Book of Paradoxes

Title: Riddles in Mathematics: A Book of Paradoxes
Author: Eugene P Northrop
Published: This Edition: August 20th 2014 by Dover Publication. Originally published in 1944.
Format: ebook; paperback edition 288 pages
Genre: Educational
Source: Netgalley

No matter the publication date, some books still hold their fascination.

Originally published in 1944, this book of paradoxes and explanations has both entertained and baffled me. This is not a book to rush through or to even feel a need to finish in a reasonable amount of time. This is a book to be enjoyed. A book that will make you look at words, their full context and relationships, and not just jump to a conclusion. You will be exercising your brain with the stories, diagrams and details.

On numerous occasions, I wanted to slap myself on the forehead and say, “obviously, the answer was right there”, if I had actually spent time to draw it out or to not jump to a conclusion.

Loved the line: "Impossible? No, though perhaps improbable”.

Some of these twists are straight out of Sherlock Holmes, but then again, that is exactly what I like.

Monday, September 22, 2014

A Bat Cannot Bat, A Stair Cannot Stare

Title: A Bat Cannot Bat, A Stair Cannot Stare
Author: Brian P Cleary
Illustrator: Martin Goneau
Published: January 1st 2014 by Millbrook Press
Format: Hardcover, Pgs 31
Genre: Children's Eductional
Ages: Age Level: 6 and up | Grade Level: 1 and up

This book is incredible. Meant to be read aloud, sitting side by side, you and your young reader will learn the differences between homonyms (a group of words that share the same spelling and pronunciation but have different meanings) and homophones (two or more words that are pronounced the same as another word but differs in meaning). The illustrations along with the homonyms and homophones paired in color help you to understand the message that is being told. Be it as simple as a bat (an animal) cannot bat (a stick of wood) to the more complex base (the bottom of something) or bass (a low sound).

This book makes an excellent teaching tool that pairs both the words and the visuals to help explain the differences. Told in rhyme, you will find yourself learning and laughing to the story that is being told.

You also need to check out Brian P. Cleary’s Words Are CATegorical and Math is CATegorical books, where you can teach parts of English grammar and simple math structure. Think of this as a visual Schoolhouse Rocks for the next generation.

Friday, September 19, 2014

What if...?

Title: What if...?
Author and Illustrator: Anthony Browne
Published: October 3rd 2013 by Doubleday Childrens
Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
Genre: Children's
Ages: Age Range: 5 - 8 years; Grade Level: Kindergarten - 3

Helping children overcoming their fears can be hard on both the child and the parent. In the book, What If...? By Anthony Browne, young Joe is invited to a party at his friend’s house but he has lost the invitation and does not know which house he is to go to. As both Mom and Joe walk down the street in hopes of finding the festivities, Joe begins to vocalize his fears.

Of course, Joe comes up with all sorts of reasons for giving up and going home, but Mom is patient and when at last they reach their destination, it is Mom that just might be having second thoughts.

This is an excellent book for both parent and child when an upcoming event is causing anxiety and you both want to be reassured that everything will work out just fine.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

To Fudge or Not To Fudge

Title: To Fudge or Not To Fudge
Author: Nancy Coco
Published: ebook; Paperback, 352 pages
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Series: Candy Coated #2

I cannot quite put my finger on why I like this series, but I do.

In book number two of the Candy Coated series by Nancy Coco, Allie McMurphy is trying to get her hotel and fudge shop ready for the upcoming Lilac Festival. As she is taking her ever-present dog on a walk, the young pup is distracted and when Mal pops her head out of the bushes, she has part of a foot and shoe in her mouth.

Just want Allie needs, to be part of yet another murder mystery on Mackinac Island. Add to this her favorite instructor from culinary school is on island filming a cooking reality show and with a spot that has opened for another contestant he cajoles Allie to audition.

Of course, you know that this is not going to work out when yet another body is discovered and Allie’s Chef friend is found unconscious and the hotel camera shows Allie being the last to leave the area.

There is a lot of wild goings on especially when the local crazy lady stages a sit in because her dog is being held in the county jail until he passes a bone from one of the deceased. Two eligible bachelors are courting Allie and the reality show and cast are not all what they seem to be. Two high teas need to be organized, fudge demonstrations need to be performed and unexpectedly, Allie’s mother makes an appearance.

I would say that this is just another week in the life of an hotelier, but there is nothing normal in Allie’s life.

Not to say that there are not issue with this book. For instance, if Allie is wearing an ankle bracelet for home detention, how is she able to roam around the island? Also, with an island of less than 500 year around residents, how do they manage to have their own crime scene investigator? One final thought, if Allie is running a hotel, I do not recall her ever having guests. That part seems secondary to what is going on in her private life.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Swallow: A Ghost Story

Title: The Swallow: A Ghost Story
Author: Charis Cotter
Published: September 9th 2014 by Tundra Books
Format: ARC ebook; Hardcover, 320 pages
Genre: Young Adult
Source: Netgalley
Ages: Age Level: 9 - 12 | Grade Level: 4 - 7

Once you pick up this book, you cannot put it down.

Rose and Polly, two early teen girls interweave a friendship that has the reader wondering which parts are real and is it possible that Winnie is not the only ghost that needs to find peace.

Like a movie from M. Night Shyamalan, the reader falls under the spell of The Swallow. Two young girls meet through the wall of their adjoining attics and form a quick friendship. One wishes that she could see the ghosts that she reads about, the other wishes that the ghosts she sees would go away. One feels invisible, ignored and alone, the other wishes that her large family full of annoying siblings and foster children, would just go away and leave her alone. What appears on the surface as two girls wanting what the other has, turns darker when the realities of their lives are exposed.

Like the movie, The Sixth Sense, there were clues along the way, but until the very end, you do not see the clues for what they are. Either that or you did not want to believe what you were reading. Either way, the conclusion is so encompassing that you literally get lost in the book. Like the clouded bubble that is mentioned, this is how you feel. The world falls away from you until you are sitting in the attic with Polly and Rose hearing the sad truth unfold.

Though a ghost story, this book is not terrifying. It is tragic and powerful. It is a story of love and friendship and coming to terms with your purpose.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Happy and Merry

Title: Happy and Merry: Seven Heartwarming Holiday Essays
Author: Lisa Scottoline, Francesca Serritella
Published: October 26th 2012 by St. Martin's Press
Format: ebook, 28 pages
Genre: Essay

After reading Have a Nice Guilt Trip I went looking at Lisa and Francesca’s book listings and realized that somehow I had skipped one. Not sure how that had happened I quickly located to small book and quickly downloaded it.

Guess what?

At 28 pages, it is a republication of prior essays written by Lisa and Francesca in their on-going book series and Chick Wit column for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

At first, I was a little bothered that this was a complete reprint of what I had already read, until I started in on them again and found myself revising old friends and hearing the same stories that you do when you visit friends and family over the holidays.

This book is not actually necessary, but it is a good one to pull out during the holidays to unwind and enjoy.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Have a Nice Guilt Trip

Title: Have a Nice Guilt Trip
Author: Lisa Scottoline, Francesca Serritella
Published: July 8th 2014 by St. Martin's Press
Format: Hardcover, 288 pages
Genre: Essay's
Series: Reprints of their Chick Wit column, from The Sunday Inquirer's Arts&Entertainment section

My boyfriend, My boyfriend, My boyfriend – I get it Francesca, you have a boyfriend.

Not to say that Lisa does not get carried away with her dogs and her pipes, but still, the repetition of Francesca going on and on about her boyfriend was a bit off putting.

I love this series and it has become a tradition as I am taking my daughter back to college. The essay’s that are shared have mirrored parts of my life and I think, in some way, are preparing me for the future. Mother and daughter relationships are unique, we might not always see the world in the same way, but we want to do our best in handling them with love.

I cannot say that I loved one story more than another, each of Lisa’s made me laugh or cry or wonder. Maybe it is an age thing and I can relate to her experiences more. Francesca’s essay, on the other hand, did not appeal to me except for the writing on her grandmother and that was her best of the bunch. It was heartfelt and a wonderful good-bye to a woman that had been ever present.

Each year I wait for this series with both anticipation and dread. I look forward to the laughs and idiosyncrasies of life and the dread of knowing that yet again, I have to say good-bye to my daughter I’ll see you at Christmas.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Mr. Miracle

Title: Mr. Miracle
Author: Debbie Macomber
Expected Publication: October 7th 2014 by Ballantine Books
Format: ARC Approx 250 pages
Genre: Holiday Romance
Source: Amazon Vine Program

This book hit a raw nerve for me, just having paid college fees for my daughter, I have to get this off my chest, colleges do not give books to students; they are expensive and each student is responsible for seeking out their own, I do not believe the excuse of grants that was given in this book, that is usually for the instructor and classroom space. Second, a person transferring from out of state has either to spend a year attaining residency or pay the outrageous out of state fees. Sorry, but this bothered me throughout the book and I just needed to rant.

Addie Folsom has come back home to Tacoma after finally admitting her failure in mining and realizing that working in a diner was getting her nowhere. She regrets leaving high school prior to graduating and needs one class so she enrolls at the local community college to acquire her much-desired diploma.

Harry Mills is an angel who has been sent to earth in human form as a college instructor placed in a rag tag class with the sole purpose of befriending Addie and guiding her towards Erich a childhood neighbor and the future love of her life.

Erich has recently been in an accident and with his mother and Addie’s mother heading out of town on a long planned cruise, Addie volunteers to help Erich until they return. Who did not see this coming? I am however, curious as to how a man with two broken wrists can take care of his bathroom needs, but then again, I tend to let my mind wander.

Told in the usual Macomber style of romance and fluff, the reader follows Harry’s bumbling as a first time emissary of heaven and Addie and Erich’s budding relationship.

When I look back at this book, I think that I am still bothered by the abrupt ending which is staying a lot since throughout the reading I kept dwelling on Debbie Macomber’s lack of knowledge of sending a person to college. However, I have already ranted about that and I will not go through it again.

I could not understand how the reader is in the middle of a party and within a couple of pages the book is over. Then I did a little research and have found out that the Hallmark channel is already filming this book as an upcoming holiday movie. Now, I am beginning to wonder about the chicken and egg thing. Did they write the movie first and then quickly threw a book together to fit around it? Maybe I am being skeptical, but I do wonder.

Mr. Miracle does appear to be the first in a series and if the students in Harry Mills’ class are any indication, Debbie Macomber has a franchise with just these people.

The book is a quick read, does not delve too deeply into either romance or religion and lovers of Macomber’s previous Mrs. Miracle books, will appreciate this new series. I just wish that there had more substance and research prior to publication.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Mercy Snow

Title: Mercy Snow
Author: Tiffany Baker
Published: January 14th 2014 by Grand Central Publishing
Format: Hardcover, 336 pages
Genre: Fiction

I think it is a love hate relationship that I have with Tiffany Baker - I love her books, I get excited when I hear that she has a new one coming out, but at the same time, I dread them. Maybe it is me, maybe I become too invested in the characters, but by the end of the book, I find myself depressed. I adore the broken characters and even though I hope for the best, I know that they face the inevitable.

Ms. Baker draws full characters that seem to be stuck in a situation that they have very little to no control over, I do not want to say that they are victims of their circumstances, but there are no other words to describe them. Mercy Snow takes place in the paper mill town of Titan Fall, New Hampshire where the once thriving industry is in a down turn, the Androscoggin River is heavily polluted and the town has been hit with an accident involving a church bus and a much-loved young woman dead.

The McAllister family owns the mill and rules the town, but this accident has hit too close to home for them. Nate was in love with Suzie his whole life, but Suzie has a secret, she has seen Cal in town with another woman and now with Suzie is dead and the McAllister’s need to control this situation before everything is lost.

Enter the Snow children, Mercy, Hannah and Zeke. The last thing that this town wants is to be reminded of their father Pruitt and yet Mercy will not let go. She is determined to have this town remember her family and when the bones of Gert Snow are revealed and her relationship to the McAllister’s is brought to light.

There is not one character wasted in this book. Even Fergus the bus driver and his wife Hazel have intricate parts. At times, I think that Hazel took center stage and held all the pain that everyone was feeling.

There is magic in this book. The people, the places, the unspoken communication between Hannah and Gert, and the healing of the towns ailments. The answers were there and it did not begin with a red mitten, that is what might have caused the downfall, but it took a bunch of ragtag orphan’s to open the windows and bring light back to this town and the people and struggles that were being faced.

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Dress Shop of Dreams

Title: The Dress Shop of Dreams
Author: Menna van Praag
Expected Publication: December 30th 2014 by Ballantine Books
Format: eBook; Paperback, 336 pages
Genre: Magical Realism
Source: Netgalley

Magical Realism, not a genre I am familiar with or one that I intentionally went looking for, but that is what I found from the first page of this book. I found myself sinking into the lives of Cora and all those that entered the little dress shop, a place of wonder that just seemed to know the right music to play when a person walked through the door.

At first, I was not too sure how everyone fit together, but as the story went along, I realized that I was reading a braid. I know that sound funny, but all the couples, or the people that should have been couples were interwoven in the most curious of ways.

Cora Carraway – Orphaned as a young girl and was raised by her grandmother in the dress shop. She has grown into a brilliant scientist who is now questioning the death of her parents. She spends her days lost in her own world where the only constant is numbers.

Ella Sparks – Cora’s grandmother. The owner of the dress shop, on All Saints’ Passage, who spends her days sewing beautiful dresses that make the owner’s realize their true potential (wear this dress and you’ll find what your missing: confidence, courage, power, love, beauty, magnificence….) by sewing a special little star into the seams of the dresses with her needle and red thread weaving possibility into their dreams.

Walt – Since he was four years old, Walt has been in love with Cora but she has never taken notice of him. He spends his days working in the bookshop that he has dreamed of his whole life and recently has taken a second job as the Night Reader on the local radio station narrating books that appeal to his female listeners, but embarrasses him.

Father Sebastian – Spends his days listening to the confessions of others but is hiding his own secret.

Dylan – Who is replying to the letters that Walt has been receiving at the station. This is the outlet that he needs to help him stay in touch, since so much of his time has been taken up caring for his ill father. Listening to the Night Reader has opened up emotions that he thought were long since dormant.

Officer Henry Dixon and his wife Francesca – Henry never stopped loving his wife and until that decisive moment, Henry had no idea why Francesca wanted to take their son Mateo back to Italy. Once all the words were said, the picture became clear and Henry loved her even more for it.

Milly – who closed herself off from the world, after the death of her husband, until she heard the Night Reader. With the perfect dress from the shop, she was going to make Walt fall in love with her. Little did she know, but her heart was really in love with someone else.

Intertwined with passages of the books that Walt is reading on air, the Dress Shop of Dreams takes the reader through the trials that each face in finding the one true person that they are meant to be with. Part romance, part magic, the Dress Shop of Dreams grabs the reader from the very first moment and holds on until the very last page, the very last word, when the writing in the journal that Walt’s mother had left for him is revealed. Walt has spent years trying to decipher the symbols in this journal. He knows that it has to be important, but he just cannot decode this message. That is until the right person discovers the answer. That is an awesome moment and the perfect ending to this wonderful book.