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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

A Literary Tea Party by Alison Walsh

Release Date: June 5, 2018

Think about your favorite book. Now that you're thinking of that, think about the character's life. How many of your favorite character's indulge in a food that has your mouth watering? How many times have you become hungry as you read about a character enjoying a snack, meal, or beverage?

Maybe you find yourself wanting to know about the frequently mentioned Lane Cake in To Kill a Mockingbird. Perhaps you love the thought of Butterbeer from Harry Potter. If you think about food while you read, this is a book you can't skip as that's what A Literary Tea Party is all about.

In this book, you'll whip up tasty snacks that are inspired by a select number of books. For example, there's a recipe for Blood Orange Scones that are inspired by Sherlock Holmes. Serve those with some London Fog Lattes at a Sherlock Holmes book group.

Fans of Agatha Christie can hold a book reading group and serve tasty snacks like "Pocket Full of Rye" finger sandwiches and Delicious Death Chocolate Cake. Fans of Brian Jacques The Rogue Crew: A Tale of Redwall may recognize the Deeper 'n Ever Turnip 'n Tater n' Beet-root Pie. I admit, the very first recipe I tried was for the Dark Chocolate Earl Grey Lavender Truffles inspired by Sherlock Holmes. Oh, my!

Recipes in A Literary Tea Party include photos, quotes from the books, and ideas for beverage pairings. If you like to read and love to cook, this cookbook is a must!

Sunday, May 20, 2018

What Lies Below by Barbara Taylor Sissell

Release Date: May 15, 2018

Gilly O'Connell left her home to start anew. She "saw" her husband's murder before it happened, but even when she sees something in a dream, people don't always listen. After losing him and their unborn child, she spiraled out of control.

She's clean again and ready to start over. Her move to a small town is the first step. She takes a job as a waitress where she quickly grows fond of a Wednesday regular and his three-year-old daughter. Their pancake breakfasts always lead to Gilly telling the young girl a story. That connection could be her downfall, however, when she spaces out and sees the young girl's kidnapping. When she learns it is true, she hasn't seen enough to pinpoint exactly who stole the girl, but her knowledge makes her a suspect.

With the father's pleas to help him find her, Gilly agrees to see if she's able to harness her dreams and figure out who did it and where the girl is. It's not that easy, however. Her husband's killer is still out there and hot on her trail.

There's a lot of mystery and suspense to this book, but there's also a touch of romance. The characters are enjoyable, but they never overshadow the real draw to this story. You want to know who took the little girl, why they did it, and where she is.

What Lies Below is a very satisfying suspense/mystery. I had the "who" figured out long before the characters, but it took a bit longer to catch the why. I certainly wasn't disappointed. Sure, I had questions, but I was still intent on reading every page. This is another great story from Barbara Taylor Sissell.

Friday, May 18, 2018

The Orphan Daughter by Cari Noga

Release Date - May 8, 2018

Cari Noga's The Orphan Daughter seems incredibly timely. As some in our current government have crowds riled up thinking Mexican's are all illegals and need to be shipped back over the border, this presents a more honest take. I live in an area where migrants work on farms. They do the jobs few others will do for what seems like a criminally low rate of pay. Farm workers are often up and working by 3 a.m. and must be outside for hours in the sun and humidity.

Jane McCardle has overcome loss. Her stillborn daughter was the first of many heartbreaks. Since her son joined the military and her husband left her for another woman, Jane's been an empty nester. She's turned things around and operates an organic farm in Michigan. Another curve is thrown her way when she learns she's the guardian of her newly orphaned pre-teen niece, Lucy.

Lucy is a city girl. Her life in New York with an au pair and two loving parents is everything to her. She's shocked when her parents are killed in a tragic accident. Moving to Michigan with an aunt she barely knows is just not acceptable when she's already suffering a tremendous loss.

Once in Michigan, Lucy is not happy. She does meet a local boy, but she dreams of moving to Mexico to live with her father's sister. She wants to be surrounded by her Mexican heritage. Living on a farm with a woman who is devoted to all things farming is not enjoyable.

Jane isn't sure how to handle her niece. She's lost one daughter. She never thought she'd have a second chance. Now that she does, she doesn't seem to be able to do anything right. Is there a way for these two lonely souls to form a bond and see a new family form from the ashes of pain and loss?

Lucy is definitely immature, but she's also young. She doesn't quite realize that Mexico is not a safe, warm, welcoming place to all. As she gets to know the Mexicans living in Jane's farm community, it's nice to see Lucy change and mature.

There were times I disliked Jane's reactions, but I suppose being lonely for so long will cause struggles dealing with tricky situations. I loved the setting. I loved the descriptions of the farm. I enjoyed watching them build a relationship at a very realistic speed.

Lake Union Publishing has released another strong read with The Orphan Daughter. I do love this publisher's women's fiction novels. They're always packed with emotion and thorougly enjoyable.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson

Release Date: May 8, 2018

I only got to read a snippet of Undead Girl Gang. I really wish I'd had the whole book in front of me. It's snarky, fun, and hooks you from the start.

At the heart of the story is Mila Flores. She doesn't fit in and she doesn't care. All that matters to her is her best friend Riley, a fellow believer in witchcraft. When Riley is found dead in a local creek, Mila refuses to buy it's a suicide. Riley was her BFF. They'd been together just moments before Riley died. There's no way Riley would kill herself, and Mila is willing to cast a spell that brings Riley back to life if it means solving Riley's murder.

That's what is revealed in the few chapters I received via Netgalley. In reading the blurb, there's more. Once she revives Riley and two other teens who recently died, they can't remember how they died. The spell only lasts for seven days, so Mila needs to work fast to find the murderer.

Mila is snarky and that made me love her. She had me laughing often in this short preview. It hooked me. I wanted to keep reading and was upset when the sampler came to an end. It's definitely a book I'll be buying if my library doesn't have it.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware

Release Date: May 29, 2018
Genre: Psychological Suspense

Ruth Ware is one of my author's to watch. Her books never fail to draw me in and hold me essentially captive until I'm done the last page. The Death of Mrs. Westaway is another solid, very suspenseful read. I thought I had it figured out, but I was partially wrong. I always love being kept guessing.

Since her mom's death, Hal's been struggling. She struggles to draw enough business and debt is piling up. When one of her lenders announces that she has a week to pay up or else, Hal's in a state of panic. There's no way she can come up with that money, but the thought of "or else" is equally terrifying.

Things take an unusual turn when she receives a mysterious letter stating her grandmother has died. She's been asked to attend the funeral and the inheritance she's due. There's a problem, however, Hal's grandmother died a very long time ago.

While she's convinced this letter is a mistake, she's desperate. She has skills as a tarot reader, plus her research skills are really good. She's sure she can use them to fool the family and claim the money. What she never expects is to learn there's a lot more to this family's story than anyone realizes.

The setting is downright creepy. It's an estate home that's dark, dreary, and seems to feed off its past. The estate itself added to the chills. Then there are the family members. What a dysfunctional bunch that I'd never want to get to know. It's no wonder Hal finds herself questioning why she's even thinking about pulling off the ruse. The housekeeper just adds to the discomfort you feel as you get to know the main characters.

The story flows quickly from start to finish. I started it while enjoying a quiet Mother's Day lounging on the back deck and couldn't stop. It had me hooked from the first page.

Herons Landing by Joann Ross

Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Harlequin
Release Date: May 22, 2018

All it takes is one very rude, very unreasonable client for Brianna Mannion to decide it's time to go home. She's had a very profitable career working in the hotel industry. She's ready to return to her hometown and figure out what to do next. It isn't long before she decides to buy an old Victorian home she's loved since childhood. Her plan is to turn it into a bed and breakfast.

Brianna's headstrong and knows she can make it work. Even if it means working with the best local contractor in town. A man she's been in love with since they were both teens. Seth Harper married Brianna's best friend. He's a widower now, but she needs to keep this completely professional if she's going to turn the bed and breakfast into a thriving business.

Seth has no plans to ever remarry. Something about Brianna, however, just feels right. While his brain is happy saying no, his heart isn't quite as agreeable.

This is a pleasing start to the new Honeymoon Harbor series. The town is small and quaint with characters you enjoy getting to know. I loved the chemistry between Brianna and Seth. I also loved how both of them had the same vision of how the Victorian should look when all was said and done.

There are a couple of other smaller plots in the book. One involves Seth's parents who are on a trial separation, essentially. I liked their characters, but I didn't like how it would jump in and take me from Seth and Brianna's romance. The other is Brianna's other best high school friend and her upcoming marriage. That could have been its own novella and not part of Herons Landing.

It will be interesting to see what happens next in this series. I'm eagerly awaiting the next novel.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo

Setting: Los Angeles
Genre: Teen Romance
Publisher: Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux
Author: Maurene Goo
Release Date: May 8, 2018

Her mom travels regularly. It's her dad that's raised her. Clara Shin has been raised to think for herself, not back down, and be independent. Those same traits cause Clara to push boundaries and generally annoy certain others. One of those "certain others" is a classmate and enemy named Rose Carver.

Rose is a snob. She's stuck up and generally unpleasant. When Clara is jokingly nominated for prom queen, Rose demands Clara back out. This makes Clara work harder than ever to win. She does and her resulting "joke" winds up backfiring in glorious fashion. As punishment, both Clara and Rose are forced to spend the summer working together on Clara's dad's food truck.

This experience is more than Clara bargains for. She finds herself actually enjoying working with Rose. She meets a guy and starts experiencing the joy of romance. Is Clara really going to let one summer turn her into a completely different person?

This is a lively, enjoyable teen romance. Clara is a bit of a rebel, but she's a likable rebel. She learns a lot and experiences incredible growth. It's not a book that forces you to think, but it's packed with romance, great characters, and descriptions of food that make the mouth water. Read The Way You Make Me Feel. It's worth it!

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Paris Ever After by K.S.R. Burns

Setting: Paris
Genre: Women's Fiction
Publisher: Velvet Morning Press
Author: K.S.R. Burns
Release Date: May 1, 2018

After her best friend died, Amy left for Paris without informing anyone. Her husband may not have understood, but Amy needed to regroup. It's been several months of embracing a relaxed, yet unsettled lifestyle in France. The problem is Amy is pregnant, and she's yet to tell her husband, who is half a world away.

When Amy learns her husband is back in Paris to find her, she becomes panicked. How will she explain what she's been keeping from him? That's just the start of her problems. Someone else returns to town and is determined to force Amy into leaving the circle of friends she's come to love.

Paris Ever After is a sequel. I found myself longing to be in Paris based on the author's descriptions. I've never had any urge to go to Paris before, so that impressed me. Amy's character isn't my favorite. I do think she needed to be honest from the start. Her dilemmas are situations she put herself in, so it seemed unfair when she tries to blame others.

I did enjoy the story, even though I hadn't read the first book. What Paris Ever After has convinced me of is that I need to read the first book. I'd love to know more about Amy's first days in Paris and her introductions to her new circle of friends.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Cake and Punishment by Maymee Bell

Setting: Rumford, KY
Genre: A Southern Cake Baker Mystery
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Release Date: May 8, 2018

After finding the love of her life in a compromising position, Sophia Cummings flees for her hometown. A bit of a break from New York City is in the cards right now. She'll take a few days for herself and then return to a new job in the city.

At home, Sophia finds herself in the middle of a mystery. A long-time friend's upcoming wedding runs into a big glitch when the baker backs out. As a pastry chef, Sophia offers to create a dream cake. That's just the start. A local chef winds up murdered. Sophia also agrees to help an old boss run the kitchen until a replacement is found.

Now that she's thoroughly involved in her old community's culinary world, Sophia can't help but wonder who killed the chef. Her former boss is the key suspect, and Sophia knows there is no way. With the local detective honed in on her boss, Sophia decides to do her own sleuthing, and that may well put her in the killer's path.

I've been a fan of cozy mysteries for years. Ever since picking up a Diane Mott Davidson book about two decades ago, I've been hooked. Cake and Punishment covers all the reasons I love cozy mysteries. You have the potential romance with Sophia and the detective. There's a town full of interesting characters. There are plenty of recipes that sound amazing.

I am eager to see where this series goes from here. It's off to a good start.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Marlon Bundo with Jill Twiss

Genre: Children's Picture Book
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Release Date: March 2018

My kids are way beyond picture books. That didn't stop us from all wanting A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo. I'll buy it for any future grandchildren, even if they could be 10 years down the road. The book is necessary and supports two fantastic non-profits: AIDS United and The Trevor Project.

Marlon lives in a big house with his owners the Pence family. Marlon finds life within the house pretty boring. He also finds the vice president's schedule and discussions to be boring. Things change when he goes outside to explore the garden. He makes a friend.

With Wesley by his side, Marlon sees life differently. He feels amazing. He knows what it is like to love someone. He wants to get married, but the big Stink Bug says no. The Stink Bug says that marriage between two people of the same gender is wrong. It's unnatural and cannot happen he spouts. Wesley and Marlon and their friends set out to make a change.

I love the message in this book. Basically, intolerance of another human is not acceptable. It doesn't matter where your preferences are. In matters of the heart, what matters most is love. I'm thrilled to have supported two very deserving charities again through the purchase of a book we can pass down through generations. Hopefully, by the time I do have grandkids, the world will be a friendlier place for all.

To learn more about the charities this book supports, visit these sites.

Friday, May 4, 2018

The Brew Your Own Big Book of Clone Recipes

Genre: Cookbook/Homebrewing
Publisher: Voyageur Press
Release Date: May 8, 2018

I love, love, love this book. The Brew Your Own Big Book of Clone Recipes is a must-have for any homebrewer. While I'm sure some of these clone recipes can be found online, the book is packed with pictures, helpful information, and step-by-step instructions. With many of my favorite Vermont beers found within, I know this is a book I'll buy for myself and for homebrewing family members.

Amazon has a sample page you can view, but it doesn't really cover the recipes you'll find within. There are 300 in all, and they include brewers from all over the country. I really got excited by recipes for:

  • The Alchemist's Focal Banger - Forget Heady Topper, this beer is my favorite! If you like Heady, there's a clone recipe for it, too.
  • Hill Farmstead's Abner - I wish there had been Edward or Susan, but Abner's not a bad way to go.
  • Trillium's Fort Point Pale Ale - This is also a must-make beer for me.

There are a few I am dying to try. One of them is Odell's Peach IPA. That's definitely on my list. I've yet to try Treehouse's Julius. When I'm in Massachusetts, the line into the brewery is always way too long to bother with. This clone is very much appreciated.

If you brew, buy this book. If you don't but have been interested in getting started, I would also get this book with Charlie Papazian's The Complete Joy of Homebrewing. One thing is clear, you need to add The Brew Your Own Big Book of Clone Recipes to your library.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Baby on Her Doorstep by Rhonda Gibson

Genre: Christian Historical Romance
Publisher: Harlequin
Author: Rhonda Gibson
Release Date: May 8, 2018

If you're looking for a short, touching romance, Baby on Her Doorstep is worthwhile. It's a Christian historical romance set in the west. While there were aspects that got a bit much for me, I found it enjoyable despite those intruding thoughts.

Laura Lee is a widow and happens to be a pretty popular teacher. As summer break begins, her life takes an incredible turn. Someone leaves a baby with a note asking her to raise the little girl as her own.

After a trip to the sheriff's office, Laura learns she can keep the child for now. Clearly, the note writer wanted Laura to gain custody. The sheriff says he'll try to find the baby's parents, but he can't see why the court won't eventually make sure that she becomes the adoptive parent. There's one issue that remains. Laura lives in the boardinghouse and babies are not allowed. She has until the end of the week to find a new place to live.

Clint Shephard is a single dad. His wife died of an infection shortly after childbirth. While he adores his daughter, his housekeeper has given him a day to find a nanny. She simply feels she is getting too old to chase a toddler around. He goes into the town to find a nanny and is introduced to Laura. She seems perfect for the job, but she's hesitant. Eventually, she agrees.

Living on Clint's ranch is meant to be temporary, but Laura finds herself enjoying this new job a little too much. When the time comes to leave, she doesn't know how she'll do it. Clint wants them to stay, but Laura hides a secret that makes it impossible to even consider staying with Clint forever.

Baby on Her Doorstep was sweet and moved swiftly from chapter to chapter. I did have a few issues with the age of two girls, especially Laura's adopted daughter. It's said she's probably a year old, but she was doing things that made her seem much older. For whatever reason, I found myself stuck on that. Every time they'd mention her actions, I'd say that doesn't fit with a one-year-old.

I also found myself kind of annoyed with Clint's housekeeper. Before she'd even met Laura, she came off as spiteful and mean. I didn't get it. She wanted a nanny, but no nanny seemed good enough. I found her maddening as a result. I could have understood it if she had a thing for Clint, but she was much older and had absolutely no interest in him.

In the end, I did read the book in one sitting. It was light and satisfying. It was exactly what I was looking for.