Wednesday, November 23, 2022

You Can Go Your Own Way by Eric Smith

 Release Date - October 25, 2022

After his dad's death, Adam Stillwater and his mom do everything in their power to keep the family's pinball arcade running. It's a dying breed, however, and money's getting tighter every day. Adam doesn't want his mom entertaining the idea of selling to the rich owner of a chain of gaming cafes. Worse, that rich owner is the father of one of Adam's former best friends, Whitney Mitchell.

Whitney does everything she can to catch her dad's attention. She works hard on his business's social media marketing campaign, but he never recognizes her skills. She longs for that to change. Which is how she gets into a social media feud with her former friend Adam.

When a major storm hits, Whitney and Adam find themselves stuck in the pinball arcade for the night. Soon, they realize that their old friendship never should have died and there's the chance it could be something much bigger.

I grew up when pinball arcades and video arcades were a big thing. I know how important they were to teens and a community. It's always been kind of sad that they died out. There is no arcade left in my area, though there is an arcade of pinball machines and the old cabinet arcade games, a few hours away.

For that reason, I found myself emotionally invested in Adam's fight. I can't say the book ever had me hooked to the point I felt guilty walking away for a bit. But, I did find myself invested enough to see how it ended up. It's a pleasing young adult romance and coming-of-age tale that I appreciate took a step back to one of my favorite pastimes as a teen. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Before Your Memory Fades by Toshikazun Kawaguchi

 Release Date - November 15, 2022

This is the third book in the Before Your Coffee Gets Cold series. Head back to the charming Mount Hakodate cafe where a specific seat (that's often occupied by a ghost) and a cup of coffee are all you need to travel in time. There are rules you must follow. Wait for the ghost to head to the bathroom, ask for your coffee, and travel back in time, but you have to return before your coffee gets cold.

In this latest collection of time travel adventures, you have the daughter who wants to know how her parents could get into an accident that led to her being an orphan. You have the comedian who wants that chance to go back and see his beloved once more. There's the sister who has not stopped grieving. Finally, there's the man who realizes he let the love of his life slip away and wishes he'd realized what true love is.

The stories are emotional and tug at your heart. The cafe and setting make you want to be there. I've cherished each story in these anthologies and hope there's more in the future. If you're looking for a unique, gripping selection of stories, don't miss Before Your Memory Fades and the other books in this series.

If you find yourself enjoying the Before Your Coffee Gets Cold stories. I have a Netflix show to recommend. Midnight Diner is different, but it still offers that same warm ambiance with a chef who is able to recreate his diner's favorite meals while you take a closer look at their stories and what led them to this point in their lives. It's just as addicting.

Monday, November 21, 2022

All Things Bright by RaeAnne Thayne

 Release Date - September 20, 2022

I read this right before it was released and somehow managed to forget to post the review. My apologies for that. Balancing life, certification courses, and work led to things getting away from me. Add in an issue with a brand new Li-ion lawn mower battery sparking a small fire in my home and, well, it's been a bit overwhelming. (Not to anyone with Li-ion batteries who do their part and store them at room temperature, do so in fireproof, smoke-proof bags. It's worth it!)

RaeAnne Thayne's romances always tug at my heart strings and leave me with the warm fuzzies. All Is Bright is no different. Head back to Hope's Crossing where architect Sage McKnight is busy showcasing her skills on retired baseball player Mason Tucker's ADA-compliant home. Mason was badly injured in a plane crash and is now in a wheelchair and needs a home he can navigate. 

While Sage wants to use every stage of his home's construction for her website, Mason will not allow it. It becomes a battle of the wits and hearts as Sage wants to show off a project that makes her proud and Mason's stubborn attitude and emotional toll from the accident are in the way.

I loved Sage and Mason together. But, there's much more to this story. Other characters from past Hope's Crossing novels are featured to see how they're doing now. I especially loved the inclusion of Sage's dad, wife, and her half-siblings. It was fun to watch the family grow and meld. It was a holiday romance that romance fans need to read.

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

The Second Home by Christina Clancy

 Release Date - June 8, 2021

Ann and Poppy Gordon are very accustomed to the summers spent in Cape Cod in their family's summer home. This year is different. Ann's parents adopted an orphaned boy close to Ann's age. They have a new brother to introduce to the relaxed way of life the Cape offers.

Everything ends up going wrong, however, and Ann's summer changes their lives forever. The summer culminates with Michael leaving and becoming estranged from the family. Fifteen years later, Ann, Poppy, and Michael's mom and dad die in a car crash. Ann and Poppy are distant, but they're going to have to team up, prepare two homes for sale, and move on.

Nothing goes as planned when Michael re-enters the picture. He owns a third of that summer home, too, and he's not leaving until he gets it. 

Cape Cod has a certain magic to it, and it's captured nicely in this novel. The Second Home is a touch of romance, a bit of mystery as to what tore the family apart, and plenty of coming of age splashed in as well. I loved The Second Home. It's a satisfying read that keeps you hooked, even if Ann's attitude at times is maddening, but I never wanted to put it down, and that's the key. I was hooked and had to know how everything would turn out. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

The Silent House by Nell Pattison

 Release Date September 2020

While the members of the Hunter family, a deaf family, are asleep, someone sneaks in and murders their 18-month-old. Clearly, no one heard a thing, but police are determined to catch a brutal killer. The question is was it someone close to the child or a stranger prowling the streets for other victims?

Paige Northwood is hired by the police as a translator for deaf community. She's determined to uncover who hurt one of her community, but in doing so, she's putting her own life on the line.

The Silent House travels into territory that is often overlooked in books. Having the witnesses and suspects be unable to easily communicate without Paige's help added layers to this story. For much of it, I had my suspicion as to who killed the child and why, but a couple of other angles did present themselves and make me second-guess myself, which is always a nice change pace. In the end, my initial thought was spot on.

I overlooked this one when it was released, and that's on me. If you haven't read it, it's a great choice for a chilling winter read.

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Three Remain by R.A. Andrade

Release Date - September 23, 2019

When I accepted a copy of Three Remain to review, I'd read the description, fact it was a post-apocalyptic story, and Netgalley description of "mystery/thriller." I wish I'd checked Amazon's listing as "technothriller" as I would have moved on. For my review, I think it's important to realize I do not like most sci-fi as a general rule. I am and never will be a fan of shows like Star Trek, the latter X-File years, Roswell, etc.

Three Remain starts off amazingly well. Traci's parents drop her off the movies to see a show with her friends. She wakes up to find no one is in the movie theater, her parents never picked her up, and there's no cell service. The same night Traci's at the movies, Glen is at his home and witnesses a spectacular meteor shower and wakes up the next morning to find he has no power, no cell service, and all of his neighbors have seemingly disappeared.

While exploring, Glen comes across a woman who's crashed her car. Her memories of who she is are gone. Her snarky demeanor lands her the nickname "Sunshine." They set off to figure out where people are and the only person they find is Traci. Their town is surrounded by a thick fog that seems impenetrable. The trio now must figure out what happened and how they can escape.

I started off completely hooked. I am a huge fan of The Stand and Earth Abides, so this book had me hooked. And, then things took the turn that lost me. I don't want to give spoilers, but Three Remain became a testament to the things in sci-fi that I just don't like. I struggled from the moment it became clear that this was going into subject matter I simply don't care about. 

I did finish Three Remain, but honestly, I just never got into it after it took the turn from being post-apocalyptic to strictly techno-thriller sci-fi. It was a struggle, and that's on my distaste for that sub-genre.

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Tastes Better From Scratch Cookbook: Easy Recipes for Everyday Life by Lauren Allen

 Release Date - September 22, 2022

I have a secret. I used to love to cook, but 30 years of finding and cooking recipes that match all of the different dietary needs in one household has worn me out. I have an unusual allergy to the milk sap in lettuce. Even the tiniest shard accidentally mixed into sandwich toppings will have me throwing up within an hour. One of my kids ended up with the same allergy, but worse as it makes his lips and throat become itchy and tingle. Another kid can't have any dairy, and lactose-intolerance was ruled out, dairy protein allergies are to blame.

But, even if I loathe cooking, I can't just quit. Food needs to be on the table and my husband can cook three things and counts that as the end of his talents in the kitchen. I'm always looking for inspiration, however, and that's what led me to Tastes Better From Scratch. The title is pretty apt as a home-cooked meal always tastes better than a frozen or canned one.

The cookbook itself contains simple recipes that most home cooks can follow easily enough. If you have a household like mine, you will need to make some adjustments. In the breakfast section, pancakes, waffles, and French toast were adjusted using unflavored cashew milk, and they were great. The buttermilk syrup intrigued me, but it's not the same as maple syrup, which is easily purchased down the road, so it's always in my house.

After spending a year working on a diet after I was found to be anemic, I did find some of these recipes were better for me with tweaking. The "Healthy Applesauce Muffins" are just as good if you omit the sugar and add chopped apple instead of dried cranberries or chocolate chips, both of which contain added sugar. I've been making them that way for a year now.

Many of these recipes are similar to some of the standards from my childhood. Gourmet Mac and Cheese is a good one, though we use Al Fresco's chicken bacon now and add broccoli, and I'll make a second one using Mykonos liquid mozzarella, Ripple's half and half, and Chao's smoked "cheese". 

In general, this is a solid cookbook for anyone looking for easy recipes they can add to their busy life. I do recommend purchasing it in hardcover. I had a galley copy, but the tiny print and formatting on my Kindle made for challenging reading.

You Can Go Your Own Way by Eric Smith

 Release Date - October 25, 2022 After his dad's death, Adam Stillwater and his mom do everything in their power to keep the family...