Thursday, May 23, 2024

May Read: Recipe for a Charmed Life by Rachel Linden


I'm currently on a book reading vibe where everything I read has a bit of a magical element to it, and this lovely novel fit the bill. 

First of all, I love any novels that mix food and magic. Especially if that magic is some kind of gift the main character has due to a long line of female ancestors. Yup. my kind of novel. 

This novel takes place in two very different locations: Paris and the small island of San Juan off the coast of Washington state. It's a night and day difference for Georgia Jackson, an American chef living in Paris who has been dealt a blow to her love life and her chances at running her own restaurant. With one disastrous decision, she loses her job, her lousy boyfriend, and her reputation as an up and coming chef in Paris. 

With nowhere to go, she receives an unexpected email from her long estranged mother, Star: please come visit me on San Juan Island--I need to tell you something. 

Well, Georgia has nothing to lose, and everything to gain-hopefully, answers to why her mother left her on a dusty Texas ranch with her father and aunt when she was five years old. No communication, nothing for 30 years. Now it's her chance to find some peace, and hopefully heal her heart and her taste buds. For Georgia's biggest secret has crushed her: she has lost her extraordinary sense of taste. Everything tastes bitter. A death blow to someone who cooks for a living. 

Off to San Juan Island, which is a paradise: cool breezes, bountiful greenery, small yet oh so peaceful. Georgia meets Star, and begins the work of healing her broken heart. There are plenty of bumps along the way-especially running into Cole--one hunky dude who seems to have an immediate dislike of Georgia. As Georgia navigates her new relationship with Star, her growing feeling for Cole, and the possibility of never regaining her sense of taste, she's got a lot to cope with, but is in the perfect place for big change. 

I found the characters appealing, the descriptions of San Juan Island enchanting, and oh--the food sounded just divine. The magical element was not overdone and I throughly enjoyed all of it. There are a few big surprises, but they explain a lot of the background Georgia is missing. 

Rating: 4/6 for a lovely novel about moms and daughters, finding your passion once you've lost it, beginning again, and finding family. Not to mention the cover art is *chef's kiss*

Available in paperback, ebook, and audio. I do have the author's previous novel The Magic of Lemon Drop Pie sitting on my bookshelf and it's now moved up to my summer read pile!

Sunday, May 12, 2024

May Read: Lula Dean's Little Library of Banned Books by Kirsten Miller


I'm a huge fan of Kirsten Miller. The Change was a favorite novel of mine from a few years ago, and I've been eagerly anticipating her second novel, which will be available in the U.S. on June 18th. Big thanks to NetGalley for the chance to read it ahead of publication. I don't think I could have waited another month to read it!

I'll preface this review by saying this novel doesn't pull any punches, and if you have a particular set of beliefs or opinions, it's probably not the book for you. Or may it is the book for you, but you won't feel comfortable reading it. 

The small town of Troy, Georgia is steeped in Southern tradition and the kind of place where manners are everything and you can still be annoyed by your high school nemesis thirty years after cheerleader camp. People are long on memory and short on minding their own business. Especially when it comes to books. 

Lula Dean is a busybody, nosy, orange-haired person who likes to stick herself into things that aren't her business. A kid's prank of putting a naughty cake cookbook in the public library starts the flames of book banning, with Lula Dean leading the way. In short order she's organized a citizen's group, pulled hundreds of books out of the public and school libraries, and has set up a little library outside her home that only has "appropriate" books she has curated for the townsfolk. Books that have a slant towards racism, whiteness, and putting women in their place. 

Someone decides to swap out those books with books that were pulled from the public library--keeping the covers from Lula's books, but swapping out the books. So it appears that her books are in the little library, but people who decide to take one get a big surprise when they start reading. But that big surprise sets in motion so many life changing events for some of the townspeople that it's clear change is afoot and boy, is it coming fast!

Of course Lula has no idea what's happened to her little book library, which kept me snickering through the story. I loved getting to know the people of Troy. Some of their stories were funny, others were troublesome, but all of them were changed for the better by a book they read-a book that was banned. 

It's an all out war in little Troy, GA as national news arrives, marriages crumble, friendships are strained, and beliefs long held dear are tested. Kirsten Miller's writing is biting, funny, witty, and also very pointed. 

I loved this novel. We must protect books, authors, librarians, booksellers, and anyone who advocates for those who are seen as "less than". I know this is fiction, but oh, wouldn't it be wonderful if this battle played out with a happy ending in our real lives. 

Rating: 6/6 for a novel that addresses all the things that are happening in our country--all the dark, weird, misinformed things. Loved the characters, the humor, the points made, and the evolution of some of the characters from ignorant to informed. 

Available on June 18th in hardcover, ebook, and audio. 

Monday, May 6, 2024

May Read: The Secrets of the Little Greek Taverna by Erin Palmisano


This was a fun, absolutely lovely novel perfect for summer reading. A little bit of magic, some romance, and female friendships, all on a lovely little Greek island called Naxos.

Jory St. James lives her life moving from place to place, traveling the world, and bringing her special magic everywhere she goes. Her magic? She creates a home for those she meets, and leaves when her job is done. Now she's got the itch to travel to the Greek island of Naxos. Not sure what she'll find, she arrives late at night without a plan, but confident things will work out--because they always do. She quickly meets Cressida, a young widow who offers a place for Jory to stay. Tucked away from the touristy areas is Cressida's lovely little taverna and guest house. Cressida is going through some heartache, as the dream of opening the place died along with the sudden death of her young husband the year before. Now she's in financial trouble and must make a decision to either sell or try to open and save her dream. Enter Jory, who works miracles. 

The women of Naxos are special women; each with a gift they've inherited through the generations. Cressida's gift? She can cook, and create food that invokes the best emotions in those who eat her food. Her next door neighbor, Mago, has a sad background, and also a bit of magic, too: she has a special talent for creating clothing that is just right for the person she gifts it to--maybe not right away, but it always works out. 

This was a lovely, uplifting novel about women bonding and supporting each other; facing fears and working through grief. Romance is also lovely, and Jory has some actual sizzle with the handsome Shane, an American working on Naxos. Will she finally find her own home with Shane?

If you love novels with a bit of magic, a touch of romance, and oh so delicious food, pick this one up. You'll want to read it under an umbrella, sipping wine and nibbling on olives and feta. 

Thank you to Edelweiss and Grand Central Publishing for an advanced copy to read. 

It is out in the U.S. on Tuesday, May 7th in paperback, audio, and ebook. 

4/6 for a delightful, perfect summer read. May it inspire you to create a happy home, try some wine, and enjoy your friends. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Upcoming May Reads: The Summer Books are Rolling In!

 April & May are two big months in the book world-publishers are putting out oodles of books in anticipation of summer. I can tell you I've got so many books on my TBR and some that I've already started and every day I see more I want to read. 

It's going to be a big book summer for me. In anticipation of upcoming reads and reviews, here's just a few of the books I'll be reading in the next month or so--how many are on your lists?

A fantasy that takes place underwater!

A woman is cursed to walk the world or die. Fascinating.

I'm all for funny fantasy!

A novel about a found family and lots of puzzles

Second in a delightful mystery series with Julia Child as a main character

It wouldn't be summer without a Mary Kay Andrews Southern novel

A romance about two people who can't meet the right one--but maybe they may get lucky this summer?

Not only is the cover gorgeous, but the novel about witchy stuff is intriguing, as well. 

A Greek Isle is a place of magic and healing for two women.

Sign me up about a WW2 novel that involves books!

Author of The Change returns with a book about a small town in Georgia and a book banning that changes everyone for the better. 

First in a series about a young woman who returns to her small town only to discover there's more afoot than she ever expected. Witchy good fun!

As you can see, I've got an ambitious reading list for the next month or so. I've already started quite a few of these books, and hope to have a few reviews up soon. It's definitely going to be a summer full of fascinating reads--and this is only May. More to come in June and July! 

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

April Read: How to Solve Your Own Murder by Kristen Perrin


I've heard buzz around this mystery and I didn't want to wait for a copy, so I bought my own. Sounds strange, but sometimes a good murder mystery is a good palate cleanser in your monthly reading. 

The premise of this mystery is a bit unusual: Frances Adams believes she will be murdered. It all stems from an encounter with a fortune teller when she was sixteen, way back in 1966. For the rest of her life, she's been unshakeable in her belief that one day she will be murdered. So she spends the rest of her long life trying to figure out just who is going to do the deed. 

Annie Adams is her great-niece, and she's been summoned to Frances' English country estate to meet with Frances and learn about her inheritance. Annie has never met Frances, so she's curious and cautious, since she's heard the stories of a quirky and unusual Aunt. 

Annie arrives, and the first time she sees Frances, she's dead on the floor, with bloody hands and scattered flowers all around. It appears to be a natural death, until Annie discovered sharp little blades inserted in the thorns of the roses--the cause of the bloody hands. Hmmm...sounds like Frances' belief in her own murder has come to pass. 

Here's the kicker: Frances has made her will so that Annie and a select few have a week to solve her murder. Whomever solves the murder inherits her entire estate, and it's a big chunk of real estate and money. If they don't solve it, the estate is sold to a developer and the money is given to charities. 

Frances has left behind all sorts of diaries, diagrams, and potential clues as to who may have murdered her and why. It all ties back to 1966 and the friendship between Frances, Rose, and Emily; three young friends who grow up together but experience some radical changes which lead up to Emily's unsolved disappearance. Are the two incidents tied together, all these years apart?

I enjoyed this murder mystery very much. Loved the setting--a beautiful English country estate; Annie is clever and determined to sift through the clues and find the culprit. Yes, she wants the inheritance, but mostly because she wants to keep her mother's home in London, which is part of the estate. But who does she trust in the village of Castle Knoll? The detective? Rose, Frances' friend who is now an elderly owner of a local hotel? The Vicar, who dated Frances as a teenager? Or Saxon, who has everything to lose? It's an interesting mix of characters, each with motivation. 

The past and the present definitely mesh together in this mystery. There are a few surprises, but nothing head scratching. It's not a hard mystery to solve, but you don't mind at all because it's just an enjoyable read and a fun ride. 

Rating: 4/6 for a truly English murder mystery, with a gorgeous setting, plenty of suspects, and a bit of help from the murder victim herself. Family secrets, friendships that span decades, and all sorts of revelations come to light in this mystery. 

Available in hardcover, ebook, and audio. 

Monday, April 15, 2024

April Read: Funny Story by Emily Henry


Emily Henry returns this month with her latest sure-to-be-a-massive-hit novel, Funny Story. It clocks in at 384 pages, so be prepared to put some time into this one!

I have a love/hate relationship with EH's novels. Out of the four I've read, I've only really, really liked one, and that was Book Lovers. It charmed me and I not only liked the characters, but the whole dang book. Funny Story comes in second as my next most likable EH novel. 

The premise is pretty interesting: Daphne's fiancĂ©, weeks before their wedding, leaves her for his childhood best friend, Petra. Devastated, with nowhere to go in the small Michigan lakeside town she's moved to for her marriage, she ends up moving into Petra's old apartment--the one she shared with her boyfriend, Miles. He's also reeling from the breakup of his relationship with Petra, and loves to play sad love songs 24/7. Two broken-hearted people living together, trying to cope with the betrayal of their ex-relationships. At first, they avoid each other as much as possible. But as the weeks go by, they both start to become friendly, and wounds begin to heal. 

Daphne is an introverted children's librarian, and Miles works at a winery. He's utterly charming in every way, and before she knows it, Daphne is feeling all the feels--especially when  they decide to pretend to be involved in order to attend Peter and Petra's upcoming wedding. It's the old "we'll show them we've moved on" move that backfires when Miles and Daphne begin a slow burn "oh crap I really like this person" with some sexual tension that gets pretty steamy. All the while Daphne is counting the days until she can fulfill her end of summer library readathon and leave Michigan for good. 

Of course, both have baggage that's more of the check-in kind than the carry-on kind, and that interferes in what should be a simple falling in love story. Add in new friendships, a visiting sister, and troubled childhoods, and what could have been a 300 page novel ends up much longer than I think it should be. I had to stop reading for a few days because I was getting annoyed at the slow pace. I guess I'm an impatient gal when it comes to love!

I enjoyed the setting and I'm convinced Michigan is a place I must visit. It was also refreshing to read a romance about two people who are just ordinary, everyday people with jobs that are fulfilling but aren't about climbing the corporate ladder or making the most money. If anything, it reminded me that romance lives even under the worst circumstances, and love wins out if you have the courage to step into it. 

So overall, I did enjoy the book, but felt it was too long. Daphne and Miles are likable characters and a good match that is definitely believable. Secondary characters and the charm of small town Michigan during the summer months round out what will certainly be a HUGE summer hit. 

This novel will be out in the US on April 23rd in hardcover, ebook, and audio. 

Thanks to Berkley and Penguin/Random House for an advanced copy to read and review! 

Rating: 4/6 for a summer romance long on build-up but with a charming setting and two likable people who fall in love when it's least expected. 

Sunday, March 31, 2024

March Read: What Have You Done? by Shari Lapena


I've read a few Shari Lapena novels and they always keep me dangling until the last few pages.   This novel, her latest (on sale July 30), kept me completely engaged and unable to put it down. 

The small town of Fairhill, Vermont is a place where you leave your house unlocked and there's never any crime. Until one early morning when a farmer, driving his tractor into one of his fields, discovers a horrible scene: a naked young woman-dead, lying in the field. 

That dead young woman is Diana Brewer, a senior at the local high school. Her single mother works the night shift as a nurse in the next town over, and Diana spends nights alone at their home. Word quickly spreads, and the first suspect is Diana's boyfriend, Cameron. What were they doing together the night before, and why does Cameron lie? Diana's best friends Riley and Evan are devastated Diana's dead--and murdered. The town quickly become filled with a whole lot of people who have secrets to keep; secrets which point at many of them as potential suspects. Will they lie to protect themselves, or fess up and help uncover Diana's killer?

Shari Lapena usually writes thrillers that involve couples, and this was a bit different from her usual in that it centers around a murdered high school student. As police investigate, there's plenty of people who have things to hide that may tie directly to Diana's death, or may have contributed to her murder. It was hard to tell who would be revealed, and the reveal at the end is a bit of a twist that you may or may not see coming. Another twist is that Diana's spirit is "hanging around", and she's confused as to what happened. She has big gaps in her memory, and is slowly understanding she's dead and that someone killed her. Her flashbacks also give a bit of a red herring aspect to the plot because what she remembers may not necessarily be accurate. Plus, she's dead! 

Definitely one theme in this thriller is the endless harassment and sexualization young girls have to endure, even in a small town. Being called a liar, or not being believed at all, are things Diana has to endure. People always going out of their way to protect themselves instead of standing up for truth. 

If you're a Shari Lapena fan, this won't disappoint. If you're new to her novels, and you like thrillers--Heather Gudenkauf fans I'm talking to you--grab this novel for you summer read when it arrives in stores and libraries July 30th. 

A HUGE thank you to Pamela Dorman Books/Viking for a chance to read this thriller a few months before publication. 

Rating: 5/6 for a thriller that keeps you on your toes guessing who the guilty party is--and also, the effect of murder on a small town and how it completely changes the lives of those left behind. 

Available July 30th in the U.S. in hardcover, ebook, and audio.