Thursday, September 30, 2021

October is Here! I Give Myself Permission to Read Spooky Books and Eat All Things Pumpkin

 I set a pretty ambitious goal for reading in September and while I made a serious dent, I didn't quite get everything read. I just started one book and am about 3/4 way through another from my September list. I'll roll them over into October and review them this month. 

October is going to be a busy work month, and of course it's my month to get the yard ready for the approaching winter. My poor hosta plants are just done. Not having my big tree in the back yard to give them some protection, along with a very hot and dry summer, just burned them. Time to cut them back, along with the strange weeds that have appeared this year in my flower beds. Post-Derecho weirdness. I don't think I sat on my back deck more than a handful of times this summer. It was just too dang hot. So in many ways, it feels like a bit of a lost summer. Not much outside enjoyment and near constant a/c running all summer. It's even on today, the last day of September as we get another blast of heat. Hopefully it will cool down soon, in time to enjoy the changing season. 

I do so love to read witchy and ghosty novels. I'm not a huge fan of horror, but I do tend to read more of it this time of year. So many new books out, it's hard to pick what to read this month since I want to read them all. I've tried to narrow down my list to this group:

👻💀 A ghost preys on child killers. Not my usual pick for a read, but the cover got me! 

💀💀👮A bookshop, a murder, and all the elements of a delightful cozy mystery. 

👀👻 This cover creeps me out every time I look at it! 1890's Chicago World Fair, a missing sister, a horrific serial killer, and a monster in human form. 


Non-fiction stories about the people who live in Natchez, MS. 

Highly anticipated! 

Historical novel about the woman who was the first to see King Tut's tomb. Did the curse wait fifty years to threaten her life?

A woman discovers an island where her powers aren't unusual, and she may finally find a home.

A second chance at love! 

Love Ruth Hogan! A magical world of 1970's seaside life, complete with tarot readers, magicians, and fortune-telling. 

Yes, most of them are of a supernatural slant, but I've sprinkled in a few historical novels and one non-fiction book that I picked up at B&N and thought looked really interesting. And I've got a stack of cozy mysteries, so I added one of those, too. 

I've also got a few review requests in October, too. I am a busy woman this month in my reading life. I wouldn't have it any other way. 💓💀👻💀💀💀

Happy October friends, and Happy Halloween! 

                Click here to find this gif! 

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Three Words for Goodbye by Hazel Gaynor & Heather Webb


I picked this up at B&N on a whim and added it to my TBR stack and forgot about it (as I usually do!) until I was compiling my list for September reads and decided to add it in as a switch from my   otherwise heavy on the magic and literary theme choices. I'm glad I did, because this was perfectly enjoyable. Yes, it's on the eve of World War 2 (1937); the Nazis are rising and unease is building, but I don't think I've ever read a novel that includes the Hindenburg in it! 

This is a novel about two sisters: Clara and Madeleine Sommers. They are from a wealthy East Coast family. Their grandmother, Violet, has terminal cancer and has requested the two women travel to Europe to deliver letters to three people that meant something to Violet. All expenses paid, and they get to travel on the Queen Mary, the Orient Express, and return home on the Hindenburg-the latest in fast, luxurious travel between Europe and the U.S. 

The sisters don't get along--Clara is engaged to a wealthy businessman who treats her like a possession, and Madeleine is a journalist searching for her big break. Nellie Bly was a good friend of Violet, and her spirit is infused in this novel. Both ladies called her Auntie Nellie and remember her fondly. In fact Madeleine was inspired to become a journalist because of her. Clara loves art and is quite talented, but has had to set her talents aside as she prepares to marry Charles. She's not in love, but knows the marriage is what's expected of her. 

The two sisters set off on the Queen Mary--and yes, one is messy and wears trousers; the other is neat as a pin and dresses to the nines. One plays by society's rules, and the other drinks whiskey and gambles with men. They rub each other the wrong way and have many clashes. I was actually beginning to think they would never resolve their differences! 

However, as the sisters arrive in Paris to deliver the first letter, family history starts to pull them together. Madeleine feels the sense of unease that has settled over Europe and is eager to write about it. Clara is worried they are in the wrong place at the wrong time. But they promised Violet they would deliver the letters, and so after Paris, they travel to Venice, and then onto Austria. Along the way they discover more family secrets, find moments of sisterhood (followed by arguments, of course!), and start to realize the trip is also about discovering themselves and what they want out of life. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. I thought it was well written; the sisters were enough alike and enough different to make their relationship interesting and believable. Their love interests were there to provide some relief from what otherwise would have been too much sister time. The travel sounded marvelous--the clothes and food, divine. 

This kind of novel always reminds me of people digging around their family trees and discovering their ancestors were not perfect, play by the rules people. Clara and Madeleine certainly discover things about their family that would have stayed secret if not for this trip. Discovering those secrets helped them be brave and reach for the lives they truly wanted. 

Fans of World War 2 fiction, or fiction set in the late 1930's are sure to enjoy this novel. Relationships are a central theme, as well as forgiveness and living a life of happiness--even if it means a bit of scandal comes your way. Anyone who likes to read about women traveling and especially Nellie Bly would also enjoy this novel. 

Rating: 4/6 for an entertaining novel about sisters, the golden age of travel, relationships, love, and last wishes. An elegant read. 

Available in hardcover, paperback, audio, and ebook. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Two Reviews in One: Aria's Traveling Book Shop by Rebecca Raisin and The Lights of Sugarberry Cove by Heather Webber

I decided to review two books in one post this week. I was cruising along, reading at a good clip and somehow over the weekend hit a snag. However, some time at home (and I'll confess, a few late nights) had me finishing two books on my September list. 

First is Aria's Traveling Book Shop by Rebecca Raisin. This is a sequel to Rosie's Traveling Tea Shop (read my review here), but definitely isn't really necessary to read it before this one. 

We find Aria and Rosie getting ready to take their campers to France so travel the fete and festival circuit. Aria's camper is chock full of books to sell, while Rosie (a former chef), creates delicious British treats to sell, along with specialty teas that often compliment Aria's books. 

Aria is a young widower, and has firmly shut her heart to any possibility of ever falling in love again. She had her true love, and no one can match it. However, there is Jonathan; a quiet, handsome, and bookish man Aria has one magical encounter with at a music festival. Now it's months later, and Aria runs into Jonathan again, just as she's about to leave for France. Can she open her heart to let Jonathan in, or will she lose him to someone else? 

This novel is all about grief, putting closure on painful memories, and opening up your heart to live and love again. It's also fun to see Rosie and Max and what's in store for them. I hope there is at least one more in this series so I can see where Aria and Jonathan are in the near future. Entertaining, clean (no sex scenes), likable characters. An uplifting novel about the best of friends and, of course, adventure. 

This novel was on my highly-anticipated list! 

And, as per usual, once I got it, I dithered about reading it. It's not a long book, but it took me a few weeks to finish it. I kept finding myself waiting for the big grab, and it just wasn't happening, which annoyed me to no end. However, the big grab did happen at nearly the end of the novel--and that was a really big grab! I love Heather Webber, and while I enjoyed this novel, it wasn't my favorite of the three I've read. 

Sadie Way Scott has to return to her hometown of Sugarberry Cove, Alabama, after her mother has a cardiac incident. Sadie's sister Leala Claire lives in Sugarberry and decides to stay at the B&B their mother runs in order to keep it open and help out. Sadie and Leala haven't gotten along very well for the past eight years, after Sadie's near fatal dive into the magical lake just outside her mother's B&B. Sadie, under water for fifteen minutes, miraculously survives and comes out of the lake with silver, sparkling hair. 

It's not the only change to Sadie, however. She leaves Sugarberry Cove and begins a successful career as a digital storyteller. Now reluctantly, she's back at the one place she never wanted to return to. Family dynamics are really at play in this novel about two sisters, their mother, and the grief and tragedy that changed their lives. Mom Susannah is behind in her bills, and the B&B is looking shaggy. Sadie and Leala decide to help spruce it up in hopes of bringing back business. Will Susannah object? 

While Sadie and Leala are staying at the B&B, so many other players arrive: Teddy and her niece Bree, Uncle Camp, Iona (a potential subject for Sadie's storytelling series), Leala's husband Connor and son Tucker, and neighbor Buzzy. There's a lot of back story to go through with all of these characters, and that's part of the unfolding of the story. The Lady of the Lake saved Sadie that long ago night; will her magic save the family again as they navigate big changes? 

I'd love to stay at this B&B; it sounds heavenly. The myth of the Lady of the Lake is a big driver in this tale, and doesn't disappoint. I think I just got stuck a bit on the drama between the sisters and their mom. But the characters are all fully developed and charming, and misunderstandings are resolved once people are brave enough to speak up and make their wishes known. This novel is about family dynamics, not giving up on dreams, and of course, love. 

I enjoyed both novels and they hit the spot for my September comfort reads. Both novels are a 4/6 on my scale. 

Available in paperback and hardcover, audio and ebook. 

If you're looking for gentle reads, or comfort reads with likable characters, issues that are resolved in a believable way, and of course some beautiful scenery and delish food, either of these books would fit the bill. Love both of these authors. 

Saturday, September 11, 2021

The Last Chance Library by Freya Sampson


Followers of my blog should know by now I read pretty much any novels set in and around libraries and bookstores. Lucky for me there are plenty of them! 

The Last Chance Library is a charming novel about a small English town fighting to save their library from closure. June Jones is a library assistant at the same library her mother worked at for years, until her death eight years before. 

June loves working at the library, and does it all: reference, help at the computers, shelving, and recommends--even to crabby old Mrs. B, who says every book she reads "Is shit". Only problem is the library has been left to become rundown due to endless cuts in the budget. Now the city council is going to determine if they should shut the library down completely, and replace it with a bookmobile instead. 

June, along with her faithful library patrons, is horrified and determined to do whatever they can to keep the library open. June, however, has been warned her job is on the line if she is caught working with the protesters. So instead, she goes undercover. 

This is all a big change for June. She's a bit of a recluse-works, goes home, and reads every evening. Her life stopped when she lost her mother, and she's been unable to move forward. Will the possibility of the library closing push her to leave her comfort zone?

The characters in this novel are all charming folks. Stanley in particular--he's an older gentleman who is at the library every morning, without fail. He's full of regrets for choices he made earlier in life, and sees Chalcot's library crisis as something he can finally stand up for and work hard to stop. His relationship with June goes beyond librarian and patron--they are friends, even if neither realizes it.

I enjoyed this novel very much and was pleased to see June's metamorphosis from a person living in the shadows to someone stepping out and standing up for herself. This tale shows the importance of libraries in people's lives and how it makes a community. So many people, from all different walks of life step into the library and it makes a huge difference in their lives. For many, it is a life-changing place. 

Rating: 4/6 for a delightful read about the power of community and friendships,  the importance of libraries, and living life to the fullest. 

Available in hardcover, paperback, ebook, and audio. 

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

The Cafe Between Pumpkin and Pie by Marina Adair, Kate Angell, and Stacy Finz


I was talking to my cousin Kari on Saturday about books and she said she's been reading romances by the bucketload--a genre she usually doesn't read. I said I hear ya! Cozy mysteries and my beloved Katie Fforde are my comfort reads lately. Kari, I think you'll like this one--it's not a regency romance, but it's got all the feels and guaranteed happy endings!

I'll just state right here and now that I'd like to live in Moonbright, Maine. A small town where there's delicious comfort food on every corner, people stop everything to celebrate Halloween, and there's hot men everywhere.

This is the third anthology set in Moonbright, and I've read each and every one of them. You do not need to read the first and second books before dipping into this, the latest. Each has three short stories about the women of Moonbright finding their perfect match. All take place around Halloween, and a little bit of magic and tradition help push people together. 

The Corner Cafe is the setting for the first romance involving waitress Hannah and motorcycle dude Jake. With his leather jacket, dark hair, and aviator glasses, he's a hard one to resist--even if Hannah thinks her perfect match is a clean cut kind of guy. Will Jake convince her otherwise?

The second romance involves Sydney, an up and coming baker who comes back to Moonlight to settle her grandmother's estate and ready her Victorian home for sale. Sydney's got a well established bakery in San Francisco, a cookbook in the works, and no time for Nick, who is only following orders set by Sydney's grandmother to put a commercial kitchen into the carriage house on the property. It doesn't help Nick and Sydney have a past that stretches back to high school. How will these two manage to fall in love?

The third romance features Mia, who is determined to break a curse--one that began with a whiz bang of a kiss in a closet during a high school party seven years before. Since then, she's been unable to beat that darn kiss from Ford James. Now she's going to corner him, kiss him again, and break the curse so she can move to Los Angeles and start her set director career and move on from the past.

Only thing is....was it really Ford she kissed, or his twin Hudson? He of the smoldering good looks, muscular build, and one who does not tick off any of the boxes on her list for a perfect match?

I enjoyed all the romances, and of course the happy endings. I also enjoyed all of the food in these stories--sheesh! I want all the breakfasts, desserts, and meatloaf sandwiches featured in these stories. This short story collection definitely put me in the mood for September fall weather and seasonal reads. 

Here are the first two books in the Moonbright, Maine series (available online, check your library, or have your local bookstore get them for you!)

Rating: 4/6 for a delightful romance anthology centered around Halloween in small town Maine. Happy endings guaranteed under the harvest moon. 

Available in paperback and Kindle ebook. 

Friday, September 3, 2021

The Book of Magic by Alice Hoffman


Not going to lie. It hurt my heart a bit to finish this book. I, along with a whole lot of other readers, don't want to say goodbye to the Owens family. I was dragging my feet finishing this novel simply because I love this series so much. I guess you could call it a series, spread over 25 years. Alice Hoffman didn't expect to write more than the first novel, Practical Magic. That novel (I still have my original paperback) introduced me to Alice Hoffman and I've been a fan since. 

However, fans kept asking for more about the Owens family, so Alice wrote three more books. But now it's time to say goodbye. 

It took me a few chapters to remember the family tree, but heck my eyes were leaking not far into the story. Dang it! This novel centers around Fanny and Jet, and nieces Sally and Gillian. It also brings back brother Vincent, and two more Owens women, Kylie and Antonia, the two daughters of Sally. 

Reading Magic Lessons will set you up for this novel, in which the family curse plays a big role. In order to understand the Owens family today, it's important to understand where they came from, and the where and why of the family curse. What's the curse? No one must fall in love with an Owens. There is no happy ending; usually resulting in the early death of whomever loves an Owens. For generations the women (and men) of the Owens family have suffered under this curse, and now it is time to break the curse once and for all. Who breaks the curse, and how, are what keeps the plot moving forward. 

I fell quickly into this story, and just thought it was wonderful and brought the past and the present together perfectly. It gave me a chance to mourn characters and cheer on characters that will keep living on in my imagination. It gave me hope that love wins in the end, and to stay courageous even in the darkest of situations. It also is a good reminder of the damage people can do to one another when the heart is involved. In the Owens family, that damage didn't end with one generation, but kept on traveling down through each generation, creating more hurt and sorrow. 

I still want to try tipsy cake. I want a garden full of herbs with the potential to heal. Heck, I'd take floating on water any day. Anyone who has spent time with the Owens family through the years will find this a satisfying, albeit sad, ending to a wonderful story of magic, family, love, and devotion. 

This novel will be available October 5th in the U.S. in hardcover, ebook, and audio. 

I would definitely read all of the books in the Practical Magic series before you read this one; otherwise you will be a bit confused. They are: Practical Magic, The Rules of Magic, and Magic Lessons. 

Thank you Alice for the gift of your novels! 

A HUGE Thanks to Simon & Schuster for sending me a copy of the novel. That seriously made my year !

Rating: 6/6 for a heartfelt conclusion to the Owens family story. Loved all of it and reluctantly finished--I just didn't want to say goodbye. 

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

September and All The Books!

 I'm all ready for early nights and reading as summer finally loses its grip on us and I can finally shut off my A/C. I can already tell fall is approaching because I'm sleeping hard in the morning and it's making it difficult to get up and hit my workout goals each week. I'm not a fan of pumpkin spice, although a friend had a pumpkin spice cold brew the other night and it looked tempting...

I have soooo many books I want to read this month. That's not different from other months, but something about September and the combination of books I have on my TBR list make me want to drop all responsibilities and just read. 

Here's what I've got on tap this month:

Can you see all of the titles?! Three about books! Can't help myself. I'm finishing up Alice Hoffman's The Book of Magic and will have that review in a few days. It's another book that has me just wanting to sit and read. Also working on Atomic Habits.  Non-fiction always takes me longer, and this book has me adding notes in the book (which is something I usually never, ever do). 

I've got a batch of library books to try and tackle as well. A plethora of good reads, for sure. Welcome, September! 

Titles for September:

Witch Please by Ann Aguirre

Aria's Travelling Book Shop by Rebecca Raisin

The Last Chance Library by Freya Sampson

The Cafe Between Pumpkin and Pie by Marina Adair, Kate Angell, & Stacy Finz

The Lights of Sugarberry Cove by Heather Webber

Three Words for Goodbye by Hazel Gaynor & Heather Webb

The Reading List by Sara Nisha Adams

The Inheritance of Orquidea Divina by Zoraida Cordova