Sunday, November 28, 2021

Tree is Up, Holiday Tunes on the Radio; Christmas Novel Reading has Begun: The Santa Suit by Mary Kay Andrews

 I waited as long as I could, which was Wednesday night. Snuggled into bed with a Christmas book and was pretty darn happy. 

Of course, I started that novel, and had another non-holiday novel with me and I started that one, too. And then, of course, I started a third novel. This one I finished quickly. 

Thanksgiving was a chance for myself and my partner to hunker down and spend some quality time together. We made a feast for Thanksgiving and spent a few days just relaxing (as much as he can relax--he's always working on something!). We actually watched movies, although we had to start a few over because neither of us can stay awake past 9 PM anymore. Having a few cocktails may have sped that sleepy process along...

Anyway. I grew up in a big family, and my parents always had everyone to their house for Thanksgiving. It was always a lot of fun, with a lot of people. Now it's just Lee and I, and while I do miss those get togethers, I really enjoy it just being the two of us. Aside from a run to get the newspaper, we happily stayed home and puttered around the house. Friday I set up our tree and decorated his house, and now on Sunday I've finished putting out a few things at my house. Christmas has arrived. Tomorrow night we are going to a holiday concert (which we have to keep reminding ourselves is tomorrow night). Some baking in the next few weeks, some shopping, and I'm ready for December 25th. 

So, the first holiday book I read: The Santa Suit by Mary Kay Andrews. It's a really fast read and only a few hundred pages. Perfect to ease into holiday reading. It was released in September, and I grabbed a copy from my library last week. 

Ivy Perkins is newly divorced and making a big fresh start by leaving Atlanta and moving to the small town of Tarburton, North Carolina. She's purchased a farmhouse known as The Four Roses. Only thing, is Ivy purchased it based on photos she saw on the internet, so when she arrives with her dog Punkin, it's a bit more dilapidated than she expects. It's also full of the previous owner's furniture and possessions. Great. 

Ivy has a lot more work ahead of her to make the farmhouse a home. As she's cleaning out a closet, she finds a santa suit obviously made with a lot of care and love. Inside a pocket, she finds a letter from a little girl asking Santa to bring her father home from the war. Ivy is immediately touched and intrigued. Who is Carlette, the little girl who wrote the letter? Did her father ever come home from the war? Ivy decides to try and track down Carlette and solve the mystery. 

As Ivy settles into her home, her realtor Ezra sparks some interest in her wounded heart. He's awful cute, and so darn helpful. Will Ivy be able to find love again? And will she find Carlette? 

I gobbled this story right up. I was mad at myself Saturday night because I couldn't stay awake to keep reading it. Delightful characters; Punkin is a lovable mutt, and the townspeople of Tarburton are all sweet and welcoming. Ivy found herself a safe place to land after her divorce, and the perfect place to reset and begin a new life. 

Mary Kay Andrews is one of my favorite authors, and I've enjoyed all three of her holiday titles: Blue Christmas, Christmas Bliss, and now The Santa Suit. All are available in a variety of reading formats. 

Rating: 4/6 for a short and sweet novel about starting over and finding your place in the most magical time of the year. 

Available in hardcover, audio, and e-book. 

**“As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases made through links on this site.**

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Sophie Valroux's Paris Stars by Samantha Verant


To purchase from Amazon click here
Ooh, I couldn't wait to dive into the sequel to The Secret French Recipes of Sophie Valroux (click on the title to see my review from 2020). 

I would definitely recommend reading the first novel before grabbing this in order to just dive right into the world of Sophie and the magical Chateau de Champvert. 

Sophie has inherited the chateau from her grandmother, a celebrated chef who turned the chateau into a renowned place to stay and dine. Now Sophie is the Grand Chef and life looks to be pretty wonderful for her: she's rich, talented, beautiful, and happily engaged to her childhood sweetheart Remi. 

Sophie is unsettled, though. Having all of this handed to her has left her feeling overwhelmed and not worthy. She's also still determined to get her Michelin star. After all, she was blamed for her previous restaurant's loss of a Michelin star. That blame was misplaced, but it still cost her her reputation and career in New York City, causing her to flee to France. 

Remi is ready to get married, but Sophie is hesitant. Is the Chateau what she wants, or will it drag her down? Is her future in Paris? 

An accident causes Sophie to suffer from a bizarre injury that she has to keep quiet--it could cost the Chateau its reputation, and Sophie her career. Will she recover? How long can she keep it secret?

This novel is full of the wonderful characters introduced in the first novel. Relationships continue to evolve, amazing, mouth-watering foods are prepared, and the Chateau is an unforgettable place to spend time away. I love the support Sophie has at the Chateau, and how everyone becomes family, helping each other through tough times and celebrating the good times. 

The food--oh lord, the food. You have to read the book to appreciate the food. There are book club discussion questions in the back of the book, as well as recipes for a full French five course meal. It would be great fun to recreate these recipes for a book club!

Rating: 5/6 for a satisfying sequel to Sophie's original story. I hope there is more to Sophie and Remi's story, because two novels just aren't enough for me. If you want to get away, dream of delicious food, and just enjoy a good story, add this to your list. 

Available in paperback, audio, and ebook. 

**“As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases made through links on this site.**

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Plenty: A Memoir of Food and Family by Hannah Howard

*Warning: this memoir discusses anorexia, bulimia and a miscarriage
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It's only fitting I read a food memoir in the month of Thanksgiving, which is all about the food. I want to have a special appetizer on Thanksgiving and I haven't figured out just what it will be. I will say, however, this memoir gave me some inspiration, and my appetizer will definitely have a cheese component to it! 

Hannah Howard is a food writer and has a varied background in all things food: waitressing, working at a cheese shop, traveling and writing about food, and supporting local restaurants in New York City. 

Hannah has also suffered from anorexia and bulimia and her relationship with food is definitely unusual. How do you pick food as a career when it is the one thing that drives you to constantly count calories, skip meals, and gorge yourself?

The restaurant & food industry is male dominated, and Hannah decided it was time to start seeking out those women who are making a difference in a variety of ways: from opening their own restaurants, to creating getaways for foodies, to being responsible for the introduction of goat cheese to an American audience. 

As Hannah travels and makes connections, she gets married and decides to try for a baby. It's a struggle for her to make peace with her body, but as she meets and befriends women in the food community, she begins to appreciate and come to terms with her relationship to food. She has some pretty big highs and lows in her journey to motherhood. 

I haven't met a cheese I haven't liked, so all of Hannah's descriptions of various cheeses kept me salivating! Her obvious love and appreciation for food and the people who create masterpieces from simple ingredients again reminded me to stop, savor, and take time to enjoy food. It's easy in a busy world to just eat whatever is easiest and not even taste it. It also made me a bit brave--I am always hesitant to try cooking something complicated. This was a good wake up call to step out of my comfort zone and explore and enjoy the process (and the results, if I don't muck them up!). 

I enjoyed this memoir and Hannah's journey to motherhood. It was exciting to read about so many women who are making waves in the food world. Hannah's struggle with anorexia and bulimia also helped me understand the mental pain women go through trying to uphold extreme society standards and expectations. 

Rating: 4/6 for a thoughtful memoir about food, motherhood, and mental illness. Hannah's writing is engaging, thoughtful, and from the heart. 

Available in hardcover, paperback, audio, and ebook. 

**“As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases made through links on this site.**

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

The PIlot's Daughter by Meredith Jaeger


This book came out of nowhere thanks to an invite to read and review it (thank you Dutton/Penguin/Random House).  I just got back from vacation and found it in a pile of books while I was unpacking and immediately started reading it. I'm not exaggerating when I say I couldn't put it down. I spent quite a bit of Sunday on the couch reading this historical novel that bounced between 1920's New York ad 1945 San Francisco. 

Ellie Morgan is a secretary at the San Francisco Chronicle and has recently become engaged to a handsome officer stationed in San Francisco as World War 2 rages on. She chafes against societal rules that keep her career limited to housewife or secretary--when all she wants to do is write for the newspaper and wear trousers like Katherine Hepburn. 

However this all falls to the wayside with a telegram stating that her father, a pilot, is missing and presumed dead over the Adriatic Sea near Italy in December, 1944. Devastated, she refuses to believe he's dead--after all, her father was a resourceful man, and surely he survived. The arrival of her father's personal effects is a blow, and comes with an unwelcome surprise: a package of letters from a woman named Lillian in New York, which clearly illustrate a decades long love affair. What??!!

This sends Ellie on a trip to New York City with her Aunt Iris, determined to find Lillian and see if she has any information on her father. What Ellie finds out from her Aunt Iris, as well as the discoveries she makes in New York City change her life forever. 

This did remind me of Fiona Davis novels, in that it took place in NYC and set in the early to mid-20th century. The 1920's portion of the novel involves the Zigfeld Follies, rich men, and an unsolved murder. Yes, it ties into Ellie's quest in 1944 very neatly-you'll see as you read. I just found it fascinating. 

Many parts were predictable, but that didn't lessen my enjoyment at all. I blazed through this story and am eager to read more of Meredith Jaeger's novels. 

Definitely fans of World War 2, early-mid 20th century history, Broadway history, San Francisco, journalism-you name it, this has a little bit of everything in it. It's also about societal and familial expectations, and how going against them can ruin a woman, or set her free. 

A big thanks to Dutton (part of Penguin/Random House) for the chance to read and review this novel. I found an author I enjoy, and that's always a gift. 

This novel is available in trade paperback, ebook, and audio.

Rating: 5/6 for a fast paced historical novel that didn't disappoint-it definitely transported me to the glam of 1920's NYC, and the foggy streets of San Francisco. Likeable characters and definitely a few bad apples, too. 

Saturday, November 13, 2021

The Attic on Queen Street by Karen White


There aren't many series that I start and read all the way through to the last book. However, The Tradd Street Series by Karen White is one that I have loved from the first novel published in 2008: The House on Tradd Street. 

I was so excited to read this novel I purposely bought a backpack purse large enough to fit a hardcover and took it on the plane with me when I went on vacation last week. I promptly buckled myself into my seat, opened my book, and read for the next three hours of my flight. 

So, no, do not start with this book if you've never read the series. This really is a series that needs to be read in order so you aren't confused because BIG things happen over the course of the series. So, for a quick recap: Melanie is a realtor selling historical homes in her hometown of Charleston. She's called to a home on Tradd Street to talk to the owner about listing it. However, the owner has something else in mind, and dies, leaving the home to Melanie. 

A gorgeous, stately home, it needs a heck of a lot of work--and as an extra bonus, comes with a few mysteries and ghosts. Melanie has psychic gifts (which she tries to ignore) and gets sucked into not only falling in love with the house, but begins to dive into the history of the house and the previous owners. Along comes author Jack Trenholm, a hot looking man who is also interested in the mysteries attached to the home--and interested in Melanie, as well. 

I won't give anything away that will surprise anyone, but here at the end of the series, Jack and Melanie are married with twin toddlers and Jack's teenage daughter all living in the house on Tradd street. Relationships have formed, strengthened, and have had quite a few tough spots. Melanie is still coming to grips with her transition from an independent go-getter to a mother of three and a wife to a man who continues to challenge her every day. And the spirits that inhabit her home, as well as the others who inhabit homes around Charleston are still calling on Melanie to solve mysteries and murders of the past. Will she finally embrace her gifts and use them to solve one last legendary mystery at her home? 

I can't tell you how much I love this series. It has everything in it I adore in a good book: a bit of romance, paranormal mysteries, history, historical restoration, and evolving relationships. Humor, quirky characters, and realistic relationships keep this series from becoming stale. One day I will visit Charleston! 

Here is the series in order of publication:

The House on Tradd Street

The Girl on Legare Street

The Strangers on Montagu Street

Return to Tradd Street

The Guests on South Battery

The Christmas Spirits on Tradd Street

The Attic on Queen Street

Thank you, thank you Karen White for such a wonderful series. I looked forward to every new novel in this series, and am happy to report while Jack and Melanie's story has come to an end, a new series will begin in 2022 featuring Jack's daughter Nola in New Orleans. The title is The Shop on Royal Street. To say I'm giddy with excitement is an understatement. You can bet I'll be reading and reviewing it!

Rating: 5/6 for a satisfying conclusion to the Tradd Street Series. While I was sad to turn the last page, I did so with a big sigh of happiness-characters got their just rewards.

Available in hardcover, ebook, and audio. 

**“As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases made through links on this site.**