The Cookbook Club

⭐⭐1/2

Beth Harbison

MUST LOVE BUTTER: The Cookbook Club is now open to members. Foodies come join us! No diets! No skipping dessert!

Margo Everson sees the call out for the cookbook club and knows she’s found her people. Recently dumped by her self-absorbed husband, who frankly isn’t much of a loss, she has little to show for her marriage but his ‘parting gift’—a dilapidated old farm house—and a collection of well-loved cookbooks

Aja Alexander just hopes her new-found friends won’t notice that that every time she looks at food, she gets queasy. It’s hard hiding a pregnancy, especially one she can’t bring herself to share with her wealthy boyfriend and his snooty mother. 

Trista Walker left the cutthroat world of the law behind and decided her fate was to open a restaurant…not the most secure choice ever. But there she could she indulge her passion for creating delectable meals and make money at the same time.

The women bond immediately, but it’s not all popovers with melted brie and blackberry jam.  Margo’s farm house is about to fall down around her ears; Trista’s restaurant needs a makeover and rat-removal fast; and as for Aja, just how long can you hide a baby bump anyway?

In this delightful novel, these women form bonds that go beyond a love grilled garlic and soy sauce shrimp. Because what is more important in life than friendship…and food?

My Thoughts:

I’ve made it a point to be 100% honest in my reviews. This was a good-ish book, but it could have been great, and that’s disappointing. I feel a little cheated. With 4 different characters’ perspectives (Margo, Max, Trista, Aja) you never get to fully “bond” with any of them. There were quite a few plot points that were never explained (so frustrating!!) and there was a whole lot of telling instead of showing. I wonder if it went through extensive re-editing. There were contradictions, like information about Margo’s husband’s job, and I’m wondering if story gaps were parts that needed to be re-written. The women formed a cookbook club but we only got to see them at the book club once or twice. With-in a few chapters, the club took a complete backseat to the story and we only got to see the notes about the food from each meeting. I expected the book (based on how the story was flowing) to be a lot longer so the epilogue took me by complete surprise. 

A big thank you to #BethHarbison, #NetGalley and #WilliamMorrow for providing a free Advance Reader Copy. This is my honest opinion.

Christmas at the Island Hotel

⭐⭐⭐

Jenny Colgan

On the tiny, beautiful, and remote island of Mure, halfway between Scotland and Norway, a new hotel opening is a big event. New mother Flora MacKenzie and her brother Fintan are working themselves half to death to get it ready in time for Christmas. 

The new hotel’s impressive kitchens throw together two unlikely new friends: Isla Gregor is the hardworking young girl who has been a waitress in the island’s cafe, dreaming of a bigger, better life now that she’s at a proper fancy hotel. Konstantin Pederson is working his way up in the hotel’s kitchens too…but he is also, secretly, the only son of the Duke of Utsire. Konstantin has been sent to learn what it is to work hard for a living, before receiving his inheritance. Although he’s initially resentful, the place grows on him; he has never met anyone quite like Isla and her fellow Murians before. 

As the island’s residents and special VIP guests gather for the hotel’s grand opening gala, Christmas is in the air. But so are more than a few small-town secrets.

My Thoughts:

The 4th book in Jenny Colgan’s Mure series is a fun read. Predictable, but fun. It was nice to revisit the island and all the characters you have gotten to know in the previous 3 books plus a few new ones.  This is not a stand alone book. Lots of characters, lots of backstory, so you will be lost if you haven’t read the first 3.

A big thank you to #JennyColgan, #NetGalley and #WilliamMorrow for providing a free Advance Reader Copy. This is my honest opinion.

Love Your Life

⭐⭐⭐

Sophie Kinsella

Call Ava romantic, but she thinks love should be found in the real world, not on apps that filter men by height, job, or astrological sign. She believes in feelings, not algorithms. So after a recent breakup and dating app debacle, she decides to put love on hold and escapes to a remote writers’ retreat in coastal Italy. She’s determined to finish writing the novel she’s been fantasizing about, even though it means leaving her close-knit group of friends and her precious dog, Harold, behind.

At the retreat, she’s not allowed to use her real name or reveal any personal information. When the neighboring martial arts retreat is canceled and a few of its attendees join their small writing community, Ava, now going by “Aria,” meets “Dutch,” a man who seems too good to be true. The two embark on a baggage-free, whirlwind love affair, cliff-jumping into gem-colored Mediterranean waters and exploring the splendor of the Italian coast. Things seem to be perfect for Aria and Dutch.

But then their real identities–Ava and Matt–must return to London. As their fantasy starts to fade, they discover just how different their personal worlds are. From food choices to annoying habits to sauna etiquette . . . are they compatible in anything? And then there’s the prickly situation with Matt’s ex-girlfriend, who isn’t too eager to let him go. As one mishap follows another, it seems while they love each other, they just can’t love each other’s lives. Can they reconcile their differences to find one life together?

My Thoughts:

I really liked it at first. I struggled through the middle and thought the end was good. Ava and Matt immediately connect and all is well until they go back to real life. Then the problems start.  Ava was optimistic and positive to a fault. I felt like it got bogged down in the middle because it was like listening to a teenager talk about the boy she just met, how they are in love, their going to get married. Obstacles? Bah! They don’t matter because they are in LUUUV. It might have been in the wrong mood when I was reading, but I thought it  was obnoxious, unrealistic and over the top. Any time the main characters group of friends voiced their objections to her  I was nodding right along with them. But, I’m glad I kept going. The characters grow up a little along the way and I ended up liking the choices Ava makes. The end was really sweet and really enjoyed her friends. 

A big thank you to #SophieKinsella, #NetGalley and #DialPress for providing a free Advance Reader Copy. This is my honest opinion.

The Lost Love Song

⭐⭐⭐

Minnie Darke

Concert pianist Diana is finally ready to marry her longtime fiance, Arie; she’s even composing a beautiful love song for him, and finishes it while on tour. Before she can play it for him, though, tragedy strikes–and Diana is lost to Arie forever.

But her song might not be.

In Australia, the world has gone quiet for Arie and he lives his life accordingly, struggling to cope with his loss. In Scotland, a woman named Evie is taking stock of her life after the end of another lackluster almost-relationship. Years of wandering the globe and failing to publish her poetry have taken their toll, and she might finally be ready to find what her travels have never been able to give her: a real home. And through a quirk of fate or circumstance, Diana’s song is passed from musician to musician. By winding its way around the world, it just might bring these two lost souls together.

With heart-wrenching emotion, The Last Love Song explores what it means to be lost, what it means to be found, and the power of music to bring people together.

My Thoughts:

This book is very character driven and holy moly there are a lot of characters to keep track of. For the length of this book I felt the main characters’ backgrounds should have been developed a bit more so I really knew who they were, but not knowing the backgrounds better didn’t stop my heart from breaking a bit when tragedy strikes. That said, it was an enjoyable read and had a sweet ending.

A big thank you to #MinnieDarke, #NetGalley and #BallantineBooks for providing a free Advance Reader Copy. This is my honest opinion.

In a Holidaze

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Christina Lauren

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…but not for Maelyn Jones. She’s living with her parents, hates her going-nowhere job, and has just made a romantic error of epic proportions.

But perhaps worst of all, this is the last Christmas Mae will be at her favorite place in the world—the snowy Utah cabin where she and her family have spent every holiday since she was born, along with two other beloved families. Mentally melting down as she drives away from the cabin for the final time, Mae throws out what she thinks is a simple plea to the universe: Please. Show me what will make me happy.

The next thing she knows, tires screech and metal collides, everything goes black. But when Mae gasps awake…she’s on an airplane bound for Utah, where she begins the same holiday all over again. With one hilarious disaster after another sending her back to the plane, Mae must figure out how to break free of the strange time loop—and finally get her true love under the mistletoe.

My Thoughts:

A fun start to the 2020 Holiday season. Going home after a disastrous Christmas break Maelyn wishes she could know what would make her happy. That was the beginning of a groundhog-esque Christmas adventure. Reading about Maelyn’s repeated attempts to “get it right” was fun and there were some laugh out loud moments. The romance was pretty rushed and while I realize there were some time constraints (the book takes place during the week of Christmas) it felt too abrupt and out of the blue. But I am a sucker for a happy ending. I love it when my books end with everything wrapped in a tidy bow, so the ending made me happy and I was willing to let some things slide. 

A big thank you to #ChristinaLauren, #NetGalley and #GalleryBooks for providing a free Advance Reader Copy. This is my honest opinion.

Amish Christmas Twins

⭐⭐⭐⭐
Shelly Shepard GrayRachel J. Good,  Loree Lough

THE CHRISTMAS NOT-WISH

Shelley Shepard Gray

When the foster parents they’ve cautiously grown to love discover they’re expecting, orphaned Roy and Jemima Fisher, ages six and seven, are secretly devastated by the certainty they’ll be given up. With Christmas around the corner, their only wish is for new foster parents as nice as Mr. and Mrs. Kurtz. Meanwhile, the Kurtzes have wishes of their own–and with faith, they all may be gifted with twice the blessings.

NEW BEGINNINGS 

Rachel J. Good

Still grieving the loss of her husband and unborn baby in an accident several months ago, Elizabeth Yoder is oblivious to her neighbor Luke Bontrager’s deepening affection for her. But while she bleakly faces Christmas alone, it’s Luke who reminds her it’s the season for giving. And when Elizabeth donates her handmade baby clothes to New Beginnings, a home for teen moms, she soon finds her gifts repaid beyond measure, with Luke’s love–and new beginnings of their own.

TWINS TIMES TWO 

Loree Lough

What happens when two secretive, stubborn people find themselves thrown together to help four rascally youngsters–twins times two!–create a Christmas surprise for their parents? Mischief and mayhem, and just maybe . . . love!

My Thoughts:

I really enjoyed these novellas. I was looking for something uplifting, where I wouldn’t have to wince at the language or skip over the sex scenes. This book fit those requirements. I can probably count on one hand how many books I’ve read that fall under the Amish category, but I am going to seek out more books by these authors. It was a heartwarming and happy read. During the last two stories I was a little frustrated and thought “Just talk to each other already!” But what romance is complete without a little angst?

A big thank you to the authors, #NetGalley and #KensingtonPublishing for providing a free Advance Reader Copy. This is my honest opinion.

What started your journey?

When I was a teenager and my parents were “correcting” my behavior I was never grounded from friends or tv. I was always grounded from books. My parents had found what motivated me and not having access to books was painful.  
My journey started with Trixie Belden. It was the book/series that got me hooked on reading. Jim was one of my first crushes and who didn’t want to be brave and fearless like Trixie or have a group of friends like the Bobwhites of the Glen? I still re-read these books and have found some fan fiction on the web and read those. 
As time went on I found that my favorite books were ones that had mystery and suspense with romance, maybe a ghost or some time travel, and a happily ever after ending. I visited far off places with Madeline Brent and Victoria Holt, the Civil War and Revolutionary War with Ann Rinaldi, pivotal times in US History with the girls of Sunfire Romance and experienced first love with Beverly Cleary.  I loved the Sunfire romance books so much I named my youngest daughter after one of them. And Wait Until Helen Comes? It was deliciously spooky to a 5th grade me. That book is still one of our more popular checkouts at my library. 
All the books above were favorites and have been well loved with the exception of one. I replaced Time Enough for Drums this year after loaning my original copy out and then forgetting who borrowed it. 
I’ve tried to share my love of reading with my kids and have succeeded with 1 out of 3. But I’ll never give up on the other 2! 
What were your favorite books growing up? What was the book that started the journey for you? Comment below, I’d love to know!!
#SunfireRomance #CandiceFRansom #Scholastic #AnnRinaldi #DelLaurelLeaf #RandomHouseChildrensBooks #MaryDowningHahn #AvonBooks #BeverlyCleary #AvonCamelot #TrixieBelden #WesternPublishingCompany #VictoriaHolt #DoubleDay #MadelineBrent #SouvenirPress

Countdown

⭐⭐⭐ 1/2 

Deborah Wiles

Franny Chapman just wants some peace. But that’s hard to get when her best friend is feuding with her, her sister has disappeared, and her uncle is fighting an old war in his head. Her saintly younger brother is no help, and the cute boy across the street only complicates things. Worst of all, everyone is walking around just waiting for a bomb to fall.

It’s 1962, and it seems that the whole country is living in fear. When President Kennedy goes on television to say that Russia is sending nuclear missiles to Cuba, it only gets worse. Franny doesn’t know how to deal with what’s going on in the world — no more than she knows how to deal with what’s going on with her family and friends. But somehow she’s got to make it through.

Featuring a captivating story interspersed with footage from 1962, award-winning author Deborah Wiles has created a documentary novel that will put you right alongside Franny as she navigates a dangerous time in both her history and our history. 

My Thoughts:

This was another book that caught my eye as I was shelving books in my library. Countdown is set in 1962 and it was like entering another world for me. I wasn’t born until the late 1970’s and was 11 (same age as the main character) when the Berlin Wall came down so I don’t remember Russia (then the USSR) being an overwhelmingly looming threat. Wiles does a great job creating Franny’s world and the pages of propaganda and ads from that time period is a wonderful addition. It really cements the feel and climate of the 1960’s in the reader’s mind. Smoking, bomb shelters, duck and cover drills, race issues, women’s issues, etc were a daily part of the 1960’s.  While Franny and her family are worrying about Russia, Cuba, you also see that life goes on. Friend drama, family issues, etc. You see Franny grow up a bit through the book.  The only drawback to the book is you never find out what Jo Ellen’s secret is. It’s alluded to, and adults reading will have a pretty good idea, but I’m not sure the target audience of the book will figure it out and they will be left hanging. This is the first book of The Sixties Trilogy and I’m looking forward to reading the other two. 

See Her Die

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Melinda Leigh

New sheriff Bree Taggert is called to a shooting in a campground shuttered for the winter. But she arrives to find a perplexing crime. There is no shooter, no victim, and no blood. No one but Bree believes the sole witness, Alyssa, a homeless teenager who insists she saw her friend shot.

Bree calls in former deputy Matt Flynn and his K-9 to track the killer and search for Alyssa’s friend. They discover the battered corpse of a missing university student under the ice in Grey Lake—but it’s not the victim they were looking for.

When two more students go missing and additional bodies turn up, Bree must find the link between the victims. She knows only one thing for certain: the murders are fueled by rage. When Alyssa disappears, Bree must race against time to find her before her witness becomes another victim.

My Thoughts:

Another great book from an author who is becoming a favorite of mine. The second book in the Bree Taggert series kept me guessing to the very end. I was having an anxiety filled day and who would have guessed a murder mystery would put the smile back on my face.  I love the characters of Bree and Matt. They are honest with themselves, each other and the story picks up shortly after the first one left off. I like how the conflict between Matt and Jim was resolved as well. This could be read as a stand alone, but I wouldn’t recommend it. You would miss too much of the backstory of just about everyone. I can’t wait for the next one. 

The Geography of Lost Things

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Jessica Brody

After Ali’s father passes away, he leaves his one and only prized possession—a 1968 Firebird convertible—to his daughter. But Ali doesn’t plan on keeping it. Not when it reminds her too much of all her father’s unfulfilled promises. So when she finds a buyer three hundred miles up the Pacific coast willing to pay enough money for the car to save her childhood home, Ali can’t wait to get going. Except Ali has no idea how to drive a stick shift. But guess who does?

Ali’s ex-boyfriend, Nico. And Nico has other plans.

He persuades Ali that instead of selling the car, they should “trade up” the items they collect on their trip to eventually reach the monetary amount Ali needs. Agreeing with Nico’s crazy plan, Ali sets off on a unique adventure that is unlike anything she ever could have expected.

And it’s through Ali’s travels, through the strangers she meets and the things that they value—and why they value them—that Ali eventually comes to understand her father and how his life may not have been as easy and carefree as she previously thought. Because just like the seemingly insignificant objects Ali collects, not everything is exactly as it appears.

My Thoughts:

Oh this was a good one!! It’s not newly published, but it was new to our middle school library. The cover is beautiful, caught my eye and made me want to pick it up. Don’t be scared off by the page count. I read this in hardcover and the font size was pretty big. 

I started it while eating breakfast and stayed up late the same day to finish it. When I first started to read I had my doubts. Sometimes I can’t get the adult (and mom) in me to be quiet and when Ali talks about her scholarship I had one of those moments. I wasn’t sure if my inner teenager would be able to surface and connect with her and her story. But I kept going and I was so glad I did. I got lost in her story, her relationship with Nico, her father, and the journey they go on. 

This is age appropriate and I will be recommending it to others. In fact, I’ve already recommended it to 2 students. 

We have 7 other books written by Jessica Brody in our collection and I definitely am interested in reading more from her.