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Monthly Archives: March 2019

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I Owe You One–the power of guilt

I Owe You One

by Sophie Kinsella

I Owe You OneI have read and enjoyed a number of books by Sophie Kinsella who is perhaps most famous for her Shopaholic series. Then I read one that just didn’t have the same zing and humor, so I entered I Owe You One with some trepidation. I am pleased to report that Kinsella’s latest book lives up to her standards and my expectations. At first I was a little concerned there would be too much predictability. The main character’s name is Fixie, derived from her penchant for fixing things ranging from the placement of objects to personal relationships. OCD is definitely in play as she struggles not to rearrange things or declare her every thought. As Fixie’s high school heartthrob reenters her life, the reader is watching a foreseeable train wreck: “No, Fixie, don’t do it!”

The plot leaves the anticipated pathway soon after with lots of surprises in store. It does not focus solely on Fixie’s love life. Fixie also struggles with family relationships which are closely tied with the family business. You will like Fixie if for no other reason than she tries so hard in everything she does. She feels like a failure, is loaded with unwarranted guilt, and carries the torch for making everything turn out right and keeping everyone happy—a big burden for one person.

There are many other interesting major and minor characters you will meet, but not all of them are likable, of course. The setting is West London where the denizens range from scruffy to posh. The book flows nicely with lots of humor and is a fast and enjoyable read.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Dial Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Women’s Fiction

Publication:   February 19, 2019—Dial Press

Memorable Lines:

When I think how I believed his version of everything, how I rationalized everything he said and did, I feel warm with stupidity. But he was so convincing.

Ryan’s pathological, I’ve realized. He says anything to anyone to get out of whatever situation he’s in. Truth doesn’t count, integrity doesn’t count, love doesn’t even figure. Yelling at him would be like yelling at a rock. It’s never going to change.

I learned that failing doesn’t mean you are a failure; it just means you’re a human being.

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Criminally Cocoa–disappointing

Criminally Cocoa

by Amanda Flowers

Criminally CocoaI have read books in two different series by Amanda Flowers and generally find her plots intriguing, her characters interesting, and her writing style excellent. Criminally Cocoa, except for the kitschy title, was disappointing. Normally I like the rare cozy mystery that doesn’t revolve around a murder. No murder here, but no plot success either. Flowers and her characters kept strolling through the same territory with two themes (Amish girl in the big city and the success or failure of a new cooking show) over and over again. Fortunately this book is a novella. Otherwise, I would have broken my own rule for my book world and not finished the book. I did complete it, but only so I could write a proper review.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 2/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: Novella in the Amish Candy Shop Mystery Series

Recipe for Bailey’s Easy Easter Birds’ Nests included.

Publication:   February 26, 2019—Kensington Press

Restaurant Weeks are Murder–competition in the kitchen

Restaurant Weeks are Murder

by Libby Klein

Restaurant Weeks are MurderOnce again Libby Klein treats her readers to the adventures of Poppy McAllister, creator of wonderful, gluten free pastries and owner of a B&B, and her octogenarian Aunt Ginny, a spunky lady with an attitude. In Restaurant Weeks are Murder, Poppy competes on her ex-boyfriend’s team of three with other restaurant teams on a taped production of a competition. Chefs are provided baskets of mystery ingredients which must be incorporated into the culinary creations. What could go wrong? Plenty!

The characters in this series are always fun, and there are a variety of romantic attractions. Restaurant Week is a full seven days which makes the story perhaps a tad too long, but with different disasters occurring each day, and with complicated backgrounds and motives, attention stays high. A cozy mystery to pique your interest and appetite!

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #3 in the Poppy McAllister Murder Series, but works as a standalone.

Recipes are included.

Publication:  February 26, 2019—Kensington

Memorable Lines:

I plopped down on the floor in the sunroom and ran a brush through Figaro’s black smoke fur. He hummed like a Harley, his copper eyes slitty like two winter crescent moons reflecting on the Atlantic.

When I’m with Gia, I feel like my heart explodes, and my brain goes mush. But when I’m with Tim, I’m home again. He’s all I’ve ever wanted, and the years just melt away.

“Don’t be salty with me. I’ve seen you without makeup.”

I could tell Miss New Jersey was trying to wrap her brain around what Gigi was saying. The strain of it was making a wrinkle in her perfect forehead. I had to intervene before she passed out from the stress.

It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way: Finding Unexpected Strength When Disappointments Leave You Shattered

It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way: Finding Unexpected Strength When Disappointments Leave You Shattered

by Lysa Terkeurst

It's Not Supposed to be This WayWe all have had or will have painful, disconcerting times in our lives—times when we feel that life is not supposed to be the way it is. Lysa Terkeurst, in It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way, shares three major struggles she has been through over the course of a three year period. This book was written in the midst of these extremely hard times when the pain, both physical and emotional were still raw. She talks of her profound agony and grief in hopes that others will benefit from what she has learned and from having a friend walk alongside them through dark times. The despair we feel comes from disappointment which Lysa defines as the difference between our expectations of what life should be like and our reality.

Lisa had to face life-shattering, life-altering and potentially life-ending events with all of the usual questions. Why me? Why now? Regardless of the reader’s circumstances, they will be able to identify with the depth of Lysa’s pain even if the source is different.

This book is not a Hollywood style “tell all.” Lisa only shares enough of the details of her trials for the reader to understand that any one of these events could be more than a person could bear, and Lysa experiences three of them in a short timespan. She tells how she struggled against attacks from within and without and how leaning into God’s word and truth and love sustained her.

Lysa’s writing style is honest and accessible. She is a Bible teacher who has applied the truths of the Bible to her unique circumstances but is also able to show how they apply to anyone who feels that life is not supposed to be the way they are experiencing it. With chapter titles like “But How Do I Get Through the Next 86,400 Seconds,” you know that Lysa “gets it.” She understands just how making it through the tiny portions of one day can constitute a huge struggle.

Each chapter concludes with a “Going to the Well” section that summarizes the major points, provides related Scripture references, and offers questions to reflect on. She ends it with a heartfelt, from-the-soul prayer as she continues reaching out to and trusting in God, the source of her strength for the ache in her soul.

Rating:  5/5

Category: Christian, Nonfiction

Notes: Also available, a video teaching series for this book

Publication:   November 13, 2018—Thomas Nelson

Memorable Lines:

Humans are very attached to outcomes. We say we trust God but behind the scenes we work our fingers to the bone and our emotions into a tangled fray trying to control our outcomes.

No, I believe it took every bit of holy restraint within Him to not step in and remove my pain. He loved me too much to do the very thing I was begging Him to do. He knew things I didn’t know. He saw a bigger picture I couldn’t see. His mercy was too great. His love too deep.

The thrashing winds of the storm are gone, but the consequences make it impossible to return to something that feels normal. We make brief visits to normal, but there’s a lot of emotional debris to which we must tend. Little by little, we make progress in the two-steps-forward-one-step-back kind of way.

One Feta in the Grave–murder under the boardwalk

One Feta in the Grave

by Tina Kashian

One Feta in the GraveWelcome to the New Jersey seashore where Ocean Crest is having a beach festival. Lucy has returned to her hometown to take over the family’s Mediterranean restaurant. Her best friend, Katie, is in charge of judging the festival’s sand sculpture contest. That seems like an easy enough job until a contestant insists that one of the judges should be disqualified. Later Lucy finds one of the men involved in the argument dead under the boardwalk.

The subsequent cancellation of the festival could mean financial ruin for many in the town. Lucy steps up to try to solve the crime to help her town and to clear Katie from suspicion. Lucy may have taken on an overwhelming task as there are many suspects and leads to follow. As Lucy manages the restaurant and acts as an unauthorized private eye, she is also trying to balance relationships with two charming men.

I like the characters and enjoy watching their interactions. I think Lucy and Katie, who is a policeman’s wife, did step over a line as some of their investigative “techniques” were clearly illegal. Their actions put Katie’s husband, Bill, in an obvious conflict of interest when he learns what they have done. Lucy’s moral compass needs a little adjustment, but her heart is in the right place. She is later faced with another issue in which doing what is right hurts other people, but she does it anyway, following it up with an attempt to lessen the difficult consequences.

There are references to delicious foods from pita with various flavors of hummus to baklava all through the book. Lucy is an adventurous foodie who enjoys tasting outside her arena of Mediterranean comfort foods. Recipes for date cookies, lentil soup, and Greek salad are included.

One Feta in the Grave is not as fast paced as Tina Kashian’s first two books in the series, but is quite enjoyable anyway. I’m looking forward to the next book in the Kabob Kitchen Mystery Series.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #3 in the Kabob Kitchen Mystery Series, but works as a standalone. Recipes are included at the end.

Publication:   February 26, 2019—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

“Butch can look scary.” Butch had a chest the size of a small armoire and hands that looked like meat pounders. With his checked bandana and gold tooth, he was downright intimidating. The funny thing was that Butch was the kindest and most mild-mannered man she knew.

“Double chocolate brownie chunk. Definitely decadent if you are a chocolate lover.” “It’s too chocolatey,” Katie said. Lucy shot Katie an incredulous look. “Is that even possible?”

If there was one thing she’d learned since returning to town and stumbling upon a body…or two…is that not everyone was as innocent or guilty as they appeared.

Dead of Winter–being there for others

Dead of Winter

by Annelise Ryan

Dead of WinterAs snowstorm after snowstorm blows through the U.S., I am reading about similar circumstances in Wisconsin where Mattie Winston, a medico-legal death investigator and former OR and ER nurse, is involved in several cases. The primary focus of Dead of Winter by Annelise Ryan is the brutal death of a teenage girl whose little sister is also missing. In addition, Mattie has to investigate the death of the director of a local theater group which includes Dom who is her friend, the partner of her boss, and also the caregiver for her son.

The investigation of all three crimes moves along at a pace that is frustrating to those involved, especially locating the missing child who is obviously in danger. Interwoven with the professional issues is Mattie’s personal life with her husband, his teenage daughter, and their two-year old son. The little one is a challenge if left alone even briefly. Mattie juggles motherhood with a part-time job that holds full-time intensity.

I originally thought, when I read my first book (#8) in this series that the descriptions at the morgue would be too graphic for me. Because the setting is one of compassion from the coroner, the EMT’s, and the law enforcement officers, that was not the case. I appreciate the author’s ability to show how those who are tasked with solving crimes and helping victims are able to work their cases, maintain their personal relationships, and perform daily necessary tasks. Balancing all of those roles must be very difficult. Clues don’t always pan out. Sometimes even strong people get sick. Kids can misbehave at the most inopportune of times. Lovers quarrel. But the author shows how those we depend on show up and do their best regardless of the chaos in their own lives.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #10 in the Mattie Winston Mystery Series, but the author encapsulates the series background handily for the new reader.

Publication:   February 26, 2019—Kensington Press

Memorable Lines:

“It seems easy at first because you’re so in love with a person, and you feel like you’d be willing to sacrifice anything, do anything, be anything, just so you can be with them. But eventually the shiny finish on that new relationship wears off, revealing the rust and dull metal beneath. And after a while, you start to question how much of yourself you’re willing to give up to make someone else happy.”

…he’s as nervous as a blind man navigating a floor covered with thumbtacks…”

Amazing that so much beauty can come out of all that meteorological fury.

October Kiss–Love Amongst the Pumpkins

October Kiss

by Kristen Ethridge

October KissSeriously, you can’t start a book made from a Hallmark movie without knowing how it is going to end. October Kiss has all the requisites: a smart, attractive twenty-nine year old woman who has commitment issues in work, relationships, and most other areas of her life. She becomes a temporary nanny for a handsome, workaholic widower with two kids. It’s no spoiler to predict a happy ending, but like a good motorcycle ride, reading this book is not about the destination, but the journey. Even though you know what the conclusion will bring, it is just so much fun watching the story of Poppy, Ryan, and the children, Zoe and Zack, play out.

Kristen Ethridge, the author, reveals the worst faults of the four main characters in the beginning of the book, but pretty soon their true and more positive characteristics shine. They are all likable, and you will be rooting for that inevitable successful ending. A quick read with a beautiful fall setting will convince even the most adamant naysayer of Halloween that fun and whimsy can still be found through the eyes of children.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Hallmark Publishing for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Romance, Women’s Fiction

Notes: The movie October Kiss premiered in 2015.

Publication:  August 2, 2019—Hallmark Publishing

Memorable Lines:

These kids weren’t complicated. They just needed a little undivided attention and unconditional love.

The mere acknowledgement of the other woman tasted like black licorice on Poppy’s tongue as she spoke. Poppy hated black licorice.

The truth hurt like rug burn on her soul.

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