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Penne Dreadful–a delicious cozy mystery

Penne Dreadful

by Catherine Bruns

Penne DreadfulA cozy mystery about a chef whose heritage and passion is Italian cuisine? Count me in! Penne Dreadful by Catherine Bruns is filled with food references from the beginning “Italians are passionate about almost everything in the world, and food is at the top of the list” to recipes for sauce, pizza, and stromboli at the end. In between, you will find a solid plot and interesting characters. 

Five weeks prior to the story’s action, Tessa’s husband, Dylan, was killed in a car accident. Tess walks around in a trance until she learns that the crash may not have been an accident and neither her husband nor her marriage was what she thought they were. Secrets and evil minded souls abound, and it seems her husband was one of them. The discovery jolts Tess out of her grieving stupor and into action putting herself and her friends in danger as she tries to uncover the truth.

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #1 in the Italian Chef Mystery Series

Publication:   July 30, 2019—Sourcebooks Landmark

Memorable Lines:

Luigi’s V-8 engine noises continued while I filled his food dish with star-shaped kitty crunches, and then he couldn’t scramble out of my arms fast enough.

“…you don’t ever want to get on Izzy’s bad side. That broad has enough venom in her to make a snake jealous.”

That was one of the beauties about New York weather. It might be ninety degrees one day, and forty the next. Unpredictable, the same as life.

The Printed Letter Bookshop–books as a pathway to healing

The Printed Letter Bookshop

by Katherine Reay

The Printed Letter BookshopThis fictional work opens with the rather stark and extremely well attended funeral of Maddie and shares the perspectives of her estranged, but much loved, niece Madeline and of Janet and Claire, two ladies who are employees and friends of Maddie. What follows takes us into the lives and families of all of these ladies. They struggle with work and relationships, but Maddie leaves each an encouraging letter listing books that will help them in their life journeys. Maddie has a reputation for matching up readers with just the right book. Life is a battle for each of these ladies, and there is some characteristic in one or more of them that readers can identify with.

Part of The Printed Letter Bookshop draws attention to Proverbs 31 in the Bible which describes a wise woman and provides a model for the characters in forming their aspirations. I followed the ups and downs of the characters with hopes for successful resolutions to their problems. Will Madeline continue on her intended path to become a successful law partner? Will the town’s beloved bookshop survive during an online economy and after some bad business decisions? Can Janet find restoration with her husband and children? Is there a way for Claire to be a good mom while meeting her own needs? The story builds at an adequate pace as we are introduced to the characters and storyline, but accelerates towards the end as things come to a head for each of the characters in solving their personal dilemmas. Although there is closure for each of the ladies, it is not a puffy pink, cotton candy kind of resolution. There are surprises, heartbreaks, and difficult situations along the way as they learn what is important, how to forgive, and the need to avoid jumping to conclusions based on appearances.

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: Romance, Women’s Fiction, Christian Fiction

Notes: I would LOVE to visit this bookstore!

Publication:  May 14 , 2019—Thomas Nelson

Memorable Lines:

You can miss your family so much you have to look down to see your chest rise and fall, to confirm that it hasn’t been cut open and you’re not bleeding out and you’re still breathing. Friends can’t hurt you like that, nor can they fill that fissure.

“I remember Aunt Maddie saying you could lose yourself in a book and, paradoxically, find yourself as well.”

I do remember that his resignation ignited my anger. Anger always comes first for me. Anger keeps embarrassment, humiliation, shame, all manner of painful emotions at bay—for a time. But it requires so much fuel. And while it burned hot that night, and for a couple weeks after, it soon flickered out. Shame replaced it, and shame doesn’t need much fuel to thrive. It can live on tiny nibbles for years, possibly a lifetime.

The Library of the Lost and Found–family secrets

The Library of the Lost and Found

by Phaedra Patrick

The Library of Lost and FoundThe Library of Lost and Found is Martha’s story woven by author Phaedra Patrick into a tapestry of several generations of women trying to survive, to see their way through. The background is emotional abuse and family secrets. Martha devotes her life to caring for her aging parents, Betty and Thomas, and later trying to please her contacts at the library where she volunteers. Because Martha does not value her own contributions, no one else appreciates her. As a child, Martha is imaginative and creative and her flamboyant nana, Zelda, encourages her to be a storyteller. Unfortunately Martha’s inventiveness is in direct conflict with the wishes of her overbearing father.

The basic plot line-up to this point in the story appears fairly straight forward, but much more conflict brews beneath the surface. There are past romantic entanglements that affect Martha and her sister Lilian. Zelda disappears from Martha’s life and is proclaimed dead. The past and its secrets affect the present and the future.

One of the fun characters is Suki, a young, single, pregnant co-worker with a tendency to misuse words. For example, speaking of her baby’s father she says “He says he can’t make up his mind between us. I’ll have to give him a culmination.” “Do you mean an ultimatum?” She may not always use words correctly, but she believes in Martha and ends up being an encourager for her as Martha takes steps to find her independence.

There are lots of surprises along the way as figurative skeletons in the closet are revealed and as Martha finds herself again. The Library of Lost and Found is appealing to book lovers as books, libraries, bookstores, writing and reading all play important roles. Its appeal spreads wider  though as it addresses universal issues of power and control, love, whimsy, family, and self-worth, and their emotional impact.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Harlequin (Park Row) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: General Fiction (Adult)

Publication:   March 26, 2019—Harlequin (Park Row)

Memorable Lines:

She often felt like there was an electrical storm around him, and she could sense it crackling now, between him and Zelda.

She didn’t usually feel jealous, but as she watched her mother and daughter, it crept over her now like winter frost across a window.

“Why does something have to last forever to be classed as successful? Surely it’s okay to give things a try.”

The Secrets of Paper and Ink–God’s working it out

The Secrets of Paper and Ink

by Lindsay Harrell

The Secrets of Paper and InkThe lives of three women cross in Lindsay Harrell’s novel The Secrets of Paper and Ink. Sophia is a women’s therapist in Arizona who finds herself in the need of therapy. Ginny is a formerly rich American who abandoned that life to follow her husband to Cornwall, England, to open a bookstore. Their lives cross when Sophia, who needs more healing time, answers Ginny’s ad for a vacation rental. They find a notebook with the story of Emily Fairfax, a woman who lived in the mid 1800’s. Sophia becomes obsessed with learning more about Emily.

Each of the three main characters has to deal with a problem particular to women—abuse, abandonment, and discrimination. The author handles all of these issues with respect. The plot pops back and forth with each chapter focusing on one character, but with Ginny and Sophia’s stories overlapping in real time. Both ladies are impacted by Emily’s story, and there is a delightful surprise ending. Readers who delight in all things bookish will particularly relish this book as it includes a wonderful bookstore, journaling, and a female author in a time period when that was unacceptable. Readers who enjoy a good Christian romance will take pleasure in the gentle ways in which the characters’ interest in God is reawakened. Lastly, historical fiction buffs will appreciate the inclusion of Emily’s story.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Romance, Women’s Fiction, Christian Fiction

Publication:   February 26, 2019—Thomas Nelson

Memorable Lines:

But no matter what she felt, she knew deep down that her story did matter. She had to fight against the lie that it didn’t. And if she didn’t protect her own story or have the courage to write it down, no one else would. No one else could.

My senses rang with the cacophony of the muffin man’s bell, the clamor of the clarinet player on the corner, and the clickety-clack of the pattens on ladies’ feet.

Someone had finally noticed me drowning and offered to point me in the direction of the shore. Now it was up to me to keep stroking through the water until I reached the sandy beach beyond.

Pruning the Dead–cozy mystery with a gardening theme

Pruning the Dead

by Julia Henry

Pruning the DeadA new cozy mystery series. A different sort of mystery. In what way different? Don’t they all follow a general formula? Yes and no. There are common expectations for cozies such as the absence of graphic violence, sex, or language, and the presence of a likable main character who finds herself (or occasionally himself) drawn into solving a mystery, often in a small town. Pruning the Dead fits the bill. The manner of deviation is the amount of time the author spends setting up the backdrop, the small town of Goosebush, on the south shore of Massachusetts, the gardening theme, and the characters, some of whom take on the role of Garden Squad with the goal of replacing “weeds with plants” and restoring “order from chaos.”

Lilly Jayne is starting to emerge from a cloud of grieving and depression following her husband’s death. She is rich and considered somewhat of a matriarch in Goosebush. Having neglected her civic duties for years during her husband’s illness, she suddenly begins seeing the negative changes that have crept into her hometown.

Although the murder doesn’t occur until a quarter of the way into the book, don’t be lulled into thinking it is less than an interesting mystery. The time the author, Julia Henry, spends developing the characters and setting is time well-spent. Although I deduced the murderer as I approached the end of the book, I enjoyed reading how it played out, and there were many detours and suspects along the way that kept the journey interesting.

Even though the second book in the series has not been published yet, I anticipate that readers will benefit by starting the series by reading Pruning the Dead, the first book. I look forward to reading the next book to see how the Garden Squad develops and what happens next in Goosebush, Massachusetts. 

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: #1 in the Garden Club Mystery Series

Gardening tips are included at the end of the book.

Publication:   January 29, 2019—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

“Facts are facts, but the truth depends on the teller.”

“Choosing a kinder path is important. It makes the journey easier.”

“I made a decision a long time ago that hate is more exhausting for me than it is for the object on which I would bestow that energy.”

Kindred Spirits–stolen art with deadly consequences

Kindred Spirits

by Jo Bannister

Kindred SpiritsGabriel Ash, formerly a security analyst with the British government, has recently been released from mental health care. He has opened a second hand book shop, Rambles with Books. He has also been reunited with his two sons after a four year separation as a result of his wife’s illegally taking the boys.  All should be relatively smooth sailing in the Ash household, but that is not the case. Ash’s good friend, Constable Hazel Best, drives to school to pick up the boys, and she sees them and their nanny being accosted in what appears to be a kidnapping attempt.

The plot of Kindred Spirits rapidly becomes complicated as the older boy, Gilbert, insists that only the nanny was being forced into the van. This fast-moving police procedural by Jo Bannister puts on display not only how the police investigate crimes, but also the behind-the-scenes politics. Neither Hazel nor Detective Inspector Dave Gorman are armchair detectives. The same can be said about Ash when those he cares about are personally threatened. All three are motivated by doing what is right. When an old case clashes with the events of a new case, they refuse to turn a blind eye. The results are dangerous, and you won’t want to stop reading until the mystery is resolved.

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery, Police Procedural

Notes: #5 in the Hazel Best and Gabriel Ash Mystery Series. This was the first book in the series for me to read, and I had no problem catching up with the background.

Publication:   September 1, 2018—Severn House

Memorable Lines:

Perhaps he was the last man in England—the last man in the civilized world—to enjoy the sensation, both sensual and intellectual, of paper pages curling away under his fingers. Of words, and the ideas they encoded, waiting for him to find them—and staying close at hand after he’d read them, in case he needed to flick back a page or two to check something.

She had less and less patience with hard feelings and petty jealousies. She did her job, and did it well; being liked was an optional extra. It wasn’t something that she’d ever struggled with before, but if it came to a choice between being popular and doing what she believed to be right, she had broad shoulders.

Gorman knew that Jerome Harbinger was sixty-eight. If he hadn’t known, he’d have thought he was ten years older than that. His craggy face was savaged by deep lines that had nothing to do with laughter and everything to do with bitter unhappiness.

Rockets’ Dead Glare–deadly blaze in South Cove

Rockets’ Dead Glare

by Lynn Cahoon

Rockets' Dead GlareI am not usually attracted to novellas, but I really enjoy Lynn Cahoon’s cozy mysteries so I decided to give Rockets’ Dead Glare a try and I’m glad I did. A short, but satisfying mystery with a different sort of resolution and a happy ending.

There are a number of suspects with good reasons to want to see Barry, South Cove’s volunteer fire chief, dead, but who would actually commit the horrifying deed? Two members of Barry’s volunteer fire department have shady backgrounds, but neither Jill, owner of the local coffeeshop and bookstore, nor her detective boyfriend Greg thinks either one is capable of murder. Who wanted Barry dead and how was the murder committed? Will the toxicology reports produce evidence? The answers lie in this outstanding novella.

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: This novella is part of the Tourist Trap Series, but works well as a standalone.

Publication:  June 5, 2018—Kensington Press (Lyrical Underground)

Memorable Lines:

The smell of french fries makes me happy. I’m not proud of this fact, but it’s the truth. I needed the salt, carbs, and fat today. Stress eating is my specialty.

And as I leaned into him, I realized it was a happy day. And for a second, I let the gratitude of the moment wash over me. Life right now was perfect and wonderful. Tomorrow’s problems could wait until tomorrow. Today I was happy.

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