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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

A Hundred Small Lessons by Ashley Hay

A Hundred Small Lessons by Ashley Hay
Published by Atria Books ISBN 9781501165139
Hardcover, $26, 304 pages

Australian author Ashley Hay's A Hundred Small Lessons tells the story of two woman who lived in the same house at two different times. When elderly Elsie Gormley falls in her house and breaks her hip, she has to move from the home where she and her beloved husband Clem raised their twins, Elaine and Don now 70 years old, to a nursing home.

Elsie lost Clem over thirty years ago and has lived alone since then. She has a good relationship with her son Don and his wife Carol, but she and Elaine have clashed since Elaine was a teenager. Elsie loves Elaine's daughter Gloria and spent a lot of time with Gloria while she was growing up.

Elaine didn't take to mothering as Elsie did. Elaine married young, like her mother, but never reveled in the joy of raising her daughter and keeping house. One of the most poignant scenes takes place as Elaine pours her heart out to Clem about how desparately unhappy she is with her life. Clem listens to his daughter, and tells her that it isn't too late to go back to school or find a satisfying job. Clem has a much different, warmer relationship with Elaine than Elsie did.

Lucy, her husband Ben and their toddler son Tom buy Elsie's house when she moves to the nursing home. Lucy loves her husband and son, but she is melancholy. Ben travels frequently for work, and he and Lucy have moved several times across the world, finally settling in Brisbane.

Lucy becomes somewhat obsessed with Elsie. She finds a box of photos in the attic that belonged to Elsie, and when Tom accidentally spills something on them and ruins them, she is upset. Lucy feels Elsie's presence in the house, and even tells Ben that she has seen Elsie in the garden. Ben indulges Lucy at first, but he becomes increasingly exasperated by Lucy's continued behavior.

As a middle-aged woman Elsie poses for a portrait for an artist who lives nearby. This experience changes Elsie in a profound way. She begins to see herself in a different light.

Lucy meanwhile speaks frequently of her vardogers- versions of Lucy Kiss who exist in different times and places, a Sliding Doors effect. She brings up her vardogers when an old boyfreind unexpectedly turns up at her door.

Hay writes very descriptively- her opening paragraph, describing the house as Elsie sees it from the floor where she has fallen is particularly evocative. It makes you want to lie on your own floor to see what you see, things that you miss seeing everyday from your usual perspective.

A Hundred Small Lessons, whose title is taken from a Michael Ondaatje poem that Lucy recited to Ben on one of their first dates, is about the journeys taken by Elsie and Lucy on their way to finding their own identities. It's about growing into your own identity and marriage and motherhood and how they change you.

There is a coincidence that hints at a connection that Lucy's family and Elsie's family have that ties them together in a sweet manner, making for a lovely ending to this story. Of the two stories, I found Elsie's more interesting, maybe because we got more of it as she was older. And Clem was such a sweetheart, he gives husbands a good name.

Ashley Hay's website is here.

Thanks to TLC Tours for putting me on Ashley Hay's tour. The rest of her stops are here:

Ashley Hay’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, November 27th: The Sketchy Reader and @thesketchyreader
Tuesday, November 28th: Jathan & Heather
Tuesday, November 28th: Literary Jo Reviews blog and @literaryjo
Wednesday, November 29th: 5 Minutes for Books
Thursday, November 30th: BookNAround
Monday, December 4th: West Metro Mommy Reads
Tuesday, December 5th: Kahakai Kitchen blog and @debinhawaii
Wednesday, December 6th: Patricia’s Wisdom
Thursday, December 7th: Novel Gossip blog and @novelgossip
Monday, December 11th: Katy’s Library blog and @katyslibrary
Wednesday, December 13th: Bookchickdi
Thursday, December 14th: Girl Who Reads
Monday, December 18th: Suzy Approved
Tuesday, December 19th: Write Read Life
Thursday, December 21st: Fiction Aficionado

Monday, December 11, 2017

Books Are Great Gifts 2017

Reprinted from the Citizen:

Now that Thanksgiving is done and we’ve eaten all the leftovers, it’s time to get serious about our holiday shopping, and that means our annual Books Make Great Gifts Guide. Books always fit and are never the wrong color.

Young children on your list will enjoy “Malala’s Magic Pencil”,  a book that encourages children to look at the world around them, written by the inspirational Malala Yousafzai and illustrated by Kerascoet. 
Malala's Magic Pencil

For middle grade students, debut novelist’s Karina Yan Glaser’s “The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street” introduces us to a lovely family of seven who live in an apartment in New York City. When their landlord announces they must move after Christmas, the Vanderbeeker kids work to change his mind. It’s a good old-fashioned family story told in a modern setting.
The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street

The Young Adult readers will devour Marie Wu’s propulsive novel, “Warcross” about a young gamer who, while working as a spy at the International Warcross Championships, uncovers a conspiracy. It’s the first in the series, and it’s for fans of “The Hunger Games.” 

A nice stocking stuffer book for older children is Admiral William H. Raven’s “Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life and Maybe the World”, taken from his speech to the graduating class at the University of Texas at Austin. It’s good advice we can all use. 
Make Your Bed

If you know a parent who needs a good laugh this season, Laurie Gelman’s “Class Mom” about a hilarious older mom who ends up once again as class mom for her son’s kindergarten will have them rolling on the floor. 
Class Mom

E. Robuck’s “#HockeyStrong” is geared toward parents who spent countless hours at the hockey rink, soccer or baseball field watching their child. This satire gets all the details just right, with plenty of laughs as well. 

For the person who grew up watching 1970’s television, there are two good choices. “Caroline- Little House Revisited” by Sarah Miller tells the story of “Little House On The Prairie’ from mother Caroline’s viewpoint instead of daughter Laura’s.  

If you know from the title of the book- “Meddling Kids”- that this book evokes Scooby-Doo and the gang, then you are right.  Edgar Cantero’s book is set in 1990 and reunites a group of former teen detectives known as the Blyton Summer Detective Club, who last saw each other in 1977. Let’s just say the intervening years haven’t been kind to them. 
Meddling Kids

For people on your list who like to have their hearts racing when they read, Maile Meloy’s “Do Not Become Alarmed”, about a group of children who go missing during a family cruise to a foreign port of call, will do the trick. The story is told from the points of the view of the frantic parents and the children who are missing, and even though the reader knows where the children are, it’s still a breathless journey. 
Do Not Become Alarmed

Novels set during WWII have been popular in the past few years (“All The Light You Cannot See”, “The Lilac Girls”), and Kate Quinn’s “The Alice Network”, set in two different time periods- WWI and WWII- is a perfect gift for those readers. It’s based on a real group of female spies who worked to defeat Germany, and it’s a pulse-pounder. 
The Alice Network

Another book based on a true incident is Wiley Cash’s novel “The Last Ballad”, the story of Ella Mae Wiggins, a young mother working in a North Carolina factory who ends up a labor organizer. Although set in 1929, it’s a timely story. 
The Last Ballad

For people who like to watch true crime shows, Monica Hesse’s “American Fire” tells the true story of a series of arsons that occurred in Virginia in 2012-2013, the investigation into the fires, and a town that has fallen on hard times. 
American Fire

Biographies are always popular, and Sally Bedell Smith’s “Prince Charles” is perfect for the Anglophile fan of “The Crown” on Netflix. Astronaut Scott Kelly shares his story of spending a year in space in his memoir “Endurance”, a book for science enthusiasts. 
Prince Charles

If you like to give coffee table books, Pete Souza’s “Obama: An Intimate Portrait” is a collection of many photos he took as official photographer of the Obama administration. You’ll see iconic photos and many you haven’t seen before. 
Obama: An Intimate Portrait

And for the cook on your list, Ree Drummond's "The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Come and Get It!" is geared towards busy people who want to make delicious meals for their families. 
The Pioneer Woman Cooks

Monday, November 20, 2017

#HockeyStrong by E. Robuck

#HockeyStrong by E. Robuck
Published by Elysian Fields Press ISBN 9780982229811
Trade paperback, $15, 324 pages
Ebook available $4.99
I just read a news article that said that the night before Thanksgiving is one of the busiest nights of the year for reading. I guess everybody traveling by plane and train leaves lots of time for a good book. (Just please don't read and drive- I can't believe that people actually do that.)

If you're looking for a good, quick read for the night before Thanksgiving, I have a great suggestion.

E. Robuck has written a very funny and pointed satire #HockeyStrong that will appeal to anyone who has spent time freezing their gloved hands off at a hockey rink, football stadium or baseball field. (My sons played high school baseball in Central New York in April- yeah, I wore my winter coat, hat, gloves and boots.)

Kate and Charlie Miller's 11-year-old son Brett made the cut for the elite travel team for hockey. Coach Butch has declared that hockey comes first- before school, before family, before vacations. When he sends a group text announcing an emergency practice IN ONE HOUR, if you don't show up, you are benched. If he can get them into a tournament at the last minute, you end your family vacation and come back. In "a season that will last as long as a pregnancy, and costs as much as a small island in the Caribbean", your family life will revolve around hockey and nothing else.

The Millers don't completely buy into the entire 'hockey is life' scenario. They don't think that Brett is headed straight to the NHL, even though he is the best scorer on the team. Coach Butch doesn't like Charlie because he never played hockey as a kid, and he takes that out on Brett. Brett just wants to play hockey with his buddies.

Robuck's hockey parents are an exaggerated group (or maybe not?). There is a dad who keeps a detailed binder for his son titled "Kyle's Path to Hockey Greatness."  Bill and Tina Church's wardrobe consists solely of clothes emblazoned with their son's name and number (in team colors of course- and they are sales representatives for the company that sells them if you would like some for yourself. The team gets a cut of the action!). They also host a podcast about being a sports parent.

Piper ignores her two young daughters, and is social media maven, immediately posting updates about the team and her son's progress to Facebook. The competition between Kate and Piper to post first is hilarious. Piper also has a drinking problem and embarrasses herself and her family more than once.

There are parking lot fist fights between moms, a child disqualified because his parents lied about his age, a child trying to play with a broken foot, a parent who surruptiously sprinkles protein powder on her son's Nutella- the level of craziness seems both unbelievable and familiar at the same time.

Robuck spent many years sitting on the sidelines, and her imagination ran wild in this book, which she states is based on no one in particular, but the reader may recognize the character types here.

I highly recommend #HockeyStrong for those who have already finished with the sports parent scenario or those just looking for a really good laugh. Maybe your family won't seem so crazy this Thanksgiving once you've met the Polar Bears' parents.

Erika Robuck's website is here.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Garden of Lamentations by Deborah Crombie

The Garden of Lamentations by Deborah Crombie
Published by William Morrow ISBN 9780062271648
Trade paperback, $14.99, 414 pages

The first book I read by Deborah Crombie was the 14th in her Gemma James/Duncan Kincaid mystery series No Mark Upon Her. When a female rower, who happened to be a Met detective, drowns under mysterious circumstances, Scotland Yard detectives James and Kincaid are on the case.

I was immediately drawn into the story, thanks mostly to the interesting characters. Gemma and Duncan are work and life partners, and we get to know the other detectives, Melody and Doug, who assist them. The central London area where the action takes place is also an intriguing character.

Crombie's 17th book in the series, The Garden of Lamentations, begins a few years later. Although I have missed a few books in between, I was able to pick up without missing too much.

A young nanny is found dead in a walled off garden area, accessible only by the people who live adjacent to it. Gemma is drawn into the investigation by a friend of hers who lives near there.

Meanwhile, when an undercover cop is found dead, a suspected suicide, Kincaid is contacted by his former boss, whom he hasn't talked to since the boss abruptly transferred Kincaid. After Kincaid meets with his boss in a restaurant, the boss is attacked and left for dead.

Kincaid becomes obsessed with the attack and the possible connection to the undercover cop's death. Was it really suicide or is it something more sinister? Are cops being targeted and is he next?

In this story, everyone seems to be split up and pulled apart. Melody takes over Gemma's responsibilities while Gemma is pulled into the dead nanny's murder. Doug is no longer working with Kincaid. Kincaid's preoccupation with his case has kept him away from his and Gemma's children- teenage Kit, seven-year-old Toby and three year-old Charlotte. Gemma is upset that he is not confiding in her.

It took me awhile to get into The Garden of Lamentations, but once I did, I couldn't stop reading until I was done. The neighborhood where the nanny was killed is filled with many interesting Agatha Christie-like characters- the parents who lost a young son last year and blamed the dead nanny, a busybody woman obsessed with the garden, the nanny's highstrung boss and her son who wants to be a ballet dancer- that took a bit to keep straight.

Kincaid's investigation leads him back to the case from No Mark Upon Her, as well as to an incident from 1994 involving an undercover police operation infiltrating possible terrorist organizations. There is alot to keep track of here, but Crombie keeps her eye on the ball and everything comes together in the end.

I liked that there are so many female police officers in the story. Gemma, Melody, Gemma's new partner in the nanny investigation is a woman, and later in the story we meet a high ranking woman in Scotland Yard. It's no big deal here, the way it should be.

Fans of Irish mystery writer Tana French (The Dublin Murder Squad series) will like Deborah Crombie's The Garden of Lamentations. They both write taut, character-driven mysteries that immerse the reader in the location of the story. I highly recommend The Garden of Lamentations, although I will say that this perhaps is not a good book to jump into the series with. People who have read previous books in the series will get much more out of it.

Deborah Crombie's website is here.
My review of No Mark Upon Her is here.

Thanks to TLC Tours for putting me on Deborah Crombie's tour. The rest of her stops are here:

Tour Stops

Wednesday, November 15th: Into the Hall of Books
Thursday, November 16th: bookchickdi
Friday, November 17th: 5 Minutes For Books
Monday, November 20th: Tina Says…
Tuesday, November 21st: Tales of a Book Addict
Wednesday, November 22nd: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Monday, November 27th: Books and Bindings
Tuesday, November 28th: Jathan & Heather
Wednesday, November 29th: Mama Reads Blog
Thursday, November 30th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom
Friday, December 1st: I Wish I Lived in a Library
Monday, December 4th: Ace and Hoser Blook

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Weekend Cooking- The Comfort Food Diaries by Emily Nunn

This post is part of Beth Fish Reads' Weekend Cooking.  If you have anything related to food, cookbook reviews, novel or non-fiction book reviews, recipes, movie reviews, etc., head over to Beth Fish Reads and add your post. Or, if you want to read food related posts, head over to read what some interesting people have to say about food.

The Comfort Food Diaries by Emily Nunn
Published by Atria ISBN 9781451674200
Hardcover, $26, 320 pages
Emily Nunn, a former New Yorker magazine editor, was in love and living with her fiance`, "the Engineer" she called him, and his lovely young daughter in Chicago. While on vacation in Barcelona, she got word that her brother Gil had committed suicide.

Emily was devastated and the Engineer was upset that Emily couldn't just snap out of her depression and move on. The Engineer broke up with her and she lost her fiance, his daughter, her home and had no job. She began to drink heavily, and one night she poured out her heartache on Facebook.

The next morning, she discovered many of her Facebook friends had responded to her post, asking Emily to come visit them. Her sister Elaine got Emily into the Betty Ford Clinic to deal with her alcohol problem, and took charge of Emily when she got out of rehab.

But things soured quickly. In Emily's family, her mother and one of sisters didn't speak to anyone else in the family. Elaine would decide not to speak to Emily for long periods of time, and Emily never knew why. Emily grew up "in a family of seven- an exquisitely dysfunctional southern family, in various members stopped speaking for years in various convoluted and confusing configurations."

Emily decided to go on on comfort food tour. She would travel the country, visiting various extended family and friends, and that led to her memoir The Comfort Food Diaries: My Quest for the Perfect Dish to Mend a Broken Heart. She stayed with an aunt and uncle in Virginia, trying to learn why her family acted the way that they did. Childhood pals, high school friends, college chums, cousins- they all invited Emily to come visit and cook with them.

The Comfort Food Diaries is part food memoir, part travel guide, part family story, and part self-discovery story, filled with wonderful recipes for the food that nourishes the appetite and the soul. Emily found that she wasn't the only one who had been hurt, and she discovered the resilience to face her life head-on.

The most moving part of the story was when Emily and Elaine went to see their long-estranged father. He was suffering from dementia, lonely and living amid squalor . He had left the family when Emily was a young girl after her mother had taken up with another man and he moved out. It was heartbreaking to hear his story.

There are so many fabulous recipes in this book that I want to try- Toni's Tomato Sauce, Great-grandmother's Mean Lemon Cake,  Bea's Magic Salad Dressing, Aunt Mariah's Pot Roast, Magnificient Sour Cream Corn Muffins- it is a nice mix of traditional family, and more modern restaurant fare.

If you like memoirs about families and food, The Comfort Food Diaries is a good read for you. I recommend it.

Friday, November 10, 2017

On Broadway- Come From Away

Last year on Broadway, the musical Come From Away drew crtitical praise and everyone who saw the show raved about it. It was nominated for Best Musical at last year's Tony Awards, and won many awards across the country.

The musical tells the true story of the small town of Gander, in the Newfoundland province of Canada. On September 11th, 2001, the town of less than 10,000 residents added over 7000 more people as planes flying from Europe to the United States were forced to land in Gander as all air traffic was grounded due to the terrorist attacks that day.

The twelve actors in the show play multiple roles- residents of Gander, (such as the mayor, the police chief, two teachers, a bus driver, a news reporter on her first day) and as travelers on the planes forced to land (such as a female American Airlines pilot, a gay couple, a woman whose son is a NYC firefighter and an Egyptian chef).

The ensemble nature of the play works beautifully, and the actors work so well together in their dual roles. The songs are terrific, and there are very few solos, adding to the ensemble nature of the show.

Come From Away shows us the best of humanity at a time when perhaps we need to be reminded of that. The residents of Gander took in these 7000 people, finding them shelter, food, and most importantly, giving them comfort in a frightening situation.

As we meet the people on the planes, and see their confusion and fear trying to understand why they have been forced to land (they are not told what is going on, and most people then didn't have smart phones), the feelings of that day all come rushing back to audience members as well. We all remember where we were and how we found out, and hugging our family members closer. These poor people didn't have that, many of them were alone.

As serious as the subject is, there is plenty of humor in Come From Away. The show pokes a little fun at the residents of Gander, with the people on the planes not quite understanding why these Canadians are so friendly and willing to go out of their way to help them.

Come From Away is a show that I wish everyone could see; I hope that PBS' Great Performances tapes it for future broadcast. It gives you faith that we can all come together when times require it.

The most interesting aspect of the show is that the stories of these characters are true stories- these people are real people, and that makes the show even more extraordinary. Your heart will be full after seeing Come From Away.

There are discount tickets available for Come From Away, but this one is worth paying full price. I would compare it to another Broadway show I absoultely loved- Once. The website for Come From Away is here.

Below is an interview that Tom Brokaw did with the cast of the show for the Today Show.


Thursday, November 2, 2017

The Welcome Home Diner by Peggy Lampman

This post is part of Beth Fish Reads' Weekend Cooking.  If you have anything related to food, cookbook reviews, novel or non-fiction book reviews, recipes, movie reviews, etc., head over to Beth Fish Reads and add your post. Or, if you want to read food related posts, head over to read what some interesting people have to say about food.

The Welcome Home Diner by Peggy Lampman
Published by Lake Union Publishing ISBN 978-1542047821
Trade paperback, $14.95, 352 pages

Peggy Lampman previously owned a specialty food store, The Back Alley Gourmet, in her college town of Ann Arbor before writing a weekly food column for the Ann Arbor News. Now she writes a food blog, dinnerfeed.com and all this led her to write two novels- The Promise Kitchen (2016) and this year's The Welcome Home Diner.

Addie and Samantha open a diner in Detroit. Detroit has been through some rough times, and the cousins hope to help resusitate an area of Detroit with their neighborhood diner.

They got their love of cooking from their Babcia, their Polish grandmother. She inspired them, and her photo hangs up in a corner of the diner to remind them of how they got here. Addie and Sam share a two-story house- Addie lives upstairs with her boyfriend David and they seem very happy and well-suited to each other.

Addie is the organizer and planner, she handles the ordering, and the paperwork, along with the front of the house issues. She sees a future for her and David, marriage and children, but David is happy with things the way they are.

Sam runs the kitchen, she is beautiful and a great cook and after getting out of a bad relationship in New York, she is trying to find her footing again with men. Meanwhile, she has Hero, her dog who watches over her.

The Welcome Home Diner has money issues, as most new businesses do. They don't have much money leftover after payroll and food costs, but Addie and Sam are committed to making the diner work, sacrificing much to make it successful.

They draw a decent crowd from the young professionals in the area, but they are perplexed as to why the neighborhood residents do not eat at the diner. Their prices are reasonable, the food is delicious, and there isn't another comparable restaurant in the neighborhood.

In addition, there is a person giving them bad and inaccurate Yelp reviews, a next door neighbor who is openly hostile to them, and a business vendor who is menacing them.

I loved the characters in The Welcome Home Diner. Along with Addie and Sam, they have an interesting staff- Braydon, who started with them on day one and has worked his way up to floor manager, Quiche, a cook who brings her smart young daughter Sun Beam to work with her, and Sylvia, a young woman rescued from sex traffickers whom Addie and Sam take under their wing.

Having owned a restaurant with my husband, I found The Welcome Home Diner fascinating. Lampman gets so much right, such as the stress, the hard, physical work and the comraderie of the team effort. You get a great look at the day-to-day grind of running a restaurant.

The setting of Detroit is a character as well. We get a real feel for what a once-vibrant city is now going through, the struggles of the residents to get back on their feet. Some people appreciate the efforts of newcomers investing in their city, others fear the gentrification and the strangers moving into their neighborhoods.

I recommend The Welcome Home Diner for those who like foodie fiction, and family stories mixed with serious issues and there are even some recipes at the end, like Lamb Burger Sliders with Tzatziki and Beetroot Relish,  and Sylvia's Heartbreakers, which are similiar to the amazing Levain's Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies, famous in NYC (and my guilty pleasure).

Peggy Lampman's website is here.

Thanks to TLC Tours for putting me on Peggy Lampman's tour. The rest of her tour stops are here:

Peggy Lampman’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, October 16th: Books and Bindings
Tuesday, October 17th: A Thousand Books to Read
Wednesday, October 18th: Books a la Mode – author guest post
Thursday, October 19th: Patricia’s Wisdom
Friday, October 20th: Katy’s Library blog and Instagram
Saturday, October 21st: Beth Fish Reads
Monday, October 23rd: The Sketchy Reader
Tuesday, October 24th: Savvy Verse & Wit
Wednesday, October 25th: Kahakai Kitchen
Thursday, October 26th: A Chick Who Reads
Friday, October 27th: The Book Diva’s Reads
Monday, October 30th: All Roads Lead to the Kitchen
Wednesday, November 1st: Why Girls are Weird
Thursday, November 2nd: Bookchickdi
Friday, November 3rd: BookNAround
Monday, November 6th: Read Write Repeat
Tuesday, November 7th: Booksie’s Blog
Wednesday, November 8th: Bibliotica
Friday, November 10th: What is That Book About

Monday, October 30, 2017

It's All About Romance

Reprinted from auburnpub.com:

This month’s Book Report is the Romance Rundown, featuring four books from the genre that caught my attention.

First up is Eloisa James’ historical romance, “Wilde In Love”, the first in her new “Wildes of Lindow Castle” series. We meet Lord Alaric Wilde, who has returned home to his family’s castle near London in 1778 from his adventures abroad. Alaric’s books about his travels have made him famous, and his adventures with pirates and cannibals inspired a long-running play about the handsome man, which embarrasses him to no end. 

Alaric becomes enchanted by Willa Ffynche, who seems to the be the only woman in England who has not fallen madly in love with him. Willa prefers reading to adventures, but she soon finds herself thrown together with Alaric, who sets his cap for Willa.

James’ novel is the most explicit of the group, and she certainly knows how to give her readers what they want. Willa is a fantastic character, and she and Alaric make a great team as they banter back and forth.

It’s been awhile since I have read an historical romance, but I enjoyed “Wilde in Love” so much, I will be picking more of the many books James has written. She writes smart dialogue and keeps her readers wanting more.

Moving into the early 20th century, after WWI, is Lauren Willig’s “The Other Daughter”. Also set in England, Rachel is a young governess working in France when she gets word that her mother is seriously ill. She arrives too late, and discovers a newspaper clipping that the father she believed died when she was a toddler, is in fact alive and has another family.

Rachel decides to go to London to confront him. Her father is an English lord, and to get close to him she becomes involved with Simon, a Page Six-like gossip reporter who has his own reasons for helping Rachel. 

Rachel pretends to be a socialite who has been abroad. Simon introduces her to her half-sister’s group of friends, and her sister’s fiancee, an up-and-coming politician. As Rachel gets closer to meeting her father, things are not quite as they seemed.

Willig excels at writing dialogue between Rachel and Simon. Their scenes crackle with tension, wit and emotion, and in the Acknowledgments section, Willig states that this is the first single-narrative, single-viewpoint novel she has written. She succeeds beautifully here, and “The Other Daughter” has not only romance, but family drama and a few twists that will surprise you. If you liked “Downton Abbey”, this one is for you.

“Christmas at the Little Beach Street Bakery” is the third in a planned trilogy by Jenny Colgan. Polly owns a popular small bakery on Mount Polbeane in Cornwall, on the southern coast of England. She lives in a lighthouse with her boyfriend Huckle, a beekeeper, and Neil, a puffin bird who goes everywhere with them. 

Polly was raised by her single mother, and never met her father. When Polly’s best friend Kerensa does something regrettable, it causes problems between Polly and Huckle. The characters in the town are so interesting, especially Kerensa’s husband Reuben, a multimillionaire who is pushy and obnoxious and totally in love with his wife.

The plot revolves around Christmas, when a snowstorm hits the area and Polly works to keep everything from falling apart. It’s funny and sweet, and has some terrific recipes as well. You’ll be craving croissants and hot chocolate after reading this one.

If you are a fan of the Hallmark Channel, you may be familiar with the Chesapeake Shores series, based on Sherryl Woods’ series of novels. Her latest, “Lilac Lane” continues the story of the O’Brien clan of Chesapeake Shores in Maryland. 

Moira O’Brien brings her mother Kiera over from Ireland after Kiera’s fiancee dies suddenly. Kiera works as a consultant for her son-in-law Kevin’s authentic Irish pub and meets Bryan, the chef at the restaurant.

Bryan bristles at Kiera’s suggestions, and although they get along like oil and water, the matchmaking O’Brien clan (led by matriarch Nell and her son Mick) decide these two need to be together.

There is also a young woman looking for her birth father (disappearing fathers seem to be a theme here today), but again, things are always more complicated than at first glance.

“Lilac Lane” is a wonderful read for anyone who enjoys stories about big families, especially Irish families. The O’Brien clan feel like your own family, who you love and drive you crazy all at once.

Wilde in Love” by Eloisa James- A
Published by Avon
Mass Market Paperback, $7.99

“The Other Daughter” by Lauren Willig- A-
Published by St. Martin’s Griffin
Trade paperback, $15.99

Published by William Morrow
Trade paperback, $14.99

“Lilac Lane” by Sherryl Woods- A
Published by MiraBooks

Hardcover, $26.99

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Lilac Lane by Sherryl Woods

This post is part of Beth Fish Reads' Weekend Cooking.  If you have anything related to food, cookbook reviews, novel or non-fiction book reviews, recipes, movie reviews, etc., head over to Beth Fish Reads and add your post. Or, if you want to read food related posts, head over to read what some interesting people have to say about food.

Lilac Lane by Sherryl Woods
Published by MiraBooks ISBN 9780778331339
Hardcover, $26.99, 352 pages

It's been awhile since I visited the O'Brien clan of Chesapeake Shores in Maryland. I was introduced to them in Sherryl Woods' delightful The Summer Garden, the 9th book in the series. (My review is here). The newest book, Lilac Lane, is the 12th in the series, and reading it is like visiting old friends.

Moira O'Brien's mother Kiera has just lost her fiance to a heart attack in Ireland. Moira convinces her mother to come to Chesapeake Shores and stay with her, her husband Luke and toddler Kate. Moira agrees to visit, and Luke asks her to act as a consultant in his Irish pub, to help give customers the authentic Irish experience.

This doesn't sit well with Bryan Laramie, the chef at the pub. Bryan is an experienced chef, having worked in New York and Baltimore, and the last thing he wants is another family member putting in her two cents on his established menu. (He had enough of that with the O'Brien matriarch Nell.)

Kiera is as stubborn and outspoken as her daughter Moira, and Bryan and Kiera get along like oil and water. But the matchmaking O'Brien clan (especially Nell and her son Mick, who would give Dolly Levi a run for her money) see sparks between the two and scheme to push the two together.

Bryan hasn't dated much since he moved to Chesapeake Shores, he mostly keeps to himself. When Kiera moves into a small cottage next to Bryan, their relationship turns to friendship, and maybe even more.

Meanwhile, Megan works hard to convince a reluctant Moira to take on more gallery showings of her photography across the country, Kiera enjoys the morning gatherings of the O'Brien women, Nell convinces Bryan and Kiera to compete against each other in an Irish stew cookoff at the Harvest Festival, and a young woman from Virginia comes to town to try and find her biological father.

I truly enjoyed coming back to Chesapeake Shores, and Bryan and Kiera's budding romance between two mature adults who aren't in their 20s is a refreshing change of pace. I'm from an Irish-American family, and I laughed at the raucous O'Briens and all of their teasing and scheming and getting involved in everyone's business.

Even though I haven't yet read #10 and #11 in the series, I didn't feel lost at all; I was able to pick right back up with the O'Briens. Sherryl Woods' lovely novels are the basis for the Hallmark Channel's Chesapeake Shores series, and now I will be catching up with that on-demand. (I've also started picking up the rest of the books in the series- that's how much I love these O'Briens!)

If you like family stories, adult love stories and books featuring food (I'll be making Irish stew just as soon as the cooler weather gets here), Lilac Lane is a great book to add to your TBR list.

Sherryl Woods website is here.

Thanks to TLC Tours for putting me on Sherryl Woods tour. The rest of her stops are here:

Review tour for LILAC LANE:

Monday, October 16th: From the Library of Mrs. Gardner blog and Instagram
Monday, October 16th: The Sassy Bookster – spotlight
Tuesday, October 17th: The Sketchy Reader
Tuesday, October 17th: From the TBR Pile
Wednesday, October 18th: Stranded in Chaos
Thursday, October 19th: Readaholic Zone
Friday, October 20th: Black ‘n Gold Girl’s Book Spot
Monday, October 23rd: Katy’s Library blog and Instagram
Tuesday, October 24th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Tuesday, October 24th: What is That Book About – spotlight
Wednesday, October 25th: Books and Bindings
Thursday, October 26th: Bookchickdi
Thursday, October 26th: Reading Reality
Friday, October 27th: View from the Birdhouse
Friday, October 27th: Book Reviews and More by Kathy – spotlight
Monday, October 30th: A Holland Reads
Monday, October 30th: A Chick Who Reads
Wednesday, November 1st: Novel Gossip
Thursday, November 2nd: Suzy Approved
Saturday, November 4th: Girl Who Reads
Monday, November 6th: Palmer’s Page Turners
Tuesday, November 7th: Bewitched Bookworms
Wednesday, November 8th: Moonlight Rendezvous
Thursday, November 9th: LiteraryJo Reviews blog and Instagram
Friday, November 10th: Thoughts on This ‘n That
Monday, November 13th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers
Tuesday, November 14th: The Romance Dish
Tuesday, November 14th: Blogging with A