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Tuesday, May 31, 2022

The Boardwalk Bookshop by Susan Mallery

The Boardwalk Bookshop by Susan Mallery
Published by MIRA ISBN 9780778386087
Trade paperback, $16.99, 448 pages

Summer for me always means it's time for a Susan Mallery book (or two!), and in addition to her earlier The Summer Getaway (my review here), Mallery's The Boardwalk Bookshop is here just in time for beach weather.

Three women decide to take a lease on a building right on a California beach boardwalk. They each have their own business- Bree owns the Boardwalk Bookshop, Mikki has opened a touristy giftshop, and Ashley sells her delicious treats in the bakeshop.

Bree is a young widow, and was raised by parents who weren't interested at all in raising a child. They were too busy with their careers as literary authors. Bree was left on her own, wondering why her parents didn't love her. It made her cautious with others, unwilling to get close to anyone, let alone date.

Mikki is a divorced women with two teenage children she shares with her ex-husband. She gets along with her ex, and her ex-mother-in-law even works at her gift shop. It's been three years since her divorce, and her friends are trying to convince her it's time to start dating. In this world of online dating, it's daunting.

Ashley has the perfect boyfriend. She and Seth like the same things, and agree on just about everything- except for the concept of marriage. Ashley wants to get married, Seth thinks they don't need to be married to have a lifetime of happiness.

While their business seems to be doing well, their love lives need work. Ashley's brother is an author, and she fears that he will fall in love with the beautiful Bree who will break his heart. Mikki is contemplating connecting with a man she met online, and Ashley is torn between her love for Seth and her wish for the serious commitment of marriage.

The friends meet every Friday night to share a bottle (or two) of champagne on the beach and review their week. If you are a fan of the bubbly, you'll get some terrific suggestions for different bottles to pick up at your local liquor store for your next get-together. 

I truly liked all the characters in this endearing novel. Mikki's mother (who works with Bree) and her mother-in-law are both wonderful characters, and the way that all the women support each other is heartwarming. The men in this story are also interesting, well-drawn, not stereotypes.

As someone who works in a bookshop, I really enjoyed that aspect of the book. I would love nothing more than to work in Bree's bookshop on the beach, it would be heavenly. Put The Boardwalk Bookshop in your beach bag this summer, you'll enjoy spending time with these three ladies.

Thanks to Harlequin Books for putting me on Susan Mallery's tour. 

Thursday, May 26, 2022

A Proposal They Can't Refuse by Natalie Caña

A Proposal They Can't Refuse by Natalie Caña
Published by MIRA ISBN 9780778386094
Trade paperback, $15.99, 336 pages

Natalie Caña's first novel in her new romance series, A Proposal They Can't Refuse is a charming introduction to the Vega family in a Chicago suburb. Kamilah's grandparents opened their Puerto Rican neighborhood restaurant fifty years ago. 

Kamilah's parents now run the restaurant, never changing anything in fifty years, from the menu to the decor. Kamilah is a trained chef and has some great ideas to modernize things to attract the new people moving to the neighborhood, but her family is adamantly against it.

Liam Kane's grandfather founded Kane's Distillery next door to Kamilah's family restaurant, where Liam now works. His grandfather and Kamilah's grandfather are best friends and live in the same assisted living facility, where their hijinks continually cause trouble. Liam and Kamilah grew up together and dated a little in high school, but now they are more like frenemies.

The two men have concocted a plan to get their grandchildren together in a plan that will allow Liam and Kamilah to make the changes they want to the family businesses. All they have to do is get engaged- what could go wrong?

A Proposal They Can't Refuse has everything that makes a great romance novel- enemies to lovers, friends, secrets, exes, misunderstandings, and steamy sex scenes. I loved learning about the distillery business, and I always enjoy a book set in a restaurant, as my husband and I used to own a fast food restaurant.  The descriptions of Kamilah's food has me drooling. Learning about the Puerto Rican and Irish cultures was interesting, and you get to practice (or learn) a little Spanish. 

I can't wait for the next installments of the Vega family stories in subsequent books. I highly recommend A Proposal They Can't Refuse

Thanks to Harlequin Books for putting me on their Summer 2022 Rom-Com Tour.

Monday, May 23, 2022

Never Coming Home By Hannah Mary McKinnon

Never Coming Home by Hannah Mary McKinnon
Published MIRA ISBN 9780778386100
Trade paperback, $16.99, 368 pages

Most psychological thrillers are written from the point of view of the protagonist. Hannah Mary McKinnon's latest novel, Never Coming Home, takes its point of the view from the antagonist.

Lucas Forester met and married his wife Michelle in the space of a few months. Michelle comes from a wealthy family, and Lucas has a murky past. His only relative is his father who lives in a nursing home in England, where Lucas is from.

Lucas dotes on Michelle, treating her like a queen, so he is devastated when she disappears while he is on trip back to England. Police find video of her being abducted and thrown into a van by a masked man. The van is later found burned, but there is no trace of Michelle.

Detective Anjali has made it her mission to find Michelle, but has not turned up any clues. Michelle's mother Nora is very ill, dying of cancer, and her brother Travis has a serious drug and alcohol problem. 

We know that Lucas is the one responsible for Michelle's kidnapping. He hired a hitman on the Dark Web to kill her so that he can inherit her money, which will enable him to take care of his father's medical bills.

Lucas is calculating and cunning. He carefully plotted his entire plan, making certain to leave no traces of his involvement. He is playing the long game, willing to wait as long as it takes (years even) to get Michelle's money and make sure no one suspects his involvement.

It's all going to plan until he begins to receive photos of Michelle. Is she still alive? Did the hitman change his mind and is now extorting more money from Lucas? Lucas has no way to get in touch with the hitman.
His perfect plan is unraveling, and now his past is coming back to haunt him.

If you liked Caroline Kepnes novel (and Netflix series You),  Never Coming Home is a great read for you. There are a few twists in the story, including a big one that I didn't see coming. McKinnon has created an intriguing, complicated character in Lucas, and Never Coming Home is a terrific novel for thriller readers who like to puzzle out the story.

Thanks to Harlequin Books for putting me on their Summer 2022 Mystery/Thriller Blog Tour.

Friday, May 20, 2022

Friday 5ive- May 20, 2022

Welcome to the Friday 5ive, a weekly-ish blog post featuring five things that caught my attention this week.

1) I finished another virtual bike ride through The Conqueror Virtual Challenges. This one was a 500 mile ride along the coast of Scotland. It took me 84 days to complete on my Peloton bike. We are going to visit Scotland and Ireland in August, so this one had an extra level of enjoyment for me.

2) Speaking of Peloton, I took a fantastic ride this week- Emma Lovewell's 30 Minute Fleetwood Mac Ride. I am a huge Fleetwood Mac fan, and every song Emma chose was a favorite. I actually took it three days in a row, I enjoyed it that much. 

3) I'm so happy that the Book of the Month Club started a podcast, Virtual Book Tour, and they chose a wonderful author to kickoff the initial episode- Adriana Trigiani, author of one of their May selections, The Good Left Undone (which I adored!). BOTM Editorial Director Brianna Goodman and Editorial Associate Jerrod MacFarlane spoke with Adriana about her inspiration for the novel, the importance of telling family stories, and how women's voices have traditionally been ignored in history. (And I can't wait to hear more about Adriana's Uncle Ralph, he has a great story.) I will be looking every other Tuesday for this terrific podcast, and if you a BOTM club member, this is a must-listen. 

4) This week's episode of This Is Us was just stunning. After following the story of the Pearson family for six years, we come to the end of matriarch Rebecca's story. Beautifully written, the episode titled 
The Train takes us through the last day of Rebecca's life. Mandy Moore's portrayal of Rebecca this season has been nothing short of amazing, and if she doesn't win the Emmy this year, there is no justice. 

5) I spent four days waiting for various repair people to install a new refrigerator, install a new security camera, and most importantly, fix our broken internet connection. What to do with no internet or cable- why, read books of course! I read five books in four days, which was good because four of them are books I signed up to do on book tours.
First was Seraphina Nova Glass' On A Quiet Street (my review here), which gave me a Desperate Housewives vibe. (Remember that show?). It a mystery/thriller about three women who live in a wealthy Oregon coast enclave- Paige, whose 22 year-old son was killed near their home in a hit-and-run, Cora, whose believes her husband is cheating, and Georgia, mother to an infant, who never leaves her home. How these lives intersect made for page-turning reading. I couldn't put it down. 

Next was Hannah Mary McKinnon's Never Coming Home (my review will post Monday, May 23rd), about a Lucas, sociopathic man who plans the perfect way to get a hold of his wife's money- he will hire a hitman on the Dark Web and have her kidnapped and killed. What could go wrong? McKinnon takes the reader through Lucas' meticulous planning, but when Lucas receives incriminating photos, his plan could go astray. 

I always look forward to Susan Mallery's summer beach reads, and her latest, The Boardwalk Bookshop, holds special attention for me as it's set in a bookshop and I work in a bookshop, The Book Cellar, in NYC. (I wouldn't mind working in a bookshop at the beach though.) Bree owns the bookshop, and two other women share the space- Mikki, who owns the gift shop, and Ashley, who owns a bakery. Bree is closed off emotionally, Mikki is divorced and looking to start dating again, and Ashley has the perfect boyfriend. I loved all of them, and I'm always up for stories about women entrepreneurs. This has just the right blend of romance, friendship and career. My full review publishes May 31st. 

Natalie Caña's first volume in her Vega Family romance series, A Proposal They Can't Refuse, also features entrepreneurs. Kamilah Vega's family owns a Puerto Rican restaurant in their gentrifying Chicago neighborhood. Sharing the building is Kane's Distillery, run by Kamilah's childhood friend-turned-nemesis Liam Kane. Kamilah and Liam's grandfathers, best friends who each founded their family businesses, come up with a scheme to bring their granchildren together and possibly save their family businesses at the same time. Again, I loved this story because of the emphasis on building a business, and I learned a lot about distilleries that I didn't know. The romance scenes are steamy, and there are familiar romance novels tropes of enemies-to-lovers, secrets, friends, and misunderstandings to overcome. You'll also get to practice your Spanish. I really liked this one, I'm looking forward to the next books in the series. My full review publishes May 26th.

The fifth book was one that has been out for awhile, and so many people have raved about it, I decided to read it. Robert Dugoni's novel, The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell, tells the story of a boy born with  ocular albinism or "red eyes". The kids call him 'the Devil's son'. Sam Hill is the only son of a very devout Catholic mother who is determined that her son will lead an extraordinary life. His father owns a pharmacy in their town, and works long, hard hours trying to stave off the threat of chain pharmacies beginning to take hold in the 1970s. Sam is bullied at his Catholic school, but his friendships with Ernie, the only Black child at school, and Mickie, a tough girl who takes no guff from anyone, save him. Dugoni wrote this lovely story inspired by his younger brother who was born with Down's Syndrome. It is inspirational and uplifting. 

Have a great week, stay safe and healthy.

Monday, May 16, 2022

On A Quiet Street by Seraphina Nova Glass

On A Quiet Street by Seraphina Nova Glass
Published by Grayson House ISBN 9781525899751
Trade paperback, $16.99, 320 pages

Sometimes you read a book that takes a while to catch your interest, sometimes a book grabs you right away and doesn’t let go. Seraphina Nova Glass’ new novel, On A Quiet Street, took a hold of me on page one and never let up.

The story follows three women who live in a quiet, wealthy enclave called Brighton Hills on the Oregon coast. Paige is mourning the hit and run death of her 22 year-old son Caleb, who was killed near their home. His mother has made it her mission to discover which one of her neighbors killed her son and left him for dead. She is a regular visitor to the police department, and has narrowed her list of suspects. Her husband Grant has moved out, but he still loves his wife dearly.

Cora is married to  Finn, mom to two teens, and spends much of her time doing various charitable works. She doesn’t trust her husband, believing that Finn is once again cheating on her. Finn tells Cora that she is crazy to think he is not loyal to her, and he is tired of the accusations.

Paige offers to use her newfound sleuthing skills to help Cora get the evidence she needs to prove that Finn is a liar and cheat. Fed up, Cora takes Paige up on her offer.

Georgia is married to Lucas, a well-respected judge in the community. She spends all her time caring for their baby Avery, and is rarely seen outside of the home. Cora has tried several times to befriend Georgia, only to be rebuffed. Lucas has told people that Georgia has mental health issues and is agoraphobic, but Cora thinks there is something more.

As the lives of these three women are about to collide, will they find the answers to their problems?  I raced through On A Quiet Street, and couldn’t put this book down. Seraphina Nova Glass ratchets up the suspense in this well-crafted novel, and although as she ties up the loose ends a bit too tidy, overall this is a psychological suspense novel I would recommend. If you were a Desperate Housewives fan back a few years ago, this one is for you. 

Thanks to Harlequin for putting me on their Summer Mystery/Thriller Blog Tour. 

Friday, May 13, 2022

Friday 5ive- May 13, 2022

Welcome to the Friday 5ive, a weekly-ish blog post featuring five things that caught my attention. Happy Friday the 13th- look our for black cats and don't walk under any ladders.

1)  I received an invitation to my niece's baby shower, and included in the invitation is this adorable card "Books for Baby". Like many baby showers, guests are asked to bring a book for the baby. What is really great is that we are asked to bring a book that has special meaning for us, something we loved as a child, or something that will remind the baby of us. We are asked to sign the book to the baby as well. I squealed with joy when I read this card, it is the best idea I have seen in a long time.

2)  Our neighborhood Italian grocery store, Agata & Valentina just opened a Gluten-Free and Organics smaller grocery store across the street from their main store. I ,haven't been in it yet, but I think that is a terrific concept that will work well in our bustling neighborhood. 

3) I watched two author book events on Zoom. The first was hosted by Books In Common NW with author Claire Lombardo interviewing Bonnie Garmus about Bonnie's debut novel, Lessons in Chemistry. Everyone I know has been raving about the book.  Set in the 1960s, it tells the story of a female research chemist who finds herself the host of a popular cooking show on TV. The interview was terrific, Claire had insightful questions, and Bonnie's description of how she came to write the book was one many women can relate to- she was in a meeting at work and spoke up about an idea she had. She got no response from the group, but when a man immediately repeated her idea as his own, the team loved it. She called him out on it, but he denied it. She went back to her office and began to write the first chapter. I'm excited for this one, one of my Book of the Month selections. It was a fascinating discussion.
One of my other Book of the Month selections was Jennifer Close's Marrying the Ketchups, about a family who owns a restaurant. Jennifer was in conversation with author Lauren Fox at Boswell Book Company about the book, which I chose because my husband and I owned two fast-food restaurants in another life and it sounds perfect for me.  I  enjoy a good family story, and listening to Jennifer talk about the multiple narrators and the storyline had me moving this one up to the top of my TBR list.

4) We watched the last season of Neflix's Ozark. Oh, I had a pit in my stomach the entire time. There was so much tension wondering how they were going to wind up the story of the Byrde family, trying desperately to get out from under the control of the Navarro drug cartel, no matter what the cost. Do they succeed? You have to watch. The addition of Richard Thomas as Wendy Byrde's father was brilliant casting. He's come a long way from his John-Boy Walton days. 

5) I read two amazing books this week. Kirsten Miller's The Change, a Good Morning America Reads pick for May, has great timing. It's a novel about three middle-aged women who find they each are called to avenge the deaths of young women in their wealthy Long Island community. Nessa is a widow now experiencing empty nest syndrome when her twin daughters go to college. Nessa hears the voices of dead people, who lead her to where their bodies are. It is a "gift" she inherits from her grandmother. Jo owns a women-only gym in town, and her trip through menopause leaves her with an incredible physical strength. Harriet "retired" from her career as an advertising director when she is unfairly passed over for a well-deserved promotion, given instead to an unqualified man. The townspeople believe Harriet is a witch because she has turned her previously well-attended landscaping into a wild grown jungle. The women band together to discover who killed the three young women who called out to Nessa. These women use their righteous anger to right wrongs. It's a mystery-thriller-revenge fantasy that is so well-written, and the main characters are fascinating I highly recommend it. 

The other book I read is Barbara Kingsolver's upcoming October release, Demon Copperhead. The story takes its inspiration from Charles Dicken's David Copperfield, with young Damon living in poverty with his young single mother in Appalachian coal country. Damon has to struggle his entire life through bad foster care situations, homelessness, enforced child labor, and eventually finding a talent for football. The voice of Damon is unforgettable as he narrates the ups and many downs of his life, through loss and love and the scourge of rampant pill drug abuse foisted on the people in his rural community by a powerful pharmaceutical company. It's a big book, over 500 pages, and an important book, destined to be as classic as Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible, one of my all-time favorite novels. Make sure to put Demon Copperhead on your radar this fall. I will be talking this one up all summer long.

Have a great week, stay safe and healthy.

Friday, May 6, 2022

Friday 5ive- Boston edition

Welcome to the Friday 5ive, a weekly(ish) blog post featuring five things that caught my attention. This week's special edition shares five things from our family trip to Boston a few weekends ago.

1) My Dad's favorite basketball player was Boston Celtic Larry Bird, and we stumbled upon a plaque with Larry Bird's bronzed shoes in Faneuil Hall Square. 

2) My Dad loved the Boston Red Sox too, and since it was opening day for the Red Sox, opening NBA playoff game between the Celtics and Brooklyn Nets, the Bruins hosted a hockey game, and Boston Marathon weekend, it was big sports celebration weekend in Boston. There was an MLB display up in Faneuil Hall Square with all four of the Boston Red Sox World Series trophies. 

3) A lovely friend from Boston gifted me with this pretty plate from a store in Newport, Rhode Island and I think the sentiment is appropriate.

4) We made a visit to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library on Easter Sunday. It was the perfect day day to go, there were no crowds. The movie on the Cuban Missile Crisis was particularly well done, with audio recordings from the Oval Office that were insightful. I love Presidential Libraries, I could spend all day in them.

The famous rocking chair from Kenndy's Oval Office

From a special exhibit on JFK's children in the White House

There was an exhibit on Ernest Hemingway's books down a hallway

RFK's desk from his Attorney General's office

5) While the guys golfed, the girls wandered the city (we walked over 15 miles in two days), and found this wonderful Italian bookstore in the North End. I Am Books had lots of books in Italian, and a nicely curated section of cookbooks and food items. I really liked the store and bought a book while I was there. If you find yourself in the North End, be sure to stop in.

The foodie section

Their chocolates were tempting

I purchased The Personal Librarian from I Am Books

We had some wonderful meals and truly enjoyed our whirlwind tour of Boston.

Monday, May 2, 2022

New in Paperback- Blush by Jamie Brenner

Reprinted from auburnpub.com:

Blush by Jamie Brenner

Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons ISBN 9780593087817

Trade paperback, $17, 416 pages

Jamie Brenner’s Blush starts out in Manhattan, on the Upper East Side where the successful fancy cheese shop Leah has run for twenty years is about to lose its lease. 

Leah returns to her parents’ wine estate in North Fork, Long Island where her father tells her that they must sell the winery that they built forty years ago due to financial reasons. Leah always wanted to be a part of the winery business, but her father chose her brother Asher as his heir apparent to learn the business, which hurt Leah. 

Vivian, Leah’s mother, is devastated to learn that they will not only lose the winery, but also the beautiful home that she designed on the property. Vivian has always been the face of the winery, the impeccably dressed hostess for weddings and tastings, but she always wanted to have more of a say in how the business was run.

When Leah’s daughter Sadie shows up hoping to work on her thesis, she discovers a cache of notebooks that her grandmother had hidden recounting the book club meetings that she held years ago. 

The books discussed were novels popular in the 1980s- Judith Krantz’s Scruples, Jackie Collins’ Chances and Shirley Cochran’s Lace among them. (Many of us will recognize those titles immediately from our own reading history.)

The three women, along with Asher’s much younger girlfriend Bridget, form their own book club to read these books and take inspiration from the characters in the story. The women in these books took it upon themselves to go after what they wanted in business and their personal lives. Can these women do the same and save the winery from disaster?

If you are someone who enjoys wine, as I do, you’ll will get a higher level of satisfaction from this book as you learn all about the process of growing grapes for wine, all the way through the winemaking process. I found it utterly fascinating.

Brenner excels in showing us the three stages of loving relationships- Vivian and her husband of forty years and the lifelong partnership they have, Leah and her husband’s middle-aged marriage issues, and Sadie finding love in the throes of youthful attraction.

I liked how the title of the book- Blush- echoes the one-word titles of the 1980’s novels. Blush is a wonderful female-centered story that updates the sentiments of those earlier novels for today’s woman.