Category Archives: Book Review

Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan

Little Beach Street Bakery, Jenny Colgan, Book Journey

*Note – you may notice my reading of late has turned to a lighter side.  That would be true.  In light of my life at this time I have been reading books that are fairly light reads, not too heavy and easy on me.  And with a cover like this one, how could I go wrong?  :)  ~Sheila

 

When Polly’s life seems to be falling apart with a relationship FAIL, all Polly wants to do is get away and start somewhere new.  When she goes with her friend Kerensa to visit a quiet seaside town she finds comfort in the extreme solitude of a small worn down flat above an old closed down bakery.  Where Polly sees a new start, Kerensa sees nothing but a run down town with a tide that closes the road to traffic and leaves access to where Polly would live not only inaccessible, but dangerous.

To keep herself busy Polly starts to use her talent of making bread to feed the fisherman that come in by where she lives each day.  When her hobby starts to bring more and more people to her door, with the help of a handful of new friends, a goofy but handsome local beekeeper, and a lot of elbow grease, Polly might just be on to something.

 

 

The Little Beach Street Bakery is being compared to the likes of Chocolat.  My distance from the Chocolat read can neither confirm nor deny this comparison.  From what I can recall of the other book, I would say that Little Beach Street Bakery is quite a bit lighter in writing and technique.  While there is a little romance kneaded in throughout the read, it is not the deep compassion of Chocolat.

That said, LBSB is a sweet book of finding your own way in the midst of feeling directionless.  I could relate to this book.  The characters are a mix of fun and quirky – enough so that you never take the book seriously.  The book itself could be compared to a hot loaf of bread; it is fresh, looks wonderfully delicious, and it is comforting.  The honey on top is just the bit of sweetness it needs to bring it all together.

Little Beach Street Bakery is just the type of book I am drawn to this time of year.  A book to read while sitting in the sunshine.

 

 

 

 

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (March 31, 2015)

 

Vintage by Susan Gloss

1   Violet Turner is the owner of Hourglass Vintage in Madison Wisconsin.  Her shop is filled with delightful items from an array of decades.  Violet loves her shop, her location, and the stories that the items she sells hold. When she discovers that her landlord is looking to sell the building Hourglass Vintage is in, Violet panics.  She has the option in her lease to buy, but nowhere near the money being asked.  Violet realizes she can not do this alone.

April Morgan is 18 years old, 5 months pregnant, and hurting from the loss of her mother as well as the broken engagement to be married that came as a shock.  When April brings the vintage 1950’s wedding dress to Violet’s shop in hopes to return it, a surprising connection starts to develop…

Amithi Singh brings items of her heritage to Hourglass Vintage, items she had believed she would pass on to her daughter but her now grown daughter has shunned such traditional items.  Reeling from shocking news about her husbands fidelity – or lack there of – Amithi is looking to find her way, and she may have made a right step by coming to Violet’s store…. What can these women of very different backgrounds find in common that may be able to help Hourglass Vintage?

 

 

 

Vintage by Susan Gloss was a fun read about a strong woman trying to make it with her dream vintage clothing shop.  Each chapter starts with a unique item found in the shop, the description, approximate date of the item, and where it came from.  It made for a fun look into a vintage clothing shop and the characters that shop there or the ones that drop off their items. Vintage is a light and fun book and fit in with what I needed at the time I was reading it.  There were a couple “hmmmm” moments in the book for me but for the most past this is a book to not take too seriously and just enjoy the read.

Susan Gloss, Vintage, Bookies Book Club Brainerd Minnesota, Book Journey

To surprise the author many of us dressed in “vintage” clothing for the Skype session.

Bookies Review

Our book club the Bookies read this book and we Skyped with the author Susan Gloss.  We enjoyed pizza (mentioned in the book), spaghetti, wine, cheese, and desserts.  One of the girls in our group had vintage items from her own history which was incredible cool (see pictures below).  The Bookies over all rated the book higher than I did.  For the most part they found the book to be enjoyable and over all the 16 of us came up with an average rating of 4 out of a high rating of 5 which is pretty good. 6

Book Journey Vintage by Susan Gloss

Items brought by Laura for the review

15 18   PicMonkey Collage

How to host a book club event around this book

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (September 2, 2014)

The Boy Who Loved Rain by Gerald Kelly

the boy who loved rain, Gerald Kelly, Book Journey, TLC Tours

David and Fiona have one son Colom.  Yet no matter what they do, Colum, now 14, acts out at school and is desensitized when it comes to any sort of discipline.  David, who is a Pastor is adamant that Colom receive any counseling through the Church and that no outside help be administered.  Fiona, who just wants to help Colom is not so sure her husband’s ways are right this time.

As Colom continues to strike out as school, and have nightmares about a drowning sister although he has no sister, the walls feel like they are closing in on this family. David becomes more and more distant from his son and Fiona finds no other solution but to take Colom and run seeking shelter through the kindness of a friend… hoping perhaps distance from his father and from the school pressures will help Colom sort through what he is going through.

but how much of what is happening is Colom, and how much is David and Fiona’s own creation?

 

 

The Boy Who Loved Rain is a powerful read.  I was unsure picking this book up what I was in for…would I experience the slow destruction of a boy like in Nineteen Minutes?  Would I find the cold calculations of a child like in We Need To Talk About Kevin?

As it turns out, no, The Boy Who Loved Rain is an entirely different type of book and one that I enjoyed thoroughly.  Written in an almost lyrical way I like how this story unfolds from a family to individuals and it felt true to life.  Broken people just trying to get it right.  The book also brings up great discussion questions and I could not help but think that this would make for a good group read.

This book is a thought-provoking read.  I enjoyed spending time with it very much.

 

 

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Lion Fiction; 1st New edition (January 1, 2015)

I was able to experience this journey with Colom thanks to TLC Book Tours

tlc-tour-host

 

 

The Precious One by Marisa do los Santos

The Precious One, Marissa de los Santos, Marisa do los Santos, Book Journey

Recently, I had fallen behind on reviews.. you know… life happens and all that stuff.  When I sat down one morning and thought it was time to catch up I absolutely knew this was the review I wanted to write first.  I was so impressed and excited about this authors style of writing I was ready to gush gush gush, perform cart wheels and produce pom poms;  but here, let me share with you this story… ~Sheila

Eustacia (Taisy) Cleary grew up with Wilson, a father that was beyond structured and strict, and never quite earned the title of daddy.  Not only did he destroy the relationship she had with the only boy she ever loved, his selfish hard ways also led to the destruction of their family when he left Taisy, her twin brother Marcus, and their mother for a younger woman, and soon to follow a baby girl named Willow, who Taisy has never had a chance to get to know.

Now seventeen years later the dust of that destructive time has cleared and Taisy despite the damage to her self-esteem that her father had created, is doing well as a ghost writer.  Her relationship with her brother and mom are very intact, and the boy, Ben, the one that broke her heart just as much as she broke his, is but a small flutter of regretful memory.

Then out of the blue, Wilson calls.  He wants Taisy to come and stay with him for a couple of weeks and write his life story.  He claims that everything she has ever wondered about him will be revealed, but it is she who he wants to do the research and writing.  Against her better judgement, Taisy agrees to go, curious about the man who was so controlling, and his mysterious wife, as well as Willow, her sister who would now be 17 years old.

Willow, who has been home schooled until recently, and sheltered all her life by her parents is incredibly smart, beautiful, and freakishly naive about all things in the real world.  She has never had a cell phone, a computer, or watch TV other than educational programming… and she is immediately mistrusting of Taisy’s presence in her home, trying, in Willow’s opinion to take back the family she was no longer a part of.

Taisy is about to get a life lesson in family, in friendship, and in lost love.  There is so much more as to why Wilson has called on her, and all involved are about to move forward into a strange new present.

Let the gushing commence.  This is the first book I have read by Marissa de los Santos and I absolutely had no idea going in what an experience her writing would be.  I adored the long sentences of conversation (much the way I myself may talk) and the funny little comments in parenthesis … but it was so much more than the writing I enjoyed, it was also the amazing characters and story.

Once again I find myself in a sort of trend in books that somehow lead to someone coming back home to fix, repair, or learn something.  And again I am blown away with what a useful synopsis this truly is.  In Taisy’s case, she is only back in her home town for a task and then has every intention to return to her life.  Taisy is the kind of protagonist I really like, a strong independent woman who is just cleaning up some past residue.

Willow is also an excellent voice to this book.  Told in alternating chapters between Taisy and Willow, it is enjoyable to see life through this sheltered girls eyes.  Her dialogue is not that of a teenager due to her upbringing but even that is fun (it felt a little like Jane Eyre dialogue).  It was like Willow struggles between the sophisticated rich upbringing she has had and the desire to be a teenager and go through teenager stuff.  This inner struggles is handled superbly.

I absolutely devoured this book and am now eyeballing another book I have waiting for me by this same author, Belong To Me.

If you have not read this author, I highly recommend her.  She has a refreshing style that inspired me to really be myself in my own writing.  It was wonderful!

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow (March 24, 2015)
  • Language: English

The Mystery Writer’s of America Cookbook edited by Kate White

Mystery Writers Of America Cook Book, Book Journey, Gift Book, Author Recipes,   Mystery Writers Of America Cook Book, Sheila DeChantal, Male Chauvenist Pigs In A Blanket

I love books.  I love food.  I love books about food.  One of the things I enjoy about reading is making food mentioned in books.  It’s true.   I make Pepsi steak to this day because a character did it in a James Patterson book I read years ago and I thought it sounded simple and tasty.  My husband loves it.

If you know all of this about me, then as you can imagine, saying yes to review this book was a no brainer.  Recipes from wonderful mystery writers that have come from their books.  My mouth waters just to think of it.

When the book arrived I was thrilled at how beautiful it is.  Sturdy hard cover, thick quality pages…definitely a beautiful gift book to that mystery lover you know.

 

 

I enjoyed that each recipe is accompanied by information from the author of where the recipe came from.  Gillian Flynn presents Beef Skillet Fiesta, she is a Midwestern girl at heart and says her characters are as well.  Laura Childs is known for her Tea Shop Mysteries so her recipe of Killer Sweet Tea should come as no surprise.  James Patterson offer us Grandma’s Killer Chocolate Cake which is something I know I need to make.  It will be Sandra Browns Mystery Crackers I will be making soon along with Harlan Coben’s offering of Myron’s Crabmeat Dip (which Harlan believes that while Myron’s friend Win makes this dip, he is pretty sure it was one of the many ex girlfriends of Win that told him how to make it.)

For now though….  I could not wait to make Nelson Demille’s Male Chauvinist Pigs In The Blanket.  The recipe is simple, it sounds tasty, and I had a friend coming over who could taste test.

 

Male Chauvinist Pigs In The Blanket

I am not going to rewrite the whole recipe, and it is much cooler in the book than I am about to write here… but here is the basics of this one by Nelson DeMille.

1 package of hot dogs

1 can of crescent rolls (like Pillsbury)

chili powder

a can of beer

mustard

 

Mystery Writers Of America Cook Book, Sheila DeChantal, Male Chauvenist Pigs In A BlanketCut hot dogs at an angle in half.  Place in bowl and add beer on top.  Leave in bowl until beer is not foamy anymore (I found that happened quickly so I left them in a little longer).  Take hot dogs out of beer bath and sprinkle with chili powder (according to DeMille this is the top secret ingredient).  Roll hot dog up in crescent roll as you would when making pigs in a blanket.  Cook at 375 for about 17 minutes, 5 minutes or so longer than you would if you were following instructions for PIAB on the rolls.  Serve warm and with mustard.

Mystery Writers Of America Cook Book, Sheila DeChantal, Male Chauvenist Pigs In A Blanket

Mystery Writers Of America Cook Book, Sheila DeChantal,Male Chauvenist Pigs In A Blanket Book Journey

 

 

The results:  Tasty.  I am looking forward to making this at book club as the next earliest convenience when I am presented with a male chauvinist character.  I can not wait!

Keep this book in mind if you need a gift for a fellow book lover.  I have already ordered a copy for just that purpose.

 

 

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Quirk Books (March 24, 2015)
  • Language: English

 

Seven Stones by Julia Lee

Seven Stones, Julia Lee, Book Journey, Ojibwa, Heritage, historical fiction YA

Growing up in Chicago Keilann Douglas didn’t think twice about her Ojibwe heritage.  Around her family  and peers it was a non issue and Keilann who never liked standing out is fine with that.  Yet when Keilann’s father needs to move the family to Scotland for a teaching job everything changes.

Keilann enrolls in the new school along with her younger sister Fiona.  Fiona never has trouble fitting in and adapts quickly to the other kids her age and soon has a group of friends.  Keilann on the other hand feels like a square peg in a round hole and finds solace only back in the sanctuary of her new home and in the woods beyond her home.

The woods are comforting, the silence covers Keilann like a warm blanket. While exploring she finds an ancient stone circle where at times, a wild-eyed scared girl appears and disappears right before Keailann’s eyes.  While at first witnessing such a thing is frightening, eventually Keillann becomes less scared and more curious.  Who is this girl and why is Keilann the only one to see her?  What is with the seven stones?  And how can each of these two girls possibly learn from one another?

 

 

Yesterday, I posted a conversation I had with the author of this book, Julia Lee.  There is so much that impressed me about this book that when I was reading it recently I had a hard time putting it down as each page led to more questions that I wanted answers to.

Originally when I started Seven Stones I thought I was going to be reading YA book.  Yet, once I was into the book I discovered something more.  I discovered I was learning about a Native American heritage that I knew little about.  Through a young girl and her mother’s eyes, I was getting a taste of the deep heritage that is centered around the Ojibwe.  Toss in a little bit of Scotland and their heritage as well and I was surprised to find this book to also be a historical read.

Seven Stones is a book I found to be wonderfully diverse in culture and history.  I appreciated what this book had to offer and look forward to what author Julia Lee has in store for us next.

 

Currently Seven Stones is available at RiverPlace Press and soon will be available on Amazon.

Descent by Tim Johnston – Bookies Book Club Review w/ Discussion Questions

Descent by Tim Johnston review questions, discussion, Bookies, Book Club, Book Journey

Quick Synopsis…

While the Courtland family is on vacation in Colorado with their two teenage children, their daughter Cailtin is abducted while out for a morning run.  What follows is a three-year nightmare while the already struggling family tries to move on.  With no answers to what happened to Caitlin or even if she is dead or alive, each remaining member of the Courtland family battles this crushing weight in different ways.

Grant, the father remains in Colorado unable to leave the are his daughter disappeared from.  He stays at a ranch helping out an elderly man, making attempts to move forward but nothing happens.

Angela, the mother, has returned to their home state of Wisconsin but deals with great depression.  She lives with her sister after having had to sell their family home and has a hard time functioning from day-to-day.

Sean, the brother, now 18, the age his sister was when she was taken struggles with the guilt of having been with Caitlin when she was taken.  What could he have done differently?

And Caitlin.  Will they ever find her?  And if they do, what exactly will they find?

 

I reviewed Descent by Tim Johnston last week with my opinion.  This review is the thoughts of our book club as a whole and no spoilers :)

Descent brought out a lot of good discussion among our group.  While some of us really found the storyline realistic and engaging, others pointed out things that did not seem to fit.  There were questions of characters who suddenly did something completely out of their character which we all agreed did not fit, but some would argue that some things do not need to be revealed to the reader. Perhaps the author was giving the reader the feeling of “no control” and that not knowing what would happen could very well, as some argued, give the book a feel more real to life.  After all… life is messy and try as we may to figure out how things are going to go… we never do really know.

It was mentioned that the book synopsis that we read from the book when we chose it was not an accurate synopsis, of what actually happens in the book.  Some felt mislead to be told one thing and then read another.

Over all, on a scale of 1 to 5, 5 being the best, the ratings went from 2,s to 4,s and quite a few rating it in the 3’s (a standard read).  It was one of those books that bring out a lot of thoughts, opinions, and discussion.  We even reenacted a final scene (I can’t share… that would be a spoiler) when we questioned how one would do that.  One girl in our group even had a similar story to share of something that happened to a friend of her sons while hiking.  There is actually a book written about that true story, Bringing Jon Home by David Francis.  A book that I ordered on Kindle this morning.

 

Why Would This Make A Good Book Club Read

Descent is a book that could have been ripped from the headlines.  This leads to discussion like, “what would you do?” as well as discussion on how a strong family can be shattered by such an experience and a damaged family (such as the Courtland’s) have a good chance of falling completely apart.

If you look at reviews of this book on-line from some of the big name newspapers, New York Times, The Herald, etc… you will find diverse opinions, much like you can expect from a group read.  The writing style can be thought of as brilliant, or annoying.  (And in our group it was just that)

In the book, Sean is believed to be false when he is telling the truth.  Discussion can be made over when that has happened in your lives, when you are telling the truth about something and you are either misunderstood, or believed to be false and the frustration of when your character is questioned like that.

Themes of hope, faith, depression, denial, and survival instinct are all represented within this read.

Bookies, Book Club, discussion questions, Tim JOhnston, Descent

Food ideas… while not a lot of food is mentioned within the book, there is pizza at a birthday celebration, and Caitlin keeps snickers in her pockets when she runs for energy boosts.

Questions For Your Discussion

 

Descent by Tim Johnston

Descent, Tim Johnston, Book JOurney

The Courtland family, Grant and Angela and their two teenage children, Sean and Caitlin, travel to Colorado for a family vacation before Caitlin heads off to college.  Caitlin is a runner and has won many awards for her skills and is looking forward to the challenge of the terrain of Colorado.

The first morning they are there, Caitlin and Sean take off to try the trails.  Caitlin on foot and Sean following on his bike.  A short time later Grant receives a call from the police that Sean is in the hospital having been hit by a car and when Grant inquires about Caitlin, the officer is puzzled…. Sean was found alone.  Caitlin was not with him.

This is the start of a family nightmare.  Grant and Angela’s already shaking marriage is put in even more jeopardy when Grant insists that he stay in Colorado to continue the search for Caitlin while Angela and Sean return home to Wisconsin and try to continue on with a semi normal life.  As weeks turn to months, and months to years, the damage to all the Courtlands is evident.

Sean lives with the guilt of knowing more than he is saying, and Caitlin… well, what of Caitlin?  Will she ever be found either dead or alive?

 

 

 

I read this book for our book club and while it was a new title to me I am so glad we read it.  What an excellent read.  I liked how real this book felt, an excellent setting of losing a child in the Colorado mountain area and the only witness was hit by a car and has little recollection, hours lost in the search because the police did not know there was another person with Sean until the call to his parents.  Creepy and brilliant.

There was much to like about this novel that I felt was done very well.  I had only a couple of bumps along the way.  There were several chapters where Sean is referred to as the boy and for some reason I struggled with that… mainly because it was written in a way where for a while I did not know who the book was referring to.. at first I thought it was creating a mysterious narrator but after many chapters of not always knowing who was speaking, it bugged me.  My other bump was in the end a character does something completely out of character which brings things to a close… but did not seem to fit with who this person was for the entire book.

 

Honestly though, compared to the whole book, the bumps were minimal and I found this one hard to put down I wanted so badly to know what had happened to Caitlin and how it would all end.

Deliciously good reading.

 

 

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books; 1 edition (January 6, 2015)

 

 

New Uses For Old Boyfriends by Beth Kendrick

Beth Kendrick, New Uses For Old Boyfriends, The Cure For The Common Breakup, Black Dog Bay, Book Journey

Lila Alders grew up in a nice home in a wonderful small town and was pretty much the town sweetheart.  Moving away and taking on a job as a tv personality was right in the plans and so was marrying the guy who provided Lila with the money she was accustomed to as well as a knock out ring to match.  Lila was living the life you see in fairy tales.

Of course….

fairy tales are fiction.

When her marriage falls apart and her job right along with it, Lila picks up what is left of her dignity and bank account and heads back to the comfort of her home town and her mother who still lives in the gorgeous home she grew up in.  Yet Lila finds that her mother is in no better shape than she is.  Having ignored the warnings of financial advisers, Daphne has continued to live beyond her means since the passing of her husband and Lila’s father.  Lila is shocked to find that the money is gone, and it looks like her childhood home must be sold to take her mom out of the dept that she is in.

Perhaps looking up an old boyfriend and trying to rekindle what they once had  will help bring a little of the sparkle back to Lila…  but time marches on, for everyone.

 

 

 

In a word:  Delightful.  In another word:  Fun.  I absolutely enjoyed New Uses For Old Boyfriends.  Lila is a great protagonist.  She may have grown up used to having things handed to her but she is not afraid of hard work to set things right.  And the way she goes about things had me cheering for her and laughing at the same time.  It is hard for me to put into words how much I liked this book.

You may think the synopsis sounds familiar, it is true there are many books out there surrounding the “going back home” theme and honestly a lot of them are pretty predictable.  I am happy to say this is not a cookie cutter version of the others like it.  Beth Kendrick changes things up in New Uses For Old Boyfriends and there are surprises along the way.  In the end, I wanted to do what Lila did and in a fictional world I would move to a sweet little seaside town like Black Dog Bay, join my friends at the Winery in the evenings, and build myself a little business.  A girl can always dream. :)

I found this book refreshing and fun.

 

*Quick note – this book is a second in a series called Black Dog Bay however do not let that discourage you.  I honestly did not know it was a second until after I finished the book and was writing this review.  I looked up the information on the first book, Cure For The Common Break Up, and while it has some of the same characters, it is a different story centered around the town.  You do not need to read this first book to get the second.  In fact, I think I have Cure For The Common Break Up on the shelves and I am going to bump that one up to read soon.  I would love to take a trip back to Black Dog Bay.

 

 

  • Series: Black Dog Bay Novel (Book 2)
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: NAL (February 3, 2015)

 

 

Keep Your Friends Close by Paula Daly

Keep Your Friends Close by Paula Daly, Book Journey

Natty and Sean have a typical marriage.  Their two daughters are now teenagers, and both parents are busy working at the hotel they run together.  They are busy people but comfortable in their lives.  When their oldest daughter Felicity becomes ill on a school trip to France, Natty goes to be with her and bring her home.  Natty’s best friend Eve offers to stay with Sean and their other daughter Alice to help out at the house while Natty is away.  Natty is thankful for her friend.

But should she be?

Eve has other plans in mind.  Playing the role of the perfect “wife substitute’ she plays right into everything that Natty would not.  She cooks and cleans, catering to both Sean and Alice.

When Natty returns home with Felicity she finds that Eve has taken her spot not only in her home, but in her bed.  Shell shocked, Natty tries to make sense of how quickly her whole life has crumbled.  Every where she turns it seems that Eve is there, driving Shawn’s car, rubbing what she has done in Natty’s face.

Then Natty receives a mysterious note saying

“she has done this before.”

The note awakens Natty at a new level.  She knows she needs to find out more about her so-called friend, having no idea that the road she is about to take is a deadly one.

Wow. Wow. Wow.  What a great book!  With a synopsis like this, it is all too scary real.  Eve is a kind of crazy evil.  The pace moves along quickly (which I like), and I had to keep listening just to know what was going to happen.  It is definitely an engaging read.  I will definitely be looking for more from this author.

Natty is a great protagonist and Eve is an excellent villain.  There is no middle ground here, the line is clearly drawn and I liked that.  It was refreshing.

I listened to this on audio and Colleen Prendergast was an excellent narrator.  It seems like I keep finding these audio books lately have heavily accented narrators and I think my head needs a break for that, but that is just me.  ;)

Highly recommended.

  • Audible Audio Edition
  • Listening Length: 10 hours and 22 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Dreamscape Media, LLC
  • Audible.com Release Date: October 8, 2014

 

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