Category Archives: Book Review

A Week At The Lake by Wendy Wax

wendy wax, a week at the lake

Emma Michaels, Mackenzie Hayes, and Serena Stockton used to be the best of friends.  Every year they would spent one week together at a cabin owned by Emma;  laughing, sharing, and eating way too much ice cream.  Then one year, Emma stopped inviting Mackenzie and Serena.  The girls no longer spent their annual week together and without knowing what happened, they drifted apart.  Now, 5 years later, Emma feels it is time to clear the air and share a secret she knows can destroy them all.

As the girls all arrive for their planned weekend, Emma is in a serious car accident and Mackenzie and Serena start to piece together what had happened all of those years ago on their own.

 

 

I have always enjoyed Wendy Wax’s books (my first was Leave It To Cleavage and has a funny story to go with it).  Her books tend to be about relationships and friendships and never over the top but more like good summer reading (insert large sunglasses, ice tea, and a light snack here).

In many ways A Week At The Lake fit in with much of what I just said about Wendy Wax.  For the most part the book is a good summer read. I have to mention a few moment that didn’t feel real, or a little far fetched – it was still worth the read.  I like stories of women’s friendships and this book fit that genre perfectly.

A quick read that will wish you long for a beach chair.

 

 

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley (June 23, 2015)
  • Language: English

 

 

Whisper Beach by Shelley Noble

whisper beach, Shelley Noble, Book JOurney

Vanessa “Van” Moran stands right where she left twelve years before.  Having left her home town as a young girl heartbroken, betrayed, and alone, she had vowed she would never come back.

And yet, here she was.

When her cousin’s husband dies in a freak accident, Van comes to pay her respects.  Her plan is to get in and get out as quickly as possible and move on to her true vacation at a fancy resort many miles from Whisper Beach.  Since leaving Van has created a wonderful business in Manhattan that has made her quite successful.  Part of her reason for this brief visit is for everyone to see that she was now established, doing well, and this town had not broken her spirit.

Things never go as planned.

When the woman who helped her all those years ago Dorie, asks Van to stay a few days to help her with some business decisions, Van decided a few days can not hurt.  Her good friend Suze is also staying at Dories and it would be fun to catch up.  As long as Van can avoid the one guy who broke her heart and the girl that stole him away – she will be just fine.  Anyway, she can leave anytime she wants.

As I said, things never go as planned.

 

 

 

I really enjoyed Whisper Beach.  Once again I find myself locked in a beachy read centered around a triangle of old friends working on healing old wounds.  (When you read enough beach reads you really find a pattern).  It didn’t matter.  I liked Van.  I liked that she was successful through everything she went through in her younger years.  She was strong and broken – but not beyond repair…. I can not say the same for others in the book. ;)

Author Shelley Noble flushes out some very real issues with this book and those within.  I found her writing style to be engaging and while some of the characters you meet in Whisper Beach you really would rather not know- I still wouldn’t mind popping in and hanging out at the Blue Crab with Dorie, Van, and Suze…. and oh yeah… Joe.  I think there could easily be more to this story and I for one would be happy to come and visit Whisper Beach again.

Looking for a good read this summer?  Add Whisper Beach to your list.

 

 

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (June 16, 2015)

 

bookends by Jane Green

bookends, Jane Green, Book Journey

After recently finishing one Jane Green book (Summer Secrets), I went to shelf that one and found this one that I picked up at a sale years ago…. with a title like that, how I could pass on it?  ~Sheila

Catherine, Simon, Portia, and Josh were the inseparable four during their college years.  Catherine (Cat) always the side kick who blended well with the rest enjoyed her cozy life and circle of friends and like her comfy sweater, she was happy with things just as they were.  Simon (Si) was always looking for love with just the right guy but love – true love for whatever reason eludes him.  Portia is tall, slender and gorgeous.  She is used to getting whatever she wants with just the blink of an eye but carries a coldness within her.  Josh wishes he could win Portia’s heart but has more or less given up on that dream.

Then one fateful night of poor choices and damaged egos breaks the group apart and Portia finds herself left behind.

Years later Josh is married to the delightful Lucy.  Cat and Si are still very single… Cat happily and Si not so much.  The four get together frequently for dinners and talks.  When Portia suddenly arrives back in their lives, her appearance unleashes events that threaten to push apart the friends.  At a time when Cat is starting to believe in love again she instead has to deal with her old friend and the damage that can be done when trust is not an option.

Score another one for Jane Green!  bookends was a delightful read and surprised me when I found out that bookends is actually the name of a book store within the book.  Well hello good story!  I enjoyed spending time with this group of friends as they lived out their dreams and their worst nightmares.  I find that it is a bonus when a book makes you wish you knew the characters in real life and that is what bookends did for me.

Jane Green once again surprises me with a fun light read with real life issues.  In bookends you will get it all – the fun, the pain, the reality of living in today world… the good, the bad, and the ugly.  It’s good to have good friends to help get you through.

Jane Green fans do not miss this one.  If you liked Summer Secrets, I think you will enjoy bookends as well.  Jane Green will be an author I keep an eye on.

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; Reprint edition (May 27, 2003)

 

Summer Secrets by Jane Green

Summer Secrets, Jane Green, Book Journey

 

Cat Coombs always seemed to struggle in finding her place in her world of London.  She did not fit into the popular crowd, but eventually discovered that with a few drinks in her, she could bring on the liquid courage that seemed to make her fit.  In her teen years and into her 20’s it became known that the party had not started until Cat had arrived. Sure, Cat did not always remember events that took place in these crazy drinking binges, and she did not always make it to her job as a journalist on time, but being “absent” from a dad that does not seem to really care and a mom that keeps her distance isn’t so bad.

When Cat meets Jason, a handsome guy who is a recovering alcoholic Cat tries to stop drinking for him (although she is sure she doesn’t have a problem) but a bombshell dropped by her mother sends Cat not only into a shock… but also to the states and Nantucket to stay with family she doesn’t know.  This family is a lot of fun and Cat slips easily into old habits. A serious mistake destroys relationships all around her and sends her back to London planning never to return to Nantucket again and put what happened out of her mind.

But…. things have a way of popping up when not dealt with.

As Cat grows into her 40’s, now a recovering alcoholic who understands the importance of her meetings and never drinking again, she finds herself stuck on the 9th step in her recovery:  Made direct amends to such people, wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

While Cat has completed most of this step, she has not addressed what happened in Nantucket or the people she hurt deeply.  When an opportunity arises for Cat to write a story on Nantucket and she is able to spend two weeks there, she knows it is time to face whatever happens… even if it means risking it all.

 

 

 

I have to admit Summer Secrets surprised me.  I found I liked Cat.  This is the first book I have read that really placed me inside an AA meeting and I found that interesting.  Of course I have heard of the steps, but learning more about the meetings through Cat’s character was interesting and really thinking how hard that 9th step has to be – to face those you have hurt, has to be so hard and yet so lifting as well, no matter what the outcome.  Author Jane Green did an excellent job of covering this topic through Cat’s character without it ever feeling heavy or draining.  Well done.

Summer Secrets has a great mix of people, places, and situations.  This is not your typical “Nantucket read”.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book and think that this would make a great book to pick up and enjoy this summer.  If you enjoy summer reading, realistic family dynamics, great friendships, and learning a little something along the way do not miss out on this book.

 

 

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin’s Press (June 23, 2015)

 

 

All The Single Ladies by Dorthea Benton Frank

All The Single Ladies, Dorthea Benton Frank, Book Journey

If you are looking for a fun read with women friendships, a wonderful southern low country buzz running through the background and the smell of something good cooking on the stove with a tasty drink in your hand, reach for a book by Dorthea Benton Frank.  ~Sheila

When Lisa St Clair watches her favorite patient Kathy Harper lose her battle with cancer, she is impressed with the two friends that stayed by Kathy’s side during her long battle.  Carrie and Susan have been placed in charge of taking care of Kathy’s personal things and Lisa offers to help in any way she can.  The three women become closer as they try to solve the mysteries of Kathy’s past that she had kept so quiet.  With relationships popping up everywhere, a crazy greedy landlord, a wonderful 99-year-old woman, a young adult making poor choices and a dog named Pickles, who knows what will happen?

When I had an opportunity to invite a group of friends over to discuss this book I quickly said yes.  If it has Dorthea Benton Frank’s name on it, of course I would say yes!  At the time of our gathering none of us had read the book but we all received it that afternoon.  I started the book later that day.

Book Journey, Sheila DeChantal

Book Journey, Sheila DeChantal

Upper left – the food that was suggested to make for the get together: Ritz crackers with cream cheese and red pepper jelly, cheese straws (mine were cheese bars), and shrimp with the seasonings sent in the book package Upper right – The All The Single Ladies Drink: vodka, with a splash of cranberry juice (we diluted this with 7 up) Lower left – Sweet Tea! Lower right – the entire cast of goodies

Having a fun event is a great way to kick off reading a book.  I enjoyed All The Single Ladies by Dorthea Benton Frank.  It is an easy summer read.  I liked the cast of characters and the story line was set up as a light mystery centered around a woman who I wish I as well as the three protagonists knew a little better.  Kathy sounded like someone worth knowing.  There are a few life lessons mixed within the pages, light sprinkles of wisdom when it comes to family dynamics, I suspect each of us as readers can find someone within this book or some situation that is discussed that hits a familiar note.

A sweet easy read and perfect for Summer time.

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow (June 9, 2015)

 

So That Happened by John Cryer

So that happened, JOhn Cryer, Two and a half men, Book JOurney, memoir

 

If you ever seen the movie Pretty In Pink than you have to remember the delightful and magnetic Duckie… and if you do, then you know Actor now Author, John Cryer in his earliest roles.  In So That Happened, John shares what it is like to be an actor when you don’t carry the natural confidence that many actors do… in fact, John Cryer will tell you that he is actually a lot like the character he plays on Two and a Half Men, Alan Harper.  John speaks openly about his co-workers including Molly Ringwald, John Hughes, Robert Altman, Demi Moore, Judd Nelson, and of course…. Charlie Sheen.

 

 

 

In full disclosure….  (embarrassing full disclosure) it was not until recently that I realized that “Duckie” from Pretty In Pink was John Cryer.  True statement.  I clearly know him from Two and a Half Men and I think the role from then to now was so different… I just didn’t pick up on that.  That said, I picked up this audio because I do enjoy Two and a Half Men and I do enjoy books written and narrated by actors I enjoy.

As I listen to a fair amount of audio books narrated by actors, I know I enjoy hearing the stories behind the shows, the acting, the co-stars, funny happenings….  What I don’t like is whining about missed parts, what is believed to be unfair casting, and well whining in general.

This audio has a mix of both.

I of course wanted to hear about John’s role in Pretty in Pink and of course his many years of being on Two and a Half Men and working with the unpredictable, eventually fired Charlie Sheen.  For the record, the later does not get mentioned until disc 6.  The first 3 to 4 cd’s of this audio book are interesting however John has a lot of strong opinions of fellow actors as well as about others taking credit for something that was his doing.  To me… that felt a bit whiny.  At the same time I imagined an editor saying “John, be vulnerable, be angry… niceties do not get the book sales!”  So, that said… perhaps John was coerced.

I did enjoy the later half of the audio where the real meat of the book seemed to be.  When John talked about Two and a Half Men and what was happening there it seemed a bit more real.

Looking at the rating of this one on-line, I am in the minority.  For the most part people have found this memoir to be hilarious and well done.  This can very well be a case of “it is not John, it is me”.

I would love to hear from others who have read or listened to this one.

 

 

  • Audible Audio Edition
  • Listening Length: 9 hours and 8 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Penguin Audio
  • Audible.com Release Date: April 7, 2015

 

 

 

 

The Lost Recipe For Happiness by Barbara O’Neal

Barbara O'Neal, The Lost Recipe For Happiness, Book Journey

In apparently continuing with my trend of reading foody books (they feel pretty safe), I bring to you a review of a woman, her dog, a restaurant, and learning to let go.  ~Sheila

Elena Alvarez has just been offered the deal of a lifetime.  She has been offered the opportunity to run her own restaurant, something she has only dreamed about.  Being an experienced Chef, this is the first time she will be in the leading role from staff hiring, restaurant look and feel, and the menu planning.  Haunted by an accident that she alone survived with her back broken in 4 places, Elena knows what it is like to withstand the odds.  Arriving in Aspen Colorado with a restaurant project may just be the change she needs to reboot her life and it doesn’t hurt that her new boss, Movie Writer Julian Liswood is easy on the eyes.

For Elena, every move she makes is a risk.  The restaurant business is physically hard on her body and the ghosts of the past, do not let go easy.

There is a lot to like about The Lost Recipe For Happiness.  I liked the idea of a fixer upper project with Elena the one to call the shots.  I do like a good project!  I also found I liked Elena.  For what she has literally lived through, she is a strong independent woman with dreams and goals.  I also enjoyed the back up players in this book, while I never did get a full handle on Ivan, I think (I think) I liked him.  Patrick is wonderful and you have to love Julian and his daughter Portia.  Ivan the dog?  Also pretty awesome.

What I didn’t like so much was there are a couple off intimate descriptions that the wording actually made me cringe… I think the opposite of what the author would be looking for at that moment.  It also took me a while to understand the ghost part of the book and the first appearance of Elena’s sister, well, I thought she really was there.

All in all I think there is a lot of cultural history within this book that is slowly mixed in and that was interesting because I did not know about the Day Of The Dead traditions, or about the meal.  While the book was not an over the top “wow” for me, I did find it interesting enough to follow it all the way through.. curious about the Julian and Elena storyline, as well as the restaurants success.

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam Discovery (December 30, 2008)

 

The Cake Therapist by Judith Fertig

The Cake Therapist, Judith Fertig, Book Journey, June 2015 release

Claire “Neely” O’Neil finds her way back to her home town of Millcreek Valley Iowa to open a bakery.  Claire feels she needs the break from her own life to sort out the flavors of what decisions she needs to make as well as the desire she has to bring flavors and tastes to others.  Claire has an unusual talent of adding the right flavor combination together to bring out a customers secrets, fears, desires… a talent Claire does not always want, but one that has brought great success when helping potential clients choose a wedding cake that suits them both, or a flavor to mend a broken heart.

Claire certainly doesn’t have to worry about much down time as messages and packages keep arriving from her husband she is separated from,  her goth girl employee tries to cover her secrets and pain with dark-colored make up, an older woman of the neighborhood brings about stress, and a handsome man from Claire’s past makes her wonder what would have happened if she had chosen the path not taken.

There is plenty going on around Rainbow Bakery to keep even the pickiest customer coming back for more.

 

 

The Cake Therapist was a light and sweet read. Early on in the book the story jumps into Claire’s talent of knowing what flavors work with what customers however I found that part confusing and if I had not first read the synopsis I would not have understood what was happening when Claire opens the bakery door and describes the flavors separating into light.  There is also a lot going on in this book.  A LOT.  Between Claire’s own storyline unfolding, her employee Jett’s troubles, and a story set 100 years earlier following along in alternating chapters, the book felt a little choppy too me.  I had trouble figuring out what the historical story had to do with the current story and things did not flow well until half way through the read.

The Cake Therapist was a good read and I enjoyed the characters although there was no great aha moment.  When things do piece together in the end it is quick and eve though answers were revealed I don’t think enough of it was said earlier on for the reader to have that true “Oh!  Of course!” moment.  When the story ends it feels as though more could be said – but not enough for a second book.

 

My recommendation is to try The Cake Therapist for yourself as with my current life happenings I do not necessarily trust my feelings on this one.  As a lighter read this book would make for a good summer read.  Don’t expect a lot of “wow”, but you can expect to feel good.

 

 

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley (June 2, 2015)

 

Tamarack County by William Kent Krueger

Tamarack County, Willia Kent Krueger, Book Journey, Minnesota, Cork O'Conner

Cork O’ Conner loves the quiet beauty of Northern Shores of Minnesota.

Most of the time.

During a blizzard one cold December night, the wife of a prominent Judge disappears.  All that is found is her abandoned car on a road she shouldn’t have been on and of course with the blizzard, no signs of a struggle… no signs of anything at all.

Cork O’ Conner is the ex- Sheriff of Tamarack County and he notices details of the disappearance that others miss.  When a dog that is owned by a friend is brutally killed, Cork starts to see a disturbing pattern that brings up an old case where quite possibly the wrong man went to prison.  A pattern so disturbing that its trail leads right to Cork’s own family.

With the cold winter continuing and no sign of letting up, Cork knows he only has so much time before someone else is going to pay for the sins of others.

 

 

 

This would be my first of William Kent Krueger’s books that involve his continuing protagonist, Cork O’ Conner.  In fact, I have only read one other book by this author and that would be Ordinary Grace.  (Excellent read).

Cork is an interesting character.  His wife was killed (probably details of this in an earlier book), and he has three almost grown children.  Even though this is the 13th mystery with Cork O’Conner, I did not feel like I needed the previous books to understand what was going on or who people are.  Krueger does an excellent job of making you want to know these characters better but at the same time you can read his books as standalone and be just fine with that as well.

I enjoyed the story line and the mystery itself.  As Cork travels through the pages I liked the comfort of the familiar areas he explored.  I do plan to read more of this mystery series.  Windigo Island is on my shelves right now just waiting to be read.

Cop bases mystery lovers will enjoy this book with its masculine flavor.  Women to will enjoy this read due to the family aspect and a little light romance.

 

 

 

  • Series: Cork O’Connor Mystery Series
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books; Reprint edition (July 1, 2014)

 

Moonlight At Butternut Lake by Mary McNear

moonlinght on butternut lake, mary mcnear, book journey

The final book in the Butternut trilogy.  The past two days I have reviewed Up At Butternut Lake and Butternut Summer.  This final installment of the series is an excellent completion that left me wanting more time at Butternut Lake.  ~Sheila

Mila Jones is running from her past.  When an opportunity comes up for her to take a Home Care Nurse position over 200 miles from her current situation she takes the offer.  After all, staying in a cabin on a lake in a quiet town like Butternut Minnesota sounds like the perfect escape.  Taking care of a wheelchair bound man named Reid Ford sounds like a pretty easy task compared to the life she is trying to escape.

Reid Ford however turns out to be anything but easy.

After Reid’s car accident that left him wheelchair bound, Reid has become a bitter shell of the confident always on the go man he once was.  Hating to rely on anyone for help, Reid has already chased off many in home health care aids with his biting sarcasm and unwillingness to help himself in any way.  When Reid takes one look at the young small woman named Mila he sees someone else who will be easy to run off.  Yet Reid notices something in Mila’s eyes he did not see in the other home care aids, a stubborn look of determination.

This…

could get interesting.

I really enjoyed Moonlight on Butternut Lake, perhaps even to the point of saying it was my favorite of the three books.  I liked Mila’s background story.  Reid is the brother of Walker Ford who we meet in the first book which helps the reader have a peek into the man that Reid was before the accident.  The change in him is startling and believable.  I found this book to have strong topics that felt realistic and I enjoyed how the characters from the past books play a role as this final story plays out.

Mila and Reid make for great protagonists.  Their differences played well off one another.

I have to admit, the Butternut Lake books brought me a nice comfort while I spent time with them.  I enjoyed how they all were separate books but together lay out quite a nice story about the powers of a small town in Minnesota.

  • Series: The Butternut Lake Trilogy (Book 3)
  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (May 12, 2015)

 

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