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The Matchmaker by Elin Hilderbrand

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48-year-old Dabney Beech is Nantucket.

Ask anyone.

Everyone knows her friendly smile and her involvement in anything Nantucket.  Dabney also has had a lifelong gift for matchmaking.  She can see when people are right for each other and with 42 happy couples all saying Dabney knows a good match when she sees it… its hard to argue the facts.

The only relationship that Dabney can not seem to get right is her own.  Meeting Clendenin “Clen” Hughes back when she was in school was the highlight of her life and when she let him so… she thought she was doing what was right for both of them. Yet 27 years later when Clen walks back into her life, Dabney feels all those feelings come surging back as though they had never left.  Trouble is Dabney is married to a wonderful man, who while he does not make her heart beat fast like Clen does, would do just about anything to save his marriage to the woman he truly loves.

Torn between what is right.. and what is true… Dabney struggles to make the right decisions, all the while her world is falling apart around her.  When her health seems to be battling against her, and she is missing an alarming amount of time from work for a variety of reasons – Dabney has to decide is making this one last match is worth all the trouble it will cause… even if it is her most desired wish.

 

 

There is just something summery sweet about an Elin Hilderbrand book.  Almost like biting into a perfectly ripe peach.  ~Sheila

 

The Matchmaker is a book I have been excited about.  Gorgeous cover, and the promise of a good Hildebrand storyline made me anxious to get started on this one.  While there was a lot to like about The Matchmaker (sunny days, Nantucket, romance, I want to be Dabney’s friend…) I actually found a bit in this one that I did not enjoy.

Dabney is OVERLY described in the beginning of the book as being adored by everyone…. in several ways in long drawn out descriptions it is very clearly made that Dabney is beloved. There is also a long drawn out decision to open an email or not… reading the title over and over again. It felt a bit forced and I started to think of the beginning of the book as “word fill”… just putting in as many words as you can to stretch it out.    Between that and the description of Clen’s eyes as being “weak tea colored” – that exact description being mentioned three times that I counted… it honestly was almost a deal breaker for me.  The whole perfect matchmaking story was a bit over the top and the only character that was described well and felt real was Dabney herself.

I am not sure what happened here with this book as normally Elin Hilderbrand has delightful engaging stories.  It took quite a while for me to get into this read and for a while I even considered calling it a DNF and moving on.

If, like me, you do hang in there and finish the book the story does redeem itself a bit but I am not sure enough to have me recommend it.

I would be interested in hearing other thoughts from those of you who finished this book as I am surprised by how disjointed I found it to be.

 

 

  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (June 10, 2014)

 

 

Blossom Street Brides by Debbie Macomber

1caaLauren Elliott dreams of being a bride but Todd, her boyfriend of many years avoids the subject like it is the plague.  When Lauren’s younger sister who is already married announces she is pregnant Lauren feels even more strongly that it is time to make moves towards what makes her happy, and that may very well mean moving on without Todd.

BethAnne Scranton is the happiest she has ever been in her life with her second husband Max.  He is everything a husband is supposed to be (caring, loving, passionate, a friend and companion) and everything her first husband was not.  The only thing not perfect is the fact that Max’s business is so far away he maintains a separate household and that seems to make BethAnne’s ex think there is room to wiggle back into her life.

Lydia Goetz owns the local yarn store called ‘A Good Yarn’.  She worries about her store and how to think of unique ways to bring in business… it seems however someone is secretly helping her with that.  Baskets of yarn and needles are showing up around the town with a message to knit a scarf and bring it into A Good Yarn where it will be donated to someone in need.  The yarn is all coming from Lydia’s shop… but who?  And why?  Although Lydia is not complaining as her business door is opening more and more to new customers.

How will these women’s lives intertwine?  Who’s relationships will survive the bumps? 

 

 

A long time ago I had dabbled in the Debbie Macomber series, Cedar Cove.  I loved how each book was a street address and you learned about the people who lived at that address and their association with the others in the town.  Then the next book would be a different address and from that person’s perspective in the same town.  Really, it is a brilliant series.  As my reading expanded, Debbie Macomber and Cedar Cove were put aside for other books, and I never did find my way back to Cedar Cove, or for that matter, to Debbie Macomber.

Until now.

On a whim…. this book, Blossom Street Brides sounded kind of light and fun, and just the right audio length to hold my attention during the beautiful summer drives.  And… I was right.

Blossom Street Brides is a sweet read centered around three women and their relationships with spouses, boyfriends, and children.  While romance reading has never been a “go to” genre for me, Macomber never lays it on thiick so I am able to enjoy her smooth style of an engaging storyline.  There are a couple of happenings in the book that made the independent woman in me think “oh come on!”, but over all putting reality aside, I found enjoyment in the read.

Going into this book, I did not realize it was part of a series until I finished it, but I never felt I was missing any previous information.  I listened to this one on audio with Cassandra Campbell as the narrator and I enjoyed it.

Fans of Macomber will enjoy this fun look into the three women’s lives.

 

  • Listening Length: 10 hours and 59 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Random House Audio
  • Audible.com Release Date: March 25, 2014

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

Orphan Train, Christina Baker Kline, Sheila DeChantal, Book JOurney

Molly Ayer knows the Foster Care System all too well.  She has been a part of it for most of her life bouncing from one home to another.  Now at seventeen years old she is required to do community service for a petty theft crime.  She is required to go through an elderly woman’s attic and clean up, toss out, and organize the cluttered dusty boxes.  An undertaking that on sight appears impossible, especially since the widowed old woman Vivian, does not seem to keen on parting with her things.

As Molly explores the attic and what is inside the boxes, she discovers that Vivian too was part of a much earlier foster system called the Orphan Train. The Train would take children from stop to stop where families could come to the train and choose children to go home with them… that system unfortunately, worked about as well as some of it does still today. As Molly and Vivian spend their days together in the attic they learn of each others experiences with the foster care system, some good..and some bad.  Some times it was your wits and your desire to survive that pulled you through.

Both women find out that they have a lot more in common than one would ever guess by looking at them.

 

 

Orphan Train was our book club selection for August.  We chose this book because we won the books for our group from Harper Collins – woo hoo!!!!!!!!  AND the author Christina Baker Kline will be speaking in our town on August 12th, as it happens, our regular Tuesday that we hold our book club on.

Orphan Train turned out to be a delight.  As I had loaned my copy of the book out to a friend, I did not have one in my possession so I decided to try it on audio.  I had heard it was an excellent listen and that turned out to be true.  Narrator Suzanne Toren was perfect for this book.

I went into this book with little knowledge of what it was about other than the Orphan Train (*spoiler alert… it’s the title! ;)  )  I had not read any reviews of the book so even the format of going from Molly’s story to Vivian’s was a surprise and a pleasant one at that.

I enjoyed the storyline and the knowledge I picked up along the way regarding the Orphan Train.  It is a subject I hope to learn more about and I am hopeful that next week Christina Baker Kline will talk more about her research.

Historical Fiction fans will enjoy this read.

I will talk more about the Bookies Book Club thoughts on the book as well as the Author Event next week.

 

 

 

  • Audible Audio Edition
  • Listening Length: 8 hours and 21 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Audible Studios
  • Audible.com Release Date: April 2, 2013

 

 

 

 

 

California by Edan Lepucki (hmmmm….)

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It’s been two long hard years since the world as it was broke into this food scarce fend for yourself type shell of what it once was.  The land of abundance is no more.

For Cal and Frida, life is quiet in the wilderness they have created a home within.  They have a garden, and a house, and a water source near by.  Admittedly it is a lonely world but it is what they have and for the most part they feel secure.

When Frida discovers she is pregnant she feels strongly that they must look for others.  While Cal is uncertain of this move, he understands his wife’s fears and together they go off to search for other people.  When they come across a community that is heavily guarded they are allowed inside, at least for a while to see if they will be accepted.  The community is full of surprises – some personal, and some frightening such as the fact that there are no children there.  As Cal and Frida cautiously look for answers they do not know who they can trust.  Is this the best the world now has to offer?  Were they better off alone where they were, or was that too only a temporary feeling of safety?

 

 

When I first heard about CALIFORNIA it sounded like a book for me.  I love a good dystopian novel and I was excited to dig into this one.

CALIFORNIA had a very slow start for me.  It honestly could have been partially due to the changes going on in my life at the time of starting to read this one, but I found it slow-moving and not gripping enough to hold me to it.  I picked it up, read a few pages and put it down off and on for weeks.  When it finally started moving (about 100 pages in) then I became engaged in what was happening.

The book was good… very good in some ways, but as I progressed to the ending I knew that all the different plot lines that had been opened up could not possibly be closed within this one book.  My biggest disappointment is I felt at the end it just…

ended.

Not a cliffhanger… but more like it ended like a chapter ends.  There should be more but there was not.

I had a lot of questions left and felt there was a lot more that needed to happen to bring this story line to full and satisfying conclusion.  No where that I have looked do I see that there are plans to make this into a trilogy or that there will be a sequel even.  For now.. I am under the impression that was it and if that is the case… I am left unfulfilled.

And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard

Jenny Hubbard, And We Stay, Sheila DeChantal, Book Jouurney

Emily Beam is in a Boarding School for girls in Massachusetts.  It is probably due to the fact that her once boyfriend Paul came into the school with a stolen gun and threatened Emily and then took his own life.  It is probably due to the pregnancy.

Now Emily, left with the guilt of ending the relationship and the anger for feeling guilty.  She is not quick to make friends with her dark personality but soon finds that a couple of the girls just won’t shake off so easy.  While Emily is not sharing her tragic story with anyone, it slowly comes out in her writing and her poetry.  As Emily seeks for solace in the  once home of Emily Dickinson that is open for tours just down the street from the boarding school… together it seems the two Emily’s – one in flesh and one in spirit heal together in this strange and uncertain world.

 

 

I chose this book initially for two reasons.  One, I love that Emily Dickinson is part of the story and that they put the home that she wrote in close to where Emily Beam stays.  Two, I adore this cover… a cover like this – could go many directions but I see a closed off, angry and uncertain girl who at the same time is trying hard to look like she is holding it all together.

I can not say I loved this book.  The topics are heavy from teen pregnancy, to suicide, to abortion.  I listened to this book on audio and at a little under 6 hours, it just felt too heavy for my liking.  Emily was not a character I felt for, most of the characters fell flat, to the point that other than the main character and the boyfriend Paul, I could not name another character int he book right now if I needed to.

This book may be a better fit for young adults, but I question if even they too would find it heavy and not of the quality and engagement of much on today’s YA reads. The book had potential but never quite found it.

Narration by Erin Spenser was very good.

 

 

  • Listening Length: 5 hours and 53 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Listening Library
  • Audible.com Release Date: July 8, 2014

 

The One and Only by Emily Giffin

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Thirty-three year old Shea Rigsby lives and breathes football in Walker Texas, and had been a super fan all of her life.  She grew up in this very town alongside her best friend Lucy Carr, whose father was the Head Coach for the Walker Team, and whose mother Connie was good friends with Shea’s mom.

When tragedy hits the Carr family, Shea finds her world turning upside down.  She starts to wonder about the feelings she is having for a man…. a man who just happens to be the father of her best friend.

 

 

I have read and enjoyed author Emily Giffin’s fun style of writing in the past.  Her characters are usually light and fun, and you know what fun you are in for with her books.

The one and Only is a different style for Emily Giffin.  At least, I should say, from what I have read of her books.  The One and Only dealt with a topic that I personally struggled with, and no, I don’t mean football.  ;)

I had a hard time connecting with the book and the characters.  As a protagonist, I never connected with Shea, there was not much to her beyond football.  I don’t mind football books, but I never felt a connection to Shea or any of the characters for that matter.

The book is a fair read and I did finish it as I was curious about how it all would end. I listened to it on audio.  The narrator, Sophia Willingham was a great voice for the story and I enjoyed her narration.

 

 

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: Random House Audio; Unabridged edition (May 20, 2014)
  • Length: 15 hrs and 2 mins

 

 

 

 

Little Lies by Heather Gudenkauf

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Social Worker Ellen Moore is awaken from her warm deep sleep to take a call that brought her full attention to the true cold dark world that surrounded her. A woman’s body was found in the park next to the statue of Leto, the Goddess of Motherhood.  More disturbing, the woman’s 4-year-old son was next to his dead mother, cold and alone.  Much like a case that took place thirteen years earlier with another mother, and another child in the same spot.  Ellen leaves the warmth of her husband’s side and quietly walks by each of her three children’s rooms to go to the scene of the crime.

Ellen’s job is to take care of the child, but she can not help but wonder what the connections are to the past.  You never know when you are playing it safe, or when you may find yourself confronted by a killer who knows you are getting a little too close to the truth for comfort.

 

 

I recently read and reviewed Heather Gudenkauf’s book Little Mercies which also is about protagonist Ellen Moore and a case involving child endangerment.  I enjoyed that book very much and was interested in this novella prequel with the main characters that I had enjoyed so much previously.

While I enjoyed the case and the story line, I was reminded once again why I do not usually engage in these prequels.  They place too much in the pages too fast, which I understand is the way it needs to be in a 400 page novella.  I think this would have made a wonderful full size book, there was plenty of good content to make it so.

If you enjoy Heather Gudenkauf’s writing and do not mind the occasional short story with great characters, this would be a book I would recommend.  Powerful storyline, just a little quick on the wrap up for me.

 

 

  • Publisher: Harlequin
  • Publication date: 5/1/2014
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 400

 

LETHAL by Sandra Brown

LETHAL Sandra Brown, Sheila DeChantal, Book JOurney

 

Honor Gillette is a young widower of a Police Officer.  She now lives alone with her 4-year-old daughter trying hard to provide a stable life for them both.  When a man is found laying in their yard apparently harmed Honor goes to help him only to discover that he is the man flashed across the tv screen that the police are looking for the murder of 7 people, Lee Coburn.

Lee takes Honor and her daughter hostage in their own home, promising if they cooperate he will not hurt them.  Honor has no choice but to do as he says. As the days unfold Honor realizes that Coburn is much more than what the media is saying… in fact as Honor is about to learn – nothing is as it seems and who to trust, including those closest to her becomes the burning question.

How do you run away from the very people who days earlier would have been the ones you would run to?

 

 

 

I read this book as part of our June book exchange for book club.  This is the book that I picked out of the pile of wrapped books.  I had attempted Sandra Brown a few years back thinking I would like her writing style but struggled and had not finished the book, or picked her up since.  This was going to be another attempt.

 

LETHAL was an ok read.  From the moment Honor finds Coburn in her yard and takes her hostage I started having a little Labor Day by Joyce Maynard feeling.  Both books had single mom’s and a single child, both books the woman was taken hostage…. While in many ways the books are not alike, there was just enough there to make me feel like I had been here before.

The storyline felt a bit over the top, however I did find the book to be interesting enough to keep me going to find out what was going to happen.  When I shared my thoughts with my book club in July about this book I called it a steamier version of Labor Day.  In the end I preferred Lee Coburn’s character over Henry in Labor Day.  Coburn was someone I could cheer on…. Henry… not so much.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Third Plate by Dan Barber

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Living in the age of more creates some unique opportunities.  While we are enjoying going out and eating larger than ever portions with meals that fill platter size plates and every fast food joint now not just offering you up the fries, but also asking you if you want to SUPER SIZE that, or more sneakily, “what size would you like?”

Mmmmmmm…

choices.

Do you know how hard it is it so stay “I will take the small” at that point?

Beyond the quite obvious obesity problem parts of the world is having there are other things to consider as well….

supply and demand.

The number of chicken, cows, pigs, and fish to sustain our every growing need to have it available at restaurants and at the local markets is not only staggering, but in this reviewers opinion… disgusting.  As Author and Chef Dan Barber says, that we are being fed (literally) a false promise of the future of food.

The First Plate is the classic meal most of us grew up with; the prime focus being on a large piece of meat, with very little vegetables on the side.  The farm to table movement reflects the current, and second plate where we are becoming more conscious of what we are putting into our mouths.  Looking for more local and organically grown choices, however as Dan points out in his book, is not long-term sustainable.

The Third Plate is based on a system featuring vegetables and grains and working with what the local farmers have at different seasons.

 

At the restaurant I serve a parsnip steak that was soil-aged for 14 months. We roast it like a steak, carve it like a steak and serve it with a rich bordelaise sauce made from beef bones. We flip the classic arrangement on its side. The anatomy of the first or second plate is there, but in keeping with what our landscape can provide. ~ Dan Barber

 

Dan Barber feels there is a healthy way to make this a win for our bodies, the farmers, and make it delicious.

 

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I am fascinated by foodie books.  I love to read about restaurants, cooking, chefs, and new ways to do things.  When I stumbled across The Third Plate while looking for my next audio I was intrigued.  We have local friends who gave up meat 2 years ago using the logic that some day, it will not be offered to us anyway as truly the world can not keep up n the ever-growing population and the ever-growing demand.

Seriously, kudos to them… but I am not ready for that day to come.  Sheila loves chicken!

Author Dan Barber is not proposing a non meat society, what he is offering up in The Third Plate is a radical change on how we look at the dinner plate.  His unique way of looking at the plate and how we can use local resources is fascinating.  He proposes how each area of the world uses the resources the land gives them to create delicious meals and support local growth and support.

I wish I took better notes when listening to this audio.  There are so many interesting facts as Dan visits sheep farmers, fisheries, and more.  The numbers are staggering… the supplies required to complete the demand are almost heartbreaking to me.  What people have learned about how a goose dies affects the taste of the meat is amazing.

This is one I will need to purchase the book because I hope to refer to this one time and again.  I was truly fascinated with everything I learned.  While at points it felt drug out in audio format, I imagine the book would not give the same feel.

Recommended for those who love foodie books like me, people interested in trying new things, and healthy eaters.  Dan Barbers thinking makes a lot of sense to me.

 

I am linking this post up to Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking.

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Little Mercies by Heather Gudenkauf (Summer Reading and Book Club Worthy!)

Little Mercies, Heather Gudenkauf, Book JOurney, Social work, Sheila DeChantal

Social Worker Ellen Moore is used to seeing the worst side of the human race.  It has been her job to protect the children of her community and it is a job she does well while also managing her busy family life with a husband and children of her own.

One blistering hot day while trying to help a family in need, one moment of distraction, one slip while trying to do too much at the sale time, Ellen’s world comes tumbling down around her putting her on the other side of her world in the craziest of ways.  Suddenly life is speeding by as a blur as events unfold and her careless actions could cause the life of one of her own.

 

In another story line, ten year old Jenny Briard lives moment to moment.  Since her mother disappeared one day she has lived with her abusive father and lives moment to moment wondering where she will be sleeping that night and if there will be food.  When Jenny takes to the streets in search of where she believes her mother may have gone, her life becomes entangled with Ellen’s.

Ellen can not explain the appearance of this wayward child who has wormed her way into her life but she does not have time to deal with that in the midst of her own turmoil.  Jenny certainly does not want a social worker looking to closely at her and fears being sent back to the man she is trying to escape.  What neither Ellen or Jenny knows is that the timing of their encounter is right on time.

 

 

 

I simply adore Heather Gudenkauf’s writing.  She writes true feeling life stories that could be anything you would see in your local newspapers.  Tragedy.  Justice.  Truth.

When this book was offered for me to read I was super excited to have a chance to dig into another of these amazing stories.  I had no idea that once I opened the book, I was not going to put it down until I closed the last satisfying page.  (*note that during this reading there is some awkward making of lunch with one hand while my other held the book open)  ;)

Interesting, fast paced, heart pumping action, what unfolds in this story line is truly something you can imagine really happening.  Heather Gudenkauf’s Little Mercies grabbed me and made for gush worthy summer reading.

 

 

  • Print Length: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harlequin MIRA (June 24, 2014)

 

 

Book clubs – this book would make for an amazing discussion.   Download the Book Club Kit (PDF)

 

I have a giveaway going for a package of Heather Gudenkauf’s books.  Please comment on that post for an entry and receive a bonus entry for commenting on this one as well.  I will announce the winner of the package on Friday July 18th.

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