Tuesday, October 12, 2021

A Year Off

When Alexandra and David started dating it was quickly apparent they had a lot in common. Both in their early 30’s, they were immersed in their careers and filled their lives with travel, friends and family. Dreaming of quitting the rat race and taking a year to travel the world went from a game of bucket list bingo to a an actual plotting map taped to the wall. Negotiating one destination for another, each of them digging deep and often compromising to make this fantasy a reality. With careful planning and heaps of imagination Alexandra and David prepared for their trip to circumnavigate the globe. In this entertaining and engaging account they share how they tackled each objective from practical advice like staying on budget to delays and big decisions when things go awry. The young couple also had to navigate what they did not know about each other as their relationship evolved. Narrated in essays and fascinating photos from each of  their perspectives, the excitement leaps off the pages so the reader can easily armchair travel along. For better or for worse, the couple made it around the world capturing the good, the bad and the beautiful and lovingly share their travels with us in this delightful memoir. My valuable takeaway - vacation and traveling are two different things. It is probably smart to know before you go! ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Monday, October 11, 2021

We Are Not Like Them

Since kindergarten Riley and Jenny have been the very best of friends. The kind of friends that finish each others sentences and always protect each other. Growing up in Philadelphia they dreamed of all the things they would do someday and places they would travel. The only family in Jenny’s life, her mom Lou, was more than happy to dump her at the Wilson’s house on a regular basis so she could bartend, date and have “adult time.” Riley’s home was filled with family meals, chores, structure and a lot of love. Neither girl questioned the color of their skin. Their bond was so strong that even as they got older they couldn’t believe the world would treat them so very differently outside of their little happy bubble. After attending Northwestern Riley finds herself back in Center City following her dreams to become head news anchor. Jen is married with baby on the way. When Jen’s husband Kevin is involved in a police shooting leaving a young unarmed boy named Justin dead, all of Philadelphia is in upheaval. Riley must cover the marches and protests for work - both peaceful and often not. She interviews Justin’s devastated mother. As the past and present collide in a standoff Riley and Jen question everything they ever believed about friendship, family, motherhood and race. Trying to navigate their grownup lives in a violent and changing world may be the hardest thing they ever had to do. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Add Cyanide to Taste: A collection of dark takes with culinary twists


People say don’t bite the hand that feeds you have not read this type of culinary noir before and neither had I. Fill your appetite with these murderous tales containing spells, fantasy and even tiny amounts of cyanide found innocently inside of apricot seeds (true)! A business lunch making deadly deals, a mysterious pub only to be found by lost souls, two friends reunite playing a deadly game of spy and journalist and a lethal cake destroys the cursed family bakery. These are just a few little tastes of the fourteen short stories that leave you literally on the edge of your seat. With each and every twisted one better than the last it will be sure to chill and thrill you. A little book I stumbled upon just in time for Halloween filled with the most bizarre mini-mysteries and all the creepiness you could possibly imagine. The author closes with a collection of recipes to make at your own risk, of course. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Sunday, October 10, 2021

A Letter To Three Witches

In the quaint upstate town of Zenobia lives three witches. Gwen, Trudy and Milo are close cousins and although their family no longer practices their craft - the cocktail coven are inseparable. Then there is Tannith who was adopted by Gwens family at a young age when her parents tragically passed away. Pretending to be “sisters” with Tannith was never easy for Gwen as the beautiful, manipulative and seemingly perfect Tannith made her life miserable. One day Tannith delivers a note to each of the cousins suggesting that one of their partners has been bewitched and will be departing with her to the city in a weeks time. Since their great great grandfather caused an insurmountable catastrophe nearly 100 years ago their entire family has been banned from witchcraft and the cousins do not know how to stop this madness. Will it be Gwen’s fairly new live in beetle loving boyfriend? Trudy’s boring history professor husband? Or Milo’s handsome, mayoral candidate? As the trio slowly unravel this mystery they are subsequently caught up in spells and potions well out of their comfort zone. Throw in some potentially powerful cupcakes, frogs and bunnies and poof! - these three witches will have you completely enchanted. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Thursday, September 23, 2021

The Night She Disappeared

In 2017 Tallulah Murray goes to the pub with her boyfriend (and father of her child) Zach and they are never seen again. Barely out of highschool, the young couple was seen leaving the pub and going to a party at an old nearby mansion called Dark Place. The town begins a search party, devastated and frightened that an innocent couple could disappear. In 2019 Sophie finds a strange note attached to a fence post near the woods of the boarding school where she is the girlfriend of the new headmaster. It says DIG HERE. Sophie, a mystery writer, cannot resist following every clue and detail she can get her hands on. Sophie quickly befriends Kim, Tallulah’s heartbroken mother and opens up this cold case that no-one in the small English village can understand. Narrated within two timelines and filled with a cast of excellent characters, this fast paced drama uncovers buried secrets that were never meant to be found. Twists and turns until the very end, this is another unputdownable read from one of my favorite authors Lisa Jewel. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Book of Magic

The Owens family witches have been cursed for over 300 years. They are forbidden to fall in love. If one of the family members breaks this rule, their loved ones suffer fatal consequences. When Aunt Jet is nearing the end of her life she sets the wheels in motion to end this curse and release the family from a loveless life. The story begins in the Magnolia house outside of Boston and we are reintroduced to the many (many) characters and their plight to hide love. Ultimately traveling to Europe to reunite with long lost brother Vincent, Jets sister Franny and the younger nieces use their unusual gifts to search for answers and break the spell that has been controlling their lives all these years. This is the fourth and final of the Owens saga. I have read them all and unfortunately this was my least favorite. There was an enormous amount of extraneous background information and too many confusing character timelines to follow. I love the witches but this one dragged on and on with very little happening. If you have read the other three - The Book of Magic brings closure for the Owens but is sadly not very enticing.  ⭐️⭐️

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Talk Bookish To Me

Kara is a bestselling romance novelist. After a string of huge successes she is completely stuck. Writers block is a nightmare. With her deadline fast approaching and daily reminders from her publisher, Kara is beside herself with worry. The only bright spot lately is helping her very best friend with her extravagant wedding plans. At the couple’s celebratory dinner, the first of many events, Kara bumps into her oldest and truest love. The man who stole and broke her heart in college - Ryan Thompson. Apparently an old friend of the groom, Kara is speechless facing the man she has tried to forget about for the last decade. The two unexpectedly leave the past in the past and as they are brought together by nuptial duties and sneaky friends the chemistry is bursting into flames. And the best part is - Kara is writing again. Writer’s unblock, a gift from the gods. Serious worries aside, she will do whatever it takes to keep this momentum going. Adorably hot, I loved the book in the book writing and truly likable characters. Like Kara, the author had a little trouble wrapping it up as well but all is forgiven. An HEA is an HEA. (Happily Ever After) And this is a cute one! ⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Perfect Family

The Adler family live in a lovely upscale neighborhood in Portland, Oregon. Thomas is a successful realtor and Viv, with her impeccable taste, has just started her own decorating/design firm. One typical summer morning they awake to find their house was egged. Disregarding the event as kids acting out, they begrudgingly clean the mess and move on with their day. Until the smoke bomb is tossed on their lawn. The tires are slashed on Thomas’s car. And their relatively quiet lives are turned completely upside down. Thomas recently attended an out-of-control bachelor party and is now receiving threatening messages. Daughter Tarryn is a mouthy troubled teen exploring a dangerous online community. Star soccer player Eli announces he is dropping out of college and Viv silently punishes herself for her recent indiscretions. As each family member narrates a chapter it is clear someone is out to get them. The Adler’s struggle to keep it together while they question their own culpability, friendships and the importance of maintaining the perfect family facade. Fast paced suspense at its best. Apparently everyone is capable of hiding something. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Royals Next Door

Romance reader and podcaster Piper Evans has some new neighbors in the mansion next door and they just happen to be royalty. The British entourage that shows up literally swinging from the trees sternly introduce themselves and deduce that Piper and her meek mother living on the edge of the property are of no threat to the Prince and his beautiful wife. Harrison Cole heads up security. This tight lipped incredibly gorgeous man behind the shiny aviators slowly eases up in her presence. Piper and Harrison slowly become friends and their chemistry blossoms as summer on this small beautiful island really starts to heat up. Piper has a few months off from her job at the local elementary school and since she expected a few quiet months reading and taking care of her needy mother, she never dreamed  of being swept off her feet by this knight in shining armor. When the media gets a tip of who is behind the newly installed gates Piper’s mundane life becomes more than complicated. Steamy hot romance with a nod towards the Prince Harry and Meghan Markle drama - this unputdownable read was my second by author Karina Halle and no doubt five very romantic stars! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Her Turn

Editing one of the most well known columns in a premier Washington DC paper keeps Liz on her toes. My Turn features essays (selected anonymously by Liz) that reflect the daily lives of their readers. Lately she has been reaching out of her comfort zone choosing pieces that dangerously rock the boat of her somewhat quiet and mostly uneventful life. After relocating to DC post divorce ten years ago, Liz relies on a small group of quirky friends, her college aged son and work to sustain a semblance of normalcy. She keeps busy doing yoga, Italian lessons and book club, sprinkled with an array of unappealing affairs. When her ex’s new wife submits a very personal essay, Liz begins a secret communication threatening all of the bottled up anger she has embraced for a decade. A journalist by trade, Liz is a bit of a know-it-all searching for a way to accept, forgive and find love once again. Delving into the painful memories of her marriage weighed against her mother’s severe dementia brings the truth into focus. For a quiet story this one moves quickly and is beautifully written. This Canadian author should not be missed. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Friday, August 27, 2021

The Guide

Jack snags a position as a guide at the Kingfisher Lodge working the beautiful streams of Colorado. Its remote, pristine location makes it a highly sought and elite camp for the very famous and wealthy. For handsome cowboy Jack it is a chance to reinvent himself and heal as he battles PTSD. He is paired with country singing sensation, the very beautiful Alison K. The two have immediate chemistry fishing and otherwise. But Jack, a rancher at heart is overly observant and quietly begins to put the mysterious pieces together. Something evil is going on at this faraway location. With no cell phone service, a barbed wire perimeter and required social distancing, very few appear to know what is really going on. When Jack stumbles upon clues that are impossible to ignore he can no longer be a bystander. Armed and on a mission he infiltrates this ominous asylum and risks everything. Thrilling and suspenseful, set in the near future where the pandemic has not been eradicated and continues to threaten the economy and moral of the entire world, The Guide is a heart stopping adventure that had me on the edge of my seat. FYI, I did not read The River (also starring Jack) but this second masterpiece by author Peter Heller stands alone as well. A spine chilling glimpse of the future. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

One Hot Italian Summer

 

Grace Harper doesn’t know if she can do this on her own. After losing her closest friend and writing partner of many years, her harsh agent Jana has contracted for a completely different sort of novel, a drama. Writing mysteries came easily from Grace’s dim apartment in Edinburgh that eerily faced the cemetery. Suffering from severe writers block and longstanding sadness Grace feels like she is drowning. Jana offers her a month at her villa in Tuscany filled with rolling hills, Italian sunshine and a chance to quietly write. Jumping at the chance, she is on the next flight. Arriving at this magnificent villa leaves Grace speechless. While taking a quick dip in the pool her hopes are quickly dashed with embarrassment when the most handsome Italian man she has ever seen walks onto the patio with his son in tow. After learning Claudio is Jana’s ex - who was supposed to be away - it is decided they can manage to share the space for a month. As Grace and Claudio become closer they explore their art, his home and eventually his bed. Claudio is a charming, sexy and very talented artist. Although Grace finds him utterly irresistible they are concerned for both his son and Jana finding out the truth. Saying this is just a hot read does not give it justice. It is fireworks, explosive volcanic HOT and was an absolute perfect summer getaway set in one of the most magnificent places in the world. Mamma Mia! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

An Observant Wife

When Leah entered Yaakov’s world it was only as a babysitter to help out with the children. After becoming a crucial part of all of their lives the handsome Orthodox widower began to fall in love. Yaakov began to imagine what it would be like to have Leah’s calmness and joy in their lives every day. Leah, only recently studying traditional Judaism visualized a future with certainty, love and faith, something she could not resist. After their marriage daily life is more tricky than Leah thought it would be. The community, still very hesitant of this newcomer holds back and although she falls more in love with Jacob and the children every day, she struggles with loneliness and the hostility displayed by neighbors and fellow congregants. When Jacob’s teenage daughter battles her own silent demons, Shaindele finds herself in an abusive situation. Leah yearns to be closer to the young woman who is so obviously in pain and Jacob does everything in his power to protect his family. After being taunted and threatened they finally realize that faith cannot be derived from anyplace except your very own heart. As a sequel to the wonderful novel An Unorthodox Match, author Naomi Ragen does a good job completing the circle of life in this very strict, complicated religious community. For me, the first book was more enjoyable and moved a lot faster but both are good. ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Marilla Before Anne

Meet Marilla Cuthbert at 17 years old. A lovely girl with the prettiest blue eyes and dreams of a wonderful life ahead. While her painfully shy brother Mathew works hard on the farm at Green Gable’s, Marilla’s world is spinning out of control. She is head over heels in love with William Baker, an apprentice shipbuilder visiting Prince Edward Island for a short while. The two have been secretly meeting, waiting for Marilla to turn 18 so they can marry and be together always. Marilla’s bitter mother Nora has other plans. She will not chance her only daughter’s future on an orphan apprentice when the well-to-do local merchant John Blythe is waiting for her hand and offering a life Nora deeply envies. Chaos is already brewing when Marilla’s strongest ally, her beloved father, unexpectedly and tragically passes away. Nora’s sabotaging schemes escalate, forcing Marilla to flee to her Aunt’s home in Halifax and make heartbreaking choices no young woman should face. For the next 35 years Marilla stumbles through one stroke of misfortune after another suffering cruel small town gossip, agonizing loss and despair. In true Avonlea storytelling fashion, faith finds its’ way back into their hearts. An ingenious look at the earlier days of Green Gables, this touching story takes devotees of Anne Shirley on an amazing and unexpected adventure. Adaptations, fan fiction, I am not sure what to call this type of reimagined story utilizing beloved characters from over 100 years ago, but I loved every minute of it. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Friday, August 13, 2021

Anne of Manhattan

Anne is bounced around through foster care for much of her childhood. Many difficult memories she works hard to forget. After finally landing with Marilla and Matthew at their vineyard on Long Island (“The Hamptons”) she has finally found a place to call home. Initially having requested a boy to help in the vineyard, Anne works her freckly magic until they can not resist her adorableness. Years later she is in graduate school in NYC. Fully grown and quite the raven haired beauty, Anne unexpectedly bumps into her old nemesis, Gilbert Blythe. More handsome than ever, this once archenemy from schoolyard tauntings has turned out to be an extremely handsome hunk. Gil recently returned from California to be closer to family and is now completing his degree at the same school as Anne. The two are placed together for their final senior year thesis and the sparks immediately begin to fly. Anne cannot deny their chemistry, which always existed despite their longstanding disagreements. She insists he must win her trust and proceed with caution very slowly if a serious relationship is even possible. Gil, on the other hand wastes no time, as he has loved Anne since childhood and will do whatever it takes to win her over. This very modern adaptation of the beloved Anne of Green Gables is a timely, clever, laugh-out-loud romance not to be missed. ⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Vixen

Simon Putnam begins working at a respected publishing house in NYC. Feeling lost after his Harvard graduation, Uncle Maddie - a successful and feared critic - sets him up to work as a junior editor. His good looks and an upper crust education slowly making up for his lack of money and working class jewish background. While just a year ago his family sat shocked, outraged and saddened by the speedy execution of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, Simon now sits with a ridiculous manuscript in his lap revealing a fictionalized steamy account of Ethel as a provocative sexy communist spy. With the McCarthy hearings underway and enemy lists popping up in the most unexpected places, Simon fears speaking up could lose him his job and future. As his situation declines, Simon sets out to meet the author of The Vixen. Anya Partridge appears as a beautiful, alluring and wealthy young woman living in an exclusive mental asylum an hour away. A scandalous, albeit ridiculous affair begins between the two. Turns out this master manipulator/actress reveals the truth behind The Vixen and now Simon finds himself determined to change the destiny of his position. Engrossed in the writing and with a fondness for Simon, my head spun as this bizarre story unfolded. Strange would be putting it mildly. It touched on many interesting subjects but the plot was literally unimaginable.  ⭐️⭐️⭐️

He Gets That From Me

Life is busy for Maggie Fisher as she rushes to her job at Bed Bath & Beyond, leaving her toddler with Nick after his shift at the restaurant. This young couple  may struggle with time and money constraints but little Wyatt is the sparkling center of their lives. After Maggie dropped out of school and virtually out of site, she couch floated directionless for quite a few years. Falling in love with Nick and the life they have created in Arizona is finally putting her back on track. But Maggie will not be content with the check out line forever. She dreams of a college degree in education so she can earn a decent salary and a promising career. Refusing to beg her estranged parents for help she finds the cash earning opportunity to change her life. Tucked in the back of a home magazine is an ad to be a gestational surrogate. After much research and battling with Nick, Maggie is chosen by a NYC couple named Chip and Donovan who against the odds, dream of having a family of their own. A decade later the phone rings and the impossible becomes reality. Maggie is faced with decisions no mother should have to make. As her past comes barreling forward she wonders if her marriage can survive. Highly recommend this captivating story of family, trust and advanced technology all rolled into one. Didn’t love love the main characters but there is no doubt this one would be a fascinating book club discussion. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Girls With Bright Futures

Tech influencer CEO Alicia Stone has the entire school staff wrapped around her little check writing finger. As her daughter Brooke begrudgingly finalizes her Stanford Early Admission application, Alicia will do everything in her power to guarantee her admittance. Alicia’s long time assistant Maren also has a graduating senior named Winnie. Although only at EBA through the good graces and deep pockets of her mother’s boss - Winnie happens to be ranked top in the class.  At the same time, PTA commander-in-chief Kelly will tell anyone that will listen how her offspring Krissie is meant to attain the one coveted spot. Welcome to the elite private high school called Elliott Bay Academy, located in Seattle Washington. These women along with an array of bizarre characters take helicopter parenting to a new level. Cheating, score inflation, backstabbing and bribery are only a few of the tactics these crazy town moms are willing to stoop to. With deadlines fast approaching a black cloud darkens the entire community. The day one student is dangerously run off the road is the beginning of the end. What lengths will these mothers go to protect their daughters futures, their fragile reputations and get the recognition they (I mean their children) deserve. Twisty, dark humor and ringing just a little bit too true with the recent college scandals, this one will have you on the edge of your seat. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️