Come Home to Me by Brenda Novak

come home to me

  • Title:  Come Home to Me
  • Series:  Whiskey Creek, #6
  • Author:  Brenda Novak
  • Genre:  Romance
  • Published:  March 2014 – Harlequin MIRA
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis: Home is where her heart is. When Presley Christensen returns to Whiskey Creek with her little boy after two years away, she has completely changed her life. She’s made peace with her past and overcome the negative behavior that resulted from her difficult childhood. Now she’s back in the small town that was the closest thing to “home” she ever knew — the town where she can be with the sister who’s her only family. 

There’s just one catch. Aaron Amos still lives in Whiskey Creek, at least until he moves to Reno to open a branch of the Amos brothers’ auto body shop. And no matter how hard she’s tried, Presley hasn’t been able to get over him. Seeing him again makes the longing so much worse. But she hopes she can get through the next few months, because she can’t fall back into his arms…or his bed. She’s come too far to backslide now. And there’s a secret she’s been guarding — a secret she’ll do anything to protect.  (publisher)

My take:  Usually when you get to the sixth book in a series the reader has expectations of former secondary characters getting their time in the spotlight and most likely finding their happily-ever-after. In that regard, Brenda Novak’s sixth book in the Whiskey Creek series fits the mold.

What I didn’t expect was a secret (other than the one alluded to in the synopsis) that will probably threaten the future of the people who think they’re doing the right thing for the happiness of another character. 

Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.  - Sir Walter Scott

That secret was a major distraction to my reading experience. While I liked that Presley and Aaron had worked hard on their personal growth and had positive goals and ambitions I couldn’t get past their participation in a plan that will have a lasting impact on the lives of many.

So, it may seem like I didn’t like Come Home to Me but I like getting emotionally involved in the outcome of any book I read. This book definitely evoked emotions and I look forward to the continuation of “the secret” story line in which the characters involved will hopefully come to their senses!

Blossom Street Brides by Debbie Macomber

blossom street brides (vine)

  • Title:  Blossom Street Brides
  • Series:  Blossom Street, #10
  • Author:  Debbie Macomber
  • Genre:  Romance
  • Published:  March 25, 2014 – Ballantine Books
  • Source:  Publisher

My take:  I love my visits to Blossom Street.  I haven’t read all of the previous books but I plan to.  This time we catch up with Lydia, the owner of the yarn shop on Blossom Street – A Good Yarn. Life is good for Lydia, her husband and two children. Her mother has health issues that concern her but daughter Casey dotes upon her grandmother which eases Lydia’s worries a bit. These days Lydia is trying to solve the mystery of who is placing baskets of knitting projects around the city with directions to take the finished project to A Good Yarn. Business sure has picked up!

Lydia’s display window features a baby blanket that catches the eye of almost everyone. She has trouble keeping the yarn for the project in stock. Two women in particular are waiting for the next order to arrive. Lauren, a young woman who works down the street wants to knit the blanket for the baby her younger sister expects. Lauren would give anything to be married and pregnant. Bethanne just found out her son and his wife are expecting. She can’t wait to start knitting for her first grandchild.

After realizing her long-time boyfriend has no intention of proposing Lauren puts together a “husband list” – a list of qualities she wants in a husband. She’ll soon find that what she always thought was important is not what she really wants.

Bethanne is a newlywed and living in Seattle while her husband lives in California.  They see each other on weekends and know they can’t keep living this way. Bethanne’s daughter refuses to give her blessing to her stepfather. After all, her father wanted to reunite with her mother when his second marriage (the one he left his family for) fell apart. Bethanne feels torn between her new life and her daughter.

Blossom Street Brides is typical Debbie Macomber. She writes good stories that are quite addicting – at least they are to me! She has such an easy style that grabs me from the first page and leaves me smiling as I turn the last. I can’t wait for my next visit to Blossom Street.

The All You Can Dream Buffet: A Novel by Barbara O’Neal

the all you can eat dream buffet

  • Title:  The All You Can Dream Buffet
  • Author:  Barbara O’Neal
  • Genre:  Fiction
  • Published:  March 2014 – Bantam
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  Popular blogger and foodie queen Lavender Wills reigns over Lavender Honey Farms, a serene slice of organic heaven nestled in Oregon wine country. Lavender is determined to keep her legacy from falling into the profit-driven hands of uncaring relatives, and she wants an heir to sustain her life’s work after she’s gone. So she invites her three closest online friends—fellow food bloggers, women of varied ages and backgrounds—out to her farm. She hopes to choose one of them to inherit it—but who?  (publisher)

My take:  The author’s name was the first thing to draw me to The All You Can Dream Buffet  and then the synopsis pulled me right in. I’m a fan of Barbara O’Neal’s novels. Her evocative descriptions always make me feel as if I’m in the background observing what’s going on in each scene.

The characters and their specific issues engaged me from the start.  Ruby, a vegan chef and food blogger, went through a shocking break up with her boyfriend of six years and can’t get over him.  Ginny, a cake blogger and photographer, can’t wait to meet her online friends and is ready to make big changes. Val, a wine blogger, and her daughter are on their way to a new life after suffering a devastating loss. They all meet up at Lavender’s farm for her 85th birthday party. Little do they know she hopes to make one of them heir to her farm. This is a story of change and second chances and I cheered for each woman along the way.

I liked this novel but after finishing wished it could have been longer. Since the book is 400 pages I wonder if a lot had been cut which made the ending seem a bit rushed. All that aside, if you’re a fan of the author, novels with a food theme, recipes and just a touch of magical realism you might want to read The All You Can Dream Buffet. I’m glad I did.

Audiobook catch up

a hundred summers

  • Title:  A Hundred Summers 
  • Author:  Beatriz Williams
  • Narrator: Kathleen McInerney
  • Genre:  Women’s Fiction; Romance
  • Published:  May 2013 – Penguin Audio
  • Length:  11 hours 35 minutes
  • Source:  Purchased

Synopsis:  Memorial Day, 1938: New York socialite Lily Dane has just returned with her family to the idyllic oceanfront community of Seaview, Rhode Island, expecting another placid summer season among the familiar traditions and friendships that sustained her after heartbreak.

That is, until Greenwalds decide to take up residence in Seaview.

Nick and Budgie Greenwald are an unwelcome specter from Lily’s past: her former best friend and her former fiancee, now recently married – an event that set off a wildfire of gossip among the elite of Seaview, who have summered together for generations. Budgie’s arrival to restore her family’s old house puts her once more in the center of the community’s social scene, and she insinuates herself back into Lily’s friendship with an overpowering talent for seduction… and an alluring acquaintance from their college days, Yankees pitcher Graham Pendleton. But the ties that bind Lily to Nick are too strong and intricate to ignore, and the two are drawn back into long-buried dreams, despite their uneasy secrets and many emotional obligations.

Under the scorching summer sun, the unexpected truth of Budgie and Nick’s marriage bubbles to the surface, and as a cataclysmic hurricane barrels unseen up the Atlantic and into New England, Lily and Nick must confront an emotional cyclone of their own, which will change their worlds forever.  (publisher)

My brief take:  Beatriz Williams’ story of wealthy people and soap-like drama was a good beach read. I love the era. It was  post-1929 crash and pre-WWII which encompassed financial difficulties, prejudice, and people ignoring much of what was happening in the rest of the world. Add in the personal issues of failed friendships, betrayal, a broken engagement and an uncomfortable summer season that brings Budgie, Nick and Lily back together and you’ve got a juicy story. I enjoyed listening to A Hundred Summers. Kathleen McInerney’s narration was top notch.

*  *  *

the firebird

  • Title:  The Firebird
  • Author:  Susanna Kearsley
  • Narrator:  Katherine Kellgren
  • Genre:  Historical Fiction; Paranormal; Time Travel
  • Published:  January 2013 – Audible, Inc.
  • Length:  14 hours 39 minutes
  • Source:  Purchased

Synopsis:  Nicola Marter was born with a gift. When she touches an object, she sometimes glimpses those who have owned it before. When a woman arrives with a small wooden carving at the gallery Nicola works at, she can see the object’s history and knows that it was named after the Firebird – the mythical creature from an old Russian fable.
Compelled to know more, Nicola follows a young girl named Anna who leads her into the past on a quest through the glittering backdrops of the Jacobites and Russian courts, unearthing a tale of love, courage, and redemption.  (publisher)

My brief take:  I enjoyed this follow up (continuation) to The Winter Sea. I’m a fan of these adventures Susanna Kearsley takes us on. I rate it 4.5 stars and the fantastic narration by Katherine Kellgren moves it up to 5 stars.

I also followed the Kindle edition from time to time. An added bonus of the print book are the author’s notes at the end. Kearsley answered questions I’d had in mind while reading such as what is historically accurate and what is filled in to connect dots. I always wonder about those things while reading historical fiction. I don’t care what the answers are if the story grabs me – something that is never a problem with Kearsley’s novel. Like I mentioned, I’m a fan!

This book is part of the Slains series and I realized too late that I was reading them out of order. No matter, I have The Shadowy Horses on my shelf and look forward to reading it. Can’t wait to meet the sigh-worthy Rob from the beginning :)

The Next Always (audio) by Nora Roberts

The Next Always

 

My take:  The Next Always is the first book in the Inn BoonsBoro trilogy. Nora Roberts’ descriptions of the inn left me wanting to make a reservation asap! The three Montgomery brothers are making their mother’s dream a reality – turning the vacant old hotel on the town square into a beautiful inn. Beckett is the architect, Owen is the accountant/expediter (I think), and Ryder is in charge of construction.

This is Beckett’s story. He’s a great character. Growing up he had a huge crush on Clare. She ended up marrying one of his good friends and they moved away because he was in the military. Years later, after her husband was killed in war, she moved back home with her young sons. A single mother, Clare has her hands full with parenting as well as running the bookstore. She barely has time to breathe much less date and Beckett has his hands full with overseeing the inn project. Timing and circumstances eventually present Clare and Beckett with a chance to get reacquainted and for Beckett to get to know her boys. That’s enough for one book but there’s some drama too (no spoilers here). Oh, the inn appears to be haunted!

I liked The Next Always. It’s a romance filled with good characters, humor, and I loved the setting of the small town inn. I’m sure I’ll read the second book at some point.

Narrator:  MacLeod Andrews did a great job voicing the male characters. I thought he did ok with the female voices but I wasn’t a fan of the little boys’ voices. It must be hard for men to do children’s voices. I’ve listened to a couple of books with child characters but they were narrated by women – and I wasn’t bothered by those performances. But, since the main characters of the series are the Montgomery brothers, I can see why the Inn BoonsBoro books are narrated by a man.

  • Title:  The Next Always (Inn BoonsBoro trilogy, Book 1)
  • Author:  Nora Roberts
  • Genre:  Romance
  • Narrator:  MacLeod Andrews
  • Published:  2011 – Brilliance Audio

Source:  I bought it

Timeless Desire by Gwyn Cready

Title:  Timeless Desire

Author:  Gwyn Cready

Genre:  Time-travel Romance

Published:  August 2012 – Astor + Blue Editions

Synopsis:  Two years after losing her husband, overworked librarian Panna Kennedy battles to distract herself from crushing grief, while she wrestles with yet another library budget cut.  During a routine search within the library’s lower levels, Panna opens an obscure, pad-locked door and finds herself transported to the magnificent, book-filled quarters of a handsome, eighteenth-century Englishman. She soon recognizes the man as Colonel John Bridgewater, the historic English war hero whose larger-than-life statue loomed over her desk.

However, the life of the dashing Bridgewater is not at all what she imagined. He’s under house arrest for betraying England, and now looks upon her—a beautiful and unexpected half-dressed visitor—as a possible spy. Despite bad first impressions (on both sides), Bridgewater nonetheless warms to Panna, and pulls her into his escape—while both their hearts pull the other headlong into their soul-stirring secrets.

Very quickly Panna is thrown into a whirlwind of high-stakes intrigue that sweeps her from Hadrian’s Wall to a forbidding stone castle in Scotland.  And somewhere in the outland, Panna must decide if her loyalties lie with her dead husband, or with the man whose life now depends on her.

My take:  I hope you read the synopsis and that it made you want to read this book as much as I did! I really enjoyed Timeless Desire. It’s filled with adventure, conflict, humor and romance. Gwyn Cready’s heroine – Panna, short for Pandora – has come through an emotional time. As you’d expect, her husband’s illness and death took a lot out of her. It’s been a few years and she’s not sure she’ll ever be ready to get back in the dating pool. But fate has other plans for her.

Panna finds herself (see synopsis) in 1706 England and Scotland during border conflicts that pit clans against the Queen’s army. She also finds the man whose statue she has looked at every day at work for years! Or is it? And if it is will he donate a few books to Panna’s library and give their budget a boost? I loved that Panna is a librarian. It was a fun aspect to the novel.

The romance between Panna and Jamie is reminiscent of Diana Gabaldon’s Clare and Jamie of Outlander fame. But they are unique as well. Panna and Jamie have emotional hurts that have changed their lives. As they begin to trust each other and share their secrets they form a bond that could be unbreakable.

Recommended to fans of Time Travel and Romance. This is my first time reading a book by Gwyn Cready. I look forward to reading her backlist.

Disclosure:  I received an eBook for review from the publicist. I was not compensated for my review. See disclosure policy in sidebar. 

♦  ♦  ♦

Click Timeless Desire page for more information (eBook links, etc.)

♦  ♦  ♦

About the author:

Gwyn Cready is a RITA Award Winner (Best Paranormal Romance 2009) and the author of several beloved romances includingTumbling Through TimeSeducing Mr. DarcyFlirting with ForeverAching for Always and A Novel Seduction.

Highly regarded by her fans and peers, Gwyn has been called, “the master of time travel romance,” and her writing described as “sexy,” “delightfully original” and “wickedly witty.”  Timeless Desire is her latest foray into the time travel genre and men in kilts.  She still finds both eminently satisfying.

Gwyn lives in Pittsburgh with her family.

The Bet by Darlene Panzera

Title:  The Bet

Author:  Darlene Panzera

Genre:  Romance; Novella

Published:  June 2012 – Avon Books

Synopsis:  Jenny is about to lose the ranch that’s been in her family for generations. It looks like she’ll have to marry someone with money in order to save it. Most of the town is placing bets on who she’ll marry and then a stranger shows up and bets $10,000 she’ll marry him within five weeks. Who is this mysterious man? Could he be a knight in shining armor or does he have an ulterior motive?

My take:  This was a fun story – a real page turner! The Bet could easily have been a full length book. I enjoyed the fast pace and how the drama, humor and light romance combined to make an entertaining story.

Given the short form it was easy to accept the brief secondary character descriptions and quick turns in the plot. I was amazed by how much Panzera packed into her story –  that’s why I think it could be a full length novel. I would enjoy learning most of the characters’ back stories and it would be nice to see the story play out more slowly.

I can see why Debbie Macomber named The Bet the winner of the Readers’ Story Contest. I think fans of Macomber will enjoy it and I’ll definitely look for more books by Darlene Panzera.

Note:  You can find The Bet as a bonus story included with Debbie Macomber’s Family Affair (there are a few editions so look for the one with the pink sticker on the cover).

Disclosure:  I received a review copy from the publisher for the TLC Book Tour. I was not compensated for my review.

♦  ♦  ♦

About Darlene Panzera

A graduate of the Writer’s Digest Advanced Novel Writing School and The Christian Writer’s Guild apprentice program, Darlene is an active member of Romance Writers of America’s Greater Seattle and Peninsula Chapters. She’s attended numerous conferences and classes, served five years on the board of RWA’s Peninsula Chapter and in 2011 served as chapter president.

Darlene is the winner of the “Make Your Dreams Come True” contest sponsored by Avon Books which led her novella, The Bet, to be published with Debbie Macomber’sFamily Affair released June 2012. She received a second contract with Avon Books, a division of HarperCollins, for the full length manuscript of The Bet, and is currently working on her next novel.

She’s also published several short stories and  A Look of Love was a top finalist for Writer’s Digest Popular Fiction Awards Contest.

Born and raised in New Jersey, Darlene now lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and three  children. When not writing, she enjoys camping, hiking, photography, horseback riding, crafts, music, and lazy days at the lake.

Find Darlene at her website, www.darlenepanzera.com. You can also connect with Darlene on Facebook and Twitter.

Darlene’s Tour Stops

Thursday, July 12th: All-Consuming Media – guest post

Wednesday, July 18th: Deco My Heart

Thursday, July 19th: Joyfully Retired

Monday, July 23rd: …the bookworm…

Tuesday, July 24th: Take Me Away

Wednesday, July 25th: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Thursday, July 26th: Tiffany’s Bookshelf

Friday, July 27th: WV Stitcher

Monday, July 30th: Bookfan

Wednesday, August 1st: Silver & Grace

Tuesday, August 7th: Creative Madness Mama

Monday, August 13th: Book Reviews by Molly

Bring Me Home For Christmas by Robyn Carr

Title: Bring Me Home For Christmas

Virgin River series #16

Author: Robyn Carr

Genre: Romance; Christmas

Published: October 2011 – Mira

About: (from Goodreads synopsis) This year, Becca Timm knows the number one item on her Christmas wish list: getting over Denny Cutler. Three years ago Denny broke her heart before heading off to war. It’s time she got over her silly college relationship and moved on.

So she takes matters into her own hands and heads up to Virgin River, the rugged little mountain town that Denny calls home, as an uninvited guest on her brother’s men-only hunting weekend. But when an accident turns her impromptu visit into an extended stay, Becca finds herself stranded in Virgin River.

My brief take: Robyn Carr takes us back to Virgin River, CA for a Christmas story. We got to know Denny in the most recent books and now we see the reason why he ended up in the small mountain town – Becca. He is taken by surprise when she shows up for the hunting weekend with her brother and friends. Denny thought it would be just the guys he served with in ‘the sandbox’. Becca’s appearance changes everything – including the rest of his life.

If you’re looking for a romance with a heartwarming Christmas theme and a hopeful and happy ending you may enjoy Take Me Home For Christmas. I recommend it to fans of Robyn Carr and the Virgin River series.

Source: I bought it.

Disclaimer: See sidebar. I was not compensated for my review.

1225 Christmas Tree Lane by Debbie Macomber

Title:  1225 Christmas Tree Lane

A Cedar Cove Novel

Author:  Debbie Macomber

Genre:  Christmas; Series Romance

Published:  September 2011 – Mira

About:  (Goodreads synopsis) The people of Cedar Cove know how to celebrate Christmas. Like Grace and Olivia and everyone else, Beth Morehouse expects this Christmas to be one of her best. Her small Christmas-tree farm is prospering, her daughters and her dogs are happy and well, and her new relationship with local vet Ted Reynolds is showing plenty of romantic promise.

But …someone recently left a basket filled with puppies on her doorstep, puppies she’s determined to place in good homes. That’s complication number one. And number two is that her daughters Bailey and Sophie have invited their dad, Beth’s ex-husband, Kent, to Cedar Cove for Christmas. The girls have visions of a mom-and-dad reunion dancing in their heads.

As always in life— and in Cedar Cove —there are surprises, too. More than one family’s going to have a puppy under the tree. More than one scheme will go awry. And more than one romance will have a happy ending!

My brief take:  I’ve enjoyed Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Cove series. 1225 Christmas Tree Lane is book 12 and the final novel in the series. We get to know Beth Morehouse, her daughters, and her ex-husband. The synopsis above explains their story. The puppies serve as a way to bring back characters from previous books. They adopt the puppies and the reader gets caught up on what’s new in their lives.

You’ll have to read the book to see if Beth’s daughters get their Christmas wish. As you might expect Debbie Macomber gives all of the Cedar Cove residents a fond farewell in this satisfying series finale. I smiled as I turned the last page.

Recommended to fans of small town fiction, the author, and the Cedar Cove series.

Source:  Library book.

Disclaimer:  See sidebar. I was not compensated for my review.

Audiobook: Trading Christmas by Debbie Macomber

Title:  Trading Christmas (audiobook)

Author:  Debbie Macomber

Narrator:  Renee Raudman

Genre:  Christmas Romance

Published:  October 2011 – Brilliance Audio (previously titled When Christmas Comes – 2004)

About:  (Goodreads synopsis) Emily Springer widowed mother of one, decides to leave her hometown of Leavenworth, Washington, to spend Christmas with her daughter in Boston. Charles Brewster, history professor, seasoned curmudgeon and resident of Boston, wants to avoid Christmas altogether.

Through an Internet site, they arrange to swap houses for the holiday. So Emily goes to Boston–and discovers that her daughter has gone to Florida. And Charles arrives in Leavenworth to discover a town that looks like Santa’s village, full of Christmas trees, Christmas music and elves.

Meanwhile, Emily’s friend Faith Kerrigan travels to Leavenworth to visit her–and finds Charles the grouch. . .whose brother, Ray, shows up at Charles’s place, to find Emily living there.

Through all the mix-ups and misunderstandings, amid the chaos and confusion, romance begins to emerge in unexpected ways. Because when Christmas comes, so does love. . .

My brief take:  Debbie Macomber’s Christmas novels are cute and heartwarming. Trading Christmas is no different. It’s a comedy of errors that involves three story lines. The romance is light and the humor borders on corny at times but I didn’t mind that. Narrator Renee Raudman gave a fine performance. I listened to the audiobook while I knitted a Christmas gift. It was perfect entertainment. The Hallmark Channel is airing the movie version of this novel. It’s new this year and I hope to watch it soon. If you enjoy cute Christmas themed novels you may like Trading Christmas.

Source:  I bought it.

Disclaimer:  See sidebar. I was not compensated for my review.

Lucky Stiff by Deborah Coonts

Title:  Lucky Stiff

A Lucky O’Toole Vegas Adventure

Author:  Deborah Coonts

Published:  February 2011, Forge Books

Genre:  Mystery

About:  (from the book flap) Lucky O’Toole – head of Customer Relations at premier megaresort the Babylon – thinks it’s just another night in Las Vegas. A tractor-trailer has spilled its load of a million honeybees, blocking not only the Strip but the entrance to her hotel. . . . The district attorney for Clark County – apparently the odd man out of a threesome on the twelfth floor – is hiding in the buff in one of the hotel’s laundry rooms. . . . And Numbers Neidermeyer  – one of Vegas’s less-than-savory oddsmakers – is throwing some major attitude at Las Vegas’s ace private investigator, the beautiful Jeremy Whitlock.

The next day, Lucky discovers Ms. Neidermeyer has been tossed into the shark tank at the Mandalay Bay Resort as a snack for the tiger shark.  When the police show up at the Babylon with a hastily prepared search warrant, applied for by the district attorney himself, and Jeremy lands in the hot seat, Lucky realizes her previous night was far from routine. . . .

My take:  If you haven’t read the first book in the series, Wanna Get Lucky?, I recommend you do just to get the full story on several characters. Many of them are back in action in Lucky Stiff  and I was happy to see them again. This time there’s a murder to solve, a wacky scheme for Lucky’s mom to make money, the boxing match of the year at the Babylon as well as a convention of entomologists – Lucky’s life is never dull.

Deborah Coonts described a vibrant Las Vegas. From the pulsing music in the clubs and the sounds of the slots in the casino to the sultry desert air – I felt immersed in the Vegas experience. I also had fun trying to figure out who fed Numbers Neidermeyer to the sharks and how it was done.

Lucky Stiff is an entertaining Vegas romp. Lucky O’Toole is a plucky girl who loves her job, her friends and family, and hopes she’s found her true love in Teddie. I hope she has too and I can’t wait to read more in the Lucky O’Toole Vegas Adventure series.

Source:  FSB Associates

Disclosure Policy:  see sidebar

Merciless by Diana Palmer

Title:  Merciless

Author:  Diana Palmer

Published:  July 2011 HQN Books

Genre:  Romance

About:  FBI agent Jon Blackhawk finds out that a criminal he helped put behind bars has been released and wants revenge. People in his life are getting threatening anonymous phone calls. When Jon is shot he realizes the situation is more dangerous than he thought – especially to the people he cares about most: his mother, his brother, and even his smart and efficient office assistant, Joceline. She’s been his loyal co-worker for years and harbors a secret that could change his life. Will Jon learn the secret? Will he be able to keep his loved ones safe?

My take:  Merciless is the first book I’ve read by Diana Palmer. There are references to the case that involved a family of criminals that made me think it was the focus of a previous novel but Ms. Palmer caught me up to speed along the way.

The Blackhawk family is quite loyal to one another. Jon’s mother is a force to be reckoned with and it is no secret that she doesn’t like Joceline. She’s constantly trying to match him with women she thinks are suitable – something that drives Jon a little crazy. During those scenes there’s a lot of witty banter between Joceline and Jon which I found amusing.

All in all, Merciless was an ok read for me. I would have liked a few of the characters to be a little more fleshed out – but perhaps they were in a previous book?  Although I enjoyed the banter between Jon and Joceline I found their romance a bit forced and rushed. I really liked the conclusion that surprised me with a bit of a twist.

Source:  Planned Television Arts

How To Bake A Perfect Life: A Novel by Barbara O’Neal

Title:  How To Bake A Perfect Life: A Novel

Author:  Barbara O’Neal

Genre:  Women’s Fiction/Contemporary Romance

About:  (from Goodreads) Professional baker Ramona Gallagher is a master of an art that has sustained her through the most turbulent times, including a baby at fifteen and an endless family feud. But now Ramona’s bakery threatens to crumble around her. Literally. She’s one water-heater disaster away from losing her grandmother’s rambling Victorian and everything she’s worked so hard to build.

When Ramona’s soldier son-in-law is wounded in Afghanistan, her daughter, Sophia, races overseas to be at his side, leaving Ramona as the only suitable guardian for Sophia’s thirteen-year-old stepdaughter, Katie. Heartbroken, Katie feels that she’s being dumped again—this time on the doorstep of a woman out of practice with mothering.

My thoughts:  This is a touching story by a wonderful author about people who are either physically or emotionally wounded and the people who take care of them. O’Neal’s characters are realistic and so is the story. I enjoyed it all. Bonus points for an extraordinary dog.

Recommend?  Yes. I love Barbara O’Neal’s novels. She writes the kind I want to read straight through to the end and then smile and give it a hug. Fans of novels with recipes included will not be disappointed :)

Source:  I bought it.

Sundays at Tiffany’s by James Patterson


Sundays at Tiffany's

Goodreads synopsis

As a little girl, Jane has no one. Her mother, the powerful head of a Broadway theater company, has no time for her. She does have one friend-a handsome, comforting, funny man named Michael-but only she can see him.

Years later, Jane is in her thirties and just as alone as ever. Then she meets Michael again-as handsome, smart and perfect as she remembers him to be. But not even Michael knows the reason they’ve really been reunited.

SUNDAYS AT TIFFANY’S is a love story with an irresistible twist, a novel about the child inside all of us-and the boundary-crossing power of love.


* * * * * * *

My thoughts: It’s an interesting premise that left me wishing for a little more and a lot less: a little more character depth and story and a lot less over-the-top characters (Jane’s mother and boyfriend). I really wanted to like this book but it just didn’t grab me.


Outlander by Diana Gabaldon


Outlander (Outlander, #1)

From the Trade Paperback edition:
Claire Randall is leading a double life. She has a husband in one century, and a lover in another…

In 1945, Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon—when she innocently touches a boulder in one of the ancient stone circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an “outlander”—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of our Lord…1743.

Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire’s destiny in soon inextricably intertwined with Clan MacKenzie and the forbidden Castle Leoch. She is catapulted without warning into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life …and shatter her heart. For here, James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, shows her a passion so fierce and a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire…and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.


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I’ve heard about Outlander for a few years and finally got around to reading it. The Outlander Challenge was the nudge I needed.

Time travel novels are not what I tend to read but I enjoyed the adventures of Claire and Jamie. They are perfectly matched. The chemistry between the two is wonderful.

I don’t want to ruin any enjoyment for first-time readers so I’m not going to write about specifics. Well, I will say that if you’re going to unexpectedly travel through time some medical knowledge really comes in handy!

Diana Gabaldon wrote a humorous, romantic, sensual, violent, heart-breaking, breath-taking novel and I’m looking forward to reading Dragonfly in Amber – the next book in the series.




Jessica James – Blog Tour Guest Post

Today I’m pleased to welcome author Jessica James. I read Shades of Gray last summer and knew it would be on my 2009 Favorite Books list. For more about the book, click on the cover. Here’s some background information about Jessica and then her guest post about what a reader can learn from historical fiction.

Author bio and awards

Jessica James is the award-winning author of the historical fiction novel Shades of Gray, an epic Civil War love story that has twice overtaken Gone with the Wind on the Amazon Best-Seller list in the romance/historical/U.S. category. A former newspaper editor, she spent 18 years in a newsroom before turning her attention to fiction writing. She holds a master’s degree in communications and a bachelor’s degree in public relations/journalism.

This multi-award winning novel has been widely praised by historians for its balanced portrayal of the War Between the States, and by romance readers for its emotional description of the love that develops between the two main characters.

The novel chronicles the clash of a Confederate cavalry officer with a Union spy as they defend their beliefs, their country and their honor. The rolling hills of northern Virginia provide the backdrop for this page-turning tale of courage and devotion.

Shades of Gray Awards and Accolades:

2009 HOLT Medallion Finalist for Best Southern Theme

2008 Indie Next Generation Award for Best Regional Fiction

2008 Indie Next Generation Finalist for Best Historical Fiction

2008 IPPY Award for Best Regional Fiction

2008 ForeWord Magazine Finalist for Book of the Year in Romance category

2008 Favorite Book of the Year by The Book Connection

2008 Favorite Book of the Year by BookWorm’s Dinner

2008 Top Ten Favorite Book of the Year by The Printed Page


Shades of Gray: A Novel of the Civil War in Virginia

Learning something from historical fiction


When Mary was kind enough to review my historical fiction novel Shades of Gray last July, she noted that war novels are really not her preferred genre. I’m not sure she could have said anything more gratifying – I wrote Shades of Gray for precisely that type of reader.

Authors realize time is precious for everyone and that finding a few hours to sit down with a book is becoming a luxury. Though I definitely want to reflect my passion for the Civil War in my writing, my goal is to write books that appeal to readers of any genre and, more importantly, have them not regret the time they spent reading it.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I don’t want readers to come away with a new appreciation, or even better, an actual interest in the war. I believe historical fiction can be a great teaching tool, and love it when readers say they’ve actually learned something about our nation’s history. Mary noted that she gained new insight into the Southern perspective by reading Shades, and found the plotline of a woman dressing as a man during the war one of the more captivating aspects of the book.

O.K., so you don’t remember reading about women soldiers in your history books? Me either. In fact, I’ve had a few readers say this “fictional” premise is too far-fetched. Yet in reality, there are hundreds of wartime records verifying that women fought beside their male counterparts, sometimes even achieving rank as officers. For the most part, their sex was only revealed after being wounded, or being found by a burial party when they were killed in action. (Two dead females were found on the battlefield right here in my hometown of Gettysburg).

While I’m on the subject, at least six soldiers are known to have performed their military duties while pregnant, and two Confederate prisoners of war gave birth while incarcerated. I don’t have any pregnant soldiers in Shades of Gray, but my female heroine does get sentenced to prison. I was a little leery about that plotline as well, thinking that if a woman were caught in male attire, surely she would announce her sex and simply be sent back across the lines – as some were. But records show a number of women who were not discovered in prison until becoming ill, dying – or, amazingly, delivering a baby.

Some people read historical fiction, I suppose, to learn interesting facts such as these, while others perhaps turn away from it for precisely the same reason. Some want to be educated – and others merely entertained. I think historical fiction, done correctly, can accomplish both. By properly weaving facts with fiction, and creating characters with real feelings and emotions, readers can become so engaged with a book that they begin to care about what happens – and in doing so, learn something.

When readers tell me they smiled over my main characters’ triumphs and cried over their heartaches – I take it as a testament to the emotional connection they formed to Andrea and Hunter. It is that connection that gives them the feeling they’ve read an epic love story – not a Civil War story at all. And yet surely all those readers who have told me they silently wept upon the pages of Shades of Gray, have also come away with an additional knowledge of history and a new understanding of the sacrifices that helped shape our country.

Learning about the past doesn’t have to be a dull and tedious proposition – it can be entertaining and thought provoking in a way that may surprise you.

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My review of Shades of Gray can be found here.

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Tomorrow Jessica James will stop at http://abookbloggersdiary.blogspot.com as part of her Holiday Blog Tour and Civil War Basket Giveaway.

Visit www.jessicajamesbooks.com for more information on the tour.

Bill Walker – Blog Tour Guest Post

Brian Weller is a haunted man. It’s been two years since the tragic accident that left his three-year-old son dead and his wife in an irreversible coma. A popular author of mega-selling thrillers, Brian’s life has reached a crossroads: his new book is stalled, his wife’s prognosis is dire, and he teeters on the brink of despair.

Everything changes the morning an e-mail arrives from Boston artist Joanna Richman. Her heartfelt note brings back all the poignant memories: the night their eyes met, the fiery passion of their short-lived affair, and the agonizing moment he was forced to leave Joanna forever. Now, fifteen years later, the guilt and anger threaten to overwhelm him. Vowing to make things right, Brian arranges a book-signing tour that will take him back to Boston. He is eager to see Joanna again, but remains unsure where their reunion will lead. One thing is certain: the forces that tore their love asunder will stop at nothing to keep them apart.

Filled with tender romance and taut suspense, A Note from an Old Acquaintance is an unforgettable story about fate, honor, and the power of true love.

Author information:

He’s a graphic designer specializing in book and dust jacket design, and has worked on projects by Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, Dean Koontz, and Stephen King. Between his design work and his writing, he spends his spare time reading voraciously and playing very loud guitar, much to the chagrin of his lovely wife and two sons. Bill makes his home in Los Angeles and can be reached through his web site: http://www.billwalkerdesigns.com/

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Today I’m very pleased to welcome Bill Walker, author of A Note from an Old Acquaintance


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You can find A Note from an Old Acquaintance here or here.

Benny & Shrimp by Katarina Mazetti

Benny & Shrimp

Book flap:
It started in a cemetery, where they begrudgingly share a bench. “Shrimp”, the childless young widow and librarian with a sharp intellect and a home so tidy that her jam jars are in alphabetical order, meets Benny, the gentle, overworked milk farmer who fears becoming the village’s Old Bachelor. Both driven by an enormous longing and loudly ticking biological clocks, they can’t escape the powerful attraction between them.
But how will she learn to accept that he falls asleep at the opera and has a house full of his mother’s cross-stitch? And how could he ever feel at home in her minimalist apartment, bare as a dentist’s waiting room?

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First I’d like to thank Katrina for sending me her copy of Benny & Shrimp. This slim novel was as addicting as the blurb on the cover claimed. The chapters are 3-4 pages and alternate between Benny and Shrimp’s version of the same story. It’s a rather quiet story that had me smiling much of the time.

The main characters are in their mid-late 30s and getting worried that life is passing them by. Instead of observing, they want to participate in life. So they take a leap and strike up an unlikely friendship that becomes much more – but what? They reach a point where they know it’s time to make a big decision.

I don’t want to give away any more of the book but I will encourage you to make time to read Benny & Shrimp. I’m glad I did and hope you will enjoy it as much as I did. Thanks again, Katrina!

Note: Also included in the book is a Q&A with the author as well as discussion questions. In the interview Katarina Mazetti says she wrote a sequel a few years after Benny & Shrimp was published. Has anyone read it? I searched online but didn’t find any mention of it. Maybe there isn’t an English translation yet.

The Long Walk Home by Will North

The Long Walk Home: A Novel

From the dust jacket: When forty-three-year-old Fiona Edwards first sees the lanky backpacker striding up the lane toward her award-winning farmhouse bed-and-breakfast in the remote mountains of North Wales, she’s puzzled. She’s used to unexpected strangers, but few arrive on foot. The man to whom she opens her door is
middle-aged, unshaven, sweat-soaked . . . and arrestingly handsome. What neither of them knows at that moment is that their lives are about to change forever.

American Alec Hudson has carried the ashes—and the memory—of his late ex-wife, Gwynne, all the way from London’s Heathrow Airport, honoring her request that he scatter them atop a mountain they had climbed together years before—the same brooding peak whose jagged cliffs rise to the sky from the back pastures of Fiona’s farm. But the weather doesn’t cooperate, and as Fiona and Alec wait for it to clear, they are drawn together by mutual loss, longing, and the miracle of love at midlife.

On the day he finally reaches the summit, Alec is caught in a vicious hailstorm. As he struggles to descend, he stumbles upon the body of a man he recognizes from a photograph at the farm: it is Fiona’s ailing and reclusive husband, David, and he is close to death.

Will North’s debut novel, The Long Walk Home, is a story about grief and hope, about love and loss, and about two people struggling with the agonizing complexities of fidelity—to a spouse, to a moral code, to each other, and to a passion neither thought would ever appear again. By turns lyrical and gripping, set amid a landscape of breathtaking beauty and unpredictable danger, this is a story you will not soon forget.


What struck me first about The Long Walk Home was the beautiful cover. It intrigued me enough to want to know what the book was about and that was found by reading the description above. In simplest terms, it’s a tale about good people faced with difficult decisions. The dialogue got a little too dramatic for my taste at times, but overall I thought it was a good book with a tidy ending. I look forward to reading Mr. North’s new novel: Water, Stone, Heart. It will be on sale April 28th.