Paradise Valley by Robyn Carr

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From the back of the book: For a favorite son returned from war and an outsider looking for a home, Virgin River offers them a chance to make peace with the men they once were . . . and to find the dreams they thought they’d lost.
Robyn Carr picks up the Virgin River series with book #7 – Paradise Valley. We find out that Rick has been injured while serving with the Marines in Iraq. After rehab he returns to Virgin River where he needs to figure out things in his life. He’s angry and scared. He presumes how people will react to his injuries so he acts first. Unfortunately, he decides to cut loose everyone closest to him. Carr takes us on Rick’s journey of self-acceptance. We also catch up on a couple of other story-lines (Cameron and Abby; Dan Brady; Cheryl Creighton). But this is really Rick’s book. It may just be the best in the series so far.

Catholics by Brian Moore

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Back of the book: In the not-too-distant future, the Fourth Vatican Council has abolished private confession, clerical dress, and the Latin Mass, and opened discussions about a merger with Buddhism. Authorities in Rome are embarrassed by publicity surrounding a group of monks who stubbornly celebrate the old Mass in their island abbey off the coast of Ireland. The clever, assured Father Kinsella is dispatched to set things right. At Muck Abbey he meets Abbot Tomas, a man plagued by doubt who nevertheless leads his monks in the old ways.
I pulled this book off the TBR shelf over the weekend. I’m trying to clear the shelf this year so I joined the Read Your Own Books challenge. For the life of me, I can’t remember how I came to buy this book! At 140 pages it didn’t take long to read – more of a novella, to be sure. As I read I kept thinking what a great selection this would make for a parish book club. So much to discuss. The author was raised Catholic but pretty much tossed it all after leaving home. I Googled his name and read several articles, reviews and his London Times obituary. At one time, Graham Greene referred to Moore as his favorite living author. There are discussion questions at the end which I found helpful in digesting the book. I’ll finish with a quote from Catholics: How can a thing be a miracle one day and not a miracle the next day?

The Case of the Missing Books by Ian Sansom

Case of the Missing Books by Ian Sansom: Book Cover
Back of the book: Israel Armstrong is a passionate soul, lured to Ireland by the promise of an exciting new career. Alas, the job that awaits him is not quite what he had in mind. Still, Israel is not one to dwell on disappointment, as he prepares to drive a mobile library around a small, damp Irish town. After all, the scenery is lovely, the people are charming – but where are the books? The rolling library’s 15,000 volumes have mysteriously gone missing, and it’s up to Israel to discover who would steal them . . . and why. And perhaps, after that, he will tackle other bizarre and perplexing mysteries – like, where does one go to find a proper cappuccino and a decent newspaper?
If you’re a fan of light, sometimes silly, mysteries – this is your book. I found myself giggling more than once as various townspeople would wind Israel up. He was always a bit late in his realization of the wind-up. More than one scene brought to mind Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on first?” routine. Perhaps avid mystery readers will figure out The Case of the Missing Books long before the end of the tale – if so, I hope they will find delight in the details. This is the first in the Mobile Library Mystery series. I’m hoping to read more about the characters introduced in this book. Thanks to Vickie for the recommendation!

"Waiting On" Wednesday – March 25

I’m waiting on #15 in the Stephanie Plum series:

Book Cover Image. Title: Finger Lickin' Fifteen (Stephanie Plum Series #15), Author: by Janet  Evanovich While recovering from an ill-timed makeup mishap, Lula is a witness to celebrity chef, Stanley Chipotle, losing his head – literally. Now Lula and Stephanie are on the hunt to identify the killers before Lula is next on the chopping block.

Meantime, Ranger’s recruited Stephanie’s help for a top secret mission. Someone on the inside at Rangeman is leaking client information, determined to bring the company down. No one is above suspicion, not even Ranger’s right hand man, Tank.

Can Stephanie hunt down a killer, a traitor, five skips and keep Grandma out of the sauce?

It’s the sexiest, scariest, most fun Plum yet. So good you’ll want seconds. (June 23, 2009)

To see more “Waiting On” Wednesday posts visit Breaking the Spine

Buffalo Lockjaw by Greg Ames

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Back of the book: James Fitzroy isn’t doing so well. Though his old friends in Buffalo believe his life in New York City is a success, in fact he writes ridiculous taglines for a greeting card company. Now he’s coming home on Thanksgiving to visit his aging father and dying mother, and unlike other holidays, he’s not sure how this one is going to end. Buffalo Lockjaw introduces a fresh new voice in American fiction.

It took me a while to warm up to this book. By the end, I felt for the son and his father – not so much his sister. Having watched my father-in-law fade away because of Alzheimer’s, I could empathize with the family members. I look forward to my book club discussion. This is a debut novel and I’ll be watching for more from Greg Ames.

Buffalo Lockjaw will be released on March 31, 2009.
Thanks to Hyperion for sending the book.

Hot by Julia Harper

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Back of the book: For most people, being held at gunpoint by inept bank robbers disguised as Yoda and SpongeBob SquarePants would make for a bad day. For local librarian Turner Hastings, it’s an opportunity. Using the distraction to pull a little heist of her own, she dives into a new life. . .on the run.

FBI Special Agent John MacKinnon always gets his man. . .or woman. After watching Turner Hastings dump the contents of a safety deposit box into her purse on a surveillance tape, he knows this is going to be an interesting case. What he doesn’t expect is how the cell phone contact between him and his prey is about to blur the line between professional ambition and personal desire. When bullets from a hired hitman start flying in Turner’s direction, giving weight to her claims of injustice, John is willing to cross any line to save her life. . .even if it means risking his own.
I found this title while browsing What attracted my attention was the location of the story – my home state. Julia Harper situated her book in an area where many a memorable family vacation took place when I was growing up. But that all pales in comparison to the growing relationship of Turner and John. Think: book title. Throw in John’s bewildered FBI partner, a couple of goofy robbers, assorted townspeople, and an adventure that goes from the Wisconsin North Woods to Winosha (is that even a real place??) to Madison to Milwaukee – and you’ve got an entertaining and romantic novel. It was a Hot and fun read.

Knit Two by Kate Jacobs

Knit Two by Kate Jacobs: Book Cover

Book Flap: Knit Two returns to the Manhattan knitting store Walker & Daughter five years after the death of the store’s owner, Georgia Walker. Georgia’s daughter Dakota is now an 18 year old freshman at NYU, running the knitting store part-time with the help of the members of the Friday Night Knitting Club. Drawn together by their love for Dakota and the sense of family the club provides, each knitter is struggling with new challenges: for Catherine, finding love after divorce, for Darwin, newborn twins, for Lucie, being both a single mom and caregiver for her elderly mother, and for seventy-something Anita, marriage to her sweetheart Marty over the objections of her grown children. As Kate Jacobs returns to the world of Walker & Daughter, she’s once again keyed into many of the stresses and joys of being a mother, wife, daughter and friend.
I found myself thinking that I wasn’t really connecting to Knit Two when I was in the beginning pages but I soon found the pace and hated to set it down. I loved that the characters wanted to grow and change things in their lives – and then worked on making it happen. I found it easy to believe their worries, inner struggles, issues with grief as well as issues with each other. Ms. Jacobs portrayed each character realistically. I was smiling as I finished reading the book. . . and also hoping she might consider writing yet another book about this wonderful group of women. I really want to know what happens next.

Rubies in the Orchard by Lynda Resnick with Francis Wilkinson

Rubies in the Orchard: How to Uncover the Hidden Gems in Your Business

The banner above the title pretty much says it all: The POM Queen’s Secrets To Marketing Just About Anything. Lynda Resnick had her own ad agency by age nineteen and that was only the start. Life has taken her on quite an adventure – most notably being co-owner and marketing force behind POM Wonderful, FIJI Water and Teleflora.

Resnick’s success is due to hard work. Plain and simple. Know your product as well as your customer and figure out how to bring the two together. The closing lines of the book are the best summary: “Locate the intrinsic value of your brand, work to understand it and nurture it – even when the brand is you yourself. Communicate that value honestly and creatively. If you do, you will build the kind of faith in your brand that can overcome tough competition, hard times, cheap shots, and even a roller coaster of a new century.”

Rubies in the Orchard is an informative and entertaining book – mostly because of the conversational writing style. I felt like I was chatting with Ms. Resnick over a cup of coffee. Any question I could ask seems to be addressed. Most readers will know the brands featured in the book. A consumer of FIJI water for many years (I bought one of those funny square bottles in the Phoenix airport this week), I found the section devoted to that company very interesting. Also addressed are use of the internet, “going green” with FIJI, and the importance of corporate philanthropy.
Check out for more information on the book, Lynda Resnick or any of her companies. My thanks to Janny Chou of POM Wonderful for sending the book.

The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister

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From the book flap: . . . a gorgeously written novel about life, love, and the magic of food. The School of Essential Ingredients follows the lives of eight students who gather in Lillian’s Restaurant every Monday night for cooking class. It soon becomes clear, however, that each one seeks a recipe for something beyond the kitchen.

Chef Lillian, a woman whose connection with food is both soulful and exacting, helps them to create dishes whose flavor and techniques expand beyond the restaurant and into the secret corners of her students’ lives.

Brought together by the power of food and companionship, the lives of the characters mingle and intertwine, united by the revealing nature of what can be created in the kitchen.
The School of Essential Ingredients is a feast for the senses. Erica Bauermeister’s writing is lyrical, though not flowery. Her words flow easily as she describes the impact of ingredients on recipes just as decisions and actions impact the students’ lives. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.

Mailbox Monday



Mailbox Monday – What did you find last week?
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I found The Italian Lover by Robert Hellenga. Thanks to Dar at Peeking Between the Pages for hosting the giveaway for Hachette.
The Girl She Used to Be
Then I received The Girl She Used To Be by David Cristofano. Thanks to Miriam at Hachette Books. This book will be released March 19, 2009. You can read my review here.
Earth's Biggest Book Selection
And last, but not least, I received a belated Christmas gift from my husband. The Kindle 2 was delivered on Wednesday. I am really liking it – especially since I’m traveling this week. I brought it (loaded with twenty books) in my carry-on. Very cool!
So, what did you find in your mailbox last week? Thanks to Marcia for hosting Mailbox Monday. You can leave a link to your list at her blog The Printed Page.

February 2009 Books

Welcome to the World, Baby Girl by Fannie Flagg
Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri
The Sixteen Pleasures by Robert Hellenga
Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah
Second Chance Pass by Robyn Carr
Philosophy Made Simple by Robert Hellenga
Hard Eight by Janet Evanovich
Snowbound by Janice Kay Johnson
The Girl She Used to Be by David Cristofano