Sweet Love by Sarah Strohmeyer

Sweet Love by Sarah Strohmeyer: Book Cover

From the book jacket: Like other well-meaning mothers, Julie Mueller’s believed she did the right thing when she secretly ended her teenage daughter’s crush on Michael Slayton, a wild older neighborhood heartthrob with a penchant for Shakespeare and the pedigree of trailer trash.

Twenty years later, Betty Mueller has come to realize that was a big mistake. Her daughter Julie – divorced and raising a teenage daughter alone – is a workaholic obsessed with her career. And Michael, the one man to whom could make her happy, is the one man to whom she won’t speak a word.

Now near the end of her life and determined to make amends, Betty stages her last great feat of motherhood by reuniting the couple in a dessert class where she hopes the sweetness of a chocolate almond Torta Caprese will erase the bitterness of a wretched misunderstanding.

If you spot me reading a Sarah Strohmeyer book chances are you’ll see me laughing. It’s as if my best friend is sitting next to me telling me a great story. Sweet Love had me laughing most of the time and tearing up a little as well. I was pulling for Julie to have things work out with Michael. For me, the stars of the book are Julie and her mom. I loved their relationship . A lot of their give and take hit close to home. That said, I wanted to know more of the supporting characters’ own stories. Michael could be a book by himself. Julie’s brother, Paul or her friend, Liza were so enjoyable and yet only in the novel to move the plot, I guess. I could have read on for a few hundred more pages. Just saying…

It’s a good romantic comedy. I recommend it.

Everyone is Beautiful by Katherine Center

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From the book jacket:
Lanie Coates’s life is spinning out of control. She’s piled everything she owns into a U-Haul and driven with her husband, Peter, and their three little boys from their cozy Texas home to a multiflight walkup in the Northeast. She’s left behind family, friends, and a comfortable life–all so her husband can realize his dream of becoming a professional musician. But somewhere in the eye of her personal hurricane, it hits Lanie that she once had dreams too. If only she could remember what they were.

These days, Lanie always seems to rank herself dead last–and when another mom accidentally criticizes her appearance, it’s the final straw. Fifteen years, three babies, and more pounds than she’s willing to count since the day she said “I do,” Lanie longs desperately to feel like her old self again. It’s time to rise up, fish her moxie out of the diaper pail, and find the woman she was before motherhood capsized her entire existence.

New in Boston, Lanie took her three young children to a park while her husband unpacked the U-Haul. Unfortunately, she met a person at the park who asked her when she was due – this while Lanie was holding her not-yet-one-year-old baby. Fortunately, that was the last time she spoke to that woman. She was still reeling from the rude question when she heard her name called out. An acquaintance from high school in Texas had recognized her. That was the start of a good friendship. Lanie and Amanda did what good friends do – they were there for each other. And they would need each other in the weeks and months ahead.

This is just a small part of Everyone is Beautiful. Center’s writing is clear and true (and quite funny). I identified with so much of what she wrote into the story. I would guess most women – daughters or mothers – will see some part of themselves in this book. I enjoyed it and look forward to reading more books by Katherine Center.

You can read another review at S. Krishna’s Books. There’s a giveaway of the book!

Waiting On Wednesday – April 22

Sweet Love
Sarah Strohmeyer

First Time in Paperback – trade size

A delicious novel about the power of love—and dessert—by the national bestselling author.

Betty Mueller believed she did right by secretly ending her daughter Julie’s relationship with Michael Slayton, a wild, older neighborhood heartthrob. Twenty years later, Betty has come to realize her mistake. Workaholic Julie is now the single mom of a teenager—and Michael, the one man who could make her happy, has been out of her life for the past two decades.

Determined to make amends, Betty schemes to reunite the couple in a dessert class. And with the love of her mother and daughter, her own determination, and lots of chocolate, Julie’s chance for romance is all the higher…

NAL Trade, June 2009
352 pages ISBN: 9780451226907
Trade Size

To see what more readers are Waiting On, visit Breaking the Spine

Eating Heaven by Jennie Shortridge

Eating Heaven by Jennie Shortridge: Book Cover

Back of the book: Nothing gets Eleanor Samuels’s heart racing like a double scoop of mocha fudge chunk. Sure, the magazine writer may have some issues aside from food, but she isn’t quite ready to face them. Then her beloved Uncle Benny falls ill, and what at first seems scary and daunting becomes a blessing in disguise. Because while she cooks and cares for him-and enjoys a delicious flirtation with a new chef in town-Eleanor begins to uncover some long-buried secrets about her emotionally frayed family and may finally get the chance to become the woman she’s always wanted to be.

Eating Heaven is one of the best books I’ve read in a couple of years. It is smart, funny, sad, hopeful… and so much more. I recommend it to any reader looking for good fiction. It would be a great choice for a book club. So glad I read it and many thanks to my friend Jan who first brought it to my attention.

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.

Thanks For the Memories by Cecelia Ahern

Thanks for the Memories by Ahern Ahern: Book Cover

Back of the book: How can you know someone you’ve never met? That’s the question driving Joyce Conway these days. As she recovers from an accident, she’s suddenly plagued by an overwhelming sense of deja vu that makes her feel as if her life is not her own. She dreams night after night of a little girl she’s sure she doesn’t know, remembers cobble-stoned Parisian streets she’s never visited. She’s convinced she’s going crazy. . . until a series of coincidences takes her on a journey to find the one person who may hold the answer she needs. Thanks for the Memories is a heartwarming story of hope, love, and second chances – and Cecelia Ahern’s most magical novel yet.

I’m probably not Ms. Ahern’s target reader. While I enjoyed the film version of P.S. I Love You, I haven’t read any of her books. When this book was made available as an arc I thought I’d give it a try. I found it almost “sit-com”ish in it’s pace (as if the laughs were timed). That was distracting to me – but it may not be to her fans. I thought the overall concept was far-fetched but, again maybe not to her usual audience. There were some amusing spots and it was a very quick read. So I’ll just say that if you’ve enjoyed Cecelia Ahern’s other books, there’s a very good chance you’ll like Thanks For the Memories.

Thanks to HarperCollins for the ARC.

"Waiting On" Wednesday – April 15

I’m waiting on:
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This luminous tale filled with honesty and love charts the lives of sisters who find their curse and their salvation on the street where they live. One fateful summer they create their own magical world to escape a tragic encounter that has forever changed their lives. The healing power of imagination and love, the interwoven worlds of fiction and fact, the difference between liars and truth tellers, are at the core of this dangerous fairy-tale world where one mistake can follow you forever. A charismatic man who cannot tell the truth, a neighbor who is not who he appears to be, a clumsy boy in Paris who falls in love and stays there, a detective who finds his heart’s desire, a demon who will not let go, all live within the confines of the sisters’ world. Elv, Claire, and Meg are the Story Sisters, and each has a fate she must meet alone. One on a country road, one in the streets of Paris, and one in the corridors of her own imagination. At once a coming-of-age tale, a family saga, and a love story of erotic longing, The Story Sisters sifts through the miraculous and the mundane as the girls become women and their choices haunt them, change them, and finally redeem them.

What does a mother do when one of her children goes astray? How does she save one daughter without sacrificing the others? How deep can love go, and how far can it take you? These are the questions this complex novel asks. This is the spellbinding story Alice Hoffman has to tell.

(synopsis from BN.com)

The Story Sisters will be published June 2, 2009

For more “Waiting On” Wednesday posts visit Breaking the Spine

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See – Review and a giveaway

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Lisa See tells the story of Chinese sisters Pearl and May Chin. The story begins in Shanghai where they live a carefree life of affluence. This fun and easy life soon changes for the 19 and 22 year old sisters. Their father has gambled away all the family’s money and his daughters are part of the deal to cancel his debts. This sets in motion a series of events that find Pearl and May on their way to the United States.

Once again, Ms. See shows her wonderful gift of story-telling. Pearl, the older and more educated sister, tells the story. I was swept up in the saga of the Shanghai Girls – twenty years of their hopes, dreams, disappointments, joys and sorrows. I could see the colors and smell the aromas of L.A.’s Chinatown. See’s descriptions are quite vivid and detailed.

I was shocked when I turned the last page (not realizing it was the last page). It seems to me there’s a lot more story to tell. And I look forward to reading it.

Shanghai Girls will be published May 26, 2009
You can read more about Lisa See at her website.

Thanks to Random House and LibraryThing Early Reviewers

And now, the giveaway of my gently read ARC!

1. I can offer it to residents of the U.S. and Canada only, no P.O. boxes

2. Giveaway ends Friday, April 17th at noon, EDT

3. For 1 entry, comment here and leave your email address
Giveaway Ended

"Waiting On" Wednesday – April 8

I’m waiting on Shanghai Girls by Lisa See.
Cover Image
May and Pearl, two sisters living in Shanghai in the mid-1930s, are beautiful, sophisticated, and well-educated, but their family is on the verge of bankruptcy. Hoping to improve their social standing, May and Pearl’s parents arrange for their daughters to marry “Gold Mountain men” who have come from Los Angeles to find brides.
But when the sisters leave China and arrive at Angel’s Island (the Ellis Island of the West) – where they are detained, interrogated, and humiliated for months – they feel the harsh reality of leaving home. And when May discovers she’s pregnant the situation becomes even more desperate. The sisters make a pact that no one can ever know.
A novel about two sisters, two cultures, and the struggle to find a new life in America while bound to the old, Shanghai Girls is a fresh, fascinating adventure from beloved and bestselling author Lisa See. (BN synopsis)

Shanghai Girls is due to be published May 26, 2009
For more “Waiting On” Wednesday posts,

Mailbox Monday – April 6

Mailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page.

Last week I received The Agency by Ally O’Brien (from St. Martin Press).
Giveaway closed.
The Agency by O'Brien O'Brien: Book Cover
Ally O’Brien is the pseudonym for a writing duo that includes an international bestselling author of suspense novels and a successful media agent based in London.
BN synopsis: Meet Tess Drake. She’s earned everything she has. Now it’s time to get what she deserves…
Sexy super-agent Tess Drake has worked hard to make a name for herself in the glamorous yet cut-throat entertainment industry. Tess works at an international agency, where she skillfully manages some fo the world’s biggest egos – her company, Bardwell International operates in the thrilling, fast-paced worlds of Rights, wrongs and revenge. Tess has been an agent there for longer than she cares to remember and now she’s in trouble. Real trouble. After the mysterious death of the agency’s senior partner, Lowell Bardwright, Tess’s sworn enemy, Cosima Tate, has taken over and would do anything to send Tess’s career down in flames. And Cosima is only one of the rogue’s gallery of agents in London and New York who want Tess to take a fall.
I was about twenty pages in when I knew this was not a book for me. Just couldn’t finish it. I know it happens to every reader, but it doesn’t happen often to me. At any rate, I’m going to offer this copy to the first person (US residents only) who leaves a comment requesting the book. I only ask that you also review it once you finish reading. It’s an arc from the publisher.
Giveaway Closed.

Espresso Shot by Cleo Coyle

Espresso Shot by Cleo Coyle: Book Cover

BN Synopsis: Manager and head barista of the bustling New York coffeehouse The Village Blend, Clare Cosi’s been hired to create a gourmet coffee and dessert bar for a swanky wedding. Clare should be thrilled at this chance to shine, but it’s Matteo Allegro, her ex-husband and current business partner, who’s tying the knot – to Trend magazine editor Breanne Summour, who’s in full-blown bridezilla mode. Claire’s got to put her misgivings aside and focus on business, but since she’s a successful amateur sleuth, murder is Clare’s business too. And when fatal accidents begin befalling people close to Breanne, Clare becomes suspicious. But what she unveils, amid melted chocolate and steaming mochaccinos, may just get her burned…
Well this was a fun book. My first Cleo Coyle and I really enjoyed it. I believe Espresso Shot is the 7th in the series but I didn’t feel lost. The mystery is fast-paced, funny, and filled with interesting characters. Although there were plenty of possibilities, I had no clue who the murderer was – and I liked that. I can say with certainty I’ll be back for another coffeehouse mystery…which will hopefully include even more Mike Quinn!

Thanks to Vickie for recommending this series. You can read her review here – check out her blog – it’s great!

Too Good To Be True by Kristan Higgins

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Back of the book: When Grace Emerson’s ex-fiance starts dating her younger sister, extreme measures are called for. To keep everyone from obsessing about her love life, Grace announces that she’s seeing someone. Someone wonderful. Someone handsome. Someone completely made up. Who is this Mr. Right? Someone…exactly unlike her renegade neighbor Callahan O’Shea. Well, someone with his looks, maybe. His hot body. His knife-sharp sense of humor. His smarts and big heart. Whoa. No. Callahan O’Shea is not her perfect man! Not with his unsavory past. So why does Mr. Wrong feel so…right?

* * * * * * *

Ok, when I read the blurb from the back of the book I had my doubts that this would be a book for me. But then some marketing genius has decided that more books will sell if you put a darling dog on the cover. Like I said, genius. So I bought the book. And I read the first few pages. I smiled. I continued to read and started to laugh. I can’t remember laughing this much while reading a book. Really. Kristan Higgins is a very funny writer. She has a new fan in me. I don’t want to tell you any more about the plot because it was so much fun not knowing what to expect. I recommend this to anyone who likes a funny, romantic tale. It was time well spent. I’m going to miss this book. Now I need to send an email to all of my sisters (I have six) and tell them to read Too Good To Be True.

March Books

The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister
It Had to Be You by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Temptation Ridge by Robyn Carr
Montana Creeds: Logan by Linda Lael Miller
Rubies in the Orchard by Lynda Resnick with Francis Wilkinson
Knit Two by Kate Jacobs
Hot by Julia Harper
Buffalo Lockjaw by Greg Ames
A Slice of Heaven by Sherryl Woods
The Case of the Missing Books by Ian Sansom
Catholics by Brian Moore
Paradise Valley by Robyn Carr
* Favorite of the month

"Waiting On" Wednesday – April 1

Richard Russo (my favorite author) has a new book that will be published on August 4, 2009.
Title: That Old Cape Magic.
That Old Cape Magic
From the Random House site:
Richard Russo now tells the story of a marriage, and all the other ties that bind, from parents and in-laws to children and the promises of youth.

Thirty years ago, on their Cape Cod honeymoon, Jack and Joy Griffin made a plan for their future that has largely been fulfilled. He left Los Angeles behind for the sort of New England college his parents had aspired to, and now the two of them are back on the Cape – where he’d also spent his childhood vacations – to celebrate the marriage of their daughter Laura’s best friend. Sure, Jack’s been driving around with his father’s ashes in the trunk, though his mother’s very much alive and often on his cell phone. Laura’s boyfriend seems promising, but be careful what you pray for, especially if it happens to come true. A year later, at her wedding, Jack has another urn in the car, and both he and Joy have brought new dates. Full of every family feeling imaginable, wonderfully comic and profoundly involving, That Old Cape Magic is surprising, uplifting and unlike anything this Pulitzer Prize winner has ever written.

For more Waiting on Wednesday posts visit Breaking the Spine