Waiting on Wednesday – June 30

The Book of Peach

August 3, 2010 (Penguin Group, USA)

From Goodreads: For fans of Fannie Flagg – the acclaimed author of Heartbreak Cafe delivers a heartwarming, hilarious new novel.

Twenty-three years ago, beauty queen Peach Rondell left Mississippi and vowed never to return. Now she’s back, divorced and heartbroken, trying to figure out how her life went so terribly wrong. To escape her mama’s scrutinizing gaze, she spends her days in a little storefront diner called the Heartbreak Cafe, where, in the back booth, she scribbles away in her journal, waiting for enlightenment. Instead, Peach gets something even better: the unexpected friendship of an unlikely group of folks who show Peach that finding out where you’re going usually means embracing where you’re from.

at Breaking the Spine

Where The River Runs by Patti Callahan Henry

Where the River Runs

Back of the book:  Meridy Dresden was once a free-spirited, fun-loving girl. All that changed when the boy she loved was killed in a tragic fire. Since then, she alone has carried the burden of a terrible secret. Years later, married to a wonderful man and mother of a teenage son, she is shocked to learn that a childhood friend is being blamed for that long-ago fire. Fearful but determined, Meridy returns to the South Carolina Lowcountry and summons the courage to make a decision that may destroy her well-ordered life, her family’s reputation, her contented marriage, and everything she’s worked so hard to protect… including her heart.

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I was pulled into Patti Callahan Henry’s touching novel from the first page.  Meridy Dresden has reached a point in her life where she is known among her husband’s friends as “perfect Meridy” – the perfect wife, mother, friend.  The problem is she feels like a fraud.  Ever since the tragic night where life changed forever she has tried to be good.  Her husband knows nothing about her life before they met; her son is grown and ready to leave for college; and her best friend was just divorced by Meridy’s husband’s boss.  Things are happening that are out of her control.

Meridy goes home to South Carolina to write a curriculum of the Gullah culture for her local school.  Repressed memories return that force her to face the past. With the help of Tulu, her family’s former housekeeper, she learns how to come to grips with what happened twenty-five years earlier – the night of the tragic fire.  Tulu teaches her the meaning of Gullah proverbs which leads to finding the truth in her past and helps her to understand what is important going forward.

I really liked this novel.  It was easy for me to relate to Meridy in a few ways.  I enjoyed the story, the characters, and the lessons learned. Where The River Runs is the second book I’ve read by Patti Callahan Henry and I look forward to reading more.

A Quick Giveaway (US)


Somehow I ended up with an extra copy of Still the One by Robin Wells so I’d like to host a quick giveaway to my US readers (Sorry, it’s at my expense so I have to limit to the US).

  • Just leave your name in the comment and check back on Thursday to see who random.org selected to win.
  • Giveaway ends Wednesday, June 30 at 9pm (eastern)

Still the One

Robin Wells takes us back to Chartreuse, Louisiana, for a deeply moving story of forgiveness and second chances.


After Katie Charmaine’s husband is killed in Iraq, all she has left is a closet full of his clothes, a few pictures, and fond memories. She not only lost her love, but her last chance to have the children she’s always wanted. Until Zack Ferguson shows up in town . . . with the daughter Katie gave up for adoption nearly seventeen years ago.

Zack Ferguson has never forgotten Katie, or the one magical night they spent together. Seeing her again brings up a tidal wave of emotions: regret over the way he left her, anger at the secret she kept, and desire he hasn’t felt in years. But he’s in town for Gracie. Their daughter is sixteen, angry at the world, and-worst of all-pregnant. She needs the love of her two parents now more than ever. Can these three forgive the hurts of the past and open their hearts to each other?

Waiting on Wednesday – June 23

at Breaking The Spine

The Tower, The Zoo, and The Tortoise by Julia Stuart

Pub. date: Sept. 7, 2010 by Doubleday

Balthazar Jones and the Tower of London Zoo by Julia Stuart

Synopsis found at Goodreads (not my review):

Brimming with charm and whimsy, this exquisite novel set in the Tower of London has the transportive qualities and delightful magic of the contemporary classics Chocolat and Amélie.

Balthazar Jones has lived in the Tower of London with his loving wife, Hebe, and his 120-year-old pet tortoise for the past eight years. That’s right, he is a Beefeater (they really do live there). It’s no easy job living and working in the tourist attraction in present-day London.

Among the eccentric characters who call the Tower’s maze of ancient buildings and spiral staircases home are the Tower’s Rack & Ruin barmaid, Ruby Dore, who just found out she’s pregnant; portly Valerie Jennings, who is falling for ticket inspector Arthur Catnip; the lifelong bachelor Reverend Septimus Drew, who secretly pens a series of principled erot ica; and the philandering Ravenmaster, aiming to avenge the death of one of his insufferable ravens.

When Balthazar is tasked with setting up an elaborate menagerie within the Tower walls to house the many exotic animals gifted to the Queen, life at the Tower gets all the more interest ing. Penguins escape, giraffes are stolen, and the Komodo dragon sends innocent people running for their lives. Balthazar is in charge and things are not exactly running smoothly. Then Hebe decides to leave him and his beloved tortoise “runs” away.

Filled with the humor and heart that calls to mind the delight ful novels of Alexander McCall Smith, and the charm and beauty of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie SocietyThe Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise is a magical, wholly origi nal novel whose irresistible characters will stay with you long after you turn the stunning last page.

Secret Keepers by Mindy Friddle

Emma Hanley is about to go on a trip of a lifetime.  She’s waited her whole life to see the world.  And then the unexpected happens.  As a result, Emma starts to make decisions on her own and refuses to back down.  This impacts Emma’s family and they are not pleased.

One day a man from the past knocks on Emma’s door.  Jake was her daughter Nora’s first boyfriend and now he’d like to tend Emma’s yard.  Jake runs a lawn service that employs people who seem to be down on their luck.  Eventually he hires Emma’s son and grandson.  Bobby (son) is a bit of a savant but also struggles with schizophrenia that seemed to grow worse after the death of his brother in Viet Nam.  Kyle (grandson) is fourteen and is feeling frustrated living under his parents’ careful watch.  In a small way, working for Jake opens up a new world to them.

Jake soon finds his lawn service in demand all around the small town of Palmetto. One of his workers starts to plant an amazing flower in all the gardens they work on. People are thrilled with the resulting blooms and the effect they have when smelled. A specialist is called upon to explain the what and why about this magical flower. He turns out to be a man that can teach Emma about  more  than just the flower. He can help her discover secrets about herself she hadn’t faced in the past thereby allowing her to find a wonderful future.

There is so much more to this quiet novel.  I really liked the atmospheric story of people who thought life may have passed them by.   It’s a hopeful story that would be a good book club selection.  Discussion questions are provided.

Review copy from Picador/St. Martin’s Press via LibraryThing Early Reviewers

In My Mailbox/Mailbox Monday – June 20/21


at The Story Siren

at The Printed Page

Mothers Day Romance Book Set  won at Mama’s Money Savers:

Ravished By A Highlander by Paula Quinn

Montana Destiny by R.C. Ryan

Knight of Passion by Margaret Mallory

To Surrender to a Rogue by Cara Elliott

Still The One by Robin Wells

Desire Me by Robyn DeHart

and a surprise book:

Healing Back Pain by John E. Sarno M.D.

Thank you Forever Books/Hachette Book Group

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From the author:

Simply from Scratch

Simply From Scratch (ARC) by Alicia Bessette

Show Me 5 Saturday – Supreme Courtship

A meme  by That’s A Novel Idea

Mr. Linky at Find Your Next Book Here

1 Title: Supreme Courtship by Christopher Buckley

2 words that describe the book: Political comedy

3 settings or characters:  Pepper Cartwright: TV judge who becomes a reluctant nominee to the US Supreme Court.

Buddy Bixby: TV producer of Pepper’s show (Courtroom 6) and also her husband.

President Vanderdamp:  He’s tired of his Supreme Court nominees being rejected and tired of being president.

4 things I liked/disliked about the book:   I liked Pepper.  She’s sassy and funny and doesn’t take herself too seriously.

I liked the President’s lawyer Graydon Clenndennynn – smart, funny and getting on in years.

Although a bit over the top I enjoyed most of the characters. Love a book that makes me laugh out loud.

I liked the footnotes that explained things like latin phrases, popular tv shows, and legal precedent cases.

5. Rating: 4/5 stars

Supreme Courtship

Goodreads synopsis (not my review): President of the United States Donald Vanderdamp is having a hell of a time getting his nominees appointed to the Supreme Court. After one nominee is rejected for insufficiently appreciating To Kill A Mockingbird, the president chooses someone so beloved by voters that the Senate won’t have the guts to reject her — Judge Pepper Cartwright, the star of the nation’s most popular reality show,Courtroom Six.

Will Pepper, a straight-talking Texan, survive a confirmation battle in the Senate? Will becoming one of the most powerful women in the world ruin her love life? And even if she can make it to the Supreme Court, how will she get along with her eight highly skeptical colleagues, including a floundering Chief Justice who, after legalizing gay marriage, learns that his wife has left him for another woman.

Soon, Pepper finds herself in the middle of a constitutional crisis, a presidential reelection campaign that the president is determined to lose, and oral arguments of a romantic nature. Supreme Courtship is another classic Christopher Buckley comedy about the Washington institutions most deserving of ridicule.

Every House Needs A Balcony by Rina Frank

Every House Needs a Balcony by Rina Frank: Book Cover

In the 1950s Rina, her sister and their Romanian immigrant parents lived in a crowded apartment with other relatives in Haifa, Israel.  It may have been a tight fit but at least they had a balcony. That was their way to see what was going on in their world and vice-versa.   Rina’s parents worked hard at jobs outside their training.  Their mother was an accountant in Romania but now cleaned houses. Their photographer father  now worked small jobs and looked after his daughters. Life wasn’t easy but the girls knew they were loved.

The novel takes us primarily through Rina’s life – her sister becomes a supporting character.  Rina falls in love, marries a young man from Spain and they move back to Israel to be near her family.  As in any life they experience heartbreak and we find out how they deal with it.

My thoughts: Although a lot of things happen in this book it felt more like a list of family events than a fluid novel.  The chapters move alternately between Rina as a stubborn young girl and Rina as a stubborn – some might say selfish – adult. The bones of a good story are there but I never felt emotionally drawn to the characters. Perhaps it lost something in the translation.   The cover of the review copy states that it is an “International Bestseller” so other readers may have a different reaction.

Did you read Every House Needs A Balcony? Feel free to leave a link to your review.

Uncorrected Proof from HarperCollins

Waiting On Wednesday – June 16

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking The Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases.  This week’s pick is:

Sand in My Eyes

Pub. date: July 1, 2010

Penmark Publishing, LLC

Goodreads synopsis:

An older woman growing flowers, a younger woman caught up in the weeds, and the seasons of life.

Twenty years ago, Anna Hott thought she could control everything – her crumbling marriage, her demanding children, her hectic life – by quitting her high-paced job in New York City and moving her family to tranquil Sanibel Island, Florida. But she brought her untamed emotions, her rage toward her cheating husband, and her yearning to write a novel with her. When her husband and children left the house for a week, Anna thought at last she would get her household, her novel, and her mind in order. Instead, her elderly neighbor Fedelina Aurelio knocked on her door bearing flowers and homespun wisdom, and when Fedelina’s recently divorced son arrived, Anna had a test of passions and a test of truth. Now, at 56 with an empty nest, Anna Holt pulls out the incomplete manuscript she started that memorable week and – to find closure for her life and a conclusion for her novel – travels to Indiana to visit Fedelina who lives in a nursing home.

A novel framed within a novel, Sand in My Eyes is both a story about the tension between motherhood and personal dreams as well as a story about women across generations inspiring one another to let beauty persist despite ugly circumstances.

Re: Joyce. Frank Delaney’s podcast series

Bestselling author and former BBC broadcaster Frank Delaney (www.frankdelaney.com) is launching “Re:Joyce,” a spirited weekly podcast on James Joyce’s “Ulysses.” Each segment will feature Delaney taking a short passage from “Ulysses” and exploring its multitude of references with insight, eloquence, and passion—as well as a good dose of humor. Accessible, yet not in any way dumbed-down, the Re:Joyce podcasts will bring listeners historical and biographical information, lively interpretation, and many amusing anecdotes—all illuminated by Delaney’s love for and robust knowledge of James Joyce and “Ulysses.” The introduction podcast is live on www.frankdelaney.com today. Re:Joyce will launch tomorrow, on “Bloomsday,” (June 16) the day on which the entirety of “Ulysses” takes place. The 3-5 minute podcasts will be available for download at www.frankdelaney.com

“Ulysses is often called the world’s most famous and most irritating novel – irritating because it’s deemed so obscure and inaccessible,” says Frank Delaney. “I maintain that it’s none of those things.” Delaney’s approach is not typically academic—as he has done in so much of his broadcasting life, he takes obscure and difficult literary subjects and breaks them open by treating them entertainingly.

Delaney’s first book was “James Joyce’s Odyssey: a Guide to the Dublin of Ulysses” (Little Brown, 1981). Aimed at people who had never managed to finish reading “Ulysses,” it was an instant bestseller. In 1982, Delaney did a series of one-man performances derived from “Ulysses” at multiple venues in the UK, including several at the National Theatre in London under the title, “ReJoyce.” In 1982 also (Joyce’s centenary year) he wrote and presented the BBC Omnibus documentary on James Joyce.

(courtesy: Leah Paulos)

In My Mailbox/Mailbox Monday – June 13/14


Barely A Lady by Eileen Dreyer (ARC)
Tempted By A Warrior by Amanda Scott (ARC)
Captured By Desire by Kira Morgan (ARC)

101 Things I Learned In Culinary School by Louis Eguaras with Matthew Frederick (from Books With A Cup Of Coffee blog)
Still The One by Robin Wells (from The Book Girl blog)
Secret Keepersby Mindy Friddle (LT Early Reviewers)
Backseat Saints by Joshilyn Jackson (from Luxury Reading blog)

Sunday Summary – June 13


The big news of the week is that Bookfan has a new address.  Since you’re reading this, you already know that.  Thanks for following me!

Books read/reviewed last week:

First Comes Marriage by Mary Balogh

101 Things I Learned in Culinary School

by Louis Eguaras with Matthew Frederick

First Comes Marriage 101 Things I Learned (TM) in Culinary School

Waiting On Wednesday pick:

29: a novel by Adena Halpern


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And at my house we’re cheering on the US in the World Cup.  Very proud of the US team’s 1-1 result vs. England yesterday!

101 Things I Learned in Culinary School by Louis Eguaras with Matthew Frederick

101 Things I Learned in Culinary School may be a small book (approx. 7×5 inches) but it’s packed with a lot of helpful information and advice.  A few things I learned:  how cookware and bakeware are measured; when and when not to add salt; proper frying temperatures; and how to pair wine and food.

The illustrations throughout the book are wonderfully simple yet perfectly show the point being made by the author.  The artwork is black and white which I think suits the format better than color photography.

Louis Eguaras is a culinary professor at The California School of Culinary Arts, Le Cordon Bleu Program and a former White House chef.  Matthew Frederick is an architect, urban designer, teacher, author of the bestselling 101 Things I Learned in Architecture School, and the creator, editor, and illustrator of the 101 Things I Learned series.

This handy little book is going on my gift list for a few friends and family.  I know 101 Things will be a go-to reference on my kitchen cookbook shelf.

Grand Central Publishing/Hachette Book Group

First Comes Marriage by Mary Balogh

First Comes Marriage (Huxtable Quintet, #1)

The first book of Mary Balogh’s Huxtable Family series is First Comes Marriage.  It is the story of four siblings who find themselves moving up in the world.  Their parents have been dead for years so the older sister Margaret (Meg) has assumed the parental role.  Vanessa (Nessie) is a young widow, Katherine (Kate) helps at the country school, and seventeen year old Stephen works hard at his studies.   But this all changes the day they learn that Stephen is to become the new Earl of Merton.

Once the siblings move to the family estate it is decided that the girls must be introduced to society during the upcoming Season.  To do this, one of the girls must marry a gentleman of the ton so to sponsor her sisters.  It’s presumed that Margaret will marry.  She still carries a torch for a certain soldier but will marry another for the sake of her sisters.  Nessie decides that Meg deserves some happiness and she won’t find it with a man she doesn’t love.  So Nessie proposes to the handsome Viscount Lyngate.  It’s not a love match but they will try to have a happy marriage.  And the story takes off from there.

I liked this novel but there were a few annoying habits of a couple of the characters that stopped me from loving it.    I really enjoy Mary Balogh’s books so I’ll give the second book a try.


Review copy from Dell via Goodreads First Reads