Show Me 5 Saturday: Italian For Beginners by Kristin Harmel

A meme  by That’s A Novel Idea

Mr. Linky at Find Your Next Book Here


1 Title:  Italian For Beginners by Kristin Harmel

2 Words that describe the book:  Italian Holiday

3 Settings or characters:

*  Rome – Kristin Harmel described the sights of Rome so well that I felt like I was there.  Cat’s friend Marco takes her on a memorable tour that was very romantic.  *sigh*

*  Karina – is the waitress who rents a room to Cat when she finds herself without a place to stay after her first day in Rome.  Karina pulls no punches with anyone and doesn’t expect anything less in return.  She’s about Cat’s age and is a single mother of a six year old son.  She was my favorite character!

*  Cat Connelly – has always put the needs of her sister and father above her own.  She’s ready for a little ‘me time’ and heads to Rome for a month after a co-worker gives her the push she needs.  I understood Cat and really pulled for her throughout the novel.

4 Things I liked/disliked about the book:

* I liked Kristin Harmel’s writing.  I’ll be looking for her backlist books.

* I really enjoyed the main characters – flaws and all.

* I loved my visit to Rome via a novel.  I liked that the author tells how the book came about and what she added from her own experiences.  There are a few recipes at the end too.   Now I want to watch Roman Holiday and pretend I’m Audrey.

* I was satisfied with the ending.  It had me smiling – and I love when that happens.

5 Stars or less for the rating: 4/5 stars


Italian for Beginners

Back of the book: Cat Connelly plays it safe.  She’s an accountant with no debt who lives near her family in Manhattan.  She’s also thirty-four, unmarried, and with nothing promising on her romantic horizon.  After a humiliating incident at her sister’s wedding, she throws caution to the wind and flies off to Rome to find Francesco, the man she’d fallen in love with thirteen years earlier on a trip to Italy.   When Francesco turns out to be a dud, Cat is adrift on the streets of Rome, no safety net in sight.  With the help of an eccentric waitress with a spare apartment to rent, the handsome restaurateur who calls her Princess Ann, and the family secrets only Rome can unlock for her, Cat discovers that happiness can be found on the back of a speeding Vespa. . . but only if you’re willing to take a few risks.

All I Ever Wanted by Kristan Higgins

All I Ever Wanted (Hqn) by Kristan Higgins

Calliope Grey just wants everyone to be happy.  And to like her – because why wouldn’t everyone like her?  Ever since her parents’ messy divorce when she was only eight years old Callie has tried to make everything and everyone ok.  Where has that gotten her?  It’s her 30th birthday and probably the most unhappy day of her life.  She finds herself without a boyfriend,  living with her grandfather, trying to keep the peace with her crazy family, and wondering if she’ll ever find her happily-ever-after.

As usual, Kristan Higgins had me laughing out loud through much of the novel. There was also a scene that had me reaching for a tissue.  Her main character has a big heart and only wants to share it with someone who’ll love her back as much.

Callie’s quirky co-workers add a comedic tone as well as some drama to the story. There’s a rocking chair on the cover for a reason.  It symbolizes what true happiness could mean in her life.  The enjoyment of this book is finding out if and how Callie finds what she’s looking for.

I recommend  All I Ever Wanted to fans of Contemporary Romance.

Review copy from Julie Harabedian at FSB Associates

In My Mailbox/Mailbox Monday – July 25/26


at The Story Siren

at The Printed Page


For review:

Holiday Magic (from Terri DuLong)

White Heat (from Chelsy at Big Honcho Media)

The Girls From The Revolutionary Cantina (from Cate at St. Martin’s Griffin)

Giveaway win:

The Half-Mammals of Dixie (from Bermudaonion)

My buy:

Red Hook Road by Ayelet Waldman

Gift certificate:

$15 Knit Picks gift card from HarperCollins Publishers (Book Club Girl on air show with Rachael Herron)

Show Me 5 Saturday: God Never Blinks by Regina Brett

A meme  by That’s A Novel Idea

Mr. Linky at Find Your Next Book Here


1 Title:  God Never Blinks50 Lessons for Life’s Little Detours by Regina Brett

2 Words that describe the book:  Life Lessons

3 Settings or characters:

* Regina Brett – Cleveland Plain Dealer columnist.

* Bruce, Brett’s husband

* Brett’s life

4 Things I liked/disliked about the book:

* Brett’s heartfelt sharing of her life experiences is something I could appreciate especially since we share some similarities in upbringing.

* I really liked the audiobook.  Her voice is so easy to listen to and her sincerity is apparent.

* I think any reader could relate to Brett’s columns about life’s ups and downs.

* I’m glad I listened to the audiobook.  It made a cross-state car trip go by in a snap.  That said, I think it may be even more meaningful if listened to one lesson at a time.  Each column lends itself to reflection and/or discussion.

5 Stars or less for the rating:  4/5 stars

Thanks to Bonnie at Redlady’s Reading Room for passing her copy to me.

* * * * * * *

God Never Blinks: 50 Lessons for Life's Little Detours

Back of audiobook case:

“It took me 40 years to find and hold on to happiness.  I always felt that at the moment I was born, God must have blinked.  He missed the occasion and never knew I had arrived. . . I ended up confused by the nuns at age 6, a lost soul who drank too much at 16, an unwed mother at 21, a college graduate at 30, a single mother for 18 years, and finally, a wife at 40, married to a man who treated me like a queen.  Then I got cancer at 41.  It took a year to fight it, then a year to recover from the fight.

When I turned 45, I lay in bed reflecting on all life had taught me.  My soul sprang a leak and ideas flowed out.  My pen simply caught them and set the words on paper.  I typed them up and turned them into a newspaper column of the 45 lessons life taught me.” – Regina Brett, from the Introduction.

She added 5 more lessons when she turned 50.

Waiting on Wednesday – July 21

The Life You've Imagined: A Novel

Pub. date:  August 17, 2010

From Goodreads:

Are you living the life you imagined? Is there anything you’d have done differently if you could? Those are the questions asked in Kristina Riggle’s unforgettable new novel.

In high school, Cami and Anna were as close as they could be…now, years later, both have returned to their hometown to face the people they had once left behind.

Anna must confront her mother, still distraught over the abandonment of her husband, and come to terms with choices she had made years before. While Cami returns home to stay with her alcoholic father, she must face a secret that she thought was long-since buried.

This is a novel that digs deep and touches the heart of the issues so many women face-the quest for perfection, the hope of love, the value of family and importance of always striving for your dream.

at Breaking the Spine

The I Hate to Cook Book by Peg Bracken

The I Hate to Cook Book: 50th Anniversary Edition

“There are two kinds of people in this world: the ones who don’t cook out of and have NEVER cooked out of THE I HATE TO COOK BOOK, and the other kind…The I HATE TO COOK people consist mainly of those who find other things more interesting and less fattening, and so they do it as seldom as possible. Today there is an Annual Culinary Olympics, with hundreds of cooks from many countries ardently competing. But we who hate to cook have had our own Olympics for years, seeing who can get out of the kitchen the fastest and stay out the longest.” – Peg Bracken

Philosopher’s Chowder. Skinny Meatloaf. Fat Man’s Shrimp. Immediate Fudge Cake. These are just a few of the beloved recipes from Peg Bracken’s classic I HATE TO COOK BOOK. Written in a time when women were expected to have full, delicious meals on the table for their families every night, Peg Bracken offered women who didn’t revel in this obligation an alternative: quick, simple meals that took minimal effort but would still satisfy.

50 years later, times have certainly changed – but the appeal of THE I HATE TO COOK BOOK hasn’t.

This book is for everyone, men and women alike, who wants to get from cooking hour to cocktail hour in as little time as possible.

* * * * * * *

I remember hearing buzz about The I Hate To Cook Book when I was a teen.  At the time I wondered why a cookbook would be titled as such but fast-forward a couple of decades and I was trying to figure out what to make for dinner for my family on a daily basis.  Looking back I wish I had Peg Bracken’s book in those days.

When I had a chance to review the 50th Anniversary edition of The I Hate To Cook Book I grabbed it.  Author Peg Bracken died in 2007 so her daughter Jo wrote the forward that tells about her mom and the book.  Following the forward is Peg’s introduction where she explained how and why the book came about. Bracken’s wit is apparent throughout the book making it an enjoyable read as well as a go-to reference.

Many of the recipes seemed familiar to me (maybe my mom had this book?).  They use ingredients found in most pantries such as cream of mushroom soup, canned vegetables, fruits, tuna, etc. The recipe directions are easy to follow.   Saturday Chicken (p.20-21) earned a thumbs up at my house.  (I added a small can of mushrooms to the recipe)

Saturday Chicken ingredients

Saturday Chicken

  • 1 cut-up fryer (or any 6 good-sized pieces of chicken)
  • salt and garlic salt
  • paprika
  • 1 can condensed cream of mushroom or cream of celery soup
  • 1 cup heavy cream (don’t cheat and use milk; the cream makes a lot of difference)
  • chopped parsley

Take your chicken and salt and garlic salt it a bit, then paprika it thoroughly.  Next, spread it out, in one layer, in a shallow baking pan.  Dilute the soup with the cream, pour it over the chicken, and sprinkle the chopped parsley prettily on top.  Bake it, uncovered, at 350 for one and a half hours.

Fresh out of the oven

Saturday Chicken (right) with baked potato and green beans

The chapters cover pretty much any type of dinner situation: Potluck Suppers; Company’s Coming; Luncheon for the Girls; Little Kids’ Parties.  Also included are helpful hints, equivalents, and substitutions.  I think The I Hate to Cook Book would be a great addition to any cookbook collection.

Review copy from Hachette Book Group

Waiting On Wednesday – July 14

Maybe This Time by Jennifer Crusie

St. Martin’s Press

August 31, 2010

From the publisher (not my review):

Andie Miller is ready to move on in life. She wants to marry her fiancee and leave behind everything in her past, especially her ex-husband, North Archer. But when Andie tries to gain closure with him, he asks one final favor of her before they go their separate ways forever. A very distant cousin of his has died and left North as the guardian of two orphans who have driven out three nannies already, and things are getting worse. He needs a very special person to take care of the situation and he knows Andie can handle anything.
When Andie meets the two children she quickly realizes things are much worse than she feared. The place is a mess, the children, Carter and Alice, aren’t your average delinquents, and the creepy old house where they live is being run by the worst housekeeper since Mrs. Danvers. What’s worse, Andie’s fiancee thinks this is all a plan by North to get Andie back, and he may be right. Andie’s dreams have been haunted by North since she arrived at the old house. And that’s not the only haunting.
What follows is a hilarious adventure in exorcism, including a self-doubting parapsychologist, an annoyed medium, her Tarot-card reading mother, an avenging ex-mother-in-law, and, of course, her jealous fiancee. And just when she thinks things couldn’t get more complicated, North shows up on the doorstep making her wonder if maybe this time things could be different between them.
If Andie can just get rid of all the guests and ghosts, she’s pretty sure she can save the kids, and herself, from the past. But fate might just have another thing in mind…

at Breaking The Spine

Open Country by Kaki Warner

Open Country coverart

When Molly McFarlane arrived in Savannah to visit her ailing sister  what she found was a surly brother-in-law (Fletcher), a terrified niece and nephew, and her sister at death’s door.  Before she took her last breath, her sister begged Molly to take the children and get as far away from Savannah (and Fletcher) as possible.  Fletcher and a group of men were searching for a book of valuable information that could lead to another war between the north and south.  They were convinced Molly or the children took the book so they sent a search team to find them.

A few weeks later, traveling west through Texas, their train derailed.  The train company paid out death benefits to the dead passengers’ families.  Feeling desperate, Molly claimed to be engaged to a man who was barely alive.  Told she must be his wife to collect the money, she arranged a deathbed marriage and found the local minister to bless the union.  The patient (Hank Wilkins) didn’t die and Molly used her nursing skills to help him recover.  Hank’s brother Brady arrived to bring him back to the family’s New Mexico ranch.  Upon hearing about his brother’s marital status Brady convinced Molly to come to the ranch where she could continue to help with Hank.  This sounded like a good idea to Molly because she and the children needed to be protected until she could figure out her next move.  She was certain that Hank would want the marriage annulled once he regained his memory and realized he didn’t know her, much less propose to her, before the derailment.

Kaki Warner takes us back to Rosa Roja Ranch – home of the Wilkins brothers.  In Pieces of Sky we met  Brady, the oldest brother, and his English wife Jessica.   Open Country is the story of Hank, the second brother, and Molly, the woman he doesn’t remember marrying.  Hank is the intelligent, quiet brother – a man you want on your side.  I enjoyed the story of Molly and Hank.  Both are used to being self-reliant and are slow to back down when they feel tested.  They each feel a duty to family and that shines in this book.  The author wrote touching and emotion-filled scenes for these two vibrant characters.  It was nice to see minor characters from the first book, especially Dougal.  He added perfect comic relief.

This novel has action, drama, romance and humor.  I look forward to the third and final book in the Blood Rose Trilogy (Chasing The Sun – January, 2011).

I recommend Open Country to fans of (Western) Historical Romance.

Review copy from Jennifer at Crazy Book Tours

Dangerous Desires by Dee Davis

Dangerous Desires

After surviving a horrible childhood, a few years in a Columbian prison, and more time under the thumb of a crime lord, Madeline Reynard becomes the rescue subject of A-Tac (American Tactical Intelligence Command) – an off the books arm of the CIA.  She has information that can help the CIA, hurt the Columbian crime group, and may just get her killed unless A-Tac succeeds in their mission.  The A-Tac team is comprised of several highly-skilled professionals (covert operations, IT, ordnance, communications, etc.).  The author reveals enough about each A-Tac member to get a feel for their personality as well as their importance to the team.

The person most involved in Madeline’s rescue is Drake Flynn.  He’s the confident and capable guy anyone would want on their side. Even though he has questions about her connections to known criminals he keeps the mission his priority.  My favorite part of the novel was the escape of Drake and Madeline from the jungle to a safe house a day’s travel away on foot and small boat.  The action is fast-paced and had me turning pages long past my bedtime.

Davis’s action scenes are exciting.  Her descriptive writing placed me in the drama which I loved because sometimes when I’m reading suspense novels I get lost in the details. Davis had me following right through the heart-stopping conclusion.  If you like your romantic suspense heavy on the suspense  I recommend  Dangerous Desires.

Review copy from Hachette Book Group

In My Mailbox/Mailbox Monday – July 11/12

at The Story Siren

at The Printed Page

~Click photo for a closer look ~

For review:

Dangerous Desires by Dee Davis  (Hachette)

The Life You’ve Imagined by Kristina Riggle  (HarperCollins/Avon)

Open Country by Kaki Warner  (Crazy Book Tours)

The I Hate To Cook Book by Peg Bracken  (Hachette)

She’s Gone Country by Jane Porter  (Book Sparks PR)

Giveaway win:

On Folly Beach by Karen White (From Redlady’s Reading Room)

Waiting On Wednesday – July 7

She's Gone Country

August 23, 2010

Publisher:  5 Spot

Shey Darcy, a 39-year-old former top model for Vogue and Sports Illustratedled a charmed life in New York City with a handsome photographer husband until the day he announced he’d fallen in love with someone else. Left to pick up the pieces of her once happy world, Shey decides to move back home to Texas with her three teenage sons. Life on the family ranch, however, brings with it a whole new host of dramas starting with differences of opinion with her staunch Southern Baptist mother, her rugged but overprotective brothers, and daily battles with her three sons who are also struggling to find themselves. Add to the mix Shey’s ex-crush, Dane Kelly, a national bullriding champ and she’s got her hands full. It doesn’t take long before Shey realizes that in order to reinvent herself, she must let go of an uncertain future and a broken past, to find happiness–and maybe love–in the present.

at Breaking The Spine

A Quick Giveaway – US

Scent of the Missing: Love and Partnership with a Search and Rescue Dog

Giveaway of my review copy (hardcover)

Scent of the Missing: Love & Partnership With a Search-and-Rescue Dog

by Susannah Charleson

My review is here


*  Open to US residents

* Leave your name in the comment

*  Giveaway ends 9pm (eastern) Thursday, July 8

*  I’ll post the winner (chosen by on Friday, July 9

Good luck!

Show Me 5 Saturday

A meme  by That’s A Novel Idea

Mr. Linky at Find Your Next Book Here

1 Title: Barely a Lady by Eileen Dreyer

2 Words that describe the book:  Historical Romance

3 Settings or characters:

Jack Wyndham, Earl of Gracechurch – finds himself being tended to by his (former wife) after he was injured at Waterloo.  He has amnesia and doesn’t remember divorcing Olivia or anything else that’s happened in the past five years.

Olivia Grace – once married to Jack and is trying her best to move on and protect the one person who means more to her than life itself.  And now she finds herself in the unfortunate position of protecting the man she once loved.

Lady Kate – the duchess who befriends and then employs Olivia, thereby protecting her when she most needs it.

4 Things I liked/disliked about the book:

I liked the characters – main and minor were all entertaining and interesting.

I liked that most of the novel takes place outside of England – on the battlefield or in Brussels.

I appreciated the epilogue.

I look forward to the next book in Eileen Dreyer’s  Drake’s Rakes series (can’t type that series title without smiling).

5 Stars or less for the rating:  4/5 stars

* * * * * * *

Barely a Lady (The Drake's Rakes series)

Synopsis from Goodreads (not my review):

Olivia Grace has secrets that could destroy her. One of the greatest of these is the Earl of Gracechurch, who married and divorced her five years earlier. Abandoned and disgraced, Grace has survived those years at the edge of respectability. Then she stumbles over Jack on the battlefield of Waterloo, and he becomes an even more dangerous secret. For not only is he unconscious, he is clad in an enemy uniform.

But worse, when Jack finally wakes in Olivia’s care, he can’t remember how he came to be on a battlefield in Belgium. In fact, he can remember nothing of the last five years. He thinks he and Olivia are still blissfully together. To keep him from being hanged for a traitor, Olivia must pretend she and Jack are still married.

To unearth the real traitors, Olivia and Jack must unravel the truth hidden within his faulty memory. To save themselves and the friends who have given them sanctuary, they must stand against their enemies, even as they both keep their secrets.

In the end, can they risk everything to help Jack recover his lost memories, even though the truth may destroy them both?

Scent of the Missing: Love and Partnership With a Search-and-Rescue Dog by Susannah Charleson

Scent of the Missing: Love and Partnership with a Search and Rescue Dog

From the book flap: In the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing, Susannah Charleson clipped a photo from the newspaper: an exhausted canine handler, face buried in the fur of his search-and-rescue dog.  A dog lover and pilot with search experience herself, Susannah was so moved by the image that she decided to volunteer with a local canine team and soon discovered first hand the long hours, nonexistent pay, and often heart-wrenching results they face.

Still, she felt the call, and once she qualified to train a dog of her own, she adopted Puzzle, a strong, bright Golden Retriever puppy who exhibited unique aptitude as a working dog but who was less interested in the role of compliant house pet.  Puzzle’s willfulness and high drive, both assets in the field, challenged even Susannah, who had raised dogs for years.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Scent of the Missing reads like a novel.  Susannah Charleson’s memoir is an informative look into the world of search-and-rescue dogs and handlers.There are anecdotes about the searches Puzzle and her handler have been involved in.   From looking for  lost people and runaways to recovery searches of  major tragedy sites such as that of the space shuttle Columbia, Ms. Charleson gives the reader an insider’s take.  She shares touching personal details of her life as well as lighter stories such as what it was like to introduce Puzzle to her household pets.

I’m so impressed by and thankful for the people and dogs who do search-and-rescue. I suspect few of us have it in us to do what they do.   There is a photo section included in the center of the book.

I recommend Scent of the Missing to fans of dogs, memoirs, and inspirational stories.

Click here for a Q&A with the Susannah Charleson

Review copy from FSB Associates