Mailbox Monday – Nov. 29

Mailbox Monday is the brainchild of Marcia at The Printed Page and is now on a blog tour.  Click here to see the tour schedule!

This month’s host is Knitting and Sundries.   Visit every week this month to see links to the latest and greatest books arriving in mailboxes!  Be aware, though, visiting can lead to book envy and toppling TBR piles!
December’s host will be Lady Q at Let Them Read Books!  So be certain to stop by her blog and show her some love!

I bought Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter: A Novel by Tom Franklin

I bought Once and Always by Judith McNaught

Simply Irresistible by Jill Shalvis

Giveaway win from Libby at Libby’s Library

Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor by Lisa Kleypas

Title: Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor

Author: Lisa Kleypas

Genre: Fiction

My thoughts: I listened to this holiday romance. It’s a sweet and enjoyable novel about Mark Nolan who seems quite willing to settle for a relationship with the wrong woman and Maggie Conroy, a young widow, who thinks she’s had her one chance at love so she’s not interested in anything more than friendship.

Mark became his young niece Holly’s guardian after the tragic death of his sister. The woman he’s been dating seems to think Holly shouldn’t be considered Mark’s child because he’s not her father. Mark starts to feel not so willing to settle with that woman. He’s becoming more attracted to Maggie anyway but she isn’t interested in dating – ever.

Surprisingly this is the first Lisa Kleypas novel I’ve ever read. I like her easy style as she takes the reader through a not-so-unusual plot but makes it seem fresh, just the same. This is a light, feel-good read that is perfect for the season. It combines Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Why I chose: I read it for the Holiday Reading Challenge.

Recommend? Yes, to fans of holiday romance fiction and Lisa Kleypas.  I listened to the unabridged audiobook performed by Tanya Eby.  I enjoyed her presentation.

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Source: Library

Russian Winter by Daphne Kalotay

Title: Russian Winter

Author: Daphne Kalotay

Genre: Fiction

About: The story of a Russian ballerina who becomes a star of the Bolshoi Ballet, falls in love with a poet and tries to live the best life possible under Stalin’s rule until that is no longer possible.

My thoughts: This is one of those novels that pulled me in immediately and kept me interested throughout. Daphne Kalotay’s descriptive writing immersed me in life in post WW II Russia – especially what it was like for people in the arts.  I felt like I was in the audience watching Nina Revskaya dance in Swan Lake.  I could imagine falling asleep at the dacha listening to the nightingale sing.  I could even visualize the working crews of women smoothing asphalt on the roads.

Once Nina defects from Russia she travels to London, Paris and finally Boston.  She smuggled her jewels with her when she left and now, decades later, crippled and in a wheelchair, she has decided to have her collection auctioned with the proceeds going to the local ballet.  The jewels have stories of their own that connect several characters in the novel.

One of the characters is Grigori, a professor of Romance languages in Boston.  He has a pendant that he believes is part of Nina’s collection and is trying to find out what the connection is.  He has his own assumptions and he would like Nina to confirm them.  He has contacted her a few times over the past few decades and each time she has refused to discuss her past or the jewels.

As the auction of the jewels draws near Nina finds herself remembering her past more and more.  There are a few twists and turns near the end and  Grigori and Drew, who works for the auction house, make their own discoveries which converge in a satisfying conclusion.

Source: Dawn from She Is Too Fond Of Books sent me her review copy.  Thank you, Dawn!

Recommend? Yes, especially to fans of historical fiction.

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Perfection: A Memoir of Betrayal and Renewal by Julie Metz Review and Giveaway

Author: Julie Metz

Genre: Memoir

About: (book blurb) Julie Metz’s life changes forever on one ordinary January afternoon when her husband, Henry, collapses on the kitchen floor and dies in her arms. Suddenly, this mother of a six-year-old is the young widow in a bucolic small town. And this is only the beginning. Seven months after Henry’s death, just when Julie thinks she is emerging from the worst of it, comes the rest of it:  Henry had hidden another life from her.

Thoughts: Perfection is the story Julie Metz tells of finding out her recently deceased husband was a habitual cheater most of the time she knew him.  He was a master of manipulation. At one point Julie says she ignored red flags in his behavior that should have warned her.  He was often critical of her and at times downright mean.

The story of their marriage and his cheating unfolds through Julie’s memories as well as emails found on his computer after his death and subsequent phone conversations with some of the other women.  I was amazed that the women were willing to talk to Julie about their relationship with her husband.  What results is a story that I found disturbing and depressing.

I understand that Julie Metz needed to know what made her husband strive for his idea of perfection or whatever it was he was searching for.  I admire that she was able to survive such a nightmare of betrayal and move forward with her life.  I wish her all the best.

Source: Voice

Why I Chose: BookSparks PR invited me to participate in the blog tour.

Recommend? It was a tough read for me but ultimately Julie Metz proves that one can experience incredible betrayal and then move forward.  Her inner strength is inspirational.

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About Julie Metz
Julie Metz is a graphic designer, artist and freelance writer whose essays have appeared in publications including The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Hemispheres, Glamour, and more. Julie received a MacDowell Fellowship in 2008 where she completed work on Perfection and began work on a novel. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y.



You can read more about Perfection on the Website and the Facebook page.


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Voice is offering one copy of Perfection

to give away to a reader (US or Canada)

Click here to fill out the form.



Mailbox Monday – Nov. 22



“Mailbox Monday” is the brainchild of Marcia at The Printed Page

Mailbox Monday is now on a blog tour.  Click here to see the tour schedule!

This month’s host is Knitting and Sundries.   Visit every week this month to see links to the latest and greatest books arriving in mailboxes!  Be aware, though, visiting can lead to book envy and toppling TBR piles!
December’s host will be Lady Q at Let Them Read Books!  So be certain to stop by her blog and show her some love!


These are the books that arrived in my mailbox last week:

The Life O’Reilly by Brian Cohen (won at Always With a Book – Thanks, Kristin!)

The Hunchback of Neiman Marcus by Sonya Sones (for review from Harper)

Let’s Eat! by Denise Burroughs

Title: Let’s Eat!

Author: Denise Burroughs

Genre: Cookbook

About: At 51 pages, Let’s Eat! may be a slim volume but it’s packed with comfort-food recipes.  Many seemed  familiar to me – similar to recipes the cooks in my extended family make:  Meatball Appetizer; Chicken Casserole; Taffy Apple Salad; Fantasy Fudge.  Also included are 10 Tips from the Kitchen; How Much Of This Equals That?; Baking Tips; Baking Substitutions; Preparing Marinades And Sauces; Is It Done Yet?  I decided to try the following recipe:

Broccoli and Spaghetti


4 Tbsp. olive oil

2/3 cloves of garlic

14 oz. bag broccoli florets frozen

1 tbs. Red crushed pepper

Salt to taste

1/4 cup water

Grated parmesan cheese


In a medium size pan add 4 Tbsp. olive oil, 2/3 cloves of garlic.  Heat until garlic is sizzling but do not brown.  Add a 14 oz. bag of broccoli florets, red pepper and salt as desired.  Cook on low for about 20/25 minutes until broccoli is soft.  You can add a little water at the end if desired.  Pour over angel hair pasta.  Add grated parmesan cheese on top.  Broccoli florets can be either thawed or frozen.

My experience with this recipe: I used 1 teaspoon of the red pepper flakes and I thought it was too hot.  Next time I would cut way back on the pepper flakes.  My family agreed that while it was tasty it had too much heat.

My Thoughts: The first thing I noticed is that there is no table of contents which I think is essential.  I was also a bit confused about a measurement abbreviation in the recipe I made.  It called for 1 tbs. of an ingredient.  I guessed that meant teaspoon but I was taught that tsp. is the abbreviation.  So I went for a teaspoon and hoped for the best.

Despite my quibbles and because the recipes do not seem difficult or intimidating, I think even beginner cooks would feel comfortable using this book.  Let’s Eat! might be a useful resource for those times you want to make some comfort food or for your contribution to the neighborhood block party or family get-together.

Source: Denise Burroughs for her virtual book tour with Pump Up Your Book

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About Denise Burroughs: She’s the owner of a paint and body shop and a member of NAPEW (National Association of Professional & Executive Women 2007-2008). A love for cooking and a desire to share wonderful family traditions was put to paper to create Let’s Eat.  There have been so many people who have inspired her in her life, but no one inspired her more than her mother.  Many of the recipes in this book have been served many times over and enjoyed by family and friends.  She is happy to share them all with you and hopes you enjoy every bite as they were all made with lots of love.

You can visit Denise at


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at Beth Fish Reads

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs.

Falling Home by Karen White

Title: Falling Home

Author: Karen White

Genre: Fiction

About: Cassie Madison has been living in New York for fifteen years.  When her estranged sister calls with the news that their father is dying she packs up and goes home to Walton, Georgia.

Descriptive Words: Family relationships, love, acceptance, forgiveness.

Thoughts: I loved the small town Georgia setting of Falling Home.  Karen White’s minor characters (citizens of Walton) are warm and caring.  I could envision the places and the people.  The reason I mention all that is because a subplot of the novel is the wish of a few to modernize the town. Some feel if they don’t update with national chain stores, McMansions, etc. people will leave and the town will die. The local doctor, Sam Parker, is intent on seeing that doesn’t happen.  At least, not like the proposed plan.

Cassie, her sister Harriet, and Sam were classmates while growing up.  Turns out, Sam always had a crush on Cassie.  When she returns he makes his feelings for her known.  Cassie is resistant and constantly reminds people that she is engaged to a man in New York and doesn’t intend to stay after her father’s estate is settled. She’s still upset that her sister married the boy she loved when she was in high school and really doesn’t want to stick around to see them and their five children living happily ever after.  But things don’t go as Cassie planned.

Overall, I enjoyed the novel even though through much of it I was annoyed by Cassie.  At times she seemed to be perfectly happy wallowing in her self-pity which I found tedious. But, that aside, I really liked Falling Home. The strong characters, setting, and plot come together for a satisfying novel. I’ve heard there’s a sequel in the works and I can’t wait to read it!  I think Karen White is a terrific storyteller and I’ve added the rest of her novels to my reading list.

Source: From Joy Strazza of Joan Schulhafer Publishing & Media Consulting.

Why I Chose: I’ve always meant to read one of Karen White’s novels so when an arc of her updated Falling Home arrived at my house I added it to my reading list. This book was originally published in 2002.

Recommend? Yes, I liked the family drama and the southern setting.

Rating: 4/ 5 stars

Spotlight on: Dark Moon of Avalon by Anna Elliott. Blog Tour/Giveaway

(The following is a synopsis, not my review): The young former High Queen, Isolde, and her friend and protector, Trystan, are reunited in a new and dangerous quest to keep the usurper, Lord Marche, and his Saxon allies from the throne of Britain. Using Isolde’s cunning wit and talent for healing and Trystan’s strength and bravery, they must act as diplomats, persuading the rulers of the smaller kingdoms, from Ireland to Cornwall, that their allegiance to the High King is needed to keep Britain from a despot’s hands.

Their admissions of love hang in the air, but neither wants to put the other at risk by openly declaring a deeper alliance. When their situation is at its most desperate, Trystan and Isolde must finally confront their true feelings toward each other, in time for a battle that will test the strength of their will and their love.

Steeped in the magic and lore of Arthurian legend, Elliott paints a moving portrait of a timeless romance, fraught with danger, yet with the power to inspire heroism and transcend even the darkest age.


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About the author:

The daughter of two English literature Ph.D.s, Anna Elliott grew up in Wilton, Connecticut, in a house filled with books. She is a longtime devotee of historical fiction and fell especially in love with Arthurian legend and Celtic history while at university.

Anna was expecting her first child when she woke up from a vivid dream in which she had told her mother that her next book project would be about Modred’s daughter, Isolde. She was very grateful to her daughter for being an excellent sleeper even as a newborn and allowing her the time to turn her dream into a finished trilogy.  The trilogy comprises Twilight of Avalon, Dark Moon of Avalon, and the upcoming Sunrise of Avalon.

She now lives in the Washington, D.C. Metro area with her husband and two daughters.

Anna Elliott’s links:




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Giveaway has ended

Stephanie at BookSparks PR sent one copy of Dark Moon of Avalon

to give away to one of my US readers.

Please click here and fill out the form.

Giveaway ends 6pm (eastern), Monday, November 22


Stay by Allie Larkin

Author: Allie Larkin

Genre: Fiction

About: It’s the funny yet poignant story of Savannah (Van) who has experienced some great loss in her life.  She grew up without a father, her mother died a few years ago, and her best friend just married the guy Van loved. Distraught after the wedding she has a pity party for one that involves Kool-Aid and vodka, a Rin Tin Tin marathon and her computer – resulting in a purchase she barely remembers.

Thoughts: I liked most of the characters in Allie Larkin’s charming debut novel but especially Joe, the pity party purchase (and star of the book cover).  Because of Joe, Van meets Alex, a veterinarian who is also a nice guy with a great smile.  Van starts to see new possibilities in her life (thanks in part to Joe and Alex).  She begins to more clearly understand some of the events in her past.  The end result is a satisfying story that had me smiling as I turned the last page.

Source: Library

Why I Chose: Bloggers I trust gave it good reviews.

Recommend? Yes, especially if you’re in the mood for some entertaining chick lit.

Rating: 4/5 stars

What I Thought I Knew: A Memoir by Alice Eve Cohen

Title: What I Thought I Knew

Author: Alice Eve Cohen

Genre: Memoir

About: (Back of the book) Alice Cohen was happy for the first time in years.  After a difficult divorce, she had a new love in her life, she was raising a beloved adopted daughter, and her career was blossoming.  Then, she started experiencing mysterious symptoms.  After months of tests, X-rays, and inconclusive diagnoses, Alice was sent for an emergency CAT scan that revealed the truth:  she was six months pregnant.

Descriptive Words: Medical diagnosis mistakes; Memoir.

Thoughts: This slim memoir is informational as well as inspirational.  Ms. Cohen’s story is shocking and she seems to hold nothing back.  Told with honesty and humor, the matter-of-fact style makes reading about the difficulties in this part of her life easier than one might expect – although there was one instance that was extremely hard for me to read.

I liked the occasional use of a list, a re-cap of sorts, that seems to remind the author as well as the reader what has happened to that point.  It’s a clever device.

The author is fortunate to have loved ones (older daughter and husband) who raised the bar when it comes to patience and unconditional love and support.  They are truly special.

I can only hope that what happened to Ms. Cohen doesn’t occur often.  However, I have a feeling it does so her book serves as a cautionary tale to everyone with the lesson being: trust your gut instinct.  If what you’re being told doesn’t feel/sound right, keep seeking answers.

Source: Penguin Books via BookSparks PR

Recommend? Yes, to fans of memoirs.

Rating: 4/5 stars

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About the author:
Alice Eve Cohen is a solo theatre artist, playwright, and memoirist. Her memoir, What I Thought I Knew (Viking, 2009) won the Elle’s Lettres 2009 Grand Prix for Nonfiction. She has written for Nickelodeon, PBS, and CBS. Her plays have been presented at theatres throughout the country, and she has toured her solo theatre works internationally. Her writing about arts in education has been published in nine languages. The recipient of fellowships and grants from the New York State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts, she holds a BA from Princeton University and an MFA from The New School. She teaches at The New School in New York City.

Alice Eve Cohen is on Facebook and Twitter.



I’d like to pass my gently-read copy to one of my readers.  If you’re interested please click here for details.


5 Ingredient Fix by Claire Robinson – Weekend Cooking

at Beth Fish Reads


From the book blurb: Claire Robinson – host of Food Network’s 5 Ingredient Fix – is here to help you get dinner on the table with minimal fuss and just a few great ingredients.

With everyone struggling to streamline and budget, Claire’s recipes make preparing delicious meals a snap.  Showing you how to choose the right ingredients along with a little culinary know-how is her specialty.  According to Claire, cooking doesn’t have to be complicated to be impressive:  Simplifying the process with fewer ingredients saves time, frustration, and, ultimately, money.

My thoughts: When I first saw the title of this beautiful cookbook I thought it seemed like a good one for me.  5 Ingredient Fix covers all meals as well as cocktails and various dinner courses.  The author imparts her philosophy of cooking with fewer ingredients and also lists which basics every kitchen warrior should own. There is a section titled Menu Ideas For Memorable Meals which groups recipes from the book into meals.

The photography is gorgeous and made me want to try several recipes. I must say that some of the ingredients are not staples I would normally find in my pantry or refrigerator so preparation is key.  After browsing the recipes I decided to make:


Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Basil Butter

1 large spaghetti squash (about 4 pounds)

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

8 large basil leaves, sliced

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese plus more for serving

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Preheat the oven to 375°

Halve the squash through the stem and remove the seeds.  Season with salt and pepper and roast cut side up on baking sheet until completely soft, about 1 hour. Let cool slightly and, with a fork, shred the squash flesh from the shell and transfer to a serving dish.

Meanwhile, in a food processor, pulse the pine nuts and basil to a paste.  Add the butter and cheese and pulse to combine; season with salt and pepper.

Serve the squash warm with soft butter on the side to dollop on each serving.



Tim and I agreed that it’s a tasty side dish.  I think the star of the recipe is the Basil Butter.  The combination of the basil, pine nuts and cheese is wonderfully flavorful. Some of the ingredients are on the expensive side – I had no idea about the price of pine nuts!  Despite the cost, I would definitely make this recipe again.




Claire Robinson is the host of Food Network’s 5 Ingredient Fix and Food Network Challenge.  She cites her French-speaking grandmother as a major influence on her love for food.  Claire graduated from the French Culinary Institute, is an accomplished private chef, and has worked on culinary production teams for several cooking series, including Food Network’s Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarello. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Review copy from Hachette Book Group

The Love Goddess’ Cooking School by Melissa Senate

Title: The Love Goddess’ Cooking School

Author: Melissa Senate

Genre: Fiction

About: Holly comes home to her grandmother’s house on Blue Crab Island, Maine after another break up.  Her beloved Nonna taught cooking lessons that were famous for the extra ingredients in her recipes:  one sad memory; one fervent wish; one true statement.  After Nonna dies Holly inherits the house and decides to carry on the cooking lessons in order to pay the bills.

Thoughts: Holly Maguire has been waiting a long time for her great love and even though she thought she’d found him a few times, she was still looking.  When she decides to continue her grandmother’s cooking lessons she finds that her students are searching for something in their own lives.  Simon wants to learn how to cook for  his young daughter who visits him every other weekend.  Tamara’s mother gave her a certificate for the cooking lessons so she would meet men but she just wants to learn how to cook – and to get away from her family’s pressure to find a man. Juliet, Holly’s childhood friend, is devastated by a heartbreaking tragedy.  Holly talks her into joining the class.  Mia is eleven and wants to learn how to cook so her dad Liam won’t marry his current girlfriend. The students become friends and help each other through some difficult times.

I really enjoyed this novel. I loved the Maine island setting, the interesting characters, and the way Nonna’s diaries (discovered after her death) revealed some things about her that Holly never knew.  Melissa Senate resolved each character’s story in a satisfying way and left me wanting to know what happened next.

Source: Gallery Books via Inkwell Management

Recommend: Yes – to fans of a good story, foodie fiction (there are recipes), Melissa Senate.

Rating: 4/5 stars