Good Enough To Eat by Stacey Ballis

TItle:  Good Enough To Eat

Author:  Stacey Ballis

Genre:  Fiction

Published:  September 2010 – Berkley

My take:  Melanie lost half her body weight and then lost her husband – to her best friend who is twice Mel’s new size.  Mel already had a new business in the works so when the divorce was final she used her settlement to buy a condo and moved on with her life. She’d been a lawyer but now used her new healthy lifestyle as the basis for her business – Dining By Design – a healthy food take-away store.

The employees of Dining By Design are more than coworkers to Melanie. They’ve all had their own struggles in life and offer  each other unconditional support. I truly enjoyed each character and the depth they added to the novel.

Melanie knew she needed to work through her trust issues – especially with men. She found a chance to do that with a handsome filmmaker.  She also had Carey, a diet/nutrition coach who guided her along the way. Everyone should have a Carey – she really helped Melanie maintain balance in her life .

I really liked this novel. I could relate to Mel’s food issues and I liked the Chicago setting. I think fans of chick lit will enjoy Good Enough to Eat. A treat for readers: recipes!

Source:  Giveaway win.

Mailbox Monday



May host:  Reviews by Martha’s Bookshelf

♦  ♦  ♦

A few more books than usual because I missed a couple of Mailbox Mondays.

I think they all look good!



The House At Tyneford by Natasha Solomons (giveaway win from Kaye)

Goodbye For Now by Laurie Frankel (Doubleday)

The Queen’s Vow by C.W. Gortner (Ballantine)

Beach Colors by Shelley Noble (HarperCollins/LibraryThing)

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter (Harper)

Objects of My Affection by Jill Smolinski (Blackstone Audio)

What was in your mailbox?

For Love and Honor by Cathy Maxwell, Lynne Hinton, Candis Terry

Title:  For Love and Honor

Authors: Cathy Maxwell, Lynne Hinton, Candis Terry

Genre: Romance anthology

Published: June 2012 – Avon

My take:  For Love and Honor contains three separate novellas with the common theme of soldiers. The first, The Bookish Miss Nelson, is a historical romance. A soldier gets into a fight and his punishment is to accompany the daughter of a superior officer home through enemy lines. This is not the type of mission he signed up for but he accepts his assignment.

The second novella is Letters From Pie Town by Lynne Hinton. One of Pie Town’s own has been wounded in Afghanistan and is recovering in Germany. The novella is made up of letters of encouragement from the small New Mexico town’s citizens.  Even though I haven’t read the original book I was brought up to speed on several characters through the letters.

The third novella, Home Sweet Home, is about a soldier feeling guilt for being the only member of his team to come home. He doesn’t feel he deserves any happiness and wants to cut himself off from his girlfriend and others. His hometown takes matters into their own hands and find a way to start him on the road to his future.

Of the three, I’d say my favorite was Letters from Pie Town. I liked the quiet, cozy feel of the small town people and their letters. I will definitely seek out other books by Lynne Hinton. If you’re a contemporary romance fan you may like Home Sweet Home for the usual reasons but I liked it because it included information about reuniting soldiers with their dogs (and other animals). There’s an actual group that brings the animals to the States from wherever the soldier served!

Source:  Avon

Disclosure:  See sidebar. I was not compensated for my review.

I Never Promised You A Goodie Bag by Jennifer Gilbert

  • Title:  I Never Promised You A Goodie Bag: A Memoir of a Life Through Events – the Ones You Plan and the Ones You Don’t
  • Author:  Jennifer Gilbert
  • Genre:  Memoir
  • Published:  May 2012 – HarperCollins
  • Source:  Publisher

My take:  I Never Promised You A Goodie Bag is a compelling memoir that begins with a young woman just starting out in life. College is behind her and she’s ready to get out in the world and make her way. But before she can even start, a horrible event changes everything.

In May of 1991 Jennifer went into Manhattan to visit a friend and got off the subway at the wrong stop. She didn’t know someone was following her as she walked to her friend’s apartment. She was followed into the apartment building and then brutally attacked.

Jennifer Gilbert tells her story of how she climbed out of the depths of despair following the attack. It’s a journey that moved back and forth in terms of progress until she finally realized she needed to get her life going again – to not let the attacker win. She interviewed for jobs and was hired by an event-planning company. She threw herself into her job and found that not only was she good at it, she loved it. Jennifer eventually started her own company Save the Date. Over the years she dealt with trust, control issues, an eating disorder – all related to the attack.

I was glad that Gilbert’s story is not a perfect plan for surviving a horrific event. It’s a very personal account of how she made it through with determination and a lot of help from loved ones and professionals. I appreciated her honesty of how she continues to deal with life’s unplanned events. I Never Promised You A Goodie Bag is a truly inspirational memoir.

Sunday Post #14

Things have been quiet at Bookfan lately because my husband and I are in Maine visiting our new grandson. Jack was born May 10th – a few weeks earlier than expected. Although he’s tiny he’s also perfectly healthy. We’ll be here for a few more days. I’m so glad we were able to spend this time with Jack and his parents.


Jack and his mom (our daughter)

Jack and his parents

Spotlight on The Rx Factor – Author Guest Post and Giveaway


Five years after the death of his wife and children, Ryan Matthews is living alone with memories of his failed career in cancer research when fellow scientist Jordan Carver catches his eye. Preparing for a move to Mexico, Jordan plans to open a clinic where terminal patients will have affordable access to experimental medication. Despite Ryan’s skepticism on her willingness to bypass the FDA drug approval process, he is intrigued by Jordan’s passion and determination to provide alternative care to terminal patients. But when a violent explosion leaves the small Bahamian island of Exuma on edge, Ryan knows his life has once again been forever altered.

Drawn together by circumstance, attraction, and shared ambition, Ryan and Jordan become united in their international quest for the truth. The two embark on an explosive thrill ride ending in Washington, D.C., where the couple unravels the country’s best-kept secret: the government will stop at nothing to maintain the American way of life, with heartbreak and sickness for all.

♦  ♦  ♦


I have one copy to give away to a lucky reader (US/Canada)


Click here for details 

Giveaway is closed


Good luck!

♦  ♦  ♦

And now a guest post from the author:

A Solution to Transform Medical Research and the United States Health Care System 

Despite spending more than any other nation in the world on health care, only 15% of Americans believe we have the world’s best health care, according to a recent Pew Research Center and Gallup Poll.  The CIA world Factbook reports that the United States is ranked #50 in terms of average life expectancy. The average age at death in the U.S. is 78.49 years of age, over 11 years behind #1 ranked Monaco.

This is where you end up on the list with a “make money at all cost” health care system. However, I have a three step plan that will transform medical research and the health care system as we know it in the U.S.  If we act now, we can go from #50 to #1 by 2030 while at the same time cutting our spending on health care in half. My plan will also drive down insurance premiums, making coverage affordable for the vast majority.

Half of the country is demanding that the government stay out of health care while the other half is supporting a quasi-socialized health care system. With such vehemently opposing views, there is zero chance for a consensus and therefore nothing will ever get done that moves us in the right direction. And this is exactly what Big Pharma wants. Therefore, the first step is to change the debate. From Hillarycare through Obamacare, we have been debating {health care} costs and {health insurance} coverage. Cost and coverage are not the problems; they are symptoms of the real problems which are {unidentified} causes and {a lack of} cures.

The next step is to stop donating money to the mega health charities who each take in tens of millions of dollars annually by offering hope to find a cure, but continue to come up empty as a result of Big Pharma’s influence over all medical research.  Instead, not-for-profit universities conducting medical research need to sever their ties to Big Pharma and seek funding from private citizens. The vast majority of medical researchers want to be involved in discovering the cause and cures for human ailments, but they also have to live and they know who butters their bread. If private individuals fund this research, then our nation’s medical researchers no longer need to be beholden to Big Pharma.

The third step is to fight fire with fire.  Like any other publicly traded company, Big Pharma has a fiduciary responsibility to increase shareholder value by enacting business plans that will increase revenues and profits year over year.  In the current environment, the best way to accomplish that objective is to get more people reliant (addicted) on the drugs they produce.

Big Pharma’s mission is not necessarily to get every single American popping their daily maintenance drugs, rather it is to make as much money as possible and selling addictive maintenance drugs is the best way to accomplish that mission as things stand right now. Therefore we need to change the tax code and enact legislation to make their pursuit of profits align with the greater good of the health our citizens.

This can be accomplished by the carrot and stick approach. First we need to show Big Pharma the stick:

1.      Institute a windfall profits tax on any profits derived from any new products developed that is considered a maintenance drug.

2.      Eliminate deductions for R&D expenses associated with any drug being developed as a maintenance drug and not a cure.

Next is the carrot:

1.      No income tax paid on the profits generated by any product that cures a human ailment – for eternity.

2.      Offer permanent patent protection on any product produced that offers a real cure. Expand patent protection to natural cures documented in human trials.

3.      Pricing – fix pricing on drugs that cure human disease to make it as profitable to cure as it does to maintain in today’s health care environment.

This is all about money. If we have the courage to make those changes to the tax code and enact this type of meaningful health care reform, within 15 -20 years, we will have a cure for nearly every human disease known to man. In addition, the cost of health insurance will be affordable for almost everyone and the vast majority of us will end up living much longer and more productive and healthier lives.

About J. Thomas Shaw

J. Thomas Shaw is the author of The RX Factor, a fact based thriller that pits one man against Big Pharma and the FDA. Fact based fiction has the power to bring people from all walks of life together and focus on a single issue. Check it out at

Next to Love by Ellen Feldman

Title:  Next to Love

Author:  Ellen Feldman

Genre:  Fiction

Published:  January 2012 – Spiegel & Grau (trade paperback)

About:  (from the Goodreads synopsis) It’s 1941. Babe throws like a boy, thinks for herself, and never expects to escape the poor section of her quiet Massachusetts town. Then World War II breaks out, and everything changes. Her friend Grace, married to a reporter on the local paper, fears being left alone with her infant daughter when her husband is shipped out; Millie, the third member of their childhood trio, now weds the boy who always refused to settle down; and Babe wonders if she should marry Claude, who even as a child could never harm a living thing. As the war rages abroad, life on the home front undergoes its own battles and victories; and when the men return, and civilian life resumes, nothing can go back to quite the way it was.

My take:  Next to Love is one of those novels that reinforce my love of reading fiction. It’s not a heartwarming Norman Rockwell-ish tale of the folks at home while their loved ones fought in Europe. Instead, Feldman wrote a believable portrayal of how hard it was for both. At least I believed it. It was unglamorous and gritty at times but also courageous and uplifting.

Babe, Grace and Millie strive to do what is expected of them. Each handles it in her own way which is either embraced or frowned upon. Each chapter spotlights one of the women which gives great depth to each character. We learn their background, perspective and motivation.

The scene that affected me the most was the day many families received word that a loved one died in the invasion of Normandy. As each telegram was delivered I could feel the terror and heartbreak of the person receiving the news.

The time span of the early 1940s to early 1960s was one of great social and political change. It was interesting to see how Feldman’s characters experienced those years. I recommend Next to Love to anyone who loves to read about this time in history and I think it would be a good choice for book clubs.

Source: The publisher via Goodreads First Reads

Disclosure:  See sidebar. I was not compensated for my review.

Ten Beach Road by Wendy Wax – Giveaway

Last year I read and reviewed Ten Beach Road by Wendy Wax. You can read my review here. The mass market paperback edition came out this week. To celebrate I have a copy to give away to one of my readers (US/Canada). Click here for details. (giveaway has ended)  

Here’s what people had to say about Ten Beach Road

“If you loved Jennifer Weiner’s Fly Away Home…then try Ten Beach Road

[a] warm, wry novel.”

—Collette Bancroft, St. Petersburg Times


“Share with your mom, sisters, daughters, gal pals.”

–Nancy Pate, On A Clear Day I Can Read Forever


“[This] dynamic, fast-paced story is a loving tribute to friendship and the power of the female spirit.”

Las Vegas Review-Journal

“Friendship between women is celebrated and will make you cheer in this uplifting book.”

—Parkersburg (WV) News and Sentinel


“Recognizes the power of the female spirit, while being unemotional, and a little romantic.”

—Fresh Fiction

 “Great escape reading, perfect for the beach.”Library Journal

“Full of laughter, heartache, secrets, loyalty, and courage… run out and pick up a copy!”

—Night Owl Reviews

“Intriguing…I found her insight into human nature to resonate.”–Rundpinne

“Vivid…You can almost smell the salty air…the challenges and determination of these women is undeniable… [each] made for a very compelling heroine.”—LuxuryReading


“Funny, heartbreaking, romantic and so much more…This story about recovery and

restoration on so many levels is just delightful.”—The Best Reviews

 ♦  ♦  ♦

To learn more about the author and her books check out these links:



A Jove Mass Market Reprint/Fiction                              A Berkley Trade Paperback/Fiction

$7.99 ($8.99 Canada)/978-0-515-15066-7                      $15.00 ($17.50 Canada)/978-0-425-24086-1

Domestic Violets; The Odds – Two Brief Takes

Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman

Goodreads synopsis: Tom Violet always thought that by the time he turned thirty-five, he’d have everything going for him. Fame. Fortune. A beautiful wife. A satisfying career as a successful novelist. A happy dog to greet him at the end of the day. The reality, though, is far different. He’s got a wife, but their problems are bigger than he can even imagine. And he’s written a novel, but the manuscript he’s slaved over for years is currently hidden in his desk drawer while his father, an actual famous writer, just won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. His career, such that it is, involves mind-numbing corporate buzzwords, his pretentious archnemesis Gregory, and a hopeless, completely inappropriate crush on his favorite coworker. Oh . . . and his dog, according to the vet, is suffering from acute anxiety. Tom’s life is crushing his soul, but he’s decided to do something about it. (Really.)

My take: I liked it – especially the main character Tom Violet and a few minor characters (one being Brandon the agent). As I said, I liked it. I think my husband will love it. Interesting that one of Mr. Norman’s favorite writers is also one of mine: Richard Russo. I picked up on a Russo-esque tone in this novel. I mean that as a huge compliment and look forward to reading Matthew Norman’s next novel.


Source: I bought it.

♦  ♦  ♦

The Odds by Stewart O’Nan – audiobook narrated by Boyd Gaines

Goodreads synopsis: Eagerly fleeing their Cleveland suburb, Art and Marion Fowler empty their bank account and head to Niagara Falls for a second honeymoon. By day they sightsee, but at night they play the odds at the roulette wheel in the hopes of fixing their flagging finances and marriage.

My take:  While The Odds is a short book it’s also a complete look at a marriage from the innocent beginning to the rather jaded present. O’Nan gives the reader a glimpse into a marriage that’s in almost the same condition as the couple’s finances. I completely bought the characters’ motivations and actions. They’ve been together 30 years and have the scars to prove it. They’ve lost their jobs and are about to lose their house so they max out the credit card and head to a casino to try their luck. They’re hoping the odds will be in their favor to win big money and maybe get their marriage back on track.

There were moments when I laughed out loud and other times I cringed at something Art or Marion said or thought. We learn their story through short back flashes. I found myself wondering what the odds were that the Fowlers’ marriage could be saved let alone would they come home big winners. Stewart O’Nan had me cheering for them!

I liked The Odds but not as much as many other book bloggers so take my rating with a grain of salt. HOWEVER, I want to read more of Stewart O’Nan’s books. I was impressed by how complex and real his characters seemed in such a short novel. Boyd Gaines did a fine job with the narration.


 Source: I bought it.

Mailbox Monday



May host:  Reviews by Martha’s Bookshelf

♦  ♦  ♦



For review:

The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield (Random House)

Ninepins by Rosy Thornton  (from the author)

The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. by Nichole Bernier (Crown; Goodreads)

I bought:

Sunrise Point by Robyn Carr

Trouble in Mudbug by Jana Deleon

Don’t Sing at the Table by Adriana Trigiani

What was in your mailbox?

Once Upon a List by Robin Gold

Title:  Once Upon a List

Author:  Robin Gold

Genre:  Contemporary Fiction

Published:  May 2012 – Avon Impulse

My take:  The rug was pulled out from under Clara Black’s life. She was set to marry the love of her life but ten days before the wedding a tragic car crash changed everything. Months later Clara’s mother convinced her to spend Thanksgiving at the family home in Chicago.

When she arrived home her mother gave her a package that arrived several weeks earlier. Turns out it was a time-capsule that Clara made when she was in the fifth grade and sent by the teacher 24 years later. Among the items in the package was a list of goals young Clara hoped to accomplish before she turned 35. Clara started to concentrate on crossing goals off the list – she had less than a year before her 35th birthday and there were about 20 items on the list.

Robin Gold’s novel is the story of how one woman starts to reclaim her life. It may not be the life Clara thought she’d have but she learns that things can be good again. I loved how her list served as a springboard for getting back into life. Little by little she starts to feel better about things, people, the future. As she focuses on her list she learns that it’s not always easy to meet a goal but it’s almost always worth the effort.

I love a book that leaves me with a warm feeling and that’s what Once Upon a List did.

Source:  Avon Impulse

Disclosure:  See sidebar. I was not compensated for my review.