Dreaming in Chocolate by Susan Bishop Crispell

  • Title:  Dreaming in Chocolate
  • Author:  Susan Bishop Crispell
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction; Magical Realism
  • Pages:  288
  • Published:  February 2018 – St. Martin’s Griffin
  • Source:  Publisher

Description:  With an endless supply of magical gifts and recipes from the hot chocolate café Penelope Dalton runs alongside her mother, she is able to give her daughter almost everything she wants. The one sticking point is Ella’s latest request: get a dad. And not just any dad. Ella has her sights set on Noah Gregory, her biological father who’s back in town for a few months – and as charming as ever.

Noah broke Penelope’s heart years ago, but now part of her wonders if she made the right decision to keep the truth of their daughter from him. The other, more practical part, is determined to protect Ella from the same heartbreak. Now Penelope must give in to her fate or face a future of regrets.

Dreaming in Chocolate by Susan Bishop Crispell is a heartwarming story of love, hot chocolate, and one little girl’s wish for her mother.  (publisher)

My take:  This was a sweet story about Ella, a little girl who has good reason to cross things off her list of things to do. One of those items is to meet her dad, someone she’s never met. Her mother never revealed his identity so there’s no one else for Ella to ask. When her friend’s uncle comes to town to help his family Ella takes an immediate liking to him. Ella sees possibilities. Could her mother as well?

Dreaming in Chocolate is a story of love, hope and the possibility of second chances. The magical part is very light and, even though I’m a fan of that sub-genre, I was okay with that. It’s the second book I’ve read by Susan Bishop Crispell and I look forward to seeing what she writes next.

Praise for Dreaming in Chocolate:

A Redbook.com most anticipated book of 2018

“Readers looking for a feel-good story with a little bit of enchantment sprinkled in will eat this one up. A pleasantly sweet tale about true love, fate, and family.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Crispell’s (The Secret Ingredients of Wishes, 2016) sweet tale offers a nice mix of magic and romance … the characters are likable, and the family’s attempts to make Ella’s last days happy are touching and uplifting – Booklist.com



The Queen of Hearts by Kimmery Martin plus a US Giveaway

  • Title:  The Queen of Hearts
  • Author:  Kimmery Martin
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Pages:  352
  • Published:  February 2018 – Berkley
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

Description:  Zadie Anson and Emma Colley have been best friends since their early twenties, when they first began navigating serious romantic relationships amid the intensity of medical school. Now they’re happily married wives and mothers with successful careers–Zadie as a pediatric cardiologist and Emma as a trauma surgeon. Their lives in Charlotte, North Carolina are chaotic but fulfilling, until the return of a former colleague unearths a secret one of them has been harboring for years.

As chief resident, Nick Xenokostas was the center of Zadie’s life–both professionally and personally–throughout a tragic chain of events in her third year of medical school that she has long since put behind her. Nick’s unexpected reappearance during a time of new professional crisis shocks both women into a deeper look at the difficult choices they made at the beginning of their careers. As it becomes evident that Emma must have known more than she revealed about circumstances that nearly derailed both their lives, Zadie starts to question everything she thought she knew about her closest friend.  (publisher)

My take: Kimmery Martin’s debut novel is the story of two friends, betrayal, and the possibility of forgiveness. Zadie and Emma meet in medical school and become dependable friends as they experience the ins and outs of their medical training.

There are highs and lows that I imagine only people who’ve worked in a hospital or shared the common bond of med school can truly understand. Martin’s descriptive writing kept me interested, especially when I didn’t have a clue if what was happening during procedures, etc. was realistic. Given her real life experience as an ER doctor I trusted and went along with the story. I was completely engaged in what transpired in the hospital setting and on a personal level with Zadie and Emma.

I think fans of medical dramas like Grey’s Anatomy will enjoy The Queen of Hearts. I look forward to Kimmery Martin’s next novel.

US Giveaway

Please click here and fill out the form


The Neighbors by Hannah Mary McKinnon

  • Title:  The Neighbors
  • Author:  Hannah Mary McKinnon
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Pages:  384
  • Publish Date:  March 13, 2018 – MIRA
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

Description:  Abby looks forward to meeting the family who just moved in across the street—until she realizes they’re the one couple who could expose her deepest secrets.

After a night of fun back in 1992, Abby is responsible for a car crash that kills her beloved brother. It’s a mistake she can never forgive, so she pushes away Liam, the man she loves most, knowing that he would eventually hate her for what she’s done, the same way she hates herself.

Twenty years later, Abby’s husband, Nate, is also living with a deep sense of guilt. He was the driver who first came upon the scene of Abby’s accident, the man who pulled her to safety before the car erupted in flames—the man who could not save her brother in time. It’s this guilt, this regret, that binds them together. They understand each other. Or so Nate believes.

In a strange twist of fate, Liam moves into the neighborhood with his own family, releasing a flood of memories that Abby has been trying to keep buried all these years. Abby and Liam, in a complicit agreement, pretend never to have met, yet cannot resist the pull of the past—nor the repercussions of the terrible secrets they’ve both been carrying… (publisher)

My take:  The Neighbors is the story of Abby and Nate and Nancy and Liam who are new neighbors. The remarkable thing about that is Abby and Liam share a past. They knew each other many years ago but don’t let on to their spouses. Both are equally shocked to find themselves living near each other. You can imagine the various directions the plot could go. And it does. So much so that near the end my neck felt sore from all the twists and turns! I kid about my neck but not about the twists and turns. This book has all the makings of a night-time tv drama. As it played out I just shook my head and thought “really?!” That said, if you’re looking for an entertaining read you might want to pick up a copy of The Neighbors. Even though I found it more than a bit far-fetched I looked forward to picking it up each time to see what would happen next.


The Wake Up by Catherine Ryan Hyde

  • Title:  The Wake Up
  • Author:  Catherine Ryan Hyde
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Pages:  322
  • Published:  December 2017 – Lake Union Publishing
  • Source:  Publisher

Description:  Something has been asleep in forty-year-old cattle rancher Aiden Delacorte for a long time. It all comes back in a rush during a hunting trip, when he’s suddenly attuned to the animals around him, feeling their pain and fear as if it were his own. But the newfound sensitivity of Aiden’s “wake up” has its price. He can no longer sleepwalk through life, holding everyone at arm’s length. As he struggles to cope with a trait he’s buried since childhood, Aiden falls in love with Gwen, a single mother whose young son bears a burden of his own.

Sullen and broken from his experiences with an abusive father, Milo has turned to acting out in violent and rebellious ways. Aiden can feel the boy’s pain, as well as that of his victims. Now he and Milo must sift through their pasts to find empathy with the innocent as well as the guilty, to come to terms with their deepest fears, and to finally discover the compassionate heart of a family. (publisher)

My take:   The Wake Up is a lovely story about family – mostly about a boy and a man both damaged by circumstances out of their control. The setting is a small California cattle ranch where horses are also raised. This novel is full of emotions and people learning how to give others and themselves room to grow. It’s about forgiveness – of oneself and others. The theme of empathy runs through it all. As I turned the last page I felt hopeful and very glad to have started the year with such a good novel.


Now That You Mention It by Kristan Higgins

  • Title:  Now That You Mention It
  • Author:  Kristan Higgins
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Pages:  416
  • Published:  December 2017 – Graydon House
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

Description:  One step forward. Two steps back. The Tufts scholarship that put Nora Stuart on the path to becoming a Boston medical specialist was a step forward. Being hit by a car and then overhearing her boyfriend hit on another doctor when she thought she was dying? Two major steps back.  

Injured in more ways than one, Nora feels her carefully built life cracking at the edges. There’s only one place to land: home. But the tiny Maine community she left fifteen years ago doesn’t necessarily want her. At every turn, someone holds the prodigal daughter of Scupper Island responsible for small-town drama and big-time disappointments. 

With a tough islander mother who’s always been distant and a wild-child sister in jail, unable to raise her daughter—a withdrawn teen as eager to ditch the island as Nora once was—Nora has her work cut out for her if she’s going to take what might be her last chance to mend the family. 

But as some relationships crumble around her, others unexpectedly strengthen. Balancing loss and opportunity, a dark event from her past with hope for the future, Nora will discover that tackling old pain makes room for promise…and the chance to begin again.  (publisher)

My take:  Now That You Mention It is Kristan Higgins’ new stand-alone novel. Nora Stuart is a ‘glass half-full’ kind of person and that is what ends up saving her. She’s had to endure a lot over her thirty-five years which made her appreciate finally coming into her own as a doctor and as a woman. But recently she finds out life hasn’t finished whacking her upside the head when she gets hit by a van as she crosses a street. That is what brings her back to her mother’s house in Maine where her fifteen year old niece ignores her and her mother doesn’t know what to make of her.

As Nora gets her bearings and recovers from her injuries we learn about her background – the years of growing up on an island in Maine. Her family life was good until it wasn’t. Life changed one day and left Nora with unanswered questions that would have a lasting effect on her and Lily, her sister.

Nora will find out if one can really go home again. Now That You Mention It is a story about friendships, family and new possibilities. She might even get some answers to those long ago questions. I think fans of Kristan Higgins will be happy with this novel. Higgins’ typical humor, heartfelt story, colorful characters, etc are all there. I enjoyed it.

About Kristan Higgins:

New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author and two-time winner of the Romance Writers of America RITA® Award, Kristan lives with her family in a small Connecticut town that boasts a wonderful library, a great agricultural fair, a really good ice-cream stand and not much else. She is the mother of two lovely kids and the wife of a brave firefighter who is also (perhaps more important) a fantastic cook.

Previously a copywriter, Kristan began writing fiction when her children graced her life with simultaneous afternoon naps. Writing, she found, was infinitely more satisfying than folding laundry, and so began her first novel. Kristan holds a BA in English from the College of the Holy Cross, which means she can identify dangling participles, quote many great novels and play a mean game of Scrabble.

Kristan is an award-winning baker, devoted fan of the New York Yankees and an avid reader. She and her crew spend as much time as possible at the family home on Cape Cod, where they shiver in the Atlantic, ride bikes, swat horseflies and don’t catch any fish. Visit her at KristanHiggins.com.


Christmas In Icicle Falls by Sheila Roberts

  • Title:  Christmas In Icicle Falls
  • Series:  Life in Icicle Falls # 11
  • Author:  Sheila Roberts
  • Narrator:  Amy McFadden
  • Length:  9hrs. 35min.
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  October 2017 – Mira Books
  • Source:  Library Audiobook (HooplaDigital)

Description:  When Muriel Sterling released her new book, A Guide to Happy Holidays, she felt like the queen of Christmas. She’s thrilled when the new tree she ordered online arrives and is eager to show it off—until she gets it out of the box and realizes it’s a mangy dud. But rather than give up on the ugly tree, Muriel decides to make a project out of it. As she pretties up her tree, she realizes there’s a lesson to be learned: everything and everyone has potential. Maybe even her old friend Arnie, who’s loved her for years. Except, she’s not the only one seeing Arnie’s potential…

Meanwhile, Muriel’s ugly-tree project has also inspired her friends. Sienna Moreno is trying to bring out the best in the grouchy man next door, who hates noise, hates kids and hates his new neighbors. And while Olivia Claussen would love to send her obnoxious new daughter-in-law packing, she’s adjusting her attitude and trying to discover what her son sees in the girl. If these women can learn to see the beauty in the “ugly trees” in their lives, perhaps this might turn out to be the happiest holiday yet. (publisher)

My take:  I’ve read all but one of the books (and I have it on my bookshelf) in the Life in Icicle Falls series. That said, this book can stand on its own. With a wink and a nod to Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Sheila Roberts’ final novel in the series is a delight. I especially loved that Muriel Sterling, the sage of Icicle Falls, might not have it all together as her self-help books imply. I enjoyed seeing how things worked out for her! I also liked the storyline of local inn-owner Olivia and her relationship with her new daughter-in-law. They learned a lot about each other – and themselves in the process. There’s also single mother Sienna and her new friend Tim (nephew of Robert Cratchet). Sienna learns how to trust her decisions and her ability to have faith in possibilities where Tim is concerned. It all made for a heart-warming conclusion to a really enjoyable series. Narrator Amy McFadden did a fine job voicing the characters. Her performance added to the warmth of the novel.


Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak

  • Title:  Seven Days of Us
  • Author:  Francesca Hornak
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Pages:  358
  • Published:  October 2017 – Berkley Hardcover
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

Description:  It’s Christmas, and for the first time in years the entire Birch family will be under one roof. Even Emma and Andrew’s elder daughter—who is usually off saving the world—will be joining them at Weyfield Hall, their aging country estate. But Olivia, a doctor, is only coming home because she has to. Having just returned from treating an epidemic abroad, she’s been told she must stay in quarantine for a week…and so too should her family.
For the next seven days, the Birches are locked down, cut off from the rest of humanity—and even decent Wi-Fi—and forced into each other’s orbits. Younger, unabashedly frivolous daughter Phoebe is fixated on her upcoming wedding, while her older sister, Olivia, deals with the culture shock of being immersed in first-world problems.
Their father, Andrew, sequesters himself in his study writing scathing restaurant reviews and remembering his glory days as a war correspondent. But his wife, Emma, is hiding a secret that will turn the whole family upside down.  
In close proximity, not much can stay hidden for long, and as revelations and long-held tensions come to light, nothing is more shocking than the unexpected guest who’s about to arrive… (publisher)

My take:  Seven Days of Us is an entertaining and deceptively light novel about a family. The Birches are an interesting group. Andrew, the father, is a snarky restaurant reviewer for a newspaper. Emma, the matriarch, just wants everyone to have the kind of Christmas holiday she remembers from childhood. Altruistic eldest daughter Olivia is a doctor just returned from relief work in Liberia and the reason for the family quarantine. Younger daughter Phoebe is completely self-absorbed and more than a bit annoyed at being forced to spend the holidays with her family instead of her new fiancé. Told from the perspective of each family member, plus a couple of other characters, the chapters are short and follow a day-by-day form that made the novel easy to stop and start reading. This was also a great way to lay out the Birch family’s messy dynamics. It ended up being an emotional read for me – that was unexpected and very much appreciated. Recommended to fans of novels about imperfect families. I loved the setting(s) and the holiday-ness to which I think most readers will relate on one level or another.


Francesca Hornak is a journalist and writer, whose work has appeared in newspapers and magazines including The Sunday TimesThe GuardianElleMarie ClaireCosmopolitan and Red. She is the author of two nonfiction books, History of the World in 100 Modern Objects: Middle Class Stuff (and Nonsense) and Worry with Mother: 101 Neuroses for the Modern Mama. Visit her online @FrancescaHornak.