Summer At Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan

  • summer at little beach street bakery (3:22)Title:  Summer At Little Beach Street Bakery
  • Author:  Jenny Colgan
  • Series:  Little Beach Street Bakery #2
  • Pages:  416
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  March 2016 – William Morrow Paperbacks
  • Source:  Publisher via LibraryThing Early Reviewers

Description:  A thriving bakery. A lighthouse to call home. A handsome beekeeper. A pet puffin. These are the things that Polly Waterford can call her own. This is the beautiful life she leads on a tiny island off the southern coast of England.

But clouds are gathering on the horizon. A stranger threatens to ruin Polly’s business. Her beloved boyfriend seems to be leading a secret life. And the arrival of a newcomer—a bereft widow desperately searching for a fresh start—forces Polly to reconsider the choices she’s made, even as she tries to help her new friend through grief.

Unpredictable and unforgettable, this delightful novel will make you laugh, cry, and long for a lighthouse of your own. Recipes included.  (publisher)

My take:  Jenny Colgan takes readers back to Mount Polbearne. I loved seeing what was new in the lives of Polly, Huckle and all the rest. We meet a few new characters and yes, Neil the puffin is back.

Colgan’s novel lived up to my expectations. There’s love, loss, humor and drama in the lives of the residents of the tiny seaside village in Cornwall we first visited in Little Beach Street Bakery. It was great to visit and my hope is that we might someday meet up again.

Even though Colgan provides a brief catch-up of the first book I highly recommend reading it before this book because I enjoyed it so much. Fans of small town settings and characters will find a lot to love in these books.

All The Single Ladies by Dorothea Benton Frank

  • all the single ladiesTitle:  All the Single Ladies: A novel
  • Author:  Dorothea Benton Frank
  • Genre:  Women’s Fiction
  • Published:  June 2015 – William Morrow
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  The perennial New York Times bestselling author returns with an emotionally resonant novel that illuminates the power of friendship in women’s lives, and is filled with her trademark wit, poignant and timely themes, sassy, flesh-and-blood characters, and the steamy Southern atmosphere and beauty of her beloved Carolina Lowcountry.

Few writers capture the complexities, pain, and joy of relationships—between friends, family members, husbands and wives, or lovers—as beloved New York Times bestselling author Dorothea Benton Frank. In this charming, evocative, soul-touching novel, she once again takes us deep into the heart of the magical Lowcountry where three amazing middle-aged women are bonded by another amazing woman’s death.

Through their shared loss they forge a deep friendship, asking critical questions. Who was their friend and what did her life mean? Are they living the lives they imagined for themselves? Will they ever be able to afford to retire? How will they maximize their happiness? Security? Health? And ultimately, their own legacies?

A plan is conceived and unfurls with each turn of the tide during one sweltering summer on the Isle of Palms. Without ever fully realizing how close they were to the edge, they finally triumph amid laughter and maybe even newfound love.  (publisher)

My take:  I love how Dorothea Benton Frank tells a story. I’ve read a handful of her books and am so happy there are so many more to read. She makes me laugh as well as sympathize with her characters’ dilemmas.

The ladies of ALL THE SINGLE LADIES are of a certain age (40s and 50s) and seem to be happy (or maybe resigned to) where life has taken them. At any rate, they’re used to being single and fending for themselves. When the friend who brought them all together dies and leaves her estate to one of the women they are faced with a mystery. As they try to figure things out life brings new people into their lives. The supporting characters are, for the most part, completely charming. They add to the warmth, tension, and emotion of the novel.

The ladies find that true friends will get you through just about anything life throws at you. And a sense of humor and an open heart make the road easier.

I loved the novel and look forward to the author’s next book. I also listened (used an audible credit so I could listen when I walked). The narration by Robin Miles was so enjoyable. Her performance enhanced the book for me.

He’s Gone: A Novel by Deb Caletti

He's Gone

  • Title:  He’s Gone
  • Author:  Deb Caletti
  • Genre:  Women’s Fiction; Mystery
  • Published:  May 2013 – Bantam
  • Source:  Publisher; LibraryThing Early Reviewers

Synopsis:  “What do you think happened to your husband, Mrs. Keller?”
The Sunday morning starts like any other, aside from the slight hangover. Dani Keller wakes up on her Seattle houseboat, a headache building behind her eyes from the wine she drank at a party the night before. But on this particular Sunday morning, she’s surprised to see that her husband, Ian, is not home. As the hours pass, Dani fills her day with small things. But still, Ian does not return. Irritation shifts to worry, worry slides almost imperceptibly into panic. And then, like a relentless blackness, the terrible realization hits Dani: He’s gone.

As the police work methodically through all the logical explanations—he’s hurt, he’s run off, he’s been killed—Dani searches frantically for a clue as to whether Ian is in fact dead or alive. And, slowly, she unpacks their relationship, holding each moment up to the light: from its intense, adulterous beginning, to the grandeur of their new love, to the difficulties of forever. She examines all the sins she can—and cannot—remember. As the days pass, Dani will plumb the depths of her conscience, turning over and revealing the darkest of her secrets in order to discover the hard truth—about herself, her husband, and their lives together.  (publisher)

My brief take:  He’s Gone is a compelling narrative by a woman whose husband has gone missing. It’s the story of when they meet until that day she can’t find him. It’s a smooth, psychological portrayal by, what some might think, an unreliable narrator.

Deb Caletti certainly kept me wondering and guessing about what happened to Dani’s husband! I liked He’s Gone and will definitely look for more of Caletti’s books.

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

the husband's secret

  • Title:  The Husband’s Secret
  • Author:  Liane Moriarty
  • Genre:  Fiction
  • Published:  July 2013 – Amy Einhorn Books; Putnam
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  Imagine that your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death. Imagine, too, that the letter contains his deepest, darkest secret—something with the potential to destroy not just the life you built together, but the lives of others as well. Imagine, then, that you stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive. . . .
Cecilia Fitzpatrick has achieved it all—she’s an incredibly successful businesswoman, a pillar of her small community, and a devoted wife and mother. Her life is as orderly and spotless as her home. But that letter is about to change everything, and not just for her: Rachel and Tess barely know Cecilia—or each other—but they too are about to feel the earth-shattering repercussions of her husband’s secret.  (publisher) 

My take:  Three women, really no more than acquaintances, find out how very connected their lives really are.

I enjoyed The Husband’s Secret. It’s not a whodunit because the reader finds out way before the end of the novel. I think it’s more a whatwouldyoudo. That makes it a perfect choice for book groups. It also asks how far would you go to protect a loved one?

One minute it is dramatic and the next, quite funny. Liane Moriarty is a gifted storyteller. I loved her previous novel What Alice Forgot and I look forward to reading more of her novels. Recommended.

Note:  I also purchased the audiobook – narrated by Caroline Lee. If you enjoy listening to books I recommend this audio.

The Lost Art of Mixing by Erica Bauermeister

lost art of mixing

  • Title:  The Lost Art of Mixing
  • Author:  Erica Bauermeister
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  January 2013 – Putnam
  • Source:  I received a review copy from the publisher via LibraryThing Early Reviewer program

Synopsis (publisher)Lillian and her restaurant have a way of drawing people together. There’s Al, the accountant who finds meaning in numbers and ritual; Chloe, a budding chef who hasn’t learned to trust after heartbreak; Finnegan, quiet and steady as a tree, who can disappear into the background despite his massive height; Louise, Al’s wife, whose anger simmers just below the boiling point; and Isabelle, whose memories are slowly slipping from her grasp. And there’s Lillian herself, whose life has taken a turn she didn’t expect. . . .
Their lives collide and mix with those around them, sometimes joining in effortless connections, at other times sifting together and separating again, creating a family that is chosen, not given. A beautifully imagined novel about the ties that bind—and links that break—The Lost Art of Mixing is a captivating meditation on the power of love, food, and companionship.

My take:  If you enjoyed The School of Essential Ingredients you’ll want to read The Lost Art of Mixing. Erica Bauermeister delves into the lives of characters from the first book.  We get to see sides of each that even the other characters never see.

This novel is a connected string of intriguing stories that explain the characters we thought we knew. Just as a recipe is the sum of its ingredients so are the characters a sum of their life experiences. Each strives to find connection to those they love but must rely on being accepted for themselves. To do that, they must accept others as they are. The mix will work or it won’t but, in the end, they’ll know if they should stay or move on – be part of this recipe for the life they want or find another that will work.

I really liked The Lost Art of Mixing. Humor and drama mixed evenly to become a novel that left me satisfied. I’d love to see where life takes these characters but even if this is where Erica Bauermeister leaves them I can’t wait to see what she writes next.

Vanity Fare: A Novel of Lattes, Literature, and Love by Megan Caldwell

Vanity Fare

Synopsis: Molly Hagan is overwhelmed. Her husband left her for a younger, blonder woman, her six year-old son is questioning her authority, and now, so is she. In order to pay her Brooklyn rent and keep her son supplied with Pokemon and Legos – not to mention food and clothing – she has to get a job. Fast.

So when an old friend offers Molly a copywriting position at a new bakery, finding romance is just about the last thing on her mind. But the sexy British pastry chef who’s heading up the bakery has other thoughts. And so does Molly when she meets the chef’s intimidating business partner – who also happens to have a secret that might prevent Molly from getting her own Happily Ever After.

My brief take: I was thoroughly entertained by Megan Caldwell’s modern day take on a historical romance. It was filled with a few possible heroes and a heroine who is coping with the end of her marriage and the need to make a new life for herself and her young son.

Molly, our heroine, has serious self-esteem issues to work through – which she does with the help of her therapist. That’s a good thing because Molly soon finds herself dealing with two rather intimidating ‘heroes’ as well as her newly penniless mother. Oh my!

Caldwell kept me turning the pages and I finished Vanity Fare in a few hours. I really liked it and will be watching for her next book. Recommended.

PS There are recipes 🙂

Title: Vanity Fare: A Novel of Lattes, Literature, and Love

Author: Megan Caldwell

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Published: December 2012 – Wm. Morrow  Paperback: 416 pages

Source: I received an arc from the publisher via the Library Thing Early Reviewers program. I was not compensated for my review.

The Garden of Happy Endings by Barbara O’Neal

Title:  The Garden of Happy Endings

Author:  Barbara O’Neal

Genre:  Contemporary Fiction

Published:  April 2012 – Bantam

Paperback – 416 pages

My take:  Reverend Elsa Montgomery is going through a crisis of faith after the brutal murder of a young parishioner. She’s so angry that God would allow such an unspeakable act that she’s not sure she can continue as a minister. She takes a sabbatical from her Seattle church and goes home to Pueblo, Colorado to work through things. When she gets there she finds her sister Tamsin going through a life-changing upheaval of her own. Her missing husband has been charged with running a Ponzi scheme that stole millions. She finds herself homeless, penniless and not sure where to turn.

Elsa and Tamsin wind up living in the small house where they grew up. Elsa reconnects with the parish priest who also happens to be her former boyfriend. He broke off their engagement twenty years earlier when he had a calling to the priesthood. They managed to stay friends and kept in touch over the years. Ultimately he becomes the catalyst to Elsa finding her way back to her faith. Through him she meets many people (wonderful primary and secondary characters) who help her along the way.

Tamsin has lived a life of privilege but is now happy to accept a job in the fabric department at Walmart. She also helps out with a new community garden program at the parish. She learns that she may not have been as happy or content in her old life as she thought. In fact, she realizes how lonely her life had become.

Watching the story unfold as Elsa and Tamsin found their way on such personal journeys made for an emotional reading experience. Barbara O’Neal is a wonderful storyteller. Her characters and story truly resonated with me. I can’t ask for more than that. Recommended.

Disclosure:  I received this book from the publisher. I was not compensated for my review.