The Cake Therapist by Judith Fertig – PLUS a two book US Giveaway

  • the cake therapist (6:2 Berkley)Title:  The Cake Therapist: A novel
  • Author:  Judith Fertig
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction; Magical Realism
  • Published:  June 2015 – Berkley Trade
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  Claire “Neely” O’Neill is an extraordinarily talented pastry chef.  But at a time when her life outside her kitchen seems to be falling apart, Neely moves back to her small Midwestern hometown from NYC to open a bakery and work through the heartache that caused her to flee her life in New York. The bakery, Rainbow Cake, named after her signature ROYGBIV confection, is perfect, intimate, and just what she’s always dreamed of. 

But Neely has a special gift beyond making the perfect Rainbow Cake: while every great chef can taste shimmering, elusive flavors that most of us miss, Neely can “taste” feelings—cinnamon makes you remember; plum is pleased with itself; orange is a wake-up call. When flavor and feeling give Neely a glimpse of someone’s inner self, she can customize her creations to help that person celebrate love, overcome fear, even mourn a devastating loss.
 

As she meets her new customers, Neely has a sense of secrets, some dark, some perhaps with tempting possibilities. A recurring flavor of alarming intensity signals to her perfect palate a long-ago story that must be told.  As she tastes her way through others’ mysterious pasts, she largely ignores the pain and uncertainty in her own.  Neely has always been able to help everyone else, but getting to the end of this story may be just what she needs to help herself.   (publisher)


My take:  If you enjoy what I like to call foodie fiction I think you’ll like The Cake Therapist. Judith Fertig combined characters, settings and problems of everyday people all resulting in a delicious novel. And she added a dash of magical realism that made for an even tastier story.
I loved the quietness of the novel – even in times of big, life-changing events. It seemed as though one of the characters (Sr. Agnes) was reading to me. Some pretty awful things happened but the tone of Fertig’s writing always kept me turning the pages. Sometimes when that happens in a novel I have to put the book down for a while. That didn’t happen once in The Cake Therapist.
My favorite character was Neely. She had such a positive, upbeat attitude that she made the people around her even better – as well as her baked goods. The Cake Therapist has two storylines that eventually come together, thanks to Neely. The possibility of finding closure and a new beginning made this novel a satisfying read. Recommended.

About the author:

Cookbook author Judith Fertig grew up in the Midwest, went to La Varenne Ecole de Cuisine in Paris and The Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and now lives in Kansas City. Described by Saveur Magazine as a “heartland cookbook icon,” Fertig writes cookbooks that reflect her love of bread, baking, barbecue, and the fabulous foods of the Heartland.

Fertig’s food and lifestyle writing has appeared in more than a dozen publications, including Bon Appetit, Saveur and The New York Times. You can read some of her cookbooks like novels–the fabulously photographed Heartland, the award-winning and James Beard Awards-nominated Prairie Home Cooking (a “tour de force,” says Saveur), the encylopedic All-American Desserts, and Prairie Home Breads. Her IACP Cookbook Award-winning The Back in the Swing Cookbook (with Barbara C.Unell) takes you on a delicious daily journey to get you back in the swing after breast cancer.


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The Idea of Love by Patti Callahan Henry

  • the idea of love (6:23) St.MartinsPressTitle:  The Idea of Love
  • Author:  Patti Callahan Henry
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Pub. date:  June 23, 2015 – St. Martin’s Press
  • Source:  Publisher

Synopsis:  As we like to say in the south, “Don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story.”

Ella’s life has been completely upended. She’s young, beautiful, and deeply in love–until her husband dies in a tragic sailing accident while trying save her. Or so she’ll have everyone believe. Screenwriter Hunter needs a hit, but crippling writers’ block and a serious lack of motivation are getting him nowhere. He’s on the look-out for a love story. It doesn’t matter who it belongs to. 

When Hunter and Ella meet in Watersend, South Carolina it feels like the perfect match, something close to fate. In Ella, Hunter finds the perfect love story, full of longing and sacrifice. It’s the stuff of epic films. In Hunter, Ella finds possibility. It’s an opportunity to live out a fantasy – the life she wishes she had because hers is too painful. And more real. Besides. what’s a little white lie between strangers? 

But one lie leads to another, and soon Hunter and Ella find themselves caught in a web of deceit. As they try to untangle their lies and reclaim their own lives, they feel something stronger is keeping them together. And so they wonder: can two people come together for all the wrong reasons and still make it right?  (publisher)

My take: Ella and Hunter have not had success in the love department.  So what can happen if they embellish the truth when they meet? They won’t see each other again so what’s the harm in telling a few fibs?

Patti Callahan Henry’s novel explores reality vs. the way we think love should be. I felt kind of sorry for Ella. She’s been left by the people she loved. Her mother died in a horrible way and her husband found the love of his life (not Ella, apparently). And then her boss does some shady things. I’d have been surprised if Ella didn’t go a little crazy.

Hunter’s last few films have been critical flops. He needs to write a winning script or he’ll be done in Hollywood. When he ends up in Ella’s town looking for ideas he can’t believe his luck when he meets her. Unable to resist Ella’s story, he takes the facts of her sad tale and writes a script. He’s lied to her about his identity and job so she’ll never find out what he’s done with her story.

My favorite character was the woman who lived below Ella’s (temporary) apartment. Mimi was colorful and imparted wisdom like a fairy godmother. She quietly forced Ella to get out of her own head and start asking herself the important questions.

Confused yet? I wasn’t. I liked the novel even though I thought the end a bit too Hollywood. There would be a few things for book groups to discuss – most importantly the idea of love and how one might be tempted to try to make it reality.


Patti Callahan Henry is a New York Times bestselling storyteller of eleven books, including The Stories We TellBetween the Tides, and Driftwood Summer. Patti lives in Mountain Brook, Alabama with her husband and three children, where she is crafting her next story.


 

Spotlight/US Giveaway: Losing Faith by Adam Mitzner

Losing Faith

About the book:

Aaron Littman is the premier lawyer of his generation and the chairman of Cromwell Altman, the most powerful law firm in New York City, when a high-profile new client threatens all that he’s achieved—and more. Nicolai Garkov is currently the most reviled figure in America, accused of laundering funds for the Russian Mafia and financing a terrorist bombing in Red Square that killed twenty-six people, including three American students.

Garkov is completely unrepentant, admitting his guilt to Aaron, but with a plan for exoneration that includes blackmailing the presiding judge, the Honorable Faith Nichols. If the judge won’t do his bidding, Garkov promises to go public with irrefutable evidence of an affair between Aaron and Faith—the consequences of which would not only destroy their reputations but quite possibly end their careers.

Garkov has made his move. Now it’s Aaron and Faith’s turn. And in an ever-shocking psychological game of power, ethics, lies, and justice, they could never have predicted where those moves will take them—or what they are prepared to do to protect the truth.


About the author:

Adam Mitzner, a lawyer by day, is also the author of A CASE OF REDEMPTION and A CONFLICT OF INTEREST. He lives in New York City with his wife and children.


Praise for LOSING FAITH:

“If looking for a good, solid legal thriller, this is the one to read.” – Suspense Magazine

“Solid courtroom drama.” – Booklist

“A well-crafted story… A worthy courtroom yarn that fans of John Grisham and Scott Turow will enjoy.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Mitzner sustains interest with complex plotting and effectively uses his own background as a defense attorney to add color.” – Publishers Weekly


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The Year My Mother Came Back by Alice Eve Cohen

  • the year my mother came back (Algonquin)Title: The Year My Mother Came Back: A Memoir
  • Author:  Alice Eve Cohen
  • Genre:  Memoir
  • Published:  March 2015 – Algonquin Books
  • Source:  Publisher

My take:  In one year Alice is diagnosed with breast cancer, her 8-year-old daughter undergoes surgery to lengthen her leg and her 18-year-old daughter decides she wants to find her birth mother. One of those scenarios would be enough to cause anxiety in a mother but all three have Alice wishing her mother Louise was around. But she’s been dead for thirty years.

When Alice begins radiation her mother appears in the room and talks to Alice while she lies perfectly still for the duration. Once she gets over the shock of these visits Alice starts to appreciate the perspective she gains of and from her mother.  Their relationship underwent significant change following Louise’s own breast cancer experience. She became depressed while, at the same time, Alice was a blossoming adolescent who didn’t understand what happened to the woman who’d always shown her unconditional love.

The Year My Mother Came Back is a memoir that many readers (particularly women) will find relatable. It’s a loving homage from a daughter to her mother that I found meaningful and genuine.

Sunday Post

Book arrivals:  (linked to Mailbox Monday)

the wishing tide  going home (review in June)  Ransom Canyon (8:25)  Wildest Dreams (8:25)

Last week on Bookfan:

It's You (6:2 Berkley)   beach town (5:19) Tandem Literary   At the Corner of King Street (5:5 Berkley)

Currently reading:

A Week at the Lake (Berkley - Schulhafer) 6:23  RedemptionBay_Cover

Spotlight/US Giveaway: At the Corner of King Street by Mary Ellen Taylor

At the Corner of King Street (5:5 Berkley)

Mary Ellen Taylor moves down the street from her Union Street Bakery and stops AT THE CORNER OF KING STREET in her new novel, the Old Town Alexandria-set story of a woman trying to leave her past and family behind to embrace the new life and love she’s found at a Virginia vineyard. AT THE CORNER OF KING STREET is a Berkley trade paperback original.

Addie Morgan grew up in the shadow of her family’s curse, the mental illness that haunts the women of each generation and has claimed both her mother and sister. Settled in her new, stable and happy life with a man she loves, Addie wants nothing more than to be free of the pain and loss of the past. Reality, harsh and swift, intrudes when her Aunt Grace, who provided a safe haven for the girls during part of their childhoods, shows up determined to bring Addie back to Alexandria to solve the latest family crisis. Janet, Addie’s sister, who’s already abandoned her seven-year old son, has just given birth to a baby girl and is hospitalized, unable to care for herself let alone her baby.

Determined to make quick work of the problem and return to her own life, Addie’s arrival in Alexandria is greeted by more complications. Janet needs weeks of treatment; Grace’s health is failing and so is her salvage business; social services is having trouble placing “Baby Morgan” in a foster home; Janet’s ex, Zeb, accuses Addie of trying to cut and run just like her sister; and her nephew wants to see his mother and hold his half-sister. They’re all looking to Addie, who, woefully unprepared to deal with an infant, now has one to care for 24/7 while trying to keep her job and hold on to her fiancé, who knows nothing about her family’s checkered past.

Interspersed with journal entries from Alexandria’s earliest days, the story gives readers insight into events in the past that paved the way to the story’s troubled present. Meanwhile, the plot unfolds to reveal the discovery of centuries old “witch bottles,” hints to bonds that may tie Addie and her family to a heritage they never expected.

In AT THE CORNER OF KING STREET, Mary Ellen Taylor presents a tale of family and self-discovery interwoven with voices from the past in a contemporary novel of adversity, hard choices and the power of truth.

At the Corner of King Street

Now on Sale – At your Local Bookstore or online

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Beach Town by Mary Kay Andrews

  • BeachTownTitle:  Beach Town
  • Author:  Mary Kay Andrews
  • Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
  • Published:  May 2015 – St. Martin’s Press
  • Source:  Publisher

My take:  Greer Hennessy is a movie location scout who needs to find an old school Florida beach town. What she’s found so far are planned beach communities that look far too sanitized and Disney-fied. Then she comes upon Cypress Key – a small seaside town that time seems to have forgotten. She also finds the mayor of Cypress Key who makes her heart skip a beat.

Eben Thibadeaux is a jack-of-all-trades as well as the mayor of Cypress Key. He is willing to work with the Hollywood group but wants to save a historical building that the director would like to blow up for the shoot. And that’s just a small part of the difficulties that arise during the production. He also has family issues to take care of.

Greer is forced to face her past when her estranged father contacts her. He happens to live an hour away from Cypress Key. Is everything she’d been told about him the truth? How far will she open her heart to new possibilities? Mary Kay Andrews’ heroine had me equally frustrated and sympathetic throughout the novel but, in typical MKA style, I was satisfied with her growth by the end of the book.

Beach Town is an entertaining novel. It has drama, romance, conflict and a Florida beach town setting. For me, it hit all the marks of a fun beach read.

It’s You by Jane Porter

  • It's You (6:2 Berkley)Title:  It’s You: A novel
  • Author:  Jane Porter
  • Genre:  Women’s Fiction
  • Published:  June 2, 2015 – Berkley Trade
  • Source:  Publisher

My take:  Jane Porter’s new contemporary novel is about Ali, a young woman in the depths of grief more than a year after suffering a terrible loss. Ali is a dentist and lives in Scottsdale, AZ. Soon after the loss her mother unexpectedly died. Her father lives hours away in Napa, CA. When he is injured in a fall Ali goes to help him in any way she can.

Ali’s dad isn’t the easiest guy to be around and even injured he seems not to appreciate her presence. To top it off he seems to want to have his friends at the retirement community around all the time – leaving little time for Ali and him to be alone. One of his friends is an irritable woman in her nineties. Ali doesn’t seem to be able to say or do anything that is taken the right way. Once Ali decides not to take personally the way her father and Edie (the older woman) treat her, things improve. In fact, Ali and Edie strike up a rather stiff friendship.

It turns out Ali can learn a lot from Edie’s life story and possibly find that life has much to offer her. I learned a good deal from Edie’s story. It involves pre and post WWII Germany and the Germans who were part of the Resistance.

Porter’s novel is filled with interesting characters but my favorite was Edie. She had an amazing and inspiring story to share. Recommended to fans of Jane Porter and Women’s Fiction.


About the author:

JanePorter_photo01_1200px_300dpiJane Porter is the USA Today bestselling author of numerous novels, including The Good Wife, The Good Daughter, The Good Woman, She’s Gone Country, Mrs. Perfect, and Flirting with Forty ( the basis for the Lifetime movie starring Heather Locklear). Jane lives in Southern California.


Sunday Post

Book arrivals:  (linked to Mailbox Monday)

an innocent abroad  last one home (LTER)  image007

Last week on Bookfan:

Finding Glory (May26)   the secret life of violet grant (blog tour)   The-Joy-of-Ballpark-Food-Cover

Currently reading:

It's You (6:2 Berkley)  Whisper Beach (6:16:15)

Spotlight/US Giveaway: The Joy of Ballpark Food: From Hotdogs to Haute Cuisine

The-Joy-of-Ballpark-Food-Cover
Synopsis:

Baseball is a game that is identified with food. We even sing about it at every ballpark during the seventh inning stretch: “….buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack…” The famous song was written by Jack Norworth in 1908. From the early part of the twentieth century until the 1980s, classic baseball fare consisted mostly of hot dogs, ice cream, peanuts, and Cracker Jack. Then ballparks slowly began to sell new items. A proliferation of new food offerings during the 1990s was fueled by the opening of twelve new major league ballparks. Now, teams around the country sell a variety of exotic food. Some stadiums have gone all out to showcase unique, gourmet-style food. Many parks emphasize regional food as well as having offerings from well-known local restaurants. There are also several ballparks where retired ballplayers are shaping new careers as signature food purveyors. “The new food era has brought such a wonderful gustatory experience at the ballparks with chef-prepared masterpieces, vegetarian and kosher delights, as well as amped up riffs on the hot dog and sausage,” says Bennett. The Joy of Ballpark Food: From Hot Dogs to Haute Cuisine begins with the history of the first hot dog at a ball game and concludes with a culinary tour of all 30 major league ballparks.


My take:  If you have an avid baseball fan in your life The Joy of Ballpark Food would be an excellent choice for a Fathers Day or birthday gift. Bennett Jacobstein starts with the arrival of the hotdog in America, its place in baseball history and then moves on to the amazing culinary treats offered at the Major League ballparks. I was pleased to see my hometown Miller Park highlighted where, lately, the concessions are more palatable than the action on the field *sigh*. Any fan will enjoy paging through the book to see what other regions of the US and Canada offer in the way of concessions. Deborah Jacobstein’s photographs of various offerings brighten almost every page. The paperback edition is coffee table size and is sure to spark conversation. Recommended.


Bennett-PhotoAbout the author: Bennett Jacobstein lives in San Jose, CA. He is a retired librarian and publisher of demographic materials. He currently works during the baseball season in the concessions stand at Municipal Stadium, home of minor league baseball’s Class A Advanced San Jose Giants. Every minor leaguer dreams of making it to the big leagues. Bennett had his dream fulfilled when he worked as a concessions stand substitute at three Oakland Athletics games during the 2013 season. He enjoys both baseball and food but considers himself a much better eater than ball player. He had a two-year Little League career in which he went two seasons without getting a hit. HIs only RBI was when he got hit by the pitch with bases loaded. When not batting or sitting on the bench, he would be found in right field praying that the ball didn’t get hit to him. The three greatest days of his life were the day he married his wife Debbie, the day his daughter Aviva was born, and the day he first successfully replaced the nachos cheese bag in the dispenser at the San Jose Giants’ concession stand. Bennett published The Joy of Ballpark Food: From Hot Dogs to Haute Cuisine in January 2015. It is available for sale on Amazon. All of the royalties from the sale of The Joy of Ballpark Food: From Hot Dogs to Haute Cuisine are being donated to Second Harvest Food Bank. To learn more, Go to http://www.ballparkfood.org/


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Blog Tour Review: The Secret Life of Violet Grant by Beatriz Williams

  • the secret life of violet grant (blog tour)Title:  The Secret Life of Violet Grant
  • Author:  Beatriz Williams
  • Genre:  Historical Fiction/Romance
  • Published:  (Paperback) May 2015 – Berkley
  • Source:  Publisher

My take:  When Vivian Schuyler finds in her possession a leather suitcase her life is turned upside down. Not only has she made a new acquaintance (the handsome young doctor who carried the suitcase home from the post office for her) but she discovers a relative (owner of said suitcase) she’d never heard of before.

Being an inquisitive magazine writer-in-training, Vivian is determined to learn all she can about the mysterious Aunt Violet. What she finds out is that her aunt was just as driven to achieve her dreams as Vivian is. Violet, an accomplished scientist, defied society’s norms of the day and found a position in England that she thought would give entrance to a life she sought. That job led her on a journey of twists and unexpected and dramatic turns.

Vivian also bucked family expectations and landed a magazine job after graduating college. Her determination served her well when she set off on Violet’s rather cold trail. Williams’ dual storylines of the two strong women had me turning the pages. It was a compelling tale but, I have to say, I could have done without Vivian’s “cute” dialogue/narrative that wouldn’t stop. I found it to be a distraction from the story. That said, I think fans of historical fiction (heavy on romance) would probably enjoy The Secret Life of Violet Grant.

Finding Glory by Sara Arden

  • Finding Glory (May26)Title:  Finding Glory
  • Series:  Home to Glory #3
  • Author:  Sara Arden
  • Genre:  Contemporary Romance
  • Published:  May 2015 – HQN
  • Source:  Publisher

My take:  Finding Glory is the third book in the Home to Glory series but it can definitely stand on its own. Gina and Reed knew each other quite well as children but then life took them in different directions. Before doing that though, Reed and Gina’s sister Crystal had a relationship that was rooted in their drug addiction. Reed was able to break free but Crystal couldn’t and then became even more ill before dying. Unbeknownst to Reed, he had fathered a child with Crystal. When he hears the news he returns to Glory, Kansas to meet his daughter Amanda Jane who now lives with her aunt Gina.

Growing up Gina had hoped Reed would notice her as more than a friend but, instead, he was drawn to her sister Crystal. When Gina’s mom died from cancer she shouldered the responsibility of caring for Crystal and then Amanda Jane. When Reed finds a way for them both to raise Amanda Jane, Gina can’t help but worry that she and Amanda Jane will be let down by him.

Thrown together so quickly they all have to learn to live as a family. There are growing pains all around but you’ll have to read the book to see if they can find glory in their new life. Although I found some of the circumstances over-the-top, I still thought Finding Glory was a good addition to the series. Recommended to fans of small town, contemporary romance.