Review: The Cotswolds Cookery Club by Alice Ross

This book is actually a compilation of three serial novellas… just so you know… because I was thrown for a loop when I finished the first novella at 34%, previously having thought it was a novel, and wondering what the heck the other 66% could be! Now that that’s sorted…

I really enjoyed these entertaining novellas, each focusing on one member of the casual, put-together-on-a-whim, friendly club of women who like to cook. Alice Ross did a wonderful job making the friendships come to life and drawing the reader into each woman’s joys and pains. These are lighthearted stories, though there are a few heavy-hearted conversations among the friends about love, marriage, and children.

As an aside, I found it pretty awesome that one of the recipes a character makes is Patatas Bravas – the same dish my teenager had to make as part of a group project for her high school Spanish class.

So… each story has some seriousness, some playfulness, and a couple of out-loud laughs, but my most favorite happily ever after was in book 3 when karma makes an appearance, and the comeuppance is delish.

-calliope

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Review (Take Two): Now That You Mention It by Kristan Higgins

Dr. Nora returns home to Scupper Island, Maine for a while for some rest and recuperation. She decided to leave behind her old life in Boston for a while – well, her old “reinvented in medical school” life, the one where she lost weight and gained confidence.

Higgins wrote a fascinating mother daughter relationship between Nora and her mom, and then put icing on the cake adding Nora’s wayward sister into the mix. Very well done. The family dynamics sucked me in without being too over the top. And Nora’s niece … aw, man, I was endeared to her from the start!

Best thing ever: The houseboat Nora rents. Second best thing ever: reading Nora’s emotions when she hears a certain someone walking up the dock. Oh and don’t miss the dinner party of all dinner parties – thank goodness for supportive friends, slightly eligible bachelors, and a mom who doesn’t stand for any nonsense.

Want to read Melpomene’s recent review of this book? Click right here.

-calliope

Buy NOW THAT YOU MENTION IT by Kristan Higgins

Review: An Engagement in Seattle by Debbie Macomber

I like a hokey, predictable romance once in a while, but this one left a lot to be desired. I liked the Lesley-Chase meet cute. I didn’t like the pretense and forced feel of the romance that followed. I liked Chase – until he got just too smarmy for me. And I liked Lesley until I realized that I wasn’t going to see any depth later in the book, because character development stalled at 30-40%. What truly disappointed me was the chauvinism in this book. I have very traditional values, but that doesn’t mean I expect women to be viewed as objects, as I felt the women in this book were portrayed.

If you can overlook those things – and you’re in the mood for a clean, sweet romance, this might be for you.

-calliope

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Review: In This Moment by Karen Kingsbury

Here’s some Christian fiction that really made me think. Quinn is a public school principal, and he is questioned over and over when he decides to host a voluntary Bible study after school in order to provide some structure and direction to his students. His reputation is at stake, his relationships are threatened, and his job is on the line.

I liked the law aspect that made this book a kind of cross between John Grisham and women’s Christian fiction. I also liked the juxtaposition of the different types of dads and their relationships with their children. Kingsbury does a wonderful job writing families, though I wasn’t as impressed with the romance plot line. Quinn was a true protagonist, meeting with conflict throughout the story and accumulating secondary characters along the way who either helped or hindered his cause. Reading about Quinn’s struggles made me question my motivations, my willingness to take risks, and whether my walk in faith is even close to enough of a good example for others on this journey.

-calliope

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Review: Little Broken Things by Nicole Baart

Oh the drama! Quinn and Nora are distant sisters who would still do anything for each other. Tiffany is Nora’s bff… and a messed up drug addict with an illegitimate daughter. When Nora texts Quinn that she and Tiffany need her help, Quinn steps up. But it’s hard to know how to do the right thing when Nora won’t give her any details, and Tiffany is nowhere to be found.

I was psyched reading the first half of this book – there are good guys and bad guys, weak women and strong women, loving yet dysfunctional mothers, and a criminal so disgusting he turned my stomach. Baart weaves them all together in a dramatic and suspenseful plot, a story you don’t want to stop reading because you can’t believe what’s happening next.

And then — I’m not sure if it was my particular frame of mind, or if I’ve just read way too many books — I by mistake figured out the one big unknown. The mystery. The root of the drama. The guy who caused the secrets to grow bigger and bigger. And I hate that I figured it out, because it ruined the rest of the story for me. I skimmed the last half of the book, just in case there were some worthy plot points (and there were).

Baart is a master at expressing the love and confusion and envy and all the emotions in a sisterly relationship. What I appreciated most is that Baart lets her female characters be unapologetically themselves. There are no victims here, except maybe a little girl. The grown women own their choices, support each other, and make their own new beginnings.

-calliope

Buy LITTLE BROKEN THINGS (publishes on Nov.21, 2017)

Murder Over Mochas by Caroline Fardig

Solid, cute, cozy mystery with a dead guy, an amateur sleuth, an ex-fiancé, an ex-boyfriend, a potential boyfriend, and a couple of cops. Oh – and a coffee shop! I’m going to admit, I often choose books based on their covers, and I chose this one for the coffee. #yesidid

The protagonist Juliet is likable and genuine. I liked that I could envision her expressions and feel her exasperation. The police officers and a few other secondary characters were a little bit one dimensional to me, but I didn’t mind, as I was busy trying to solve the mystery before they did. I liked Juliet’s best friend Pete, also. He’s a sturdy, reliable dude – and every cozy mystery needs a Pete.

Fardig did a nice job weaving a creative, fresh mystery with just enough twists and turns to keep it interesting. I was onto the perp before Juliet was, but it still took me a good while to do it, and I had fun from beginning to end.

-calliope

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Review: Bless Her Heart by Sally Kilpatrick 

Some people might rate this book 4 or 5 stars for the authentic southern characters that Kilpatrick introduces with such aplomb you feel like you’ve known these people forever. Some readers might fall in love with “fun Posey” who uses the 7 deadly sins as a guide to make up for 10 sucky years married to a controlling, manipulative jerkhead.  And some readers might call this book a winner for its excellent writing – and easy dialogue among a hippie mom, sisters named after natural elements, and a best friend who literally saves more than one day. 

I’m giving Bless Her Heart a bunch of fat stars because it made me so sufficiently mad at Chad Love, so ticked off that he thought it was okay to treat any human being the way that he treated his wife, and so angered with a patriarchy that thinks “Wives, submit to your husbands” isn’t part of a speech that says “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her … Love your wives like your own bodies,” that now I am taking steps to help some people who are in situations like Posey’s. Sally Kilpatrick, any gratitude that comes my way from women who are tired of being controlled and interrogated and mentally beaten down – that gratitude is due to you. 

-calliope

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