Coming Up… 

I’m reading two more Christmas novels before settling in with some suspense… Check Random Book Muses this weekend for reviews of Christmas Wishes & Mistletoe Kisses and Merry Mistletoe. 

 Buy Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses

  Buy Merry Mistletoe

Next week I’ll have reviews for the newest in Debbie Viguie’s Psalm 23 Mysteries, as well as Robert Galbraith’s third Cormoran Strike novel… both mysteries! 


Review: Wish Upon a Christmas Cake by Darcie Boleyn

Katie is a baker who uses work commitments to avoid personal relationship commitment. When Sam comes back into the picture, Katie doesn’t know whether to give in to the pull of heartstrings, or to run back to the bakery ASAP. 

This is a cute, story that lightly explores family relationships, friendships, career choices and love. I adored Sam and his kids, enjoyed the friend-getting-married thread, and thought Katie a fool for not putting her past behind her! 

And I wished for more cakes, more pastries, and more sugar sprinkles. This reader cannot get enough Christmas baking! 



Review: One Wish in Manhattan by Mandy Baggot

I know it’s still October, but the cold New England weather has me thinking of snowflakes and hot cocoa. And Christmas stories! 

One Wish started out slow, which annoyed me. However, the author redeemed herself with lovable characters, a gala to die for, and a romance that ended the happily-est ever after, EVER!   

My favorite part of the book was watching Hayley plan the gala. She was in her element, she encouraged her daughter to help, and she showed such graciousness working with Cynthia. 

Mandy Baggot successfully wrote in characters that aren’t in most romances – and she gave them substantial roles: a brother, a daughter, a CEO who ISN’T a jerk, and the CEO’s mom who is just lovely. 

The story includes a heartwarming message about love and loss, and ways to move forward without leaving the memories behind. 

Uplifting for sure, and just Christmassy enough. 🙂


Buy ONE WISH IN MANHATTAN – just 99¢!!!

Review: The Broken Hearts Book Club by Lynsey James

This British rom-com is cute and young and fun… and naïve and a little bit silly for this Definitely Over 30 reader. 

I would have appreciated the wishy washy guy, the finicky girl, the mean older ladies, and the stressed out dad a LOT more if I read this when I was younger. 

While there’s plenty of responsibility going on – renovating a house, taking care of a child, starting a business, running a book club – it was all through the lenses of a 20-something who just really didn’t seem invested in life yet.  Nor does she need to – she’s still young! But I’m not, and I wasn’t the best audience for this story. 

If you’re still in your twenties — or you’re still living with your parents — this book is a good, light read about love, loss, and opening your heart again. 



Review: A Blind Guide to Stinkville by Beth Vrabel

  I’m not exactly a YA reader. I like realistic fiction with protagonists my own age – I can just relate better, you know? But A Blind Guide to Stinkville reeled me in. I was laughing in Chapter One. I was invested by Chapter Three. I was bawling my eyes out in Chapter Seventeen… but that’s for later in this review. 

Alice moves across the country and, like the rest of her family, is having a hard time adjusting. Besides the friend factor and the school factor, Alice has some physical challenges that were much easier to handle when everyone in her old town had known her since she was born. In Stinkville, Alice has to learn how to do things without the predictable help of those around her. 

I am SO IMPRESSED with Vrabel’s consistent pace and even-keeled writing. Alice could be barely holding it together, or the girl in the library could have just revealed something astonishing, or a new friend could be just as mean as the old friend just was… and Vrabel writes it all very matter-of-factly, like none of these things are the end of the world. No melodrama, here. No way. And that’s totally refreshing in a world of melodramatic teenagers and melodramatic teenage books. 

I know that when my children read Stinkville, they will accept the characters and their idiosyncrasies without batting an eyelash. They will understand that differences are No Big Deal. And maybe they’ll realize that all the things they’ve been practically fainting about in their real lives are also No Big Deal, because, hey, Alice got through much more challenging circumstances with far less indignity. 

I am also excited for my children to read Stinkville so they might be eager to be more independent, be inspired to find their way around their town (literally and figuratively), and be able to navigate new situations with grace and purpose. 

So, Chapter Seventeen. Well, I had just taken a break after reading the first sixteen chapters, and I was ready to settle in for two wonderful last chapters – my favorite chapters in any book. Beth Vrabel threw me for a loop and wrote something so funny and so heartbreaking that I choked out a laugh and then proceeded to cry my head off. I cried and laughed until I finished the book. I’m a mom, and I get emotional when I read about children struggling – or in this case, overcoming their struggles so well that my heart fills up. 

Everything in A Blind Guide to Stinkville seems so real that I want to say You Can’t Make Up This Stuff. But Vrabel did. She put her imagination together with her experiences to create something so wonderful that I need to read it again. 

Oh, and that Blind Guide that Alice wrote? Stories within a story are brilliant, Beth Vrabel. Add me to your fan club. 



Review: After You by Jojo Moyes

Want to know what Louisa does after she loses Will in ME BEFORE YOU? I did too. I fell in love with Lou (CLARK!!!!) and I couldn’t let her go. 

AFTER YOU shows us Lou’s grief, her attempt at supporting the Traynors, her meandering spirit as she tries to find her way back in life, and her maternal side. 

I liked the meandering the best. I mean, when we lose someone, we don’t just jump back into reality. We look for supports and crutches and strongholds… And we are picky, because we don’t want to choose one that will cause more loss. 

Thanks Jojo Moyes for giving us more Louisa. It was enough that we lost Will. 



Review: Forty One by Lesia Daria

This might be a novel about being a housewife, or being Eastern European and feeling misplaced living in England, or coming to terms with depression, or allowing your emotions to catch up to everything that’s happened in your past. 

And maybe this book is a mirror, reflecting the failures and sins of the reader. The thing is, I don’t quite enjoy my flaws staring back at me. And I don’t like all the gloom and doom of Forty One. The WHOLE THING is gloomy with tiny bits of shimmer thrown in, every piece of which Eva manages to dull with her depression. I also didn’t appreciate the betrayals to marriage.  If you’re depressed, think long and hard whether this book will make you feel better (understood and validated) or worse (dragging you deeper) before deciding to read it. 

I prefer a bit of happy escapism in my daily reading.  But some people (ahem, Urania) think it’s totally awesome when a book makes the reader uncomfortable, pushes the reader to reexamine her values, brings to light that which is usually hidden. So I admit to my negative and egotistical nature… And heretofore I’m moving on to a more uplifting read! 

Technically, the writing was long-winded. I skipped entire pages of droning and description, and still the book took forever to read (over 8000 locations, felt like maybe 8 hours). 

Know what I loved, though? When Eva is in Poland, her family traditions around meals and holidays were very similar to my family traditions when I was a little girl. I thank the author for bringing me a piece of my childhood, eating pierogies and golombki before Christmas midnight mass, and sharing the opłatek with my relatives. 



Review: The Runaway Bridesmaid by Daisy James

British rom com here… Rosie runs off to Aunt Bernice’s cottage in the English countryside after catching her New York City boss/boyfriend kissing her sister/spoiled brat. There, Rosie finds a run-down thatched roof home with an overgrown garden, a handsome attorney, a quirky and charming neighbor, an old friend, and late Aunt Bernice’s journals full of recipes and life lessons. 

I love the British-ness of this book, even though it was odd to see some of the American dialogue containing British vocabulary. And I REALLY loved Charlie. Great character, Ms. James. Charlie has brains, brawn, sincerity, and a puppy dog affection for Rosie. James wrote their interactions in such an authentic and fresh way that I would have enjoyed even more scenes with the two. 

On the other side of the coin: Rosie’s sister Freya was so annoying I could spit… it takes some great writing to create a character you can’t stand but you are still invested in! 

Of course you can expect a happily ever after … But you’ll have to read the book to find out where, and how, and with whom. 🙂