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: 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: The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater

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This was an interesting nonfiction book. There are many different things going on, many instances of social injustice.

It’s the story of Sasha who doesn’t identify as either a boy or girl. As a teenager, this has got to be incredibly difficult. However, Sasha is lucky to have the complete support of both parents and support systems at school. It’s also the story of Richard, a black teen who lives a completely different life than Sasha. Their paths cross one afternoon on the 57 bus, and things will never be the same for either of them.

You’ll feel so bad for what Sasha has to go through, but you’ll also feel bad for Richard and his circumstances. Go into this one with an open mind, and be ready to honestly examine your preconceived ideas.

~Thalia

Buy It Now:  The 57 Bus

Review: The House at 758 by Kathryn Berla

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A late-nighter for me.  That’s what this one was.  In fact, I’m pretty sure I finished it in less than a day.  It was that good.

Krista’s life isn’t going so well.  Still grieving the unexpected death of her mother, she’s also trying to cope with her dad’s new live-in girlfriend.  Her best friend is gone for the summer leaving Krista with nobody to confide in.  Rather than facing her problems head on, she escapes.  To a tent she’s pitched on her roof, to her car, anywhere but where her issues lie.

Her dad has tried to convince her to resume therapy but she’s not interested.  She’d rather, quite obsessively, watch the house at 758.  Why does this particular house hold her interest?   And what is she hoping to accomplish?

When she meets Jake, she begins to have a purpose.  Still, she has so many things she’s dealing with that having any kind of a romance proves difficult.  Then her grandpa comes for a visit.  He’s also mourning the loss of her mother, his daughter.  Can he help Krista find her way back to those she cares about?

Lots of things going on with this story, but they blend together seamlessly.  I loved reading Krista’s thoughts, especially in her self-imposed isolation on the roof.  She’s grieving but also avoiding grieving at the same time.  And the house at 758?  There’s a reason she can’t stay away.  It won’t take you long to connect the dots, but the full story doesn’t come until closer to the end.

Note:  Although this is the debut novel from this author, the Spanish version was released several years ago.  This new release is the English version.

~Thalia

Buy It Now:  The House at 758

Review: The Lives of Desperate Girls by MacKenzie Common

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Two girls.  About the same age.  Both missing.  And then one is found dead.

Nobody seems to pay that much attention to Helen’s death, except those people hoping it may somehow be related to Chloe’s disappearance.  Because, after all, Chloe’s the important one.  Helen’s just a poor girl from the reservation.  Chloe’s rich, white, and popular.  So of course people are going to be more concerned about her.  At least that’s the way Jenny sees it.  And it bothers her.

It bothers her so much that she begins to dig deeper, hoping to uncover the truth about what happened to Helen.  At the same time, she has to face the truth about what happened to Chloe and the part she played in it.

This was a good, solid story for me.  The suspense is there, but it also has a very humanistic approach.  The author delves deeply into societal divides, across races and classes and even high school cliques.  A good read!

~Thalia

Buy It Now:  The Lives of Desperate Girls

Review: Caleb and Kit by Beth Vrabel

Adults can usually see the big picture, but all Caleb sees are the obstacles of Cystic Fibrosis and the shadow of his older brother. Kit’s big picture life is dysfunctional and challenging, and in order to survive it she creates a smaller, magical world … and invites Caleb in. 

Every Beth Vrabel book I review includes the caveat that I’m not really a YA/middle grades fiction fan. Well call me a convert. I just can’t say it anymore, because I truly love Vrabel’s tales of kids living with a disability, finding their place, figuring out who their true friends are, and growing into independence and self-advocacy. 

Vrabel uses humor to explain Caleb’s CF troubles, in a way that any middle-grader will find entertaining (i.e. there’s mention of poop). She also creates a family that loves Caleb so much it’s stifling — a feeling most tweenagers know well. Reading Caleb and Kit, I was totally schooled on how much effort it takes to get through a day when you have a medical condition – or, in Kit’s situation, a dysfunctional home life. And Vrabel writes it all very casually and brightly… no gloominess allowed when describing the facts of someone’s daily existence. 

When Caleb and Kit find each other, they create a special kind of friendship that isn’t based on dependence, but on believing in each other so they might believe in themselves and grow to be independent. As Vrabel explains scientifically, just look at the trees and you’ll see! 

You’ll have to read the book to find out where their friendship ends up, but know this: Over the course of the chapters, my heart grew tender for Caleb and Kit, and yours will too. 

-calliope

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