Monday, November 27, 2017

Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan

Are you looking for a novel that makes you feel the Christmas spirit and is loaded with lots of tasty treats, but also has a hidden depth?  Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery is the book for you.

Polly is trying to keep up with the demands of the Christmas season with her bakery on the island of Mount Polbearne off of Cornwall.  She lives in a lighthouse with her honey keeping American boyfriend Huckle.  Huckle is ready to settle down and plan their wedding, but Polly can never seem to find the time.  Polly gets into a pickle when she agrees with her best friend Kerensa to keep a big secret from Huckle and also when she finds out a secret from her past.  With so many secrets in the mix, will Polly and Huckle be able to find their happy ending?

Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery is the third novel in the series after Little Beach Street Bakery and Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery. I love the entire series and definitely recommend reading the first two books before picking this book up.

Things I love about this book and the series . . .

I love Polly.  She is a plucky heroine who always finds the positive even with dealing with a bad lot in life.  She starts the series at the end of a relationship and with no job, but is able to find a new beginning in Mount Polbearne.  She’s always trying to help others, even if it means giving up her Christmas to bake to earn money to save the Puffin Sanctuary.

I love Mount Polbearne.  It’s a beautiful island off the coast of Cornwall that is only accessible by a causeway when the tide is low.  It’s a small town where everybody knows everybody, which can be good and bad for Polly.

I love all of the characters.  Neil is Polly’s pet puffin and he’s a hoot.  I love Huckle – he’s a laid back guy who is perfect for Polly.  Their friends Reuben and Kerensa are fabulously rich, but are loyal through thick and think with problems of their own.  And there are so many side characters in the village that I feel like I know them all.

I really loved how in this novel, it’s a fun story for the holidays, but it also has deeper undertones about the damage that keeping secrets can do on many different levels.  I also loved the power of forgiveness that Polly shows in her life.  I can’t say more without ruining the story, but I loved learning more about Polly’s back story.

My favorite quotes:

“That’s when friends need you more than ever.  When something awful happens.  And here’s the crucial thing:  even if the awful thing that’s happened is your fault.  Especially when it’s your own fault.  Do you see?”

“As far as Doreen was concerned, it was inexplicable; living in a lighthouse was a ridiculous idea, and all in all, given how much she had sacrificed to raise Polly all by herself, the fact that she would throw it all away on some cakes, an American without a proper job and a bird was some source of sadness.”

“But if life teaches us anything, it’s that what we assume someone should know about us – even someone we really, really, love; especially someone we really, really love – can be completely misunderstood or overlooked, or that the silence we think contains so much is imply unobserved.”

“Because the thing was, she guessed, you always thought you had time – time to fix the relationships that had broken down; to do all the things you thought you’d get round to; to finish everything, tie it up with a neat bow and that was it.  But life wasn’t like that at all.  Things festered for years.  Things that ought to be go over never were.  Bitterness became a defining characteristic of people’s lives.”

Overall, Christmas at the Little Beach Street Bakery was a delightful novel that I couldn’t put down.  It has an unbeatable mix of wonderful characters, a fantastic setting, baked goods, and a great storyline of what it means to love, be a family, and forgive.  I highly recommend it.

Book Source:  William Morrow in exchange for an honest review. Thank-you!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay (TLC Book Tour)

Looking for an escape from the ordinary into the extraordinary world of Jane Austen?   The Austen Escape may just be the novel that you are looking for. Personally, I felt like The Austen Escape was a book written just for me and was a relaxing read during this hectic time of year.  Mary Davies is an electrical engineer that enjoys her job, but seems to not have any time for any changes in her steady dependable life or anything other than her job.  She has an eye on Nathan, a consultant who is working on helping the firm grow and restructure, but she can’t work up the courage to make a move.

After her best friend Isabel and her father talk with her, she decides to make a change in her life, and goes with Isabel on a trip to Bath, England to an estate and emersion into the world of Austen.  While in Bath, Mary learns more about herself, her best friend, and about how she can change her “character.”  Will Mary find love and will she be able to find the strength to pursue her passions and stick up for herself?

I loved the growth of the character of Mary throughout the novel.  I loved her story, her love story, and the story of her friendship with Isabel. Isabel is a frenemy if there ever is one and I loved how Isabel grew throughout the story as well as the layers of her were gradually peeled back.  I found myself wanting to stay at the estate. It sounded gorgeous and well run.  The characters staying at the estate and also running it were interesting people in the story as well.  How fun it would be to be able to pick an Austen character and inhabit the role.  I would just love to visit Bath.

I also loved that Mary is an engineer.  You don’t often see engineers depicted in fiction, let alone a female engineer.  That Mary is a female engineer who loves Austen is just perfect to me – an engineer who loves Austen. 

I also loved that Nathan just happens to have learned all about Austen and appreciates her novels from college.  I think this is every woman’s dream.

My favorite quotes:

“Mary Crawford – think of Mary this way:  split the bright and brilliant Elizabeth Bennet in half give all of her wisdom to Fanny Price (Mansfield Park) and all of her sparkle to Mary.  Mary enters her story as she leaves it, and causes great disruption in the middle.”  I loved the description of the Austen characters at the start of this novel and thought this was a perfect description of Mary.

“The world stilled.  It wasn’t the first time I wondered how one voice, one presence, could quicken the air and simultaneously stop all motion.”  - What a way to describe the person you have a crush on!

“She wrote with such precision that a single phrase evoked an emotional response. “ – What a impeccable way to describe Austen’s writing.

“We didn’t have enough space in our friendship for our adult selves, much less  if we were stuck in a  room together.”  - What a great way to describe childhood friends grown up.

“We shall walk.  When there are serious matters to discuss.  Austen women walk.  And it has the side benefit of keeping our figures so light and pleasing.”  - Ha, so true!

Overall, The Austen Escape is a delightful romantic novel that will be sure to please any lover of Austen or anyone looking for a novel about friendship and relationships.  A great benefit is that features a strong engineer heroine.  Katherine Reay has some other very interesting looking Austen inspired fiction that I need to check out!

Book Source:  Review Copy as part of the TLC Book Tour.  Thanks!

For more stops on the tour, check out this link.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Girl in Snow by Danya Kukafka

Title: Girl in Snow
Author: Danya Kukafka
Read by: Kirby Heyborne, Jacques Roy, and Candace Thaxton
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Length: Approximately 9 hour and 13 minutes
Source: Simon & Schuster Audio Digital Review Copy – Thank-you!

High school “it” girl Lucinda is found with a broken neck next to the elementary school carousel in a small town in Colorado.  Who would have murdered Lucinda and why?  This story is told through the perspectives of three very different people.  But like all small towns, their story arcs are connected in more ways than they could have imagined.

Cameron Whitley is very socially awkward.  A quiet soul who loves art, he also loves to play “statue nights” and walk around the neighborhood hiding as a “statue” and watching families through their windows, in particular, he loves to watch the beautiful Lucinda. Was he Lucinda’s stalker or a misunderstood youth?  Cameron’s father was a cop who went bad and left town years ago, but the town has not forgotten.

Russ Fletcher is a cop and former partner of Cameron’s father.  He is investigating the death of Lucinda and finds himself entrenched in the story with his brother-in-law Ivan, the school night time janitor a suspect, as well as his former partner’s son, whom he promised to protect.  Will he be able to find the true killer as well as the truth about himself?

Jade Dixon-Burns was once Lucinda’s friend, but now considers herself her enemy.  Lucinda not only stole her baby sitting job, but also the boy she loved.  With backyards that abut, Jade has noticed happenings around Lucinda that play into the greater narrative.  Is Jade a killer or another misunderstood youth?

I liked the three interconnected narratives and different perspectives.  I really liked Jade’s sass and how she told things from the point of view of what she should have said and what really happened.  I loved that the audiobook had three different narrators to tell the three point of views. 

The story moved pretty slow for me and was more of a young adult novel than a true thriller.  I didn’t feel connected to Lucinda at all and didn’t care about her death as much as I should have.  There was some major plot turns later in the book that didn’t feel true with the narrative that lead up to that point.  SPOILER ALERT (Russ and Cameron’s dad and their pinky love.  What????) SPOILER END  I had listened to the audiobook of Everything You Want Me to Be by Mindy Mejia earlier this year and it was a much superior book . . . I think part of my problem was I kept comparing that book to this with the similar subject, high school girl murdered in a small town.  I figured out the murderer in Girl in the Snow pretty early on in the game, although I did doubt myself a couple of times.

Overall, Girl in Snow is an interesting story of murder in a small town, with a very well written story of a teenage problems and angst.  I want Jade Dixon-Burns to have her own spin off.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Sugarplum Way by Debbie Mason (TLC Book Tour)

Looking for a bit of romance as you head into the Christmas season?  Sugarplum Way may be the book for you.

Julia Landon lives in the small town of Harmony Harbor.  Besides running a bookstore, she is also secretly a romance novelist.  It just so happens that the hero of her novels seems to be a lot like the real life Aidan Gallagher.  He is a dark and brooding cop that has newly arrived back in Harmony Harbor.  Divorced and trying to figure out how to be a good dad, Aidan is also still secretly depressed about the death of his mother and young sister in a car accident years before.  Back in his home town, Aidan is also suspicious of Julia.  Why does she like Christmas so much and why is she always around his family trying to find them their happily ever after?  Julia does not want Aidan to find out her secret, but she can’t deny the attraction she has for him.

I enjoyed the story. I found Aidan to be mysterious and I did want to find out the truth behind Julia’s secret.  I had not read the previous three books in the series.  This mostly did not affect me, but maybe the secret was out in the other books?    For me it was an interesting build up to the revelation and fall out that then occurred.  I felt the book had just the right mix of humor, Christmas, and light romance.

I really liked the characters. I liked that there was an entire town involved and I loved Julia’s spunk and Christmas cheer.  Aidan was appropriately dark and brooding, with a sensitive side underneath.  I would have loved to learn more about Julia’s romance novel – I really wanted to read an excerpt!

This quote made me laugh out loud when I was reading this novel:

“A lie by any other name is still a lie.”  “How about an alternative fact??

Overall, Sugarplum Way is an enjoyable Christmas novel that will be sure to delight you with its charm this Christmas season! 

Book Source:  Review Copy for being a part of the TLC Book Tour. Thank-you!

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Caroline by Sarah Miller

“Ma.”  A loving presence in her daughters’ lives, but also a pillar of strength, Ma typified the pioneer experience in the Little House books.  In Caroline, Ma or Caroline Quiner Ingalls, finally gets the story told from her point of view.

Caroline is basically a retelling of Little House on the Prairie from Ma’s point of view.  It encompasses all of the same events, with a few adjustments to adhere more to the historical record.

The story starts in February 1870 when Caroline, Charles, and their daughters, Laura and Mary set off “west” (really more south) to the frontier of Kansas.  Charles is intrigued by the idea of the bountiful prairie land, but Caroline is pregnant and unsettled to think about being so far away from family.  The novel goes through the hardships of the journey and the building of a new place in Kansas.  Caroline has to make do with what she can while she also longs for the safety and familiarity left behind in Wisconsin.  Luckily the Ingalls family makes new friends in Kansas.

It was interesting seeing Little House through adult eyes.  Most the major events play out the same, although Ma has more fears and reservations in her thoughts than Laura would have pointed out in her children’s point of view.  I like how items were updated such as Jack the dog getting purchased along with the horses (I just learned this fact this summer in South Dakota!), Ma having baby Carrie in Kansas instead of Carrie traveling with, and most importantly updating why the Ingalls family had to leave “their” land.  In Little House on the Prairie the government forces them off, in Caroline, it was because they had settled actually on Native American land that was not open for settlement.  In Caroline they leave as the person who bought their home in Wisconsin defaulted on the mortgage, which is what really happened.  Mr. Edwards has never been proven to be real (probably a combination of real people), but I was glad he was kept in Caroline.  He is one of my favorite characters, in particular when he saves Christmas.

Truthfully, I enjoyed the novel, but it took me a really long time to read it and get into it.  It moved really slowly to me.  I think it’s because it really just sticks to the story from Little House on the Prairie, which I had recently read with my daughter, but it’s missing the magic of the original children’s tale.  Caroline always seemed stressed out – but I guess who wouldn’t be living on the prairie?  I was hoping for more of an original tale – for example more of a story of Caroline’s youth or meeting of Pa.  There were glimpses in this novel.  There were also scenes of romance between Pa and Ma, which both disturbed me and also gave in to my curiosity.  I’ve always wondered about relations in a one room cabin.  Ha!!!  Caroline is still racist towards Native Americans in this book and there is really a good description of why.  I would have liked more of that as the racism always makes me cringe.

I’m a little sad as I highlighted my favorite quotes in the e-book, but my kindle is not showing them.  I apologize for not having them in this review.  The only quote showing up is this:

“’It’s too much,’ she told him, as she always did.  His face told her it wasn’t nearly enough, as it always did.”  - I loved the love between Caroline and Charles.  Charles is more the dreamer always looking on the bright side, while Caroline is the more practical spouse.

I really enjoyed the author’s note at the end discussing the real history and why she made the changes to the story that she did.

Overall, Caroline was an interesting take on the Little House on the Prairie story from Ma’s point of view.  I would recommend it to someone who hasn’t read Little House on the Prairie recently so that you have more of a surprise while reading it.

Book Source:  Review Copy from William Morrow – Thanks!!