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August 12, 2017

Fun Chick Lit: A Sudden Gust of Gravity by Laurie Boris

Review by Donna Huber

One of the great things about having a backlog of review copies on my Nook is finding wonderful gems such as A Sudden Gust of Gravity by Laurie Boris. It was cute and fun and kept me up well past my bedtime.

August 11, 2017

Review: Seven Days in May by Kim Izzo

by MK French

RMS Lusitania coming into port, possibly in Ne...
RMS Lusitania coming into port, possibly in New York, 1907-13 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sydney and Brooke Sinclair are sailing on the Lusitania with Brooke's fiance, Edward Thorne-Tracy, despite warnings from the German Embassy about sailing into English territory during a war. Sydney is interested in the suffragette movement and contraception debates, which horrifies and embarrasses Brooke. At the same time in England, Isabel Nelson is working for Room 40, transcribing notes, codes and ciphers amidst personal drama. The horrors of war soon become all too evident for all of these people.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

Seven Days in May
April 2017; HarperCollins; ebook (368 pages)
historical fiction
At first, I thought the two separate stories would meet up at the very end. Instead, the dovetailing stories serve to ratchet up the tension, even though we know historically that the Lusitania was torpedoed and sank, killing most of its passengers.

We get to watch Sydney and Brooke's relationship completely unravel and then tentatively come back together, get to know the passengers in first and third class, and care to know about them and their struggles as individuals.

I didn't find the romance between Sydney and Edward to be very believable, even though they certainly do understand each other better and have more in common than Edward and Brooke do.

The passages in England following Isabel are interesting to see how the inner workings of Room 40 were, but other than a drive to decipher codes, we see little of Isabel or what she wants. When we finally do get to the sinking, it's vividly described and the aftermath is heartbreaking.

I liked the afterward, where Ms. Izzo reveals that Sydney's friend in third class is actually her own great-grandfather. Stories he had told her grandmother had piqued her interest, and there's even a helpful reading list for those interested in the Lusitania and the investigations that took place at that time. There are wonderful descriptions of the ship, the people, and how the differences in class affect everyone. No one is unscathed in this disaster, and there's sort of a hopeful note at the end of the book.

Buy Seven Days in May at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and golden retriever.


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August 10, 2017

#BookReview: A Mother Like Mine by Kate Hewitt @katehewitt1 @tlcbooktours

Review by Susan Roberts

A Mother Like Mine takes the readers back to the small village of Hartley-by-the-Sea in the beautiful Lake District of England. It is the third book in this series but can be read as a stand alone with no confusion.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

A Mother Like Mine
August 2017; Berkley; 978-0399583797
ebook, print (384 pages); women's fiction
Abby is a single mother who was raised by her grandmother after her mother left when she was two. Abby had left her small village for a few years to attend university but after her fiance got killed, she dropped out of school and returned with her young son to live with her grandmother to help her run her small cafe. After 20 years away, her mother Laura shows up unexpectedly and wants to rejoin the family that she abandoned so many years before. Abby is very suspect that her mother will stay and very reluctant to welcome her home. She not only worries about her feelings but also doesn't want her son to get attached and then left behind as Abby had been so many years before. Abby and Laura try to establish a relationship with each other but both realize that it will be very difficult to do after such a long time apart.

Even though there are many other characters in this book, the two main characters, Abby and Laura, are the most important part of this story. Their attempts to have a relationship are well written and the main focus of the story. The reader can feel the pain that they went through in their pasts as it is revealed n bits and pieces.

This is a wonderful story about family and love and most importantly forgiveness.

Buy A Mother Like Mine at Amazon

About the Book:

Abby Rhodes is just starting to get her life on track. After her fiance's unexpected death, she returned with her young son to the small village where she grew up and threw herself into helping her ailing grandmother run the town's beach cafe. Then one evening, her mother, Laura, shows up in Hartley-by-the-Sea and announces her plan to stay. After twenty years away, she now wants to focus on the future--and has no intention, it seems, of revisiting the painful past.

Laura Rhodes has made a lot of mistakes, and many of them concern her daughter. But as Abby gets little glimpses into her mother's life, she begins to realize there are depths to Laura she never knew. Slowly, Abby and Laura start making tentative steps toward each other, only to have life become even more complicated when an unexpected tragedy arises. Together, the two women will discover truths both sad and surprising that draw them closer to a new understanding of what it means to truly forgive someone you love.

About the Author:  

Kate is the USA Today-bestselling author of over 60 books of women's fiction and romance. She is the author of the Hartley-by-the-Sea series, set in England's Lake District and published by Penguin. She is also, under the name Katharine Swartz, the author of the Tales from Goswell books, a series of time-slip novels set in the village of Goswell. She also writes for Harlequin Presents.

She likes to read romance, mystery, the occasional straight historical and angsty women's fiction; she particularly enjoys reading about well-drawn characters and avoids high-concept plots.

Having lived in both New York City and a tiny village on the windswept northwest coast of England, she now resides in a market town in Wales with her husband, five children, and an overly affectionate Golden Retriever. You can read about her life at http://www.katehewitt.blogspot.co.uk.

Connect with Kate
Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Other Books in the Hartley-By-the-Sea Series
Rainy Day Sisters
Now and Then Friends

Also available at Books-A-Million and Barnes & Noble


Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina when she isn't traveling.  She and her husband enjoy traveling, gardening and spending time with their family and friends.  She reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction, and thrillers. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with her on Facebook.



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August 9, 2017

Summer Party Time with @AlisonDeluca

by Alison DeLuca
summer party table
courtesy of pexels

Our annual summer party is a wonderful event. We catch up with old friends, try new recipes, have a few cocktails, and watch the kids have a blast in the pool.

This year I got the flu virus from hell one day before the party. Result: anguish and rage at the universe for daring to strike me down on the one day we get to hang out, eat, and watch the fireflies. Just. So. Wrong.

And there was nothing I could do about it. I couldn't cancel, so I simply had to suck it up and power through.

Luckily, this was not my first rodeo. I had a few tricks up my sleeve to make things easier.

The menu was planned: apps, dinner, and dessert plus drinks. The house was clean. Laundry was done. I'd gone to the grocery store, Costco, and the local vegetable stand.

summer campfire on the beach
courtesy of pixabay

The night before I made an exhausted effort and prepped all my serving dishes. I wrote a list of what I was going to make. Next, I cut out those items on slips of paper and put each one in a serving dish so I knew I was prepared.

With my last vestige of energy, I cleaned out my Tupperware cabinet. How do those things acquire so many extra lids since the last time I did that? The only possible explanation is aliens.


Appetizers

I've learned that putting out lots of complicated appetizers is a complete waste at a summer party. Bowls of chips, nuts, and fruit are plentiful. If your inner goddess demands an appetizer, go with something simple like sliced tomatoes topped with fresh mozzarella and basil. Drizzle on (purchased) balsamic glaze, and watch those puppies disappear like magic.

young boy at a summer party
courtesy of stocksnap

Sliders are another easy app to make. You can slap them together in the morning and store in Tupperware (which now matches with lids, thanks to the midnight cabinet raid) for when guests arrive. I just use Martin's potato dinner rolls and different fillings:

ham, Alouette cheese, sliced cucumbers
smoked salmon, cream cheese, fresh dill
brie and blueberry jam

People go nuts over those tiny little sandwiches.

Main Course

Dinner was a bit more complicated. I had a small reserve of energy and chose to burn it on slicing fresh veggies to top really good sirloin burgers, which I'd ordered pre-made from the Wegmans' butcher. I collapsed at the table and prepped romaine, more sliced tomatoes, and onion.

I've done a lot of bun research. The interwebs say the best buns are either Martin's Potato rolls, again, or make your own brioche buns if you feel like it. Spoiler alert - I didn't. Martin's won out again.

summer drink in a stemmed glass
courtesy of stocksnap

Costco was a godsend for cheese and bacon, served on the side. I put blue cheese and more brie on a plate so our guests could create their own burgers. A dish of microwaved bacon was gone in a flash. I suspect some of the kids bypassed the burgers and just ate bacon for dinner.

Other add-ons for fun burger creations:

Olives, pickles, capers
The usual condiments plus Sir Kensington Special Sauce, Hot Sauce, Steak Sauce
Onion rings (buy frozen, heat just before burgers go on the grill)
Cheese plate, as mentioned above, with goat, swiss, pub cheese - whatever floats your cheese boat.
Fresh herbs
Sliced radishes, carrots, Kirby cucumbers

Keep the burger buffet simple, though, or the food line gets slowed down by the one guest who just can't decide which toppings to use on his burger. For crying out loud. I'd suggest picking 3-4 toppings and going with those. It's fun to group them, though, like the cheese plate or a basket of mixed wild greens.

Channeling Blanche Dubois, I've learned to depend upon the kindness of my friends. Everyone brings salads and desserts, so there's no need to prep anything except a purchased macaroni salad. One heroic pal brought burrata, which is my new favorite thing in the universe. Another bestie made cranberry, wild rice, and avocado salad. I just couldn't get enough of that stuff.

Drinks

This minimalist attitude extended to drinks: wine, beers, and kid-friendly waters in bowls of ice. I did make a tray of Moscow Mules since they're so easy: vodka, ginger beer, squeeze of lime (already cut up that morning) and fresh mint. Those things disappeared like magic.
table with summer cocktails
courtesy of pexels

Dessert

Like Elaine Benes, everyone brings desserts. As a result, I've learned to only make a few simple things so I'm not left with 50 leftover cakes and plates of cookies the following week.

Hello, can we talk guilt for a second? I'm conflicted with too much extra dessert - do I eat it and suffer calorie guilt, or toss it and suffer Irishwoman's waste-not guilt? Scaling back prevents that nasty little dilemma.

I served Jersey blueberries and dark cherries, plus frozen macarons in a pretty bowl. If your pesky inner goddess can't deal with such simplicity, you can always make Tollhouse cookie dough a week earlier and freeze in small containers. Pull one out the night before, spoon out some cookies, top with M&M's. Bake for 10 minutes per batch.

Your house smells like chocolate chip cookies, the guests exclaim over the M&M's, and it's super-easy. Win-win-win.
box of macarons in bright colors
courtesy of pexels

Another incredibly simple dessert people seem to find amazing are s'mores. You can cheat and make them in the microwave if you don't have a campfire: layer a large plate with graham cracker halves, one row of a Hershey's chocolate bar per cracker, and large marshmallows on top. Nuke for 12 seconds or until the 'mallows start to expand. Top with the other graham halves. Hand out to guests amidst cries of delight.

Even in the midst of my feverish flu, I had a great time at our party. My husband was super-helpful and took over grill duty, everyone pitched in, and the event was a success.

Lesson learned: good food is important, but great friends and family are vital to a happy life.

Alison DeLuca is the author of several steampunk and urban fantasy books.  She was born in Arizona and has also lived in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Mexico, Ireland, and Spain.
Currently, she wrestles words and laundry in New Jersey.



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August 8, 2017

Fantastic Psychological Thriller: Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker

Review by MK French


Three years ago, Emma and Cass disappeared without a trace. Cass returned to her mother's home after three years without Emma, and an investigation is launched to look for her. It reopens the three-years-old investigation into the disappearance, as well as family secrets that others desperately wanted hidden.

August 7, 2017

Great Book Club Book: American War by Omar El Akkad #MondayBlogs

by Donna Huber


I've always wanted to join a book club and this summer I noticed that the library was offering a post-apocalyptic book club. I enjoy dystopian novels, but typically I read young adult in this genre so I thought it would be nice to discover some adult dystopian. We met last week and had a great discussion. If you are in a book club, I highly recommend American War for the discussion potential alone.

August 6, 2017

A Beautiful Novel : The Lost Letter by Jillian Cantor

Review by Susan Roberts



"The edelweiss is an expression of love, you know. Proof of unusual daring, my father used to say. That’s how you proved you loved a girl. You ventured to the most dangerous mountain-tops to find an edelweiss."  (From The Lost Letter)

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

The Lost Letter
June 2017; Riverhead Books; 978-0399185670
ebook, audio, print (336 pages); historical fiction
I love reading books about WWII and this is one of the best that I've read. The characters and story are so well done that I read long into the night to finish it because I was so intrigued with the story.

The novel has dual time lines - 1938-9 in Austria telling Kristoff's story and 1989 in LA telling Katie's story. Both stories are very interesting on their own and when they merge into one it creates a fantastic story line.

Katie takes her Dad's stamp collection to be appraised because her dad is in a memory care unit with early dementia. The appraiser finds an unopened letter with a stamp that he has never seen and he and Katie try to solve the mystery together.

The other story line involves Kristoff, an apprentice stamp engraver working with the Farber family in Austria. As he is working and living with the family, the Nazis are approaching and finally arrive in the town they live in. Since the Farber's are Jewish, their lives are in grave danger.

This is a beautiful novel about love and family and how the love and loss during war time can have repercussions that last for generations. It's a wonderful novel and I highly recommend it.

Thanks to the author and the Great Thought's Ninja Review Team for a copy of this book to read and review. All opinions are my own.

Buy The Lost Letter at Amazon

About the Book:

Austria, 1938.
Kristoff is a young apprentice to a master Jewish stamp engraver. When his teacher disappears during Kristallnacht, Kristoff is forced to engrave stamps for the Germans, and simultaneously works alongside Elena, his beloved teacher's fiery daughter, and with the Austrian resistance to send underground messages and forge papers. As he falls for Elena amidst the brutal chaos of war, Kristoff must find a way to save her, and himself.

Los Angeles, 1989.
Katie Nelson is going through a divorce and while cleaning out her house and life in the aftermath, she comes across the stamp collection of her father, who recently went into a nursing home. When an appraiser, Benjamin, discovers an unusual World War II-era Austrian stamp placed on an old love letter as he goes through her dad's collection, Katie and Benjamin are sent on a journey together that will uncover a story of passion and tragedy spanning decades and continents, behind the just fallen Berlin Wall.


Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina when she isn't traveling.  She and her husband enjoy traveling, gardening and spending time with their family and friends.  She reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction, and thrillers. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with her Facebook.


Get even more book news in your inbox, sign up today! Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.

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