What I Read – February 2019

Since it is almost mid-March, I suppose I should get my list of books from February jotted down. To say that I am running a bit behind is, well, clearly obvious. In no particular order, here we go!

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine (Gail Honeyman) – Let me get the disclaimer out of the way from the first. There is language in this book; sprinkled through out in conversation and thought. If you are sensitive to that, please take that into consideration. There were also two scenes that took me by surprised and that I quickly skimmed through. However, this book, this journey with Eleanor was worth it. I did not know much about this book when I began. I had seen it several times on Instagram and decided to give it a go. It is a beautiful story that shows the power of the simple act of friendship and that we should love the unlovely. Is about forgiveness and healing and love. I’m so glad I got to know Eleanor.

Greetings from the Flipside (Rene Gutteridge) – A Christian Fiction story that had an intriguing story line but lacked in a bit of back story development. I think if the back story of the two characters, their connection, has been better fleshed out that this would have been super fun! I enjoyed it and a relaxing  weekend read but felt a bit cheated when I was done.

Who I Am With You (Robin Lee Hatcher) – This was a new release from an author that I typically enjoy. Humph. What is up with me? Again, I felt that there was something lacking in the connection of the two main characters, Jessica and Ridley. Hatcher is actually telling two stories at once. The book flips between the story of Jessica and her great-grandfather. I was disappointed and felt Jessica’s and Ridley’s relationship wasn’t realistic.

The Interrupted Tale: Book Four of the Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place (Maryrose Wood) – This was, of course, a read aloud with my younger children (and husband). We continue to enjoy Miss Lumley and the Incorrigibles. Not only is it an engaging story line but Ms. Wood understands that children are smart and witty and funny. I will confess that Book Four has not been my favorite but still excellent! I have Book Five on my shelf for us to read this month. We definitely recommend this series!

A Brief Note: When I’m reading a book or have a book I want to read, I dislike when someone tells me all the details. I often think, ” well, now I don’t have to read it.” So this post isn’t a review of the books I’ve read; just a list to share. If you would like more details, let me know in the comments. I will always try to mention questionable content and other important tidbits.

Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen) – We finally finished! This was our Wednesday with Austen selection and since we only read it on Wednesdays, it took a few months to finish. However, it was absolutely wonderful and I loved it! My older children had read it on their own but it is a classic worthy of being re-read. Confession: It was my first time reading Pride and Prejudice. Why, why, why did I wait so long? I loved it. Of the Austen books I have read so far, it is my favorite. I did read this aloud to all of my children that are home during the day (17 down to 2). Do not doubt the ability for younger ones to not only follow the basic story line but to enjoy it. Ok, the two year old didn’t really care but that is okay.

The Austen Escape (Katherine Reay) – I happened to see this on the shelf and grabbed it. I had heard good things about this author and her books. The Austen Escape was an enjoyable weekend read. I think you definitely have to appreciate Austen to enjoy a book like this. It was fun, enjoyable, and interesting. If you are in need of some weekend reading or a book to have tossed in your bag for the waiting room, The Austen Escape is a great choice!

 

Blue Ridge Billy (Lois Lenski) – I love Strawberry Girl and decided I wanted to incorporate Lenski’s other regional books into our school readings. Since Blue Ridge Billy is set in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina it was an easy choice. So, I didn’t enjoy it as much as Strawberry Girl. However, I made this mistake of dragging out the reading of this book. I was suppose to read it weekly but I skipped more than a few weeks. Despite that my children, 11, 9, and 7, enjoyed Blue Ridge Billy. They always wanted me to read more. They wanted to know if Billy was going to get his banjo and what was going to happen to his dad (they were not fans of the dad). If you were to choose to read this, be consistent. I read the last few chapters in a week or so. It made a huge difference.

The Way of the Wilderking (Jonathan Rogers) – This is Book Three of The Wilderking Trilogy. If you have not read this trilogy, read it. Read it aloud to your children. Read it for yourself. It is excellent and funny and exciting and heartbreaking and adventurous. You want to see Aidan’s journey unfold. You want to travel into the Feechiefen and meet the feechies. Trust me. This was my second time reading this trilogy aloud. I read aloud about seven or eight years ago. I decided that my son, 9, would love this trilogy. So I read it aloud again. The boys in your life will love it. So will your girls. Your husband might laugh the loudest. Can you tell that we highly recommend this trilogy?

Whose Body? (Dorothy Sayers) – I was never a fan of mysteries until two of my children developed a love of mysteries. In reading books to preview them and in reading books to join in conversation with them, I have come to love certain murder mysteries. I have had Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries on my TBR for some time. I finally decided to just read it and stop putting it off. Oh, I love Wimsey! Absolutely delightful all the way around. Highly recommend.

Rebecca (Daphne du Maurier) – This was as impulse selection. One of my older daughters read this and made a comment or two that had me so eager to read this book. I grabbed a copy from the library. And like so many older books, they give you no book summary or synopsis. I did not ask my daughter for details. I didn’t look it up online. I opened the book, started reading, and let the story unfold before me. Oh my. From the first page, I was hooked. My two daughters that had read it and I had the same exact reaction to the plot twist and resulting outcome.There may have been a character that I wanted to just ask “What?!?!?!?”  Highly recommend. I am eager to read more of du Maurier’s work.

That was a super quick look at what I read or finished reading in February. I will try to post soon about how my reading for the Back to the Classics challenge is going. Hopefully my March reading will be just as delightful as February.

Please share what you are reading!!

 

**Please note that this post contains affiliate links. The links in no way alters your online shopping or browsing experience. I earn a small percentage of purchases made via my links. Thanks so much!

Let’s Do Brunch! (and a giveaway!)

Last year a book at the library caught my eye, The Saturday Night Supper Club. Heading into the weekend, I wanted a few casual fun reads to have on hand. Not only was it an enjoyable read, but I even learned a bit about what happens behind the kitchen doors of a restaurant. When I saw that Carla Laureano had a new book, Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe, I added to my To Be Read. Every one needs to have a ready list of fun, relaxing books to read, am I right?
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Title: Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe

Author: Carla Laureano

Genre: Christian Romance

Release date: February 5, 2019

Publisher: Tyndale

About the Book:

Baker and pastry chef Melody Johansson has always believed in finding the positive in every situation, but seven years after she moved to Denver, she can’t deny that she’s stuck in a rut. One relationship after another has ended in disaster, and her classical French training is being wasted on her night job in a mediocre chain bakery. Then the charming and handsome private pilot Justin Keller lands on the doorstep of her workplace in a snowstorm, and Melody feels like it’s a sign that her luck is finally turning around.

Justin is intrigued by the lively bohemian baker, but the last thing he’s looking for is a relationship. His own romantic failures have proven that the demands of his job are incompatible with meaningful connections, and he’s already pledged his life savings to a new business venture across the country—an island air charter in Florida with his sister and brother-in-law.

Against their better judgment, Melody and Justin find themselves drawn together by their unconventional career choices and shared love of adventure. But when an unexpected windfall provides Melody with the chance to open her dream bakery-café in Denver with her best friend, chef Rachel Bishop, she’s faced with an impossible choice: stay and put down roots with the people and place she’s come to call home . . . or give it all up for the man she loves.

My Thoughts

Confession Time. I am a huge fan of the Great British Baking Show. I love Mary Berry. I am always amazed at the creations and combinations the contestants come up with on the show. I am a Plain Jane in the kitchen and am perfectly content in that. But I still enjoy watching others create. This book, Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe, had that same type of feel to it, I think. Not only did Melody whip up delicious baked goods, she matched them with favorite literature and many were tied to her life with her grandmother. What is not to love, right?

There’s more to Melody’s story than yummy croissants and the perfect loaf of bread. There is heartbreak and pain. Disappointment and devastation. There is forgiveness and restoration. There is laughter and joy. Naturally there is also a gorgeous guy who is not interested in forever and has a life plan heading in the opposite direction of Melody’s. He’s not a bad guy but his view on marriage has been tainted. They are both carrying hurt from the past.

“If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last year, ” Rachel said softly, “it’s that change feels terrible at the time but can be really good in the end.”

This story was not a whirlwind, everything falls into place perfectly romance and I appreciated that. It would have been very easy to have led the characters to an expected resolution. Would it have been a happy ending? Definitely. But both Melody and Justin need to reconcile issue with the past, the right now, and the future. Overall, I enjoyed Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe. It is the perfect weekend, relaxing read. I love the friendship of Melody, Rachel, and Ana . (I am looking forward to Ana’s story.)

Carla-Laureano
Meet the Author
Carla Laureano is the RITA® Award-winning author of contemporary inspirational romance and Celtic fantasy (as C.E. Laureano). A graduate of Pepperdine University, she worked as a sales and marketing executive for nearly a decade before leaving corporate life behind to write fiction full-time. She currently lives in Denver with her husband and two sons, where she writes during the day and cooks things at night.

Guest Post from Carla

“Confessions of An Erstwhile Baker”

Like most females, baking is encoded somewhere deep down in my DNA. Call it nature or call it nurture, but at the earliest age, I figured out that the cute boy in my English class would talk to me if it involved chocolate chip cookies. Got my heart broken or had a friend betray me? I grabbed the mixing bowl and went for the brownies (even better if they’re served à la mode.) My friend was having a birthday? I made a cake drowned in pounds of buttercream.

I quickly graduated from the boxed mixes to the real thing when I got married and had a kitchen large enough to roll out dough. I would comb magazines for the best recipes and spend my weekends trying them out. I quickly became known for bringing beautifully iced Christmas cookies and delicious homemade cakes to work.

Then my husband and I moved our young family from Los Angeles to Denver, a relocation that was about 1000 miles northeast and 5000 feet up. Suddenly, every recipe I’d perfected in the previous eight years failed. Cookies burned to crisps, cakes fell, and don’t get me started on candy making. Gradually, I adapted my recipes (my beloved never-fail Toll House recipe took eight tries to get right) and even became an avid artisan bread-baker.

Then disaster. Or at least, what a baker would consider a disaster. After developing chronic health problems, I discovered that among other things, I was sensitive to gluten. The horror! In order to heal, I turned to the paleo diet, which eliminates all grains (there goes most gluten free recipes) and all processed sugars (there goes everything else). I’ve tried baking paleo-style, and while I can now make cakes that even my gluten-fiend family enjoy, it’s just not the same.

So what’s a once-obsessive baker do when she can’t eat her creations? She bakes for other people and goes on faith that they actually taste good… considering she can’t taste them herself.

It struck me that there was a spiritual lesson in that, and an obvious tie to Brunch at Bittersweet Café, which deals in large part with Melody’s faith journey. There are times when we have no idea if things are working out the way they’re supposed to, in which case we just have to trust the “recipe” and the input of friends and family who love us. Sometimes our instincts tell us when we’re off track, and sometimes we need that outside nudge from our “taste-testers” to put us back on course.

In any case, what Melody and I have in common is that we both bake to show our love for the people around us. And the process of baking my favorites, even knowing that I can’t enjoy them myself, can still be a selfless way to show people they’re important to me.

Fortunately, macaroons, which happen to be made with almond flour, are still on the menu.

 

 

Blog Stops

Quiet Quilter, February 12

Among the Reads, February 12

Lighthouse Academy, February 12

By The Book, February 12

The Power of Words, February 13

As He Leads is Joy, February 13

Cultivating Us, February 13

Blossoms and Blessings, February 13

Fiction Aficionado, February 14

The Lit Addict, February 14

Christian Chick’s Thoughts, February 14

This Chattanooga Mommy Saves, February 14

All-of-a-kind Mom, February 15

Just the Write Escape, February 15

100 Pages per Hour, February 15

Splashes of Joy, February 15

Bibliophile Reviews, February 16

Texas Book-aholic, February 16

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, February 16

C Jane Read, February 17

Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess, February 17

Moments, February 17

Back Porch Reads, February 17

Cordially Barbara, February 18

Genesis 5020, February 18

Simple Harvest Reads, February 18 (Guest post from Mindy Houng)

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, February 18

Livin’ Lit, February 19

Kat’s Corner Books, February 19

Life with the Tribe, February 19

Stephanie’s Life of Determination, February 19

Through the Fire Blogs, February 20

Remembrancy, February 20

Vicky Sluiter, February 20

Living Life Free in Christ, February 20

2014 and Beyond!, February 21

Daysong Reflections, February 21

Inklings and Notions, February 21

Pause for Tales, February 21

Cafinated Reads, February 22

Tell Tale Book Reviews, February 22

two points of interest, February 22

Ashley’s Bookshelf, February 22

My Devotional Thoughts, February 23

Two Girls and a Book, February 23

The Christian Fiction Girl, February 23

For the love of books, February 23

God is Love, February 24

Book by Book, February 24

Book Bites, Bee Stings, & Butterfly Kisses, February 24

Janices book reviews, February 24

Lukewarm Tea, February 25

Carpe Diem, February 25

A Baker’s Perspective, February 25

Bigreadersite, February 25

Giveaway

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To celebrate her tour, Carla is giving away a grand prize package of a macaroon baking mat, a macaroon book, and a paperback copy of Brunch at Bittersweet Café!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter. https://promosimple.com/ps/db0f/brunch-at-bittersweet-cafe-celebration-tour-giveaway

 

 

 

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for my review. All opinions and thoughts are my own.

Affiliate links may have been used in this post. The links in no way alter your browsing/shopping experience. I earn a small percentage on purchases made following my link.

 

 

 

 

 

What I Read – January 2019

And in a blink, January was gone! Despite how fast time is flying, I was able to finish up a nice stack of books. Some were a bit disappointing but I found a few new favorites. Satisfying, indeed. So let’s get to it!

From the Children’s Section:

Blended by Sharon Draper – This is a middle grade fiction novel that shares the struggles of eleven year old Isabella. Isabella’s parents are divorced. Since both parents live in the same town, Isabella spends alternate weeks with her mom and dad. Each “transfer” deepens Isabella’s question of where does she really belong? Where is home? How does she fit in these two very different households?

That struggle in itself is challenging enough for a young girl but Isabella is also faced with who she is on a racial level. With a father who is black and a mother who is white, where does Isabella fit? Who is she? Events occur at school and home that make this question cut even deeper.

Overall, this was a good read. I think the topics were handled appropriately for the target audience; definitely middle grade fiction.

Marie Antoinette by Bernadine Kelly – This is a World Landmark Book and a surprisingly interesting biography. This served as a read aloud during our group studies and worked well with my teens down to my seven year old. We were able to learn about Marie’s childhood and bringing all the way to the tragic end of her life.

This biography was full of information and details but managed to be engaging and entertaining as well. It definitely encourages a sympathetic view of Marie Antoinette. Considering the future her mother had planned for her, it was heartbreaking how ill-prepared Marie was for that life. During our reading we had much conversation and discussion on how the outcome could have been different and how much other’s decision directed Maria’s path. I highly recommend this Landmark Biography!

The Care and Feeding of a Pet Black Hole by Michelle Cuevas. This book was grabbed off the shelf totally based on the author. We read and loved Confessions of an Imaginary Friend: A Memoir by Jacques Papier. It was such a beautiful, sweet book that took us all by surprise. How could I resist a book about a pet black hole!??!?!?

Oh my, this book was funny, heartbreaking, and such a great read. I laughed out loud over Chapter 11. The Care and Feeding of a Pet Black Hole is the story of Stella coming to terms with the death of her father. It is set during the 70s so kiddos who enjoy space might enjoy the tidbit of history and space thrown into this book. I had to look up one or two things myself. And! I am totally prepared if a black hole wanders into my yard. I know exactly what it needs to be happy and how to give it a hug without falling in. This is a must read!

 

Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster (Jonathon Auxier) – Mr. Auxier is a favorite author in our home. When I heard he had a new children’s novel out, I requested Sweep from our library immediately. We were not disappointed! Sweep takes up to Victorian London into the world of children and chimney sweeps. Life is harsh, dirty, and unforgiving. Young Nan has faced it all and keeps pushing forward. Then she faces sure death and is saved. Saved by Charlie…a monster. Or is he? And just what exactly do you do with a monster when you are suppose to be dead?

This is a beautiful, bittersweet story of friendship, faith, and hope. It gives us a glimpse into a harsh time in history. We learn to keep our brooms up! and to save ourselves by saving others. I read this aloud and my children loves Nan, Charlie, Toby and even Prospero. I’m still torn on Prospero. We highly recommend Sweep! If you haven’t read Auxier other books, I highly recommend Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes, Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard, and The Night Gardener.

From the Adult Section:

Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare. Twelfth Night is the story of tangled relationships, shipwrecks, and mistaken identities. It is absolutely hilarious and delightful. I can not recommend enough reading Shakespeare aloud in a group. It has to be one of my favorite Shakespeare plays so far. Definitely recommend!

On Magnolia Lane by Densie Hunter. This is the newest release from Christian Fiction author Denise Hunter. This story of a pastor (Jack) falling in love with a parishioner (Daisy) sound interesting and intriguing. Then it fell a bit flat for me. I’m not sure if there were too many smaller plot lines going on or if the character development just wasn’t deep enough? In any case, this one did not live up to my expectations and I was disappointed.

Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan. As a huge fan of World War II books, non-fiction and fiction, I was eager to dive into Scarlet Sky. A story based on a real life of Pino Lella in Italy during the German Occupation. Although this story was based on true life and events, it was fictionalized due to lack of documentation and accuracy of conversations, etc.

Sadly, not too far into the book and I was struggling to embrace Pino, Italy, and all that was happening. The writing was stilted and choppy. Sometimes it read as if Sullivan was writing a fiction novel and then it shifted to a more fact based paper or outline. Normally, at this point I would put a book aside and move on to a new selection. However, I really wanted to love this story so I kept pushing through. In hindsight I should have just shut the book and let it go. At times it bordered at times on unrealistic and some of the events and actions Pino took seemed unbelievable. If you have read Scarlet Sky, I would love to hear your thoughts? I really struggled with this!

I’ll Be Your Blue Sky by Marisa de los Santos. Ah, this was such a great read, y’all. Before you read this book, you need to read Love Walked In and Belong to Me. Then grab I’ll Be Your Blue Sky. I am not going to give away any of the story line. Truly. I loved these characters so much. I loved their stories. I loved the picture it paints of family and friendship and dealing with the hard and ugly parts of life. I highly recommend. Find a cozy spot, a yummy snack, and settle in! Now. Go!

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. This book. I read it on a whim. I had seen it mentioned online a few times and so I thought, “why not?” I am fairly confident that this book will by in my Top Ten for the year. I absolutely loved this book. Towles created a beautiful story set with the backdrop of Russian history. A gentleman who instead of facing death after the Revolution in Russia is exiled to a hotel. He must live out his life in a small servant room and never to leave the walls of the hotel. Decades pass by as The Count creates a community inside this hotel as he watches the changes of his beloved Russia.

This is a beautiful story of life and friendship and circumstance. The writing and language is beautiful and lovely. I enjoyed just reading how Towles writes as much as the story he wove together. Not only did I fall in love with his characters but I want to learn more of Russia and her history. After I was done, two of my teens (15 and 17) read A Gentleman and my husband listened to it on audio. They all loved it as well.( I want to note that I can’t recall any vulgar language. There are two incidents where the Count spends time with a woman in an intimate setting. There is a description of her lowering her dress to the floor and later they are in bed talking. It is not graphic or detailed and only a paragraph or two each time. I wanted to be upfront my letting my teens read it might encourage others to do the same.)

If you read only one book from this post, make it A Gentleman in Moscow. This is one I would love to own and would re-read. Highly recommend.

I think that covers my January reading. You may have noticed that I didn’t mention anything about my Back to the Classic challenge. Ahem. It is moving at a bit of a slow pace. I will update where I am at on that in my next post.

**This post contains affiliate links. These links in no way change your shopping/browsing experience. I may earn a small percentage if a purchase is made via my links. That’s its. Thanks for stopping by!