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.)

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

From Heiress to Housekeeper

Take a moment to travel back in time. Imagine a lovely heiress who has reached the age where one should seek marital bliss. Ah, let us not be hasty. Of course there is a parental figure aiming for more profit and status than bliss. Where can that be found? With the older, questionable duke or lord naturally. Do not worry, my friend. Our lovely heiress has a bit of gumption and she will not be forced! With a bit of help from a friend, our daring heiress goes into hiding in the last place anyone could possible imagine her. Who would look for the pampered young lady in the country side washing laundry and chasing chickens?
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You can stand in front of a shelf at the bookstore or library, browsing the Christian Fiction section, and get a bit cross-eyed at all the similar plot lines and characters. As I settled in to read Flights of Fancy by Jen Turano, I wondered if she would have a new spin on the rich young lady who hides away to avoid marriage.

About the Book:

Flights-of-Fancy-194x300Miss Isadora Delafield may be an heiress, but her life is far from carefree. When her mother begins pressuring her to marry an elderly and uncouth duke, she escapes from the high society world she’s always known and finds herself to be an unlikely candidate for a housekeeper position in rural Pennsylvania.

Mr. Ian MacKenzie is known for his savvy business sense and has built his reputation and fortune completely on his own merits. But when his adopted parents are in need of a new housekeeper and Isadora is thrown into his path, he’s unexpectedly charmed by her unconventional manner.

Neither Isadora nor Ian expected to find the other so intriguing, but when mysterious incidents on the farm and the truth of Isadora’s secret threaten those they love, they’ll have to set aside everything they thought they wanted for a chance at happy-ever-after.

Genre: Christian Historical Fiction;Gilded Age

Release Date: January 1, 2019

Publisher: Bethany House

My Thoughts on Flights of Fancy:

Isadora is an American heiress who has lived a very pampered life. When faced with a possible marriage to an older, questionable man, Isadora decides to run away to the countryside and work as a housekeeper. After disheartening attempts in finding a placement, details fall into place that have her serving as housekeeper for Ian MacKenzie’s adopted parents.

It does not take long for Izzy’s shortcomings as a housekeeper are made known. How could a pampered heiress know how to wash laundry or well, boil water? Toss in a few orphans, a cow that wants to be indoors and chicken or two, well there might be a few laughs!

But wait! Ian has worked his way from poverty to successful business man. He doesn’t have time to be attracted to this odd housekeeper. He needs to marry someone from New York high society so he will be fully accepted by those gentlemen he works with. He has the money but needs the name. Ah, the plot thickens!

I truly hate when reviewers spoil the plot. Truly. No worries of a plot reveal here. What you really want to know is if this book is worth being placed on your TBR pile, am I right? Let’s see if I can help.

I gave Flights of Fancy three out of five stars. While some may view that as a low or ho-hum rating, please know it is not. A three star rating means that I enjoyed this book but I would not likely read it again. I found it a bit slow in the beginning and had to push myself to keep reading. It did pick up about a fourth of the way in. I do enjoy Turano’s humor and dialogue in her books; they always make me smile.

I appreciate that Turano did not make Isadora’s character shocked and astonished at every aspect of housekeeping. While she has been pampered and spoiled, it had just been the life that Isadora knew.  She had never been faced with any other option. How she lived was what was expected of an heiress. When Izzie was faced with the duties of a housekeeper and taking care of oneself, she jumped in wholeheartedly.

The plot was a bit predictable. There was a certain point in the plot that I was expecting and was a bit surprised at how quickly it was resolved. In comparison to other books by Turano, it seemed the interactions between Izzy and Ian were lacking. It did offer humorous situations and the beauty of family (however they come together).

If you enjoy lighthearted, funny reads with a historic backdrop, then definitely add Flights of Fancy to your TBR pile. And if you haven’t read anything by Turano before, you might want to grab a few. She is always entertaining.

About the Author

Jen TuranoNamed One of the Funniest Voices in Inspirational Romance by Booklist, Jen Turano is a USA Today Best-Selling Author, known for penning quirky historical romances set in the Gilded Age. Her books have earned Publisher Weekly and Booklist starred reviews, top picks from Romantic Times, and praise from Library Journal. She’s been a finalist twice for the RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards and had two of her books listed in the top 100 romances of the past decade from Booklist. When she’s not writing, she spends her time outside of Denver, CO.

 

Q & A With Jen Turano

 

“Flights of Fancy” is the first book in the American Heiress Series. What inspired you to write this series?

The inspiration for this entire series started off with a What If? All of my proposals for new series start off that way, and this time it was – What if Consuelo Vanderbilt had balked when her mother insisted she marry the Duke of Marlborough – and then that led to – What if she’d run away until her mother came to her senses? Just like that, an entire series was born – a bit of a different take on American heiresses because in all three books, my heiresses might decide to go a tad…rogue. We start off with Miss Isadora Delafield – who does run off to avoid marriage to a duke, then we get to meet Miss Poppy Garrison, who is an unexpected heiress but who can’t quite seem to get a handle on the expected social decorum of the day, and then the final book revolves around Miss Beatrix Waterbury – who gets banished to Chicago after she annoys her mother one too many times, and once there, well, gets up to a bit of mischief.

 

How do you come up with the names of your characters?

I find most of my names as I research the New York Four-Hundred, although I normally take a first name here, a last name there so I’m not stepping on any toes by writing about an actual historical figure – except for some of the main figures in New York society back then, such as Mr. Ward McAllister – who was the social arbiter of the day, or Mrs. William Astor, who was the queen of that society. What I don’t do is simply make up names, no matter how outrageous they may appear. And, no matter how I may love a certain name, if the character decides it doesn’t suit them, that’s it, it’s out and I’m back to the drawing board.

 

How do you picture your character? Do you use Pinterest, magazines, movies?

Odd as this may seem, I don’t use pictures for my characters. They start off in my mind as a blurry figure, and then, they develop from there – I like to keep my descriptions of them somewhat vague on the pages so that the reader can imagine them exactly the way they’d like them to be.

 

What are some of your favorite resources for historical research?

I’ve been building up a research library over the past few years and now have over 200 books dedicated to the Gilded Age. My favorites are – “A Season of Splendor” by Greg King, “Society as I Have Found It” by Ward McAllister, “The Gilded Age in New York – 1870-1910” by Esther Crain, and “ ‘King Lehr’ and the Gilded Age” by Elizabeth Drexel Lehr.

 

The setting for “Flights of Fancy” is a bit of a departure for you since it’s set in and outside of Pittsburgh. Any reason for that?

My mom was born in Pittsburgh, and unfortunately, her father, a prominent attorney back in the day, died when she was only four. I thought it would be cool to set a story in Pittsburgh, which would then allow me to really dive into some research. And get this – while I was doing that research, I found this obscure journal called “Memoirs of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. In that journal was a bit about my great-grandfather, Fred, his wife, Susie, my grandfather, and his brother and sister, but I’d never heard about this brother, who apparently died quite young. One of the most fabulous research tidbits I’ve uncovered to date.

 

What are you working on now?

I’ve just recently turned in the content edits for the second book in this series, “Diamond in the Rough,” and I’ve also turned in a novella about the Harvey Girls that will be coming out in a novella collection in Fall, 2019. With those out of the way, I’m now starting the third and final book in the American Heiress series, Miss Beatrix Waterbury’s story, but I’m having a bit of a struggle with the hero at the moment – he was supposed to be Edward, but he doesn’t want to be an Edward – I think he wants to be Norman – but, time will tell on that one – don’t hold me to the name – it’ll depend on if he changes his mind or not – pesky characters.

 

You seem to enjoy adding animals in many of your stories. Will we find any animals in “Flights of Fancy?”

Since Miss Isadora Delafield ends up on a farm, I do believe you will find a few animals, such as an adorable cow by the name of Buttercup, a few goats that seem to have a great liking for laundry, and…there might be some chickens.

 

Thanks for stopping by today, everyone! Always enjoy visiting with all of you – in fact, that’s the best part of my job!

All the best,

~ Jen ~

Blog Stops

The Avid Reader, January 10

Among the Reads, January 10

Through the Fire, January 10

To Everything A Season, January 10

Reflections From My Bookshelves, January 11

Babbling Becky L’s Book Impressions, January 11

Blogging With Carol, January 11

Southern Gal loves to Read, January 11

Back Porch Reads, January 12

KarenSueHadley, January 12

Godly Book Reviews, January 12

Daysong Refections, January 12

Livin Lit, January 13

The Christian Fiction Girl, January 13

The Becca Files, January 13

Texas Book-aholic, January 13

Rebekah’s Quill, January 14

Blossoms and Blessings, January 14

D’S QUILTS & BOOKS, January 14

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, January 14

All-of-a-kind Mom, January 15

Just the Write Escape, January 15

Stories By Gina, January 15

God’s Little Bookworm, January 16

The Meanderings of a Bookworm, January 16

Splashes of Joy, January 16

Janices book reviews, January 16

Happily Managing A Household of Boys, January 17

Mary Hake, January 17

Maureen’s Musings, January 17

Bibliophile Reviews, January 17

Abba’s Prayer Warrior Princess, January 18

Baker Kella, January 18

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

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, January 19

Captive Dreams Window, January 19

Robin is Bookish, January 19

Carpe Diem, January 19

Have A Wonderful Day, January 20

Life with the Tribe, January 20

Inklings and Notions, January 20

Rachel’s Back Talk, January 21

Inspiration Clothesline, January 21

amandainpa, January 21

A Baker’s Perspective, January 21

Locks, Hooks and Books, January 22

Pause for Tales, January 22

Book Bites, Bee Stings, & Butterfly Kisses, January 22

Raining Butterfly Kisses, January 23

Live Love Read, January 23

A Rup Life, January 23

Bigreadersite, January 23

 

GIVEAWAY!!!!

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To celebrate her tour, Jen is giving away a grand prize of a trunk filled with all of Jen’s full-length novels released to date!!

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/d8d1/flights-of-fancy-celebration-tour-giveaway

 

**Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for the purpose of review. All opinions and thoughts stated are my own. Affiliate links may be used. They in no way affect your shopping/browsing experience.