Category Archives: review

The Reunion by Elizabeth Drummond

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<em>The Reunion </em>by Elizabeth Drummond

Drummond, Elizabeth. The Reunion.

In this former boarding school rivals enemies to lovers romance, a photographer and influencer cut off by her family proposes a fake engagement to a fellow alum who needs business capital, because the school will pay for their high profile wedding if the Head Boy and Head Girl get married.

I am generally okay with reading about initial dislike based on misunderstanding, but not so okay with people being mean and snarky to one another. Lucas goes along with Posy’s plan to get them both the capital they need to achieve their dreams, discover they have more in common than they thought, and slowly fall in love in spite of a vow to NOT do that, all the while deceiving friends and family. I didn’t find the plot very believable or the characters compelling or likeable, and it’s 2022, so let’s just stop with the fat jokes, m’okay?

I received a free advance reader’s review copy of #TheReunion from #NetGalley.

The Blue Bistro by Elin Hilderbrand

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The Blue Bistro by Elin Hilderbrand

Hilderbrand, Elin. The Blue Bistro. St. Martins, 2010. 336 pp. ISBN 9780312628260. $16.99

*****

Growing up, we didn’t have a lot of money for fine dining or vacations; my parents took my brother and I over the Cape Cod Canal to visit Edaville Railroad once, when we were maybe 4 & 6, and it took me 20 years to return. The strong sense of deja vu at the sight of scrub pines, weathered shingle homes, and salt tang air made me immediately feel like I’d come home. The Cape is magical, and I feel the odd sense of homecoming every time I return.

Besides the fact that The Blue Bistro is set on a romantic and charming Nantucket Island off the coast of my native Massachusetts, I am not sure I can completely place what I find so compelling about it that I’ve read this book about 20 times in the last ten years. Is it the fly on a wall feeling to the restaurant industry? The encapsulation of summer on the Cape? The hopeful but doomed romance? The mouthwatering menu descriptions? All of the above.

Adrienne is on the run from her latest relationship disaster when she lands on the island. No stranger to the hospitality industry, she ends up as the first lady hostess at a playful and upscale fine dining beachfront restaurant at the whim of the boyishly handsome co-owner Thatcher who takes an instant liking to her. The Bistro is opening for it’s final season (no one will tell her why) and she’s not only learning the ropes of the restaurant industry, she’s trying to figure out the relationship between Thatcher and Fiona, the very private and reclusive chef who doesn’t give interviews, come out of the kitchen, or show up at staff meal, even as she falls for him.

Articles about The Blue Bistro that Adrienne digs up help tell the story of its rise to fame, while plot, character and setting are further revealed not only through Adrienne’s present day narrative, through emails and postcards to her father and friend, and through flashbacks and reflections about her past lovers as she struggles with figuring out why she is so adrift, and how to make this relationship different. She has a thing for assholes. Thatcher isn’t one, but his heart, for all his denied it, seems to be committed elsewhere.

The pacing of the summer season helps to drive the plot. June is a soft open, the fourth of July over the top, the rest of the month is the first steep hill of a roller coaster, and then August is a frenzy of tomato specials and guests stealing the silverware as the last day rockets ever closer.

The drama between the various characters is completely spot on. I only waited tables for about a year, but the credit card wars, flitations between staff, old school kitchen brigand style, and kids making a mess at a fancy night out all rang true. The descriptions of food will make you drool and have you out of bed at 2am to put together a poor substitution of Fiona’s creme fraiche and caviar dip with hand cut potato chips (Ruffles and dill dip made with mayo, sour cream, and dried dill, don’t judge me).

Jadie in Five Dimensions by Dianne K. Salerni

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<em>Jadie in Five Dimensions</em> by Dianne K. Salerni

Salerni, Dianne K. Jadie in Five Dimensions. Holiday House, 2021. 288 pp. ISBN‎ 978-0823449095 $17.99

****

I was shocked that my 10-year-old daughter selected a science fiction novel to read at the local library, but the cover was horrifically compelling, so away we went. Thirteen-year-old Jadie grew up believing she was abandoned as a baby and placed into a loving home with people who are part of a secret operation to duck in and out of space/time to make small alterations to set history back on it’s most desirable path. Up until now, she hasn’t questioned much about the missions or her origin story… until one day, something triggers a memory, and leads her down the path of investigating her past and identity, making her question everything she believes in, especially the motives of the Seers who direct her actions. A coming-of-age tale with a science fiction setting and diverse characters, the novel blends fast paced action, adventure, mystery, science, and teen girl concerns into a neatly wrapped package. Jadie is gutsy and likeable.

We both really enjoyed the alternating voices, mystery and suspense, and setting, so much, we went on to read another book about tesseracts, A Wrinkle in Time.

Twice in a Lifetime by Melissa Baron

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Twice in a Lifetime by Melissa Baron

Melissa Baron. Twice in a Lifetime. Alcove Press, 2022. pp. ISBN $17.99

****

Time is just a construct, and this romance combines elements from one of my favorite novels, The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger with remnants of The Two Lives of Lydia Bird by Josie Silver. In this poignant story, Isla, on a sort of retreat from a very hard year, gets a text message from a stranger who seems to know her (and of her struggles with depression). Ewan seems to think he is her husband–or will be–and wants to save her from a fate he’s unwilling to disclose. The development of their relationship and the mystery behind what they are to one another made this unputdownable. Savvy readers will guess earlier than I suspected; I am not generally a fan of mystery, because I want to be entertained and lose myself in my reading, rather than figure things out. The tension was wonderfully drawn out, the romance sweet (if on lighter side) and the letdowns piercing. Excellent plotting, pacing, and character development… and a very satisfying conclusion.

Sidenote: The ARC was one of those annoyingly vertical formats where a slip of the thumb sent me back to the beginning of the book, and like rock-climbing I had to book mark each chapter as I went so I could easily find my place again. This is a HUGE pain in the tookus, so I have to really love a book from the get-go to stumble through this painful process of reading it.

I received a free advance reader’s review copy of #TwiceInAlifetime from #NetGalley.

The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein

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The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein

Rothstein, Richard. The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America.

****

I was probably over 40 years old when I heard a passing reference at a Library conference to red-lining, and that American GIs of color were prohibited from access perks of the GI bill. The focus of The Color of Law is how local, state and federal regulations kept Black populations in a slavery state and maintained neighborhood school segregation even after the end of the Civil War and passing of constitutional amendments. Community planning, passing of the Fair Housing Act, and the civil rights movement has done little to alleviate the situation and Rothstein’s argument is that amends are way overdue.

The audio, narrated by the Adam Grupper, moves at a good pace and is a gripping account. Rothstein’s book is clear, packed with examples, and might make for dense reading for some. Hint: read the introductory and concluding paragraphs of each chapter for the overview.

Dinner for One: How Cooking in Paris Saved Me by Sutanya Dacres

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<em>Dinner for One: How Cooking in Paris Saved Me</em> by Sutanya Dacres

Dacres, Sutanya. Dinner for One: How Cooking in Paris Saved Me. Park Row, 2022. ISBN 978-0778333036 $27.99.

**

It felt like a dream come true to marry a Parisian and move to France, but the fairy tale turned into a nightmare for Sutanya Dacres. Moving in together, no matter how in love you are, is stressful, because it’s a change to negotiate. After a three year LDR, Sutanya moves continents and gets married. Adding a language barrier to different cultural backgrounds and immaturity proves to be too much and they divorce. Still, the goal of becoming a blogging ex-pat is a romantic ideal to pursue, and Sutanya learns to take care of herself, after a flirtation with alcoholism and one-night stands to mask her pain.

Most of this book is focused on the relationship and what went wrong without the juicy details (though, her brief recounting of their fights is cringe-inducing). There’s a little about the food, and finally some recipes at the end, but very little context as the recipes relate to the narrative. The title promises a story about cooking, and there is very little actual cooking in the narrative. Integrating the story with the food would have made for more flow and interest, I think this great premise suffered from oblivious–or no–editing.

I received a free advance reader’s review copy of #DinnerforOneHowCookingInParisSavedMe from #NetGalley.

Witcha Gonna Do by Avery Flynn

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<em>Witcha Gonna Do </em>by Avery Flynn

Flynn, Avery. Witcha Gonna Do. Berkley, 2022. 336 pp. ISBN 978-0593335215. $17.00

***
I fell in love with Cate Tiernan’s Sweep series as a young adult librarian about twenty years ago (I might or might not but definitely do still have a three-in-one compendium of the first volumes–ICYMI, the series is concerned with a magical teen who doesn’t know her heritage who gets caught up in a love triangle with two other powerful witches). I’m surprised I have not pursued more books in this vein: charming magical realism romance like The Charmed List, which I really enjoyed for its more complete, and better-paced world-building.

Witcha Gonna Do is a classic enemies to lovers romance. Tilda is an anomoly in her gifted family, and she keeps getting matched with hot, sauve Gil, who figures out pretty quickly she isn’t non-magickal, she is in fact, an amplifier. Powergrabs (and attempts to prevent them) ensue.

The voice –and language–are youthful and may not appeal to all romance readers.

I received a free advance reader’s review copy of #WitchaGonnaDo from #NetGalley

One Night Stand After Another by Amanda Usen

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One Night Stand After Another by Amanda Usen

Usen, Amanda. One Night Stand After Another. 210 pp. Independently Published, 2022. ISBN 979-8843334680$13.99

**

Plot what plot? I am not adverse to sexy stories, bring them on! But this one straddling the line between romance and erotica. In this second chance romance, crocheter Clara has a run in with a high school flame at another ex’s wedding, and Zane makes it his mission to help her launch her business in between his own restaurant dealings. The road trip plot helped further the story. I cringed at how hard Zane had to work to gain Clara’s attention and affection and the over the top gifting of yarn and meals and hotels reminded me too much of my first relationship and accusations of attempts to buy my affection (it worked, but it’s an immature and not necessarily sustainable and very superficial way to relate to one another).

I did not find a strong enough story between the blow by blow by blowjob details. This novel opens with a dirty fantasy… and the fantasies are more detailed and better-written than the actual sex between the characters, which is an interesting choice/commentary on reality of relationships. I love books about love, sex and food, and the crochet as wearable art is unique. This one should have done it for me, but just didn’t. Independently published, and it shows.

I received a free reader’s advance review copy of #OneNightStandAfterAnother from #NetGalley.

The Getaway by Emily March

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The Getaway by Emily March

March, Emily. The Getaway. Forever, 2022. 384 pp. ISBN 978-1538707371 $15.99

*

Women’s fiction. Mom finally puts her foot down when her very privileged children refuse to stop their infighting. Slow pacing, introduction of too many characters, and exposition instead of action meant I didn’t enjoy the writing; descriptions of multiple sets of holiday dishes and decor meant I didn’t enjoy the entitlement and couldn’t relate and put this one down at 32% complete.

I received a free advance reader’s review copy of #TheGetaway from #NetGalley.

28 Disastrous Dates: A (Mostly True) Humorous Memoir by Poppy Mortimer

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28 Disastrous Dates: A (Mostly True) Humorous Memoir by Poppy Mortimer

Mortimer, Poppy. 28 Disastrous Dates: A (Mostly True) Humorous Memoir. Poppy Mortimer, 2022. 332 pp. ISBN 978-0645463903. $14.99

**

In this dating tell-all, Poppy recounts dates with many men who portrayed themselves as other than they were and shares lessons learned along the way. Told chronologically, each encounter leads to self-reflections about herself and deal breakers. While unflinchingly honest, it lacked the humor of Chelsea Handler and was formulaic, unflattering and not compelling. This is self-published, and it shows in the amatuer writing; editing might have helped.

(As an aside: the ingenue depicted on the cover totally looks like Taylor Swift, and it would be hilarious if Poppy was just a psuedonym…)