Tuesday, January 28, 2014

At the River's Edge: Chesapeake Diaries #7 (Book Review)

Publication Information: Ballantine paperback, February 2014
Genre: Contemporary Romance 
Plot: Bestselling author Stewart’s Chesapeake Diaries series is set in the small Maryland town of St. Dennis.  In this installment, Sophie Enright turns her back on a successful career as a prosecutor when she finds her lawyer boyfriend cheating on her.  She leaves town to visit her brother, Jesse, who moved to St. Dennis and fell in love with Brooke Burke (main characters of book 4), and she decides to stay while figuring out a way to open the restaurant she has always dreamed about.  Conveniently, she finds a way to get over her not-so-broken heart when she meets Brooke’s former brother-in-law, a landscape gardener who moved to St. Dennis to be near his nephew.  Naturally, the course of true love never does run smooth…

Here is a link to an excerpt from Chapter 1.
What I liked: Every lawyer flirts with the idea of walking away from it all (don't tell my boss), so it is always entertaining to read about someone who does so.   Perhaps it was a little too convenient the way all Sophie’s plans fell into place so quickly – financing, property, renovations – but I always enjoy descriptions of food and décor.  One of the appealing aspects of this series is that characters from the other St. Dennis books appear throughout, including my favorite, Steffie, who runs the local ice cream shoppe extraordinaire, One Scoop or Two (who features in book 3).
The Chesapeake Diaries are a slow-paced but pleasant romantic series with wide appeal.   The books are suitable for readers who don’t care for gratuitous sex or bad language and appealing to those who enjoy quirky characters and a hint of magic, not to mention the charm of a small town.  The “diaries” in the subtitle are kept by Grace Sinclair, who runs a beautiful inn at Sinclair’s Point as well as the local newspaper (which provides a good excuse for her avid interest in everything that goes on in town).  Grace yearns for her son to return home and it looks like that will take place in book 8.  These books can be read independently but you’ll be so curious about how all the couples wound up together you’ll have to go back and read them all in order sooner or later! 

What I disliked:  Sophie decides to open a restaurant that will serve lunch and early breakfast for fishermen who shop at the nearby bait store at 5 am, then plans to work at the family law firm in the afternoon.  I am afraid she will be far too tired in the afternoon to provide her best legal work, and her brother agrees with me.  It's hard enough with a good night's sleep!

Source: I received this book from TLC Book Tours in return for a candid review.   I  urge you to visit other stops on the tour listed below to get different perspectives on this entertaining series.  I have a copy to give away (U.S. only) - if you are interested, please leave me a message so I can pick a winner.
Mariah Stewart's Tour Stops:
Monday, January 27th:  Literally Jen
Tuesday, January 28th:  Romancing the Book
Tuesday, January 28th:  Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers
Tuesday, January 29th:  Mom in Love with Fiction
Friday, January 31st:  Gidget’s Bookworms
Monday, February 3rd:  Booked on a Feeling
Monday, February 3rd:  Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Tuesday, February 4th:  Reviews from the Heart
Wednesday, February 5th:  Diary of a Stay at Home Mom
Thursday, February 6th:  Sara’s Organized Chaos
Friday, February 7th:  Joyfully Retired
Friday, February 7th:  From L.A. to LA
Monday, February 10th:  Bibliotica
Tuesday, February 11th:  Book Mama Blog
Wednesday, February 12th:  A Chick Who Reads.
Thursday, February 13th:  Lesa’s Book Critiques
Friday, February 14th:  Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews
Monday, February 17th:  From the TBR Pile
Tuesday, February 18th:  Novel Reaction

Thursday, January 23, 2014

An Unexpected Gift

How nice to return from nearly a week in DC to find a present from my dear friend Karen Caswell!

The perfect thing for a book lover: a tote bag designed of famous first lines!   How many famous first lines do you know?  Try this quiz from Buzzfeed - it's hard: I only got 8 of 17!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The In-Between Hour (Book Review)

Publication Information: Mira, Trade Paperback, January 2014
Genre: Fiction
Plot: Two lonely people who have suffered great loss come together when handsome, bestselling author Will Shepard comes to North Carolina to see his ailing father, Jacob who has been kicked out of a nursing home.   A volunteer art therapist from the facility suggests Will and Jacob rent the guest house of her friend, Hannah Linden, so they can work out Jacob’s future.  Hannah, a vet, has lost her parents and her husband (who left her for a male graduate student) and her older son has been hospitalized for depression.  Will’s situation is even worse: his five year old recently died in a car crash but because Jacob’s memory is failing Will is caught pretending the child is on an extended vacation.  Inevitably, Will and Hannah become friends but where can this relationship go when Hannah believes things happen for a reason and Will simply can’t face anything that reminds him of his son - will these conflicting mindsets, not to mention a significant age difference, keep them apart?

What I liked:  The author does a wonderful job depicting even minor characters, such as the condescending director of Hawk’s Ridge Retirement Community.  While I found Hannah’s sons very tedious, I really liked her friend Poppy whose kindness to Will’s father sets everything in motion and whose flamboyant style lightens the darkness permeating the book.   Jacob’s intermittent dementia and love of his family is very familiar to anyone who has dealt with such situations.  The author’s love of nature shines through in this story and had me regretting that I was too busy studying when in graduate school at Duke to explore the state.

What I disliked:  The shifting point of view from various characters was distracting, although it provided insight into what they are thinking.   I did not care for the way Will calls his father ‘the old man’ all the time but one of the things Hannah and Poppy teach him is to be more respectful and to gain understanding of what his father when through with Will’s erratic mother. 

The Title: Another thirty minutes and darkness would fall, but right now the house and the cottage were suspended between day and night, caught in that moment when nothing was defined and everything seemed possible.  Galen had written several poems about the gloaming, and she often found herself out in the woods with her camera at this time.  The French called it the blue hour; photographers called it the golden hour; Hannah called it the in-between hour.  It spoke of endings and beginnings.  And today, it spoke of promise for a better tomorrow.
Source:  I received this book from TLC Book Tours and you can visit other stops on Barbara's tour listed below to get different perspectives.  TLC is providing a copy for me to give away (US only) so please leave a comment if you'd like it!  If there's more than one request, I will do a lottery.

Tuesday, December 31st: bookchickdi
Thursday, January 2nd: Bibliotica
Monday, January 6th: cupcake’s book cupboard
Tuesday, January 7th: Kritters Ramblings
Wednesday, January 8th: Tina’s Book Reviews
Thursday, January 9th: Chronicles …
Tuesday, January 14th: Becca Rowan
Wednesday, January 15th: From the TBR Pile
Friday, January 17th: Peeking Between the Pages
Friday, January 17th: Not in Jersey
Tuesday, January 21st: Sweet Tea and Lollipops
Wednesday, January 22nd: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews
Friday, January 24th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom
Monday, January 27th: As I turn the pages
Tuesday, January 28th: Book Journey
Wednesday, January 29th: Found Between the Covers
Thursday, January 30th: Good Girl Gone Redneck

Friday, January 3, 2014

Favorite Reads of 2013

In 2013, I read about 185 books of which two were rereads and 152 were from the library or otherwise borrowed.  I'd like to do better in 2014 reading books I already own, many of which are in piles on windowsills and on the floor, and thus need rescuing.
Top Picks
The Firebird                SusannaKearsley                     Fiction/Historical Fiction
(As many of you know, I have been an evangelist for Kearsley since I worked at Bantam in the early 90s.  I am delighted that Sourcebooks is publishing her in the US and doing so much to promote her work.  This book follows The Winter Sea, and also involves 18th century Jacobites, a weakness of mine)

Z: A Novel of Zelda     Therese Fowler           Historical Fiction
(historical fiction about Zelda Fitzgerald which will appeal to Great Gatsby fans - recommended for your book group)

Me Before You             Jojo Moyes                            Fiction
(I have been a fan of Moyes for several years and she had an extraordinary year with two memorable books - this one about a paraplegic and his aide, a very unlikely topic to appeal widely, but she convinced me - and the other listed below)

Double Down: Game Change 2012   Mark Halperin and John Heilemann  Nonfiction
(about the 2012 presidential election - nearly as unputdownable as Game Change)

Nantucket Blue                   Leila Howland                       YA
(a novel about the fallibility of best friends and of first love)

This Song Will Save Your Life              Leila Sales      YA
(a quirky heroine with unusual friends - this reminded me of early Sarah Dessen)

Eleanor & Park                      Rainbow Rowell                    YA Historical Fiction
(I was late to the lovefest for this book but loved it nonetheless - started it on audio and didn't want to get out of my car - looking forward to her other two books)
Runners Up
The Flight of Gemma Hardy*     Margot Livesey     Fiction
(a retelling of Jane Eyre)

The Girl You Left Behind  Jojo Moyes             Fiction/Historical Fiction
(a WWII secret is revisited by a young and troubled French widow)

Letters from Skye  Jessica Brockmole Historical Fiction
(An epistolary novel about two war wives set during WWII)

The Passing Bells     Phillip Rock      Historical Fiction
(for Downton Abbey fans)

Rules of Civility*  Amor Towles   Historical Fiction
(Gatsby-like fiction set in NY - but why no quotation marks?)

Instruments of Darkness*   Imogen Robertson          Historical Fiction/Mystery
(Jane Austen meets Sherlock Holmes or perhaps Charlotte Pitt)

The Professionals   Owen Laukkanen                     Suspense
(Four college friends can't get jobs so decide they will go into kidnapping as a source of income)

The Shadow Tracer  Meg Gardiner  Suspense
(heroine is on the run protecting her sister's child)

Talking to the Dead  Harry Bingham    Suspense
(Dark brooding female detectives are now the rage but this one is odder than most, yet still compelling)

The Girls’ Guide to Love and Supper Clubs    Dana Bate       Chick Lit
(the book may have been silly and heroine annoying but the food descriptions were great)

The Little Lady Agency   Hester Browne     Chick Lit
(a light-hearted read about a British detective agency)

Between Shades of Gray      Ruta Sepetys                  YA
(for fans of The Endless Steppe and The Diary of Anne Frank)

Another Place Another Spring   Adrienne Jones                     YA Historical Fiction
(for fans of my beloved Masha and of Russian historical fiction more lighthearted than Tolstoy)

Wonder       R.J. Palacio               Juvenile Fiction
(a heartbreaking story about a boy with a facial deformity attending school for the first time)
Favorite 2013 Authors
I had a hard time picking one title by these authors because I enjoyed so many of their books in 2013.  All mysteries, although I obviously read many genres.

Jane Casey (5)   St. Martin's publishes her in the US but I had to order the two most recent books from England for my sister who introduced me to this talented author and appealing heroine.

Michael Connelly (8)  Little Brown

Deborah Crombie (10.5)  Avon Morrow - and edited by my friend Carrie Feron who should have introduced me to this author years ago.
Picture Books
The Day the Crayons Quit       Drew Daywalt
(the crayons in this book have funny personalities)

Hoop Genius: How a DesperateTeacher and a Rowdy Gym Class Invented Basketball   John Coy

(I don't count the picture books in my yearly total but test market them on the next generation; both of these were also big hits with the nephews and nieces)

Longbourn    Jo Baker   Historical Fiction 
(I thought it was very clever but improbable; unconvincing)

* Read with my Radcliffe Book Group.   It is not really a coincidence that three books we read this year made my list: two I chose for the group myself and I had heard Livesey read a selection from this book so thought I would like it.  We also read Ender's Game which I surprised myself by enjoying.