The Obituary Society by Jessica L. Randall

519g7fxIzYLTitle: The Obituary Society

Author: Jessica L. Randall

Publisher: Amazon 2014

Genre: Mystery

Pages: 194

Rating: 5/5 stars

Reading Challenges: Read My Own Damn Books; Women Authors

When Lila Moore inherits her grandfather’s house, she finds herself in a small Midwestern town where margarine is never an acceptable substitution for butter, a coveted family recipe can serve as currency, and the friend who will take your darkest secrets to the grave will still never give you the secret to her prize-winning begonias.

Apparently, I’m huge into easy fluffy books while feeding the baby in the middle of the night. And I loved loved loved this one! I immediately fell into the town of Auburn, Nebraska and all the mysteries and characters. Lila is a great main character, but I was really pulled in by the ladies of the Obituary Society and Juniper. They seem like my kind of women. The mystery was intriguing and I even enjoyed the slightly supernatural elements to the story. They weren’t distracting like I had initially feared. Instead, they just added a bit more to the mystery and atmosphere of Auburn. The romance was sweet and satisfying. I know that the next book in the series has a different main character, but I’m hoping everyone else at least makes and appearance. Can’t wait to dive in tonight.

The Obituary Society

  • #1 The Obituary Society
  • #2 The Stranger’s Obituary
  • #3 The Obituary Society’s Last Stand

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Chocolate Dreams at the Gingerbread Cafe by Rebecca Raisin

51bZ2XAFXkLTitle: Chocolate Dreams at the Gingerbread Cafe (Gingerbread Cafe #2)

Author: Rebecca Raisin

Publisher: Carina 2014

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Pages: 94

Rating: 4/5 stars

Reading Challenges: Read My Own Damn Books; Women Authors

The Gingerbread Café is all a buzz! This Easter, Lily and the rest of the town of Ashford, Connecticut are planning a truly decadent Chocolate Festival. Cooking up a storm, CeeCee and Lily are not just baking a batch of their sinfully delicious chocolate-dipped gingerbread men, but an excess of chocolate truffles, squidgy, cinnamony hot cross buns and melt in your mouth chocolate eggs. The Gingerbread Café staff have definitely enjoyed the tasting process!

 

Another cute little fluffy short story to occupy my early morning newborn feedings. I liked diving back into life at the Gingerbread Cafe. And Charlie was a treat. My biggest issue with the story was the abrupt ending. It felt like the story just cut off mid chapter. So I knocked off a star. I imagine I will start the last story in the trilogy tonight.

Gingerbread Cafe

  • #1 Christmas at the Gingerbread Cafe
  • #2 Chocolate Dreams at the Gingerbread Cafe
  • #3 Christmas Wedding at the Gingerbread Cafe

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The Motel Room by Alyssa Cooper

51s9UNdv07LTitle: The Motel Room

Author: Alyssa Cooper

Publisher: 2014

Genre: Paranormal

Pages: 28

Rating: 3/5 stars

Reading Challenges: Read My Own Damn Books; Women Authors

Since his death, the ghost has been trapped in a motel room, watching the comings and goings of his nightly guests. The strangers never stay more than a night or two, and they never seem to notice him – no more than he notices them. Wrapped in fading memories of the time he was alive, he drifts through time, waiting for the return of the one person he can still see clearly.

But as time stretches out before him, his frustration begins to build, boiling over into violent anger. When a young couple dares to rent his room for the night, igniting his rage, the ghost finally discovers the true power behind his ghostly form.

A little short story I snagged for free off of Amazon. I didn’t quite know what to expect from the summary. The story could have gone the true horror route or the sentimental romance. Instead I must say that the story had a weird tone. I couldn’t quite figure out how to take the characters or storyline. I think there was some interesting plot points in there, but ultimately it wasn’t really for me.

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Circling the Sun by Paula McClain

9780345534187_custom-16549d50e9c82f945b3f8de3d84f5aa55778c9d0-s400-c85Title: Circling the Sun

Author: Paula McClain

Publisher: Ballantine Books 2015

Genre: Fiction

Pages: 366

Rating: 4/5 stars

Reading Challenges: Women Authors; 52 Books – W39

Brought to Kenya from England as a child and then abandoned by her mother, Beryl is raised by both her father and the native Kipsigis tribe who share his estate. Her unconventional upbringing transforms Beryl into a bold young woman with a fierce love of all things wild and an inherent understanding of nature’s delicate balance. But even the wild child must grow up, and when everything Beryl knows and trusts dissolves, she is catapulted into a string of disastrous relationships.

Beryl forges her own path as a horse trainer, and her uncommon style attracts the eye of the Happy Valley set, a decadent, bohemian community of European expats who also live and love by their own set of rules. But it’s the ruggedly charismatic Denys Finch Hatton who ultimately helps Beryl navigate the uncharted territory of her own heart. The intensity of their love reveals Beryl’s truest self and her fate: to fly.

Overall I really enjoyed this book. A found another historical figure that I did not know of before. I loved the overall storyline and characters. I enjoyed learning more about Kenya and the general atmosphere of Africa during the early 20th century. I could really feel Kenya in the book. Unfortunately, the book lost a star due to the writing and chapter transitions. I just wasn’t a super fan of how the jumps in time were handled.

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The Last Camellia by Sarah Jio

the-last-camellia-sarah-jioTitle: The Last Camellia

Author: Sarah Jio

Publisher: Plume 2013

Genre: Fiction

Pages: 306

Rating:  4/5 stars

Reading Challenges: Read My Own Damn Books; Popsugar – Murder Mystery; Women Authors

On the eve of the Second World War, the last surviving specimen of a camellia plant known as the Middlebury Pink lies secreted away on an English country estate. Flora, an amateur American botanist, is contracted by an international ring of flower thieves to infiltrate the household and acquire the coveted bloom. Her search is at once brightened by new love and threatened by her discovery of a series of ghastly crimes.

More than half a century later, garden designer Addison takes up residence at the manor, now owned by the family of her husband, Rex. The couple’s shared passion for mysteries is fueled by the enchanting camellia orchard and an old gardener’s notebook. Yet its pages hint at dark acts ingeniously concealed. If the danger that Flora once faced remains very much alive, will Addison share her fate?

Our book club selection for September and a book that’s been on my shelf for awhile. This was such a quick read for me. I think it took me a total of 3 days to read and I wasn’t spending that much time reading. I quickly fell into the story wanting to know what happened to Flora and what would happen to Addison. The back and forth between the two time periods worked just fine. I was intrigued by the botany and the big mystery of the camellia. I loved the side characters in the historical sections especially the children. I also love that the manor seemed to become another character in the story. With all these good things, there were a few elements that bugged me. I didn’t feel very connected to Addison at all. Her backstory bugged me. And I definitely didn’t really see the relationship between her and Rex. It just wasn’t that well developed. And the ending on Addison’s side was super rushed and weird. Not satisfying at all.

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More Than a Mistress by Mary Balogh

51wNFokrsdL._AC_UL320_SR194,320_Title: More Than a Mistress (Dudley #1)

Author: Mary Balogh

Publisher: Dell 2000

Genre: Historical Romance

Pages:403

Rating: 4/5 stars

Reading Challenges: Read My Own Damn Books; Women Authors

She races onto the green, desperate to stop a duel. In the melée, Jocelyn Dudley, Duke of Tresham, is shot. To his astonishment, Tresham finds himself hiring the servant as his nurse. Jane Ingleby is far too bold for her own good. Her blue eyes are the sort a man could drown in—were it not for her impudence. She questions his every move, breaches his secrets, touches his soul. When he offers to set her up in his London town house, love is the last thing on his mind.

Jane tries to pretend it’s strictly business, an arrangement she’s been forced to accept in order to conceal a dangerous secret. Surely there is nothing more perilous than being the lover of such a man. Yet as she gets past his devilish façade and sees the noble heart within, she knows the greatest jeopardy of all, a passion that drives her to risk everything on one perfect month with the improper gentleman who thinks that love is for fools.

Time to dive back into some fluffy romance. I picked up this book because I have all three books sitting in my TBR pile. I almost always read romance series books back-to-back. So on to the book itself. I was a bit turned off by the Duke at the beginning of the story, but he definitely grew on me. The best parts were the conversations between the Duke and Jane in the den. I loved those moments. The only thing I really didn’t like was the ending. I hate super abrupt endings and this book has one of those. Oh well, I can ignore the last three pages. I enjoyed the rest of the book. On to the second in the series…

Mistress (Dudley)

  • #1 More Than a Mistress
  • #2 No Man’s Mistress
  • #3 The Secret Mistress

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Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

18693763Title: Everything I Never Told You

Author: Celeste Ng

Publisher: Penguin 2014

Genre: Fiction

Pages: 297

Rating: 3/5 stars

Reading Challenges: Popsguar – Summer; Women Authors; 52 Books – W31

“Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.” So begins this exquisite novel about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee, and her parents are determined that she will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue. But when Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed, tumbling them into chaos. A profoundly moving story of family, secrets, and longing, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.

This was our book club selection for August and I have to say that I’m disappointed. I don’t think this is a bad book necessarily. I just didn’t really connect to the characters or like the plotline. It reminded me of The Virgin Suicides without the atmosphere. I wasn’t very excited about anything that happened. The emotional connection to the characters just fell flat for me. After so many recommendations and appearances on Best of Books lists, I was expecting something that would really hit home. But nope… Oh well.

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The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

download (1)Title: The Handmaid’s Tale

Author: Margaret Atwood

Publisher: 1985

Genre: Speculative Fiction

Pages: 325

Rating: 5/5 stars

Reading Challenges: Popsguar – Classic from 20th Century; What’s in a Name – Profession; Women Authors

Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are only valued if their ovaries are viable.

Offred can remember the days before, when she lived and made love with her husband Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now….

A reread for this month’s book club. I first read The Handmaid’s Tale way back in college for one of my women’s studies classes. I was blown away by the parallels to our current society. I love Atwood’s presentation of this tale that may or not be true. Offred is an intriguing character full of contradictions. I love that she is a flawed character. She could be anyone. We join her on a journey through the treacherous world of Gilead. I can’t wait to have a great book club discussion.

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The Glassblower of Murano by Marina Fiorato

51qznXgGnGL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Title: The Glassblower of Murano

Author: Marina Fiorato

Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin 2009

Genre: Historical Fiction

Pages: 348

Rating: 4/5 stars

Reading Challenges: Read My Own Damn Books; Women Authors; 52 Books – W28

Venice, 1681. Glassblowing is the lifeblood of the Republic, and Venetian mirrors are more precious than gold. Jealously guarded by the murderous Council of Ten, the glassblowers of Murano are virtually imprisoned on their island in the lagoon. But the greatest of the artists, Corradino Manin, sells his methods and his soul to the Sun King, Louis XIV of France, to protect his secret daughter. In the present day his descendant, Leonora Manin, leaves an unhappy life in London to begin a new one as a glassblower in Venice. As she finds new life and love in her adoptive city, her fate becomes inextricably linked with that of her ancestor and the treacherous secrets of his life begin to come to light.

Our book club selection for July. This particular book has been sitting on my shelves for awhile after picking it up for super cheap at Half Price Books. I’m not sure why I can bypassing it as I did enjoy this historical fiction. At first I was hesitant about switching from the past to the present and back. Often those transitions are clunky. Thankfully Fiorato weaves the two stories together in a way that had me intrigued. I learned a lot about glassblowing and Venice. As a character, I didn’t connect that well to Leonora, but I still wanted to read her story. Overall, a decent historical fiction novel.

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Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger

51sY84o7vxL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_Title: Etiquette and Espionage (The Finishing School #1)

Author: Gail Carriger

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company 2013

Genre: YA Paranormal

Pages: 307

Rating: 4/5 stars

Reading Challenges: Read My Own Damn Books; Women Authors

Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners–and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.
But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine’s, young ladies learn to finish…everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but the also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage–in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year’s education.

I picked this series up on the basis of my enjoyment of the Parasol Protectorate series. This particular series is set a few decades before that one. And I enjoyed this one also. I love how this series throws the reader right into the action. We are forced to figure out what is going on right along with Sophronia. The convention definitely works in this instance. While I like Sophronia, I think the side characters really make this series for me. I loved meeting all the professors and students. Plus, we get some intriuging scenes with Genevieve Lefoux. Love the connections to the Parasol Protectorate series. The writing isn’t quite as exciting as as the other series, but this is young adult. And I’m okay with it. I can’t wait to read the next volume.

The Finishing School
  • #1 Etiquette and Espionage
  • #2 Curtsies and Conspiracies
  • #3 Waistcoats and Weaponry
  • #4 Manners and Mutiny

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