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Book Reports

    Book Report: Food Swap by Emily Pastor

    Food Swap is an Food Swapinteresting book that covers everything you would need to do to start your own food swap. While participating in or starting a food swap isn’t necessarily in my future, I definitely appreciated and could see the value in the way Emily Paster researched and explained how to find and join the local food swap movement if it’s in your area or how to create your own food swap if there isn’t one. I really enjoyed the ideas that were presented, especially the tips for ensuring that your swap is a success.

    Along with ideas of how to join or start a swap are ways to prepare and preserve a variety of foods for a swap. Safety is definitely taken into consideration and there’s also a great section on the laws regarding food swapping and how to make sure you’re in compliance with local health codes. I can really appreciate the sections on labeling, which delved into making sure your products are labeled well, so if someone has an allergy they won’t risk a reaction. The sections I was most interested in, were the sections that gave ideas and recipes for foods that would are easy to swap. While I don’t intend on actually making these for a food swap, I love to ship and share deliciousness with friends and family around the holidays. These recipes are ones that travel well, hold up decently, and they’re great for shipping out.

    Some of my favorite recipes include an interesting take on flavored salts that don’t take a lot of time to put together, but when placed in cute containers make great gifts for neighbors. Other goodies that caught my eye were matcha cupcakes with ginger frosting, chocolate truffles, buckeyes, and small baked pies. I think I’ll be sending boxes of those out this December.

    Food swaps aren’t for everyone and to start one takes real dedication. I enjoyed the recipes in Food Swap and if I was going to start a swap, this book would be the ideal roadmap to do so.

    four out of five

    Food Swap by Emily Paster is available for pre-order now and will be released on May 17th, 2016.

    Book Report: To Catch a Treat by Linda O. Johnston

    cover78455-mediumTo Catch a Treat is a cute cozy mystery, especially if you happen to be a dog owner. Honestly, it was the basset hound on the cover that convinced me to read this second book in the Barkery & Biscuits series. It was easy to pick up on the story line and become invested in the characters, even though I never read the first book.

    The main character, Carrie Kennersly, works as a tech in her town’s vet office and also is the (recent) owner of Barkery and Biscuits bake shop – a split bakery and shop that offers mouth watering options for those on two and four legs. Carrie comes across as independent, running her shops and balancing her part-time vet work, along with spoiling her own dog (Biscuit), and dating one of the town vets, Reed.

    At the beginning of To Catch a Treat, we find Carrie on a hike with her brother Neal, Reed, and the girl Neal recently started dating, a rather sad young woman named Janelle. We find that Janelle is one of the victims of a recent string of dog-nappings, following the suspected culprit, Ada Arnist, into town. When Janelle’s dog Goliath (Go for short) is dropped at the local shelter, Janelle finally confronts Ada. The celebration of recovering Go is short lived as Ada’s body washes up on shore the day after. With the police on the wrong path, Carrie is determined to help Janelle clear her name and locate the remaining dog-napped hounds.

    There are a few glaring issues in To Catch a Treat. The plot gets slow and Carrie is incredibly off-putting. Carrie describes the physical attributes of each woman she meets and believes that every man is flirting with her. For a woman who is suppose to be observant, Carrie comes across as incredibly shallow. Like a kiddie pool of depth. While it’s impressive that Carrie can juggle two shops and a separate part-time job, she stays so busy that the story gets repetitive – bakery from early morning till lunch time, maybe lunch at Cuppa-Joe, vet tech job where she drops Biscuit at the on-site doggy daycare, dinner with Reed. It made it easy to put the book down and pick it up later, but that’s not something I look for in a mystery. I want to be so drawn in that I can’t put the book down. Ending had a few twists and I’d read another book in the series, but I’d really like to see a bit more character development.

    3 out of 5

    You can purchase To Catch a Treat on Amazon.

    May Love List

    May Love List

    It’s officially hot out and time to update my makeup. Mostly so it doesn’t melt off by lunch. My May Love List is packed with makeup picks for Summer, a must read, the upgrade you need for your pool trips, and the TV show I can’t wait to watch! It’s been a minute since I used an e.l.f. product, but I love how they replicate designer makeup at much, much lower price points. I missed the memo on serum foundations, so when a friend recommended the Beautifully Bare Foundation Serum ($8) when I mentioned my love of BB creams and tinted moisturizer, I decided to give it a try. I love that there’s SPF 25, along with about a million vitamins in the serum. I wasn’t expecting a ton, but I’m now considering ordering a case of this foundation. It’s light, makes my skin look healthy-dewy, not Britney-Spears-I’m-a-Slave-4-U-coated-in-oil-dewy, and when I apply it with my new favorite brush ever, the Etude House My Beauty Tool Secret Brush 121 ($12), it looks flawless. After a light layer of powder, it stays put all day. My foundation now takes two minutes to apply and I love how it looks and feels (like it’s not even on).

    When I was ordering the foundation serum from e.l.f. it made more sense to hit the free shipping minimum, so I added a few things to my bag, including the Beautifully Bare Total Face Palette ($8). To my fellow pale ladies, this is your new contouring and blush bestie. I seriously cannot tell you how awesome this palette is. The contour has a grey cast instead of orange and it just works. A little Hanky Panky from ColourPop, swipe of mascara, and ColourPop’s new Matte X Lippie in Cami, then I’m out the door. It’s an easy natural look that takes ten minutes.

    I’ve been searching for affordable Turkish Bath Towels for years. They are perfect for pools/the beach and dry so much faster in sticky Georgia summers than regular towels. I finally found the right mix of quality and price in the Etsy store TurkishTowelArt. Also a requirement for the pool is Mary Kay Andrew’s The Weekenders, which will be out on May 17th. I’ll be posting a review closer to the release date, but trust me, you don’t want to miss this book!

    This is a weird one – I can’t wait for the second season of Scream! I love horror movies and I’m giving Scream a second shot. It was a little slow during the first season, but I think it might find it’s about to find it’s groove. The second season premiers on May 30st on MTV.

    Book Report: The Obsession by Nora Roberts

    Holy introductionThe Obsession Batman! If the first section of The Obsession doesn’t grab you and pull you in, then you might as well put down this bestseller by Nora Roberts. Naomi Bowes, who at almost 12 is both a little naive and very mature for her age, discovers a secret her father’s been keeping and it’s far from the bike she was hoping to receive for her birthday. Instead, on a hot and muggy night in West Virginia, just a short walk from her family’s home, she follows him to the woman he’s been holding captive in a hidden and locked root cellar. Helping the young woman, Ashley, to safety, Naomi discovers this isn’t the first woman her father has tortured, raped, and killed. Her young life changes in almost an instant, as do those of her brother Mason and her mother.

    The hold Naomi’s father has over the family doesn’t change when the family takes her mother’s maiden last name, Carson, nor when they move in with her uncles and hop from West Virginia to Washington D.C. to New York to further escape the press. In fact, Bowes has a hold on Naomi’s mom that’s both hard to understand and reads as one of the most disturbing bits of the entire book. Unable to let go and move on, the Bowes family has a shadow that follows them constantly. While the book gives a pretty good look at Naomi in the direct aftermath of her father’s capture and until she graduates high school, it then skips ten years and the reader is reintroduced to Naomi in her late twenties.

    Naomi as an adult is a surprisingly complex and rootless woman, living her life behind the lens of a camera, capturing the world, but never really becoming a part of it. That is, until she finds a gorgeous old house to bring back to like in Sunrise Cove, Washington. As she breathes life into the house, the town and the incredible community in it, allows her to plant roots and become one of them. A woman who had no wish other than to be alone, now has a house full of repairmen, a loyal dog, friends and she’s caught the eye of the town mechanic Xander, although he’s so much more than a one-dimensional love interest. He’s also complex, interesting, and surprisingly imperfect. We’re also reintroduced to Naomi’s brother, now Special Agent Mason Carson.

    With Naomi’s new life comes new complications. Still running from her past, she’s not looking to come clean to Xander and then the impossible happens. Women are being abducted from Sunrise Cove and their bodies are found bearing her father’s signature trademarks. Her father who is serving a life sentence in a prison across the country. Naomi must now go deep into her past to find the answers to ensure her and those she loves, have a future.

    I appreciate that Nora Roberts doesn’t offer up a love story with the traditional perfect characters and circumstance. She offers up flawed, but interesting characters and a story so far from normal that it’s hard to get caught up in the steamy moments. The Obsession will make you lose sleep. The sections about rape and murder will make you feel sick. Having the perspective of the killer in the later part of the book made me feel more than a little uneasy.

    By the end of the book, which was slightly more predictable than I would have liked, those questionable sections felt worth it. I was reminded multiple times of The Witness, another Roberts’ book, while reading The Obsession. It seems as thought there’s a formula to the characters and plots in her books. Women experiencing trauma early in life, living extremely independent as adults, falling in love and finally trusting a man who helps them heal, surviving an attempt on their life, then living happily ever after. I’m not knocking it, the circumstances are certainly creative in each book and The Obsession was a solid read.

    four out of five

    Book Report: The Useful Book by Sharon & David Bowers

    The Useful The Useful BookBook has a vintage design, but all of the advice is modern and incredibly, well, useful. I never had the option to take Home Ec or Shop in high school. Instead we were offered classes like Business Law and Theory of Knowledge. So, I left my formative years being able to explain what a tort is, but I having no idea of how to make a torte.

    While my Home Ec skills weren’t established in a classroom, I learned how to sew to make my wedding invitations and I love relaxing after a long day at work by cooking and baking. The basic skills I picked up mostly through trial and error. Ok, the sewing came from a class taught by a wonderful women who use to make costumes for movies. What I missed and still regret not learning though, are the basics of home maintenance. Like how to stop my sink from dripping or caulk a bathtub. Which is where The Useful Book comes in. Instead of cuing up a handful of Youtube videos and watching until I understand or trust one, it’s easier and faster to grab the book.

    The Useful Book should be handed out when you move out or get your first home. There’s even a helpful section that lists the basics for your pantry and fridge, along with a “Cooking Toolkit” that covers the basic pots, pans, power appliances, knives, utensils, and misc. equipment you need in your kitchen. It would be ideal to bring with you when registering for your wedding, just to make sure you get the essentials.

    If you’ve never boiled water or maybe you are a little more domestically blessed and just want to know how to get gum out of your rug, regardless The Useful Book is your nonjudgemental guide. It’s filled with over 200 life skills and in the few weeks I’ve had it, I’ve reached for the hefty tome multiple times. So while my Pinterest boards fill up with DIY projects that I may or may not get around to, I’m now confident I can take care of the basics of my home.

    four out of five

    The Useful Book by David and Sharon Bowers will be available May 3rd. You can click here to order it on Amazon.

    Book Report: Mastering Your Mean Girl by Melissa Ambrosini

    Melissa Ambrosini breathes freshMastering Your Mean Girl air into the self-help genre with Mastering Your Mean Girl. Aiming to inspire you to get past that sneaky voice in your head that’s telling you that you’re are not good enough, smart enough, or worthy enough to achieve any other life other than the one you’re living right now, Melissa goes after your inner mean girl. She offers up a process that helps you choose love over fear, to get to the life and achieve the goals you’ve always imagined. Pretty lofty claims right? Mastering Your Mean Girl is a journey to appreciating and loving yourself.

    Sounding much like a friend, Melissa encourages and guides you through each section, from finding your truth in your career to living healthy, providing mantras, along with exercises and tips on loving yourself and always choosing love over fear. This book is so packed with information that was almost overwhelming. It’s was easier for me to process this book in individual sections, ending with the exercises and putting it aside until the next day or the next time that I needed a little lift. I feel Mastering Your Mean Girl motivated and deeply inspired me, it really was a loving book.

    There’s a lot of information from Mastering Your Mean Girl on Melissa’s website. I recommend checking it out before buying the book, as it will give you a good glimpse of Melissa’s mind set. Melissa’s view might not be for you, but, this book really surprised me. I did an eye roll the first time I read the words “Fear Town”, but was taken back when her prescription of meditation worked. While I won’t be fitting in Melissa’s two 20-minute blocks into my schedule, I did download the Calm app. I’m half-way into the seven day intro program and 10 minutes a day of meditation has been great for relieving stress and refocusing after work.

    Melissa recycles ideas found through other thought leaders, such as Brené Brown, but she gives full credit and also links the ideas inspired by others into her own frame work. She also makes harder concepts really easy to understand and even easier to implement, while still adding her own twist. This is the type of book that you leave beside your bed or carry with you during a rough patch so you can find something that inspires and lifts you right when you need it. I can’t imagine not re-reading or referencing this book in the future.

    four out of five

    Book Report: The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

    The NestLeo Plumb, the golden boy, who at a young age achieved success with a publication that seems part Politico, part Newsweek, and part Gawker, only to sell it, becoming listless over a decade before the story begins. Bored and incredibly high at a wedding, he picks up a teenage waitress and in the midst of a handjob, wrecks his Porsche and with it, many lives. He leaves in his wake a young woman who must adjust to life without the use of both of her legs and his mother has to break her children’s trust to keep Leo out of the news and jail.

    The Nest, by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney, starts with the Plumb siblings realizing their trust fund is nearly depleted from the fallout of their eldest brother (Leo) doing his best impression of Charlie Sheen on a bender. With the date the fund is to be released, on the 40th birthday of the youngest, Melanie, fast approaching, the influx the siblings have been counting on to pay down debts and put children through college is now gone in the wind. Leo has the ability to replenish the fund, but instead seemingly chooses the promise of his own future over those of his brother and sisters.

    No one exactly remembers when the family began calling the modest trust started by their patriarch “The Nest”, but their late father never meant for it to hit two million. The intention was a modest mid-life boost, not a life changing payout. Unfortunately, Melanie needs the money to cover her ballooning mortgage and college for her twin daughters. Jack, the younger brother, needs his share to cover a line of credit he took out on his husband’s country home. Bea, a literary has-been and the oldest sister doesn’t exactly need the money, she just wants to publish her second book and get Leo back in her life. Read more

    Book Report: Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

    EligibleEligible can easily stand on its own, apart from being a modern adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and part of The Austin Project series, which matches modern authors with Jane Austin’s works.  Curtis Sittenfeld, best known for Prep, hilariously brings the Bennet family into the land of Kardashians and Botox. The plot remains the same, but the journey for Elizabeth (or Liz) and Fitzwilliam Darcy is entirely present day (erm, rather 2013).

    Even the Bennet sister’s choice of careers, or lack there of, take a modern twist. Jane is a yoga instructor lives in New York City along with her sister, the protagonist, Liz, who happens to be a writer for a women’s magazine, with a solid feminist stance. The middle sister, Mary, is living with her parents and working on (her third) master’s degree. The youngest two sisters (Kitty and Lydia) are carbon copies of each other, living under their parent’s roof, obsessed with CrossFit and lunching. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet (of Cincinnati) are living in denial about their dismal financial situation, not helped by Mrs. Bennet’s shopping addiction and Mr. Bennet’s lengthy uninsured hospital stay.
    The aforementioned hospital stay is what brings Jane and Liz back from New York, to their crumbling childhood home. While the more current take of the story provides us with less balls, and instead substitutes the grand affairs with cookouts and hosted dinners, the reader does have Mrs. Bennet’s constant fertility quips and efforts to marry off her daughters to remind them that the content the book is based on is anything but modern.

    Read more

    Book Report: Most Wanted by Lisa Scottoline

    What if you founMost Wantedd out you were carrying the baby of a serial killer?
    That’s the central question that carries the plot of Most Wanted, a disjointed mystery by Lisa Scottoline. When we first meet the protagonist Christine Nilsson, she’s two months pregnant after having tried for a baby for years. With summer vacation a few days off and with no plans to return at the beginning of the next school year, she is celebrating her pregnancy with the teachers and other staff at the elementary school where she works. Her husband Marcus even surprises her by showing up, even though he’s still getting comfortable with their decision to use a donor.

    While cleaning up after the party, Christine looks up at the TV and sees a young man being put into a cop car. A young man that looks exactly like their donor. He’s been arrested for the murders of three nurses. This pushes Christine and Marcus to find out if their unborn child’s biological father, Donor 3319, is a murderer.

    When her doctor and sperm bank refuse to give her an answer, Christine ignores the pleas of her (incredibly immature, without any redeeming qualities) husband and caution from her (sadly, one of the few likable characters) lawyer and heads to the jail where the serial killer is being held with her best friend in tow to find out the truth. Read more

    Book Report: The Murder of Mary Russell by Laurie R. King

    The Murder of Mary RussellThe Murder of Mary Russell is built on the Sir Conan Doyle original, The Adventure of the Gloria Scott. The reader quickly learns that the man saved from the shipwreck of the Gloria Scott by the name of Hudson was none other than the father of the iconic Mrs. Hudson. We’re also taken back to the time a young Clarissa Hudson spent her days as a petty criminal, long before she met Mr. Holmes, Dr. Watson, and Mary Russell.

    I believe there has been a huge gap in my mystery library, as The Murder of Mary Russell has been my introduction to King and her wonderful take on the world of all things Holmes, including his captivating equal, Mary Russell. Mary is so much more than Mrs. Sherlock Holmes, she is bright, wise, strong, and interesting enough, that it leaves me feeling zero doubt that the series is truly focused on her, not her more well known husband. In this particular book though, the story is truly that of Mrs. Hudson, her relatively secret past, and how it influences her (and those she loves) in the present.

    A knock on the door of the country farmhouse where the Holmeses reside is opened by Mary to a stranger, a Mr. Samuel Hudson. He wastes no time in forever changing the lives of Sherlock and Mrs. Hudson as he holds his gun to Mary’s head and throws around a most particular set of demands. Mary plays along, biding her time as she prepares mentally and physically to fight for her life. What the opening scene sets in motion is a wonderfully written set of events that jump around in both time and location. Read more

    Stilettos and Scoundrels: Excerpt & Interview with the Author


    I was recently offered the opportunity to interview Laina Turner, the author of the Presley Thurman mystery series. Laina recently released a re-edited version of the first book in the series, Stilettos and Scoundrels. Not only was the interview a ton of fun, but I can’t wait to dive into the book this weekend. Be sure to keep reading for an excerpt and a very special offer through Amazon.

    Stilettos and Scoundrels

    Presley tells her boss what he can do with her job in HR and embarks on a new career as a freelance journalist. What seems like a simple interview with a Senator turns to murder when the day after her interview the Senator turns up dead. Does the fact that Presley was one of the last people to see him alive make her a suspect? Her ex-boyfriend Cooper, who was in charge of the Senators security, might think so. Presley is determined to clear her name but can she do it and resist Cooper’s charms?


    Read more

    Book Report: Southern Spirits by Robert F. Moss

    Four Hundred Years of Drinking in the American South, with Recipes

    The South isn’t all sweet tea and enchanting drawls. It’s got a long and slightly complicated, but incredibly interesting history with alcohol. And thanks to Robert Moss, the history is one you can learn about while making the actual Southern spirit. This isn’t your Momma’s mint julep. It’s the actual history of the hard ones thrown back by our ancestors.

    Starting each section is a recipe and while I didn’t have the opportunity to partake myself, it would be perfect to create and sip on each cocktail while reading about it’s main ingredient. The purpose of Southern Spirits is to highlight what we drink and why (or in some cases, how it was made), the book gives such a great glimpse into the historical South, that both drinkers and those who abstain will both be intrigued and delighted. There’s no softening of the facts and Moss doesn’t hesitate to take on incorrect perceptions or knock a tall tale down to size. Read more

    Book Report: Keep Me Posted by Lisa Beazley

    Keep Me Posted

    Keep Me PostedAt the core of Keep Me Posted is the relationship between two sisters, Cassie and Sid Sunday. The Sunday sisters were close when they were younger, but time and two very different life paths have made them distant. One Christmas Eve the sisters make a promise to keep in touch through letters.

    Cassie is a stay-at-home mother to rambunctious toddler twin boys. She left behind her rewarding career as a magazine editor and spends her days taking the boys around New York City, existing, but not thriving in an 800 square foot apartment. Her relationship with her husband is a ghost of it’s former self. To cover, Cassie lives through social media, posting a curated life and judging a her success as a mom in likes. Her situation isn’t helped when her celebrity chef ex opens the restaurant of the moment down the street and his bacon brussels sprouts aren’t the only thing she’s indulging in.

    Sid also has a toddler and an 18 year old, from an unexpected teen pregnancy. She’s living in Singapore with her husband, who spends most of his time traveling. She’s looking for purpose. Instead, she finds something that will completely change her life. Read more

    Book Report: Crime and Poetry by Amanda Flower

    Crime and Poetry starts with a lie. The type of lie that gets the protagonist, Violet Waverly into her Mini Cooper and driving from Chicago, where she’s pursuing a doctorate in literature, to Cascade Springs, a small, but beautiful town near Niagara Falls. Cascade Springs, the town a young Violet was lost her own mom and then a handful of years later was blamed for her best friend’s death by the police chief, her boyfriend and then the whole town. Violet promised herself that she’d never come back, but a dozen years later, she finds herself standing in her grandmother’s bookstore, Charming Books, where the perfect book chooses you.

    Adorable, but strong Grandma Daisy needed Violet back home to tell her of her destiny, even if it took a whopper of a lie to get her there. Violet isn’t amused and intends on getting a shower, some sleep and then booking it back to Chicago. Unfortunately, the best laid plans and all. Violet wakes up to find Grandma Daisy’s man friend, Benedict, dead in the driveway with one of her grandmother’s scarves around his neck. With Grandma Daisy, her only living family member, as the main suspect, Violet feels that she must stay and find the real murderer. Read more

    April Love List

    Love List

    My Love List for April is my favorite so far: Target Straw Tote // Mizon AHA & BHA Daily Clean Toner // Alchemy by Jaime King for ColourPop Specifically Vanity Fair Super Shock Shadow & New Renaissance Contour Stick //  The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

    I’ve been a little obsessed with JADEtribe’s Tassel Pom Pom Beach Bags, but I’ve been a little less than willing to shell out $160 and they keep selling out. When I saw the Merona Straw Tote Bag from Target for only $35, I knew I had to order it. It has the same bright and fun feel for spring, except for about a fifth of the price.

    Mizon AHA & BHA Daily Clean Toner has become part of my morning and nightly routines. I use it after double cleansing and it helps balance the PH level of my skin before I use Curology (my prescription currently includes Tretinoin, Clindamycin, and Azelaic Acid) and/or serums. It’s allowed me to go to the next step(s) faster and while it could be any number of reasons, my pores are clearer.

    I was surprised when ColourPop released a special collection by Jaime King called Alchemy. King had the following to say about the collection: Read more

    Book Report: Change of Scene Novella by Mary Kay Andrews

    Greer Hennessy, a movie location scout, is about to experience quite a Change of Scene. In the hundred pages that make up this prequel to Mary Kay Andrews’  Beach Town (originally released in 2o15), we meet the protagonist Greer right as her career goes down in literal flames. If that wasn’t difficult enough, she also finds out her once C-List mother is working as a phone “intimacy counselor” and her endlessly sassy grandmother Dearie, is getting kicked out of her nursing home. We’re also introduced to CeeJay, Greer’s best friend and a successful makeup artist. And that’s just the first twenty pages. Read more

    Book Report: The Cracked Spine by Paige Shelton

    Delaney NicThe Cracked Spinehols is ready for a fresh start. One away from the life she knows in Kansas. When she’s let go from her job at a museum, she answers a curious job ad from The Cracked Spine (a small bookstore in Edinburgh, Scotland) and it’s mysterious owner Edwin MacAlister. With a taste for adventure and mysterious habit of “talking” to books, Delaney jumps at the opportunity of a lifetime to start anew.

    Landing in Edinburgh, she gets off the plane and happens to hop into Elias’s cab. He’s a father type- friendly and open. Elias drops Delaney off at The Cracked Spine. Immediately, she is welcomed and accepted by the others who work at the bookstore, Rosie, an older woman with a young spirit, who always has her adorable bundle of fur, Hector, near by and Hamlet, who true to his name is a theatrical young man with a rather shady past. Finally, she meets Edwin, the owner who promised her a dream job, where she would sit at the desk previously used by royalty. Edwin is seemingly intelligent, with an aristocratic air, opens up a hidden world of antique collectables to Delaney. A world that is full of secret societies, priceless treasures, and mysterious characters. Read more

    Book Report: The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson

    The Summer Before the WarAt it’s core, The Summer Before the War is a story about an intelligent and worldly young woman, who after losing her father (whom she accompanied on his many adventures) begins one of her own. Beatrice Nash, the previously mentioned young woman, arrives in Rye ready to teach her new young pupils Latin. Fiercely independent, Beatrice longs to become a published author and a scholar, to take after her father in ways that weren’t yet afforded to women in 1914.

    Miss Nash’s arrival is championed by Agatha Kent, whose husband holds a position in the Foreign Office. Agatha, the matriarch of the Kent family, is an amazing and deep character; a woman who is both strong and tender, who wishes only the best for the ones she loves, but who may sometime go after her own wishes for them over their own desires. She injects life into every situation; she’s the woman who owns the room, but somehow makes you feel confident. More than anything, Agatha loves and adores her nephews Hugh Grange (a surgeon in training) and Daniel Bookham (a poet). While I adored Beatrice and her quiet strength, Agatha is a character for the ages.

    Agatha risks her earned social standing to ensure Beatrice’s hiring. A woman as a Latin teacher, especially one so young and attractive, is seen as a huge risk. Luckily, the summer proceeds wonderfully for all, with beautiful weather and only a few speed bumps. It all changes when school starts and Belgian refugees begin arriving. World War I breaks out and wakes up the sleepy town of Rye, and with this awakening comes the realization of how petty the problems of the privileged, when faced with the cruelty of war. Read more

    Book Report: No One Knows by J.T. Ellison

    No One KnowsNo One Knows was almost an amazing thriller. Much like Gone Girl, the story is narrated by more than one person, none of whom emerge as completely trustworthy. The story is based around the disappearance of Josh Hamilton and the ripple effect it sets in motion. We come in five years of his last sighting, on the day Josh Hamilton is officially declared dead. There are more than a few possible suspects, with more added to the list as the story slowly emerges.

    Aubrey Hamilton breaks down her life into three segments; seven, seventeen and five. The seven years before she knew her husband Josh, the seventeen years they had a relationship, and finally, the five years he’s been missing. Aubrey receives a letter in the very beginning of the book from her mother-in-law Daisy, informing her that Josh has been declared dead by the state of Tennessee and that Daisy will be fighting for his life insurance payout. A teacher who works a second job in a coffee shop, Aubrey has had a very difficult five years filled with internalized blame and shame. She’s finally rebounding with a new man in her life, Chase, who is hiding more than a few secrets of his own.

    The night her husband disappears, both of the Hamiltons are attending bachelor and hen parties for mutual friends at Gaylord Opryland. Except Josh never makes it to the bachelor party. The Hamilton’s home is a crime scene, splattered with blood, and Aubrey is arrested and put on trial for her husband’s murder. She’s found innocent, but not by all. In particular, Josh’s mom, Daisy. Read more

    Book Report: Mother Knows Best by Karen MacInerney

    Margie is balancing a job as a private investigator, figuring out her marriage to a man who happens to like other men (preferably in drag), and her eldest daughter is insisting she be called Fifi, allowed to wear a decorated dog collar and eat only white-toned foods in a bowl on the floor. So, yeah, pretty run of the mill stuff.  Add in a visiting mother who believes in the healing power of an all seaweed diet and its you’re in for one crazy ride. And we haven’t even gotten to the part where Margie manages to accidentally frame her best friend for the murder of the local school headmaster. It doesn’t help he’s found in a very, very difficult to explain situation. Or that her boss Peaches called her to help move the body.

    Mother Knows Best has plot lines that are so ridiculous that they almost beg you to keep reading to find out what happens next.  From attending ridiculously uptight parent meetings at her daughter’s new school, to getting dragged into a strip club’s amateur night, a retreat meant to “straighten out” her husband (on his insistence, not hers), to drug deals gone wrong, and a pig named Bubba Sue, there is no end to the laughs, plot twists, or moments that you really connect to Margie.  This mystery is incredibly well developed, with a huge dose of humor mixed into the moments that are emotionally driven. This might be one of the best written comfy-cozy mysteries I’ve ever read. Read more