Everyday Tidbits...

Be Kind. Do Good. Love is a Verb.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Delicious! A Novel...Review

About the book:
Billie Breslin has traveled far from her California home to take a job at Delicious!, the most iconic food magazine in New York and, thus, the world. When the publication is summarily shut down, the colorful staff, who have become an extended family for Billie, must pick up their lives and move on. Not Billie, though. She is offered a new job: staying behind in the magazine's deserted downtown mansion offices to uphold the "Delicious Guarantee"-a public relations hotline for complaints and recipe inquiries-until further notice. What she doesn't know is that this boring, lonely job will be the portal to a life-changing discovery.

Delicious! carries the reader to the colorful world of downtown New York restaurateurs and artisanal purveyors, and from the lively food shop in Little Italy where Billie works on weekends to a hidden room in the magazine's library where she discovers the letters of Lulu Swan, a plucky twelve-year-old, who wrote to the legendary chef James Beard during World War II. Lulu's letters lead Billie to a deeper understanding of history (and the history of food), but most important, Lulu's courage in the face of loss inspires Billie to come to terms with her own issues-the panic attacks that occur every time she even thinks about cooking, the truth about the big sister she adored, and her ability to open her heart to love.

Billie Breslin ventures from Santa Barbara to New York and a job with a prestigious food magazine.  Drawn into this new and colorful world, Billie begins to shine.  When the magazine is shut down, she is asked to stay on and answer the phone to honor the "Delicious Guarantee", which is a full refund if a recipe fails.  She spends her days talking to odd people who make silly recipe adjustments, even as she spends her weekends in an Italian cheese shop.  When an intriguing mystery comes her way through the magazine's old and forgotten library and a charming series of letters written during World War 2 between a young girl and a famous chef, Billie has no clue that her life will change in a remarkable way.

I fell in love with these characters.   Every single one of them.

I was not familiar with Ruth Reichl, but I will certainly seek out her other books, because with a smooth and sinuous narrative, the language is beautifully lyrical.  I could smell Billie and Sal's meandering tour through Little Italy.  Mr. Complainer's visits to Fontanari's delighted me.  I devoured the library with its card catalogs and files of letters and recipes and Billie and Sammy's adventures there.  Lulu's correspondence with James Beard captivated me and I adored the resolution to that story.  Billie's letters to her sister were poignant and as Billie admits her secret burden, watching her transformation from a meek, drab creature who lived in her sister's shadow to a vibrant, beautiful and animated woman was delightful.

The story is well researched.  The historical aspect of World War 2 and the treatment of Italian Americans was fascinating and completely unfamiliar to me.  The past and present were woven together in a savory tapestry of flavors and like a blissful meal with friends, I did not want to see this story end.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Ruth Reichl here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 4/14

* * * * *
5/5 Stars

Monday, May 19, 2014

Marriage Isn't for You: It's for the One You Love... Review

About the book:
What is the best wedding advice you ever received? For author Seth Adam Smith, it was the advice from his father who said, Marriage is not for you. It is about the person you marry. These few words completely changed the way Seth looked at his relationship with his wife-to-be. Because at that moment he realized that an expression of love is not about the person expressing it. Rather, it is about the person they choose to be with. It is about making the person you marry feel loved.

Seth's blog post on the subject was viewed by more than twenty-seven million people, and he has been featured on several national TV programs including The Today Show. Now released as a hardcover book, these sage words make the perfect gift for newly married couples, those who have been around the block a few times, or anyone who wants to learn how to make their relationships stronger.

I remember seeing the original blog post as it floated around the internet.  Seth Adam Smith shared the advice that his father gave to him before his marriage.  He also, honestly shared an experience when he realized he wasn't following that advice and he realized his actions were affecting his marriage. I thought the post was insightful and I agreed with it.

Marriage isn't about self.  Marriage isn't about 50/50.  Marriage is about two people each giving 100% of themselves and focusing on loving the other person.  When spouses focus on each other's happiness, rather than their own, that's when you see a truly strong, happy marriage. I love the thought Seth expresses when he says, "Selfishness demands, 'What's in it for me? Love asks, 'What can I give?'"

Seth's blog post is now a lovely little book with photos and text.  It's short and easily read in one sitting.  I think it is a little book that could promote fantastic discussions.  It would also make a lovely gift.

I think that few marriages are idyllic, even when each person tries to focus on their spouse and certainly there are many, many marriages that are seriously one-sided in the showing love department.  The high divorce rate reveals the difficulty that marriage can be.  But, marriage is also a wonderful, beautiful thing and the joys can outweigh the struggles, especially when each spouse is asking themselves, "What can I give?" rather than "What's in it for me?"

Thanks to Shadow Mountain for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Seth Adam Smith here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 5/14

* * * * *
5/5

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Simple Faith...Review

About the book:
After losing her beloved husband and daughter and surviving Hitler’s Sobibor death camp, Quaker widow Anja Steinberg dedicates her life to helping others and keeping her son safe. As a member of the resistance, she helps displaced Allied airmen get back to their units in England. 

The journey is rigorous and filled with danger and there is no time for romance. Anja knows that Mikel, her fellow resistance worker, loves her. He would make a good husband and father for her son, but she doesn’t share his feelings. Is friendship enough? 

Then American Peter Trent parachutes into her life. She must face facts—her heart did not die with her late husband and true love could be hers again. But marrying Mikel may be the only way she can save Peter.

It's not often that I say, "Wow" to a new-to-me author.  But, "Wow".  I almost passed on reviewing this book and I am so grateful that I didn't.  I loved these characters.  I loved this novel.  I was drawn in at once to Anna and Peter's compelling story.

The historical research and attention to detail is excellent.  The characters well drawn and developed.  I cheered, I laughed and I held my breath as they moved through Germany and Spain trying to get Peter back to England.

There are so many facets to the war experience that, to this day, many of us are not aware of.  I knew that prisoners and those pilots shot down over enemy lines were often aided by the locals and smuggled out of Germany amidst great danger, but he first-hand look at this experience was fascinating.  So often we forget that the German people struggled as much as or more than the British or those other countries who were fighting as well.  Germany was the "enemy" and it's easy to forget that the German people as a whole, were also good people.  The work of the resistance was amazing.

A sequel to All God's Children, the story stands alone just fine.  I hadn't read the first one, not realizing this book was part of a series and while I believe reading a series in order makes for a richer reading experience, I did not feel like I was missing out or had walked into the middle of something and was lost.  I will, however, look for it at my library because I am curious about Beth and Josef's story.  I am looking forward to the third installment, Safe Haven.

Thanks to Dorothy at Pump Up Your Book! for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Anna Schmidt here.  You can purchase your own copy here.  You can see other reviews and tour stops here.

Read 4/14

* * * * *
5/5 Stars

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Who R U Really?...Preview

About the book:
Thea’s overprotective parents are driving her insane. They invade her privacy, ask too many questions, and restrict her online time so severely that Thea feels she has no life at all. When she discovers a new role-playing game online, Thea breaks the rules by staying up late to play. She’s living a double life: on one hand, the obedient daughter; on the other, a girl slipping deeper into darkness. In the world of the game, Thea falls under the spell of Kit, an older boy whose smarts and savvy can’t defeat his loneliness and near-suicidal despair. As Kit draws soft-hearted Thea into his drama, she creates a full plate of cover stories for her parents and then even her friends.

Soon, Thea is all alone in the dark world with Kit, who worries her more and more, but also seems to be the only person who really “gets” her. Is he frightening, the way he seems sometimes, or only terribly sad? Should Thea fear Kit, or pity him? And now, Kit wants to come out of the screen and bring Thea into his real-life world. As much as she suspects that this is wrong, Thea is powerless to resist Kit’s allure, and hurtles toward the same dark fate her parents feared most. Ripped from a real-life story of Internet stalking, Who R U Really? will excite you and scare you, as Thea’s life spins out of control.

About the author:
Margo Kelly loves to be scared…when she’s reading a good book, watching a good movie, or suffering from the hiccups. She loves writing thrillers for young adults and hopes her stories give you the goose bumps or the itchies or the desire to rethink everyday things.

Margo is a native of the Northwest and currently resides in Idaho. A veteran public speaker, Margo is now actively pursuing her love of writing. Who R U Really? is her debut novel and will be published by Merit Press September 2014. Margo welcomes opportunities to speak to youth groups, library groups, and book clubs.

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I don't do cover reveals or previews very often, but I make an exception today for Who R U Really?  Margo is a friend of mine and I had the opportunity to read an early draft of her novel and I am thrilled to announce that it will be published in September.  I haven't yet read the final version, and as soon as I do, you will see that review here.

For a chance to win an advance copy, head over to Margo's website.  She's giving away two!

You can learn more about Margo Kelly here.  You can pre-order your copy here.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

One Perfect Spring...Review

About the book:
Independent single mom Claire Summers is doing her best to make lemonade out of the lemons life has handed her. Workaholic Keith Watson is interested only in the bottom line--until a letter from Claire's eleven-year-old daughter reaches his desk and changes everything.

As the executive assistant to a philanthropic businessman, Keith is used to fielding requests for donations. But the girl isn't asking for money. She wants help finding the long-lost son of a neighbor. As Keith reluctantly digs into this assignment in his usual results-oriented style, he has no idea how involved he and Claire will become--nor how unusual the results will actually be. Who could have guessed that a child's kindhearted request would bring love and hope to so many lives . . . including his own?

Through compelling characters and surprising plot twists, fan favorite Irene Hannon offers this tenderhearted story that demonstrates how life is like lilacs--the biggest blooms come only after the harshest winters.

Haley Summers is a charming eleven-year-old who simply wants to help her neighbor.  She never could have imagined the events that would unfold after sending a letter to philanthropist David McMillan.  Having lost his wife to cancer and having realized that he lost many years with his daughter because of his workaholic ways, David is eager to answer Haley's request.  He tasks his executive assistant with the job of locating the adopted son.  Keith Watson is his own type of workaholic and begins this new assignment with significant resentment.  Meeting Haley and her mother, however, compels him to get to know them and he discovers that life hold a great deal of more joy than he ever imagined.

Irene Hannon never disappoints and once again she has given us a compelling story with terrific characters.  Her Christian elements are always strong, but not preachy.  Her stories are clean and captivating.  Her heroes are flawed, but strong.

Absolutely enjoyable.

Thanks to Lanette at Baker Publishing for the opportunity to review this book.  You can learn more about Irene Hannon here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 4/14

* * * *
4/5 Stars