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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good by Kathleen Flinn

Just to show you that I occasionally break out of my romance loving life... I recently read Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good by Kathleen Flinn. I had read both of Flynn's other books (The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry and The Kitchen Counter Cooking School) and enjoyed them both tremendously. When I saw this one, I was anxious to read it as well.


Here's the Summary:
A delicious memoir from the author of The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry
In this family history interwoven with recipes, Kathleen Flinn returns readers to the mix of food and memoir beloved by readers of her bestselling The Sharper Your
Knife, the Less You Cry. Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good explores the very beginnings of her love affair with food and its connection to home. It is the story of her midwestern childhood, its memorable home cooks, and the delicious recipes she grew up with. Flinn shares tales of her parents’ pizza parlor in San Francisco, where they sold Uncle Clarence’s popular oven-fried chicken, as well as recipes for the vats of chili made by her former army cook Grandpa Charles, fluffy Swedish pancakes from Grandma Inez, and cinnamon rolls for birthday breakfasts. Through these dishes, Flinn came to understand how meals can be memories, and how cooking can be a form of communication. Brimming with warmth and wit, this book is sure to appeal to Flinn’s many fans as well as readers of Marcus Samuelsson, Ruth Reichl, and Julie Powell


You might wonder just how many foodie memoirs a person has in them. I know there are authors who are able to keep churning them out, each with it's own spin and each as good as the last. Sadly, I didn't feel that this one was quite as strong as the previous two. I did enjoy it, and it's a fun quick read, but I didn't feel like the food related quite so much, and that possibly it was a stretch to try and center this one around food as well. As a family history that is not about food, it was pretty average, and not entirely memorable. For example, I read it last week and honestly can only tell you the barest of details. I didn't try any recipes and I can only remember what a couple of them were for, let alone why they were relevant. This seems a very negative review, and I didn't dislike the book at all, I just think perhaps I only liked it as much as I did because I had a history with the author's books. I would definitely recommend starting with the other two books before this one.


Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good was published on August 14th.

PS. I totally wrote this weeks ago and thought I published it. Imagine my surprise to find it still in my drafts!

 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Talk Sweetly to Me by Courtney Milan

Talk Sweetly to Me, the last installment of The Brothers Sinister series went up on NetGalley yesterday. I requested it and downloaded it before bedtime. Somehow, magically, the Bug and the Princess (who are we trying to kid here, Noah and Lauren) were both in bed asleep by 8:30. (Thank you back to school!) Instead of being productive and cleaning my house, or being a good friend and reading Outlander (sorry Trish!) I went right to bed and stayed up until I finished it. This sounds like a terrific feat of endurance (for me, I rarely stay up late) but sadly Talk Sweetly to Me is a mere novella. (I just wanted to throw in one more set of parenthesis here.)


So what is it about?

Nobody knows who Miss Rose Sweetly is, and she prefers it that way. She’s a shy, mathematically-minded shopkeeper’s daughter who dreams of the stars. Women like her only ever come to attention through scandal. She’ll take obscurity, thank you very much.

All of England knows who Stephen Shaughnessy is. He’s an infamous advice columnist and a known rake. When he moves into the house next door to Rose, she discovers that he’s also wickedly funny, devilishly flirtatious, and heart-stoppingly handsome. But when he takes an interest in her mathematical work, she realizes that Mr. Shaughnessy isn’t just a scandal waiting to happen. He’s waiting to happen to her…and if she’s not careful, she’ll give in to certain ruination.

All of the Milan books that I've read have some kind of social issue. I like this, it gives a depth to the books that most romances lack. The same is true of this one as well. I felt as though I really got the issue this time. Most of the Milan books I understand intellectually, but it seems that the issue may be a bit historic, something that is hard for me as a modern American to really grasp. Not so much this issue. (I am intentionally not telling you what it is, since the summary doesn't say.) My heart ached for Rose's dilemma. That said, in a novella of this length the issue kind of overshadowed the romance itself. I'd have liked to see more how they came to fall in love.

Like her other novels, the conversation hits it out of the park. This one is very mathematical. Rose is a math genius with a real passion for astronomy. I have no idea if Milan's facts are correct (I can't imagine they'd be wrong) but it's really fascinating to see how they developed a study of astronomy in that time period. Also, I really want to try out a slide rule now.

Stephen is possibly my favorite Milan hero. He KNOWS he's a modern day star. He's willing to play that persona when the situation warrants it, and Milan somehow manages to both play him straight AND poke fun at famous people. (Think Old Spice Man commercials.) Stephen is the first to be open about how he feels and he's somewhat hurt when Rose doesn't understand what he really means. Despite this, he comes to her aid when she needs it, even after she's walked away from him. I love love love that a man with Stephen's past (which you really have to read The Suffragette Scandal to see) is able to become what he is.

If anything, I'm mostly disappointed that we didn't get to see any of the characters from the other novels and I wish this had been a full length book.

Talk Sweetly to Me is on Amazon for $.99.

 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

It's In His Kiss by Jill Shalvis (Lucky Harbor #492)

Ok, not really #492, but it has to be close! I absolutely LOVED this one. Lucky Harbor is nice and consistent for me, but not usually knock my socks off. But this one? I wanted to turn around and read it twice.








Here's the summary:
ONE KISS CAN LAST FOREVERBecca Thorpe has uprooted her life and escaped to the beach. Now's her chance to get away from city living, throw caution to the ocean winds, and live in the moment. Especially if the moment includes the deliciously sexy surfer she meets shortly after arriving in Lucky Harbor. Something about the dark intensity of Sam's eyes and the thrill she gets at his touch convinces her to stay awhile.

Boatbuilder and investment genius Sam Brody is a self-made man who knows how dangerous it can be to mix business and pleasure. But he can't resist offering Becca a job just to hear her laugh and have her near. Yet when her brother comes to town asking for help, will he tempt her back to her glamorous life in the city? Or do Sam and little Lucky Harbor have a chance to win Becca's heart?




I don't know who writes these blurbs, but that entire second paragraph is only slightly vaguely sorta what the book is about. Investment genius? I think this comes up once. Maybe twice? It's not even a minor plot point. Self-made man? I suppose, if by this you mean "happily owns a business with his friends." He's successful but not filthy rich or anything. Glamorous life in the city? Huh? Her life is the city is never described as such. So anyway, all that aside...








Becca is smart and determined. She's had some bad things happen in her past due to inept parents and her clueless brother, and she's finally just done with all of it. She packs her things and moves away for a fresh start. She rents an apartment sight unseen and ends up across the alley from the charter boat company owned by Sam and his two best friends (hey! Guess who the next two books are about??) Becca is willing to take whatever job she can so that she can just stay put. She's has a musical background, but performing in front of people is right out. She's trying to write jingles but keeps getting the bum assignments (diapers, feminine products, etc.)  She's not at all afraid of putting herself out there, while at the same time is fairly emotionally subdued. She just doesn't have any experience with anyone loving her in an open, honest way. She's always been the caretaker, and not by choice.








Sam is the definition of alpha hero. He's big and sexy and instinctively protective. He had a difficult childhood, in and out of foster homes until he lands in Lucky Harbor as a teen. His deadbeat dad is trying to turn things around, and is suddenly present in Sam's life as well. Sam's passion is boat building, and while I've seen this done better in other series,  I liked that he did something creative to soften him a bit.








Sam and Becca fall into a casual relationship very quickly. The attraction between them is very hot and intense and the sexual tension is well done. This is actually one of the hotter Lucky Harbor books I've read (I think. I've been told they are all a bit hot, but I don't remember them being like this one!) I loved the honesty about their attraction, and the way they resist it when Becca ultimately comes to work for Sam. (Ok, Sam resists it. Becca outright says she wants to continue what they have started.) The romance itself is really well done here, and I could feel them falling in love.







Add this to the great banter between Sam, Tanner and Cole, and reappearances by other Lucky Harbor characters, and I truly loved this book. You don't have to worry about remembering the other characters, the only one who really has a role in the book is Lucille (of course), but it's nice to see some of them at the edge of the story. I happened to have the next one waiting on my Kindle when I finished this one, and I happily dove into it. I love it when favorite series really delivers.






Its in His Kiss will be published on August 26th.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Suffragette Scandal by Courtney Milan

I have a crush on Courtney Milan. I trust her like I trust no other author. The Suffragette Scandal has my number one least favorite, I will never choose this, plot line (lying about identity) and I not only read it but loved it.  Mistaken identity is fine. Lying about it, or hiding who you are intentionally* will always make me put the book down, but not for Milan. I took a deep breath and told myself I could trust her to handle this, and read on.


So here's the summary of The Suffragette Scandal:


An idealistic suffragette...
Miss Frederica "Free" Marshall has put her heart and soul into her newspaper, known for its outspoken support of women's rights. Naturally, her enemies are intent on destroying her business and silencing her for good. Free refuses to be at the end of her rope...but she needs more rope, and she needs it now.
...a jaded scoundrel...
Edward Clark's aristocratic family abandoned him to die in a war-torn land, so he survived the only way he could: by becoming a rogue and a first-class forger. When the same family that left him for dead vows to ruin Miss Marshall, he offers his help. So what if he has to lie to her? She's only a pawn to use in his revenge.
...and a scandal seven years in the making.
But the irrepressible Miss Marshall soon enchants Edward. By the time he realizes that his cynical heart is hers, it's too late. The only way to thwart her enemies is to reveal his scandalous past...and once the woman he loves realizes how much he's lied to her, he'll lose her forever.

We saw little bits of Free in the previous books, most especially in Oliver's and it was always clear that of the Milan heroines that Free would be the most outrageous. She is fierce and determined and does not back down from her cause. She is optimistic but also realistic. She knows that she alone isn't going to change the world, but she's not going to be the one to quit giving it her all. Even a tiny bit of change, a thimbleful, is better than none.  If Free has a vulnerability I did not see it.

Edward, on the other hand, is all vulnerability. He hides it from everyone, but he really can't trust anyone, including himself, for good reason.  Except for his childhood friends Stephen and Patrick, he hasn't ever had ANYONE he could trust. Every other person has always betrayed him, and he learned in war that he couldn't even trust himself. So when he finds himself falling in love with Free he yearns to trust her- and realizes that he can- but still can't trust himself. He is so sure that he will let her down and bring her to hate him too. My heart just ached for him, wanting love so badly.

I loved the interactions here. The dialogue is so smart, especially between Edward and Free. The scene where Edward and Stephen see each other again after years apart is near perfect. Each word is so perfectly chosen that I involuntarily smile reading it.  The tiniest of details really just turn the story from your average romance to something much better. Free watches Edward approach up the street and you can feel her anticipation. I'm sure this scene has been written in dozens of romances that I've read and yet this one has such a tingle of awareness to it that many authors don't achieve.

If I were going to recommend a historical romance novel to a non-romance reader, this is where I would start. I occasionally think that perhaps she goes a step too far in making her heroines think progressively. I wonder if it's realistic, but then I realize that SOME woman had to think and act that way at some point, and it might as well be the heroine of a romance. I've read quite a few great romances this year and this one will be at the top of the list. I absolutely can't wait to read Stephen's story.


*I know exactly why I hate this. My first boyfriend used to think it funny to put his friends on the phone and have them pretend to be him to trick me. 25 years later and I still hate to call people on their home line in case someone else answers and I can't tell.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Hexagon update #22-2014

No basting this week but I did sew together 8 flowers.

 

And then I laid out the 50 I have for a little looksee. What do you think?

 

 

Friday, August 08, 2014

July's running report

I can hear you asking, "hey Lisa, just how far did you run in July?" And since I know you are all just as obsessed with my running as I am, I'll tell you.

 

I ran 63 miles in July. This was over the course of 16 runs, with the longest run being 7.8 miles. I'm still much slower than I'd like to be and there were some incredibly tough runs, but there were also several great ones. I even ran on vacation!

Chances are excellent that I'll run much more than that in August.

 

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

The Texan's Little Secret by Barbara White Daille

The Texan's Little Secret is book 3 in the Texas Rodeo Baron's series of books. Each book in the series is written by a different author and Daille is a new to me author. After the rousing success of the first two books, my hopes were pretty high for this one, and sadly I was disappointed.

Here's the plot:
Coming home might be the worst decision Carly Baron has ever made. Each minute on her family's busy ranch is one minute closer to seeing him—her first love—the man who broke her heart seven years ago. While coming face-to-face with Luke Nobel again brings back painful memories, Carly quickly realizes there are other strong feelings just under the surface….

Luke would be a lot better off if Carly had stayed away. Being a single dad to an adorable two-year-old girl and managing the Roughneck is tough enough, but resisting the sparks that fly whenever he and Carly are together is near impossible. But first she must tell him her secret. The truth could heal their past…or forever destroy their chances of becoming a family.


First, what did I enjoy?  I liked being on the Baron ranch again, and .... that's about it.
And where did it go wrong? Clearly, all over the place. First, Carly is really really unlikable. When the summary says he "broke her heart" what it really should say is that Carly made unjust accusations and believed he broke her heart. Luke really didn't do anything wrong at all. Carly spends most of the book hating Luke for what he didn't even do. When she finally realizes she was wrong about that, he just accepts he apology, no big deal. When she finally confesses her pretty big secret (secret to him, not the reader) he just lets it roll off him. He doesn't do these things because he believes in her, or is in love with her, or understands her. He just doesn't seem to be emotionally invested.

For Luke himself, he's good on paper, but doesn't seem to have a lot of emotion beyond what he feels for his daughter. He is perfect at everything tho- worked hard to get where he is, is great at his job, has recovered from his wife's tragic death (way to go Harlequin, hitting all the cliches!), was the best bullrider ever and is a terrific dad.  He knows he can't be with Carly because obviously she does not want kids. Did he ask this? No. When they finally do realize their feelings, at ALL, not just revealing them, it takes place about 4 pages before the end of the book and there's still room for an epilogue. This is completely unsatisfying for a romance.

Now throw in a already turned two year old who acted like a much much younger baby, and honestly, there wasn't a lot to praise. I suspect Daille's own children (if she has any) are long grown, because a kid who is already two is WAY more mature than Rosie. My kids were more mature by their first birthday. My children had also long outgrown their bucket style car seats by age two.

Overall, a complete dud and while I will finish out the series, I won't seek out more books by Daille.

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