Friday, December 16, 2022

Merry Christmas - and a Blogging Break

Hi all,

Thanks for being with me this year!  My sweet pup Daisy and I are going to take a break for a few weeks. I'll be back mid-January to blog again. In the meantime, wishing you a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and good things ahead in 2023!


(and Daisy too, of course!)

Book Review - All the Lost Places by Amanda Dykes

My Review

In 1907 Daniel Goodman is living in an abandoned rail car in California, trying to save his mother's home, when he has an opportunity to travel to Venice to translate a mysterious book. This novel, told in dual storylines, flashes back to the story of Sebastien Trovato in 1807 Venice.

I wanted to read this novel because the storyline involving a rare book and Italy in two time periods was appealing.  I also love historical fiction.

This is a beautiful novel with the quality of a fairy tale. The author has a real gift with descriptions that set the scene, like this description of Daniel's makeshift neighborhood:

When the city began to switch from railcars to cable cars, it became a graveyard of railcars too. It seemed fitting that I take up residence in this land of the obsolete. Not to mention, the rent was low— or free, rather. As good as a palace, and I wasn’t the only one to think so. Others had moved in too. An odd grid of makeshift streets formed; paint and curtains went up as windows glowed, vanquishing the air of abandonment. “The Sunset,” they started to call the neighborhood, and even in that there was truth. For we, the ragtag band of outcasts that had landed here, were gripping the tailcoats of fast-fleeing life" (eBook position 187).

This is an intricate, complex story, dense with characters and settings - not a fast read but a richly rewarding one. Daniel was an especially sympathetic character as he worked so hard to overcome his past.

I recommend All the Lost Places for fans of historical fiction, and especially for anyone interested in Venice.

Book Synopsis

When all of Venice is unmasked, one man’s identity remains a mystery . . .

When a baby is discovered floating in a basket along the quiet canals of Venice, a guild of artisans takes him in and raises him as a son, skilled in each of their trades. Although the boy, Sebastien Trovato, has wrestled with questions of his origins, it isn’t until a woman washes ashore on his lagoon island that answers begin to emerge. In hunting down his story, Sebastien must make a choice that could alter not just his own future, but also that of the beloved floating city.

Daniel Goodman is given a fresh start in life as the century turns. Hoping to redeem a past laden with regrets, he is sent on an assignment from California to Venice to procure and translate a rare book. There, he discovers a city of colliding hope and decay, much like his own life, and a mystery wrapped in the pages of that filigree-covered volume. With the help of Vittoria, a bookshop keeper, Daniel finds himself in a web of shadows, secrets, and discoveries carefully kept within the stones and canals of the ancient city . . . and in the mystery of the man whose story the book does not finish: Sebastien Trovato.




Author Bio

Amanda Dykes’s debut novel, Whose Waves These Are, is the winner of the prestigious 2020 Christy Award Book of the Year, a Booklist 2019 Top Ten Romance debut, and the winner of an INSPY Award. She’s also the author of Yours Is the Night and Set the Stars Alight, a 2021 Christy Award finalist.




Friday, December 9, 2022

Book Review - The Sweetheart Fix by Miranda Liasson

My Review

Juliet Montgomery works as a couples counselor in Blossom Glen, Indiana. She is excited about her work, but clients are put off by her own personal track record - which includes three (or two point five, according to Juliet!) messy public break ups.  When Juliet goes to appeal a parking ticket, she gets pulled in to help settle a dispute over a tree.  This all happens at Mayor Jack Monroe's office.  He offers Juliet a part-time job settling conflicts for the Mayor's office.  Juliet and Jack are as different as night and day, but sparks fly every time they are together.

I wanted to read this novel because I love small town settings, and this sounded like a cozy, enjoyable read.  I had not read Miranda Liasson before (my mistake -- now I have to catch up with her books!).  This is the second book in the Blossom Glen series but it reads as a standalone.  I have not read the first book and had no problem jumping in and enjoying this book.

Juliet is a great book protagonist - smart, sassy, and good hearted. She wants so much to overcome her past romantic foibles in the town's eyes.  Jack is an appealing book boyfriend, and the book comes alive every time they are in a scene together.

This was such an fun book. It is well written, with lively characters and a charming small town that is almost another character in the book.  I can easily see this novel as a Hallmark movie.  It would be perfect!

I recommend The Sweetheart Fix for fans of women's fiction, small town romance, and comforting, upbeat books -- perfect for a weekend read!

Book Synopsis

Juliet Montgomery absolutely loves her small town of Blossom Glen, Indiana, and everyone loves her. Except for the fact that she’s a couples counselor who suffered a very public breakup that no one can forget. And now her boss asks her to take a step back…which is exactly when the town’s good-lookin’ and unusually gruff mayor offers her an unexpected job.

Jack Monroe absolutely loves being the mayor of his small town. Except when he actually has to talk to people. Can’t he just fix the community problems in peace? Like right now, he’s mediating the silliest dispute two neighbors could possibly have. When the town sweetheart steps up and solves everyone’s problems in five minutes flat, Jack realizes what this town really needs…is a therapist.

Juliet is able to soothe anyone–other than the surly mayor, it seems. But there’s a reason they say opposites attract, because all of their verbal sparring leads to some serious attraction. Only, just like with fireworks, the view might appear beautiful–but she’s already had one public explosion that’s nearly ruined everything…how can she risk her heart again?

Each book in the Blossom Glen series is STANDALONE:
* The Sweetheart Deal
* The Sweetheart Fix

Author Bio

Miranda Liasson is a RWA Golden Heart winner and an Amazon bestselling author whose heartwarming and humorous small-town romances have won accolades such as the National Readers’ Choice Award and the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence and have been Harlequin Junkie and Night Owl Reviews Top Picks. She lives in the Midwest with her husband and three kids in a charming old neighborhood which is the inspiration for many of the homes in her books.

Friday, December 2, 2022

Book Review - The Sisters of Sea View by Julie Klassen

My Review

The Sisters of Sea View is the story of four sisters.  In 1819, the sisters find themselves in difficult financial straits after their father unexpectedly passed away. They settle with their mother, who also has weakened health, in their seaside residence and start to take in boarders.  Their lives are changed in the process.  There is Sarah, who organizes everything, and who is drawn to a handsome widower who is a single father. Emily is the creative sister.  Viola has a scar that makes her self conscious but finds some new perspective as she takes on a job reading to a wounded veteran.  And the youngest, Georgiana, is always looking for fun and an adventure.

I wanted to read this novel because the storyline sounded unique and appealing.  I had not read Julie Klassen before, although I love historical fiction and had heard very good things about her books.

This was a delightful read!  At first it seemed like the Sea View guest house would be a refuge for older invalids.  When it turned out to be a place that people of all ages (including handsome male guests!) visited, it became more interesting.

The story is beautifully told.  I love the way the author paints pictures with her words.  The descriptions are so vivid that I could visualize Sea View, the sisters, and their guests as I read.

The dialogue is charming and natural and has a Jane Austen quality.  (Huge compliment!)

I thoroughly enjoyed The Sisters of Sea View and recommend it highly to other fans of historical fiction. This is the first book in a series, and I will be looking forward to future reads On Devonshire Shores.

Book Synopsis

Some guests have come for a holiday, others for hidden reasons of their own . . .

When their father’s death leaves them impoverished, Sarah Summers and her genteel sisters fear they will be forced to sell the house and separate to earn livelihoods as governesses or companions. Determined to stay together, Sarah convinces them to open their seaside home to guests to make ends meet and provide for their ailing mother. Instead of the elderly invalids they expect to receive, however, they find themselves hosting eligible gentlemen. Sarah is soon torn between a growing attraction to a mysterious Scottish widower and duty to her family.

Viola Summers wears a veil to cover her scar. When forced to choose between helping in her family’s new guest house and earning money to hire a maid to do her share, she chooses the latter. She reluctantly agrees to read to some of Sidmouth’s many invalids, preferring the company of a few elders with failing eyesight to the fashionable guests staying in their home. But when her first client turns out to be a wounded officer in his thirties, Viola soon wishes she had chosen differently. Her new situation exposes her scars–both visible and those hidden deep within–and her cloistered heart will never be the same.

Join the Summers sisters on the Devonshire coast, where they discover the power of friendship, loyalty, love, and new beginnings.

Author Bio

Julie Klassen loves all things Jane—Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. Her books have sold over a million copies, and she is a three-time recipient of the Christy Award for Historical Romance. The Secret of Pembrooke Park was honored with the Minnesota Book Award for Genre Fiction. Julie has also won the Midwest Book Award and Christian Retailing’s BEST Award and has been a finalist in the RITA and Carol Awards. A graduate of the University of Illinois, Julie worked in publishing for sixteen years and now writes full time. She and her husband have two sons and live in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota.