The Little Women Cookbook by Wini Moranville, based on the books by Louisa May Alcott

I am a huge fan of Louisa May Alcott and of the era in which she wrote her classic books, including Little Women. I also own a Bed and Breakfast so I’m always on the hunt for great recipes – new and old. This cookbook was a dream come true. So often books refer to the food the characters are enjoying and, yet, in older classics it can difficult to find a corresponding recipe. With The Little Women Cookbook, we get to enjoy the flavors of that time but with modern era ingredients and, of course, cooking appliances.

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I prepared multiple recipes from the book, from main dishes to desserts, and I haven’t found one yet that I didn’t love. Admittedly, this time of year my favorites included the Gingerbread and Apple Dumpling recipes, both of which were better than my own grandmother’s. If you like to cook/bake and adore cookbooks as much as I do, then this is a must-have addition to your kitchen. Bake up something wonderful and enjoy the new movie based on Alcott’s timeless classic, Little Women.

Thanks so much to the #QuartoGroup who keeps me on my toes in the kitchen and to #Edelweiss for my copy of this gem.

The Bride Test by Helen Hoang

Admittedly, I did not finish The Kiss Quotient but The Bride Test captured my attention for different reasons and once started, I could not put it down. It is one of the best romance, general fiction books that I’ve read in a while.

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Khai is on “the spectrum” and, while he loves his work, he has no interest in romance or marriage. His mother, however, is certain that he needs a woman in his life to make him more well-rounded and to keep him from becoming too isolated. Taking matters in her own hands, his mother finds a woman in Asia and brings her back for the summer. Esme is desperate for a different life and also wants to find her father who was in the military during the war and whom she never has met or known. Khai is furious but also amazed as Esme finds her own way in America and grows more independent.

To read this synopsis gives the impression that this is a typical romance story but it is far from typical. Esme and Khai are intriguing characters who show both depth and growth throughout the story. It is humorous, compelling and sweet but, most of all, it is a story of hope. Whether you read the first book or not, you will want to immerse yourself the lives of Esme and Khai.

@Edelweiss

Recent Reads, Rapid Reviews

As most of you know, I was off for several months due to illness and, although I couldn’t read, thought I wouldn’t read, I somehow managed TO read a lot of books. I’m also determined to do justice to those authors who sent me books to review. What this means is that I am quite behind with my reviews and I really hate to be behind at anything. Recently I read a post on the Bibliophile Book Club’s blog where she did a series of short but thorough reviews. Taking off on her idea, I will be doing the same until – if ever – I am caught up once more. Fingers crossed and thanks to the Bibliophile Book Club for such a great idea. Please be sure to check out their blog!

Recent and Rapid

MONTAUK by Nicola Harrison

By now I’m quite sure or hope that many of you have read Montauk, one of the best summer reads for 2019. It is, however, a engrossing tale that surpasses the usual summer fare making it a delight to read any time.  Set in the pre-WWII days of New York, it is the story of a woman who married “above her station” without fully comprehended all that would involve. When her husband tells that they are going to travel to Montauk for the summer, she assumes they will be there together. Sadly, she was mistaken and soon learns that not only is she alone, her husband is cheating on her with any woman who will allow it. Feeling displaced with the rich at the resort, she turns to the people who actually live in Montauk, the town, where she discovers friendship, grudging acceptance and more.

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I don’t usually read books set in the era as it is one of my least favorite times in American history. However, Montauk – the resort area – was actually envisioned and created by a developer from my home state. He built a resort here in Indiana and also developed Miami Beach, Florida. Naturally, my curiosity got the best of me. Montauk, the book, is more than just a romance or even historical fiction, it is a story of a woman trapped in the male dominated world of the early 20th century, a world full of lies, hypocrisy, misogyny and class wars. Her struggle becomes the struggle of all women from that era and one that many women today can relate to as well. The writing is brilliant, the characters come alive off of the pages and the story line is unforgettable. I highly recommend Montauk to any and all!

POLITE SOCIETY by Mahesh Rao

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Polite Society is a modern day re-telling of Emma, by Jane Austin set in India. Normally I’m not a fan of re-tellings because I like the original too much, with the possible exception of fairy tales and fables. However, because of the caste system or class structure in India, this particular version works well. The story is cleverly written with a lot of wit and charm. Sadly, for me, I didn’t enjoy Polite Society as much as I had hoped. I think there is too much feminist in me to think anything about this type of social construct is acceptable. I prefer to imagine that all of this died with the Victorian era even though my intellectual side knows differently.

THE WISDOM OF SALLY RED SHOES by Ruth Hogan

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I have been a fan of Ruth Hogan’s work since I read The Keeper of Lost Things which I loved. The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes was a quite a different story but Hogan’s flair and writing style remained constant. Two very different women come together in this story to create magic in this uplifting tale of wisdom, personal growth and grief. It touches on homelessness among women, the loss of a child, and the commonality that all women have with one another regardless of our social conditions. The characters are brilliantly written, so real you will feel as though you know them personally and the humor within keeps the story from becoming too heavy despite the subject matter. You will laugh, cry and fall in love these women and their story. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

NOTE: Many thanks to the authors, #Netgalley, #Edelweiss, #StMartinsPress, #CrookedLaneBooks for my copy of these books

Theme Music by T. Marie Vandelly

She didn’t run from her dark past. She moved in with it…

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Theme Music was one of the most hauntingly bizarre tales that I’ve read in a very long time. There is a paranormal element to it that adds to the horror aspect of the story but the story line itself is macabre enough to frighten off those with weak constitutions. Never-the-less, I couldn’t put this book down!

Dixie was the sole survivor of a family massacre that occurred when she was two. The official story is that her father murdered the family with an axe before slitting his own throat, leaving only Dixie alive in her high chair. Dixie, who was raised by her aunt and uncle, has grown up with the stigma that surrounded her family as a result; so when the house – THE house – is put on the market, Dixie decides to buy it and move in. Not only that, but she gathers all of the old furniture and belongings that have been in storage and creates the house as near to the original as possible. Talk about a bit “off,” or perhaps just slightly obsessed. Of course, once inside the house, all hell breaks loose for Dixie. The problem for the reader is that we never are clear if Dixie is as crazy as her father allegedly was or if there is more to the story that Dixie – or us – even suspect.

Admittedly the story was brilliant until the midway point and then I found myself hurriedly reading through to the end to find out what was going on with the characters – all of them. I think there could have been a bit more editing, especially toward the end of the story. However, even with that in mind, Theme Music is a terrific book, frightening, suspenseful and definitely horrifying.

Thanks to #Edelweiss, the author and #PenguinPublishingGroup #Dutton for my copy of this book.

The Islanders #MegMitchellMoore

The moment that I realized The Islanders was set on Block Island, I knew that I wanted to read it. Block Island is a magical place so different from other New England islands because of its history and its remoteness to the mainland. After reading The Islanders, I know I made the right choice. The book is brilliant.

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Three strangers come together over a summer spent on Block Island: Anthony, a writer whose first book was a huge success but who is struggling with his second attempt; Joy, who runs the popular cafe on the island who has had a long run of success but now is feeling pressure from a new arrival on the island and Lu, a former attorney now SAHM who is on the island while her surgeon husband flies back and forth to the mainland. As each of these three develop a friendship over the course of the summer, they begin to reveal the small secrets that they each are hiding from their families and, at times, from themselves. As the summer draws to a close, the three must decide how they will confront the secrets and changes in their lives that have transpired over the summer.

A riveting summer tale, Meg Mitchell Moore, has given us more than an ordinary “beach read,” she has delivered a story that touches on our own fears, joys and anxieties while also showing us the joy and closeness of friendship and, sometimes, intense romantic relationships. The characters are real, very human and their feelings are those that each of us has experienced so that the story itself is one that draws you in and keeps you hooked until the very last page. Regardless of whether you read it under the sparkling summer sun or by a winter’s fire, you will treasure Moore’s writing in The Islanders.

Layover by David Bell

Layover is the second book I’ve read by David Bell and both times I have been fully engrossed in the plot and the characters until halfway through the book. At that point, Bell loses me. For someone who reads as much as I do, I know that often there is a lull in the story line midway through, however, with Bell it generally revolves around the plot itself or the actual character. In Layover, the primary character “accidentally” meets a girl, a stranger, with whom he shares an instant connection and ultimately a kiss. She then tells him to forget he ever met it. Rather than going about his normal life, he pursues the woman and ends up in the middle of murder and mayhem. It was here that I lost interest. Following a woman through an airport is one thing. Following bread crumbs to her town, to her family in search of… what!? Who knows and then allowing oneself to become enveloped in their drama, including murder, is quite another thing entirely. I found it completely unbelievable. I finished it, barely, and would not have if it hadn’t been for review.

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The Poison Thread @laurapurcell

When I was a teenager I read Victorian gothic young adult books from sun up to sun down. I simply could not get enough of that genre. As I entered university, my tastes changed and I switched to more “grown up” British Literature but a part of me always yearned for the thrill of the gothic tale. Mary Shelley and Edgar Allen Poe are two of my favorite writers because of their dark, macabre imagination. It comes as no surprise, then, that I have fallen in love with Laura Purcell’s writing. Last year, The Silent Companions, took readers by a storm and now she has given us a new intriguing gothic noir tale, The Poison Thread.

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At first glance, this appeared to be an ordinary Victorian book about a young socialite, the daughter of a wealthy nobleman, with far too much time on her hands yet no interest in the usual coquetries of society. She was studying phrenology, a popular belief at the time that the skull could predict behavior and be re-shaped to alter such. Although we may sneer at this now, it was the precursor of modern behavioral science. As part of her “studies” and her desire for good works, also a very Victorian endeavor, she visits women in jail, listens to the woes of their crimes and examines their skulls. But one prisoner is unlike the rest: Ruth. This woman weaves a sinister tale about poison, and sewing and garments that can harm their owners. Is she mad? Does she belong is an institution or is she simply playing at being crazy in order to escape hanging? How can one know for sure.

Purcell alternates the chapters between the two women, the present and the past, and as she does so we, the reader, become as entwined into the threads of the story as the victims of Ruth’s garments became ensnared in hers. From the moment I began reading there was no stopping. I had to know how it ended and now, weeks after I finished, I cannot stop thinking about Ruth and her needles, her life and that of those around her. Purcell does an amazing job of bring to life Victorian England – the horrors, the poverty, the wretchedness of the poor, those in debt and, in contrast, those with money and their fineries. She also hints at the problems during this time between those who remained Catholic versus those who, of course, chose the Church of England. It was a strange and misguided time in England’s history – the age of coming knowledge combined with the ignorance of the darkness just left behind and Purcell does an commendable job of conveying all of that in The Poison Thread. This is gothic Victorian at its best and I highly recommend it for those who like this era, horror, magical realism, mystery and British literature. You will find all of that within this fabulous book.

Thank you to #Edelweiss, #LauraPurcell and @PenguinPub for my copy of #ThePoisonThread

The Last List of Judith Kratt @AndreaBobotis

Miss Judith has inherited all that the Kratt family had to offer: a pie safe, a copper clock and a murder no one talks about. 9781492678861_34d7d

Being born and raised in the southern part of the US, I came to love southern literature. It has a flow and charm to it, a rhythm that is unlike any other. When it is done well you can smell the gardenias and magnolias on every page and feel the grit from the dusty Delta roads. The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt is such a novel, one that envelops you and transports you to the hot, humid backroads of the deep south complete with its oppressive heat and family turmoil.

Miss Judith wants to make a list of all that she owns before it is her “time to go.” She doesn’t have much; in fact, she doesn’t have anything of value really except memories and stories and secrets. She would like to keep the worst of those secrets all the way to her grave but she knows that will be impossible when her sister returns home hell-bent on exposing all that she knows regardless of the cost to anyone around her.

The actual story itself is, for many of us, as old as the hills: a family that has grown apart due to a tragedy that had to be kept quiet, in this case a murder that was covered up decades before the story takes place. As Miss Judith tells her story, catalogues her belongings and her life, however, we realize that this is more than an ordinary tale, but rather one that is told beautifully, with eloquence and in a manner not unlike the great story-tellers of the past: Faulkner and Harper Lee, even a touch of Flannery O’Connor’s biting wit comes through in the tapestry that Bobotis has woven together.

Don’t be fooled, however. This is not just a piece of fiction, an historical account of Miss Judith’s life. There is a mystery here, deep and dark, that must be resolved for all those concerned. Regardless of your genre of choice, this is a book for everyone, a classic in the making.

Thank you to #Eidleweiss, @Sourcebooks and #AndreaBobotis for my copy of this amazing book on sale today at your favorite bookseller and Amazon.

Her Daughter’s Mother

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There was so much about this book that I wanted to like. The writing itself was interesting and had a nice rhythm and flow to it. Even the subject matter, IVF with a nefarious undertone, was something that peaked my interest. However, no matter how many times I picked up the book, I could not get into the actual characters. I certainly didn’t like Tyler, the absentee/misunderstood ex, or the egg donor/murder victim who was not at all what she seemed. Even the main character was too self-absorbed and scattered to hold my attention. She couldn’t even hold her own attention, so how could she keep mine? I know that others have seen strong women in this book. Sadly, that is not what I experienced.

#MurderousMonday on a Wednesday #TheScholar

Murder monday with textYes, I know. It really has been that kind of week here at Macsbooks. I’m not sure what the attraction to the Midwest is right now but there are a LOT of travelers visiting the fair state of Indiana. If you’re ever this way, please do stop by The Wisteria House. I truly thought I had these posts ready to go without me, but sadly, I’m just not that coordinated and on top of things. Luckily for my guests, I AM on top of clean rooms and delightful breakfasts :)Whew! 

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The Scholar by Dervla McTiernan is the second book in a series featuring DS Cormac Reilly. As usual, I had not read the first book (I have now) before beginning this one and did not once feel lost or confused.

DS Reilly has been assigned to cold cases until the night his girlfriend frantically calls him. She has found a young woman in the street, the victim of an apparent hit and run. The dead girl is carrying an ID of Carline Darcy, heir apparent to Darcy Therapeutics, Ireland’s most successful pharmaceutical company and the company for whom Reilly’s girlfriend, Emma, is conducting research on the first successful artificial kidney. Reilly is certain that Emma cannot be involved so he takes the case, but as it continues to unfold, doubts into Emma’s innocence start to rise, complicating their relationship and eroding his reputation at work.

The Scholar is a multi-layered mystery with heaps of suspense and fabulous, complex characters. McTiernan is a marvelous writer who capably molds her characters into realistic people that often remind us of those we see every day. Never does she cross the line into hyperbole or drive Reilly into a farce of what a DS should be. He is flawed, but not the typical drunk, broken, woe-is-me copper who has become the stand-by for far too many police novels. Instead, he has real flaws like we all do. He makes mistakes like we all do and that creates a character who is far more relatable to the reader.

This is not a “fast paced thriller” but rather a well-done suspenseful mystery and when I say “well-done” I mean superb. I highly recommend both The Scholar which is due for publication in the US in May and The Ruin, which you can find at your local bookstore or library.

Many thanks to #Edelweiss, @DervlaMcTiernan and @Penguinbooks for my copy of #TheScholar