Emily can’t remember the last time she left the house. Or spoke to anyone besides her grandmother, beloved children’s author Catriona Robinson. After Catriona’s death, Emily is at a complete loss . . . until she gets an unexpected letter from the woman she loved most.
Catriona has revealed there might be one last, lost unpublished manuscript in her wildly popular book series. And she’s left a secret diary and trail of clues that only Emily can follow. From London to Paris to Verona, Emily traces her grandmother’s past, finding out more about her family — and herself — than she ever imagined possible.
Emily’s life has been turned upside down and right side out to an extreme extent twice in her young life. The first time her life went sideways, so did the car she was riding in and it took both her parents’ lives and years for Emily to physically recover. The second time, Emily’s life went sideways, her beloved grandmother died after a long struggle with cancer. Alone, afraid, and rather helpless (or so she imagines), Emily has no idea what she’ll do for the next decades of her life, but she is certain it doesn’t involve leaving her house.
In the years since her accident, Emily’s grandmother has loved and cared for her, all while becoming one of the world’s most beloved children’s book authors. Emily’s grandmother was responsible for the words, but Emily has always been the illustrator. With half the dynamic duo now gone, Emily isn’t at all sure what she’ll do for money.
Good thing for Emily, her grandmother was clever, caring, compassionate, and generous. In secret during the months leading up to her death, Emily’s grandmother put into motion a plan that will not only break Emily out of her comfort zone but help her heal from both her past and present hurts. The plan involves a scavenger hunt which will take Emily on a long and cathartic road towards her future. With the help of a very old and trusted friend, Emily reluctantly sets out to discover what it is, exactly that her grandmother wanted her to learn.
Emily’s hunt is filled with hurt, anger, sadness, and even fond memories, all of which lead Emily from one step to the next. At each stop, Emily encounters a person close to her grandmother who has a package waiting for Emily. The packages are the clues as well as diary pages from her grandmother’s past. As any elder will tell you, the key to understanding the actions, thoughts, and feelings of the present is often rooted in the actions, thoughts, and feelings of the past. Each diary entry gives Emily an incredible insight into her grandmother’s world and life before Emily came to live with her. Emily discovers in the pages a free-spirited woman who loved fiercely, travelled widely, and gave it all up to raise her daughter and granddaughter, alone.
The Bottom Line: I found this book to be somewhat overwhelming in its sadness and – if I’m honest – despair. Emily has been allowed to live a secluded and isolate life for so many years, that once her grandmother dies, she has no idea how to fend for herself. Additionally, in order to receive her full inheritance, Emily must complete an emotionally challenging – to say the least – scavenger hunt that comes very close to breaking her, permanently. While I completely understand the purpose of Emily’s quest and her grandmother’s intentions, it didn’t make this book any easier to read. This is an emotionally challenging book that I can’t say I loved, but I did like. Of particular interest was the past (diary pages) blazing into the present to help Emily endure and better understand her grandmother and the monumental tasks ahead of her. I won’t go so far as to say, “Move this to the top of your TBR immediately!” but I will say give it a try, especially if you are a fan of big emotion books.
One glass of cheap California chardonnay cost Emory Gosser Martinez her husband, her job, and her best friend. Unfortunately, that was only the beginning of her troubles.
Distraught after discovering the betrayal by her husband and best friend, Tori, cupcake caterer Emory Martinez allows her temper to flare. Several people witness her very public altercation with her ex-friend. To make matters worse, Tori exacts her revenge by posting a fake photo of Emory in a compromising situation, which goes viral on social media. When Tori is found murdered, all signs point to Emory being the prime suspect.
With the police investigation focused on gathering evidence to convict her, Emory must prove her innocence while whipping up batches of cupcakes and buttercream. Delving into the past of her murdered ex-friend, she finds other people had reasons to want Tori dead, including Emory’s own husband. Can she find the killer, or will the clues sprinkled around the investigation point the police back to her?
The Bottom Line: OK, the brutal truth is this: I liked this book, but some issues need to be dealt with if I am going to continue reading this series. First and foremost is the constant dimwitted nature of Emory; it is an absolute wonder she made it to the end of the book without getting herself killed. Even a handful of characters comment on her oblivious nature and that needs to change if I’m going to take her seriously outside of the kitchen. Next, the writing needs to be tightened up to avoid repetition and the plot needs to be a bit more complex to keep readers truly interested and engaged. With all that being said, I still liked this book. As it stands, it isn’t a big thinker, but a nice little escape that kept me turning pages. I have to say, I was largely turning pages because of the descriptions of Emory’s tasty creations, the elderly woman she goes to work for, and her dog. In the long run, these aren’t going to be enough to keep a series moving forward successfully, but there are changes that can be made to ensure success. I see a great deal of potential here and have high hopes for changes in future installments of the series.
London is known for its bustle and intrigues, but the sedate English countryside can host—or hide—any number of secrets. Frances, the widowed Countess of Harleigh, needs a venue for her sister Lily’s imminent wedding, away from prying eyes. Risings, George Hazleton’s family estate in Hampshire, is a perfect choice, and soon Frances, her beloved George, and other guests have gathered to enjoy the usual country pursuits—shooting, horse riding, and romantic interludes in secluded gardens.
But the bucolic setting harbors a menace, and it’s not simply the arrival of Frances’s socially ambitious mother. Above and below stairs, mysterious accidents befall guests and staff alike. Before long, Frances suspects these “accidents” are deliberate, and fears that the intended victim is Lily’s fiancé, Leo. Frances’s mother is unimpressed by Lily’s groom-to-be and would much prefer that Lily find an aristocratic husband, just as Frances did. But now that Frances has found happiness with George—a man who loves her for much more than her dowry—she heartily approves of Lily’s choice. If she can just keep the couple safe from villains and meddling mamas.
As Frances and George search for the culprit among the assembled family, friends, and servants, more victims fall prey to the mayhem. Mishaps become full-blooded murder, and it seems that no one is safe. And unless Frances can quickly flush out the culprit, the peal of wedding bells may give way to another funeral toll. . . .
Since reading the first book in this series, I have become inordinately happy when I’ve come across the next book in the series on NetGalley. I have such a huge fondness for this series and the Countess of Harleigh.
The opening scenes of this book find the Countess of Harleigh reveling in her secret engagement to the dashing George Hazleton and fretting over the bombshell her sister, Lily has just dropped on her. To avoid scandal of the highest order, Lily’s wedding must be moved forward by a significant amount and their mother must never know the reason for the sudden change. With the Harleigh Estate on the market, it isn’t an option for the wedding and the Countess has no idea how to solve this problem. With his usual grace and kindness, George Hazleton comes to the rescue and offers his own family’s estate for the impending nuptials.
Risings is a beautiful and sprawling estate that offers a bit of everything for guests. There is hunting for the assembled me, riding for the men and women, and games aplenty for all in the evenings. With nothing but glad tidings and joyful events planned, the Countess and George are both looking forward to their time away from the city and sleuthing. Unfortunately, sleuthing is exactly what they are going to have to do as the “coincidental accidents” and one murder begin to pile up. Being so far removed from the city, both the Countess and George believe their culprit is most certainly among the assembled guests.
As the Countess and George begin to investigate, they do their best to keep the bride and groom out of the loop so as not to put a damper on their upcoming wedding. Yet again, Fate has other plans which makes it impossible to keep them out of the loop. As the situation becomes ever more critical, the Countess and George narrow down the suspects and find the culprit’s identity absolutely unbelievable. In fact, the culprit’s identity is so unbelievable that George is forced to reveal to the Countess bits about his past he wished and hoped to always protect her from.
The Bottom Line: I am just as enamored with this third book in the Countess of Harleigh Mystery Series as I was with the first two. The Countess, with her wit, intelligence, kindness, and cleverness is one of my favorite cozy mystery characters across the genre. The Countess is a woman ahead of her time and place, and one who refuses to be put in her place because of her gender. I absolutely adore the Countess and feel equally find of George Hazleton. Only a man such as George could partner the countess and see her as an equal and not a second-class citizen. The two together make a wonderful crime fighting team and they are most certainly supported by a lively and supportive cast of secondary characters. When you add in the setting and the interesting plot, this book has everything a cozy mystery lover is looking for. In all, a fine series that has a bright future.
Thirtysomething Page was content with her life in New York City—until it went to the dogs. Unceremoniously dumped by her boyfriend of four years and fired from her art gallery job in the same week, she flees to Washington, DC, and moves in with her big brother. She hopes the new setting and familial comfort will help her finally find her bearings. What Page finds instead is an unlikely refuge: a park for the neighborhood’s poshest pooches, and a quirky pack of companionable dog-run regulars who become fast friends.
Both four-legged and two-, these new allies offer Page a world of possibilities. The woman who hit rock bottom now has dreams: of having her own business, getting her own place, and even wilder ones about the ruggedly handsome owner of a vineyard and two equally fetching Bernese mountain dogs.
Unleashed from all that once held her back, Page finds everything might be falling into place. But just when she thinks her life is headed in the right direction, the road takes a sharp turn to show her just how unpredictable second chances can be. Will Page get her happily ever after? Is there even such a thing?
Sometimes in life, the worst things that happen to you are just the gateway to the good things that are waiting on you. Page was pretty sure her life in New York was just what she wanted, a long-term boyfriend, a job in a gallery she loved, and contentment. And then, it all fell apart in a single week. Her boss called her boring and her boyfriend dumped her. With no job, no boyfriend, and no home, Page has no choice but to seek refuge with her brother.
Washington DC is Page’s new home and while she loves spending time with her wildly successful brother, she has no idea how she is going to become equally successful in her own life. With no prospects for a job, let alone a career, Page begins to spend a portion of her days at the local dog park. It doesn’t take long for the regulars to figure out, Page is the only one in attendance with no dog, which, of course causes get speculation. Within a matter of just a few visits, Page has nicknames for all the owners a new friend in the form of a young, attractive man who is attached to a wealthy, older dog owner. Page immediately becomes friends with both men and suddenly her world in DC has opened significantly.
Over the next weeks, Page opens herself up to all sorts of new people, possibilities, and events. She is wowed by some of the people she meets, impressed by others, and baffled by more than a few. Throughout these experiences and events, Page begins to formulate an idea in the back of her mind, what would it be like to open and own her own gallery? Among her new friends, Page has met people who can help pave the way for her dreams, but it will take a load of hard work and effort.
As Page goes about aimlessly living her new life, she begins to notice changes in her brother and his life. His patterns seem to be disrupted, she’s certain he’s having an affair, and he just doesn’t seem his usual cheerful, happy go lucky self. Though he swears all is well, Page isn’t certain, but until he comes clean there’s nothing she can do but live her life and worry. Living her life is exactly what she does and along the way, Page discovers exactly what her path is all while helping her new friends and family alike. The path isn’t smooth, but it does lead Page to exactly where she was always meant to be.
The Bottom Line: This is yet another read whose Goodreads star rating baffles me. I found this book to be of full range of goodness from cover to cover. Though Page initially comes across as flighty and somewhat ditzy, she eventually comes around to the person she truly is, a kind, generous, caring person with a dream that takes all she is to come true. Ultimately, Page’s story is about how hard it is to be an adult. Life doesn’t always go as we plan and when we find ourselves adrift, we have to find a new plan and a new path. Page does that, but not without learning a great many valuable lessons about herself, life, and love. In all, I found this to be a quite good read and well worth the time and effort.
Marnie MacGraw and Patrick Delaney have been in love for a few years now, enough to realize that they are imperfectly perfect together. Still, there are somethings that maybe need a little attention. Marnie’s ebullient; he’s brooding. She thrives on change; he prefers stability. She sees marriage and parenthood in their future, but he can’t see beyond the shadow of an earlier tragedy.
Then an eight-year-old surprise from Patrick’s past shows up on their doorstep, cartwheeling into their lives and spinning things in all directions. While it’s not exactly the change she envisioned, it looks like instant family to Marnie. But Patrick, afraid of being hurt again, retreats further into himself. Suddenly, two very different pieces of a beautiful puzzle find it harder and harder to fit. How can Marnie trust in the magic of the universe when it seems to be doing its best to knock her off her feet?
The Bottom Line: From time to time, I come across a story that just makes me angry and this story certainly did just that. Outside of Marni, there isn’t an adult in this book who deserves the awesomeness known as Fritzie Peach Delaney, a wildly intelligent (probably too smart for her own good!) eight-year-old whose mother has dropped her into the hands of two strangers so she can run off for a year with her lover. Fritizie’s bio-dad, Patrick, had no idea of her existence until the moment she shows up in his living room and he has less than zero interest in her or her existence. Only Marni, Patrick’s long-suffering girlfriend has any real interest in Fritzie and her happiness. The entirety of this book is the story of Fritzie and how a young child has more sense, more love, more compassion, more care, and more intelligence than most of the adults in her life. I found Fritzie to be the hero of this read while the adults (outside of Marnie) were generally pathetic humans without the sense that God gave a goose. With that being said, I still liked this book because of Fritzie and Marnie. Between those two, the world seems to swivel back onto its axis as they right their own lives and knock some sense into the other adults in their respective lives. Fritzie is such a spectacular personality that even when she isn’t in a scene, her personality is still shining through and that brought me so much pleasure. It isn’t often that I am mad at so many characters yet still completely enjoy a book, but that is exactly what has happened here. I see this book as a challenge and find it one I can solidly recommend.
The Templars’ Chalice: French born and Oxford educated Ren Merit, who holds both British and American dual citizenship, heads a Singapore based team of misfit international treasure hunting geniuses (Seekers After Lost Treasures – SALT). He has a winning track record in the recovery of priceless art. A Papal assignment puts the team in mortal danger in a race across Europe’s breathtaking landscape as they discover, decode and follow arcane clues they hope will lead them to the Templar Chalice. Their mission and lives are threatened at every turn by ruthless agents hired by an unscrupulous German arms dealer determined to add the treasure to his secret art collection at any cost. An exotic beauty appears during the chase, evincing unsought passion for Ren. Two execution style murders in Rome related to an ancient document with Templar footprints, has the team all-in.
Juliette’s van Gogh: On the heels of the first SALT Adventure, The Templars’ Chalice, Ren Merit and his Singapore-based treasure-hunting team are back in France. This time, they’re searching for a Van Gogh painting that was hidden away for generations in a dusty attic in Arles.With suspects galore, the SALT team comes face to face with the underbelly of the art world and even brushes up against a dangerous Chinese gang in Paris. From Paris to Arles, and Amsterdam t and even in Ipoh, Malaysia, the SALT crew face frustration, dead ends, and dead bodies, and navigate new relationships that can sometimes seem just as frightening.
Please note: I have essentially the same thoughts regarding both books so it seems more efficient to offer a single dual review rather than two individual reviews.
As an Art Historian, I am always going to be drawn to books that have to do with art, art history, and the like. I have come across some truly phenomenal books in the genre, but, unfortunately, C.L. Decker’s The Templar’s Chalice and Juliette’s van Gogh are not among them.
Both of these books have a wonderful premise and should have been absolute page turners. Instead, I found two books – both of which I read cover to cover – that are amateurishly written, bogged down with more descriptions of food than the works of art, and characters that are underdeveloped and forgettable. While I understand these words are harsh, they are also honest. I wanted both of these books to be so much better than they are given their respective subjects. I wanted the characters in these books to be experts in their respective fields, to be forceful, knowledgeable, fierce, and unwavering in their mission. I wanted far more action, more focus on the history and backstory of the works of art, and less time spent devouring gourmet meals. What’s more, the random inner monologues related to two insta-love situations were completely distracting and have no real place in either story.
The Bottom Line: As many of you know, I don’t often post purely negative reviews, but I just can’t pull anything truly positive to say about these books. It would be my hearty and heartfelt recommendation to see both of these books go back to the drawing board. They both have a wonderful premise, but the execution falls short of the initial potential.
Bridget and Will have the kind of relationship that people envy: they’re loving, compatible, and completely devoted to each other. The fact that they’re strictly friends seems to get lost on nearly everyone; after all, they’re as good as married in (almost) every way. For three decades, they’ve nurtured their baby, the Forsyth Trio—a chamber group they created as students with their Juilliard classmate Gavin Glantz. In the intervening years, Gavin has gone on to become one of the classical music world’s reigning stars, while Bridget and Will have learned to embrace the warm reviews and smaller venues that accompany modest success.
Bridget has been dreaming of spending the summer at her well-worn Connecticut country home with her boyfriend Sterling. But her plans are upended when Sterling, dutifully following his ex-wife’s advice, breaks up with her over email and her twin twenty-somethings arrive unannounced, filling her empty nest with their big dogs, dirty laundry, and respective crises.
Bridget has problems of her own: her elderly father announces he’s getting married, and the Forsyth Trio is once again missing its violinist. She concocts a plan to host her dad’s wedding on her ramshackle property, while putting the Forsyth Trio back into the spotlight. But to catch the attention of the music world, she and Will place their bets on luring back Gavin, whom they’ve both avoided ever since their stormy parting.
“What kind of life path does one have to be on to end up with a flock of sheep you didn’t ask for?”
Bridget has given her life to her music and her group, the Forsyth Trio. Being the daughter of a world-renowned conductor has always been a bit a pressure, but her skills are excellent and her drive to work and be better has never been questioned. By her side from the very beginning is her best friend, Will, a man who is perfectly content with his life and doesn’t anticipate any changes in the near future. Will and Bridget are both perfectly content with the way things have always been and see no reason for things to change.
Oh, how Fate and the Universe like to laugh at such complacency. . . .
As she does every summer, Bridget packs her bags and looks to spend her time off in her Connecticut summer home. The house is ramshackle, at best, and falling apart at worst, but she loves her home and it will be made all the better once her boyfriend arrives. Unfortunately, Bridget’s boyfriend not only fails to show, but he breaks up with her just as her two grown children, both running from their own lives arrive to lick their wounds. WTH?? As if all this unexpected company and heartbreak weren’t enough, Bridget’s elderly father is up to something and it may turn the entire family on their respective heads.
Neither Bridget nor Will were looking for change but it seems to be coming for both. Confirmed bachelor Will comes to town to support Bridget and meets a woman who throws him for a loop. Bridget is completely thrown off by the presence and pain of her twins, her loss of her boyfriend, and her father’s shenanigans. To occupy herself and keep from worrying about all the little fires cropping up around her, Bridget decides to finally start working on sprucing up her summer home. With contractors afoot, sheep mowing the lawn, and people coming and going at all times of the day and night, Bridget isn’t sure she’s ready for so much change. At least she has the security of the Forsyth Trio and their upcoming fall tour dates.
Unfortunately, Bridget doesn’t have the Forsyth Trio and when she discovers this harsh truth, she about loses her mind and her friendship with Will. Rather than completely melting down, Bridget begins to look to the future in a way she never has before. When she unloads her thoughts and feelings on Will, it alters his life as well and in ways he never could have imagined. As she is dealing with her own issues, Bridget does her best to support her twins, their life choices, and her father and his life choices. It’s a wild summer and certainly nothing like Bridget expected but in the end, it is exactly what she needed.
The Bottom Line: Amy Poeppel has a wonderfully weird sense of humor that really speaks to my own weirdness. Musical Chairs really is a wonderful story that focuses on the changes no one ever expects to come to their lives. Nearly every character in this heartwarming and funny read has a huge life-altering summer that none saw coming. I liked the great sense of support that permeates this read from one moment to the next. Though everyone is thrown for a loop, they are still there for one another and willing to help in any way imaginable. This is a story of kindness, calamity, friendship, love, support, and change; it is a story that has loads of feels and I found myself absolutely enamored with every aspect of this book.
Lou Ann Hunter’s mother, Patricia, has always had a passionate nature, which explains why she’s been married and divorced five times and spooned enough male patients to be ousted from three elderly care facilities. She also has Alzheimer’s, which is why she wants to spend her remaining months or years surrounded by memories at her family’s decrepit old plantation in Louisiana with her only daughter.
Lou Ann, a.k.a. Lulu the Love Guru, has built an empire preaching sex, love, and relationship advice to the women of America—mostly by defying the example her mother has set for her. But with her mother suddenly in need of a fulltime caretaker, Lou Ann reluctantly agrees to step out of the spotlight and indulge her mother’s wishes, even if it means trading in her Louboutins and Chanel No. 5 for boots and mosquito repellant.
Upon arrival at Sutton Hall, Lou Ann discovers that very little functions at it should, least of all her mother’s mind. She is haunted not only by creaky floorboards and things that go bump in the night, but also by the living ghost sleeping downstairs. Every good day Patricia and Lou Ann have treasure hunting in the attic seems to be followed by two days of meltdowns and cold shoulders. And as Lou Ann adjusts to this new and inevitably temporary dynamic, she is forced to confront the fact that her mother’s fate is completely out of her hands—and the end may be coming quicker than she even thought possible.
**NOTE: Lest anyone think I am being sarcastic/insensitive/etc. throughout this review, please know, I lost my beloved grandmother to complications from Alzheimer’s Disease.**
Lou Ann Hunter has her hands full. She is the face/words/life behind Lulu the Love Guru, she travels the world supporting her brand, she is hands on as the head of her company, and she is constantly worried over her mother, Patricia, an Alzheimer’s patient living in a care facility. With a thousand things to do each day, Lulu doesn’t really have time for a bump in the road.
Then the phone call comes . . . .
Patricia still has a lot of moments of lucidity, but the other moments are the real problem. Patricia is on her third or fourth care facility and that facility is kicking her out. Apparently, Patricia and her passionate nature have gone one step too far and she’s being kicked to the curb and into the hands of her totally over-worked and under-prepared daughter, Lulu. Lulu has no idea how to properly care for her mother, but she does have a phone and considerable resources. First up, get her mother settled into her new room in Lulu’s elegant home. Second up, putting her upcoming tour dates on permanent hold. Third up, find an in-home nurse willing and capable of taking on Patricia. Fourth up and finally, try not to lose her mind.
It takes Lulu less than 24 hours to understand how out of her depth she really is and how desperately she needs help. As luck would have it, Lulu finds a young, capable nurse willing to pack her bags and move in with Lulu and Patricia. In Lulu’s mind, they will all muddle through in her luxury home, in Patricia’s mind, they will all pack their bags and move to her ancestral home, Sutton Hall, in Louisiana. It seems Lulu’s luck ran out finding the perfect nurse because within a week, the trio is packing their bags and heading to Louisiana.
If Lulu had ever tried to imagine her personal Hell, it would likely be Sutton Hall in Louisiana. From front to back, top to bottom, Sutton Hall is the very definition of a money pit. While Lulu sees nothing but dollar signs, her mother sees the place she has longed for and the place she intends to spend the remainder of her days. Ever the proactive being, Lulu sets about getting her mother comfortable and getting contractors and repairmen lined up to make Sutton Hall habitable. The task is a big one, but Lulu has made the decision to do whatever it takes to make her mother happy and whatever time she has left the best it can possibly be given her circumstances.
As the days pass by, Lulu, Patricia, and their trusty nurse fall into a routine that leaves Lulu exhausted and pulling further and further away from her company. She has determined to spend time with her mother and appreciate every second they have left together. Some days are wonderful with laughter, lucidity, and good times, while other days are filled with anger, hatred, and emotional upheavals. Those days, the really bad days remind Lulu of what she is losing and more importantly, what her mother is losing. Lulu cherishes her time with her mother even when she is being berated; the good times outweigh the bad and Lulu is stronger than even she knows.
The Bottom Line: I am absolutely dumbfounded by the Goodreads star rating for this book! Rachel Gibson has taken a topic, an illness that it utterly terrifying and humanized it in such a way that I was absolutely blown away. There are so many moments in this book that broke my heart, made me cry, and completely renewed my faith in humanity. There are moments that are laugh out loud funny, exhausting, tragic, ridiculous, and beautiful. That, dear reader, is the reality of Alzheimer’s and what it does to both the patient and the family. To say I loved this book is a weird thing, but I did, and I think it is because of my own family’s experience with this devastating illness. Gibson offers a story that is filled with compassion, sensitivity, sarcasm, humor, and love and I found it to be entirely engrossing.
around a single purpose: staying hidden. But when the unexpected threatens to unravel her tightly kept secrets, her will to remain alone falters.
Kate ran, planning to leave behind a shell of a life, giving herself strict rules to live by in order to keep the past hidden. But these rules have her trading one prison for another.
Then Kai sneaks into her life, shoving through her shields, getting her to break every one of her rules. An unexpected surprise threatens to unravel her secrets and strip away the control she fought so hard for. But she embraces it, diving into the unknown with Kai.
When her past catches up with her, she battles to keep those she has come to love protected, refusing to relent the strength she found within. But when stuck in a place she never wants to return to and with no chance of escape, she fears losing everything she’s allowed herself to cherish.