Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Finishing Touches - Hester Browne


Twenty-seven years ago, an infant turned up on the Academy's doorstep, with a note tacked to her blanket by an elegant golden brooch -- Please take care of my baby. I want her to grow up to be a proper lady. Loved by Lady Frances Phillimore and her kindhearted staff, Betsy grew up aspiring to be an Academy girl. But when Franny and her husband, Lord Phillimore, advise Betsy to instead hone her considerable math skills at college, she brokenheartedly leaves behind the only family she's known.

Now, on the sad occasion of Lady Frances's memorial service, Betsy comes back to find the school in disrepair, the enrollment down, and Lord P. desperate to save his legacy. Enter Betsy, the numbers genius, and her business plan -- to replace dusty protocol with the essentials girls need today: cell phone etiquette, eating sushi properly, handling credit cards, choosing the perfect little black dress, negotiating a pre-nup, and other lessons in independent living.

But Betsy may have bitten off more than she can chew. Can she win over the school's snobby headmistress and its handsome but risk-averse treasurer? Returning to London also means facing her own unfinished business, as she crosses paths with her sexy girlhood crush...and blowing the dust off clues to a lifelong mystery: who were her parents, and why did they abandon her? If knowledge is power, Betsy is on the brink of truly becoming her own woman, and embracing the one thing she's wanted all along: a place to call home.

Cole's Review:
When this book's opening pages was a funeral, I didn't hold too much hope for a good book.  Boy, was I wrong!!  This book is epitome of modern British chick-lit.

The beginning of Betsy's life was quite eventful.  Left on the doorstep of a highly popular London finishing school, Betsy is brought up by the owners and taken under the wing of their staff.  When it comes time Betsy to choose a university, her adopted parents push her to pursue that instead of attending the finishing school she was brought up in.

Flashing forward, we see Betsy attending the funeral of her adopted mom.  While she loves her adopted dad, you can palpably feel the love between Betsy and her mom.  Meanwhile, she quickly determines that the finishing school needs some serious updating - both in upkeep of their facility and the courses taught to their students, and that's is finally time to determine her biological origins.

With her best friend Liv and Liv's brother, Jamie - can they save the finishing school?  Will Betsy finally admit to her lifelong crush on Jamie and find love?  Her endearing goofy clumsiness will have you routing for her from start to finish!

Grade: A

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A Modern Witch - Debora Geary

Can you live 28 years without discovering you're a witch?

Lauren is downtown Chicago's youngest elite realtor. She's also a witch. She must be - the fetching spell for Witches' Chat isn't supposed to make mistakes. So says the woman who coded the spell, at least.

The tall, dark, and handsome guy sent to assess her is a witch too (and no, that doesn't end the way you might think). What he finds in Lauren will change lives, mess with a perfectly good career, and require lots of ice cream therapy.

Cole's Review:
I admit it.  I am a sucker for all things witchy.  This book sucked me in right away.  Lauren is a successful Chicago real estate agent, has an amazing best friend and a life she's content with. Unfortunately, Lauren is no good at keeping her kitchen stocked and while setting up a grocery delivery online she gets transported into a chatroom for witches.

Lauren has NO IDEA that she's a witch and when Jamie is sent to investigate, the journey really begins.  While Jamie, is quite the hottie - there aren't any sparks between him and Lauren.  No fear, this is chick-lit and Jamie, who has pre-cog abilities does have sparks with Lauren's best friend.

This book is filled with magic, family and a host of joyously fabulous characters.  While this is a book about Lauren, 4 year old Aervyn really stole the show.  I can't wait to read more about Jamie, Lauren, Aervyn, Nell, Moira, Aunt Jennie and everyone else.

Grade: A

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Always the Baker, Never the Bride - Sandra D. Bricker

Thirty-six-year-old Emma Rae Travis has been baking specialty cakes and melt-in-your-mouth pastries at The Backstreet Bakery in historic Roswell, just outside of Atlanta, for the last six years. But here’s the rub about her job as a baker … Emma is diabetic. When she tastes her creations, it can only be in the most minute portions. Emma is considered an artisan for the stunning crème brulee wedding cake that won her the Passionate Palette Award last year, but she’s never even had one full slice of it.

When Jackson Drake hears about this local baker who has won a prestigious award for her wedding cake artistry, he tells his assistant to be sure and include her in the pastry tastings scheduled at his new wedding destination hotel the following week. And for Jackson, that particular day has started out badly with two workmen trapped in a broken elevator and a delivery of several dozen 300-thread-count bed linens in the wrong size abandoned in the lobby. But when the arrogant baker he met a week prior in Roswell stumbles into the dining room with a platter of pastries and a bucketful of orders, he knows for certain: It’s going to be a really rotten day.

Can these two ill-suited players master the high-wire act and make a go of their new business venture? Or will they take each other crashing downward, without a net? And will the surprise wedding at The Tanglewood be theirs?

Cole's Review:
I found this book endearingly sweet (no pun intended). Emma Rae Travis is an award winning baker, who can't taste her own creations because she's diabetic.  How unfair is that?!  Jackson Drake has just bought the Tanglewood Inn for he and his sisters to bring back to its former glory with his eccentric and hysterical sisters decide that the Tanglewood should specialize in weddings.  What does every good wedding need?  A great cake!  With the help of her fabulously unique assistant, Fiona, Emma takes the Tanglewood and Jackson by storm.

The interaction between Emma, Jackson, Fiona, and all of their families to be realistic and fun to read.  It's a quick read for a rainy day.

This is your typical chick-lit.  However, it is a Christian novel as well, so there's more focus on character development and life's plan, but rest assured - the book never feels "preachy",

Grade: B

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Gift of Love - Lori Foster


Families come in many configurations, and every one is unique, made up of the personalities of each member. But the love that connects families is universal. Whether it is the love of parents for their children, the love between a husband and wife, the love between siblings, a love that transcends generations, or even the love for a family member never met, the family ties that bind us are the strongest and deepest emotional connections we experience. Families influence a person's development, how they treat others, and how they view life. In The Gift of Love, eight exceptional writers offer a variety of unique perspectives on what family love means and how it impacts our lives in ways profound and often surprising.


Cole's Review:

Can I tell you how much I loved this book?!?!  It was so good.  Really, my only regret is that some of the stories are so short.  Almost half of the eight vignettes would make fabulous full length books.

Because each story is so short, it's a little hard to give you plot points on all of them without giving away the entire story but I'll try.

For The Love of Wendy - The tale of Jack a widowed father, as he realizes that he loves Brianna - his daughter Wendy's caretaker.

Ava's Haven - Olivia made some mistakes in her youth.  Now she runs a shelter and runs into the man that broke her heart but could be the one to piece it back together.

Atticus Gets A Mommy - Keenan is quadriplegic who makes his way through life with the help of Atticus his rhesus monkey.  He loves Diana but believes she deserves a "whole" man - something he doesn't believe he is.

The Redemption of Brodie Grant - Brodie comes back to town to attend his sister's wedding to a man he loathes.  Instead he finds himself attracted to the groom's sister.

The Wolf Watcher's Diet - Ella gets in a car accident and finds herself getting grabbed by a man.  A "big dog" rushes in to save her but accidentally bites her.  It turns out that this big dog is actually a wolf; a man she teaches with, named Luke.

A Fairy Precious Love - Honeysuckle lost her wings to a fairy blight, and must find a way to exist without them.

Second Time Around - Serena is a high school teacher who has her childhood crush, Heath's son in her class.  Heath had a bright future he gave up to become a single dad, but still can't forget Serena. 

The only thing that kept me from giving this book an "A" was the aforementioned desire to see full length versions of some of these stories.  While these stories were great - they lacked some of the detail that I wanted.

Grade: B

Hope In A Jar - Beth Harbison


From the New York Times bestselling author of Shoe Addicts Anonymous and Secrets of a Shoe Addict comes a tale of old friends, new loves, and the undeniable power of a little face cream.

Twenty years ago, Allie Denty was the pretty one and her best friend, Olivia Pelham, was the smart one. Throughout high school, they were inseparable . . . until a vicious rumor about Olivia---a rumor too close to the truth---ended their friendship.

Now, on the eve of their twentieth high school reunion, Allie finds herself suddenly single, a little chubby, and feeling old. Olivia, successful beauty editor in New York, realizes she’s lonely, and that she’s finally ready to face her demons.

Sometimes hope lives in the future; sometimes it comes from the past; and sometimes, when every stupid thing goes wrong, it comes from a prettily packaged jar filled with scented cream and promises.

Beth Harbison has done it again. A hilarious and touching novel about friendship, Love’s Baby Soft perfume, Watermelon Lip Smackers, bad run-ins with Sun-In, and the healing power of “Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific.” Hope in a jar: We all need it.

Cole's Review:
This book was a quick read, and you just couldn't help but have flashbacks to your own high school experience - the pretty girls, the smart girls...and the MEAN girls.
Allie's reunion is coming quickly and she is falling apart.  In order to help her boyfriend build his career, she's forsaken her own in favor of temp jobs; she's not enjoying her body image and then she comes home to find her boyfriend in bed with someone else!!  Her ex-best friend Olivia has moved beyond her rough childhood and become a beauty editor in NYC - who has come to realize that she has nothing she wants out of life.
Allie and Olivia's mutual friend Noah convinces them both to come to their 20th high school reunion - and the hijinks really begin when they try and stop Noah from doing something that they believe would ruin his life.
Grab this book and enjoy the last few "beach" days of the year.
Grade: B 

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Kitchen House - Kathleen Grissom


Orphaned while onboard ship from Ireland, seven-year-old Lavinia arrives on the steps of a tobacco plantation where she is to live and work with the slaves of the kitchen house. Under the care of Belle, the master’s illegitimate daughter, Lavinia becomes deeply bonded to her adopted family, though she is set apart from them by her white skin.

Eventually, Lavinia is accepted into the world of the big house, where the master is absent and the mistress battles opium addiction. Lavinia finds herself perilously straddling two very different worlds. When she is forced to make a choice, loyalties are brought into question, dangerous truths are laid bare, and lives are put at risk.

The Kitchen House is a tragic story of page-turning suspense, exploring the meaning of family, where love and loyalty prevail.

Cole's Review:

This books uses the dual narration of Lavinia and Belle.  As Lavinia grows, you get to experience her change in point of view; her maturing before our eyes.  Belle, on the other hand, tells us the much darker reality of how their farm is run and the bad things happening around her.

I really enjoyed this book.  You are quickly drawn into these characters and those around them.  I felt for Lavinia as she realized that she wouln't be able to stay with her adoptive family of house and field workers, for Belle as she watched the man she loves love another woman, as they both struggle for "free papers" and what they should do if/when they get them.

I'll be honest...I haven't read a lot of books about slavery. If they were all this beautifully written- I'd read a lot more of them.
Grade: B

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

uncharted terriTORI, Tori Spelling


Welcome to Los Angeles, birthplace and residence of Tori Spelling.

It’s not every Hollywood starlet whose name greets you on a Virgin Airways flight into la-la land. But Tori Spelling has come to accept that her life is a spectacle. Her name is her brand, and business is booming. Too bad when your job is to be yourself, you can’t exactly take a break.

Having it all isn’t always easy—especially when you’re a perfectionist—but with the help of her unconventional family and friends, an underwear-clad spiritual cleansing or two, and faith in herself, she’s learning to find her happy ending. Because when you’re Tori Spelling, every day brings uncharted terriTORI.***


Sara's Review:

I enjoyed Tori's first two books, sTORI telling and Mommywood, so I was excited for this one to come out a few weeks ago. I was sixth on the waiting list at the library, so I was surprised to find out that it was already available just last week. I thought, "Those other ladies must have read it fast!". Um, now I know why. It's super short and if you've seen her show on Oxygen, then you've already seen about 75% of the book material. I found myself skimming large sections of it because I already knew what happened - I saw it months ago.

Overall, a disappointing read. I'd rather watch the show.

Grade: C