The Cookbook Club by Beth Harbison

Hello Kittens! This month is going by so fast that it is giving me whiplash. I’m having a decent reading month, despite a lot of distractions, but I’ve been finding a lot of comfort in lighter, fluffy reads recently. I wanted to share one of the newer releases that I’ve enjoyed with you today. Beth Harbison is probably best known for her Shoe Addict book series, but this new standalone from her hit all of the right notes for me. It is sweet, it has some serious moments, and it talks about food. I think I can safely blame reading this book for some of my holiday binge-eating. Some of the food descriptions in this book are definitely going to get your mouth watering. Sorry, not sorry.

Title: The Cookbook Club

Author: Beth Harbison

The Cookbook Club: A Novel of Food and Friendship

Author website: https://www.bethharbison.com/

Publisher: William Morrow

Publish date: October 20, 2020

ISBN: 9780062958624

Buy the Book: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Bookshop.org

Summary:

We get the stories of three women who seemingly could not be living more different lives. Margo has spent the last few years working on her perfect life. She has a good husband and a beautiful house and generally wants for nothing. Unfortunately, digging a little deeper proves that Margo’s husband is selfish and doesn’t care about her very much and wants to leave her and her beautiful house is a social burden that isn’t bringing her any happiness. The only thing that does bring her happiness at this point is cooking. She has an impressive assortment of cookbooks, and as she begins her newly single life Margo joins 2 other women in a cookbook club: a book club dedicated to experimenting with recipes from various well-known cookbooks.

Aja is a young woman who is trying to become a better cook to impress her boyfriend. Her boyfriend comes from a wealthy family and definitely has some high expectations for her behavior. As she struggles to meet his expectations, and those of his family, she befriends the other women and learns about cooking, but also about herself. When her prince charming turns out to be charmless and she finds out her life is going to be irrevocably changed, Aja buckles down and gets a new job working for her ex-boyfriend’s mother. He is scandalized, but Aja knows that a good paying job is hard to come by and she’s not afraid of a little hard work.

Trista used a to a lawyer, but working in that highly competitive world for so many years wore her down. She decides to take a leap of faith and quit her job to fulfill her dream of owning and operating a restaurant. She finds a place and buys it, but it needs a lot of work and she’s got to come up with some creative ways to bring in more customers, otherwise she’ll be going broke sooner rather than later. Creating the cookbook club is her idea in an effort to come up with some new recipes for the restaurant.

As each woman deals with the messes in their lives, they come together to cook delicious food and form friendships with each other that get them through the hard times.

Why I liked it:

This book was a quick read with an agreeable cast of characters. Each woman has a major issue or two to deal with in their lives, and while they don’t all handle every situation with perfect grace, they are not portrayed as weak or in need of saving. I love when characters save themselves and get by with a little help from their friends. I also appreciated that while there are a few romances sprinkled around, none of them become the prime focus of the story. This story is foremost about the power of female friendship.

What I would like to change:

Everything wrapped up pretty quickly at the end and I would have liked a little more detail. Even after going back over it a few times, I still don’t entirely understand what happened with Margo’s husband, and there was some unresolved tension left over from his visit to the house to take his things. I feel like there was more set-up to that relationship falling apart and the ending felt half-hearted. It was like we knew that they weren’t going to have any sort of reconciliation, so their story just ended abruptly.

Disclaimer: I received an electronic galley of this title from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My library rating: I didn’t see anything objectionable in this one and I think it would be a great book club pick. It could even inspire people to start their own cookbook clubs.

lemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_icon5 glasses of lemonade= you could recommend this book to anyone.  There is nothing in here that is going to upset anyone and you could start handing it out on street corners. 

My personal preference rating: 3 stars. I enjoyed reading this book, but I don’t think the story or the characters are going to stick with me very long. It was a good palate-cleanser read.

Murder in Season by Jon Land and Jessica Fletcher

Hello Kittens! It’s November. There’s been an election and Thanksgiving is coming. I’ll just say this: it’s a crazy time to be alive. I’m doing well, but not reading as much right now…just too much chaos going on. Nonetheless, I had a few days off last week and was able to get to the newest release concerning my favorite female sleuth: Jessica Fletcher. My favorite thing about this newest book is that it returns to the Jessica Fletcher that most of us know and love while also pausing to poke a little fun at the phenomenon that is the exceptionally high murder rate in Cabot Cove. I appreciate that the author added modern touches to Jessica’s life and broke up a few of her routines in this book without straying too far from her overall character development.

Title: Murder, She Wrote: Murder in Season

Murder, She Wrote: Murder in Season

Author: Jon Land & Jessica Fletcher

Author website: https://www.jonlandbooks.com/

Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime

Publish date: November 24, 2020

ISBN: 9781984804365

Buy the Book: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Bookshop

Summary:

In this holiday installment to the series, the reader returns home with Jessica Fletcher after her months-long stay at Hill House. Having lost her home in a fire a few books back, Jessica is thrilled to be back home even if everything is not exactly as it was before. She is experiencing waves of nostalgia finally being back home after months spent living in a hotel. As she prepares for the holidays, and a visit from her nephew Grady, along with his wife and young son, Jessica finds herself embroiled in a new mystery. So what else is new?

When her home needs a few more updates in order to pass inspection, Jessica is just anxious to get all of the formalities over with. Unfortunately, fate has other plans. While digging on her property to install a new septic system, two bodies and a historical chest filled with long-lost documents are found. Suddenly, Jessica is thrust into investigating how the bodies got there, who they belong to, and why they were buried with a stash of historical documents.

Long-time readers will be glad to know that all of Cabot Cove’s favorite citizens make an appearance in this story. Dr. Seth Hazlitt is as ornery as ever and everyone’s favorite Sheriff Metzger is still wondering why he left New York City to move to the murder capital of Maine. We even get a few references to formed sheriff Amos Tupper and a visit from Private Detective Harry McGraw. All in all, this is a cozy installment in a long-running series that sees Jessica placed in less danger than the last few installments. This story feels more like the old-school Jessica Fletcher, lending a hand to a stalled investigation and letting life inspire her moments of investigative brilliance.

Why I liked it:
After a shaky installment in “The Murder of Twelve” which came out back in May, I didn’t go into this story expecting to love it. Land has only been writing the last couple of books in the series and I felt like the last one strayed too far from Jessica’s character. Thankfully, this book did not suffer from any of those issues. This is the Jessica that most of us know and love from the television series. She’s in the middle of the investigation because it literally starts in her lawn, but she’s not in overt danger.  There are pretty good red herrings, a mysterious recurring clue that isn’t as obvious as it first seems, and a supporting cast of characters who carry their own agendas well. Also, Harry McGraw was always one of my favorite side characters in the story, so I really loved seeing him play a crucial role in the development of this story.

What I would like to change:

There’s one part of this whole story that really bugs me. How is Jessica continuing to live in her house without a functioning septic system? At one point there are like 4 extra people staying there….so how is everyone dealing with that bathroom situation? It’s a little thing, but it did stick out to me.

Disclaimer: I received an electronic galley of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My library rating:

lemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_icon5 glasses of lemonade= you could recommend this book to anyone.  There is nothing in here that is going to upset anyone and you could start handing it out on street corners. 

My personal preference rating: I gave this title 4 stars. It was a really cozy read at a time when I really needed one.

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

Hello Kittens! It may have taken me over half the year, but I’ve found my personal contender for best book of the year. This book is sweet and has memorable characters and will make you laugh as well as cry. It is a story about accepting differences and really getting to know people for who they are and not just how we see them. This title released just as the pandemic was really beginning to hit hard in the U.S., but I’ve seen this book getting some buzz in the YouTube community. I really hope it doesn’t get lost in this year of weird happenings. I have been singing its praises since before I even finished it, and I even kept it a few extra days from the library since I knew it had holds and I wasn’t going to get it back for a while (the fines are going to be pretty decent).

Title: The House in the Cerulean Sea

The House in the Cerulean Sea

Author: TJ Klune

Author website:http://www.tjklunebooks.com/

Publisher: Tor

Publish date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 9781250217288

Buy the Book: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Bookshop

Summary:

Linus Baker does not live an extraordinary life. He gets up, gets ready, goes to work for several hours, comes home, feeds his cat, has an unpleasant conversation with his neighbor, listens to some records, then goes to bed. Each day is remarkably similar. He believes in the work he is doing for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth, inspecting orphanages to make sure that the children are being cared for as they should be. He has something of a reputation for his objective reports on his different cases. He takes his guidance from a large tome known as the RULES AND REGULATIONS, which he reads from daily.

Linus is very good at his job but never seeks promotion from it. So he is very surprised when one day he is summoned by Extremely Upper Management and given a top-secret assignment. It is so secret that they won’t even tell him any of the details until he reaches the location of the next orphanage. When he arrives, he opens the files regarding the children whom he is there to look into and faints dead away. This will be his most challenging assignment ever, and Linus isn’t at all sure he is the man for the job, or that Extremely Upper Management have provided him with the tools and information to succeed.

Linus will spend the next several weeks studying this orphanage, the children who live there, and the headmaster who is in charge of it all. He will make sure that the environment is safe and that the children are being cared for. He will do all of this to the standards set forth in the rule book. From the moment he steps on the campus, Linus discovers that these children are extremely challenging, the headmaster is extremely mysterious, and the environment is extremely secluded. He’ll encounter townspeople who are less than thrilled to have the children living nearby while dealing with cryptic and semi-threatening messages from the home office.

Why I liked it:

This book is utterly charming. Linus’ character development is well-paced and engaging. The children are all absolutely delightful, even when they’re being nightmares. The story deals with challenging all sorts of preconceived notions and prejudices. At its heart, it’s a story about morals and how we should strive to treat each other. Readers will delight in Linus’ development and the strides made by the children and townspeople. I laughed, cried, and was heartbroken at times. This was a 5 star read in every sense of the word.

What I would like to change:

I would like a sequel please. I’m not ready to leave these characters behind yet.

Disclaimer: No disclaimer needed. I checked this book out from my library.

My library rating: This was a really tough rating to give out. I want to recommend this book to everyone because it is beautiful, but I know that some people will object to a male/male romance, even if it is relatively chaste. That being said, I think some people might be able to look past that on this one because of the writing, and others will be thrilled to see queer representation (a directly stated goal of the author, who self-identifies as queer). While there is a romance, it is in no way steamy. If there is such a genre as a Cozy Literary Fantasy, this would fall squarely within it.

lemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_icon4 glasses of lemonade= a book you could recommend to a book group or anybody who reads.  You might find controversial subject matter, but it is handled delicately.

My personal preference rating: I gave this title 5 stars. It is my absolute favorite read of the year so far.

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

Hello Kittens! I just finished reading a really awesome book and couldn’t wait to tell you all about it. I was actually slated to read Christopher Paolini’s new release, To Sleep in a Sea of Stars, as well this week, but I got so invested in this book that I decided to table the Paolini book until I was done. It really surprised me because the Paolini book is one of my most anticipated releases for the year. This book is a little bit of an underdog in that I haven’t heard a lot of people talking about it yet, but I feel certain that we’ll be hearing more about it soon. I loved the writing and the storyline and hope that some network sees fit to adapt this into a tv series or movie at some point in the future. Also, check out that amazing cover!

Legendborn (Legendborn, #1)

Title: Legendborn

Author: Tracy Deonn

Author website: https://tracydeonn.com/legendborn

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (imprint of Simon & Schuster Children)

Publish date: September 15, 2020

ISBN: 9781534441606

Buy the Book: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Bookshop

Summary:

Brianna Matthews is a young woman who gets accepted to a special program on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill for high school kids to get a taste of the college experience. She embarks on this new experience as she is freshly grieving the death of her mother, a woman who was not happy that Bree was choosing this particular adventure. Bree’s last moments with her mother were a fight about her acceptance into the UNC program and her desire to spend her summer on the campus. Now, that fight fills Bree with remorse and she is struggling to deal with her guilt about it while also embracing the freedom from constant memories and condolences that living on campus is giving her.

From almost her first night on campus however, strange things are happening around Bree. The longer Bree is at UNC, the more she sees things that most others don’t seem to see and when she meets a group of students who also seem to be aware that strange things are happening, she is drawn into centuries old traditions and secret societies.

This is Deonn’s first published novel (she has contributed to other works) and it takes a contemporary look at the legend of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. It takes the story the reader knows and adds a healthy dose of Black girl magic, both literally and figuratively. Bree is a feisty character who is struggling to come to terms with her grief and her abilities in a world where it’s not always clear who she can trust. With the help of a friend from back home and some tough-as-nails ancestors, Bree will confront her destiny and help change the world. This book is the first in a continuing series, so don’t expect to have everything wrapped up perfectly in the end, but this book is an incredibly satisfying contemporary YA fantasy that is filled with multiple magic systems and a lot of wit.

Why I liked it:

The writing in this book is phenomenal. I highlighted so many quotes and passages on my Kindle. The author’s explanations of how Bree is dealing with her grief are incredibly poignant, and I appreciated that she allows the character to express the frustration and exhaustion that deals with managing other people’s feelings when you are dealing with grief.

I loved that there was more than one magic system at play here and I really appreciated the Author’s Note at the end that explained the origin of one of those systems. I also know from experience that the descriptions of UNC’s campus are spot-on. Deonn really conveys a great sense of setting without getting bogged down in those descriptions.

What I would like to change:

I felt like things get a little muddled towards the very end of the book. I was missing a little bit in the way of explanations after the big battle. I also felt that there was a portion of the book at the end that dealt with a possession where the spirit of the person was weaved in and out of the narrative at will. That felt a little at odds with how the procedure was initially described by the person who was possessed. It just seemed like a convenience for the narrative that needed a little more development.

Disclaimer: I received an electronic galley of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My library rating: While there are instances of racism and hints of violence both on and off the page, I think the book is so well-written that anyone over the age of 13 should be able to read it without significant issues. The book addresses issues with race both past and present but gives us a character who responds to both with grace and realistic anger.

lemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_icon5 glasses of lemonade= you could recommend this book to anyone.  There is nothing in here that is going to upset anyone and you could start handing it out on street corners. 

My personal preference rating: I gave this title 5 stars. It was one of my favorite YA fantasy books of the year so far.

Blood & Honey by Shelby Mahurin

Hello Kittens! The book I’m talking about today is the recently published sequel to Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin, which I read during quarantine and really enjoyed. Serpent & Dove is the story of a witch named Lou, and the witch hunter who is forced to become her husband, named Reid. It is a YA fantasy romance with a unique magic system. I highly recommend Serpent & Dove. I am going to try to talk about the sequel without revealing any spoilers, but I can’t promise I won’t inadvertently reveal something, so go pick up Serpent & Dove now and then come back and read this. This will be the first time that I have ever attempted to write a spoiler-free review of a sequel, so this ought to be interesting.

Title: Blood & Honey

Blood & Honey (Serpent & Dove, #2)

Author: Shelby Mahurin

Author website: https://shelbymahurin.com/

Publisher: HarperCollins

Publish date: September 1, 2020

ISBN: 9780062878052

Buy the Book: Amazon, Barnes and Noble

Summary:

This novel picks up almost exactly where the last novel ended. Our main characters are in imminent danger and are on the run from both the Chasseurs (religious army) and witches. They are also struggling with mourning someone who held radically different positions in both of their lives. They are working on a plan for what they and their band of compatriots will do next, but both are reluctant to leave the relative safety of their current location.

Ultimately, the decision is made to journey throughout the land to recruit allies for their cause. This doesn’t go well on either front and forces them to split up, which allows for certain vulnerabilities to be exploited. Nonetheless, they do convince a few new people/beings to join their cause and they head towards the city, where they believe their enemy will soon attack again.

Pretty much everything goes wrong. At least one of their band will die and others will go missing. The story ends on a massive cliffhanger after several unexpected twists and the reader alone will know how much danger they are all still in.

Why I liked it:

I appreciated that we got to reunite with all of the characters from the original book and that the new characters that came into the story in this novel did not overshadow them. I still love the magic system in this book and it was expanded upon here in ways that I found really interesting. We get new magical beings and more magically-inclined people who no one believed existed and they play pivotal roles in moving the story forward.

Lastly, I really loved the world building that we got in this story. We explore two new areas in this world and get to see the range of living experiences of the “average” people. It’s really nice to see how life outside of the main city functions and to realize that actually there’s a lot of range among the people in their levels of tolerance for the Chasseurs and witches.

What I would like to change:

Lou and Reid’s relationship currently is troubling me. They are struggling with legitimate differences and it’s not unrealistic to think that they might not be perfectly suited for each other since they were forced to marry and then were in desperate circumstances that allowed feelings to blossom. We started to explore the idea that these two people might love each other but might not be good for each other, and I felt like that was a legitimate line of thinking to pursue, but then it seems like things get tied up in a nice cozy bow at the end that just felt a little disingenuous to the issues that were building throughout the rest of the book.

Disclaimer: I received an electronic galley of this title from the publisher on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My library rating: This book had fewer steamy scenes in it than the first book did, so I think it would be fine for most people. It’s just an intense young adult romance with a lot of magic thrown in, which may not be everyone’s cup of tea.

lemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_icon3 glasses of lemonade= a book that you could recommend to coworkers and friends you don’t know very well.

My personal preference rating: I rated this title 3 stars. Ultimately, I think that I liked the first book a little better, but I will definitely be reading the third book when it comes out.