Book Spotlight

Sharing a wonderful romance book with friends – and a yummy Peach Cobbler!

Olive Witkins was sure she had her days planned out. At 35, she was a spinster, worked at a Philadelphia library and took care of her parents’ house. She kept her hair in a tight bun, wore black clothes and kept herself all buttoned up. Then life intervened. With the death of her brother and his wife in 1891, Olive travels to the wilds of Spencer, Ohio to save their two children, fantasizing about the culture and family legacy she would bestow on Mary and John, how she would teach them and they would love her. Her dream shattered when she saw the hovel where her drunken brother had kept his family, not fit for human habitation. What her brother and his wife put their children through “rubbed raw all that she knew to be true…” With great difficulty, Olive rises to the occasion, mothers her niece and nephew with the help of her brother’s neighbor Jacob Butler. She begins to mother his 3 children as well. Despite her lack of experience and being used to Philadelphia life, “Olive felt more alive, more focused than she ever had before in her life…. I am done letting life go by.” Farm…

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Drift away to Montreal in the 1950’s and enjoy a French delight!

  Author David Riese was having coffee one morning in his usual café when Riva Weiss, an older woman author Dave Riese had spoken to from time to time came over, sharing a story about a passionate love she had when just 18. Building on what Riva had told him, Dave expanded the bones of her story to a novel of a wonderfully poignant romance. Being built on a true story adds to the depth and interest of this work. To this day, Dave is still in touch with Riva, who turned 88 this year. In 1951, the fictional Rebecca Wiseman meets and falls in love with Sol Gottesman at a YMHA dance. Despite coming from different social classes and families, the two are passionate in this first love. Based on a true-life romance, Dave writes a very romantic novel with a clear understanding of how both young men and women react to a first love. Sol woos Rebecca with beautiful flowers, fancy restaurants and whispered phone calls. Rebecca dreams of Sol, calls him frequently, quite forward for a young woman of that time, and even is the aggressive one romantically. Dave said that his ideas about romance did not…

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A Great Thriller and Apple Tarts – Oh My!

Jennifer Alderson has created a fast paced and suspenseful historical novel about art theft In the Netherlands. Two time lines connect the plot. In the contemporary time line is the feisty Zelda Richardson, intern for an Amsterdam museum’s exhibition of still unclaimed artwork once stolen by the Nazis. Trouble begins when two women claim the same painting.  Zelda and her friend Friedrich become detectives in what becomes a dangerous game worth millions in artwork and a cover up of murders. During the Nazi occupation time line, priceless artwork was stolen from Jews, gays, dissidents and other victims by the Nazi government and too with the assistance of officials and citizens of the occupied countries. Arjan van Heemsvliet is an art dealer trying to protect his artwork from the greed of the Nazis and at the same time, hide his homosexuality, a “crime” which could send him to a concentration camp. Jennifer has pulled together all of this data into an exciting and suspenseful historical novel. Zelda, our modern sleuth, is impulsive, courageous and smart as Sherlock Holmes in sniffing out clues. I immediately liked her!  Jennifer told me, “Zelda’s intellect is driven by her endless curiosity, a deep-seated need to…

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Another Tasty Idea and a Great Book!

Kitchen Brigade by Laurie Boris Dystopian novels have a long and popular history, from classics such as The Time Machine, Brave New World and 1984 to the more modern Hunger Games, The Handmaid’s Tale and Divergent.  Some take place in a specific time and place and some are vague or fantasies. Some dystopian novels use unknown tyrants while others use current US rivals, such as the Chinese, Cubans or Russians. That is the route of The Kitchen Rivals by Laurie Boris, which uses a specific enemy, the Russians and their allies, the Cubans, as the tyrannical rulers who have taken over the eastern part of the US. Its setting is also specific, taking place in the Hudson Valley, where the author lives. Laurie skillfully places the main scenes in the kitchen, where main character Valerie, now called Three, with her fellow chefs, including Chef Svetlana, under whom she had previously studied at the Culinary Institute of America create meals for the general, his staff and visitors. Food is an important focus in the novel.  While the kitchen chefs are prisoners, food still provides joy, love and artistry. It is used as payment, as for chef Four, and used horribly, as when the child Tomàs is forced to taste food in case…

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A Thriller & a Burger (Vegan) – Perfect!

Of Half a Mind                                                                                                                                                                                                                            by Bruce M. Perrin Stanley Milgrom’s famous studies on obedience, prodded by bullying and authority, comes to life in Bruce Perrin’s Of Half a Mind. While both are ostensibly about memory and learning, they are in fact about submission and subservience to authority. Milgrom’s studies, of course, were at Yale with students who went home, disturbed after what they thought they had done. [No one was actually electrically shocked or hurt in any way.] Bruce commented, “Stanley Milgram’s studies in the 1960’s and 1970’s revealed an unexpected dark…

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Make a Cosmo, put up your feet and enjoy Been Searching for You!

  Nicole Evelina's Been Searching for You One might subtitle this book, “Searching for Romance in the Cold, Single World.” Each of Nicole Evelina’s characters handles being a singleton in individual ways. Annabeth Coe, the main character is a romantic, searching for “the head-over-heels heart-melting love,” while still recovering from a years ago disastrous boyfriend, Nick. Mia, her sexy good friend has no loyalties to her boyfriend or anyone else, we find. Miles, Annabeth’s best friend and work colleague, is Mia’s beleaguered boyfriend. Laine, Annabeth’s boss, is a career woman. Victor, a painter on the way to being discovered, seems to be a good fit until his career proves to need a more “perfect” partner. Alex, a literature professor, is still mourning his last girlfriend. Annabeth has a birthday tradition: she writes to her dream man and refuses to accept anything but her vision of a romantic partner. She’s pushed by friends and family to open herself to dating. “Where’s your boyfriend?” “You aren’t getting any younger.” “Tick-tock.” Like her main character, Annabeth, the author is in public relations and an historic fiction writer. Annabeth would rather stay at home with a good book and glass of wine rather than…

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Helen Hollick visits with Dr. Daniel M. Walker

NanoMorphosis by Marla L. Anderson In the year 2183, climate change ravages Earth, a man-made plague has forced millions into segregated camps, and the hope of expanding to a new world has withered from fear of another alien attack. At the age of ten, Daniel Walker witnessed first contact. The event left him orphaned, traumatized and reluctantly famous as the sole survivor. Driven to carry on the work of his parents, he puts his fame to use with the help of the woman he loves, and gains the financial and political support needed to colonize a new world. Unfortunately, in the process, he turns a potential ally, Cadmon Dhyre, into a determined foe. You can find Helen Hollicks interview with Daniel M. Walker at @ Novel Conversations Author Marla L. Anderson Learn more about author Marla Anderson at her website

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Sit down with Helen and Gina and a cup of tea

- A Novel Conversation with Bronwyn Elsmore’s Gina Gina, if that is her real name, wakes to an autumn morning and, against her better judgment, selects a light dress to wear to work. Deliberately, she misses the bus and walks into the city, then turns and walks back home. This is not a day for work. Tomorrow, in her navy pantsuit, she will be there. Today she will spend with a white dog and a remarkable man. Every Five Minutes is also about the color cornflower blue, beaches, parks, city streets, exotic places, coffee, flowers, polished stones, a unicorn and a swan, words, theatre, movies, music, and love. But most of all it’s about Gina, the dog, and the man. You can find Helen Hollicks interview with Gina at @ Novel Conversations   Bronwyn Elsmore Learn more about Author Bronwyn Elsmore and her books on her website    

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The Thrill of Mountain Climbing and the Delight of Home Cooking!

The Altitude Journals by David Mauro One would never have picked David Mauro, author of The Altitude Journals to climb the major 7 mountain peaks in the world. Not only wasn’t he a climber, he wasn’t even a hiker. He was down on his luck, living in his sister’s spare room while going through a divorce. Then, he received an invitation from his brother-in-law to climb Mount Denali. And that was the turning point. The Altitude Journals are about his journey, through mountain climbing, with its adventures, its difficulties and its redemptions.  I climbed each mountain with David, routed for him and read every word in his retelling of this journey. David’s sense of humor is evident throughout. When I asked him what he had initially thought when Thai asked him to join him climbing Denali, the highest point in North America, he told me, “My initial thought was, ‘Well, I'm not even a mountain climber so that sounds like a bad fit.’  By the end of the journey I had come of age as an altitude climber, so I understood clearly what I was getting myself into with Everest. I liked my chances of success, which I placed at 30%.” Hiking and climbing…

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“Reconstructing Jackson”- Heartbreak, Love and good food for Valentine’s Day!

  Holly Bush’s Reconstructing Jackson. The year is 1867. The Confederates have lost and the South is bitter, much in ruins.  Throughout the US, the former slaves are free yet most remain fearful, unable to exercise the freedoms they have been given. Enter Reed Jackson, lawyer, handsome and defeated Confederate officer. One leg amputated during the war, the other said to be too weak to use, Reed is in a wheel chair, angry, hopeless and uncertain about his future. His plantation and financé have been given to his younger brother and Reed is sent to the Aimes cousins in Missouri. Holly told me, “He knew the South could not support slavery forever, he knew his father was a cruel man, he knew that good people existed (his mother), he fought in a war he did not support but was expected of him, and he knew that the law must be followed blindly to begin our crawl out of our national conflicts.” So begins the historical romance written by Holly Bush. Reed is confronted with the historical reality of his era. His cousins own a boarding house and employ Beulah, a free Black manager, a bright, educated former slave. She is also a teacher, who elevates…

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