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FUDGE AND JURY: A Bakeshop Mystery ~Ellie Alexander

Monday, January 16th, 2017

“A delectable tale of murder and intrigue…This bakeshop mystery is a real page-turner, and we look forward to other in the series, just as tasty.” (Portland Book Review)

FUDGE AND JURY finds us in Ashland, Oregon in the most marvelous Bakery one can imagine, which is located just down the street from the Historic Ashland Springs Tower Hotel and the Shakespearian Festival Campus.   Ashland is one of the favorite sites on my list of best places to visit even though I have never seen a play or the Festival in my visits.  I have stayed at the Ashland Springs Hotel and eaten at the pubs after strolling through the wonderful downtown with its marvelous shops and lovely people.  Ashland is also known for it’s snow and ski adventures.

Juliet has moved back to her hometown with a broken heart.  She left Ashland to go to culinary school and then worked on a series of cruise ships where she met her husband Carlos, another chef, who omitted that he had a son and the discovery, was an undoing.   Our lead character has come home to TORTE her parent’s bakery; now run by her mom alone they are busy preparing for the March Chocolate Festival, the biggest Chocolate event in the Pacific Northwest.  The bakery is also getting a kitchen remodel with new ovens arriving and lots of painting and inventory.  Hands are busy and the rain is raining heavy and hard.

“Food is an expression of art and love.”

The book is part of a series and Alexander includes incredible descriptions of textures and smells of the lovely baking, coffee, and chocolate wafting through the building.  There is a cozy feeling to the whole adventure.  There is also a relationship theme to the story.  The workers at TORTE form an interesting group and community; it is evident that there is respect for each other and a joy in their efforts. They each experience the town’s citizens and good people as worthy of respect. At the chocolate festival, Juliet and her mother are encouraging to the other participants and assist the new entrants in their efforts.  It is this caring cooperative spirit that attaches to Juliet’s curiosity and questioning and assists in developing the solution to the murder!

This is a gentle read with some interesting problems to solve and certainly makes one want to read the next in the series and to eat some lovely food, especially chocolate.  Ellie Alexander has created a delightful read with FUDGE AND JURY.

A TLC Book Tours Book

“Ellie Alexander writes the bestselling Bakeshop Mystery series for St. Martin’s Press, set in the Shakespearean town of Ashland, Oregon and featuring a romantic, artisan pastry chef, Juliet Montague Capshaw.

Ellie is a Pacific Northwest native who spends ample time testing pastry recipes in her home kitchen or at one of the many famed coffeehouses nearby. When she’s not coated in flour, you’ll find her outside exploring hiking trails and trying to burn off calories consumed in the name of research.”

Ellie Alexander Twitter 
Ellie Alexander Facebook

Related:
The Garden Plot
The Skeleton Garden
The Last Camellia

BROKEN HOMES & GARDENS: A Novel ~Rebecca Kelley

Monday, September 7th, 2015

Broken Homes and Gardens is one of the nicest love stories I have read in a long time.  I am not sure if it is because the timing was just right, or if this good read was just the refreshing amount of quirky, definitely west coast, or exactly why, but I just so enjoyed reading this first novel by Ms. Kelley.  Most of the book takes place in Portland, Oregon, which is known for its interesting outlook on life and it captures just the right amount of the “unique” for which this city is known.  Joanna has found a spot that just suits her and she is blossoming, all be it slowly, into her own true self and undoing her childhood programming which no longer serves her future.

Joanna is having trouble with commitment and is a person whose values are challenged after her parents divorce and her mother’s consequential inability to cope with her decisions and her emotions.  Joanna stayed home to care for her mother and attempts to shield herself from heartbreak of any kind.   She decides to come home from her teaching assignment in Europe and heads to her sister’s apartment laundry room to move in and get a vision of her future.  Her first commitment is to a potted tomato plant she cares for out on the apartment balcony.

Laura, the older sister, was off at college during the parent’s split and seems to be happy being a teacher in Portland and enjoying her life.  She persuades Joanna to attend a party at her friend’s home and Joanna realizes that Laura is going to marry Ted and that Malcolm, his roommate, is uniquely suited to her.  Malcolm leaves the next day for a 2-year life in the Peace Corp.   They begin writing letters and finding each other through their correspondence.  They also date other people.  Joanna explores more relationships and goes to graduate school, finding a job at the community college.

The relationship is on-again and then off-again and when Joanna purchases a needy house Malcolm becomes her roommate.  I thought the part of the story where Joanna starts her work on her new house, by digging out a garden spot in her new yard was just delightful and even made me laugh out loud.  Here is a woman with a crumby, dirty kitchen, wallpaper peeling off the walls and no furniture and her first endeavors are to go out to the yard in winter and attempt to dig a garden spot  – I could just capture the image in my mind’s eye.

Joanna’s relationship rules are very interesting, clever and just kept a smile in my heart and on my lips.   There were such real moments in Joanna’s experience and outcomes.  I liked that we were privy to her inner thinking and we could know the process of her changing.  So many women do not know what they “want” but are often not willing to do the work to overcome their stuck points.  It is quite a journey but Joanna succeeds in figuring out what she wants and how to reach out and grab hold.

About the author: (from the book)

“Rebecca Kelly grew up in Carson City, Nevada, wandered for a few years, and eventually landed in Portland, where she teaches writing at Oregon College of Art and Craft.  She is the co-author of THE ECO-NOMINCAL BABY GUIDE.  BROKEN HOMES AND GARDENS is her first novel.

TLC Book Tours sent me an e-copy of this book for review and it made me feel happy to enjoy this book cover to cover.   I think you will enjoy it also.  It is definitely not a Southern or East Coast Romance; rather fresh and distinctive.

Related:
Fog Island Mountains 
Dog Crazy 
The Language of Hoofbeats

THE FOREVER MAN: A Near-Future Thriller ~Pierre Ouellette

Friday, July 11th, 2014

“Your cells are the product of millions of years of evolution.  They don’t answer to you.  They answer only to life itself.” “Through some kind of extraordinarily advanced genetic therapy.  To pull it off, you’d have to raise an entire army of very specialized artificial viruses.” (un proofed copy – at 70% location)


THE FOREVER MAN is quite an interesting read.  I received an unproofed copy for review from TLC Online Book Tours, Net Galley and Alibi books and I am pleased to have had this opportunity.   As much as I like books about the future and thrillers these days, I must say this would not have been on my radar without a gentle prod.  Much of the story takes place in Portland, Oregon after the USA has been devastated by a predicted economic crisis and the nation is being ruled by the extremely rich.  Now the city has been abused and the majority of the people are just hanging on as best they can; regional “gangsters” are running the show and it makes me so sad to even think about.  Beauty only for the few; drugs and starvation the rule of the day, it sometimes seems as though this is a too close reality.

Lane Anslow is a contracted police detective, who has always been his bipolar brilliant, brothers admirable care taker. He is drawn into something amazing by his sibling’s work in genetics.  His brother has been kidnapped after he escaped a plane crash.  Johnny Anslow is the key to this genetic manipulation which is changing lives and will definitely change the future for the very rich.  So the police detective, who has lost his job because he is too old in his 40s, undertakes to understand and help his brother escape.  The backstory is about the boys growing up on the water near Seattle, Washington and all the mischief they recovered from and how they each took different pathways based on their experiences.  There is lots of plastic surgery, prison experience, helicopters and worldwide weapons of mass destruction and I would not want to leave out the politicians.  There is something for everyone and at one point, it made me think of a futuristic Gunsmoke TV series.  The book keeps moving ahead with lots of description about how THE FOREVER MAN became how old he is and what needs to happen to keep it a reality.  Oh yes, and the world has run out of affordable oil.

The writing was “manly” and I found it sometimes sharp and disconnected and then it turned back around to keep the reader on edge – powerful devise. I had to read dialogue pages a couple of times to figure out which character was saying what.  Certainly the editors will clear up those moments before it is released on July 8th, 2014.  I wondered if I believed if life had a beginning, middle and end, would living until your new organs wore out, or these advanced genetic procedures were available to all be something you would want to contemplate?  Would you really want to live forever?

Pierre Ouellette lives in Portland, Oregon and has written a number of science fictions books which have done well. He owned a PR firm for a number of years and also plays guitar.

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Related:
The Sowing
The Shock Doctrine 
Duke City Split
The Contractors

BREATHE: A Memoir of Motherhood, Grief, and Family Conflict ~Kelly Kittel

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

Breath, Eyes, Memory, Edwidge Danticat writes that there’s a group of people who carry the sky on their heads.  They are the People of Creation.  Strong, tall, and mighty people who can bear anything. Their maker gives them the sky to carry because they are so strong.  These people do not know who they are, but if you see a lot of trouble in your life, it is because you were chosen to carry part of the sky on your head.  We understood this burden, but frankly, my chunk of sky was giving me a headache.”  Page 340


BREATHE is a story about healing, understanding, revealing, forgiveness, and all the junk swishing around in extended family dynamics and conflict.  I am told that the most healing process one can undertake is to tell your story, understand the lessons, and allow other people to see that there are transitions and possibilities.  The story needs time to mull and ferment to make sure it includes the truth the writer knows to be real and not just reaction and emotion.  Kelly Kittel took her time, and numerous workshops, and lots of counseling and it took her another seven years to actually write the book.  She did not do it alone and she thanks so many for helping her hold her piece of the sky.

The story line is thus: 2 people are starting their journey in the Peace Corp; one from the East Coast of the USA and one from the West Coast of the USA.  They fall in love, are happy together and they are celebrating their family; enjoying their 4 children.  They are living on a street in Oregon which is dominated by the husband’s family and they are not so fond of the Eastern Interloper who is a scientist.   Much of the huge extended family is gathered at the Oregon Coast when the 16 year old niece backs a Chevy Tahoe over the 15 month old child who she cannot see.  It is a harrowing accident with helicopter airlifts and drama. It creates huge family tension and brings the blame game out into the open; the author becomes an unfit mother.   Noah is gone and buried and the family grieves and works on counseling and keeping the remaining 3 children growing and loving. The in-laws keep acting up and out.  Kelly becomes pregnant and has high blood pressure problems and too soon Jonah is stillborn.  The grief is magnified and the support groups continue and the family works on their own healing.  The in-laws evict the family and they move back to the East coast nearer Kelly’s family.  Once again the author is pregnant and miscarries.  The emotional stress is elevated and they are caring for each other, and the family is enjoying being a single unit of love and support.  Another pregnancy and Kelly finds a High Risk Pregnancy Expert, who says Jonah did not need to die, her medical records indicate negligence. New medications and better timing and test results- care – and Isaiah is born and doing fine.  The family decides to prepare a lawsuit against the Physician and Midwife Clinic in Oregon – a five year endurance test.  The in-laws testify against the family and yet the jury decides for the family.   Bella was born after the lawsuit and the family is complete.  Lots of love, communications, forgiveness and breathing are between the covers of this story about conflicts.

The writing is full of details, emotions, and water. The writing is beautiful-memorable.  The author is not tepid or angry about her experience.  She is working it through and finding her own answers and recovery.  She is not vindictive.  It is also a study in how family communications get misconstrued and can develop a pecking order which stops being useful and cuts off any growth.  When one cannot communicate with others, there is no bond, responsibility is sidestepped and the only pathway open is to BREATHE and separate.

This book touched me personally, as I share life with a child who had 12 major surgeries and my own life full of healthcare that was not workable and no insurance; maybe we all have family members who want to control and make our lives a competition; it was good to see it from another angle and so graciously stated.

tlc logoTLC Online Book Tours   and She Writes Press shared a finished signed copy of this book for me to review.  I know you know someone who would benefit from reading – BREATHE

Kelly Kittel’s Blog
Kelly Kittel’s on Facebook

Related:
So Far Away
Little Island
The Fault In Our Stars
Wild- Plate  (We need more comments on this one for the Giveaway!)