The Lost Recipe for Happiness by Barbara O’Neal

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Aspen, Elena Alvarez must free herself from her past in order to move on with her life. She accepts the challenges of creating a new restaurant and all that it involves–creating new cuisine, a new menu, hiring staff, planning decor–along with establishing herself as a female executive chef in a kitchen filled with male co-workers. After surviving a tragedy, Elena is hesitant to believe in her own abilities as well as in love. The Lost Recipe for Happiness offers interesting insights into the world of the restaurant business and what creativity it takes to develop recipes and launch a successful new business. Elena brings her own recipes to the restaurant from her New Mexico background and each chapter begins with a southwestern-style recipe. The ingredients of love, food and cooking combine to make this an enjoyable story of love and the search for happiness.

Beguiled by Deeanne Gist

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I’ve written about Gist’s great Christian historical romance before, but now, working with crime novelist J. Mark Bertrand, she has branched out with a contemporary suspense novel that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Rylee Monroe supports herself and her grandmother by walking dogs in Charleston. She loves the animals and the families she works for, but becomes concerned for her safety when a series of local robberies seems to have some connection to her. Logan Woods is a reporter covering the robberies for the local newspaper. He and Rylee team up to try to figure out what the connection is.

Beguiled displays Gist’s expertise with Christian romance mixed with Bertrand’s flair for the mystery to create a satisfying read.

The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag

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Flavia is back!! In the second book in his series, (following “The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie”) author Alan Bradley brings back his 11 year-old sleuth Flavia de Luce. Flavia is a delightful character—wickedly funny and amazingly intelligent with keen powers of observation. The death of a puppeteer in a traveling show draws Flavia into the mystery of his death as well as into a death that occurred several years earlier in the small village of Bishop’s Lacey. Flavia’s entertaining narration of the story, her fascination with her chemistry lab and passion for poisons makes her a wonderfully original character. The mystery is enlivened with quirky, well-defined characters, lots of humor and an absorbing plot. Well written and engaging, The Weeds that Strings the Hangman’s Bag is a unique gem of a mystery! If you haven’t yet met Flavia de Luce, you are in for a treat!

The Postmistress by Sarah Blake

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Here we sit in our relatively safe and secure towns in America while conflicts and wars are being fought and families torn apart in a number of countries across the world. Seventy years ago during World War II our relatives were experiencing the insecurity and devastation of war. Fathers and brothers were fighting in Europe and the Pacific while wives and children suffered through the unknown waiting for a letter; some tangible piece of news from their loved ones.

The Postmistress is an historical World War II novel that immerses one in the feelings experienced by those left behind. I appreciate the thought-provoking storylines of three women who dealt with the difficult times in their own ways. We see the war from the sidelines through the postmistress and a doctor’s wife who live on Cape Cod and listen to the radio broadcasts from Europe. We are thrown into the European front through Frankie Bard, one of the first female war radio broadcasters living in London. She travels by train interviewing refugees to give Americans a feel for the need to be involved and see what is really happening to the Jews.

The connection between these three women becomes entangled on the home front and we experience the emotions of loss and feel the support that characterized life during the war years that many of our parents and grandparents lived through.

Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin

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I remember reading Alice in Wonderland as a child, not quite sure whether to be frightened or amazed at the strange adventures this little girl experiences. I think it was probably good that I didn’t know at the time that there really was a girl named Alice who inspired Lewis Carroll’s fantasy world. In Alice I Have Been, Melanie Benjamin shares a fictionalized version of Alice’s life from the age of seven, when she met the man who would go on to write as Lewis Carroll, to old age. Benjamin has thoroughly researched th lives of both Alice Liddell and Charles Dodgson. She shares what is known of the truth and fills in the gaps with her own imaginings. This is a fascinating story of the mystery and love behind an infamous muse.

Why My Third Husband Will Be a Dog…by Lisa Scottoline

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Known for her mystery novels, Lisa Scottoline is shrewd, tart, sensitive, and hard to resist in Why My Third Husband Will Be a Dog, the Amazing Adventures of an Ordinary Woman.

Lisa, somewhere in her mid 50′s, is twice divorced (from men she calls Thing One and Thing Two). She lives happily in the ‘burbs with a bunch of pets and her daughter, Francesca, a recent college graduate (who also has her own things to say about Mother).

You’ll giggle about: being caught braless in the emergency room; Betty and Veronica’s life lessons for girls; interrupting as an art form; real estate ads as porn; Spanx as public enemy # 1; and so much more about life, love, family pets, and the pursuit of jeans that actually fit!

This memoir is drawn from Lisa’s popular Philadelphia Inquirer column “Chick Wit.” If you are charmed by the book, you may read her columns by going to http://www.scottoline.com/ and clicking on “columns.”

A Big Little Life: a Memoir of a Joyful Dog by Dean R. Koontz

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“In each little life we can see great truth and beauty, and in each little life we glimpse the way of all things in the universe.” Dean Koontz

In A Big Little Life, Koontz describes his golden retriever, Trixie: “she was something more than a dog…this spirit was a wonder and a revelation.” “Trixie defied conventional wisdom from animal behaviorists who believe that dogs cannot express emotions, judge character, or remember things as humans can. Friends, family, and strangers corroborated that Trixie was ‘special’ in an otherworldly sense. Unprompted, an Indian neighbor informed Koontz, ‘your dog is a person who has almost arrived at complete enlightenment and will in the next life be perfect and blameless, a very great person.’ Heady stuff for a pup, but Koontz’s talent lies in making the preposterous believable. Was Trixie some sort of angel? Regardless, her enchanting story will have fans panting for more.” Kirkus Reviews

Into the Wilderness by Sara Donati

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I first saw the film Last of the Mohicans based on the book by James Fenimore Cooper almost 20 years ago, but still when I think of Daniel Day Lewis as Hawkeye my heart flutters, just a bit. So when I read that Into the Wilderness by Sara Donati was a sequel to Cooper’s classic, I just couldn’t resist. If you are a serious scholar of American Literature, this may not be for you. If you said “Oh My” out loud at least once while watching Daniel Day Lewis, then get your hands on this book as soon as possible.

Elizabeth Middleton, a British spinster, travels with her brother to join their father in the back woods of late 18th century New York. Her plans to settle there as a teacher are soon called into doubt when her father introduces her to the man he wants her to marry, a local doctor with a mysterious hold over their family’s fortunes. Besides her determination to be a teacher, her father’s plans are also thwarted by Nathaniel Bonner, the son of Hawkeye and Cora, a woodsman with ties to both the white settlers and the Kahnyen’kehaka, or Mohawk, as the whites call them. Elizabeth and Nathaniel start an adventure that will change the entire village as well as their own perceptions of the world.

This story is full of historical detail, descriptions of the beautiful landscape, interesting characters, as well as a timeless love story. It is a delight to watch Elizabeth as she discovers her own strength and her lessons on outback survival skills. Donati also delivers a few “Oh My” scenes along the way.