Book Review: Stay With Me

Stay With Me – Becky Wade – A Misty River Romance #1 – Bethany House Publishers – Published 5 May 2020

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Synopsis

When acclaimed Bible study author Genevieve Woodward receives an anonymous letter referencing her parents’ past, she returns to her hometown in the Blue Ridge Mountains to chase down her family’s secret. However, it’s Genevieve’s own secret that catches up to her when Sam Turner, owner of a historic farm, uncovers the source of shame she’s worked so hard to hide.

Sam has embraced his sorrow, his isolation, and his identity as an outsider. He’s spent years carving out both career success and peace of mind. The last thing he wants is to rent the cottage on his property to a woman whose struggles stir his worst failure back to life. Yet can he bear to turn her away right when she needs him most?

My thoughts

Stay With Me is the first book in a new series by Becky Wade. As always, Becky Wade captures flawed characters in relatable situations and combines that with powerful messages of family, love and faith.

Genevieve is a popular and very successful bible study writer and speaker. But after an accident last year and a stressful schedule and deadlines, she found herself turning to prescription pain medication. When, after setting off for her parents’ house, she wakes to find herself in an empty guest cottage being regarded by the owner with some concern, she decides she finally has to kick her habit and get clean. She asks Sam, owner of the cottage, if she can rent the cottage from him as a place to hide while going through withdrawal and recovery. Sam has his own reasons for wanting to stay far away from the confusing woman he found asleep in his guest house, but he also feels a strong responsibility to help her.

I loved that this book considers a very serious topic of drug addiction. As Genevieve struggles to both admit she has a problem and faces the battle of overcoming her addiction, the very real possibility of how easy it is to fall into a prescription drug problem and the very serious fallouts are considered. But, more than that, the motivations behind Gen’s addiction are also regarded, both with understanding and grace. As a bible study presenter, Gen feels conflict over her addiction, her role as a speaker and her desire to keep everything under wraps.

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Book Review: Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish

Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish – Bethany Turner – Revell – Published 5 May 2020

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Synopsis

Celebrity chef Maxwell Cavanaugh is known for many things: his multiple Michelin stars, his top-rated Culinary Channel show To the Max, and most of all his horrible temper. Hadley Beckett, host of the Culinary Channel’s other top-rated show, At Home with Hadley, is beloved for her Southern charm and for making her viewers feel like family.

When Max experiences a very public temper tantrum, he’s sent packing to get his life in order. When he returns, career in shambles, his only chance to get back on TV and in the public’s good graces is to work alongside Hadley.

As these polar-opposite celeb chefs begin to peel away the layers of public persona and reputation, they will not only discover the key ingredients for getting along, but also learn the secret recipe for unexpected forgiveness . . . and maybe even love. In the meantime, hide the knives.

My thoughts

Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish is everything I needed from this book. It’s light and funny, but doesn’t shy away from some deeper topics. It’s relaxing to read and just so much fun. It’s sexy but clean, redemptive but not preachy, has lots of yummy food to imagine eating, and have I mentioned how fun it is to read?

Hadley Beckett is an up and coming chef. She has Michelin stars, restaurants, magazines and even her own cooking show, At Home With Hadley. Her latest accomplishment is making it through the finals of America’s Fiercest Chef. But when her competitor, the foul-mouthed and rude Max Cavanaugh, throws a temper tantrum when she wins, her moment of triumph is dampened. A few months on, Hadley is offered the chance to feature on her most favourite cooking show, the only catch is that she must work alongside Max. Max claims he has changed, but Hadley’s not sure she can trust him.

Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish had me doing a complete 180 when reading it. I went from hating Max and thinking there was no way he was good enough for Hadley (after reading the first chapter, I even went back to check the synopsis because I thought he couldn’t possibly be the love interest) to rooting so hard for the characters. Oh my gosh. I loved them both so much. You know how some books just don’t give you enough time spent between the two love interests and it’s hard to believe their relationship or growing feelings? This is not that book. The majority of the book is spend with the two characters interacting, face-to-face, texting, phone calls, while shooting on the cooking show, cooking, arguing, facing off. We get to see them in so many situations and I adored their banter, teasing, full-out fighting and every moment in between.

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Book Review: This is My Brain In Love

This is My Brain in Love – I.W. Gregorio – Little, Brown Books for Young Readers – Published 14 April 2020

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Synopsis

Jocelyn Wu has just three wishes for her junior year: To make it through without dying of boredom, to direct a short film with her BFF Priya Venkatram, and to get at least two months into the year without being compared to or confused with Peggy Chang, the only other Chinese girl in her grade.

Will Domenici has two goals: to find a paying summer internship, and to prove he has what it takes to become an editor on his school paper.

Then Jocelyn’s father tells her their family restaurant may be going under, and all wishes are off. Because her dad has the marketing skills of a dumpling, it’s up to Jocelyn and her unlikely new employee, Will, to bring A-Plus Chinese Garden into the 21st century (or, at least, to Facebook).What starts off as a rocky partnership soon grows into something more. But family prejudices and the uncertain future of A-Plus threaten to keep Will and Jocelyn apart. It will take everything they have and more, to save the family restaurant and their budding romance.

My thoughts

This is My Brain in Love celebrates family and is a wonderful representation of mental health in YA. From everything from a positive experience of therapy to overcoming the stigma of a diagnosis, cultural and family expectations and denial, this is a positive and inclusive portrayal of anxiety and depression. It’s also a wonderful mix of cultures and the wonderful food that comes with those cultures. If you enjoyed The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling, this is the perfect book for you.

Jocelyn Wu is surprised to learn her family’s restaurant is facing closure. Sure, it’s old and kind of rumpled around the edges, but it’s home. To prevent having to move away from her best friend, she sets out to improve the restaurant, including adding social media pages, new features and employing someone to help out and build them a website. Enter Will Domenici. They click and working together is fun, but both Will and Jocelyn are hiding secrets and saving the family restaurant might not be enough to save their budding romance.

Whoa. That prologue kind of threw me, giving this book a sort-of trigger warning for suicide. And while the narrator tries to reassure the reader, it kind of did the opposite. It certainly had me intrigued and ready to jump straight into the book to find out more.

And, actually, things never get as serious as hinted at at the start and a few times foreshadowed in the book. It’s a light book, despite the overtones of mental health and depression, financial difficulties and the possible failure of a family business.

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Book Review: The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling

The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling – Wai Chim – Allen and Unwin – Published 5 August 2019

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Synopsis

Anna Chiu has her hands pretty full looking after her brother and sister and helping out at her dad’s restaurant, all while her mum stays in bed. Dad’s new delivery boy, Rory, is a welcome distraction and even though she knows that things aren’t right at home, she’s starting to feel like she could just be a normal teen.

But when Mum finally gets out of bed, things go from bad to worse. And as Mum’s condition worsens, Anna and her family question everything they understand about themselves and each other.

A nourishing tale about the crevices of culture, mental wellness and family, and the surprising power of a good dumpling.

My thoughts

This book caught my eye (seriously, how could I ignore that gorgeous cover), but I rushed to read it after learning I had the opportunity to meet the author. The Surprising Power of A Good Dumpling celebrates the harsh complexity of family relationships, the love and hurt shared and the determination it takes to carry on. It celebrates community and friendship, the bond between sisters, and food. This book will have you hungry, so I highly recommend you have snacks on hand. It’s a bittersweet read, and one that is as authentic as it is honest and caring.

Anna Chiu cares for her family while her mother can’t bring herself to get out of bed and her father never comes home from working at their family restaurant. It is up to Anna to make sure her little brother gets to school and her sister knows to keep quiet about what happens at home. But the chance to work with her father at the restaurant means she can finally share the cooking skills and ideas she has and gives her the opportunity to get to know the new delivery boy, Rory. But when her mother does get out of bed, things spiral into manic midnight cleaning and angry tirades that Anna feels powerless to control.

This book doesn’t shy away from the authentic, messy details of real life, mental illness or it’s effect on families. It is honest and hopeful. It’s also not an easy book to read, despite it being so readable. It is challenging in parts, confronting and sad in others. But it doesn’t judge. It leaves room for understanding and acceptance.

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Book Review: Tweet Cute

Tweet Cute – Emma Lord – Wednesday Books- Published 21 January 2020

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Synopsis

Meet Pepper, swim team captain, chronic overachiever, and all-around perfectionist. Her family may be falling apart, but their massive fast-food chain is booming ― mainly thanks to Pepper, who is barely managing to juggle real life while secretly running Big League Burger’s massive Twitter account.

Enter Jack, class clown and constant thorn in Pepper’s side. When he isn’t trying to duck out of his obscenely popular twin’s shadow, he’s busy working in his family’s deli. His relationship with the business that holds his future might be love/hate, but when Big League Burger steals his grandma’s iconic grilled cheese recipe, he’ll do whatever it takes to take them down, one tweet at a time.

All’s fair in love and cheese ― that is, until Pepper and Jack’s spat turns into a viral Twitter war. Little do they know, while they’re publicly duking it out with snarky memes and retweet battles, they’re also falling for each other in real life ― on an anonymous chat app Jack built.

My thoughts

Tweet Cute is seriously cute. But not in a cringey, saccharine way. It is one of the most genuine, adorable but realistic and heartfelt and, yes, cute books I’ve read in ages-maybe ever. It’s a story about social media, a story about family and the ways in which we fight for them. A story about growing up and trying to decide what to do with your life. It’s a story about the most incredible baking and comfort food. Seriously. Pack snacks. And it’s a story about falling in love, and YA contemporary readers are sure to fall in love with this delightful book.

Pepper is in control of her life. Swim team captain, top grades, and a place amongst the genius students of her fancy New York high school. So what if she feels like she doesn’t really belong, would rather have her family whole again and be living in Nashville, and maybe even have some genuine friends. When her mother insists that she take over their company’s Twitter feed as they launch new stores around the country, Pepper doesn’t expect to have one of her tweets directly challenge a local family-owned deli or for her to have to go head to head with a fellow classmate as he seeks to defend his family’s deli. As Pepper and Jack wage war on Twitter, their paths keep crossing in real life.

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Book Review: The Solid Grounds Coffee Company

The Solid Grounds Coffee Company – Carla Laureano – Supper Club #3 – Tyndale – Published 4 February 2020

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Synopsis

Analyn Sanchez can handle the long hours and arrogant clients that come with her job as a crisis management associate at Denver’s largest publicity firm. The high-powered job, expensive condo, and designer wardrobe are all part of her plan to prove to her family that her life choices haven’t been in vain. But when she’s asked to cover up a client’s misdeeds with serious moral and legal ramifications, she can no longer sacrifice her conscience for her career . . . and the cost is no less than her job.

Ever since a devastating climbing accident in South America eight months ago, and a bad decision that dried up his sponsorships, professional rock climber Bryan Shaw has found himself at similar loose ends. When the opportunity to buy a coffee farm in Colombia arises, he jumps on it–only to discover his wandering ways have left him utterly unprepared to run a business.

When Bryan returns home and offers Ana a role in his company as a solution to both their problems, she’s desperate enough to consider working with the far-too-flippant and far-too-handsome climber, even though he’s the polar opposite of her type A nature. As they delve deeper into the business, however, she begins to suspect there’s much more to Bryan than she’s given him credit for . . . and that sometimes the best plans are the ones you never see coming.

My thoughts

The Solid Grounds Coffee Company is such a delightful novel. I adored books one and two in this series and I was so keen to read this one I pushed it to the top of my rather large reading pile. And I’m so glad I did. I seriously love this series and I fell in love with Ana, Bryan, their coffee company venture and their romance. This book has everything I need – good food, great friendship, passionate kisses, faith and so much heart. I highly recommend this book and highly recommend the entire Supper Club series.

Ana is a publicist. It’s a high-style life, where keeping up appearances is a 24/7 occupation. But when a client asks her to cross moral and legal grounds and Ana refuses, she is asked to take a four month break from work. Bryan is a changed man. After a personal disaster and professional accident he left the world of rock climbing and purchased a coffee bean farm in Columbia. But his plans for creating a coffee roasting company could do with the guidance of a marketing guru. Ana and Bryan join forces, but they each vow to ignore the the physical attraction they’ve been dancing around for years.

This is a powerful story of second chances and learning from past mistakes. Bryan is very open about his past lifestyle and how he has now moved away from that. But he knows there are consequences and a long journey ahead of making different choices. Ana is only just starting to realise her life choices may not be want she actually wants, and she, too, has a past she’s kept very well hidden from the world. Ana and Bryan have far more in common than they realised and watching their friendship grow and mature, even as they fight the sparks of attraction, was so much fun.

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Book Review: Hungry Hearts

Hungry Hearts: 13 Tales of Food and Love – Elsie Chapman (ed.) – Simon Pulse – Published 18 June 2019

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Synopsis

A shy teenager attempts to express how she really feels through the confections she makes at her family’s pasteleria. A tourist from Montenegro desperately seeks a magic soup dumpling that could cure his fear of death. An aspiring chef realizes that butter and soul are the key ingredients to win a cooking competition that could win him the money to save his mother’s life.

Welcome to Hungry Hearts Row, where the answers to most of life’s hard questions are kneaded, rolled, baked. Where a typical greeting is, “Have you had anything to eat?” Where magic and food and love are sometimes one and the same.

Told in interconnected short stories, Hungry Hearts explores the many meanings food can take on beyond mere nourishment. It can symbolize love and despair, family and culture, belonging and home.

My thoughts

Hungry Heart is a collection of short stories that celebrate food, culture, diversity and family. From romance to horror stories, ghosts to superheroes, Hungry Hearts will have something for everyone.

Rain by Sandy Mandanna
Anna and her father are visiting Hungry Hearts Row after the death of their mother and wife. Not sure how to talk about their grief they find an opening when they attempt to make Anna’s mother’s Coorg pandhi curry.

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Book Review: Summer by the Tides

Summer by the Tides – Denise Hunter – Thomas Nelson – Published 21 May 2019

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Synopsis

Following a painful betrayal, Maddy Monroe’s love life is a wreck, and her restaurant career is in shambles. When her grandmother goes missing, she and her estranged sisters converge at the family beach house in Sea Haven, North Carolina. Being with uptight Nora and free-spirited Emma at the place where their family broke apart is a struggle, and undercurrents of jealousy and resentment threaten to pull the sisters under. In the midst of the storm, sparks begin to fly between Maddy and Gram’s maddening neighbor, Connor Murphy.

As the sisters pack up the family belongings, memories of idyllic, slow-paced summers are resurrected. But long-buried secrets also come to light as Maddy discovers that all was not as it appeared that last summer in Sea Haven–nor today in the seemingly perfect lives of her sisters.

As family tensions rise and Connor causes tumult in Maddy’s heart, the sisters must find a way to accept each other for the women they’ve become before the bitterness of the past destroys their hope for a future.

My thoughts

Summer By The Tides is a delightful, easy to read, easy to enjoy romance. There have been many Christian contemporary titles published recently that feature broken sisterly relationships and the slow mending of these bonds, but Summer By The Tides is by far my favourite. Touching on some tough and thoughtful tones, it remains a lighthearted, sunshine filled and feel good story of love, family and fresh starts.

The day Maddy Monroe discovers her boyfriend is a lying cheater and that she has lost the promotion at work, she gets a phone call saying her grandmother has gone missing. It’s easy to jump in the car and return to her childhood summer house on the beach, harder to face her two sisters and the memories of what tore her family apart all those years ago. With the help of her grandmother’s neighbour, Connor, Maddy and her sisters search for their missing grandmother and get the house in order, sifting through memories and facing the secrets of the past.

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Book Review: Summer of a Thousand Pies

Summer of a Thousand Pies – Margaret Dilloway – Balzer+Bray – Published 16 April 2019

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Synopsis

When twelve-year-old Cady Bennett is sent to live with the aunt she didn’t even know she had in the quaint mountain town of Julian, she doesn’t know what to expect. Cady isn’t used to stability, or even living inside, after growing up homeless in San Diego with her dad.

Now she’s staying in her mother’s old room, exploring the countryside filled with apple orchards and pie shops, making friends, and working in Aunt Shell’s own pie shop—and soon, Cady starts to feel like she belongs. Then she finds out that Aunt Shell’s pie shop is failing. Saving the business and protecting the first place she’s ever really felt safe will take everything she’s learned and the help of all her new friends. But are there some things even the perfect pie just can’t fix?

My thoughts

Summer of a Thousand Pies is a sweet middle-grade contemporary novel. A story about family and belonging, set amongst the backdrop of food, glorious food, Summer of a Thousand Pies touches on some deep and troubling themes such as homelessness, financial hardship, and the constant fear and struggle to belong faced by illegal immigrants. With diverse characters and a strong -if a little too headstrong at times- lead characters, Summer of a Thousand Pies is sure to delight young readers.

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Book Review: Brunch At Bittersweet Cafe

Brunch At Bittersweet Cafe – Carla Laureano – Supper Club #2 – Tyndale House Publishers – Published 5 February 2019

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Synopsis

Baker and pastry chef Melody Johansson has always believed in finding the positive in every situation, but seven years after she moved to Denver, she can’t deny that she’s stuck in a rut. One relationship after another has ended in disaster, and her classical French training is being wasted on her night job in a mediocre chain bakery. Then the charming and handsome private pilot Justin Keller lands on the doorstep of her workplace in a snowstorm, and Melody feels like it’s a sign that her luck is finally turning around.

Justin is intrigued by the lively bohemian baker, but the last thing he’s looking for is a relationship. His own romantic failures have proven that the demands of his job are incompatible with meaningful connections, and he’s already pledged his life savings to a new business venture across the country—an island air charter in Florida with his sister and brother-in-law.

Against their better judgment, Melody and Justin find themselves drawn together by their unconventional career choices and shared love of adventure. But when an unexpected windfall provides Melody with the chance to open her dream bakery-café in Denver with her best friend, chef Rachel Bishop, she’s faced with an impossible choice: stay and put down roots with the people and place she’s come to call home . . . or give it all up for the man she loves.

My thoughts

Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe is simply delicious. With a buttery, crumbly story base about following your dreams, topped with smooth and very sweet romance, sprinkled over with friendship and faith renewal, Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe has the perfect recipe to create what is a thoroughly enjoyable contemporary Christian romance novel.

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