THE RULES OF LOVE AND GRAMMAR by Mary Simses: A Review

If there is such a thing as a cozy romance novel, this is one.

In her 2016 publication, Simses has created a Grammar Nazi in her protagonist. Grace Hammond corrects poor grammar usage wherever she encounters it. As the story opens, Grace has lost her job, her boyfriend, her apartment, and is forced to return to her parents’ home in Connecticut. Tragedy took her older sister years ago, and her parents have never gotten over or spoke of it since. It is a romance, one I would christen a “cozy romance,” and three different love interests are present: Peter, a high school boyfriend, now a renowned filmmaker who has returned to town to shoot a movie; Sean, an actor who recently was proclaimed The Sexiest Man Alive, also in town; and Mitch, the bike guy. Cluny, her best friend and sidekick since elementary school rounds out the cast of supporting characters.

Each chapter features a rule of grammar, followed by an example sentence which often foreshadows what will happen in the chapter. Here is an example from the beginning of Chapter 19: “Collective nouns are singular and are typically paired with singular verbs. A film crewe often works very long hours.” In this pleasurable novel, Grace, the main character ” finds love and closure, and rediscovers herself. ” The book is a darned good read.

Cats and books–add people, and you have my three favorite things!

WHEN WE WERE YOUNG AND BRAVE by Hazel Gaynor: A Review

I love historical novels set in WWII.

As the cover on the large print copy of this book advertised, it is “a story of courage and strength.” If anyone is courageous and strong, it is a Girl Scout, or Girl Guide as they were called in England. Their motto was “Be prepared,” which the teachers and students at the China Inland Mission School were not. Unprepared as they were for Japanese occupation after the attack on Pearl Harbor, both teachers and students made the best of a bad situation.

Alternating chapters from the point of view of Nancy, an eight year old student, and her teacher, Miss Elspeth, Gaynor describes the take-over of the school housing and teaching children of missionaries, ambassadors, and other workers in China, then their march to and confinement in an internment camp for six years. It is a story of the hardships the children and teachers faced and their relationships with their captors, some kindly like “Home Run,” and others vengeful and sadistic like” Trouble.” It is the story of the friendship between Nancy (“Plum”) and Joan (“Mouse”), as they become young women while under the watchful eyes of the Japanese soldiers. One of the girls’ many chores was to deliver and pick up books to readers who borrowed them from the “lending library” set up by Ms. Trevellyan, a woman of questionable reputation in the camp. The following highlights the girls’ love of books:

“We sometimes found corners of the pages turned down, and passages marked and underlined. Mrs. Trevellyan didn’t seem to mind, although I thought it spoiled the books.

‘I’d never write in a book,’ I said. ‘It makes the pages look messy.’

‘It does if you look at it one way,’ she clucked as she put some books on the shelves we couldn’t reach. ‘But it also makes them look loved. It means that someone stopped and thought about that sentence, or that paragraph. Books aren’t museum pieces to be admired from a distance. They’re meant to be lived in; messed up a little.’ “

This is a very well-written page-turner that should make us appreciate what we have today and the struggles our relatives went through during WWII. It’s a darned good read!

ATONEMENT, TENNESSEE by Teagan Riordain Geneviene: A Review

by blogger friend Teagan Geneviene

My personal “Book of the Month,” this novel by blogger friend, Teagan, is set in Atonement, Tennessee, a “quaint” town full of interesting characters. When Esmerelda Lawton, “Ralda” to her friends, suffers from “big city blues,” she finds an old foreclosed-upon mansion in Atonement at a price too good to be true. And when something is too good to be true…well, you know the rest of the saying. She buys the house sight-unseen, and only when she arrives in town does she discover the old mansion comes complete with an ancient cemetery.

Gwydion, the local florist from Fae’s Flowers, and conveniently a handyman, is the first to visit. Cael, the foreign-accented, dark, and very handsome neighbor, who hangs around the cemetery, rounds out the love interests in this tiny town .

The story is a mix of urban fantasy and Celtic mythology, emanating a “feeling” of mystery and paranormal romance. The book ends with a cliffhanger that definitely requires a sequel, for which I can hardly wait.

BOOKS “E” and “F” of the 2020 ALPHABET SOUP CHALLENGE, Author’s edition

Thank you Dollycas for such a great challenge. Here are books “E” and “F”ALPHABET-SOUP-2020-AUTHOR-EDITION-BE-820.jpg

BOOK “E”– Tony Evans, author of The Last Promise, set this 2002 romance at a Tuscan vineyard complete with Italian villa, resident artist, and asthmatic son. I had read Evan’s The Christmas Box years ago as a Third Tuesday December book club selection. When Promise showed up as a donation for my Little Free Library,A98244D5-A015-438B-BB9D-688C2EFD5E36.jpeg I set it aside where it sat on my TBR shelf for over a year.

The author is a great storyteller who makes the reader care about the characters. Eliana, an artist married to a womanizing, rich husband lives in one part of the villa. She meets another resident of the huge villa, Ross, an American turned tour guide at the Uffizi (an art museum) who is harboring a secret. The two fall in love, of course, but the path of true love is often rocky. What results is beautiful descriptions of Italy, intrigue and mystery, and heart-tugs galore. It is a darned good read.thumbnail_20200308_105121.jpg

BOOK “F”–This 2012 adventure novel by the mysterious author, Magnus Flyte (What a pseudonym!) is also a blog recommendation from a fellow blogger, thus killing two book objectives with one read: The Alphabet Challenge and to read 20 books recommended by blogging friends in 2020. The novel includes science, magic, history, and art in all of its forms.

Sarah Watson (a play on Sherlock Holmes’ assistant) is the strong, female protagonist. She has been invited to Prague, City of Dark Magic, by her old professor Dr. Sherbatsky, offering her a job as a musicologist specializing in Beethoven at the Lobkowicz Palace there. When she arrives, she is shocked that Professor Sherbatsky had died under mysterious circumstances that has been classified as a suicide. Sarah knows in her heart this is impossible and sets out to find out the truth of his demise.

“This deliciously madcap novel has it all: murder in Prague, time travel [in the most original, unique way I’ve ever seen it done] a misanthropic Beethoven, tantric sex [plenty of it–all in good fun] and a dwarf with an attitude” Connan O’ Brien.

This novel is a hilarious, page-turning romp with an especially exciting ending.

 

These two have me ready to go back to Gilbert’s City of Girls next for the “G” novel of The 2020 Alphabet Challenge.city of g

 

MORE BOOKS ABOUT BOOKS

What better than a book set in a small library n a small town, whose main character is a librarian? The Library of Lost and Found, a 2019 novel by Phaedra Patrick, her debut novel, is, as critics claim, “Eccentric, charming and wise.” The “local” librarian, Martha Storm has lost her chance at finding true love since she cared for her elderly parents (while working at the town library) until their deaths, and until she is firmly established as everyone’s favorite “old maid”. Everyone agrees she is the person to ask if you need help or a favor, for she has “all the time in the world” and “nothing better to do.” Martha still lives in her parents’ home, which looks like something out of a hoarder’s nightmare because she does not have the time or energy to go through her parents’ things; plus, her living and dining room are cluttered with “projects” she has taken on for other people: pants to hem for her sister’s son since the sister doesn’t have time, a paper mâché dragon’s head to repair for the theater department of the local high school, and on and on.

Actually, this is not just the story of things that get lost in Martha’s house, but of how she has lost herself and finds herself, as well as a second chance at love. Library has been called “…a hymn to books and how they can bring love even miracles into your life.” And they do just that in Martha’s life. The thing I like best about Martha’s development and reformation is how she “writes her own happy ending.” I highly recommend The Library of Lost and Found.

THE HAUNTED BOOKSTORE, A CLASSIC by Christopher Morely: Review

In attempting to read about books, bookstores, libraries, and all things “bookish” between January 2019 and December 2019, I came across a book considered a classic, which fits my definition of a cozy mystery. Just in time for Halloween, Christopher Morely’s The Haunted Bookstore continues the saga of Parnassus on Wheels. It describes the bookstore of Roger Mifflin, proprietor, whose sign in the window welcomes booklovers, but warns, “This shop is haunted.”

The story is set in 1915 Brooklyn, NY. Enter Titania Chapman, enlightened daughter of a business magnate father who asks Mifflin if he will hire his daughter as an assistant. A budding career girl, something new to Mifflin and his wife, Titania is full of “new views” and ways to improve the comfortable old bookstore. Meeting a young ad salesman who tries to get Mifflin to advertise, Titania puts him through the paces and hoops of earning a young girl’s affections. There is mystery; there is romance; there is humor–all told in a charming style of writing that endears these characters and this novel to the reader. “Lively spirits” seem to be the cause of the things that go bump in the night, and the mysterious shadow men who appear are obviously up to no good.

All is revealed and satisfyingly resolved at the end, something modern readers seldom get enough of. I highly recommend this novel.

Second Chance Grill: A Review

I have often read cozy mysteries (where there is a murder, but there are no gory, graphic details or scenes, and the person killed is someone you “love to hate”), but I would describe Christine Nolfi’s 2012 novel, first book in the Liberty Series, as a “cozy romance.”

There are all the elements required for coziness: a handsome, rugged man who works with his hands, a mechanic named Anthony; a female protagonist, in this case Mary Chance, who is a doctor, but has inherited from her eccentric Aunt Meg a cafe and grill in a small town, Liberty, Ohio; a leukemia-striken kid, Blossom, Anthony’s daughter ;and the combination of these elements makes for a fine, inspiring novel.

The book begins with the disastrous opening day of the Second Chance Grill. (Get the connection? Mary Chance is the second “Chance”, after Meg, to run the grill.) Nothing goes right, and the cook nearly runs off the entire town. Mary really gets off on the wrong foot. Blossom decides from first sight that Mary is perfect for her widowed father’s second wife. What she doesn’t know is that Mary is only taking a break from doctoring to escape from the extreme grief she feels over the sudden death of her closest friend, and she intends to take over the deceased girl’s father’s practice just as soon as she meets her obligation to her aunt to get the grill up, running, and making a profit.

Of course, Blossom nearly dies, and the reader meets Anthony’s zany family who immediately agree with Blossom’s pick for her stepmother.  So many miscommunications and plot twists happen that the reader never loses interest or becomes bored. There are thirty-one short chapters that keep the reader swimming in cliffhangers.  It is the perfect escape read, something all of us need from time to time. The next book will be titled Treasure Me, which probably involves the many antiques that make up the decor of the grill.

“Check Off ‘B’: The Beekeeper’s Daughter: A Review

In my Alphabet Challenge, which thankfully has no time limits or goals on it, I have read the book for the letter ‘B’.  Santa Montefiore’s The Beekeeper’s Daughter was a book due at the public library which I finished up (just in time) and counted as part of the challenge. An experienced writer, Montefiore presents a story of two romances (mother’s and daughter’s ) that span the settings of England during WWII and 1973 New England.

Grace Hamblin is the beekeeper’s daughter, living in England and who experiences a love that can never be fulfilled. Trixie, her daughter falls in love with Jasper, a singer in a band “on the brink of stardom.” He is part of the British Music Invasion of the seventies. Trixie’s story and Grace’s story (the latter told in flashbacks) have more in common than either could suspect. Both are searching for “lost love.”  “To find  what they are longing for, they must confront the past, unravel the lies told long ago, and open their hearts to each other.”

This novel is a very good read, engaging with many twist and turns, and good old-fashioned “escapism.”

Jo Jo Moyes’ PARIS FOR ONE And Other Stories: A ReviewJo Jo

This 2016 novelette with eight other equally delightful shorter stories was an impulse pick up at the local Library, partly because it was in big print, and partly because our Third Tuesday Book Club had read Jo Jo Moyes once (maybe twice) upon a time.

Nell, who is twenty-six years old plans a mini-trip, more of a romantic weekend, to Paris for her and her boyfriend, only to discover upon arriving at the airport that he is a no-show. She has never traveled out of the country and has never traveled anywhere alone. Nell decides to go it alone, and we follow her on the “most adventurous weekend of her life. Like many of Moyes’ novels there IS a “happy-ever-after-ending” but not necessarily the one the reader expects, and the plot takes many twists and turns to get there.

The other stories were equally as good, some extremely short, and not all had “happy endings.” My favorite was “Crocodile Shoes,” which posited that just as “clothes make the man;” shoes make the woman.”  Some stories were ones of long-time married women given the chance at something “more,” and the decisions of whether to grab them are varied and interesting. The book is “funny, charming, and unmissable,” just as advertised on the cover. It is Moyes at her best–a MUST for fans.  Clever!

THE FIRE BY NIGHT: A REVIEW OF A WWII NOVEL

Teresa Messineo’s debut novel, The Fire By Night, is a “once in a lifetime story of war, love, loss, and the enduring grace of the human spirit” (Lauren Willig, NY Times bestselling author). It chronicles the war experiences of Jo McMahon working in field hospitals at and sometimes behind the front in occupied France and Kay Elliott, an army nurse as well, held captive in a squalid POW camp in Manila.  The author spent seven years researching her setting and topic, often interviewing military survivors of WWII, who were eager to have their stories told–accurately.

The book is both historically and medically accurate, and appeals to the emotions of the reader without becoming maudlin or “sappy.” The author deals with the women’s “place” and lack of status in the war, as well as the raw emotion brought out by their experiences, some of them told in rather graphic and gory detail.

Both women find out that life goes on after war, loss, emotional trauma, and discrimination and misunderstanding by those who “mean well.” It is a fast read that kept this reader turning pages and up late to “see how it all comes out.”