Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Look of Love by Sarah Jio

Sarah Jio follows the wonderful Goodnight June with another enchanting, magical novel, The Look of
Love. Once again, she brings us a story filled with love and tears. And, even if the subject is romance and love, the happily ever afters are not quite what everyone will expect.

The story begins in Paris in 1893 with a flower seller named Elodie, a woman with a gift for love. And, it's that gift that will change the lives of a long line of other green-eyed women. For her Christmas birthday in 2012, florist Jane Williams receives a letter, a letter that tells her she has a gift, but one that could turn into a curse if she's not careful. When Jane and her assistant, Lo, go to visit Colette Dubois, Jane find the woman's story somewhat unbelievable. Colette said she was present in the hospital on the day Jane was born, and she gave her a gift, "The gift of being able to see all of its truth and beauty." Elodie had been given the gift by a Gypsy, but it came with strings attached. The recipient must identify the six types of love, and write the accounts of them, before her thirtieth birthday, or she will never experience love herself.

Jane, who has always feared love, now fears she will never find it. As she watches her friends fall in and out of love, while she herself falls for a science writer who doesn't believe in love, she worries she will always be alone in the world.

Jio's latest novel is a contemporary story of love, loss, and, at times, sacrifice. The author sets the story in Seattle, a city that seems to appeal to romantics. In this case, a small community of friends goes through a challenging year of romance while Jane Williams tries to observe with a critical eye, one blurred by the vision of love. Jio's characters are appealing, and readers will want to know what happens to Jane and her friends. It's easy to fall into this book with its likable characters and variety of romantic scenarios. The Look of Love is another satisfying story, one that will bring tears and smiles, from an author who is adept at manipulating our emotions, and our hearts.

Sarah Jio's website is

The Look of Love by Sarah Jio. Plume. 2014. ISBN 9780142180532 (paperback), 286p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Plagued by Quilt by Molly MacRae

Molly MacRae brings back textile historian Kath Rutledge, her "posse" of knitters, and Geneva, a ghost, in an intriguing mystery that combines family, history, and a cold case. Plagued by Quilt takes readers to a historic farm in Blue Plum, Tennessee, where murder and death is part of the history.

Kath and her needlework group, TGIF (Thank Goodness It's Fiber), agreed to teach a workshop at the Holston Homeplace Living History Farm. But, their crazy quilt can't compete with Phillip Bell, the dramatic assistant director. And, even he can't compete when one of the students finds bones. Kath's thoughts immediately turn to Geneva, the ghost who lives with her, but doesn't remember much about her past. Thoughts of a cold case excite the members of TGIF. And, then someone kills a member of the staff at the farm.

While Kath is convinced the primary suspect didn't kill anyone, she's more interested in the cold case and a possible connection to Geneva. But, she's also worried about Ardis, the store manager of The Weaver's Cat. Ardis, a member of the posse, seems to have some unusual reactions when Geneva is around. Kath worries that all of her projects might unravel at the same moment.

Molly MacRae's latest mystery is filled with humor, often at the expense of a local deputy, Cole Dunbar. While Kath dates his brother, Joe, she is easily riled when it comes to dealing with Cole. But, the mystery is filled with heart as well as humor. Kath's actions are often driven by her concern for Geneva. And, all of Kath's friends are people with lives that do not always permit them to slip off to play amateur sleuth. In other words, they seem to be real people who have to take care of elderly fathers or work.

Kath Rutledge is my kind of amateur sleuth. She only hides things from the police because Cole Dunbar won't listen to her, and sometimes mocks her ideas, pushing her out of the way. And, when she sets a trap for a killer, she calls on her friends, and doesn't try to do it alone. But, she does believe in unraveling the stories that will lead to the truth. "Give me a puzzle and eccentric bits and pieces of information, and I want to make a pattern - a pattern that solves the puzzle."

Plagued by Quilt offers a few puzzles for Kath and the reader. There are secrets to discover about the bodies, the current murder victim, and Geneva's past. And, Kath is still learning about her inherited talents, including the ability to "brush up against someone's emotional state by brushing against a fabric they wore". It's a story offering family secrets, historical ones, ghosts and murder. In other words, Molly MacRae offers readers the chance to make a pattern from the puzzle and "eccentric bits and pieces of information" that she provides. Plagued by Quilt is a crazy quilt puzzle with heart.

Molly MacRae's website is

Plagued by Quilt by Molly MacRae. Obsidian. 2014. ISBN 9780451471307 (paperback), 342p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Winners and a "First" Giveaway

I didn't forget about you! My sister and I went to Nashville for a concert, and when I came back on Monday, I immediately headed to Indianapolis for a conference. I came back Wednesday to some leaks in my apartment, so there were some things to take care of. Time to get back to the blog.

Congratulations to the winners of the most recent contest. Donna Andrews' The Nightingale Before Christmas will go to Karen M. from San Bruno, CA. Susan M. of Montgomery, AL won Lea Wait's Shadows on a Maine Christmas. The books will go out today.

This week, I'm giving away two books that launch new series. Hannah Reed's Off Kilter will take a reader to the Scottish Highlands. After the death of her mother and end of her marriage, Eden Elliott headed to Glenkillen, Scotland, to do some hands-on-research for a novel. Instead, she finds herself doing hands-on-research to find the killer of the town's sheep shearer, a man that everyone seemed to like.

Even if you don't read Miranda James' Cat in the Stacks mysteries, you might want to enter to win Bless Her Dead Little Heart. It's the first Southern Ladies' mystery featuring the elderly Ducote sisters whose mistake in extending southern hospitality to an old sorority sister leads to a family invasion and murder.

This week is all about discovery. Would you like to head to Scotland or Mississippi? You can enter to win both books, but I need separate entries. Email me at  You subject heading should read either "Win Off-Kilter" or "Win Bless Her Dead Little Heart." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. The giveaway will end next Thursday, Nov. 27 at 6 PM CT.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Taking a Break

Taking a break for a few days. My sister, Linda, came in yesterday. We're spending the weekend together, and heading to Nashville on Sunday to see Celtic Thunder's Christmas show with the Nashville Symphony.

This is a picture from 3 years ago. It's just as perfect today, and Linda still looks that great. Maybe
even better since she's retired and is more relaxed. But, it's perfect because, just like three years ago, she brought quiche that her husband made and wine. This time, though, she also brought Buckeyes and orange cookies. And, laughter. She brought laughter because we always laugh together.

Taking a break for family, laughter, and then a library conference.

I hope you have time for family, a good book or two, and laughter.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Winners and a Christmas Mystery Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the last contest. John B. from Grass Valley, CA won Hank Phillippi Ryan's Truth Be Told. Kelli Stanley's City of Ghosts is also returning to California. Barbara G. from Brea, CA will receive that book. They'll go out in the mail today.

It's not too early to send out a couple Christmas mysteries. It will give the winners time to read them before the holiday.  So, I'm giving some lucky winner a copy of Donna Andrews' latest Meg Langslow Christmas mystery, The Nightingale Before Christmas. When Mother volunteers to take part in a a big Christmas-themed decorator show house, she insists Meg pitch in with the organization. But, some of the rooms are sabotaged. And, when a designer turns up dead, Mother is the prime suspect. Can Meg catch the real killer in time to keep Mother from being arrested?

Or, you could win Lea Wait's Shadows on a Maine Christmas. Maggie Summer has decisions to make this Christmas. She's determined to adopt a little girl. The man she loves doesn't want children. Will they decide they're not meant to be together? While they're spending the holiday at Aunt Nettie's house, a murder means "auld acquaintances won't be forgot, and long-hidden secrets will be revealed."

Which Christmas mystery would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Your subject heading should read either "Win The Nightingale Before Christmas" or "Win Shadows on a Maine Christmas." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. The contest will end next Thursday, Nov. 20 at 6 PM CT.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

My Sister's Grave by Robert Dugoni

Robert Dugoni, author of My Sister's Grave, is a terrific author who deserves a review on my blog, and not the post he's getting today. Because this is the second time recently that I had to postpone the actual review, I'm going to cut back on the blog tour spots I post here. In fact, I have a couple that are scheduled for next week while I'm at a library conference. We'll see what happens. In the past few months, my work schedule, including an evening meeting or a book discussion, made it difficult to read what I needed to read for a blog tour with a specific date. Readers will still get reviews. That's not changing. But, I'm not going to promise specific dates as often. I'm having a hard time meeting the commitment for a specific date.

Saying that, I'm going to summarize Robert Dugoni's My Sister's Grave, and, when I finish it, I'll review it here. I've actually only read 65 pages. Granted, those are 65 interesting pages, but not sufficient to review a book. Here's the summary from the publisher's publicity department.

"Seattle cop Tracy Crosswhite was a high school chemistry teacher when her teenaged sister Sarah
disappeared one night on her way home to their small town of Cedar Grove. A young ex-con, Edmund House, was quickly tried and convicted of her murder. Twenty years and a career change later, Tracy has dedicated her life to questioning whether the right man went to jail. When Sarah's remains are uncovered from a newly-exposed lake bed, new evidence seems to support Tracy's theory that the original prosecution was deeply flawed.

"Working with a childhood friend, now an attorney, to exonerate House and find Sarah's true killer, Tracy beings to uncover long-held secrets that point to a shocking - and potentially catastrophic - truth about what happened to her sister on that long-ago night. Somewhere in Cedar Grove, a killer is waiting, and Tracy must summon the strength to confront the past in order to save her future."

As the book goes back and forth from Tracy's past to the present day investigation, it becomes a fascinating story. But, as I said, Dugoni deserves better. So, today's post serves to mention an intriguing story. I'll review it when I finish My Sister's Grave.

Robert Dugoni's website is

My Sister's Grave by Robert Dugoni. Thomas & Mercer. 2014. ISBN 9781477825570 (paperback), 424p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book in order to participate in the blog tour.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Meta Given's Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking

Jacqueline Winspear said The Care and Management of Lies was inspired by a book she found, one that was published in 1911. The novel began when she found a dogeared copy of The Woman's Book, a book about household management covering topics including cooking, children, business, and dress. Today, I want to share the 1950s version of that type of book. When I was home a week ago, my mother pulled out a more than dogeared copy of Meta Given's Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking. The first edition came out in 1947. The edition I now own came out in 1955.

As Winspear pointed out, cookbooks say so much about our society. Take the creed. Have you seen a creed in any recent cookbook? Here's "The Family Hostess' Creed" from this book. 

"Happy family relationships are part of my responsibility; therefore - I will save enough energy to do the job of being a happy and helpful hostess to my family day after day.

"My family's satisfaction with my table setting and service is my responsibility; therefore - I will manage my linens and other equipment, my method of work, and enlist the assistance of my family to the end that the table shall be clean and beautiful and the service easy and dignified.

"My family's satisfaction with their food is my responsibility; therefore - I will mange so that foods shall come to the table in their prime condition developed by previous care in selection, preparion and cooking.

"Enjoyment of each other and of their food is an important part of successful family life; therefore - I shall use intelligence, skill and love in serving food to my family."

I have to say my mother laughed when I read her this section from her cookbook.And, I told her that is says a homemaker's social responsibility is represented by the slogan, "Every woman a hostess to her own family". And, maybe she read some of those segments, and not just the recipes when she first had the book. But, I don't think she every took the section seriously about serving because it mentions serving "If there is a maid" and "If there is no maid."

Why did I decide to talk about this cookbook today? Because I'm happy to have a piece of cultural history in my hands. It does have good recipes, as evidenced by my mother's cooking. But, it also shows us where we came from as women. And, I'll treasure this as part of cultural, and family, history.

Do you have a cookbook or book that means our cultural history to you?

Meta Given's Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking. J.G. Ferguson and Associates. 1947, 1955.