Jane in Austin

A Novel of Sweet Tea and Sensibility

by Hillary Manton Lodge


Oh my gosh I fell hard for this book it was such a sweet – charming – heartwarming tale. Usually Jane Austen retelling’s don’t grab me but this one sure did. The cast of characters were all very real feeling. Jane, Celia, and Margot were the sweetest sisters and I loved their closeness even when they were starting to drift a little apart due to strain and stress they still looked out for each other and had each other’s back. Jane and Celia have guardianship of Margot after their dad broke a lot of laws and went into hiding. To stay afloat and start over new they opened a Tea Shop! Oh my how I love my tea so I loved the idea of having a cute little tea shop that offered tea and pastries. My tea shop would also have used books so I could combine my love of tea – books and yummy treats (especially macarons!) They lose everything yet again and pack up to stay with family in Texas. Oh the cast of characters in Texas all have such big personalities. Some are great and have big hearts to go with the saying everything is bigger in Texas. However there is one in particular that I knew was just a little to good to be true from the very beginning. I really wanted someone else to capture Jane’s heart. Retired Marine Captain Callum Beckett was shattered and picking up the pieces not only from his injury but from losing the last member of his family. He had lost his mom when he was young, his brother while he was a Marine and his dad at the very moment he also lost a lot of his Marine team and his leg. I can’t even imagine how someone could lose all so much and still be standing. He was a strong guy that was working through a lot. Jane was that quirky girl who captured his heart with her bold – blunt – a bit odd in her love of tea plants more than people personality. I’ll leave the review at that, since I don’t want to spoil anything. If you’ve read and remember Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility than you know how it ends. The author really has a wonderfully fun writing style and I’ll be checking out her other books very soon. Oh I forgot to mention the best part – the book has recipes! I love books about food that include yummy recipes. There are a few I will be trying very soon. Most of the recipes are sweet treats but there are a few savory ones as well. You probably already guessed it but the sweet treats have a tea twist in the fact that tea is incorporated into the recipe somehow – LOVE it! Oh I almost forgot the rating: I give this book a 100% A+ no actually this one gets over 100% because I’m giving it extra credit for being such a sweet (clean) romance! so A++ this one will be a top 10 of 2017.

about the book: This hip contemporary romance combines Jane Austen-inspiration and foodie fiction in a witty and engaging tale of two sisters who are forced to uproot to unfamiliar Austin, Texas, after high rent and broken relationships force them away from their San Francisco life.  Just a few years after their father’s business scandal shatters their lives, Jane and Celia Woodward find themselves forced out of their San Francisco tea shop.The last thing Jane wants is to leave their beloved shop on Valencia Street, but when Celia insists on a move to Austin, Texas, the sisters pack up their kid sister Margot and Jane’s tea plants, determined to start over yet again. But life in Austin isn’t all sweet tea and breakfast tacos. Their unusual living situation is challenging and unspoken words begin to fester between Jane and Celia. When Jane meets and falls for up-and-coming musician Sean Willis, the chasm grows deeper. While Sean seems to charm everyone in his path, one person is immune – retired Marine Captain Callum Beckett. Callum never meant to leave the military, but the twin losses of his father and his left leg have returned him to the place he least expected–Texas. In this modern spin on the Austen classic, Sense and Sensibility, the Woodward sisters must contend with new ingredients in unfamiliar kitchens, a dash of heartbreak, and the fragile hope that maybe home isn’t so far away.

Thank you Waterbrook Press and Blogging for Books for the copy of Jane in Austin. All thoughts and opinions are my own and not influenced by the free book.

The Homemade Kitchen

by Alana Chernila
The Homemade Kitchen is a good cookbook and made perfect for the seasoned at home cook or the brand new to cooking person looking for info. Really this cookbook would be the perfect gift for a person that is new to cooking. The author has divided the book into chapters that as simple as Be A Beginner which is all so full of so much information it is one of my favorite chapters. I know how to cook eggs, veggies and such but she breaks it down into all kinds from how to steam and roast veggies to transforming milk or cooking grains. This is good for all levels of cooking and I learned a few things and have several post-its in this chapter. The other chapters are about making meals and I love a lot of post it flags sticking out of this book. 🙂   My favorite book of hers will always be The Homemade Pantry but this one is good and I’m glad to have it in my kitchen cookbook library.
summary:  Written as much for the reader as the cook, The Homemade Kitchen covers a globe’s worth of flavors and includes new staples (what Alana is known for) such as chèvre, tofu, kefir, kimchi, preserved lemons, along with recipes and ideas for using them. Here, too, are dishes you’ll be inspired to try and that you will make again and again until they become your own family recipes, such as Broccoli Raab with Cheddar Polenta, a flavor-forward lunch for one; Roasted Red Pepper Corn Chowder, “late summer in a bowl”; Stuffed Winter Squash, rich with leeks, chorizo, apples, and grains; Braised Lamb Shanks that are tucked into the oven in the late afternoon and not touched again until dinner; Corn and Nectarine Salad showered with torn basil; perfect share-fare Sesame Noodles; Asparagus Carbonara, the easiest weeknight dinner ever; and sweet and savory treats such as Popovers, Cinnamon Swirl Bread, Summer Trifle made with homemade pound cake and whatever berries are ripest, and Rhubarb Snacking Cake.
In this follow-up to Alana’s wildly successful debut, The Homemade Pantry, she once again proves herself to be the truest and least judgmental friend a home cook could want.

Dark Matter

by Blake Crouch

This book has it all sci – fi elements – spooky could this really happen – and page turning twist and turns.

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch


I’ll start off by saying I learned who Blake Crouch was by watching the first season of Wayward Pines. After the show ended, I grabbed the books and found a great sci – fi author. Blake Crouch writing style is great and his characters are always very well developed. Jason’s life is turned upside down and inside out. The grass definitely wasn’t greener in this parallel universe and he wants his old life – real life back. This book keeps you guessing to the very end. I don’t know how many times I was thinking “oh OK I know whats happening” only to turn the page and BAM new curveball and plot twist. If you’re not a fan of sci-fi or really never read any grab Dark Matter. This is in the sci-fi genre with a bit of creepy horror tossed in. By creepy horror I don’t mean gore and gross I mean get under your skin and just make you glance over your shoulder spooky. For me  Dark Matter is right up there with some of my all time favorite spooky reads.  I really think it is better than Wayward Pines series and will be recommending this to anyone who ask me for a good book to read. This book is so tricky and keeps you guessing and thinking long after I have finished! Hope this gets turned into a movie or show. After reading this book I will always read a book written by Blake Crouch!

summary: “Are you happy with your life?”

Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious.

Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits.

Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.”

In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor, but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable. Something impossible.

Is it this world or the other that’s the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined—one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.

thank you so much Blogging for Books, Crown Publishing and Blake Crouch for allowing me to read and review Dark Matter. All thoughts and opinions are my own and were not influenced by the free book.


by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore

June is a slow going start that just takes a tad bit longer than I’m use to the story rolling. I’m glad I didn’t let that stop me and continued reading. Once June got started it was such a good book. In the slower start you get to know each of the main characters that June revolves around and get to visualize the world in which June takes place in. This is a story about family and the secrets that sometimes the people we love try to keep hidden. Some secrets and answers are easy to discover and some have you questioning everything you thought you knew about that person. The story goes back and forth between present day and 1955. Sometimes when a story jumps back and forth it gets a bit confusing or the story line doesn’t seem connected. In the book June that is not the case the stories flow together seamlessly and is very easy to read. This book was full of some my twist and turns and just when you think the last secret is out low and behold here comes another one. While this isn’t a typical mystery book I would say it has mystery elements in it, as well as some historical information. I enjoyed her first book Bittersweet but I have to say June is my favorite. I just liked everything about the whole story. 

summary: Cassie Danvers is holed up in her family’s crumbling mansion in rural St. Jude, Ohio, mourning the loss of the woman who raised her, her grandmother, June. When Cassie discovers that she has been named the sole heir to legendary matinee idol Jack Montgomery’s vast fortune she is stunned. Could Jack Montgomery have crossed paths with her grandmother all those years ago? When his daughters arrive, determined to reclaim the inheritance, they uncover a history of murder, blackmail, and betrayal.

thank you blogging for books and crown publishing for allowing me to read and review June. All thoughts and opinions are my own and not influenced by the free book. 


Avenue of Spies

A True Story of Terror, Espionage, and One American Family’s Heroic Resistance in Nazi – Occupied Paris
by Alex Kershaw

Wow! I’m usually not a big non fiction fan but Avenue of Spies just made me one! I have to admit I did grab a copy since I tend to read anything I can get my hands on when dealing with WWII. Avenue of Spies was different from most since this one dealt with an American doctor in Paris. This was almost like all the page turning suspense books I’ve read. The author does a great job at presenting the real life events of the  Sumner Jackson and his family. Doctor Jackson was and is a hero in my eyes. He didn’t just stand back and let all those horrible events pass by he did his part in helping people escape even though it meant if caught his family would be treated as traitors and sent to concentration camps. Which is what happened, for Sumner, his wife and their son. Phillip their son was able to give accounts of their life and helped shape this book and made it an amazing read for any history buff. There were so many unsung heroes during WWII and Doctor Sumner Jackson, his wife and son were among those that no one had heard about until now thanks to author Alex Kershaw. I’m so honored to have read their story and it will stay with me always. Avenue of Spies is one of those books that I will place on my bookshelf, next to my copy of Diary of Anne Frank and read again and again.
summary: The leafy Avenue de Foch, one of the most exclusive residential streets in Nazi-occupied France, was Paris’s hotbed of daring spies, murderous secret police, amoral informers, and Vichy collaborators. So when American physician Sumner Jackson, who lived with his wife and young son Phillip at Number 11, found himself drawn into the Liberation network of the French resistance, he knew the stakes were impossibly high. Just down the road at Number 31 was the “mad sadist” Theodor Dannecker, an Eichmann protégé charged with deporting French Jews to concentration camps. And Number 84 housed the Parisian headquarters of the Gestapo, run by the most effective spy hunter in Nazi Germany.
From his office at the American Hospital, itself an epicenter of Allied and Axis intrigue, Jackson smuggled fallen Allied fighter pilots safely out of France, a job complicated by the hospital director’s close ties to collaborationist Vichy. After witnessing the brutal round-up of his Jewish friends, Jackson invited Liberation to officially operate out of his home at Number 11–but the noose soon began to tighten. When his secret life was discovered by his Nazi neighbors, he and his family were forced to undertake  a journey into the dark heart of the war-torn continent from which there was little chance of return.
thank you Blogging for Books, Crown Publishing, Alex Kershaw for allowing me to read the Jackson’s family acts of bravery. All thoughts and opinions are my own and were not influenced by the free book.

Bradstreet Gate

by Robin Kirman

Georgia, Charlie and Alice each arrive at Harvard with hopeful visions of what the future will hold. But when, just before graduation, a classmate is found murdered on campus, they find themselves facing a cruel and unanticipated new reality. Moreover, a charismatic professor who has loomed large in their lives is suspected of the crime. Though his guilt or innocence remains uncertain, the unsettling questions raised by the case force the three friends to take a deeper look at their tangled relationship. Their bond has been defined by the secrets they’ve kept from one another—Charlie’s love and Alice’s envy, Georgia’s mysterious affair—and over the course of the next decade, as they grapple with the challenges of adulthood and witness the unraveling of a teacher’s once-charmed life, they must reckon with their own.

I grabbed a copy of Bradstreet Gate for review because I wanted a good mystery. I love mystery’s and thrillers almost as much as I love tea, and that’s saying alot! This book was good, I enjoyed it but not as mystery suspense as I was hoping for. It reminded me of a mini series or like the new thing a 10 episode drama. The characters were quirky and a bit dysfunctional but they kept you reading. The Bradstreet Gate is good, the classmates murder is really just the backdrop and not the main theme of the book. It’s really about this group of very driven friends that will do anything to keep their secrets, secret and their life on the same track they have always envisioned. If your into character driven fiction with a side of mystery than grab Bradstreet Gate.

thank you blogging for books, crown publishing and Robin Kirman for allowing me to read and review Bradstreet Gate. All thoughts and opinions are my own and were not influenced by the free book. 

The Mapmaker’s Children

by Sarah McCoy

When Sarah Brown, daughter of abolitionist John Brown, realizes that her artistic talents may be able to help save the lives of slaves fleeing north, she becomes one of the Underground Railroad’s leading mapmakers, taking her cues from the slave code quilts and hiding her maps within her paintings. She boldly embraces this calling after being told the shocking news that she can’t bear children, but as the country steers toward bloody civil war, Sarah faces difficult sacrifices that could put all she loves in peril.

   Eden, a modern woman desperate to conceive a child with her husband, moves to an old house in the suburbs and discovers a porcelain head hidden in the root cellar—the remains of an Underground Railroad doll with an extraordinary past of secret messages, danger and deliverance. 

   Ingeniously plotted to a riveting end, Sarah and Eden’s woven lives connect the past to the present, forcing each of them to define courage, family, love, and legacy in a new way.

I couldn’t wait to get my hands on The Mapmaker’s Children, it is about a time in history that is very interesting to me. I love reading everything I can about the Underground Railroad. I would like to think I would be like Sarah and help  the slaves to safety. So this book was one I had to read. I LOVED The Mapmaker’s Children. I’m not usually a fan of the back and forth switching from one person to the next. It gets confusing to me at times. However Sarah McCoy does such a great job at intertwining the two it just flows so well. I love all the historical facts she includes within the story. It really makes you want to research the history of your house if it is an older home. Mine is not old so sadly no fun stories here but can you imagine if you had a old 1800’s home. The Mapmaker’s Children has made me a fan of not only Sarah McCoy but of historical past/present story telling. I know this is a book I will read many times and one that in top book picks for 2015! 

thank you blogging for books, crown publishing and Sarah McCoy for allowing me to read this wonderful book. All thoughts and opinions are my own and were not influenced by the free book.