The Summer Seaside Kitchen

The Summer Seaside KitchenThe Summer Seaside Kitchen
by Jenny Colgan
Rating: ★★★½
isbn: 9780751564808
Publication Date: October 10, 2017
Pages: 419
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Sphere

Flora is definitely, absolutely sure that escaping from the quiet Scottish island where she grew up to the noise and hustle of the big city was the right choice. What was there for her on Mure? It's a place where everyone has known her all her life, and no one will let her forget the past. In the city, she can be anonymous, ambitious and indulge herself in her hopeless crush on her gorgeous boss, Joel.
When a new client demands Flora's presence back on Mure, she's suddenly swept back into life with her brothers (all strapping, loud and seemingly incapable of basic housework) and her father. As Flora indulges her new-found love of cooking and breathes life into the dusty little pink-fronted shop on the harbour, she's also going to have to come to terms with past mistakes - and work out exactly where her future lies...

I don’t know what to say about this book; it’s unlike the other books I’ve read by Colgan, and a much more straightforward romance.  The plot premise is implausible, at best, and the titular kitchen isn’t even hinted at before the halfway mark.  But it takes place on a fictional northern island off the coast of Scotland, and the romance is a slllooowww burn, so I coped, and was pleasantly diverted by the wonderful atmosphere, obviously written by someone who loves their home country.

But this was not as tightly written a story as it could have been, and felt like it was trying to tackle way too much in one book.  Flora’s baggage, Joel’s baggage, Fintan’s baggage – there was just an awful lot of baggage, leaving the important impediments only glossed over here and there.  When things started to come together, they came together well, but at 400+ pages, the atmosphere carried me more than a time or two over some rough, and possibly extraneous, bits of story that ordinarily would have left me bored.

While I’d happily love to read another of her books set on Mure, this wasn’t as good as the others of her books I’ve read.  Still it was a nice mental holiday.

Sunrise by the Sea

Sunrise by the SeaSunrise by the Sea
by Jenny Colgan
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9780751580341
Publication Date: June 8, 2021
Pages: 356
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Sphere

When she is given the opportunity to move to a remote tidal island off the Cornish Coast, Marisa Rossi decides some peace and quiet might be just what she needs.

Since the death of her beloved grandfather back in Italy, she's been struggling to find a way out of her grief. Perhaps this will be the perfect place for her to recuperate.

But Mount Polbearne is a far cry from the sleepy little place she was imagining. Between her noisy piano-teaching Russian neighbour and the hustle and bustle of a busy community, Marisa finds solitude is not so easy to come by. Especially when she finds herself somehow involved with a tiny local bakery desperately in need of some new zest to save it . . .

Not at all the book I was expecting, but an interesting one.  There’s an “outro” at the end of the book by the author, explaining how it wasn’t quite the book she expected it to be either, and explains why.

Without spoiling the author’s attempt to avoid spoilers, I’ll just say this is a book about long-term grief and how it can turn into something altogether different and how Marisa finds her way out of it with the help of a small Cornish island.  Colgan addresses agoraphobia and how it tears Marisa away from her family and friends as she becomes ever increasingly isolated.  How her roommate kicks her out for being such a drag and she finds a home on a tidal island off the Cornish Coast that’s a perfect hideaway for Marisa, except for the Russian piano instructor living next door who teaches and practices all hours of the day and night.  Between the Russian, her therapist and her Nonna back in italy (the latter two converse with her via Skype/Zoom), she slowly finds ways to break the cycle of isolation and reconnect with people.

This is a book that manages to be neither perky nor heavy; respect is given to Marisa’s struggles without drowning the reader in it.  It’s light without being fluffy.  There’s obviously a back story with the secondary characters; I’m assuming this is part of a series that takes place on this island, but it never interfered, or left me feeling as though I missed something.  I’m guessing Sunrise by the Sea is marketed as a romance, but I’d argue against it.  There’s a romantic connection at then end but the rest of the book is about Marisa’s recovery with occasional side-forays into the financial struggles of Polly and Huckle (whom I’m assuming starred in a previous book).

An enjoyable read – not quite what I was looking for, but it held my attention nonetheless.

The Christmas Bookshop

The Christmas BookshopThe Christmas Bookshop
by Jenny Colgan
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9780751584240
Publication Date: October 6, 2021
Pages: 355
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Sphere

Carmen has always worked in her local department store. So, when the gorgeous old building closes its doors for good, she is more than a little lost.
When her sister, Sofia, mentions an opportunity in Edinburgh - a cute little bookshop, the spare room in her house - Carmen is reluctant, she was never very good at accepting help. But, short on options, she soon finds herself pulling into the snowy city just a month before Christmas.
What Sofia didn't say is that the shop is on its last legs and that if Carmen can't help turn things around before Christmas, the owner will be forced to sell. Privately, Sofia is sure it will take more than a miracle to save the store, but maybe this Christmas, Carmen might surprise them all...

I know – I’m a little over a month late to be reading this book, but I’ve found myself in dire need of comfort reads.  We’re in the middle of a very unusual, almost 10 day long, heatwave that’s making my smashed leg and foot swell up worse than is to be expected.  I’m living on ice packs and in a state of constant … not pain, but discomfort.  So I need to be entertained by something well-written enough to hold my attention while I constantly shift about in search of a new comfortable-for-five-minutes position.

This fit the bill very well – almost too well, as I saw midnight last night for the first time in months, engrossed in the story.  I’ve read two other Colgan books before, The Bookshop on the Corner, and The Bookshop on the Shore, and, story for story, I think I might have enjoyed them a little bit more, but that could just be the leg talking.  Edinburgh at Christmas sounds lovely, enchanting, chaotic, and with all the steps, my current nerve-exploding nightmare.  I’d have liked more page time devoted to the bookshop and it’s rebirth, rather than sister angst, or the silliness with the man-child author.  But I did appreciate that the sister angst had a solution that didn’t involve perfect-Sophia being anything less than perfect; I like that they both got to be happy being themselves with each other, without involving earth shattering life changes for either of them.  I enjoyed seeing Mr. McCredie come out of his shell, though I’d have loved to spend more time in that attic of his.

There’s a tiny hint of magical realism that’s too small to matter, but could have been explored a bit more.  The genre is listed as ‘romance’, and while, yes, there is a romance, it’s very, very light.  The focus is on the shop, and the sisters’ relationship, and the kids, and the MC’s pulling on her big girl knickers and growing up.  The development of the romance is saved for the very end, where it’s all massive epiphanies and mad dashes in snow storms, but that bit is over as quickly as it starts (the story part, not the romance part) and we end with everybody’s HEA.

All in all, a book that served its purpose.  So well, in fact, that I’m off explore her backlist a bit more in depth, to see if further relief can be found between the pages of her books.

Like a Charm

Like a CharmLike a Charm
by Candace Havens
Rating: ★★★½
isbn: 9780425219263
Publication Date: February 5, 2008
Pages: 289
Genre: Fantasy, Fiction
Publisher: Berkley


I’ve had a few books by Candace Havens on the shelves for over a decade, and the other night I decided I had to re-read them; I remembered the broad strokes, but not much else.  I started with this one, Like a Charm and it held up surprisingly well, for the kind of story it is.

Like a Charm is a paranormal romance, but really the romance is only about half the story, the rest is about the MC, Kira, picking herself up and putting herself back together after a horrific work related experience that left her traumatised and seriously ill.  She goes back to her hometown and reconnects with the residents and her family, and while she’s there, the town librarian dies, a woman who was like a second mom to her.  Kira is bequeathed an extraordinary inheritance, and must weight accepting it against going back to her highly successful law career.

Of course that other half of the story is Caleb.  Caleb has all the requirements of a romantic hero: of course he’s hot, and he’s a carpenter, BUT only on the side, when he’s not running around the world being a highly successful investigative reporter, and of course he’s rich, although you’d never know it unless he’s in a suit.  And of course he’s a gentleman of the southern variety, holding doors, paying for everything – but only in the most enlightened and charming fashion.  I’m used to this sort of stuff in what few romances I read, and I accept that it’s a winning formula for a reason.  But where things got really out-of-date, was the whole first time in bed scene.  It was just soooo cheesy.

As is obvious, I enjoyed the non-romantic half more.  It was largely an ode to books and libraries and the book-title-author name dropping was fun.  It was a light, fun read that went fast.


I’ve decided to use this for the Raven/Free Square on my Halloween Bingo 2021 card.  It’s full of magic and I-see-dead-people and is set in a small town run and protected by a coven of witches.

Wild Ride

Wild RideWild Ride
by Bob Mayer, Jennifer Crusie
Rating: ★★★½
isbn: 9780312533779
Publication Date: March 15, 2010
Pages: 351
Genre: Fantasy, Fiction
Publisher: St. Martin's Press


This was the last book Jennifer Crusie wrote that I hadn’t yet read (except for the Temptation books; I started Welcome to Temptation  and something turned me off and I never finished it).  It’s a co-wriiten book with Bob Meyer, and their previous effort Agnes and the Hitman is one of my all time favourite good-time reads.

But I avoided this one for years because I’m not a fan of carnivals and amusement parks as story settings.  Stephen King might have ruined this for me, but there’s just something WAY too creepy and seedy about them in books.  Nevertheless, I had bought this and after years of languishing in a forgotten corner of the TBR, I found it just in time for Halloween Bingo, and the setting was perfect.

Mary Alice (Mab) is just finishing up a massive restoration of an early 1920’s amusement park, putting on one of the last touches, when she’s attacked by a giant iron clown that calls her by name.  The owners of the park seen unsurprised, though they pass it off as a hallucination.  Soon, however, there’s no escaping the truth:  the park is the prison for 5 untouchable demons (all from the Etruscan mythology, it seems) and two have escaped.  It’s up to Mab and her fellow Guardia to re-capture them and keep the other three from escaping.

Believe me when I say there is nothing deep or philosophical about this book.  It’s pure silliness and funnel cake fun.  It’s not nearly as well plotted or written as Agnes and the Hitman, but it’s well written enough that it kept me reading and the eye rolling only happened a few times.

I doubt I’ll ever re-read this again, though it did make me want to climb that ladder to grab Agnes for a re-read.


I read this for Halloween Bingo 2021.  It’s a perfect fit for the Creepy Carnivals square, which is really my Stone Cold Horror square – I used my Transfiguration Spell card,  as it’s chock full of demons (including minions that possess teddy bears and characters ripped completely from Small World) and it takes place entirely within the grounds of the Fun Fun Amusement Park.

Ladies’ Night

Ladies' NightLadies' Night
by Mary Kay Andrews
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9781250019677
Publication Date: June 24, 2013
Pages: 456
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: St. Martin's Press

Grace Stanton's life as a rising media star and beloved lifestyle blogger takes a surprising turn when she catches her husband cheating and torpedoes his pricey sports car straight into the family swimming pool. Grace suddenly finds herself locked out of her palatial home, checking account, and even the blog she has worked so hard to develop in her signature style. Moving in with her widowed mother, who owns and lives above a rundown beach bar called The Sandbox, is less than ideal. So is attending court-mandated weekly "divorce recovery" therapy sessions with three other women and one man for whom betrayal seems to be the only commonality. When their "divorce coach" starts to act suspiciously, they decide to start having their own Wednesday "Ladies' Night" sessions at The Sandbox, and the unanticipated bonds that develop lead the members of the group to try and find closure in ways they never imagined. Can Grace figure out a new way home and discover how strong she needs to be to get there?

Heartache, humor, and a little bit of mystery come together in a story about life's unpredictable twists and turns. Mary Kay Andrews' Ladies' Night will have you raising a glass and cheering these characters on.


Definitely not one of her best books, but not nearly as poor as I was led to believe.  Admittedly, it’s set in my home town, which never fails to delight me as my home town only read made it on to the map in the last 15 years or so.  But I enjoyed following the main character’s vision and her hard work on restoring the Cracker house, and I thoroughly enjoyed the romantic interest’s background of owning Jungle Jerry’s, a fictional but entirely accurate take on Sarasota Jungle Gardens, right down to the parrot that rides a bike.

Nostalgia definitely bumped the rating on this book at least a star; the villains were too villainous to be real – although in Florida non of them were impossible – and the plots were superficial at best.  I always hold up her non detective fiction against her an early work of hers, Hissy Fit, and this falls far short of that incredibly readable story, but it’s not, as I said, her worst.  Living as far from home as one can get and still be on the planet, I thoroughly enjoyed the virtual trip home, so, 4 stars.


The Bookshop on the Shore

The Bookshop on the ShoreThe Bookshop on the Shore
by Jenny Colgan
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 0062850180
Publication Date: June 11, 2019
Pages: 416
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks

This one was an average chick-lit/romance that was only marginally about books, though they sounded like heavenly books in a library out of my dreams.  The setting was the same as The Bookshop on the Corner, and a couple of characters from the first book play minor roles in this one, but otherwise the story is completely stand alone.

And it’s ok.  It’s saved from complete mediocrity by a plot twist that was unexpected – at least by me; with my limited backlist of books in this genre, it’s probably not hard to surprise me.

It was a diverting read, though not as good as The Book Charmer, whose strong sense of place kept interfering in my mind with the weaker one here;  Perhaps I might have enjoyed this one more if it hadn’t come on the tails of that more vividly written and charming book.

Agnes and the Hitman

Agnes and the HitmanAgnes and the Hitman
by Jennifer Crusie
Rating: ★★★★½
isbn: 9780312363048
Publication Date: August 21, 2007
Pages: 368
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: St. Martin's Press


I used this yesterday as my ‘guilty pleasure’ read for the ukbookaday event and since I had finished and reviewed all my currently reading books yesterday as well, it felt like I had earned a guilty pleasure re-read.  Plus, I figured this would be a great book to christen BL’s new re-read feature with, but it turns out I never recorded any read dates for this before, so that was a bust.

Remember those old-ish Goldie Hawn movies, like Bird on a Wire?  If you’ve seen those movies, you’ll have some idea of what Agnes and the HItman is like.  (Maybe a bit of Analyze This mixed in.) I think this book is MUCH better than Bird on a Wire was, but it’s as close as I can come to describing the tone.

Agnes is having a very bad week.  She’s bought the house of her dreams from her best friends mother, Brenda, with the stipulation that Brenda’s granddaughter (and Agnes’ goddaughter) be married on the grounds with Agnes planning and hosting the whole thing.  Easy!

Except suddenly someone is trying to dognap her dog, at gunpoint.  Seems a bit excessive for an ugly old hound.  Agnes defends herself with her frying pan and in the course of self-defence, the would be dognapper falls through a wall into an unknown basement and dies, letting loose all sorts of family secrets Brenda would have preferred stayed buried.  Agnes’ old friend Joey, a retired and reformed mobster, thinks there’s something up with a dognapping at gunpoint and sends his nephew, Shane, to protect Agnes.  Shane’s in the middle of a job, trying to take out an assassin, but Joey is the man who raised him – sort of – and he’s never asked for anything from Shane in 25 years.

What follows from here is just pure hilarity.  This is not a deep story; don’t look for the characters to be meaningful or even realistic.  There is zero navel-gazing and it’s pretty much non-stop action from first to last.  If liberal use of course language is going to bother you – avoid this book.  If talk about sex bothers you – avoid this book.  The sex isn’t graphic, but discussion about it abounds.

If you’re looking for a light, funny, comedic romp – find this book!  I upgraded mine to hardcover several years ago because I was wearing out my paperback.

Love Game (Matchmaker #3)

Love GameLove Game
by Elise Sax
Rating: ★★★★
Series: Matchmaker Mystery #3
Publication Date: January 1, 2014
Pages: 277
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Publisher: Ballantine Books
“I never want to leave this town.  Cannes is a village on happy juice. LSD.  It’s the Wizard of Oz on shrooms.”

I want to live in Cannes, California.  It’s definitely on my list of Fictional Places I’d Like to Live.  I’d have a comfy chair and a big bowl of popcorn and I’d park myself on the sidewalk and just watch.  It’s crazy town in the most entertaining way possible.

I can’t move to Cannes, but at least I have these books and I can visit this nutville and it’s residents anytime I’d like.

In Love Game there’s an ill wind blowing, and her name is Luanda.  She’s brought a special brand of crazy to Cannes and it’s undoing all the good matches Gladys and her grandmother Zelda have made.  Add to that a suitcase full of spider infested clothes, Gladys car keys going into a ravine, a group kidnapping and a murder and you have the makings of a very entertaining week in the best possible slapstick style.

I like Gladys, but I have to admit she’s not always my favorite character in the books.  I don’t think I could be friends in Real Life with someone who has been known to be extremely flighty.  But she’s still a character you can get behind and cheer on.  While each book has presented the entire cast in all it’s zany glory, I would have to choose Ruth as my favorite from this book – she’s got all the best lines.  I should hope to be her when I’m in my 80’s.  She reminds me of the little old lady cartoons on the Hallmark cards – you know which one I mean?  The skinny one that smokes, wears glasses, and has absolutely no filter between her brain and her mouth.

The romantic angle of the book is chaos of the best kind.  I normally HATE HATE HATE love triangles, but what Gladie has going on here really doesn’t qualify as a love triangle –  more like it’s raining men. (Hallelujah!) Holden is out of town and out of touch in this book, but we have a new player – Remington Cumberbatch.  A detective working for Spencer Bolton, he’s around often enough to keep Spencer from a sure thing and Gladys’ hormones in overdrive. The chemistry is constant and intense between Gladys and both of these men, and her flirtations are fun without stretching the readers patience.

The kidnapping/murder was excellent – Ms. Sax can write a mystery.  I didn’t even know who to suspect until the end, when Luanda’s denouement puts Gladys in the spotlight, leaving her to piece together the clues and come up with the answer.  I’m not sure how realistic the deductions are, but they were fun nonetheless.

I’m hooked on this series and I hope Gladys has a long run full of fun, laugh-out-loud adventures.  I’ll be looking forward with eagerness for the next one.

Death, Taxes, and Hot Pink Leg Warmers

Well, I’m not sure about the ending, but the rest is excellent! Great characters, snappy dialogue and excellent story lines.


I enjoy the way the author goes between two or more story lines in these books, each one is a nice break from the other and it keeps things interesting. The main plot line was intense, so the secondary plot offered a breather and I enjoyed reading about the individual agencies working together.


The sexual tension between Nick and Tara is fun and the author does an excellent job with the writing – enough to be steamy, not so much as to be veering into erotic writing.  This has been a strong series from the beginning and I’m looking forward to the next book, which luckily is only a couple of months away.