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Chocolat and Other Delicious Things!

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Loveys, it’s almost book club time again! Which I’m thrilled about because the last month has had all kinds of unexpected issues (illness for one) and I feel like I have hardly been a part of humanity! I had all of these great intentions about being super social this year, and then one thing after another has happened, and basically my only social interaction lately has been with Jeff and my three children. SO, fingers crossed nothing else happens, and book club goes as planned next week.

Book club this month is Joanne Harris’s delightful novel Chocolat. I was immediately on board with this since I LOVED the movie so much. I was surprised by how much they changed from book to film–but the more I thought about it, the more I felt that the changes were good changes. They held to the themes while making the story something that worked perfectly in movie form. (This made me think of Julie and Julia. In that case, I loved the movie so much, but when I read the book, I didn’t connect with the author. The book just didn’t move me in any way.) When it came to Chocolat, I ended up loving the book and the movie. (Confession: I liked some of the characters from the movie better, but I liked getting to know Vianne in a deeper way.)

I was also reminded that I’m sort of obsessed with food. I really enjoyed the food/dessert aspects of this novel. I wish I could go to a chocolaterie in France! (This is also why I loved the movie.) I also enjoyed the mystic elements of this book. Whenever there are mystic elements in this kind of story, you end up wondering about how much is meant to be real or imagined, or perhaps the line between reality and otherworldly is intentionally blurry. I like the feeling I get when I read something that makes even the everyday seem like an adventure. The characters involved in the small town–mysterious, sympathetic, frustrating. The wind for Vianne, will it move her again and sweep her away to a new place?

So I get to host book club at my house this month and I’m thinking chocolate is in order. Maybe fondue? Maybe chocolate martinis? Maybe both? Jeff bought me a bottle of chocolate wine because he loves me, so we’ll try that. I’m feeling desperate for grown-up conversation, and book club is the perfect remedy. The only thing better than reading about food in books is drinking wine while talking about food in books!

P.S. I’ve been finishing up the final touches on my compilation book The Romano Family Collection. This compilation project is made up of my three Heartsong Presents novels, Table for Two, Second Chance Café, and Recipe for Love. I am so excited to have those available again! As I’ve been going through proofs, I can see again how much I enjoy food in fiction. Leo’s Lobster Magnifico, Isabella’s Corn Chowder, Alison’s Breakfast Casserole, Jeremy’s Bread Pudding–really, this girl likes to eat. In the Romano Family Collection, there’s a bonus short story called A Southern Belle Road Trip. I’m really thrilled for readers to get this glimpse into Ashley’s life (she’s a character from Table for Two!) It’s just a short story, but I managed to squeeze food scenes in regardless. And there’s a bonus recipe included! The Kindle version should be up and running soon, and I’m hoping the print version will be available within the next two weeks. Stay tuned for an update and possibly a giveaway!

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Hosting Outlander Book Club

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It’s almost time for Dragonfly in Amber book discussion! I’ve been thinking about book club and hopped on this blog to remind myself of what I did the last time I hosted Outlander book club, and I can’t believe I never wrote an Outlander post over here! For all those people who watch the show, we’re currently experiencing Droughtlander, so some of us are reading through the books to compensate. But for all those lovely women reading Outlander and looking for book club party ideas, let me share with you!

img_2314 Let’s talk about Outlander. So I discovered the show on a free preview Starz weekend. Honestly, I wasn’t all that hooked on the first episode, but it intrigued me enough that I wanted to keep watching. So I did. And I started reading the first book (which was intimidating because these books are massive!). I ended up being really hooked and reading all of the books and becoming a crazy person who vents on forums when the show makes me mad. So there’s that.img_2357

I found some other women to be crazy with me and we read the first book together and had an Outlandish book club night at the very beginning of summer. And it was perfect! Book club is always a fun time. But there’s something about Outlander that makes it even more fun (could be James Alexander Malcom Mackenzie Fraser–just sayin). img_2279

I found discussion questions online and printed those off. I also printed off the “Claire Randall Missing” flyers that you see above. I put one on the front door, which was so fun for all the guests to see. And as you can see above, our party favors were little bottles of whisky, with name tags. (I thought about making Scottish dishes to serve, but for real, I couldn’t find any that sounded very appealing. Haggis? Um, maybe not. Even the Scotch cocktails sounded kind of scary, like The Penicillin and the Rusty Nail. Or the Car Bomb and The Meatball. What?? When in doubt, stick with chocolate and wine, lovey.) I rented the Outlander soundtrack from the library (p.s. The soundtrack is amazingly beautiful), and that was our background music.

Because it was basically a perfect summer evening, we sat outside under the pergola and had cheese and chocolate fondue and drank lots of wine and talked about Scotland and time travel and romance and all sorts of things related to the book for hours. There’s so much to unpack with a book series like Outlander, add the show to the mix, and it makes for good discussion.

I love the heart of the story–which is the relationship between Jamie and Claire. To be honest, I wasn’t a huge fan of Claire in the first couple of books. There are things I like about her, and things that I don’t connect with (I feel much the same about Brianna, her daughter). Jamie’s a straightforward character and there’s SO much to love about him (still, he’s not without his controversial moments). It’s who they are together that I totally get, and that keeps me reading. The show is much like the books, some parts I love, some I really don’t. Last season especially, I was ranting on forums at times! But part of the fun of Outlander is the enormous community out there to share it with. (I love My Outlander Purgatory blog!)

Practically speaking, reading is a solitary experience. But when you’ve read a great book or watched a great movie, you want to dish about it with other people! And sometimes you have to go looking outside your usual circle. Maybe this is an interest that some of your close friends don’t share–that’s okay! There are book lovers in every neighborhood, you just have to find them. Example, I was at a birthday party this weekend and I was standing and chatting with some women I’ve never met. I randomly said, Do any of you read Outlander? Voila! A kindred spirit was in the midst. A new recruit for all the crazy.

Here we are now, just days away from getting together to talk about Dragonfly in Amber! Just a few girlfriends and a couple of bottles of wine, talking about a Scot and his lass. Swoon! I’ll be back with ideas for hosting a Dragonfly in Amber book club night (if I actually have any ideas, which I don’t yet!). Book club is my favorite, loveys. And it’s not just because of the books, it’s the community. It always comes back to community. Finding something great and sharing it.

Terra Soul by S.J. Abraham

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Terra%20Soul%20Cover_zpsd6ycqimvLoveys, I want to tell you about a story I’m excited about! So I had the privilege of working on this super-fun, YA, sci/fi novel and I loved it! Here’s the book blurb:

Ayla thinks she’s just a comic-book nerd with a photophobia until the day a space fold forms in her living room and her father drags through it to the alien world of Karanik, her birthplace. When she discovers that soul-drinking aliens have infested Earth, she must embrace who she truly is in order to save it.

This story is great for young adults, boy and girls. It’s got aliens, teen angst, adventure, basically the world coming to an end and all that great stuff. I really enjoyed it and I think this author will have more amazing stories to tell. So check out Terra Soul on Amazon!!

https://www.amazon.com/Terra-Soul-S-J-Abraham/dp/0997625813

 

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

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11243470_10102047668403458_2667479449231852400_nI love Harry Potter. This is common knowledge. I own trading cards (the kind that come with chocolate frogs). I went to see the movies at midnight on opening night and wore an HP T-shirt. I own every book and every movie and I’ve been to that magical place that is the Wizarding World at Orlando and I could have cried.

SO….of course I would read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. On a particularly rough day I was having recently, my sister showed up at my house with goodies for me, in the way of Tea Time magazines, a caramel Frappuccino…and the new Harry Potter book. Oh heavens. It’s the kind of deliciousness that makes you spend days reading while your children crawl all over you and remind you that they have to eat. Back in the olden days (pre-kids) I would have sat up and read that thing all night. These days, however, it takes longer. But I’ve finished and I want to TALK about it.

I will admit I had fears. First of all, I’m not big on reading scripts. I was in a screenwriting class in college for two days before I had to drop it and take something else like Southern Fiction. I’m fiction all the way. BUT this is an amazing script and reads like a novel. I wish it were a novel, to be honest, with details and all that good stuff. But it was really, really good. Second fear: some of the things JK has said about the characters post the perfection of Deathly Hallows has made me not excited. Like Ron’s two different jobs and Ginny off in the Quidditch Olympics forever, and the one time she said something like Harry probably should have ended up with Hermione (WHAT? Not even.). Sooo, I was a teeny bit afraid that Harry would be pining after Hermione and Ginny would be off playing Quidditch and so on.

But. Sigh. This was JK in her best form ever. It was truly a wonderful companion to the novels and I loved every second. It. Was. Magic. To be back in that world. To see Snape (one of my favorite characters). To see the adorableness of Ron and Hermione being Ron and Hermione. To see the connection between Harry and Ginny and what that looks like in a grown-up marriage. To get to know Albus and Scorpius. The threat of Voldemort–the hurting of the scar–I was so captivated.

(THANK YOU, SISTER, FOR BUYING ME THIS BOOK. LOVE.)

OK, spoiler situation. Read the book before continuing on.

I can’t help asking… who is the cursed child? Was it Albus? Cursed by Harry’s fame? Or Scorpius? Cursed by the rumors of his birth? Or Delphi? Cursed for being who she is? I was just a little sad to know that Albus was a Slytherin, but at the same time, it fit. He’s named after Severus as well and he’s a little of both. And Harry chose Gryffindor–what if the hat had meant to put him in Slytherin? Harry understands the dark side better than anyone and he’s seen the bravery and courage on both sides. Again, I loved seeing Snape, even in an alternate universe. Because he’s the same–spiteful and annoyed and choosing sacrifice anyway. He’s such a multi-faceted character. I LOVED hearing from Dumbledore, even from the paintings. He was still so…Dumbledore. I wanted to cry. Hearing both Draco and Ginny admit to having been jealous of the friendships of the other three felt so real and true–of course they would. The bond between Harry and Ron and Hermione was and is one that is enviable. And when you live through something like that together, I think pieces of you forever are knit to each other. Like the Lord of the Rings characters. Such a journey never leaves you, right? Seeing Draco have to work together with Harry and the others was great. He always seemed to be someone who never quite found himself. And when Harry says that he never goes it alone–that he always has help–oh gosh. That was Harry Potter. The boy who lived. Who needed Hagrid and Dumbledore and the Weasley’s and Hermione.

Oh. It still makes me cry. What a gift those stories are. I told Ashtyn that I think we’ll start reading book one together this year. She’s so excited because she’s been to the Wizarding World and had a taste of that magic.

She has no idea what true magic is to come with reading those books. Thank you, JK Rowling!th910RV9QZ

 

 

 

 

 

Lizzy and Jane by Katherine Reay

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Loveys, so this was the latest book club read over here! I really love to read so much that I wish I could read a book a month and get together to discuss. But amid the craziness of raising kids and doing life, I have to be careful with how much I take on. After the lovely chaos of the holidays, I started thinking it was time to find a book for book club. As usual, I get all my ideas from my sister Sara. She’s an amazing reader and always has a pile of books she’s reading. She recommended Lizzy and Jane to me a while back, and if Sara recommends it to me, it’s usually a very good read. So I emailed all the girls from book club to see who was up for it, and we got a good group together!

Here’s the scoop on this book (via Amazon):

Lizzy and Jane couldn’t be further from Jane Austen’s famous sisters for whom they are named. Elizabeth left her family’s home in Seattle fifteen years ago to pursue her lifelong dream—chefing her own restaurant in New York City. Jane stayed behind to raise a family. Estranged since their mother’s death many years ago, the circumstances of their lives are about to bring them together once again.

Known for her absolute command of her culinary domain, Elizabeth’s gifts in the kitchen have begun to elude her. And patrons and reviewers are noticing. In need of some rest and an opportunity to recover her passion for cooking, Elizabeth jumps at the excuse to rush to her sister’s bedside when Jane is diagnosed with cancer. After all, Elizabeth did the same for their mother. Perhaps this time, it will make a difference.

As Elizabeth pours her renewed energy into her sister’s care and into her burgeoning interest in Nick, Jane’s handsome coworker, her life begins to evolve from the singular pursuit of her own dream into the beautiful world of family, food, literature, and love that was shattered when she and Jane lost their mother. Will she stay and become Lizzy to her sister’s Jane—and Elizabeth to Nick’s Mr. Darcy—or will she return to the life she has worked so hard to create?

*My thoughts: I really enjoyed this story. It’s full of emotion (though sometimes you want to strangle the sisters!) and there are a lot of layers for discussion. For this reason, especially, I think it works well for book club. There are parts to love and parts to pick apart. I loved the food element woven throughout. One of the sisters is a chef, so food is almost a main character in the book. (Which I love!) When it came time for book club, I decided to host a potluck dinner. Last summer, our book club read 800 Grapes (good choice!) and wine was an important part of the book. So a night of appetizers and wine went well with book discussion. This time, a potluck dinner sounded super fun to me. So we sat around my table and, over pasta and salad and bread, talked about the complicated family relationships in the book, the decisions the sisters made, and more.

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Especially for Austen fans, you’ll enjoy the mentions of Austen’s novels and characters. For people who’ve experienced difficult illness, you’ll appreciate the family dynamics in conjunction with stress and hurt feelings. For foodie’s, you’ll love the ties to food and cooking.

More than anything, what I love about book club is simply coming together to share our perspective and our own stories. I’m very grateful to all the lovely ladies who took part. Good times. Can’t wait till next time!

For my reader friends, check out Lizzy and Jane!

A Love Undone by Cindy Woodsmall

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This week, the 

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance 

is introducing 

A Love Undone 

WaterBrook Press (September 9, 2014) 

by 

Cindy WoodsmallABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Cindy Woodsmall is a New York Times and CBA best-selling author who has written fifteen (and counting!) works of fiction and one of nonfiction. She and her dearest Old Order Amish friend, Miriam Flaud, coauthored the nonfiction, Plain Wisdom: An Invitation into an Amish Home and the Hearts of Two Women. Cindy’s been featured on ABC Nightline and the front page of the Wall Street Journal, and has worked with National Geographic on a documentary concerning Amish life. In June of 2013, the Wall Street Journal listed Cindy as one of the top three Amish fiction writers.

She’s won Fiction Book of the Year, Reviewer’s Choice Awards, Inspirational Reader’s Choice Contest, as well as one of Crossings’ Best Books of the Year. She’s been a finalist for the prestigious Christy, Rita, and Carol Awards, Christian Book of the Year, and Christian Retailers Choice Awards.

Cindy and her husband reside near the foothills of the North Georgia Mountains in their now empty nest.

(Since that last line sounds sad and bare, I thought I’d add an “epilogue” of sorts. Our two oldest sons are married and live only a couple of miles from my empty nest, and below are my three adorable grandchildren! ♥)

ABOUT THE BOOK

A husband and son abandoned to forge a path alone.

A young woman who sacrificed her dreams.

How will the God of grace and hope help them find their way?

At nineteen years old, Old Order Amish Jolene Keim was on the brink of happily-ever-after when everything changed, stealing the future she expected and burdening her with an unbearable decision. For the next ten years, Jolene throws herself into family life—and then she meets Andy Fisher. The horse trainer and father to a sweet nine year-old challenges her and holds up a mirror to issues Jolene has been unwilling to face.

Andy is cautious about his deepening friendship with Jolene, but he believes she knows the truth about him – that he is a grass widower. As a man whose wife has abandoned him six years past, he is unable to divorce or remarry according to the Amish ways. Andy has wrestled with God concerning his reality, and he had found peace with the solitary future facing him…until he met Jolene.

As Andy and Jolene find themselves confronted by difficult choices, will they trust in God’s guidance—or will the allure of their deepening friendship only lead to further temptation?

If you would like to read the first chapter of A Love Undone, go HERE.

A Grand Design by Amber Stockton

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This week, the 

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance 

is introducing 

A Grand Design 

Abingdon Press (August 19, 2014) 

by 

Amber StocktonABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Words from the author:

Hi, I’m Amber, but my friends call me Tiff, short for Tiffany, my first name. I am in my mid-30’s, married to the love of my life since July 2007, have a daughter and a son, and live in Colorado. Here, I am content to do what I love—write, speak, and offer virtual assistance.

Thanks to the gentle nudging of a fellow author — Tracie Peterson — in 2002, I joined the American Christian Fiction Writers and wouldn’t be published today without them. For those of you who are also fiction writers looking for a wonderful support group, check them out! My very first book, Promises, Promises, sold in December 2006 and released in February 2008. I’ve been going steady ever since.

ABOUT THE BOOK

When Alyssa Denham, a single career woman, wins a fun getaway for two on Mackinac Island where her grandmother lives, she gives her carefree best friend a call. Together, they tour the old shops and hidden treasures of the quaint island while helping Alyssa’s grandmother piece together an heirloom quilt. Their quest gains them entrance into the homes of many longtime residents of the island, parts of the city that are otherwise off limits to tourists.
As the quilt’s story takes shape, Alyssa gains amazing insight into her grandmother’s life . . . and attracts the attention of the handsome Scott Whitman, an island resident in charge of hotel transportation. Will memories of her past keep Alyssa from letting go? Or will the quest to piece together the heirloom quilt restore Alyssa’s fractured heart—and bring healing to her entire family?

If you would like to read the first chapter of A Grand Design, go HERE.