bay-bee, don't go

Daisy Wickens is back home in Ottercombe Bay, but she's already ready to leave again. After traveling for the last several years throughout Europe, Daisy doesn't want to stick around in the small English village that holds all her most unhappy memories of her childhood. But her Great Uncle Reg has other plans. 

Reg has passed on, but he left Daisy the old train station. The abandoned, dilapidated station isn't much to look at, but if Daisy is willing to follow the instructions in Reg's will, it's all hers to keep or to sell. And all Reg asks of her is one year. Daisy has to stay in Ottercombe Bay for a full year before she can get her train station as well as a third of his liquid assets, which is more money than Daisy ever made waiting tables around Europe. 

And while her Aunt Coral is delighted to have her back in town and wants her to stay, and her old school friends Tamsyn and Jason are excited to have her stick around for awhile, old school friend Max already thinks she's overstayed her welcome and Reg's pug Bugsy Malone agrees wholeheartedly. 

Daisy has to decide to stay or to go. There are thousands of reasons to stay--all that money from Reg's will could provide her with traveling money for quite awhile, and South America is calling her name. But there's a really good reason to leave--the thought that her mother's drowning may have been self-inflicted breaks her heart, and Daisy doesn't know how to figure out the truth or face the possibility that her mother left her  and her father by her own hand.

Ottercombe Bay: Part One--Where There's a Will begins Daisy's story and leaves us with enough questions to head right to part two. Bella Osborne has created a fun start to a story that has so many possibilities. Daisy is a diamond-in-the-rough, but she is surrounded by people who genuinely care about her, so she has every chance to grow. And with a little encouragement, I think she'll grow some roots in Ottercombe Bay. I know I would if I could. 

 

Galleys for Ottercombe Bay were provided by Avon Books through NetGalley, with many thanks. 

get reddy

Kate Reddy has it all--the fantastic husband, the two adorable kids, the high-powered job in finance, the eczema, the spoiled nanny, the half-finished renovations, the stress of knowing the stay-at-home moms will always outbake her at school functions, and the fantastic wardrobe of Armani and power shoes. And let's not forget Winston, the taxi-driver-slash-philosophy-student who helps Kate remember the candies of her childhood. Or the candy tin, anyway, now filled with something a little less sweet and more weed-y. 

Kate is a working mom, trying to stay ahead in a chauvinistic business and trying to keep her family together despite being sent around the world to meet with clients at little more than a moment's notice. She only keeps her sanity through emails with friends and an increasingly problematic shoe addiction. 

Through a year of her life, stresses grow. Kate still doesn't have a school picked out for her 6-year-old daughter. Her in-laws disapprove of her job. Her husband is growing disillusioned with her being the primary bread winner. Her father is being hounded by creditors, her nanny only stays loyal through an increasing series of bribes, and an email accidentally sent to a client instead of a bestie definitely means certain termination. And then, when her 2-year-old's favorite cuddly toy goes missing, it's a near atomic meltdown for Kate, who is trying to be all things to all people and feeling like there's nothing left to give. 

Allison Pearson's I Don't Know How She Does It blends humor and realism into an amazing novel of the modern woman. Taking a hard look as well as a sacrilegious poke at all the questions that women ask themselves, Pearson brings honesty, warmth, and compassion to the everyday situations we all find ourselves in. Have kids or no? Work or stay home to care for the family? The conveniences of the city or the peace of the suburbs? The exclusive school or the public school? Where to vacation? Where do we find the time to do all the things we need to do without losing ourselves in the process? 

I'd heard about this book for awhile before taking the plunge. I figured, as I often do, that if something is this popular, it's probably not for me. And as often happens in this situation, I was wrong. This book is amazing and perfect in almost every way, and you are doing yourself a disservice every day that you let go by without picking it up and reading it. With hints of Bridget Jones, Murphy Brown, and Elyse Keaton, Pearson's Kate Reddy is that working mother who can make a killing in the boardroom (when she mistakenly wears her red bra under a white shirt) and make a batch of homemade looking pastries for her daughter's school function with only several boxes of perfect store-bought pastries, a rolling pin, and a little pent-up aggression. Kate Reddy is whip-smart, hysterical, and so very real. 

MUST REMEMBER
Mail student loan paperwork. Email mom. Pay newspaper. Schedule eye appointment. Look for more books by Allison Pearson. Buy more books by Allison Pearson. Read more books by Allison Pearson. 

for when you want to murder some eggs and bacon

When Gia Morelli moved to Florida to open a cafe, she knew it wouldn't be smooth sailing. Running a breakfast eatery isn't easy. It takes lots of hard work and a great staff. And while Gia is no stranger to hard work, she realized on her opening day, watching her new line cook prepare one meal at a time, that she'd have to work on her staffing. 

The move from New York City to Boggy Creek took all her energy, all her extra time, and all her extra money. Buying a house and getting the All-Day Breakfast Cafe up and running took everything she had. But it was worth it. She needed to start over. Between her husband's lies and his career as a thief, stealing the money his clients' had given him to invest, Gia was done even before his court case and all the death threats. That's why she moved to Boggy Creek, Florida, where she could build a new life for herself with the help of her friend Savannah. 

The first day was difficult. Gia didn't realize that she would have so many customers ask for grits. Her cook created long wait times for her customers. And then at the end of the day, when the customers and staff had all gone home and Gia had everything cleaned up, that's when she discovered her ex-husband, non-responsive, in the dumpster behind her restaurant. 

Now that's a bad day. 

As the police investigate Gia's ex-husband's murder, she has to figure out how to stay safe not only from whoever killed her ex but also against Florida and all the bears, alligators, snakes, and spiders that run free in The Sunshine State. Can Gia, her new puppy Thor, and the handsome Detective Quinn find the killer in time to save Gia's new business as well as her life? 

Lena Gregory's Scone Cold Killer is the first in her All-Day Breakfast Cafe series, and it offers a tasty combination of mystery and intrigue, with strong characters and an interesting place. An easy read, this book has a light touch, a little humor, a little romance, all served up with some delicious breakfast treats and a murder to be solved. While I found Scone Cold Killer to be a little lighter than my favorite cozies tend to be, its readability and interesting characters did draw me in, and I enjoyed the journey. 

 

Galleys for Scone Cold Killer were provided by Kensington Books through NetGalley, with many thanks. 

snapshot 6.10

just finished: I'm going to count Allison Pearson's I Don't Know How She Does It, since I'm only about 50 pages away from the ending. Really, I should be reading it now because things are happening, people, and I want to see where all the (contents of a biodegradable nappy) ends up after it bounces off that fan. This book is so amazing! And the plan is to head right into her newest one, How Hard Can It Be? 

currently reading: I'm still listening to Ritz and Escoffier, which is so rich and amazing. Luke Barr can make history come to life, he writes about people who are bigger than life and takes us on such a journey. Such an amazing book! And I'm reading a fun cozy called Scone Cold Killer. Although I'm also having some issues reading more than one book at a time right now. I tend to go back and forth, reading one book at a time and then reading 10. Right now, I'm heading back down to one. Maybe it's a summer thing. 

up next: Ummmmm. I have no plans. I'm just winging it for the moment. So we'll see. 

the real reason for our brains? to hit a baseball, of course

Hitting a baseball has often been called the hardest thing in sports. When you're talking about professional baseball, the batter has milliseconds to take in the information about the placement and type of pitch that's coming at him, make a judgment on if the pitch is hittable, assess the probabilities of the success of the hit, and make the movements necessary to connect with the ball. It's an unbelievably complex process, and yet you can see hundreds of examples in any major league baseball game any night of the summer. 

Why does all this matter? For several reasons, according to sports writer Zach Schonbrun. First of all, it matters to anyone in baseball (including us fans sitting in the stands or in bars or in homes cheering on our favorite players) because it opens up opportunities for our batters to improve and for the next generation of players with the brains of master ball strikers to be scouted to our favorite teams. But beyond the baseball diamond, these principles can be expanded to help anyone improve any set of skills they want. Using the ideas in Schonbrun's book The Performance Cortex, musicians can learn to play more proficiently, bakers can decorate their cakes more efficiently, and knitters can wield their needles with more speed and accuracy than before. 

This book is a deep dive--way way deep--into the neuroscience of performance. Schonbrun takes us on a journey through all different areas of brain science that could apply to making a good ball player better. He takes us through probability and prediction, expertise and experience, movement and motion, schemas and skills. The research is impeccable and extensive and offers science-based answers for all the questions you could ever possibly think of. You know it's going to be a compelling tool when sports and business shark Mark Cuban has been seen toting it around, and indeed this book is a powerhouse of information. 

This is not a quick read. In fact, I think some of my grad school textbooks were easier to digest, but each chapter brings a new and interesting level of understanding as well as host of fascinating brain scientists from around the world that keep the stories personable and personal. Where Moneyball looked at the new data-driven model of sports management, The Performance Cortex takes us to the next level, the brain science based model of sports management. In short, this is the future of your favorite baseball team. 

But most importantly, if Zach Schonbrun and his neuroscientist friends can bring my beloved Kansas City Royals back to the level of that 2015 World Series win, then this book is the best sports book ever! 

 

The Performance Cortex was provided to me by Dutton, with many thanks. 

the heart of a quail, the knees of a bee, and the meow of a cat

Fifth-grader Annie Brown knows her passion. She loves to come up with helpful inventions and write television commercials about them. She calls herself a wrinventor. There are the Smell Smashers, small air fresheners you can wear as jewelry for stinky places like the school cafeteria or the Hue Guru, which can help you pick the perfect color of paint for any room. And Annie has commercials in mind for them all. So when Annie finds out that a local kids webshow is starting up and looking for kids to star as announcers, she knows that this is her chance. 

The problem is that her almost-always best friend Savannah is a natural performer. And a natural athlete. And a natural beauty. Savannah is just good at everything without even trying hard, and Annie sometimes has trouble feeling like she means as much to her almost-always best friend as her almost-always best friend means to her. And then when Savannah comes into Annie's audition and steals the director's attention, Annie has even more trouble being an almost-always best friend. 

It's not easy for Annie to find her place in the sun, but as wrinventor, she finds a way, even makes a way, for herself and figures out how to be a good friend despite all the colorful feelings she has about the rules of friendship that come with growing up. 

Annie B., Made for TV is a charming middle grade debut for picture book author Amy Dixon. With colorful characters battling real relationship issues and the challenging emotions of growing up, Annie B. creates a world of smart, talented kids who learn to be each other's cheerleaders in this adorable, fun story of friendship and forgiveness. This is a great edition to any middle grader's summer reading list. 

 

Galleys for Annie B., Made for TV were provided by Running Press Kids through NetGalley, with many thanks. 

teens and secrets and love and lies

Gabe is a high school kid in Austin, Texas, a skateboarder, a good friend, a devoted brother of his Down syndrome little sister, who won the heart of a beautiful girl on the school's dance team. On the outside, the look like a happy couple. But Gabe has a secret. When he doesn't go along with whatever Sasha wants, she gets angry. And when she gets angry, she gets vindictive. So when Gabe breaks up with her and starts talking to Catherine, a quiet girl with a sassy sense of humor and an overly controlling father, it's clearly not going to go well. 

Meanwhile, Elyse is in another part of Texas. She is being raised by her single mother, an opiod addict who has trouble paying the bills sometimes. Elyse works at a movie theater to help as well as going to school. And when the time comes for the auditions for Romeo and Juliet, she knows her best friend Brynn will get Juliet--she gets all the leads--but Elyse thinks she has a good shot at a smaller role. So when the new drama teacher casts her as Juliet, Elyse is ecstatic. She floats through rehearsals, making the role hers and enjoying the extra attention, even from the new drama teacher. 

As Gabe and Elyse go through the school year, taking chances with their hearts, their parallel stories end up colliding in the craziest way. Their relationships take them to places they could never anticipate, and only through the secrets and lies they've had to live with are they able to find their truest loves. 

Lies You Never Told Me is Jennifer Donaldson's latest offering in the hot YA thriller category, and it will take you on a ride that you won't soon forget. I didn't know much about it going in, and so the twists and turns I would normally be on the lookout for, I didn't see coming. I had no idea where the story was going, until the ending was right on top of me, and I got turned around in an instant. This thriller is a slow burn, each chapter building slowly, Gabe and Elyse taking turns telling their own stories, until the explosion at the end. 

For that surprise ending, I will always be a fan of Lies You Never Told Me. 

I really enjoyed this book. I liked the characters and could understand their situations. I liked how they were smart about their mistakes and honest with themselves about their relationships. The secrets and sacrifices of Gabe and Elyse show their strength and their choices show their true character. As their stories unfold in alternating chapters, Lies You Never Told Me unfolds like a rise. You just have to watch out for the thorns. 

 

Galleys for Lies You Never Told Me were provided by Penguin through their First To Read program, with many thanks. 

snapshot 6.3

just finished: Lies You Never Told Me, a YA blow burn thriller told by two different characters. Gabe is a skateboarded in a bad relationship and Elyse is a hard working teen with an opiod-addicted mother and a chance to be the lead in the school play. As their stories unfold, the twists and turns, the lies and secrets come to the surface. I honestly didn't know much about this one going in, so the twists really turned me around. Very interesting read! 

currently reading: I've been reading Allison Pearson's I Don't Know How She Does It, about a working mother names Kate Reddy. Kate is smart and funny, and she is such a hot mess! The novel is so much fun to read, and I can't wait to see what happens with her two kids, her architect husband, her mostly renovated London home, her sexist financial services company, her flirty New York client, and the other mothers who were all competing for birthday parties, Christmas presents, and of course preschools. The next Kate Reddy book comes out Tuesday, How Hard Can it Be? and it's going to be one of the best books of summer. I've also been listening to Ritz and Escoffier, the story of one of the finest hotels ever created. It's meticulously researched and so incredibly fascinating! 

up next: There are a couple of really good thrillers coming out Tuesday, Social Creature and Something in the Water are both going to be bestsellers of the summer, and they should both be really lots of twisty fun. Something in the Water, Reese Witherspoon's pick for her book this month, about newlyweds who stumble on a big secret in the water. Will their marriage survive? And Social Creature is a described as a new Talented Mr. Ripley about a relationship between a a wannabe and an already has. They both sound amazing and twisty, and I can't wait to chase these thrillers to find out just how far they'll go! 

prep rally

If you're like me, you struggle to figure out what to cook for dinner too many nights during the week. I feel like I'm always struggling to come up with ideas and then to find the time to pull off the prep and cooking. I feel like I'm letting us down when it comes to dinner. So I was so excited to find Fix, Freeze, Feast. This is an updated edition of the original, with over 150 recipes and ideas for dinner that can be made in advance and defrosted when needed. 

Authors Kati Neville and Lindsay Ahrens are former owners of a meal preparation business, so they have tested all these recipes over and over. They're big batches, so you can make a recipe in a weekend and freeze batches so you can eat it over months. Or if you'd rather, you can invite some friends over and all cook up a bunch of food to put into containers and divide up so each family freezer gets some easy, tasty meals. 

Cooking in large batches can save time and money, and these recipes offer a huge assortment of mains as well as some sides to fill your freezer. There are over 35 chicken recipes, from Mini Chicken Pot Pies to Chicken Cordon Bleu. Mariachi Chicken Rolls, Sweet Asian Chicken, Tequila-Lime Chicken, Sun-Dried Pesto Chicken, Chicken Wings, and (my favorite recipe name) Urban Garlic Chicken--all these recipes and more are here, ready to be prepped and stored into your freezer for one of those Tuesday nights. (Urban Garlic Chicken? It's actually Herb and Garlic Chicken, misheard and renamed forever, just for fun. I would have done the exact same thing, myself.)

There are 24 recipes each for beef and pork, including Beef and Bean Burritos, Classic Lasagna, Moroccan Meatballs, Sesame-Soy Sirloin, Ginger Beef, Cheese Steaks, Pork Loin Ragout, Sticky Ribs, Firehouse Pork Skewers, Caribbean Pork Tenderloin, and Chile Verde. There are also seafood and veggie mains like Shrimp Curry and Feta and Spinach Lasagna as well as soups like Cream of Asparagus, Black Bean, and Mulligatawny. Sides include Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Rice Pilaf. And if that's not enough, there are also chapters on sauces, breakfast, snacks, and sweets. 

Some recipes also include a Feast Tonight option, so that you can make Dave's Swamp Blues Barbecued Chicken for your freezer and make Dave's Barbecued Chicken Pizza to eat tonight. And there are lots of tips and tricks to make the most of your ingredients. Fix, Freeze, Feast takes you from prepping your kitchen through to thawing and cooking your finished dish. These women know these recipes, they know this style of cooking, they can help you create and store meals that can help make your weeknights simple and tasty. And they can even help your correct mistakes as you go, so you won't have to start over on a recipe or give up and call for a pizza. This cookbook gives you everything you need to know to get started prepping and storing meals in your freezer for a happy, healthy, hungry life. 

 

Galleys for Fix, Freeze, Feast, 2nd Edition, were provided by Storey Publishing through NetGalley, with many thanks. 

i go, you go, we all go for froyo

Summer is already heating up here, and so it's ready to take on a serious topic: homemade frozen yogurt. This is something I yet to have any luck with myself, so I was glad to find Nicole Weston's Perfectly Creamy Frozen Yogurt. She's figured out how to make it work, and her recipes can work if you have an ice cream maker or if you don't. 

If you want to go all-out, you can use her recipe for frozen yogurt, or if you are short on time or energy, you can buy yogurt, but with her "Meringue Method," you make an Italian (cooked) meringue to infuse air into the frozen yogurt base, and then you can make as many different varieties as you want. 

With mouth-watering photos, Weston starts with some basic recipes for a Tangy and Tart base, Vanilla Bean, Chocolate, Dark Chocolate, and Coffee before getting into chapters with added fruits, spices, and nuts. She includes recipes for flavors such as Key Lime, Creamsicle, Strawberry Cheesecake, Snickerdoodle, Mint Julep, Maple Bacon, Tiramisu, Cookies 'n' Cream, Pistachio, and Elvis, there are so many ideas for amazing yogurts that you can make pretty easily at home. 

But that's not all. Using her basic frozen yogurt recipes and a handful of other brownie, cookie, and sauce recipes, you can make frozen desserts that will make you the toast of any summer party. Ginger Spice Cookie Sandwiches, Candy Cane Brownie Sandwiches. Banana Split Layer Cake, Strawberry Shortcake Torte, Mudslide Pie, or even a Pumpkin Pie Baked Alaska. 

For even fancier desserts, she shares recipes for semifreddos, terrines, and bombes that can be made with frozen unchurned yogurts. These are frozen into layers or put into molds to create spectacular frozen treats to impress and enchant. There's a S'mores Icebox Terrine made with Vanilla Bean frozen yogurt, graham crackers, mini marshmallows, and Chocolate Sauce. The Red White and Blue Bombe is made with Strawberry, Blueberry, and Tart and Tangy frozen yogurts. And the Funfetti Semifreddo is made with Vanilla Bean frozen yogurt, cubed pound cake, and colorful sprinkles. 

And if that's not enough, there are also ideas for Popsicles, Bonbons, and other tasty treats like sugar cookie bowls (you bake the sugar cookies using a muffin tin to create bowls for your frozen yogurts--genius!). And the classic butterscotch and caramel sauces are joined by Bananas Foster Sauce and Magic Chocolate Sauce (the kind that makes the frozen shell). There may be more ideas in this Perfectly Creamy Frozen Yogurt than there is time in the summer to eat all the frozen treats. At least, I will make it my mission to find that out. 

 

Galleys for Perfectly Creamy Frozen Yogurt were provided by Storey Publishing through NetGalley, with many thanks. 

digging for the truth

Brett and Stephanie were best friends. After their seasons together on Goal Diggers, the reality tv show about young women entrepreneurs who are changing the world, they have shared experiences, laughs, tears, secrets—so many things, really, When Brett broke up with her girlfriend and needed a place to stay, Stephanie opened her house to her. And that’s when things went so terribly wrong. An epic fight erupted between the two women which was certain to fuel the upcoming season. 

But the biggest change in the new season is the addition of Kelly and her daughter Layla. Kelly is an unusual choice for Goal Diggers for several reasons. First, she’s a single mother. All other cast members had either chosen not to have children yet or not to have them at all. Goal Diggers wasn’t previously interested in the lifestyle of the working mom. Kelly is also unusual because she’s Brett’s older sister.

But Kelly has several things working her favor. She’s beautiful. Her teenaged daughter is half Nigerian and a whipsmart young entrepreneur herself. And Kelly is also Brett’s partner in the fantastically succeassful spinning empire SPOKE. While Brett is the face of the company and the one who drives their charitable interests, it’s Kelly who can read the financial reports, who found investors, who decided it would be cost effective to expand into yoga studios, who understands the legalities of owning and running a multimillion dollar business. And it was Kelly, as the girls were growing up, who was the favorite sister. 

And as the new season starts to roll, the secrets come to light. There is Jen, who runs a vegan food empire, whose secret could ruin her reputation in the vegan community. There is Lauren, whose dating app has earned her millions, and the secret that could separate her from the company she built. There is Stephanie, the writer, whose romance trilogy rocketed her to the top of the bestseller lists and whose new memoir is quickly following suit. But if the truth comes out about her, she could lose that movie deal with the Oscar-winning female director that she’s preparing to meet with.  

And then there’s Brett, the show’s golden child, the executive producer’s favorite. Generally, Brett is untouchable. But this season, things are different. Not only had she lost her best friend, not only does she have a secret that could destroy her and everyone she loves, but she also has a sister who is joining the cast of the show. Her older sister. The one who knows all her secrets. 

Once the cameras start rolling and the mics start recording, what will happen to these women? They spend weeks being followed by camera crews, showing off their best features, focusing on their successes, breaking past their barriers. Under all that pressure, what will happen when some of those secrets bubble up to the surface? Will the show survive? Will the women’s professional lives make it through unscathed? Or will these women take each other down in an attempt to dig their way to their ultimate goals? 

Jessica Knoll, author of The Luckiest Girl, has crafted a monstrous story of women and their relationships. Each of these powerful characters have secrets to keep hidden, lies to cover them, and the motivation to stay on top. With these women’s ambitions and egos, their professional reputations, and the emotional stress of living on camera, you have a story with tension that feels like a smoldering rag just waiting for its pool of gasoline. And The Favorite Sister does not disappoint. It’s an explosion of women’s power and all of its mighty consequences, the story of feminism’s good intentions and sometimes destructive results, a mind-bending twister of emotions. And the first best book of summer 2018. Don’t miss this one! 

 

Galleys for The Favorite Sister were provided by Simon & Schuster through NetGalley, with many thanks.  

snapshot 5.27

just finished: Feeling much better now, so I got some reading done. I read Jessica Knoll’s The Favorite Sister, which was a crazy ride. I read a couple of cookbooks that are out Tuesday, one about prepping homemade meals you can freeze to make dinner easier (need that!) and another about frozen yogurt. Stay tuned for more about these later this week, especially The Favorite Sister, when I figure out what I think about it. So much going on!

currently reading: I’m working this week on finishing The Performance Cortex, the ultimate how to hit a baseball book, which I heard a rumor that Mark Cuban was seen reading recently. And I want to finish up Ed Lee’s Buttermilk Graffiti, as a food vacation that I can stay home for. 

up next: Jennifer Donaldson’s Lies You Never Told Me, another twisty relationship story. And to go with all the foodie books this week, Luke Barr’s Ritz and Escoffier, about the birth of the modern hotel and restaurant industries.  I know it’s going to be amazing, because he’s the writer who brought us Provence, 1970, the amazing tale of the summer Julia Child, James Beard, M.F.K. Fisher, Richard Olney, Simone Beck, and Judith Jones changed American food forever. If you haven’t imbibed in that yet, you need to check it out immediately.