LAST CHRISTMAS IN PARIS has been on my list to read since it came out, and while I’m happy I finally read it, I’m sad I didn’t read it sooner. What a wonderful, heartwarming and heartbreaking story.
Evie was so much fun. Feisty, upbeat, so full of hope and love. How could Tom not have fallen love with her the minute he laid eyes on her? And Tom, what a perfect hero of the story. So stoic, loyal, strong, and brave. I cried at the end as he put his uniform on and read the final letter from the love of his life fifty years after that first letter.
I love reading historical fiction and learning about the events of the past through the eyes of those who have come before us and how those now interpret their lives. This book flowed from start to finish for me and the pages flew by. I lost myself in the words, pictured myself flying down the lane on “Rusty the bicycle” delivering the post, and had tears running down my cheeks when “those” telegrams were delivered. Ms. Gaynor and Ms. Webb told a gripping tale and did a magnificent job of melding their styles into one seamless work. Definitely five stars and this goes on my keeper shelf.
OMG, I must have told five friends about this book within five minutes of finishing it. When the offer to read an ARC came from St. Martin’s I almost deleted the email after reading the blurb. This line right here is what had me hesitating, “Then, suddenly, on what should have been one of the happiest days of her life, everything she worked for is taken away in one tumultuous moment.” I mean that sounds like a tissue box or two kind of read, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but did I want to put myself through that kind of emotional turmoil? Then I kept reading and the answer was yes, and I’m so glad. I’ve read a lot of great book lately, but this has been my favorite.
Maggie and Ian are still with me even though it’s been a couple of weeks (I wanted to let the story settle before I wrote this review). I miss her crazy sister and I want to read it all over again — something I never do.
This was the first book of Katherine Center’s that I’ve read; it most certainly won’t be the last. Do yourself a favor, read this story. It will break your heart a little, maybe even curse at the fates, but it will make you smile and laugh and be awed by the strength of the human spirit.
A Three in One: WEDDING CAKE MURDER, BANANA CREAM PIE MURDER and RASPBERRY DANISH MURDER by Joanne Fluke
I’ve been reading the Hannah Swensen series since it first came out in 2001. As you can imagine, I’ve grown quite invested in this series and the characters.
Let’s talk about Wedding Cake Murder (#23 in the series). Finally, Hannah Swensen is getting married! But to whom? Not our beloved town dentist, Norman or hunky deputy, Mike, but to a stranger. Well, he’s not a stranger to Hannah but he is to us readers. I will be admit, I’ve always been Team Mike and I’m disappointed. However, I’m willing to give the new guy a chance.
With that said, the mystery was fun and as always, kept you guessing as to “whodunit.” I love that Hannah’s little sister, Michelle, is the one who found the body and that’s she’s playing a larger roles in the stories. She’s fun, smart, and a little more connected to the rest of the world than Hannah, Andrea and Delores. Not that I don’t enjoy Hannah, but sometimes it feels like she should know more than she does and other times it feels like she thinks she knows more than the rest of us do. Still she’s a great baker, sister, friend and amateur sleuth.
The reality TV aspect of the story was fun, and it was great to take the story on the road, even if just for a short while. Ross, aka the new guy, came across as a loving, supportive guy…so maybe this reader doesn’t “hate” him and will give him the benefit of the doubt. I wasn’t crazy about the “confrontation” as I didn’t buy it at all… thirty minutes before you’re due at the church is not when you’re going to confront a murder. Overall, it was a fun read with some really great sounding recipes.
Now let’s talk Banana Cream Pie Murder! (#24) In this installment, the Swensen Slay-dar is expanding and Delores (Hannah’s mom) finds the dead body. I really kind of loved that as she’s always given Hannah such a bad time for finding the bodies, but at the same time, totally felt for the poor woman.
Hannah and Ross are just finishing up their honeymoon when they get the note that she needs to come home and solve the murder. As this request is coming from Delores its definitely showing some much welcomed character growth. As usual, Ms. Fluke has spun a wonderful web of intrigue and mystery with lots of great suspects.
We also get to see a bit more of the love story between Hannah and Ross and while he’s sweet and supportive, it’s lacking some of the chemistry Hannah had with her former love interests. Of course, Mike and Norman are present as everyone is really good friends. Honestly, I’m having a little trouble suspending belief that the new husband is okay with both ex-boyfriends being over constantly for dinner and so on. But hey, this is Lake Eden where everyone is a friend and if not, they just kill you. J I’d like to also point out this may be the first time Hannah didn’t knowingly put herself in danger.
Again, it’s a fun mystery, but I did feel like something was a little off in this story. It was just lacking the tension that kept me turning those pages right up until I hit the end and then just WOW! What a great cliffhanger.
And that brings us to the newest, Raspberry Danish Murder.
This story starts out with Hannah’s new husband of two weeks missing. Yep, the new guy has disappeared without a trace. Poor Hannah is despondent and who could blame her. Mike and Normal are very sympathetic and right there for her, as always. But when Ross’s assistant dies while on a video call to Michelle and Hannah, Team Swensen swoops in to find his killer.
In all honesty, I felt this was Ms. Fluke’s most complex murder yet. The murder weapon and method were brilliant and definitely put our heroine and her gang through the paces. But not only is Hannah trying to solve PK’s murder, but possibly Ross’s. I can’t even imagine trying to deal with the emotions that would bring on. Fortunately, I didn’t have to because Hannah really didn’t have any. She was a little “down” in the beginning, sleep a lot, having weird dreams, but if my husband went missing, I’d be an emotional wreck.
But this is a cozy so I’ll give her a pass on the shallow reactions. Let’s talk about the secondary characters for a moment. Mike: he’s everything you’d expect him to be. Stoic, strong, and doing everything he can to do his job and find Ross for the woman he loves. Normal: steadfast, loyal, and taking care of everyone, just like always, as he runs his practice and helps Hannah investigate. Michelle is back and making us all hungry with her early morning cooking (I think I gained five pounds just imagining those muffins!). Andrea and Bill make quick appearances. Then there’s Delores. That character growth I said she’d shown in Banana Cream Pie Murder? Well, forget it. She regressed so far I didn’t even recognize her. I mean she dressed down her daughter in a public restaurant for having dinner with a man not her husband. Really not the time or place and just shows that she has a very low opinion of daughter.
Back to the mystery. As I said, this is really Ms. Fluke’s strong suite, coming up with complex murders, throwing a ton of red herrings at you and leading you along a fun path of breadcrumbs to the culprit. I did figure it out way before they let the cat out of the bag. And once again, we were left with a fabulous cliffhanger at the end.