Review: “Brunch at Bittersweet Café” by Carla Laureano

I probably say this any time a book incorporates food in some way, but ya’ll, I love food. I love reading. And I LOVE foodie fiction! Especially when we’re talking about a favorite contemporary romance author like Carla Laureano who combines food and story with great depth. Her latest novel, Brunch at Bittersweet Café, is a new one for my all time favorites list!

About the Book

From the RITA Award-winning author of Five Days in Skye comes a sweet, romantic treat that will leave you hungry for more.

Baker and pastry chef Melody Johansson has always believed in finding the positive in every situation, but seven years after she moved to Denver, she can’t deny that she’s stuck in a rut. One relationship after another has ended in disaster, and her classical French training is being wasted on her night job in a mediocre chain bakery. Then the charming and handsome private pilot Justin Keller lands on the doorstep of her workplace in a snowstorm, and Melody feels like it’s a sign that her luck is finally turning around.

Justin is intrigued by the lively bohemian baker, but the last thing he’s looking for is a relationship. His own romantic failures have proven that the demands of his job are incompatible with meaningful connections, and he’s already pledged his life savings to a new business venture across the country–an island air charter in Florida with his sister and brother-in-law.

Against their better judgment, Melody and Justin find themselves drawn together by their unconventional career choices and shared love of adventure. But when an unexpected windfall provides Melody with the chance to open her dream bakery-café in Denver with her best friend, chef Rachel Bishop, she’s faced with an impossible choice: stay and put down roots with the people and place she’s come to call home . . . or give it all up for the man she loves. 

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

A delectable “second course” in the Supper Club series, Brunch at Bittersweet Café offers an engrossing story of friendship, romance, and trust along with its yummy foodie tendencies.

THE FOOD. First off, this story had me wanting to bake all. the. things. with its yummy foods. From things Melody baked to the quaint restaurants she (and Justin) visited, the food selection was eclectic and inspiring. Carla Laureano includes food as an inherent part of the story and naturally in Melody’s life. (And she gets the craziness of the restaurant industry life/schedule/habits SPOT ON!) Next on my own baking list to tackle: eclairs!

THE FRIENDSHIPS. I was happy to see the closeness of the friend group of Rachel, Melody, and Ana continue in this story. With laughter, support, and sometimes in-your-face bossiness, these three exhibit the importance of close friendships amidst the real joys and hard things life can bring. Melody’s new friendship (and more) with Justin challenges her and broadens her perspective in some good ways, too. Which brings me to…

Evidence of my baking. The book made me do it.

THE ROMANCE. All this time I’ve talked about Melody, so here’s where I chime in more about Justin. !!! After some time passes in the story Melody has a revelation about Justin. To paraphrase, his charming exterior really is a front for a serious, sometimes-perfectionist, always-intentional gentleman. This plays into the romance of the story in the BEST ways. I mean, he’s a pilot. (Who knew flying could be so cool?!) They live in Colorado. They have fun non-dates and, eventually, adventurous real dates. The romance is honestly portrayed with a balance of attraction, emotional connection, and true heart-friendship at the center. ❤

THE GROWTH. Melody and Justin meet at a “seemingly” wrong time in their lives for a serious relationship. Through each of their personal journeys (and family dysfunctional issues. we all have those.), they independently learn what it means to trust and hope. For Melody, trusting God’s will over her own path/choices. For Justin, the beginnings of what a strong faith lived out every day looks like.

If you’re looking for a contemporary romance with the perfect balance of depth and charm, Brunch at Bittersweet Café is one to “sample”!

Thank you to the publisher for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Check out my review of book 1, The Saturday Night Supper Club.

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Review: “The Saturday Night Supper Club” by Carla Laureano

book quote

Ya’ll know I love food. And books. And foodie fiction, which combines the culinary world and story SO WELL. The latest treat I have had the privilege of reading is the recent release from author Carla Laureano, aptly named The Saturday Night Supper Club.

About the Book

Denver chef Rachel Bishop has accomplished everything she’s dreamed and some things she never dared hope, like winning a James Beard award and heading up her own fine-dining restaurant.

The Saturday Night Supper Club cover

But when a targeted smear campaign causes her to be pushed out of the business by her partners, she vows to do whatever it takes to get her life back … even if that means joining forces with the man who inadvertently set the disaster in motion.

Essayist Alex Kanin never imagined his pointed editorial would go viral. Ironically, his attempt to highlight the pitfalls of online criticism has the opposite effect: it revives his own flagging career by destroying that of a perfect stranger. Plagued by guilt-fueled writer’s block, Alex vows to do whatever he can to repair the damage. He just doesn’t expect his interest in the beautiful chef to turn personal.

Alex agrees to help rebuild Rachel’s tarnished image by offering his connections and his home to host an exclusive pop-up dinner party targeted to Denver’s most influential citizens: the Saturday Night Supper Club. As they work together to make the project a success, Rachel begins to realize Alex is not the unfeeling opportunist she once thought he was, and that perhaps there’s life–and love–outside the pressure-cooker of her chosen career. But can she give up her lifelong goals without losing her identity as well?

Amazon | Goodreads

Review

The Saturday Night Supper Club impressed me in so many ways: from the vivid descriptions of place and tantalizing food, to the unique and relevant social media fallout angle as a story influence, and to the portrayal of a life journey filled with deep meaning and purpose. Perhaps the most prominent, though, is its complexity of characters and their respective interconnected relationships and backstories. These were revealed one morsel at a time, creating a character arc that is all the more meaningful because of the reader’s understanding by story’s end. This delightful complexity is what will make me proclaim Supper Club as a favorite and best-of-the-year read for many months to come!book quote

If you will allow me to use a food analogy, I will further describe its awesomeness: The foodie atmosphere and eclectic setting are the appetizer, laying the foundation. The character transformation is the main course with great substance. The resulting romance is the dessert, like a salted caramel truffle, ending with a sweet note but not without its “salty” contrasts of reality.

Most impressive to me is that you cannot typecast Alex or Rachel. They are layered so well— as you get deeper and deeper into the story you get equally deeper into who they are, why they make certain choices, and how they play off of and affect each other. There is a romantic aspect of this story, but it is almost distinct and separate from the personal growth of these characters and their friendship~relationship dynamic.

I just want more of this little story world, Alex’s and Rachel’s friends, and with the book 2 teaser at the end, I am up to my elbows in bliss because it’s about Melody and BAKING!

Thank you to the publisher, Tyndale, for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Cookbook Review: Holiday Cookies by Elisabet der Nederlanden

Ya’ll, Christmas, baking, and books are three of my very favorite things. When they all combine in the wonder of a fabulous cookbook, I’m a very happy person. Holiday Cookies

Holiday Cookies: Showstopping Recipes to Sweeten the Season by Elisabet der Nederlanden is a TREAT of a cookbook. Its simple layout and photos are eye-catching to say the least, and the recipes are easy to follow and promise all sorts of yummy holiday times. I should know. I’ve tested FIVE recipes already!!! Just to make sure. Quality control and all.

Each recipe I have made has been perfect to a “T” — the measurements, baking times, and consistency of the results. I’m happily going into the Christmas season with this book in hand, planning to try the oatmeal crisps with chocolate next!

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What I’ve tried so far, from top left: Italian Pignoli Cookies, Peanut Butter-Chocolate Crunch Squares, Espresso Thins, Chocolate-Peanut Butter Brownie Sandwich Cookies, Thumbprints with Spicy Plum Jam.

Thank you to Blogging for Books and Ten Speed Press for the complimentary review copy. This is my honest review.

August Happenings

It’s the last day of August! That means back-to-school season and last hurrahs of summer. It’s been a quieter month on the blog, but this monthly wrap-up proves I was a little productive.

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on the bookshelf

New titles on the shelf this month include The Girl Who Could See by Kara Swanson, Someplace Familiar by Teresa Tysinger, My Hope Next Door AND Shattered Rose by Tammy L. Gray, Uncloaked by J. Rodes, and for reviewThe Engagement Plot by Krista Phillips, The Long Shadows of Summer by Robin E. Mason. + a few fun reference books at a library book sale, along with a cute little copy of Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell (yay for classics!).

on the blog

A Name Unknown

Most popular posts:

  1. How-To: Solar Dyed Yarn Project
  2. Top Ten Tuesday: True History in Fiction
  3. July Happenings

Most popular book reviews:

  1. I’ll Be Yours by Jenny B. Jones
  2. A Name Unknown by Roseanna M. White
  3. The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron

in the kitchen

I’ve been happily cooking with a few fresh veggies from the garden. My favorite veggie-to-hide-in-baked things is zucchini. After a few frozen loaves of the normal cinnamon zucchini bread (grandma’s recipe 🙂 ), I was ready to try something different. I found THIS 2-loaf lemon zucchini bread recipe, and it’s A-ma-zing! It’s more like a light lemon cake. You’re welcome.

on the screen

MV5BOTU0NGY3NTktNWFjOC00OGFiLWFjN2EtOGQ2OGIwNzVhODAzXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNDY0NDM0NzI@._V1_ (618x384)One of the things I enjoyed “on the screen” this month was a Queen Elizabeth II TV special (from last year) on the Smithsonian Channel called The Queen at 90. It was a delightful look at some of the queen’s yearly duties, everyday life (including her sweet love for her horses), and her life through the years, with interviews from her own family (including some fun comments from Prince William!).

around the web

This lovely “Romance Rendezvous” interview with author Pepper Basham over on Katie’s Fiction Aficionado blog covers some fun points on romance in Christian fiction and character talk.

“What are we becoming?” by Amy Matayo. Food for thought in this media-crazy, soap-box modern life.
What was your August like? Do you share a monthly wrap-up or favorites post? Share your link in the comments, I’d love to visit!

June Happenings

It’s that time of month AGAIN……(head’s up: this post has A LOT of Jane Austen/Jane of Austin gushing)

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on the bookshelf

I added more than a few books to the bookshelf in June. It’s going to be a busy summer! One fabulous just-because read being True to You by Becky Wade, others being Then There Was You by Kara Isaac, Wives & Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell, and a neat Jane Austen Memoir compilation by some of her relatives. Other for-review copies include Jane of Austin by Hillary Manton Lodge, The Whys Have It by Amy Matayo, High as the Heavens by Kate Breslin, and On Love’s Gentle Shore by Liz Johnson.

on the blog

Most popular posts:

  1. Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Memorable Dads in Literature + #BookDadQuotes
  2. How-To: Solar Dyed Yarn Project (With Kool-Aid)
  3. Book Spotlight, Author Interview, & GIVEAWAY: My Unexpected Hope by Tammy L. Gray

Screenshot_2017-06-15-22-48-28-1Most popular book reviews:

  1. I’ll Be Yours by Jenny B. Jones
  2. Jane of Austin by Hillary Manton Lodge
  3. The Road to Paradise by Karen Barnett

in the kitchen

I really, really want-to-make these olive oil chocolate chunk cookies I found on The Little Epicurean site. Soon.

20170626_150604 (800x450)did bake scones just this week from Hillary Manton Lodge’s recipe in Jane of Austin. Her recipe is for cranberries, but I happened to have fresh blueberries on hand and they worked just as well!

on the screen

Sense and SensibilityYet again, because of Jane of Austin, I re-watched the 1995 Sense and Sensibility movie. It had been way too long since I had watched it, and I appreciated it all the more this viewing. It is brilliantly cast!!! And the acting performances are wonderful, particularly that of Emma Thompson (I ❤ her).

Recently, I discovered the weekly travel show Born to Explore with Richard Wiese on a local TV station. So far, I’ve really enjoyed the episodes on Morocco, India, Uganda, and Cyprus.

around the web

Continuing with all the Jane Austen love this month, here are 3 wonderful articles by Hillary Manton Lodge:

Thanks to a Tyndale House Facebook post, I found these adorable little Lender’s Library Bookmarks — a free printable library-ish bookmark to keep tabs on your lent books.\

If you like “armchair adventures”, or traveling through reading, this is a “reading list road trip” from Bethany House Publishers of 2017 releases and their locations across the U.S. and globe.

 

April Happenings

I can’t believe it’s already time for the April monthly wrap-up!

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on the bookshelf

Two of the MOST EXCITING titles added to my collection this month included an ARC of Sara Ella’s second novel, Unraveling, and the lovely novella collection Right Where We Belong with small-town stories from authors Deborah Raney, Melissa Tagg, and Courtney Walsh. Both of these should be reviewed on the blog this May.

on the blog

Most popular posts:

  1. Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Novels with the Most Unique Settings
  2. Top Ten Tuesday: 10 things that will make me instantly want to read a book
  3. How-To: Solar Dyed Yarn Project (With Kool-Aid)

just-the-way-you-are-by-pepper-bashamMost popular book reviews:

  1. Just the Way You Are by Pepper Basham (plus author interview)
  2. I’ll Be Yours by Jenny B. Jones
  3. Reclaimed by Jennifer Rodewald (plus book snippet)

in the kitchen

20170415_120919-1The most notable “new” recipe I made this month was this version of dairy free Hot Cross Buns for Easter weekend. They turned out great! I used a combination of dried currants and raisins because I like both.

on the screen

The Zookeeper's WifeI had the privilege of seeing The Zookeeper’s Wife on the big screen…. And let me just say it was a fabulous production! It tells the fascinating inspired-by-a-true-account story of a zookeeper’s family sheltering Jews in occupied Poland during WWII. It appropriately portrayed the harshness of life for the Jews and the sacrifices of people who risked everything to help them. The quality of this film is very prominent, with the acting top-notch (especially Jessica Chastain!) and everything from the zoo animals to the furniture/clothing period-appropriate. This is one to see if you’re a fan of historical dramas or WWII.

around the web

Pepper Basham featured one of my favorite book heroes (ahem, book boyfriends) on one of her “Swoony Saturday” posts. It is Dr. DAVID ROSS. Enough said.

I ’m not planning a wedding ANY time in the near future. You kinda have to plan a groom first. But, if I were, I’d be all over this wedding entertainment option recently in the news: ALPACAS and LLAMAS!!!! This little animal therapy place in the OR/WA area offers options to book llamas and/or alpacas to be a part of a ceremony or to entertain guests. I’m thinking it needs to be extended to any social or family event. Wouldn’t it be fun to show up to a family reunion or birthday part to find alpacas to play with?! 🙂

March Happenings

March Happenings

Welcome to my new feature, a monthly wrap-up of sorts!

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Having seen several blogger friends’ takes on a month-end post, I have decided to attempt such a summary or fun little recap at the end of each month. So, here goes!

on the bookshelf

I added SEVERAL books to my TBR shelf, most ecopies and a few paperbacks. Out of all of them, I think I’m most excited about reading With Love, Wherever You Are by Dandi Daley Mackall and The White Feather Murders by Rachel McMillan over the next weeks.

on the blog

textgram_1488839984.pngMost popular posts:

  1. 4 Reasons to Read Inspirational Fiction
  2. How-To: Solar Dyed Yarn Project (With Kool-Aid!)
  3. Top Ten Tuesday: 10+ Novellas You Can Read in One Sitting

Most popular book reviews:

  1. I’ll Be Yours by Jenny B. Jones
  2. Saving Amelie by Cathy Gohlke
  3. The Message in a Bottle Romance Novella Collection

in the kitchen

Thanks to a Facebook post by author Hillary Lodge, I tried this amazing recipe for a pan baked lemon almond tart. It’s naturally gluten free, if you’re conscious of that, AND I made it dairy free by using full fat coconut milk in place of the cream and earth balance “butter”. I’ve already made it a second time.

I’ve also discovered the brilliance of overnight oats. Mix together oatmeal and your favorite add-ins, like nuts, flax, coconut, cinnamon, etc., add milk, and let sit overnight in the fridge. Instant breakfast! It’s even better if you throw in some fresh fruit. This recipe on my local news station convinced me to try it!

on the screen

I wrapped up the premier season of Victoria on Masterpiece Classic. My mom and I LOVED this series. It is worth a watch for the costumes and architecture alone. On top of brilliant acting and a well-structured script, the growth of Victoria as she adjusts to her role as queen and the love story between her and Albert is all the more enjoyable because it is true. History is NOT boring, people!

Force_of_Arms_FilmPosterI happened upon the classic movie Force of Arms (1951) this month. It’s a WWII drama/romance starring William Holden and Nancy Olson reminiscent of Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms. Considering its era, I thought it a very well made piece of art, even if the romance was a *little* fast moving and melodramatic. Somehow that made it all the more entertaining with William Holden’s sappy declarations of love amidst army advances in Italy. The wit and sometimes fast-paced dialogue of the script reminded me of the banter that’s more often found in rom-com novels. It is as much drama as love story, though, and does a decent job showcasing the perils of fighting, sometimes featuring real-life footage of the army or city scenes. If you have a chance to watch it, do so!

 

Until last week, I had not seen the 2006 biography/drama Miss Potter. I don’t know how I went this long without seeing it or really knowing more of the story behind Beatrix Potter’s life. (She’s the one who wrote The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Jemima Puddleduck, etc.). It is all kinds of sweet and poignant with a fantastic cast (Renée Zellweger, Ewan McGregor, Emily Watson). Fans of children’s literature and period drama enthusiasts alike will enjoy it!

around the web

I’m still sporadically participating in the #WishfulWonder book photo challenge on Instagram (AKA #bookstagram for we book-loving photo enthusiasts). The prompts are curated by Tressa and Rissi each month. See Rissi’s post here for the April schedule!

Author Pepper Basham has begun a blog feature called “Swoony Saturdays“, complete with ratings on a Jane Austen- inspired hero scale AND a kissing level. It’s terribly fun. She’s featured 2 of her own fictional book heroes so far with plans for more.

I recently saw and LOVED Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. From the costumes, sets, casting, and MUSIC it was gorgeous. My little girl heart was happy. There were a couple things, though, that I was slightly disappointed in. This blog post by Sarah Cinnamon sums up my feelings perfectly and shines a light on the love that can be seen in such a story.