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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December (& 2017) Happenings

Wow. It’s time to say goodbye to December and goodbye to another year. This makes me all kinds of nostalgic! There’s just something bright about a year beginning in all its possibility and newness. But first, I’m taking one last look at 2017 and the month of December with the usual rundown and some fun yearly favorites.

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on the bookshelf

New on the bookshelf this December: One Christmas in Winter by Bell Renshaw, Desert Duet by Debra E. Marvin, A Log Cabin Christmas Collection by various authors, The Saturday Night Supper Club by Carla Laureano, A Sweethaven Christmas by Courtney Walsh, A Song Unheard by Roseanna M. White, Troubled Waters by Susan May Warren, Bespoke: A Tiny Christmas Tale by Amanda Dykes, and both A Season to Love and A New Shade of Summer by Nicole Deese.

on the blog

Ordinary SnowflakesDecember popular posts:

  1. Best of 2017
  2. First Line Fridays # 7: Ordinary Snowflakes
  3. First Line Fridays #8 Special Christmas Edition: The Story of the Other Wise Man
  4. The Joy of Christmas Book Tag
  5. Favorite Quotes from “Persuasion” by Jane Austen

The Esther ParadigmjpgDecember popular reviews:

  1. The Esther Paradigm by Sarah Monzon (plus author interview)
  2. I’ll Be Yours by Jenny B. Jones
  3. A Cliché Christmas by Nicole Deese

textgram_1488839984.png2017’s most popular posts & reviews:

  1. I’ll Be Yours by Jenny B. Jones
  2. How-To: Solar Dyed Yarn Project (With Kool-Aid!)
  3. 4 Reasons to Read Inspirational Fiction
  4. Best of 2017
  5. Favorite Quotes from “Persuasion” by Jane Austen
  6. Top Ten Tuesday:  Top 10 Books on my Winter TBR
  7. Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Favorite Jane Austen-Esque Romances
  8. Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Books with Bookish Heroines (and Heroes!)
  9. Book Spotlight & Author Interview: My Unexpected Hope by Tammy L. Gray
  10. The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron

in the kitchen

December was a month for baking, both on the job (cupcakes galore!) and for family. My favorite new recipe I tried was, yet again, from a “Bake From Scratch” magazine. It was the Spiced Coconut Oil Cake with Bourbon Glaze. I’m always on the lookout for easily-adaptable dairy free recipes, and this one was simple! (I substituted coconut almond milk with a tad of vinegar for the buttermilk.)

on the screen

Murder on the Orient Express

Murder on the Orient Express was a cinematic masterpiece. The costumes, cinematography, script, and even the little moments I found humorous all work to portray the era and gripping story line perfectly.

The Lady EveThe Lady Eve — sometimes a little silly, this is still the classic era of film at its best. Barbara Stanwycke is as glamorous as ever, and Henry Fonda plays the rare comedic relief piece as his world is turned upside down by “Eve” and her schemes. My favorite scene involves HIS father looking for his breakfast!

around the web

My year in books on Goodreads 

So many best-of book lists! Kara, Rissi, Becky, and Beth‘s to name a few.

THE INSPYs ARE OPEN! Check out Rel’s post with all the details. The INSPYs are annual blogger/reader nominated-and-judged inspirational fiction awards, given in several categories. Go vote for your favorite books now!

2018 plans

So far, my 2018 to-do list is short. Besides a few work-related plans, I’m going to be participating in the Mansfield Park Read-Along Amber is hosting starting January 3rd! (PS you’re invited to join!)

And, I’ll be eagerly awaiting the next SSD installment in February, as just announced here. Signed, Sealed, Delivered: The Road Less Traveled. The steady story and character development of these movies is always my fav!

Thank you for being my blog readers and friends in 2017. Now, time to ask for your feedback!!! What would you like to see from me on the blog? More reviews? More guest authors? More bookish (or non-bookish) discussions? Movie reviews? I’ve been toying with that last idea for a while… 

November Happenings

Whew! It’s already December, the very last month of 2017. You know what that means?!!! It’s time for another monthly wrap-up!

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on the bookshelf

Books added to the shelves this past November include: paperbacks of Charming the Troublemaker AND A Twist Faith by Pepper Basham, Enchanted: A Christmas Collection by Melissa Tagg, Sell Out by Tammy L. Gray, The Gift of Christmas Past by Cindy and Erin Woodsmall, and The Uncloaked trilogy by J. Rodes.

on the blog

Most popular posts:

  1. Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10 Books on my Winter TBR
  2. ‘Inspired by Classics’ Guest Post by Pepper Basham (+ Review)
  3. First Line Fridays #5 Special Military Edition: Conspiracy of Silence

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Most popular book reviews:

  1. Charming the Troublemaker by Pepper Basham
  2. I’ll Be Yours by Jenny B. Jones
  3. The Mountain Between Us by Charles Martin + Movie Thoughts

in the kitchen

IMG_20171126_201637_551.jpgSo I made a bundt cake. Actually, half of one. But ya’ll, it was SO GOOD! It was this Cinnamon Sugar Doughnut Bundt Cake from Bake from Scratch. I WILL be making it again!

on the screen

Same Kind of Different as MeIn November, one movie on the big screen that I really, really loved was Same Kind of Different as MeIt’s a movie I can recommend to anyone with a deeply touching story. And, the fact that its a true story, depicted in such a way that it broadcasts a message of forgiveness, made it all the more a blessing.

On the small screen, I enjoyed watching new shows and old classics alike, like a Thanksgiving rewatch of Yours, Mine and Ours (the Lucille Ball version, of course!) and a few new Hallmark movies. My favorite Halllmarks so far include A Bramble House Christmas and Engaging Father Christmas.

around the web

This Gift Guide for the Jane Austen fan is absolutely perfect inspiration for gifting an Austen lover you know! (Ahem, family: hint hint. I already have #5 & #7!)

Since we’re still talking Hallmark movies, here’s the “part 2” list of new movies coming this season on Silver Petticoat.

 

YOUR TURN! How was your November? Did you celebrate Thanksgiving with lots of turkey? What are your favorites “things” (recipes, books, movies, etc.) from this month?

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.

October Happenings

I cannot believe it is the end of October. Where did the month go?!

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on the bookshelf

New books on the shelf this month include a paperback of Conspiracy of Silence by Ronie Kendig, a paperback of The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay (eeek!), Blind Spot by Dani Pettrey, With No Reservations by Laurie Tomlinson, Lady Jayne Disappears by Joanna Davidson Politano, The Recipe by Candace Calvert, The Redeeming by Tamara Leigh, and The Esther Paradigm by Sarah Monzon.

on the blog

Most popular posts:

  1. First Line Fridays #2: Christmas at Gate 18
  2. Top Ten Tuesday: Meal Planning 101 (AKA Yummy Foods in Books)
  3. First Line Fridays #3: Charming the Troublemaker20171009_124022.jpg

Most popular book reviews:

  1. I’ll Be Yours by Jenny B. Jones
  2. All This Time by Melissa Tagg (with Author Interview!)
  3. Christmas at Gate 18 by Amy Matayo

on the screen

PoldarkOctober ushered in Season 3 of ITV’s Poldark here in the US on Masterpiece PBS. I confess I’m a big fan, continually impressed with the character development and atmospheric setting of every episode. (I want to go to Cornwall!) While I’m still very upset with Ross for some season 2 shenanigans, I do hope he will still prove me wrong because everyone is redeemable. Demelza, Verity, and Caroline are still my favorites. One thing I’m enjoying in this season is how George tries SO HARD to advance his political career/social standing and works at it by manipulating and bringing others down, while Ross doesn’t even want to try to gain that sort of ground yet does so out of some natural good decisions (i.e. friendship and loyalty), especially in ep 5.

around the web

Carrie over at Reading is my Superpower had a wonderful guest post this month from author Sondra Kraak about Reading Fiction in Him. It’s such a cool way to approach story!

I stumbled across Book Riot’s article about how “Chrome’s Library Extension Will Change Your Life”. Choose your local library system and you can see whether or not they have a copy of books you’re browsing on Goodreads and Amazon. It’s awesome.

With November nearly upon us, Hallmark has begun the most wonderful yearly tradition of Christmas movies 24/7 on its networks AKA WATCH HALLMARK ALLLLL THE TIME season. Here’s a great preview of new movies to come for the first part of the season over on Silver Petticoat.

 

YOUR TURN! Are you loving the change of season October brought? What books did you add to your TBR this month?

Top Ten Tuesday: Meal Planning 101 (AKA Yummy Foods in Books)

It’s another Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by  The Broke and the Bookish

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

The official prompt is: Top Ten Yummy Foods Mentioned In Books (Does a character eat something you’d love? Or maybe the book takes place in a bakery/restaurant that makes yummy things? You could also talk about 10 of your favorite cookbooks if you don’t read foody books.)

Well, people, I READ FOODIE BOOKS! And I didn’t realize how many until I started making this list….so many of them focus on a main character with a culinary background of some sort. I’ve already featured a TTT way back about characters who cook/bake, so I’m going with the actual meals this time. Such fun! Join me as we plan an indulgent schedule of eating and snacking.

MEAL PLANNING 101 (AKA Yummy Foods in Books)

Breakfast

Count Me INfrom Count Me In by Mikal Dawn

a Kit-Kat Latte – the perfect combination of sweet (chocolate and vanilla) and stout to caffeinate your day.

 

 

from Where Two Hearts Meet by Liz Johnsonwhere-two-hearts-meet

3 words: Caden’s cinnamon rolls. “There was only one thing better than the smell of freshly baked cinnamon rolls in the morning. The taste of freshly baked cinnamon rolls in the morning. “-chapter 1

 

Reservations for Twofrom Reservations for Two by Hillary Manton Lodge (but I could say ALL THE FOODS from the “Two Blue Doors” series!)

Blueberry buckwheat breakfast cake (AND there’s even a recipe for it in the book!)

Lunch

Five Days in Skye by Carla Laureano - mini reviewfrom Five Days in Skye by Carla Laureano

James’s tuna Nicoise sandwiches with new red potato salad and fresh fruit: “seared tuna, seasoned delicately with olive oil, vinegar, and Dijon mustard, then layered with hard-boiled eggs and spring greens on an artisan roll.”

Tea… er, Coffee Time!

The Bachelor Girl's Guide to Murder by Rachel McMillanfrom The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder by Rachel McMillan

Turkish coffee and LEMON CURD SANDWICHES. Merinda would not be herself without her frequent Turkish coffee, and lemon curd is the way to Ray’s heart, apparently 😉

Appetizer

19320758from When I Fall in Love by Susan May Warren

Ahi tartar in a rice noodle cup, garnished with char orange supreme. When the characters are participating in a cooking contest, the result is pretty exotic creations!

Dinner

a-portrait-of-emily-price

from A Portrait of Emily Price by Katherine Reay

Chef Benito Vasallo’s Bistecca alla Pizzaiola AKA steak of the pizza maker’s wife: a thick-sauce, wintry Italian dish with “a tangy mix of tomatoes, garlic, anchovies, and something [Emily] couldn’t name….”

The Wishing Seasonfrom The Wishing Season by Denise Hunter

Filet steak with garlic butter, asparagus spears, and risotto. A meal fit for a food critic.

Dessert

Dare to Love Againfrom Dare to Love Again by Julie Lessman

Ghrardelli chocolate bars straight from the factory at Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco, CA. This list would not be complete without Julie’s “chocolate kiss” fun!

 

Bonus! Books on my TBR shelf that promise all kinds of yummy foods:

The Romano Family Collection: A Trio of Romances Flavored with Grace by Brandy Bruce

All’s Fair in Love and Cupcakes by Betsy St. Amant

With No Reservations by Laurie Tomlinson

The Saturday Night Supper Club by Carla Laureano (releasing Feb. 2018)

 

Which of these meals sounds the most appetizing to you?  Did you participate in this week’s TTT? Do you enjoy foodie fiction and have recommendations for me? Comment away!

September Happenings

September was a busy blogging month! I honestly don’t know how that worked out — most of the month was a blur. BUT, we did get to welcome fall (my favorite season) and barely start to feel the cooler days in my neck of the woods.

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on the bookshelf

Oh my, I’m turning into a book hoarder. My mother would agree. New titles on the shelves, both virtual and paperback, include the “Targeted for Danger” ebook novella collection, The Last Summer by Brandy Bruce, Chasing Haven by Rachel Fallin… and for upcoming review Crown of Souls by Ronie Kendig, All This Time by Melissa Tagg, Hometown Girl by Courtney Walsh, Too Far Down by Mary Connealy, The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck by Bethany Turner, The House on Foster Hill by Jaime Jo Wright, Returning Home by Toni Shiloh, and Impossible Saints by Clarissa Harwood.

on the blog

Most popular posts:

  1. 20170918_145336Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Books with Bookish Heroines (and Heroes!)
  2. 4 Reasons to Read Inspirational Fiction
  3. Author Interview & Giveaway: A New Shade of Summer by Nicole Deese
  4. How-To: Solar Dyed Yarn Project (With Kool-Aid!)
  5. Let’s Talk Rereads!

My copy of Many Sparrows

Most popular book reviews:

  1. I’ll Be Yours by Jenny B. Jones
  2. The Long Shadows of Summer by Robin E. Mason
  3. Many Sparrows by Lori Benton

in the kitchen

I tried this fresh raspberry pie recipe from PBS Food (yes, them again. They just post some good recipes!). It was light and fun and soooo good.

I’m also having fun with a new Christmas cookie cookbook…. more on that, and a review, soon.

on the screen

I admit it, I’ve never read an Agatha Christie book OR seen any adaptations (that I know of). So, I watched the “classic” Murder on the Orient Express from 1974 because the new one looks just so darn good. I admit, I didn’t see some of the twists coming! It has a 1970s drama flair to it that I will be anxious to compare with the new one.

Home AgainOf course, I watched the new Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Home Again Hallmark production (shoutout to the #POstables fans!!!). I’ve been following this saga for most of its duration, happily rooting for the characters, friendships, and (finally) romance of the series. This latest made me happy, once again! I really, really appreciate how the ongoing relationships have steadily grown in complexity and depth over several installments — and not just with the 4 main characters, but with the extended family dynamic and other characters. Also, I LOVE how the series refocuses on a fresh storyline yet frequently retains a thread of patriotism and honors historical events.

around the web

Merriam Webster added new words to the dictionary. You might learn a thing or two from their announcement, or be glad your slang terms are now “official” (I’m talking about froyo here.)

And this is SUPER nerdy, but I was amused by this TED video on alphabetizing and types of sorting algorithms:

Exciting covers were revealed this month for two 2018 releases: Rachel McMillan’s upcoming Murder at the Flamingo AND Joanne Bischof’s Sons of Blackbird MountainBoth are gorgeous and creative and exquisite.

Bethany House’s blog post featuring Five Bookish Mysteries to Solve is witty and fun!

YOUR TURN! How was September for you? Did you accomplish that “to-do” list or do anything exciting?