Bittersweet (True North, #1) by Sarina Bowen

I finally joined 2017 and read my first Sarina Bowen book. I have a lot of friends who are huge fans of Ms. Bowen and I can see why. The book was entertaining and well written. I love the setting, the Vermont countryside, and the premise of the book, a second chance romance between a farmer and a chef. The chemistry between Audrey and Griff was off the charts. I love how feisty Audrey is when it comes to trying to get the farmers to sell her their produce. Combine that with Griff’s stubbornness on not being willing to sell and it sparks an intense attraction. Warning: don’t read this book while you’re hungry. Audrey is a chef and the food she made sounded delish. If you could gain weight by reading about yummy food I might need to buy bigger pants. BITTERSWEET held a special place in my heart because of the personal connection I had with it. My aunt and uncle live in the heartland of America and are wheat farmers. Since this book grabbed my attention with its homey feel, I’m looking forward to continuing on to see what else is to come this series.

Crash (Brazen Bulls MC, #1) by Susan Fanetti

BEST NEWS!!! A new MC series by a favorite author!!

Crash starts out intense and continues that way until the end of the book. Willa and Rad meet under less than desirable circumstances. Their shared experience bonds these two strangers together. Rad was previously married to a woman who wasn’t faithful. Since that time he’s steered clear of getting involved romantically with anyone. The club girls work just fine for him. He’s SAA for his MC and not having the complication of a relationship is where he’s at in his life. Willa is from a small town where girls grow up to be barefoot and pregnant. Willa bucked the system by attending college and becoming a nurse. Her high school sweetheart wasn’t too happy that she was unwilling to keep their lifestyle at status quo. As stated above these two met during a chaotic time. Neither one is sure they’re ready to explore the connection they felt for one another but the pull is too strong for them to ignore it. Willa is just trying to survive one day at a time. She isn’t wanting a relationship like she had back home with her ex where the guy rules her world. Rad isn’t sure he’s ready to be in a committed relationship after the drama his ex-wife put him through. The circumstance that brought them together created a survivor’s bond between the two of them that can’t be ignored. ”Since she’d joined Rad’s life, she’d taken her hands off the wheel – or the handlebars – and was just enjoying the thrill of the ride, hoping they wouldn’t CRASH headlong into disaster.” Despite their horrific first meeting, these two were an amazing couple. Both complimenting each other’s weaknesses and strengthens. It was like the universe was waiting for just the right moment to push these two together. Oh yea, and there is one other main character who deserves to be recognized – Willa’s pitbull Ollie. I really enjoy how Ms. Fanetti captures the true nature of animals in her stories. My heart was with Ollie and his protective nature. A dog’s loyalty is uncomparable and while reading Ollie’s scenes I snuggled up to my fur baby. CRASH has a great story arc that I look forward to reading more about as I follow these Bulls in the upcoming books. You can read this series without having read any of the other MC series Ms. Fanetti has written, so far. This series is set back before her other series … in 1995.

Two cleaning books: Simply Clean by Becky Rapinchuk and How to Manage Your Home without Losing Your Mind by Dana White

Find in catalogI flipped through Simply Clean, which was very pretty and well laid out, but immediately discarded it when I saw that doing the dishes wasn’t on the daily task list. I can’t get behind any cleaning book that pretends that dishes aren’t part of cleaning! And I really can’t get behind any cleaning book that makes believe you can keep your house clean in 10 minutes a day, unless you have a tiny house, which this author definitely doesn’t because she talks about how to clean your bathrooms (plural). Which by the way, she says is to spray cleanser in one bathroom and then go to the other bathroom to spray cleanser and then go back to the first bathroom to wipe the cleanser. There’s your 10 minutes right there. This is also the kind of cleaning book that says in order to declutter a closet, you have to take everything out, wipe down the closet walls, vacuum, try everything on, and then put things back on identical hangers. Who’s got time for that (besides Marie Kondo)?

Find in catalogThat’s why I will hold up Dana White’s How to Manage Your Home without Losing Your Mind as the gold standard for realistic cleaning. Her book is really basic, but really useful, and I’ve seen changes in my house following her methods. Some of what she says is kind of obvious, but yet I wasn’t doing it regularly. Like, doing the dishes every day (but then being totally bummed out about the state of my kitchen). Other useful practices: following the “visibility rule” (clean and tidy what’s most obvious and bugging you before you do a project like decluttering the attic) and following the “container concept” (limit your belongings to what fits in a certain space; weed out the items you like least when you want to make room for new items you like more). It’s also really helpful to me to have a laundry day. She devotes two chapters to this, which could seem like overkill, but wasn’t.

Both these books have a 28 day checklist for cleaning your house, and the difference is night and day. Simply Clean has 28 cleaning projects that you do on top of your regular chores. (Again, who’s got time for that?) How to Manage Your Home says wash your dishes every day. Then if you have energy, go around your house and pick up items out of place. If you still have energy, sweep your kitchen floor. And then do it again tomorrow. And tomorrow. And just doing that will help keep your house under control so you can start tackling some larger tasks after you’ve had 28 days forming new cleaning habits. As a tired and overworked person, I appreciate that.

Junk Beautiful by Sue Whitney

Find in catalogOK. So you’re not reading this decorating book for its erudite vocabulary. (“Nifty-noodle,” “shootie doots!,” “poopdee-dooped.”) Nor for its cutting edge scientific observations. (“Research tells us we spend a third of our life sleeping.”) But you might want to browse through it for ideas and photos if you like decorating, buy a lot of stuff at yard sales, or better yet, have a lot of junk (their word) you’d like to repurpose in your outdoor spaces. Though some ideas had me shaking my head (Why would you serve sushi on an old roller skate?), others were kind of cool (using a big classroom abacus as a towel rack, posing a mannequin in old swimming togs near your pool). The book showcases 24 different outdoor spaces, from tea garden to sun room to picnic, with lots of examples for accessorizing with unusual items like enamel refrigerator drawers, naval belt buckles, vintage faucets, and even a “wee little urinal.”

Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman

Find in catalogBritt-Marie Was Here was a fun read. It takes place in present-day England. The main character, Britt-Marie, is 63 years old and sets out to find a job after being a homemaker for most of her adult life. She is a bit of an odd, yet appealing, character. As the narrative draws the reader into her world you can’t help but be hopeful, for Britt-Marie in her small and peculiar ways is making a difference. At first it is by making the world around her a cleaner place. Later she improves the lives of the people in the small, economically depressed town in which she finds her job. I found this book on the lucky day rack and I recommend you place a hold on the on-line system if you can’t find a copy on the shelf. It will be worth your wait. Enjoy!

Dean and Me – A Love Story by Jerry Lewis and James Kaplan

Find in catalogThe unlikely pair of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis teamed up in 1946. The world had never seen the likes of this handsome crooner and hyperactive comic, and they soon became mega stars in night clubs, radio, TV, and movies. They spent 10 years working together, then broke up as the pressures of stardom eroded their partnership. Both men went on to have very successful solo careers but there was always sadness at the loss of their friendship. This is a fascinating look at the world of entertainment in post war America.

Jesus’ Son by Denis Johnson

Find in catalogThis is a small book of short stories, but most of them pack quite a punch. Often set in the world of drugs and alcohol and harsh times, still the writing is very, very good. Intense at times, aching with the barren world at others. There are times when the use of words makes it worth slogging through — “under a sky as blue and brainless as the love of God.” Or “The torn moon mended. Our fingers touching away the tears. It was there.” I recommend this book, but be ready. “And sometimes a dust storm would stand off in the desert, towering so high it was like another city — a terrifying new era approaching, blurring our dreams.”

The Latter Days by Judith Freeman

Find in catalogThis is an autobiography of the early part of the author’s life, growing up in a large Mormon family in Ogden, Utah. She was born in 1946, so it is a book about an era as well as a place and culture… and of course, about the writer’s experience in and then after leaving the church. I was interested in the subject and kept expecting more. She is a good writer, but I found myself hoping for information about her feelings, not just a description of her situation. I stayed on through the end, thinking maybe there would be more reflection at the end. There was some, but I felt a little unsatisfied.

Menace by J.M. Darhower

Wow, MENACE, is another amazing mafia book by Ms. Darhower. For the Darhower fans, they will be excited to know that Lorenzo Gambini from Targets On Our Back is the main character in this book. For those who haven’t read TOOB no worries because Ms. Darhower wrote this book as a new series with no prior knowledge needed to read it. This new series is aptly named Scarlet Scars. It’s a two-parter with the second part being released at the beginning of February. I’m so excited that both books are being released closely together because I’m anxious to see how this series ends.

Lorenzo embodies everything that makes a great anti-hero. He grew up with a horrible childhood that leads him on a path that wasn’t righteous. But like all swoon worthy anti-heroes, he intrigues the reader with his humor and motivates. The reader wants to cheer him on but at the same time not sure where he’s leading them with his actions. Morgan has spent her life feeling invisible. All she’s wanted was for someone to notice and care about her. Like Lorenzo she is very capable of surviving on her own. “But what I can offer is to stand in your corner. You and I, we can be the best of friends, but don’t expect to find your fairy tale under my roof. You got me?” If this was a fairy tale it’s definitely a dark one where ”Once upon a time” don’t always end with rainbows and kittens. There’s a twist I didn’t see coming and I have to applaud Ms. Darhower for making me reconsider everything I’ve read up to this point. I’m looking forward to the next book because I need all the puzzle pieces to fit together. READ THIS BOOK!!

Hendrix by Chelsea Camaron and M.J. Fields

HENDRIX is a story of a man who grew up with a crappy dad and how he overcomes that gloomy shadow. His dad made bad choices that not only affected Hendrix and his brother’s lives but ruined Hendrix’s mom’s life. Now, as an adult, Hendrix is fueled with resentment for his father and the treatment of his mother. Determined to not become his father, he makes sure to be the opposite of him every way that counts.

Hendrix owns and runs a bar. His life was going along smoothly until he meets a down and out woman – Olivia. Olivia is struggling to make ends meet. She’s a hard worker and lands a job at Hendrix’s bar where her life begins to dramatically change. You know how there are things that stick out to you in books?! Well, I had that experience with this book. Olivia rubs her butt a lot in the book. She wears underwear that having sayings (such as Classy and Fabulous) on them and by rubbing her butt it reminds of her to be strong and confident. She refers to them as her empowerment panties. After the first few times, it got to be annoying and a little weird because she didn’t just do it in the privacy of her own home but whenever she needed a boost of confidence. I didn’t connect with this book like I had hoped.