Review: LOST LAKE by Sarah Addison Allen

Love love love…I just love the writing and characters of Sarah Addison Allen’s work. LOST LAKE is no different. I happily received this from Net Galley last month and couldn’t wait to read it. Addison Allen’s stories combine true to life characters grappling with real problems, with a little bit of magic thrown in. They are memorable and heart-warming stories – the kind of books that stay with you long after you’ve read the last page.

In LOST LAKE, young widow Kate Pheris has spent a year grieving her late husband. Her overbearing, but well-meaning, mother-in-law preps Kate and her daughter Devin to move in with her, but instead Kate takes off on a short vacation with Devin to Lost Lake. Kate hasn’t been there since she was twelve, but her memories are of a magical place and long lazy summer days, many spent with her young friend Wes. Lost Lake, though, is on the verge of being sold and turned into condominiums. The owner, Kate’s great-aunt Eby (also a widow), is going to sell and move on with her retirement since times have changed and most people no longer visit or even remember the vacation site exists. Kate’s presence and “return” to Lost Lake cause quite a stir, and soon the townsfolk, along with Kate and an interesting cast of character friends, work to help Eby keep the property.

I’m always a sucker for a happy ending! I also like stories where characters are trying to heal from a loss or past hurt. There is more than one character with wounds in this story, and each has their own storyline.

If you enjoy Sarah Addison Allen’s books (such as THE PEACH KEEPER, THE SUGAR QUEEN, and GARDEN SPELLS), you will enjoy LOST LAKE!

Thank you, Net Galley and St. Martin Press, for my copy!

Here’s a short Goodreads video of Sarah talking about the book and her own life (via You Tube):

Review: The Dead of Summer by Mari Jungstedt

I received THE DEAD OF SUMMER by Mari Jungstedt from publicist Meryl Zegarek to read and review. I had never read any of Jungstedt’s other works, and they are in the “translated Scandinavian crime novels” genre. This book is part of a series featuring Detective Anders Knutas, and it is translated into English by Tina Nunnally.

At the start of the story, a young father leaves his family’s camping site to go for an early morning run. He is a business owner and a family man, but he is plagued by a nameless anxiety. While running along the beach in beautiful Gotland (a Swedish island popular with vacationers), he is shot and killed. Knutas and his team begin to tie the victim into a scheme of hiring illegal workers and possibly trafficking illegal liquor from Russia, when another man is killed in a similar style. Knutas’ colleague , Karin Jacobsson, takes the helm in solving the mystery and finding the killer before anyone else is killed.

I really enjoyed this novel! I wasn’t sure what to expect and I was hoping it wouldn’t be too violent. While there is violence/sex/drugs/etc. none of it was overly graphic and it did not take up all the book. Instead I found that Jungstedt is a master at making her characters come alive through their interpersonal relationships. Knutas is having a bit of a lull in his marriage. Karin is holding a secret from her past. Television reporter Johan is struggling with his failed relationship with his once fiancée Emma. The nature of these relationships made a difference in how I read this book. It wasn’t all action, but also subtle shadings of character. I kept thinking that it would make a great BBC series!

THE DEAD OF SUMMER is currently available for Kindle and will be coming out in paperback in March, 2014.

If you enjoy crime novels, you will probably enjoy THE DEAD OF SUMMER. Thank you, Ms. Zegarek for sending me a copy!

Review: THE SIGNATURE OF ALL THINGS by Elizabeth Gilbert

I received THE SIGNATURE OF ALL THINGS to review through Net Galley. I had liked Gilbert’s EAT, PRAY, LOVE but I heard this novel was very different. I just loved this story which follows the life of Alma Whittaker, a highly intelligent, gifted botanist of Dutch descent, living in Philadelphia in the 1800’s.

This lengthy novel (over 500 pages) starts with young, industrious Henry Whittaker, who travels with Captain Cook and becomes a well-known and respected (and very wealthy) expert on botany. He marries an intelligent Dutch woman and together they make their home on an estate in Philadelphia and have a daughter, Alma. Alma is incredibly precocious and socially awkward but endearing. Throughout the book she is quick to point out her flaws and her shortcomings, but her intelligence and perseverance shines through. Alma is unlucky in love and is devastated by her short-lived and ill-fated marriage to a young and gifted artist. Alma travels to Tahiti to find out more about her husband’s death, and this journey of discovery takes up a large portion of the last third of her book.

I really enjoyed Ms. Gilbert’s writing. I know little about botany and was rather surprised that I found Alma’s intense and in-depth study of mosses actually rather interesting! I loved Alma’s intense scientific studies and her passion for Darwin’s theories (along with her own brilliant suppositions). The excitement of scientific inquiry and discovery from that time period (mid 1800’s) shines throughout this story. There are some sexual passages in this book, but I did not find them excessive or overly graphic. Rather, they made Alma seem more human to me.

Thanks, Net Galley and Viking for my copy!

Quick Review: POE by J. Lincoln Fenn

This Amazon “Breakthrough Novel” award winner was a fun find for me! It is the quick moving story of Dimitri Petrov, an obituary writer at his local newspaper. Dimitri is mourning the death of his parents from the year before. He is also writing a tome on Rasputin in his spare time. Dimitri is sent on an assignment to cover a séance at a local deserted “haunted house”, along with an annoying colleague, the medium, and a young woman he has met before and hopes to attract. What happens that night causes Dimitri to end up in the morgue as a DOA (though thankfully, he revives). After the séance, Dimitri is haunted by a female spirit he calls “Poe”, and he becomes determined to solve the mysteries surrounding the house and some murders, while protecting himself and his new girlfriend, Lisa.

This was a fun and fast read. I just loved the character of Dimitri, who was a bit hapless. He wasn’t strong, overly courageous, or sophisticated. He was smart, though, and very “real”. I couldn’t help cheering for him!

I loved how this novel combined supernatural, horror, and fantasy elements, along with humor. I look forward to more from Ms. Fenn — maybe even more with Dimitri? I would recommend for older YA as well, but be aware of some adult content and language.

I got my kindle copy via Amazon.

Saturday Snapshot: in the Snow!

Here are a few recent shots of the kids playing in the snow in our front yard:

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They used their sleds as forts! I have to say they are much heartier than I am. 🙂

Of course this weekend we are losing a lot of the snow as it warms up a bit (from about 15-20 degrees every day to about 40 today!).

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Melinda at

Please see her website for how to participate!