Month: June 2022

Five Belles Too Many by Debra H. Goldstein

“Five Belles Too Many” is the fifth book in the Sarah Blair series by Debra H. Goldstein. This book definitely lives up to the high standards set by the previous books in the series; in fact, it’s my favorite installment so far! This book provides more of everything I love about the series and adds another of my favorite things: reality television programming!

This time around, Sarah’s mother is competing on a reality show to win the perfect wedding, and Sarah has been roped into participating as a chaperone. I really enjoyed the amount of attention paid to the various aspects of filming a reality show, and appreciated the behind-the-scenes glimpses into the process.

Overall, my favorite thing about this series is main character Sarah, who is a caring woman with common sense who approaches cooking (and life) with a philosophy of “the quicker and easier, the better”. She is also not a perfect size 2, and still seems to like herself, which is nice to see in any book. Minor characters (including twin sister Emily and mother Maybelle) are also well-drawn, with distinctive personalities. Even thought they are “temporary” characters, the cast and crew of the reality show are each given enough distinguishing traits to make them easy to keep straight. As always, Sarah’s pets Fluffy and Rah-Rah are adorable, even if they’re fairly off-screen this time around.

Once again, Ms. Goldstein manages to avoid a major cozy mystery romance trope. Five books into the series, and our heroine is still single, and perfectly happy without a serious romantic relationship in her life.

By the end, I had a pretty strong suspicion as to the identity of the “bad guy”, because Sarah is so detail-oriented and organized with her investigating. The final reveal was exciting, and everything made sense based on all the clues.

I have only good things to say about this book, this series, and this author. I think this book could stand alone, but you’ll miss out of some lovely character development. It’s up to you…start with Book 1, or dive right in with this one. You can’t go wrong either way!

Five out of five slices of delectable provolone!

When the Meadow Blooms by Ann H. Gabhart

I have so many good things to say about “When the Meadow Blooms”! Ann Gabhart is a new author to me, and after reading this amazing story, I’ll definitely be seeking out more of her work.

This is the story of Rose, a young single mother in the 1920s. Rose is forced to leave her children in an orphanage while she undergoes treatment for tuberculosis. This book covers Rose’s time in the sanatorium, what her children had to deal with at the orphanage and (most importantly) what happened after they were reunited.

First, I appreciated the historical accuracy of the book. The author obviously did significant research into the various locations portrayed in the story, and provided an accurate account of what those places were like in the 1920s. I definitely learned some things about medical care and the treatment of children that I didn’t know before. As always, I appreciated the chance to discover new things.

The story of how this fractured family was reunited was beautiful to read. The girls and their mother are finally allowed to be together again, but only through the help of Rose’s brother-in-law Dirk. I enjoyed how all four of these characters found emotional growth and healing through each other.

Each of the four major characters was very well-drawn and detailed. They all felt like real people, and I empathized with each of them for different reasons. Calla, the older daughter, was probably my favorite. Her loyalty to and love for her younger sister was beautiful, and she showed maturity well beyond her years.

Overall, this was an incredibly interesting and inspirational story. I was invested from the very beginning, and left with a sense of closure at the end.

Definitely five our of five slices of perfect provolone!

Black Hat/White Hat by Glenn Della-Monica

“Black Hat/White Hat” is the action-packed story of two lovable sociopaths, Alex and Lara Cutter. It is also the story of the law enforcement officials who try to catch them. The story moves quickly as it covers the Cutters origin story, their exploits, and the efforts of FBI officer Cody and his colleagues as they try to uncover the identities of the culprits.

There is a lot going on in this book. The major focus is on the elaborately planned actions of Alex and Lara. I appreciated seeing all the details that are considered in order to pull off each scheme. If you enjoy intricately-plotted covert actions, you will absolutely love this book. It was also interesting to see the story from the other side, that of law enforcement in multiple countries trying to track down the mysterious people or group behind the string of bizarre events. (The intricacy and level of detail put into this book was truly impressive. After reading this book, as well as the author’s bio, I am definitely glad that he decided to put his knowledge and experience to work for good instead of evil!)

Character development never takes a back seat to the action. Main characters Alex/Lara, Cody, and Haley are each provided with enough background and unique personality traits to seem like true individuals. The reader can easily understand each person’s mindset, and this makes the choices they make and actions they take seem entirely realistic.

There was a surprise near the end that I didn’t see coming. I won’t say more to avoid spoilers, but I loved the way things came together. I also liked the semi-open ending, and hope that it means more adventures to follow in future books.

This book is much more than just an exciting adventure novel, however. It also gives the reader something important to think about, both during the reading and afterwards. What truly is good or evil? How does the motivation behind an action affect the rightness of that action? How much should long term benefits offset short-term “bad” actions? If you’re familiar with the DeathNote series, this book provides more to ponder about the good vs. evil dynamic.

Overall, an exciting, fast-paced, incredibly well-written story!