goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: Britt-Marie Was Here
Author: Fredrik Backman
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 5/5
# pages: 377
Date read: October, 2016

For as long as anyone can remember, Britt-Marie has been an acquired taste. It's not that she's judgemental, or fussy, or difficult - she just expects things to be done in a certain way. A cutlery drawer should be arranged in the right order, for example (forks, knives, then spoons). We're not animals, are we?

But behind the passive-aggressive, socially awkward, absurdly pedantic busybody is a woman who has more imagination, bigger dreams and a warmer heart than anyone around her realizes.

So when Britt-Marie finds herself unemployed, separated from her husband of 20 years, left to fend for herself in the miserable provincial backwater that is Borg - of which the kindest thing one can say is that it has a road going through it - and somehow tasked with running the local football team, she is a little unprepared. But she will learn that life may have more to offer her that she's ever realised, and love might be found in the most unexpected of places.


I'd read "A Man Called Ove" at the last readathon and thought it alright. Pretty good, but not the masterpiece other people made it out to be. However, I'd also heard that "Britt-Marie Was Here" was supposed to be better, so when a friend of mine offered to lend it to me for the October readathon, I jumped at the chance.

It was SO good! The very first page had me giggling, and I kept laughing out loud at regular intervals throughout the book. The last third turned slightly more serious, and the laughter turned into tears at times, but I still closed the book with a happy sigh. Funny and poignant, it was everything I'd hoped for, and I am now firmly convinced of Backman's talent as a writer.

I loved Britt-Marie (once I got over my frustration with her!), I loved 'Somebody', I loved Vega, Omar and Sami. I loved the ending.

Absolutely brilliant book all around.
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: A Man Called Ove
Author: Fredrik Backman
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
# pages: 358
Date read: April, 2016

Meet Ove. He's a curmudgeon - the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him "the bitter neighbor from hell". But must Ove be bitter just because he doesn't walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?

Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove's mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents' association to their very foundations.


Unfortunately not as good as I had expected. I liked it well enough, but I didn't love it the way I had expected to, nor did it blow me away like it apparently has so many others.

It's written in much the same style as The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson (which I adored!) but without the same joyfulness that made that book so charming. The writing style was excellent, but for about the first half of the book I wondered, "Yes, but what's the point?".

Fortunately it improved, and the last 100 pages were awesome, so I may still want to read more of Fredrik Backman after all.
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: The Sense of an Ending
Author: Julian Barnes
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
# pages: 150
Date read: December, 2015

Tony Webster and his clique first met Adrian Finn at school. Sex-hungry and book-hungry, they would navigate the girl-less sixth form together, trading in affectations, in-jokes, rumour and wit. Maybe Adrian was a little more serious than the others, certainly more intelligent, but they all swore to stay friends for life.

Now Tony is retired. He's had a career and a single marriage, a calm divorce. He's certainly never tried to hurt anybody. Memory, though, is imperfect. It can always throw up surprises, as a lawyer's letter is about to prove.


Interesting style of writing that I definitely don't think is for everybody. I was intrigued by it, but think it would have gotten old if it had been a full length novel, rather than a novella.

The book somehow reminded me of some of the books I read for AP Danish ("Det forsømte forår", "Midt i en jazztid" etc.) which isn't necessarily a bad thing, and made me appreciate the book in a way I might not have done otherwise.

There's not much action or plot, but I really felt like I got to know Tony, and could relate to many of his musings about growing older and looking back at your teenagehood. (That makes me sound really old :-P).
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: The School of Essential Ingredients
Author: Erica Bauermeister
Genre: Foodie
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 261
Date read: July, 2014

Once a month, eight students gather in Lillian's restaurant for a cooking class. Among them is Claire, a young woman coming to terms with her new identity as a mother; Tom, a lawyer whose life has been overturned by loss; Antonia, an Italian kitchen designer adapting to life in America; and Carl and Helen, a long-married couple whose union contains surprises the rest of the class would never suspect...

The students have come to learn the art behind Lillian's soulful dishes, but it soon becomes clear that each seeks a recipe for something beyond the kitchen. And soon they are transformed by the aromas, flavors, and textures of what they create.

Not quite as good as "Joy for Beginners", but I still really enjoyed it. Apparently I like short-stories more if they're disguised as a novel ;)

A charming book, even if I did care more about some of the characters than others, and it almost made me want to take up cooking classes myself :)
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: Joy for Beginners
Author: Erica Bauermeister
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
# pages: 269
Date read: April, 2014

Having survived a life-threatening illness, Kate celebrates by gathering with six close friends. At an intimate outdoor dinner on a warm September evening, the women challenge Kate to start her new lease on life by going white-water rafting down the Grand Canyon with her daughter. But Kate is reluctant to take the risk.

That is, until her friend Marion proposes a pact: if Kate will face the rapids, each woman will do one thing in the next year that scares her. Kate agrees, with one provision - she didn't get to choose her challenge, so she gets to choose theirs. Whether it's learning to let go of the past or getting a tattoo, each woman's story interweaves with the others, forming a seamless portrait of the power of female friendships.

This was an utterly delightful novel! I first heard about it when Gretchen Rubin listed it under her "research" for The Happiness Project. I downloaded a sample from Amazon, thought it sounded interesting, and ended up buying the physical copy. It's been standing on my shelves for more than a year, but yesterday I finally picked it up, and I didn't put it down again until I had turned the very last page.

Such a charming book! No real plot, but the chance to get to know a group of people who just seem genuinely kind and loving towards one another. I felt a part of their group while reading and wished I were part of their group once I finished the book. In style it reminded me somewhat of Saturday Night Widows by Becky Aikman, as it had the same loving depiction of a group of friends.

I would love to meet somebody like Ava and hear what scent she'd recommend for me! :)
goodreads: (Peanut: Book geek)
Title: Knitting
Author: Anne Bartlett
Genre: Crafts
Rating: 3.5/5
# pages: 273
Date read: June, 2013

A chance meeting sparks a friendship between two very different women who share a fascination with knitting. Sandra, a rigid academic, struggles to navigate the world without her husband, whom she has recently lost to cancer. Martha - a self-taught textile artist with her own secret store of grief - spends her days knitting elaborate projects charged with personal meaning. As the two women collaborate on a new project, surprising events will help heal them both.

I'd read a sample of this on my Kindle, and thought it sounded interesting enough to get the entire book. It didn't quite live up to my expectations, but came pretty close - and if nothing else, it gave me a craving to take up my knitting! ;)

My biggest problem with the book was that the main characters were just not very sympathetic. I never came to like either of them all that much. One was too spineless the other too much of a bully, and while they both improved during the cause of the book, it wasn't really explored thoroughly enough for my liking.

... This makes it sound worse than it really was. I did mostly enjoy it, but for a real knitting treat, I'd rather read books like "The Friday Night Knitting Club", "The Sweetgum Knit Lit Society" or "Divas Don't Knit".
goodreads: (Default)
Title: No Plot? No Problem!
Author: Chris Baty
Genre: Non-fiction
Rating: 4/5
# pages: 176
Date read: November, 2010

Chris Baty, motivator extraordinaire and instigator of a wildly successful writing revolution, spells out the secrets of writing -- and finishing -- a novel. Every fall, thousands of people sign up for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which Baty founded, determined to (a) write that novel or (b) finish that novel in -- kid you not -- 30 days.

Now Baty puts pen to paper himself to share the secrets of success. With week-specific overviews, pep "talks," and essential survival tips for today's word warriors, this results-oriented, quick-fix strategy is perfect for people who want to nurture their inner artist and then hit print!

Anecdotes and success stories from NaNoWriMo winners will inspire writers from the heralding you-can-do-it trumpet blasts of day one to the champagne toasts of day thirty.

Well-written book, and it even got me motivated to try out my hand at NaNoWriMo - and I CAN'T WRITE! So that gives you an impression either of how deluded I am, or how good the book is.

Filled with good tricks for how to write a 50,000 novel in a month, it's not really relevant for anything else - so don't expect to pick up any general writing tips from it. But it's an interesting read, and one I'd recommend to others whose create juices need a swift kick.
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Title: Monday's Child
Author: Louise Bagshawe
Genre: Chick-lit
Rating: 3/5
# pages: 437
Date read: November, 2010

According to the old rhyme, Monday's Child is fair of face - but life isn't always so simple.

Gorgeous goddesses seem to surround script-reader Anna Brown - from her deranged glamour-queen boss to her perfect, pouting flatmates. For Anna, being less than beautiful is hard to bear. With a dead-end job and a ghastly boyfriend she wonders if she can ever be a success. In fashion crazed London, maybe being talented just isn't enough.

Enter Mark Swan, Britain's hottest director. Rugged, reclusive and powerful, everybody wants a piece of him - from studio heads to supermodels. He could be Anna's ticket to the top, but how can she ever hope to snag such a big star? Fed up of being downbeat and dowdy, Anna decides to chase her dreams, and, with a little help from her friends, embarks on a madcap scheme to get just what she's after.

Almost every other Louise Bagshawe book I've read, I've loved and found utterly impossible to put down. Therefore it came as a huge surprise to me that not only was this not the case for this one, I was actually somewhat bored with it at times.

It had its good parts - I loved the friendship that developed between Anne and Janet - but as a whole it was predictable and unrealistic (well... even more than her books are usually ;) ), she spent far too little time on the aspects of the book that I found most interesting and about half-way through dropped them altogether, and the ending felt forced. I could have forgiven her the two first things, as it could still have been a sweet book and a fun escape from reality, but without the interesting work details and with a deux ex machina ending, it just all adds up to a book that isn't really worth rereading.

So why did I still rate it a 3 rather than just a 2? Because despite everything, Louise Bagshawe still writes well enough for her writing to keep me interested, even when her plot can't, and at the end of the day, I didn't have to force myself to finish the book, but actually did so completely voluntarily :)
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Title: The Door to Time (Ulysses Moore #1)
Author: Pierdomenico Baccalario
Genre: YA, fantasy
Rating: 3.5/5
# pages: 123
Date read: December, 2009

Eleven-year-old twins Jason and Julia have just moved from London to an old mansion on the English coast. Their new home is filled with twisting tunnels and strange artifacts from around the world, and the twins can't wait to discover all its secrets.

Before long, Jason, Julia, and their friend Rick stumble upon a mysterious-looking door hidden behind an old wardrobe. But none of the keys in the house will open it.

What lies behind the door? And why has someone tried to conceal it? Jason, Julia, and Rick are determined to find out, no matter what it takes...

Very interesting combination of "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" and "Over Sea, Under Stone" in style and atmosphere, plus it had a bunch of riddles to solve and codes to break, which always fascinates me. Obviously aimed at a much younger audience, but it still had enough going for it to keep an older reader like me entertained ;)

Unfortunately it ends with a cliff-hanger (a pet-peeve of mine), and feels more like a part of a longer book, or an introduction/prequel than a book that's meant to stand alone. If it had felt more 'complete', I would probably have rated it a 4 instead.
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Title: Peter Pan
Author: J.M. Barrie
Genre: Classics, Children
Rating: 9/10
# pages: Audiobook - 5hrs
Date read: April, 2009

Summary: Peter Pan is filled with unforgettable characters: Peter Pan, the boy who would not grow up; the fairy, Tinker Bell; the evil pirate, Captain Hook; and the three children-Wendy, John, and Michael-who fly off with Peter Pan to Neverland, where they meet Indians and pirates and a crocodile that ticks.

Review: My first 'read' of "Peter Pan" - of course I already knew the story of Peter Pan prior to reading this, or rather, I knew Disney's version of it, but I'd actually never thought to get hold of the original before now.

That was a mistake!

"Peter Pan" is one of the few 'true' classics I've discovered in recent years. A book written for children that still charms when read for the first time as an adult. I found myself laughing out loud several times, and never got the impression that I needed the rosy tint of nostalgia to fully appreciate it.

It's obviously a lot darker than the Disney version, but I wonder whether children pick up on this, or if it's something you don't notice until reading it as an adult

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Title: When She Was Bad
Author: Louise Bagshawe
Genre: Chick-lit
Rating: 9/10
# pages: 407
Date read: August, 2008


Summary: Lita and Rebecca are worlds apart. From the tough streets of the Bronx, Lita is determined to succeed - whatever the cost. Privileged Rebecca has never wanted for anything. And when she inherits an estate in England, it's just the start of a whole new life. Linked by betrayal, Rebecca and Lita are set against each other. Until they discover that revenge can be very sweet indeed...

Review: Louise Bagshawe is my guilty pleasure. I've so far only encountered one of her books that I didn't love (Venus Envy) and as a general rule I find them difficult to put down once I've started them. This was no exception, and I enjoyed 'wasting' a lazy weekend on it. Her heroines are always larger than life, more beautiful than anybody else and capable of doing anything. They also always move in the higher classes of life - perhaps not at the beginning, but definitely near the end. It's the American dream - for women ;)

After this justification of why I enjoy her books (escapism - pure escapism) I have to say that When She Was Bad is one of her better ones with her two heroines being slightly more human than in some of her other books. I especially enjoyed following the life of Becky - heiress to a huge estate and a company that's quickly going bankrupt and would LOVE to have the money to go stay at her hotel.

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Title: The Scrapbook
Author: Peggy B. Baker
Genre: Chick-lit
Rating: 7/10
# pages: 187
Date read: August, 2008


Review: Natasha and Emma have been best friends ever since their mothers were roommates on the maternity ward. They were playmates as kids, best friends all the way through school, and though life has taken them in very different directions, are still as inseparable as when they were first born.

Emma is happily married, a stay-at-home mom to three wonderful kids, and an avid scrapbooker. Natasha, on the other hand, moves from relationship to relationship, travels all over the world due to her job as a lawyer, doesn't think she has a creative bone in her body, and is perfectly content just being "Auntie Tashi" to Emma's children.

Life seems just about perfect for them both, but early foreshadowing shows the reader that all is not as it ought to be for the two friends.

The Scrapbook is a charming book and love and friendship that'll strike a chord with any female reader - even one who isn't interested in scrapbooking herself (that'd be me). The writing style of the book makes it read like a series of blog entries which allows the reader to feel like she really knows the characters and has been granted a special insight into their lives. This way of writing a novel, as well as the fact that the happenings in the book are all very realistic made me occasionally doubt whether the book was fictional or not, which just added to the feeling of knowing the characters as more than 'just' people in a book.

Like many other chick-lits The Scrapbook doesn't quite escape being predictable at times - something that was made even more apparent because of the heavy use of foreshadowing - but Peggy Baker still managed to surprise me often enough that it didn't become tedious. I might have guessed the ending early, but not how they got there. She would have benefitted from fewer references to Casablanca though. Fortunately I'd seen the movie, but readers who haven't might be thrown for a loop by the numerous mentionings of it.

Peggy Baker herself is an eager scrapbooker which shows in the book, and she realistically describes the scrapbooking community existing online. Even the book's layout is inspired by scrapbooking, with each chapter heading being made in a different style.

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Title: The Emerald City of Oz
Author: L. Frank Baum
Genre: Classics
Rating: 6/10
# pages: Audiobook
Date read: February, 2008


Summary: Join Dorothy and the Wonderful Wizard as they take Aunt Em and Uncle Henry on a fabulous tour of Oz. During their journey they encounter such amazing and amusing people as King Kleaver with his Spoon Brigade and Miss Cuttenclip of the land of paper dolls. But while Dorothy and her friends play, the wicked Nome King has joined forces with the terrible Whimsies, the fearsome Growleywogs, and the evil Phanfasms in a plot to capture the Emerald City. Will Dorothy's friends discover the danger before it's too late?

Review: The Emerald City of Oz suffers from the same issue as The Road to Oz... too many characters, too little plot. I did prefer this one to RtO though as it seemed better spaced, and there actually was some plot with the Nome invasion. I also liked Aunt Em and Uncle Henry's reaction to Oz, even if they did seem terribly naive at times.

I actually saw a cartoon version of this as a kid, but as it was before I spoke English and without subtitles, I didn't get all that much out of it. It would be fun to see it again now :)

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Title: The Road to Oz
Author: L. Frank Baum
Genre: Classics,
Rating: 6/10
# pages: Audiobook
Date read: January, 2008


Summary: Meet Dorothy's new friends, the Shaggy Man, Button Bright and Polychrome, as you travel with them to the Emerald City. Share their adventures with the Musicker and the Scoodlers. See how they escape from the Soup-Kettle and what they found at the Truth Pond. Find out how they are able to cross the Deadly Desert and finally get to the Emerald City of Oz.

Review: Unfortunately L. Frank Baum's books get more and more repetitive for each book. It's as if he can't really think up more new things for Dorothy to experience, and so continues to fall back on the 'tried and tested' ones. In this one I got the feeling that there was no real plot at all, but just descriptions of more weird characters Baum could think up. I'll read the next, as Baum himself considered that the 'end' of the Oz series, and then leave it at that.

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Title: Tuck Everlasting
Author: Natalie Babbitt
Genre: Childrens
Rating: 6/10
# pages: 127
Date read: May, 2006


Summary: The Tuck family discovers a spring which grants eternal life, decides to protect it for the sake of humanity, and finally meets challenges to their goals in the form of a ten-year-old's inquisitive mind and a greedy stranger who suspects their secret.

Review: This book turns up on "Top 100 Books" lists again and again, so I thought I'd read it and see what the fuss is all about. I have to admit I don't really get it. Sure, it's a sweet story, but the ending was very disappointing to me. If you read it and loved it, I'd be very interested in hearing your thoughts on it, and why you like it so much.

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Title: Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz
Author: L. Frank Baum
Genre: Classics
Rating: 7/10
# pages: Audiobook
Date read: October, 2007


Summary: An earthquake splits open the earth under Dorothy, and she, her kitten Eureka, her cousin Zeb, and a horse named Jim fall into a city of glass. They are joined by the Wizard of Oz and nine piglets, and must wander through dangerous lands trying to find their way home.

In their journeys, they must cope with invisible bears, flying gargoyles, and a den of young dragons. But rescue, and a return to the Emerald City, are not the end of Dorothy's troubles.

Review: So apparently there isn't just one or two fairy countries in the world, but lots of them! I never liked the Wizard much and the plot in this book is practically non-existant. Still, L. Frank Baum does have a way with words, so I didn't really notice the lack of plot until afterwards.

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Title: Ozma of Oz
Author: L. Frank Baum
Genre: Classics
Rating: 7/10
# pages: Audiobook
Date read: October, 2007


Summary: While on an ocean liner bound for Australia, caught in a storm, Dorothy is washed overboard. Clinging to a wooden chicken coop, she drifts to the mysterious shores of Ev, a kingdom that lies across the Deadly Desert from her beloved Oz. In his third book about Oz, certainly one of the finest in the series, L. Frank Baum reunites Dorothy with her friends, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion. Along the way she meets a hen named Bill, a clockwork man, a wicked princess who switches heads to suit her mood, and finally, Ozma, the kind and beautiful new ruler of Oz.

Review: The third book in the Oz-series. Still charming. Definitely comfort books, even if there isn't much else in them. I think I preferred this one to #2 as Dorothy is back :)

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Title: The Marvelous Land of Oz
Author: L. Frank Baum
Genre: Classics
Rating: 7/10
# pages: Audiobook
Date read: October, 2007


Summary: The Marvelous Land of Oz is the story of the wonderful adventures of the young boy named Tip as he travels throughout the many lands of Oz. Here he meets with our old friends the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman, as well as some new friends like Jack Pumpkinhead, the Wooden Sawhorse, the Highly Magnified Woggle-Bug, and the amazing Gump. How they thwart the wicked plans of the evil witch Mombi and overcome the rebellion of General Jinjur and her army of young women is a tale as exciting and endearing today as it was when first published over eighty years ago.

Review: After finishing "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" I wanted to read more about the land of Oz. I knew that it was a long series, but other than watching a cartoon version of "The Emerald City of Oz" I knew nothing about the rest of the books. They're quite charming and so far I really enjoy them. Although Jack Pumpkinhead did get somewhat on my nerves - WHAT a wuss!! As for counting to 17 by twos - why start with 1/2? Why not start straight out with 1? I didn't really understand that, but perhaps I wasn't supposed to ;-) In any case I enjoyed it enough to download "Ozma of Oz" which I'm currently listening to.

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Title: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Author: L. Frank Baum
Genre: Classics
Rating: 8/10
# pages: Audiobook
Date read: September, 2007


Summary: Originally published in 1900, it was the first truly American fairy tale, as Baum crafted a wonderful out of such familiar items as a cornfield scarecrow, a mechanical woodman, and a humbug wizard who used old-fashioned hokum to express that universal theme, "There's no place like home."

Follow the adventures of young Dorothy Gale and her dog, Toto, as their Kansas house is swept away by a cyclone and they find themselves in a strange land called Oz. Here she meets the Munchkins and joins the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion on an unforgettable journey to the Emerald City, where lives the all-powered Wizard of Oz.

Review: Like almost everybody else I knew the story of the Wizard of Oz thanks to the Judy Garland movie. When I discovered it on Librivox, I figured it was time I actually got to know the original story. It's just as charming as I expected, and I have to say from what I recall the movie is amazingly true to the book :-)

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Title: Sorceress Revealed
Author: Nicci Baker
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 9/10
# pages: 364
Date read: May, 2007

Review:
Ellyana is a sorceress in a time where the elders have the right to decide whether or not magicians should be allowed to practice or if their magic should be banned outright. As the most powerful magician in known history, she is chosen as the one to be subjected to the tasks included in the 'renewal', and thus the fate of magicians everywhere lies on her shoulders. However, due to a magic-hating father, she was never educated in using her magical abilities until discovered by the heir to the throne who was sent out on a quest to find the one person in the realm who would be able to complete the renewal. This turns out to be a strength as well as a weakness, as she has to make up most spells as she goes along, but is not encumbered by knowledge of what ought and what ought not be possible.

Ellyana has powerful friends in the form of the heir to the throne and his best friend, but she also has powerful enemies, as there are some - even some magicians - who will do everything in their power to make sure the elders decide to ban magic. Some for personal gain, others for fame and fortune, and a select few work from the motivation of simple revenge.

"Sorceress Revealed" has it all: magic, intrigue, romance, friendships and traitors. I disappeared completely into the book - living and breathing the magic of the characters. Nicci's great strength lies in her characterization of the characters. Unlike many other fantasy writers, she manages to avoid having her villains be nothing but evil and her heroes too good to be true, but succeeds in making them three-dimensional and complex.

Nicci Baker has written a charming and captivating book that allows the reader to be fully submerged in her universe. Some places the plot is a bit hurried and she would have benefited from a good editor to tell her where to expand and where to tighten the writing, but this in no way affects the general enjoyment of the book. (Written for Armchair Interviews)

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