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weekly wrap-up 2/25

• Spring is here in Pittsburgh & that means rain. LOTS of it. I’m someone who could be 100% happy living somewhere where it storms 24/7, so I’m absolutely loving this weather: warm and grey and rainy. Love it. We’ve had so much rain here these past few weeks that sections of downtown Pittsburgh have been closed due to the flooding!

• Yesterday Matt & I met up with one of the guys he met through his Cars & Coffee meet-ups – some of the cars these guys have cost more than my house (!!) C&C ended for the season, but we REALLY like this one couple and we’ve been grabbing dinner, coffee, just hanging out whenever we can. Local friends, C&C is biweekly at Generoasta in Warrendale.

MISSED SOMETHING THIS WEEK? I fell hard for Laura Madeleine’s debut, The Confectioner’s Tale, and have been waiting not-so-patiently for her next book. Where the Wild Cherries Grow took a few chapters to really get started, but once it did I was hooked. Told in two voices, this one tells the story of a young woman in 1919 who lost her family to WWI and the Spanish Flu and runs away to France to start a new life. In 1969 remaining relatives are looking to sell a crumbling manor, but in order to do so, they need confirmation of the owner’s death..and the owner hasn’t been seen in 50 years.

I also shared 6 things I’m loving this month! From tea to a new magazine to breathing life into old clothes, February has been great!

FOR REVIEW
The Secret to Southern Charm by Kristy Woodson Harvey
While this is the second book in a series, it seems to be a novel that works as a standalone – Peachtree Bluff follows three sisters and their mother and this book focuses on the middle sister. Sloane has just learned her military husband is missing in action. She falls onto not only her sisters and mother for support, but also her own children. This one seems to be a great read for heading into spring and I’m looking forward to it! Thank you, Gallery Books!

Engraved on the Heart by Tara Johnson
Not even joking, I shrieked when I opened this package. The blurb on the cover says “Lovers of Civil War fiction will rejoice” and rejoice I did. There are publicists who know me so well and I am ridiculously excited to dive into this one!! A debutante from a Confederate family has been keeping her epilepsy a secret, lest scandal breaks out. Not one for balls and parties, she longs for a way to break free from the confines of her family…and an old schoolmate introduces her to life as a conductor on the Underground Railroad. YESSSS. Thank you, Tyndale!

The Broken Girls by Simone St. James
Last month I received an e-ARC of this one for a blog tour and I was delighted to see a finished hardback arrive! Dual era novels are my fav: this one bounces between 1950 and 2014. A school for troubled girls, a murder with a conviction that never felt right. I am SO there. Thank you, Berkley!

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6 things I’m loving this February!

1. AGATHA RAISIN
In last week’s wrap-up I mentioned how I started watching Agatha Raisin after getting caught up on the newest season of my favorite show. …well. I was SO into Aggie and co that I binged a bit too fast..and didn’t realize there was only one season out until I reached the end of episode 8 and couldn’t go any further ughhhh! I’ve had the first book for years (EEK, since 2013, when I highlighted the Mystery Lovers Bookshop!) and now that I’m going through a serious Agatha Raisin withdrawal, I just might have to dive into the novels! Thankfully there are plenty to keep me occupied (28 books, plus a handful of short stories) until the second season airs!

2. REDISCOVERING MY WARDROBE
There’s a room connected to our bedroom that I believe was originally intended to be used as a nursery. Since Matt and I don’t have children, I’ve been using the room as my closet…and even though I literally have an entire ROOM full of clothes I still feel like I wear the same five pieces lol. Pittsburgh has been having a nice taste of spring these past few weeks and it’s made me want to start pulling out transitional layers (I’ve been rocking a LOT of dresses lately with tights and cardigans ♥). I’ve been rediscovering old outfits I completely forgot about, pieces that were boxed up when we moved (3 years ago this July!) and never unpacked! I recently dug out an adorable purse I haven’t used in ages (and honestly forgot I even owned) – and the first day I brought it to work I received a compliment!

3. STAND-UP
Matt and I have totally different tastes when it comes to television, so our binges typically fall under two categories: nature docs or The Office. Wellll we just finished The Office (again) and haven’t started anything new (Do you have any recs?? What’s your favorite show on Netflix/Amazon?) and one night I came home to Matt watching stand-up specials. Now, stand-up was never really my thing. Sure, I watched some Comedy Central specials back when I was in high school, but it’s not the kind of thing I’ll search out. Since that night, we’ve been on a major stand-up kick – perfect timing too. LOCAL FRIENDS, the Comtra Theatre is having a comedy night tonight!

4. CHEWY.COM
A few months ago I made the switch to Chewy and have been absolutely hooked. I procrastinated a teensy bit with my Christmas shopping and didn’t get my pups anything until literally the last minute. Saturday, December 23 I placed an order…it arrived THE NEXT DAY. Not only did it arrive the very next day during the busiest shipping time of the year, but it was also a Sunday. I was SO impressed and have been buying odds and ends ever since. Everything from a new collar (the baby pink floral one for Bay since Matt had been buying blue dogtags and leashes – people kept thinking she was a boy :(!!) to beds and treats! The prices are outstanding, they always have fantastic deals, and they also have a Goody Box!! After eight months of Bark Boxes, I finally said good-bye in November of 2016. Every single month I talked about how much we loved the treats but the toys – even the premium ones I paid extra for – just weren’t great quality. There were a few that didn’t even last throughout the first night after we unboxed everything! In each post I mentioned how I would be thrilled with a treats-only box, but until they add that option, we’re going to stick with Chewy. Unfortunately, their Goody Box isn’t a subscription, it’s just one box, but their treat selection is phenomenal and I have a post planned to highlight some of our favorites!

5. BRAVERY MAGAZINE
I forget how I came across this new magazine (which originally began through Kickstarter – they were fully funded in three days), but I’m SO glad I did. Bravery is a quarterly magazine aimed at children 4-9 and each issue features a strong female role model. My oldest niece just turned 9 this month and is 100% my mini me (hahaha we’re SO much alike that when Matt first met her as a 2-year-old, he thought she was my daughter!) and yet I was struggling to think of the PERFECT gift. Well. The second I discovered Bravery, I knew exactly what to get her. The first issue featured Jane Goodall and included all kinds of neat things like DIYs, activities, chimp trivia, even a recipe! There was a little hiccup with issue two (featuring astronaut Mae Jemison) – there was a problem with the printer and the laminate coating on the cover which caused 3000 issues to turn out all wonky. The ladies went live on IG to talk about it and give updates on when the new batch will be available. This magazine is so, so great, guys.

6. TIESTA TEA
I’m a total newbie when it comes to loose leaf tea. It’s only been in the past few months that I’ve been exploring non-bag options and one day while doing a grocery run, I decided to take a peek down the tea aisle. A neon green bag caught my eye and curiosity got the better of me! Fruity Pebbles, y’all. It’s a green tea with blackberry bits, pineapple, strawberry, and more! Even better? It boosts your metabolism and helps to suppress your appetite! I am ALL about that! The $3 price tag didn’t hurt either. There are a ton of blends on their site that aren’t available at my local grocer, like Momma’s PB&J (apple, almond, hazelnuts), Figgy Pop (elderberries, apple, figs), Naughty or Anise (cinnamon, star anise, almonds), and hahaha Sexy Hot Christmas Tea (pink peppercorns, chili, chocolate)!!!

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Where the Wild Cherries Grow by Laura Madeleine

Where the Wild Cherries Grow by Laura Madeleine
Pub. Date: February 13, 2018
Source: ARC + finished hardback via publisher (Thank you, Thomas Dunne Books!)
Summary: In 1919, the cold sweep of the Norfolk fens only holds for Emeline Vane memories of her family, all killed in the war. Whispers in the village say she’s lost her mind as well as her family – and in a moment’s madness she boards a train to France and runs from it all.

She keeps running until she reaches a tiny fishing village so far from home it might as well be the end of the world. Transfixed by the endless Mediterranean, Emeline is taken in by Maman and her nineteen-year-old son, and there she is offered a glimpse of a life so different to the one she used to know: golden-green olive oil drizzled over roasted tomatoes, mouth-wateringly smoky red spices, and hot, caramel sweetness.

But it’s not just the intense, rich flavours that draw her to the village, and soon a forbidden love affair begins. One that is threatened by the whispers from home that blow in on the winds from the mountains . . .
Genre: Historical Fiction, WWI, Dual Narrative

Back in 2016 I received a copy of Laura’s debut, The Confectioner’s Tale, and was so pleasantly surprised! Between the swoony, secret romance and mouth-watering descriptions on pastries, I was completely enchanted and have been waited ever since then for her next release.

Where the Wild Cherries Grow is a dual narrative (I’m a fan already!), telling the tale of a young, broken woman in 1919 and an equally young solicitor tasked with a near-impossible hunt in 1969. The war didn’t just leave her two older brothers slain on the battlefield. The homefront saw just as much destruction – and heartache – as the Spanish Flu took its toll. Now Emeline and her younger brother are all that’s left of her family. A hushed-up suicide attempt, a secret reliance on morphine, Emeline can barely pull herself out of bed some days. Eventually her uncle (intent on selling the estate that’s now Emeline’s inheritance) decides his niece would be much better off placed in a hospital and she makes the rash decision to flee to France.

Bill Perch is just getting his feet wet as a solicitor. He finally catches his big break when a family comes in, looking to get rid of a crumbling manor. Unfortunately, its owner has been missing for the past 50 years and her brother firmly believes she’s still alive. Regardless of whether Emeline Vane is still living or not, Bill needs to get an answer and makes the drive to the once-grand Hallerton House. His investigation leads to the discovery of a hidden diary, a diary with Emeline’s name written on the front cover, and he soon becomes completely immersed by her story, becoming even more eager to find out just what happened to her all those years ago.

I’ll be honest, when I first started this one, I wasn’t sure it would live up to The Confectioner’s Tale. What did I care about a 19-year-old man just starting his career? In those early chapters, I was merely reading on to get back to Emeline’s story, her bits of diary entries. It wasn’t until Bill arrived at the estate that I fell hard for Where the Wild Cherries Grow. Soon Emeline’s chapters were more drawn out, detailing her time in France, and I loved every moment spent in Cerbère, a sea-side town. She’s taken in by a woman and her deaf son – be prepared for AMAZING descriptions of food! Clemence is known in town as the cook, the one who can feed armies and she grudingly takes Emeline under her wing to teach her a thing or two. Without giving too much away, Emeline and Aaro begin spending more and more time together…and that’s all I’m saying about that!

I quickly became caught up in the mystery of Emeline’s disappearance, of Bill’s journey to uncover the truth, of the coastal town with a wonderful cast of characters. Any initial hesitation I felt for this book was soon forgotten! I will say though, as the ending approached, I thought for a moment my copy was missing several pages. As it turns out, the ending is extremely abrupt – jarring even. A short epilogue made it even harder to say goodbye, I wanted to spend more, MUCH more time with these characters!

Laura Madeleine has delivered yet another fantastic novel. Just as with her debut, I found myself turning the pages at a rapid-fire pace, needing to know more and wanting to sink deeper into the story. I’ll admit I preferred Emeline’s story in 1919 to Bill’s in 1969, but both stories beautifully blended together and Where the Wild Cherries Grow easily turned into a one-sitting read. I waited two years for this book and it seems I’ll be doing a good bit of waiting for Laura’s next release! The Secrets Between Us will be published in the UK this year. Another tale of France and forbidden love and I can’t wait to have it in my life!

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weekly wrap-up 2/18

Jeff Daniels is going to play Atticus Finch? Scout is being played by a 40-year-old? What? Why is this happening? Who asked for this?

• I’m completely caught up with my absolute favorite show and have been trying to fill the void while I not-so-patiently wait for new episodes. I decided to give Agatha Raisin a shot and…I’m hooked. I even grabbed the audio of the short story Agatha’s First Case one day while I was at work. SO fun and I really need to dive into the actual series now!

• I also finished the audio of K.A. Tucker’s Until it Fades and loved it. My print books for the week were a little less enjoyable. Good Old Days, My Ass (665 Funny History Facts & Terrifying Truths about Yesteryear) had a great premise – and I love those list-type trivia books – but it fell short. So many of the ‘facts’ could have easily been grouped together. In my quick review on GR, I mentioned one example: The Locust Plague of 1875. One fact said the swarm wiped out one farmer’s entire crop in a matter of hours. The next fact said that, once the crops were gone, the locust then ate fence posts, etc. Yawn. HOWEVER, that was a MUCH better read than Amy Bloom’s White Houses, a novel I was so looking forward to. This book about Eleanor Roosevelt’s relationship with Lorena Hickok was a DNF. Ugh.

• Earlier this week I walked outside and discovered a sweet little visitor

MISSED SOMETHING THIS WEEK? Susan Meissner’s As Bright as Heaven is a Top Reads of 2018. Need I say more?

I also shared some recent etsy finds including a cute dress, gorgeous decor pieces, a #dogmom pin, and more!

FOR REVIEW
The Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth
Perfect for fans of Liane Moriarty aaaaand sold. I am ALL about domestic dramas, dark secrets between neighbors, what really goes on behind closed doors, the whole works. Thank you, St. Martin’s Press!

Go Ask Fannie by Elisabeth Hyde
Another family drama novel, this one featuring Murray Blaire and his three adult children. The two older siblings immediately begin bickering, there’s a hidden agenda to stage an intervention – Lizzie’s latest boyfriend is MUCH older, possible criminal charges, and a damaged family cookbook. The battered edition of Fannie Farmer is from a time when their family was complete. Their mother was still alive, the siblings were four, not three. From what I’m getting from other early reviews, this one is all about character exploration and the makings of a family. Thank you, G.P. Putnam’s Sons!

The High Tide Club by Mary Kay Andrews
I have never read one of Andrews’ novels, but they were huge sellers when I was a bookseller! Now, we all know not to judge books by their covers (or audiences), but I couldn’t help but assume Andrews wrote contemporary fiction novels for soccer moms. Imagine my surprise when the publicist emails me and her first sentence mentions B.A. Paris. Um what. A 99-year-old eccentric millionaire heiress summons a young lawyer to her primate island home and begins telling tales of her closest friends (now long dead), betrayal, and an unsolved murder. I am VERY intrigued. I also have a feeling this will be a Susan Wiggs repeat: I held preconceived notions about Wiggs and her books too..and then I read Family Tree back in 2016 and loved it! Thank you, St. Martin’s Press!

Speakeasy by Alisa Smith
A historical thriller set during WWII featuring a code-breaker with a secret Bonnie-and-Clyde past. !!!!!! This is a book written for me. Thank you, Thomas Dunne Books!

Death of an Unsung Hero by Tessa Arlen
This is the fourth book in the Lady Montfort series (I have the previous three and reviewed the third last year). I love cozies and this series is a great one! WWI is in full swing and Lady Montfort and her housekeeper find themselves investigating the murder of an officer with amnesia. Thank you, Minotaur Books!

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recent etsy finds

I love Etsy. A lot. Back when we were renting, we didn’t do much decorating of our own, the house was already furnished/painted and it never really felt like ours. Two years ago we bought our house and since then I’ve been itching to paint, to decorate, to redo. Thanks to Etsy, creating our own space seems much more doable and today I want to share a few of my recent finds!


Large Macrame wall hanging $377.43 | Teddy and Wool

To be honest, this is probably something I will never buy – all those strings would be WAY too tempting for Nacho ha! Still, this piece is absolutely gorgeous and comes in several colors and sizes. Wall hangings definitely seem to be trendy right now!


Dogmom Pin $10 | QuiltKween

Yep.


Pendant Keychains $15 | Jill Makes

How cute are these?? You can choose the color and quote, you don’t necessarily have to select the options pictured. I love a good keychain and my current one has a ton of knick knacks dangling from it, including one of Bay‘s old dogtags (the one in this picture actually. Grr, when we first adopted her, Matt had a BLUE tag made…and whenever we’d be out walking, people assumed she was a boy. Now she has a pretty pink tag ♥).


Linen Sundress $83.16 | Linenfox

Linen also seems to be pretty big right now and this dress looks SO easy breezy, throw it on and go. I love dresses, but because I’m so tiny, sometimes I feel swallowed by the amount of material. This one, however, seems perfect. I’m also loving how many colors it comes in! My favorites are blush salmon, dusty lavender, natural (pictured), sea green, and moss green. Only 34 more days until Spring!


Cat Cutting Board $25.20 (on sale!) | depeapa

IN. LOVE. If there’s a cat on it, I want it. Oddly enough, I don’t own cats nor do I want cats. I am NOT a cat person. I am, however, a cat print person and this cutting board is TOO cute.

I think puns are the highest form of humor. Her cards are gorgeous and aren’t all puns (if that’s not you’re thing – and if not, bye). She has blank cards, birthday cards, holiday cards, thinking of you cards, etc.


Ceramic Serving Tray $72 | Fringe and Fettle

I am completely obsessed with this shop and had such a hard time choosing which piece to feature!! Adorable colanders, the cutest honey pots and nesting bowls, I love every single item. These servings trays, however, are simply stunning and come in so many colors: deep gray (pictured), white, seafoam green, a BEAUTIFUL cobalt and cream, and more!


Earl Grey Hot Chocolate $15 | whimsy and spice

Another shop I absolutely adore. Instead of pottery, however, whimsy and spice is all about food. Biscotti, shortbread, marshmallows. This hot chocolate mix totally called my name – and these cardamom marshmallows caught my eye too!

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As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner

As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner
Pub. Date: February 6, 2018
Source: e-ARC via netgalley (Thank you, Berkley!)
Summary: In 1918, Philadelphia was a city teeming with promise. Even as its young men went off to fight in the Great War, there were opportunities for a fresh start on its cobblestone streets. Into this bustling town, came Pauline Bright and her husband, filled with hope that they could now give their three daughters–Evelyn, Maggie, and Willa–a chance at a better life.

But just months after they arrive, the Spanish Flu reaches the shores of America. As the pandemic claims more than twelve thousand victims in their adopted city, they find their lives left with a world that looks nothing like the one they knew. But even as they lose loved ones, they take in a baby orphaned by the disease who becomes their single source of hope. Amidst the tragedy and challenges, they learn what they cannot live without–and what they are willing to do about it.
Genre: Historical Fiction, Top Read of the Year

2017’s A Bridge Across the Ocean was a novel that completely blew me away, immediately becoming a Top Read of the Year. It was also my introduction to Susan Meissner (!!! I KNOW), a fantastic writer with over 20 novels to her name. An impressive backlist of new-to-me authors are always a good thing! Because I was so head over heels for A Bridge Across the Ocean, it should come as NO surprise to anyone, that the second I saw her latest pop up on NG, I pounced. I can’t say it enough: A Bridge Across the Ocean was THAT good that I didn’t care what As Bright as Heaven was about, I just knew it was a book I needed in my life.

As it turns out, As Bright as Heaven is not only as good as her previous novel, it just might be even better. Going by my GoodReads rating, at least; ABAtO was a (HIGH) 4-star, ABaH is my first 5-star read of 2018.

Told in four voices: Pauline and her three daughters, Evelyn, Maggie, and little Willa, As Bright as Heaven follows the family as they leave their cozy, quiet rural town for bustling Philadelphia where Pauline’s husband has agreed to join his uncle’s funeral business. It’s apparent from the start that a funeral parlor is no place for girls, especially 6-year-old Willa, but over time, the business becomes second nature – 12-year-old Maggie even begs Pauline to be allowed to help out, curling hair and applying make-up, readying the bodies for viewings.

Whereas Maggie wants to help out as a way to be closer to her mother, Pauline has her own reasons for wanting to spend her days among the dead. Their family wasn’t always a family of daughters. Henry, the doted-upon only boy, fell ill and never recovered, passing away before his 3rd birthday. Since then, Pauline has felt Death always at hand, drawing nearer with each day.

As Bright as Heaven has SO many layers, so many stories within its pages. Maggie falls for an older neighbor boy, her young heart breaking as he leaves to go off and fight in the War. The Spanish Flu arrives in America – in Philadelphia – and I sobbed for so many characters. An baby is discovered, his mother had succumbed to the Flu, and could he possibly be what this family needs to fill the hole left by Henry’s all-too-sudden passing?

While reading, I couldn’t help but be reminded of another 2017 read I absolutely loved: The One True Love of Alice Ann. While Alice Ann was set during the days of WWII, both books featured a boy sent off to war and the girl back home waiting for him to return.

This might be a bit morbid, but I’ve always been curious about mortuary science and becoming a mortician. Pittsburgh has an Institute of Mortuary Science and I’d be lying if I said I haven’t given it some thought! The funeral parlor was such a fascinating aspect to this book and one I don’t think I’ve ever seen featured in a novel before! Things got particularly bad once the Flu struck Philadelphia, bodies were coming in faster than Thomas or his uncle could deal with. At one point, the death toll was so high, bodies were simply piled wherever there was room. Gone were the days of somber remembrances. Now viewings were no longer permitted – no one could say for certain the Flu couldn’t be passed on through the dead.

I could so easily ramble on at length about As Bright as Heaven. I tore through its 400 pages in a single sitting, it was that engrossing. Each layer to the story only added to its richness and I came to care deeply for the characters. I laughed, I ugly cried. I didn’t think a book could top A Bridge Across the Ocean, but this one did it and my first 5-star rating of 2018 was well deserved. I can’t say enough about this book. Do yourself a favor and get a copy.

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weekly wrap-up 2/11

• I had to do a quick stop by the grocery store last night when these new Oreos caught my eye. I’m not much of a cookie person, but I was super curious – they’re delicious. If you’re a fan of Red Hots/cinnamon candy, definitely check these out!

What are your favorite slow cooker recipes? I LOVE using the slow cooker in the winter. We’ve had some chicken in there since this morning and it smells so good.

• As much as I feel like I don’t read at all during the week, I haven’t been doing too bad with my reading goal! I know it’s highly unlikely I’ll do 200 again, but in January I read 15 books, and as of today I have 4 read for February so far.

MISSED SOMETHING THIS WEEK? Remember those banana walnut scones I shared on Instagram? This week I posted the recipe! These were amazing and next time I’m for sure making the maple glaze!