Friday, June 28, 2013

The Union Street Bakery by Mary Ellen Taylor

Title: The Union Street Bakery
Author: Mary Ellen Taylor

Publisher: Berkley Trade

Published Date: February 5, 2013

Buy on Amazon: Paperback & Kindle

Author Website:


Life can turn on a dime. It’s a common cliché, and I’d heard it often enough. People die or move away. Investments go south. Affairs end. Loved ones betray us...Stuff happens.

Daisy McCrae’s life is in tatters. She’s lost her job, broken up with her boyfriend, and has been reduced to living in the attic above her family’s store, the Union Street Bakery, while learning the business. Unfortunately, the bakery is in serious hardship. Making things worse is the constant feeling of not being a “real” McCrae since she was adopted as a child and has a less-than-perfect relationship with her two sisters.

Then a long-standing elderly customer passes away, and for some reason bequeaths Daisy a journal dating back to the 1850s, written by a slave girl named Susie. As she reads, Daisy learns more about her family—and her own heritage—than she ever dreamed. Haunted by dreams of the young Susie, who beckons Daisy to “find her,” she is compelled to look further into the past of the town and her family.

What she finds are the answers she has longed for her entire life, and a chance to begin again with the courage and desire she thought she lost for good.
My Thoughts:

Mary Ellen Taylor's The Union Street Bakery is a heartwarming and contemporary story that revolves around Daisy McCrae, a thirty something, out of work financial analyst that finds herself back at square one in life.  After Daisy's mother convinces her (over one to many daiquiris) to move back home and help manage the sinking family business, Daisy quickly starts spinning into a depression.  She has lost her high profile job in Washington DC, her fiancee, and everything that defined who she thought she was. 

Daisy left home after high school and said she would never work in the bakery again, yet here she is more than a decade later sleeping in her family's attic and rising before dawn to make dough.  Even worse, Daisy soon realizes that since her younger sister Rachel has taken over the bakery it is in dire financial straits.  Using her money management skills to rescue The Union Street Bakery is a full time job in itself. Just when Daisy thinks that life has thrown her all the curve balls she can handle, a startling secret from her past is brought to light and Daisy must decide if she is strong enough to unravel the mystery of who she truly is.

The Union Street Bakery has a unique mystery that is center stage throughout the novel.  Daisy has always felt like an outsider in the close knit McCrae family.  It is not a secret that when she was three years old her birth mother abandoned her sitting at a table at the McCrae's bakery.  The McCrae's adopted Daisy and tried to make her feel like part of the family, but growing up Daisy always felt like she didn't quite belong.  She had always wondered who her real birth mother and why she left her.  Quite unexpectedly, during her first week back at the bakery Daisy has a huge clue about her past given to her by an old customer, a 150 year old diary written by an area slave.  As Daisy starts to investigate, what she discovers will alter her and the McCrae's lives forever.     

I especially enjoyed reading about the relationship Daisy had with her two sisters, Rachel and Margaret.  Daisy has always felt close to Rachel, a talented baker and the one running the family business.  Margaret and Daisy, on the other hand, were always at odds with each other growing up and that has not changed as adults.  However, when Daisy needs someone to help her unravel the mystery of the diary, Margaret, as a historian, is at her side and a huge help.  Throughout the book Daisy and Margaret grow closer and develop a true sisterly relationship.

Mary Ellen Taylor's The Union Street Bakery is a wonderful story that will pique your interest from the first page and not let go until the last.  It has witty dialogue, realistic characters, and a mystery that will keep you guessing until the end.  This is definitely a book that I will recommend to friends and family!  I loved watching Daisy grow and discover just who she is as a person.  The ending of The Union Street Bakery was left rather open ended and I was thrilled to see that a sequel is being written called Sweet Expectations that is due out in November.  I am looking forward to reading more about Daisy and the McCrae's.  If you are looking for a tender and fantastically written novel, Taylor's book is for you!      

Mary Ellen Taylor

I have been provided a complimentary copy of the book, The Union Street Bakery, for the purpose of review.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Down and Out in Bugtussle: The Mad Fat Road to Happiness by Stephanie McAfee

Title: Down and Out in Bugtussle: The Mad Fat Road to Happiness
Author: Stephanie McAfee

Publisher: Penguin NAL

Published Date: July 2, 2013

Buy on Amazon: Paperback & Kindle

Author Website:


New York Times bestselling author Stephanie McAfee delivers another irreverent, laugh-out-loud page-turner about the (mis)adventures of plus-size spitfire Graciela “Ace” Jones.

With her fiancé now her ex-fiancé, Ace has hightailed it back to Bugtussle, Mississippi, and back to her Gramma Jones’s house. Her best friends, Lilly and Chloe, are delighted she’s back, but Ace still has some challenges ahead of her.

For one thing, her replacement as Bugtussle High School’s art teacher, Cameron Becker, refuses to vacate the position. So Ace is stuck working as a substitute teacher while harboring fantasies of running Miss Becker out of town. On top of that, Lilly and Chloe are obsessed with setting her up on less-than-romantic blind dates—even though all she wants is a break from her pitiful love life.

To ease her troubled mind, Ace resolves to restore her grandmother’s gardens to their former glory. But in the well-worn gardening book she’s dug out of her grandmother’s attic there are a series of suspicious notes that indicate her grandmother may have had a special someone in her past. Now, with her faithful chiweenie, Buster Loo, by her side, Ace is determined to get to the bottom of her grandmother’s secret life, all the while hoping her own life isn’t about to implode....
My Thoughts:

Hello, my name is Candace and I am addicted to the Stephanie McAfee series revolving around the loud and crazy Graciela 'Ace' Jones.  I flipping LOVE Ace, the main character of McAfee's Diary of a Mad Fat Girl, Happily Ever Madder, and now Down and Out in Bugtussle.  I truly think McAfee struck literary gold when she first wrote about the adventures of Ace and her friends.  McAfee's latest book involving Ace will be released in the beginning of July.  However, I got lucky enough to receive Down and Out in Bugtussle before its release date and I have to say I LOVED it just as much as I loved the first two books in the series.

In Down and Out in Bugtussle, Ace has returned to Mississippi after her disastrous move to Florida to live with her ex-fiancee.  When she left the small town of Bugtussle, Ace was full of hopes and dreams.  Her perfect life with Mason was unfolding and she had opened her own Art Gallery.  However, after many ups and downs, Ace realizes that she has yet to find true happiness and returns to her hometown and back to the life she was so excited to leave behind.  

Back in Bugtussle, Ace is nursing a wounded heart but surrounded by her best friends Chloe, Lilly, and Jalena.  With her teaching position taken over by a new teacher, Ace finds herself the low woman on the totem pole as she becomes a permanent substitute teacher, a definite step backward.  Ace has big hopes of winning her job back and can't wait to see the new snobby teacher fired.  Ace also makes two new teacher friends.  Stacey is another long term sub and a lover of all 80's rock with the big hair to prove it.  She marches to the beat of her own drum and Ace can't help but like her.  As for the sassy and spectacular Freddie, Ace wants to dislike him since he is BFF's with her rival.  However, as she gets to know him she finds herself drawn to him and his outspoken ways. 

Throughout Down and Out in Bugtussle, Ace finds herself coming to the aid of Chloe and Lilly, both of whom are having difficulties in their personal relationships.  Ace also starts unraveling a mystery involving her deceased grandmother's love life.  By following clues that she discovers in her grandmother's plant book, Ace makes it her goal to find out just her her dear grandma was.

I found myself laughing out loud at the situations Ace and Stacey found themselves in.  Their new friendship is heartwarming and hilarious and I loved every minute of it.  I enjoyed how McAfee had Ace hanging out with various friends, not just her bestie's Lilly, Chloe, and Jalena.  Ace is frequently with Stacey, Freddie, Hatter, Cameron, and her elderly friends including Birdie.

I definitely recommend Stephanie McAfee's Down and Out in Bugtussle: The Mad Fat Road to Happiness.  This book is the PERFECT beach/pool read.  The ending of Down and Out in Bugtussle was left open and didn't have a ton of closure so I'm anxiously awaiting the next installment in the Ace Jones series.  

Stephanie McAfee

The publisher has provided me with a complimentary copy of the book, Down and Out in Bugtussle, for the purpose of review.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Circle the Date by Susie Beaty Green

 Title: Circle the Date
Author: Susie Beaty Green

Outskirts Press

Published Date: June 27, 2012

Buy on Amazon: Paperback 

Author Website:


The Wedding Business is Booming! Best friends Lesley Manning and Patsy Gamble have it all figured out-especially when it comes to their dream job. They own a wedding planning business in beautiful Scottsdale, Arizona, and there is a lovely rhythm to their lives. But when an unexpected client hires them to plan his wedding, things get complicated in a hurry. This witty, high-spirited book explores what happens when relationships are challenged and unlikely roads of romance are explored. So grab a glass of wine, sit back, and Circle the Date!
My Thoughts:
Circle the Date, by Susie Beaty Green, is a wonderfully written chick lit novel that is full of laughter, tears, and cringe worthy moments.  Beaty Green's novel is a short read at a little over 200 pages, however it is very satisfying and left me feeling happy.  If you are looking for a quick and lighthearted summer read, this book is for you.  I opened up Circle the Date while laying out in the sun one warm afternoon and was quickly drawn into the novel.

Circle the Date centers around best friends and business partners Patsy and Lesley.  The two met as college roommates and stayed best friends throughout multiple boyfriends, marriages, children, a messy divorce, and a successful wedding planning business called Circle the Date.  Circle the Date is the ultimate wedding planning business in Scottsdale, AZ that creates dream wedding after dream wedding and leaves satisfied bride after satisfied bride.  Each chapter in Beaty Green's Circle the Date is in the viewpoint of either Patsy or Lesley.

Patsy sketches the creative ideas for Circle the Date.  She has an 8 year old daughter, Maggie, and is married to Tom, who might just be the most perfect father in the world.  However, the passion has never been there between Patsy and Tom and while he is happy with the status quo, Patsy is always thinking about what could have been.  More specifically, what could have been had she not settled for Tom and instead married the love of her life, Gavin.  

Patsy can always count on Lesley to talk sense into her and make her realize that she has what many woman only dream of having: a husband who loves her in his own way, provides for his family, and is the best daddy out there.  However, Patsy's equilibrium is thrown out of whack when Gavin steps into Circle the Date to plan his and his fiancee's wedding.  When the sparks begin to fly between the two and the old chemistry is proven to be alive, Patsy must decide if she is willing to throw her perfect family away for the man who has haunted her dreams since college.

Lesley is a hard as nails, tell it like it is, woman that can curse with the best sailors.  She handles the budget for each wedding Circle the Date manages.  She has also been spurned by love.  She married Eric after college and they had their daughter Mary around the same time Patsy and Tom had Maggie.  However, when Mary was two years old Lesley discovered that Eric was cheating on her.  Picking up and moving back to her hometown, Lesley and Mary made a new family unit where they relied on only each other.  

Lesley started Circle the Date in order to provide for her daughter and to witness good and bad romance's.  Lesley has determined that she will be single forever, however we all know you should never say never and her world is soon turned upside down when a long lost love enters the pictureLesley soon has her hands full with trying to save Patsy from self-destruction, keep her booming wedding business afloat, and juggling her feelings for an old flame.

I truly enjoyed Susie Beaty Green's novel, Circle the Date.  The characters of Patsy and Lesley are 3-diminsional and very realistic.  The two also went through many changes from the start of the novel until the end.  Circle the Date is most definitely a book that I recommend, it is a terrific summer read!  If you are heading to the beach or even a pool, grab a copy of Susie Beaty Green's novel and enjoy!  

Susie Beaty Green

The author has provided me with a complimentary copy of her book, Circle the Date, for the purpose of review.