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The Puppy That Came for Christmas: How a Dog Brought One Family the Gift of Joy

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A sweet, simple story about a couple who find the love they crave in puppy, The Puppy that Came for Christmas is exactly what it seems to be. Don't expect any deep revelations, unexpected twists, or even revolutionary training techniques from this book. Megan and Ian are the increasingly common, well-off, middle aged couple who can't conceive. Grief stricken they wander miserably from hospital to fertility clinic until they find an organization training service dogs desperately in need of puppy parents. They drown their sorrows in golden retriever puppies until they can't take losing the puppies each time they get old enough to continue with their training and service obligations. Finally they find the puppy that will stay with them forever.Sweet and sappy, but heartwarming nevertheless. Don't expect too much of this little book and you will find it a pleasant, quick read.
An Available Man

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In this quiet little book about love and loss Hilma Wolitzer has the winning formula for a novel worked out. Make your readers fall in love with the main character, make them adore him and you can't go wrong. By the time Edward Schuyler is done telling the reader about his ill-fated romance with Laurel (she left him at the altar) and how Bee (his recently deceased wife) was the love of his life, you want nothing less than happiness for him. He is so gentle, kind, and clueless that you can forgive him his indiscretions.When Edwards beloved wife, Bee, falls terminally ill she tells him "Look at you. They'll be crawling out of the woodwork." Oblivious, he has no idea what she's talking about until months after her death when the phone begins ringing with lonely women looking for an available man. His stepchildren only escalate things when they place a personal ad for him in the New York Times Book Review. Soon women are, indeed, crawling out of the woodwork and Edward has no idea what to do with them. As you would expect, An Available Man is by turns funny, heartbreaking, and live affirming. Highly recommended for anyone looking for a feel-good, uplifting read.
The Coroner's Lunch

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The Coroner's Lunch is the first in a mystery series set in 1970's Laos. The Communist party has assigned the position of national coroner to 72 year old Dr. Siri. Siri is looking forward to a long, easy retirement when this posting, for which he has no knowledge or experience, comes through. Paired with a nurse who is obsessed with gossip magazines and a half-wit who knows the procedures better than both of them, he must solve some of the nation's most complicated, political, and perplexing deaths. He is both helped and terrifyingly hindered by the ghosts that appear to him and seem to have demands all their own.The Coroner's Lunch is a satisfyingly exotic mystery, fast-paced, filled with likeable characters, historical detail, and a touch of the afterlife. Cotterill manages to give everything with a lightly satirical touch that keeps the story entertaining. I look forward to many more in this series!I listened to the audio version of The Coroner's Lunch deftly narrated by Clive Chafer. He portrays the dry humor of Dr. Siri to a tee, bringing him to life. This is an audio that improves on the written version.
This Beautiful Life: A Novel

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This Beautiful Life tells the story of the Bergamots, new to New York City and trying to find their place in this wealthy, no-holds-barred lifestyle. Just when it looks like Richard, Liz, 15 yr old Jake and their adopted, 6-yr-old daughter Coco have adapted to this strange new world, Jake receives a sexually explicit email from a young admirer and forwards it to a friend. The video astonishingly quickly goes viral and soon the whole school has seen it. The Bergamots struggle to deal with the repercussions as their new friends alternately despise and pity them.I had a really hard time relating to this book. It was never very clear to me why such a relatively small incident could so derail such a strong and close family. Their reactions made them seem overly sensitive and unable to recover from minor mistakes. How could the parents have gotten so far in life with such weak self-confidence and no way to recover from mishaps? Their response to the email snafu destroys their son and their relationship. Watching a disaster like this unfold is just painful, not my idea of an entertaining or even instructive read!I listened to the audio version of This Beautiful Life narrated by Hilary Huber. Maybe with a better story I would have liked her reading but here I just found it bland and forgettable.
Midnight in Austenland: A Novel

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In Midnight in Austenland Shannon Hale revisits the world of Jane Austen vacations. I have no idea if these places actually exist, but I guess they must. Pembrook Park is a British country house where women can go to immerse themselves in Jane Austen's long lost era and experience the gentler, more chivalrous times Jane wrote about. Charlotte flees there to lick her wounds after her husband leaves her for another woman and she is left numb and cynical about romance. The funny clothes and overly authentic food take some getting used to, but soon Charlotte is distracted by the haunting suspicion that a murder has been committed. Is she falling into the same trap of an over-active imagination that Catherine Morland fell victim too, or is something fishy really going on?Absolutely, hilariously, ridiculous story! Charlotte is a delightful combination of no-nonsense business woman and wounded romantic lacking in self-confidence. She attacks mysteries to distract herself from her growing attraction to Mr. Mallery only to wonder if she is exaggerating things. As she attempts to find the line between fantasy and reality she learns to open her heart and trust herself again.This is a highly entertaining read! Realistic, no and also not in anyway an attempt to mimic Jane Austen. Midnight in Austenland is just a very pleasant way to spend an afternoon, get some good laughs, and meet some engaging new characters.
The World We Found: A Novel

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In the late 1970's Laleh, Kavita, Nishta, and Armaiti, were idealistic young students protesting the political conditions in India, passionate about their beliefs and seemingly willing to risk everything to see equality for India's religious and economic minorities. Thirty years later they are all living different lives then they imagined and they haven't stayed the close-knit group they once were. When Armaiti learns she is dying her last wish is to have all of her friends together again. But the reunion opens old wounds and brings to life carefully hidden secrets. Each of the women is forced to examine the life she is living and compare it to her past dreams and ambitions. How do you reconcile the present with the wild, ambitious plans you made in college?This is the first book by Thrity Umrigar that I have read, but it won't be the last. Each of the women in this book was interesting and likeable, though all were very different. The contrast of their differences alongside the obvious similarities that made them friends gave the story a very realistic depth and added layers to the plot. The World We Found was the best of both worlds, an easy read that made me think - about India, politics, and most of all how the idealism of university days fades into the reality of middle age forcing each person to hold strong to their ideals while bending them to fit ever changing lives and circumstances. In the end it was an eye-opening, yet lovely read about friendship, change, and growing up.
Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day

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Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day follows the highly popular Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. The authors have turned their focus to pizza, making it not only easy for every home cook to obtain the best possible results, but also making it such a quick and painless process that you will be tempted to eat pizza everyday! It has the same format as their previous books with first a master recipe, then many interesting variations. Heavy on detailed instructions, there are just a few color photos to give you an idea of the final product.Master Recipe Olive Oil Variation - This is an easy, reliable recipe that has replaced my standard pizza dough recipe. I do love that you can have it just sitting in the fridge waiting to be used. It makes weeknight homemade pizza a cinch.The Ultimate Tender Neapolitan Crust - I made this recipe to use up some extra cake flour I had on hand. It definitely changed the texture of the crust though I found it pleasantly chewy rather than tender. Sauce from Canned Tomatoes - Easy and delicious. I will make this again and again.White Pizza with Spinach -This was the big wow recipe of the book for me. Fabulously good pizza with not much effort. This is a pizza I crave, then eat all week once I have the ingredients in the house.Individual Breakfast Pizza -Fun Sunday breakfast for kids. I made it in muffin tins and it was tasty.Its hard to argue with fresh, easy pizza. I can't imagine there are many households out there that don't need a copy of this cookbook!
Maman's Homesick Pie: A Persian Heart in an American Kitchen

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Maman's Homesick Pie is Donia Bijan's very personal memoir of being forced to leave her home in Iran as a teenager during the revolution in the 1970's. The story begins with her charming, quirky and busy childhood. Her parents built a hospital and almost singlehandedly ran it, doctoring, cooking, bandaging, and administering all while raising their family in an apartment on the top floor. It continues through her family's exhile to the US, her own struggles to become a chef and her mother and father's struggles to find a place for themselves in America. This is a lighthearted memoir despite touching on the Iranian Revolution and her father's emotional displacement. Donia and her mother comfort themselves and create homes around the food they remember and new dishes they invent. Everything is seen through the prism of food and the descriptions are lush and nostalgic. The recipes look both relatively simple and appealingly exotic.Maman's Homesick Pie will satisfy the many fans of food memoirs with its warmth, generosity, and lovely food writing.
Death Comes to Pemberley

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Death Comes to Pemberley may sound like yet another Jane Austen knock-off. The difference? This one is written by P.D. James, an accomplished mystery writer with 20 previous books and many awards to her name. The story begins years into the happily settled marriage of Darcy and Elizabeth. They are pleasantly occupied with the domestic concerns of their household, Jane and Bingley live nearby, and Lydia and Wickham's bad behavior is nothing more than a memory from the past. All this bliss comes crashing to a halt on the eve of Lady Anne's ball, named after Darcy's deceased mother and organized by Elizabeth herself. It is a highlight of the social season, attended by all their high society neighbors and the entire Pemberley staff is intimately involved in the many preparations. So when Lydia, unexpectedly and most inconveniently, arrives in the middle of the night, dramatically screaming that her husband has been shot, the whole household is thrown into chaos. What Darcy discovers in the woods that night will cast a shadow on the ball and put into jeopardy everything that Darcy and Elizabeth hold dear, even the marriage of Darcy's innocent sister Georgiana.P.D. James has done a wonderful job of deepening and adding to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. She always stays impeccably true to the master's style and intentions, never trying to impose her own will on the characters already known and beloved by so many readers. Instead she furthers the story, letting the reader see Darcy's emotions over his conflict with Wickham, the little imperfections in his relationship with Georgiana that make Darcy seem more human, and Elizabeth's small, quiet guilt that she saddled Darcy with her inferior family when she married him. Death Comes to Pemberley truly makes you feel that all your favorite characters have been restored and allowed to live a little longer.
Among the Missing

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Among the Missing is a tangled story of coincidences, chance meetings, and explosive emotions. When a bridge in the Scottish Highlands collapses, many people are lost and drowned and a tragic series of events is set in motion. Months pass as the bridge is repaired and cars are lifted out of the river and bodies identified. In the meantime a pregnant woman who everyone believes dead, lives on the edge, relying on help from an illegal immigrant, Silva. Only she knows that Silva's husband and daughter died in her place. But with the lifting of the cars her time is running out and Silva's reaction to the news will change the future for all of them. Among the Missing has a nice, fast pace that holds the attention and has the reader speeding towards the end. The premise is a little far fetched - that these three people would come together the way they do is a little hard to believe, though the aftermath of a catastrophe helps to explain that. Switching between the narration of the three characters is a great devise, seeing the motivations and thought process of all three illuminates a lot of what happens. Still, too often I found myself focused on the tricks the author used to make the plot work rather than swept up in the story itself. I listened to Among the Missing on audio, read by Robin Sachs, Kate Reading, and Cassandra Campbell. Its always a plus to have a full cast reading and in this case it really puts the listener in touch with who the different characters are and whats going on in their minds. I didn't love the individual narrators, sometimes accents came across a bit funny and a little flat, but as a whole the reading works nicely.
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