Archives for December 2015

EFC’s Top Picks of 2015

It is the end of another year and we read some wonderful books. Each of us chose our top three books that we read this year.

And here they are …

chrissysig

 Connectivity by Aven Ellis

Plan Bea by Hilary Grossman

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

Definition of Icing by Aven Ellis

 

melissasig

The Lemorian Crest by Hannah L. Clark

Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft

Arm of the Sphinx by Josiah Bancroft

 

ginasig

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

The Rearranged Life by Annika Sharma

Me Before You by JoJo Moyes

 

sarasig

Where’s the Dragon? by Jason Hook

 

 

efchappy

Chrissy’s Review: All I Want For Christmas by Laura Chapman, Samantha March, and Cat Lavoie

All I Want For ChristmasAll I Want For Christmas (A Holiday Novella Collection)
written by Laura Chapman, Samantha March, and Cat Lavoie
published by Marching Ink, 2015

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble (paperback), Barnes & Noble (Nook), Amazon, Book Depository, Goodreads

Did I enjoy this book: 
This was a quick collection of short stories, perfect for getting in a few Christmas stories during the busy holiday season.

“Making Christmas” by Laura Chapman — I really liked this one. It was fun, sweet, and quick. I’d love to read it as a full-length novel. I love the idea of an adult Advent calendar. If you’re interested in something like it, you should check out Ms. Chapman’s calendar.

“Nine Ladies Dancing” by Cat Lavoie — This was a fun story. I loved how Casey volunteered to organize the office Christmas party even though she isn’t a fan of Christmas. I liked her connection to the bar owner.

“The Christmas Surprise” by Samantha March — This story had me reading nonstop. I had to see how it ended, and if that ending would be happy. Wait until you read it!

“What Happens at Midnight” by Laura Chapman — I loved this one. Chance encounters. Missed opportunities. Stubbornness. Wonderful!

everyfree5

Would I recommend it: Absolutely!

chrissysig

About the book – from Goodreads: 
Making Christmas by Laura Chapman
While settling into a new career in a new community, Ivy is determined not to let the holiday season pass her by. Enter the grownup advent calendar: twenty-four days of festivities to celebrate Christmas. What begins as a bit of fun turns into a mission to spread cheer when she meets Everett. After learning about his bad Christmas attitude, she invites him to join her quest. Despite his initial reservations, Everett quickly gets caught up in the spirit of the calendar. But when new feelings surface and are impossible to ignore, Everett’s inner curmudgeon threatens to put a damper on the whole experience.

Nine Ladies Dancing by Cat Lavoie
Casey Ellis is the last person who should be planning her office’s holiday party. Convinced she’s plagued with chronic Christmas bad luck, Casey isn’t interested in tempting fate. But when putting on a party planner hat seems like a good way to get closer to her longtime crush, Casey takes charge—and braces for impact.
When things start to fall apart—just like Casey knew they would—will she run and hide, or will she learn that bad luck can sometimes turn out to be Christmas magic in disguise?

The Christmas Surprise by Samantha March
Juliette Mabry is a happily married stay-at-home wife and mother…until there appears to be trouble brewing in her nearly ten-year marriage. Juliette takes it upon herself to find out if her husband is up to no good, but does she want to know the truth? Everything is revealed on Christmas, and Juliette is in for her biggest Christmas surprise.

What Happens at Midnight by Laura Chapman
Romantic comedy junkie Natalie lives out those fantasies in real life three New Year’s Eves in a row when fate throws her together with the same handsome stranger. A heartbreaking turn of events leaves her swearing off of love, forevers, and the holidays (bah humbug). That is until the mystery man from her past reappears years later. Over a holiday season, Natalie struggles to reconcile the whimsical notions of her past with the practical sensibilities she has worked so hard to develop. With the countdown to a new year looming, she must decide whether or not she is willing to give happily ever after another shot.

 

 

efchappy

Winning Short Story: Bedside Manner by Paula Carlson

We hope you enjoy Ms. Carlson’s story as much as we did!

 

“BEDSIDE MANNER”

by

PAULA M. CARLSON

 

Sean Flanagan hasn’t seen his brother Patrick in about three years, and that time wasn’t much of a joy since it was to bury their mother. She never recovered from her broken heart when their father left before they were even teenagers. Now in his thirties and happily running his own indie film company where they grew up in Brooklyn, Sean is meeting Patrick so they can travel home together and see their father for the first time since he walked out onto Clinton Street never to look back.

Sean stares out of the cab window as the gritty female cab driver makes her way from Pittsburgh International Airport into the Strip District. Sean can see why Patrick loves it here so much—it’s like Brooklyn, but spread out over an entire metropolis. The sun has been up for a few hours, but a gray mist still hangs over the rivers as they make their way out of the Fort Pitt Tunnel. The City of Bridges opens up in front of them. The city that once was covered in the smoke from the labors of those who called it home now almost glistens new.

“Coming home for the holiday, hun?” The woman sounds like a pack of Marlboro Reds.

“Ahh, no, picking up my brother and his girlfriend and heading home to Brooklyn. My brother’s a professor at the university.” Sean clears his throat subtly so that maybe, just maybe, the cab driver will do the same.

“Brooklyn, huh? Too fast for me. This your brother’s place?” She pulls up in front of an old factory that’s been converted into lofts.

He looks and sees a bar to the right, a Vietnamese pho restaurant across the street, and a church converted into a music venue at the end of the block. “Yup, this is the place.” He grabs a fifty and hands it to the woman.

“Your change, hold on.”

“Happy Thanksgiving.” He checks his pockets to make sure he still has his phone before stepping out into the frosty morning.

“Thank you, hun. Happy Thanksgiving.”

Sean slams the door shut and makes his way into the large foyer of the building. “Little brother’s doing well for himself,” Sean says out loud as he runs his hand through his dirty blond hair. “Ahh, I forgot to pack my hat.” Since Sean was just in LA, his favorite flat cap was the last thing he thought to grab.

He enters the building and walks to the desk. “Hey, morning. Ah, my brother left a key for me. Sean Flanagan.”

The very new concierge almost knocks over his Sheetz coffee grabbing the key. “Good morning, sir. Here you go.”

Sean takes the key and remembers when he was a lowly assistant on his first film and he did knock over the coffee on the director’s screenplay. He turns. “Hey, have a good one, ‘k?”

As he makes his way to the stairwell, he remembers the last time he saw and spoke to his brother. It was right after their mother’s funeral. They had just closed their uncle’s bar where Patrick had worked his way from bar back to one of the senior bartenders. He told Sean he’d been offered a job teaching at the University of Pittsburgh. Their oldest and most settled brother, David, was happy Patrick was finally growing up and moving on with his life. Patrick had taken their father leaving the hardest, and David was convinced Patrick would stay close to home until their Pop showed up again.

To Sean, leaving Brooklyn was an insult to the family as well as the family business. He not only accused him of abandoning them like their father did, but he might also have drunkenly mentioned he was sleeping with Patrick’s fiancée at the time. What ensued was a brawl with broken bones, glasses, bottles, cuts, and severed ties between the brothers.

It was actually Patrick’s current girlfriend, Rose, who had a hand at bringing the two back together. She was herself the product of a broken marriage, but in her case, there were eight brothers and sisters to take care of each other. She spoke to David, who convinced Sean to finally call Patrick. Their father coming home to visit, well, Patrick doesn’t know that part just yet.

Sean reaches the third floor apartment and unlocks the door. He is met with the smell of a simmering fireplace and a hockey stick that has fallen over in front of the door. Sun filters into the river-facing apartment and onto the brick walls and hardwood floors.

Sean puts his bag down and looks around in the kitchen. If there’s no coffee, it means his brother isn’t awake. He knows his brother hasn’t changed that much. No coffee means he’s asleep.

He doesn’t snoop around too much before heading to the closed bedroom door. Three years of avoidance is about to end. He turns the knob and sees the sleeping figure under the covers. As quietly as possibly, he walks into the room and sits on the bed.

“I haven’t seen you in three years and you aren’t even awake to welcome me?“ With this, he pulls off the covers. Instead of his brown-haired, scruffy brother, he is met with a black-haired beauty wearing nothing but a Metallica shirt.

“Isn’t this what got you in trouble with your brother last time, Sean?” She holds out her hand. “Roisin Dovzhenko, everyone calls me Rose. Your brother is in the shower. Why don’t you go make some coffee?”

“Yes, why don’t you go make some coffee?” Patrick towers in the doorway.

Sean closes his eyes tight and hangs his head.

“He meant well, Paddy.” She tosses the sheets aside and gets out of bed.

She kisses Patrick good morning and steals the towel that is wrapped around his waist, teaching him a lesson by leaving him naked in front of his brother.

“Hey, that’s my Metallica shirt.” Sean crosses his arms like he’s five.

“You’re lucky she didn’t shoot you when you snuck in.”

The Metallica shirt gets thrown back into the room. “Give it back to your brother.”

“Shoot me? She’s a nurse.” Sean rips the shirt out of Patrick’s hands. “Can you please put on some pants . . . Paddy?”

“She’s also an Army medic with a temper worse than Pop’s.” Patrick finds a pair of jeans on the floor and puts them on.

“Pops thought he was off fighting with Michael Collins half the time. He wasn’t pissed off; he was crazy. She’s hot, bro. How’d you score her?”

Patrick tackles his brother, pins him down to the bed, and points a finger in his face. “You so much as have one dirty thought about her . . .” Patrick grabs his brother’s face.

Sean manages a smile and grabs his brother’s hand off his face. “You mean starting now, right?”

Rose, wearing only a towel, briefly enters the room and stands near the two brothers.

“Sean, apologize to your brother so we can get this over with now.” She exits the room with the following, trailing off behind her, “And don’t roll your eyes at me, Paddy.”

“She’s got one hell of a bedside manner, Pat. I’m sorry, for everything. And for Clara.”

“Cara.”

“Yeah, Cara.”

“I didn’t like her anyway.” Patrick stands and puts his hand out for his brother. Sean takes it and allows Patrick to pull him off the bed. Standing face to face, three years and six inches between them, the brothers hug.

After the formalities of meeting, Rose goes to the gym, leaving the brothers to catch up. They sit across from each other at the kitchen table. Sean breaks the news about their father’s visit just as Patrick lifts a spoonful of oatmeal to his mouth.

“And you were planning on telling me this before we got on the plane?” Patrick shoves the spoon into his mouth and purposely scrapes it against his teeth.

“Could you not do that?” Sean slams down his coffee mug.

Patrick stares at his brother before picking up his bowl and walking it over to the sink. In silence, and with his back to his brother, he washes the dish and the spoon. Then he begins to wash anything else he can find, even the clean dishes.

“He’s bringing his girlfriend with him.” Sean looks at the floor. His finger traces the top of the mug several times before Patrick acknowledges him.

Patrick doesn’t turn around. “Is she the reason he left?” Between the clock ticking and the riverboat horn, the only other sound is Patrick’s increasingly heavy breathing.

“Yes.” Sean grips the mug and looks up at his brother.

Finally, Patrick turns around. He walks to the refrigerator and opens it. “You want one?”

Sean hears the glass beer bottles rattle. “It’s nine o’clock in the morning.” He wishes he could stuff the words back in his mouth.

Patrick laughs to himself. He grabs a bottle and removes the top in one quick pop against the counter. The cap falls to the floor. “You just told me that our father, the man who left without a good-bye or a reason, is going to stop by David’s house for Thanksgiving Dinner. He hasn’t seen us or spoken to us in years. And, he’s bringing the woman that he left us for.” He takes a long drink of the beer. “Sean, if I want to stand here smokin’ a bowl while getting a blow job, I think I’m pretty much fucking entitled to it right now!” He slams the beer down.

“That is not an image anyone needs in their head.” Sean pushes the mug away. “I’ll take a beer.”

Patrick grabs his brother a beer, removes the cap, and hands it to him, and then he finally smiles. Patrick sits down in the chair next to him. “I mean, why now?”

“He just said it was time.” Sean relaxes and slouches in his chair.

“What do we say to him?” He twirls the beer around in the bottle before taking another drink.

Sean looks at his younger brother, sees the scars caused by too many hockey brawls, some possibly from their fight three years ago, and he also sees the lines starting to form around his green eyes. “Shit,” he thinks to himself, “he’s starting to look like Dad.” Just as he is about to answer, the door opens and Rose walks in carrying a gym bag and groceries.

“Good. It’s nice to see you haven’t killed each other.” She begins to put things away.

“Don’t let me stop your conversation. I’ll keep my good ear on this side.” She points away from the two sitting at the table and then goes about her business putting groceries away.

Sean looks puzzled.

“IED. She can’t hear well out of her left ear.”

“When you said Army medic, you meant like, for real? She messed up?”

“But I’m not totally deaf.” Rose turns around. “You know what, I’m gonna go pack.” Rose looks at them both and then gets a beer for herself.

“Hey, I didn’t mean anything by it.” He gives Rose the “I’m really sorry” look he’s perfected over the years.

Rose walks over to the table. She holds her beer out for a toast. As Sean clinks his bottle with hers, she adds, “I know, I just wanted to see you squirm a little.” She runs her fingers through Patrick’s hair and then walks away.

“How the hell did you find her?” Sean watches her walk into the bedroom.

“I needed stiches after a game. Met her at the hospital. How about you? Find anyone yet?”

“As a matter of fact, you’ll meet her over Thanksgiving.” Sean smiles as if he’s very proud of himself.

“Good for you. You happy?”

“I think. She makes her own living, doesn’t ask about my every move.” He takes a sip and leans in toward his brother. “She the one, Pat?”

“Yeah. She is.”

 

The flight from Pittsburgh the next day is relatively short. Rose sits between the brothers. Sean glances over to see Rose holding Patrick’s hand as he nods off to sleep. He also notices a trinity knot tattoo on her neck, easily hidden when her hair is down.

“You’re all doing the right thing. First, you apologizing and then going home to see your dad.” Rose doesn’t look directly at Sean but instead stares ahead of her at the seat.

“You don’t like me, do you?”

She snaps her head toward Sean, this time, their eyes meet. “Don’t confuse my uncertainty about you for all-out not liking you, Sean. By the sounds of it, you had a bit of growing up to do.”

“Listen, you don’t know me . . .”

“You’re right, I don’t. So you should start working on first impressions. And yes, I’m fucking messed up. But, unfortunately, your brother understands what that is all about.”

Sean stares at this woman who is so beautiful but so invisibly scarred. He remembers the dark rooms their father would sit in, crying, screaming, wanting to be held and left alone at the same time. Vietnam never left their father.

“So, when we get off this plane, let’s start over, shall we?” She offers her hand to him.

He takes hers and squeezes it. “Thank you for giving me my shirt back. I’ve been looking for that for years.”

Rose smiles. “You’re making it difficult for me to be a bitch to you, you know that?”

“You’re not used to charm. Pat just bullies everyone into liking him.”

The plane lands at LaGuardia on time. Sean impatiently waits for a cab. “Finally.” They pile their luggage into the trunk, and when Sean opens the door . . .

“We’ll meet you at David’s. I want to take Rose to Central Park.”

“It can wait, really.” Rose looks back and forth between the two brothers. Sean is really trying to be patient. Now all he can think about is being stuck with the cab fare.

“Here.” Patrick hands his brother a twenty. “Dad gets in at three, right?” Patrick grabs Rose and they hail the next cab, leaving Sean to take the long ride to Brooklyn.

 

Sean sits in his old room. He never thought his brother would buy the house they grew up in, but he and his wife seem to have exorcised the bad memories. Not that their childhood was extremely awful, but the house did hold some bittersweet moments. The bad grades, getting caught with girls in his room, not getting caught with girls in his room and not quite sure what he was supposed to do with them, listening to their mother cry, and trying to figure out what to do with his life.

The film noir posters have been pulled down, and in place of his old bedroom, Sean sits in David’s office. The last time all three brothers were in this house was the day of their mother’s funeral. The drunken brawl of that night was the catalyst for Sean. Well, actually, David kicking him out of the house was the catalyst for Sean.

He thinks to himself, “If Rose only knew me then.” He knows he’s grown up. He knows the only impression she has of him is whatever Patrick told him, and he’s sure it didn’t flatter him.

As he stares at the photos of his sister-in-law and nieces, Patrick and Rose arrive downstairs. Out of curiosity, Sean opens the closet door. It still dons the same paint from when he used the room. He reaches his right hand to the door jam, finds a rough patch, and pushes hard against it. After all these years, no one ever, ever found his old pot stash.

“Hey, Sean,” David yells from downstairs.

Sean slides the wood back into place and shuts the door behind him. For the first time in three years, all three brothers occupy the same room. Before anyone can realize that, Patrick introduces Rose to everyone.

“Everyone, I’d like you to meet my fiancée, Rose.”

Sean makes eye contact with his brother, who can’t stop smiling. David, who could pass as Sean’s twin, is the first to hug Patrick. Sean casually walks up to Rose. He puts his arms out to her.

She welcomes the hug from Sean. “Did you have any idea?” She doesn’t take her arms from around him.

“Not a clue.” He hugs her again. He’s shocked at how welcoming she now is to him. “Congratulations,” he whispers in her ear.

Rose is quickly whisked away by David and his wife, Sarah. Of course, she wants to see the ring.

“Holy . . .”

“Watch your mouth, Uncle Sean.” Sarah quickly stops Sean before he can say something a five and three-year-old might repeat.”

Sean gives his brother a hug. “I’m happy for you, bro. I’m kind of afraid of her, so you don’t have to worry about me stealing this one away. Besides, I couldn’t afford that ring.”

Because he knows he hates it, Patrick messes up Sean’s hair. “Thanks. It feels good to be back here, doesn’t it?”

David joins his brothers. “Well, look at us. They gonna have Walkers open later, Pat? Maybe we’ll even bring the girls.”

“Yeah, I kinda promised them I would work the bar in return for letting me in this morning. And speaking of girls, where is yours at?” Patrick punches his brother on his shoulder.

“She’s actually picking up Dad. She’s driving from Long Island.”

The hours go by with wine, conversation, and cooking. Finally, the anticipation is over. They all hear footsteps coming up the stairs.

“Maybe you should stand back here, Pat, in case you go to punch him.”

“Maybe I’ll punch you.”

“Maybe you should both shut up,” Sarah interrupts the two acting like they are teenagers again.

Sean watches as Rose stands by Patrick, not knowing how anyone is going to react. Sarah also comforts David, leaving Sean to wish that maybe he had gone with his girlfriend to the airport.

They hear his voice before they see him. Years of feelings flood back. Even the good times are there all rushing at Sean. And then, he sees him.

His hair is gray, and he is Patrick in thirty years. His height, inability to shave every day, even the rasp in his voice. That’s their father.

Behind him is a woman that looks strangely familiar. Her hair, a homogenized mix of black and silver strands, is pulled up into a bun. Her white shirt and jeans compliment this very attractive older woman. Sean’s initial thoughts of hate and anger melt a little. She looks kind—not like the husband-stealing whore he imagined.

A sound comes from Rose. Patrick doesn’t catch it, but Sean does. She excuses herself from the room just as she and their father’s girlfriend makes eye contact. David looks to Sean. He tilts his head in Rose’s direction and follows her.

Upstairs, Rose sits at David’s desk. She’s obviously upset as she sits with her hands to her mouth.

“Hey.” Sean shuts the door behind him. He’s met with a distant look from Rose.

“This is supposed to be your day.”

Sean sits beside her. “I know this must not be easy on you. Patrick told me about your mom.”

She looks at him with tears in her eyes. “I am so sorry.” Her breathing gets heavy as Sean waits for her to have a full-on meltdown.

“Rose? What . . . what do you have to be sorry about? I can understand how emotional this must be for you.”

She shakes her head no. As she is about to speak, David walks into the room.

“Rose, you okay? None of us had any idea.” He gives her a hug, leaving Sean clueless.

“So, what’s going on?”

A few whimpers are muffled by David’s sweater. “Sean, that’s her mom downstairs.”

The air is ripped from Sean’s body. This would have been a perfect screenplay for him, but seeing that it’s his reality, not so much. What are the odds? What are the odds that the woman his brother fell head over heels for is the daughter of the woman responsible for tearing their life apart?

Rose pushes herself away from David and attempts to dry her eyes. “I should just go. There is no way this can go well for anyone.”

Sean puts his arm around her while David walks over to the closet. “You obviously had no idea. It’s just, wow, what a coincidence.”

“Pat’s downstairs? How is he?” David has recovered what Sean thinks is his old stash of pot from the closet.

“He’s okay. He’s comforting your mom, actually. She’s pretty much in shock, too.” David proceeds to light a joint.

“Dude, that shit’s like ten years old.”

“Sean, give me some credit. I used to steal yours. You think this was really a secret? I just bought this last week. Think we all could relax a little right now.”

After all three have taken exaggerated hits off the joint, Patrick walks in. He shuts the door immediately and starts laughing. “This is exactly what I hoped you were all doing.” He immediately goes to Rose.

David nudges Sean. “Come on, let’s go downstairs.”

Sean offers the joint to Patrick. “Cheers.”

Pat takes one, long inhale. Instead of exhaling, he kisses Rose. The two are lost in each other immediately. Tears, pot, Patrick’s scruffy face.

“I can’t believe this. I’m sorry. I’m sorry for her. For you.” He wraps his arms around her.

“Shhh. At least we can be comforted in the fact that when we’re their age, we’ll be a damn fine looking couple.” He waits for a response.

Rose laughs, half out of relief because she thought in her anxious mind that one of the brothers would be upset with her by default, the other half out of being high. “Do we go downstairs?”

“She’s actually on the other side of the door waiting to see you.” He places his hands on her face. “You can do this.”

“I’d rather run away from the Taliban right now. Doesn’t seem like I have a choice though, does it?” She places her hands on Patrick’s and gently removes them from her face. “Tell her to come in, please.”

Patrick kisses her forehead and walks to the door. “I would stay away from your bedside manner. It might have impressed me, but I don’t think your mother would appreciate your colorful use of the English language.”

Rose flips him off. “I love you, Dr. Flanagan.”

“Love you, too, soon-to-be Mrs. Flanagan.” He exits.

Patrick shuts the door behind Rose’s mother before going downstairs to reunite with his own past.

 

 

Be sure to check out Ms. Carlson’s interview here.

 

efcshortstorywinner

 

eb (1)About the author: Paula grew up in western Pennsylvania the daughter of a WWII Veteran coal miner and nurse/hotel bellhop. Paula was heavily influenced by music and her two Brooklyn neighbors. With the initial intentions of becoming a sports physician and working for the Pittsburgh Penguins, Paula discovered that instead of chemical formulas, she had a passion for dialogue and politics, and graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with degrees in creative writing and political science. Paula did some travelling to Sydney and Belfast before hitting up NYU for a graduate degree in some more political science. She met and married a New York City Firefighter who grew up in NYC. Paula and her husband are both avid runners, music enthusiasts, and both volunteer at a camp for children who are burn survivors.

So what does one do with degrees in creative writing and political science? Work for the New York City Emergency Management, of course! Since 2004, Paula has been developing disaster drills and high level tabletop discussions as well as preparing for and responding to the City’s emergencies. Writing has become an important part of her career. The need to clearly communicate information is important when writing situation reports during events and evaluations and summaries following drills. It is precisely this job that made Paula re-discover writing. Long hours and stressful events call for some mental time off. Paula has two blogs to exercise her writing skills. She has both a short story blog, No Evasion to Reality, and a music blog, Paula’s Music Journey.

 

 

efchappy

Julie’s Review: Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard

Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes

Lunch in Paris 
written by Elizabeth Bard
published by Little, Brown and  Company, 2011

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iBooksBook Depository, Goodreads

Did I enjoy this book: 
Absolutely. I read it before taking my maiden voyage to France and Italy last summer. Although it is a memoir (which I typically avoid), I really enjoyed the writer, her love story and her recipes. I may even try a few!

everyfree4.5

Would I recommend it: Yes, I would. It’s a feel-good, easy read with a likable narrator.

 

juliesig

About the book – from Goodreads: In Paris for a weekend visit, Elizabeth Bard sat down to lunch with a handsome Frenchman–and never went home again.

Was it love at first sight? Or was it the way her knife slid effortlessly through her pavé au poivre, the steak’s pink juices puddling into the buttery pepper sauce? LUNCH IN PARIS is a memoir about a young American woman caught up in two passionate love affairs–one with her new beau, Gwendal, the other with French cuisine. Packing her bags for a new life in the world’s most romantic city, Elizabeth is plunged into a world of bustling open-air markets, hipster bistros, and size 2femmes fatales. She learns to gut her first fish (with a little help from Jane Austen), soothe pangs of homesickness (with the rise of a chocolate soufflé) and develops a crush on her local butcher (who bears a striking resemblance to Matt Dillon). Elizabeth finds that the deeper she immerses herself in the world of French cuisine, the more Paris itself begins to translate. French culture, she discovers, is not unlike a well-ripened cheese-there may be a crusty exterior, until you cut through to the melting, piquant heart.

Peppered with mouth-watering recipes for summer ratatouille, swordfish tartare and molten chocolate cakes, Lunch in Paris is a story of falling in love, redefining success and discovering what it truly means to be at home. In the delicious tradition of memoirs like A Year in Provence and Under the Tuscan Sun, this book is the perfect treat for anyone who has dreamed that lunch in Paris could change their life.

 

efchappy

From all of us at EFC . . .

 

merry christmas

Chrissy’s Review: If I Stay by Gayle Forman

If I StayIf I Stay (If I Stay #1)
written by Gayle Forman
published by Speak, 2009

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iBooks, Book Depository, Goodreads

Did I enjoy this book: 
I really did enjoy this book. It was a good read that hooked me from the beginning.

Mia is stuck between life and death. As she tries to figure out if she should stay, we learn about her life and the people who mean the most to her. I liked the switches between the past and present. They were seamless. Oftentimes, for me, abrupt changes disrupt the flow and readability, but that wasn’t the case here. Mia’s life is played out in front of us in memories. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll want her to pull through, you’ll understand if she decides to let go. I loved Adam. He was a great match for her. I loved her parents. Hip, cool, rockers. I loved that Mia played the cello. I could hear it playing in my mind as I read the book. I don’t want to give too much away, so I’ll just say that it was a great read and I’ve already started the sequel.

everyfree4

Would I recommend it: I would. It was a good read that will tug at your heartstrings.

chrissysig

About the book – from Goodreads: 
The critically acclaimed, bestselling novel from Gayle Forman, author of Where She Went, Just One Day, and Just One Year.

In the blink of an eye everything changes. Seventeen-year-old Mia has no memory of the accident; she can only recall what happened afterwards, watching her own damaged body being taken from the wreck. Little by little she struggles to put together the pieces- to figure out what she has lost, what she has left, and the very difficult choice she must make. Heartwrenchingly beautiful, this will change the way you look at life, love, and family.

Now a major motion picture starring Chloe Grace Moretz, Mia’s story will stay with you for a long, long time.

 

 

efchappy

Throwback Review – Christmas Edition: The Christmas Town by Elyse Douglas

I read this book about two years ago. It was a sweet read.

christmas townThe Christmas Town
written by Elyse Douglas
published by Elyse Douglas

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Book Depository, Goodreads

Why did I pick this book: I was asked by the publicist to review this book. (I received a copy of this book for review purposes.)

Did I enjoy this book:
I did enjoy this book. It took a little while to get hooked, but once I was, I did not want to put this book down. I think it was once I hit the halfway mark that I couldn’t stop reading. 

Jackie and Megan are seemingly different women that are both looking for love, but don’t realize it. They get swept away to a different time and end up finding true love. The women are modern women and have a difficult time adjusting to the mindset of the 1940s. It was a bit annoying because surely they understood the way it was back then. Megan is an actress that starred in various productions staged in that era. Jackie shows just how addicted we are to our technology nowadays. But they do make an effort, and I liked watching their love blossom once they meet the two young men.

The Christmas Town is a sweet, romantic, time travel story that left me with a smile and a giddy laugh at the end. Was it predictable? A bit. Did it leave me wanting more? Absolutely – in a good way and in a bad way. The story was quick and I would have liked a bit more from it. However, I wouldn’t want it any longer than it is. I don’t know if that makes much sense but this is one of those stories that I want to know more but I don’t want to read another hundred pages. Was it worth the read? You bet. I liked the little twists at the end. The book of stories was a nice touch as was the very end. 😉

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Would I recommend it: I would recommend this book. It is a sweet, romantic, Christmas book.

Will I read it again: This may not be a “read every year” book, but it will be one that I visit again.

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About the book – from Goodreads:
The Christmas Town, by Elyse Douglas, is a new time travel, mystery, romance novel that was released on October 11, 2013.

Traveling home for Christmas, two young women in their 20s are forced to drive together during a snowstorm, and they get lost. They cross a covered bridge and, suddenly, they enter the past, finding themselves in a small picturesque Vermont town in 1943. They meet two handsome soldiers, who are about to be sent off to war, and they fall in love with them, while also struggling to find a way to return home to their own time.

With the soldiers’ help, on Christmas Eve, the two women finally have one chance to return to their own time, but they are caught between their love for the soldiers, and their desire to return to the present. At the last moment, they must make the difficult decision and, because it is Christmas, a miracle happens.

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Book Club Recap: A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan

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We had a good showing the other night–all but one member was in attendance.

A Window Opens was a disappointing read for most of the group. After deciding that the discussion questions were not worth addressing (too academic), we had free discussion. Some of the opinions shared by members were, “I identified with and enjoyed this book, but it was not book club material” and “I found it superficial–it did not elicit any emotion from the reader.” The general consensus was that A Window Opens reads more like a memoir than a work of fiction.

Next month’s book is We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas. This debut novel promises compelling characters and a story rife for discussion.

Stay tuned.

~ Julie ~

 

A Window OpensA Window Opens
written by Elisabeth Egan
published by Simon & Schuster, 2015

find it here: (affiliate links) Barnes & Noble (Nook) (print), Amazon, iBooks, Book Depository, Goodreads

See Julie’s 2.5-star review here.

About the book – from Goodreads: For fans of I Don’t Know How She Does It and Where’d You Go, Bernadette?.

In A Window Opens, beloved books editor at Glamour magazine, Elisabeth Egan, brings us Alice Pearse, a compulsively honest, longing-to-have-it-all, sandwich generation heroine for our social-media-obsessed, lean in (or opt out) age.

Like her fictional forebears Kate Reddy and Bridget Jones, Alice plays many roles (which she never refers to as “wearing many hats” and wishes you wouldn’t, either). She is a mostly-happily married mother of three, an attentive daughter, an ambivalent dog-owner, a part-time editor, a loyal neighbor and a Zen commuter. She is not: a cook, a craftswoman, a decorator, an active PTA member, a natural caretaker or the breadwinner. But when her husband makes a radical career change, Alice is ready to lean in—and she knows exactly how lucky she is to land a job at Scroll, a hip young start-up which promises to be the future of reading, with its chain of chic literary lounges and dedication to beloved classics. The Holy Grail of working mothers―an intellectually satisfying job and a happy personal life―seems suddenly within reach.

Despite the disapproval of her best friend, who owns the local bookstore, Alice is proud of her new “balancing act” (which is more like a three-ring circus) until her dad gets sick, her marriage flounders, her babysitter gets fed up, her kids start to grow up and her work takes an unexpected turn. Readers will cheer as Alice realizes the question is not whether it’s possible to have it all, but what does she―Alice Pearse―really want?

 

If you belong to a book group, please tell us about what you’re reading in the comments.

If you would like to join this feature, please feel free to do so by posting your own Book Club Recap and linking it in the comments. 

 

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Midwinter’s Eve Giveaway Hop – 2015

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This is the first time EFC has participated in the Midwinter’s Eve Giveaway Hop hosted by I Am A Reader and Bookhounds.

 

I am giving away a $25 gift card to Amazon or Barnes & Noble or $25 in books from the Book Depository.

giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Be sure to visit the other blogs participating in the Midwinter’s  Eve Hop!

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Story Time with Sara: The Twelve Days of Christmas by Romeo Muller

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The Twelve Days of Christmas 
written by Romeo Muller
published by Publications International, 1993

find it here: (affiliate links) Amazon

Did I enjoy this book: The cover has a bunch of cute teddy bears wearing fun, colorful clothes, and I was looking for a bunch of Christmas books for a project, so I picked it up. What I forgot is how f***ing annoying the song (on which this book is based) is. Fortunately, the song, while being the premise of the story, does not play a huge part.

Muller actually brings quite a bit of humor and entertainment to this age-old tune. The Land of Jingle Merry Teddies is both cute and utterly ridiculous, which is part of why I enjoyed the story. The boys and I had fun following Mrs. Partridge (no relation to the TV show) and Squire Very Merry as they wooed the fair Princess Bear . . . ’cause that’s what the song is about, people. Courting a teddy bear. Duh.

Bonus: After reading this book, my son heard the song for the first time and exclaimed, “MOM! This is the song about the BEARS!!!!!” which was cute, except that we were sitting in a doctor’s office waiting room and everyone looked at us like we had three heads and I was the worst mother ever. I could see the scorn in another woman’s eyes: “There are no bears in ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ . . . what does this woman teach her children?” (I’m sure this imagined inner monologue says more about me than her, but I digress . . .)

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Would I recommend it: It’s a cute and fun book, but it is on the long side, so be warned. I mean, it’s based on the longest freaking Christmas song EVER, so what would you expect? I am glad it’s part of our Christmas Story Collection, and it will make a nice addition to yours as well!

sarasig

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