Book Review: The Vine Witch

Goodreads Summary:

For centuries, the vineyards at Château Renard have depended on the talent of their vine witches, whose spells help create the world-renowned wine of the Chanceaux Valley. Then the skill of divining harvests fell into ruin when sorcière Elena Boureanu was blindsided by a curse. Now, after breaking the spell that confined her to the shallows of a marshland and weakened her magic, Elena is struggling to return to her former life. And the vineyard she was destined to inherit is now in the possession of a handsome stranger.

Vigneron Jean-Paul Martel naively favors science over superstition, and he certainly doesn’t endorse the locals’ belief in witches. But Elena knows a hex when she sees one, and the vineyard is covered in them. To stay on and help the vines recover, she’ll have to hide her true identity, along with her plans for revenge against whoever stole seven winters of her life. And she won’t rest until she can defy the evil powers that are still a threat to herself, Jean-Paul, and the ancient vine-witch legacy in the rolling hills of the Chanceaux Valley. 

My Thoughts:

Oh man did I love this book! I got it from the Amazon First Reads program and I immediately started reading it. And that cover is a thing of beauty!

I love this world that Smith has created – a place of magical realism with witches that help tend the vines that supply the wine, nurture the land with their own brand of magic, watch over the vineyard for curses and spells and add their own magical flavor to the terroir. In this world, bierehexe also exist, doing the same for the beers in the Alps, bakers that create treats that you crave only when you are in love, and other various supernatural elements.

Elena was on her way to being the best, her powers creating amazing wines and flavors for her vineyard, Château Renard, when she is cursed to the swamps for seven long years. This book picks up as the curse is ending, and we join her as she returns to her home and lifes calling. She finds the vineyard changed though, now under new ownership, an owner who is not a believer in magic or vine witches. Jean-Paul believes in science and fact and logic and straight farming, although in this world, that puts him at a disadvantage. He needs a vine witch, his vine witch tied to his land, to help him find the glory he craves as a winemaker. Elena is more than happy to pick up her mantle again, but first she has to convince Jean-Paul. And of course, there is the pesky detail of finding out who exactly cursed her, and how she will get her revenge. Not to mention as well, that there is some sort of criminal running around draining animals of their blood, giving a bad name to the vine witches.

Inevitably, Jean-Paul and Elena fall in love – although this is sort of slow to start and honestly, could have used more development altogether. They have to fight a few battles together, against a few different evils and battles and hurdles. I felt like here is where the book could have used a bit more something. Regardless, I completely loved this book and am looking forward to the Smith’s next one, The Glamourist.

If you like witches, or wine, or both, then you will love this book! I recommend reading paired with a hearty Cabernet, if you are a wine drinker.

A Girl’s Day Out in Midland

Last Saturday a small group of my friends and I took a little trip away, just for the day. Away from our families and responsibilities for a few hours and it was simply perfect, hanging out together, having new adventures, and eating some pretty excellent food.

We do this every year and while usually we head to the West Coast of Michigan, this year we ventured north, to Midland. Most of us had never been there or really ever heard of it, but Jill had been there and said it was cool so, off we went. However, we went without much plan or direction which could have derailed our journey but luck was in our favor and we had an amazing day.

We started our day with coffee from Starbucks for the drive, then ate when we arrived. Tip for visiting Midland – make reservations before you go. We had no clue that we needed reservations for pretty much everything. I guess we were not aware that it was such a hot spot or tourist destination so we were unprepared to walk into Cafe Zinc at 10 am and be told there were no seats until 2pm. We ended up asking to sit at the zinc bar, which worked out perfectly. Three out of four of us ordered these Nutella and Rhubarb compote crepes, which were out of this world. Seriously delicious. We drank and enjoyed our food, and made our plan for the day.

After filling up on food, we shopped downtown, picking up this and that, whatever caught our eye. I am not a big shopper so I ended up leaving with a new blank journal and some special Halloween candy for Billy and Wyatt. Jill bought a few wooden quote signs that were adorable, Chrissy got a little purse and some candy, and Kelly was the winner of the day when she bought a hanging mobile made from a branch with a hundred paper cranes dangling from it. It was very delicate and beautiful hanging from the ceiling. I am excited to see it up in her house!

From here we headed to the Dow Gardens, a place I have been dying to go for months! I ended up waiting in the Forest Cafe while my friends walked around the woods and through the canopy though, since I had just had my big asthma scare the previous day. I still had fun sitting in the cafe drinking coffee and reading my book, with the woods as a view though. And I was able to get the lay of the land for a return trip there with my guys! Everyone told me the gardens and walk were really pretty – but cold!

The timing of the end of their walk coincided with almost the beginning of the tour of Alden Dow house, which we wanted to try to get in on, despite not having reservations. (our fault for not planning better!) So we scrambled over to the house, Kelly worked her magic, and voila, we got to go on the tour! And it really made the day. It was such an awesome tour!

The Alden Dow house is a fantastic mid-century modern space, designed by Alden Dow himself. 14,000 square feet of house, with two tour groups of twenty, and we never saw the other group once after we started. This house is gorgeous, y’all. Dow wanted a house that was like a seamless oasis of home and garden, believing that “gardens never end and buildings never begin..” And he accomplished this goal, as the outdoors and garden is reflected in every room, and is never far away. Huge windows that open onto terraces and gardens, a floating conference room that is 18 inches below the pond level, so you can literally open a window and be in the water. It felt like being in a boat, the pond and room were so connected. It boggled our minds how the water doesn’t get into the house, but it has never been an issue according to our tour guide, who was the nicest guy.

Dow also built this house with security in mind. It was built after the Lindbergh baby kidnapping, so he installed a safe room in the basement, that is unlike the safe rooms we think of today. It was a huge space, with a place for play for the kids, a fireplace, a plush bright carpet and huge comfy furniture to sink into. Not a bad place to have to hide out if necessary! And it also had its own terrace over the water so you could go outside and enjoy the outdoors as well. I’m assuming that would be if it was a non-emergency situation though! Lol. The terrace was also not accessible to people from the outside so it kept the security feature too. Besides the safe room, Dow situated the bedrooms along one hallway, on one side of the house, the pond side. The windows opened from the bottom and not wide enough for someone to gain entry, and the doors to the rooms did not open from the hallway. They were all in a row with connecting doors, so you could start at one room and head into all the rest locking doors behind you until you were all in one room at the end as well. It was really cool. From the master you could head into yet another room, a morning gathering room that I loved. It was cozy and warm, apple green and wood, with a view over the water and woods, a big fireplace, a table for breakfast, and bookshelves. That would have been the room I was in the most often, had I lived there.

We were not able to take photos of the inside, but I took a bunch of the outside! This tour was the highlight of our day, and I definitely recommend it to anyone in the area. Just do better than us and make reservations ahead of time!

After our tour, it was almost time for our dinner reservation (which Jill made at breakfast, having learned our lesson here) so we headed back into town. We had a quick drink at Whichcraft Taproom, and then bopped over to Gratzi for an early dinner. And omg, what a feast we had! The food was amazing, seriously. Chrissy had mushroom pasta, Kelly had Pollo Mostarda, Jill ordered the Mezzaluna a Costine Corte, and I had the Alfredo da Tavola. Mine actually was prepared tableside in a gigantic wheel of Parmesan cheese, that had been aged near the sea in Parma, Italy. It was quite an experience and I want to eat it again. I want everyone to eat it actually, it was so delicious! However, I was too full for dessert after eating it! It was a sacrifice I was happy to make though, as it really was one of the best things I have eaten, ever, maybe. Lol. The meal concluded with a splash of limoncello and we trudged happily and tiredly, full of carbs, back to the car to ride home.

Midland was a great choice of places to visit – I love being a tourist in my own state, and seeing new things about it. It kind of has a little something for everyone, outdoor adventures, home tours, shopping, good food. If you are ever nearby, I suggest popping in for a day! Just remember to have reservations first.

My Sunday-Monday Post

My Sunday Post is hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date

Sunday Salon is hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz

Last week was bit crazy. It started off ok, then my asthma kicked it up a notch to the point I had an emergency room visit in the middle of the night Thursday which was not fun! I am doing better now though thank goodness. And thank goodness for doctors and respiratory therapists and drugs. Lol. I was all fixed up and able to go on my annual girls trip with my friends on Saturday! We went to Midland, MI and had a really good day.

Read Last Week:

I finished The Dead Girls Club. I wasn’t super wowed with it honestly, although it was an ok read. I also tried to read Lore Dreadful Places because I love the podcast but I didn’t enjoy the book as much. It was a lackluster reading week unfortunately.

Reading This Week:

Going with the classic Agatha Christie this week. I am the host for book club this month and this was my pick. I am looking forward to it!

Posted:

Book Review: The Spook in the Stacks

Getting Cozy

Watching:

The Great British Bake Off, Gilmore Girls (me), Mapp and Lucia on Britbox, and Criminal Minds on Netflix, and all the new Molly of Denali episodes!

What about you all? What’s going on in your neighborhood?

Getting cozy

The weather is finally turning here after having almost summer like temperatures persisting well past their season. The mornings are colder, the evenings have a bite, and it all makes me want to get all snuggly and cozy in my home, like some little squirrel. I see our neighborhood squirrels hopping and digging and searching out their food stores, getting ready to snug down for the winter. And I am getting us all ready too, maybe not quite for winter yet, but definitely for autumn coziness.

Drinking: My husband remarked the other night as we were settling down for the evening that it was getting to be tea season, and he is totally right. Our iced teas become hot teas this time of year, and I usually start placing our tea orders to have a ready supply on hand for these chilly nights. I will pick stuff up when I am at the store of course, but we have some favorites that I like to keep around. I love the Breakfast in Paris tea with its lavender notes and the refreshing mint of Moroccan Mint from Stash, while Billy is all about the Earl Greyer from Republic of Tea. I think Wyatt is going to try tea this year too. My grandma used to give my cousin and I weak tea heaped with milk and sugar and I felt so special. Maybe I will try that too with him this year, just a little taste of tea. If we are out and about on the weekends, we like to treat ourselves to London Fog Lattes at Starbucks. So worth keeping as a treat! We splurged last weekend and picked two up before we went to the bat festival.

Wearing: Sweaters of course!! I usually hit up the thrift stores looking for their softest, most comfortable looking sweaters to lounge about in, but Target has a cardigan that looks super comfy that I plan on picking up on one of my next Target runs (embarrassingly I usually hit up Target once a week..) and Modcloth has a fox sweater that I absolutely need.. Although I do need help with leggings – I don’t really own any and maybe I need to get a pair? Any suggestions?

Using: Blankets! I have had to pull all of our extra blankets out of storage and get them ready to throw on when needed. We have our heirloom quilts that my great-grandmother and my friend’s great-grandmother made, in our bedroom for those afternoon naps, and a few random throw blankets we have picked up as the years have passed. We are such throw blanket people though that we are thinking of splurging on a blanket from Sackcloth and Ashes – although we are undecided between Camp Forest and Camp Lake. We still have our quilt that we use as a picnic blanket but I am thinking about getting one that is more all weather since the ground is a bit colder and I want to continue with some picnics into fall. We are also burning candles again. I don’t usually burn candles in spring and summer, but fall and winter call for candles. The glow of their light is as warming as the heat from the flame, and add to the ambiance of coziness. (and so very hygge, remember hygge? I still swear by its principles) I don’t have any particular brands that I stick with, I just pick them up as we are shopping (probably at Target! lol) but I go for woodsy or apple, cinnamon, or pumpkin scented ones. Yum! Wyatt loves to help me pick them and smells them all, wrinkling his little nose so cutely.

Reading: I am such a seasonal reader. It is so hard for me to read a book that doesn’t fit my mood or the season. So this time of year I read cozy mysteries like Barbara Michaels and the one I just read by Eva Gates, thrillers and scary books, non-fiction that feels like autumn to me. I also turn to comfort reads, like the Little House series and Harry Potter. I read to Wyatt Halloween and fall books, we talk about the leaves and pumpkins and animals and how they get cozy just like us, all snug in a bug and safe and sound.

Because isn’t that how cozy feels? Safe and sound and like being wrapped in a hug.

Book Review: The Spook in the Stacks

Goodreads Summary:

Halloween in North Carolina’s Outer Banks becomes seriously tricky when librarian Lucy Richardson stumbles across something extra unusual in the rare books section: a dead body.

Wealthy businessman Jay Ruddle is considering donating his extensive collection of North Carolina historical documents to the Bodie Island Lighthouse Library, but the competition for the collection is fierce. Unfortunately, while the library is hosting a lecture on ghostly legends, Jay becomes one of the dearly departed in the rare books section. Now, it’s up to Lucy Richardson and her fellow librarians to bone up on their detective skills and discover who is responsible for this wicked Halloween homicide.

Meanwhile, very strange things are happening at the library—haunted horses are materializing in the marsh, the lights seem to have an eerie life of their own, and the tiny crew of a model ship appears to move around when no one is watching. Is Lucy at her wit’s end? Or can it be that the Bodie Island Lighthouse really is haunted?

With The Legend of Sleepy Hollow on everyone’s minds and ghoulish gossip on everyone’s lips, Lucy will need to separate the clues from the boos if she wants to crack this case without losing her head in The Spook in the Stacks, the delightful fourth in national bestseller Eva Gates’ Lighthouse Library mysteries.

My Thoughts:

I saw this on display at my library and it looked so cute I had to check it out – how could I pass up a cat reading Sleepy Hollow? This was my first introduction to both Eva Gates and the Lighthouse Library Mystery series, and I will definitely being going back for more. It is the fourth book in the series, yet it was not hard to figure out anything I had missed in the previous books.

The Spook in the Stacks was the perfect little cozy mystery for this time of year, with its slightly spooky vibe set at Halloween. The characters were just quirky enough without being annoying, and the main character Lucy is a great mixture of headstrong and practical; she is a woman who seems very confident and sure of herself, and I really liked that. I also loved all the literary references that of course accompanied this book.

The mystery itself kept me guessing, which is always a good sign for a book. It is a bummer when you pick up a mystery and guess who it is right off, and I did not do that with this book. I also enjoyed the parallel of the love triangle within this book compared to the one in Sleepy Hollow (one of my favorite stories!)

Also, seriously how cool would it be to live above a library, much less one in a lighthouse? I have always thought living in a lighthouse would be so cool, and contemplated for a second applying to live at the Mission Point Lighthouse in Michigan for a week. I still would love to do it but right now it is just not practical. And another thing I loved was Charles, the library cat, who kept me entertained with his antics. I have my own opinionated Himalayan here at home, so I know just how well this breed can judge the company around them. Lol.

Overall, I really enjoyed this quick, cozy mystery – curl up with it, get cozy as the genre suggests and enjoy!

My Sunday-Monday Post!

My Sunday Post is hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date

Sunday Salon is hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz

It was a pretty good week last week! Wyatt had his first full no tears week at preschool (separation anxiety poor kiddo), I met a friend for coffee one morning, Billy had a surprise day off, and then Saturday we had a great time visiting with good friend we haven’t seen for a while, and went to a bat festival! I also had a pretty spectacular reading week!

Read Last Week:

I read all three of these books last week and loved every single one! The Vine Witch was my favorite of the three, and I really love that cover. These were all so different and so good in their own ways. Reviews for The Spook in the Stacks and The Vine Witch coming soon – and I already posted one for Pumpkinheads!

Reading This Week:

This week I am reading The Dead Girls Club and The World of Lore: Dreadful Places. The reads are getting scarier! I really wanted to read The Dead Girls Club because it sounds like the Christoper Pike books I used to read as a kid that scared me so much. And I love the Lore Podcast so I am looking forward to reading a book by Mahnke.

Posted Last Week:

Book Review: Pumpkinheads

Hello, October

Currently…October

Flannels and Farm Markets

Watching:

We finished up Veronica Mars (the new season), which we loved. Now we are watching The Dark Crystal, The Great British Bake Off, and we finished up Season 2 of Derry Girls as well. We also watched We Have Always Lived in the Castle which I have been waiting and waiting for – and it was worth the wait!

How about you? What is going on in your neighborhood?

Book Review: Pumpkinheads

Goodreads Summary:

Deja and Josiah are seasonal best friends.

Every autumn, all through high school, they’ve worked together at the best pumpkin patch in the whole wide world. (Not many people know that the best pumpkin patch in the whole wide world is in Omaha, Nebraska, but it definitely is.) They say good-bye every Halloween, and they’re reunited every September 1.

But this Halloween is different—Josiah and Deja are finally seniors, and this is their last season at the pumpkin patch. Their last shift together. Their last good-bye.

Josiah’s ready to spend the whole night feeling melancholy about it. Deja isn’t ready to let him. She’s got a plan: What if—instead of moping and the usual slinging lima beans down at the Succotash Hut—they went out with a bang? They could see all the sights! Taste all the snacks! And Josiah could finally talk to that cute girl he’s been mooning over for three years . . .

What if their last shift was an adventure?

My Thoughts:

Oh my gosh, I adored this collaboration between Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks so much! With picture perfect illustrations by Hicks and relateable characters Deja and Josiah, this book is a fantastic read for the fall season. Set in a pumpkin patch as epic as a small amusement park, we join Josiah and Deja on their last night of work. Growing up in Michigan, the traditional visit to the pumpkin patch every October is a highlight of the season, at least for me. I felt Josiah’s enthusiasm for his job in every frame, and was there for it.

Josiah and Deja are the best of friends every season, working the Succotash Hut faithfully every fall. This year however, is their last as employees, as both will be in college every year, and visiting on the weekends just won’t be the same. Deja decides that this year, this last day, they are going to embark on a quest complete with villains who steal your snacks right from your hands and distractions and delays around every corner. This day, their very last, Josiah is FINALLY going to talk to the girl of his dreams (at least for every Halloween season), after mooning over her for years. But first they have to find her. Foiled at every turn, the two search and explore the pumpkin patch for the first time ever, in pursuit of the the Fudge Girl, or Macy. Their mission takes them to all corners of the patch, and along the way they try new things and have new experiences, and maybe just maybe, learn a few things as well.

I loved this book and highly recommend it, especially if you love fall and Halloween. Just make sure you have snacks on hand – you won’t regret it!