Thursday, June 23, 2022

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The Vanishing Type" by Ellery Adams, Served with Two Fruity Scone Recipes

Cozy mysteries are my favorite "palate cleanser" books. Something light, easy and perfect to read between weightier reads. I love them even more when they are set in the world of books. That makes me very excited to be today's stop on the TLC Book Tour for The Vanishing Type by Ellery Adams, the fifth book in her Secret, Book, & Scone Society series. 

Publisher's Blurb

Entertainment Weekly hails the Secret, Book, and Scone Society series by New York Times bestselling author Ellery Adams as “a love letter to reading,” and in this fifth installment, bookshop owner, bibliotherapist, and occasional sleuth Nora Pennington must enlist the help of her brilliant, brassy librarian friend Bobbie to unravel the connection between The Scarlet Letter, an obscure 19th century writer, and a dead hiker…

While January snow falls outside in Miracle Springs, North Carolina, Nora Pennington is encouraging customers to cozy up indoors with a good book. Even though the shop and her bibliotherapy sessions keep Nora busy during the day, her nights are a little too quiet—until Deputy Andrews pulls Nora into the sci-fi section and asks her to help him plan a wedding proposal.

His bride-to-be, Hester, loves Little Women, and Nora sets to work arranging a special screening at the town’s new movie theater. But right before the deputy pops the question, Nora makes an unsettling discovery—someone has mutilated all her store’s copies of The Scarlet Letter, slicing angrily into the pages wherever Hester Prynne’s name is mentioned.

The coincidence disturbs Nora, who’s one of the few in Miracle Springs who knows that Hester gave up a baby for adoption many years ago. Her family heaped shame on her, and Hester still feels so guilty that she hasn’t even told her future husband. But when a dead man is found on a hiking trail just outside town, carrying a rare book, the members of the Secret, Book, and Scone Society unearth a connection to Hester’s past. Someone is intent on bringing the past to light, and it’s not just Hester’s relationship at stake, but her life. . .

Publisher: Kensington Cozies (April 26, 2022) 
Hardcover: 304 pages

My Review: 

I was first introduced to this series back in November 2020 when my virtual foodie book club, Cook the Books, read the first book, The Secret, Book, & Scone Society. I downloaded books 2 through 4 in the series but never quite got around to reading them until I signed up for the book tour and then I spent April and May catching up in time to read book 5 a couple of weeks ago. (It's good that cozy mysteries tend to be short reads.) All the books are delightful and although I will say this with most series, you really need to read them in order as the lives and details about the secrets of the main character and her circle of friends gradually unfold and you will want to be there for all of it. 

The series centers around Nora Pennington who running away from an unhappy life and a big mistake that left her physically and emotionally scarred, opens up a book store in an old train depot in the quirky town of Miracle Springs in western North Carolina. Miracle Springs is full of hot springs, spas, quaint stores, and tourists arriving looking for ways to cure their aches, pain and illnesses. Nora provides bibliotherapy, helping people by suggesting books suited to whatever is ailing them--physically, mentally, and emotionally. initially a loner, Nora bonds sharing deep secrets with three other women in town, Hester, June and Estella. Oh, and the group also solves crimes 9usually murders) in their spare time. Because as appealing as Miracle Springs sounds, the body count is pretty high as happens in cozy mystery locations. 

In this book, Hester, a talented baker whose speciality is "comfort scones," (she finds the perfect ingredients to help you relive your past and get out your emotions and bring comfort), gets a romantic marriage proposal for her deputy boyfriend. Hester has not yet told him her secret, that she was made to give up her baby as an unwed team and she's afraid it will tear them apart. Nora finds some copies of The Scarlet Letter with Hester's name cut out in her store and then a man is found just outside of town with a rare old book in his jacket pocket. Is it related? Nora thinks so and she and her posse are on the case. 

I won't give away more details but the mystery is engaging, Nora, Hester, Estella and June endearing and they are supported by other likable characters. It's set in February so romance is in the air with book store events and displays celebrating all kinds of love. That's what this series does especially well--love. It's about the love of friends and the families we choose for ourselves and the love of books, there is even some romance in there too, and I like the direction Nora's is going. The only downside to spending a few weeks immersing myself in the series is that now I am impatiently waiting for book 6!


Author Notes: Ellery Adams is the New York Times bestselling author of two cookbooks and over thirty mysteries, including the  Book Retreat Mysteries, The Secret, Book, & Scone Society series, the Books by the Bay Mysteries, and the Charmed Pie Shoppe Mysteries. A native New Yorker, she has had a lifelong love affair with stories, food, rescue animals, and large bodies of water. When not working on her next novel, she reads, bakes, gardens, spoils her three cats, and rearranges her bookshelves. She lives with her husband and two children in Chapel Hill, NC. 
For more information and lists of bibliotherapy suggestions, please visit or


Food Inspiration: 

I did highlight all the food in this book but Kindle decided that it wouldn't save it--a common problem with reading ARCs downloaded on it. Of course there are scones, apple and chocolate "book pocket pastries" that Esther bakes for the bookstore, the coffee, tea and hot cocoa that Nora serves in the store, Cuban food that new regular and bookstore helper Sheldon makes, lots of great diner food from The Pink Lady Grill, southern soul food at Pearl's, sandwiches, and that's all I remember! 

I'd recommend a scone and tea with this one. Not being a baker, I only have a couple of scone recipes on the blog:

These Cranberry & Blueberry Orange Mini Scones adapted from a Barefoot Contessa recipe. 

These Vegan, Wheat-Free Raspberry Scones from Babycakes Bakery

Either would be wonderful with a cup of your favorite tea. 

Note: A review copy of "The Vanishing Type" was provided to me by the author and the publisher via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.  

You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.


Friday, June 17, 2022

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The Catch Me If You Can" by Jessica Nabongo

June is often a prime month for travel but I confess, due to COVID concerns and life stuff, my current preferred mode of travel continues to be through books. This makes me particularly happy to be today's stop on the TLC Book Tour for The Catch Me If You Can: One Woman's Journey to Every County in the World by Jessica Nabongo. A big, beautifully photographed travelogue from National Geographic Books. 

Publisher's Blurb:

In this inspiring travelogue, celebrated traveler and photographer Jessica Nabongo—the first Black woman on record to visit all 195 countries in the world—shares her journey around the globe with fascinating stories of adventure, culture, travel musts, and human connections.

It was a daunting task, but Jessica Nabongo, the beloved voice behind the popular website The Catch Me if You Can, made it happen, completing her journey to all 195 UN-recognized countries in the world in October 2019. Now, in this one-of-a-kind memoir, she reveals her top 100 destinations from her global adventure.
Beautifully illustrated with many of Nabongo’s own photographs, the book documents her remarkable experiences in each country, including:

  • A harrowing scooter accident in Nauru, the world’s least visited country,
  • Seeing the life and community swarming around the Hazrat Ali Mazar mosque in Afghanistan,
  • Horseback riding and learning to lasso with Black cowboys in Oklahoma,
  • Playing dominoes with men on the streets of Havana,
  • Learning to make traditional takoyaki (octopus balls) from locals in Japan,
  • Dog sledding in Norway and swimming with humpback whales in Tonga,
  • A late night adventure with strangers to cross a border in Guinea Bissau,
  • And sunbathing on the sandy shores of Los Roques in Venezuela.

Along with beloved destinations like Peru and South Africa, you’ll also find tales from far-flung corners and seldom visited destinations, including Tuvalu, North Korea, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic. Nabongo’s stories are love letters to diversity, beauty, and culture—and most of all, to the people she meets along the way. Throughout, she offers bucket-list experiences for other travel-lovers looking to follow in her footsteps.

National Geographic: (June 14, 2022)
Hardcover: 416 pages

My Review:

Disclaimer: I am only about 1/3 of the way through this big gorgeous book. Mainly because I have been enjoying popping it open and reading about a country or two each night this month. It seems a crime to rush through and not enjoy the experience and what I have read so far, I have very much liked. Having traveled on my own for business throughout Asia especially, and sometimes sticking small weekend trips on in between work visits, I can very much relate to Jessica's experiences traveling as a woman, with the exception of our skin color. It hurts my heart to read that some of her scariest travel experiences happened in the United States, mostly due to her race. She doesn't dwell a lot of these times, but is candid in mentioning them, noting that most of the people known for traveling to every country in the world are white men, and her experiences are very different with both her Blackness and her Africanness, even while being born in Detroit (to Ugandan parents) giving her immigration experiences an added level of frustration at times. That she doesn't let this curb her adventurous spirit and love of learning and experiencing different cultures, is a gift. 

The book takes us through 100 countries in the order she visited them even though Jessica has been to all 195 Un-recognized countries. She picked 100 due to what she considered to be the biggest cultural experiences she had, sometimes being the amount of the country she saw--she's been to Mexico but not all of the regions like Oaxaca and she lived in London for a year but did not get to Scotland or Wales. (Yet.) She says that the 100 hundred countries that made it into the collection are the ones that "make my heart smile." I love that! 

Each country has a write up of her experiences there, gorgeous pictures, and often small blurbs of things you must see, do, or eat while there. I am also appreciating the map with the country outline color blocked as a friend got me playing Wordle (I'm pretty good) and then Worldle where you guess the country from its map outline (I suck horribly!) and I feel it helps me learn my geography just a bit. The book also includes an epilougue, a list of all 195 countries by year visited (1988 through 2019), and finally a bucket list of countries and one special thing to visit or do. 

Maybe the travel bug will bite me again someday, but until then, I am perfectly happy journeying through the world in the pages of books, and The Catch Me If You Can will be a guidebook I am happy to have by my side, living vicariously through Jessica Nabongo. 


Author Notes: Jessica Nabongo is a wanderlust, writer, entrepreneur, public speaker and travel expert. At her core, she is a dreamer looking to craft a life and career that interconnects her passions and talents. She also wants to use her story to educate and inspire others to travel and experience the world around them. A first generation American, Jessica was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan to Ugandan parents. She attended St. John’s University in New York, where she earned her undergraduate degree in English literature. In just a few years after college, she started (and ended) a career in pharmaceutical sales, moved to Japan to teach English, and completed a graduate degree at the London School of Economics. She captured her experiences along the way, honing her photography skills. As her career path changed, Jessica realized that travel, writing and photography continued to show up as vehicles of self expression and were essential parts of her life, leading to the creation of this site, The Catch Me If You Can. In October 2019, Jessica became the first documented Black woman to visit every country in the world.

You can learn more and follow Jessica on her websiteInstagram, and Twitter.


Just a few of the gorgeous photos from the book:

There is food inspiration in The Catch Me If You Can, many of Jessica's tidbits about the countries are food-related like yakitori and takoyaki (octopus balls) in Japan, falafel in Egypt, fried whole fish in Kenya, knafeh (sweet desert) in Palestine, and shkmeruli (fried chicken smothered in cream, milk, ginger, garlic and spicy green adjika) in Georgia,

I didn't make a book-inspired dish today, but I recommend you pull out your International cookbooks and recipes to enjoy while reading!

Note: A review copy of "The Catch Me If You Can" was provided to me by the author and the publisher via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.  

You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.


Sunday, June 12, 2022

3 Favorite Gazpachos for Souper (Soup, Salad, & Sammie) Sundays

Two kinds of soups say "summer is coming" or "summer is here" depending on where you live, gazpacho and chowder. Sure, one is cold and the other hot, but most make the best of summer's bounty of vegetables. 

I'm highlighting a few favorite gazpachos this week. I realize cold soups aren't everyone's favorite, but they are excellent for summer eating, and make a great start to a meal.

First up the Best Gazpacho, Seville Style from The New York Times. (Maybe not the best, really, but certainly creamy, flavorful and delicious. 

Next up is Yellow Tomato Gazpacho from Clean Eating Magazine. Its yellow color is sunny and the topping of avocado and cilantro oil make it especially tasty. 

Zucchini-and-Mint Gazpacho with Radish Salsa from Coastal Living Magazine is a great little cold soup with layers of flavor. 

You can't go wrong with any of these is your fridge for lunches or dinner.

We have a few dishes waiting in the Souper Sundays kitchen from the past few weeks--let's take a look! 

The link up below will be open for a couple of weeks, so feel free to add a soup, salad or sandwich creation and I'll highlight them soon.

Meylnda of Scratch Made Food! shares A Tasty List of Non-Lettuce Salads saying, "Salads! Everyone eats them. But maybe, just maybe you could get more fruits and vegetables in your meal plans by serving them more often. And we're not just talking about tossed greens here! ... We are talking about delicious non-lettuce salads the whole family will love. And double bonus, you will automatically be getting more of all the good stuff you want your family to eat, on the table, for your family to enjoy..."

Next Tina of Squirrel Head Manor shared a Simple Cucumber and Tomato Salad she made focusing on vegetarian eating, saying, "This is such a simple salad with a seedless cucumber and Goliath tomatoes. I drizzled some Boar's Head oil over the veggies and placed in the fridge for a bit."

Finally, Marg of The Adeventures of an Intrepid Reader shares my other favorite summer soup, a recipe for Seafood Chowder inspired by Tina above and also her review of Chowderland. She says, "And as for the chowders.... we ended up trying this recipe from Tina with some adaptations. Of course, we had to specifically order Old Bay Seasoning as it just isn't available in our supermarkets. However, we are thinking about using it as part of the batter next time we make fried chicken as suggested on the bottle."

Thank you, Melynda for joining me. 

If you'd like to join in Souper Sundays, I am opening up the below link for two weeks while I continue to finish deciding what my go-forward looks like. 

Anyone interested can post their soups, salads, or sandwiches any time during the two weeks and I will post a recap of the entries on Sunday in two weeks.) 

(If you aren't familiar with Souper Sundays, you can read about of the origins of it here.  

To join in this week's linkup with your soup, salad or sandwich:

  • Link up your soup (stew, chili, soupy curries, etc. are fine), salad, or sandwich dish, (preferably one from the current week or month--but we'll take older posts too) on the picture link below and leave a comment on this post so I am sure not to miss you.

On your entry post (on your blog):
  • please mention Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammies) Sundays at Kahakai Kitchen and link back to this post.
  • you are welcome to add the wonderful Souper Sundays logo (created by Ivy at Kopiaste) to your post and/or blog (optional).

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

(Party Extended One More Week!) You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter
Have a happy, healthy week!

Friday, June 10, 2022

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of It Takes a Villa by Kilby Blades, served with Six Lemony Recipes to Enjoy

With summer almost officially here, my reading whims lighten up and I tend to reach for lighter, lss serious books. Easy reading. It Takes a Villa by Kilby Blades is one for the beach bag or poolside, a romance mixed in with the renovations of an Italian villa. I am happy to be today's stop on the TLC Book Tour.

Publisher: Entangled: Amara (May 24, 2022) 
Mass Market Paperback: 352 Pages

Publisher's Blurb

For the reasonable price of $1, Natalie Malone just bought herself an abandoned villa on the Amalfi Coast. With a detailed spreadsheet and an ancient key, she’s arrived in Italy ready to renovate–and only six months to do it. Which seemed reasonable until architect Pietro Indelicato began critically watching her every move…

From the sweeping ocean views to the scent of the lemon trees, there’s nothing Pietro loves more than his hometown. And after seeing too many botched jobs and garish design choices, he’s done watching from the sidelines. As far as he’s concerned, Natalie should quit before the project drains her entire bank account and her ridiculously sunny optimism.

With Natalie determined to move forward, the gorgeous architect reluctantly agrees to pitch in, giving her a real chance to succeed. But when the fine print on Natalie’s contract is brought to light, she might have no choice but to leave her dream, and Pietro, behind.

My Review:

Being a fan of books where the main character moves to another country and repairs a house and usually their life in the process (Under a Tuscan Sun immediately comes to mind), I was immediately caught up  in Natlie's story. In fact, the real charm of It Takes a Villa is the Almafi Coast and the renovation of the crumbling villa. The lead characters are likable and the romance is fine, but the author describes the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of Italy with more passion than the romance. The last thing on earth I want to do is travel right now with COVID and the general state of the world, but this book made me want to back up and head to the Almafi Coast. It also had me craving lemons and all manner of Italian food. This made for a pleasant reading escape, and my only true complaint was that the ending was quite abrupt--so much so that I wondered if I was missing pages in my ARC. Otherwise, I enjoyed this easy and engaging read. 

Author Notes: Kilby Blades is a USA Today bestselling author of Romance and Women’s Fiction. During her fifteen-year career as a digital marketing executive, she moonlighted as a journalist, freelanced as a food, wine and travel writer, and lived it up as an entertainment columnist. She has lived in five countries, visited more than twenty-five, and spends part of her year in her happy place in the Andes Mountains. Kilby is a feminist, an oenophile, a cinephile, a social-justice fighter, and above all else, a glutton for a good story.

Food Inspiration: 

There is plenty of food in It Takes a Villa, mentions included eggs, fruit, bread, cheese and cured meat, seafood, cheese, pasta, coffee con panna, clams steeped in broth, aqua pizza (poached fish with tomato and olive, chocolate, sardines, licorice, squid and potatoes, limoncello, lemonade, lemon water, and many assorted pastries and especially the zucccherini (Italian lemon cookies). Lemons are the winning ingredient as Pietro's family grow lemons: 

"His family was in the business of lemons--and not just any lemons--sweet sfusato lemons that only grew on this stretch of the Almafi Coast. There were given this name--sfusato--because of their oblong shape and how they taped at the end.

It wasn't just their shape and their sweetness that were distinct--it was the way that people ate them, like apples or pears. you could eat a sfumato lemon by biting right through the skin."

As I still am not back in the kitchen groove, for my book-inspired dish, I chose six  favorite lemony recipes from my blog. You can follow the links to the recipes. 

Note: A review copy of "It Takes A Villa" was provided to me by the author and the publisher via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.  

You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.