Cooking the Books
By Bonnie Calhoun
Published by Abingdon Press
After her mother dies from a heart attack, Sloane Templeton goes from Cyber Crimes Unit to bookstore owner before she can blink. She also "inherits" a half-batty store manager; a strange bunch of little old people from the neighborhood who meet at the store once a week, but never read books, called the Granny Oakley’s Book Club; and Aunt Verlene, who fancies herself an Iron Chef when in reality you need a cast iron stomach to partake of her culinary disasters. And with a group like this you should never ask, “What else can go wrong?”
Sloane begins to receive cyber threats. While Sloane uses her computer forensic skills to uncover the source of the threats, it is discovered someone is out to kill her. Can her life get crazier?
Read the first chapter here!
“All I can say is that when you turn on the lights, the roaches run everywhere. Sugah, you’ve obviously done something to someone that is pushing all these buttons. You just need to figure out what, it is.”
I was thankful to receive a review copy of Bonnie Calhoun’s debut novel and reading that line makes me smile. It also gives you a peek into this author’s humor.
Fifi, the assistant manger of the book store has all the answers, just figure out who’s pushing the buttons which is easier said than done.
Sloan Templeton was still in the middle of breaking the family cycle of being a victim, learning how to make better choices in the men she dated and figuring out what she wanted to do with her life. She was walking that out day by day, recovering from an abusive relationship with a stalker x-boyfriend Trey, when suddenly she’s become the owner/manger of Beckham’s Brew and Books because three months ago her mother died of a heart attack.
I enjoyed reading how Sloan walked our her new life in Christ in the middle of life threatening situations. Could she trust God to be there for her? No one’s helped her before. Was He listening?
Things start getting crazy when a local real-estate agent starts pressuring her to sell the building her mom owned and where the book store was.
Bonnie’s characters were endearing and a bit unique like Aunt Verlene who is a chef wannabe. Sloan’s Aunt fancied herself as an Iron Chef – Sloan knew a person needed a cast-iron stomach to eat her Aunt’s creations. She wasn’t sure about her Aunt’s ingredients either and didn’t even want to think about what she did with the case of cat food she helped Verlene bring into her house (she doesn’t own a cat).
Sloan Templeton tells her Aunt to be careful who she tells about this rare cook book she’s found. But Aunt Verlene just can’t keep quite at the hair dressers. What is it about hair dressers? Are they part time therapists? Women find themselves telling them everything. Grin!
Sloan says this to her Aunt about her hair, “that hairdo looks like it hurts, your hairs got your face pulled up so tight, I swear I saw your belt buckle move when you raised your eyebrows.”
Verlene paid her no mind. She had more important things on her mind like selling that rare book.
Fifi, the assistant book store manager, was giving Sloane a hard time about taking in strays and reminded her they weren’t like pets. But Fifi didn’t know what it was like to be abused, she did. If Sloan could give Barbara some coffee and a safe place for a few hours in the store then she would do it.
Sloan Templeton inquires about Fifi’s book club, what they were reading and how they were managing without mom. Fifi says, “Sugah, Do you actually think that Granny Oakley’s are a book club?” she looked at her with a smile.
“Are you saying that those oldsters are packing heat? And have no interest in books?
Bonnie Calhoun weaves a layered and fast-moving plot with stalkers, Doctors fighting over a rare books worth thousands, Sloane receiving death threats on her computer they can’t trace and all the while protecting herself and her Aunt Verlene, chef wannabe as they make plans to sell her antique cookbook.
I enjoyed Bonnie’s humor interwoven into the drama and suspense. Sprinkled through out the story were a great bunch of quirky supporting characters flawed, misfits working together to fight the bad guys. They were a hoot to read about and I’ve given you a peek into this authors humor and at some of these fun characters in this review.
I’m not sure where Bonnie will go from here but count me in on the ride. I loved this author’s balance of humor and drama. You will too!
Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent
The Book Club Network
Bonnie S. Calhoun is a master weaver of snarky humor and suspense. Cooking the Books is fast paced, laugh out loud funny with enough suspense to make you shiver. Sloane is an oxymoron: tough as nails on crime and injustice, yet her Aunt Verlene and Fifi, her nutty store manager, manipulate her. Novel Rocket and I give it a high recommendation. It's a must read.
Reviewed by: Ane Mulligan,
Sloane Templeton finds herself book-ended by problems. Her mother passed away leaving a bookstore, a grieving daughter, a cast of quirky characters, and a rare book behind.
If that wasn't enough, Sloane also has a recent divorce under her belt and an ex-boyfriend who didn’t mind giving her a good belt when she needed it. Sloane is attempting to heal and figure out life. But circumstances keep her on her toes, and her emotions on eggshells. The new man in her life seems oh so perfect, too perfect? An offer exists for the bookstore property, and the sales force seems a little too eager to slide that sale through. Sloane’s Aunt Verdene holds the interest of the law enforcement and fire professionals in her neighborhood…and an occasional hoodlum.
This novel has sass and lots of it. Quirky supporting characters show up in every chapter. Sloane grows from insecure to a new awareness of steps she needs to take to ease the chaos in her life. Verdene does not blow up a section of her block. Sloane discovers the true meaning of the word neighbor. And, the book ends on such a note that there better be a follow up or two.
Readers who go for quippy, sassy Chick-lit style reads will want to check into sassy Sloane. Folks who like both heavy topics and humor in the same novel might find Calhoun’s handling of some serious issues cathartic. Mystery lovers who want t’s crossed and I’s dotted might feel frustrated with the open-endedness of the final few pages. Not for the clean-cut, feel-good inspirational fans, the subject matter got a little tense in a few spots.
Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer