Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday - Ten Favorites of 2017

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic from The Broke and the Bookish is Favorites of 2017.  This is a hard topic!  I've read some great books this year and it's so hard to narrow them all down!  My only rule was no rereads so some of these were published in 2017 and others not so much.  I'm sure there are dozens I've forgotten and I'll be shaking my head when I see them on your lists!

For my favorites from the first half of 2017 you can check out my list here

1.  Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick - I'm don't really consider myself an Anna Kendrick fan though I have enjoyed the movies of hers that I've seen.  However, this book was really fun!  I went with the audio version and absolutely loved it.

2.  Death at the Emerald by R.J. Koreto - I love a historical mystery but sometimes they can be either a little dry or really really historically inaccurate (I can deal with really inaccurate but not really really).  This one however, was a perfect balance and I'm looking forward to continuing the series.

3.  A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy - I have been wanting to try Maeve Binchy's book and when I discovered my library had this one audio I couldn't resist.  I've heard it wasn't her best but I absolutely loved it! 

4.  The Chillbury Ladies' Choir by Jennifer Ryan - I heard rave reviews of this epistolary novel set in the English countryside during World War II and it completely lived up to the raves.  It was an amazing listen and just a great book.

5.  Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen - This has been on my TBR for ages and jumped even higher up the list when I read The Peach Keeper last year.  I'm really looking forward to reading more from Sarah Addison Allen!

6.  Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George - My only problem with this magical children's book is that it wasn't around when I was a kid. 

7.  Booked 4 Murder by J.C. Eaton - I've read a lot of great cozies this year but this one stands out for most fantastic premise - a cursed book that causes the death of those who read it. 

8.  The Beach at Painter's Cove by Shelley Noble - I was new to this author but I loved her beachy covers and was excited to give her books a try.  I was not disappointed.  I love this story about a seriously dysfunctional family coming together (or not) when they need to most.

9.  The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor - This is another author that was on my TBR forever and I was so excited to finally get a chance to read one of her books.  I loved this dual timeline stories full of fairies and magic.

10. The Cafe by the Sea by Jenny Colgan - Colgan's The Bookshop on the Corner was a winner last year for me and while it took me a little longer to warm up to Flora once I was hooked by this book I was fully hooked!  The setting is amazing and it's just such a fun heartwarming read!

What were some of your favorite reads from 2017?

Monday, December 11, 2017

Bel, Book, And Scandal - Cozy Mystery Review

Bel, Book, and Scandal (A Belfast McGrath Mystery) by Maggie McConnon (Amazon Link)

Rating:  Good
Source: Publisher

Description:  Maggie McConnon rings in Christmas in Bel, Boiok, and Scandal,the third adventure for everybody's favorite Irish-American culinary artist turned amateur sleuth.
Bel McGrath tries her best to keep herself on the straight and narrow but she just has a taste for trouble. This time danger arrives in the form of a newspaper left behind by visitors to Shamrock Manor--and a photograph that jolts Bel out of the present and back into a dark chapter from her past. The person in the photo is Bel's best friend Amy Mitchell, long gone from Foster's Landing, at a commune in upstate New York shortly after her disappearance. The picture, and Bel's burning desire to find out what happened to Amy--and whether she may still be alive--is the catalyst for a story in which old secrets are revealed, little by little...and certain characters are shown to not be as genuine as Bel once thought.

Genre: Mystery - Cozy

Why I Picked This Book:  I enjoyed the previous book in the series and I love mysteries from the past.

My Impression:  I love a good quirky family in books and the McGrath clan has quirky in spades.  And because they all work together at Shamrock Manor they see a lot of each other which means arguments and hi-jinks abound.  The characters are really fun and I loved their interaction though if I was Bel I think I'd be looking for a job far far away.

In the previous book, the mystery of just what had happened to Bel's childhood friend Amy was an ever present mystery.  When they were both 17 Amy had disappeared without a trace and while a discovery at the end book lent an ominous tone to whatever had happened nothing was ever really known until this book.  I really enjoyed Bel's investigation though she does get a little impulsive at times (okay quite a bit) however, with her emotional involvement in the case it was easy to understand her reasoning.

This was a really fun read with quite a crazy cast of characters and a good mystery.  I enjoyed finding out just what had happened and felt like I got to know Bel a bit better through the investigation. 

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Absolutely!  I'm looking forward to the next book already.

Would I Recommend This Book?  Definitely!  If you enjoy cozy mysteries this is a fun one.  If you haven't read the previous books no worries!  You can jump in right here.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

This Week in Reading - December 10th

It's Sunday Post time!  This is hosted by the awesome Caffeinated Book Reviewer and gives us all a chance to recap our week.

What I Got:

The French Girl by Lexie Elliott - This has some comparisons to Ruth Ware and I'm hoping for a good thriller!  (Publisher)

Beyond the Pale by Claire O'Donohue - This looks like an entertaining mystery and isn't due out until May so I don't really think it counts quite yet.  (NetGalley)

Another One Bites the Crust by Ellie Alexander - This is one of my favorite cozy mystery series and I'm excited about this latest one! (Publisher)

The Crown Prince's Bride by Donna Alward - I love this author and I enjoyed the previous book in the series.  Plus, I can I do love an occasional royal romance.  (Publisher)

The Secret of Flirting by Sabrina Jeffries - Jeffries is hands down my favorite historical romance author and this looks intriguing.  (NetGalley)

Death Below the Stairs by Jennifer Ashley - I love a good historical mystery and I'm really excited about this one!  (Publisher)

Pre-Meditated Murder by Tracy Weber - I've had this series on my TBR for ever so I'm looking forward to giving this one a try.  (Giveaway win)

Eaves of Destruction by Kate Carlisle - I love Kate Carlisle's cozy mystery series about a book restorer and I love mysteries involving home renovation so I figure this is a match made in heaven!  (Giveaway win)


Reading:  A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens and Comic Sans Murder by Paige Shelton

Listening:  I finished From Russia With Love by Ian Fleming earlier this week and am about to start listening to One Snowy Night by Jill Shalvis.

Watching:  Not a huge amount.  I've really been enjoying The Voice and I watched a number of Jimmy Stewart movies over this past week.

Off the Blog:

This is what I woke up to Friday morning.  Now for lots of people this wouldn't be all that shocking but in South Mississippi where I happened to be it was quite a big deal.  The area got 6 inches of snow overnight which is more than it's ever gotten in all of recorded history.  The only snowfall that even comes close was 5 inches in 1895 so as you can imagine the whole area was collectively losing their minds.  The local media went around and took pictures of all the kids and their snowmen which was really cute.  I was out in the middle of nowhere as you can see so I didn't see too many snowmen though I did enjoy looking out the window at all the snow.  When I called home which happens to be 400 miles north they hadn't gotten a single flake.  The Tornado found it very unfair!

On the Blog:

What Happened:

What's Coming Up:

Monday: Bel, Book, and Scandal - Cozy Mystery Review
Tuesday: Top Ten Tuesday - Favorites of 2017
Wednesday: Cowboys Legacy - Contemporary Romance Review
Thursday: Comic Sans Murder - Cozy Mystery Review
Friday: Friday Linkups with Current Book
Saturday: TBD

Have a great week and happy reading!

No Place Like You - Contemporary Romance Review

No Place Like You (A Cloud Bay Novel) By Emma Douglas (Amazon Link)

Rating:  Good
Source: Publisher 

Description:  Leah Santelli always knew that Zach Harper, son of a rock legend and her best friend's brother, was painfully out of reach. Then, on the night of her eighteenth birthday, Leah shocked herself by asking for--and receiving--the gift she wanted: one night of passion with Zach before he left town to pursue his rock star dreams. Now, years later, Zach is back in Cloud Bay to record his first solo album. His return could also be Leah's big chance to step up her own music career. But getting the producing credit she needs means spending long hours with Zach in the recording studio...and falling back into the habit of longing for him, for better or worse.
Zach used to believe that a man must put his past behind him. But coming back home for Cloud Bay's famed music festival has allowed him to finally make amends with his family and, much to his surprise, reunite with Leah. He might have left her once but now it seems he can't stay away. Trouble is, even though the heat between them burns hotter than ever, Leah has old wounds in need of healing before she can give Zach a real chance. Can he find a way to convince her that they can make more than just great music together--and that she's the one that he wants for all time?

Genre: Romance - Contemporary

Why I Picked This Book:  I really liked the first book in the series and I love the best friend’s older brother trope.

My Impression:  This was fun!  I love a destination setting and Cloud Bay with its rock stars, music festival and miles of beaches definitely made for a fun destination.  I also loved the inside peek at the world of music production.  I had no idea how big of an influence a producer could be or the difference between a sound engineer and a producer.  I can’t swear by the accuracy but it was definitely fun to read!

I loved Leah right from the start.  She’s smart, good at her job, and independent.  Zach took a bit longer to warm up too but I think that was intentional.  He’s been a self absorbed jerk despite never making an actual appearance in the previous books and was keeping the streak alive   He wasn’t mean or cruel though which made him able to redeem himself in my eyes.  And redeem himself he did!  There was a lot of sweetness mixed in with the heat and it was fun to read.

My only issue was very minor and very subjective.  While I really liked the characters I didn’t feel a huge connection with them.  They never became characters that I missed when I wasn’t reading the book though they did come alive while I was reading.  However, this is a series I’m looking forward to continuing and based on the hint dropped at the end of this one I’m really excited for book 4!

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Absolutely!  I’ll be keeping an eye out for the next book.

Would I Recommend this Book?  If you enjoy contemporary romance this is a great series.  If you enjoy second chances and best friend’s older brother tropes you could jump in right here with no problems.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Friday Linkups - A Week in Winter

It's Friday linkup time!  I'm linking up with the Book Blogger Hop hosted by Coffee Addicted Writer, Book Beginnings of Fridays hosted by Rose City Reader, and the Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice

This Week's Book Blogger Hop Question:
If you celebrate Christmas, do you feel the need to stop reading anything but Christmas-themed romances as the holiday season starts?

My Answer:
No not really.  I do like to read seasonally and I love a good Christmas themed romance but I think it's always fun to find some non romance Christmas themed books.  I've found some really great mysteries and middle grade books that center around the holiday.

This week's book is one I've been wanting to read for ages - A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchey.  Binchey's name has been on my authors I must try list for years and when I read the blurb for this book I knew it was the one for me.  I can never resist a decaying mansion!  I've ended up going the audio route and am finding it an absolute delight and while there are no mentions of Christmas it's full of winter-y weather and heartwarming stories - so perfect for this time of year!

The Beginning:
Everyone had their own job to do on the Ryans' farm in Stoneybridge. 

My Thoughts:
I like the sound of this.  I can just picture the whole family going about their tasks.

The 56:
On the days when the Atlantic storms battered the house and the rain came in horizontally, there were old lofts to be cleared out, furniture to be shifted, woodwork to be painted.

My Thoughts:
I love this image!  The cozy house staying warm inside while the storms rage outside.  Plus I can't help but want to explore the lofts.

So what do you think?  Keep reading?  Do you read only Christmas reads?

Thursday, December 7, 2017

A Crime of Poison - Cozy Mystery Review

A Crime of Poison (A Silver Six Mystery) by Nancy Haddock (Amazon Link)

Rating: Very Good
Source: Publisher

Description: The Silver Six are known for their arts and crafts—but they’re about to be tested in the art of catching a crafty killer.
It’s early October, time for the Fall Folk Art Festival and Bake Sale in Lilyvale, Arkansas. Every business along the town square will benefit from the event, including the craft store run by Leslee Stanton Nix—aka Nixy—and the Silver Six, a group of retirees. In charge of making the festival go smoothly, Nixy is confident that it will be a success.

But things become knotty when local troublemaker Cornell Lewis is found dead with a plate of Snickerdoodles from the bake sale. Two members of the Silver Six are accused of cooking up a murder plot, but Nixy knows that the cookies weren’t literally to die for. With time running out, Nixy and company must catch the actual killer...before the Silver Six find their number permanently reduced

Genre: Mystery - Cozy

Why I Picked This Book:  I didn't know much about this series but murder by Snickerdoodle sounded pretty good.

My Impression:  While this is the 3rd book in the Silver Six mystery this is the 1st one I have read.  The blurb caught my eye and so I decided to give it a try and I'm so glad I did!  Really the only disappointment is that Lilyvale isn't a real place because I would love to visit the Fall Folk Art Festival and Bake Sale.

Nixy is a great main character.  She's only been back in Lilyvale after living in Houston for a short time and so almost has an outsider's eye while still being deeply rooted in the community.  The relationship between the six is a lot of fun as they're all very different with different backgrounds but the friendships all feel very authentic.  I also loved Nixy's interaction with NCIS-obsessed Bernice Gilroy.  She knows everything about everyone despite never leaving her house but only shares the information if you bring food - preferably white cake with chocolate icing.  Nixy is also dating local detective Erich Shoar which provides a little conflict in the book.  He's not always able to tell her what Nixy feels like she needs to know nor is he able to protect them from the new detective in town - Cynthia Vogelman - who has taken charge of this case.  While he's clearly torn between his loyalty to Nixy and his responsibility as a police officer he also comes off just as a really nice guy.  It was definitely a relationship that was easy to root for even when I understood Nixy's irritation with him.

The mystery was entertaining and definitely a whodunnit.  Potential suspects abound but true motive and opportunity are harder to come by and just how he was killed is providing some problems as well.  I enjoyed Nixy's work with the Silver Six to try and pin down rumors from a number of years ago.  The conclusion did seem a little rushed and I would have liked a little more detail though I cant' say more without spoiling it.  However, this is definitely a series I want to catch back up on.  I'm glad I have 2 previous books to catch up on while I wait for book #4!

This is a fun cozy mystery with a fantastic cast of characters.  While the mystery wasn't as tight as I would have preferred it was an enjoyable reading experience from start to finish.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  I would!  I'm looking forward to reading the previous books in the series and will be on the lookout for the 4th.

Would I Recommend this Book?  If you enjoy cozy mysteries I think you should give this series a try.  The cast of characters is really fun.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Rugged Texas Cowboy - Contemporary Romance Review

Rugged Texas Cowboy by Lora Leigh (Amazon Link)

Rating: Not For Me
Source: Publisher

Melina is one of two gorgeous twin daughters, the clever and considerate one who always spared her parents the humiliation of what her sister Maria had wrought. But now, Melina is finally ready to stand up for herself and seize control of her life—until she is kidnapped by a cowboy, named Jardin, who is dead-set on settling the score with her family. There’s only one catch: In capturing Melina, this tough, rough, hunk of a man has actually found a way to unleash her greatest fantasies, body and soul. . .

Beautiful, spirited Angel Manning has always longed to experience the power of her ancestors’ most precious heirloom. Her mother once told her that the legendary Irish torque would lead Angel to the one man worthy of possessing her heart. But when Angel learns that her father, now a widower, has sold the torque to the notorious two-timer Jack Riley, she is furious. Of course she plans to take back what is rightfully hers, by whatever means necessary. But the fate of the ancient Druids works in mysterious ways. . .Could it be that this slick, smooth-talking cowboy was destined to satisfy Angel’s deepest desires all along?

Genre: Romance - Contemporary

Why I Picked This Book:  It had been awhile since I read a cowboy romance and I like novellas so I thought I'd give this one a try.

My Impression:  This is the book version of the "It's not you, it's me" breakup speech.  Let me say that this book is compulsively readable.  I read the whole thing in just about one sitting.  Each time I'd think "it's time to put this up and go to bed" I'd decide to just read "one more chapter".  And we all know how that goes.  The plot of both novellas was nicely fleshed out and well paced.  There wasn't that feel of rush at the end or slow spots or any of the other pacing flaws that can sometimes curse a novella.

So what was the problem?  I'm more of a slow burn emotional connection romance reader and this was definitely more of an out of control bonfire in terms of heat.  I mean - wow.  Granted Jill Shalvis' contemporaries are on my high end of spice so use that as your guide for what to expect here. 

As for the stories they're entertaining.  Both are a take on the enemies turned not so much trope and both couples do not hold back when it comes to voicing their opinions.  There were a few times when I thought "Really?  You're attracted to him now??" as they seemed to really hate each other at that particular moment but as I continued with the story I found that I completely bought it. 

If you like your romance with some serious heat and can't resist a good enemies to lovers trope than these 2 quick reading novellas may be just the thing to keep you up reading past your bedtime.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Maybe.  While this wasn't really my kind of romance I did like Leigh's writing style and would try again if the blurb really grabbed me.

Would I Recommend this Book?  If you like a lot of heat in your romance than these novellas are definitely worth a try.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Of Murder and Men - Cozy Mystery Review + Giveaway

Of Murder and Men (A Cat Latimer Mystery) by Lynn Cahoon

Of Murder and Men (A Cat Latimer Mystery) Cozy Mystery 3rd in Series Kensington (November 28, 2017) Mass Market Paperback: 320 pages ISBN-13: 978-1496704399 Digital ASIN: B06XFJCBTD Audio ISBN-13: 978-1541460300

Love is in the air in Aspen Hills, and it’s making a terrible mess of Cat Latimer’s writers’ retreat—especially when blood stains the plot . . . Ever since her business partner, Shauna, fell for a wealthy landowner in town, Cat has been working double time to keep her writers’ retreat running. And with the January session almost underway, that spells trouble. As if scheduling mishaps aren’t disastrous enough, Shauna skips out on kitchen duties one morning, forcing Cat to serve unsuspecting guests store-bought muffins . . . But best laid plans really go awry when Shauna discovers her beau missing from their bed. When his body later turns up in the horse barn, they quickly find out the victim’s scandalous lifestyle left many dying for revenge. While balancing an eccentric group of aspiring writers and a suspect list for the record books, Cat soon finds herself on the heels of a killer—and authoring her most deadly conclusion yet . . .

My Thoughts:  When I start a new book by Lynn Cahoon I know I'll be getting a great mystery and a visit with characters who feel like friends.  Of Murder and Men didn't let me down.  It took me a little longer to warm up to Cat than it did to Jill from Cahoon's Treasure Cove series but I'm now just as invested.  I loved catching up with Cat, Shauna, Seth, and Uncle Pete.  It took a little while for the mystery to really get going and because it didn't take place in the house it never really felt like it was the center of the book.  However, the mystery of just what happened to Cat's ex-husband is front and center and is just as intriguing.  I loved getting each little tidbit of information as Cat dug more and more into her ex-husband's papers.  The other mystery was good and while Kevin is a character I won't miss I was definitely turning pages to find out just what happened that night at the barn.  I really had no idea just how it was going to wrap up until the last few pages and it definitely kept me reading.  This is a light cozy series with characters you can't help but love.  I love all the writer-y and bookish talk from Cat's writer retreat and as usual the mystery was well done and entertaining.  This is probably a series that is best started at the beginning - or at least read the book right before this one - for some context information.  If you're a cozy mystery fan Lynn Cahoon's books are a must!  Rating: Very Good

About The Author

Lynn Cahoon is the author of the NYT and USA Today best-selling Tourist Trap cozy mystery series. Guidebook to Murder, book 1 of the series won the Reader’s Crown for Mystery Fiction in 2015. She’s also pens the recently released, Cat Latimer series. She lives in a small town like the ones she loves to write about with her husband and two fur babies. Sign up for her newsletter at www.lynncahoon.com

Author Links

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December 3 – The Montana Bookaholic - REVIEW, CHARACTER GUEST POST
December 4 – StoreyBook Reviews – REVIEW
December 4 – Island Confidential - CHARACTER INTERVIEW
December 5 – I Wish I Lived in a Library – REVIEW
December 5 – Deal Sharing Aunt – SPOTLIGHT
December 6 – Books a Plenty Book Reviews - REVIEW
December 6 – Varietats - REVIEW, GUEST POST
December 7 – My Reading Journeys - REVIEW, CHARACTER INTERVIEW
December 7 – Mythical Books - INTERVIEW
December 8 – A Holland Reads – SPOTLIGHT
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December 10 – Melina's Book Blog – REVIEW
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Monday, December 4, 2017

Reviews from the Children's Section - Greenglass House

One of my favorite genres and one that is the easiest for me to push aside is middle grade fiction. This year to make sure I get a little more children's and young adult fiction I thought I would designate the first Monday of every month Middle Grade Monday.  While a lot of my picks this year are classics I am trying to branch out a little bit and read new or at least recent releases.  This month's book is a fairly recent release and one that was completely new to me - Greenglass House by Kate Milford.

Greenglass House by Kate Milford I didn't go into this book with any expectations.  My main requirement was a Middle Grade book that took place during Christmas that wasn't Little Women.  I was intrigued by the mysterious house that was turned into an inn and the history of smuggling all around it so I decided to give it a try and I'm so glad I did!  This book was such a fun adventure story with mysterious clues and sinister characters.

Milo is the main character and the book is exclusively from his POV.  He's less than thrilled when all the unexpected guests arrive at his family's inn at Christmas time (which is usually quiet and his time to just hang out with his parents) and even less thrilled when the cook brings her 10 year old daughter, Meddy, with her to stay as long as the guests.  But soon items start going missing and Milo and Meddy are in full investigative mode with secret identities and skills.  There's a certain fantasy element to the characters and the setting.  The crazy old house and the eccentric guests feel a bit exaggerated which really added to the fun of the book.  I loved the relationship between Milo and his parents as well as Milo's struggle with being adopted.  It felt very healthy and positive and I was not surprised that the author had some experience with adoption though it never felt like a "life lesson".

While I enjoyed the book from start to finish it wasn't the fastest pace at the beginning.  It wasn't slow but it wasn't un-put-downable until about halfway through when I couldn't wait to find out what happened next!  This was a great read for adults and 4th grade and up.  I was excited to see a sequel came out earlier this year and I'm already looking forward to spending more time with Milo, Meddy, and Mr. and Mrs. Pine at Greenglass House.  Rating: Very Good

Saturday, December 2, 2017

This Week in Reading - December 3

It's Sunday Post time!  This is hosted by the awesome Caffeinated Book Reviewer and gives us all a chance to recap our week.

What I Got:

Sisters Like Us by Susan Mallery - I've been wanting to read Susan Mallery's stand alone books for quite some time so when I was offered this one I couldn't resist.   I love the beachy cover!  (Blog Tour)

Every Dog Has His Day by Jenn McKinlay - I'm a huge Jenn McKinlay fan and I've been really wanting to try her romances.  Plus I love a romance that involves animals - especially dogs so I'm super excited to see what I think of this one.  (Publisher)

I was torn between wanting another book free week (my 3rd in a row) and going on a book buying binge.  I think just getting two is nice and reasonable!


Reading: No Place Like You be Emma Douglas and Comic Sans Murder by Paige Shelton

Listening:  I'm listening to From Russia with Love by Ian Fleming though I did take a short break and listened to Jenny Lawson's Let's Pretend This Never Happened which I think I liked even more in audio than I did in print.

Watching:  J and I have been watching some Hallmark Christmas movies.  He's a pretty good sport about watching them and we have a good time predicting how they're going to end.

Off the Blog:

So I signed up for Audible.  Typically I've gotten my audio books from my library's digital site and it works great.  It's convenient because I can download it directly to my phone, the selection is decent and it's free.  BUT they don't have absolutely everything and I need another medium where I can be woefully behind.  So what are your must listen to audios and your favorite narrators?  I need some suggestions to make my wishlist absurdly enormous.

We are hopefully finishing up the bulk of our Christmas shopping today.  If we do get the bulk of it done I'll be more ahead than I think I've ever been though I'm sure there will be something forgotten that involves a panicked sprint to the store December 24.  I've got some volunteering at the Tornado's school this week which is always entertaining.  I'm also heading out of town in the middle of the week for a pre-Christmas visit to my Grandparents.  I'm looking forward to the Tornado's Christmas break so I can sleep!  My allergies have suddenly flared up which is weird as I would have thought everything was dead but they're making me super sleepy and that alarm in the morning is not my friend.

On the Blog:

What Happened:

What's Coming Up:

Monday:  Reviews from the Children's Section - Greenglass House
Tuesday:  Of Murder and Men - Cozy Mystery Review + Giveaway
Wednesday: Rugged Texas Cowboy - Contemporary Romance Review
Thursday:  A Crime of Passion
Friday:  Friday Linkups with Current Book
Saturday: No Place Like You - Contemporary Romance Review

Have a great week and happy reading!

Easy Homemade Cookie Cookbook Review + Recipe

Easy Homemade Cookie Cookbook: Simple Recipes for the Best Chocolate Chip Cookies, Brownies, Christmas Treats and Other American Favorites by Miranda Couse

When I got the invitation to review Easy Homemade Cookie Cookbook by Miranda Couse I hesitated a bit.  I mean I love cookbooks and I love cookies but Easy sometimes means processed foods and while I enjoy a cake mix cookie occasionally and I love a brownie mix brownie I do typically prefer cookies made from scratch. 

I shouldn't have worried.  By easy Miranda Couse means ingredients that are easy to find in your grocery store and the most exotic kitchen tool required is a hand mixer though I suppose if you really wanted to give yourself an arm workout you could put your wooden spoon to work.  She does provide a few tips and instructions if you want to get fancy but for the most part these are fairly traditional cookies with simple decorations.  So what makes this cookbook special and stand out from the tons of other cookie cookbooks?  That's easy - the results.

The recipes were well laid out with easy to follow instructions.  There's a good variety of cookies from drop cookies to cutouts to bars.  The variety within each category is enormous and ranges from the regular chocolate chip cookies and brownies to the more unusual Banana Bread Cookies or Red Velvet Cut-Out Cookies or Buckeye Thumbprint Cookies.  There is a chapter of Holiday Cookies like Sugary Mint Shamrocks and Ghost Meringues.  While these are festive the decorations are simple enough that a child could participate.

Now back to talking about the results.  I started off making Snickerdoodles.  I like the idea of Snickerdoodles.  In theory they're sweet and buttery and full of cinnamony goodness but in reality this isn't always the case.  They can be too crisp or not enough cinnamon or lacking in the buttery goodness or too cakey.  These Snickerdoodles were none of these things.  They were slightly crispy on the edges but perfectly chewy in the center.  The flavor was buttery cinnamon-y perfection and I could have easily eaten the whole batch on my own.  To make sure the fantastic results weren't a fluke I made Cheesecake Swirled Brownies next and reveled in the decadent fudgy goodness with just a bit of cheesecakey tang.  Next up was Chocolate Chip Shortbread which was not to sweet and perfectly speckled with bits of chocolate.  So after 3 pretty fantastic results I've got to admit that this cookbook is pretty fantastic in itself.  I have a feeling this will be my go-to this year for all my Christmas baking. 

But you don't have to take my word for it.  You can try the Snickerdoodles for yourself!


Easy Homemade Cookie Cookbook

2 3/4 cups cake flour (I only had 2 cups cake flour so I used 3/4 cups all purpose)
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature (I used Kerrygold) 
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  (I just used a stoneware pan)

In a medium mixing bowl, sift or whisk together the cake flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt.

In a large mixing bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed or a wooden spoon, beat the butter, shortening, 1 cup of granulated sugar, and brown sugar until light and creamy.  This will take about 3 minutes if using an electric mixer or 5 to 6 minutes if creaming by hand.  Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until combined.  Add the dry ingredients and beat on low speed or by hand until the dough comes together.

In a shallow bowl, mix the remaining 1/2 cup of granulated sugar and cinnamon for rolling.

Using a medium (1 1/2 tablespoon) cookie scoop, scoop the dough into balls, drop each ball into the bowl of cinnamon sugar, and roll to coat evenly.  Place the balls 2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheet.

Bake for 12 to 13 minutes, until the edges are golden brown.

Let the cookies rest on the cookie sheets for 5 minutes before transferring them to wire racks to cool completely.

Note:  The consistency of the dough was a little softer than I was expecting but I found it stayed together fine and was never too sticky to work with.

What are your favorite cookie recipes?  If you give this one a try let me know your results!  I hope you find them as tasty as I did.

I'm linking up with Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth Fish Reads

Friday, December 1, 2017

Garden of Lamentations - Mystery Blog Tour Review

About Garden of Lamentations

• Paperback: 448 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (November 14, 2017)

Scotland Yard detectives Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James are drawn into separate investigations that hold disturbing—and deadly—complications for their own lives in this powerful mystery in the bestselling series. On a beautiful morning in mid-May, the body of a young woman is found in one of Notting Hill’s private gardens. To passersby, the pretty girl in the white dress looks as if she’s sleeping. But Reagan Keating has been murdered, and the lead detective, DI Kerry Boatman, turns to Gemma James for help. She and Gemma worked together on a previous investigation, and Gemma has a personal connection to the case: Reagan was the nanny of a child who attends the same dance studio as Toby, Gemma and Kincaid’s son. Gemma soon discovers that Reagan’s death is the second tragedy in this exclusive London park; a few months before, a young boy died in a tragic accident. But when still another of the garden residents meets a violent end, it becomes clear that there are more sinister forces at play. Boatman and Gemma must stop the killer before another innocent life is taken. While his wife is consumed with her new case, Kincaid finds himself plagued by disturbing questions about several previous—and seemingly unrelated—cases involving members of the force. If his suspicions are correct and the crimes are linked, are his family and friends in mortal danger as well? Kincaid’s hunch turns to certainty when a Metropolitan Police officer close to him is brutally attacked. There’s a traitor in the ranks, and now Kincaid wonders if he can trust anyone. As Gemma begins to see a solution to her case, she realizes she holds a child’s fate in her hands. Can she do the right thing? And can Kincaid rely on his friends, both inside and outside the Scotland Yard force, to stand beside him as he faces the deadliest challenge of his career?

My Thoughts:

I've loved this mystery series since the very first one - A Share in Death -  was published.  Crombie has never disappointed and Garden of Lamentations was no different.  Right away I was pulled in and enjoying the mystery.  While I am a long time reader of this series I have missed the last 3 books and while I think it might have made my understanding of some of the issues in Duncan's case a bit better I didn't have any problem figuring out what was going on.  Crombie does a good job of giving you enough information to get the idea without overloading on unneeded information.  Gemma is my favorite character and I enjoyed watching her investigate even though she was a little outside of her usual world.  She's a smart intelligent and compassionate investigator and her case was interesting and heartbreaking.  This was one of those books I'd sit down to read "just a couple of pages" and before I knew it I was 4 chapters down.  This is a compelling and gripping mystery but not one that made me jumpy and feel like I needed to go check my locks and bar the door.  My only problem with this book is I wanted to shake Duncan a time or two for his lack of communication with Gemma especially.  While I did want to grab Duncan by the ear and make him use his words it didn't really keep me from enjoying the book.  In fact it made me question just why I haven't read the previous three books and plan to do a reread of the whole series starting next year.  If you like British police procedural mysteries this is a series you must not miss and this latest entry was a page turning read.  Rating:  Very Good

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About Deborah Crombie

Deborah Crombie is a New York Times bestselling author and a native Texan who has lived in both England and Scotland. She now lives in McKinney, Texas, sharing a house that is more than one hundred years old with her husband, three cats, and two German shepherds. Connect with her through her websiteFacebook, or follow her on Twitter.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Ditched 4 Murder - Cozy Mystery Review

Ditched 4 Murder (A Sophie Kimball Mystery #2) by J.C. Eaton (Amazon Link)

Rating: Very Good
Source: NetGalley

Description: Moving from Minnesota to Arizona was a big change for Sophie "Phee" Kimball. She's much closer to her mother's retirement community now--which can drive her a little crazy, but at least her mom, Harriet, has her book club and her chiweenie dog, Streetman, to keep her company. And now there's even more activity, with Aunt Ina's upcoming wedding. The seventy-four-year-old bride has roped Phee into working on the tent, the pastries, and even her headpiece in preparation for the ceremony. But it's Harriet who really gets demanding when a dead body turns up yards from her front door.
Aunt Ina's fiance is acquainted with the victim--a local millionaire restaurateur murdered at the golf course. Working for a private investigator, Phee is drawn into the case--not just professionally but personally, since Harriet is in a panic about her safety. With a killer on the loose, Phee vows to figure out the plot--that is, if her side job as a wedding planner doesn't kill her first . . .

Genre: Mystery - Cozy

Why I Picked This Book:  I loved the first book in this series and couldn't wait to see for the 2nd book.

My Impression:  This is shaping up to be a pretty fantastic cozy mystery series.  To start with I love Phee.  She's smart and a good investigator though sometimes she doesn't give herself enough credit.  Her family drives her crazy at least half the time but still she can't tell them no.  Plus, her dealing with Arizona heat after years of living in Minnesota was pretty funny.  I really enjoyed seeing Phee and Nate starting their new PI business and just really enjoyed their interactions.  Their friendship was something I really enjoyed in the previous book and it hasn't changed.

The mystery was equally enjoyable.  It made me very glad that I am not planning a wedding as I could feel Phee's stress levels as she tries to keep everyone happy, help her aunt out, AND do her job.  However, it never feels convoluted or busy.  Little by little more and more is discovered about the victims and just what happened to them.  While I had some suspicions as to what was going on I never felt like I had guessed what was happening and the reveal ended up being a surprise!

This is a fun fast paced cozy mystery that never drifts into cutesy though there's a big scoop of noisy neighbors and meddling relatives.  The main character is likable and easy to relate to and the mystery is well constructed.  All in all a fun read and a series I'm looking forward to continuing!

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Definitely!  I really enjoyed the first 2 books in this series and can't wait for the next one.

Would I Recommend this Book?  Absolutely!  If you enjoy mysteries of any kind I think you'd like this series.  While you could jump in with book 2 without any problem you really should go back and read the first in the series.  It involves a cursed book which is pretty great.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Dead of Winter - Mystery Review

Dead of Winter (A Lily Dale Mystery) by Wendy Corsi Staub (Amazon Link)

Rating: Good
Source: NetGalley

Description:  Just as a murderer dumps his corpse into the lake across Valley View in Lily Dale, Bella Jordan happens to be at her window, not quite realizing what she's seeing. Unbeknownst to her, the killer spots her silhouette and prowls straight to her door. That is, until he's interrupted by a black cat. A superstitious gambler, he takes off, but Bella's seen too much, and he vows to return.
Jiffy Arden, a neighborhood kid looking for the black cat and stumbling across the killer, begins to have premonitions of being kidnapped during the season's first snowstorm. Sure enough, when it strikes, he vanishes, never arriving home from the bus stop. While her son, Max, believes Jiffy has been kidnapped, Bella is convinced he's just wandered off as he typically does... until a body shows up in the lake.

Now everyone is pulling out all the stops to find the missing child, identify the victim, and collar the killer. And fast, because he's coming for Bella next in Dead of Winter.

Genre: Mystery 

Why I Picked This Book:  I really enjoyed the previous book in this this series where Bella and her son are introduced and I'm fascinated by the real Lily Dale so visiting the fictional version is pretty fun.

My Impression:  
What I Liked:
The setting - how fantastic is a town full of mediums as a place for murders to happen?  As well, upstate New York in winter allowed the plot to have some pretty crazy snow storm issues that wouldn't have been possible elsewhere.

The characters - I love Bella.  She's very sympathetic in still dealing with the grief over the loss of her husband and starting to feel the yearning to move on.  I love her relationship with her son Max and her balance of belief and disbelief with all the mediums and talk of auras and Spirit and visions.  The townspeople are an interesting lot as well and I'm hoping to spend more time with Calla and Misty especially.

The mystery - there are really two mysteries here.  The first involves a dead body in a lake and the second involves a missing child.  I couldn't wait to find out how they were connected and the solutions.

The pacing - I flew through this book.  I felt completely pulled into the story and really didn't want to put it down.

What I Didn't Like:
The conclusion - while everything made sense and worked it felt really rushed and not explored enough.  It was all wrapped up in the last 10 pages and I really wanted more explanation.  It felt very abrupt.

Plot holes - I wouldn't say there are massive plot holes but there are several things that feel loosely explained.

While this book wasn't flawless I really enjoyed it and am looking forward to revisiting Lily Dale, Bella, Max and all the rest.  It's a quick read that's not too cozy or too creepy but a good balance of both.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Yes!  I'm looking forward to reading more in this series and already have several other books by this author waiting on my shelf for me.

Would I Recommend this Book?  Yes with reservations.  I think one of the reasons this worked so well for me is that I really enjoy the author's writing style and if it doesn't for you it might not be as easy to overlook some of the plot holes and abrupt ending.  I definitely recommend giving her books a chance.  While this isn't the first book in the series you could easily jump in here.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday - My Winter TBR

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic from The Broke and the Bookish is Winter TBR.  This topic is repeated seasonally and is one of my favorites.  There's almost no chance I'll actually get to all ten of these before spring but I like sorting through all the books I want to read and picking ten!

1.  At the Back of the North Wind by George MacDonald - This was my Grandmother's favorite book as a child and she's been telling me that I should read it for decades but I'm a bit contrary and never have.  I think this is the time to finally read it.

2.  Romancing Mister Bridgerton by Julia Quinn - I've seen several reviews for this one lately and it really has me wanting to reread it!

3.  Written in Red by Anne Bishop - I'm trying to read some of the books that I hear lots of raves about but are a little out of my comfort zone and this one sounds really good.

4.  Lost on Planet China by J. Maarten Troost - I've really enjoyed his previous two travel memoirs so I have high hopes for this one.  Plus, it's been awhile since I've read a travel memoir.

5.  Flat Broke with Two Goats - by Jennifer McGaha - I love this title so much!  This is a memoir about the author losing her job and ending up in a farmhouse in the Appalachians with two goats.  It sounds pretty interesting.

6.  Promise Not to Tell by Jayne Ann Krentz - I love her romantic suspense books and I'm really looking to starting this new one!

7.  The English Wife by Lauren Willig - I loved her standalone book from a few years ago entitled The Other Daughter so I'm super excited to read this one.

8.  Death and the Viking's Daughter by Loretta Ross - This cozy mystery series about auctioneer Wren and former Marine turned PI Death is quickly becoming one of my favorites so I always look forward to the next in the series.

9.  Ginger Snapped by Gail Oust - I love a good Christmas cozy mystery - especially a series involving lots of Christmas cookies!

10. Finding Hope by Stacy Finz - I'm hoping to start making some progress on getting caught up on my overdue ARCs.  I was really excited about this one when it came out in January of 2015 so I think it's probably time I read it!

What's on your TBR this Winter?

Monday, November 27, 2017

Hope at Christmas - Contemporary Romance Review

Hope at Christmas by Nancy Naigle

Rating: Good
Source:  NetGalley

Description:  A recently divorced woman and her daughter look for a fresh start by moving to a small town that embraces them in ways that only fate and the magic of Christmas can explain.
Sydney Ragsdale is divorced, but her husband is still calling the shots. In an attempt to shake free from his hold, she and her daughter, Ray Anne, head for tiny Hopewell, NC to the only asset her ex has no control over – a decaying farmhouse that once belonged to her grandparents. She finds solace at The Book Bea, the bookstore she’d loved as a child during her summer stays.

Kevin MacAlea, Mac to his friends, is the local high school history teacher and baseball coach. Father of a twelve-year-old son, he’s Hopewell, North Carolina’s most sought after bachelor. His young bride abandoned him and his son just before Christmas and has never come back. It has left his son bitter about Christmas which is hard for Mac who loves the magic of the season. He’s been the Santa here in Hopewell since the year Seth was born.
But when a catastrophe forces The Book Bea to close before the end of the year, everyone in the small town is feeling the loss. While Sydney is already off-balance by the bad news, her ex-husband breaks a promise to their daughter that sends Ray Anne running away. As Sydney tries to figure out what her next steps are she discovers all of the answers are right here in Hopewell.

Genre: Romance - Contemporary

Why I Picked This Book:  There's a bookstore.   I can never resist a bookstore!  And Nancy Naigle is an author I've been wanting to read forever.

My Impression:  This is a Hallmark movie in book form in the best possible way.  The characters and story are developed better and with a bit more nuance but it has that same heartwarming quality.  There is an emotional connection between the two characters but more important is their relationship with their children and discovering what truly makes them happy.

I really liked Sydney right from the start.  She's in a situation she really never wanted to be in and never expected to be in.  She's still a bit shocked from the dissolution of her marriage and is trying to hold it together for her daughter.  She's trying not to badmouth her ex-husband though he makes it really really hard.  I thought Ray Anne felt very authentic for a child whose world just fell apart.  She loves both her parents and really just wants things to be like they were.  She's angry and guilty and mostly just confused.  However, she's also ten years old and forgets all the baggage sometimes in the joy of moments.

Mac is pretty perfect.  He loves being the prefect Santa and tries to be the best father he can be.  He pays attention to his son, is involved in his interests and is trying to be supportive and both mother and father.

I enjoyed watching these two come together.  They're both such good people who are trying so hard to do the right thing and it was nice to see them rewarded.  I loved the community of Hopewell - especially the Book Bea.  It's definitely a bookstore I'd love to visit.  This is a fun sweet read with no heat but lots of emotional connections.  It's a nice cozy Christmas read.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  I would.  I don't think she's an author I'd necessarily search out but I'll definitely grab her books wen I see them.

Would I Recommend this Book?  If you can't get enough of the Christmas Hallmark movies I think you'd love this book.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

This Week in Reading - November 26

It's Sunday Post time!  This is hosted by the awesome Caffeinated Book Reviewer and gives us all a chance to recap our week.

What I Got:

I got nothing AGAIN!  This is the 2nd week in a row and while my TBR pile is relieved about it I'm starting to feel a bit twitchy.  I might have to head to the library soon to do some mass book checking out to keep me from going on a book buying binge or requesting all the books on NetGalley.


Reading:  Ditched 4 Murder by J.C. Eaton and Garden of Lamentations by Deborah Crombie

Listening:  I'm almost to the end of A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny which is the 2nd in the Armand Gamache series.  I've really enjoyed this one so far.

Watching:  This week was bonkers so there wasn't too much TV watching but J and I started watching The Good Place - the first season is on Netflix - which has Kristen Bell and Ted Danson in it and are enjoying it.  It's super quirky and funny.  Oh and I got in a Hallmark Christmas movie or two which was fun.  

Off the Blog:

Thanksgiving 2017 is in the books and I'm exhausted!  The Tornado had the entire week off from school and I had hoped to do a few fun things but it seemed like all the time got swallowed up by errands and to do lists.  Our actual Thanksgiving dinner was wonderful and we stayed up far too late talking but it was lots of fun.

Saturday was the Iron Bowl and it was quite the game!  Auburn one which was really excited though there's an injury or two that makes me nervous for the rest of the season.  I did a few errands Saturday morning and it was like a ghost town which was kind of bizarre.  I guess everyone was at home getting ready for watching the game.

This week is Christmas decorating.  I really want to clean out some of the stuff I don't love and kind of decorate a little different than I have in the past years.  Whether or not that'll happen - who knows? 

Thanks for all the suggestions on my Tell Me What to Read post Monday.  If you have any suggestions for books that I simply must read in 2018 please let me know!

On the Blog:

What Happened:

What's Coming Up:

Monday:  Hope at Christmas - Contemporary Romance Review
Tuesday:  Top Ten Tuesday - Ten Books on My Winter TBR
Wednesday: Dead of Winter - Mystery Review
Thursday: Ditched 4 Murder - Cozy Mystery Review
Friday:  Garden of Lamentations - Mystery Review
Saturday: TBD

Have a great week and happy reading!

I Am Half Sick of Shadows - Mystery Review

I Am Half-Sick of Shadows (Flavia de Luce Mystery #4) by Alan Bradley (Amazon Link) 

Rating: Very Good
Source: Library (Audio)

Description:  It's Christmastime, and the precocious Flavia de Luce - an eleven-year-old sleuth with a passion for chemistry and a penchant for crime-solving - is tucked away in her laboratory, whipping up a concoction to ensnare Saint Nick. But she is soon distracted when a film crew arrives at Buckshaw, the de Luces' decaying English estate, to shoot a movie starring the famed Phyllis Wyvern. Amid a raging blizzard, the entire village of Bishop's Lacey gathers at Buckshaw to watch Wyvern perform, yet nobody is prepared for the evening's shocking conclusion: a body found, past midnight, strangled to death with a length of film. But who among the assembled guests would stage such a chilling scene? As the storm worsens and the list of suspects grows, Flavia must use every ounce of sly wit at her disposal to ferret out a killer hidden in plain sight.

Genre: Mystery

Why I Picked This Book:  I thought I'd start off my holiday reading with something a little unusual and it's hard to get more unusual than Flavia de Luce!

My Impression:  Flavia de Luce celebrates Christmas in the way only Flavia can - by creating a glue that she can slather on the chimneys in hopes of catching Santa Claus.  While all that's going on Colonel de Luce is trying to solve the family's financial problems (or at least keep the wolf at bay a little longer by renting out Buckshaw to a film company.  When the film company arrives the story really gets rolling and Flavia is kept busy sticking her nose into places it doesn't belong and trying to figure out secrets.  The murder doesn't actually happen until halfway through the book but I didn't really miss it as I was enjoying all the convoluted relationships.  Flavia pounces onto the investigation as I would expect her to do paying very little attention to boundaries and Inspector Hewitt's requests.  I really enjoyed her interactions with her sisters and they seemed a little more complicated than the usual just plain mean.  I'm not sure if it's Christmas spirit or something a little deeper.  This mystery was really a fun read/listen.  I do wish the investigation had been a little more fleshed out but I enjoyed all the character interactions.  I love seeing Flavia's vulnerable moments when I remembered that she was really just a child and a scared insecure one at that. 

This is a mystery series that I've really come to enjoy.  Flavia is an unusual choice for an amateur detective but so delights in her meddling that it's hard not to love her and get just as involved in the investigation as she does.

Audio Note:  Jayne Entwistle is her usual magical self giving just the right amount of smothered laughter to Flavia's voice and perfect haughty disdain to Ophelia's.  Her narration adds an extra bit of enjoyment to listening to this series.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Yes!  This is a solid mystery series and I'm really curious to see what happens with the de Luce family next.

Would I Recommend this Book?  If you enjoy mysteries this is a good choice.  It's unique and well done.  You could start with this book without too much confusion though the previous 3 books are really enjoyable as well.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Ten Christmas Books I Want to Read this Year

So now that Halloween and Thanksgiving are in the books it's time to turn my mind to Christmas!  Now I'm reasonably prepared.  My DVR is stuffed with Hallmark Christmas movies and I even have a major gift bought and several ideas mapped out.  This may not be a big deal to some people but it's huge to me!  I'm a notorious last minute frazzled mess hoping that Amazon Prime 2 day shipping REALLY means it!  But since I'm feeling pretty good about shopping and my TV needs are covered I'm not spending some time thinking about Christmas books!  My list of requirements for Christmas books are very specific.  I want heartwarming and happiness, characters I love, and at least one mention of gingerbread.  Here's a list of ten Christmas books I'm really hoping to read this year!

1.  A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens - I've seen this story in play form and movie form more times than I count and I've decided this is the year that I'm going to read the book itself.  My history with Dickens is a little dicey but this is short and I love the story so I have high hopes.

2.  Hope at Christmas by Nancy Naigle - There's a woman starting over, a decaying farmhouse, and a bookstore.  Throw in some Christmas cheer and a little bit of romance and this is the kind of book that just must be read when it's cold outside!

3.  Rest Ye Murdered Gentlemen by Vicki Delany - While I love a heartwarming Christmas romance a holiday themed murder is pretty great too.  I've enjoyed other books by Delany and this series set in a year round Christmas town sounds like so much fun!

4.  Dashing Through the Snow by Debbie Macomber - I've watched a number of Macomber's Hallmark Christmas movies but haven't read nearly enough of her books.  This one about strangers forced to share a rental car sounds like it has plenty of humor and plenty of heartwarming moments.

5.  Christmas in Snowflake Canyon by RaeAnne Thayne - RaeAnne Thayne's Christmas stories are pure magic!  I actually don't know very much about this one other than I haven't read it!

6.  Christmas on Candy Cane Lane by Sheila Roberts - This is another one that I don't know much about but the title just makes this one impossible to pass up!

7.  Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak - A dysfunctional family story sounds like a lot of fun and the holidays bring out the dysfunctional in all of this.  Throw in some forced togetherness and this sounds like a lot of fun!

8.  Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher - This is actually a reread but it's been  a long time since I've read it and I really want to revisit it.

9.  Snowflakes and Coffee Cakes by Joanne DeMaio - DeMaio has been on my TBR for far too long and this may be the book I start with.  It's about the main character taking a risk to find happiness and there's some home renovation which always make me happy!

10. Thread the Halls by Lea Waite - Another holiday murder! This is one of my favorite cozy mystery series and one that I'm several books behind on.  I'm really looking forward to catching up with this one!

What Christmas books are you looking forward to this year?

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Sweet Tea and Sympathy - Contemporary Romance Review

Sweet Tea and Sympathy by Molly Harper (Amazon Link)

Source: NetGalley

Description: Nestled on the shore of Lake Sackett, Georgia is the McCready Family Funeral Home and Bait Shop. (What, you have a problem with one-stop shopping?) Two McCready brothers started two separate businesses in the same building back in 1928, and now it’s become one big family affair. And true to form in small Southern towns, family business becomes everybody’s business.
Margot Cary has spent her life immersed in everything Lake Sackett is not. As an elite event planner, Margot’s rubbed elbows with the cream of Chicago society, and made elegance and glamour her business. She’s riding high until one event goes tragically, spectacularly wrong. Now she’s blackballed by the gala set and in dire need of a fresh start—and apparently the McCreadys are in need of an event planner with a tarnished reputation.

As Margot finds her footing in a town where everybody knows not only your name, but what you had for dinner last Saturday night and what you’ll wear to church on Sunday morning, she grudgingly has to admit that there are some things Lake Sackett does better than Chicago—including the dating prospects. Elementary school principal Kyle Archer is a fellow fish-out-of-water who volunteers to show Margot the picture-postcard side of Southern living. The two of them hit it off, but not everybody is happy to see an outsider snapping up one of the town's most eligible gentleman. Will Margot reel in her handsome fish, or will she have to release her latest catch?

Genre:  Romance - Contemporary

Why I Picked This Book:  I've read one book by Molly Harper and really enjoyed it.  I wanted to try her again but am a little scared of werewolves and the like so this completely unsupernatural book looked like the perfect choice!

My Impression: Well that was fun!  I loved Margot right from the start though she isn't always the most likable person - especially at the beginning.  The shrimp tower disaster was hilarious and while I don't consider myself a particularly violent person, I think she showed considerable restraint in not punching the chef hard in the nose.  And when she ends up in small town Georgia there was definitely a whole lot of hilarity and a giant helping of quirkiness.

I loved the McCready family.  Margot isn't quite sure where she fits when she first lands in Lake Sackett and frankly isn't quite sure she wants too.  However, doing a good job is important to her and she's a hard worker so that seems to give her a little something to help get her bearings.  She doesn't always understand how things are done but she tries.  All the aunts, uncles, and assortment of cousins really add to the fun and I desperately want to go hang out with Duffy, Frankie, and Marianne.  And while I'm not a huge fan of fried food I'd definitely give some of Aunt Leslie's creations a try.  While the relationships formed quickly and naturally between Margot and most of her family her relationship with her father was a little more tricky.  I really loved how Harper developed both characters and how they interacted.  It felt very natural though heartbreaking at times. 

I really liked the relationship between Margot and Kyle.  Neither one of them has any desire to be in a serious relationship and their reasons are decidedly real.  I'm not typically a big kid person in romances but Kyle's children were really cute without being obnoxious and I enjoyed all their page time.  The banter is perfection and the relationship felt wonderfully real.

I really enjoyed this read.  It's quirky, fun, and all about family connections and figuring out what really makes you happy.  I'm so glad that this is going to be a series and can't wait to see where Harper takes it next.  Now I'm off to change my name to McCready and go find Lake Sackett!

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Absolutely!  I've been wanting to read more Molly Harper for ages and I'm excited to see where this series goes.

Would I Recommend this Book? If you like small town contemporary romances do not miss this book!