Friday, December 14, 2018

Friday Linkups - Christmas on the Island

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:
Do you listen to music while you are writing your blog posts?  If so, what genre of music do you listen to?

My Answer:
Only if I really need to concentrate and then I listen to classical.  Amazon Prime Music has a Focus playlist that helps.  Normally I have a TV show going - either a Investigation Discovery show or NCIS or something like that though this time of year I tend to watch a lot of Hallmark Christmas movies.  If I'm not near the TV I will stream a YouTube playlist - I've been into makeup videos lately.

I'm so excited about this week's book.  I read the first book in this series last year and really enjoyed it and then I listened to the second book last week and absolutely loved it.  So now I'm the third book - Christmas on the Island by Jenny Colgan.  I love the tiny island of Mure and all the quirks that come with living at the top of the world.  I also adore the characters and am so excited to see what happens next.

The Beginning: 
In winter, the mornings are very dark on Mure, the tiny island high up off the coast of the north of Scotland, half-way to Iceland (or, it occasionally feels like, to the North Pole when the west winds blow in).

My Thoughts:
That sounds impossibly cold and dark but I love how out in the middle of nowhere Mure is.

The 56:
"Anyway, that doesn't matter.  What matters to us is that we have a contract to provide three hundred mince pies."

My Thoughts:
I don't quite know what mince pies are.  I watched a show where they were talking about 19th century food and it doesn't sound like they involve actual meat anymore though they did at one time.  Whatever they are, 300 is quite a lot.

So what do you think?  Keep reading?  And what exactly is mince pie?

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Not the Duke's Darling - Historical Romance Review

Goodreads:  Not the Duke's Darling (The Greycourt #1) by Elizabeth Hoyt

Rating: Very Good
Source: Publisher

Freya de Moray is many things: a member of the secret order of Wise Women, the daughter of disgraced nobility, and a chaperone living under an assumed name. What she is not is forgiving. So when the Duke of Harlowe--the man who destroyed her brother and led to the downfall of her family--appears at the country house party she's attending, she does what any Wise Woman would do: she starts planning her revenge.

Christopher Renshaw, the Duke of Harlowe, is being blackmailed. Intent on keeping his secrets safe, he agrees to attend a house party where he will put an end to this coercion once and for all. Until he recognizes Freya, masquerading amongst the party revelers, and realizes his troubles have just begun. Freya knows all about his sins. Sins he'd much rather forget. But she's also fiery, bold, and sensuous-a temptation he can't resist. When it becomes clear Freya is in grave danger, he'll risk everything to keep her safe. But first, Harlowe will have to earn Freya's trust-by whatever means necessary.

Genre: Romance - Historical

Why I Picked This Book:
  I really enjoyed another book by this author and am really curious to start this new series.

My Impression:
  I'm still relatively new to Elizabeth Hoyt but I fully intend make up for lost time.  I normally love my historical romance to be on the light side with lots of witty banter.  While there is banter there's a decided edge to the banter and the mood is much more dark than romp.  However, that didn't keep me from thoroughly enjoying this book right from the start.

Freya is all action with lots of prickles and an enormous backstory.  Christopher is dragging around and equally fraught backstory and has walls built around his walls.  He does have a dog named Tess who in my head is a yellow lab mix and I want to hug her.  They have serious chemistry with a hefty dose of antagonism.

This book features two of my least favorite plot devices - hidden identity and revenge - but somehow here it just works.  It helps that the hidden identity isn't so much hidden as one not recognizing the other and the other not mentioning exactly who they are.  I don't know exactly why the revenge worked but it did!

This wasn't flawless. I found all the mentions of Wise Women a bit annoying after awhile and it always drives me crazy when there's a huge traumatic event in the characters' past that's only vaguely mentioned but isn't fully explained - or at least not for more than a quarter of the book.  However, these were fairly mild annoyances and didn't keep me from enjoying the book in the slightest.

All the Scottish mentions, the house party, the suspense, and the mystery mixed in with the romance made this fantastic snuggle under a blanket with a hot cup of tea winter reading.    

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?
  Absolutely!  I really need to go back and read her previous series and I'm looking forward to continuing this one.

Would I Recommend this Book?
  If you enjoy historical romance with a more serious lean I think you'd really love this one!

* I received this book in exchange for an honest review.  As always my opinions and impressions are completely my own. *

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

I'll Be Your Blue Sky - Fiction Review


About I'll Be Your Blue Sky

• Paperback: 352 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks;
Reprint edition (December 4, 2018)

The New York Times bestselling author revisits the characters from her beloved novels Love Walked In and Belong to Me in this captivating, beautifully written drama involving family, friendship, secrets, sacrifice, courage, and true love for fans of Jojo Moyes, Elin Hilderbrand, and Nancy Thayer. On the weekend of her wedding, Clare Hobbes meets an elderly woman named Edith Herron. During the course of a single conversation, Edith gives Clare the courage to do what she should have done months earlier: break off her engagement to her charming—yet overly possessive—fiancĂ©. Three weeks later, Clare learns that Edith has died—and has given her another gift. Nestled in crepe myrtle and hydrangea and perched at the marshy edge of a bay in a small seaside town in Delaware, Blue Sky House now belongs to Clare. Though the former guest house has been empty for years, Clare feels a deep connection to Edith inside its walls, which are decorated with old photographs taken by Edith and her beloved husband, Joseph. Exploring the house, Clare finds two mysterious ledgers hidden beneath the kitchen sink. Edith, it seems, was no ordinary woman—and Blue Sky House no ordinary place. With the help of her mother, Viviana, her surrogate mother, Cornelia Brown, and her former boyfriend and best friend, Dev Tremain, Clare begins to piece together the story of Blue Sky House—a decades-old mystery more complex and tangled than she could have imagined. As she peels back the layers of Edith’s life, Clare discovers a story of dark secrets, passionate love, heartbreaking sacrifice, and incredible courage. She also makes startling discoveries about herself: where she’s come from, where she’s going, and what—and who—she loves. Shifting between the 1950s and the present and told in the alternating voices of Edith and Clare, I’ll Be Your Blue Sky is vintage Marisa de los Santos—an emotionally evocative novel that probes the deepest recesses of the human heart and illuminates the tender connections that bind our lives.

My Thoughts:   This was my first experience with Marisa de los Santos but I can guarantee that it won't be my last.   I loved how the dual timeline was handled.  While we get quite a lot from Edith's perspective the focus was really on Clare and what she discovers about herself while she's learning about Edith.  I loved the way this was done and just how information and character development was handled.  Even before I was fully connected with the characters I really enjoyed how that was done.  Honestly, I didn't love Clare at the beginning of the book but I really grew to understand her and I loved having that opportunity.  I also really enjoyed getting to know Blue Sky House along with Edith.  This is a fantastic read with character that I didn't always love but really enjoyed getting to know.  I'm excited to have discovered this author and am looking forward to trying more of her books.  Rating: Very Good


Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About Marisa de los Santos

Marisa de los Santos is a New York Times bestselling author and award-winning poet with a PhD in literature and creative writing. She lives in Wilmington, Delaware, with her family. Connect with Marisa on Facebook and Twitter.  

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday - Ten Signs You're In a Hallmark Christmas Movies

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic hosted from That Artsy Reader Girl  is a freebie.  I was sick for basically the entire month of November and when I'm sick I can't read.  This meant that I ended up watching a whole lot of television.  Since my usual favorite TV shows are pretty murder heavy and not quite appropriate for my 8 year old to be watching I've been relying heavily on Hallmark movies and I'm all about the Christmas movies.  I enjoy them so this is all in good fun but there are some themes I see repeated!  Here are some signs you are in or are about to be in a Hallmark Christmas movie.

1.  Someone Close to You Has Recently Died and Left You Something - Not only are you thrown off by the death of your mother/aunt/sister/uncle/grandparent/boss/friend but you now have to deal with this unexpected inheritance which can be anything from a house to a prepaid trip to a mission that you have to fulfill.  This will of course lead you to an incredibly picturesque very Christmas-y small town and your one true love who probably is a widower with a child.

2.  You Are Very Vocal About Your Desire to Stay Single and You've Just Met a Widower With a Small Child -  This seems to be a theme this year.  A large percentage of the men have lost their spouse - but at least a year ago so it's appropriate for them to consider getting into another relationship..  The woman the widower ends up falling for is single and vows to remain so.

3.  You Have a Family Member Who is OBSESSED With Christmas - Your mother/sister/grandmother/father/grandfather loved Christmas and made an enormous deal of it with special traditions and over the top decorating.  Unfortunately, they're probably deceased at this point (see #1) and you just can't bear to celebrate this year.

4.  You Are Heading Home for the Last Christmas at Your Family Home - For whatever reason this year is the last Christmas you'll be able to spend at the family home and you're coming back for the first time of years to be there.  Mostly likely your family home is very large and very old and about to be sold.

5.  You Own a Small Business - Or end up having to unexpectedly take over management of a small business that is owned by someone close to you.  The business is usually very successful and is always in a small picturesque town that takes decorating for Christmas very seriously.

6.  You Have Recently Lost Your Job - Which of course means you have to either 1. return to the small town you're from and take a job at the family business or 2. take a job as a governess or assistant to someone connected to royalty.  I'm not sure why you can't just stay where you are and find another job in the same field but that's never mentioned as an option.

7.  You Are For Whatever Reason in Some Kind of Christmas-y Competition or Pageant - You're either baking or decorating or you drew the short straw and have to help organize the Christmas pageant (which is always shockingly well attended with sets that are just about professional).

8.  You Don't Intend to Celebrate Christmas and Intend to Spend It Alone or Traveling - Trust me things will happen, there will be hijinks and you will be snowed in or trapped somewhere that is the most Christmas-y place of all time.

9.  You're in Vermont or Location Unspecified Mountains -  These are really the only places to be and I'm pretty sure you're just tripping over adorable cabins and incredibly picturesque small towns crammed full of Christmas trees and town events.

10.  You Look Cute in Winter Hats - Specifically Red Ones - This is a requirement.  Periodically if the heroine is a redhead they will put her in green or white but there are lots of winter hats being worn and they always look adorable.  This is one of the many reasons I will never be in a Hallmark Christmas movie.

Are you a Hallmark Christmas movie fan or do they make you cringe?  If you're a fan what are your favorite trends?

Monday, December 10, 2018

Let the Dead Keep Their Secrets - Historical Mystery Review

Rating: Loved It!
Source:  Publisher

Childbirth can be dangerous even for the wealthy. So when opera singer Claire Buchanan shows Prudence and Geoffrey a postmortem cabinet photograph of her deceased twin sister and newborn niece, they express sadness but not surprise. The popular black-bordered portraits are the era's way of coping with the devastating losses that plague every family. What makes this death different is that Claire is convinced Catherine and her child were murdered.

Prudence's friend is haunted by a sense of her sister's lingering presence, and by the conviction that her dead twin is demanding justice. Catherine's widower, Aaron Sorensen, is a cold, controlling man who swiftly remarried. Now his second wife is already pregnant and may be in terrible danger. In order to discover the truth and find evidence of Sorensen's guilt, Geoffrey will delve deep into his past while Prudence casts herself as his next victim—putting her own life at grave risk . . .

Genre: Mystery - Historical 

Why I Picked This Book:
  I've been loving historical mysteries and the premise of this one intrigued me.

My Impression:  I love a good historical mystery and one thing thing that I’ve really been loving this year is discovering new to me historical mystery series.  This is my latest and I couldn’t be more enthusiastic about it.  This is the 3rd mystery in the series and while it’s clear that the characters have some serious backstories that get explained in previous books I had no problem understanding who each character was, how they were connected to each other, and the mystery itself.

This isn’t really a whodunnit.  Right from the start you pretty much know the who and really the why but seeing how far the character will go and just how it will unravel really kept me reading.  I really loved Prudence and the rest of the characters and I loved their interactions.  While Prudence is respected by her male colleagues there is some back and forth on her taking an active role in the investigation at times that I found realistic.

This was a fascinating historical mystery that has a fast pace and interesting and unique characters.  I’m thrilled to have discovered it and am glad I have the first two books to tide me over while I wait for book #4!

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?
  Absolutely!  I'm looking forward to continuing the series and going back and reading the first two books.

Would I Recommend this Book?
  If you're a historical mystery fan this is a must not miss series!  I had no problem jumping in on this book.

* I received this book in exchange for an honest review.  As always my opinions and impressions are completely my own. *

Saturday, December 8, 2018

This Week in REading - December 9

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 Last Lie by Alex Lake - I'm really excited about this psychological thriller.  I wanted to read the previous book by Lake and this one looks even better.  (Publisher)

Coming Home to the Comfort Food CafĂ© by Debbie Johnson - I couldn't resist the title so of course I had to pick this one up!  (Publisher)

The Christmas Chronicle by Nigel Slater - This is part cookbook and part collection of essays and I'm looking forward to flipping through this one.  (Publisher)

Montauk by Nicola Harrison - I have been loving historical fiction lately and this one sounds absolutely gorgeous.  (Publisher) 

The Optimist's Guide to Letting Go by Amy E. Reichert - The blurb appealed to me and I've been wanting to read this author for ages.  (from Lala in the Library)


Reading:  Not the Duke's Darling by Elizabeth Hoyt and Christmas on the Island by Jenny Colgan

Listening:  I just finished Endless Beach by Jenny Colgan which I really enjoyed and am trying to decide what to listen to next.

Watching:  I caught up on NCIS: New Orleans.  I didn't enjoy most of last season but I've really been enjoying this season.  I've also been watching the reboot of Magnum, PI which isn't great but is entertaining me.  Though now I really want to rewatch the original.

Off the Blog:

Thanks for all the well wishes for my pity party last week.  Too funny how many of you thought I had cut my finger off!  It definitely put having to have my ring cut off into perspective.  This week we've gotten the money back, I have my new card, my ring is at the repair shop, and I'm actually feeling like a human being again even if it's a fairly exhausted human!

We got our Christmas decorations up last weekend and I'm really enjoying seeing all my things again.  I'm in South Mississippi this weekend visiting my grandparents for my grandmother's 90th birthday so I'll be catching up with you tomorrow.  I'm hoping to get back into my good commenting habits very soon!

On the Blog:

What Happened:

What's Coming Up:

Monday:  Let the Dead Keep Their Secrets - Historical Mystery Review
Tuesday:  Top Ten Tuesday Freebie
Wednesday: I'll Be Your Blue Sky - Fiction Review
Thursday:  Not the Duke's Darling - Historical Romance Review
Friday: Friday Linkups with Current Book
Saturday: TBD

Have a great week and happy reading!

First Women - Nonfiction Review

Rating: Loved It!
Source: Library

One of the most underestimated—and challenging—positions in the world, the First Lady of the United States must be many things: an inspiring leader with a forward-thinking agenda of her own; a savvy politician, skilled at navigating the treacherous rapids of Washington; a wife and mother operating under constant scrutiny; and an able CEO responsible for the smooth operation of countless services and special events at the White House. Now, as she did in her smash #1 bestseller The Residence, former White House correspondent Kate Andersen Brower draws on a wide array of untapped, candid sources—from residence staff and social secretaries to friends and political advisers—to tell the stories of the ten remarkable women who have defined that role since 1960.

Brower offers new insights into this privileged group of remarkable women, including Jacqueline Kennedy, Lady Bird Johnson, Patricia Nixon, Betty Ford, Rosalynn Carter, Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush, Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush, and Michelle Obama. The stories she shares range from the heartwarming to the shocking and tragic, exploring everything from the first ladies’ political crusades to their rivalries with Washington figures; from their friendships with other first ladies to their public and private relationships with their husbands. She also offers a detailed and insightful new portrait of one of the most-watched first ladies of all time, Hillary Clinton, asking what her tumultuous years in the White House may tell us about her own historic presidential run . . . and what life could be like with the nation’s first First Husband.

Candid and illuminating, this first group biography of the modern first ladies provides a revealing look at life upstairs and downstairs at the world’s most powerful address.

Genre:  Nonfiction

Why I Picked This Book:
I loved The Residence by this author and was very curious about this one.

My Impression:
  I don't read about politics for pleasure but at the same time I'm fascinated by the people involved - especially the residents of the White House.  I had read a previous book by this author called The Residence which focused on the permanent staff and it was one of my favorite reads of 2015.  I was somewhat concerned that this would be kind of a repeat because there was quite a bit about life in the White House for the first family in that book.  However, this book focused more on the women who held the title of First Lady themselves.  From their upbringings, their marriage, their family, their ambitions, and their thoughts on living in one of the world's most famous residences.

I really felt like I got to know these women from Jackie Kennedy to Michelle Obama in a way I never really had before.  No real mention of the politics that landed them in the White House is mentioned and the focus is just on them and what they believe is important.  I was surprised by how emotional read this was.  There was so much heartbreak in all of their lives and I found tears in my eyes more than once.  The bond and complicated relationships these women share was fascinating.  I had no idea that Jackie Kennedy admired Nancy Reagan for having a sense of style and glamor and developed a friendly relationship with Hilary Clinton as they discussed raising children in the White House.  Or that Lady Bird Johnson and Betty Ford were so close that Lady Bird had a framed photo of Betty near her bed when she died.  I had no idea that Laura Bush and Michelle Obama are actually quite good friends and Laura was very helpful to Michelle as she learned how to navigate the office of First Lady.  I had no idea that Barbara Bush was descended from President Franklin Pierce nor how monumental Betty Ford's announcement of her breast cancer diagnosis and later her struggle with addiction really was.

This is a fascinating biography of an amazing and varied group of women.  Even if you don't like mixing pleasure and politics (like me!) I think you'll find this book a winner.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?
  Absolutely.  I'm looking forward to reading more from this author.

Would I Recommend this Book?
  I would.  I really enjoyed this book even though it did make me cry more than once or twice.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Friday Linkups - Let the Dead Keep Their Secrets

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:
Do you tend to visit the same blogs each week but also try to look for new blogs?  

My Answer:
I really try to visit all the blogs who regularly comment on my linkup post and as many others as I can.  I've been really sick the past few months and am just now recovering so my visiting has really taken a hit but I'm hoping that that will be getting better soon.

This week's book is Let the Dead Keep Their Secrets by Rosemary Simpson.  I'm almost done with it and have really enjoyed it!  I'm excited to have found a new-to-me historical mystery series and will be reading the two previous books as soon as I can.  It's so fun to discover a series that I really love.

The Beginning:
Josiah Gregory folded the New York Times of February 21, 1889 into a neat rectangle and placed it on his desk so the review of Aida was uppermost.

My Thoughts:
This isn't the most attention grabbing beginning but it does do a nice job of establishing time and location with minimal discussion.

The 56:
"The dead mother in the cabinet photograph.  The one with the painted eyes."

My Thoughts:
I've really enjoyed the talk of photography in this book - especially in regards to photographing deceased subjects.  I knew it was a common thing and can understand the reasoning but other than that I had never really given any thought to it.

So what do you think?  Keep reading?  

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Books from the Backlog - Island of Glass

Today I'm linking up with Carole from Carole's Random Life of Books for Books from the Backlog.  I really enjoy the chance to feature a book that's been hiding in the piles of books for far too long!  Today's book is Island of Glass by Nora Roberts.

Blurb: As the hunt for the Star of Ice leads the six guardians to Ireland, Doyle, the immortal, must face his tragic past. Three centuries ago, he closed off his heart, yet his warrior spirit is still drawn to the wild. And there’s no one more familiar with the wild than Riley—and the wolf within her...

An archaeologist, Riley is no stranger to the coast of Clare, but now she finds herself on unsure footing, targeted by the dark goddess who wants more than the stars, more than the blood of the guardians. While searching through Irish history for clues that will lead them to the final star and the mysterious Island of Glass, Riley must fight her practical nature and admit her sudden attraction to Doyle is more than just a fling. For it is his strength that will sustain her and give her the power to run towards love—and save them all...

Why It Needs to Come Off the Shelf:  I loved the first two in this fantasy/romantic suspense trilogy and I loved all the books that Roberts has set in Ireland.  I've had this one for almost a year and somehow still haven't read the conclusion.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Yule Be Dead - Cozy Mystery Review

Rating:  Good
Source: Publisher 

It's Christmastime, but not everyone is jolly--especially not Vonne Barnett. Her dead body has been found in Victoria Square. Katie Bonner, the manager of Artisan's Alley, happens to be at the tea shop Vonne's mother, Francine, owns when the news is delivered.

Vonne left a trail of men behind her so the suspects are many--but the clues are few. A broken teacup leads Katie to one of the suspects, but before she can investigate, she's attacked. Katie may be closing in on a murderer, but time is ticking because the murderer is definitely closing in on her.

Genre: Mystery - Cozy

Why I Picked This Book:
  I enjoyed the first two books in the series and was looking forward to continuing the story.  

My Impression:
  While I had read the first book or two in this series it's been years so I was a little concerned I'd be completely lost jumping in at book 5.  However, there was really no problem.  I was able to jump right in to the world of Victoria Square with no issue.  The backstory is filled in easily with mentions throughout the story.  

The mystery was good with lots of possible suspects.  I like a mystery with lots of different angles and this one definitely had that.  Not only is there the question of who killed Vonne but also what had happened to change Vonne's behavior.  In Katie's personal life we have the arrival of her former mother-in-law who shows up for a surprise visit.  

My main issue with this book is Katie herself.  She's so prickly that I question why anyone continues to be nice to her.  I get not wanting to have decisions made for you but when you've just broken your leg maybe let the person who is offering to help you carry up a flight of stairs instead of trying to navigate those stairs with your newly acquired crutches.  It got to be a bit much - especially regarding the situation with her boyfriend Andy.

This is a good mystery series that even when the main character was making me roll my eyes kept me hooked and reading.  

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?
  I would and I do plan on going back and reading the books in the series that I've missed.

Would I Recommend this Book?
  If you enjoy cozies and don't mind a main character who could use a shake or two then I think you would enjoy this book.  

* I received this book in exchange for an honest review.  As always my opinions and impressions are completely my own. *