Thursday, December 31, 2020

Things That Helped Me Survive 2020


2020 is almost over and I think I can safely say that it was not the year any of us expected it to be.  For my family and me it started in New Orleans followed by a trip to Disney World.  Then the pandemic hit.  For us it really wasn't that terrible at first.  My husband could easily work from home (and has since March) so our income wasn't impacted and my son was homeschooled so there wasn't any huge adjustment.  Our travel plans and field trips were obviously canceled but other then that life went on pretty much as normal.  Until June 18.  That was the day our never sick 10 year old was diagnosed with leukemia (ALL) and the next day we found ourselves being transported to Memphis, TN in an ambulance.   But here we are at the end and while I have no idea what 2021 holds for us here are a few things that got me through 2020.

1.  St Jude Children's Research Hospital - I had heard of St Jude of course and I was familiar with the story of Danny Thomas and the creation of this hospital to find cures for childhood cancer.  I've always been a bit skeptical about big charities and St Jude is one of the biggest so I figured there had to be a catch.  But there isn't.  Since Will was diagnosed during COVID he's never gotten to experience the fun atmosphere that St Jude is so famous for but every medical person we dealt with was amazing and oh so kind and the affiliate has been just as great.  We will be going back to Memphis in February and I'm already looking forward to seeing some of them again.  And that's not even considering that the cure rate for the type of leukemia Will has has improved by more then 90% since St Jude opened its doors.  If you are ever looking for a place to donate or raise money for that really makes a difference I can't recommend St Jude enough.

2.  This cat - One of the best things about getting our own apartment in Memphis was that we could bring our cat.  I must confess - I've never been much of a cat person.  I've never disliked them but I've always preferred dogs - and I'm allergic to cats.  But Comet is kind of like a dog personality in cat form plus he's not destructive or messy.  He's not perfect.  He needs lots of attention and wakes us up periodically at night to be petted but he's got such a funny personality we don't mind too much.  Plus, he's pretty much an ideal cat for when you're not feeling good.  There is nothing he loves more then to get under the blankets and snuggle with you.  And he doesn't mind being a pillow periodically either.

3.  Reading - It's not shocking that I enjoy reading but this year it has really kept me sane.  I learned that it was best to never let my mind idle and sometimes TV wouldn't be enough to distract me but most of the time a book was either in audio or a regular book.

4.  YouTube - I watched a ton of YouTube this year.  It was perfect to have in the background or for quick bits of distraction.  Some of my favorite channels are - Bailey Sarian (her Murder and Makeup Mondays are the BEST - even if you're not into makeup), Lil's Vintage World (love her book reviews and she did a series on Tudor Queens that was fascinating), The Try Channel (because watching Irish people try all kinds of different stuff is weirdly hilarious) and This Gathered Nest (this is the only family channel I watch but I like that they seem respectful of their kids' privacy AND they have a small farm with al kinds of different animals and it is incredibly entertaining.)

5.  Bagels and Cream Cheese - Seriously, I'm pretty sure this was all I ate for at least a month and a half.  Big fan of the whipped cream cheese especially.

So what helped you survive 2020?

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

A Hodge Podge of Reviews - Cozy Mystery Edition


Goodreads:  Murder at the Mansion (A Victorian Village Mystery #1) by Shelia Connolly

My Thoughts: When an old friend calls Kate Hamilton in to help save her old hometown she can't help but get involved.  With her job coming to an end she finds herself at lose ends and the project will be a nice distraction - except for the fact that it just happens to involve the primary reason for why Kate fled her hometown after high school in the first place - Cordelia Walker.  Cordelia is still very much up to her old mean girl tricks which catch up to her just a few days after Kate gets into town.  Now with a mission to save the town and a murder investigation for a victim that pretty much everyone would cheerfully have murdered Kate's days are jammed packed.  The beginning was a bit slow but it was still enjoyable.  I loved the history element and I really liked that while the murder investigation was wrapped up the investigation into the old mansion at the edge of town is really just beginning.  It made me anxious to dive into the next book.  I listened to this book and really enjoyed it.  Rating:  Liked It!

Goodreads:  In Peppermint Peril (A Tea and Read Mystery #1) by Joy Avon

My Thoughts:  This was a fun beginning to a cozy mystery series.  Callie is up in Maine visiting her Great Aunt Iphy and helping out at Iphy's tearoom The Book Tea.  I loved the concept of The Book Tea where Iphy hides little hints to various stories in her treats.  One of the biggest negatives for me about this book is that basically no time is spent there and instead the setting is Haywood Hall - a mansion in town and home of Dorothea Finster.  Callie is there catering a tea for The Book Tea and not only has to come face to face with her a former love interest but his wife her former friend Sheila.  While getting used to the awkwardness there is the discovery of a missing ring quickly followed by the discovery of a dead body.  I liked Callie and Iphy and enjoyed the investigation as well as getting to know Heart's Harbor, Maine.  However, there was a bit of a chaotic feel to the book.  It's definitely one of those books that hits the ground running which is great however, I never really felt like I knew the characters or everything that was going on.  That said, I think this series has a lot of potential and I'm hoping that second book is a little more grounded.  Rating: Liked It

Goodreads:  Read and Gone (Haunted Library #2) by Allison Brook

My Thoughts:  This is one of my favorite cozy series but somehow I never managed to read the second book.  I'm so glad I took the time to go back and give it a read!  Here are stolen gems, a murdered jewelry store owner, and Carrie's father who just happens to be a career thief just happens to be back in town and in exactly the wrong place at exactly the wrong time!  Luckily, Carrie is on the case with some resistance from local police chief John and her boyfriend Dylan who works for the insurance company that is trying to find the gems.  Everyone has a motive and no one seems to know just where the gems are located which makes for lots of searching and an extra dead body or two.  The conclusion was satisfying both for the mystery and for Carrie's personal life.  If you enjoy a good cozy read this is a fun series and a great book.  While there is a ghost (hence the Haunted Library series title) it is a very minor aspect in this book especially so don't let that scare you away if you prefer your mysteries ghost free.  My Rating:  Really Liked It!

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday - My Favorite Books of 2020


Today I'm linking up with Top Ten Tuesday hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl which is all about lists.  Since lists are one of my favorite things this is one of my favorite linkups!  Today's topic is My Favorite Books of 2020.   While I'm not worrying about what year the books were published in I'm only counting books I read for the first time this year.

1.  The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman - This books was crazy and so much fun.  I enjoyed every minute of it.  I've read the second book and enjoyed it just this much.

2.  Summer at Lake Haven by RaeAnne Thayne - I read this book at a particularly hard time this year and it was such a lovely bit of escape full of really nice people and puppies!

3.  Tales from the Odyssey Part 1 and 2 by Mary Pope Osborne - I vaguely remember reading The Odyssey in high school but I thoroughly enjoyed this more family friendly but not dumbed down version and if possible my 10 year old enjoyed it even more!

4.  A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles - I wasn't sure what to expect when I picked up this book that takes place over decades in a hotel in Moscow but it was fascinating, funny, and tragic.

5.  The Lost Carousel in Provence by Juliet Blackwell - This book has been on my TBR since it came out in 2019 and it didn't disappoint.  I loved the dual timeline and thoroughly enjoyed the story.

6.  Christmas at the Island Hotel by Jenny Colgan - I loved the first 3 books in the series that I was a little nervous to pick this one up but it did not disappoint.

7.  Sugar and Vice by Eve Calder - This was a delightful cozy full of cookies and yummy baked goods as well as murder and pirates!

8.  Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan - Another Colgan but if anything I might have enjoyed this one anymore.  I cannot resist a puffin sidekick!

9.  The Storm Sister by Lucinda Riley - I finally got around to reading/listening to the 2nd book in the series and enjoyed it even more then the first.  I can't wait to listen to the 3rd.

10.  The Read-Aloud Family: Making Meaningful and Lasting Connection with Your Kids by Sarah Mackenzie - I read this early in 2020 and it made I loved it.  It made me really excited to start making reading aloud on a regular basis.  This year kind of went off the rails but I have high hopes for 2021.

What were your favorite books in 2020?

Monday, December 28, 2020

Chilled to the Cone - Cozy Mystery Review

Goodreads:  Chilled to the Cone (A Bakeshop Mystery #12) by Ellie Alexander

Rating: Really Liked It!
Source:  Publisher

Description:  The deep freeze has thawed in Ashland, Oregon and Torte is gearing up for a busy spring. When a surprise opportunity to launch a pop-up ice cream shop comes her way, Jules jumps at the chance to showcase Torte’s signature iced drinks and cold custards. But selling the desserts of her dreams comes at a price. . .and, before she knows it, Jules’s life swirls into a nightmare. One of the town’s most colorful characters, a street performer known for wearing capes and a cone-shaped hat, turns up dead just as Torte 2.0 is set to open its doors. Can Jules get the scoop on what happened to “The Wizard” of Ashland before her new business venture reaches a chilling conclusion?

Genre:  Mystery - Cozy

Why I Picked This Book:  This is one of my favorite books so of course I had to pick up the next one!

My Impression:  It's springtime in Ashland, Oregon and Jules and her team are thinking about expanding.  This time into a summer outside kitchen that sells frozen custards, and concretes and iced coffee.  For the first time we get off the square and spend some time in another area of Ashland.  The Railroad district is starting to come to life with a yoga studio, a bike shop and a yummy food truck that is run by a good friend of Jules'.  

This mystery was a little bit different then the usual books.  There's not nearly as much time in Torte and while there are some yummy food descriptions most of the focus was renovating the new space.  The mystery of who killed The Wizard and just what is going on in Torte 2.0's new home was really interesting and definitely had me guessing.  

My favorite thing was seeing some resolution between Jules and Carlos though I still have some questions about a few issues that were raised.  I'm hoping those will get resolved in future books.  This probably wasn't my favorite book in the series but it was an enjoyable read and I am always happy to spend some time in Ashland.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Absolutely!  This is one of my favorite series and I'm already looking forward to the next book!

Would I Recommend this Book?  Definitely!  If you enjoy cozy mysteries this is a series not to be missed.

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

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Life with Leukemia (and Some Reading) - December 27


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

I hope all who celebrate had a very Merry Christmas.  We had a quiet one with visits with family a few at a time in the garage with masks on.  It was freezing but it was so good to see everyone.  Christmas morning Santa came and Will was very pleased with his haul.  Unfortunately between moving and visiting he's super worn out and spent most of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day sleeping but he is in good spirits.  We had our first visit at the affiliate here in town and it was so positive.  Everyone was super nice and because it's so small it has much more of a personal feel.

Next week Will has his next spinal tap AND his 11th birthday - though thankfully not on the same day. I'm not sure what we are going to do for his birthday especially with his energy level being so low but we will think of something.  

On a fun note I got an air fryer for Christmas!  Anyone have one?  Any recommendations for yummy things to cook in it?


Reading:  If Mashed Potatoes Could Dance by Paige Shelton

Listening:  It Takes a Coven by Carol J. Perry

Watching:  Not a huge amount - mostly just YouTube

Have a great week and happy reading!

Friday, December 25, 2020

Merry Christmas and My Five Favorite Christmas Carols


To all who celebrate have a Merry Merry Christmas and to those that don't I hope you have a lovely Friday and a fantastic weekend.  

I've had a difficult time feeling particularly Christmas-y this year and with a move right before Christmas we didn't really have much time or energy to really decorate.  Throw in the pandemic and my son's repressed immune system we are keeping gatherings short, small, masked, and outside so it's not really the noisy fun event it usually is.  I know it will be lovely and quiet which is just what we need right now but it's definitely different.  To feel a little more Christmas-y I thought I'd spend some time thinking of my 5 Favorite Christmas Carols.  

1.  The Holly and the Ivy

2.  Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

3.  God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman

4.  Silent Night

5.  The First Noel

Do you have a favorite carol?

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Books from the Backlog - Live and Let Pie


 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!

Blurb:  The heat is on for pastry chef, family business operator, and unlikely sleuth Jules Capshaw. Just when she thought she could enjoy some time away from the kitchen, Jules manages to discover a skull during a picnic by the lake. As if unearthing remains that may be connected to a missing-persons case from the 1960s isn't enough on her plate, Jules must contend with the unsolved matter of her own marriage while her estranged husband Carlos sails the open seas, awaiting a verdict. Then there's Jules's bitter landlord Edgar, who is intent on making a sweet deal on a vacant lot down the block from Torte--until he turns up dead. If only Jules could find a recipe that would let her bake her cake and eat it, too...

Why It Needs to Come Off the Shelf: This is one of my absolute favorite cozy mystery series and somehow I completely missed this one.  Add in the fact that it contains a missing person case which is one of my absolute favorite types of mysteries and I can't believe I haven't read this yet!

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Christmas at the Island Hotel - Fiction Review

Goodreads:  Christmas at the Island Hotel (Mure #4) by Jenny Colgan

Rating: Really Liked It!
Source:  Purchased

Description:  On the tiny, beautiful, and remote island of Mure, halfway between Scotland and Norway, a new hotel opening is a big event. New mother Flora MacKenzie and her brother Fintan are working themselves half to death to get it ready in time for Christmas.

The new hotel’s impressive kitchens throw together two unlikely new friends: Isla Gregor is the hardworking young girl who has been a waitress in the island's cafe, dreaming of a bigger, better life now that she’s at a proper fancy hotel. Konstantin Pederson is working his way up in the hotel's kitchens too…but he is also, secretly, the only son of the Duke of Utsire. Konstantin has been sent to learn what it is to work hard for a living, before receiving his inheritance. Although he’s initially resentful, the place grows on him; he has never met anyone quite like Isla and her fellow Murians before.

As the island’s residents and special VIP guests gather for the hotel’s grand opening gala, Christmas is in the air. But so are more than a few small-town secrets…

Genre: Fiction

Why I Picked This Book:  I've read the previous three books and adored them so I couldn't wait for this one.

My Impression:  Well this was just a cozy holiday delight!  I was so excited to be back in Mure and Colgan did not disappoint.  To be honest I didn't remember Isla from the previous books and at the beginning I could understand why.  She's very nice but she is also very quiet and does her best to melt into the background and never gives herself the credit she deserves.  As the story went on I wanted more and more to be her friend.  Konstantin's transformation follows a bit of a predictable route but that doesn't make it any less delightful.

This book isn't just about Isla and Konstantin but about the opening of the Rock - the hotel owned by Colton Rogers and now by his grieving widower Fintan.  And about Flora finding her way as a new mother when parenthood just doesn't feel like it's coming as naturally to her as it does to her partner Joel. There's Saif and Lorna and all the other characters that populate the quirky barren island closer to Norway then Scotland and I was heavily invested in them all.  Well except Agot. Agot could be sent away to a very strict boarding school and I think all readers and all residents of Muir would give a big sigh of relief.  I'm fine with children in books but Agot is annoying and I'm pretty sure if she was a real child the other residents would take up a collection to fund some off island schooling for her.  

This was cozy and sweet and heartwarming and a bit heartbreaking all at once and just a perfect read for the holiday season - or any cold dreary day.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Definitely!  Colgan is one of my favorite authors and I already have another book by her in my TBR for next year.

Would I Recommend this Book?  Absolutely!  This is a hot cup of tea and a cozy fire on a cold night kind of book.  

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday - Books I Hope Santa Brings

Today I'm linking up with Top Ten Tuesday hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl which is all about lists.  Since lists are one of my favorite things this is one of my favorite linkups!  Today's topic is Books I Hope Santa Brings.  I have bought books this year like it was my job so there's not many left that I want that I don't have but these 10 look like they need to be added to my shelf.

1. The French House: An American Family, a Ruined Maison, and the Village that Restored Them All by Don Wallace - This has been on my TBR for ages and I really want to read it.  Maybe if Santa leaves it I will finally actually get to it!

2.  Murder Can Mess Up Your Masterpiece by Rose Pressey -  I was watching Courtagonist on YouTube the other day and she mentioned this one and it sounded so great I immediately added it to my TBR!

3.  Of Literature and Lattes by Katherine Reay - The Printed Letter Bookshop was one of my favorite books of 2019 and I was so sure I was going to buy this one as soon as it came out but somehow I didn't.  I'm still looking forward to reading it and am hoping it's under the tree!

4.  A Skeleton in the Family by Leigh Perry - Another Courtagonist recommendation but one that's been on my radar for awhile.  It sounds like lots of fun so I thought I'd give this one a try.

5.  A Treacherous Curse by Deanna Raybourn - I've read 1, 2, and 5 in this series and already have 6 on my shelf so I need to get 3 and 4 read before that!

6.  House Lessons: Renovating a Life by Erica Bauermeister - I've read and loved a couple of fiction books by this author and I love anything about home renovation so this has me curious.

7.  The Life and Times of Miss Jane Marple by Anne Hart - I'm in the middle of a Miss Marple reread so this book just went to the top of my TBR.  How can I not want it?

8.  The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths - I've been loving a historical mystery series by Elly Griffiths and now this one has caught my eye as well.

9.  The Secret Room: A True Gothic Mystery by Catherine Bailey - How can I resist that title?  I need to know more!

10. The Gift of the Magpie by Donna Andrews - Of course I need a Christmas mystery on Christmas Day and a Christmas mystery in one of my favorite series?  Absolutely!

What books are you hoping Santa leaves under your tree?

Monday, December 21, 2020

Cold Wind - Mystery Review

Goodreads:  Cold Wind (Alaska Wild #2) by Paige Shelton

Rating:  Liked It
Source: Publisher

Description:  Beth Rivers is still in Alaska. The unidentified man who kidnapped her in her home of St. Louis hasn’t been found yet, so she’s not ready to go back.

But as October comes to a close, Benedict is feeling more and more like her new home. Beth has been working on herself: She’s managed to get back to writing, and she’s enjoying these beautiful months between summer and winter in Alaska.

Then, everything in Benedict changes after a mudslide exposes a world that had been hidden for years. Two mud-covered, silent girls appear, and a secret trapper’s house is found in the woods. The biggest surprise, though, is a dead and frozen woman’s body in the trapper’s shed. No one knows who she is, but the man who runs the mercantile, Randy, seems to be in the middle of all the mysteries.

Unable to escape her journalistic roots, Beth is determined to answer the questions that keep arising: Are the mysterious girls and the frozen body connected? Can Randy possibly be involved? And―most importantly―can she solve this mystery before the cold wind sweeping over the town and the townspeople descends for good?

Genre: Mystery 

Why I Picked This Book:  I've read some of Shelton's cozies and enjoyed them so I was really curious about her darker books - plus the premise just seemed so intriguing!

My Impression:  Well this was definitely not a cozy!  But it's not really a grisly police procedural either - instead walking a line somewhere in the middle.  Beth is the main character who has some law enforcement in her background, an aptitude for investigating thanks to her obsessed somewhat unstable mother, a flourishing career writing thrillers, and a seriously traumatic backstory.  This is the second book in the story and I had no trouble figuring out Beth's story or who was who in Benedict.

The mystery is multi-layered.  Who is the body in the shed and what is the identity of the two little girls who appeared out of nowhere.  There are past tragedies and general unhappiness involved as well as lots of unanswered questions compounded by the fact that people in Benedict keep themselves to themselves.  Parts of the conclusion seemed somewhat out of left field but that didn't keep me from enjoying the read and wanting to know just what would happen next.

I really like the town of Benedict and am looking forward to going back.  I can't wait to see more of Orin, Gril, and Viola and I hope Ellen returns in the next book.  As well I can't wait to find out if any of the mysteries from Beth's past are ever solved.  

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Definitely!  I'm really curious to see how this series progresses.

Would I Recommend this Book?  Absolutely!  This was a good in between subgenre mystery in a great setting with interesting characters.

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

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Life with Leukemia (and Some Reading) - December 20


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

We are home!  It was a seriously long day but we got everything packed up, loaded up, and unloaded on Thursday just the two of us (but honestly mostly my husband - the man is a machine).  I'm flat exhausted and could happily spend the next two weeks lounging in bed.  Will is worn out but in good spirits.  Jason (husband) is "a little sore" but has spent the day frantically Christmas shopping because we literally had zero done.  And Comet the cat is really convinced that he never wants to go on another car ride ever again but has adjusted pretty quickly.  We are a little nervous about transferring to the St Jude affiliate.  We loved our team at the main campus so much but we have high hopes for this team.  We will be back in Memphis in February for about a month (but no move this time - we will just stay in housing) but for right now we are enjoying being home!

Christmas will be a very quiet affair this year.  We are keeping it just the 3 of us and will wave at everyone else from 6 feet apart with masks on.  Will's 11th birthday is a few days after Christmas and we are kind of scrambling trying to figure out how to keep it fun.  


Reading: Chilled to the Cone by Ellie Alexander and Christmas at the Island Hotel by Jenny Colgan

Listening:  A Cajun Christmas Killing by Ellen Byron

Watching:  Not much.  I'm thinking of trying a Christmas movie or two to get a bit more in the spirit.

Have a great week and happy reading!

Saturday, December 19, 2020

The Tuesday Club Murders - Classic Mystery Reviews

Rating: Loved It!
Source: Purchased

Description:  One Tuesday evening a group gathers at Miss Marple’s house and the conversation turns to unsolved crimes…

The case of the disappearing bloodstains; the thief who committed his crime twice over; the message on the death-bed of a poisoned man which read ‘heap of fish’; the strange case of the invisible will; a spiritualist who warned that ‘Blue Geranium’ meant death…

Now pit your wits against the powers of deduction of the ‘Tuesday Night Club’.

Genre: Mystery - Classic

Why I Picked This Book:  I'm thoroughly enjoying a Miss Marple reread and this was the next book in the series.

My Impression:  For our second time seeing Miss Marple it's a collection of linked short stories.  The stories take place over a couple of evenings where Miss Marple is having an evening with at first her rather pompous nephew and friends and the second is with Col and Mrs. Bantry who will play important roles in later books.  In both evenings those present take turns telling stories of mysteries they themselves have encountered and take terms guessing the solution.  The stories range from international intrigue to accidents that aren't quite what they seem.

My very favorite part of this book is how dismissive the other guests are of Miss Marple at first and their absolute shock as the evening develops.  Christie writes fantastic short stories with enough information to get you invested in the story but not so much that the story gets confusing or crowded.  If you are new to Miss Marple this is a perfect introduction and will definitely give you a very true understanding of just who she is.  

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Absolutely!  I'm already excited about my next Miss Marple book.

Would I Recommend this Book?  I would!  This book is just such a delight and perfect for this chaotic time of year.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Friday Fives - Five Books I Want to Read By the End of the Year

I'm taking a bit of a break from my usual Friday Linkups to try something a little different.  I'm in a list making kind of mood so I thought I'd start making random five lists.  Sometimes they'll be bookish other weeks not so much. This week I'm looking at 5 books I want to finish by the end of the year.

1.  Christmas at the Island Hotel by Jenny Colgan - I have loved all the previous books in this series and this may be the next book I pick up.  I can wait to dive into into it!

2.  The Tuesday Club Murders by Agatha Christie - If I don't pick up the book above then this will be my next book but regardless it's coming up soon.  I loved my reread of the first Miss Marple and can't wait to read more.

3.  It Takes a Coven by Carol J Perry - I have been working my way through this series on audio and this is the first one that isn't a reread.  I can't wait for it!  

4.  Chilled to the Cone by Ellie Alexander - This is the newest in one of my favorite cozy series and comes out at the end of the month so it looks like the perfect Christmas present to myself.

5.  Read and Gone by Allison Brook - This is another favorite cozy series but somehow I missed this earlier book.  Luckily, not only does my library have it in audio BUT it's also a Christmas theme so it seems like it must be read before the end of the year!

What books do you hope to read by the end of the year?

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Books from the Backlog - Murder With Peacocks

 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!

Goodreads:  Murder With Peacocks by Donna Andrews

Blurb:  So far Meg Langslow's summer is not going swimmingly. Down in her small Virginia hometown, she's maid of honor at the nuptials of three loved ones--each of whom has dumped the planning in her capable hands. One bride is set on including a Native American herbal purification ceremony, while another wants live peacocks on the lawn. Only help from the town's drop-dead gorgeous hunk, disappointingly rumored to be gay, keeps Meg afloat in a sea of dotty relatives and outrageous neighbors.
And, in a whirl of summer parties and picnics, Southern hospitality is strained to the limit by an offensive newcomer who hints at skeletons in the guests' closets. But it seems this lady has offended one too many when she's found dead in suspicious circumstances, followed by a string of accidents--some fatal. Soon, level-headed Meg's to-do list extends from flower arrangements and bridal registries to catching a killer--before the next catered event is her own funeral...

Why It Needs to Come Off the Shelf:  I have really been enjoying the later Donna Andrews books in this series so it seems only fair I go back to the beginning!

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Trading Christmas - Holiday Fiction Review

Goodreads:  Trading Christmas by Debbie Macomber

Rating: Liked It
Source: Purchased (Audible)

Description:  Emily Springer, widowed mother of one, decides to leave Leavenworth, Washington, to spend Christmas with her daughter in Boston.
Charles Brewster, history professor, curmudgeon and resident of Boston, wants to avoid Christmas altogether. He figures a prison town should be nice and quiet over the holidays — except he’s thinking of the wrong Leavenworth!

Through an internet site, Charles and Emily arrange to swap houses for the holiday. So Emily goes to Boston—and discovers that her daughter has gone to Florida. And Charles arrives in Leavenworth to discover that it’s not the prison town — it’s Santa’s village! The place is full of Christmas trees, Christmas music and...elves.
Meanwhile, Emily’s friend Faith Kerrigan travels to Leavenworth to visit her and instead finds Charles the grinch. Then Charles’s brother, Ray, shows up at his home in Boston to discover that he isn’t there — but Emily is.

Through all the mix-ups and misunderstandings, amid the chaos and confusion, romance begins to emerge in unexpected ways. Because everything changes at Christmas!

Genre: Fiction - Contemporary

Why I Picked This Book:  I loved the Hallmark movie based on this book and I've been wanting to read a Debbie Macomber Christmas book so this seemed perfect.

My Impression:  I have surprisingly mixed feelings about the book.  I loved Faith and Charles's story - especially the part involving Santa and the elves.  And really I loved Emily and Ray's story.  All four are really delightful people (well it does take a bit to warm up to Charles) who for various reasons have been single for quite awhile.  They're all nice people and it was equally nice to see them find people who really seemed to appreciate them.  I love the house swap trope and this was very well done.  I especially enjoyed Charles original thoughts on Leavenworth and Ray's absolute glee in learning that his brother has essentially landed in a Winter Wonderland. 

So what didn't I like?  Emily's daughter Heather.  After some thinking about it I think I just don't like Macomber's young adult children.  To me they always come off as whiny brats and Heather was no different.  She does redeem herself but I didn't enjoy her page time.  As well, I didn't care for the narration done by Renee Raudman.  I can't quite put my finger on what was wrong - maybe over-enunciation?  - but it just didn't work for me.  I think I would have enjoyed this more if I had just read it.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Yes.  I don't love her books as much as I want to but I do want to try more from her.

Would I Recommend this Book?  Yes, though honestly I prefer the Hallmark movie.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday - Winter TBR

 Today I'm linking up with Top Ten Tuesday hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl which is all about lists.  Since lists are one of my favorite things this is one of my favorite linkups!  Today's topic is my Winter TBR.  I love making these lists.  I don't always read all the books that are on the list but I do enjoy making them!

1.  The Last Garden in England by Julia Kelly - This one was tempting me because of the absolutely gorgeous cover but when my friend Tina told me how much she was loving it I just couldn't resist anymore.  It might be my first book of the year.

2.  Mrs. Jeffries Demands Justice by Emily Brightwell -I love this historical mystery series with kind of an upstairs downstairs vibe and thoroughly entertaining characters.

3.  An Unexpected Peril by Deanna Raybourn - Another favorite series and one I absolutely can wait to read.  I love how Raybourn sets a scene and Veronica is such a fun character.  

4.  Cold Wind by Paige Shelton - I've read previous series by Shelton and enjoyed them but this one sounds a bit darker and more intense and I'm seriously intrigued.

5.  Chilled to the Cone by Ellie Alexander - Another new release in a favorite series!  I love seeing what Jules and the crew at Torte are up to even though I know I have to have a good stock of pastries on hand to snack my way through while reading!

6.  It Takes a Coven by Carol J Perry - I have been listening to this series and absolutely loving it.  I had read a few of the earlier books and really enjoyed it but the audio might be even better and I'm excited to get caught up.

7.  Brat Fararr by Josephine Tey - I have been exploring classic mysteries a bit more this year (or meaning too) and this one is up next on my list.

8.  The Tuesday Club Murders by Agatha Christie - I'm rereading the Miss Marple books and this is the next one - and it just happens to be one of my favorites!

9.  The Elusive Mrs. Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman - Another classic series that I'm reading my way through and one that has consistently been so much fun.  I can't wait to pick this one up!

10. The Shadow Sister by Lucinda Riley - This series has a high page count which tends to scare me off but I always enjoy it so I'm really looking forward to picking up the 3rd book in the series.

What is on your Winter TBR?

Monday, December 14, 2020

Premeditated Mortar - Cozy Mystery Review

Rating:  Really Liked It!
Source: Publisher

Description:  Shannon Hammer is about to embark on one of the biggest projects of her career. Her best friend Jane Hennessey has purchased one wing of the Gables, formerly the old state insane asylum, located on a bucolic hillside two miles northeast of Lighthouse Cove. Jane plans to turn her section into a small luxury hotel complete with twenty ocean-view rooms, a spa, and a restaurant.

Shannon is raring to get started on the enormous project and is shocked when a group of unruly protesters shows up at the groundbreaking ceremony and wreaks havoc. She’s even more freaked-out when someone pushes her into a pit of bricks in a closed-off room of the asylum. Despite her close call, Shannon wants nothing more than to get back to work . . . until she finds a body not far from where she was pushed. Now Shannon is determined to get to the bottom of the goings-on at the Gables even if it kills her. . . .

Genre:  Mystery - Cozy

Why I Picked This Book:  I love books involving renovation of old houses or buildings and I've enjoyed previous books in the series.

My Impression:  This is a bit tricky to write.  Objectively, I can see the flaws in this book.  The actual murder doesn't occur until more then halfway through the book.  The characters aren't particularly fleshed out and can be a bit one note.  Shannon's observations about Mac can get a bit repetitive and are a bit overdone.  

That said - I really liked it!  This book really clicked with me and I thoroughly enjoyed every page.  I was fascinated with the history of the Gables and the renovation project that Shannon and her team were working on.  I couldn't wait for each tiny little hint of a clue to be revealed and corner of the old asylum to be explored.  I love the renovation aspects and that Shannon is actually involved versus her job just being window dressing for the series.  I also really enjoyed Jane and Shannon's friendship and the details about Jane's mother.  

This was a fun cozy mystery read with a fantastically creepy setting.  If the blurb intrigues you as much as it did me don't hesitate to pick this one up!

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Absolutely!  I've enjoyed what books in this series I've read though I really need to go back to the beginning and catch up.

Would I Recommend this Book?  After writing my thoughts I skimmed some Goodreads reviews and it sounded like most people had no problem jumping in with this one so if it intrigues you grab it!  Otherwise if you enjoy books about renovations and love a good cozy this is a good series.

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

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Life with Leukemia (And Some Reading) - December 13

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

So long time no see!  I've been reviewing pretty regularly but just didn't have the energy for much else.  Things are going pretty well.  All test results are good and definitely going the way we want them.  Our team is expecting an absolute full and complete recovery with no relapse which is beyond amazing to hear.  When your child gets a leukemia diagnosis they tell you it's a marathon and not a sprint and we are definitely feeling that right now.  We are almost done with week 9 of 120 though that may be extended if treatment has to pause for any reason (which is not uncommon).  We've been in the middle of a really intense few weeks but it's about to get easier for a little bit and even better news is WE ARE GOING HOME!  Like this week.  We are transferring to the affiliate in our city and we are all so excited.  It is definitely time to go home.  We will have to come back up to Memphis in a month or two for about a month but we will worry about that when we get there.


Reading:  Murder, She Wrote: Aloha Betrayed by JB Fletcher and Donald Bain and Cold Wind by Paige Shelton
Listening:  Murder at the Mansion by Sheila Connolly

Watching:  A lot of YouTube and I got caught up Dancing with the Stars and Catfish

How is your week going?  What are you reading?  Have a great week!

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Murder at the Vicarage - Classic Mystery Review

Goodreads:  Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie

Rating: Loved It!
Source:  Purchased

Description:  ‘Anyone who murdered Colonel Protheroe,’ declared the parson, brandishing a carving knife above a joint of roast beef, ‘would be doing the world at large a favour!’ It was a careless remark for a man of the cloth. And one which was to come back and haunt the clergyman just a few hours later – when the colonel was found shot dead in the clergyman’s study. But as Miss Marple soon discovers, the whole village seems to have had a motive to kill Colonel Protheroe.

Genre: Mystery - Classic
Why I Picked This Book:  I just finished the Hercule Poirot books so it was time to pick up the first Miss Marple.

My Impression:  I could have clapped for joy when Miss Marple first appeared on the page.  It has been a long time since I read a Miss Marple book and it was like running into a beloved aunt that I haven't seen in far too long.  And really could there every be a cozier Miss Marple-y title?  

Not only is this Miss Marple's first time on the page but unlike Poirot she has never been involved in a murder investigation before.  She is, however, an expert on human behavior and more then up to the task of observing and piecing together clues.  And what an entertaining and intriguing bunch of clues there are!  As is fairly common in Christie books Miss Marple is a side character with Mr. Clement, the Vicar, taking the front and center place.  However, she is definitely the star of the book always dropping just the right observation or giving a nudge here and there when needed.  

This is a delightful mystery with a well done stream lined plot and just the right amount of cozy feels.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Absolutely!  Christie is without question one of my favorite authors and I can't wait to see Miss Marple again.

Would I Recommend this Book?  If you enjoy classic cozy mysteries then this is an absolute must read!

Friday, December 11, 2020

Friday Fives - Five Books I've Read Lately

I'm taking a bit of a break from my usual Friday Linkups to try something a little different.  Michelle over at Because Reading is Better Than Real Life   used to do a Five on Fridays that I always enjoyed and I've seen a few other variations on the theme.  As well I'm in a list making kind of mood so I thought I'd give start making random five lists.  Sometimes they'll be bookish other weeks not so much.  While I haven't been around on the blog very much lately I have been reading up a storm and here are 5 books I've read lately with (very) short reviews.

1.  The Zig Zag Girl by Elly Griffiths - I read a newer book in the series and really enjoyed it so I had to go back and read the first in the series and I'm so glad I did!  This was a fun book with an interesting backstory and setting with great characters and the mystery had at the edge of the seat.  The audio is excellent.

2.  The Seekers by Heather Graham - This is the 2nd book in last year's (I think) trilogy and I enjoyed it quite a bit.  It was nice and spooky with a bit of romance and history.  Nothing hugely memorable but a delightful distraction while I was reading it.

3.  Murder, She Wrote: You Bet Your Life by Jessica Fletcher and Donald Bain - I love the series and this was such a fun read.  Maybe not the most realistic of plots but lots of fun and Jessica Fletcher in Las Vegas is not to be missed!

4.  Watching Eagles Soar by Margaret Coel - This short story collection was perfection.  My favorite were the Molly Brown stories but all were wonderful and have me wanting to read more full length mysteries by Coel.

5.  Ghost Ups Her Game by Carolyn G. Hart - This mystery about a guardian angel who periodically returns to her home town to solve crimes is absolutely bonkers and so much fun.  I jumped in with book 9 and had no problem catching up.  Plus, the audio is fabulous.

What books have you read lately?

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Hidden Treasure - Cozy Mystery Review

Rating: Really Liked It!
Source:  Publisher

Description:  When antiques expert Josie Prescott finds a mysterious trunk, no one thinks it could lead to murder. Josie, the owner of Prescott’s Antiques & Auctions, and her new husband, Ty, have finally found their dream home, a Victorian beauty on the beach known in the town of Rocky Point as the “Gingerbread House.” It was recently vacated by Maudie Wilson, an aging widow, whose concerned nieces have moved her into a nearby assisted living facility. Josie befriends Maudie, who seems surprisingly sharp, considering her family’s doubts about her soundness of mind.

As Josie and Ty joyfully begin renovations on the Gingerbread House, the nieces report that Maudie, in her forgetfulness, may have left behind an old trunk, which she’s desperate to get back. Sure enough, Josie finds the trunk inside a hidden compartment, and within it a jewel-encrusted box holding a sculpture of a cat. Josie can understand the sense of urgency about getting the objects back—they look valuable, and not just in the sentimental sense.

But when Josie goes to return the box to Maudie, the woman has vanished. And on the floor of her empty apartment lies a corpse, a woman bludgeoned to death. Sick with worry for Maudie’s safety, Josie begins to piece together the clues to the murder. Everyone around her seems to want to pitch in, from Maudie’s family, to the receptionist at the facility, to the young couple helping Josie with her renovations, but with the killer so close to home, Josie has to be on her guard.

Genre: Mystery - Cozy 

Why I Picked This Book:  I love antiques and have enjoyed earlier books in this series.

My Impression:  This is one of my favorite series though I will admit it can be a little bit hit or miss.  Luckily, in my opinion, this one is very much one of the hits.  It was a bit of a complex plot with a murder, stolen valuables, and a missing person who may or may not be missing voluntarily.  There's also a subplot involving Josie's neighbor and best friend Zoe.  But despite all the goings on this book didn't feel to jumbled and the mystery never felt like it was hiding in the background.

The antique business is one of my very favorite things about this series and while that was a bit lighter in this book I did enjoy that very much.  As well, I'm hoping that Josie and Ty's new home is explored in more detail in future books as I wanted more about it!  

This was a solid mystery and while I did guess the who and the what on the main issue there were a few side mysteries I was anxiously awaiting the outcome of and the guessing didn't dampen my enjoyment in the slightest.  The last couple of cozies I've read have really had a rushed ending where I was left wanting more but that was definitely not the case here.  It wasn't too contrived but I was left with all the answers I wanted and got to see a bit of the aftermath.  

If you enjoy a light mystery with a touch of history this series is a good one to pick up and this book might just be my favorite yet.

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Absolutely!  I can't wait to see what comes next with Josie, Ty, Zoe, and Ellis.

Would I Recommend this Book?  If you enjoy cozies and really love a bit of digging into past secrets this is a great series to try.

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

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Ten Christmas-y Cozies On My TBR


2020 has been a year of lots of things but reading-wise for me it has definitely been the year of cozy mysteries.  Here are ten Christmas-y cozies that I'm hoping to get read if not this Christmas then very soon!

1.  The Gift of the Magpie by Donna Andrews - This is the latest in one of my absolute favorite cozy series and I can't wait to read this one!

2.  Rest Ye Murdered Gentleman by Vicki Delaney - This has been on my list since it first came out.  Not only is the title a play on one of my very favorite Christmas Carols but I've read the 2 most recent books in the series and thoroughly enjoyed them.

3.  Ornaments of Death by Jane K. Cleland - I really enjoy this antiques based cozy series and this one sounds fantastic!

4.  Twelve Slays of Christmas by Jacqueline Frost - This just looks delightful and has one of the most Christmas-y covers ever!

5.  In Peppermint Peril by Joy Avon - It's Christmas in a tea shop along with a rich relative and a whole host of family secrets.  

6.  Bells, Spells, and Murders by Carol J. Perry - I have been catching up on this series on audio and have been absolutely loving it.  If this Christmas story is even half as good as the Halloween story I am in for a treat!

7.  Death of a Neighborhood Scrooge by Laura Levine - I got a review copy of this a couple of years ago and it looks so fun but somehow I've never read it!

8.  As the Christmas Cookie Crumbles by Leslie Budewitz - I have read one or two books by this author and really enjoyed them and am absolutely dying to read more.

9.  The Iced Princess by Christine Husom - I adore snow globes and to read a whole book set in a snow globe shop during Christmas just sounds delightful.

10. Deck the Hallways by Kate Carlisle - I love Kate Carlisle, I love books about home renovation, and I have thoroughly enjoyed the later books in this series so picking up an older Christmas book seems like a pretty safe bet!

Do you have any Christmas-y or other holiday themed books on your TBR?