Throwback Thursday – The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

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Throwback Thursday is hosted by Renee of It’s Book Talk.  This meme was created to share old favorites and/or books published over a year ago.  Today I’m going to be sharing a favorite of mine, The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty.

IMG_3658Why I chose this book:

This book was truly amazing.  I was totally immersed in the story and I literally gasped when I found out what the secret was.  I was like….

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I loved how the author introduced each character’s story and then weaved their lives together, each one playing a significant part in the life of another.   It was masterfully done.  And to this day I haven’t read a more compelling epilogue.   Seriously, I think my mouth was open the entire time I read it (or listened to it as this was an audiobook).  The Husband’s Secret received five-stars from me without hesitation.  It has remained one of my favorites. See my review of it here.


Now you.  Have you read The Husband’s Secret or any other book by Liane Moriarty?  What did you think?  Please feel free to share.

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Thanks for visiting. See ya’ next time…

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Am I Normal? (for those of you who really know me, don’t answer that)…

September 30th, 2017 was my twenty-third wedding anniversary.  Yay!!  We decided not to venture out too far from home to celebrate this time, and so we settled on staying at The Ivey’s Hotel, which is roughly 30 minutes from where we live.  It recently underwent a multi-million dollar renovation and it is stunning.  Here’s some pictures of the interior…

Pretty ritzy, right?  It was pure opulence, and the epitome of luxury.  There was even a library on our floor that we had twenty-four hour access to…

This was my favorite place to go while we were there.  (That’s my hubby reading in there.)

fullsizeoutput_ac2So here’s why I want to know if I’m normal.  We were supposed to spend four glorious nights there, but after the third night I was ready to go home.  I told my husband and he was just fine with going home early too. So we went home, and we spent the next seven days that he had off from work in the comforts of our own home, occasionally going out to dinner or to the mall, the movies, or just wherever.  We had an amazing time just being in each others company, which is where we are happiest.   And I was thinking….

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That’s not to say we don’t enjoy going away on vacation.  There have been places we’ve gone where we’ve extended our stay.  But not this time.  So, I ask you, is it normal to want to leave a swanky hotel prematurely and go back home?  Have you ever gone away on vacation or for some other occasion and longed to go home?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Thanks for reading!!

Throwback Thursday – The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

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Throwback Thursday is hosted by Renee of It’s Book Talk.  This meme was created to share old favorites and/or books published over a year ago.  Today I’m going to be sharing The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.

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Why I chose this book:

This book was INCREDIBLE!  It had such an emotional effect on me.  This is how I felt while reading it…

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It was one of the books that reinvigorated my love of reading.  In fact, I don’t think I was writing book reviews yet when I read The Kite Runner, so I don’t have a review to attach to this post.  All I can say is it was a book that stayed with me for weeks afterwards, and it remains a favorite.  Definitely a five-star read.


Have you read The Kite Runner?  What did you think?  Please feel free to share.

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Thank you for reading. Until next time…

Home Delivery Meal Kits – Yay or Nay?

We’re seeing them everywhere. Meal kits delivered to your door, ready to prepare. There are so many options you can choose from, including: vegetarian, gluten free, paleo, vegan, organic and so on. And since most companies offer your first box at a reduced price, I decided to try one. I settled on Home Chef since their meals seemed more suited to my family’s taste. There are times when I forget to take something out of the freezer to prepare for dinner, or I just want to try something new, so I thought this might be a good way to do it.

The following is my experience with Home Chef’s meals:

Bone-in Pork Chop with Candied Walnut Butter

My result:

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This meal was excellent! We were very pleased with the results. And bonus, I was introduced to acorn squash which was very delicious.

Four Cheese Baked Ziti


My result:


This dish was very good. I liked the addition of spinach in the pasta. It made me feel better that there was a healthy element to it. Granted, I could have easily made this myself, but adding the spinach and different variety of cheeses was new to me so overall I was happy about this recipe and the results.

Mongolian Beef with Ribeye Steak

 My result (minus the peanuts):

This dish was delicious!! I have to admit I was a little skeptical when I was preparing it. It looked like it might be dry, and I had no idea how Chinese broccoli would taste. It looked like green aluminum foil pieces when I took it out of the oven. But when it was incorporated into the dish, it was a perfect fit. One of my favorite meals.


These three meals were my favorites. I prepared three others that were *meh* at best, a bit too bland for my taste and I was like….


This is an example of how you receive your ingredients in the mail:

Four Cheese Baked Ziti contents:


And they give you this cool recipe binder to keep all of your recipes in:

So far I’ve cooked about six meals, and I’d say we loved 50% of them.  The others were just okay.

THE VERDICT….

Pros:

  1. Just about everything you need to prepare a meal in less than an hour at your fingertips. Convenient.
  2. Discovered new recipes that we enjoyed, including food items that I may never have tried otherwise.
  3. Ability to suspend shipments at will. If you don’t like meal choices for a particular week you can skip that week.
  4. Meal options are displayed on the website weeks in advance so you can plan out your deliveries accordingly.
  5. Decent meal variety.
  6. Good customer Service.

Cons:

  1. Thoroughly satisfied with only about half of the meals I prepared.
  2. Expensive—all things considered.
  3. Some meals were too labor intensive; too many steps, pots and pans.
  4. A massive amount of packaging material!!
  5. Limited time period to prepare meals once received.

Overall, my experience with Home Chef was pretty good. I don’t regret trying them out.  I had originally cancelled after my first shipment but they gave me an incentive to give them another shot so I did. I will probably discontinue my membership though. The pros ultimately don’t outweigh the cons. I’ll let you know if I change my mind after I prepare my latest meals.

Regarding all of that packaging material from my first shipment, I repurposed some of it into a cat bed for Kit-Kat (a.k.a. Kitty-baby). He LOVES it!! All you need to add is an old t-shirt, pillowcase, and a few safety pins.


I actually wound up double padding it so it’s really soft inside. It can be washed easily so that’s a plus. Just remove the t-shirt and pillowcase and wash them. To give you an idea of the actual size, Kitty-baby is about 12 pounds.

So tell me, have you tried any of these home meal delivery kits? What was your experience like? If you haven’t tried one, would you?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Killer Jam by Karen MacInerney – **TOP PICK**

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⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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I chose this cozy mystery to listen to on a whim, having downloaded it a while back from Amazon Prime Reading (audiobook version). What a pleasant surprise it was! I looked forward to my morning walks so that I could get caught up on what was happening with Lucy Resnick and Dewberry Farm. Here’s my synopsis of what it’s about….

Lucy Resnick, former Austin, Texas reporter turned homesteader, has purchased her grandparents’ farm in Buttercup, Texas. It had been sold 15 years prior after Lucy’s grandfather died. The new owner, Nettie Kocurek, has recently sold it to Lucy. But unbeknownst to Lucy, she was only sold the surface rights (what’s on top of the soil), and not the mineral rights (what’s beneath the soil). Nettie Kocurek wants to perform an oil exploration in the middle of Lucy’s pastureland with future plans to install an oil well if any oil is found there. Nettie is nursing a grudge against Lucy’s family because she was dumped by Lucy’s grandfather over 60 years ago. When Nettie turns up dead at the Founders’ Day festival and Jam-off, Lucy becomes a prime suspect. But with so few sympathetic reactions to the old woman’s plight from the Buttercup community, how will Lucy ever uncover the true killer and clear her name?

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I loved so many things about this book. The perfect country setting, Dewberry Farm in Buttercup, Texas, with residents that have names like Ursula, Opal, Rooster, Bessie Mae and Tobias. Lucy’s cow, Blossom, formerly known as Heifer #82, and her overweight, bald poodle, Chuck. The ongoing rivalry between the citizens of Czech and German descent, and laugh-out-loud moments reading about things like Lick Skillet Day, a bus that runs on fry grease, the real estate agent with the license plate that says BUY BUTT on it, and the mention of lots of kolaches. The murder mysteries were on point, and the colorful, quirky characters were amusing to say the least.

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I LOVED Killer Jam. Karen MacInerney is a new favorite cozy author. Extremely highly recommended.

Have you ever read a cozy mystery by Karen MacInerney?  I’d love to hear what you thought about it.

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Throwback Thursday – Betrayed by Donnell Ann Bell

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Throwback Thursday is hosted by Renee of It’s Book Talk.  This meme was created to share old favorites and/or books published over a year ago.  Today I’m going to be sharing Betrayed by Donnell Ann Bell.

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Why I chose this book:

I won this book in a giveaway a few years ago and I started reading it without much prior knowledge of the author.  It drew me right in. The author’s voice and writing style spoke to me.  I just connected with it.

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I liked the short chapters, how she depicted the characters, and although this was not a humorous book, there were funny parts that I just got, if that makes sense.  I read it four years ago and I still remember it fondly. It’s definitely still a favorite.  It was a keeper and I still have it. See my review of it here.


Have you ever heard of or read any of   Donnell Ann Bell’s books?  Please feel free to share.

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See ya next time…

Under an Adirondack Sky by Karen Rock


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Summary:

Rebecca Day’s job is in jeopardy. She works in the public school system as a school psychologist for at-risk teenagers, but it’s unlikely that her tenure will be approved since faculty and parents are not thrilled about her low-key disciplinary methods. Determined to prove her worth and retain her position, Rebecca proposes a retreat to Tupper Lake in the Adirondacks with the school’s troubled adolescents, initiating a pilot program that she feels will help them with their behavioral issues. For one of the troubled students she counsels, Connor Walsh, this program’s success is particularly important because if he doesn’t make significant progress he will be expelled from school. Aiden Walsh, his older brother and guardian, is too busy working long hours at the family business to give Connor the attention he needs. Rebecca observes Aiden’s distracted presence at meetings pertaining to his brother’s future and pegs him an uninterested workaholic. Aiden thinks Rebecca’s methods are overly lax and ridiculous. The two don’t hit it off very well, especially when Rebecca makes Aiden aware that he’s required to accompany Connor on their Adirondack adventure. Things start out rough, but time away from their everyday lives reveals unique circumstances and positive qualities that neither realized the other possessed. But can Aiden make his brother the priority when his heart is being pulled in another direction?

If you can imagine 20 troubled teenagers in the wilderness, and the verbal exchanges that take place amongst today’s youth, then you can get a pretty good picture of what’s taking place here. There’s irritability, competitiveness and quarreling. But in time the kids learn to interact together and they begin to see the value of teamwork and that life can still be worthwhile without their smartphones. I liked how the teens personalities are portrayed through their dialogue. You get a good sense of each character. The descriptions of the setting are great, and Karen Rock is definitely skilled in writing convincing romantic scenes that are suitable for a Heartwarming book.

I enjoyed this book. It had a down-to-earth feel that I think many would appreciate. I did.

Throwback Thursday – The House on Primrose Pond by Yona Zeldis McDonough

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Throwback Thursday is hosted by Renee of It’s Book Talk.  This meme was created to share old favorites and/or books published over a year ago.  Today I’m going to be sharing The House on Primrose Pond by Yona Zeldis McDonough.

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Why I chose this book:

Yona Zeldis McDonough was a new-to-me author.  I won her book, and when I received it I began reading, not knowing what to expect, and was immediately immersed in the story.  It was so interesting that I couldn’t put it down.  There were very emotional parts that brought me to tears.  It was my favorite read of 2016.  See my review here.

I was so elated that I contacted the author to let her know how much I enjoyed reading her book.  She was very kind, and since then I’ve purchased another book she’s written.  Unfortunately, it’s gotten lost in my TBR pile….fullsizeoutput_ae0
… but I have every intention of reading it once my review commitments are over.  If you like contemporary fiction with a little historical fiction included (the protagonist in the book is a novelist), you will probably really enjoy this book.  I highly recommend it.


Have you ever heard of or read any of Yona Zeldis McDonough’s books?  Please share your thoughts if you’re so inclined.

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Happy Reading!!

 

 

WWW Wednesday, October-25-2017

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WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words. The three W’s are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

The idea is for book lovers to share their answers to these questions with other book enthusiasts. Just leave the link to your own WWW Wednesday post in the comments section. No blog? No worries. Just answer the questions in the comments section for others to enjoy. Here’s mine…

Currently Reading:

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Under an Adirondack Sky

Harlequin Heartwarming books are sweet, tender romances that I always find time to read since they are great stories but without the draining effect of some other books.  So when I’ve finished a particularly angst-ridden or psychologically challenging read, a Heartwarming book is just the thing for me. And sometimes I just go on a Heartwarming binge since I enjoy them so much.

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Killer Jam

I love Cozy Mysteries, especially during the colder months for some unknown reason, so I chose Killer Jam to read since it’s been on my TBR pile for some time.

Recently Finished:

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Heart’s Refuge

I loved this book! It was just what I needed. I can’t get enough of that sweet cover!! That dog is so cute!! The protagonist won me over in this book. Cheryl Harper writes great stories.

What I might read next:

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Planted

Planted is a cozy mystery book that I received for an honest review from the author. It sounds interesting and I’m looking forward to reading it.

So there you have it.  What do you think about my selections?  This is my first WWW Wednesday so it might be slow going at first with regard to commenters.  But hopefully it will gain momentum as time goes on.  I’m really interested in what everyone else is reading, has read or plans to read, so please share your WWW Wednesday post, or just comment below.  So…..

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Enjoy!!

Muffins and Mourning Tea by H.Y. Hanna

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My synopsis: It’s May Day, first day of Spring in England, and Gemma regretfully agrees to celebrate it with her best friend, Cassie. The Oxford University tradition is to gather on Magdelan bridge (pronounced Maudlin) and listen to choristers sing from the Bell Tower above Magdalen College during the wee hours of the morning. When a young man hurls himself off of the bridge into the river Cherwell below Gemma isn’t initially alarmed since that is somewhat the custom. But until now everyone has succeeded in emerging from the river unscathed. Charlie Foxton was not as fortunate. A likeable young man by all accounts, Charlie didn’t seem the sort to participate in such foolish antics. It’s no wonder that what was initially deemed an accident quickly turned to a suspicion of murder.

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Kids jumping off of Magdelan Bridge into the river Cherwell below

My Thoughts:  HY Hanna delivers another stellar, clever mystery with international characters that add intrigue and spice to the story. (Her audible narrator, Pearl Hewitt, does an exquisite job at imitating the accents for the various Russian characters in the story.) I can depend on a solid mystery and some laugh-out-loud moments whenever the “old biddies” interfere in the murder investigation. Their practical, albeit unconventional sleuthing methods, are hilarious. The luscious tidbits about Oxford University and the surrounding area are always a plus in this series.  I liked Gemma’s transition from normally mild-mannered girl to imposing figure at times in this installment. There’s an inkling of trouble in paradise with Gemma’s boyfriend, Devlin O’Connor, and the suspicion still lingers beyond the conclusion of the book. Overall, I absolutely loved this cozy mystery (I think it’s my new favorite one of the series), and I look forward to the next book in the series, Four Puddings and a Funeral.  Extremely highly recommended.

Have you ever read, or listened to, any books in the Oxford Tearoom Mystery series?  If so, what did you think?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Bell Tower at Magdelan College – Oxford University

Heart’s Refuge by Cheryl Harper

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⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫  4.5 stars

Sarah Hillman’s no-kill animal shelter, Paws for Love, is in dire need of funding. Desperate for help, she reaches out to Will Barnes, a former H.S. classmate, and owner of Barnes Financial. Trouble is, Sarah was formerly the little rich, snarky, mean-girl who taunted her classmates, including Will, and “Beanpole Barnes” doesn’t feel much compassion for daddy’s little rich girl when she approaches him for assistance—at least initially. Sarah verbally taunted Will’s sister, Jen, too. And Jen and her two friends are the source for the funds needed to keep Paws for Love running. But Sarah seems to have changed, there’s no denying that, and Will’s attitude towards her begins to soften. Could it be that the shift in financial status since Bobby Hillman skipped town, leaving his shady luxury auto business behind and his daughter broke, has humbled her? Only time will tell, but meanwhile Paws for Love is a worthy cause and Will feels an obligation to seek aid for the foundering shelter. Sarah may be slowly winning his heart, too. Can Sarah be trusted, or is she putting on an act to get what she wants?

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How can you grow to love a mean-girl character? A former bully?  In Heart’s Refuge, Cheryl Harper makes you do it. This story stole my heart. The sweet shelter animals, the main character’s transformation and the community support were all reasons why I enjoyed Heart’s Refuge so much. This book is part of a series, and I suspect that a few loose ends will be tied up in the next book. Even so, I loved it and would definitely recommend this sweet, heartwarming story.

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Until next time….

The Little Bakery on Rosemary Lane

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⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 4-stars

Roxanne Cartwright, 47, is Fashion Director for YourStyle magazine.  A 30-year veteran in the magazine industry, she’s an ace at what she does and enjoys putting together glamorous fashion shoots for the magazine.  So when she’s told by her new boss that the magazine is being taken in a new direction to cheap, figure-fixing pieces, Roxanne is shocked to learn that her position will be replaced by the new fashion-director-in-chief, Tina Court, who will oversee the transformation. Wary of her imminent dismissal, Roxanne uses her temporary time off from work to escape from London and retreat to her sister’s home in the small village of Burley Bridge in Yorkshire, where they grew up.  After their mother’s death two years before, Della used her mum’s collection of cookbooks to open a cookbook bookshop and effectively changed the Burley Bridge landscape as Roxanne remembered it.  The success of the bookshop has necessitated an expansion, and Roxanne heads to the village to help her sister with the finishing touches before the upcoming party and unveiling of the expanded space.  At first reluctant to relinquish certain duties to her domestically impaired sister, in time Della realizes Roxanne’s effectiveness in handling matters in her absence and the two women become a great team.

Meanwhile, Roxanne is confused about her fashion photographer boyfriend back in London, Sean, who didn’t seem particularly displeased that she’d be leaving for two months.  Sean is the first responsible boyfriend Roxanne’s ever had. Prior relationships consisted of a host of losers, and until Sean she wasn’t much concerned about having a stable relationship with anyone. The idea of a responsible, reliable man who fussed over her and could provide security seemed boring to Roxanne.  But ever since she started dating Sean, suddenly she’s craving commitment.  Nevertheless, something is off-putting about him. She’s heard rumors of his being a philanderer, but she can’t seem to resist his good looks and impish charm.  She believes she’s in love with him, although his odd behavior, particularly that of chiding her for inconsequential incidents, is starting to get on her nerves. Roxanne finds herself continually making allowances for Sean’s bad behavior whenever he apologizes, and she feels conflicted in her emotions about him. Especially since she’s met the owner of the Bakery on Rosemary Lane, Michael.  He’s handsome, talented, available, and he seems to be interested in her.  Suddenly, Sean doesn’t dominate her every thought.  But then Sean shows up and surprises her in Burley Bridge while in Michael’s company, rendering her noticeably flustered. What will Roxanne do?

MY THOUGHTS:  I really enjoyed this book.  I loved reading about Roxanne’s life both in London and then Burley Bridge.  I appreciated that she was a middle-aged woman, as most female protagonists I read about are much younger.  I could easily relate to some of the witty references with regard to her age, and how it sometimes made her feel in the fashion world.  And yet, this book could be read by persons young and old.  Roxanne was a very chic, hip character, and didn’t come across as dowdy in any way.  The relationship she shared with her sister, and that which she developed with Michael’s daughter, Elsa, was endearing and added to my enjoyment of the book.  I was interested to know how she would resolve her relationship issues, but events that transpired in the book ultimately dictated her decision, and I was happy about her choice.  The only negatives I have about this book are that I’m not sure why it’s called The Little Bakery on Rosemary Lane since the Bakery in the story is not center stage.  It’s more in the background, so I found that a little misleading.  Also, I’m not sure how to categorize it.  Although it reads somewhat like a romance book, there wasn’t very much romance in it.  At least not enough leading up to the outcome of the story, in my humble opinion.  There was sort of a few themes going on too.  I would have liked to have seen a little more fulfilling wrap-up of everyone and everything at the end.  Aside from that it was a very good read.  It kept me interested and I would read another book by Ellen Berry in the future.

I received an E-ARC of this book from the publisher via netgalley.  All of the opinions stated in this review are my own.

Painting the Moon by Traci Borum

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⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 – 4.5 stars

Noelle Cooke has just received word that her reclusive great aunt has died and left her Primrose Cottage and her art gallery, in a little village called Chilton Crosse in England. Settled in a beach house in California and relatively content, Noelle still can’t help but to recall the fond memories of spending time as a young girl with her Great Aunt Joy and grandmother, “Gram,” in the bucolic, tranquil setting of the English countryside. The memories prompt her to immediately arrange a trip to England to settle details regarding her aunt’s estate. Being back in the familiar surroundings of summers spent during adolescence is a welcome respite for Noelle. Having not been in contact with her aunt for several years after many attempts, Noelle is hoping she will uncover why her Aunt Joy suffered a meltdown during a gallery event and retreated to her cottage for nearly a decade. As Noelle navigates Primrose Cottage she discovers a room with a locked door.  Could the contents of that room hold the answers to what happened to her?

Not long after returning to England to claim her inheritance, Noelle is reacquainted with two old friends, both of whom she spent time with when she visited during the summers. Her friend Jill, a sassy, outspoken and generally lovely person is now married and faring well domestically and financially. Her other friend, Adam Spencer, is now a very handsome Architect. Noelle is dismayed to learn that Adam, her childhood sweetheart that got away before things developed romantically between them, is engaged to a woman named Laurel. But if Adam and Laurel’s relationship is solid, why does Adam seem to find so much pleasure in Noelle’s company?

Painting the Moon was a delightful read. I enjoyed getting acquainted with both the primary and secondary characters— particularly Mac, the gardener, who proved to be an asset in many ways to Noelle. I liked the steady progression of the story, and wondering what had happened to aunt Joy to cause her to become a recluse. And what, if anything, would become of Adam and Noelle. There’s also secrets and hidden treasures that added a bit of intrigue to the story.

I enjoyed this book and recommend it highly. Thank you Kathy of Katie’s Cottage Books for reviewing this book on your blog. As a result I have found another great author. And thank you, Traci Borum, for providing me with an e-copy of your book.

 

Till Death do us Tart by H.Y. Hanna

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 4.5 stars

Gemma Rose, owner of the Little Stables Tearoom in Oxford, has had her cat, Muesli, entered in the village fete cat show by her well-meaning mother, Evelyn Rose. Muesli, a common moggie cat, has no chance of winning this pure breed expedition. Dame Claire Eccleston, a snobbish, uppity opponent in the contest, makes this fact clearly known when she scornfully insults Muesli with the common farmhouse moggie designation. As Gemma anxiously awaits the judging of the cats, a scream rings out, and Dame Claire is knocked down in the crowd. But the woman doesn’t get back up. She’s dead, presumably of a heart attack, clutching an angina pill in one hand as she lay on the ground. She was at risk after all, being overweight and continually warned by her doctor to watch her intake of fattening desserts. She’d callously ignored his advice, even wolfing down rich cake she brought to the fete. But when her manner of death is called into question, Gemma sets out to uncover the real cause of death and the culprit behind the murder. This will prove to be a daunting task since Dame Claire Eccleston, Gemma quickly learns, was disliked by almost everyone she’d come in contact with.

Till Death do us Tart is another entertaining instalment in the Oxford Tearoom Mysteries series. H.Y. Hanna delivers yet another solid mystery, infused with intellect and wit that keeps you engaged from start to finish. Her audio narrator for the series, Pearl Hewitt, is outstanding. Her portrayal of the characters’ emotions—astonishment, exasperation, horror, chagrin, further enhances the story. Her impersonations can’t be beat, from the old biddies, to the maid at Eccleston House, and even Muesli the cat, are some of the best I’ve ever heard. An intrinsic quality that serves this series well.

If you enjoy well-crafted British cozy mysteries, you’ll love Till Death Do us Tart. And for those who like listening to audiobooks, this one is a winner.

A Mother Like Mine by Kate Hewitt

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⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5-stars

Abby Rhodes has returned to the home of her youth, her grandmother’s little flat in Hartley-by-the-Sea, a lovely coastal village in the Lake District, with her 3-year old son, Noah, in tow. Mary, who raised Abby since the age of 2, has suffered a heart attack.  Since Abby needed somewhere to go after abandoning her veterinary education in Liverpool due to unforeseen circumstances, returning to Hartley-by-the-Sea to help manage the family’s beach café with her grandmother became a feasible option. Two years later Abby is finally feeling settled when her estranged mother shows up and announces that she’s moving in. Abby is not in the least bit amused by her mother’s sudden arrival and pronouncement that she’ll be staying on indefinitely. Laura Rhodes took off when Abby was a toddler, rarely returning to visit.  As a result, Abby feels no real connection or attachment to her mother, and her attitude towards Laura clearly reflects her feelings.

But when Abby observes the interaction between her mother and grandmother, she discerns that their dynamic is much the same as what exists between herself and Laura.  Why is there so much resentment in their family?  In small doses Abby begins to question Laura about events in her mother’s life, and her answers cause Abby to rethink the assumptions she’s made about her mother, and her grandmother.  Both women submit to learning more about one another when tragedy strikes and Laura comes through for her daughter in ways she could never have imagined.  Carefully concealed within the mysterious layers of her mother’s rigid facade are compassion and decency—characteristics that Abby didn’t know her mother possessed. Nevertheless, Abby interacts cautiously with her, defenses always up, afraid that her mother will leave her again.  Abby is clearly suffering from abandonment issues, and she wants to protect Noah from the disappointment and pain that Laura caused her when she fled motherhood. Of course Noah views his “nana” in a benevolent manner, as a young child would, oblivious to the flaws that caused the rift between Laura and his mother.

But when circumstances necessitate that Laura and Abby align themselves to handle matters relating to the future of the beach café, Abby can’t deny Laura’s practical business sense and keen judgment. Soon, mother and daughter are collaborating on ideas about changes to the tired looking beach café, and as they share space together more regularly, the negative, pre-conceived ideas Abby once held about her mother are slowly replaced by feelings of empathy and compassion, as she learns the truth about Laura’s not-so-glamorous life when she left Abby behind.  Laura has even adopted a more selfless attitude and puts Abby and Noah’s needs ahead of her own. She’s starting to resemble a real mother.  Still, Abby has questions. Who is her father? Why did her mother choose to give birth to Abby when it clearly had a tremendous negative impact on her young life?  These questions and many more are what will cement or destroy the relationship that mother and daughter are slowly building.

My Thoughts:

I devoured this book. I loved it. Kate Hewitt portrays emotion in such a profoundly realistic way.  Relatable, life-altering situations—marriage, children, death, are spoken of in such a way that it caused me to stop and ponder.  I love books that evoke that reaction.  And her ability to convey the natural conversational quality of the characters is one of the many reasons why I’ve enjoyed every single book of hers that I’ve read. I also appreciate how she incorporates beloved characters from prior books in the series. Knowing some of their back stories gave the book more depth.

I highly recommend A Mother Like Mine. It’s book three in the Hartley-by-the-Sea series, and can be read as a standalone.

Thank you, Netgalley, for a free e-ARC of A Mother Like Mine.  In exchange I have provided an honest review.

Cozynookbks **Author Interview**: Kate Hewitt – A Mother Like Mine

MotherLikeMinePaperback:  384 pages

Publisher:  Berkley (August 2017)

Series:  Hartley-by-the-Sea – Book #3

Genre:  Contemporary Fiction


Welcome to England’s beautiful Lake District, where a reluctant reunion forges a new bond between a daughter and her wayward mother….
 
Abby Rhodes is just starting to get her life on track. After her fiancé’s unexpected death, she returned with her young son to the small village where she grew up and threw herself into helping her ailing grandmother run the town’s beach café. Then one evening, her mother, Laura, shows up in Hartley-by-the-Sea and announces her plan to stay. After twenty years away, she now wants to focus on the future—and has no intention, it seems, of revisiting the painful past.
 
Laura Rhodes has made a lot of mistakes, and many of them concern her daughter. But as Abby gets little glimpses into her mother’s life, she begins to realize there are depths to Laura she never knew. Slowly, Abby and Laura start making tentative steps toward each other, only to have life become even more complicated when an unexpected tragedy arises. Together, the two women will discover truths both sad and surprising that draw them closer to a new understanding of what it means to truly forgive someone you love.

See my 5-star review for A Mother Like Mine here.

**INTERVIEW**

I’d like to extend a warm welcome to one of my favorite authors, USA Today Bestselling Author, Kate Hewitt.  Kate wrote A Mother Like Mine, released August, 2017, and it was an EXCELLENT read.  It’s part-3 of her Hartley-by-the-Sea series, but it can be read as a standalone.  Kate has so kindly granted me the privilege of an interview.  So without further ado, let’s find out all about Kate Hewitt and A Mother Like Mine.

  1. Each book in the Hartley-by-the-Sea series focuses on relationships–sisters, friends, mother/daughter. What inspired you to write a series based on relationships?

I think relationships are fundamental to our existence as well as our happiness, and every relationship, no matter how loving or close, is complex. Both those things compel me to write about them.

  1. Although the Hartley-by-the-Sea series can certainly be read as standalone books, I love how you incorporate many of the beloved characters from prior books in the series into each successive book. How do you manage to transition characters so flawlessly from one book to the next?

Thank you for saying it’s flawless! I usually go back and re-read the prior book before writing the next, so it’s all fresh in my mind, and having lived in a village, weaving lives together in a neighborly way feels natural.

  1. You’re very adept at depicting fictitious events in your books in an utterly realistic way. Do you draw from your own life experiences, and/or that of others, in order to achieve this?

I think every writer draws from their own emotional experience, even if the events are different. I often find my life experiences coming into my novels almost by accident—kind of like therapy for me! The emotional experiences that shape my own life are definitely in my books, in one way or another. For example, in A Mother Like Mine, the experience of Annie and Laura during Mary’s death was taken from my experience of my father’s death.

  1. One of the things I love about your books is that they have an atmospheric quality that enables the reader to become immediately immersed in the narrative, as well as the setting. Is it challenging to accomplish this, or does it come naturally to you?

I love writing about setting, and I find it is so important in grounding a reader in place and experience. It’s something that is a big part of my writing and always has been, so in that way it comes naturally, although as with any aspect of writing I try to improve.  : )

  1. As an American ex-pat living in the UK for over a decade, what’s one of the most significant adjustments you’ve had to make as far as your writing’s concerned, or otherwise?

I think the biggest adjustment has been in accepting that I sound more and more British, and my books are aimed more and more for a British audience, although admittedly one that occasionally finds my word choice jarring. I still definitely have a foot in both worlds, which is not always comfortable.

  1. Since British and American culture differ in many respects, do you find it easier to write about British or American characters/settings? Why or why not?

I find it easiest to write about Americans in Britain, or British people in America, because in some ways that is my experience—as I said in the previous answer, a foot in both worlds.

  1. Although Hartley-by-the-Sea, a lovely coastal village, is not an actual place in the UK, the beautiful Lake District, wherein it is situated, is. Can you tell us why you chose this location for the series?

Hartley-by-the-Sea is a fictional version of the village I lived in, St Bees. Having lived there, it was easy to write about, although I admit I did start confusing fiction with reality at one point and called the local pub The Hangman’s Noose, which is not its name in real life!

  1. You’ve written over fifty books. Are you ever at a loss as to what to write next, or does subject matter come naturally to you?

I always have a few ideas percolating, but some are more persistent and well-formed than others.

  1. Your books move fluidly from beginning to end without waning, a challenge which some authors lament about. Which section of a book do you find it most difficult to write: beginning, middle or end?

Definitely the middle! I always get to a certain point, about a hundred pages in, and wonder how on earth I can spin this story out and make it interesting! Usually that means I need to take a walk and have a good, long think about the plot and characters.

  1. A Mother like Mine concludes with an opportunity to expound upon Laura’s and Abby’s stories. Will we be reading more about them in the future?

At this point, I am not going to write any more Hartley-by-the-Sea stories, sadly! But I do have a series set in another village in the Lake District, called The Holley Sisters of Thornthwaite.

  1. What’s next for you?

The aforementioned series, and I am also working on a new novel I am really excited about—something more issue-driven and very emotional, similar to my novels This Fragile Life and When He Fell.

Thank you, Kate Hewitt, for the opportunity to interview you today.  All the best with the new projects.  I look forward to finding out more about them.

Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Laurie!


katehewitt

Kate Hewitt

Kate Hewitt is the author of over 50 novels of romance and women’s fiction.  A former diehard New Yorker and American ex-pat, she now lives in a small market town in Wales with her husband and five children.  She loves telling an emotionally compelling story whatever the genre.  Learn more about her here.

 

Find Kate online:

Website    **    Twitter   **   Instagram    **   Blog    **   Facebook   **   Goodreads

Buy Links:

Amazon  **  Barnes & Noble  **  Kobo   **  Books A Million  **  Google Play

 

 

The Swallow’s Nest by Emilie Richards

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5-Stars


Sometimes the unpredictability of life can sabotage our best laid plans…..
What would you do if your beloved husband’s mistress showed up at your door during his cancer remission party that you were hosting for him, and thrust their love child into your arms, then left? This is a glimpse into the scene that Lilia Swallow finds herself in. Reeling from this new revelation, Lilia takes refuge with her family in Hawaii, and in doing so receives a few words of wisdom from family members, and her best friend Regan, that gives her the fortitude to return home to California and reconsider her new circumstances. But just when Lilia thinks she can get past the trials that almost destroyed her marriage, life throws a few more curve balls that threaten to derail her future.

Lilia Swallow

Three women. One baby. The Swallow’s Nest takes us into the lives of a wife, a mistress, and a mother-in-law. All desire to lay claim to the child that Lilia’s husband, Graham, fathered with his mistress, Marina. The exploration into each woman’s life exposes emotions that plague each of them—feelings of failure, betrayal, ineptness and unworthiness. Nevertheless, working through those emotions for Toby’s sake is a challenge that each woman is willing to tackle. The question is, which of the three will get him? And will each woman find a way to accept the outcome, and one another?

The Swallow’s Nest was extraordinary. Emilie Richards succeeded in holding my attention through to the conclusion of this 500+ page novel. And the fact that she was capable of doing it without sex scenes, violence or profanity takes real skill.

All of the characters possessed distinct qualities and characteristics that kept me interested in the way their lives would ultimately turn out. I loved how Lilia eventually handled her very difficult situation, and how each of the women comes to recognize the strengths they possess within themselves. Definitely recommended.

Thank you Emilie Richards for a free ARC of The Swallow’s Nest. In exchange I have provided an honest review.

An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 4.5 stars

The Civil War is raging. Ellen “Elle” Burns, once a slave along with her parents, is a free negro living in the North. She’s chosen to relinquish that freedom to become an undercover spy for the Loyal League, Union supporters, posing as a mute slave girl in a confederate Senator’s home in Richmond, VA. The Loyal League’s mission is to help destroy the Confederacy. Elle’s assignment in Senator Caffrey’s home is to use her eidetic (photographic) memory to expose secessionists’ secrets. Elle is hopeful that her efforts will contribute to the end of slavery in the south. It’s risky business, but “anything for the Union,” she continually recites in her mind to dispel the hatred she has working as a slave under a cruel and exacting mistress, the Senator’s daughter, Susie. Susie is intent on vexing her daily—spewing racial epithets and making derogatory comments and accusatory statements that undermine Elle’s true character and nature. The condescension is almost beyond what she can bear. And with no way to defend herself, the mental pain inflicted is agonizing. Repressing her abhorrence for the oppression and denigration she’s experiencing, along with fellow slaves working in the Senator’s household, is excruciatingly difficult for Elle since she is highly intelligent and in reality, free. If that weren’t enough, Senator McCaffrey has got a new friend, Malcolm McCall, a confederate soldier who makes recurring visits to the Senator’s home. Initially terrified that Malcolm’s kindness towards Elle is a ploy to have his way with her, a common practice, Elle soon learns that McCall is also an undercover spy, working for Mr. Allan Pinkerton’s secret service, also Union supporters. The two must act wisely so as not to blow each others cover. This proves to be more difficult for Malcolm as he is almost immediately besotted by Elle’s beauty and her unique abilities as an undercover spy.

At first Elle views the Scotsman much the same as any other white man, an oppressor of her people, especially since his disguise consists of a grey confederate uniform, a stark reminder of the subjugation and brutality that her people endure by men who look like him. But his continued good-naturedness towards her gradually chips away her gruff, reticent exterior and before long she begins to fall for the man who can’t resist her. But they can’t allow their feelings for one another to supersede their mission. And there’s another problem. The senator’s daughter is continually making advances at Malcolm and wondering why he isn’t reciprocating. She’s becoming enraged and desperate because of his rejection, but Malcolm can’t bring himself to betray Elle, not even for the cause. The dejected woman’s actions culminate in an unthinkable act that threatens to ruin their mission. Can Malcolm and Elle do whatever it takes in support of the Union, exposing the secessionists and relaying vital information back to the Capital before it’s too late, or will their love prove to be a hindrance to the cause they’ve both been so committed to?
This book was suspenseful, educational, thought provoking, and poignant. The blatant racism was difficult to stomach. I had to continue to remind myself that this was the norm in those days, but I couldn’t help thinking about the prejudice and racism that still exists today.

I was rooting for Malcolm and Elle. Their forbidden love was difficult for me to envision because of the time period. They were well aware of the challenges it would cause, and the obstacles they faced seemed insurmountable. Their tenacious spirits and determination to fulfill their mission while preserving their secret relationship was inspiring.

Overall I enjoyed this book. There was lots of action and tense scenes that engaged me. I liked the idea of a romance between Malcolm and Elle, but I would have appreciated a more wholesome approach to it. Their scenes together were mostly lustful in nature, and that was disappointing to me since I prefer reading tender, wholesome romances. I skipped over the racy stuff. I guess I expected a more mellow romance with this one. Aside from that, a very good read.

Real Neat Blog Award

Thank you Kathy of Katiescottagebooks for nominating me for the REAL NEAT BLOG AWARD.  I’m honored. Kathy’s blog is the neatest!!

Here are the questions Kathy has chosen for me to answer….

1.) What is your favorite genre?

That’s a tough one because I really enjoy three genres equally—mystery, historical romance and contemporary fiction.  If forced to choose one, I guess it would be contemporary fiction.

2.) If you could spend one day with a fictional character, who would that character be?

Pollyanna, because it would be nice to be in the presence of a person who’s so optimistic and views life through rose-colored glasses.

And, the incredibly smart horse, Sundown, in Nora Roberts’s book, Come Sundown. I got such a kick out of his intelligence and tricks, and I’ve always wanted to spend quality time with a horse, since they’re so majestic to me.

3.) If you could spend your summer vacation in a fictional land, where would you go for the summer?

Wherever Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory is located.  And, The Emerald City of the Land of Oz.

4.) What is the thickest/biggest/most ginormous book you’ve ever read?

The Bible. I think the second thickest book I’ve ever read was Julie Klassen’s The Secret of Pembrooke Park. It was 400+ pages. That’s a lot for me. It might tie with Come Sundown, which was also over 400 pages.

5.) Do you enjoy contemporary westerns or westerns set in the old west? If you don’t care for westerns, why don’t you like them?

Come Sundown by Nora Roberts was set in Montana. That’s the closest I’ve come to reading a contemporary western. There were cowboys in it, Stetson hats, a Ranch and horses. There was line dancing. It was the first book I’ve read that was set in the West and I LOVED it!! The setting was amazing, and now I look forward to reading more books set in the West. I’ve never read actual westerns. I’m not sure why, but after reading Nora’s book, I’d definitely check one out.

6.) What female fictional character are you most like?

I’m not like any fictional characters I can think of, but I’m sure I’m out there somewhere. I just haven’t found me yet.  If you know of anyone who is a silly, sentimental hot mess—obsessed with their iPhone, unwilling to go to sleep at night, and likes to live in the past, that’s me.

7.) Do you enjoy children’s chapter books?

Yaaaassss!!  Anne of Green Gables, Heidi, Pollyanna and The Secret Garden are a few of my favorites.

So there you have it, my humble little answers. I’d like to nominate the following bloggers for the Real Neat Blog Award, because I think their blogs are, well, real neat:

TheBookGeekWearsPajamas

The Grand World of Books

Wendy Unsworth

These are the seven questions I’ve chosen for my nominees:

  1. What’s the greatest satisfaction you get from reviewing books?
  2. What do you think is key to a successful book blog?
  3. Who’s your favorite author, and why? (If more than one, include all of them, up to three.)
  4. How long does it typically take for you to read an average sized book?
  5. What’s your favorite way to read?
  6. Have you ever considered writing a book, or have you ever written a book? If you have, what’s the name of it (or the name of your favorite one if you’ve written more than one), and what’s it about?
  7. If you had the opportunity to meet your favorite author, what would you ask he/she?

Thank you in advance, blogger nominees, for allowing us to get to know you and your blog through the Real Neat Blog Award, if you’re able to participate.

Those participating should ~

-Put the award logo on your blog.
-Thank the people who nominated you, linking to their blogs.
-Answer 7 questions asked by the person who nominated you.
-Nominate any number of bloggers you like, linking to their blogs.
-Let them know you nominated them (by connecting on their blog, etc.)
-Ask your nominees 7 questions.

Review: Come Sundown

Come Sundown
Come Sundown by Nora Roberts
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ A member of the Bodine family, Alice Bodine, has been missing for 25 years prior to the opening of the story. During the time she’s been gone, The Bodine Ranch and Resort, resided on by four generations, has grown into a thriving enterprise. Alice Bodine’s name is scarcely mentioned by the family because of the differing opinions regarding her hasty departure from their Montana home. On the day she left at age 18, leaving behind no more than a scribbled goodbye note, it was her sister’s wedding day. The family heard from her from time to time at first, and then nothing for decades. Little do they know that Alice was on her way back to Bodine Ranch three years after she left, but was abducted and held captive for 25 years. When she’s found, the entire family welcomes her back, sympathetic to her plight, and does everything in their power to help rehabilitate Alice. While her progress is slow initially, she begins to gradually come around and relief is felt by everyone. But the mystery of who abducted and brutally mistreated Alice for so many years still remains. Could the individual who took her be responsible for the deaths of two other young women who were found on Bodine property? Will Alice’s abductor be back to exact revenge on her for getting away from him?

Come Sundown was outstanding!! The parallel plot structure, excellent character development and amazing Northwest setting kept me engaged in the story. Getting a peek into life on a working ranch and resort in Montana was an educational experience that I enjoyed because it was formerly unfamiliar to me, and I loved learning so much about it, as well as the western part of the U.S.—the recreational activities there, the lingo, cowboys, horses, the humor and attire were all fascinating and fun lessons that will stay with me for a long time. The close-knit Bodine family and the camaraderie they shared was a true highlight, and anyone who reads this book is sure to be taken in by the endearing characters, especially the cowboy, Callen Skinner, whose gentlemanly ways and boyish charm won me over. By the time I was finished with the book I was ready to take a trip to Montana.

I highly recommend this book to those who would enjoy a romance/thriller. Excellently written and difficult to put down, Nora Roberts delivers with Come Sundown. This was my first Nora Roberts book, and now I know what all the hoopla’s about. She’s an amazing storyteller.

I received a free ARC of this book from the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, and in exchange I have provided an honest review. The free ARC in no way influenced my thoughts or opinions of the book.

 

View all my reviews

Review: Two Down, Bun to Go


Two Down, Bun to Go by H.Y. Hanna My rating: 5 of 5 stars

💜💜💜💜💜

Professor Quentin Barrow is found dead, stabbed to death with an Egyptian Dagger. Gemma’s former Oxford chum and still good friend, Seth Browning, is charged with the murder. Seth was seen arguing with professor Barrow before the body was discovered. A staunch advocate for the homeless and other such causes, Seth was getting pushback from the professor regarding a piece of college donated property that would have benefited the homeless. Barrow’s pompous, elitist attitude disgusted Seth, and his repulsion for the man was evident. Gemma knows her friend could not have committed the murder, although she must admit his current odd, uncharacteristic and mysterious behavior is quite alarming. But how can she prove his innocence when there is so much circumstantial evidence pointing to Seth? With the help of handsome CID Detective and former boyfriend, Devlin O’Connor, contending beau, Lincoln Green, and the meddlesome but lovable Old Biddies, Gemma uncovers a slew of others who might have killed the unpopular professor. The question is, which one of them actually did?

I don’t know how H.Y. Hanna manages it, but each successive book in her Oxford Tearoom Mystery series is better than the last. Don’t let the whimsical, cute little cover fool you. They rival other renowned and beloved writers of British mysteries hands down. Her characters’ magnetic personalities captivate; from the endearing to the villainous, they’re all equally entertaining. The way in which she describes her mother’s witty charms and hapless adventures, the antics of the Old Biddies, and little Muesli the cat, never fails to elicit chuckles. The plot moves along effortlessly as the reader is immersed in English life and subtly educated about the peculiarities and uniqueness of the University of Oxford—a real treat and added bonus.

Read it, you’ll LOVE it. And if you want an even greater experience, do yourself a favor and listen to the audio version. The narrator does a stupendous job of bringing the characters to life. Very, very highly recommended.

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Review: Home to Stay


Home to Stay by Kate James
My rating:            5 of 5 stars

💚💚💚💚💚

Home to Stay is San Diego K-9 Unit Book 4.

Sawyer Evans’s four-year-old son, Dylan, was kidnapped from their campsite while vacationing with family.  San Diego K-9 unit officer, Shannon Clemens, is called upon with her search and rescue dog, Darwin, to try to locate the missing child. The initial search is unsuccessful and Sawyer is livid. Shannon’s emotions are stirred by Sawyer’s deep agony over his son’s disappearance, and because of her own prior personal experience with loss, she feels compelled to help Sawyer find Dylan. In time, the distraught father and caring, compassionate officer develop feelings for one another. But when another incident causes tension between the couple, their connection is strained. Will the feelings they’ve developed be enough to overcome the obstacles they’re currently facing?

Home to Stay was thoroughly engrossing from the start.  As new developments in the abduction case surfaced, the suspense and intensity continued to build, keeping me interested and engaged in the story. The intriguing mystery surrounding Dylan’s disappearance propelled the plot forward. I was put in the mind of a romantic suspense novel—albeit a milder approach to the romance and suspense elements, making it suitable for a wholesome romance book. The relationship and dialog between Sawyer and his son was endearing—so sweet and pleasant to read. Dylan was a darling little boy, and I looked forward to scenes where he was present. The relationship between Sawyer and Shannon was at times complex because of surrounding circumstances and I kept trying to envision how things would turn out for the two of them.

Riveting and imaginative, I enjoyed this book immensely. An intriguing mystery, suspense, police procedurals, a strained romance and HEA, are some of what you’ll get in Home to Stay. Very highly recommended.

I received a free copy of this book from the author. In exchange I have provided an honest review.

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Review: Recipe for Redemption

Recipe for Redemption
💚💚💚💚💚 Recipe for Redemption by Anna J. Stewart
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jason Corwin’s life is in a shambles when he arrives at the Flutterby Inn in Butterfly Harbor, a California coastal town, where he’s been sent to clear his head from the recent misfortunes that have befallen him. After having lost his twin brother, his career as a renowned chef and his reputation, Jason has convinced himself that walking away from his former life, instead of fighting to reclaim it, is the best option. That’s until he meets Abby Manning, the beautiful, young and feisty Flutterby Inn Manager who can’t cook if her life depended on it. So why on earth did she join a cooking contest? Abby could use Jason’s help in the kitchen if she has any chance at winning the prize money that she desperately needs to save the inn that’s been her grandmother’s home for decades. But Jason is uppity, reticent and judgmental, and he grates on her nerves. That is until Abby’s playful nature gradually peels away the layers of Jason’s scarred heart to reveal the sensitive, charming man underneath. Soon they are working together amiably, healing each other. But will a bombshell threaten everything they’ve managed to accomplish together and destroy the strong feelings they both share for one another?

I loved this sweet romance novel. The pacing impressed me as it built gradually and then gained impetus to the very last page. Sometimes a book starts strong and then wanes. This was not the case with Recipe for Redemption. It reached a point where I was flipping pages so fast I couldn’t believe I was at the end already. There are many things that I enjoyed about this book. I loved the relationship between Abby and her grandmother. There are tender, heartwarming moments between them that touched my heart. There are two very precocious kids that had me laughing out loud at their antics. Even the town, Butterfly Harbor, had much to recommend itself with its picturesqueness and supportive neighbors that rallied round Abby despite their knowledge of her inept cooking skills. A semi-eccentric character, a villain and the presence of butterflies all add to the endearing quality of this story.
Anna Stewart’s writing is emotive, funny and definitely worth investing time in. A most delightful read. Highly recommended.

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Sophie’s Path by Catherine Lanigan -Review and GIVEAWAY

Sophie’s Path by Catherine Lanigan 

My rating:  5 of 5 stars 💚💚💚💚💚

Sophie’s Path gets off to a highly dramatic start. Sophie Mattuchi, a cardiac ablation surgical nurse, who also dedicates time to assisting in the ER on weekends, has been called in to help with three individuals brought into the ER after being involved in a severe car accident. Jack Carter was the driver of one of the vehicles, and Sophie’s soothing voice comforts Jack while she addresses his injuries. Although badly wounded, Jack’s concern is not for himself, but it’s concentrated on two of his employees that were riding with him. Although in a fuzzy state of mind, he remembers the blood-curdling scream of his young protegé, Aleah. Is she okay? Sophie, tending to the stricken passengers, and noting the young girl’s deteriorating condition, rushes to assist her. At that precise moment, the man responsible for the accident, an addict, appears to be in a more critical state than Aleah. Sophie turns her attention to the dying man, to Jack’s shock and dismay. He’s enraged at Sophie for leaving Aleah to tend to the addict, and he doesn’t hide his feelings about it long after his release from the hospital. Consumed by Jack’s dissatisfaction with her decision, Sophie begins to question her judgment regarding her actions that night.

Not one to wallow in self-doubt, and realizing that she can’t alter the past, but that she can change the future, Sophie becomes determined to get support to provide assistance to addicts. In addition to those efforts, she begins sponsoring a young addict, Jeremy, through the Recovery Alliance initiative— devoting a lot of time she doesn’t have to nurturing and encouraging him when he’s feeling dejected, lost and hopeless. With her regular position at the hospital, weekend ER assistance, and her commitment to the Recovery Alliance program, Sophie is spreading herself dangerously thin. These varied demands are taking a toll, and lack of recharging is affecting her nursing abilities. She has to make a choice about priorities in her life. Will she ever have time for Jack Carter, the man whose ire has finally begun to soften towards her, revealing the compassionate, generous, attractive man that he truly is?

If that weren’t enough, Sophie’s beginning to feel a sense of belonging from the very people she’d tried to manipulate in the past. Their willingness to forgive and accept her is melting her heart. She wants the family that’s embracing her. She wants Jack. She wants to help with the Revovery Alliance. She wants to be a proficient cardiac surgery nurse. She wants to work in the ER. She wants to run to stay fit. She wants this, she wants that. She learns that she can’t have it all.

Arising circumstances will cause Sophie to change the course of her life and reexamine what’s truly important, and what’s worth fighting for.

Sophie’s Path is a tender, emotionally charged book without being angst-ridden. Catherine Lanigan delights us with her personable, conversational writing style that’s appealing in that it brings the characters, their surroundings and expressions to life in a relatable way. The companionable dialogue helped me to fully comprehend what the characters were feeling, and I formed an instant attachment to many of them.

Sophie’s Path was highly enjoyable and I will be sure to read more of the books in the Shores of Indian Lake series. Recommended.

To learn more about all of the books in the Shores of Indian Lake series, click here.
To find Sophie’s Path online, along with other books in the series, click here.

GIVEAWAY:

I enjoyed this book so much that I’d like to give away a copy to one commenter who will tell me if he/she enjoys reading sweet romance books, and why. I’ll choose a winner at the end of May. Please leave an email address so you can be contacted if you win. Since this is a paperback book, the giveaway is open to U.S. residents only.  I sincerely apologize to my International readers.

As always, thank you for reading.  ( :

Review: Tagged for Death

Tagged for Death
Tagged for Death by Sherry Harris
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

⭐⭐⭐⭐💫 Sarah Winston, 38, is devoid of a social life since divorcing her husband, CJ Hooker, former Air Force Base Security Forces squadron commander. Forced to retire for “misconduct” after having had an affair with a 19 year old airman, Tiffany Lopez. Sarah does, however, enjoy frequenting garage sales, and recently she’s snagged a great buy at one in particular, even managing to collect various free items for charity. Back at her small apartment, while sorting out the charitable items to be taken to the military base thrift shop, she finds a bloodstained shirt with her ex-husband’s initials on the monogrammed cuff, along with another piece of bloodied clothing, a maternity top, that belonged to his dismissed lover, Tiffany Lopez. Flabbergasted as to how either of the items wound up with her other collectibles, and in a panic, Sarah frantically tries to locate CJ. When he finally contacts her she shares what she found and he assures her he’ll figure out what’s going on. But when blood is found on Tiffany’s dorm room floor, and Sarah soon finds a skull and bones on the thrift store grounds where she volunteers, will she be able to prove that her ex-husband didn’t have a motive for murder?

I really enjoyed Tagged for death. The mystery of what happened to Tiffany Lopez unfolds gradually while we simultaneously gain a window into Sarah’s life as an ex-military wife, and how she is forced to redefine herself after losing much of her identity after moving off the military base. While Sarah has to learn to adapt to life as an ordinary civilian and divorcee, she’s savvy when it comes to using her wits to investigate the murder of her ex-husband’s lover. The struggle to rid herself of the love she still has deep down for her cheating husband, while endeavoring to make a little money to sustain herself by setting up garage sales for friends and acquaintances, endeared me to her character. She’s a fighter, determined to overcome adversity, and I admired that quality. Tagged for Death is not a whimsical cozy. It has a mature theme that held my attention as much as the mystery aspect. There are a few twists that I didn’t expect, and that makes me curious and eager to move on in the series, as these twists warrant further development. A great story. I am definitely interested to see how Sarah gets on with her life. Recommended.

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Review: Murder is No Accident

Murder is No Accident
Murder is No Accident by A.H. Gabhart
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

⭐⭐⭐💫 3.5 stars.
Young Maggie Green, 15, knows she has no business in Miss Fonda’s alluring Victorian mansion by herself. But she can’t resist. Even though the elderly Miss Fonda has invited her to come by whenever she wants, Maggie’s mother, who cleans the mansion with Maggie’s help, does not approve of her being there when they’re not working, especially since Miss Fonda is relegated to a gentle care facility now and the house sits empty. As young folks are sometimes prone to disobey their parents’ wishes, Maggie is inside the mansion in the tower room which is above the third floor, accessed by a trap door in the room beneath, making entries in her secret diary when she hears real estate agent, Geraldine Harper, entering the house. Careful not to be heard, Maggie stays still and quiet, hoping the well-known agent will leave shortly. But wait, there’s another set of footsteps heard in the house, and Geraldine hears them too. When she encounters the other intruder, a person she clearly knows, a conversation ensues and when Geraldine threatens to beckon the police, Maggie hears what sounds like someone tumbling down a flight of stairs. In fear, she waits a little while before leaving her hideaway and discovers the real estate agent dead at the bottom of the stairs. She calls 911 with Geraldine’s phone and sneaks away from the house unnoticed before the police arrive. Or did she get away unnoticed? In time Maggie becomes privy to not one murder, but two, and will she be able to keep herself out of harms way before the threats of a killer make her murder victim number three?

Murder Is No Accident is the first book I’ve read by A.H. Gabhart, and it was a pretty good mystery. What I liked most was the climactic ending. It was a different experience reading about a young teen discovering murder victims, as opposed to an adult. Some of the complexities that accompany mysteries featuring an adult protagonist is not present in this book, which was a little bit of a minus for me. The pacing started out slow but gradually picked up. It ebbed and flowed, with the ending reaching a crescendo. I think some of the parts in the beginning of the book made me feel as though it was written to appeal to an older demographic with the mention of dementia, strokes, accidents amongst the elderly, and the infirmities that are typically associated with aging. It was a little depressing, but thankfully those subjects didn’t prevail throughout the entire book. The sleepy town, Hidden Springs, where the murders took place, was comprised of quirky characters that tend to inhabit small, southern towns. A Deputy, Michael Keane, had a continual presence in the book, and the direction of his love life was somewhat of a secondary plot. I ultimately enjoyed how things turned out for him. The other characters made their appearances without much fanfare; sprinkled about here and there. Nothing particularly endearing about any of them besides Maggie and the boy who had a crush on her, Anthony. They were a sweet, innocent pair. Aside from them, there wasn’t a whole lot of character development that would make me long to read more about what happened to any of them in the future.

All in all, whereas the mystery aspect wasn’t bad, and the conclusion plausible, this was just an okay read for me. Others may really enjoy it. I just needed a little more excitement to keep me turning the pages, and that wasn’t the case for me.

Thank you Baker Publishing for an ARC of this book. In return I have provided an honest review.

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Review: The Julius House

The Julius House
The Julius House by Charlaine Harris
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ I love the Aurora Teagarden Mystery series. I would classify The Julius House as a conventional mystery, although I find it along the lines of cozy-ish. Charlaine Harris knows how to assemble intricately contrived, yet plausible murder scenarios that definitely excite and entertain the reader. I’ve been astounded by the outcome of the murder mystery each time I’ve read one of the books in this series. Thankfully, she’s adding new books to the series and I eagerly await what she will cook up in the ones that are to come. And now a synopsis of The Julius House…

Aurora (Roe) Teagarden’s new husband, Martin, has bought her The Julius House as a wedding present. But this is no ordinary house. The Julius House was home to a family of three that disappeared approximately six years before. It’s like they just vanished into thin air. The only relative who can relate what happened on that fateful day is Melba Totino, the mother of one of the occupants, Hope, who was married to T.C. Julius. The two lived in the house with their teenage daughter, Charity. Melba lived in a little apartment above the garage adjacent to the house. On the morning the family vanished, Melba had stepped over to the house to cook breakfast for the family as usual. According to her statement to police, when she went there that morning nobody was in the home. The couples’ vehicles were in the garage, the house was undisturbed, but the family was gone. Six years later they’re still missing.

Roe feels unsettled and determined to find out what happened to the Julius family. Could they be dead somewhere on or around the property? She’s determined to do some digging to put her mind at ease. Unfortunately, the Julius family is not the only mystery she’s interested in solving. It seems her new husband has got some secrets of his own. For instance, just who is the mysterious, odd married couple that Martin has informed Roe will be living with them in Melba’s old apartment over the garage? Why is he vague about who they are and why they’re there? It becomes clear that Roe just might have her work cut out for her as she goes on a mission to uncover both mysteries.

I can always count on being fully immersed in an Aurora Teagarden murder mystery. I enjoyed this book immensely. Most definitely recommended.

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Review: When the Grits Hit the Fan

When the Grits Hit the Fan
When the Grits Hit the Fan by Maddie Day
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ It was nice to be back in touch with the folks of South Lick, Indiana. And let me just say that When the Grits Hit The Fan, the third instalment in the Country Store Mystery series, is one of the best cozies I’ve ever read to date! I mean, seriously, I couldn’t wait to pick up where I’d left off each and every time! I got not just a few, but ALL of the elements that I appreciate in a good mystery; suspense, a great setting, intriguing and quirky characters, a learning experience, a little bit of romance and a climactic, edge of your seat ending. There’s no fluff in this story. It’s a solid mystery with characters that are so distinctly original and amusing it’s hard to believe they’re fictitious. My favorites are the police officers, both men and women, who are investigating the crime. One in particular, Octavia Slade, has a no-nonsense quality that I never tired of. Lieutenant Buck Bird, the tall, lanky officer with the hearty appetite and thick Indiana accent was another favorite. And Danna, the teenaged restaurant assistant with the dreadlocks, piercings, and sassy personality snagged my complete attention each time she was mentioned. I liked the diverse backgrounds and ages, along with the appropriate dialects and jargon. It’s clear that the characters were well thought out and carefully constructed, and for that reason they are not easily forgotten.

And now, what it’s about….

Robbie Jordan, proprietor of country store and restaurant, Pans ‘N Pancakes, is grateful for the increased business she receives from hosting the Indiana University group of Sociology grad students and professors that meet there on a bimonthly basis. The conversation is typically peaceful, but during one Friday session graduate student and friend, Louise “Lou” Perlman, and Lou’s professor, Charles Stilton, are engaged in a quarrel. Lou has accused him of stealing the material from her research project and presenting it as his own. He smugly dismisses her accusation and regards her as inconsequential as compared to his superior rank. Furious, she removes herself from the table and storms off to the restroom to blow off steam. Charles Stilton doesn’t seem the least bit affected by the incident and resumes his conversation with the others. But before long he insults the chair of the department, Zenobia Brown, and shortly thereafter the group disbands for the evening. The next day while Robbie and Lou are snowshoeing, Robbie discovers Charles Stilton’s body through a hole in the frozen lake, and before long many of Robbie’s acquaintances, including her good friend Lou, are on the suspect list. Further investigation reveals that almost no one cared for the arrogant man, including his mistreated wife, their son, and his mother-in-law. So who’s the culprit? Robbie might not know who murdered Charles Stilton, but she’s sure it wasn’t her friend Lou, and she’s determined to use her sleuthing skills to have her friend exonerated.

The depth of the storyline surpassed my expectations. I never felt bored, and I was impressed with how the lead character subtly transitioned into amateur sleuth in a way that was believable. I didn’t have to suspend disbelief to accept the role she played in going about finding clues to solve the murder.

This is a cozy mystery series you won’t want to miss. Very, very highly recommended.

I received an ARC of this book, and in exchange I have provided an honest review. In no way has the free book influenced my opinions of it.

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Review: Sanctuary Cove

Sanctuary Cove
Sanctuary Cove by Kate James
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

💚💚💚💚💚 What do you get when you take a handsome, compassionate veterinarian; a beautiful, intelligent, yet insecure, animal lover; a small town in the Adirondack Mountains with breathtaking scenery; and a scandal involving a corrupt senator that could destroy many lives? You get Sanctuary Cove, a wholesome romance story with a healthy dose of intrigue for good measure.

Emma Meadows, Communications professional, is finding solace in her cottage in Sanctuary Cove with her Alaskan Malamute, Max, after having lost her job, criminal defense attorney fiancé, Richard, and the home they planned to live in after their nuptials. Realizing that Richard wasn’t the man she thought he was has been difficult, but Emma is determined to make a new start. When she spots a badly injured dog on the side of the road on her way to Sanctuary Cove and calls the resident veterinarian, Josh Whitmore, who arrives at the scene to care for the dog, there’s an instant attraction felt by both Josh and Emma, even though neither one is willing to acknowledge or entertain the thought of it at first. Josh is also moving on from a toxic relationship with crazy ex-girlfriend Crystal, and making any new love connections is far from his mind. But their attraction to one another is undeniable, and before long the two are getting to know one another. Josh detects Emma’s lack of confidence and is just the person to help her regain it and realize her full potential. But it’s a double-edged sword. When Emma’s work is sought after by a consulting firm that’s willing to give her everything she’s dreamed of professionally, moving to NYC could mean the end to her blossoming relationship with Josh. And since she’s embroiled in turmoil involving a corrupt senator and her opportunist ex-fiancé Richard, will she leave Josh behind in order to protect him?

Sanctuary Cove was a great story to get lost in. The descriptive surroundings, lovable canines, respectable main characters and an HEA that will melt your heart, makes it a wholesome romance book that you’ll want to invest time in reading. The scheme involving the senator was a nice subplot that added interest to the overall storyline. Imagining the trio of canines romping around in the open and lush landscape was soothing. I truly enjoyed this book. Recommended.

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Review: The Husband’s Secret

The Husband's Secret
The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ What would you do if your husband left you a letter that he didn’t intend for you to find and open until after his death, but that you mistakenly found while he was still alive and well? Would you defy his wishes and open it? This is the dilemma facing Cecelia Fitzpatrick in The Husband’s Secret.

Riveting. I actually gasped when I found out what the secret was. I was transfixed. I didn’t expect to find out what the secret was at the time it was revealed in the book, nor did I ever come close to guessing what it would be. The clever way this tale was told, combining three narratives into one, ratcheted up my interest and enjoyment of the book. It’s difficult to review The Husband’s Secret without giving too much away, so suffice to say it was worth every minute I spent on it. The epilogue was very unique and was a story unto itself. Again, I don’t want to give too much away but I highly recommend this book. Secrets can transform lives, and in The Husband’s Secret, lives will be changed in many ways. After reading this book I will surely look into more of Liane Moriarty’s books. An excellent page-turner that I never wanted to put down.

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Review: The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill

The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill
The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill by Julie Klassen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ When I need a little Regency indulgence to feed my Anglophilic yearnings, I can count on complete satisfaction with a Julie Klassen book. Atmospheric in its descriptions of English village life and the goings-on of its people, The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill captures the very essence of Regency era living. And now about the book…

Jane Bell’s husband John died and left her The Bell, a coaching Inn that she has no interest in running. Complicating matters, Jane learns that The Bell is saddled with debt which leaves her more eager to dispense with it. Her mother-in-law, Thora Bell, an austere woman who has never cared much for Jane in her estimation, was originally landlady of The Bell (or The Angel as it was then called), it being her family’s establishment. However, due to marital entitlement laws and such during that time, which ultimately curtailed a woman’s financial freedom, it eventually became the property of her husband, then her son, and now her daughter-in-law, Jane. Thora Bell has returned to the Inn to assess matters and to stay on and help out, she hopes. When the book opens it’s been about a year since John’s death and The Bell has fallen into neglect, an exorbitant loan is due, and because of the subpar service, mediocre accommodations, and its neglected state, The Bell is no longer profitable. Jane can sell at a loss, allow her brother-in-law Patrick, who also resides at The Bell, to assume the place along with the debt, or she can proceed at trying to salvage the Inn herself. Feeling defeated, she’s leaning towards options 1 and 2. But when one of her employs makes a dramatic statement causing her to reconsider her original inclinations, Jane realizes that more is at stake than her ability to pursue and secure her own livelihood. The Bell must be salvaged, and what’s clear is that for the most benefit to be achieved she should be the one to take charge of it.

The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill’s pace is like a walk through pristine English gardens on a balmy Spring day, parasol in hands and a companion by your side. At times an unexpected gust of wind sends you hastening for shelter from the impending storm. So many enthralling elements within this book. The entrepreneurial spirit that existed during a time when women weren’t highly considered, relative to matters of business, was inspiring. I loved Jane’s gumption as she sought advice from experienced businessmen, merchants and friends. Her commitment to transform The Bell into an establishment reminiscent of its former glory and reputation showed her strength when faced with what appeared to be insurmountable odds. I loved the growth of her character. I appreciated how Jane refused to adopt the old ways of doing things; ways that her mother-in-law approved of, but instead opted to pursue more innovative techniques to improve the Inn’s appeal. The transformation of the relationship between Thora and Jane was endearing. In fact, so many of the characters were three-dimensional that I felt particularly interested in the thoughts, motivations and actions of most of them. I cared about them – from the potboy to the magistrate. There was mention of stately as well as stubborn old horses, lovely manor homes, thriving hotel establishments, the Royal Mail service, female businesswomen, love interests and much more. A plot fully fleshed out and an absolute joy to savor.

In conclusion, I can’t say enough about how much I enjoyed this book. I anxiously await book 2 in the series which I believe will be out in December, 2017. The characters are not easily forgotten, and I’m eager to learn of their eventualities. The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill is outstanding! Most highly recommended.

If you’d like to know about the setting for The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill, as well as the characters and other research relating to the book, Julie Klassen has a website exclusively for that purpose. It’s Talesfromivyhill.com, and it’s definitely worth viewing. Beautiful photos, videos, a map of Ivy Hill and lots more.

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Review: Sam’s Letters to Jennifer

Sam's Letters to Jennifer
Sam’s Letters to Jennifer by James Patterson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

⭐⭐⭐⭐ Sometimes things are not always what they appear to be….

Samantha, “Sam”, is Jennifer’s beloved grandmother. The two are very close since Jennifer’s mother died when she was 12. Now an adult and in the process of trying to cope from a more recent loss, Jennifer learns that her grandmother has taken a fall and is in critical condition. It doesn’t look good. Jennifer leaves her apartment in Chicago and moves into her grandmother’s house on Lake Geneva so she can visit her daily at the hospital. Upon moving in she finds well over a hundred letters detailing her grandmother’s life that she left for Jennifer to read a few at a time. She begins to do so and learns that her grandmother’s 50 year marriage to her grandfather wasn’t what it appeared to be. Meanwhile, Jennifer reconnects with an old friend she grew up with. Brendan, a doctor, has taken a leave from his practice and is staying with his uncle near her grandmother’s lakefront house. Things begin to get cozy between the two of them when Jennifer is shocked to learn of a devastating secret that Brendan has just revealed to her. Can Jennifer find happiness amid all the heartbreak?
Before I saw the movie version of Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas, I had no idea that James Patterson wrote the book. It was such a beautiful romance story that when I came across Sam’s Letters to Jennifer, also written by James Patterson, I knew I had to read it. I was not disappointed. I can confidently say that James Patterson knows how to write tender and effecting love stories. Sam’s Letter’s to Jennifer is a poignant story about finding love, losing it, and then holding on to the prospect of loving again when it doesn’t seem possible. There’s more than one love story playing out in this book, and the ways in which several lives converge and hope is renewed is beautifully told. This one’s a tearjerker. You’ve been warned. Recommended.

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Review: The Secrets She Kept

The Secrets She Kept
The Secrets She Kept by Brenda Novak
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Josephine Lazarow had a lot of secrets….

The Secrets She Kept, book 2 in the Fairham Island series, picks up 5 years after The Secret Sister. Josephine Lazarow is dead. Her death has been ruled a suicide, but her son, Keith Lazarow, is not convinced. His mother would never take her own life, he insists. Once a down and out addict, Keith has turned over a new leaf. Turns out he has a knack for real estate and operates a multimillion dollar company in California. His newfound wealth gives him the means to delve deeper into his mother’s death. After consulting with his sister Maisey regarding the mysterious circumstances surrounding their mother’s death, she supports Keith’s decision to pursue a more thorough investigation. If only he could persuade the beautiful, highly intelligent and efficient Chief of Police, Harper Underwood, to get on board. Keith realizes that his negative reputation precedes him, and that it will take great effort on his part to reverse others’ preconceived notions of him, including the police chief’s. Meanwhile, Keith is trying to contain his feelings for the woman whose heart he broke 5 years earlier before he got clean, Nancy Dellinger. Realizing he made a tremendous mistake in taking her for granted, he desperately wants to start over with her. But Nancy has continually resisted his attempts and Keith is having a difficult time accepting her rejections. Will these distressing circumstances in his life push Keith over the edge and back to the drugs he’s worked so hard to put behind him? Did Josephine take her own life or did someone murder her?

The Secrets She Kept was every bit as good as The Secret Sister, which was a 5-star read for me. In it we find a great mystery alongside a solid, second-chance romance story. Brenda Novak is very adept at conveying human emotion. Her characters’ feelings and expressions are authentic and relatable. I also appreciate how there’s a purpose for every one of her characters. At the conclusion of the book the reader is not left wondering “whatever happened to so and so?”. Everything comes together at the end, neat and tidy, with each person accounted for. Some of the characters that we were introduced to in The Secret Sister have evolved and matured in The Secrets She kept, and for that reason I recommend reading the books in order. If I had to list any cons for this book there would only be one. I wish it was free of the heavy petting and sensual scenes since I prefer wholesome romance. Just my own personal preference. Brenda Novak’s writing is so good it doesn’t even seem necessary. Being that the romance aspect shared space with the mystery, these scenes were few and I did my best to skip over them. Had everything remained the same, and the romance been strictly sweet, it would be a 5++ read for me.

Overall, The Secrets She Kept was an excellent read with a thoroughly satisfying mystery and a HEA that will melt your heart.

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Review: Little Beach Street Bakery

Little Beach Street Bakery
Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Polly Waterford is starting anew. Her boyfriend’s graphic design consultancy business, of which she was business manager, has foundered and they’ve been forced to file bankruptcy. With the business dissolved, along with most of her material possessions and her relationship with Chris, Polly will have to leave their expensive flat and find a more affordable dwelling. Mount Polbearne, a tidal island 50 miles away from their home in Plymouth, and only accessible by a causeway that washes over twice a day, has an available flat that’s in her price range. The place is a dump. Polly’s posh friend Kerensa is appalled that she would choose such an abhorrent place to settle, but Polly’s determined to make a go of it, assuring Kerensa that it’s only temporary until she can reestablish. With few job prospects on the island and employment on the mainland impossible due to the causeway’s preventing convenient access, Polly does the only thing that she knows how; she bakes. This undertaking infuriates her landlord, Mrs. Gillian Manse, a brusque and menacing older woman whose lone bakery on the island serves stale sandwiches derived from inferior products. Mrs. Manse resents Polly’s baking expertise because the whole town is gravitating to her delectable breads. The two women eventually reach a compromise and soon Polly is coming into her own in the little forsaken town of Mount Polbearne. At times lonesome, she befriends a fisherman and his crew and they quickly become a regular part of her daily life. Polly even begins to have feelings for the fisherman, Tarnie, but will come to learn of a secret he’s harboring. There’s an adorable little puffling (a baby puffin) that slams into the window pane of the abandoned shop beneath Polly’s flat and breaks his wing. Polly cares for the bird and is warned by the vet not to name him or she’ll get too attached and won’t want to release him when he’s convalesced. Ignoring his suggestion she names the little bird Neil and the two become inseparable. When it’s time to take Neil to the puffin sanctuary Polly is crushed, but her beekeeper friend who makes delicious honey, Huckle, lends his support and accompanies her to the sanctuary. Huckle is sweet and handsome, with his own story to tell, and Polly is soon smitten by his affections. Meanwhile, her boyfriend Chris re-enters her life, wanting to pick up where they left off and Polly has a decision to make. Which life will she choose? Never expecting to stay long in Mount Polbearne, she’s made the shabby place with the gorgeous views her home. Even her friend Kerensa has come to see the beauty and potential of the place, visiting often and catching the eye of a very wealthy resident there. Polly has become content with her thriving bakery business, her love interests and pet puffin. But will she take the easy way out, abandon her newfound friends and business and return to the executive lifestyle with Chris?

Little Beach Street Bakery was a delightful read. I became immersed in Polly’s life, wanting to know who she’d wind up with, what would happen to the sweet little puffling, whether or not her bakery business would take off and sustain her, and if she would choose to make Mount Polbearne her permanent home. The story satisfies all of these questions and takes us on an adventure and into the lives of some of the other residents, showing us how with a little determination and the willingness to follow your dreams, happiness can be achieved, even in an unfashionable little place like Mount Polbearne, Cornwall. Enjoyable read.

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Review: A Dark and Stormy Murder

A Dark and Stormy Murder
A Dark and Stormy Murder by Julia Buckley
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

⭐⭐⭐💫 Lena London’s life is about to change….in more ways than one.
When Lena brings her car to a halt in front of the large, ominous-looking mansion and home of her idol, novelist Camilla Graham, she still can’t believe her good fortune. Lena has devoured every one of Camilla Graham’s books since she was a young girl, and now she will have the privilege of living in her house as her personal assistant and ghost writer, thanks to her friend Allison who got her the interview that landed her the job. This apprenticeship is a dream come true for Lena, but as she gets started in her new role she finds that all is not well in the sleepy, blissful town of Blue Lake, IN. Nothing notable ever really happens in Blue Lake she’s been told, but in less than a day since Lena’s arrival a dead body is discovered on Camilla’s property, and she learns that their neighbor next door, Sam West, is suspected of killing his missing wife. And while walking Camilla’s feisty German Shepherds, Heathcliff and Rochester, in an attempt to acquaint herself with her new surroundings and neighbors, she meets several surly male residents and a few pleasant women in town who seem cordial and welcoming enough. But Lena’s on high alert. Can any of these townsfolk be responsible for the murder of Martin Jonas, waiter at the Wheat Grass restaurant? Did Sam West kill his wife who vanished a year ago without a trace?

This cozy started out well, and I liked the idea of an aspiring writer living with and working for her favorite novelist. Their interactions throughout the book were endearing, and it was nice to see how their relationship evolved from the time they met to the book’s end. Camilla’s dogs, Rochester and Heathcliff; and Lena’s cat, Lestrade, were a welcome addition to the story. Their antics were amusing and I never tired of reading about what they were up to. While the characters were interesting, I would like to have seen some of them more fully developed. There was so much more potential for fleshing them out. Perhaps we’ll learn more about them in book 2. What put me off a little with this book was the insta-love between Lena and one of the other characters, the double murder plot which at times made me wonder which one was taking center stage, the easy way I determined who the killer was, and the To Be Continued ending. All in all, I liked this cozy but I didn’t love it. I wanted to love it so much. It began on a high note but gradually started to lose steam for me when I was about 3/4 of the way in. Nevertheless it was a pretty good read. But hey, judging from the 4 and 5 star reviews it’s receiving you might think differently so I’d say give it a try. You may very well think it deserves more merit.

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Review: The Secret Sister

The Secret Sister
The Secret Sister by Brenda Novak
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Brenda Novak tricked me!! Just when I thought I had it all figured out she blindsided me with a twist I didn’t see coming, and it was clever. As the title suggests, there could very well have been a secret sister that protagonist, Maisey Lazarow, didn’t know about. When a metal box that was keenly hidden emerges, the photographs inside incite vague memories of a girl she may have once been acquainted with. But how could that be? Keith and Maisey are the only two children of Malcolm and Josephine Lazarow. Or are they? Maisey doesn’t dare broach that subject with her mother. Josephine is an odious, overbearing and austere woman who exerts her power and influence on Fairham Island, the place where Maisey grew up and has now returned to help her brother, a weak and broken soul who can’t get his life together. Maisey’s relationship with her mother is so shallow that she refuses to stay in the family home, Coldiron House, preferring to take up residence on the far side of the island where her family owns a number of bungalows that are in desperate need of repair. Even a crumbling cottage is better than living in the same house with her mother. But when Maisey finds out that the contractor who’s been hired to do the renovations on the bungalows is none other that Rafael “Rafe” Romano, a guy she had a fling with in her younger days, and who now owns and lives in one of the bungalows nearby with his adorable young daughter, Laney, Maisey wonders how she’ll be able to divert her attention away from the alluringly attractive man that her mother would never approve of for her daughter. Bad enough she’s recently divorced from Jack, a man who her mother had advised her not to marry; a fact that Josephine will not let her forget. And now, finding the pictures of the young girl in that box raises many questions. Who is she, and why hadn’t her parents told her and Keith about her? Why aren’t there any police records about her, or small-town rumors circulating that she’s heard about? Could her mother have anything to do with the child’s disappearance? The implications of that thought alone are unnerving. Aside from trying to find answers to these lingering questions, she’ll have to make a decision about who she wants to have in her life romantically, Jack or Rafe; straighten out her careless, irresponsible brother, revitalize her writing career, heal from a personal tragedy, and put forth her best effort to mend the rift with her mother that’s been intensified by her reluctance to break things off with Rafe.
The mystery/romance combination of this story really worked for me. I love mysteries, and I love romance, so when they work in tandem I’m contented. This method of storytelling also gives more space to the plot rather than the bedroom scenes. That’s a plus for me because I prefer wholesome romance where heavy sexual content is non-existent. As was the case with The Secret Sister, my attention was drawn more to the mystery of the unidentified girl than it was to Rafe and Maisey’s relationship drama, although I was interested in knowing if their feelings for each other would overcome any obstacles that threatened to keep them apart. In the end, I had to suspend disbelief just a bit to come to terms with the rapid progression of their love, but isn’t that what enjoying fiction is all about sometimes? In conclusion, The Secret Sister was a tantalizing mystery that pulled a fast one on me, along with a romance made up of two unlikely, but very likeable adults, and secondary characters that consisted of all the traits that make for an interesting and absorbing read. I look forward to finding out more about the Lazarow family in Fairham Island book 2, The Secrets She Kept. Highly recommended.

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Review: Threads of Evidence

Threads of Evidence
Threads of Evidence by Lea Wait
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Residents of Haven Harbor, Maine, are relieved to learn that “Aurora”, an old, neglected Victorian mansion and eyesore of the community, that has sat desolate for the past 25 years has been bought. Aurora has a macabre past. Jasmine Gardener, age 17, died on the property back in 1970. Jasmine’s parents were hosting a party at Aurora, their summer home, the day she died. The death was ruled an accidental drowning by police, but Jasmine’s mother, Millie Gardener, believed her daughter was murdered. Now, 45 years after the murder, famous actress, Skye West, who’s bought Aurora has commissioned Angie Curtis, Director of Mainely Needlepoint, to appraise the needlepoint pictures that were left inside the property. As Angie makes her way through the mansion and realizes that its condition inside is even worse than she imagined, she wonders why Skye West would be interested in restoring and living in a place that seems more suited for demolition than renovation. As the story moves forward we learn of Skye’s connection to Jasmine, which inadvertently answers Angie’s question. And as Angie investigates a 45 year old murder involving the then 17 year old, we see how many partygoers that night had a reason to want her dead.

Threads of Evidence is, in my opinion, a more intricately composed Murder mystery than book 1, Twisted Threads. There are more suspects, clues and variables to consider. Although Threads of Evidence can be read on its own, I benefited from reading the first book in the series because it introduced me to the many characters that made an appearance in book 2, enabling me to keep them all straight in my head. The actress, old Victorian mansion, colorful cast of characters, along with the protagonist’s sleuthing strategies, made Threads of Evidence enjoyable. And since I like to learn new things, it’s great that the author shares embroidery tidbits. I also learned about some poisonous plants which was interesting. Overall, another well constructed cozy mystery that I’d recommend.

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Review: Through the Storm

Through the Storm
Through the Storm by Rula Sinara
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

💚💚💚💚💚 Tessa Henning lives in a swanky villa in South Africa with her husband Brice and her 13-yr. old nephew, Nick. Tessa suspects that her husband is involved in the illegal ivory trade and desperately wants to expose him based on her suspicions. It’s a dangerous undertaking; Brice is not one to be messed with, and if she doesn’t handle it properly she could put not only her own life in peril, but her deceased sister’s son Nick’s life as well. Tessa decides that it’s necessary to flee to Kenya where Nick’s co-guardian and uncle, Mac Walker, lives and operates a small touring company, Air Walker Safaris. Tessa’s intent is to leave Nick with Mac in Kenya while she seeks to substantiate her husband’s guilt. Mac is unaware of this. Despite their dissimilar paths in life, as well as their opposing natures, Mac and Tessa will have to work in tandem to expose Brice while keeping themselves and Nick safe. Can they achieve it? Mac still feels the sting from Tessa’s irrationally blaming him for her sister’s death, and he views her as uppity and snooty, a gold digger of sorts, because of her decision to marry wealthy Brice. Tessa sees Mac as a thrill seeker and adventurer who didn’t step up and take responsibility for his role as co-guardian to Nick, and has feelings of doubt in the trust department where Mac is concerned. Could there possibly be love in their future?

Through the Storm is book 3 in the From Kenya, With Love series, and I really enjoyed it. I love how Rula Sinara captures the essence of the landscape so beautifully and presents it to the reader in such a way that you can close your eyes and feel as though you’ve been transported to the African wilderness. Descriptions of the animals in the wild and their behaviors was equally fascinating and enlightening. There was intrigue, a blossoming romance and the camaraderie of congenial friends and family members that brought warmth to the story. An enjoyable read. I hope there will be a book 4 to look forward to.

Thank you Rula Sinara for providing me with a free copy of this book. My opinions of it are honest and solely my own.

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Review: Twisted Threads

Twisted Threads by Lea Wait
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Twisted Threads is set in the lovely coastal town of Haven Harbor, Maine. The interspersed descriptions of the town, and its intriguing cast of characters, lent to my immense enjoyment of this book. I know I’ve loved a cozy when the story is told so well that it’s a great read on its own, even before the perpetrator is revealed. That was my experience with Twisted Threads. And now a little bit on what the book was about….

Angie “Angel” Curtis is returning to her childhood home in Haven Harbor, Maine, to bury her mother who has been found after having gone missing 19 years prior. Charlotte Curtis, Angie’s grandmother (affectionately known as “Gram”), hasn’t seen Angie much since she left Haven Harbor for Arizona about 10 years earlier, so she’s happy to welcome her back home. Angie is glad to be back in Maine with her grandmother and she notices that a couple of things have changed. Gram has become a business owner. She’s part of a group of needlepointers that call themselves Mainely Needlepoint. They are craftsmen who do beautiful work, but the business is failing now since their agent, Jacque Lattimore, hasn’t been paying them for jobs they’ve completed, and sadly he’s nowhere to be found. In fact, he owes them over $30,000! Since Angie works for a private investigator back in Arizona, she offers to do what she can to track him down. When all is said and done, Angie won’t be back in town to find out about her mother’s murder alone, but she, along with her grandmother and the other needlepointers, will be embroiled in yet another murder. Might there be a killer among them?

Wow, the final chapters of this cozy were intense, and I loved every minute of it!! I was drawn into this somewhat unconventional cozy mystery of a double murder plot. I really appreciated the passages related to needlepoint in the form of quotes, poems and interesting facts that headed up each chapter. I found those tidbits both interesting and fascinating, and I looked forward to them. The story definitely held my attention and the climactic ending was thrilling. I loved this cozy so much that I’ve already begun Threads of Evidence, book 2 in the series. Need I say more?

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Review: Guidebook to Murder

Guidebook to Murder
Guidebook to Murder by Lynn Cahoon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ This was an audiobook. Guidebook to Murder was my first cozy mystery by Lynn Cahoon. I was immediately drawn in from the start and continued to be enthralled to the end. My imagination embraced the setting of a small California coastal town called South Cove. The primary character, Jill Gardner, owned and operated Coffee, Books and More; the only book store/coffee shop for miles around. Jill was a divorced attorney who visited the town of South Cove while on vacation and loved it so much that she decided to move there and open her store. Part of the town’s allure was the friendship she immediately forged with a kind old lady who initially welcomed her and made her feel right at home. Her name was Miss Emily, and Jill became like a daughter to her. Since Jill was devoid of a romantic relationship at the time, and Ms. Emily lived alone with few if any real friends, the two shared a special bond. But then the unthinkable happened. Ms. Emily was murdered and Jill was devastated. Who would do this? Ms. Emily was being continually pressured by the city council about infractions on her property, and shortly before she died the council was threatening to demolish her property if she didn’t repair the fence, fix the lawn, and take care of many other eye sores related to her parcel. Ms. Emily’s property was the lone obstacle to plans for a new development project, a commercial venture that could presumably net the town a considerable amount of money. Even the mayor was intent on dispossessing poor Ms. Emily. But would the developer or a city council member resort to murder? Jill wonders, but when her best friend Amy goes missing, and Ms. Emily’s unsightly house begins turning up very valuable hidden treasures and secrets, is there more to this Murder mystery than Jill realised?

Lynn Cahoon has been added to my FAVORITE COZY AUTHORS list. This mystery was beautifully paced, the characters were interesting and varied, and the details surrounding Miss Emily’s murder kept me guessing until the revealing at the end, which was both fulfilling and plausible. Thoroughly enjoyed it and recommend it highly.

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Review: A Family Like Hannah’s

A Family Like Hannah's
A Family Like Hannah’s by Carol Ross
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

💚💚💚💚💚 I loved A Family Like Hannah’s. Carol Ross has done it again with the fourth installment of her Season’s of Alaska series. At times heart wrenching, but mostly heartwarming, A Family Like Hannah’s is yet another example of her skill at creating solid, evocative stories. Carol Ross’s books exude a warmth and tenderness that immediately captures your attention and holds it as the story unfolds. Indicative of this is the natural, convincing way her characters find love. Hannah James, the principal character in A Family Like Hannah’s, is getting her life back on track after a tragic accident almost ended it. Still good natured, adventurous and athletic despite what she’s been through, Hannah’s dream has come true as co-partner and project manager for Snowy Sky, a ski resort in Rankins, Alaska. Tate Addison, Consultant for Snowy Sky, and unbeknownst to Hannah a dominant shareholder, has plans that threaten to upend her vision for the resort, and the two don’t get off to a promising start. Notwithstanding this, Hannah can’t deny her attraction to the handsome Tate. He’s stepped in to care for his neglected 6-year old nephew, Lucas, whom Hannah has come to adore. These factors and others endear Hannah to Tate, but Tate’s background of the same neglect and pain that Lucas endured initially causes him to conclude that Hannah is just too good for him with her large, perfect family and her seemingly unblemished life. He isn’t aware that Hannah’s hiding a secret that could halt any chances of the couples’ friendly relationship advancing to the next level anyway. Nevertheless, feelings between the two can’t be denied. Hannah is great with kids, especially Lucas, and she has an effect on Tate like no other woman he’s ever known. If they want to be together, the couple will have to see beyond the impediments that can easily keep them apart. The way they do this demonstrates Carol Ross’s adept ability to concoct sweet stories with a happy ending that leaves you feeling contented, satisfied and in anticipation of her next book so that you can revisit characters you’ve grown to love.

It was a delight to return to Rankins Alaska and to be reunited with characters from the first three books in the Season’s of Alaska series. And yet, A Family Like Hannah’s can certainly be enjoyed on its own. If an engrossing story with great characters, a sweet romance and a happy ending is what you’re looking for in your next read, you’ll love A Family Like Hannah’s. I did. Highly recommended.

I received a free copy of A Family Like Hannah’s from the author. No compensation was collected for my honest review.

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Review: Flipped for Murder

Flipped for Murder
Flipped for Murder by Maddie Day
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫  A great cozy mystery!!
Roberta “Robbie” Jordan has realized her dream of opening a restaurant and country store, Pans ‘N Pancakes, in the small town of South Lick, Indiana. Opening day proves successful, but shortly thereafter Stella Rogers, Mayoral Assistant, is found dead with one of Robbie’s biscuits shoved in her mouth.  To make matters worse Robbie is a person of interest in the murder.  Since Stella was intent on her son Roy Rogers taking over the store instead of Robbie, she delayed the permitting process making it difficult for Robbie to make the necessary renovations in time to include B&B rooms over her new restaurant. Admittedly, Robbie was perturbed by this, but local police officer Buck Bird perceives it as a motive for murder.  Robbie’s eager to clear her name, and in the process she discovers that quite a number of folks had more plausible reasons to want Stella dead.

I really enjoyed this cozy mystery for several reasons. I liked reading about the main character’s life; her love interests, relatives, long-lost father and the challenges she faced operating a new restaurant. Her daily life in and of itself was interesting and held my attention. I also appreciated that there were enough characters to suspect as guilty, but not so many that you would be hard-pressed to remember all of them.  Also, the murderer was not someone far-fetched, enabling the reader to possibly figure out who really killed Stella Rogers.

I would definitely read book two in the series, Grilled For Murder, because I like Maddie Day’s writing style. Also, I’m curious about a few loose ends relating to Robbie’s life, as well as some of the secondary characters’ lives that I presume will be addressed in the next book in the series. Overall, a very satisfying read. Recommended.

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Review: A Haven on Orchard Lane

A Haven on Orchard Lane
A Haven on Orchard Lane by Lawana Blackwell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ This is my first book by Lawana Blackwell and she’s been added to my list of favorite authors. I was beaming with pleasure while reading A Haven on Orchard Lane. What a delightful historic tale it was, filled with characters of substance that I could envision so clearly; and beautiful, refreshing dialogue that made this book the epitome of comfort and warmth. To be honest, I had taken a break from historic novels because I was growing weary of the same plot lines and scenarios. This book has caused me to regain faith in the genre. The story was unique and unlike any other book I’ve read in this category, with writing that spoke to my heart and nourished my soul. I was always ready to pick up where I’d left off. Now a little of what it was about….
Mrs. Charlotte Fosberry was a highly respected actress in her former days. Now at 50, she’s no longer on stage, but married to Lord Fosberry who did not marry her for love. Presuming she possessed more wealth than was the case, he confessed his true motives for marrying her and has grown critical and mentally abusive to Charlotte; making off-color comments about her weight and such. She desperately needs a way out and it comes by way of a theater part that she is called upon to play. Knowing that Lord Fosberry won’t allow her to just walk away from their marriage, Charlotte must devise a scheme to make her exit. Things don’t turn out the way she expects regarding her big break on stage, and she finds herself at the mercy of her estranged daughter, Rosalind, who Charlotte did not raise. Forgiveness is the order of the day, and Rosalind will learn almost immediately that her mother isn’t the person she’s made her out to be. In fact, Charlotte has much to contribute to many secondary characters by way of wisdom, and even theatrical experience. There’s a little mystery and intrigue in the story, a love triangle and ultimately the most wonderfully fulfilling ending.
Ms. Blackwell does Christian Fiction right. There are a few brief scriptural references to bible passages and characters, and a mention here and there of the folks making their way to worship services. But happily it wasn’t a lesson in Christianity or didactic in any way (I attend my own worship services for that). Oftentimes when reading a Christian Fiction novel I find that the author’s views don’t align with my personal beliefs and ultimately upset my delicate sensibilities related to religion. Because of this I find it difficult to review these preachy books objectively. This was not so with A Haven on Orchard Lane. What little I didn’t agree with wasn’t enough to affect my enjoyment of the book. It was mainly just solid story-telling without profanity, violence or graphic sexual scenes. What I personally expect from a Christian Fiction novel. I loved it!! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Thank you Bethany House for a free copy of this book. I have not received any payment for my honest opinions about it.

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Review: Carousel Nights

Carousel Nights
Carousel Nights by Amie Denman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

💜💜💜💜💜 Carousel Nights is book 2 in the Starlight Point Stories miniseries, and it was a delightfully, enjoyable read. The story focuses on Mel Preston, head of maintenance at the Starlight Point Amusement Park; and June Hamilton, part owner of Starlight Point. The two had dated for a summer seven years earlier when they were teens.  June, feeling destined for the bright lights of Broadway in NYC, left Mel behind to pursue her dreams. Now she’s back at The Point to help out her siblings, co-owners of Starlight Point, with various park upgrades for several weeks before returning to her life in NYC.  It’s not easy seeing Mel practically every day while he carries out tasks around the amusement park. And his adorable 5-yr. old son, Ross, is subtly stealing June’s heart as well.  It’s becoming obvious that the two are still attracted to each other, but Mel’s reluctance to act on his impulses stems from being left behind by June once before. And although she seems somewhat interested in rekindling their lost love, Mel knows he has to tread carefully because this time around he has another to consider besides just himself.  So who or what will ultimately win out with June?Will it be the handsome maintenance worker that she left behind years ago?  Or will she choose the fame and opportunity of a lifetime that awaits her back in The Big Apple?

This book really drew me in and held my attention. The amusement park setting was vivid and lively. I could feel the energy of the crowds, rides, and fireworks going off. I imagined Mel Preston busily going about his day handling varying degrees of emergencies, and June Hamilton, dressed in sparkly costumes, dancing in the Midway Theater.  Little Ross’s appearance in this book added an endearing quality.  He was a sweet presence; not whiny or childish, but slightly mature for his five years, and the interaction between father and son was a joy to read about. There were also a couple of nail-biting scenes involving a storm and a fire that amped up the story and helped to move it along at a nice pace.  I was on the edge of my seat at times eagerly anticipating the outcomes.

Overall, I greatly enjoyed this book. The romantic element was convincing and the ending was as sweet and satisfying as a hot fudge sundae after a plate of comfort food on one of your best days. Highly recommended.

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Review: The Country Vet

The Country Vet The Country Vet by Eleanor Jones
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫  Cass Truman isn’t exactly receiving a warm welcome from the residents of the little village in the Lake District where she’s decided to settle and begin her career as a veterinarian. The old farmers regard her skeptically, and unfortunately her first emergency call results in permission from its owner’s father to put down a pony that was in extreme distress and pain.  The pony, Rosie, was special to Jake Munro, and his father’s permission for the vet to put it down enrages him.  Jake is unreasonable and unwilling to accept Cass as a capable, qualified vet. As Cass begins to build a respectable reputation with the village locals she wonders why Jake is still surly and obnoxious as ever towards her.  What’s with the tall, handsome man who is obviously skilled at riding and caring tenderly for horses, but who’s rude and taciturn with people?  Cass soon learns of Jake’s sad and tragic past and makes an effort to excuse his foul disposition. In time Jake can’t ignore the attraction he feels towards Cass, but when a love from his past re-enters his life, will he allow guilt and regret to cause him to give up a chance to explore new possibilities with the sweet country vet who’s captured his heart?
The author dedicated this book “to all those who love animals and the countryside.”  When I read that I figured The Country Vet would be a book for me, and it was. I learned a few things about horses which was interesting, and I got to take in the sights and sounds of the English countryside. Add to that a sweet, young woman with a passion for helping animals, especially horses; a beautiful, feisty mare named Carlotta; an adorable puppy, Puddle, and a handsome man who’s trying to find his way after suffering loss, and you’ve got a story worth investing time in. Another enjoyable Heartwarming read.

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Review: Life and Other Near-Death Experiences

Life and Other Near-Death Experiences
Life and Other Near-Death Experiences by Camille Pagán
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ THIS WAS AN AUDIOBOOK. Libby Miller has just received the worst news of her life, or so she thought. On the same day that she receives devastating news from her doctor, her husband drops a bombshell that nearly pushes her over the edge. Laden with anger, fear and hurt, Libby defies her doctor’s recommendations and her husband’s pleas to work on their marriage and flees to Puerto Rico, a place where her mother loved to go when she was alive (she died when Libby was 10) according to her father.  She’s hoping to learn more about her mother by exploring the place that she was fond of, and to live out the rest of her existence in relative peace before revealing her shocking news to beloved twin brother, Paul, and her dad. But when she’s acquainted with a wise old woman, Milagros, and a handsome attentive man, Shiloh, both of whom have advice for her that threatens to derail her carefully contrived plan, Libby is forced to choose between giving in to the hand she’s been dealt or fighting for a brighter future.

A sobering topic, I was afraid it would be a somber and depressing read. Wrong. This book was full of wry and self-deprecating humor from the start and kept me mostly laughing throughout. Not something that I would expect from a book that begins with a young woman learning that she has a terminal illness, and whose husband drops another life-altering bombshell on her the same day. There were tender, more melancholy moments for sure, but given the subject matter overall this book was excellently written and entertaining. I truly loved it and highly recommend it.

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Review: Under the Boardwalk

Under the Boardwalk
Under the Boardwalk by Amie Denman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

💚💚💚💚 Under the Boardwalk was an enjoyable read. The amusement park setting was a perfect summertime theme, and I continually envisioned the carousel ride, the thundering roar of the roller coasters, the overhead cable cars, and the whimsical music playing all around. Here’s a little about the story…

Starlight Point amusement park owner Ford Hamilton has died, and his son, Jack Hamilton, has taken over as principal operator of the park.  He was the most practical choice among the siblings as he has been working alongside his father at Starlight Point since he was young. His two sisters are okay with his running things, and he’s ready to begin managing the park he’s always loved. Problem is his father left more than the park to him, he’s also left behind debt that Jack was unaware of. Jack’s solution involves increasing the flat fee and profit percentage from the lease vendors, many of which have been loyally working at The Point for several years under his father’s favored leadership. The increase doesn’t bode well for the seasoned vendors or the newest one, Augusta “Gus” Murphy, who has 3 bakeries at Starlight Point. She’s frustrated by the new negotiations, but she also finds Jack rather irresistible. How can she rally for the lease vendors and at the same time fall in love with the man who’s causing them all misery?

A very sweet story with a climactic ending.  A theme you won’t easily forget, and a satisfying HEA. A nice read for lovers of wholesome romance.

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Review: All-Butter ShortDead

All-Butter ShortDead
All-Butter ShortDead by H.Y. Hanna
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

💜💜💜💜 I enjoyed this prequel to the Oxford Tearoom Mysteries series. It’s a novella that takes us back to how Gemma Rose started up her tearoom in Oxford. We first meet some of the recurring characters that appear in the series including Gemma’s best friend Cassie, her baker, Fletcher, the old biddies, and mischievous cat, Muesli. Since I consider myself an Anglophile, the setting was very much to my liking, and I appreciated envisioning Oxford and the Cotswolds. There was a murder mystery that I thought I’d solved which involved Gemma and a mysterious woman she met on the flight from Australia to England, but I was wrong. The author did a nice job with the whodunnit, and I was surprised by the identity of the true culprit. Since the book is quite short, being a novella, there isn’t a whole lot of development, but it’s just right as a lead-in to the books that follow. I’m looking forward to reading the others in the series. If you love cozy mysteries, you’ll enjoy All-Butter ShortDead.

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