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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

The Christmas Star by Donna VanLiere

Release Date - October 16, 2018



Needing a change, Amy Dennison opts to volunteer at Glory's Place, an after-school program. It's there that she meets a delightful seven-year-old named Maddie. Maddie is in foster care and never knew her parents. She thinks it is her cerebral palsy that made them abandon her as an infant.

What Amy doesn't know is that Maddie is determined to find a soul mate for the elementary school's maintenance man. She thinks Gabe and Amy are perfect for each other. Little does she know that they share something rather painful in common. It may be a holiday miracle if they're to look past their pain and find a future together.

This is part of a series about the town of Grandon. I haven't read the others and I found, at times, that I might have enjoyed more characters had I been introduced to them earlier. The story is about Gabe, Amy, and Maddie, but Gabe's cousin and his fiancee often jumped into chapters and took over the plot. I really disliked how they ended up seeming more of the focal point Gabe and Amy.

The other thing I struggled with was the writing. There were times I felt I was being told rather than shown. Some of the narrative seemed to bash me over the head with details I could have inferred on my own. As a result, I liked the story but never loved it.


Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Naughty on Ice (Book 4 in the Discreet Retrieval Agency Mystery Series) by Maia Chance

Release Date - November 13, 2018



There was something about Naughty on Ice that made me feel it was like taking Agatha Christie and having her write an episode of Rosemary and Thyme. The book's Vermont setting was pretty apt in terms of the weather and people. I also enjoyed the quirky attitudes of the book's two sleuthing heroines.

Lola Woodbury and her cook and partner in solving crimes, Berta, head to Vermont after receiving a mysterious Christmas card that gives them their next assignment. They need to get into a holiday gathering in Maple Hill. There, they need to retrieve a ring that one family member allegedly stole from another Goddard family member many years ago.

When Cressida Goodard falls dead after sipping her Negroni, Lola and Berta become prime suspects. After all, they have the ring they've just taken from Cressida's finger. They know they can clear everything up by showing police their case file, except someone's stolen that when they were out of their hotel room. Things aren't looking great for these women. They need to find the killer and prove their innocence before they're arrested.

Naughty on Ice was my introduction to the Discreet Retrieval Agency Mystery Series. I wish I'd read the other books to get to know Lola and Berta better, but I was still intrigued. I read the story eagerly, though there were some slower sections that I had to power through. All in all, this cozy mystery was a great way to spend a wintry day.


Thursday, November 15, 2018

Evergreen Tidings From the Baumgartners by Gretchen Anthony

Release Date - October 16, 2018



I started Evergreen Tidings From the Baumgartners. I stopped. I tried again. I stopped again. I really struggled to get into this book, but so many people said it was fantastic that I couldn't understand what I was missing. I still don't. Violet Baumgartner gets under my skin. I simply cannot stand her.

Each year, Violet Baumgartner pens a Christmas letter for her friends and family members. This year, she's going to do more than a silly letter. Her husband has retired and she's going to throw a retirement party/holiday gathering that's going to be in the papers. She's determined her family will be the talk of the town. She simply cannot expect to become the talk of the town for all the wrong reasons. Her daughter's been hiding a secret, and it's one that will rock Violet to the core. As events unfold, it's clear that she'll get her wish even if it's not what she planned.

What could be very amusing took a cold turn when I realized that Violet simply could not be an enjoyable character. I loathed her actions towards others and, especially, her husband and her daughter. Nothing she could do would make me like her. While the writing flowed well, it's a lost cause when you hate the main character.

I loved the cover design. That's what drew me to the book in the first place. In the end, that's all I can say I liked about the book. Everything else was a struggle.


Saturday, November 10, 2018

A Thousand Doors by J.T. Ellison

Release Date: November 5, 2018



A Thousand Doors is a collection of stories penned by different authors. J.T. Ellison starts Mia Jensen's tragic tale. Mia's marriage is coming to an end. Her husband's been embezzling donations given to his non-profit and Mia knows all the details and is ready to share. Before she can, she's attacked and left for dead.

As she lies dying, she experiences different "what if's." Each chapter of a life she could have had is shared by a different author. In other lives, she could have been a lawyer with a cheating husband, a senator's frustrated and tired wife, a devoted mom with a shady past, and so many others.

Stories in A Thousand Doors are told by some of today's best romance and women's fiction writers - Kimberly Belle, Laura Benedict, Patti Callahan Henry, Heather Gudenkauf, Kerry Lonsdale, Catherine McKenzie, and so many others.

I loved every moment. I was rooting for Mia in each story. While her situations changed with each chapter, her personality and values never seemed to stray. The authors did a great job at changing her life without changing her. I loved it.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Indigo Hill: A Novel by Liz Rosenberg

Release Date - November 13, 2018



After Alma Johansson is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, her daughters are shocked. One expects her to fight the disease, but the other accepts and respects her mom's stance. Cancer takes Alma from them sooner than expected. What she leaves behind is something more shocking. It's something the sisters must come to terms with in their own way.

As they mourn their mom, Michelle and Louisa also face their lives now. Part of what makes them the women they are goes back to a fire that happened when they were younger. That fire on Indigo Hill haunts Louisa, and her mom's death may be what it takes for her to finally come to terms with it.

I struggled with the opening of Indigo Hill. It's a third-person POV and referring to Alma as Mrs. Johansson, while meant to be respectful, seemed so impersonal and made it hard for me to connect with the characters. It took a while to acclimate to that writing style.

After a new character is introduced, I wanted to like the story more. He makes one decision though that ticked me off and made me dislike him. At that point, the only character I felt any bond with was Michelle's teenage daughter. The rest of the characters simply never appealed to me.


Monday, November 5, 2018

Dancing With the Sun by Kay Brant

Release Date - November 27, 2018



Empty nester Sadie Harlan is at a crossroads. Tragic events have strained her marriage. While her husband heads out on a camping trip, Sadie opts to fly to California to spend a couple of days with her daughter who is at Yosemite for an internship.

The women set off for a quick walk, but a sudden storm catches them by surprise. They wind up lost and unprepared. With no emergency supplies and a cell phone that's dead, Sadie and Lauren must try to find a way to get help and avoid the dangers of the wilderness.

Dancing With the Sun is a fast read. It seemed a little slow at first, but once Sadie and Lauren were out in the forest, the pace was lightning fast. There were times I was frustrated by their choices, but I wasn't in the situation, so who knows how I would have acted in a very stressful situation.

I liked Sadie's instincts when it came to protecting her child, even if Lauren is grown and capable of protecting herself. I loved the descriptions of the area. It's been years since I was in Yosemite, but I do remember snippets of it from my childhood and remember the feeling of awe with the deer and trees.

If you want a quick, suspenseful story, pick Dancing With the Sun. It didn't take long to finish and had me hooked.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

The Lies We Told by Camilla Way

Release Date - October 9, 2018



For Beth, her daughter's often cruel behavior and lack of emotion are clear signs of a troubled mind. Her husband isn't convinced. He feels Beth overreacts and that Hannah is misunderstood.

Decades later, Clara is dismayed when her loving boyfriend doesn't come home after work. After a day, it's clear that he didn't just crash at a friend's house. Ominous emails seem to prove that there's something more going on.

As Clara tries to find out what happened to Luke, she comes across information about his long-missing sister. Luke's sister made a new friend right before she disappeared. Someone knows something that may tie the past to Luke's disappearance. The clock is ticking and Clara wants to unravel the truth before time runs out.

The Lies We Told takes place in the past when Hannah is a young girl and switches to Clara's present-day point of view. It does take some twists, but I can't say they shocked me. I saw a few things coming. The ending is also meant to be shocking, but I had that pegged, which was a bit of a letdown.

The story does move swiftly and held my attention. I found myself intrigued by the story and wanted to see how it would play out. It's a good read, if not a little predictable in a couple of aspects, but definitely worth a few hours of reading.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult

Release Date - October 2, 2018



Let me give a little background. When I was 18 (go back to the '80s), a friend went to Planned Parenthood for her first pap smear. Pro-lifers were outside and threw rocks at people entering the building. She was terrified, all because she needed an affordable pap smear. I have not had respect for pro-lifers since that moment.

A Spark of Light takes a look at both sides. Several women are in a women's clinic for different reasons. A gunman walks in. Some are shot, some are taken hostage. The resulting story looks at all of the women, the law enforcement trying to save them, and the gunman.

Hugh McElroy is the police negotiator. He's stunned when he discovers his teen daughter is one of the hostages. He's raised her almost single-handedly. The only person helping him out, Aunt Bex, is one of the hostages whose been shot.

Over the span of the story, which is told backwards in terms of time, you meet the doctor, his pregnant nurse, a pro-lifer who snuck in to prove it's a murder factory by posing as a woman in need of an abortion, a woman who came for an abortion, an older woman who is there for an unknown reason, and Wren, Hugh's 15-year-old daughter. Then you have the gunman, George, who is there after his own teen has an abortion.

I love Jodi Picoult's books. This one ended up being a miss. I finished it, but I never felt a big connection to the characters. My own personal bias had me disliking the pro-lifer and George, but the story is set up in such a way that it's really hard to like them anyway. If anything, it's Olive (the older woman) who broke my heart and made me wish things were better for her.




Tuesday, October 23, 2018

After the Fire by Will Hill

Release Date - October 2, 2018


It's been a while since a book has caught my attention and had me refusing to budge. I found it and am so glad I did. I'd been on a bit of a reading slump because a number of books I picked up were okay but nothing special. This is special. It may not be easy, but it is going to leave a lasting impression.

If you were alive or know of the Waco siege, this book is going to tug at your emotions. There were times After the Fire was a little hard to read. I was pregnant when the Waco siege happened. I remember reading how a 10 year old was one of Koresh's wives. It outraged me. The second I started reading Will Hill's book, I knew where he'd come up with the inspiration from his story. I loved that it was told from the viewpoint of a surviving teen. I got her fear, her anger, and even her hope. 

Moonbeam is the storyteller and heroine. She's one of the survivors of a Waco-like siege of the place where she's grown up, the Lord Legion's compound. It's her story to tell, but she's been raised to believe that outsiders are evil and only those living in the compound are trustworthy. She knows things, however, and part of her wants to reveal everything. But, to do that she must trust in strangers, and that's a hurdle only she can overcome.

I had such a hard time getting anything done while reading After the Fire. I didn't want to go do the grocery shopping, though I needed to. I didn't want to work. I didn't want to take the dog for his walks or cook dinner. I was hooked. I had to read through the chapters and let Moonbeam tell me everything. 

Now that I'm done, I'm putting this book on my list of the best YA novels in 2018. It broke my heart. It made me truly happy. It had me smiling and grabbing Kleenex interchangeably. It made me angry. I felt so many emotions, but the one I liked the most was hope. I felt hope for Moonbeam as she explored her past and came to terms with what her future could be. Hands down, I loved After the Fire.



Friday, October 19, 2018

The Nightmare Before Dinner: Recipes to Die For: The Beetle House Cookbook by Zach Neil

Release Date: October 16, 2018



Zach Neil's The Nightmare Before Dinner: Recipes to Die For: The Beetle House Cookbook is a Halloween-themed cookbook that offers tempting recipes from Beetle House restaurants. The cookbook offers recipes in these categories:


  • Sauces and Dips for the Recently Deceased
  • Nightmares Before Dinner
  • Herbs, Plants, and Cauldrons
  • Platos de los Muertos
  • Tricks and Treats
  • Poisons, Potions, and Elixirs
  • Put the FUN Back in Funeral


Starting with Sauces and Dips for the Recently Deceased, there are recipes for items like homemade ketchup and a very cheesy Cheshire Sauce that looked tempting based on the photo of grilled baguettes with the sauce. There's also a vegan version of the Cheshire Sauce.

Nightmares Before Dinner is all of your appetizers. I loved the spin on shrimp cocktail that has a raspberry cocktail sauce. The Beetle Bacon Bread doesn't sound good for you, but it certainly sounds delicious.

Herbs, Plants, and Cauldrons is next. These are all the recipes for soups and salads.. The recipes that most caught my eye are the Barbarous BBQ Beef Ramen and the beef stew. This section is pretty limited with five recipes.

You'll find the main dish recipes under Platos de los Muertos. I love the picture and recipe for The Silence of the Lamb Chops. The raspberry glaze paired with the compote-like apple mix sounds amazing. Shrimpy Hollow also sounds hearty and perfect for the current cooler weather.

In Tricks and Treats, you'll find all kinds of sweet treats. I need to try the Blood Orange Cheesecake when blood oranges are available again. I'm always a sucker for chocolate cake, so the Red Velvet Midnight Espresso Cake caught my eye.

Poisons, Potions, and Elixirs is the section where you'll find cocktails and beverages. I'm not much of a cocktail drinker, so this section is a little less appealing to me. I stick to beers. There are recipes like the Big Fish Bowl or the Franken-Martini.

Finally, there's the meal plans under Put the FUN Back in Funeral. The meal plans incorporate recipes found in the book plus decorating ideas.

If you're looking for a cookbook that pairs clever recipe names with tempting recipes, Zach Neil's The Nightmare Before Dinner: Recipes to Die For: The Beetle House Cookbook delivers. It's packed with recipes and some also have photos so that you can see the final product before you attempt it. It's ideal for the person who loves Halloween any time of the year.



Thursday, October 18, 2018

Christmas in Evergreen by Nancy Naigle

Release Date - July 10, 2018



Evergreen is a magical town where the Christmas spirit tries to remain throughout the year. The town's Christmas-themed diner and its snow globe are rumored to really make your wishes come true.

Allie Shaw is selling her veterinary building and heading to Washington D.C. She wants to see if she and her boyfriend can really make a go of it. It's a big change, but it's one she's ready for. Even if it means leaving the Christmasy town she loves behind.

At the airport, a winter storm cancels flights. She books a room in the airport hotel and discovers the next morning that flights are still canceled. She has no choice but to return to Evergreen for Christmas.

Ryan Bellamy and his young daughter are still moving on after his wife's death. He plans a sunny beach getaway for Christmas. His daughter isn't convinced that Florida is the place Santa will really be. When their flight is canceled and they learn flights are still canceled the next day,  he takes a stranger up on her offer. She'll drive them to her hometown, Evergreen, until the airport opens again.

Ryan never expects to find himself falling for a town like Evergreen or a woman like Allie. He knows this stop is only temporary, but his daughter wishes on the town's snow globe that it could be their new home.

Any time a novel has Vermont for a setting, I try to pick out the author's inspiration for the town he or she creates. Christmas in Evergreen is written as the book form of the Hallmark movie. It's set in Evergreen, Vermont. There is no Evergreen, and try as I might, I couldn't pick up on the inspiration.

My best guess is St. Albans or Swanton. They're the only towns on Rt. 7 that are north of the airport that have a Main Street with businesses. The kicker is that I can't think of any towns in Vermont that would be cut off if there was a rock slide. There are always backroads available.

The other issue is that in my lifetime, I cannot think of a time when the airport was closed for more than a day with a big snowstorm. I looked up last winter's stats as we had a cold, snowy winter. Weather cancellations occurred on 0.67 percent of all flights. A news story said that on one of our biggest storms, the airport had to cancel six flights as they'd spent the prior day treating runways in preparation. For any reader who isn't familiar with Burlington. There is also no airport hotel that's connected to the airport. One is in the planning stages, but it's years away.

Does all this really matter? Not really. I admit that. It's just one of those things I pick up because I have lived here for almost all of my life.

The main romance is charming. I loved the speed at which the romance between Allie and Ryan grew. I really liked the interactions between Allie and Ryan's daughter. They were so tender and you just knew they had to end up together.

The book ends with a recipe for sugar cookies. It sounds good and I'm going to try it this Christmas.




Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The Season of Silver Linings by Christine Nolfi

Release Date - July 17, 2018



I'd held off reading The Season of Silver Linings because I prefer reading holiday novels closer to the holidays. The third novel in the Sweet Lake series has been out for a few months, but it's still available in paperback or e-book.

Jada and her two friends have turned Wayfair Inn into a thriving business. As a pastry chef, Jada is plenty busy, but Linnie's upcoming wedding has everyone feeling a bit stressed. Linnie is weeks from her big day, but she still can't find a dress. Cat is newly married and focused more on her new husband. Jada's tackling an awful lot in these weeks before the wedding.

Her hands are full trying to convince her long-time friend's little girl that dress-up costumes are not suitable attire for a flower girl. She's battling her feelings for Philip, the girl's dad, and the guilt she can't shake off after Philip's wife's death. A stranger coming to the inn and asking all kinds of personal questions is a little too much.

Jada is pretty sure that stranger knows Philip's late wife, but she's not sure how they connect. She's certain to get to the bottom of it. She's falling hard for Philip and his little girl, and she won't let them get hurt.

I had not read the other Sweet Lake novels, so this was my introduction to all of the characters. I think I needed to read the other two. For much of the novel, I struggled to find a reason to bond with the characters.

The relationship between Jada and Fancy is endearing. I loved their interactions. I also liked the romance that slowly formed between Philip and Jada. The rest seemed like a big distraction. There's already enough conflict with Jada worrying about becoming a bigger part of Fancy's life and hiding a secret about the death of Fancy's mom. It just seems that everything else was unnecessary. 

I would have loved The Season of Silver Linings had it been all about Jada, Fancy, Philip, and the mystery guest. Adding Linnie's bridal panic and Cat's desire to be with her husband rather than holding up her end of the business felt unnecessary to me.


Sunday, October 14, 2018

Dear Santa by Nancy Naigle

Release Date - October 16, 2018



For three generations, Heart of Christmas has sold unique items to the residents and visitors of Pleasant Sands, North Carolina. This year, Angela Carson is struggling to keep her grandmother's store open. A large competitor opened up and is threatening to put her out of business. Out of desperation, Angela listens to her young niece and asks Santa for help.

To make matters worse, the good-looking guy Angela bumps into is her competition. Geoff Paisley and his mom own the Christmas Galore chain. He's in town to make sure his newest location thrives. If it knocks out the competition, that's just an unfortunate side of retail.

When Geoff's mom is hospitalized, he has to take over the new Dear Santa app. Some letters get an automated response, but others get a personalized answer. He finds himself charmed by one letter and keeps talking to the mysterious woman. Little does he know that letter writer is the same angry store owner who blames him for her store being on the verge of closing down.

When the truth is revealed, can Angela and Geoff come up with a way to get past business and continue a relationship that seems too good to give up?

There were so many characters I just didn't like. Angela's sister was miserable. She simply had no supportive qualities at all. Angela loves her shop, but she's so stuck on griping about the competition that she never really takes time to consider other ways to make the shop competitive. Given her interest and knowledge of history, from the beginning, I wondered she didn't convert her business into a history museum. I had a hard time getting past that aspect.

Geoff was a bit of a pompous jerk. I didn't like his "I'm here to dominate the market and if it puts another in financial ruin, so be it" attitude. Good looking or not, as is mentioned a lot, he was a jerk.

I'd love to say that something in the book sparked my interest, but it just never did. I never formed a bond with characters that made me interested in what happened to them. As a result, Dear Santa turned out to be a miss for me. 

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Love in Catalina Cove by Brenda Jackson

Release Date: October 30, 2018



I'll start by saying that Love in Catalina Cove has cover art that caught my eye. I love the beach scene painted on the cover. I also found myself immediately liking Vashti's character. She's tough, but she's not so tough it makes her cold and distant. I liked Sawyer, too. As a couple, I really enjoyed them.

Vashti left Catalina Cove, Louisiana, years ago. When she refused to name the father of her unborn child, the entire town turned against her. That child died soon after childbirth, and Vashti left, made a name for herself, and vowed never to return. The only reason she's back now is to sell the inn her aunt left to her. Once that sale is complete, she won't return.

Sawyer and his teen daughter, Jade, have made Catalina Cove their home after Sawyer's wife and Jade's mom died. He's the town's beloved sheriff. He never expects to find himself truly drawn to a woman he pulls over for speeding.

During her return, Vashti is determined to make sure Sawyer is nothing more than a brief fling. She's been in love twice, and both times her heart got badly burned. Three times is not in her future. Meanwhile, her return to town leads to a discovery that she's been lied to for 16 years. These lies have her questioning who she really can trust.

The romance was steamy. The characters, well most of them, were truly enjoyable. Generally, I'd say this was a solid 4-star romance. I have one major issue with it. Without giving away spoilers, things became so coincidental at one point that I had a hard time with the story from there. Read it and you should know what I'm getting at.




Monday, October 1, 2018

Mistletoe Miracles by Jodi Thomas

Release Date: September 25, 2018



Mistletoe Miracles is really three stories in one. It's written with the same warmth Jodi Thomas is so good at. I loved it, though I do wish it hadn't ended. I wasn't ready to say goodbye to the characters.

His family's ranch is in danger of bankruptcy. Griffin Holloway doesn't want to lose Maverick Ranch to debt, but there's little hope. The only way out that he can see is to find a bride with lots of money. But, what woman would want to marry a man just to bail out his ranch?

Jamie Johnson loves her home and job in Crossroads, but the advances of a married co-worker are less than enjoyable. She tells everyone in town that she's married as a cover. She's shocked when she returns from a school trip to find a very sexy "Mr. Johnson" in her shower.

Jaxon O'Grady has been living the life of a hermit ever since an accident left him with physical and emotional scars. He sees a car accident and finds an injured dog after the ambulance leaves. He can't help but find himself involved in both the dog's care and the dog's owner's situation.

Each story is so touching. The three romances blend seamlessly into the story. While they're separate, they work well together and bring more of Crossroads' community members to life. I love that town and the people in it. So far, this is my favorite holiday romance this season.






Donald and the Golden Crayon by P. Shauers

Release Date - September 28, 2018



Donald and the Golden Crayon turned a gloomy, rainy afternoon into a joyous one. I snickered several times and even chuckled out loud while reading it. This parody of the current presidency is also a fun spin on the very popular kid's book Harold and the Purple Crayon. It joins other kid's books written by Stephen Colbert and John Oliver on my keeper shelf.

In this humorous parody, Donald has a golden crayon. With it, he'll make his dreams come true. He'll draw his expansive golf course and a wall to keep those who aren't perfect like him out. He'll tweet his late-night messages, even if they make sense to no one but him. Covfefe, anyone?

Enjoy this parody that is certain to make the non-MAGA crowd laugh. Nothing is made up. It's all based on things that have been said or done within the current presidency. It even uses the BEST words. I loved it.


Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Nell and Lady by Ashley Farley

Release Date: September 18, 2018



Willa Bellemore was shocked when her close friend and employee died. Knowing that May May had no family, Willa steps up and adopts May May's teen daughter Nell. Willa's daughter, Lady, and Nell grew up together anyway and are already as close as sisters.

At the age of 16, something happened that tore them apart. Willa never understood what happened. The girls never talked about it. Nell left for college and shut Willa and Lady out.

Many decades have passed. Both Lady and Willa are moms of teens. Willa is diagnosed with cancer and is convinced she's dying. Before her final breath, she wants to reunite with Nell and bring her family back together. Doing so will make all of the women go back to the events that changed them.

A lot of the story in Nell and Lady involves racism. There are parts that may make you think of the current #metoo movement. As time progresses, abuse, alcoholism, and anxiety/panic attacks are added to the mix. It all came across as very genuine and while these issues were not always handled well, they were not ignored.

I really enjoyed this story. It did bounce back and forth in time, something I don't always love, but it worked in this situation. I loved the relationships and story.




Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Found Child by Jo Crow

Release Date - August 31, 2018



Years earlier, Elaine suffered the worst pain a mother could endure. Her infant son vanished. He's returned to her and his kidnappers are jailed. Seven years later, Elaine must face a new pain. Her son is diagnosed with leukemia. Worse, blood tests reveal he is not their son at all.

Despite her love for her son, she cannot help but wonder. If this isn't Jakob, whose child does she have? What happened to his parents, and why is her husband hiding stuff from her?

It's clear there is a bit of a complex mystery in The Found Child. I found myself torn, however. I wanted to buy that Elaine was a doting mom, but she did a lot of things that had me questioning her. She takes off while her son is undergoing cancer treatments. She's gone for hours at a time, if not a full day, and never really seems to be too torn apart that she's left him in the hospital with the husband she's suspicious of and a sister who seems to hate her.

I thought I had the story's outcome pegged. I was wrong. Jo Crow gets high marks for pulling a twist I didn't see coming. I love being surprised and this one did just that.


Thursday, September 20, 2018

The Christmas Wishing Tree by Emily March

Release Date - September 25, 2018



This isn't my first time in Eternity Springs, but this one had me crying the hardest. I think it hit the fears the "mom" in me would experience in Jenna's shoes. The Christmas Wishing Tree is a strong, addicting contemporary romance, but it does have aspects of romantic suspense, too.

Devin Murphy's family is all in Eternity Springs. He adores them and visits as often as possible. It's not easy when he's half a world away in Australia. During a Christmas visit, his phone gets a call from a young boy who wants to talk to Santa. Devin connects with the boy and continues to take his calls. All the boy wants is a dad for Christmas.

Jenna Stockton does everything she can to keep her adopted son safe. She's gained the unwanted attention of a stalker and it needs to end, but she's powerless to stop it. The attacks are stepping up. From slashed tires to dozens of pizzas showing up at her house, she's having a hard time. When her house is raided and her son is knocked over and his arm is broken, Jenna packs him up and moves him. Police can't find her stalker, and she feels helpless.

When she learns her son has been making calls to "Santa," she wants to end it. The Santa on the other end of the phone convinces her to let her son continue to call until he has to return to his home in Australia from Eternity Springs. The calls come to an end when she's forced to move after her son's arm is broken.

In a new state, the same thing happens. She's been the victim of swatting twice now. She hopes a trip to Eternity Springs, the place that "Santa" made sound so peaceful, may help her son get past the fear of simply living.

When Devin learns the attractive single mom he meets is the stranger he'd talked to on the phone, he befriends her and her son. With the help of his friends, he's determined to help Jenna catch her stalker for once and for all. When he's done, he'll return to Australia for good. He never expects to fall in love.

Jenna knows Devin has a business to run in Australia. While she's equally smitten, she can't give her heart to a man who plans to leave.

The swatting sequences in The Christmas Wishing Tree broke my heart. Reilly's fear is so real. I couldn't read the book with dry eyes for that reason. I also had to read the book in one sitting. I'm so glad I did. It was enchanting and the best book I've read this month.




Monday, September 17, 2018

The Christmas Sisters by Sarah Morgan

Release Date - September 25, 2018



Many years ago, Suzanne became a guardian to three young girls. She's wanted nothing more than to keep those girls from experiencing heartbreak again. With the help of her Scottish beau, they raised three smart women, but the past has a way of staying on the mind. This Christmas, Suzanne wants to get the family together for a Scottish Highlands Christmas no one will forget.

Beth is a devoted mom, but she longs for something more. Her two daughters wear her out. When an old boss offers her the job of a lifetime, she expects her husband to be thrilled. He's not. Upset and uncertain she and her husband have the same dreams, she takes off for Scotland to have time to herself before the family gathers for Christmas.

Hannah is a successful businesswoman who has no time for love. Her boyfriend of six months seems perfect, but Hannah doesn't believe in happily ever after. She can't handle a surprising revelation, so she flees to Scotland to attend a family Christmas. She hasn't been to one in a couple years, and she knows she can't avoid this one.

Posy never left the family's lodge. She helps her mom run the cafe and assists in mountain rescues. Their current guest, a bestselling author, has Posy wondering if she's missing out.

The three sisters are bonded by tragedy, but it's that same tragedy that's shaped them into the women they are today. If Suzanne's wishes come true, this will be a holiday gathering that will help them form the bond that's been missing.

The Christmas Sisters was a little slow to start. Beth and Hannah's characters were hard for me to like at first. They couldn't see the things that were good in their lives and focused only on the negative. Once they were all in Scotland together, I was completely hooked. I fell in love with the family and couldn't put the story down.

I laughed and cried with this one. I wouldn't mind seeing them return in future novels just to see how things are going!

Thursday, September 13, 2018

I Do Not Trust You by Laura J. Burns and Melinda Metz

Release Date - September 11, 2018



Laura J. Burns and Melinda Metz have a book that caught my eye. The cover design is eye-catching and drew me in. The story is okay, but it's not as gripping as I hoped. I didn't feel an urge to keep reading at any moment in the book.

Since her father's death, Memphis "M" Engel has dealt with her new life. She has guardians who have moved in and taken over her home. She's not thrilled with them. When Ashwin "Ash" Sood shows up, a mystery man that proves irritating yet intriguing, she can't help but insist she join him on a quest.

Ash has proof her father is alive and being held captive. A dangerous sect wants the information on a map M possesses. Only her knowledge of ancient languages and symbols can help find the relic some desire to possess. M has no idea if she can really trust Ash, but she must save her father and Ash is the only one who can lead her to him.

I Do Not Trust You kind of says it all in the title. Ash is not a trustworthy character. M knows it and tries to stay a few steps ahead of him, but the race for the relics is the key to getting her dad back. M will do anything to rescue her dad, even if that means working with the enemy.

The pacing had moments where it dragged. In France, I found the "you must party with this guy first" to be a bit dull. It dragged on and I really didn't care. M seemed older than she was, which threw me off several times. She often seems more adult than teen.

While I didn't hate this book, I never loved it. It was just okay. I stuck with it to see how it ended. I'm glad I did. It took a bit of a turn into horror and I loved that. In the end, that was what saved the book for me. It went from "meh" to "awesome," if only for a moment.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Lies by T.M. Logan

Release Date - September 11, 2018


Love, love, love the premise to Lies, T. M. Logan's debut novel. "What if your whole life was based on lies?" 

That said, I also find that that line alone was one of the reasons I so easily guessed what was going on in this novel. I was prepared for shocking twists, but I had the mystery pegged very early into the story. That was a bit of a letdown.

Joe Lynch and his wife, Mel, have what seems to be the perfect marriage. While driving their son back to the house, young Wills spots his mom's car. They decide to surprise her and follow her to a hotel where they spy her having an argument with Mel's friend's husband. 

When Mel rushes off without acknowledging Joe, he's baffled. He goes to talk to Ben to see what the argument was about. He ends up pushing Ben, who falls and hits his head. Wills has an asthma attack in the process and the inhaler is missing. Joe must choose between getting Wills the help he needs or helping Ben. He opts to save Wills.

After Wills has his asthma treatment, Joe returns to the parking garage where Ben fell. Ben's missing. Joe assumes he was okay. Later, he learns Ben has disappeared.

It isn't long before Joe gets the first of many threatening messages. Ben's being set up and he seems to be helpless to stop it. He doesn't know who to trust, and Mel's told a few lies that could tear the family apart. The life Joe knows is unraveling and he doesn't know how to stop it.

Lies has the potential to be a chilling psychological suspense. It could have been had I not figured it all out. When my Kindle showed I was 11 percent of the way through the book, I'd figured it out. That was disappointing. I hoped I was wrong, but as the story continued, I knew I had it solved.

Joe is kind of a meek character. I wish he'd been a little savvier at picking up the subtle clues around him. He's also a little naive and does things you may find yourself getting annoyed by. Other characters are stronger and had you either loving or hating them. You'll see what I mean as you read the book.

This was a good read, but it was predictable to me. That keeps me from being able to give it a four over three stars.


Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Why Not Tonight by Susan Mallery

Release Date - September 18, 2018



As a jilted bride, Natalie Kaleta has put her heart and soul into the gallery where she works. Her job has her heading up the mountain to check on Ronan Mitchell. He is a reclusive glass artist. The truth is that Natalie finds him almost scary. It's her job though, and she needs the income to pay off the wedding expenses her groom walked away from.

When a storm causes a mudslide, Natalie's stuck in Ronan's fascinating home. She can't help but admit that there's more to the reclusive man than she expected. In fact, she finds him downright appealing.

Ronan is nursing his own level of hurt. It's a key reason he prefers to be alone. He's not about to make a guest miserable, however. He opens up his home and a bit of his personality to Natalie. It isn't long before he finds himself wishing his attraction to her could be something more. It certainly can't happen though, no matter how much he finds himself wanting to be close to her.

Once Natalie is back in her own home and far from Ronan's, he has plans. He isn't interested in a commitment, but he can't get Natalie out of his mind. She's in agreement that true love doesn't exist, but a little fun never hurt anyone, right?

I loved Why Not Tonight. It's light, humorous at times, and packed with romance. It was a nice change of pace from the string of mysteries and psychological suspense novels I had been reading.

Susan Mallery never fails to create towns that I want to be part of. I could see myself befriending many of the characters. Ronan is probably the most obnoxious, but even he starts to come around and make himself more appealing. I enjoyed every minute of this novel. If you're looking for a warm, comforting novel, this is one to savor.


Monday, September 10, 2018

When the Lights Go Out by Mary Kubica

Release Date: September 4, 2018



Mary Kubica and Jojo Moynes are two authors I will not miss. If they have a new release coming out, I know I will read it. Mary Kubica just released When the Lights Go Out, and it sounded just as intriguing as her other novels. I was ready to go.

Jessie Sloane's mom is in the final stages of a battle against cancer. Jessie is exhausted. She put her life on hold to care for her mom. She can't imagine not wanting to be there.

When her mom finally succumbs to the cancer that's ravaged her, Jessie must finally live her life. She's able to find an apartment she can afford. She's ready to go to college. The college, however, informs her that her SSN is invalid. Jessie doesn't exist.

What begins is her quest to figure out who she is. If she's not really Jessie Sloane, what could it mean? As exhausted as she is, Jessie cannot take time to sleep. She must figure out where she came from and why her mother lied to her for all of these years.

I've already heard a lot of people talking about When the Lights Go Out. I know that the ending has infuriated many. Here's my take. I get it. I also pegged it way too early. That's my main reason for not loving this book. I had it figured out way too early.

Do this mean I hated the book? No. I was absorbed in the women's stories. I wanted to see how it would all come together in the end.

Is it the best of Kubica's novels? Also no. I have loved her writing, but this one wasn't as fascinating to me as the others. I liked it, but it's not a book I'd consider a keeper. 

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Sadie by Courtney Summers

Release Date - September 4, 2018



Sadie Hunter disappeared not too long after her younger sister's body was found. The case captures the attention of radio producer West McCray when he comes to Cold Creek, Colorado, to record his "Forgotten Towns" segment. He has mixed feelings about investigating a girl's murder and another girl's disappearance, but he's also drawn to the case. He wants to know what became of 19-year-old Sadie.

Growing up, Sadie was more a mother figure to her sister than anything else. Sadie saw it as her job to protect, nurture, and love Mattie. When 13-year-old Mattie died, Sadie's world fell apart. Her grandmother couldn't do anything to help. Sadie developed one clear goal. The police may not have done a great job, but that won't stop Sadie from uncovering the truth. Armed only with a knife and cash, Sadie takes off.

West hears of the family's story at a gas station. He's intrigued and opts to take a closer look after talking to the grandmother. It's a long, dark journey, but when Sadie's car is found empty and abandoned with no sign of her, West can't help but push harder to uncover the truth.

Told from two viewpoints, Sadie changes between West McCray and Sadie. West's broadcast involves interviews with the girls' grandmother, as well as some of the people who know something about them or the case. Sadie's story is told as she travels thousands of miles in search of a killer.

I couldn't put the book down. I was hooked from the start and appreciated the story's structure. West's part reads like a podcast with the different speakers during interviews. The changes in format made it an incredibly quick, powerful read. It's just as gripping to an adult as it would be to a teen. I became engrossed from the first page and didn't put it down till I was done. It's gritty, terrifying, and sad all at once. It's also very, very real. While it's not a true story, it certainly feels like it could be.

There's plenty of buzz about this book already. That buzz is deserved. Read Sadie and see why.