In the last few years, a reflective approach to the New Year has risen, ditching resolutions because very few people really keep up with them all year. If you make it through January in following your resolutions, you are doing pretty good.
So what is the substitution? A word. A single word you focus on all year. Last year I chose “joy.” I thought about my choice for about a week and my mind kept coming back to joy. So throughout the year I made a point of finding songs, Bible verses, and quotes that focused on joy.
I find I like a word for the year better than resolutions. There are books written on the subject, but it really doesn’t have to be that complicated. God gave me my word for 2019, “trust,” as I was drifting off to sleep one night last week. I remembered it the next morning and will count that as affirmation of my choice. In my heart and head, it feels right.
Your word is very personal to you, and the direction you go with that word is personal. Just like a good motorcycle ride, enjoy the trip, exploring new roads, and don’t worry about the destination.
This year I plan on doing a little writing about my word—thoughts as they come to me and things I have learned. I doubt I will post much about my word as I do consider it a personal journey. On the other hand, I have a blogger friend, Wendy, who explores many subjects but whose blog, Ramblings and Musings, focuses on gratitude. I have appreciated her posts as she discovers gratitude in the big and little things in her life. Again, your word and your response to it can take a variety of pathways.
So, here is my invitation to you. Join me today in finding a word to explore in your life in 2019. Take your time in deciding on a word. If you haven’t decided on it by January 1, 2019, it’s okay. No one is going to be checking up on you, and it is not yet another item for your daily to-do list—although a few post-its around the house might be helpful at first. If you choose a word and want to share it here, I’d love to hear about it. Wishing you a very Happy New Year!
Wine and Punishment
by Sarah Fox
I stayed up obscenely late to finish Wine and Punishment, the first book in Sarah Fox’s new series, and I don’t regret it at all. Engaged in the plot all the way through, I could not have predicted the ending. It has an action packed conclusion, and the murderer reveal is quite astonishing.
Sadie buys a picturesque old mill located in Shady Creek, Vermont, that had been turned into a pub by its previous owner. Anxious to be successful in her first business venture, she participates in the town’s annual Autumn Festival. All but two of the town residents are welcoming until Sadie’s ex-boyfriend from Boston turns up in town—dead. Then rumors start to fly. Various threads, including a gambling problem and industrial espionage, lead to potential suspects. Sadie does some investigating on her own with a backdrop of personal attacks against her.
There are lots of interesting characters including Sadie’s two employees, a handsome, but mysteriously disgruntled craft brewery owner, her supportive Aunt Gilda, her new friend Shontelle, and lots of local regulars at the pub. Cat lovers will enjoy the frequent appearance of Sadie’s cat Wimsey.
What makes this cozy mystery extra fun is the literary theme of the pub which Sadie renames the Inkwell. In addition to all the bookshelves in the main room, there are more in the two overflow rooms. Sadie names one of them the Christie room for Agatha Christie, one of her favorite mystery authors, and she decorates it with appropriate memorabilia. These two rooms will also be reserved as needed for the book clubs she is forming. Going beyond the physical facility, Sadie creates literary themed cocktails and in the future, when she can find a chef, the pub will have cuisine with a literary motif. Book lovers will find all these details icing on the cozy mystery cake.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: 1. #1 in the Literary Pub Mystery Series, but this author has two more successful series.
2. Recipes are added at the end of the book for cocktails and carrot muffins.
Publication: December 18, 2018—Kensington Books
…my business—and only—dealings with him hadn’t been pleasant experiences. I found him brusque and as prickly as a porcupine. If not for the fact that his beers were so popular with both the tourists and locals, I wouldn’t have bothered to sell them at the Inkwell.
I’d never managed to leave the store without at least one or two purchases. Not that I minded. I didn’t think there was such a thing as owning too many books.
I pushed open the coffee shop’s door, ill at ease and eager to get away, but even as I left the woman behind, I could still feel the icy touch of her glare on my back.
Slay in Character
There are a few cozy mystery writers that just get it right every time, and Lynn Cahoon is one of them. The Cat Latimer Mystery Series features Cat Latimer, an author and former professor, who has a large Victorian home in Warm Springs, Colorado. There she monthly holds weeklong writers’ retreats. In Slay in Character, the guests are historical romance authors from a writing group in Connecticut, joined by Jessi, a student from the local college. On their visit to a neighboring ghost town, a murder is uncovered and it is just the first of many misadventures that appear to focus on Jessi. The older women take Jessi under their wing and they, along with Cat, her uncle Pete who is the local police chief, her boyfriend Seth, and Shauna, her friend and chef, try to discover who is targeting Jessi.
These women know how to eat! I think I gained ten pounds just reading about all the sweet treats provided at the retreat in addition to lunches and dinners at restaurants. It was interesting to get a behind-the-scenes look at a writers’ retreat. Cat has established a schedule involving speakers, outings, and lots of time for writing, which is, of course, the central part of their efforts. Cat is always looking for new ideas to improve her program and encourage return visits. The notion that main characters who are editors or writers are difficult to make interesting is put to rest in this cozy mystery where there is plenty of action. The plot twists in this book will keep you glued to the pages and wanting more. I did not guess the identity of the murderer, but his motivation ties it all together in the end. Lynn Cahoon has three series going. I can’t wait to read her next book, regardless of which series inspires her imagination.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: 1. #4 in the Cat Latimer Mystery Series, but works well as a standalone.
2. Recipe for Blueberry Coffee Cake included.
Publication: November 27, 2018—Kensington Books
Joseph John smiled, and Cat realized the guy could sell ice water to people in a snowstorm.
The act had been foolhardy and dangerous. something she wouldn’t have even let her fictional character perform because of fear of being labeled Too Stupid to Live.
“Writing is less about inspiration and more about perspiration. You have to work to get the words down, they just don’t magically appear on the page.”
The Rancher’s Homecoming
by Anna J. Stewart
What a great final book in the Return of the Blackwell Brothers series! Anna J. Stewart has the job of continuing the story and finalizing this series in her book The Rancher’s Homecoming. Stewart does a fantastic job with both tasks.
Chance Blackwell considers himself the black sheep of the Blackwell family because he never enjoyed riding horses (blasphemy on a ranch!), he loves music, and he eloped with the foreman’s daughter, hoping never to return. Life is full of surprises, however, and Chance’s wife, Maura, passes away from cancer leaving him with a hole in his heart and an adorable preschooler, and without an inspiration for his songs. His grandfather, Big E, continues to manipulate behind the scenes, and Chance is forced to return to Falcon Creek to cast the deciding vote on the sale of the ranch.
The story moves quickly ahead while the reader gets glimpses into the past to see reasons for various characters’ actions. The relationship between Chance and Katie, his wife’s sister, who is also the acting foreman of the ranch, becomes complicated. The always likable sister-in-laws band together to try to make things better on several fronts. Will Big E ever explain himself? Has he changed? What influence does he have over Katie? Can the Blackwell brothers trust her? Should Chance vote to sell, hurting Ethan and Ty, or vote to retain the property, hurting Ben and Jon? Life is complicated, and so is the plot of The Rancher’s Homecoming.
This book is another in the series that lives up to its “heartwarming” moniker. Interesting characters, beautiful Montana setting, and a nice balance between introspection and action combine to make this a great read. If you haven’t read this series yet, I strongly recommend you put it on your TBR list for 2019!
I would like to extend my thanks to the author, Anna J. Stewart, for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: #5 in Return of the Blackwell Brothers but will work as a standalone because of brief explanations of characters and past events as the book progresses
Publication: December 1, 2018—Harlequin Publishing
There was nothing for him here. Nothing except bitter memories of a place where he never belonged and a family he’d never fit into. Forget being a square peg in a round hole. For Chance, he’d always felt like a banjo in an orchestra.
The melody found itself, as it always did, skipping and hopping its way through his mind like stones across a still lake.
The late-summer air brushed over them, warm and welcoming, as the river rushed beyond them and meandered through Blackwell land as easily as a bee to its hive.
“Don’t ever let anyone tell you libraries aren’t important. It’s where our dreams wait to be discovered.”
The Christmas Company
by Alys Murray
I really wanted to like The Christmas Company by Alys Murray. I anticipated a spectacular Christmas read. This book is a modern day version of Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, the quintessential Christmas tale for many. It is published by Hallmark; how could it be less than a really good Christmas romance?
A whole town’s livelihood is built around Christmas until its benefactor passes away leaving his company in the hands of a Scrooge-like nephew. Kate has volunteered or worked for the Christmas Company since she was seven years old. With no mother and an alcoholic father, the Christmas Company became Kate’s family, and Christmas became part of her being. When Clark Woodward shuts down the festivities the day before Christmas Eve, Kate makes it her mission to get him to change his mind.
Alys Murray has a good setup for her plot. This book never captured my imagination, however. I didn’t find the characters particularly appealing. The timeline of events was confusing, as was the way the decorations were taken down, moved, and put back up by people who had just been told they were fired. Why didn’t anyone appeal to Clark’s business sense? The town had spent a year and a lot of money preparing for the Christmas events. This was their opportunity to make at least some of it back for the company. Why waste the time and money already put into the event when there could be some return on the investment if the festivities could proceed for three more days? What happened to visitors who were surely expected to participate?
Clark and Kate fall in and out of love several times during the three days we observe them. Kate’s best friends, Emily and Michael, make efforts to help her, but they seem half-hearted and not very effective. My favorite scene involves an accident at the river. It is an action scene and helps develop the characters.
The Christmas Company is a satisfactory read if you are a fan of A Christmas Carol and are looking for a Christmasy diversion. If you are expecting a world changing book or the next classic to share around the tree each year, you will be disappointed.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Hallmark Publishing for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: Usually the book is better than the movie, but I wonder if a good producer/director might be able to turn this around with a visual production that improves on the characters and has a good timeline.
Publication: October 16, 2018—Hallmark Publishing
It was clear He’d fallen out of love with Christmas—Kate didn’t believe anyone naturally disliked the holiday—because it’d been too long since he’d had a wonderful one.
Christmas was there to celebrate the birth of Christ, of course. The name said as much, but because of that, not in spite of it, Christmas had to also embody all of the goodness of humanity.
“I keep Christmas with me all year long. It’s the one time of year when I find it impossible to think the worst in people. If I pretend every day is Christmas, it makes life so much easier to live. And people so much easier to love.”
The Rancher’s Fake Fiancée
by Amy Vastine
If you have read the other books in this series, by now you know that Big E’s plan to get his grandsons to return to the Blackwell Ranch in Falcon Creek, Montana, has a chance of working. You also realize that Tyler Blackwell, one of the younger twins in the family and an advertising executive in Portland, Oregon, will be the focus of this book. What you won’t be prepared for is the bold lie he tells to try to avoid returning to the ranch. You have to smile when a character thinks “What could possibly go wrong?”
The Rancher’s Fake Fiancée by Amy Vastine is a sweet romance with a lot of relationship ups and downs along the way. All of the Blackwell brothers were affected by the death of their parents when they were young, and Tyler is no exception. He has to work through the feelings and perceptions of his ten year old self that remained with him as he matured. His fake fiancée, Hadley, is a likable character and fits in so well with the Blackwell brothers and their wives and fiancées. Unfortunately, Tyler drags Hadley into a sham relationship for his purposes, and she agrees in order to achieve a promotion that she lost due to nepotism. Of course, the truth is bound to come out, but watching it emerge is fascinating. The author uses the events in the plot to develop the characters and give the reader a chance to relate to them and their struggles. The Rancher’s Fake Fiancée lives up to expectations as a Harlequin Heartwarming romance—clean, fun, and positive. I truly didn’t want to put this book down.
As always, Big E is brought into the story in the epilogue where we get a glimpse of more of his hopefully well-intentioned machinations. If only he had shown this level of concern and understanding when the boys were growing up!
I would like to extend my thanks to the author, Amy Vastine, for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: #4 in the Return of the Blackwell Brothers series, but it works well as a standalone because the author is efficient in bringing readers up to date. Warning: if you do read this as a standalone, you will find yourself wanting to read the other books in this five book series!
Publication: November 1, 2018—Harlequin Heartwarming
Being nice to people encouraged them to be nice back. It was something her father had taught her since she was little…It didn’t matter how important someone’s job was, everyone was treated with the same respect.
There was no way he could tell the truth. This was why lying was such a bad idea. It never ended with one lie. They always multiplied until no one could remember what the truth was anymore.
He wasn’t supposed to think about her because he didn’t have to see her every day, but her void was as strong as her presence.
The Rancher’s Redemption
by Melinda Curtis
When Ben Blackwell returns from New York City to Falcon Creek to help save his brothers and the Blackwell Ranch, he plans on a quick win in a water rights issue that was supposedly resolved fire years before. He didn’t plan on battling his old friend, Rachel, now a lawyer and single mom, as she tries to gain back her family’s water rights before the Double T Ranch folds. He never planned on confronting himself and the ethics of his past.
The Ranchers’ Redemption has well developed characters in Rachel and Ben. The plot moves quickly from one event to the next. As Rachel and Ben wrestle with their own goals and with an unwilling attraction to each other, they grow and change. There is more than a little humor throughout the book. The author, Melinda Curtis, has a way with language, writing word pictures that encourage smiles, an appreciation of the modern west, and an understanding of the challenges of being a single mother with too many responsibilities. Curtis very effectively uses a technique of inserting italicized phrases and sentences to indicate what Rachel and Ben are thinking or what Big E, Ben’s grandfather, might have said to him as he was growing up or even in the current situation. Big E had a major influence on Ben, but as Ben spends time on the ranch as an adult, the influences of his deceased parents come more to the front for him. He has some ethical decisions to make about the ranch, his family, and his life. Can this big-city lawyer, hardened by losing his parents and being jilted at the altar, make decisions with his heart?
Once I started reading The Rancher’s Redemption, I didn’t want to put it down. I was amazed at the clever turns of phrase found in the first fifty pages. There are lots of flashbacks to Ben and Rachel’s childhood that were revealing as they provided insights into the driving forces for these characters’ motivations. Interesting characters, both minor and major, good writing, humor, fast moving plot with a dual focus on ranching and the law, moral dilemmas, and messy friendships—this book is a complete package. We even get to meet Zoe, Big E’s current wife. I would have liked to know more of her story to understand her motivations, but it would have been too much to ask within the confines of this book. The author made a good choice in bringing in that storyline but not developing it extensively as that would have been a distraction to the main plot.
As in the previous two books is this series, The Rancher’s Redemption ends with an epilogue that follows Big E in his mysterious and unconventional journey to make things right in his family. Once more, the brief epilogue holds a surprise and leads the reader to ponder what might happen next, eagerly anticipating the fourth book in the Return of the Blackwell Brothers.
I would like to extend my thanks to the author, Melinda Curtis, for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: #3 in the Return of the Blackwell Brothers. It could work as a standalone as the author throws in a lot of tidbits of information that would help a reader get up to speed on the series’ background or jog their memory on details.
Publication: October 1, 2018—Harlequin Heartwarming
She marched across the ravaged carrots and torn-up grass, scrunching her eyes against the threat of tears, because ranchers didn’t cry. Not over ruined wool and silk.
Hearing Ben’s voice, the bull turned and charged the trees. He wasn’t the brightest steak-on-a-hoof. He slammed into the wrong tree.
Judge Edwards waved him to silence with more irritation than a traffic cop outside the final night of the annual rodeo in Bozeman.
The Rockies towered in the distance. There was nothing dishonest about those mountains. They were hard but they were fair, treating everyone equally. His parents had been honest and fair. But somewhere along the line, Big E had bumped Ben’s sense of right and wrong out of the black and white and into the land of the gray.
Reblogged from Betty at IdahoBluebird50
THINK POSITIVE! HUGS!
This series has long been a favorite of mine. My reviews are here
FROM JINX SCHWARTZ
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JUST FOR THE BIRDS
BOOK # 10
“Chapter One YOU JUST KNOW it’s gonna be a crappy afternoon when you return from grocery shopping to find your boat’s deck crawling with armed men. Okay, so they were at least uniformed armed men, but the Mexican police?”
JUST ADD WATER
FROM JINX SCHWARTZ
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BOOK # 1
Hudson’s master plan was unraveling. His cleverly orchestrated year-long…
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The Rancher’s Rescue
by Cari Lynn Webb
Big E (Elias Blackwell) left the Blackwell Ranch in financial difficulties, took off in his RV with his extravagant fifth wife, Zoe, and nobody in Falcon Creek nor any of his grandsons knows where he is. Big E and his mysterious disappearance is the thread that holds this “continuity series” together.
Jon, as related in The Rancher’s Twins, is the only one of the Blackwell brothers remaining in the area. He has a full time job with his own ranch, twin daughters, and a new wife. He does what he can to keep the Blackwell Ranch above water, but calls in brother Ethan, a newly graduated veterinarian, to troubleshoot various problems including the opening of the Blackwell Guest Ranch and gaining access to more of Big E’s funds to meet expenses.
In The Rancher’s Rescue, Ethan arrives in Falcon Creek and is surprised to learn that the quiet and reliable Grace Gardner is carrying his child. Both Grace and Ethan must come to grips with what a baby means to them, their career goals, and their families. Will love play a part in their decisions about the future?
The first book in this series, The Rancher’s Twins, has a lot of action and cute five year old twins. The main characters are obviously dealing with serious issues in their backgrounds. The Rancher’s Rescue is more subdued. There is less action, fewer events, and more soul searching by the main characters as they waffle back and forth without talking anything out with each other. They have important decisions to make, but they aren’t being honest with each other or themselves. At times it almost feels like Hamlet’s soliloquy on continuous repeat. At other times the plot and interaction are quite enjoyable. The last third of the book is the most interesting as other characters intervene and force a confrontation. Things begin to happen quickly and a resolution occurs.
Author Cari Lynn Webb brings in interesting supporting characters like Katie, manager of the Blackwell Ranch; Judge Myrna Edwards, second wife of Big E—for five days; and Sarah Ashley, Grace’s sister who was Ethan’s high school sweetheart. I appreciate that there were no characters competing for Grace or Ethan romantically. That is a complication that would not have added to the plot: a triangle is not always of benefit to a romance novel.
As in the first book in the series, there is an epilogue that focuses on Big E, and this one holds a huge surprise! Although The Rancher’s Rescue is not as much of a page turner as the first book in the series, it is well-written and I enjoyed it. It also segues nicely into the next book, The Rancher’s Redemption.
I would like to extend my thanks to the author, Cari Lynn Webb for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: #2 in the Return of the Blackwell Brothers series. This could be read as a standalone, but is more enjoyable if read as part of the sequence since the town and its residents are introduced in the first book.
Publication: September 1, 2018—Harlequin Heartwarming
Curse words banged around inside his mouth like popcorn kernels chipping his teeth, but he located his inner gentleman before he spewed any into the air.
That thought bothered him like an unseen puncture in a horse’s sole, that by the time it was discovered, the horse had developed an abscess that could cause severe damage and even death.
“We have to love and live for the moments now so that we have memories to carry us through later.”