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The Cat Who Played Post Office
by Lilian Jackson Braun
In an effort to mix things up a bit, my book club chose to read a quick and easy mystery written by Lilian Jackson Braun, famous for her popular The Cat Who series. We rather randomly selected The Cat Who Played Post Office. The choice didn’t matter to me because I had read one in the series decades ago and had not not enjoyed it. After reading our selection, I can only say that clearly my tastes have changed, or I previously chose the one book in the series that was not a good match for me.
I found The Cat Who Played Post Office delightful. The main character Jim Qwilleran has just inherited a lot of money and a large estate. He formerly was a newspaper journalist with a talent for criminal investigations. Equally important to the story are Koko and Yum Yum, his Siamese cats. The book begins in the middle of the tale drawing the reader into who Qwill is and why he is in the hospital. Then the author takes us back and later forward in time—in this case a very effective technique.
As a journalist, Qwill has an extensive vocabulary which Braun puts on full display in a way that doesn’t seem pretentious at all. Qwill uses words like ailurophobe, postprandial, and sybaritic in his conversations and descriptions. Logophiles will enjoy his use of language.
Yum Yum is a typical Siamese, but Koko is extraordinary. He uses his sixth sense to lead Qwill to clues that warn of danger or alert him to important facts. Qwill is honest and good hearted. He has a love interest in this book in the practical Dr. Melinda Goodwinter, and he makes friends easily in his new town where he immediately becomes involved in civic and charitable interests. Koko brings the mysterious disappearance, five years prior, of the free spirited Daisy to Qwill’s attention. As he begins to ask questions about this young lady, dangerous things happen. When mail arrives through the door slot, the cats attack the fluttering envelopes, and Koko selects particular letters to bring to Qwill’s attention which might help him learn more about Daisy and her fate. The characters and setting in this book are interesting, but the mystery remains central.
Notes: #6 in The Cat Who series, but I had no problem reading it as a standalone.
Publication: 1987—Penguin (Jove Books)
Koko, as he grew older, was developing a more expressive voice with a gamut of clarion yowling, guttural growling, tenor yodeling, and musical yikking.
They could talk freely. Their booth was an island of privacy in a maelstrom of ear-splitting noise. The animated conversation of happy diners and the excited shrieks of children bounced off the steel girders and concrete walls, and the din was augmented by the Tasty Eats custom of pounding the table with knife handles to express satisfaction with the food.
Qwilleran wondered whether she was listening. He had spent enough time at cocktail parties to know the rhythm of social drinking, and Penelope was exceeding the speed limit. She was also sliding farther down on the slippery sofa.
The Oceans Between Us
by Gill Thompson
A very good storyteller, Gill Thompson discovered a story that needed to be told and related in such a way that it reached past the bare facts. In The Oceans Between Us, she has done just that.
I was pulled into the story relating to each of the characters as we explored them and their part in making history. Molly and Jack are British mom and son separated when a wartime bomb is detonated destroying their home. They end up oceans apart and although the thread flowing through the book is their longing for each other, their lives continue on with highs and lows. Other themes are institutional abuse and racial discrimination. Those are hard and cold terms that come alive as we watch them played out in this story. The events are a part of history I was unaware of. You’ll want to read this book to see one author’s view of how it may have played out on a personal level and discover if justice was actually ever served.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Headline for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Historical Fiction
Publication: March 21, 2019—Headline
Everything seemed out of kilter. Like when she’d tried for hours to do a jigsaw here at Warlingham, only to realize half the pieces came from another set.
Jack was a frozen child, forever trapped in her mind in his five-year-old body. Molly could no more imagine him at eighteen than she could fly.
But the lawyer in him resisted the child. He couldn’t risk his career before it had started. Bindoon had given him brawn but it hadn’t robbed him of a brain. Besides, you didn’t fight violence with violence. You fought it with cunning.
by Karen Schaler
The beginning of this Christmas romance is overly sugar sweet—or I was a tad “Grinchy” at that particular time. It isn’t long, however, before the conflict is presented and the interest level ramps up. Emma Sanders (aka Miss Christmas) loves Christmas as did her parents whose memory she tries to honor in her devotion to all things Christmas. The other thing she is devoted to is the community center she runs and the people it serves. The story centers around Emmie, her boyfriend Grant who is a lawyer, and Sam, a writer who mistakenly follows clues for a scavenger hunt intended to inspire Grant with the Christmas spirit.
Although the reader can quickly predict the outcome, the rest of the story is quite engaging as you watch the conflicts and misunderstandings of the romance play out. All of the characters are altruistic, but you’ll soon pick your favorites. Yours might even be Dasher, a border collie mix who adds fun to the story.
Finding Christmas has a beautiful Christmasy setting. Author Karen Schaler will lead you through a wonderland of snow, twinkling white lights, and evergreen decorations to a satisfying conclusion as the characters find Christmas.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to HarperCollins (William Morrow) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Publication: October 15, 2019—HarperCollins (William Morrow)
Grant gave her a look. “Emmie, this is where I work. I don’t need…decorations.” Emmie’s eyes grew huge, and she looked at him like he’d just said he didn’t like puppies.
She loved seeing firsthand how even the smallest gift of kindness could make such a difference in someone’s life. She had seen over and over again the power of reaching out to someone, offering comfort when they needed it the most—how even the simplest gesture could connect people and give them hope.
After her parents passed away, Emmie had promised herself never to put off doing the things she really wanted to do, knowing tomorrows are never guaranteed. She had learned that saving something to do “someday” meant you were risking never having that special experience happen at all.
Snowed in with the Single Dad
by Melinda Curtis
Laurel, who frequently acts as a double for her famous actress twin Ashley, takes her role too far on a date with handsome actor Wyatt with some lasting consequences. She escapes to Second Chance where she meets Mitch, a lawyer who is managing the inn and his just turned teenage daughter Gabby who has perfected eye rolls. Laurel is a creative dress designer, but she always puts the needs of others, especially her sister Ashley, ahead of her own. Among the locals, the quirky but artistically talented sisters Odette and Flip are mainstays in Second Chance and are instrumental, along with Mitch, in helping Laurel find her own dream as Second Chance lives up to its name in this sweet romance.
I would like to extend my thanks to Melinda Curtis for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Romance (Clean)
Notes: #2 in the Mountain Monroes Series but works as a standalone. There is a chart showing the family relations and the author provides any background from previous books that is needed.
Publication: June 1, 2019—Harlequin Heartwarming
She’d seen Mitch smile before. Kind smiles. Polite smiles. Rueful smiles. But never a smile like this. A smile of pure, unapologetic joy. That smile. It reached into her chest like a heart-to-heart hug. It said everything was going to be all right.
He laid his cell hone faceup on the table, the sure sign of a man who considered whatever might happen in the world more important than the person they were dining with.
Her mother was a master manipulator. She recognized the dead end they’d come to and took on a new attack as smoothly as a shark circled back for the kill.
The Printed Letter Bookshop
by Katherine Reay
This fictional work opens with the rather stark and extremely well attended funeral of Maddie and shares the perspectives of her estranged, but much loved, niece Madeline and of Janet and Claire, two ladies who are employees and friends of Maddie. What follows takes us into the lives and families of all of these ladies. They struggle with work and relationships, but Maddie leaves each an encouraging letter listing books that will help them in their life journeys. Maddie has a reputation for matching up readers with just the right book. Life is a battle for each of these ladies, and there is some characteristic in one or more of them that readers can identify with.
Part of The Printed Letter Bookshop draws attention to Proverbs 31 in the Bible which describes a wise woman and provides a model for the characters in forming their aspirations. I followed the ups and downs of the characters with hopes for successful resolutions to their problems. Will Madeline continue on her intended path to become a successful law partner? Will the town’s beloved bookshop survive during an online economy and after some bad business decisions? Can Janet find restoration with her husband and children? Is there a way for Claire to be a good mom while meeting her own needs? The story builds at an adequate pace as we are introduced to the characters and storyline, but accelerates towards the end as things come to a head for each of the characters in solving their personal dilemmas. Although there is closure for each of the ladies, it is not a puffy pink, cotton candy kind of resolution. There are surprises, heartbreaks, and difficult situations along the way as they learn what is important, how to forgive, and the need to avoid jumping to conclusions based on appearances.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Thomas Nelson for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Romance, Women’s Fiction, Christian Fiction
Notes: I would LOVE to visit this bookstore!
Publication: May 14 , 2019—Thomas Nelson
You can miss your family so much you have to look down to see your chest rise and fall, to confirm that it hasn’t been cut open and you’re not bleeding out and you’re still breathing. Friends can’t hurt you like that, nor can they fill that fissure.
“I remember Aunt Maddie saying you could lose yourself in a book and, paradoxically, find yourself as well.”
I do remember that his resignation ignited my anger. Anger always comes first for me. Anger keeps embarrassment, humiliation, shame, all manner of painful emotions at bay—for a time. But it requires so much fuel. And while it burned hot that night, and for a couple weeks after, it soon flickered out. Shame replaced it, and shame doesn’t need much fuel to thrive. It can live on tiny nibbles for years, possibly a lifetime.
The Year of Starting Over
by Karen King
I don’t know any honest person who won’t admit, at least to themselves, that there is something that they wish they had done differently. Since there are no “do-overs” in life, I am grateful for second chances and that is what The Year of Starting Over is all about. Its subtitle is A Feel-Good Novel about Second Chances and Finding Yourself.
In Karen King’s novel, Holly is confronted with both the need and opportunity to hit the reset button on her life when it becomes apparent her relationship with boyfriend Scott will never lead to the type of loving marriage her Nanna and Pops enjoyed. Her job as a care assistant for the elderly is not the path to fulfillment for Holly as an artist. Holly is left money by her Pops giving her a chance to change those circumstances and begin living for herself.
Holly has to sort through relationships as she reinvents herself in this gentle romance. She travels from England to Spain to help her friends, Fiona and Pedro, establish an artists’ retreat. With an adventure in another country, the interesting characters, and a female lead who steps out of her comfort zone, you may well be pleasantly reminded of Under the Tuscan Sun. The plots play out differently, but the feel-good aura is present in both.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Bookouture for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Romance, Women’s Fiction
Publication: February 7, 2019—Bookouture
Although her family had always praised her designs, Scott had dismissed it as her “hobby” and had never taken much interest.
Holly felt frustrated as she listened to them, wishing she knew the language better. She’d improved since she’d started taking lessons with Felipe, but not enough to understand conversations, especially when they spoke so quickly.
Her family had been pretty poor, he knew that from what she’d told him, but they’d been happy. His family were rich by comparison, but there was no closeness between them.
One Taste Too Many
by Debra H. Goldstein
Sarah Blair may be the amateur detective featured in One Taste Too Many, but she shares the spotlight with her twin sister Emily who unfortunately is suspected of murdering Sarah’s wheeling, dealing, skirt chasing ex-husband, Bill. Also claiming top billing is RahRah, her ex-mother-in-law’s Siamese cat. When Mrs. Blair passed away, the cat happily ended up in Sarah’s loving care. Three years later, why would a co-worker claim the cat is legally hers? Who would want to murder Bill, Sarah’s ex? Well, lots of people, but who would actually perform the deed?
Emily is a line cook working in a restaurant and displaying her talents at a Food Expo in Alabama. Sarah is a receptionist for lawyer, Harlan, who comes to the legal rescue for the twins several times.
Things are very complicated with a number of cooks involved in murderous scenarios. Sarah tries to unravel personal, professional, and business interests before her sister is arrested for murder and further crimes occur. The ending was a surprise to me when the murderer was revealed. The complex plot and interesting characters assure that the first book in the new series by Debra H. Goldstein will not be the last!
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 Sarah Blair Mystery Series.
2. Two recipes are included that are perfect for Sarah, who has no culinary talents, to make.
Publication: December 18, 2018—Kensington Books
At one time she had added wife to her failure list, but after some reflection and a little counseling, Sarah concluded her problem in the marriage area was in her choosing ability rather than from any deficit in her performance.
“That sounds like Bill. He could take the shirt off your back and make you believe you’d given it to him.”
Hands intrigued her. His were strong and solid. She believed hands reflected the soul of a person.
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.
Chardonnayed to Rest
by J. C. Eaton
Chardonnayed to Rest is a fun, cozy mystery authored by the husband and wife team that goes by the name J.C. Eaton. It features wineries in Penn Yan, New York. The winery owners there support each other and collaborate on various projects such as the Federweisser celebration which is slated this year to be held at the Two Witches Winery. Norrie, a successful screenwriter is maintaining her career while taking over supervision of the family winery for a year for her sister who is hunting an elusive bug in Costa Rica. With an experienced staff, what could possibly go wrong? Unfortunately, a murder occurs at the winery across from Two Witches.
Norrie does some unofficial sleuthing with friends Don and Theo of the Grey Egret winery. Along the way she meets a handsome lawyer and a likable entomologist. There are also some attempts on Norrie’s life. Someone is arrested for the murder, but Norrie is convinced that they have the wrong person, and she is determined to prove it.
Chardonnayed to Rest moves quickly and has lots of suspects and a resolution I didn’t see coming. Some parts were amusing and some caught me laughing out loud. I can’t wait to see what adventures await Norrie in the next book in the Wine Trail Mysteries.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Lyrical Underground (Kensington Press) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: # 2 in the Wine Trail Mystery Series, but works as a standalone. There may be a few references to characters who are not actually a part of this book, but that will in no way hinder your enjoyment of or understanding of this book.
Publication: September 25, 2018—Lyrical Underground (Kensington Press)
Rosalee had told me Marilyn was somewhat of a drama queen, but she seemed to have reached full empress status by the time she placed the call to my number.
If my mouth opened any wider, every insect in the county would’ve had a new home.
I was no stranger to good-looking guys, but the minute my eyes landed on Bradley Jamison, it was as if all the other men I’d ever seen were reduced to toads. That was how gorgeous this guy was. Sandy blond hair, cobalt blue eyes that matched his tie, and a physique that could put Chuck Norris to shame.