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Christmas at Silver Falls–saving the family heritage

Christmas at Silver Falls

by Jenny Hale

Christmas at Silver FallsFrom Jenny Hale, author of books set in summer and at Christmas time, comes another “heartwarming, feel-good Christmas romance” in the form of Christmas at Silver Falls.  Scarlett Bailey realizes that this Christmas will probably be the last Christmas gathering of her family at her Gran’s beloved White Oaks Inn. Gran will be forced to sell because she is unable to compete with the newer resorts springing up in the area. Charles Bryant, one of the developers of the popular resorts, shows up unexpectedly in the area, and Scarlett determines to enlist his help in saving the Inn. The complicated becomes even more so when Julie and her young son Trevor, who have obviously undergone hard times, make a dramatic entrance that changes everything.

Christmas at Silver Falls is a fun Christmas read with a beautiful setting. Not all the characters were as well fleshed out as they might have been, but you can not come away without feeling for them in their predicaments.

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.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Romance, Women’s Fiction

Publication:   October 15, 2019—Bookouture

Memorable Lines:

“We all go through things like that in life, and the good news, at least from what I’ve found, is that after the lows you notice the highs, and when you’re up there, it feels so good. Just hang on. It’s coming.”

Scarlett felt hope surge in her veins like rocket fuel.

“In an old run-down cottage, you are like fresh bouquets; you’re like a misty-morning view, a sunrise, a barefoot dance in a field of wildflowers…”

Rescued by the Perfect Cowboy–cowboy appeal

Rescued by the Perfect Cowboy

by Melinda Curtis 

Rescued by the Perfect CowboyWhatever the natural appeal of kids, double it when you encounter twins. That is certainly true of Alex and Andy, the “adorable little heathens” whom their mother Sophie Monroe describes as “rambunctious, but lovable.” Sophie has relocated to Second Chance with her four year olds after her divorce and losing her job as curator of the Monroe art collection. If you have journeyed this far in the Mountain Monroes Harlequin Heartwarming series, you can easily predict that romance is in the wind, but that predictability does not take away the fun of watching the romance progress with more than a few hitches along the way.

The plot is filled out with local history, the antics of the twins, quirky local characters, and highfalutin Monroes. The central characters are Sophie and Zeke, a cowboy recuperating from a truck accident, who has a big secret to hide. In the background is the continuing search for a way forward for Second Chance and its residents. We meet new characters, both locals and more of the Monroe clan. The two groups provide quite a contrast: hard working versus the privileged. Can they manage to work together for everyone’s benefit?

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.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Romance (Clean)

Notes: #3 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:   October 1, 2019—Harlequin Heartwarming

Memorable Lines:

Snow cradled Zeke’s fall in its chilly arms. It wrapped its icy fingers around his neck and over his ears. It packed him tighter than a crystal vase being shipped by a fancy department store at Christmas.

“I’m your cowboy nanny, unless you still want to fire me.” How could she fire him? He was the Wild West version of Mary Poppins, fixing problems she didn’t think could be fixed.

“If it’s art you love, that’s what you’ll study. And if you decide to change course, who’s to judge? Look at me. I’ve reinvented myself a half dozen times. Trust your feelings.”

Killer in the Carriage House–saving a village

Killer in the Carriage House

Killer in the Carriage House

Lisbeth invites her friend Kate to Asheboro to try to save the town. The only industry, a shovel factory, has long since closed its doors. Kate’s only work experience has been in managing large hotels, but she thinks she could possibly turn the town into a replica of a Victorian village. The source of the idea is the Victorian mansion left to the town by the deceased factory owner.

There are many unanswered questions involved in this project. Kate needs to get the townspeople, especially the shopkeepers, on board. She needs to research the history of the period and develop resources to help put the plan into action. Meanwhile, she finds herself in the middle of a murder mystery when she discovers the body of a young man she encountered the day before at the library. She also wants to learn more about the factory owner and his connections with both Clara Barton and Thomas Edison.

The storyline of Killer in the Carriage House is acceptable, but I had a hard time with the main character Kate. She isn’t believable to me as a project manager. She wastes a lot of time just waiting for things to happen and then complains that there are so many things to do. She also says that in her former position she was told what she had to do and was never in charge of initiating events. That does not seem in line with a hotel manager’s responsibilities. Her personal relationships are weak and not well defined.

The plot is better developed than the characters. I liked the plot resolution but was surprised that certain characters’ presence in town hadn’t been questioned earlier.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to St. Martin’s Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 3/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: Although this book is the second book in the Victorian Village Mysteries, it is the first book in the series for me. It was easy to pick up with the plot and characters and move into the tale.

Publication:  July 9, 2019—St. Martin’s Press

Memorable Lines:

But to have someone—or in this case, something like an entire town—hand the whole unwieldy mess to me and say, “Here, make this nice, and don’t spend too much money”? I was left floundering.

“So, are you going to tell me about this new murder?” 

“You mean the body in the library? Sounds like an Agatha Christie novel, but unfortunately it’s true.”

“You got tossed into a difficult situation, one that kept changing about every ten minutes. You did the best you could.”

One Feta in the Grave–murder under the boardwalk

One Feta in the Grave

by Tina Kashian

One Feta in the GraveWelcome to the New Jersey seashore where Ocean Crest is having a beach festival. Lucy has returned to her hometown to take over the family’s Mediterranean restaurant. Her best friend, Katie, is in charge of judging the festival’s sand sculpture contest. That seems like an easy enough job until a contestant insists that one of the judges should be disqualified. Later Lucy finds one of the men involved in the argument dead under the boardwalk.

The subsequent cancellation of the festival could mean financial ruin for many in the town. Lucy steps up to try to solve the crime to help her town and to clear Katie from suspicion. Lucy may have taken on an overwhelming task as there are many suspects and leads to follow. As Lucy manages the restaurant and acts as an unauthorized private eye, she is also trying to balance relationships with two charming men.

I like the characters and enjoy watching their interactions. I think Lucy and Katie, who is a policeman’s wife, did step over a line as some of their investigative “techniques” were clearly illegal. Their actions put Katie’s husband, Bill, in an obvious conflict of interest when he learns what they have done. Lucy’s moral compass needs a little adjustment, but her heart is in the right place. She is later faced with another issue in which doing what is right hurts other people, but she does it anyway, following it up with an attempt to lessen the difficult consequences.

There are references to delicious foods from pita with various flavors of hummus to baklava all through the book. Lucy is an adventurous foodie who enjoys tasting outside her arena of Mediterranean comfort foods. Recipes for date cookies, lentil soup, and Greek salad are included.

One Feta in the Grave is not as fast paced as Tina Kashian’s first two books in the series, but is quite enjoyable anyway. I’m looking forward to the next book in the Kabob Kitchen Mystery Series.

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.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #3 in the Kabob Kitchen Mystery Series, but works as a standalone. Recipes are included at the end.

Publication:   February 26, 2019—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

“Butch can look scary.” Butch had a chest the size of a small armoire and hands that looked like meat pounders. With his checked bandana and gold tooth, he was downright intimidating. The funny thing was that Butch was the kindest and most mild-mannered man she knew.

“Double chocolate brownie chunk. Definitely decadent if you are a chocolate lover.” “It’s too chocolatey,” Katie said. Lucy shot Katie an incredulous look. “Is that even possible?”

If there was one thing she’d learned since returning to town and stumbling upon a body…or two…is that not everyone was as innocent or guilty as they appeared.

Ireland the Best–you know you want to go!

Ireland the Best

by John and Sally McKenna

Ireland the BestIreland the Best, a travel guide, is written in the same format as Scotland the Best, albeit by a different author. I looked at the Amazon listing for that book briefly, mainly to see if the sample book contained pictures. This series of travel books is composed of well-organized lists and does not show off each locale with pictures but does include links so you can easily see the attraction, restaurant, etc. for yourself online.

Given the style of this book, understanding the organizational format is of prime importance, and so the authors begin their guide book with…a guide to the book. They want to transmit to you the best that Ireland has to offer based on their 30 years of exploring the island. To help you search in the book you can use the index, categories in the Table of Contents such as “The Best Places to Eat and Stay in Ireland’s South West,” or the map to view items in a particular locale.

Codes are of great importance in this book and seem a little daunting at first, but as you use the references they quickly become familiar. They include things like “atmos” for atmosphere and “df” for dog friendly.

Tick or check marks (✓) are awarded for outstanding listings. There are indications of price ranges and difficulty levels of walks. Attractions are coded with map references also.

The meat of the guide begins with sections on the most famous attractions in Ireland, means of transportation, annual events, contributions of the Irish, and famous film locations. Next are sections focusing on Ireland’s four largest cities. They examine the lodging accommodations, style of cooking, restaurants, pubs, attractions, shops, walks, and views for each city. Next the guide expands to regional hotels and restaurants and sections that let the reader explore more specific topics like tea rooms (e.g. Miss Marple’s Tea Rooms), graveyards (e.g. Yeats’ Grave at Drumcliff Parish Church, Co Sligo), and Irish crystal and glass (e.g. House of Waterford). The last major section explores the many islands. Each attraction or feature in the book has a nice, short paragraph describing it.

I have not been to Ireland, but this guide book certainly inspires me to visit. I think this book would be an essential tool for me in planning a trip to the Old Country of my husband’s roots and then enjoying its features while there.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Collins Reference for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Reference, Travel

Publication:   September 1, 2018—Collins Reference

Memorable Lines:

Ireland has a fascinating past, sculpted by the great characters—knights, saints, writers, architects, freedom fighters, clerics, politicians, artists—who have shaped the nation, whether for good or for ill. We have loved discovering the castles and keeps, the graveyards and follies, the beaches and gardens that illuminate a picture of Irish culture going right back to pre-history.

Try a leisurely holiday with an Irish Cob horse, who will pull your home through the Wicklow landscape. Or go for a 7-day walk with a friendly donkey, who will walk beside you and carry your load. 

The Shannon estuary is teaming with life, and Geoff and Susanne Magee run an informative tour of the river mouth running a Dolphin and Nature Boat Trip, on which you might see the bottle dolphins as well as grey seals and pelagic sea birds.

Bear Witness to Murder–teddy bear themed cozy

Bear Witness to Murder

by Meg Macy

Bear Witness to MurderBear Witness to Murder is set in little Silver Hollow where Sasha Silverman, owner of Silver Bear Shop and Factory, is one of a number of local entrepreneurs trying to survive through foot traffic, bulk sales, and special  events like the village’s Oktobear Fest. This is a town where gossip reigns and the locals are family or longtime friends. Generally this is a quiet and peaceful place to live—until Sasha’s childhood nemesis Holly returns bringing her nasty attitude, a shop in direct competition to two others, and an assistant who is suing the mayor during his re-election campaign.

Meg Macy has a chatty style to her writing and sets the background well so that we are surprised along with Sasha when she discovers a dead body. The mystery centers on this event, but swirling around it are family and romantic entanglements as well as Holly’s backstabbing efforts against the Silverman family. Other characters that play a major role are Sasha’s sister Maddie, and the girls’ boyfriends Kip and Jay. All three are artists and contribute their efforts to the festival.

I like this book. As a teddy bear enthusiast, I found the theme charming. I also appreciate the main characters, who are fairly well developed.  There are, however, a lot of minor characters, and I found myself referring back to review their relationship to the main characters. The ending is surprising, startling even, but does not provide satisfying closure for Sasha and Maddie.

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.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #2 in the Adorable Teddy Bear Mystery Series, but it is good as a standalone.

Publication:   May 29, 2018—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

It seemed to fit with my memories of Holly’s personality. Sweet to your face, but ready to change in an instant or stab you in the back.

He had a true gift, seeing an animal or object hidden within wood, and then bringing it into clear focus with such talent and skill.

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