The Christmas Forest #RebeccaBoxall

SIX WEEKS UNTIL CHRISTMAS!!

The countdown continues with the Twelve Books of Christmas started in October. We now are down to SIX, just SIX, weeks until the big day!!  I absolutely love all of the terrific holiday books that are out there this year and I hope you are too! Last year, which really was the first year that I actually read a lot of holiday books, I came across author Rebecca Boxall. I fell in love with her 2017 book, Christmas on the Coast, and immediately had to go back and read her previous year’s offerings, Christmas at the Vicarage and Home for Winter. All of these were well told, beautiful stories set during the holidays but heartwarming tales for all year. This year, Boxall is back with her newest novella, The Christmas Forest.

Enid lives in a charming coastal town next door to her sister, Bess, in matching “Christmas” cottages where they have lived, side by side, since their parent’s tragic death. Enid has Asperger’s Syndrome which interferes with a person’s ability to “socialize” in a neuro-typical manner but, otherwise, they generally are quite brilliant and nearly always talented in some fashion or another. Through a holiday card exchange, Enid has met Fred who lives in Australia. Fred also has recently lost her mother, for whom he was the sole care-giver as she battled Multiple Sclerosis. Through writing and talking on the phone, the two have formed a bond that they believe is ready for the next step – Enid travelling to Australia to meet Fred in person. However, it is extremely difficult for someone with Asperger’s to trust – people, airplanes, strangers in general – and it is even more difficult for them to be “trapped” in a plane. But Enid believes that she is ready – until everything goes to hell in a hand-basket at the airport! Will these two ever be able to overcome the obstacles to be together?

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I admit that I loved the story from start to finish and, because it is a novella, that only took an afternoon! While the writing itself is not as taut as with her previous novels, I found the characters to more than make up for that. Perhaps it is because I am part of a  family that has lived with MS and other auto-immune diseases and have a son with Asperger’s, I totally and completely related to Enid and a young boy, Dan, as well as Fred, who cared for his mother. They charmed me with their humor, had me crying with their set-backs and made me grin like a Cheshire cat in the end. And that is exactly what a good cozy novel is supposed to do! I loved this story and I hope will too!

I was thrilled to receive an advanced copy of The Christmas Forest from #Netgalley, especially since I have been anxiously waiting for this book since last Christmas! Thanks also to #RebeccaBoxall and @AmazonPublishingUK !

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Broken Ground @ValMcDermid

I am such a huge fan of Val McDermid and always look forward to her new releases. If you are like me, you will be excited to know that Broken Ground, her latest in the Karen Pirie series will be released in December in the US next month, December.

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Alice Sommerville’s inheritance is lying at the bottom of a peat bog. However, she gets more than she bargained for when the retrieval specialists discover a body with a bullet hole. Pirie, who is back after a leave, is now working cold case files and is assigned to the case. However, the investigation uncovers more questions than answers.

McDermid is known as the Queen of Scottish Mysteries and there is a reason for this. She writes thoroughly researched, expertly woven intrigue with a hearty dose of atmospheric details about her homeland, Scotland. Her books, including Broken Ground, are not fast paced reads but, rather, good solid sleuthing just as a police procedural should be. There are plenty of twists and more than one mystery in Broken Groundwhich will keep you invested in the story from beginning to end.

This is, of course, part of an ongoing series and, while there are multiple references to past cases, these references also serve as a guideline for any new reader so that the reader will not be confused. It is helpful to read the other books first, but it certainly is not necessary to enjoy the story or follow along with the characters. Whether you are new to McDermid or an avid fan, like me, Broken Ground is a perfect choice for a long winter’s read.

My thanks to #Netgalley, #GroveAtlantic, and #ValMcDermid for my copy of this suspenseful tale.

Moonlight on the Thames @lwestwoodwriter

SundayWhat a marvelous Serendipity Sunday! The weather is perfect, chilly and gorgeous and I discovered a new author whose book is as delightful as my Midwestern weather!

I admit that when I first looked at Moonlight on the Thames, I assumed it would be another cozy holiday story – and it is that – except there is far more to this book than first impressions would lead you to believe!

51A4XdE0tNLMoonlight on the Thames by Lauren Westwood is an intriguing tale of two star crossed strangers who meet by chance at Waterloo Station. Dimitri, formerly of Russia, is leading a “pop up choir” in a round of carols to entertain the passengers as they change trains. Nicola is a corporate star who in the middle of a bit of a romantic crisis with a co-worker and has no time to waste on the holidays, much less carolers in the middle of the station. As she makes a scene in front of everyone, she comes face to face with Dimitri and she is, at once, enchanted – as is he. But this pair brings with them a lifetime of baggage overflowing with abuse that neither has been able to entirely cope with. It’s the holidays and it will take a holiday miracle to bring these two together.

Miracle on the Thames is beautifully written, whose characters are fully dimensional and enchanting. Dimitri has suffered so much abuse in his lifetime that it appears impossible for him to love again or faith in people. As a former rising star in the music world, Nicola melts his hardened exterior to allow the music to flow from scarred hands once more. Nicola, through Dimitri’s kindness for his fellow man, his hope and his music, feels herself beginning to have emotions that she thought she never would experience again. All of this is told with such  incredible empathy that I literally cried with pain and joy throughout its telling. Through the use of a Russian fable, Firebird, and through the music – which you can listen to via a special link, Dimitri and Nicola’s story unfolds in beautiful, lyrical prose. It an astonishing read, especially for someone who was expecting a “cosy romance.”

I highly recommend Moonlight on the Thames and hope you will make time for it this season.

Thank you so much to Lauren Westwood for my copy of Moonlight on the Thames. This was my first book by Westwood, it will not be my last!

I love serendipitous discoveries! Is there something in your world that has been a pleasant discovery this week – a book, a song, something of a surprise? I’d love to hear about it!

The View From Our Window @authorljryan

Every now and again a book sneaks up on me and grabs my attention and my heart. The View From our Window is exactly one of those books! A sweeping family drama that travels from Ireland to France, dips down to Columbia and back again, The View From Our Window is part romance, espionage thriller, and domestic noir all in one book!

SaturdayI love a great fiction story whether it is historical fiction, women’s lit, the classics or a family drama; fiction has so much to offer when it is written well. The View From Our Window, a family drama, revolves around three people, ironically born on the same day at nearly the same time, whose lives continue to intersect with one another. Laurel, our heroine, is a newly widowed mother of two who is trying to escape her family and their treachery, as well as the mounting problems her deceased husband has left behind. Paul, her childhood friend, is a rising star in Irish politics and has just been named Minister of Justice. Unfortunately that means he will be in charge of the investigation into Laurel’s husband. And David, a French movie star – which is not as trite as it sounds – who is recovering from a very nasty divorce that has cost him visitation with his children. Their lives will converge with very dramatic, life threatening results.

cover151262-medium I admit that in the beginning of the book I was lost and confused as the details and backstory, the births, of these three were laid out for us. However, the writing was so expertly done and the story so compelling that I knew if I continued I would be rewarded – and I was! There is, quite literally, not one genre into which this book belongs. There is romance between Laurel and David but it grows out of a very beautiful friendship that she began with his family who befriended her when she moved to the French countryside. There is international politics and intrigue as we follow Paul through the machinations of Irish politics that is fraught with complications within the EU. There is espionage, drug runners and white collar crime that crosses all borders and familial lines. In all, it is a non-stop intense thrill ride from beginning to end! There is something for everyone within this book! I laughed, I cried, I got angry and still was left wanting more! I want a sequel!! All the stars and accolades for The View From Our Window and L J Ryan, I cannot recommend this highly enough!

Heaps of thanks to #Netgalley, @BooksGoSocial and #LJRyan for my copy of this amazing book!

The Little Book Café: Amy’s Story @Georgiawrites #GeorgiaHill

Georgia Hill is back with another installment in her series, The Little Book Café, and I couldn’t be more thrilled!

cover151173-mediumHill features a different character in each of her books. This time it is Amy’s Story. We were first introduced to Amy in book one where she was being mistreated by the book’s main character, Tash. I identified at once with Amy who has an overbearing, often very cruel mother who spends her time belittling her daughter’s very existence. Amy was left at the alter and her self-esteem is, quite nearly, non-existent. She runs the bookshop that is attached to the bakery in her town and has made quite a success of the shop and her small book club. When a new author comes to town to write his next book, Amy doesn’t dare allow herself to have feelings for him, this charming, beautiful Irish man; but, fates just might have other ideas for Amy.

The Little Book Café is a delightful series, full of quick wit, extremely relatable characters and situations that are utterly identifiable. It is a very short book, as are each of the books in the series, and will actually leave you wanting to know more about Amy and her friends in Berecomb. This is a good sign for me – when I want to read more, know more, experience more from a book and its characters. Naturally, after reading Amy’s Story, I had to go back and read the first two books in the series and they were equally fun and witty! This book is set in autumn and is a perfect read for this time of year as we are nestled between Halloween and Christmas stories. It also can be perfectly read as a stand alone – but I promise you will want to read them all! This is the perfect story when you have just a little bit of time and want something uplifting and happy to read! Go ahead, enjoy!

Thanks so much to #Netgalley, @HarperImpulse and to Georgia Hill for my copy of #TheLittleBookCafeAmysStory!

 

SEVEN WEEKS ‘TIL CHRISTMAS!

While it seems so far away, when you are counting down the weeks by reading holiday books, you suddenly realize that there are more holiday books on the bookshelf than there are weeks left to read them! YIKES!! Perhaps a book a day would help alleviate the panic attacks. 🙂

cover148567-mediumThis appears to be the week for “café” books. If holiday stories aren’t set in cafes, then they are set in bookstores. Regardless of the setting, however, The Christmas Café at Seashell Cove is a delightful, humorous holiday tale. Seashell Cove is a series by Karen Clarke that features a different resident in each book, although past and future featured characters all make at least a cameo appearance in the current storyline.

Tilly is a free spirit who loves to work wherever her heart leads. Currently she is doing interior design work but she refuses to take it too seriously or even call it a “job.” She likes getting paid to do what she loves without the strings of a “business” attached. This Christmas, however, her friends and the café owners, are putting a great deal of pressure on her to turn the new addition to the café into something spectacular, each wanting to use the grand opening holiday celebration as a very special occasion to reveal big surprises. In addition, there is a new man in town with a young son who may, or may not, hire Tilly to redecorate his new home. The man, Seth, unfortunately comes with a very overbearing mother who has ideas of her own.

There are all of the usual holiday read must-haves: a bit of intrigue, encouraging friends, a colorful character or two and, most importantly, romance with missed cues and crossed signals that can keep the reading enjoyable and interesting. The folks of Seashell Cove always are a delight to catch up with and Tilly’s character is one of the best and most interesting to date.

If you are a fan of cozy books – mystery or romance – and like a good holiday tale that is not too over-the-top Christmassy, then The Christmas Café at Seashell Cove is a must read for you. Once you’ve read this one, I encourage you to catch up with the other folks from Seashell Cove. You will be glad that you did.

Much appreciation to #Netgalley, @Bookouture, and the author, @KarenClarke123 for my copy of this humorous tale!

 

First The Thunder by Randall Silvis

It’s Publication day for First the Thunder by Randall Silvis!

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I absolutely love Silvis’ Ryan DeMarco series perhaps because I also adore Ryan DeMarco as a character. I was certain that a novel by Silvis, rather than a thriller, would be equally as good especially considering that Silvis is an award winning writer – books, plays and more. Sadly, First the Thunder fell short of my expectations.

Set in mining country Pennsylvania, this is the story of three brothers whose lives have not quite gone according to plan. Harvey drives a truck, Stevie does odd jobs here and there after he was in an accident that made him a bit “slow,” and Will owns a bar that is struggling after a new highway came through on the other side of town. His wife, Laci, is a crime scene photographer who is struggling to keep her life together for the betterment of her daughter. It is, however, the Rust Belt and there is not a lot of hope to be found. The situation worsens when Harvey, believing he has been “slighted” by his brother-in-law, convinces his brothers to help him get revenge. Matters go from bad to worse for this trio and a secret, long buried, threatens them all.

I really do like reading stories set in the new America – the nation with a southern region steeped in poverty and racism, a Rust Belt that is decaying and/or dying and overflowing with too much machismo and running rampant with drugs and a west that is slowly running out of water and heating up too fast for its people to combat the issue. This is America today and the authors who are addressing these issues should be commended for tackling ugly, depressing topics that no one really wants to think about much less read. But they do write about them and, generally, weave tales that are mesmerizing, if not utterly depressing and hopeless.

Silvis captures all of those feelings and more. He nails the characterization of the white male whose pride is gone, whose dreams are shattered and who turn instead to being the testosterone laden bully that many of us have come to know far too well. So why did the book fall short for me? It was, simply put, too dark, too depressing and too full of idiotic men doing incredibly inane things just because they are men. When we, as women, have to live with this type of stupidity day in and day out, when it is the fabric of our country right now, reading more of it is a strain; finding any redeemable quality on which to grasp and resonate was simply asking too much. I’m sick to death of these people in real life and I was sick of them in this book too. I honestly did not care one whit what happened to these three brothers and, when that is the case for any book character, there really is no point reading. I don’t expect happy endings, but I do expect to have some thread, regardless of how tenuous it may be, that will keep me involved. With First the Thunder, I never found that thread. For the record, I just finished Bone on Bone by Julia Keller that also is about the failing rust belt and mining towns gone bust. I highly recommend that book to those looking for books in this genre.

*I received an advanced ebook from the publisher via Netgalley. A review was expected in return.