Christmas at Maplemont Manor by Julie Manthey

Christmas at Maplemont Manor is exactly where I want to be every Christmas! Set in a small town, Maplemont Manor is host and donor to many holiday festivities in the town of Maplemont. When its new heir moves to town, he instantly becomes the most eligible bachelor in town. Good thing that bakery owner, Noelle Kringle, doesn’t like or want to be one of his admirers. But this is a holiday romance so, of course, sparks fly when the two of them together and readers will broadly smile as the romance begins to blossom.

Yes, Maplemont Manor is a bit predictable but the characters are wonderful, the story quite magical and the setting is perfection. What more do we really want from a holiday story if not magic?

Thank you to #Netgalley, the #IBPA and #JulieManthey for my copy of #ChristmasatMaplemontManor

Out of Her Mind by T.R.Ragan

T.R. Ragan has officially become my new favorite crime fiction author – I just cannot stop reading her books!

Out of Her Mind is the second book in the Sawyer Brooks series. If you haven’t read the first one, Don’t Make a Sound then stop – drop everything – and go read it right now. It’s fantastic. Sawyer Brooks is a crime beat reporter with a amazingly sordid past. Her past, and that of her sisters, is what drives Brooks to investigate a story without stopping until she discovers the truth. I honestly wish we still had crime reporters like this. The world needs them! When a child’s bones are found and another child goes missing, Brooks begins searching for similarities. With the help of her sister, Aria, they soon discover a string of missing children. Could this be the work of seriel kidnapper/murder? Brooks certainly thinks so.

There is a seperate sub-plot that runs along with this primary one revolving around The Black Wig women. I won’t divulge much about this group but I find their story just as fascinating as Sawyer Brooks.

This series, like others that Ragan writes, is a well done piece of crime fiction. The characters – all of them – are well written and fully fleshed out for the reader. You see their weaknesses as well as their strengths and, beginning in this second book, you also begin to see their growth past their pain and their insecurities. I highly recommend Out of Her Mind as well as the remainder of the series.

Thanks to #Netgalley and #ThomasMercer for my copy of Our of Her Mind.

Caste: The Origins of Discontent by Isabel Wilkerson

Caste, by Pulitzer Prize winning author Isable Wilkerson, is by far one of the most intriguing, well told non-fiction books that I’ve read in ages.

As a member of a group of Americans who supports and and is activist for the Kashmiri people in India, I have long been shocked at the caste system of India. I could not fathom how one group of people could institutionally stigmatize another. Imagine my dismay when I read how engrained America’s own caste system is within nearly every instituion in our society. As Wilkerson examines systemic caste systems here in the US, in India and Nazi Germany, she lays out an argument that castes have always been part of society – but they do not have to be.

The Germans under Hitler studied the caste system in order to learn how to out-cast the Jewish people. From the very inception the founders of the colonies in the “new world” used these same ideas to marginalize the indigenous people as well as the African slaves they brought with them. FROM ITS INCEPTION the US has used this system to denigrate one group or another – from the slaves, to the Irish to the Italians and, today, the Latino immigrants and Muslims. It is through this marginalization that the “middle” and upper class maintain their power and stroke their egos.

Through rigurous documentation and research, as well as personal antedotes, Wilkerson does a marvelous job of stating her case. She then gives us hope for ways to tear down the caste system for a better, more equal future. My one drawback, as I have done in this review, Wilkerson has a tendency to set aside her objectiveness and her personal feeling come through. This made the book more readable, but it also can call into question as person’s facts. The facts in this book can and should stand for themselves.

I highly recommend, and have done so to everyone I know, Caste:The Origins of Our Discontents to all readers particularly those who want to invest in better, fairer future.

It’s Publication Day for The Haunting of Beatrix Greene

Rarely am I frightened while reading a book but, folks, The Haunting of Beatrix Greene scared the heebie-jeebies out of me!!!

I was fortunate enough to download Beatrix Greene for my Prime First Reads for October. I wish everyone could have read this book before or FOR Halloween because it is the perfect scary ghost story to chill your bones!

The story starts out so innocently and cozy: Beatrix Greene makes her living in Victorian England as a medium, a person who can speak to the dead. She’s actually very good at her profession. She is, however, a fraud. When James Walker, a notorious illusionist who makes a point of proving spritualists as con artists, seeks Beatrix out to hold a seance at a house known to be haunted, Beatrix agrees. After all, it will be some quick money and she is certain there are no ghosts. She should know, right? WRONG. Once inside Beatrix soon discovers that, in fact, she does have the power to speak to the dead and they are warning her to get out! I won’t spoil the rest of the story for you but let me tell you – I had to check with others in my house to makes ure I wasn’t alone!! (SHIVERS) I would not recommend reading this late at night or alone, absolutely not alone!!

I LOVED this book! I LOVED discovering that I still could be frightened by ghosts. I thought I had become too cynical. What a great movie this one would make. If you haven’t read it – go, GO… you’ll be frightfully glad you did!!

Thankfully in Love: A Thanksgiving Anthology

What a delight to find a book that features my favorite holiday: Thanksgiving! Not just one but FOUR short stories that center around Thanksgiving, families and love. Lest you think this is only for Americans, one of the stories takes place over the Canadian Thanksgiving holiday!

Written by four well known and well loved authors, each of the stories described below accentuate family, love and gratitude which we all need in abundance in this crazy Covid year!

No Place Like Home by Anna J Stewart is very family centric with a whole lot of romance thrown in for good measure

Second Chance by Kayla Perrin is about, yep, second chances at love. This one, with its wonderful repartee, was my favorite of the four

Dog Gone Holiday by Melinda Curtis tells the story of a couple who is struggling during the holiday but find hope in one another.

Love Guides the Way by Cari Lynn Webb is your typical romance about two people brought together but who doubt the sincerity of one another.

While the anthology started out strong, the last story was not a favorite of mine. However, that is likely due to the fact that I’m not a big romance fan. I like them light and sweet and only during the holidays. Never-the-less, as a whole, I absolutely recommend Thankfully in Love to start off your holiday season with a grategul, thankful heart.

Thanks to each of the authors mentioned above, @Netgalley for my copy of this warm and entertaining book.





Don’t Speak by J.L. Brown

I have had this book on my TBR list for years (!) and it always kept getting pushed down the list. Luckily for me, was a Goodreads’ Giveaway winner for the ebook version! Let me just say – I LOVED this book!

There are two overlapping plot lines in Don’t Speak. It is an election year and Whitney Fairchild, an elegant and eloquent Senator from Missouri is running just left of center race against the very conservative incumbant. In addition, Jade Harrington, an FBI agent, is called in to investigage the murder of a shock jock, conservative radio host who also has had his tongue removed. Soon after the investigation begins, Harrington realizes that it is tied to other similar cases, both in the past and occuring in the present.

As a former campaign manager and Sentatorial aid, I can attest to the veracity of the campaign. Obviously a lot of research went into this portion of the book. There were so many people who despised the talk show hosts that suspects grew with each chapter. There was a lot of action, a lot of drama and an extremely well thought out story in Don’t Speak.

Interestingly, the book was first published prior to the 2016 US presidential election so any comparisons come after the fact. There are very obviously some similarities between real and fictional radio hosts but any others are from hindsight. That fact made the book all the more interesting. I’ve read where this is a book that only “liberals” would enjoy but I disagree. Yes, the conservative talk show hosts are the ones who are targeted but because we had to read their on air tirades, you actually get a very two sided view of the two US political parties. I can safely recommend this to anyone who likes political thrillers or crime fiction.

Thanks to #AmazonKindle and #Goodreads for my copy of Don’t Speak.

Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Cafe by Jessica Redland

Starry Skies Over the Chocolate Pot Cafe is a reprinting and updated version of Christmas at The Chocolate Pot Cafe. The author added additional material to the middle and end of the original story giving the updated version a more all around, year through theme while still emphasizing the holidays.

I absolutely adored the book, enjoy Redland’s writing very much and the characters and story plot were perfect especially for this time of year. I have not read the other books in the Whitsborough Bay series and this worked fine as a stand alone. However, I fully intend to back track and read the first six in the series now. Enjoy!

Twelve Weeks Til Christmas: The Christmas Table by Donna VanLiere

WHOO HOO – it’s that time of year! It’s time to celebrate the holidays with my annual Twelve Weeks ‘Til Christmas reading countdown. Each week I will highlight a new holiday themed book that I think you might enjoy reading during the festive season.

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The Christmas Table by Donna VanLiere is one of many in a long line of Christmas themed books she has written over the years. I’ve read a few here and there not realizing that it was, more or less, a series. It is, however, one of those series that features a different person in each book so that you can read them as a stand alone feature. Some of the characters will be familiar if you have read her other books and some are newly introduced. Regardless, it is an endearing story featuring a dual timeline, the 1970s and 2012, a kitchen table and recipes that have been lovingly  written for someone’s daughter. How the two timeline’s merge and the importance of the table is beautifully told and intertwined. I loved the story, thought it was wonderfully and carefully written and enjoyed the recipes at the end of the tale.

I was not forewarned that VanLiere’s books are Christian based and I think it is important to know this. There are many people who celebrate the holidays, Christmas, or who are religious but do not believe the same way as others. In this particular book it wasn’t so overt that I felt uncomfortable, but I do wish these types of books were marked accordingly. That said, I did like the book and do recommend it for your holiday reading.

Thank you to St. Martin’s Press and Netgalley for my copy of #TheChristmasTable.

Banned Book Week – Day 4: Beulah Land by Lonnie Coleman

I had no idea this book was still around but I’m so glad that it is!! When I was 15 years old, I was reading this book at the suggestion of a US history buff (I wanted to go to university and major in history – and did) who said it was the antithesis of Gone With the Wind; that Beulah Land was the real version of the “old south.” They were correct – to an extent. The book centers on the Kendrick family, a wealthy southern family who owned hundreds of slaves. What I remember most about the book is the Kendrick sons who repeatedly either raped or had non-violent but non-consensual sex with the young female slaves. Certainly Scarlett Ohara never talked about that, did she? Can you imagine Rhett Butler raping a slave girl? Well, yes, yes I can! But, of course, we never see that in Martha Mitchell’s rose colored tale. The Kendrick family’s saga is typical of the old south: the gentrified white plantation owner barely hanging on to his land, wealthy sons who think they can take whatever they want, hardworking African Americans – some treated decently while others are whipped to death. If you’re going to read a book about the “old south” this is the one to read.

I’m highlighting this book during banned book week – not because it was banned by a community but because it was “banned” by my parents. When my mother caught me reading the sex scenes in this book, she promptly threw the book in the trash. That is what well-meaning parents do, right? Not so fast…. first, I went to my local library, checked out the book and read it in secret! I now OWN the book and my kids have read it. My mother did the same thing with the book, “Go Ask Alice.” I own a copy of that one, too, and my kids read it as well. Parents are not going to stop kids from reading books with which the parent disagrees. Wouldn’t it be better to discuss the book like intelligent human beings rather than “banning” the books in question? The sex scenes in Beulah Land are not so different from the biblical account of Solomon and his lover (whom we now know was Ethiopian) but parents don’t throw away the Bible to keep their child from reading the Songs of Solomon, now do they? Or the stories of David who “took” Bathsheba and had her husband killed so that he could marry her. “Took” being the Catholic monk version of rape.

My point of today’s post to shine a little light on the ways we “ban” books without banning them at all and the hypocrisy of those who do choose to ban books. Censorship is just another form of ignorance – don’t pass this on to your children, please.

A Heartfelt Christmas Promise @nancynaigle

Rating: 5 out of 5.

It’s beginning to look a lot like…. Too soon!?! There is a cold snap in the air today in the midwest and it has been the perfect time to cozy up with a warm cup of coffee and read; Nancy Naigle’s newest holiday tale was the perfect choice! Happy Pub Day to A Heartfelt Christmas Promise!

I absolutely adore holiday stories and read them throughout the year. There are some that are strictly “holiday themed” but so many others are really wonderful feel-good books that make you happy just reading them. A Heartfelt Christmas Promise, while absolutely revolving around the holidays – it begins with Thanksgiving and goes through Christmas – is, at its roots, a beautiful love story and I LOVED this story!

READ AN EXCERPT HERE

Vanessa is the consummate over achieving business woman who excels at all that she sets her mind to accomplish. She hasn’t made time for friends or romance and rarely has time for family. When a new project in Paris comes up at work, she is positive she will be sent to Paris for the holidays. Her boss, unfortunately has other plans. Vanessa is sent to a small mountain town that makes fruitcake to shut down the company in order to put in a warehouse. Yes, I know this sounds like so many Hallmark Movies and I thought it was going to exactly like that. I was WRONG! I won’t divulge how it is different but, please, believe me when I say that it is. Vanessa is not your sappy woman who gets all emotional upon arrival; she sees a solution and she goes about accomplishing her goals – goals that will benefit everyone. Of course there is a snafu – it wouldn’t be a holiday story without one – but in the end it all works out! Sniffle Sniffle…. yeah, I cried.

There are so many things to love (!) about A Heartfelt Christmas Promise. First and foremost, Vanessa is intelligent and never makes excuses for being a strong, independent woman nor does she shy away from being a caring one! Second, this book includes so many age groups from Buck and Anna who are older, to Vanessa who is younger, to Misty who is a teen. Each of these people were depicted as able, smart, capable adults. It is so rare to read books that don’t make older adults or teens out to be stereotypical and this was very appreciated! Third, there are horses and puppies. Oh, hello!? Naigle did such a great job at depicting the Percheron horses that I swear I could hear their thundering hoofbeats going down my cobblestone street!!

Beautiful, aren’t they?

We have llamas pulling our sleigh here in my hometown so I cannot complain but can you imagine these beauties pulling Santa!? WOW! The horses play an integral part of the story and add so much character to the overall book!

What more can I say!? I LOVED A Heartfelt Christmas Promise! Whether you are an early reader of holiday books or just thinking about later, this one definitely should be on to-read list for the holidays!

Thanks to #Netgalley, #nancynaigle and #StMartinsGriffin for my copy of this marvelous book!