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.

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.

Banned Book Week Day Three – Children’s Books

When I began researching for Banned Book Week I naturally assumed that the majority of the banned or challenged books would those that many adults find “subversive.” You know, Mein Kampf, The Anarchist Cookbook, even some of the existential writings of Satre or Camus. I was so wrong. The MOST OFTEN challenged and banned books in the US are children’s books and the most challenged of all writers is be the beloved Judy Blume. WTH!? I had to read further to understand because clearly I was a “bad” parent. My kids read ALL of the books – LOL! Below are a few of the books that have been banned by certain school libraries in the US:

In 1986, the West Allis Milwaukee School District banned this particular poetry collection because of “drug reference, suicide, death and a disrespect for truth and authority.” Shortly after, a school district in Pennsylvania did the same.
Harriet, it seems, was too smart for her own good. This book was banned because parents were concerned it was teaching kids to “lie, spy, talk back and curse.”  I have news for you – kids are learning to lie, back talk and curse from their parents, peers and president, not from Harriet the Spy
The addition of this book to the list breaks my heart. Have you ever read a more wonderful story or seen more beautifully illustrated pages? A favorite of children all over the world, this book was banned by many southern states for depicting child abuse (the no-go supper for Max), it’s also been challenged for being “too dark” and showing supernatural elements. Hey, I was raised in the south. Going without supper was the least abusive form of child abuse I encountered!

However, the most challenged author of all, including “adult books” is Judy Blume, the author of “Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret.” I’m not sure I would have made it through the tween/early teen years with this book. My parents were of the ultra conservative bordering on cult religion and we did not speak of anything remotely dealing with our bodies. Nope. Books like this were a resource for me more than just enjoyable reading. But let’s look at another of Blume’s banned books: Blubber. Have you or kids read Blubber?

Blubber is about bullying – really serious bullying. It revolves around a group of girls who bully another group, then that group gets more girls together and they torture the original group of girls who re-groups with different girls and torture the second group and on and on and on. You know, real life stuff here. Seriously! The reason the book was banned was because parents didn’t agree with the fact that none of the girls were punished. HELLO!?! Bullies seldom are punished – in our schools, in our neighborhoods, in our politics or in our presidency!! I was 4 foot 11 inches tall. To say that I got bullied is an understatement. Add to that the aforementioned religious aspect and I was tortured. No one ever got punished – EXCEPT FOR ME!! Geesh. Do parents live in some kind or drug induced bubble that they do not realize this!?! (sigh) I could rant on for ages but I think Judy Blume, herself, explains this perfectly:

“When I started to write, it was the ’70s, and throughout that decade, we didn’t have any problems with book challenges or censorship. It all started really in a big way in 1980 … It came with the election, the presidential election of 1980, and the next day, I’ve been told, the censors were crawling out of the woodwork and challenging, like, ‘It’s our turn now, and we’re going to say what we don’t want our children to read.,” Blume says. “”But I think it’s more than that. It’s what we don’t want our children to know, what we don’t want to talk to our children about; and if they read it, they’ll know it, or they’ll question it.”

Well. Isn’t that the purpose behind ALL bannings and censorship: We don’t want you to know because then you’ll know and you will question it.

READ BANNED BOOKS!!! Be the one who knows!

The Boy From the Woods by Harlan Coben

Let me be frank, I’m not an avid reader of Harlan Coben’s work. I didn’t enjoy his series at all but I’ve come to appreciate many of his stand-alone thrillers. That said, The Boy From the Woods was a non-stop read for me.

The boy referenced the title was found decades ago living, surviving, wandering in the woods. He was placed into foster care, later adopted but as an adult he still prefers to live in the woods – naturally – albeit with state of the art “of the grid” conveniences. He had a normal upbringing and even attended West Point – which seems to be a sticking point for many other readers that perplexes me. Now, he works occasionally as a “consultant” to his foster sister’s private security firm. When his god-son’s friend goes missing, they turn to Wilde (the boy, now man) to help them find the missing girl. After all, he has a skill set that makes him uniquely qualified. Soon, another teen goes missing and we realize that there is far more to this story than realized at first.

There are multiple characters in the book despite the title suggesting otherwise. One of the primary personalities is Hester, the mother of the boy who “discovered” Wilde so many years before. Hester is now one of the most famous and successful attorneys in the New York area. I absolutely adored her. Her wit, intelligence, insight was like nothing I’ve read or known in a long time. She would say exactly what I was thinking every single time! She’s seventy years old and still crushing on the local chief of police. I LOVE when there are well written characters in books over the age of twenty!!

The book also has a myriad of plot lines which apparently confused many readers. I thought they were great and tied together very well at the end of the book. Bullying is a strong theme in this book and it is discussed brilliantly. How many times do we have to see nastiness only a daily basis before we become immune to it? Obviously, for Americans, less than four years has been enough. There are discussions about Wilde’s intelligence which I found very insightful. How can a boy who literally raised himself for years turn out to be so brilliant? Hmm, anyone who has ever been around self-educated, unschooled homeschoolers would know the answer to this question. Some of the most remarkable young adults I know were “unschooled.” There are stories of young romance, romance over the age of 60, falling in love after the death of a spouse – so much love and yet so much hate as we deal with the politicians and their puppet masters throughout the book. In a nutshell, reading The Boy From the Woods was quite a bit like living in the year 2020. There was a lot to deal with but Coben deftly handled it all and brought it to terrific, if somewhat, surprising conclusion. I just really REALLY wish that Wilde and Hester were characters in a new series from Coben because I didn’t get nearly enough of them in this book!!

The Coast to Coast Murders by James Patterson and J.D. Barker

Rating: 5 out of 5.

If I could say only one thing about The Coast to Coast Murders I would say WOW! That’s it…. Wait, okay, there’s more. I haven’t read James Patterson in over a decade but I would read absolutely anything that J.D. Barker wrote – shopping lists even – and it’s Barker’s twisty mind that shines through in The Coast to Coast Murders. WOW!

There are two siblings, Michael and Megan, whose adopted parents were a bit avant-guarde in their parenting. Michael is now a cross county truck driver who discovers his girl friend’s dead body in his house upon arriving home. He calls his sister because he truly believes she is the only one who can help. These are two very bizarre siblings…. and then we meet Mitchell. WOW! Everything about these characters and the games they play had my head spinning! The story, the characters, the plot all were so terrific that I read the book in one sitting and now I want MORE! I always want more of Barker’s story telling, though, so this is nothing new.

If you are a crime fiction fan then you will like The Coast to Coast Murders. If you are a Barker fan like me, then this is “must read.”

Thanks to #Netgalley and @jdbarker for my copy of this edge of your seat thriller!