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.

Happy Pub Day to #TheVacation by T.M. Logan

It’s publication day for one of my favorite suspense/thrillers of the summer: The Vacation!

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Four best friends have planned a dream vacation in a semi-secluded beach house. Their families are joining them for a week of fun, food and relaxation. However, these four gals are bringing a LOT of baggage with them including suspicions, old rivalries and jealousy and that does not even touch the problems their families have packed away. There are so many secrets, so many lies, so much drama so that when one of them is found dead it isn’t even a surprise. The surprise is who it is and who did it – and why!!

I love Logan’s writing, the way he brings each and every character to life through vivid descriptions. The atmospheric prose puts you, the reader, onto the beach, on the edge of the cliff with each of the characters themselves. It’s marvelous. But what I love most is his ability to keep you guessing and in the dark until the very end of the book. You may think you know who but the why is always a surprise – or vice-versa. The Vacation is a perfect summer read and a fabulous suspenseful book. I highly recommend it!

Thanks to #Netgalley, the author and #Stmartinspress for my copy of #TheVacation

Mums and Mayhem by Amanda Flower

Gardening and floral design are passions of mine so when I stumbled across Mums and Mayhem and realized that it was book that included both and was set in Scotland, I knew I had found myself a really good cozy read. I was absolutely right!

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A famous fiddler has been kilt. A magic garden’s left to wilt. Does Fiona Knox’s father hold the guilt? Will florist Fiona’s blood be spilt?

Fiona Knox, owner of the Climbing Rose Flower Shop is an American who moved to Scotland to care for her inheritance, a secret garden that is passed down to each generation of caretakers. Unsure why she has been chosen, Fiona has made Scotland her home to find answers, care for the garden and solve a mystery or two. In this edition, a world famous fiddle player has returned to his hometown for a homecoming concert only to be brutally murdered. Fiona’s parents also arrive from America and, surprisingly, Fiona discovers that her parents, her deceased godfather and the dead fiddler were once great friends. The more Fiona digs into the murder, the more questions she has about her own past and identity. What she discovers will leave her and the reader shocked.

I absolutely adore this cozy mystery. The villagers are all so cranky and wonderful and Scottish and marvelous and Fiona is a great protagonist.The garden itself is magical but to the point where you will gag on cloying fantasy and paranormal. It’s mystical properties are “just right.” There’s a hint of romance, a well written plot and good character development set in a dear little town. What more could you ask for in a cozy mystery?

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Mums and Mayhem is the third in A Magic Garden Mystery series but I read it as a stand alone without any problems. It did, however, make me want to read the first two books: Flowers and Foul Play and Death and Daisies which I readily found at my local library. I heartily recommend all three of these delightful books to you today.

@Netgalley @CrookedLaneBooks

 

 

The Darkness We Hide: The Undertaker’s Daughter, Book 3 by Debra Webb

Debra Webb has become one of my “go-to” authors when I want to read a good crime fiction novel. Several of her series, and she has several, fall into my top favorites. The Darkness We Hide is the third installment of the Undertaker’s Series and was a marvelous conclusion to a story arc that has been building throughout the previous two books.

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Dr. Rowan Dupont is the “undertaker” for Winchester, TN like her father before her and his father before and so on. She lives in a beautifully restored Victorian mansion that also serves as the funeral parlor. To say that her life is and always has been unusual is an understatement, and not just because of her eclectic career choice. Rowan’s mother hung herself from the chandelier of the mansion, her twin sister was murdered and unusual murders have surrounded her family all of her life. Friends and allies have betrayed her leaving her with more questions than answers and with secrets piling on top of one another until it appears that the final murder just could be Rowan’s.

The characters, as with all of Webb’s series, are very well written. We know them intimately by this point and can feel their anxiety, fear and anger seeping through the pages. Although I thought I had this one all figured out after the second installment, I was completely off base – good thing I read this one! It was a great crime fiction read and a satisfying end to the story – or is it? Who knows with Debra Webb!! I want to note, again, that this is the third book and it really is necessary that you read the first two in the series before reading this one. You will be lost, confused and frustrated if you don’t. Otherwise, I highly recommend The Darkness We Hide.

The Bone Jar by S.W. Kane

The body of an elderly woman is found in a derelict asylum on the banks of the Thames. As Detective Lew Kirby and his partner begin their investigation, another body is discovered in the river nearby. Are the two murders connected and, if so, how are they related to the asylum that is slated to be torn down?

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The Bone Jar is the debut crime fiction novel by S W Kane featuring Detective Lew Kirby who, thankfully, is just a normal detective. He isn’t a drunk, he isn’t cheating on multiple women, no drugs, isn’t on the take. I swear, I haven’t read a crime fiction novel that didn’t feature a messed up detective for so long that I, literally, kept waiting for the shoe to drop. It never did. It was refreshing and quite wonderful. The Bone Jar is a really good, well written, atmospheric detective story like they should be but rarely are any longer. It features an asylum that is written so vividly that it becomes a character in and of itself. There are marvelous secondary characters who could tip over into the nuisance variety, but never do. They actually are helpful, quirky and wonderful. I would love to see them back in future books. The ending left the reader on a bit of an edge but, for me, that was a fun twist at the end. I’m very much looking forward to the next installment in this new series.

Thanks to Amazon Publishing UK and Netgalley for my copy of #TheBoneJar

Aria’s Travelling Book Shop #BlogTour #RebeccaRaisin

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There really aren’t enough words to describe how excited I was to be asked to join the blog tour for Rebecca Raisin’s latest book, Aria’s Travelling Book Shop! Last year I read and reviewed about the hilarious and often perilous adventures of Rosie in Rosie’s Travelling Tea Shop where we first were introduced to Rosie and Aria so, naturally, I was anxious to continue on the journey with these van-lifers. I’m thrilled that I did!

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Unlike Rosie, whose unspeakably awful husband walked out on her, which led to her joining the life of the van-lifers, Aria’s husband and the love of her life died three years old. Aria was devastated by the loss and swore that she never would love another soul again – outside of those found in her beloved books. But then she met Jonathan last year at the final festival of the season. Now he has shown up on the tour circuit again and, despite their attraction, Aria is determined to stay true to her oath. As the travelling vans wind their way through Paris, the city of love, will she be able to keep her feelings in the check or will Paris take over her heart and allow her a second chance at love?

There are very few romance authors who I truly love and enjoy reading and, let me tell you, Rebecca Raisin is right there at the top of my list of favorites! Her characters are realistically funny, heart-breaking and lovable, their humor is very much like my own and the story lines always are interesting and FUN! I find myself reading these books in one sitting because, once started, I cannot stop until I know how they end. This series is particularly interesting because I find the travelling vans so intriguing. I think this would be a lifestyle that I would enjoy and so reading about their triumphs as well as their pitfalls is very compelling. Obviously, I recommend Aria’s Travelling Book Shop to all, as well as the first in the series, Rosies Travelling Tea Shop. Read them both and enjoy!!

REBECCA RAISIN IS A TRUE BIBLIOPHILE….

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This love of books morphed into the desire to write them. She’s been widely published in short story anthologies, and in fiction magazines. And now she is focusing on writing romance.

Rebecca aims to write characters you can see yourself being friends with. People with big hearts who care about relationships and believe in true love.

Author Links:

Website: http://rebeccaraisin.com/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/RebeccaRaisinAuthor

Twitter: http://twitter.com/jaxandwillsmum

You can find ARIA’S TRAVELLING BOOK SHOP AT THE FOLLOWING LOCATIONS:

Amazon UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/Arias-Travelling-Book-Shop-uplifting-ebook/dp/B07XNNW1PW/ref=sr_1_12?keywords=rebecca+raisin&qid=1570436644&sr=8-12

Amazon US https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07XNNW1PW?pf_rd_p=2d1ab404-3b11-4c97-b3db-48081e145e35&pf_rd_r=BPQPWBSEZQCEP4RJG4RB

 

#MurderousMonday: Glass Dolls D.E.White

I almost hate to use the phrase “Murderous” during this horrific crisis we all are experiencing, but for those of us who adore thrillers we love what we love and crime fiction, for me, is at the top of the list. Welcome to Murderous Monday here at Macsbooks.

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It’s always exciting to discover new authors, those whose works we’ve never read before, and this week I did exactly that. D.E. White has been writing books for quite a while but took a turn in style and genres with their latest book, Glass Dolls. From the very first page until the shocking conclusion, I was hooked!

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Detective Dove Milson is no stranger to horror. Four years ago her niece was abducted and believed to be killed by the infamous Glass Doll Killer. Dove was held captive and gravely injured in the pursuit. Now she has transferred to a new unit, the Major Crimes Team, where her first case appears to be a copycat of the glass doll murders. As crimes begin mounting, they all point toward Dove and her family. Dove knows that she has to solve the crimes before her family all lies dead or goes missing.

When I read the synopsis for the book my first thought was this was going to be so “over the top.” I mean, seriously, her first case is a replica of the one that she just left behind? Her family is the target of every single crime that crops up? But nooooo, I was wrong. White’s deft and creative writing skills anchor the story line solidly in reality and the plot itself is absolutely believable. The characters are very real; their thoughts throughout the book often mirrored my own. The plot twist is touted as being “shocking” and it absolutely is but, as you know, I despise twists that are ridiculous. This one was not. There were signs throughout the book that hinted at this twist if the reader pays attention – which apparently I did not!! I definitely was surprised by this one. Bottom line – this is a terrific piece of crime fiction and a great thriller as well.

Thanks to the author, #Netgalley and #JoffeBooks for my copy of this exciting read!

 

Chickenlandia: A Shady Hoosier Detective Agency Mystery by @DaisyPettles

Pawpaw County, Indiana is all a twitter with the annual chickenfest happening. That is, until Ma and Peepaw Horton’s prized rooster and hen go missing. RJ and Veenie are hired, however, to search for the missing Chicken BBQ queen instead. Things turn even darker when the local chicken dance king is run over by a car with out of state plates. Can things get any stranger or darker for the people of Pawpaw County!?

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First, allow me to say thank you for all of your thoughts and well wishes while my husband had by-pass surgery. He is home now and doing very well. They did some “extra work” while they were in there and soon he will be better than new. It’s great to be home and a little more settled, though. I thought I would read a million books during this time – I read none. <sigh> But, thank you all!

To say that I love (LOVE) this series is an understatement. I don’t know if it is because I’m from Indiana and know just how crazy the folks here can be or if it is the characters that Daisy Pettle’s creates or maybe a little of both! What I do know is that this cozy mystery series is a laugh out loud good time and fun reading.

Through the previous two books, we have come to love the chickens – and Rooster Dewey – at the Horton’s farm. The chicken houses are built to resemble famous buildings from all over the world, including the white house, so naturally we and the people of PawPaw County are very worried when something fowl happens there. Then, of course, there is the mysterious disappearances of the BBQ queen and more…..  What makes Chickenlandia and this series so wonderful are the senior sleuths who work at the Detective Agency. I’m not sure I ever have read about or related to fictional characters as much as I do RJ and Veenie. They are colorful, hilarious and always get their man with plenty of laughs, sarcasm and shenanigans along the way.  If you like cozy mysteries and if you love humor, then this is a book for you. You can read Chickenlandia as a stand alone, but the books are quick reads and I suggest you read them all.

Thank you to @Netgalley, #DaisyPettles and #BooksGoSocial for my copy of this delightful book.

Sunday Morning for Kids featuring: The Hat Who Was Left Behind, Billie Jean and Marie Montessori

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The Hat Who Left Behind is such a beautiful book for young readers. The prose is brilliant and written in a flowing verse with which children will be enraptured  It is the illustrations, however, that captured my attention.

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Each of these gorgeous watercolours tell a story in themselves. They invite the reader to use their own imagination to describe what is happening within them. The language is simple enough that whoever is reading, adult or child, can elaborate on commentary and that is very important for young readers especially.

The theme is one of purpose: can we or an inanimate object be more than what we think we can be. Can a hat, whose purpose was beauty for a small child, be more than just a hat. Think about that and you will find that the philosophy behind this one can be as deep as you want it to be. Again, this is a skill I highly encouraged my own children to develop and the author and artist have done an exquisite job illustrating this. The Hat Who was Left Behind is a perfectly marvelous book and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Meet the Author and Illustrator:

Céline Lamour-Crochet was born in Brittany, France and is a well known children’s author whose titles are available worldwide. This is her first book for minedition. Feridun Oral was born in 1961 in Kirikkale, Turkey and graduated from Marmara University. He has illustrated his own children’s books as well as those of other authors. He is the recipient of many awards including an award from UNESCO in Japan. His books with minedition include The Message of the Birds, A Red Apple, A Whisper In the Snow, and A Warm Winter.
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On a different note and in the genre of children’s non-fiction, there were two incredible books that I added to our library: Billie Jean and Maria Montessori.
I think there are few women who are not familiar with Billie Jean King and the accomplishments she achieved for all women. A tennis star in the latter part of the 20th century (that looks strange, doesn’t it?) Billie Jean King played tennis against Bobby Riggs in a match entitled “The Battle of the Sexes.” Billie Jean won the match and went on to open new paths for women of all ages.
She didn’t start out as champion, however. At one point she was a little girl who was considered overweight and wore “coke bottle” glasses. To overcome the stigma, she began playing tennis where is steadfastly prevailed. She is a role model for all children on perseverance, overcoming bullying and what we all can achieve when we work hard. Billie Jean, by Mara Rockliff,  is a well told story of an amazing woman whose legacy should be known by children everywhere.
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Oh wow. I probably could write my own book about Maria Montessori who is and has been my own role model and hero. Few have influenced my life and that of my children as much as Maria Montessori!
Maria Montessori, by Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara, is part of the Little People, Big Dreams series for children. The books are basically biographies written on child’s level about people who not born into greatness but, instead, lived to achieve their dreams. Montessori is best known for her unique method of educating children that was and still is practiced in many countries through schools founded on her philosophy and by many homeschool families who appreciate the child centered approach to learning. The book often points out, rightly so, that Maria received her education, in science, medicine and more, at a time when girls were not encouraged to do so. She overcame the odds to become an expert in childhood education.
My one drawback to this book is that the author describes Montessori’s method as education through play. While playing in an important part of learning for us all, that is not the foundation of Montessori’s teachings. Learning is everywhere – play, cooking, building, every day skills that we must achieve. Giving the child access to multiple areas in which to learn – including play – is essential to their growth. My son was cooking Mac and Cheese from scratch when he was five years old because he was never told that he couldn’t. All of my kids stayed well above the “normal” achievements of others because they were never held back from learning new skills. Freedom to learn everywhere, that is the beauty of Montessori’s method.
Maria Montessori is marvelous addition to this incredible series and one that I hope parents and teachers alike will utilize to their fullest extent.
If you read these book, or have already, let me know what you think. If you haven’t, then I encourage you to do so regardless of your age. You will learn something new, guaranteed.

The Companions by Katie M. Flynn

A dystopian sci-fi novel that is far too close to reality for comfort….

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A pandemic sweeps through the US during which quarantines are mandated. Neither the living or the dead are allowed to leave. There are people trapped in towers who are both stir-crazy and lonely. Metis, a tech company, comes to the rescue with “companions.” Download the brain with all of its electrical currents, memories, and emotions, into a robotic body – some with skin for a more human like touch. These creations are pre-programmed not to harm or do violence and to operate only at the command of their human. One such “companion” – Lilac – goes off track when she learns that she is to be scrapped. Setting out on her own, she is in search of the person who murdered her human form.

Admittedly, this one of the strangest pieces of fiction that I’ve read in a long time. When I began reading I wasn’t sure if I liked it or would finish the book. But then I became invested in Lilac as she hops from body to body. We’re then introduced to more characters, some human and some are companions. Each of the stories seemed to be unrelated – until they weren’t. Going further into the book I realized that each of these “stories” was interconnected and relevant to the others. By the end of the book, I was all in and couldn’t believe how it ended, or possibly I knew how it would end before I even began reading.

What was so startling about The Companions is on this day, as I finished reading and am now writing this review, I’m listening on the news about quarantines being set up all over the world on the brink of what could be the early days of a Pandemic. In tandem, there is tech news about the first fully functioning AI who is frighteningly quite human. In light of those things, The Companions seemed more current events than “sci-fi.”

This is NOT a book for everyone. It is, however, one of the best dystopian tales that I’ve read in ages. It’s also a great sci-fi experience that does not involve other galaxies, fantasy or world building. If you do not like dystopian fiction or science fiction, then you will not enjoy this book. However, if you like new, different, quirky, dark reads then I can recommend The Companions 100%.

Thank you to @Netgalley, the author and #GalleryScoutPress for my ARC of The Companions.