Thursday, February 25, 2021

Christmas Card Murder by Lucy Meier, Lee Hollis, and Peggy Ehrhart

Description

Join bestselling authors Leslie Meier, Lee Hollis and Peggy Ehrhart for a collection of the coziest Christmas capers! Everyone dreams of a picture-perfect small-town Christmas, but when murder is in the cards, some holiday greetings are addressed to kill...

CHRISTMAS CARD MURDER by Leslie Meier

In the midst of holiday home renovations, Lucy Stone accidentally unwraps a murder mystery decades in the making when she discovers an old Christmas card with a nasty message belonging to one of her farmhouse's previous residents. The case may be colder than a New England Christmas, but Lucy's determined to sort it out before Santa comes to town.

DEATH OF A CHRISTMAS CAROL by Lee Hollis

The Island Times Christmas soiree gets off to a scroogey start when Hayley Powell, Mona Barnes, and Rosana Moretti receive a Christmas card from the town flirt, Carol Waterman, who threatens to run off with one of their husbands! The ladies chalk it up to an imprudent prank...until they find Carol mistletoe-up under her tree...

DEATH OF A CHRISTMAS CARD CRAFTER by Peggy Ehrhart

Slay bells ring when the body of Arborville High School's beloved art teacher (and annual Christmas card designer), Karma Karling, is discovered on the first day of the Holiday Craft Fair. Now, Pamela Paterson and the Knit and Nibble crew must swap swatching for sleuthing in order to put a Christmas killer on ice.

My Thoughts

Thank you to Netgalley for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I was excited to read this book because I am new to the cozy mystery genre and I love anything Christmas related. I've read books by Leslie Meier and Lee Hollis before, although Peggy Ehrhart is a new to me author.

Leslie's story capture me right away. I always enjoy reading about Lucy's family and the fact that they found a nasty Christmas card in the walls of their house really surprised me. I enjoyed following Lucy's path as she worked to uncover who lived in their house before them, and what that person might have done to upset others.

Lee's story made me laugh. I really enjoy the Hayley Powell series from what I've read and all of the different characters in Bar Harbor crack me up. There were some genuine laugh out loud moments and I like how there were basically two mysteries that had to be solved.

Peggy's story didn't grip me as much, but I think that could  be because I'm unfamiliar with her series. I'd like to read more though because I love reading about crafts, and the characters in this story all spent a lot of time at a craft show.

Did I solve all of the mysteries myself? Not quite. But I enjoyed these stories and found myself enjoying the Christmas atmosphere.

3 stars.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Weekly Reading Goals | 2/22 - 2/29

Good evening, friends! It's Sunday night and I just sat down on my couch with a glass of wine and my laptop, so that I can reflect and plan for this upcoming week. Today's been a good day for a couple of reasons:

  1. I had Chipotle for lunch
  2. I replaced the filter in my furnace (I did NOT know you were supposed to replace them once a month. Oops!)
  3. I read some more of Christmas Card Murder
  4. I got some writing done
I'm in a good place. This week I focused on writing for the most part, so I'd like to assign some more time to reading this week. One way to accomplish this is by listening to audiobooks while I multitask.

Here's what's on my TBR list for this week.
  1. Finish audiobook of When We Believed in Mermaids
  2. Finish audiobook of Meet Me At Midnight
    1. & Write Netgalley review
  3. Finish ebook of Christmas Card Murder 
    1. & Write Netgalley review
  4. Start The Ex Talk (I recently picked up a copy while I was at B&N)
I think if I can stay focused, I can accomplish these reading goals!

The only issue is that I recently picked up a couple of interesting reads from Walmart as well as Barnes & Noble (Don't worry, I'll share all about them in my next book haul) so it's going to be hard to stay focused on my current reads and not pick up anything new.

That's me. Always distracted by the shiny new thing! Lol.

What are you reading this week? Are you currently working on any book review? Let me know in the comments section.

xo Marian

Friday, February 12, 2021

The Dog Share by Fiona Gibson

Description

Suzy Medley is having a bad day…

… when a shabby terrier turns up at her door. Just like Suzy, Scout has been abandoned, although only Suzy has been left with a financial mess and a business in tatters thanks to her ex.

Suzy takes Scout in and her chaotic world changes in unexpected ways: strangers have never been more welcoming and her teenage kids can’t wait to come home to visit.

Then a chance encounter on a windy Hebridean beach makes things more complicated, because Suzy isn’t the only one who needs a friend.

Scout has plenty of love to go round… but does Suzy?

My Thoughts

I requested this book from Netgalley for a couple of reasons:

  • The cover is cute
  • I love dogs
That's it. Those are the reasons. But after I started reading, I realized that Fiona Gibson has written quite a few books. I'm surprised that I never stumbled upon one before.

Not only that, but after finishing The Dog Share I really hope to read more of her books because I really enjoyed this one.

The story is told from two different perspectives. On one hand you have Suzy. She's in a bit of a pickle. Her partner just left her alone to deal with their failing business (which was all his idea to begin with). Newly single, she must also try to bring the distillery back to life that Paul almost ran into the ground.

And then there's Ricky. He's a sweet, single dad. His ten year old Arthur keeps him on his toes. When he takes his son and his new girlfriend to visit his father on the island where his father lives, he finds that he's in for a lot more than he bargained for.

Something that surprised me is that these characters don't meet until about halfway through the novel. I can tell from other reviews I've read on goodreads that that bothered some readers. But not me. I think it made sense because we really got to know each character separately so that when they finally met each other, we understood why they acted the way they did.

And then there's Scout, the lovely pupper who brings just about everyone in this novel all together.

Suzy finds Scout when he turns up at her hotel one night and she's instantly smitten. I enjoyed the fact that she bonded with Scout so quickly and that although she tried to find his original owners, she found him way too loveable to give up for adoption when his owners were nowhere to be found.

This is a special story because Scout pulls together so many different characters from so many walks of life. I think that's what's so special about having a pet. I know that with my dog, it makes me feel so good to come home at the end of a long workday and have her there waiting for me.

Most of the time I think it's because she wants her dinner, but I'm sure she's happy to see me too! Lol.

I recommend if you like stories about friendship, pets, and starting anew. Of course it's difficult to start fresh and deal with chaos, but at the same time, it might have been just what Suzy needed. After all, without the drama that her partner Paul left behind, she never would have met Scout. Or all her new friends on the island.

Links

I also talked about The Dog Share quite a bit in my latest reading vlog. I'll post it here in case you're interested in seeing me speak some of my thoughts as I go!


Thank you to Netgalley for providing me an eArc in exchange for an honest review. I recommend The Dog Share if you like sweet romances and stories about dogs, or inspiring pets in general.

xo Marian

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Cupcakes & Chaos by Lisa Siefert

Description

Hi! I'm Ava Decker, forensic accountant turned pastry chef. After being ghosted at my own wedding, I decided to leave California and return home to Maine where I grew up. While my parents are enjoying an all expenses paid cruise, aka as my non-refundable honeymoon, I’m house sitting for them back in Clover Creek.

My lifelong dream of owning my own bakery finally comes true but unfortunately, it’s only because the owner of the bakery turns up dead in the cupcake truck that I was driving. And to make things worse, I’m the prime murder suspect because she decided to leave both her bakery and her house to me in her will, despite the fact that I just met her two weeks ago.

In the process of being arrested, I also became a kitty mom to an adorable ruddy Abyssinian who thinks he’s a dog and suffers from separation anxiety. Now, it will take of my mystery movie watching know-how to help solve this crime myself.

My Thoughts

I've become very interested in cozy mysteries in the last year or so. So interested, that I've done a lot of research on them which includes reading quite a few of them, researching them on Youtube. as well as reading a ton of cozy mystery book reviews online.

There's a youtuber I really like named Lisa Latte who hosts a cozy escape book club every month with Courtagonist and I was so excited when I visited her channel the other week and saw that she has a cozy mystery series that she started publishing back in 2020. How cool! I knew I wanted to read the first book Cupcakes & Chaos so I borrowed it from Kindle Unlimited and started reading.

The Protagonist:

I loved Ava. She's at a crossroads in her life. Recently ghosted at the altar, she's made her way back to her hometown in Maine. She's living alone in her parents house while they're on a three month cruise (what would have been Ava's honeymoon, actually) and Ava's found a new job at Frosted, a bakery in town.

Anyone would have freaked out after being falsely accused of murder of their boss, but I felt like Ava kept a relatively calm attitude, and I liked that. Even though everyone from Wesley (the police officer) and Ruby (Ava's best friend) tells her to stay out of it and not do any investigating of her own, of course she doesn't listen. 

Who would? She approaches her investigation in a level headed way and comes to some very interesting conclusions.

I also loved Ava's relationship with her new cat, Lucky. While I am more of a dog person that a cat person, I could totally relate to how smitten she is with her new pet. If I could take my dog everywhere with me, I definitely would.

The Mystery:

I found it very interesting that Francine left her house and her business to Ava in her will. As Ava pointed out many times, it's not like the two of them were close. Ava barely knew the woman. So why would Francine leave her most prized possessions to her? Especially when her brother (well, half brother) lived in town.

I'll be honest, I am new to the cozy mystery genre and I have not gotten any better at solving the mysteries. Sigh. This story kept me guessing and there were definitely some leads that I thought would lead to the murderer, but in fact, they did not.

My Hopes for Future Books:

I'm so looking forward to reading more of this series. I love Ava and her best friend Ruby. I also really like Chloe the locksmith, who I think is going to be a new friend of Ava's after she helped her break into a safe in this book.

And of course there's Officer Lockwood, or Wesley. It definitely cracked me up how his and Ava's first interaction is when he pulls her over to give her a speeding ticket. I'm looking forward to seeing their relationship develop.

- - - - - -

If you're a member of Kindle Unlimited, you can read this book for free because it's included with your membership. I'm a voracious reader and so I'm excited to see that the second book, Fudge and Felonies, is available in KU as well.

Saturday, February 6, 2021

You Have A Match by Emma Lord

Description

When Abby signs up for a DNA service, it’s mainly to give her friend and secret love interest, Leo, a nudge. After all, she knows who she is already: Avid photographer. Injury-prone tree climber. Best friend to Leo and Connie…although ever since the B.E.I. (Big Embarrassing Incident) with Leo, things have been awkward on that front.

But she didn’t know she’s a younger sister.

When the DNA service reveals Abby has a secret sister, shimmery-haired Instagram star Savannah Tully, it’s hard to believe they’re from the same planet, never mind the same parents — especially considering Savannah, queen of green smoothies, is only a year and a half older than Abby herself.

The logical course of action? Meet up at summer camp (obviously) and figure out why Abby’s parents gave Savvy up for adoption. But there are complications: Savvy is a rigid rule-follower and total narc. Leo is the camp’s co-chef, putting Abby's growing feelings for him on blast. And her parents have a secret that threatens to unravel everything.

But part of life is showing up, leaning in, and learning to fit all your awkward pieces together. Because sometimes, the hardest things can also be the best ones.

My Thoughts

A book that takes place at a summer camp? You don't have to ask me twice. I'm sold.

But besides the summer camp aspect, there were a lot of things in the description of this book that captivated me.  DNA tests like 23andMe and AncestryDNA are so popular these days because people love the idea of finding out who they really are and what their ancestry is. The idea of a teen girl finding out she has a secret sister is so unique and seemed to me like the perfect kind of drama to throw into a contemporary YA story.

I'll be honest. I had a little bit of trouble starting this book. I wasn't sure if it was Emma's writing style or the fact that there was so much background information we needed to know about Abby (and her life, her family, her friends) but it just seemed like a lot. It was overwhelming.

But then things calmed down and we got into the nitty gritty of the story, which was that Abby found out through her DNA test that she had a sister that she didn't know about. Not only that, but her sister is a social media star. Or perhaps I should say "influencer".

Savvy is working at a camp for the Summer and convinces Abby to sign up, so that the two of them can get to know each other and try to figure out what happened, and why Savvy was put up for adoption.

I loved Abby. She cracked me up and had the kind of sense of humor that I could really get behind. Savvy and her friend Mickey were also great characters. I thought they were funny and the fact that Savvy is so high strung and obsessed about planning was something that I kind of related to.

The romance in this story felt a little half baked to me. Abby has been in love with her best friend Leo for quite some time and throughout the story, she has to figure out how to make things right between the two of them, since her love is unrequited.

I will mention that while this book is Young Adult there is a lot of swearing in it. I'm an adult, so that didn't bother me, but younger readers should be aware of that.

You Have A Match is a fun and contemporary young adult story that is exactly what I needed right now. It's cold and it's winter and I just want to be reminded of Summer and summer fun. Definitely check out this book if you're a fan of summer camps and unique family drama.

And thank you very much to Netgalley for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Links

xo Marian

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Regretting You by Colleen Hoover

Description

Morgan Grant and her sixteen-year-old daughter, Clara, would like nothing more than to be nothing alike.

Morgan is determined to prevent her daughter from making the same mistakes she did. By getting pregnant and married way too young, Morgan put her own dreams on hold. Clara doesn’t want to follow in her mother’s footsteps. Her predictable mother doesn’t have a spontaneous bone in her body.

With warring personalities and conflicting goals, Morgan and Clara find it increasingly difficult to coexist. The only person who can bring peace to the household is Chris—Morgan’s husband, Clara’s father, and the family anchor. But that peace is shattered when Chris is involved in a tragic and questionable accident. The heartbreaking and long-lasting consequences will reach far beyond just Morgan and Clara.

While struggling to rebuild everything that crashed around them, Morgan finds comfort in the last person she expects to, and Clara turns to the one boy she’s been forbidden to see. With each passing day, new secrets, resentment, and misunderstandings make mother and daughter fall further apart. So far apart, it might be impossible for them to ever fall back together.

My Thoughts

This was a difficult book to read. A good book. A great story. But the content made it difficult because not only are mother and daughter (Morgan and Clara) grieving, but they are also at odds with each other.

In typical Colleen Hoover fashion, she wrote a story that really tears at your heartstrings.

During chapter one, we're introduced to main character Morgan when she's a teenager. She has a small group that she hangs out with that includes her boyfriend Chris, her sister Jenny, and their friend Jonah. The four spend all their time together running around town and having fun together. But it's a surprise to all of them when Morgan finds out she's pregnant at seventeen.

Cut to the future, where Morgan is still hanging out with the same people. She and her husband Chris live a comfortable life with their sixteen year old Clara. Jenny is always nearby, along with Jonah and their infant son Elijah. 

They share history, and that makes them family.

I'll be honest. Even though I read the description of the book beforehand, I was not prepared for the "tragic and questionable" accident that tore this family apart. My heart broke for everyone involved, in different ways.

What really broke my heart was the rift between Morgan and Clara. It was tough to read because they were clearly just grieving in different ways. Morgan was kind of in denial, picking and choosing what she chose to accept about the situation, and also picking and choosing what she chose to share with her daughter.

I get that she was trying to protect her, but it was really frustrating.

Meanwhile, Clara is missing a lot of information and therefore, believes a lot of things that aren't true. It was one of those deals where I was like "Why can't these two characters just talk to each other? It would make things SO much less tense". Clara was really hard on her Mom because of the information she was missing, and it did make me feel bad for Morgan.

But with that being said, I really enjoyed this book. I liked the mother-daughter aspect of the story and although lack of communication was a big part of the story, I really enjoyed getting to see how Jonah helped Morgan and Miller helped Clara.

I would definitely recommend this book. The story is different from other Colleen Hoover reads but her writing style is always a pleasure to read, so I enjoy pretty much any book she puts out. It seems like a lot of her stuff is available on KU so I've been catching up on the backlist.

- - - - -

Before I go, I wanted to share that Regretting You is available in Kindle Unlimited, and the audiobook is included as well. I listened to the audiobook while I was working on other things and I thought the narrators for Morgan and Clara (the story is told through alternating perspectives) were very nice to listen to.

Links

Researching Harlequin Heartwarming

I'm very excited to announce that I will be doing a romance reading challenge. It's research, really. I found out that different segments of Harlequin accept online submissions from unagented writers and I think I would like to try to write a book for them.

I chose Harlequin Heartwarming because these are the kinds of feel good romances that I like to read the most. I love small towns & communities, and of course I love a Happily Ever After.

The only thing is... I'm not sure how many of them I've actually read!

And I think it's important that I read quite a few of them as research, so that I understand exactly how they work and why readers love them.

My Harlequin Heartwarming Reading List

(I'm starting with their newest releases from December, January, and February which I have purchased in eBook format)

  1. Montana Wedding by Cari Lynn Web
  2. A Christmas Proposal by Linda Warren
  3. Under a Christmas Moon by Mary Anne Wilson
  4. Christmas on the Ranch by Julianna Morris
  5. Bride on the Run by Anna J Stewart
  6. The Christmas Promise by Janice Carter
  7. Her Hometown Detective by Elizabeth Mowers
  8. Second Chance Christmas by Rula Sinara
  9. Catching Mr Right by Carol Ross
  10. The Littlest Cowgirls by Melinda Curtis
  11. A Valentine's Proposal by Kim Findlay 
  12. Coming Home to Texas by Kit Hawthorne
And this one I have from Netgalley
  1. An Alaskan Family Christmas by Beth Carpenter
I plan to write a post soon to update you on my reading status. I will be writing reviews for all of these books as well as taking notes on them for my own research.

Do you have a publisher where you generally like anything they publish? I'm not sure if I do. I know that I like the books that Hallmark Publishing releases because they generally have quite a few Christmas novels every year, but I definitely haven't read all of them yet.

xo Marian