Review: A Brush with Death, by Fiona Leitch

Nosey Parker Cosy Mystery Series

 

About the book, A Brush with Death

  • Publisher : One More Chapter (February 12, 2021)
  • Publication date : February 12, 2021
  • Language : English
  • File size : 2794 KB

A Brush with Death coverJodie ‘Nosey’ Parker is back!

When a body turned up at her last catering gig it certainly put people off the hor d’oeuvres. So with a reputation to salvage, Jodie’s determined that her next job for the village’s festival will go without a hitch.

But when chaos breaks out, Jodie Parker somehow always finds herself in the picture.

The body of a writer from the festival is discovered at the bottom of a cliff, and the prime suspect is the guest of honour, the esteemed painter Duncan Stovall. With her background in the Met police, Jodie has got solving cases down to a fine art and she knows things are rarely as they seem.

Can she find the killer before the village faces another brush with death?

The second book in the Jodie ‘Nosey’ Parker cosy mystery series. Can be read as a standalone. A humorous cosy mystery with a British female sleuth in a small village. Includes one of Jodie’s Tried and Tested Recipes! Written in British English. Mild profanity and peril.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


About the author, Fiona Leitch

Fiona Leitch headshotFiona Leitch is a writer with a checkered past. She’s written for football and motoring magazines, DJ’ed at illegal raves and is a stalwart of the low budget TV commercial, even appearing as the Australasian face of a cleaning product called ‘Sod Off’. Her debut novel ‘Dead in Venice’ was published by Audible in 2018 as one of their Crime Grant finalists. After living in London, Hastings and Cornwall she’s finally settled in sunny New Zealand, where she enjoys scaring her cats by trying out dialogue on them. She spends her days dreaming of retiring to a crumbling Venetian palazzo, walking on the windswept beaches of West Auckland, and writing funny, flawed but awesome female characters.

Connect with Fiona:

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellThe second novel in Fiona Leitch’s delightful Nosey Parker mystery series can be read and enjoyed as a standalone story, but leaping into it immediately after finishing the first provides a richer experience because it becomes evident that these wonderfully rich characters have further developed.

Opening a few weeks after the original story, A Brush with Death focuses on an arts festival with all of the quirky personalities such events inevitably draw. These include the familiar characters of Jodie “Nosey” Parker, her mother and daughter, her friend Tony, DCI Nathan Withers, and Germaine the dog. All of them seem a bit more developed than they were in Murder on the Menu, but the differences are subtle. Nathan seems a little less officious. Tony feels more grounded. And Jodie “Nosey” Parker herself has reached the point in her post-London life where she’s open to romance again.

Of course, there’s a murder early in the festival activities, and Jodie is in the thick of it, trying to prove the truth of what happened even when it takes her away from other things. While her relationship with the one of the figures at the center of the investigation, famous painter Duncan Stoval, calls her judgement into  question, her choices are understandable for a woman in her position. Similarly, she gives real consideration to her flirtatious friendship with Withers, even as she’s inserting herself into his attempt to solve the murder.

As before, the backdrop of the Cornish seaside is as much a character as any of the humans (or dogs), but this time the action moves further afield from Penstowan than before.

Fiona Leitch has given readers a compelling mystery and an accurate look at dating after a divorce, lacing it with her usual humor and deftness at writing dialect. Whether or not you’ve read the first Nosey Parker novel, A Brush with Death is not a book to be brushed aside.

Goes well with: hot tea and saffron buns.


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Review: Murder on the Menu, by Fiona Leitch

Nosey Parker Mysteries

 

About the book, Murder on the Menu

  • Publisher : One More Chapter (January 15, 2021)
  • Publication date : January 15, 2021
  • Language : English
  • Series: Nosey Parker Cozy Mysteries

Murder on the Menu coverThe first book in a NEW cozy mystery series!

Still spinning from the hustle and bustle of city life, Jodie ‘Nosey’ Parker is glad to be back in the Cornish village she calls home. Having quit the Met Police in search of something less dangerous, the change of pace means she can finally start her dream catering company and raise her daughter, Daisy, somewhere safer.

But there’s nothing like having your first job back at home to be catering an ex-boyfriend’s wedding to remind you of just how small your village is. And when the bride, Cheryl, vanishes Jodie is drawn into the investigation, realizing that life in the countryside might not be as quaint as she remembers…

With a missing bride on their hands, there is murder and mayhem around every corner but surely saving the day will be a piece of cake for this not-so-amateur sleuth?

The first book in the Murder on the Menu cozy mystery series. Can be read as a standalone. A humorous cozy mystery with a British female sleuth in a small village. Includes one of Jodie’s Tried and Tested Recipes! Written in British English. Mild profanity and peril.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | My Book | Goodreads


About the Author, Fiona Leitch

Fiona Leitch headshotFiona Leitch is a writer with a checkered past. She’s written for football and motoring magazines, DJ’ed at illegal raves and is a stalwart of the low budget TV commercial, even appearing as the Australasian face of a cleaning product called ‘Sod Off’. Her debut novel ‘Dead in Venice’ was published by Audible in 2018 as one of their Crime Grant finalists. After living in London, Hastings and Cornwall she’s finally settled in sunny New Zealand, where she enjoys scaring her cats by trying out dialogue on them. She spends her days dreaming of retiring to a crumbling Venetian palazzo, walking on the windswept beaches of West Auckland, and writing funny, flawed but awesome female characters.

Connect with Fiona:

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellFiona Leitch’s Murder on the Menu, the first of her Nosey Parker novels, is one of those books that feels like it should be something you see on television. Here in the U.S. it would be a perfect member of the PBS “Mystery” series, or for more contemporary viewers something you stream on BritBox.

Labeled as a cozy mystery, this novel certainly lives up to it’s niche. The main character, Jodie “Nosey” Parker is a former cop and a single mother who moves back to her hometown to give her daughter a life free from worry over her mother’s job. She’s smart, funny, engaging, and I really loved watching her code-switch, speaking proper English to people like the (hot) DCI Nathan Withers but switching into the local vernacular when speaking to people like the local cops her father (a former Chief Inspector) recruited to the small-town force, or the townsfolk, many of which have known her since birth. The use of dialect in this book is one of the things I really appreciated because it’s used both sparingly and organically.

Jodie Parker’s choice to become a caterer after leaving the police behind is something I identified with because I always find catharsis in cooking. (Spoiler alert: there’s a recipe at the end of the book, and I plan to try it!), but it was also amusing to watch her reactions to DCI Withers, first annoyance at his handling of the case (a death at her childhood’s friend wedding which she is catering, and later the recognition that he’s attractive in general, finally, getting a bit flirty.

Jodie is more than flirty though, she’s still got being a cop (though not a detective) in her blood, and it’s hard to stifle a lifelong need to know things.

While the murder mystery is gripping and fast paced, the character interactions are just as fascinating. Jodie’s mother and daughter often act as a sort of Greek chorus for her, while her friend Tony (the groom in the wedding) and their other childhood friends are equally dimensional.

The Cornish coast is also a character in this novel, with its beaches and meadows – Jodie’s back yard has a wall just high enough to keep the cows from visiting – and the setting, here, is important because it sets a tone, not just of cozy small-town life, but also of a very specific culture.

Leitch’s writing is compelling, and she balances humor and gravity very well.

I leapt into reading book two as soon as I finished Murder on the Menu and I fear this series may be my new addiction. It may well be yours, too. Highly recommend.

Goes well with: organic sausages and mashed potatoes.


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Review: Christmas in Cockleberry Bay, by Nicola May

Christmas in Cockleberry Bay

Christmas at Cockleberry Bay FINAL FRONTAbout the book, Christmas in Cockleberry Bay

  • Publication date : November 13, 2020
  • Print length : 237 pages
  • Word Wise : Enabled
  • Publisher : Nowell Publishing (November 13, 2020)

Meet old and new characters in the Bay for Christmas fun and frolics.

With both the Corner Shop and Cockleberry Café in safe hands, Rosa turns her attention to Ned’s Gift, the charity set up in memory of the great-grandfather whose legacy turned her life around.

Over at the Ship Hotel, Lucas has his work cut out with his devious new girlfriend and the mystery poisoning of an anonymous hotel inspector. Will the hotel still get its 3-star Seaside Rosette?

Will Mary find true love at last? Can Titch cope with the demands of the shop and being heavily pregnant. And can Rosa, with a baby of her own, pull off the Cockleberry Bay Charity Christmas Concert in time?

Christmas in Cockleberry Bay is a festive delight for fans of Rosa and her cheeky mini dachshund Hot, delivering a feast of unpredictable events and surprises.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Kindle (US) | Kindle (UK) | Paperback | Goodreads


About the author, Nicola May Nicola May

Nicola May is a rom-com superstar. She is the author of eleven romantic comedies, all of which have appeared in the Kindle bestseller charts. Two of them won awards at the Festival of Romance, and another was named ebook of the week in The SunThe Corner Shop in Cockleberry Bay became the best-selling Kindle book in the UK, across all genres, in January 2019, and was Amazon’s third-bestselling novel in that year.

She lives near Ascot racecourse with her black-and-white rescue cat, Stan.

Connect with Nicola

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

Dropping into Nicola May’s Cockleberry Bay again was a delightful experience, made even more so by the fact that this visit happened at Christmas time. This fictional seaside community with it’s cast of lovable, funny, dramatic, and irascible characters is fast becoming a second home to me, and this visit was probably one of my favorites.

Like any good family reunion, Christmas in Cockleberry Bay is replete with babies, both new and soon-to-come, dogs, couples having typical couplish dramas, eccentric relatives, and small business owners trying to improve their lots by earning new rating stars from the coastal rating group. Oh, and Christmas cookies (sorry, biscuits) – we mustn’t forget those.

As always the Corner Store and Rosa’s Cafe are the cornerstones of a trip to the Bay, though this story has us spending a significant time at the Ship Hotel and Lobster Pot as well.

What I love about Nicola May’s writing is that she’s equally adept at writing one-on-one scenes, like the ones with Rosa and Titch comparing the joys and woes of young motherhood, and massive chaotic ensemble bits with people talking over each other and having side conversations, which latter is extraordinarily difficult to convey in writing.

What I love about this series is that while the focus characters change, everyone we’ve met so far, plus the new additions, get their moment in the spotlight.

Some details I really appreciated were Tina trying to hide her natural accent when she’s answering the hotel phone, and Nate being concerned – unnecessarily – when he introduces his Christmas “plus one” to his sister. (I’m being intentionally vague because I don’t want to spoil the reveal.)

Any visit to Cockleberry Bay is worth the time spent, but spending Christmas in Cockleberry Bay might just be the perfect antidote for the socially distanced, largely separate holidays we’re all facing this year. Or at least, it’s a warm and wonderful story seasoned with love and salt air, that makes this very atypical December feel a bit brighter.

Goes well with mulled wine, sharp cheddar, a crackling fire, and a (non-lethal) coastal storm.


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Review: Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes, by Jessica Redland

Jessica Redland Christmas Tour

About the book, Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes

  • Paperback : 210 pages
  • Publisher : Boldwood Books (August 13, 2020)

Christmas at Carly's CupcakesIt’s the most wonderful time of the year…

It’s December on Castle Street; the fairy lights are twinkling, snow has settled and the festive season is in full swing.

For Carly, the owner of Carly’s Cupcakes, it’s the busiest time of year getting everyone’s Christmas treats ready on time. However with her clumsy sister, Bethany, as a co-worker, it’s proving a difficult task. They say you shouldn’t mix work with family. Maybe they have a point…

As Christmas approaches, Carly is also eagerly awaiting the return of her best friend to Whitborough Bay. Liam has no idea he’s been the object of her affection since their schooldays. After years of pining after him, can Carly pluck up the courage to finally tell him how she really feels by 25th December?

Could a little festive magic make all of Carly’s wishes come true this Christmas…?

A heartwarming, short festive story of friendship and family from bestseller Jessica Redland. You can find out what happens to Carly next through exploring her best friend Tara’s story in Starry Skies Over The Chocolate Pot Café.

This is a new and updated version of Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes which has been previously published.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


About the author, Jessica Redland

Jessica Redland Author PicJessica Redland is the author of nine novels, including The Secret to Happiness, which are all set around the fictional location of Whitsborough Bay. Inspired by her hometown of Scarborough she writes uplifting women’s fiction which has garnered many devoted fans.

Connect with Jessica:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

It may seem odd to be reading Christmas novels when it’s literally the first day of Autumn (in the northern hemisphere), but Jessica Redland’s pair of novels Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes and Starry Skies Over the Chocolate Pot Cafe (which I’ll be reviewing on Friday the 25th) are just what is needed to beat the end-of-summer doldrums and make us anticipate cozy firelit nights with hot chocolate or Irish coffee and a good friend – or lover – for company.

Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes was my first visit to author Redland’s Whitborough Bay, a cozy English village that is absolutely contemporary, and made me want to relocate. If only it were real! This novel focuses on Carly and Bethany, sisters and friends. Carly owns a cake shop on Castle Street, and Bethany works for her, but is disastrous at any of the back room activities, though she’s great with customers.

Most of the novel is set against the days leading up to younger sister Bethany’s wedding to Joshua, but Carly is mentioned in the title, and despite Bethany being the bride it’s really about her: how does she cope with an employee who is also family? How does she face attending her little sister’s wedding when the man she longs for is deployed to Afghanistan (and thinks of her as a friend)? How does she help her sister embrace her strengths and overcome her weaknesses?

And did I mention that wedding takes place just before Christmas, adding a heightened emotional state, and a lot of demanding customers to serve into the mix?

Redland marries all of these elements as if she were mixing batter for the perfect cake, bakes them into a coherent, interesting, fun family saga with a romance filling, and frosts them with all the wishes, dreams, and hopes that are part of the holiday season.

Carly is a wonderful protagonist, kind, smart, patient, and truly caring. Bethany, in anyone else’s hands, would be a ditz, but instead Redland has given us someone who means well and always tries, but hasn’t quite found her niche. Together these sisters make a compelling pair of women to read about, and their stories are twined together with the sweetness and freshness of the red and white stripes of a candy cane.

Bethany’s fiance Joshua is equally dimensional, even though we don’t see each other, and the sisters’ parents are supportive and lovely, as all parents should be.

And then there’s Liam… the childhood friend we all needed, who returns from his deployment just in time to be Carly’s date to the wedding. The boy we meet in memories has become a caring man, and he fits into the world Redland has created as if he were part of the story from page one.

This novel is satisfying, sweet, and supremely real, with characters who may make cupcakes, but are absolutely not cookie-cutter copies of anyone.

Goes well with chocolate cupcakes with buttercream frosting and Irish coffee.


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Review: Star Trek Section 31: Control, by David Mack


About the book, Star Trek Section 31: Control
Section31 - control

  • Series: Star Trek
  • Mass Market Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Pocket Books/Star Trek (March 28, 2017)
  • Language: English

From the New York Times bestselling author David Mack comes an original, thrilling Section 31 novel set in the Star Trek: The Next Generation universe!

No law…no conscience…no mercy. Amoral, shrouded in secrecy, and answering to no one, Section 31 is the mysterious covert operations division of Starfleet, a rogue shadow group pledged to defend the Federation at any cost. The discovery of a two-hundred-year-old secret gives Doctor Julian Bashir his best chance yet to expose and destroy the illegal spy organization. But his foes won’t go down without a fight, and his mission to protect the Federation he loves just end up triggering its destruction. Only one thing is for certain: this time, the price of victory will be paid with Bashir’s dearest blood. (via Amazon)

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, David Mack DavidMack

DAVID MACK is the award-winning and New York Times bestselling author of over three dozen novels and numerous short works of science fiction, fantasy, and adventure, including the STAR TREK DESTINY trilogy.

Beyond prose, Mack’s writing credits span several media, including television (for episodes of STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE) and comic books.

Mack’s most recent novels are THE MIDNIGHT FRONT and THE IRON CODEX, the first two books of his DARK ARTS series from Tor Books.

His upcoming works include THE SHADOW COMMISSION, book three of Dark Arts, coming in 2020, and a new STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION novel, COLLATERAL DAMAGE, on October 8, 2019. (via Amazon)

Connect with David:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


melysse2019.jpgx100My Thoughts

This novel is two years old, but I only read it last week, because somehow, I missed it. My timing was not the best – reading this story concurrently with the last episodes of Star Trek: Discovery’s second season, which was also about Section 31’s AI Control, though, not the same story (though some themes were naturally similar, as you might expect whenever you deal with a super-intelligent AI) had me wishing the Discovery writers were telling Mack’s story.

Alas, they were not. And Discovery, which I love, is it’s own thing.

So, what about Control. Well, this novel takes place in two time periods. One is at the dawn of the Federation, and involves a civilian scientist who has created a threat assessment logarithm that he sells to the Federation. If you’ve read any of the articles about how the back room folks at Amazon, Google, and Apple work with Alexa, and Siri and such, you can understand where some of the inspiration came from. The characters in that section of the novel, with the exception of passing mentions of Archer, are largely original creations, but they mesh well with the Star Trek universe. I felt the ‘past’ parts of the story made sense, especially given our current level of technology and the growing dependence on “smart” devices.

The “contemporary” part of the story is in the post-Nemesis timeline of current TrekLit canon, and features Julian Bashir and Sarina Douglas in their current guise as interstellar people of mystery… I mean special ops agents. I was never a particular fan of Bashir when DS9 was on, but he matured as a character as I’ve matured as a person, a viewer, and a reader, and now I really enjoy visits with him.

Data and Lal (resurrected in previous novels) also feature heavily in the contemporary part of the story, but I find myself never sure I “like” this new version of Data. Yes, this slightly jaded, slightly bitter, lonely, isolated version of him makes sense after all he’s been through – in another novel he, himself, described himself as “Data 2.0” – but there’s something hollow about him that makes him difficult for me to connect with. (I’m sure that’s just a fangirl reaction.)

Overall, I found this novel to be well-paced, balancing the two time periods really well, with the sections in the early Federation really building well to the world we are so much more familiar with as fans.

As much as I found the story interesting and compelling, I also found it a bit prescient. As I was reading it, those aforementioned articles about Alexa and Siri kept coming back to haunt me, but so did the line from Harry Potter about never trusting anything that appears to think for itself unless you can see where it keeps its brain.

Goes well with peach cobbler… and piping hot raktajino, obviously.

Review: Tidewater Hit, by M.Z. Thwaite

About the book, Tidewater Hit Tidewater Hit

  • Series: Tidewater Novels
  • Paperback: 258 pages
  • Publisher:

One determined woman refusing to leave well enough alone.

In a heart-stopping moment, while rowing off the coast of Georgia the summer of 1986, Abbey Taylor Bunn discovers a dazed boating hit-and-run victim.

In the days following the successful rescue, Abbey becomes acquainted with a new potential real estate client, but the unidentified man worries a recently awakened side of her, the sleuth.

Who is he? Who left him to die, and why?

Ever-curious and afraid of nothing, she digs for clues and is rewarded by discovery after discovery until a grim picture begins to form. Only when she confronts the assailant does the final piece fall into place, and she realizes how fully her moral duty inserted her into the wounded framework of the lives of others.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Goodreads


About the author, M.Z. Thwaite MZ Thwaite

M. Z. Thwaite is the author of the literary suspense novel Tidewater Rip in which she shares her life-long love affair with Georgia’s golden coast. A licensed Realtor since 1983, she continues to enjoy the simple pleasures of the hunting and fishing club on the coast of Georgia co-founded by her maternal grandfather. She grew up in Atlanta, Georgia and lives in Beaufort, South Carolina with her artist husband Steve Weeks of Riverton, New Jersey.

Connect with M.Z.:

Website


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellTwo years ago, I read the first novel in this series, Tidewater Rip, and loved it to bits. Over the last full weekend of September, I devoured this sequel, Tidewater Hit, and am happy to report that the community of Kings Bluff, Georgia is one where I still feel completely at home.

Dropping in on the fictional adventures of Abbey Taylor Bunn is like visiting an old friend. You may not see them very often, but you know the ice tea will be sweet and cold, the dog will be waiting to greet you, and the mystery will be incredibly compelling.

Such is the case with this novel.

From the opening, with Abbey rowing and discovering a man floating in a place where one is more likely than not to become sharkbait through every twist and turn I was on the edge of my seat. Or I would have been if I hadn’t been reading this in the bathtub.

What I loved was that relationships from the original novel – specifically Abbey’s with Atlanta-based lawyer Tom, but others as well – were continued. I also loved Sarge and his ‘dead rise’ fishing boat, which can be used for a multitude of other purposes. He made a big impression on me.

As well, author Thwaite has turned the community of Kings Bluff and those secluded cabins into a character in its own right.

While Thwaite’s skill and plot and dialogue is undeniable, where she excels is at giving readers a vivid sense of place. As I was reading this, I could taste the salt air, feel the tiny stinging bites of sand fleas (sand gnats), and feel the muggy heat. It is that feeling, as much as the story itself, that made the novel for me.

While Tidewater Hit is better enjoyed if you’ve read the previous novel, it can be read as a stand-alone work with little confusion on the reader’s part. Thwaite gives us enough backstory to understand Abbey’s history and mindset, but not so much that we’re bogged down in any kind of literary ‘previously on…’

As well, the author does an excellent job of honoring the 1986 setting without making it feel campy or too ‘period.’ This story may be set 31 years in our past, but it reads as contemporary literature.

Read this book if you love mysteries with strong female characters, a touch of humor in the right places, and plots that are intricate enough to be interesting, but not so convoluted that a diagram is required.

Goes well with a tomato and vidalia onion sandwich, or, if you’re more mainstream, fresh-caught shrimp cooked however you like them and cold sweet tea or chilled beer.

 

 

 

 

Review: Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan

About the book Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery

• Paperback: 320 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (October 10, 2017)

Christmas at Little Beach Street BakeryIt’s the most wonderful time of the year… and the perfect moment to escape to a charming English village! From the beloved author whose novels are “sheer indulgence from start to finish” (SOPHIE KINSELLA) comes a delightful holiday story — funny, heartfelt, romantic and packed with recipes — perfect for the winter months.

In the Cornish coastal village of Mount Polbearne, the Christmas season has arrived. It’s a joyous time for family, friends, and feasting, as decorations sparkle along the town’s winding streets and shop windows glow with festive displays. And in Polly’s Little Beach Street Bakery, the aroma of gingerbread cookies and other treats tempts people in from the cold.

Though Polly is busy keeping up with the demands of the season, she still makes time for her beekeeper boyfriend, Huckle. She’s especially happy to be celebrating the holiday this year with him, and can’t wait to cuddle up in front of the fireplace with a cup of eggnog on Christmas Eve.

But holiday bliss soon gives way to panic when a storm cuts the village off from the mainland. Now it will take all of the villagers to work together in order to ensure everyone has a happy holiday.

Full of heart and humor, Jenny Colgan’s latest novel is an instant Christmastime classic.

Buy, read, and discuss Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery:

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Jenny Colgan

Jenny Colgan is the New York Times-bestselling author of numerous novels, including The Bookshop on the Corner, Little Beach Street Bakery, and Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery, all international bestsellers. Jenny is married with three children and lives in London and Scotland.

Connect with Jenny:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts:

Melissa A. BartellRevisiting the Little Beach Street Bakery and the world that Jenny Colgan has created around it, in her version of Cornwall, is like reuniting with an old friend. You may not have spoken for years, but as soon as you see each other, you pick up as if no time has left.

I won’t give Colgan all the credit for my own fantasies of living in a lighthouse, but I’m sure her work stokes the fire. Sure Polly and Huckle (and Neil the gull) are living in the cold and damp much of the time, but they do it with such good humor and zest for life that having to bundle yourself under layers of sweaters (each more shapeless than the last) or preheat the electric blanket on your bed feels romantic rather than distressingly rustic.

What I continue to love about this series is that the characters grow and change, but remain intrinsically themselves. Kerensa, Polly’s best friend, is dealing with a communications issues within her marriage and a pregnancy, but she still retains the wild-child element that so defines her, and Polly herself, while more settled with Huckle, and keeping her bakery a success is still delightfully neurotic, and full of heart.

Set at Christmas time, this novel is perhaps a bit fluffier, or more soft-focus, than the previous entries in the series, but I think considering the subject matter, and the amazing ending, that softening is appropriate.

This whole series makes you want to curl up in a chilly room with a heavy quilt, a pot of coffee, and freshly-baked treats. Conveniently, there are even recipes included in the back.

Goes well with mincemeat twists and awesome hot chocolate; recipes for both are in the book!


Tour Stops for Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery

Tuesday, October 10th: BookExpression

Wednesday, October 11th: BookNAround

Thursday, October 12th: A Chick Who Reads

Friday, October 13th: Bibliotica

Monday, October 16th: Buried Under Books

Tuesday, October 17th: A Bookish Way of Life

Wednesday, October 18th: bookchickdi

Thursday, October 19th: Kahakai Kitchen

Friday, October 20th: No More Grumpy Bookseller

Friday, October 20th: Reading Reality

Saturday, October 21st: Girl Who Reads

Monday, October 23rd: Into the Hall of Books

Tuesday, October 24th: StephTheBookworm

Wednesday, October 25th: A Bookworm’s World

Friday, October 27th: Jathan & Heather

Friday, October 27th: Books and Bindings

Review: Remember My Beauties, by Lynne Hugo

About the book Remember My Beauties Remember My Beauties

Imagine a hawk’s view of the magnificent bluegrass pastures of Kentucky horse country. Circle around the remnants of a breeding farm, four beautiful horses grazing just beyond the paddock. Inside the ramshackle house, a family is falling apart.

Hack, the patriarch breeder and trainer, is aged and blind, and his wife, Louetta, is confined by rheumatoid arthritis. Their daughter, Jewel, struggles to care for them and the horses while dealing with her own home and job—not to mention her lackluster second husband, Eddie, and Carley, her drug-addicted daughter. Many days, Jewel is only sure she loves the horses. But she holds it all together. Until her brother, Cal, shows up again. Jewel already has reason to hate Cal, and when he meets up with Carley, he throws the family into crisis—and gives Jewel reason to pick up a gun.

Every family has heartbreaks, failures, a black sheep or two. And some families end in tatters. But some stumble on the secret of survival: if the leader breaks down, others step up and step in. In this lyrical novel, when the inept, the addict, and the ex-con join to weave the family story back together, either the barn will burn to the ground or something bigger than any of them will emerge, shining with hope. Remember My Beauties grows large and wide as it reveals what may save us.

For more information on this and other Switchgrass titles, be sure to visit their website HERE.

Buy, read, and discuss this book.

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Lynne Hugo Lynne Hugo

Lynne Hugo has published ten previous books, including poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. Her memoir, Where the Trail Grows Faint, won the River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Book Prize in 2004, and her sixth novel, A Matter of Mercy, was awarded an Independent Publisher silver medal for best regional fiction in 2014. The recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, she lives in Ohio with her husband and their yellow Labrador retriev

Connect with Lynne

Website | Facebook | Twitter

 

 


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

I had a difficult time reading this book. The story is well-crafted. The characters are believable and dimensional. The horses (which are the ‘beauties’ in the title, but also characters in their own right) are powerful and lovely.

But I found myself getting sucked into the bitterness and anger that so many of the characters are feeling, and that made the read a difficult one for me.

One could argue that in provoking such a response, author Lynne Hugo has done her job, and done it exceedingly well. After all, literature is meant to inspire dreams and catalyze ideas. Literature, and all art, is sometimes a window, yes, but at other times it’s also a mirror.

I don’t have anywhere near the kind of anger and bitterness that Jewel, for example, feels towards her parents. I have an excellent relationship with my mother, and nearly three decades into their marriage, my stepfather and I have become really good friends. But there are old issues that resurface sometimes, and this book, Remember My Beauties brought a couple of them to the surface.

Art – literature – can be a mirror, but I’d prefer it if it wasn’t mine.

But aside for recognition of emotional tone (because the specific circumstances of the characters in this novel are completely foreign to me), I also felt annoyed at the characters. “You’re making poor choices,” I wanted to scream at them. “Just communicate!”

Ultimately, this book is not the story just of Jewel, caretaker for aging, sick parents, mother of a young woman who has dropped out of life, wife of an everyman (Eddie) who, while he may not have a heart of actual gold, has enough of a gold overlay to make his intentions shine. Sure, it seems like he’s muddling through his marriage at times, but doesn’t everyone muddle through in their own way?  It’s also not just the story of Carley (Jewel’s troubled daughter), or Hank and Louetta (Jewel’s parents) or even her brother Cal, back in their lives after a seven-year absence.

It’s the story of one family, and how their lives weave around each other, sometimes tacking out to the fringes for a breather, other times existing at dead center, and of how their horses keep them together, even when secrets and old hurts threaten to tear them apart.

It’s beautifully written, and while much of it is, as I said, tinged with bitterness and anger, there are reasons those two emotions are prominent, and at the end, while they are not completely gone, an air of Hope has pushed them mostly aside.

If you’re looking for an easy, breezy beach read, this is not your story.

If you want a story you can chew on, one that makes you examine your own life and choices, even as you’re reading about the lives and choices of Hugo’s fully-realized characters, read Remember My Beauties. You may find it a bit of a difficult read, but trust me, you’ll be glad you stuck with it, when you get to the end.

Goes well with scrambled eggs, home fries, and strong, black coffee.


Lynne Hugo’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Wednesday, June 22nd: Bibliotica

Wednesday, June 22nd: Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books

Monday, June 27th: BookNAround

Wednesday, June 29th: Travelling Birdy

Thursday, July 7th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom

Monday, July 11th: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Wednesday, July 13th: Reading Cove Book Club

Monday, July 18th: Bibliophiliac

Wednesday, July 20th: Back Porchervations

Monday, July 25th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Monday, August 1st: Mama Vicky Says

The Lady’s Command, by Stephanie Laurens #review #TLCBookTours

About the book, The Lady’s Command The Lady's Command

  • Series: The Adventurers Quartet (Book 1)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Mira (December 29, 2015)

#1 New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Laurens brings you THE ADVENTURERS QUARTET, a riveting blend of Regency-era high seas adventure, intrigue and romance

His to cherish

Declan Frobisher chose Lady Edwina Delbraith as his wife. Scion of a bold, seafaring dynasty, he’s accustomed to getting his way—Edwina would be the woman who graced his arm, warmed his bed and remained safely at home when he returned to sea. But once the knot is tied, Declan discovers Edwina is unconventional and strong-willed, and his marriage promises to be as tempestuous as the high seas.

Hers to command

Edwina’s fairy-princess beauty hides a spine of steel. Born into the aristocracy—born to rule—and with Declan’s ring gracing her finger, she expects to forge a marriage by his side. Then bare weeks into their honeymoon, Declan is recruited to sail on a secret mission. Edwina—naturally—declares she must accompany him.

Theirs to conquer

Facing unforeseen perils and unexpected enemies while battling to expose a dastardly scheme, Declan and Edwina discover that their unusual marriage demands something they both possess—bold and adventurous hearts.

JOIN THE ADVENTURERS—four couples whose passionate voyages will transport you. Start the journey here and follow the adventures, the mysteries and the romances to the cataclysmic end!

Buy, read, and discuss The Lady’s Command.

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About Stephanie Laurens Stephanie Laurens

New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Laurens originally began writing as an escape from the dry world of professional science. Her hobby quickly became a career; she has been writing historical romance novels for more than 20 years. Currently living outside Melbourne, Australia with her husband and two cats, she spends most of her days writing new stories in her signature ‘Errol Flynn meets Jane Austen” style.

Connect with Stephanie

Website | Facebook


My Thoughts MissMeliss

Buckle your swashes and loosen those corsets so you can breathe because this book, the first in a quartet, both honors the historical romance genre and turns it on its ear, and it does so with a fast-paced adventure balanced with a believable love story that may not make you swoon, but it will definitely make you long for the cool sea breeze (and salt spray) in your face as you and your beloved ride the wild waves.

Here’s what I loved about this book: Declan and Edwina could be cookie-cutter romance novel characters. He’s the son of a seafaring family – rugged, dashing, well-informed. She’s an aristocrat born and bred, with the expected beauty that goes within such characters. But author Stephanie Laurens defies the trope by making Edwina an action-seeker in her own right. She doesn’t want to sit at home or pace a widow’s walk, she wants to be on the ship, at the wheel, with her husband. Better yet, Declan goes along with it, so husband and wife form a team.

I enjoyed the interplay between the two characters, and the way they would play against either other and with others when situations required it, but I also loved the way they would always come together in the end.

The dialogue and settings felt true to the period without being at all stilted (as can often happen in historical novels) and the supporting characters had enough dimension to feel like real people, whether they were sailors, other members of society, or just average people.

I’m not usually a fan of historical romances, but I am a great fan of any kind of high seas adventure, so asking to review this was an impulsive choice, and one I’m glad I made, because I was engaged the entire time I was reading.

My only issue with this novel is that it’s book one of a quartet, which means I have to read three more books to have the whole story!

(I expect I’ll survive.)

Don’t be a scurvy dog; read this book. You’ll enjoy every word of it.

Goes well with fresh caught fish, pan seared with limes, and a crisp chablis – OR – fish’n’chips with proper vinegar and a good local lager.


Stephanie Laurens’ TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS: TLC Book Tours

Monday, January 4th: Romancing the Book

Tuesday, January 5th: Bewitched Bookworms

Wednesday, January 6th: The Sassy Bookster

Friday, January 8th: A Chick Who Reads

Monday, January 11th: The Romance Dish

Tuesday, January 12th: BookNAround

Wednesday, January 13th: From the TBR Pile

Friday, January 15th: Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Monday, January 18th: Reading Reality

Tuesday, January 19th: The Maiden’s Court

Wednesday, January 20th: Black ‘n Gold Girl’s Book Spot

Thursday, January 21st: FictionZeal

Friday, January 22nd: View from the Birdhouse

Tuesday, January 26th: A Night’s Dream of Books

Tuesday, January 26th: Books a la Mode – excerpt and giveaway

Thursday, January 28th: It’s a Mad Mad World

Friday, January 29th: Stranded in Chaos

Monday, February 1st: Bibliotica

TBD: One Curvy Blogger

TBD: Worth Getting in Bed For

Sherlock Holmes and the Mummy’s Curse, by Stephanie Osborn (@writersteph) #review

About the Book, Sherlock Holmes and the Mummy’s Curse Sherlock Holmes and the Mummy's Curse

Print Length: 250 pages
Publisher: Pro Se Press (November 2, 2015)
Publication Date: November 2, 2015
Series: Sherlock Holmes: Gentleman Aegis

Holmes and Watson. Two names linked by mystery and danger from the beginning.

Within the first year of their friendship and while both are young men, Holmes and Watson are still finding their way in the world, with all the troubles that such young men usually have: Financial straits, troubles of the female persuasion, hazings, misunderstandings between friends, and more. Watson’s Afghan wounds are still tender, his health not yet fully recovered, and there can be no consideration of his beginning a new practice as yet. Holmes, in his turn, is still struggling to found the new profession of consulting detective. Not yet truly established in London, let alone with the reputations they will one day possess, they are between cases and at loose ends when Holmes’ old professor of archaeology contacts him.

Professor Willingham Whitesell makes an appeal to Holmes’ unusual skill set and a request. Holmes is to bring Watson to serve as the dig team’s physician and come to Egypt at once to translate hieroglyphics for his prestigious archaeological dig. There in the wilds of the Egyptian desert, plagued by heat, dust, drought and cobras, the team hopes to find the very first Pharaoh. Instead, they find something very different…

Noted Author Stephanie Osborn (Creator of the Displaced Detective series) presents the first book in her Sherlock Holmes, Gentleman Aegis series – Sherlock Holmes and the Mummy’s Curse, the debut volume of Pro Se Productions’ Holmes Apocrypha imprint.

Buy, read, and discuss Sherlock Holmes and the Mummy’s Curse

Amazon (Kindle) | Amazon (Paperback) | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


About the author, Stephanie Osborn Stephanie Osborn

Veteran of more than 20 years in the civilian space program, as well as various military space defense programs, she worked on numerous space shuttle flights and the International Space Station, and counts the training of astronauts on her resumé. Her space experience also includes Spacelab and ISS operations, variable star astrophysics, Martian aeolian geophysics, radiation physics, and nuclear, biological, and
chemical weapons effects.

Stephanie holds graduate and undergraduate degrees in four sciences:
astronomy, physics, chemistry and mathematics, and she is “fluent” in several
more, including geology and anatomy.

In addition she possesses a license of ministry, has been a duly sworn, certified police officer, and is a National Weather Service certified storm spotter.

Her travels have taken her to the top of Pikes Peak, across the world’s highest suspension bridge, down gold mines, in the footsteps of dinosaurs, through groves of giant Sequoias, and even to the volcanoes of the Cascade Range in the Pacific Northwest, where she was present for several phreatic eruptions of Mount St. Helens.

Now retired from space work, Stephanie has trained her sights on writing. She has authored, co-authored, or contributed to more than 20 books, including the celebrated science-fiction mystery, Burnout: The mystery of Space Shuttle STS-281. She is the co-author of the “Cresperian Saga,” book series, and currently writes the critically acclaimed “Displaced Detective” series, described as “Sherlock Holmes meets The X-Files.” She recently released the paranormal/horror novella El Vengador, based on a true story, as an ebook.

In addition to her writing work, the Interstellar Woman of Mystery now happily “pays it forward,” teaching math and science through numerous media including radio, podcasting and public speaking, as well as working with SIGMA, the science-fiction think tank.

The Mystery continues.

Connect with Stephanie

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts MissMeliss

I’ve been a fan of Stephanie Osborn’s Displaced Detective series since I reviewed the first one in the series as part of a blog tour several years ago. Her writing is always engaging and well-researched, and even when she’s playing with familiar characters, she manages to put her own spin on them, while still remaining true to the original author’s vision. When I was offered a chance to read this book, Sherlock Holmes and the Mummy’s Curse, you’d better believe I jumped at the chance.

I’m so glad I did.

In this book, which is the first in a new series from Osborn (Sherlock Holmes: Gentleman Aegis), she’s gone back to the beginning of Holmes and Watson’s friendship, and given them a classic adventure that’s much more’ best-buds in an action adventure’ than the sort of contemporary bromance we see in shows like the BBC’s Sherlock (not that I dislike Sherlock. I’m as big a fan as anyone.) It’s a story that takes them to Egypt on a fast-paced hunt for an ancient Pharoah, and includes explorations into mythology and history as well as conventional mystery.

I really liked seeing a Holmes who wasn’t quite so confident in his ability to make a go of his consulting detective business and a Watson who was still in recovery from his war injury. The glimpses at each man’s vulnerability were subtle, but effective, and only served to make them seem even more dimensional than they would have otherwise.

Just as every fan of Doctor Who has ‘their’ doctor, every Sherlock Holmes fan has their preferred Holmes. I grew up watching Jeremy Brett on PBS, so, for me, any Holmes that ‘sounds’ like him is one I’m guaranteed to love. Osborn’s Holmes meets this criteria, but if Brett’s Holmes isn’t your preference, never fear, the Sherlock in this novel isn’t an imitation. He is absolutely his own character.

One thing I really liked about the structure of Sherlock Holmes and the Mummy’s Curse is that the author included footnotes to explain archaic word-forms as well as the lines written in foreign languages (Arabic, French, Portuguese, Spanish) and certain cultural points of interest. In the Kindle version, these notes show up as clickable superscript numbers, that link you to the collection of end notes at the ‘back’ of the book. As someone who is addicted to annotated copies of favorite novels (the annotated Dracula even has a recipe for Chicken Paprikash), I really appreciated this, but if you’re someone who finds such insertions annoying, never fear, the notes are not at all intrusive, and you can absolutely enjoy the story without stopping to read them, if you so choose.

Bottom line: if you love classic Sherlock Holmes adventures, you will love this book, but if your only experience with the Great Detective is only through the BBC show (or the American Elementary, which, I confess, I don’t watch) you will likely enjoy it, too.

Goes well with either candy cane tea and pfeffernusse cookies or that spinach artichoke dip baked in a skillet with a ring of frozen dinner rolls, and a glass of pinot noir. (Why yes, I did start reading this over the holidays.)