Thursday, December 31, 2020

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 25, 2020

Merry Christmas!!


Thursday, December 24, 2020

Review: Beach Read by Emily Henry

by Emily Henry
Release Date: May 19th 2020
2020 Berkley
Kindle Edition; 384 Pages
ISBN: 978-1984806734
Genre: Fiction / Romance / Contemporary
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars

Augustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes bestselling romance. When she pens a happily ever after, he kills off his entire cast.

They're polar opposites.

In fact, the only thing they have in common is that for the next three months, they're living in neighboring beach houses, broke, and bogged down with writer's block.

Until, one hazy evening, one thing leads to another and they strike a deal designed to force them out of their creative ruts: Augustus will spend the summer writing something happy, and January will pen the next Great American Novel. She'll take him on field trips worthy of any rom-com montage, and he'll take her to interview surviving members of a backwoods death cult (obviously). Everyone will finish a book and no one will fall in love. Really.
My Thoughts
Beach Read was a fun, easy read, but it was simply that.  After reading the description, I thought there would be more, maybe much more of an electric enemy to friendship to lover scenario, but while the friendship developed nicely, I didn't really feel that zing or zap I would have expected.  This is not a genre I read a lot of although I did go through a huge phase as a teenager (I mean, who doesn't?), but I would think there would still be that sexual tension that should exist between two people. I was a little sad about not liking it as much as other people did as the scenario seemed right up my alley; I mean who doesn't love a book about books and authors?
I will admit that I am not really all that into romance stories so maybe I am biased in that regard.  I enjoyed the earlier and the later parts of the the book as they were much more interesting, but I will admit I thought the middle section lagged a little bit.  It wasn't that it wasn't interesting, but you can only read so much about them looking at each other through their windows and writing cute notes to each other before you want to actually read about something happening, or see some dialogue, you know? I did like seeing how they each approached their own writing though as that kind of thing fascinates me as a writer myself. It would have been nice to see exactly what the two characters wrote though, as not a lot of detail was mentioned about their own books.  That was disappointing. 
I do feel like the author didn't really know where she wanted to take this novel in terms of plot though as it seemed like it was all over the place.  Was it supposed to be light and fluffy or dark and serious? Hard to say as both themes kind of ran contradictory to themselves.  You've got the two main characters sharing banter and spending time together writing their novels, but then you have January discovering this dark secret about her dad and Gus doing research on another dark and disturbing topic. There is nothing wrong with having all of these themes running through a romance novel, the problem lies when the author doesn't know what to do with those themes, and this is exactly what happened here.  All of a sudden, everything starts resolving itself, with little explanation, writer's blocks are fixed, books are finished within the time lines, and are sold with little problem. Whoa, wait! What happened?  Maybe that's why I don't read a lot of romance?
I also really liked January as a character (second book this year with a main character named January, love it!!!) as she was funny, witty, and vulnerable.  Gus though, was a bit pretentious and annoying, a bit too stereotypical a man for my liking.  He doesn't believe in romance or romance novels and thinks those types of novels are not great writing.  

Beach Read is definitely the book for you if you want something that is light and summery.  January was far more appealing a character than Gus who was aloof and then took chivalry to annoying levels towards the end. I do feel like the author had too many threads going in this story and didn't quite know what to do with all of them so the story felt disjointed and definitely rushed towards the end.  I do feel like this book was over-hyped in its marketing, but I'll leave you to judge for yourself. 



Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Review: The Devil's Bones by Carolyn Haines

by Carolyn Haines
Release Date: July 21st 2020
2020 Minotaur Books
Hardcover Edition; 368 Pages
ISBN: 978-1250257864
ASIN: B0818P8W8L
Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Paranormal
Source: Review copy from publisher

3.5 / 5 Stars

Sarah Booth and Cece are in Lucedale, Mississippi, where the newly-pregnant Tinkie is treating her friends to a girls' weekend at the fabulous new Bexley B&B. The facials, organics, food, and fitness coaches are supposed to be phenomenal, but Tinkie's primary aim is to attend the Sunrise Easter Services at the incredible Palestinian Gardens, a miniature Holy Land that spreads over 20 acres and has recreations of all parts of Jerusalem—and to speak with the Biblical scholar, gardener, and creator of the Palestinian Garden Daniel Reynolds.

After waking up at the crack of dawn for the service the three friends wander around the gardens, taking in the wonder of entire cities in miniature and the acres of the Holy Land, with the River Jordan winding through it all. The day is brightening when the find themselves at the Mount of Olives—with a dead body.
My Thoughts
The Devil's Bones is the next entry in the Sarah Booth Delaney mystery series, one of my favourite cozy mystery series as it simply has everything; humour, paranormal activity, friendship, loyalty, and great characters. That being said however, this is probably not my favourite book in the series.
First of all, I really loved the setting in this one, which didn't take place in Zinnia, but in Lucedale, Mississippi.  Celebrating the end of their last difficult case and the fact that Tinkie is pregnant, the women decide to have a girls' trip to a luxury B&B and check out the Palestine Gardens, a local attraction.  I've included a picture here as I had no idea something like this existed.

The plot line would have been great if the author had just stuck to the mystery developed in this story, but unfortunately, a previous situation was brought into this one and I don't really feel it was justified and just took away from the enjoyment of this book.  My first thought was, Really? Why?  I'm not adverse to a story carrying on from book to book but sometimes it just needs to stay away.  

The mystery in Lucedale was quite interesting and if the author had just stuck to that, it would have been a lot more fun.  Although it was easy to figure out who the culprit was, I had a lot of fun following the girls on their journey as they tried to figure it all out.  Other than CeCe taking off with a stranger, despite the reasons for it, at least nobody did something really stupid or rash in this one, where the police and company come at the exact perfect moment to save the day and all is well.  Yes, that was sarcasm. 
The Devil's Bones was another fun entry in the Sarah Booth Delaney series, but was not my favourite of the series. I enjoyed the witty dialogue between the characters and it definitely helps to have read the previous entries in this series when it comes to the banter and humour between them.  I enjoyed the mystery and I definitely like this author's writine style, but would have enjoyed it a lot more if the author had just focused on the mystery in Lucedale without trying to set up the next book(s) in the series.  I just didn't think it was necessary.  

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Review: The Daughters of Foxcote Manor

by Eve Chase
Release Date: July 21st 2020
2020 G.P. Putnam's Sons
Kindle Edition; 386 Pages
ISBN: 978-0525542384
ASIN: B07ZN352H9
Genre: Fiction / Historical / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars

Outside a remote manor house in an idyllic wood, a baby girl is found.

The Harrington family takes her in and disbelief quickly turns to joy. They're grieving a terrible tragedy of their own and the beautiful baby fills them with hope, lighting up the house's dark, dusty corners. Desperate not to lose her to the authorities, they keep her secret, suspended in a blissful summer world where normal rules of behaviour - and the law - don't seem to apply.

But within days a body will lie dead in the grounds. And their dreams of a perfect family will shatter like glass.
Years later, the truth will need to be put back together again, piece by piece . . .
My Thoughts
The Daughters of Foxcote Manor is an easy book to read, with three intertwined narratives, two from the past and one from the present; it is basically a story about family relationships, especially that between mothers and daughters, of actions and consequences.  
I have always enjoyed multiple story lines in a novel, but lately there seems to be an abundance of them and they are not always done well.  I think the problem is when one story line is done extremely well, but the others are weaker, and this can take away from the enjoyment of a book as you tend to just flip the pages quickly through those chapters to get to the more entertaining chapters, and this is exactly what started happening to me in this book.  

Rita's story was the strongest part of this book.  A city girl, her desire to be a nanny for a wealthy London family turned upside down as she ends up on a country estate after a traumatic episode within the family.  Furthermore, she is asked to 'spy' on the mother of the children over which she is looking after by the father and this makes Rita very uncomfortable.  Awkward, self-conscious, but brave, she was probably the best part of this book. I really wish the story had focused entirely on her as I think it would have been a lot stronger than it was as I will shortly explain.
Sylvie's story wasn't as interesting for me.  I did enjoy the dynamics between Sylvie and her daughter as they were dealing with Sylvie's mother's accident, but I couldn't quite see why her daughter would behave the way she did other than due to being immature.  Yes, there were family secrets that needed to be revealed, but there could have been another way for them to be revealed, I would think.  It was this story line that the author started to lose me. I was actually way more interested in the dynamics of discovering one didn't love one's husband after many years together and the effect this has on a grown-up daughter who thought everything was perfect.  This dynamic should have been explored a lot more, in my opinion.  This is the part of this story line that was completely fascinating.  
Hera's POV was interesting, but useless.  Unfortunately, what this POV did for me was dislike this character when I think I was supposed to feel some sympathy for her.  I really feel like I would have been more empathetic if I could have just seen her through Rita's eyes. I get that she was an adolescent trying to find her place in the world with a mother who was dealing with possible depression after a traumatic event, but her POV wasn't endearing.  It was used to bring a plot point forward and I think it could have been done in a different way.
The earlier chapters were actually quite interesting and I found myself quite immersed in the story.  But there were a lot of plot points and I think the author was trying so hard to pull together all of those plot points, which she did, that she lost the story and what made it so fascinating at first.  
The Daughters of Foxcote Manor was a good book and I did enjoy it.  I definitely preferred Rita's story line the best as it was the most interesting and I thought the author fleshed out her character and developed her personality really well.  While I can definitely keep track of many plot points and threads, it is easy to lose the thread of a story if the author is too consumed with trying to ensure all of those points reach resolution in the end, and then we tend to see too many coincidences, which is exactly what happened.  So, the story kind of stutters in places and became mundane.  However, the ending was satisfying and sweet.  However, if you are expecting a Gothic treat like Black Rabbit Hall, you may want to avoid this one.   

Monday, December 21, 2020

Review: Deadly Touch by Heather Graham

by Heather Graham
Release Date: July 21st 2020
2020 MIRA
Kindle Edition; 384 Pages
ISBN: 978-0778309680
Genre: Fiction / Paranormal / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars

When Raina Hamish tries on a dress in a Miami boutique, she has a terrifyingly accurate vision of a murdered corpse in the murky shadows of the Everglades. She wants to help, but who would believe her when she can hardly believe herself?

Special Agent Axel Tiger has returned to Florida to help hunt a serial killer, but the investigation doesn’t have much to go on. Raina’s vision is their best chance to uncover more. Axel’s experience with the FBI’s elite paranormal team will nurture Raina’s abilities, and she may be able to help save a life—but it puts her directly in the crosshairs of a killer who is closer than they would ever suspect.
My Thoughts
Deadly Touch is the next instalment in the Krewe of Hunters and I'm not going to lie, these are a guilty pleasure of mine, books to be read in between the heavy hitting non-fiction and fantasy books that I have been reading lately.  One of the reasons I enjoy them so much is that they are predictable: girl/guy has vision/paranormal 'something', murder happens, Krewe gets sent in to investigate, girl/guy fall in love, murder solved, girl/guy live happily ever after, done.  And it works, EVERY SINGLE TIME.  This author has hit on a formula that is plain, simple, but effective.  
What I especially enjoy about these books is the historical background to each story.  As a history buff (and a history teacher), I love learning new things and this one focused on the Everglades.  Living in Canada, I have only ever visited that area once, and not long enough to really learn enough about it, but I have read a lot about it.  The author explores and explains a lot about the history of the Everglades and the devastating effects the pythons and other invasive plants/animals has had on it.  Fascinating stuff.  And I like how the history and legends blend into the story line so well.  Definitely appreciate it.
The story itself was a bit slow as the author took a longer time than usual to really get on with the mystery / murder.  I think the author is trying really hard to come up with different ways for her heroines / heroes to see ghosts as this time Raina started to see them after she tried on a dress worn by the victim.  I'm all for trying something new, but I don't see anything wrong with the classic story line either as it worked and sometimes you can get too elaborate.  Then it just sounds silly.  
Other than the interesting history, I thought the writing was just okay, even a bit different from previous books.  It seemed to have more of a juvenile edge to it with stilted dialogue, and I just didn't see the connection between Axel and Raina.  Either the author is losing her touch or she didn't believe in her characters as a couple either and it shows through her writing.  To be honest, I have found that the connection between the main characters seems to be missing as it's not the same as when we first met Jackson and Angela or Ashley and Jake.  
Deadly Touch is one of those books I read simply to relax between other books.  And I enjoy them simply for that reason, knowing exactly what I will get.  Unfortunately, the story line was slow and the writing did nothing for the characters in this one as I didn't feel the connection between Raina and Axel, both characters whom I liked very much.  If you read them knowing what you are going to get, you will enjoy them.  I definitely don't read these for their heavy material, but that's ok, I have other books to read for that. 


Sunday, December 20, 2020

World War II Reading Challenge


This is a new one for me and I am really excited for it.  I teach history, in particular WWI and WWII, so I love to read book about these time periods.  What is really interesting about this challenge is that it includes films and documentaries.  Very interesting!!

2021 World War II Challenge
Host: Becky's Book Reviews (sign up here)
Dates: January - December 2021
Goals: Read, Watch, Listen, Share WWII related stuff


  • Fiction published during 1939-1945
  • Fiction set during 1939-1945
  • Fiction that is about the leading up to the war
  • Fiction that is about the direct aftermath of the war
  • Nonfiction books about the War
  • Biographies or Autobiographies with sections about the war
  • Poetry or verse novels with a WWII setting OR publication date
  • Essays, Articles, Op-Ed pieces
  • historical-historical (straight up historical with no sub-genres)
  • historical romance
  • historical mysteries
  • historical coming-of-age
  • historical thrillers/suspense/spy novels


Films and documentaries

  • any film made/released during 1939-1945
  • any film set during the war 
  • any documentary about the war

Some 2021 Reading Challenges

Challenge Rules:

  • You can read any book that is from the mystery/suspense/thriller/crime genres. Any sub-genres are welcome as long as they incorporate one of these genres.
  • You don’t need a blog to participate but you do need a place to post your reviews to link up. (blog, Goodreads, Instagram, etc.)
  • Make a goal post and link it back here with your goal for this challenge.
  • Books need to at least 100 pages long. Please no short stories.
  • Crossovers with other challenges are fine.
  • The Challenge will run from Jan. 1st to Dec. 31st. (Sign up ends March 15th)

We still have our facebook group so if you haven’t joined we would love for you too! Here’s the group’s link: It’s a closed group so just ask to join and we’ll let you in.

There will be a monthly link-up so we can see what everyone’s reading – and probably add some to our own tbr lists. At the halfway mark and at the end we will have a giveaway for those participating.

We’ll continue to use the hashtag #CloakDaggerChal.


5-15 books – Amateur sleuth

16-25 books – Detective

26-35 books – Inspector

36 – 55 – Special agent

56+ books – Sherlock Holmes

Add a link to your sign-up post below.


Everyone can participate! If you don't have a blog you can post a link to your review if it's posted on Goodreads, Facebook, or Amazon, or you can add your book title and thoughts in the comment section if you wish.

Add the link(s) of your review(s) including your name and book title to the Mister Linky we’ll be adding to our monthly post (please use the direct URL that will guide us directly to your review)
Any sub-genre of historical fiction is accepted (Historical Romance, Historical Mystery, Historical Fantasy, Young Adult, History/Non-Fiction, etc.)

During the following 12 months you can choose one of the different reading levels:

20th Century Reader - 2 books
Victorian Reader - 5 books
Renaissance Reader - 10 books
Medieval - 15 books
Ancient History - 25 books
Prehistoric - 50+ books

To join the challenge you only need to make a post about it, add your link in Mr. Linky below or just leave a link to your blog if you are not yet ready to post about it yet. If you don't have a blog you can just leave a comment for this post saying that you are joining, and link to your Facebook, Goodreads or other social media page where you will be sharing your reviews.


This challenge will run from January 1st, 2021 until December 31st, 2021.

You can join anytime. You do not have to post a review of the book. Books can come from any genre.

You do not need to link up each spoonful.

Make a page or a post or a GoodReads shelf where you will keep track of your spoonfuls.

Crossovers to other challenges are allowed and encouraged!

It’s an alphabet challenge!!! The challenge is to read one book that has a title starting with every letter of the alphabet.

You can drop the A’s and The’s from the book titles


Review: Peace Talks by Jim Butcher

by Jim Butcher
Release Date: July 14th 2020
2020 Ace
Hardcover Edition; 340 Pages
ISBN: 978-0451464415
ASIN: B082S1N875
Genre: Fiction / Fantasy
Source: Review copy from publisher

3.5 / 5 Stars

When the Supernatural nations of the world meet up to negotiate an end to ongoing hostilities, Harry Dresden, Chicago's only professional wizard, joins the White Council's security team to make sure the talks stay civil. But can he succeed, when dark political manipulations threaten the very existence of Chicago--and all he holds dear?
My Thoughts
Peace Talks is one of those books I went into with a lot of trepidation.  I have been a fan of this series since the first book was published, and while it was not my favourite, Harry and company have grown on me to the point where I really looked forward to the release of the next book every year.  May it's his sarcasm that I understand so well, or the way he cares about people, but there is definitely something endearing about him as a character and I have followed his growth throughout the books.  Knowing what was to come in these two books, Peace Talks and then Battle Ground, made me put them off because I was afraid of what was to happen.  However, I enjoyed both of those books for different reasons. 
First of all, this book is definitely a set-up for Battle Ground.  When I first read it, I didn't yet know that the two books were originally one and were split for publication purposes, and that definitely made more sense.   And I think if you go into this book with that knowledge, as I did not, it is much more enjoyable. 

I tend to more or less agree that the last couple of books shifted away from the general direction the story had been going, but I am of the opinion that books need to fundamentally change focus or they become mundane and boring.  I like the direction this book is going and the path these characters are on. The author has created some flawed characters, but that's what makes them so interesting. They have these amazing powers, but their personalities and the personal quirks often get in the way of all of that and that's where all the trouble lies, which is exactly what humanity is all about.  Who says that awesome power equals awesome people?  I personally like the flawed characters and the mistakes they make is what drives the story.  

The book was a bit slower than what I was expecting, but I was fine with that.  There were a lot of characters coming out of the woodwork, so to speak, and the author needed to find a way to reintroduce them in a way that wasn't boring or mundane, and I thought he did a great job doing that.  Again, knowing that this was actually one book made sense in that regard as the slow buildup would eventually lead to some explosiveness later on; unfortunately, the real battles did not happen in this book which I think disappointed some people, but not me.  Knowing all the different characters from the other book helps when reading this one, and if you skipped a few books, you may be missing a few things.  

There were a lot of interesting things happening in this book: a lot of the jokes were actually quite clever and I appreciated them, and there were some scenes between characters that I think fans have been waiting for for a long time, some emotional ones.  I definitely appreciated those.  

What I really do miss in these books are the investigations.  The earlier books used to centre on Harry's detective skills, but I feel some of that has been lost as the books have progressed.  In this one, we have a mystery but no rhyme or reason for why it happened, just this violent act.  I am also wondering if maybe the scope of the characters was too large for this book.  Perhaps the number of characters got away from the author and he didn't quite know what to do with them all as even Harry, Murphy, and Lara seem a lot more passive than usual, you know, reacting to events rather than taking control of things and trying to really figure out what is going on.  Character development has always been one of my favourite things about these books, but there was not a lot of that happening in this book.

Peace Talks is one of those books where knowing it was intended to be part of a larger book would have helped.  I would have therefore, expected a slower build, less action, more character/story introduction, and no resolution.  I originally gave it a lower rating, but changed it after discovering this information as the book made a lot more sense once I realized that.  Going in knowing nothing gets resolved and that you are going to be introduced / re-introduced to whole whack of characters with little knowledge as to what is really happening helps and makes the book a lot more enjoyable.  There are a lot of thinbs being set up in this book and you will have to read Battle Ground in order to find our the resolution to all of this. 

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Review: The Order by Daniel Silva

by Daniel Silva
Release Date: July 14th 2020
2020 Harper
Kindle Edition; 444 Pages
ISBN: 978-0062834843
Genre: Fiction / Thriller
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars

Gabriel Allon has slipped quietly into Venice for a much-needed holiday with his wife and two young children. But when Pope Paul VII dies suddenly, Gabriel is summoned to Rome by the Holy Father’s loyal private secretary, Archbishop Luigi Donati. A billion Catholic faithful have been told that the pope died of a heart attack. Donati, however, has two good reasons to suspect his master was murdered. The Swiss Guard who was standing watch outside the papal apartments the night of the pope’s death is missing. So, too, is the letter the Holy Father was writing during the final hours of his life. A letter that was addressed to Gabriel.

While researching in the Vatican Secret Archives, I came upon a most remarkable book....

The book is a long-suppressed gospel that calls into question the accuracy of the New Testament’s depiction of one of the most portentous events in human history. For that reason alone, the Order of St. Helena will stop at nothing to keep it out of Gabriel’s hands. A shadowy Catholic society with ties to the European far right, the Order is plotting to seize control of the papacy. And it is only the beginning.

As the cardinals gather in Rome for the start of the conclave, Gabriel sets out on a desperate search for proof of the Order’s conspiracy and for a long-lost gospel with the power to put an end to 2,000 years of murderous hatred. His quest will take him from the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, to a monastery in Assisi, to the hidden depths of the Secret Archives, and finally to the Sistine Chapel, where he will witness an event no outsider has ever before seen - the sacred passing of the Keys of St. Peter to a newly elected pope.
My Thoughts
The Order is the next instalment in the Gabriel Allon series and while you don't necessarily have to read the previous entries in order to understand this book, it does help as Gabriel was friends with the pontiff who passed away and has some history in Italy.
First of all, this is a series that is grounded in reality, with some pretty hard-hitting elements.  Yes, you have to suspend reality a lot of the time as Allon is in his late sixties and often dodges his security team when outside of Israel to do some pretty risky stuff, but it is entertaining and the action is usually non-stop.  This book took on a really different flavour from the previous books and even added a supernatural element (Yeshua, really?) that I didn't like as it didn't fit in with the series. In fact, if I hadn't looked at the cover to see Daniel Silva's name on it, I would have thought I was reading a Dan Brown novel. 
I have usually enjoyed the books where Gabriel is in Italy, especially in The Vatican, but I am not particularly fond of this one as it seemed like he spent the majority of the book putting down the Roman Catholic religion.  Yes, I know it was responsible for some terrible things in the past, but I know for a fact there is much more to the story during World War II than what is mentioned in this book as I have a history background and I thought the explanations regarding the pope during that time period were very biased and unfair.   Also, to paint the church as being filled with right-wing political activists does the Church an injustice; how can you decide that over 1 billion people in the world have right-wing tendencies simply because of their religion?  The conspiracy theories went a little too far in my opinion.
What Silva is able to do however, is create plausible theories. I liked the element of the old pontiff, Pope Paul VII (who appears in previous books) leaving Gabriel a secret document that could shake the foundations of religious thinking, a Gospel of Pontius Pilate. The philosophy behind this in the book is that the selection of the four Gospels in the Bible were responsible for the anti-semitism all these years, including the choice to hide other Gospels, including the one by Pilate, which would have given a different spin on things.  However, the sources chosen by the author were chosen very carefully to support his arguments, and a lot of respected researchers and arguments were left out of this work.. As a researcher, this type of biased researching offends me. Enough said.
However, I don't read a Daniel Silva novel for religious indoctrination, I read them because the plot is usually quick and the action is often non-stop.  This was not the case in this book and at times, it moved so slowly, it was...gasp...boring.  And I LIKE history.  There was even a three-page discussion of what would happen if there was a global pandemic and how the world would react.  You guessed it, no one would be prepared.  Gee, no criticism of the political leaders there.  Especially as some of the political leaders in this book seemed to parrot actual political leaders in our world today as well as actual situations and political movements.  
The Order was definitely not this author's best work.  Typically, his books are engaging and thrilling with non-stop action that leaves you breathless.  Not in this one.  To be honest, I thought the plot was really preachy in the sense that we kept getting lectures about the problems between the Catholic Church and the Jewish population. I am never opposed to a history lesson, and his books have often contained interesting nuggets of history, but when it is as biased as it was in this book, then I take issue. I will be giving this author another chance, so hopefully he will return to more of his historical thriller style novel and stay away from his own personal political agendas or I may call it quits with this author.    


Saturday, December 5, 2020

Review: Happily This Christmas by Susan Mallery

by Susan Mallery
Release Date: September 29th 2020
2020 HQN Books
Hardcover Edition; 384 Pages
ISBN: 978-1488056079
Genre: Fiction / Contemporary / Holiday
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars

Wynn Beauchene has a thriving business, a great kid and a mildly embarrassing crush on the guy next door—local cop Garrick McCabe. She’s a strong, independent woman who can’t help dreaming what-if about a man she barely knows. Until he needs her help…

Garrick’s pregnant daughter will be home for Christmas, and his house needs a woman’s touch. Garrick and his little girl were tight once and he’s hoping a small-town Christmas will bring her back to him. But thawing his daughter’s frosty attitude will take more than a few twinkle lights. Maybe sharing the holiday with Wynn and her son will remind her of the joy of family.
My Thoughts
Happily This Christmas is one of those books that I actually picked up and put down a few times before actually reading as I wasn't overly crazy about the last book and I was unsure about what would happen in this one. I was ready however, to finally learn Wynn Beauchene's story so curiosity finally overcame my trepidation and took the chance.  To be honest, I feel like giving it three stars is a bit generous, but I will do so simply because I enjoyed the second half of the book quite a bit. Far more than the first half.  I truly don't understand why authors always have to include characters that are truly awful for no apparent reason that I could see other than to create drama and conflict, but not always an enjoyable conflict, if you get my meaning.  
First of all, I do like both Wynn and Garrick, but I am not sure I really like them together.  Either that or the book really failed in the romance department because I just didn't feel that connection between them in this book, that real spark that exists between two people.  And the fact that Garrick had to deal with his cranky and pregnant daughter really had nothing to do with it.  I mean, these two are adults in their thirties, I'm sure they could have found a way to be together if they really wanted; if teenagers can do so, you would think two adults can find a way.  So, if you are looking for some steamy romance, you are not going to find it in this book.  
And that brings me to the wayward daughter, Joylyn. Yes, she had the greatest character development in this book, but she was also the worst character in this book.  It just felt like the author had to find a way to create drama and this was the path that was chosen, other than Wynn's 'big' secret, which was not really a secret, and was kind of silly and not all that unsual. I really wasn't a fan of Garrick's ex-wife as she just threw Joylyn out of her house for Garrick to deal with her behaviour and then wanted her back as soon as she started to be nice to people.  Really? And Joylyn's reasons for not wanting to speak to her dad all of these years were so far-fetched I had to shake my head. I'm not opposed to drama, but not whiny, spoiled behaviour type of drama like this that was created because the book would be bland otherwise.
The plot was a bit all over the place for me. I almost did not finish the book while I was in the first half of it, but it did pick up quite a bit in the second half so I am glad I did finish it.  There were elements in it that I did truly enjoy and I thought Wynn's son was fantastic, probably the best character of the bunch. And I am always glad to visit with previous characters and see how they are doing so that is always a plus.   

Happily This Christmas is definitely one of my least favourite of the Happily Inc books.  I really feel like the author is going more for the high drama and angst rather than the romance and connection that made the first couple of books so enjoyable.  Unfortunately, if these books continue down this path, I think it is time that Happily Inc and I go our separate ways, which makes me sad.  


Thursday, December 3, 2020

Review: Buried to the Brim by Jenn McKinlay

by Jenn McKinlay
Release Date: January 28th 2020
2020 Berkley
Paperback Edition; 304 Pages
ISBN: 978-1984804723
Genre: Fiction / Cozy Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars

London's most refined canines and their humans are gearing up for the Pets and Wellness Society's annual dog show--and Betty Wentworth, favorite aunt to Scarlett's fiancé Harrison and proud owner of corgi front-runner Freddy, knows that this could be their year with the right edge. Never one to turn away a corgi in need, Scarlett convinces her milliner cousin, Vivian, to design matching hats for dream team Betty and Freddy as they compete for Best in Show.

It's a tail wagging good time until the dog-food sponsor of the event is found dead and Betty is the prime suspect. Vivian and Scarlett agree to enter the competition in Betty's place and help Harrison catch the real killer before Betty is collared for a crime she didn't commit.
My Thoughts
Buried to the Brim was a somewhat fun and enjoyable story, but I have to say that it was really light on the mystery. I have always enjoyed these books for the witty comments between the characters and the British cynicism that Scarlett just can't seem to master. I was pleasantly surprised to learn there was another book in the series as I thought the last one was the final one. I do have to say that this was probably my least favourite book of this series. 

First of all, I did find the usual camaraderie among the characters to be quite fun and I enjoyed it for that reason.  I also quite enjoyed the dogs and their antics and thought designing hats and other pieces of clothing would be a major hit. Dog owners spend an awful lot of money on their beloved pets so I could see why this would be popular.  

I was not a fan of how the author treated the character of Aunt Betty.  I had to read back to double-check her age as I thought at first I had read it wrong, but nope, late fifties.  Okay. So why was everyone treating her as if she was fragile and needed to sit down all of the time? I work out in the gym with 60 year old women who can bench press double what I do so to insinuate she is weak just because of her age blows me away and I couldn't overlook it.  And while I fully understand her competitive nature and why she wanted to win the dog competition so badly, I am still at a loss as to how the dog food made her dog sick.  I get that something was going on and the company was cutting costs, but it was vague and unspecified.   
Which brings me to the mystery.  Sorry, but it was weak, predictable, and very easy to solve.  Unfortunately, the mystery just did not grab my attention so it was a good thing I liked the main characters as it came close to being a DNF for me.   

Buried to the Brim is one of those books over which I have very mixed feelings.  I did think it was light and fun with regards to the characters and their interactions.  It was however, very, very light on the mystery and I think the author spent way too much time describing things that were useless.  It actually makes me wonder why the author chose to write another book in this series when it was supposed to be done.  Would I read another instalment? I don't really know at this point.