Book Talk Tuesday: HAPPILY THIS CHRISTMAS

If it’s Tuesday, this must be a book review. It’s been a while since I posted a book review. Not because I haven’t been reading, but after reading quite a few books for review, I took a break and read for myself. I did read some great books that I will review in the next few weeks, but I’m starting with a Christmas book. Of course. Since it’s officially Fall, there are only twelve weekends between now and Christmas. That’s twelve chances to curl up with some hot chocolate, or a latte, or tea, and this endearing book.

Susan Mallery takes us back to Happily Inc, the wedding destination town in the California desert. This is Wynn’s story. We’ve met Wynn in the other Happily Inc stories. She runs the graphic design and printing shop and she’s a single mom of a young teenage boy.

Wynn has kept her heart to herself and refused to consider a long-term relationship. Until the good-looking police officer, Garrick, moves in next door. They wave greetings occasionally and she watches him mow his lawn, but that’s it. Until he asks her to help him get his home ready for his adult daughter, Joylyn, to come stay. She’s pregnant and her husband is deployed. They’ve been estranged for several years and he has no idea why or what happened. He’s hoping this means they can heal the past and restore the loving relationship they used to have.

Of course, it’s not that easy.

I really enjoyed this one a lot. Of course, we all know I’m a huge Susan Mallery fan. And a huge fan of Christmas stories with Happily Ever After endings.

Wynn and Garrick had believable chemistry and they were cognizant that they both had their children living with them, so they didn’t tumble into bed at the first spark, disregarding that fact. Joylyn was a pill at first, but she softened and became likable. Some of our previous Happily Inc protagonists had cameos and walk-on parts, so we got to catch up with Renee and Jasper, Bethany and Cade, Carol and Matthias, and the others.

This was a fun addition to the Happily Inc library and I highly recommend it!


I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, but it did not induce me to review it, either favorably or not.

Media Monday: The Crown

We enjoyed the first two seasons of this original Netflix show, and just got around to watching Season 3. There are new actors in many of the roles since Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip, Princess Margaret, Prince Charles, and the others are getting older.

We like this show for several reasons.

It’s a good “Well, it could have happened that way,” story of real lives about real people whom we’ll never know the real truth about.

It shows British history, including parts we’re not familiar with. We had no knowledge of the Aberfan disaster. A Welsh coaling village, Aberfan was devastated by the deaths of 116 children and 28 adults when a colliery spoil tip collapsed into the village. It was like a giant sinkhole, that then turned into an avalanche. And we learned that the Welsh people weren’t (and presumably still aren’t) particularly supportive of the monarchy in general and the Prince of Wales in particular.

The actors are incredible. Clare Foy as Queen Elizabeth in the first two seasons, then Olivia Colman. John Lithgow as Winston Churchill. Vanessa Kirby and Helena Bonham Carter as Princess Margaret. Matt Smith and Tobias Menzies as Prince Philip. We already had a love/hate relationship with Menzies as Frank Randall/Captain Black Jack Randall in Outlander, but he made Prince Philip his own too. So while many of the actors are familiar, their work in The Crown is outstanding.

Do you watch The Crown? Who’s your favorite character/actor?

Book Talk: DEAD-END DETECTIVE

Dead-End Detective is another Hallmark Publishing cozy mystery. I enjoyed this one more than the previous one I reviewed. The story and the writing are both better.

Darby Piper is partner in a detective agency in a small town in the Finger Lakes region of New York state. She’s shocked when her partner is killed and even more shocked when she discovers she’s a suspect. Her car was the murder weapon. The evidence piles up and Darby has to admit it looks bad for her.

Her partner’s nephew (and heir–another shock) shows up. They join forces to find the real killer.

The story and clues are well told. The characters are finely drawn. There are enough suspects to be credible. Overall, I liked this one and would read another Piper & Porter Mystery from Hallmark Publishing.


I received a free advance electronic copy of this book from Hallmark publishing, but that did not induce me to review it, favorably or not.

Book Talk on a Thursday: Behind the Frame

I’ve reviewed several Hallmark romance books, but this is my first mystery.
Savannah Shepherd left her art curator job in Chicago to return home and teach art in the village of Carson. She has a developing romance with a local doctor and she’s planning a big art festival. She gets drawn into solving a murder when a town councilman is killed and a chef is arrested. Savannah and her two sisters work together to clear the innocent chef.
This is a typical small town, amateur sleuth, cozy mystery. The fact that all three sisters’ names begin with the same letter made it a bit confusing until they could be sorted out. They are different characters though, with different jobs and lives and traits, so that helped.
The mystery was good, with enough red herrings mixed with the clues to be suspenseful. The murderer was unmasked and caught “off stage,” which is an odd choice. I prefer to see the bad guy get caught myself. I enjoyed the small town setting and the characters. The mystery wasn’t particularly compelling, and the writing is okay. This is the second book in a series, but reads fine as a stand alone.

I was given a free advance copy of the book from Hallmark Publishing, but that did not induce me to review the book, favorably or not.

Book Talk Tuesday: THE FRIENDSHIP LIST

Ellen and Unity have been best friends since forever. Now in their mid-thirties, the women are forced to acknowledge an unpalatable truth: they’re stuck.

TFLEllen has been immersed in raising her son, Cooper, alone, and working. That’s all she’s done for the last seventeen years. When she overhears Coop tell a friend that he can’t go away to his dream school for college because his mom needs him too much, Ellen realizes she has to make some changes.

Unity’s been a widow for three years. Everyone keeps badgering her to move on, but she’s fine with where she’s at: living in her dead husband’s childhood home and sleeping in his bed. She’s got her business and her friends at the local “older adults” housing development. She’s just fine, thank you very much, but she wants to help Ellen.

Unity comes up with a list of challenges that will force both of them out of their ruts. They’ll wear bikinis in public. Get a tattoo. Sing karaoke. Unity proposes the project to make Ellen feel that Unity is trying to move on, but she has no intention of actually changing in any ways that really matter. Sure, she’ll go indoor skydiving with a nice man, but there can never be anything more between them.

The friendship between the women is genuine. They have a big fight at the beginning, but then are able to work through it.

The two male love interests are great characters. Ellen’s story line is friends to lovers with her coworker and Cooper’s coach, Keith. Keith could be a little over the top in his reactions and interactions with his teenage daughter, but it was still entertaining. Thaddeus is the perfect romantic hero: tall, dark, handsome, charming, and rich. Unity knows he’s special and worth trying to change for. If only she could.

Of course, Susan Mallery is one of my favorite authors and this book is as good as I’ve come to expect. I enjoyed it a great deal and I’ll buy a copy for my friend who loves her, too.


I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, but it did not induce me to review it, favorably or not.

 

Book Talk Tuesday: SAILING AT SUNSET

SAS

This is the first romance I’ve read that featured sailing as the “vehicle” to get the hero and heroine together. It turned out to be a fun one.

Danae is focused and driven and organized. So she’s more than a little thrown when her boss tells her she’s taking her marketing team on a week long team-building cruise on one of the company yachts. The captain has been hired and he’ll also be their tour guide around Martha’s Vineyard.

Josh got off the corporate hamster wheel and is perfectly content taking chartered cruises out on his own ship, or hiring himself out for other events. The current job looks to be a pain, because the gal in charge keeps emailing him with changes in the agenda.

This is a romance, so we already know the ending, but getting there was very fun. I’ve never been to Martha’s Vineyard, but I feel like I’ve visited it. Madsen did a great job with her setting and her characters. Danae and Josh both had to overcome what they thought they wanted in life, in order to be open to the possibility of something more.
I enjoyed this one a lot and I recommend it!

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I received a free advance electronic copy of this book from the publisher, but that did not induce me to review it, either favorably or not.

Book Talk Tuesday: LONGING TO BELONG

LtBShawna Marie Bryant has written a book “for such a time as this.”

When we’re inundated with messages of what we should look like, how we should decorate our homes, feed our families, and which causes to support, she helps us to see that it’s not the world and social media that give us value and meaning, it’s God.

Based on Psalm 139, Shawna shares a Manifesto of acceptance and solid Bible-based teaching that will help any reader who has struggled to feel like they’re enough, that they’re accepted, and that they belong.

God created us, He knows us, He is always with us. These are just a few of the points Shawna expands on in this excellent book. She balances her teaching with real-life examples and encouragement.

I highly recommend this book and plan to buy more copies for my daughters and friends.


I received a free advance e-copy of this book via NetGalley, but that did not induce me to review it, either positively or negatively.

Book Talk on a Thursday: Christmas in Bayberry

Wes has been chasing career success. So has Kate. They just have very different definitions of what that looks like. For Wes, it’s a title, a corner office with a view of Manhattan, and not having to move every year. For Kate, it’s having her family’s Vermont candle company survive another year.

CiBWhen Wes comes to Bayberry, Vermont to analyze the Bayberry Candle Company’s financials and issue a recommendation on its future, he’s flooded with memories of the year his family lived there when he was fifteen. And the girl he wanted to invite to the annual Candlelight Dance on Christmas Eve. But his dad got a new job and they moved before he got the chance.

Kate moved to Bayberry when she was fifteen and her parents were killed in an accident and she was taken in by her aunt. Her aunt is preparing to retire and Kate wants nothing except to keep the family candle business running exactly as it has been for the last three generations.

As Wes and Kate work together, sometimes on divergent paths, they fight their growing attraction. After all, his life is in New York City and hers is in Bayberry. Right?

I enjoyed this new release from Hallmark Publishing. Besides being a taste of Christmas in July (and I live in Central California where 100+ degree days are common, so descriptions of snowball fights and hot chocolate are very welcome!), I enjoyed this sweet romance and its glimpse of two people on two different trajectories and how they were brought together by a failing business, an improbable Santa, and Spirit of Christmas.
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I received a free e-copy of this book from Hallmark Publishing but it did not induce me to leave a review, favorable or not.

Book Talk Tuesday: A LONG TIME COMIN’

I love celebrating debut novels. When they’re good, I’m soooo happy. When they’re great, I’m ecstatic.

ALTC

A LONG TIME COMIN’ by Robin W. Pearson made me beyond giddy. It’s lovely, with a strong voice, memorable characters, and an engrossing story with repercussions that reach through the generations.

Evelyn Lester has a problem. Several of them. She visits her mother to sort them out and ends up spending a lot of time with her elderly grandmother. Granny B. has her own problems and secrets.

The two women must come to an understanding as they help each other navigate through uncharted territory of family and relationships.

I highly recommend it!

I got to meet Robin last year when we were both in Charleston, South Carolina. Our agents are at the same agency. She’s as lovely in person as her book is beautiful. I’m so excited to celebrate her debut novel with her and I can’t wait for y’all to read it!

I did not receive a free advance copy of A LONG TIME COMIN’. I bought it because I knew it would be great and I’m so happy I did. You will be too!

Media Monday: Sweet Magnolias

A new-to-me Netflix series, Sweet Magnolias, was my weekend escape. I’m halfway through Season 1, and I understand it ends on a cliffhanger, so I’m trusting there will be a Season 2.

SMSweet Magnolias is set in Serenity, South Carolina and is about three women, friends since high school. Maddie, newly divorced, mom of three. Helen, single, attorney, accomplished. Dana Sue, longer divorced, mom of one, restaurateur. They go into business together, renovating a historic home and turning it into a spa. The series follows their lives, their romances, their families.

I haven’t read the books the series is based on, by Sherryl Woods. I’ve heard good things about them, but honestly, my To-Be-Read (TBR) mountain is teetering so high, I don’t dare add any more to it. At least until I get the current stack to a more manageable height. If you love small town Southern romances with strong female characters and deep friendships, I feel safe in saying you’d love the books.

The series is good, even if I can’t personally compare it to the books.

SH

I like the characters. I loved Brooke Elliott, who plays Dana Sue, as Jane Bingum in Drop Dead Diva back in 2009-2014. She was ditzy blonde model who was killed in an accident and sent back to life on Earth in a smart, brunette attorney’s curvy body. Ms Elliott was brilliant in that.

I’m enjoying this as a new find.

Anyone have something new to recommend?

My Netflix and Amazon Prime lists are not quite as bulging as my TBR stack.