Posted in Uncategorized

A Little Holiday Reading

Hello, reader friends! I have a question for you: is anyone else tired?

I don’t mean tired as in, I got to bed a little late last night. (Though of course, I did.) I mean your entire soul being tired, because 2020 has just taken its toll on everyone. 

When we get to this point, we need self-care. It means cutting out whatever you’re able to, and adding in some things that make you happy.

I made a couple decisions this week along those lines… Continue reading “A Little Holiday Reading”

Posted in Book Notes

Book Notes: “In Peppermint Peril” by Joy Avon

Friends, if your house is anything like mine, it’s in full blown Christmas mode!  Decorating, list-making, shopping… haven’t gotten to baking or gift wrapping yet, but those are coming.  And while this is a super fun season, it gets kinda crazy!

So when you need a break, what do you do?  Me?  I sit down with a coffee or hot chocolate, and I read a Christmas-themed book.  (Well, I tend to do that whether I need a break or not, but I digress.)  I’ve done a few Book Notes posts with Christmas stories, like Christmas Cake Murder, Premeditated Peppermint, and one a while back called As The Christmas Cookie Crumbles.  Today, I have a new one for you!

(This post contains affiliate links, which allow me the opportunity to earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you.  Please see my policies for further information.)

 

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In Peppermint Peril

In Peppermint Peril by Joy Avon is the first in in the new Book Tea Shop Mystery series.  The publisher description begins like this:

In the run-up to Christmas Eve, organizer of book-themed tea parties Callie Aspen and her lovable Boston terrier will have to conquer threefold trouble—a mysterious will, a missing heirloom and a dead body—to restore the festive spirit to their small town.

As the novel opens, we meet Callie, on the way to assist her Great Aunt Iphy (short for Iphigeneia) with a holiday tea party at the impressive and historical Haywood Hall.  Callie is just home for the holidays, and the last thing she wanted was to see some certain familiar faces from her past.  As preparations for the event take place, Callie is drawn into family drama, deeply hidden secrets, and… a shocking murder.

Along with Iphy, and handsome Deputy Falk, Callie must not only uncover clues to what transpired at the party, but also help a shattered family rediscover their Christmas spirit and love for one another.

This is a fantastic opener for the series.  I love that it opens at Christmas time, and the seasonal release makes for a fun introduction to the little town of Heart’s Harbor, Maine.

Like many cozy mysteries, the book features a small village full of quirky characters.  Here I’d say that Haywood Hall, the main setting for many scenes in this book, has also been made into a character all its own, focusing on its history, its secrets, and its stately elegance.  Capping off the list of characters is a delightful little Boston Terrier named Daisy, who seems to greatly enjoy taking part in community life.

Another fun aspect of this story is Great Aunt Iphy’s shop: a vintage tea room called Book Tea, where every sweet concoction is literary themed or contains a bookish clue.  (For instance, early in the book, a treat plate is referenced as having a connection to the Brother Cadfael mysteries.)  The holiday tea at Haywood Hall is described as having Agatha Christie like elements to it, so the references to more classic mysteries add charm.

The wrap-up to the mystery doesn’t come all in one bite… as you read through, you’ll discover that many characters have their own secrets that they’re keeping, and there’s blame to go around.  But as with any good “whodunit” book, there can only be one killer.

So, to recap…. darling dogs, classic book references, scrumptious chocolate treats, an intriguing mystery, and a picturesque snowy village at Christmas.  I’m not sure what else you could look for in “sit down and relax” sort of book!

I look forward to reading more in this series… the second book is slated to release in summer 2019, and I can’t wait to see what’s next for Callie and for Heart’s Harbor.

In Peppermint Peril is out now in hardcover or e-book.  Many thanks to Net Galley and the publisher for an advance reader copy of this title for review.

Get In Peppermint Peril:    

Amazon     Barnes & Noble

So, what about all of you?  Reading any great Christmas-themed stories?  I’d love to hear about them in the comments!  I’ll be reviewing a couple more in the coming weeks… let me know what you think of the titles I’ve posted.  Happy reading!

(Featured on Jo’s Booktastic Thursday link up!)

Posted in Reading List

Have Yourself a Merry Little Hallmark Christmas!

Hello, friends! So, is it beginning to look a lot like Christmas where you live? I’d say it is here.  We had our first snow flurries yesterday, and when I was at the mall, it looked like Santa and his elves were ready to appear at any moment!

Doesn’t that put you in the mood for some lighthearted holiday reads?  I’m absolutely ready for some great Christmas titles, and for amazing options, you don’t need to look any further than Hallmark!  We all know to look to The Hallmark Channel or to Hallmark Movies & Mysteries for enchanting Christmas movies, but as promised in a recent post, I want to highlight Hallmark Publishing’s warm and cozy Christmas books.

Here are a couple of Hallmark’s newest holiday releases, both of which I’m planning to read in the coming season!

(This post contains affiliate links, which allow me the opportunity to earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you.  Please see my policies for further information.)

 

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The Christmas Company by Alys Murray:

The small town of Miller’s Point is known across the country for their annual Dickensian Christmas festival. When the celebration is threatened by Clark Woodward, a miserly, big-city businessman, Kate Buckner steps up to save her hometown, their traditions, and her favorite holiday. But, along the way, she realizes that the man she’s trying to protect her town from might need some rescuing of his own.

With a lot of heart and a little Christmas magic, Kate is convinced she can teach Clark to love her favorite holiday. But can such different people learn to open up and love each other?

Get The Christmas Company:     Amazon     Barnes & Noble

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A Timeless Christmas by Alexis Stanton:

Megan Turner is in love with the past. As a tour guide at a beautiful historic mansion, she tells visitors about its original owner, Charles Whitley. An inventor and businessman in the early 1900s, he rose from poverty to wealth…only to disappear without a trace.

Charles was always intrigued by the future. He just never expected to go there. But when he repairs a mysterious clock he bought on his travels, he’s transported to the twenty-first century, with his home decorated for Christmas and overrun by strangers.

Charles is determined to find a way back to his own era, especially when he learns about what happened after he left. But as Megan introduces him to the wonders of smartphones, pizza, and modern holiday traditions, they both feel a once-in-a-lifetime connection. Could it be that, somewhere in time, they belong together?

Get A Timeless Christmas:     Amazon     Barnes & Noble

Both of these sound like the perfect book to read in front of Christmas lights, cozied up with a soft blanket and a steaming mug of hot chocolate!

Want to see more great Hallmark Christmas titles?  Check out my Amazon Idea list:

Christmas Books from Hallmark Publishing

Now… I realize some of you aren’t *quite* ready for Christmas yet!  That’s okay… Hallmark has you covered for great fall reads as well.  Try this one, which I read and loved last month:

October Kiss: Based on the Hallmark Channel Original Movie

October Kiss by Kristen Ethridge:

Poppy’s tried a lot of things. Yoga instruction. Pizza making. So far, none of them have seemed like her thing. Still, she doesn’t have to know where her life is headed to live it with enthusiasm.

Ever since his wife’s death, Ryan’s thrown himself into his work. Launching a successful new app will secure his children’s future…even if it means he can’t spend much time with them now.

As a short-term nanny for Ryan’s children, Poppy brings some much-needed fun and laughter. She’s never been one to commit, so why is she feeling so attached to these children…and even more, to their dad? Could it be she’s found her place at last?

Get October Kiss:     Amazon     Barnes & Noble

So, what do you think?  Have you read any Hallmark Publishing titles in the past?  Any of these going on your list in the coming weeks?  Drop a note in the comments and let me know your favorite Christmas book… happy reading!

Posted in Book Notes

Book Notes: “Premeditated Peppermint” by Amanda Flower

A picturesque village.  Delightful sweet treats.  A polka-dotted pet pig.  And… murder?  Yep.  Just another chapter in Amanda Flower’s Amish Candy Shop series!

Premeditated Peppermint is the third book in this series, and it’s a title that you may remember from my previous post on upcoming cozy mysteries.  I requested this one from Net Galley, thinking I’d already read the other books in the series.

Turns out, I hadn’t… I’d read a *different* mystery series by Amanda Flower that was set in an Amish community!  (If you’re interested – of course you are! – it was the Appleseed Creek series!)  So naturally, I had to go back and start at the beginning of this one.  Once I did, I was delighted to find a new series, and even more so when I discovered how sweet and quirky this one was!

Have you read books set in Amish country?  If you haven’t, you’re missing out!  There’s something about the simplicity and traditions of the Amish that make these books so enjoyable.  And with Amish cozy mysteries in particular, the setting adds that much more to the community feel and strong bonds that already feature prominently in this genre.

The Amish Candy Shop mystery series starts with Assaulted Caramel.  Here we meet Bailey King, who has come home from New York City to a small town called Harvest to visit her grandparents… who happen to be Amish.  A series of events causes her to stay longer than she bargained for, and of course, she ends up knee deep in a mystery!  The series continues with Lethal Licorice, also set in Harvest.

If you want to start from the beginning with Assaulted Caramel, and don’t want ANY spoilers about the next books, then stop here and use my links to go get these titles! Then come back and find out more about the latest book, Premeditated Peppermint!

Premeditated Peppermint (An Amish Candy Shop Mystery)

Premeditated Peppermint showcases the village of Harvest at Christmas time.  Here’s a peek at the story:

Christmas is Bailey King’s favorite time of year. For her first Yuletide in Harvest, Ohio, the former big-city chocolatier is recreating a cherished holiday treat: peppermint combined with molten white chocolate. But her sugar high plummets when her former boyfriend walks into the candy shop she now runs with her Amish grandmother. New York celebrity chef Eric Sharp and his TV crew have arrived to film an authentic Amish Christmas. Bailey’s not about to let her beloved town—and Swissmen Sweets—be turned into a sound bite. Unfortunately, she gets more publicity than she bargained for when Eric’s executive producer is found strangled to death—and Eric’s the prime suspect.

With Bailey’s sheriff deputy boyfriend out to prove Eric’s guilt, her bad-boy ex tries to sweet-talk her into helping him clear his name . . . and rekindle their romance to boost ratings for his show. Now, between a surplus of suspects and a victim who wasn’t who she seemed, Bailey’s edging dangerously close to a killer who isn’t looking to bring joy to the world—or to Bailey—this deadly Noel…

Bailey, like many cozy mystery heroines, seems to find herself in a jam more often than not!  And this guy, Eric, has brought her nothing but trouble.  But she couldn’t have imagined just how much turmoil he was bringing when he wandered into Harvest.  As she deals with his presence, the murder of his producer, and the hint of a new romance with a very handsome deputy, Bailey must also find time to care for her grandmother, and make Christmas candy for the festival and the shop!

I love the characters in this town… they are colorful, and flawed, and big hearted.  Well, most of them anyway!  Even the four legged characters are enjoyable!  And it’s fun to see how Bailey is adjusting to life in a small community, and how she balances the delicate line between the English and the Amish.  The author has managed to make the story funny but also suspenseful, and the result is a very enjoyable concoction!

Premeditated Peppermint is out now… read as a standalone or as part of the series, it’s a delightful addition to your stack of holiday cozy mystery titles!  Highly recommended… happy reading, friends!

(This post contains affiliate links, which allow me the opportunity to earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you.  Please see my policies for further information.)

And thanks to Net Galley and the publisher for providing a complimentary review copy of Premeditated Peppermint.  I’m happy to provide my honest review of this title… all thoughts are my own.

Posted in Book Notes

Book Notes: “Christmas Cake Murder” by Joanne Fluke

Ahhh, October! When our thoughts turn to pumpkins, apple cider, falling leaves, and… Christmas celebrations?

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Yep, you read that right.  New holiday-themed books are coming out and I’ll be reviewing a few in the coming weeks! Today I’m featuring a title I first shared as part of a trio of cozy mystery releases.

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Christmas Cake Murder

Christmas Cake Murder by Joanne Fluke is the latest release in the Hannah Swensen series of cozy mysteries.  If you’re not familiar with them, Hannah is a baker in small-town Minnesota, who (along with her family and friends) gets involved in all kinds of mysteries.

In this story, we venture off the main series and go about a decade back in time, to when Hannah is in grad school and her bakery, The Cookie Jar, doesn’t even exist yet.  The town of Lake Eden is preparing for Christmas, but the Swensen family isn’t in much of a holiday spirit since Hannah’s father suddenly passed away.  Hannah and her sisters are managing, but they’ve tried everything to engage their mother, Delores, without much success.  But then friends come by with the perfect Yuletide project that will help Delores and her girls rekindle the holiday spirit: the chance to fulfill a dream of Essie, an elderly friend, by recreating a Christmas Ball from Lake Eden’s days gone by, complete with a Christmas cake parade!

As they plan this magnificent event, the Swensen women uncover a set of Essie’s old notebooks, in which she’s penned an amazing mystery story.  But as they progress through the tale, they come to believe it’s not all fiction, and they have to figure out what that means for Essie, Lake Eden, and the Christmas Ball!

Now, if you don’t want spoilers, proceed with caution, especially if you aren’t caught up on the full series but plan to read in order!

There are two things I really liked about this book.  One is the twist of the mystery… usually in Lake Eden, someone is found dead and the residents have to solve the case.  But in this case, the mystery comes to them in writings from the past.  I was hooked on Essie’s writings from the very beginning and though I suspected the answers, it ended up a little differently and it was fun to figure out.

The other thing I enjoyed was the look at a younger Hannah.  It was interesting to see how events unfolded to send her on her baking path, and it was refreshing NOT to have her in the middle of a romantic mess.  (Well, there are some references to a relationship gone bad for her, but it’s before the Mike-Norman-Ross fiasco that has everyone frustrated.)  We got to see Hannah with her mother and sisters, finding new family dynamics after the loss of Mr. Swensen, and new paths for some of the characters.

What I didn’t love as much: the writing.  Many long-time fans of this series have noted in reviews that the writing seems to have changed in recent years, and that the quirky conversational tone of the earlier books has been replaced by somewhat stilted dialogue.  Unfortunately that’s still true here.  Conversations between characters didn’t flow naturally, and there were some sections with long unwieldy descriptions.  One example was when it took Hannah a page and a half to tell another character how to turn on a gas fireplace and how that worked.  It was distracting.

The interesting thing about this was that Essie’s tale (the story-within-a-story) wasn’t this way… it was well paced and really interesting.  I assume the same person or team wrote both the main book and Essie’s story, so it perplexes me that Hannah’s dialogue has become so cumbersome.

Now… this wasn’t my favorite title in the series.  But I care about this community and these characters (isn’t it funny how real they become to the reader?!?), and I’d really love to see the story, with another book or two, come to a satisfying end, or at least get back on course with the plucky Hannah and snappy dialogue.  So I will continue to read and hope this series comes full circle.  I give this 2.5 stars, rounded to 3 because I’m still invested in Hannah’s story!

If you love a good holiday-themed mystery, and if you’re a loyal reader of this series, you’ll want to pick up this title for the sweet story and the insight into Hannah’s background and Swensen family history!  Christmas Cake Murder is available now!

(Thanks to Net Galley and the publisher for a complimentary review copy of this title.  All opinions are my own.)

(This post contains affiliate links, which allow me the opportunity to earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you.  Please see my policies for further information.)