Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The Gift Counselor by Sheila M. Cronin


Do all gifts have strings attached? Yes, believes pert, inquisitive Jonquil Bloom as she sets out to counsel gift givers at a local department store. A single mom and UCLA graduate student in psychology, gifts fascinate Jonquil. When are they sincere? When are they not? She is skilled at helping customers choose the perfect gift for any occasion, but she soon discovers that her elegant theory doesn’t apply to every situation, leaving her to wonder: what are true gifts?

Ten-year-old Billy Bloom is the center of her life. Billy yearns to have a dog but his mom has told him repeatedly that she is allergic to them. Instead, his bedroom is crammed full of toy animals, each of them demonstrating her misguided attempts to distract him. Billy, a generous and hopeful boy, refuses to give up.

Into both their lives enters Claude Chappel, a native French Canadian and general contractor working on a construction site across from where they live. Claude, is instantly captivated by Jonquil. After a bumpy start they begin seeing each other. Yet, Claude cannot help but notice that the gift counselor has denied her own son what he most wants, a troubling paradox that spurs him to action.

The Gift Counselor is suitable for young adults. Book club recommended.

My Thoughts

I Love Christmas Books!!!!  As soon as Thanksgiving is over I get my Christmas TBR all set.  I love it when I get new Christmas books so when I received the review request for this book I was naturally excited.

The Gift Counselor started out really good.  It wasn't a slow start at all.  It jumped right in!  I love books like that!  This book stayed at a really good pace throughout, which is another really good thing.

So, Jonquil was the kind of character that you love and then don't really like, back and forth through the book.  As a mom, I felt bad for her situation but I also felt so bad for her son!  Maybe that's because I am a major dog lover! Haha!

I really enjoyed this book.  I will say, the ending seemed a bit crunched.  The pace was pretty steady throughout the story up until the end, where a ton of things seemed to happen all at once.  It didn't really make the book less enjoyable, it just wasn't my favorite thing.

All in all, it was a good book to read during the Christmas season!  Thanks for sending it my way!

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

A Christmas Story A Day by Louise Richards


A Christmas Story a Day is an Advent calendar for the reader with twenty-five stories that inspire, amuse and warm the heart. 
Join MaryAnn as she humorously prepares for her family dinner, Bobby, as he navigates Christmas of Cleveland past, a treetop angel, as she and the ornaments bring peace to a bickering family, a misguided town as an angel redirects their path and a choir as it prepares for the yearly choral extravaganza. 
Follow as Karen finds Christmas in the eyes of her newborn grandchild, Daisy as she goes to the ball, Moira and J.D.'s journey of trust, a little boy who finds his voice and a wondering soul who stops wandering. Read how Henry Wadsworth Longfellow finds comfort amidst his despair, Pepita learns of Christmas love, an old man pays a debt, a police sergeant experiences a Christmas miracle, the author remembers times of Christmas past and Carol opposes materialism. Celebrate the miracle of the Christmas Truce, a man with special needs who finds the love of a fur friend, God as He prepares three stars to play their part, and an old bell ringer's answered prayer. Ponder a message brought by a quail, solace in the light, the redemption of a shepherd, curious animals who welcome the newborn King, and three ships that appear on Christmas day. 
Cozy up with a cup of hot cocoa as you celebrate the joy and simplicity of the season of wonder.

My Thoughts

I love reading Christmas books!  I look forward to reading a few every year and I usually try to buy a few each year as well.  When I received the review request for this book I was beyond pleased!  I couldn't wait for December 1st so that I could read the first story.

As with most books of several short stories, some were really good and some were not as good.  I don't think that there were any that I just didn't like at all.  All of them were the perfect length to read every day.

I really enjoyed this book!  I would get a cup of either hot tea, coffee, or hot chocolate, sit on the couch with a cozy blanket, and read A Christmas Story a Day!  Thank you, Louise Richards, for sending this book to me!

*Note: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Saving Shadow by Laura Beers


Born with a perfect memory, Lady Elizabeth Beckett has become one of the world's most notorious spies, despite being the daughter of a duke. She is shielded only by her code name: Shadow. When young ladies of High Society begin disappearing from London, Eliza has no doubt who is orchestrating these crimes; a heinous man she has been investigating for years. Vowing to save them before they are sold to the highest bidder, she must risk everything to stop him.

Lord Sinclair was perfectly content being the second son of a marquess, but when his brother is murdered, he is thrust into a position he has not been prepared for and does not desire. As an agent for the Crown, he is expected to retire now that he is the heir, but he's been granted special permission for one more mission... to obtain justice for his murdered brother.

Used to keeping secrets, Lady Eliza and Lord Sinclair must learn to open up to each other when they are assigned as partners to bring down the same ruthless man and his brutal empire of abduction and slavery. As Eliza's tainted past becomes too much for her to bear alone, can she learn to trust her new partner with her secrets, her life, and possibly her heart?

My Thoughts

My thoughts.... my thoughts....
I keep going back and forth about how I actually feel about this book.

The prologue was really good.  I was pulled right in!  The excitement for this book was there!  Then I started reading the first chapter.  It was simply ok.  I didn't love it as much.  So, it took me a little while to pick it up again and read the next chapter.  However, when I did, I liked it again!  This is how my experience went throughout this book.

For the most part I enjoyed reading Saving Shadow.  Lady Eliza was a very interesting character and her relationship with Lord Sinclair was very well written.  There were a few times that it didn't seem as much like a historical/regency romance book.  It almost seemed a little more on the contemporary side occasionally, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, just unexpected.

All in all, I did enjoy this book.  I'm always happy to read books from authors that I hadn't read before.  I'm especially happy when I enjoy the book from the new author!

Thank you, Laura Beers, for sending this book to me!  I can't wait to read the next one!

*Note: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Dining and Driving With Cats: Alice Unplugged by Pat Patterson


Dining and Driving With Cats - Alice Unplugged is a heartwarming and beguiling adventure of a couple who shares a love that most of us only imagine. Pat Patterson is a born storyteller and makes readers feel as if they are part of the road trip. This book is as much a story of sweet devotion as it is an exquisite example of discovering life's hidden joys in the smallest of everyday experiences. Not since Michael Ondaatje’s hypnotic voice in The English Patient has a book spoken with such an allure for the reader. You might even spot a bit of Irish in the author and his spouse's detailed arguments comparing a dish from one restaurant to the same of another restaurant. 
They, along with the cats, dine frequently during a sometimes hilarious but always romantic auto trip across the South. As the miles flip the odometer, we are given insight into how this unusual relationship between the couple came to be, evolved, and gradually, at the end revealed in a secret you didn’t see coming. What, you say? There is a twist in a dining dialogue? Yes! And you’ll just have to read it for yourself–no spoilers here. Dialogue is so natural between the two; you’ll swear he recorded the entire trip. Alice is revealed in the first pages as a real life brainy, successful business woman enjoying life in San Miguel de Allende a small cathedral town high in the Central Mexican foothills. For over thirty years she lived in Washington D.C.. When she was fresh out of grad school and managing her firm’s D.C. office she captured the heart of a young man who came in from the rain. He fell hard. He pursued her. She said no –she told him she had cats. What she didn’t tell him was that she also had a secret. Over thirty years have passed since Alice revealed her secret. The young man is no longer young but he still pursues her. She calls him hubby. This is their story of a shared love for travel and history, for food and for their sweet and wily cats Munchie and Tuffy. 
You might also say the book is unusual in that it totally engages the reader from the first page without a hint of violence, bloodshed, graphic sex, drugs or language. The author's main character (besides the two cats) Alice, does say "you bastards" once. Alice is supremely self-confident and comfortable in her own skin as we learn early on when she promises the author a vehicle of his dreams if he will join her in a multi-state road trip from Mexico across the South and help wrangle two cats into restaurants, diners, cafes and hotels. He expects to find a Suburban or maybe an Escalade in the drive. Alice surprises with a Japanese sub-compact - a Honda Fit. She says it's "flexible". They drive - Scott La. & the Boudin War. They dine - New Orleans at Gautreau's, Clancy's, and Herbsaint. They laugh - the Carousel Bar. They cry - tragic death. If you come along on this moveable feast you will find yourself caught up in a romantic love story that involves the Other Woman and a secret that Alice cannot keep. You will dine on scrumptious creations from America’s most acclaimed chefs from Austin and New Orleans to the Procope and Odeon Relais at Buci Market in Paris. Along the way you will laugh at cats stuck in boxes, fight with a Pirate, terrify a US Vice-President, discover cat smuggling, and learn how the Other Woman persuaded Alice to accept the author's ring. So what’s keeping you? Hop in ‘cause these cats don’t bite. Besides, “The Get In Here and Eat” pop-up food truck is waiting just up the Austin highway.

My Thoughts

I've always wanted to want to be a traveler... but, I am a homebody.  Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy small trips here and there.  However, I'm good with a week vacation, maybe two weeks if it's a wonderful vacation!  With that being said, this book makes me want to go on an extended road trip!  Well, it makes me want to want it even more!

Diving and Dining With Cats: Alice Unplugged is a wonderful story of a fun, and sometimes pretty interesting, trip with Pat, Alice, and their two cats, Munchie and Tuffy.  Pat is such a great story teller, you can picture every bit of the story right down to the details!  And the food!  Oh how I want to visit all of the yummy places that Pat described!

I enjoyed every bit of this book!  From the first chapter right to the last sentence.  This will definitely be a book to read all over again!

*Note:  I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, November 6, 2017

The Fatness by Mark A. Rayner


Keelan Cavanaugh is fat. That’s why the government put him in prison.

They placed him in a Calorie Reduction Centre (CRC), where trained staff work to help him and many others slim down. Well, that was the intention, anyway. The powers that be had decided chubby citizens must either go there or lose their health care coverage.

When he meets Jacinda Williams, an activist lawyer researching this new system, Keelan is more determined than ever to slim down. But Keelan discovers losing weight is more difficult than it seems, especially when he also has to fight against a ridiculous bureaucracy and policy wonks with hidden agendas. Can he succeed, and will the CRC-crossed lovers ever sit at love’s banquet together?

From award-winning author Mark A. Rayner, The Fatness is a contemporary satire of socialism, capitalism, and the so-called “obesity epidemic”. This is Catch-22 for a new generation, with a distinctly tender undertone, even as it mercilessly spoofs the establishment.

My Thoughts

Have you ever had a book that you were excited to read and yet nervous to read it at the same time?  That's how I felt with this book.  It sounded great and yet I could see how it could be a bit touchy as well.

I now know that I didn't need to feel nervous to read it.  While I was somewhat right in thinking that it can be a touchy subject, it was written in a way that humor made it less 'serious'.

Even though this was written in a satirical way, it does bring up the good point of body image.  What is considered "healthy" is often overlooked and what "looks attractive" to most people is what is put ahead.  The idea that people can be put in a Calorie Reduction Center or lose their insurance isn't that hard to imagine!

This was a pretty decent read!  Thank you, Mark A. Rayner, for sending it to me!

*Note: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Halloween is Murder


Beware of all that goes bump in the night…
Sean and Sara McKinley are excited about the haunted house they’ve set up as a Halloween charity fund-raiser, but things take a ghoulish turn when the reporter covering their story is found dead. With the media keeping mum about how she died, Sara’s curiosity is piqued, and she convinces Sean to take on the investigation through their PI firm.
But this case is not without its challenges. The police are actively investigating it, as well, and it’s not even clear that the woman was murdered. It will take a little cloak-and-dagger, dress-up, and finesse for the McKinleys to get to the bottom of it, but they aren’t the kind to give up.
As they troll for leads and work through the skeletons in the reporter’s closet, they unearth a few suspects, but they’ll need to carve out the whole truth if they’re going to find her killer. If they do so fast enough, there might even be time for a little trick-or-treating.

My Thoughts

Such a fun book!  I really enjoyed it!

I was a little concerned when I saw that Halloween is Murder is book #11 in the McKinley Mysteries but I soon realized that I didn't need to worry at all.  I didn't really need a back story.  This book can stand alone easily.

The characters are fun and entertaining.  I love the relationship between Sean and Sara McKinley.  They are great together!  And, while I didn't need a back story, there were little tidbits here and there that let me in on some things from past books.

I am so glad that I remembered that I had a halloween book on my tar in time to pick it up before halloween!  Such a fun read!  Thank you, Hibbert & Stiles Publishing Inc, for sending this book my way!

*Note: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Guest Post! Author Andrew Joyce

Hello, my name is Andrew Joyce. I’m here today to try to sell a few books. I have a new book out entitled Bedtime Stories for Grown-Ups. And I thought it might help if I brought my dog along because he’s a bit more articulate than I am. We’re here to discuss a few of our favorite things. But first, I’d like to introduce you to Danny the Dog.
Say hello, Danny.
Could you be a bit more enthusiastic?
Could you get on with it? You dragged me away from a Lassie rerun. She was just about to save Timmy, who fell into a well. I wanted to see how she was gonna do it, seeing as she has no opposable thumbs. You never know, I might have to save you from a well someday. Then you’ll be sorry you didn’t let me finish watching my show.
Okay. Let’s just get down to it. I’ll say my favorite things first and then you can tell the nice people about your favorite things.
Why do you get to go first?
It really doesn’t matter to me, Danny. Do you want to go first?
Boy, oh boy! You are something else. I’m sorry, folks, but Danny seems to be in a mood today. I’ll start the ball rolling by telling you some of my favorite things.
Make sure they’re not too sappy.
Be quiet, Danny. Okay, here goes. I like getting up early to see the sun rise out of the ocean. I like rainy days when I can stay inside and read a good book. I like a good cup of coffee, and happy endings in movies. Now it’s your turn, Danny.
Whoa! Are you kidding me? What are you trying to do, fool these poor people? I’ll tell ’em what you really like.
No need to do that, Danny. I’m just trying to sell some books here.
Hush. If you want to sell books, then be honest with the people. It’s my turn and I’ll use it to tell the people what you’re really like. Andrew’s favorite thing is vodka. Then there’s his obsession with beer. You should see him when he has a snootful. He’s just like Hemingway. I don’t mean he can write like Hemingway, but he sure can drink like him.
Thanks a lot, Danny.
I’m not done yet. Sunrises? Andrew hasn’t seen a sunrise since I was a pup. And coffee? Of course, he loves coffee. He puts three shots of vodka in every cup. I will admit he does read a lot, rain or shine.
You are a bad doggie, Danny. Alright, you blew my cover, but we still haven’t heard about your favorite things.
I thought you’d never ask. I love to sniff where other dogs have peed. I love our walks in the morning when it’s just the two of us. I love it when, after our walks, you give me those treats. But do you want to know what I love the most?
I’m afraid to ask.
I love you. I’m hard on you because I’m trying to keep you on the straight and narrow. An impossible task, I think. But I’ll keep trying.
Aww shucks, Danny.
Can we get out of here now? There’s an old Rin Tin Tin movie on TCM that I don’t want to miss.
Sure, Danny. Let me just thank Carrie for having us over.
Thank her for me too. It wasn’t so bad.

Thank you, Carrie.