Sunday, September 30, 2018

Sister Agatha & Father Selyn Sleuth Again in The Hour of Death by Jane Willan

...from the publisher....

Sister Agatha and Father Selwyn make sleuthing a work of art. But will they paint themselves into a corner when they investigate the Village Art Society president’s death?As Yuletide settles upon Gwenafwy Abbey, the rural Welsh convent’s peace is shattered when Tiffany Reese, president of the Village Art Society, is found dead on the floor of the parish hall. Sister Agatha, whose interests lie more with reading and writing mystery stories than with making the abbey’s world-renowned organic gouda, is not shy about inserting herself into the case. With the not-entirely-eager assistance of Father Selwyn, she begins her investigation.

Sister Agatha has no shortage of suspects to check off her naughty-or-nice list, until finally, Tiffany’s half-brother, Kendrick Geddings, emerges as the prime suspect. There never was any love lost between Tiffany and Kendrick, and of late they had been locked in a vicious battle for control of the family estate. But if Sister Agatha thinks she has the case wrapped up, she’ll have to think again.

As the days of Advent tick by, Sister Agatha is determined to crack the case by Christmas in The Hour of Death, Jane Willan’s perfectly puzzling second Sister Agatha and Father Selwyn Mystery. thoughts....

  This is my first Sister Agatha and Father Selwyn mystery! Author Jane Willan has really set up quite a mystery in the little village surrounding Saint Anselm's.  So many suspects and so little time before Christmas!  The clues are in abundance yet seem to take a turn as yet another suspect is added or deleted from Sister Agatha's purple notebook.  

I do enjoy a good mystery and this one has a lot to offer. The writing is so descriptive I could easily see myself sitting in the back booth at the Buttered Crust for a cup of Glengettie tea and a cranberry scone.  In the end, all is neatly tied, minus the bow on a Christmas package.  No spoilers here but I  will recommend this book without hesitation to anyone who enjoys a mystery. The setting in Wales at Christmas is just a bonus!  I received an advance reader copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

What Could Be Better than A Christmas by the Sea!

I've gotten a jump on Christmas reading list and so far they have been wonderful! A Christmas by the Sea is no exception. A Few years ago I was introduced to Melody  Carlson and every year since I look forward to her annual Christmas book.  

...from the publisher...…

When Wendy Harper inherits her family's beachside cottage in Seaside, Maine, she sees it as a way to finally pay off the debts that have mounted since her husband died. But before it can be sold, the neglected property must be renovated. She and her 12-year-old son Jackson move in--temporarily, she reminds him--in order to do the work themselves, even though Christmas is coming. The charming town, along with local craftsman Caleb Colton, pulls on both Wendy and Jackson, who even registers himself for school in a bid to get his mom to move them there permanently. Wendy knows that the most responsible thing to do is to sell the cottage and return to Ohio, but the lure of the sea is hard to resist.

Join award-winning author Melody Carlson for a Christmas story that will warm your heart and have you dreaming of your own enchanted seaside holiday.

I couldn't help but get hooked into the story of their plight and cheered when Wendy and Jackson seemed to fit right into life in Seaside.  When it seems like life doesn't seem to have any more chances, being in the right place at the right time can give you a little boost. 

Sometimes even a mom can learn to have a little faith from her child. A Christmas by the Sea is for the reader who wants to be inspired by some Christmas cheer spurred on by the hopes and dreams of a boy like Jackson.  I enjoyed watching this story unfold better than any cookie-cutter themed movie laden with commercials! 

Each character in the book, like the people in our own lives, serves a purpose.  When Wendy started digging into the repairs of the cottage she found so much more than what waited back in Ohio.   Many thanks to Revell Books for the opportunity to receive a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  I recommend you pick up a copy of this book and discover Melody Carlson's gift for putting the spirit back into Christmas.  

Sunday, September 23, 2018

9 Sweet Novellas to Warm Your Christmas Sprits....9 Authors to Tell Their Tales

The Victorian Christmas Brides Collection
from the publisher...

Faced with the daily extremes of gluttony and want in the Victorian Era, nine women seek to create the perfect Christmas celebrations. But will expectations and pride cause them to overlook imperfect men who offer true love? thoughts...

This collection of novellas just in time for the Christmas reading list is perfect for the reader who loves to read but feels they don't have time for a complete book.  Each story is just enough to tempt the senses yet complete in the telling.  Many dream of the simpler times in Queen Victoria's day yet enjoy the trappings of modern times with central heat and a handy grocer.  Yet these stories beckon and like Dickens, will hook you in once you begin.  I recommend you brew a pot of tea for your afternoon leisure or pour a glass of sherry to sip by the fire of an evening.  

Paper Snowflake Christmas by Vanessa Riley
1837 Framlingham, England
 An uncle comes to claim his new ward at Christmas but has to face Child's mother married his late brother years before, leaving him with a broken heart....

 One Golden Ring by C.J. Chase
 1855 Devonshire, England   
 How can a man face the woman who jilted him with no explanation five year ago? Can she face him with her altered status without showing her true feelings?  Love isn't always perfect yet it can remain true even under the most tying times.  
Love  Brick  by  Brick by Kathleen L. Maher
1857Elmira, New York
A wealthy man is rebuilding his English estate in America where his mother is regaining her health in a special clinic.  He is falling for a beautiful young woman pursuing a medical degree but whether he will still want to see her when he discovers she is an orphan is not so certain. 

The Sugarplum Ladies by Carrie Fancett Pagels
An engagement announced in the paper is as good as a formal arrangement. Set in Detroit and Ontario, this story opens when a young woman nearing the end of her prime is being tricked into an engagement to a man who is not what he appears to be.  Reading about her "engagement" in the newspaper, she seeks counsel from her attorney to dissolve this scandal only to meet a handsome barrister from Ontario.  In a series of comical events, they are drawn together for a purpose neither had planned for but with aplomb resolve to a mutual plan...but the results are nothing they could have planned. A fun story that will tickle your humor.  Enjoy the possibilities a do-gooder woman can have with the help of her little Sugarplum ladies to help save the day!
Star of Wonder by Susanne Dietze
1875 County Durham, EnglandArranged marriages, diamond necklaces and conditions that this has to happen on this date at this time is enough for any couple to digest.  While both want to please their parents, they would rather marry for love.  When plans fall apart, can they truly find something better than their parents had?
A Christmas Promise by Gabrielle Meyer

1899 Cambridgeshire,England.

When Ashleigh Pendleton and Christopher Campbell met the first time, they were young. They also had a tremendous dislike for each other.  Imagine their shock when they find out that their late mothers signed a contract for the pair to marry.  The mothers had a long-lasting friendship and thought this marriage would be a blessing for all. They have until Christmas Eve to become engaged to someone else or the engagement stands!  I enjoyed this match-up!  The long guest list for the house party, complete with a handsome suitor to foil Christopher and competition in an old fried for Ashleigh

Father Christmas by Lorna Seilstad
 Chicago, Christmas 1880
Widowed harpist Beatrix Kent succumbs daily to the guilt his unforgiving mother-in-law dishes up every day at tea. A piano teacher, she devotes the remainder of her time to her students, hoping to forget the death of her husband.  Hugo Sherman, the father of one of her students would love to hear her perform and with a few obstacles he strives to make it happen. Along the way, the inevitable happens as Christmas arrives and hearts have the possibility to become whole...

The Perfect Christmas by Erica Vetsch
1880s London
Melisande Verity is a lovely young woman who runs the chocolate counter at Garamonds, the exclusive department in London.  Every year at Christmas there is a contest to choose who will design the windows. The town has an annual contest among the shop and Garamonds has never won. She has worked hard on a special design.  Every year the same man has been chosen and this year she hopes her design is chosen. In the history of the store that honor has always gone to a man...and it wouldn't be a good Christmas story if she didn't get the chance to use her designs and manage the project.  With the reluctant help of Gray Garamond, the grandson of the Mr. Garamond, she embarks on a challenge that will not only challenge her talents, but also the world view of a handsome young man bent on changing the way things are done...delightful story.
 A Christmas Vow by Gabrielle Meyer
London, England, Christmas 1899
Lady Ashleigh Pendleton is hosting a houseful of guests for Christmas when railroad executive Christopher Campbell unexpectedly arrives from America with a mysterious agreement signed by their fathers before their birth.

The Holly and the Ivy by Rita Gerlach
1900. Small town along the Potomac near Washington DC
Lily Morningstar and British antiquities expert Andrew Stapleton, meet at last after a lecture she attended. In a bold move, she invited him to supper to see some letters written by a naval officer to his wife. Upon discovering who the man was they also found something more for each other.

Jane Kirkpatricks latest....Everything She Didn't Say a Compelling Story

...from the publisher...  

In 1911, Carrie Strahorn wrote a memoir entitled Fifteen Thousand Miles by Stage, which shared some of the most exciting events of 25 years of traveling and shaping the American West with her husband, Robert Strahorn, a railroad promoter, investor, and writer. That is all fact. Everything She Didn't Say imagines Carrie nearly ten years later as she decides to write down what was really on her mind during those adventurous nomadic years.

Certain that her husband will not read it, and in fact that it will only be found after her death, Carrie is finally willing to explore the lessons she learned along the way, including the danger a woman faces of losing herself within a relationship with a strong-willed man and the courage it takes to accept her own God-given worth apart from him. Carrie discovers that wealth doesn't insulate a soul from pain and disappointment, family is essential, pioneering is a challenge, and western landscapes are both demanding and nourishing. Most of all, she discovers that home can be found, even in a rootless life.

With a deft hand, New York Times bestselling author Jane Kirkpatrick draws out the emotions of living--the laughter and pain, the love and loss--to give readers a window not only into the past, but into their own conflicted hearts. Based on a true story.

….my thoughts.....

Everything She Didn't Say by Jane Kirkpatrick is an amazing book.  I just put the book down after spending the day between the covers.  Carrie Adell Strahorn was called the "Queen of the Pioneers" or "Mother of the West" by many and once you read her compelling story you will agree.  

What a life this pioneering woman led.  The book begins on the day she married Robert E Strahorn, and from that day on she literally embarked on a trip that would take her by stage, foot, train, steamer and foot on journeys white women never ventured.  She rode in a cow catcher, scaled a mine, laid on her belly overlooking Yellowstone Falls in the snow.  Her stay in a Wyoming hotel with electricity contrasted with harrowing stage rides amid war with the Bannocks.  I can't imagine living up to those challenges but she was determined to be supportive of her husband in his endeavors as an author who wrote travel pamphlets for the Union Pacific Railroad.  He was always one step ahead of settling down with what she longed for; a home and family.  

What really impressed me about Carrie Strahorn was the depth of her faith and perseverance.  I loved that her travels intersected with my own travels and life in Spokane. It was in Spokane that Robert bought the Pines for Carrie and under the direction of famous architect Kirtland Cutter it was redesigned as she wished.  She felt so at home in Spokane, a feeling she hadn't had since leaving her beloved Caldwell.  

As with all of her historical novels, author Jane Kirkpatrick engages the reader into historical events with wonderful story telling and impeccable research.  I highly recommend this book to the reader who loves historical fiction, especially when it includes how this wonderful west was settled.  Many thanks to Revell Books for an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review of this book. 

Monday, September 3, 2018

Reviewing: More Than Meets the Eye by Karen Witemeyer

...from the publisher....

Many consider Evangeline Hamilton cursed. Orphaned at a young age and possessing a pair of mismatched eyes--one bright blue, the other dark brown--Eva has fought to find her way in a world that constantly rejects her. Yet the support of even one person can help overcome the world's judgments, and Eva has two--Seth and Zach, two former orphans she now counts as brothers. 
More Than Meets the Eye (A Patchwork Family Novel Book #1) by [Witemeyer, Karen]

Seeking justice against the man who stole his birthright and destroyed his family, Logan Fowler arrives in 1880s Pecan Gap, Texas, to confront Zach Hamilton, the hardened criminal responsible for his father's death. Only instead of finding a solitary ruthless gambler, he discovers a man not much older than himself with an unusual family. When Zach's sister, Evangeline, insists on dousing Logan with sunshine every time their paths cross, Logan finds his quest completely derailed. Who is truly responsible for his lost legacy, and will restoring the past satisfy if it means forfeiting a future with Evangeline? thoughts....

I enjoyed reading More than Meets the Eye, book one of Karen Witemeyer's new series called A Patchwork Family. Evangeline is an ideal heroine. With her mismatched eyes she could have been bitter and unforgiving to those who ridiculed her yet she was the complete opposite. I admired her for her openness and kindness; just they type of gal you'd want for a friend.  When she met Logan it was her good nature that disarmed all his defenses.   He found out that this sheltered young woman was no match for any designs he might have on her for his plans.

While Evangeline and Logan's story is at the heart of this book I have a soft spot for Zach, Eva's oldest brother.  He had such a hard shell around his heart created by difficult circumstances.  He'd had to grow up quickly after the Orphan train crashed.  He could have escaped on his own but quickly decided to stand by and protect two younger orphans who survived with him. In one moment he went from being a teen with a chip on his shoulder to creating and providing for a new family.  A Patchwork Family he never let down.

This is a wonderful story of resilience, forgiveness and love.  Not just the romantic love but a love story of families who grew out of need in the wild west of old.  Karen Witemeyer is noted for her wonderful stories emanating from the wild west and for that I am pleased.  I enjoy a peek at what life may have been like for those who helped build this great western piece of our country.