Saturday, October 22, 2016

Christmas Joy, by Nancy Naigle

St. Martin's Press, ISBN 97812501060700, October 2016

Joy Holbrook has fled the small town where her mother died, staying in contact with her Aunt Ruby but living a life totally divorced from Crystal Falls. She's a market researcher with a growing career in Washington, D.C. The promotion of her dreams seems to be within reach--and she gets a phone call telling her Ruby has fallen and broken her ankle. On a Friday afternoon not long before Christmas, she's on her way to Crystal Falls with the hope and expectation that Ruby will be set back in her own home by Monday.

It's not going to happen.

The break is serious, and it quickly becomes clear that Joy will be taking leave until the end of the year.

And taking care of Ruby's home and animals during her recuperation is no simple matter. Two goats, a donkey, chickens, a rabbit whose mate has died, and a 4H cow that a 4H member named Tommy feeds and cares for.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Best Kind of Love (A Reunion Romance Novella), by Rebecca Talley

DuBon Publishing, November 2014

Brynn Sawyer heads home to Seaspray CA from Houston TX to her ten-year high school reunion. She has very mixed feelings about going, but her best friend Kari will be there, too, and they're looking forward to the weekend together. Maybe their other best friend, Craig Dawon, will be there also.

What worries Brynn is wondering whether Troy Richards, her forever unrequited crush in high school, will be there, too. She's not sure whether it will be worse if he is, or if he isn't.

Soon she's discovering how much some have changed, how little others have changed--and that while Troy is as deliciously attractive as ever, she still can't avoid spilling things on him.

Yet her reactions to him--and to Craig--are not the same. Something's different.

What's changed?

It's a warm little romance novella, that will add a nice touch to your day.


I received a free electronic copy of this novella from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, October 17, 2016

It Must Be Christmas:Three Holiday Stories,by Jennifer Crusie, Donna Alward, & Mandy Baxter

St. Martin's Press, ISBN 9781250106377, October 2016

This is a collection of three Christmas stories, two of which I found delightful.

Hot Toy by Jennifer Crusie has Trudy hunting down the year's hot Christmas toy for her nephew. His father promised him that Santa would get it for him, and then "forgot" when he took off with the nanny. Now Trudy is spending her Christmas eve tracking down the sold-out toy, while her sister is at home making gingerbread cookies and convincing little Leroy that Santa really will bring his toy.

When she finds the toy, she also stumbles into the arms of not one but two secret agents. Which one is the good guy? Is either? And will either one let her get this toy with the unexpected secret home to her nephew? It's a fun story, with a warm, funny, happy ending.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Folly Cove, by Holly Robinson

Berkley Publishing Group, ISBN 9781101991534, October 2016

Anne Bradford has come home to Folly Cove in Massachusetts, with her baby Lucy, after the abrupt end of her relationship with Lucy's father. Colin, it turned out, wasn't in the process of getting a divorce from his wife. Barbara and Colin show up at the restaurant where she cooks to drop the baby on her and let her know that Colin's going home again. Her boss is shocked that she was "that kind of girl" (so was she), and going home to Folly Cove seemed the only short-term option.

Her mother Sarah Bradford, concerned about maintaining the tone at the Folly Cove in, which has been their sole support since Neil Bradford left them behind. Her oldest sister Laura still believes her husband Jake's version of an encounter one night, when in fact it was Jake who came to her room and behaved, well, inappropriately. The fact that Lucy's father was married only confirms her poor opinion of Anne's behavior.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

A Most Extraordinary Pursuit, by Juliana Gray

Berkley Publishing Group, ISBN 9780425277072, October 2016

Emmeline Truelove is in the unusual position, for an Edwardian woman, of being the Duke of Olympia's personal secretary. She's held the post for six years, since the death of her father, who previously held it. The Duke of Olympia is newly dead, his heir is somewhere in the Mediterranean, and the alternative to great-nephew Maximilian Haywood is his younger brother, a dissolute spendthrift.

Haywood has to be found.

The Dowager Duchess asks Miss Truelove to make a trip to Greece to find the heir. She's sending the Marquess of Silverton with her, on the grounds that this seemingly frivolous young man has skills she'll need.

Reluctantly, and over the objections of what seems to be Queen Victoria's ghost, she agrees.

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Queen's Accomplice (A Maggie Hope Mystery), by Susan Elia MacNeal

Random House Publishing, ISBN 9780804178723, October 2016

Maggie Hope is back in London after her trip to the US, and while waiting for her half sister Elise Hess to be smuggled out of Germany, she's working at the SOE office. It's tame office work, but she's very good, of course, at reading not just the text of coded messages but the "fist" of the sender.

And she's seeing trouble in the messages of a woman agent, Erica Calvert. Yet her superiors at SOE are certain she's imagining things.

While she's worrying over that, young women start turning up dead in London. Not just any young women; they're new SOE agents. And not just dead, but recreations of the killings of Jack the Ripper. When a friend of hers, Brynn Parry, goes missing, Maggie is drawn in to the investigation of what the newspapers are now calling "The Blackout Beast."

Friday, September 30, 2016

Ships and Stings and Wedding Rings (The Chronicles of St. Mary's 6.5), by Jodi Taylor (author), Zara Ramm (narrator)

Audible Audio, November 2015

As previously noted, I'm listening to these in altogether the wrong order. This is another short story, #6.5 in the St. Mary's series.

It's Christmas, and time for certain traditions to be observed. One of those traditions is, of course, Max's illegal jump to solve a problem that coulld become something much, much worse. She, Markham, and Peterson head off to ancient Egypt to retrieve a handgun accidentally left behind by an agent who should never have brought it in the first place.

But this is St. Mary's, and another unbreakable tradition is that things will go horribly, improbably, in ways that only very smart people trying to avoid trouble could manage.

The characters remain interesting, exasperating, and fun to spend time with, and continue to appeal to my slightly twisted sense of humor.


Audible made this story available for free.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Very First Damned Thing (The Chronicles of St. Mary 0.5), by Jodi Taylor (author, narrator)

Audible Audio, October 2015

First, I need to say up front that I'm reading this in the wrong order. It is by internal chronology the very first story, in which Dr. Bairstow gets funding for time travel, secures the premises of St. Mary's, and recruits the team vital to the St. Mary's project. At the same time, in fact, this story was written after several other, "later" stories, where St. Mary's is up and running, and the characters are settled into their roles. So it's safe to assume that those who have read those "later," previously written stories will find additional pleasure and satisfaction in seeing the team gathered and the project begun.

Despite the fact that I doubt I'm getting the full pleasure of it, I really enjoyed this story. It's a great look at the importance of history, accompanied by a certain gallows humor that tickles my own twisted sense of humor. I especially love the way Dr. Bairstow cheerfully promises his prospective recruits that yes, the working conditions will be hard, but on the other hand, the pay will be really awful.

It's just a short, perhaps novella in length, and as I've clearly warned, there's an assumption that you've read at least one or two of the others. Despite that, definitely recommended. It's a lot of fun.

Audible was (maybe is?) offering this one for free.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Cupidity, by Patricia Wood (author), Michelle Babb (narrator)

Patricia Wood, February 2015

Tammy Louise Tyree is working hard in her small town to support herself and her autistic younger brother Jar (their now-deceased mother at first thought the doctor said "artistic"), with the comforting presence and emotional support of their Uncle E.

She works as a waitress at the Two Spoons Cafe, does house-cleaning, moves things for people in her pickup truck Dolly, and whatever else she can to make money. Uncle E also makes whirligigs, which she sells. It's hard work, and she's barely keeping things together, but she is keeping things together.

Then she gets a totally unexpected email from a solicitor in Botswana, informing her that if she is related to the missionary Tyrees, she has a $5 million inheritance coming to her. There are just a few fees involved in resolving all the paperwork...

Tammy isn't stupid, but she is naive, and there's no doubt in her mind that, if she can only cover those fees, the troubles of the Tyrees are at an end.

She tries, ans the letter asked, to keep it confidential. Over course she tells Uncle E, though.

E tells just a few people, though.

And suddenly the whole town knows, and many of them are eager to help her with those fees, in exchange for subsequent funding for their own projects. But meanwhile she still has to pay her bills and put food on the table, and everything gets harder when Uncle E dies suddenly.

There's no one to watch Jar when she's working. Not that Uncle E was overly reliable in that regard, although he had the best of intentions. It turns out he entered into a very ill-advised deal with Cousin Lonny, who is really not to be trusted. And being dead, E is also no longer around to make the whirligigs for Tammy to sell. She figures she'll at least cut out and assemble the one E had ready to go, and she has Jar help her, with the parts that don't involve the jigsaw or other dangerous implements.

Except Jar is pretty determined, not interested in being protected, and their late mama might have had it right when she said he was "artistic."

Suddenly the whirligigs are selling better than ever, except Tammy needs to get materials she doesn't have the cash for, and has to make yet another deal, this time with Walter Howard, owner of the hardware store.

It's a house of cards that is bound to fall apart, even without anyone, especially Tammy, realizing this is the classic "Nigerian" scam. But how long can she hold things together, and what will happen if she can't?

Along the way, though, she learns about her own strengths and weaknesses, her brother's, family secrets, her town, and what really matters in life. Can she pull out a happy ending? Read it and see!

Honestly, recommended. Tammy is a flawed but good character, doing her best in a world that has handed her a lot more challenges that resources to meet them with. Jar, her autistic teenage brother is not a caricature, either of the negative or of the well-intentioned "positive" kind. Michelle Babb is a good narrator, too. Enjoy!

I received a free copy of the audiobook from the narrator.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Pumpkintown Perils: A Witch Mystery Collection (Cozy Mystery Bundle #1), by Aubrey Law

August 2016

Wanda Tempest runs a magic shop, Wanda's Wonders, in Pumpkintown. She's also a witch, as are her sisters, Alice and Amber. As successful as her magic shop is, she's got another pursuit: she's apprenticing as a detective with Inspector Sam Shamrock of the Pumpkintown Police.

Sam is a leprechaun. Many of the residents, or residents of nearby villages, are gnomes, trolls, and other magical or mythical creatures. In Jagged Wood, there are talking trees.

And the first case we see Wanda tackling is the death of is the death of Mr. Maple, a kindly old tree who provided the Sparkling Sap so essential for many of her recipes. What starts as a seemingly straightforward investigation quickly grows strange and complicated, and briefly results in Wanda herself being a possible suspect in the murder of her business rival, Hugo the half-gnome.

Sam seems a bit of a clown at first; gradually we see that the leprechaun cop is a leprechaun of brains, character, and toughness.

Wanda grows as a character, too. Pumpkinton is a little bit wacky, a lot complicated, and animated by a lively culture of gossip.

Worth a read. Recommended.

I received a free electronic copy of this book from the author.