Saturday, December 31, 2022

Reading Challenge Wrap Up: 52 Books in 52 Weeks 2022

Once again, I successfully made it through the 52 Books in 52 Weeks reading challenge.  Sometimes, my problem was picking which book from the week to include.  But here's what I counted for this year.  I'll be starting on the challenge again for next year soon.

1. Murder Lo Mein by Vivien Chien
2. The Turncoat's Widow by Mally Becker
3. Cement Stilettos by Diane Vallere
5. The Twist and Shout Murder by Teresa Trent
6. Murder in Morningside Heights by Victoria Thompson
7. Nun But the Brave by Alice Loweecey
8. Singing in the Dark by Ginny Owens
9. Wild Irish Rose by Rhys Bowen and Clare Broyles
10. A Nun in the Closet by Dorothy Gilman
11. A Dismal Harvest by Daisy Bateman
12. An Eternal Lei by Naomi Hirahara
13. Three Shots to the Wind by Sherry Harris
14. Death in a Blackout by Jessica Ellicott
15. Idle Gossip by Renee Patrick
16. Uneasy Prey by Annette Dashofy
17. Cheddar Off Dead by Korina Moss
18. Claws for Suspicion by Deborah Blake
19. The Shadow of Memory by Connie Berry
20. The Lessons We Learn by Liz Milliron
21. Buried in a Good Book by Tamara Berry
22. Clouds in My Coffee by Julie Mulhern
23. Bayou Book Thief by Ellen Byron
24. Up to No Gouda by Linda Reilly
25. Scone Cold Killer by Lena Gregory
26. Muddled Through by Barbara Ross
27. A Perilous Pal by Laura Bradford
28. Poison Pen by Sheila Lowe
29. The Pajama Frame by Diane Vallere
30. Mint Chocolate Murder by Meri Allen
31. The Fragrance of Death by Leslie Karst
32. Murder on Trinity Place by Victoria Thompson
33. Salt Water Wounds by C. Michele Dorsey
34. Stardust Trail by J. R. Sanders
35. Round Up the Usual Peacocks by Donna Andrews
36. Death in the Aegean by M. A. Monnin
37. Murder at Keyhaven Castle by Clara McKenna
38. Under Lock and Skeleton Key by Gigi Pandian
39. Mrs. Claus and the Evil Elves by Liz Ireland
40. Murder at the Mushroom Festival by Janet Finsilver
41. The Plot and the Pendulum by Jenn McKinlay
42. A Christmas Candy Killing by Christina Romeril
43. The Plot Thickets by Julia Henry
44. A Book Club to Die For by Dorothy St. James
45. Peril in Paris by Rhys Bowen
46. The Counterfeit Wife by Mally Becker
47. Knot My Sister's Keeper by Mary Marks
48. Bake Offed by Maya Corrigan
49. City of Fortune by Victoria Thompson
50. Christmas Past by Brian Earl
51. Stellarlune by Shannon Messenger
52. Rum and Choke by Sherry Harris

Reading Challenge Wrap Up: Mount TBR and Virtual Mount TBR 2022

 I completed another year of climbing my to be read mountain range, thanks to the Mount TBR and Virtual Mount TBR challenges.  Mount TBR was for books owned at the beginning of the year, and Virtual is for books borrowed during the year.  At least, that's the short version.

For Mount TBR, I was climbing to Pike's Peak, which was 12 books.

For the Virtual Mount TBR, I was climbing to Mount Crumpet, which is 24 books.

Shall we see how I did?

Mount TBR
1. Vintage Trailers and Blackmailers by Heather Weidner
2. Murder Lo Mein by Vivien Chien
3. The Turncoat's Widow by Mally Becker
4. On Thin Icing by Ellie Alexander
5. A Quiet Undertaking by Penny Warner
6. Murder in Morningside Heights by Victoria Thompson
7. Nun But the Brave by Alice Loweecey
8. Singing in the Dark by Ginny Owens
9. A Nun in the Closet by Dorothy Gilman
10. Murder in the Bowery by Victoria Thompson
11. Murder at Blackwater Bend by Clara McKenna
12. Murder on Union Square by Victoria Thompson
13. Scone Cold Killer by Lena Gregory
14. A Test of Wills by Charles Todd
15. Poison Pen by Sheila Lowe
16. An Almost Purrfect Murder by Jacqueline Vick
17. Murder on Trinity Place by Victoria Thompson
18. Union Jacked by Diane Vallere
19. Murder at Keyhaven Castle by Clara McKenna
20. Staged 4 Murder by J. C. Eaton
21. Murder at the Mushroom Festival by Janet Finsilver
22. Murder on Pleasant Avenue by Victoria Thompson
23. Broken Heart Attack by James J. Cudney
24. Cry Wolf by Annette Dashofy
25. Blind Side by Penny Warner
26. Cozy Up to Christmas by Colin Conway
27. Slay Ride by Diane Vallere

Virtual Mount TBR
1. The Reversal by Michael Connelly (relisten)
2. Knot What You Think by Mary Marks
3. Cement Stilettos by Diane Vallere
4. Crimes and Covers by Amanda Flower
5. Written in Dead Wax by Andrew Cartmel
6. "U" is for Undertow by Sue Grafton
7. Grounds for Murder by Tara Lush
8. The Decorator Who Knew Too Much by Diane Vallere
9. A Bird's Eye View of Murder by Jacqueline Vick
10. Dead in the Water by S. C. Merritt
11. A Little Class on Murder by Carolyn Hart
12. Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne
13. Cozy Up to Trouble by Colin Conway
14. Uneasy Prey by Annette Dashofy
15. Panty Raid by Diane Vallere
16. Blood Red by Sherri Leigh James
17. Clouds in My Coffee by Julie Mulhern
18. Her Perfect Life by Hank Phillippi Ryan
19. Island of Thieves by Glen Erik Hamilton
20. 22 Seconds by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
21. The Pajama Frame by Diane Vallere
22. The Drop by Michael Connelly
23. Murder on the Iditarod Trail by Sue Henry
24. Stardust Trail by J. R. Sanders
25. "V" is for Vengeance by Sue Grafton
26. Murder in the Piazza by Jen Collins Moore
27. Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
28. Deadly Valentine by Carolyn Hart
29. Lover Come Hack by Diane Vallere
30. Knot My Sister's Keeper by Mary Marks
31. "W" is for Wasted by Sue Grafton

Reading Challenge Wrap Up: Audiobook Challenge 2022

I had another successful year with the Audiobook Challenge, including grabbing a few books that were no where close to being on my radar a year ago, which is always fun.  I'm thankful to It's hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer and That's What I'm Talking About for hosting this challenge this year.

I was going for the Stenographer level, which is 10-15 books.  My own sub-challenge is to listen to one a month.  And I made both!

1. The Reversal by Michael Connelly (relisten)
2. "U" is for Undertow by Sue Grafton
3. A Little Class on Murder by Carolyn Hart
4. Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne
5. Her Perfect Life by Hank Phillippi Ryan
6. Island of Thieves by Glen Erik Hamilton
7. The Drop by Michael Connelly
8. "V" is for Vengeance by Sue Grafton
9. Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
10. Deadly Valentine by Carolyn Hart
11. The Fifth Witness by Michael Connelly (relisten)
12. "W" is for Wasted by Sue Grafton

Reading Challenge Wrap Up: Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 2022

I learned about the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge a few months into 2022, but I immediately joined.  It's been fun to see what others are reading.  I need to get more people reading historical mysteries so there are others reading the books I list.

I signed up for the Medieval level, which is 15 books.  I didn't think I'd make it to the next level, which is 25.  It was a good call since I finished the year at 23 books.

1. The Turncoat's Widow by Mally Becker
2. The Twist and Shout Murder by Teresa Trent
3. Murder in Morningside Heights by Victoria Thompson
4. Wild Irish Rose by Rhys Bowen and Clare Broyles
5. Danger on the Atlantic by Erica Ruth Neubauer
6. Death in a Blackout by Jessica Ellicott
7. Murder in the Bowery by Victoria Thompson
8. Idle Gossip by Renee Patrick
9. Murder at Blackwater Bend by Clara McKenna
10. The Lessons We Learn by Liz Milliron
11. Clouds in My Coffee by Julie Mulhern
12. Murder on Union Square by Victoria Thompson
13. A Test of Wills by Charles Todd
14. The Drinking Gourd by Katherine Fast
15. Murder Through the English Post by Jessica Ellicott
16. Murder on Trinity Place by Victoria Thompson
17. Stardust Trail by J. R. Sanders
18. Murder at Keyhaven Castle by Clara McKenna
19. Deadly Director's Cut by Vicki Delany
20. Murder on Pleasant Avenue by Victoria Thompson
21. Peril in Paris by Rhys Bowen
22. The Counterfeit Wife by Mally Becker
23. City of Fortune by Victoria Thompson

Reading Challenge Wrap Up: Cruisin' Through the Cozies and Craving for Cozies Challenges 2022

It was another successful year for the Cruisin' Through the Cozies and Craving for Cozies challenges.  No surprise since I do love my cozies.  

For Cruisin', I signed up for Sleuth Extraordinaire, which is the highest level at 40+ cozies.

For Craving, I aimed for Starving, which is 76-100 cozies.

As you can see, I quite easily landed made both of these goals.

1. Vintage Trailers and Blackmailers by Heather Weidner
2. Murder Lo Mein by Vivien Chien
3. Knot What You Think by Mary Marks
4. Cement Stilettos by Diane Vallere
5. On Thin Icing by Ellie Alexander
7. A Quiet Undertaking by Penny Warner
8. Crimes and Covers by Amanda Flower
9. Murder in the Mountains by Various Authors
10. The Twist and Shout Murder by Teresa Trent
11. Murder in Morningside Heights by Victoria Thompson
12. A Deadly Bone to Pick by Peggy Rothschild
13. Grounds for Murder by Tara Lush
14. Wild Irish Rose by Rhys Bowen and Clare Broyles
15. Caramel Pecan Roll Murder by Joanne Fluke
16. A Nun in the Closet by Dorothy Gilman
17. The Decorator Who Knew Too Much by Diane Vallere
18. A Dismal Harvest by Daisy Bateman
19. A Bird's Eye View of Murder by Jacqueline Vick
20. An Eternal Lei by Naomi Hirahara
21. Dead in the Water by S. C. Merritt
22. Danger on the Atlantic by Erica Ruth Neubauer
23. Three Shots to the Wind by Sherry Harris
24. A Little Class on Murder by Carolyn Hart
25. Death in a Blackout by Jessica Ellicott
26. Idle Gossip by Renee Patrick
27. #FollowMe for Murder by Sarah E. Burr
28. Cozy Up to Trouble by Colin Conway
29. Cheddar Off Dead by Korina Moss
30. Panty Raid by Diane Vallere
31. Claws for Suspicion by Deborah Blake
32. Strawberried Alive by Jenn McKinlay
33. The Shadow of Memory by Connie Berry
34. Murder at Blackwater Bend by Clara McKenna
35. Killer on the Court by Jessica Fletcher and Terrie Farley Moran
36. The Lessons We Learn by Liz Milliron
37. Buried in a Good Book by Tamara Berry
38. Smile Beach Murder by Alicia Bessette
39. A Sprinkle in Time by Dana Mentink
40. Bayou Book Thief by Ellen Byron
41. The Navigator's Daughter by Nancy Cole Silverman
43. Up to No Gouda by Linda Reilly
44. Scone Cold Killer by Lena Gregory
45. Muddled Through by Barbara Ross
46. A Perilous Pal by Laura Bradford
47. Death by Bubble Tea by Jennifer J. Chow
48. The Pajama Frame by Diane Vallere
49. Murder Through the English Post by Jessica Ellicott
50. Mint Chocolate Murder by Meri Allen
51. An Almost Purrfect Murder by Jacqueline Vick
52. The Fragrance of Death by Leslie Karst
53. Murder of a Mail-Order Bride by Mimi Granger
54. A Dish to Die for by Lucy Burdette
55. Gone but not Furgotten by Cate Conte
56. Death on the Set by Rose Kerr
57. Round Up the Usual Peacocks by Donna Andrews
58. Union Jacked by Diane Vallere
59. Murder in the Piazza by Jen Collins Moore
60. Death in the Aegean by M. A. Monnin
61. Murder at Keyhaven Castle by Clara McKenna
62. Buttercream Betrayal by Kim Davis
63. Under Lock and Skeleton Key by Gigi Pandian
64. Deadly Director's Cut by Vicki Delany
65. Seams Like Murder by Dorothy Howell
66. Mrs. Claus and the Evil Elves by Liz Ireland
67. Staged 4 Murder by J. C. Eaton
68. Murder at the Mushroom Festival by Janet Finsilver
69. The Plot and the Pendulum by Jenn McKinlay
70. A Christmas Candy Killing by Christina Romeril
71. Broken Heart Attack by James J. Cudney
72. Deadly Valentine by Carolyn Hart
73. The Plot Thickets by Julia Henry
74. No Parm No Foul by Linda Reilly
75. A Book Club to Die For by Dorothy St. James
76. Secrets in the Stacks by Lynn Cahoon
77. Peril in Paris by Rhys Bowen
78. Lover Come Hack by Diane Vallere
79. Blind Side by Penny Warner
80. Knot My Sister's Keeper by Mary Marks
81. Bake Offed by Maya Corrigan
82. Knits, Knots, & Knives by Emmie Caldwell
83. A Streetcar Named Murder by T. G. Herren
84. Cozy Up to Christmas by Colin Conway
85. Slay Ride by Diane Vallere
86. Dashing Through the Snowbirds by Donna Andrews
87. Rum and Choke by Sherry Harris

Friday, December 30, 2022

December 30th's Friday Post

It's the final Friday of 2022, and I'm celebrating with a Friday post, where I will be linking up with:

Book Beginnings
First Line Friday
Friday 56
Book Blogger Hop

This week, for the first three, I'm pulling teasers from Gone for Gouda by Korina Moss.

This is the second in her Cheese Shop Mysteries.  It's set in Sonoma County, California, and I had the joy of reading part of it while I was up in Sonoma County for Christmas.  I finished it Wednesday night, and it was good.

Here's how it begins:

"Bavarian beer cheese."
I slid the ramekin of my version of German Obatzda across the sampling counter to the middle-aged couple the way a bartender might offer up a brew.

Okay, so maybe not the most exciting opening, but I feel this teaser from page 56 will make up for it:

"This morning when I was contemplating all the things that could go wrong tonight, this scenario never came to mind," I said to the others.

Just what went wrong?  I'll leave it to you to read the book and find out.  As I said, I enjoyed it.  Assuming I get some reviews written, I will be reviewing this one next Thursday.

Shall we get to the Book Blogger Hop?  This week's question is:

In 2022, how many books did you read?

I stopped at 139, according to Goodreads, although I think a few short stories are included in that number.  Not going to go back and actually count them, so we'll consider this close enough.  It would have been nice to hit a nice, round 140, but I'll take 139.

Have a great weekend and a happy new year!

Thursday, December 29, 2022

December 2022's Reading Summary

Another month and another year is coming to an end.  Hard to believe, isn't it?  But that means it is time for my final reading summary for 2022 with the books I read in December.

With Christmas, I didn't get the index updated this month.

The links take you to my full review.  All ratings are on a scale of 1 (bad) to 5 (great).


Knits, Knots, and Knives by Emmie Caldwell (Craft Fair Knitters Mysteries #3) – 4

Lia Geiger’s normal weekend craft fair is looking a bit different thanks to a Civil War reenactment taking place on the property.  She’s looking forward to it, although she quickly learns that there has been a recent power struggle in the group of reenactors.  When the smoke on the battle clears, the dead body of Arden Sprouse is discovered.  He was the one most responsible for the conflicts in the group.  Unfortunately, suspicion has fallen on Lia’s neighbor.  Can she figure out what really happened during the battle?

I’ve enjoyed this series because I really like Lia and her immediate family and friends.  She is a little older than a typical cozy sleuth, which I appreciate.  Her relationship with her daughter is a highlight as well.  While the suspects are all strong, I wish we’d had more of a reintroduction to the minor characters who populate Lia’s world.  The plot is good.  I do wish we had gotten shorter clue recaps, but there were several good twists along the way to the logical climax.  I also enjoyed some solid sub-plots.  The reenactment combined well with the crafting theme.  Those who have been enjoying this series will be pleased with the latest entry.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.


“W” is for Wasted by Sue Grafton (Kinsey Millhone #23) – 3

PI Kinsey Millhone is facing a stretch with no clients over the next couple of weeks, which she isn’t quite sure how she will fill.  That is, until she gets a phone call from the coroner’s office.  A homeless man has died, and the coroner has no idea who he is.  The only thing they have to go on is Kinsey’s name and office number.  Who might he be?  Why did he have Kinsey’s contact information in his pocket?

The premise of this book captured my attention from the start.  Unfortunately, the plot wandered, with a sub-plot taking over the middle of the book before Kinsey really even discovers there is a crime for her to solve.  We know that sooner thanks to some flashback chapters written in third person.  Both parts of the book are rushed in their resolution, leaving a couple of things dangling.  However, I still found myself engaged in the book thanks to the characters, who I still love.  It might have helped that I listened to the audio instead of reading it.  Judy Kaye, the narrator, does a great job once again here.  Fans of the series will want to see what happens here, but if you haven’t met Kinsey yet, I recommend you start earlier and work your way to this book.


City of Fortune by Victoria Thompson (Counterfeit Lady #6) – 4

Elizabeth Bates is accompanying her new husband, Gideon, to the race track.  One of his clients wants Elizabeth’s help in making his daughter, Irene Nolan, fit for society, which is funny since Elizabeth is still learning how to fit in herself.  The day of horse racing doesn’t go the way the Nolan’s had planned however, when neither of their horses do well.  But as Elizabeth gets to know Irene, Elizabeth realizes that Irene needs more help than fitting into society.  In fact, Elizabeth’s skills as a conwoman might prove to be extremely helpful.  Can she come up with a way to solve Irene’s real problems?

Obviously, this is more a caper than the typical mysteries I read, and I enjoyed the change of pace.  I did feel the plot could have used an additional twist or two and some personal stakes for Elizabeth to truly draw me in, but I still really enjoyed it.  And there are a couple of twists, one I didn’t see coming.  The characters are strong.  Elizabeth and Gideon are great lead characters, and we continue to get to know them well as we see the story unfold from both of their points of view.  There are some funny moments that come from the characters including one line that really made me laugh.  The 1919 setting is brought to life wonderfully as well.  This is a fun addition to a fun series.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.


A Streetcar Named Murder by T. G. Herren (New Orleans Mysteries #1) – 2

Valerie Cooper is facing changes in her life.  A young widow, her twin sons are now off at college, and she struggling to fill her days.  An unexpected letter reveals she’s inherited the estate of one of her late husband’s great uncles, a man that Valerie didn’t know existed.  The inheritance includes an antique shop.  Meanwhile, Valerie attends a Halloween costume ball, but the night ends when she finds a woman she knows stabbed to death outside the dance.  What is going on?

I sat down to read this hoping to find a new series I’d enjoy.  Sadly, it was very disappointing.  The author tried for something different when it came to the plot, which I appreciate, but the result wasn’t plotted well at all but did pick up in the second half.  It wasn’t helped by Valerie’s constant reflections on her life before her husband died and questioning why she’d never heard of this great uncle.  While this is important for Valerie’s character growth, it got to be a bit much.  Unfortunately, the ARC I read was also riddled with errors that should have been caught in editing, some of which made me question if what I saw from the suspects was the suspects hiding something or the sloppy editing.  Meanwhile, the author goes too far in making the victim unlikeable, turning her one dimensional.  I did like Valerie and her family and friends.  But there is not enough good here to recommend the book.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.


Christmas Past by Brian Earl – 4

Have you ever wondered why we celebrate Christmas the way we do?  If so, this book is for you.  It takes a look at four categories: food, entertainment, sights and sounds, and society.  Each category gets several chapters that focus on specific things like mince pies or candy canes, Rudolph, lights, and Christmas cards.  We get a look at the origins, the rise, and sometimes the fall, of these old traditions.

This book is purely looking at the secular, pop culture celebration of Christmas, although the religious aspect does pop up occasionally, most noticeably in the chapter on “Silent Night.”  A couple of chapters seem a bit vague, and the writing can be dry at times, but those are minor complaints.  On the whole, this was a fascinating look at where our traditions came from, both those we still use today and those that have faded over time.  I am not familiar with the author’s pod cast, but my understanding is much of this material first appeared there.  As a Christmas lover, I enjoyed learning more about the holiday.  If that’s you, you’ll enjoy this book as well.


Cozy Up to Christmas by Colin Conway (Cozy Up #5) – 3

Ed Belmont has landed a job as a mall Santa at a run-down mall in Pennsylvania.  He’s managed to hold on to the job for a month, and is looking at his final week on the job.  Unfortunately, dealing with kids, not Ed’s strong point, isn’t his biggest worry.  Someone has been robbing convenience stores dressed as Santa, and the police think Ed might be the culprit.  Then Santa robs the mall after hours.  Can Ed figure out who is really behind these thefts?

Those familiar with the series will immediately recognize that Ed is the latest identity of our protagonist, who is in witness protection.  I knew seeing him playing Santa would be fun, and I was right.  Unfortunately, a sub-plot intended to also be funny made me more uncomfortable.  I do like Ed and enjoy watching him deal with his newest struggles.  The rest of the characters are a bit thin.  The plot does wander a bit at times, but it comes together for an interesting climax.  I do enjoy watching Ed solve things.  And this is a fast read.  Fans will enjoy seeing what Ed gets up to in this holiday entry in the series.


The Christmas Caper by Gigi Pandian (Secret Staircase Mysteries #1.5) – 5

Tempest Raj and her family are reviving a Christmas tradition this year – Christmas in Scotland.  Her grandparents have even booked a flat with a stunning view of Edinburgh Castle.  However, a reunion with a family friend present Tempest with a puzzle to solve.  The local museum was robbed recently, and no one can figure out how the thieves pulled it off.  The friend has a connection to the museum and asks Tempest to see if she can figure out how the thieves pulled it off.  Will Tempest’s background as a magician help solve the puzzle?

When I learned about this story, I immediate snagged it to read during December.  It was exactly what I expected, a fun, short read.  I finished it in under an hour.  As a result, the story is a bit straight forward, but that’s not really a complaint.  More an observation.  While we don’t see all the characters we met in the first book, it was fun catching up with some of them again.  The new characters work for the story here.  While this does fit between the first and second novels in the series, you don’t have to have read them to enjoy this book.  Speaking of enjoying, there are two recipes at the end that sound delicious.  If you are looking for a short story to read in December, you’ll be glad you snagged this one.


Stellarlune by Shannon Messenger (Keeper of the Lost Cities #9) – 5

Sophie Foster has just learned that her friend Keefe has run away to the Forbidden Cities in order to hide from the changes that are being forced on him.  As much as Sophie wants to try to find him, she decides that her best course of action might be to find a way to stop the next step in the plans for Keefe.  Meanwhile, her friends have a less than positive reaction to the action she just took against their enemy, the Neverseen.  Will this drive a wedge in her circle of friends?

If that teaser doesn’t make sense to you, then this book isn’t for you – yet.  You really need to read these books in order.  Heck, I wish I’d had time to reread the last one before I dove into this one.  Fans will be thrilled with what we get, however.  I only felt the pacing slowed down a couple of times, which is saying something for a 700 page book.  We definitely got some advancement on the overall story as well.  Meanwhile, the characters continue to mature, and I loved how that lead to some natural progressions in relationships.  Sophie’s world continues to be fun as well.  Naturally, there’s a cliffhanger, which means I’m already anxious for the next book.


Slay Ride by Diane Vallere (Samantha Kidd #10) – 5

In the couple of weeks before Christmas, Samantha Kidd has taken a temporary job as a social media influencer.  Her friend Kyle Trent helped her get the job and is acting as her mentor.  But when he misses a planned morning photo shoot, Samantha begins to worry.  As she starts to get contradictory information about her friend, she knows something is wrong.  Can she figure out what really happened?

This holiday entry, billed as a novella, is shorter than a typical novel in the series, but fans will hardly notice.  There are still plenty of twists and turns that lead Samantha and us to the logical climax.  Okay, so it was a bit rushed, but everything is explained.  The characters, new and returning, are great, and we see more growth in Samantha.  Along with that, we get some shenanigans from Samantha and plenty of humor.  If you haven’t found this light, fun series yet, you’ll definitely enjoy it.  And if you are a fan who hasn’t read this entry yet, you are in for a treat.


Dashing Through the Snowbirds by Donna Andrews (Meg Langslow #32) – 5

It’s a few days before Christmas, but Meg’s house isn’t full of visiting relatives like normal.  Instead, it’s full of Canadians who are there trying to finish up a rush project.  They are working with Mutant Wizards, Meg’s brother’s computer company.  Their CEO, however, is less than ethical.  Just as Meg starts to learn some of the things he’s been doing recently, he is killed out in her yard.  Is she harboring a killer in her house?

It had a very busy couple of weeks, and I hadn’t realized just how stressful until I sat down with this book and began to truly relax while visiting Meg’s world again.  As with the other Christmas entries in the series, the Christmas spirit comes through on every page.  But it never forgets it is a murder mystery.  The climax could have been a little stronger, but I’m being nitpicky there.  I absolutely love this cast of characters, and I delighted in spending more time with them.  They had me smiling and laughing as I read.  If you need a dose of Christmas spirit, this book will definitely give it to you.


Rum and Choke by Sherry Harris (Chloe Jackson, Sea Glass Saloon Mysteries #4) – 5

Chloe Jackson has been drafted to represent the Sea Glass Saloon in the Barback Games.  This annual tradition, a multi stage competition that includes physical and bar related contests, sounds fun until she meets some of her competition – ringers brought in to represent other bars.  Meanwhile, her friend Ann asks Chloe to go with her as Ann tries to find a pirate ship sunk long ago.  The first morning out ends abruptly when Ann finds a dead body – one of the Barback Games ringers.  What is going on?

Sherry Harris is one of my favorite mystery writers, and this book is a perfect example why.  With all of the storylines, this book has more than enough to keep us engaged.  Yet, it doesn’t unfold in a traditional cozy way, which is a wonderful thing.  Chloe pieces everything together for a great climax.  It was nice getting to know Ann better, and Chloe is continuing to grow as well.  The rest of the returning characters are charming, and the new characters fit in perfectly.  I’m not a drinker, so I might have passed up this series if anyone else were writing it.  But I’m so glad I started reading it.  Whether this is your first visit with Chloe or you already love her, you’ll enjoy this book.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Ornament Review: Seasons Treatings #14 - Eggnog and Fruitcake - 2022 Hallmark Release

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Lovely treats to look at …
Cons: … Even if you don’t like the taste in real life
The Bottom Line:
Treats look delicious
Even to those who don’t like
Looks great on your tree

Makes Even Treats I Don’t Like Look Delicious

While there are many Christmas treats that most people like, there are some that you either love or hate.  Two of those form the basis for this year’s entry in the Season’s Treatings series from Hallmark.

This year, we have a fruit cake and a carton of eggnog.  They are both sitting on an oval platter with a red base and blue ring around the sides.  The fruit cake is taking up about half of it.  It’s nice and round and you can see bits of fruit in it as well as what look like nuts on the top.  Meanwhile, there’s a carton of eggnog on the other half, and two mugs filled with it.  There’s cinnamon floating on the top and a stick of cinnamon sticking out of each mug.  The mugs are fun – one of them is a reindeer and the other is Santa.  The carton is blue with a snowman on it.  Even though it isn’t in traditional holiday colors, it still looks very festive.  In front of the mugs, we can see 2022 written on the platter.

As I said in the opening, I’m not a fan of either.  Part of it is that they can often include alcohol, and I’ve never developed a taste for it, even when it is cooked or baked into something.  But even the times I’ve tried either when they had no alcohol in them at all, I really didn’t care for the taste.  But I know others who love them.

But I still can’t help but love this ornament.  Like always, the treats look absolutely delicious.  The colors are good, and everything just flows together well.  I might not be tempted to actually eat these items, unlike some entries in the series, but I can see how others who like these treats would be tempted to eat them.

Since this is a platter, you can easily set it out as part of a display if you want.  The 14 in a Christmas tree series marker is on the bottom.

I would advise against hanging this ornament too high on your tree.  If you do, all you’ll really see is the white bottom of the serving tray.  However, when you go to hang the ornament, you’ll find that it hangs straight, unlike many in the series that purposely hang at a fun angle.

Whether you like fruit cake and eggnog or not, this entry in the Season’s Treatings series will still tempt you to hang it on your tree.

Take a bite out of the rest of the Season’s Treatings ornaments.

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Book Review: Rum and Choke by Sherry Harris (Chloe Jackson, Sea Glass Saloon Mysteries #4)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great characters in fun, engaging story
Cons: You’ll find no cons to choke over
The Bottom Line:
Bar contest, murder
Seasoned with a treasure hunt
Recipe for fun

Bar Contests, Treasure Hunts, and Murder

It’s always a joy when Sherry Harris has a new book coming out.  Her inventive plots and great characters have made her one of my favorite authors.  Rum and Choke is another winner.

This is the fourth book in the Chloe Jackson, Sea Glass Saloon Mystery series.  Chloe is a former librarian who moved to the Florida panhandle when she got a surprise inheritance from her best friend.  Along with the friend’s grandmother, Chloe is the part owner of the Sea Glass Saloon, a bar that opens up to the beach.

It’s been ten months since Chloe moved down to Emerald Cove, Florida, so she hasn’t heard of the Barback Games before.  It’s a contest and features a series of obstacles and bar related events that employees of various local bars compete in.  Chloe has been drafted to participate for the Sea Glass Saloon, but she is worried when she learns that some bars hire ringers to compete for them.  When she meets some of her competition, Chloe is definitely afraid that she is in over her head.

Meanwhile, her friend Ann asks her to help with a treasure hunt.  Ann is a descendant of the pirate Jean Lafitte, and Ann thinks she’s found a map that will lead her to one of his ships that sunk nearby centuries ago.  Chloe agrees to go out when Ann dives at the most likely spots one morning.  However, their trip ends suddenly when Ann finds the body of one of the barback games contestants.  Why is he down there?  When Ann and Chloe fall under suspicion, Chloe jumps in to figure out what is going on.  Will she solve the mystery?

Between the two storylines, there’s more than enough to keep us engaged the entire way through.  It also means that the story unfolds differently than it might in a typical cozy mystery.  That’s a good thing.  I was fully invested in both storylines, and watching Chloe piece things together at the end was wonderful.  The climax wraps things up perfectly, and I was left very satisfied.

Meanwhile, I love spending time with the characters.  Ann has been a background character so far in the series.  It was nice to see some of the mysteries surrounding her be resolved as we got to spend more time with her.  Chloe faces some dilemmas, and I enjoyed seeing how she worked through them.  The other characters are just as fantastic as always.  The new characters fit in well with the characters we’ve already met.

Since this book is set in April at the beach, it is the perfect antidote to winter weather.  Even the cold (for us) weather we’ve been having in Southern California.

As someone who doesn’t drink, I might not have picked up this series if it weren’t written by Sherry Harris.  I’m so glad I did since I have enjoyed every book in the series.  Whether Rum and Choke is your introduction to Chloe or you’ve been reading since the beginning, you’ll love spending time with her here.

Have another round with the rest of the Chloe Jackson, Sea Glass Saloon Mysteries.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.

Monday, December 26, 2022

Disney Pin Review: Sully's Safaris - Windows of Main Street - 2021 Release

: 4 out of 5
Pros: Good pin for a Disney legend
Cons: Slide doesn’t operate smoothly
The Bottom Line:
Disney parks career
Honored with window, now pin
With safari theme

You Don’t Have to Go on a Safari to Enjoy the Final Windows of Main Street Pin

We’ve reached the final pin from the Windows of Main Street pin series I haven’t reviewed.  As with most of the people in this series, it honors a Disney Legend I wasn’t familiar with, but I enjoyed getting to learn a little bit more about William Sullivan.

Bill “Sully” Sullivan started out at Disneyland in 1955.  He was only 19 when he applied, just days after the park opened.  He started out as a ticket taker for the Jungle Cruise, but he quickly moved up, helping Disney with the pageantry surrounding the 1960 winter Olympics and the movie premier of Mary Poppins.  By the time the company was getting ready to open the Magic Kingdom in Florida, he moved there and eventually became the president of the Magic Kingdom before he retired.

Obviously, his biggest connection is to the parks themselves.  As a result, they themed his window around his start at Disney.  This window is for Sully’s Safaris.  The rest of the window reads “Guide service.  Bill Sullivan, Chief Guide.”  This pin is a good representation of the window at the Magic Kingdom in Florida.  Since he was president of that park, it makes perfect sense his window would be there, right?  You’ll find it above the ice cream shop.

The safari theme continues with the hidden insides to this pin.  The window slides up to reveal Mickey.  He’s dressed like a guide for the Jungle Cruise, and he’s in one of the boats.  Since I love that attraction, I definitely like having that picture.  Mickey is the only character who was repeated in the pin series, but he’s Mickey.  That’s perfectly fine.

Unfortunately, the writing on the window is a little small.  It’s only on the bottom part of the window, which is exactly how it is in the park.  But that makes it small.  Either that, or I really need to check my eyes and maybe get some glasses.  Either way, the writing is darker than in some of the pins in the series.  You can still see Mickey through the semi-opaque glass of the window, but it isn’t impossible to read.

My complaint actually comes with sliding the pane up and down.  It doesn’t slide smoothly but instead sticks out to one side or the other, so you have to really fight it.

That aside, this is another fun pin.  I realize they won’t appeal to everyone, but DisNerds will geek out over getting to own a little representation of Disney history.

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Merry Christmas! (A Sunday/Monday Post)

How many kings step down from their thrones?
How many lords have abandoned their homes?
How many greats have become the least for me?
And how many gods have poured out their hearts
To romance a world that is torn all apart
How many fathers gave up their sons for me?

Only one did that for me

Downhere from their Christmas CD How Many Kings (read my review here) (listen to the full song here)

I'm gonna walk around that broken Earth
Trading in these streets of gold
So if you ever wonder how much you're worth
You should know
You're the reason why I'm leaving Heaven.

Matthew West from his Christmas CD The Heart of Christmas (read my review here) (listen to the full song here)

Mystery, how He came to be a man
But greater still
How His death was in His plan
God predestined that His Son would die
And He still created man
Oh, what love is this
That His death was in His hands

I am just a man and can't begin to comprehend
When You look into these traitor's eyes,
What do You see that justifies the Lamb

Selah from their Christmas CD Rose of Bethlehem (read my review here) (listen to the full song here)

Merry Christmas!

Yes, this is a Sunday/Monday post, and yes, this is already much more than I usually post on Christmas.

Obviously from what I've posted the last couple of weeks, I love so many of the traditions around Christmas.  I love the decorations and the music and presents.  And yes, I'm aware that Christmas Day isn't the day Jesus was really born.  But I still love that we have a time to reflect on what His coming to Earth means for us.  It really does boggle my mind that God became man to pay for our sins.

The lyrics I shared are from three of my favorite non-traditional Christmas songs.  They are songs that humble me and wow me each year when I reflect on what Jesus's coming truly means.  I hope you give them some thought as well in the middle of your busy Christmas.

And I hope you are having a wonderful Christmas with family.  I most definitely am.  I'm going to keep the rest of this short.  Yes, I'll still be linking up to the usual suspects:

Sunday Post
Sunday Salon
Stacking the Shelves
Mailbox Monday
It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

Before we get into the usual segments, I do want to ask about reading challenges for 2023.  I will be signing up for the ones I am doing this year again.  (Here's the list of my current challenges.)  But if you are hosting or participate in any that you think I might like, feel free to drop a link in the comments.  I'd love to take a look and potentially join.  I'll be officially joining 2023 reading challenges next Monday, but I can always sneak more in later if you see this later than that.

This Past Week on the Blog:

This Coming Week on the Blog:

Sunday - Merry Christmas (you are here)
Monday - Disney Pin Review: Sully's Safaris - Windows of Main Street
Tuesday - Book Review: Rum and Choke by Sherry Harris
Wednesday - Ornament Review: Season's Treatings #14
Thursday - December Reading Summary
Friday - Friday Post
Saturday - 2022 Reading Challenge Wrap Ups (multiple posts)

Book Haul:

At one point, I thought I might not have anything for this part since it's right before Christmas.  Yeah, I don't know me too well, do I?

I blame Diane Vallere's weekly email.  She is doing cooperative marketing with other authors, and that means free books.  How can you pass that up?  I can't, which is how I got copies of Limoncello Yellow and Franki Amato Mini Mysteries, both by Traci Andrighetti.  And it's how I got Murder, Curlers, and Cream by Arlene McFarlane.

And yes, I did buy a book as well.  Wretched Waterpark by Kiersten White crossed my radar a couple of months back, so when the Kindle version went on sale this week, I couldn't pass that up.  Sounds like a fun middle grade book.

Currently Reading:

As I type this, I'm in the middle of Gone for Gouda by Korina Moss.  Since I'm celebrating Christmas with my family, I don't expect to get a lot of reading in this weekend.  That's too bad because so far, I'm enjoying this book.  A fun fact - it is set in Sonoma County.  I'm currently in Sonoma County celebrating Christmas.  Coincidence?  Not in the slightest.

Again, have a merry Christmas and a great week.

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Christmas Eve's Weekly TV Thoughts

If it weren't for the Lego Master's holiday celebrity special, I'd have nothing this week.

Lego Masters Holiday Bricktackular: Night One – I’m wondering if all the teams will win one challenge and then they’ll give money to the final team’s charity as well.  I mean, this is the holidays, so why not?  I certainly had fun watching this.  I guess they didn’t care of the car fell apart at the launch or on the ramp since everyone did that.  All of the designs were great, but I did really love that tree.

Lego Masters Holiday Bricktackular: Night Two – From first place to last place.  And Mel completely redeemed himself, building a sleigh that held so much.  It definitely looked better of the two that were in the top two.  Plus, we have different winners both weeks.  I’ll be interested to see if all the teams win as I predicted.  Then again, if that happens, who gets the trophy?

Lego Masters Holiday Bricktackular: Night Three – Only three winners, but they still gave money to the other team’s charity.  That didn’t surprise me.  What did surprise me was two tasks but really only one winner (despite how they might spin it).  I was a bit surprise at who won the toy.  I would have gone with the game.  But I certainly agree about which of the snow globes was the best.  And the winner of the final challenge gets the trophy?  That seems a little random in some ways.  But still, I had fun overall, and I’m glad they did this.

Friday, December 23, 2022

December 23rd's Friday Post

Hello and welcome to this week's Friday post.  As usual, I'll be linking up to:

Book Beginnings
First Line Friday
Friday 56
Book Blogger Hop

This week, for the first three, I'll be pulling teasers from Rum and Choke, the fourth Chloe Jackson, Sea Glass Saloon Mystery from Sherry Harris.

These books are always a lot of fun, as you can tell from this opening:

Have you ever walked into work to find your boss and coworker staring at you with over eager expressions?  Me either - until today and I immediately realized something was up.

I'll admit, I had a little smile on my face as I read this.  Yet it made me want to read on to discover exactly what was up.

Of course, there is a mystery, too.  This is me, after all.  And page 57 (yes, I'm cheating a bit for the Friday 56) gives that part a jolt.  Chloe is out on a boat with her friend Ann for safety as Ann goes diving for a hidden treasure.  However....

A splash made me put down the binoculars as Ann's head emerged.
"Did you find anything?"
"Yes," she said.  "Give me a hand."
I was expecting a treasure chest, but she had her arm around the neck of a body.

I enjoyed this book, which isn't a surprise since I love Sherry Harris's books.  It comes out Tuesday, and my review will be up then.

Let's wrap things up with the Book Blogger Hop for the week.  This week's question is:

Did Santa bring you any books?

I'm expecting books for Christmas since that was the majority of my wish list.  However, since I'm posting this on Friday and Christmas isn't until Sunday, I don't know which books I got yet.

Merry early Christmas to all who will be celebrating this weekend.  No matter what you are doing, I hope you have a wonderful weekend.