Book Review: Christmas Ever After – Delightful Holiday Romance

Christmas Ever After by Karen Schaler

Author Riley Reynolds hasn’t celebrated Christmas since the year her father and sister died, even though she was only a child when it happened. This year she is dubbed Miss Christmas by her publicist in a last-ditch effort to save her romance writing career. Once a best-selling author, her last novel bombed. She has to get back on track with her Christmas romance novel or she will no longer have a contract to do what she loves best.

In desperation she agrees to host a Christmas Camp at Christmas Lake Lodge. Since the owner died and his wife retired to Florida, their son Luke has tried to keep it afloat. Competition from a new resort that is close by has taken its toll on the quaint lodge. Christmas Camp will be the last event held in it before Luke is forced to sell the family business.

The Scrooge Riley has become will soon be surprised when some of her ghosts of Christmas past turn up when she is least expecting them. Three ex-boyfriends have arrived at Christmas Camp, each of them convinced she still loves and has been pining for them. Now she has to decide if indeed one them is the man that will write the happily ever after ending to her story. But then there is Luke…could one of these four men ignite the spark she is looking for in her life and in her writing? It will take a Christmas miracle to find out.

This charming Christmas romance has everything readers love. Handsome men, a delightful setting and a dog that steels the show make Christmas Ever After the perfect holiday book. The characters are interesting and all have different thoughts and memories surrounding the holidays. They share the common goal of spreading the Christmas spirit with charity, kindness, family and friends – helping Riley rekindle her love for Christmas.

It is heartwarming to read a book that has a happily ever after ending. It is the first book I’ve read by this award-winning author, but won’t be the last. I have watched and loved her Christmas movies that can be seen on Netflix, Hallmark and Lifetime.  Be sure to check out the recipes and Christmas activities that are included at the end of the book. I can’t wait to add Christmas Lake Blueberry Cinnamon Rolls to our Christmas celebration.

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Book Review: The Nesting: Page- Turning Thriller

The Nesting

By C. J. Cooke

In desperation, Lexi tried to end her life. Even though a friend found her in time, Lexi’s life will never be the same. She lost her job, her eight-year relationship as well as her home when her boyfriend kicked her out of their apartment. Despondent and destitute, she overhears a conversation on a train regarding a job. One of girls in the seat in front of her has been called for an interview to be a nanny in Norway, but is going to turn it down. Before she can talk herself out of it, Lexi snaps a picture of the application and the woman’s resume.

Much to her surprise Lexi, now known as Sophie, lands the job and has made her way to Norway to join her new employer and his children. She is now working for Tom Faraday, looking after and his two daughters. Coco is only nine-months old and her sister Gaia is six. They are in Norway with their father while he builds a vacation home for them to escape London when the weather is inclement and the crowds overwhelming.

Sophie finds out Tom’s wife, the children’s mother, died recently. She is saddened by the family’s loss, but thrilled to be in Norway. She quickly settles down to the daily routine. Soon she begins to see and hear things that are strange. Gaia confirms sightings of what can only be described as supernatural beings that Sophie has encountered. Maybe the children’s mother, Aurelia, did not kill herself. Perhaps, as folklore predicts, the land and animals are getting even with those who disturb them and the death of Aurelia was just the beginning.

The characters are interestingly flawed, yet endearing at times. The plot twists and turns, taking the reader back to before Aurelia dies to present day. Ms. Cooke grabs readers, taking us along Sophie/Lexi’s journey from the first pages to the last. The Nesting is a page-turning thriller that keeps you guessing until the satisfying end.

This is the first book I have read by C.J. (Carolyn Jess) Cooke. A novelist and poet, she hails from Belfast Northern Ireland and has published several other books. This is the first one I have read, but will not be the last. I loved it.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2020 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Jingle All The Way – Delightful Holiday Tale

By Debbie Newcomber

Everly Lancaster has created the life she has always wanted from the time she changed her given name, Daisy, to something more sophisticated and worldly: Everly. A workaholic, she co-owns a top selling Chicago real estate company with Jack Campbell, a long-time friend and colleague. Everly shoulders the late nights, firings and problems that Jack finds distasteful. But when his niece, Annette is hired as Everly’s assistant with Jack’s recommendation, things go south fast.

Lazy, spoiled and incompetent, Annette bungles a very important event, so Everly insists on her termination. Jack balks, finding it distasteful to fire his niece. He insists Everly needs a vacation and demands she takes off the entire month of December. A contrite Annette books a cruise for Everly, who agrees she might need some time to unwind on a nice relaxing vacation. Unfortunately, the cruise is anything but relaxing. No internet, no telephone, no amenities and no way to leave the ship. But the good news is there is a naturalist onboard, Asher Adams, who is very handsome and very interesting. Maybe the trip won’t be as bad as it seems – or it might just be worse than she ever imagined.

From the first chapters, the interesting characters and unusual situations pulled me in and didn’t let go. Jingle All The Way is not your typical Christmas novel, which makes it interesting and charming with a satisfying end. It is the perfect holiday story that will make you chuckle; make you sniffle and make you want to read just one more chapter to see what is happening next. I highly recommend it.

Debbie Newcomber is a familiar name because she is a best-selling author with thirteen novels reaching #1 on the NYT bestseller lists. Five of her Christmas novels are now beloved movies that can be seen on the Hallmark Channel. Ms. Newcomber pulls readers into her books, with her heartwarming characters and stories.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2020 Laura Hartman

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Bookreview: Hanging Falls – Fast-Paced K-9 Mystery

Hanging Falls

By Margaret Mizushima

Deputy Mattie Cobb and her canine partner Robo are about to meet Mattie’s long-lost sister and grandmother. Taken as a child, Mattie and her family did not know how to find each other until she registered her DNA on an ancestry website. As luck would have it, her sister also registered on the site, linking them at last. She is anxious, but excited to reconnect.

The day before Mattie plans to fly out to see them, she has the misfortune of finding a body while on a hike at Hanging Falls. As always, her instincts and training kick in. Mattie and Robo are needed to track the possible killer. One body leads to another in this complicated case. Are they related or is this just a coincidence? She is torn between her past and the present. Thankfully her family decides to drive to see her so that she can reacquaint herself with them while she and Robo continue to work the case.

The deeper she delves into the murders, the more she needs the help of her colleagues as well as her boyfriend, the local veterinarian, Cole Walker. Soon they become suspicious of an oddly strict religious group, but evidence also points to others in the community. Now Mattie divides her attention between solving the murders and learning about her past from the only people who know what really happened to her and her family when she was a child.

This fast-paced mystery will have you reading “just one more chapter” because it cannot be put down. The lives of the characters are interesting and realistic. There are several suspects in the crime that will keep you guessing until the final chapters.

Reading a new book in a beloved series is like catching up with old friends. Ms. Mizushima does a fantastic job pulling in information from the previous books in the series so that readers that have not read them are not lost. While I feel Hanging Falls works well as a standalone novel, I encourage readers to check out the previous books in the series. You will love all of them – I certainly do!

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy from publicist Maryglenn McCombs in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2020 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Woodson Falls: 16 Lakeview Terrace – Stunning Debut Novel

Woodson Falls: 16 Lakeview Terrace A Gaby Quinn Mystery

by Andrea O’Connor

Gabriella Quinn is living the quiet life of a small-town lawyer. Life has delt her a hand she never thought she would have to play. Not so very long ago she lived in New York City with her beloved husband. Her world came crashing down the night he was murdered and she was seriously injured by an unknown assailant in the city they both loved. Moving to Woodson Falls and her adored dog Kat are the two things helping her cope with the residual pain and fear from the attack.

When she is called upon to settle the estate of Pieter Jorgenson, a Woodson Falls resident, she happily takes the case. Unfortunately, this case will be anything but ordinary. He was an odd man. He was feuding with his neighbors, and yet he was a kind and compassionate crossing guard for the elementary school children. A loner skilled in woodworking, he seems to have ties in New York City as he was found there, dead in his truck.

As Gaby begins collecting information to settle the estate, she contacts his only known relative, an uncle who paints a picture of Jorgenson as a bullied young boy that grew up to be a loner. One evening after gathering papers from the dead man’s home, Gaby is rammed by a vehicle on the way home. She is shaken, but not hurt. Luckily Officer Matt Thomas was patrolling the area and helped Gaby get a tow truck for her car and got her home safely.

As luck would have it, Matt has ties to New York, and helps grease the wheels for her with the NYPD when she has to go looking for information on Jorgenson’s death. The deeper she digs, the more secrets she finds. Jorgenson apparently was not the man many people thought he was – but who and what exactly was he?

I loved this fast-paced mystery. The characters, especially Gaby and Jorgenson, have many layers that are interesting to peel back and discover. The solid plot that ties up all loose ends in the final chapters is perfect for mystery lovers as well as legal thriller fans. Readers will latch on to this and not let go until the final pages.

This is the first book I have read by Andrea O’Connor but will not be my last. She has previously published several non-fiction books. Woodson Falls: 16 Lakeview Terrace is her first venture into fiction. I absolutely loved her writing style as well as the plot and characters. I’m adding her to my favorites list so that I can snatch up her next book as soon as it hits the shelves. I highly recommend you check out this fabulous debut fiction author.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Reedsy Discovery in exchange for a fair and honest review. https://reedsy.com/discovery/book/woodson-falls-16-lakeview-terrace-andrea-o-connor#review Copyright © 2020 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: A Christmas Resolution

Fast Paced Christmas Mystery

The Reverend Arthur Roberson has known loss in his life, particularly his beloved wife. That is why he has a soft heart for her brother Seth Marlow. Marlow is brash and has been rumored to have done harm to his wife in the past before her disappearance. Now he is being blackmailed by an unknown person regarding his missing wife and daughter.

Celia is a kind woman that has always sought the truth in her life. Involved previously in a police matter she did not tell the truth, but the lie was because an innocent person would have gone to jail. This has followed her like a shadow, always with her. When her best friend Clementine agrees to marry Marlow, he warns Celia to stay away from Clementine. Known for his violence, he may not stop by merely threatening Celia. Frightened for her, Celia’s husband, Police Officer John Hopper, begins to investigate the disappearance of Marlow’s wife and daughter. Disregarding her own safety, Celia stands up for herself as well as Clementine much to the ire of Marlow. Will he make good on his threats to harm her if she doesn’t stay out of his business?

This fast-paced Christmas mystery has an interesting twist. While the story is set at Christmas, the main storyline is the investigation of the disappearance of Marlow’s family. If you like a solidly plotted mystery with a side of holiday traditions, I recommend this book. The fast-paced story is interesting and entertaining.

This Victorian Christmas Novel is written by best-selling author Anne Perry. A prolific writer since the late 1970’s, she is best known for her Victorian detective novels.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2020 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: In A Holidaze – Funny, Sexy and Heartwarming – I loved this book

In A Holidaze

By Christina Lauren

For as long as she could remember, Maelyn Jones has celebrated Christmas with her family and close family friends in a snowy mountain cabin in Salt Lake. Many things have changed over the years, but the constant in Mae’s life is the week with everyone together each December – that is until this year. The devastating news that the cabin is going to be sold is bad enough, but on the way to the airport, Mae and her family are in a serious car crash – but did it really happen?

Waking up on the plane after the car crash, Mea is confused. Her family tells her that they are on the way to Salt Lake, not on the way home and there was no accident. Mea knows better – she knows the details of the week, including a hookup with one of the guys she now regrets. Just like the funny movie Groundhog Day, she has to redo the week – this time hopefully getting it right. Everyone thinks there is something wrong with her except Benny, a college friend of her parents. He believes Mea but tells her she has to figure it out herself in order to stop the time traveling loop she seems to be caught in.

In A Holidaze is cute, funny, sexy and has a satisfying end. All of the characters are developed with interesting backstories binding them all together since the parents of Mae and her contemporaries met in college. Marriages, divorce and children have not stopped them from celebrating the holidays together each year. They are perfectly suited for a Christmas story. Mae is at a crossroad in her life and the author allows her to flounder as she learns the important lesson of growth and stepping out of the shadow of others to become the person she wants to be.

I love all things Christmas. I could picture this as a blockbuster Christmas movie – but be sure to read the book first, the book is ALWAYS better! This is the first book I have read by the dynamic duo of Lauren Billings and Christina Hobbs – who write under the pseudonym Christina Lauren. These best-selling authors have a long list of books just waiting for you to discover.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2020 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Origami Animals – Fun for Kids and Adults

Origami Animals

By Dover Publications

Origami Animals features twenty designs, eight of which are easy to make. If you are an expert or new to Origami you will enjoy this book. From kittens to caterpillars the step-by-step instructions will help you fold the included origami paper into over a hundred animals.

After you get comfortable with the folds and following the directions, there are more complex animals to create. Turtles, owls and even a crab will delight your children after following a few simple steps.

The book also included 200 sheets of origami paper, cut to the exact size needed. Rich solid colors as well as beautiful floral and geometric designs are included. One of my favorites is a butterfly/floral pattern that would be lovely made into a butterfly.

I recommend this book for novice folders. Children could easily learn to create the easier animals, perhaps with a little guidance from an adult until they get comfortable making the folds.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy from Dover Publications in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Copyright © 2020 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Somebody Else’s Troubles – Must Read Literary Fiction

Somebody Else’s Troubles

By J. A. English

 

Travers Landeman is not a happy man. He has always done what is right, often at the expense of his own peace of mind and happiness. On the day he decides to disappear he doesn’t hesitate or have regrets about leaving. He does have regrets for some of the choices he made in life. Guilt can be overwhelming and is one of the demons that haunts him. Becoming a man of action instead of reaction was not an easy journey, but he is willing to take the first step. While most of the people in his former life don’t really care that he is gone, there is one man that is determined to find him. If he succeeds, this could ruin the new life that Travers has created.

On the tiny island of Mabuhay, he meets Marguerite. She spent time in the United States going to school and learning how cruel life can be. She does not talk about what happened, but does not trust white men.

Somebody Else’s Troubles is interesting and complicated. Amidst self-loathing and regret, peace is found by forgiveness and love. It is easy to read but hard to forget. J. A. English brings his characters into controversial situations, then shows the consequences of how they deal with them. He makes the reader think about situations they may have encountered or will encounter; he brings a realism into the story that will resonate with readers on a deep level. This is the best work of literary fiction I have read in years, I loved it.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy from publicist Maryglenn McCombs in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2020 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: The 9 Ghosts of Samen’s Bane – Fast Paced Fright

The 9 Ghosts of Samen’s Bane

By D. A. Schneider

Mild mannered Adrian Dillard decides to join a venture to revitalize passenger train travel at the suggestion of a good friend and entrepreneur. Everything seems to be going well until a tragically fateful night leaves over a hundred people dead and Adrian becomes a vessel for 9 young ghosts. The dead kids have a mission to complete, but need the help of a person who is still alive to carry it out. Adrian is hesitant and afraid, but he is more afraid of what the spirits that inhabit his body will do to his pregnant wife and young son if he does not do what they ask.

They come to him in dreams at first, but soon they manifest themselves to explain how they need Adrian to vanquish their evil enemy – Samen. Appalled at the thought that he has to play a part in an epic battle of good and evil, Adrian resists. He defends his reluctance by reminding the 9 that he is a mere mortal, unequipped for a showdown with the devil. They quickly assure him that they each have supernatural powers that they can teach him use to vanquish their enemy. Even though he is scared silly, he has to try. So begins his transformation from dad to demon hunter.

This is not your classic story of good and evil. First of all, kids are in charge of the plan to eliminate Samen. Granted they have super powers, but they are still unruly children at times. Adrian is the perfect choice to go from zero to hero because he has a lot at stake. Unfortunately, his reluctance and gentle nature make him an unlikely savior. The deeper he gets involved with the 9, the more questions he has. His intuition is telling him that they are hiding something from him. Little things begin to not add up, especially when he does a little investigating on his own. Will this get him killed? He doesn’t know, but what will happen to the world if he doesn’t at least try?

The 9 Ghosts of Samen’s Bane is fast-paced, unpredictable and an absolute hoot to read. Of course, there are dead people milling about, and there is a force that is trying to end mankind.  There is also humor in the juxtaposition of Adrian battling with dead people during the night and going Christmas shopping at the mall with his family.

If you are a fan of Christopher Moore, you will love this book. This is the first book I have read by Schneider, but will not be the last. Luckily, he is a prolific writer, so he has a list of books just waiting for me – and you – to discover.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Reedsy Discovery in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2020 Laura Hartman

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