Review: Mistletoe and Murder – Carola Dunn

3 of 5 stars
Published 2002

This is a Christmas adventure in a series of books about the heroine, Daisy Dalrymple, who is married to a London police inspector in the 1920s, book #11 in the series. It’s the first I’ve read by this author so I don’t really know how it compares to the rest of the series. I picked it up from the library as part of the December holiday reading challenge.

Daisy is spending Christmas 1923 at a mansion in Cornwall at the invitation of the distant cousin who owns it. The house is  so remote that it has no electricity at all. Most of the guests are other distant relatives that are dependent on the kindness of the owner of the house who is not there for the holidays. Daisy arrives a few days ahead of her husband so that she can research and write about the house for the newspaper she works for so we get to know the other guests through her. There are two brothers, one a captain in the army and the other a historian. Their mother is an elderly woman from India. The captain has brought a sour old preacher to the festivities. There are also two teenage girls, one who wanders the grounds pretending to be a ghost and a younger one that tends to be a bit volatile. Daisy is stepmother to a little girl and there’s a boy as well, a cousin.

When the preacher turns up dead in a chapel in the house on Christmas Eve, Daisy helps work out who did the deed, digging into the family’s history.

It’s a light book, easy to read and, for me at least, is far more entertaining than Christmas romance/miracle type stories.


Review: All Our Wrong Todays – Elan Mastai

2017: 99
4 of 5 stars
Published 2017

Most books about time travel follow the same rules. If you change something in the past, the future is rewritten. Sometimes for the better but usually for the worse. Tom Barren lives in 2016 where technology is king, there is no war, cars fly and life is good overall. Tom gets caught up in a time travel accident and the new 2016 is good for him personally though everyone thinks he’s John Barren, even if the tech is more like the world we know. So should he go back and change it back to where it should be and risk losing everything or if he tries, how much worse can it be?

The author does a good job of building the worlds in the timelines. You also start wondering, is there a timeline crossover or is one reality a delusion of another one? Are there more timelines?   As things change will past mistakes be corrected or will they be worse?

I had a little trouble with the ending, seemed to be rather more sophisticated than it had to be but it was still very good.

Review: A Grosvenor Square Christmas

3 of 5 stars
Published 2013

This was another free or cheap Kindle Christmas themed book that I decided to read for the Goodreads CanadianContent December challenge. It contains four short stories/novellas centred on an elegant house in Grosvenor Square, London where Lady Lucy Winterston holds a Christmas Ball every year and every year, there’s a love match made. We dip into four Balls between 1803 and 1830, late Georgian England.

In one story, there’s a reunion between a middle aged woman and a younger man who helped her escape the French Revolution. Their re-acquaintance exposes their long hidden feelings for each other. An established gentleman falls for a woman who only cares to be friends. Can he sweep her off her feet? (of course he can! this is romance, remember!). Conversely, a young woman is only regarded as a friend so she endeavors to change in order to sweep him off *his* feet. A young woman who has dreams might find one of them coming true. And a long term friendship might just change into love.

Little romantic bites, a racy scene or two, quick reads. I like a little romance though don’t really care for a full novel of Georgian bodice ripping. It’s fun in a short story, however. Well written, believable dialogue and that’s an important thing because sometimes these sorts of stories can be cheesy. These stories were cheerful, not cheesy, predicable of course but fun, too. I liked that one of the characters was older. I thought I wouldn’t like that one woman thought she had to change to get her man but you take that in the time period in which it’s set and it was a transition from a gawky teenager to an elegant young woman which would have happened anyway even if there were no specific man behind it.

Three of the four authors are American with an Australian topping off the list.

Review: The Brands Who Came for Christmas – Maggie Shayne

2017: 97
3.5 of 5 stars
Published in 2000

I picked up a few free or cheap Kindle books as part of the Goodreads CanadianContent group challenge to read holiday themed books in December. This edition also has another book included. I haven’t decided if I’ll read that one or not.

This book is a light, frothy, typical romance novel. Man and woman meet, connect, then something happens and they are apart but they have a reunion and a happy ever after. Cliche plots, predictable endings, quirky and strong women characters, rich handsome men and beautiful women. This isn’t to say it’s a bad thing, but it does what it says on the tin. You know what you’re getting and you know how it will end.

Maya Brand is the oldest of five sisters raised by a single mother whose husband turned out to be someone else’s as well as hers. The family has to endure the bigamy scandal which, in this day and age, hugely annoyed me. It was hardly their fault, was it? Neither family knew the father had two families on the go. But Maya was the one that cared what other people thought and tried to be the perfect daughter, upstanding citizen, church goer, striving to be accepted. It’s an uphill battle when your family owns and runs the local saloon, one sister out in California modelling lingerie (!), another the bouncer at the bar and the rest helping their mother run it. Again, why it matters, I have no idea and the conservative mindset of the town nearly put me off altogether.

It was a dark and rainy night. Into the bar walks a scruffy looking cowboy who happens to be the third richest man in America (really?????) who doesn’t necessarily want to follow the route his family has laid out for him. (politics). He would like to meet a woman someday who wants him for himself, not for the power and money he could bring so when he and Maya meet and connect, he doesn’t use his real name. You can see where this is going, right? Circumstances being what they are, he ends up leaving town unexpectedly and she ends up pregnant. *SCANDAL*  Remember, now, she doesn’t know his real name but he’s the third richest man in America and is potentially headed into politics but she obviously doesn’t read the newspaper or see the news on television. He gets caught up in family matters and doesn’t get in touch with her again until his identity gets splashed all over the newspapers 8 and a half months later and someone anonymously gives him the heads up about his pregnant one night stand.

Things progress, there are hopes and doubts, shadows from the past, and a big, howling blizzard on Christmas Eve.

It’s very soapy. It’s predictable. It’s an easy read. It’s not badly written though it was a bit grating that most of the characters are “perfect”, strong, supportive, talented, protective, wise, grumpy. Grinch like hearts turn three sizes bigger. A life is saved, a family is reunited. And they all lived happily ever after.



Review: Gods of Howl Mountain – Taylor Brown

4.5 of 5 stars
Published in 2018

Thanks to NetGalley for an advanced copy of this book.

We are in the mountains of North Carolina in the 1950s, just after the Korean war. Rory has come home from the war and is working for a family that controls the local booze industry, bootleggers. He lives with his grandmother who has a lot of secrets. His Gran’s also a local healer, some say a witch. Rory falls for a woman who’s associated with a local spiritual church and his grandmother disapproves. This may or may not be related to a secret she’s keeping about Rory’s mother who has been in an asylum for years. That isn’t really the gist of the plot, though, That’s concerned with the life of a bootlegger who happens to be a disabled war veteran. He’s learned to live by the seat of his pants and he doesn’t back down. Ever. We know more about his life as well, through Granny’s POV, a woman who fiercely loves and defends her own.

I really enjoyed the book. The writing is fantastic, with the characters each having their own distinctive voice. I really became absorbed into the story every time I picked it up. My only niggle would be a bit too much detailed description at times but that’s probably only because I was impatient to get back to the story.

Review: Miss Kane’s Christmas – Caroline Mickelson

3.5 of 5 stars
Published 2012

This novella is a light and cheerful story that could easily be a Hallmark Christmas special. Ben lost his wife to cancer some years ago, though she was about to leave him anyway. He’s been bringing up his two children with the help of his sister ever since and refuses to celebrate the Christmas season. Santa has decided this must change, for the children’s sake as well as Ben’s. Santa sends his daughter Carol to rectify the situation. Carol is a bright young woman full of the spirit of the season and faces her challenge full on. I’m not sure Ben really knew what hit him! Of course, Ben is handsome and Carol is beautiful and it’s not really any surprise how it’s going to end up. Quick and easy to read, not too sugary, perfect for the novella format.

Review: The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus

2017: 94
Rating 3.5/5
Published 1902

The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus – L. Frank Baum

You may recognize the author. He wrote the Wizard of Oz books but he also wrote other children’s books as well and this one is a lovely holiday book. I don’t know if there’s ever been a picture book made from the story but it would lend itself well to that. In any case, this book is about the life of the man that became the personification of Christmas even if he isn’t the “reason for the season”.

This book takes religion out of the holiday altogether and focuses on the Man in Red. The man who was raised by a wood nymph and protected by other other-wordly groups like the faeries and sprites and the Master Woodsman, Ak, himself. From the Forest of Burzee to Happy Valley, we watch as Claus grows up and develops a love for children, carving little toys to make them happy. His need to spread happiness to the children grows until he is the man we all know today, delivering toys around the world every Christmas Eve.

The book is a sweet, imaginative story, very positive, upbeat and cheerful and an interesting take on the myth behind the man.