Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Year in Review

2011 was a banner year for me reading-wise. Through Facebook I connected with and became friends with so many wonderful authors, and in August I started my very first blog. This book blog! Because of my Kindle, I read 133 books and novellas...a record for me!

Personally, it was a very hard year for me with family deaths and illnesses, weather disasters, and Tara's feline diabetes diagnosis.

This is the first time I attempted "Best of" lists, and soon I realized I was going to have to list 3 favorites in most categories, as it was virtually impossible for me to narrow down absolute favorites for each category. And still each list could be much longer...

Favorite Mysteries of the Year:
Deadly Cliche-Ellery Adams
Ghost Ship-PJ Alderman
To Sketch a Thief-Sharon Pape

Favorite Westerns of the Year:
Wild Wild Widow-Emma Jay
Wild Lilly-Ann Mayburn
Tumbleweeds-Chastity Bush

Favorite New Cozy Series of the Year:
Virginia Lowell's Cookie Cutter Shop Mysteries
Sofie Kelly's Magical Cats Mysteries
Melissa Bourbon's Magical Dressmaking Mysteries

Favorite New Author: Tonya Kappes

Favorite Indie Book: Happy New Life by Tonya Kappes

Soooo Glad This Series is Back!!! Donna Ball's Raine Stockton Dog Mysteries

I would love to hear what your favorite books of 2011 were!!! And I look forward to another wonderful year of books in 2012.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas with the Mustang Man

She'd come for the mustangs, Dallas Donovan told herself. Just a quick visit to Boone Barnett's Nevada ranch. Then her truck's engine seized and she stayed the night in the rugged, off-the-charts sexy Boone's home. Had pizza with his daughter, waited for the mechanic—and woke up to a snowfall keeping her in the reclusive rancher's grasp for another few days.

Boone didn't believe in Christmas or miracles or a woman who understood his love for this wild untamed land. Yet now Dallas brought decorations and laughter and joy to his home. But what would happen when the snow melted and Christmas was over…?

With the exception of Harlequin Historical westerns, I'm not a big reader of category romance. Plus contemporary romances usually bore me. But the description of this one caught my attention and I really enjoyed it. I loved the setting, a Nevada ranch in the middle of nowhere, and the hero, a trainer of wild mustangs...both great draws for me. I would love to travel west one day and see the wild mustangs running free. I wondered how Dallas and Boone would set their differences aside and make their relationship work, and it was a very satisfying resolution.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Joanne Fluke's Lake Eden Cookbook

It's a picture postcard December in Minnesota. Pristine white snow is glistening in the winter sunlight, and Main Street is brimming with festive holiday decorations. Best of all, it's the day Hannah's mother, Delores Swensen, is holding her annual Holiday Cookie Exchange at the Community Centre - catered by none other than The Cookie Jar! The whole Swensen clan, their friends, and members of "The Lake Eden Gossip Hotline", of which Delores is a founding member, have gathered for the delicious event. And as they share their favourite juicy tales of Lake Eden and its residents over coffee and dessert, they also share their favourite scrumptious cookie recipes - plus a mouth-watering menu of luncheon all the recipes from Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder to Carrot Cake Murder. Whether this is your first taste of Lake Eden, or you're back for another helping, you can now bring the irresistible flavours of The Cookie Jar into your very own kitchen.
Obviously predominantly a cookbook, this book also includes a fun story in between recipes featuring our friends from the Hannah Swensen series.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Killer's Christmas in Wales

As the townsfolk of the Welsh valley town of Llanelen settle in for the snowiest winter in twenty-five years, an American stranger arrives. Harry Saunders charms the ladies, one of them in particular: Evelyn Lloyd, the town’s former postmistress, who was left comfortably off after the death of her husband. After Mrs. Lloyd invests a good deal of money with him, Harry goes missing, as does her money. His body is soon discovered outside the walls of Conwy Castle, and Mrs. Lloyd is implicated in the murder.
Although Penny Brannigan and her business partner, Victoria Hopkirk, are busy overseeing the grand opening of their new spa, that doesn’t stop Mrs. Lloyd from desperately seeking Penny’s help to prove her innocence. It’s quite possible that Harry made other enemies while in Llanelen and Penny’s investigation unfolds while she juggles her work at the spa, her growing relationship with Detective Inspector Davies, and the Christmas window competition that she signed up to judge.

It's rare nowadays that I buy hardcovers, but I bought this one as soon as it came out because of the COVER!!! The little skull marshmallows just kill me!!! And happily the story inside is just as delightful. It's the 3rd in the series, but I didn't get confused picking up the series without reading the first 2. I was stumped as to the identity of the killer, as well. I loved the short scene with Penny and Victoria judging the Christmas window contest. I could picture the mouse family scene in the dressmaker's window. I really enjoyed the characters of Mrs. Lloyd and her companion Florence. Terrific holiday mystery.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Nine Lives of Christmas

Two people are about to discover that when it comes to finding love, sometimes Christmas magic isn’t enough…sometimes it takes a pesky orange cat named Ambrose.

When a guy is in trouble, he starts making deals with his Creator…and Ambrose the cat is no exception. In danger of losing his ninth and final life, Ambrose makes a desperate plea to the universe.  He’ll do anything—anything!—if he can just survive and enjoy a nice long, final life. His prayer is answered when a stranger comes along and saves him—and now it looks like he has to hold up his end of the bargain.

The stranger turns out to be a firefighter named Zach, who’s in need of some serious romantic help. If Ambrose can just bring Zach together with Merilee, the nice lady who works at Pet Palace, it’s bound to earn him a healthy ninth life.  Unfortunately for Ambrose, his mission is a lot harder than he ever thought.  Merriliee is way too shy to make the first move on a ladies man like Zach, and Zach thinks he’s all wrong for a nice girl like Merrilee.  Now it’s going to take all of Ambrose’s feline wiles—and maybe even a good old fashioned Christmas miracle—to make them both realize that what they’re looking for is right in front of their eyes.

Destined to become a Christmas classic, this perfect little book is a must-read for cat lovers anywhere. Sort of a feline version of “It’s a Wonderful Life”, darling Ambrose the cat is in his 9th life (if only it were true that they had 9 lives) and desperately needs to find his last forever home. I teared up as he looked back on his tragic previous lives (most seemed to end at Christmas), and laughed with glee at a cat’s eye view of the goings on around him. I loved the twist of how everyone he came into contact with he had known before, from the shelter worker to the maniac driver who ran him over, to the kind man who attempted to save his life and his little girlfriend kitty Aphrodite. Curl up with this book and the fur baby in your life…it will warm your heart and make your Christmas spirit soar.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Her Christmas Pleasure

Damien Morton is madly in love. Unfortunately, it's with his best friend's widow, Lady Danver. Damien is not worthy of Celia. Or so he thinks. Desperate to escape his feelings for her, he plans to leave the country at the first of the year. Celia treats him as a family friend and nothing more—until they share a heated kiss beneath the mistletoe...
Celia is shocked by the passions that surge within her at her dear friend's kiss. One touch and one taste aren't enough to satisfy her cravings, and she is startled into action. Damien has stirred something inside her that she never expected to experience again, and she must have more. Full of shameless desire and emotions newly discovered, she decides to pursue Damien and won't be deterred. Will she be able to convince him to stay—both in her heart and life—forever?

I'm finding novellas to be the perfect reading material this holiday season. Nothing is better during the hustle and bustle of the holidays than to cuddle up with a short Christmas read, a mug of cocoa, and a kitty, and escaping. This is the 2nd in Karen Erickson's Merry Widows series. A not so innocent kiss under the mistletoe ignites a fire neither Damien or Celia can (or want to) put out. This one will warm up the coldest winter night!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas Spirit

A Holiday Mystery Novella
Stranded by in a snow storm, Eve and her mother seek shelter at a nearby manor, little knowing a murderer has struck once and lies in wait for the next victim.

A dead body in a room locked from the inside, a blizzard cutting off all assistance, and a pair of stranded ladies with their maid. Christmas at Folkestone manor looks like it will be a little more exciting than Giles had hoped when he and his father accepted Eric Lane’s invitation. But now Lane is dead, and the tiny group of guests fears that nothing can stop a murderer who can pass through locked doors without a sound.

The Christmas Spirit has been up to no good, and Eric can only hope they survive the holiday season.

This is a  wonderful, atmospheric novella set in the Regency era. A locked door murder in a desolate manor house, a blizzard, rumors of a ghost, even a little romance. Perfect holiday escape!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Superstitious Christmas

Maggie Greenlee can’t wait for the Greenlee traditions to start, especially the annual ornament exchange.
Only things don’t go as planned once Maggie announces to the Greenlee clan that she’s engaged to Grady Cohen, one of the wealthiest bachelors in New York City.
There are two problems. One, Hazel Greenlee, Maggie’s granny and Grandberry Falls’ local matchmaker, has already determined that Maggie is going to marry Mayor Mitch Dozier. And two, Grady thinks the superstitious beliefs that have ruled Maggie’s life, are child like.
With Grady deliberately breaking every superstitious tradition, and Granny Hazel pushing Maggie in the arms of Mitch Dozier, Maggie isn’t sure she’s going to survive Christmas in Grandberry Falls.

ACK Tonya!!! What a cliffhanger!!! Maggie has some serious decision making to do, and I hope she makes the right one! Can't wait to see what happens next in Never Tell Your Dreams Before Breakfast. I thoroughly enjoyed my latest visit with all my friends in Grandberry Falls :)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Murder Trims the Tree

When Gertie and her cohorts decide to do their court-ordered community service at the local assisted living home during the Christmas season, they get more than they (plea) bargained for.
Yet another novella introducing me to wonderful new characters from a series I've haven't read yet, and what fun I had hanging out with Gertie, Grandma, Cora Mae, and Kitty. Who knew how dangerous it could be spending time at an assisted living facility? And I won't get into the "chocolate bombs". You'll have to read all about that for yourselves LOL.

Friday, December 9, 2011

'Twas the Chihuahua Before Christmas

Charlotte Baskerville, designer of small dog clothing, is asked if her Russian dog trainer will play Santa at the last minute. As she struggles to get him ready, an elf costume and other Chihuahua couture disappear from her workshop. This is a stand-alone story that features characters from the full-length mystery, 'Chihuahua of the Baskervilles,' published by St. Martin's Press. 

Super cute Christmas short story. I love the author bio at the end that says Esri writes chihuahua mysteries because her cat won't let her get Tara is the same way, won't let me get a dachshund LOL.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Slay Bells and Satchels

The Summer Santa Sale at Holt’s Department Store becomes a Christmas nightmare when sales clerk Haley Randolph finds a murdered elf in the store’s giant toy bag. Haley, a crazed fashionista obsessed with designer handbags, could find herself “bagged” if she doesn’t untangle this mystery quicker than Saint Nick can slide down a chimney. But Haley has another problem: Can working with hot private detective Jack Bishop put her on Santa’s “naughty” list?

A fun novella that was a great introduction (for me) to the world of hysterical Haley and her obsession with designer bags. I must admit I share her love of purses, although I have maybe 2 designer bags to my name. The rest are all knock-offs! Haley actually reminds me of Becky in the Shopaholic series by Sophie Kinsella. I am having a blast this Christmas season with all of the new ebook exclusive stories from some of my favorite cozy series!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Lawman's Christmas

The sudden death of the town marshal leaves Blue River, Texas, without a lawman…and twentyfiveyearold Dara Rose Nolan without a husband. As winter approaches and her meager seamstress income dwindles, she has three options. Yet she won't give up her two young daughters, refuses to join the fallen women of the Bitter Gulch Saloon and can't fathom condemning herself to another loveless marriage. Unfortunately she must decide—soon—because there's a new marshal in town, and she's living under his roof.

With the heart of a cowboy, Clay McKettrick plans to start a ranch and finally settle down. He isn't interested in uprooting Dara Rose and her children, but he is interested in giving her protection, friendship—and passion. And when they say "I do" to a marriage of convenience, the temporary lawman's Christmas wish is to make Dara Rose his permanent wife….

Linda Lael Miller doesn't write nearly enough historicals anymore, so a Christmas release made this even more exciting. A classic marriage of convenience story with protagonists I found myself rooting for. I could tell from the beginning there was something in Dara Rose's past, so I was curious to discover what she was hiding. And her 2 daughters were adorable, wise beyond their years as a result of their difficult situation. Wonderful Christmas historical!!!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Trouble Under the Tree

When landscape designer Nina Quinn agreed to deck the halls of Christmastowne, an indoor Christmas village, little did she know how dirty the job would be.

Christmastowne has been plagued by mishaps. Someone’s stealing toy donations, cutting lines to the security system, starting fires, and poisoning the poinsettias. Worst of all, Nina’s neighbor, Fairlee McCorkle (aka Mrs. Claus) is found murdered under Christmastowne’s enormous decorated tree.

The deeper Nina digs for clues to unwrap a killer, the more she discovers that some secrets are best left buried in the past.

 A huge fan of Heather Webber's Lucy Valentine series, I must admit this is my first Nina Quinn book, even though they are all in my ridiculously huge TBR pile. Those books are moving up in the pile because I just adore Nina! She is an absolute hoot and had me laughing out loud several times. The setting of this book is just divine...I would love to visit a place such as Christmastown (especially The Gingerbread Oven!) Nina's crazy family is so much fun, and little Gracie the incontinent chihuahua just stole my heart. And as I finished this up last night, I had a mug of Swiss Miss with peppermint marshmallows...just like Nina!