I love to read, and I love to write book reviews and share them with others.
I love to read and write book reviews in my free time. I review advance review copies of books on Netgalley for various publishers. I am also a reviewer for Historical Novels Review Magazine, the magazine of the Historical Novel Society. I review books from publishers of all size, large to small. I have a special place in my heart for indie authors. I will sometimes post a little writing that I might dabble in occasionally. I also am lucky enough to live in the Smoky Mountains, so I'll be sharing photos of the beauty around me from time to time.
The Book Blogger Hop was originally created by Jennifer @ Crazy-For-Books in March 2010 and ended on December 31, 2012. With Jennifer’s permission, Billy @ Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer relaunched the hop on February 15, 2013. Each week the hop will start on a Friday and end the following Thursday. There will be a weekly prompt featuring a book related question. The hop’s purpose is to give bloggers a chance to follow other blogs, learn about new books, befriend other bloggers, and receive new followers to their own blog.
THIS WEEK’S QUESTION
Most of the time, no. But there is an exception. When Jodi Taylor comes out with a new book in her St. Mary’s Chronicles or Time Police series, I will listen to at least one book prior on Audible. I also re-listen to the entire series at least every couple of years. It’s like visiting old friends.
What about you? Do you go back and re-read the previous book when the next book in a series is coming out?
As warming as a mince pie and a glass of sherry, these eighteen festive-themed shorts are just waiting to be unwrapped.
A lonely dog shelter volunteer battles to find new homes for her long-time canine residents while realizing her own future is just as uncertain. As the new year approaches, can a fellow animal lover give her the fresh start she so wants for her dogs.
A widowed grandmother prepares to reunite with her forbidden first love, only to discover the grand country pile from where he’s sent her a Christmas card isn’t quite what it seems.
A single woman finally meets a man to couple up with over the festive season, but will the eccentric mistress of her late father destroy her plans?
An ambitious 20-something attends a lavish Christmas party with only one aim – to bag a rich husband. But her plans are derailed when a troubling connection with the aristocrat she’s set her sights on is revealed.
MINI BOOK REVIEW
This is a fun collection of stories that will sweep you right to the holiday season. They all have a theme of hopelessness in one way or another, and the endings will touch your heart. I’m a dog person, so my favorite of course is the title story, The No Hopers Christmas Club, about the unadoptable dogs at the dog shelter. However, all the stories are wonderful. This is a can’t-miss, Christmas Eve, hot-chocolate-by-your-side kind of read. The stories are so varied that everyone will enjoy them.
I received a free copy of this book via Rachel’s Random Resources. My review is voluntary and the opinions are my own.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Geraldine Ryan is a proud Northerner who has spent most of her life in Cambridge – the one with the punts. She holds a degree in Scandinavian Studies, but these days only puts it to use when identifying which language is being spoken among the characters of whatever Scandi drama is currently showing on TV. For many years, she worked as a teacher of English and of English as a second or foreign language, in combination with rearing her four children, all of whom are now grown-up, responsible citizens.
Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish and is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together. Each week a new theme is suggested for bloggers to participate in. Create your own Top Ten list that fits that topic – putting your unique spin on it if you want. Everyone is welcome to join but please link back to The Artsy Reader Girl in your own Top Ten Tuesday post.
This week’s top ten Tuesday is top ten cozy reads, changed to Top Five Cozy Reads for me because I ran out of time. Cozy books are books that have a comforting vibe. Even the cozy murder mysteries are not too dark and there are lots of fun moments. Cozies are often set in small towns with a quirky cast of characters, but sometimes they are set in certain niches of big cities. Most are part of a series. The bottom line for cozies is comfort. Here’s my list of top ten cozy reads.
1. The Jax Diamond Mystery Series by Gail Meath.
This cozy mystery series is not set in a small town. It is based in 1920s New York City. But the main character, Jax Diamond, is a former police officer turned detective and his girlfriend Laura is a Broadway actress/singer. Broadway can be a niche of its own where everyone knows each other and quirky characters abound. Jax also has an acquaintance who dabbles in organized crime, a definite niche. The comfort comes from Jax’s relationship with his German Shepherd sidekick, Ace, who often steals the show.
2. The Murder of Mr. Wickham
Set in an 1820s British country estate, this is an Agatha-Christie-inspired, closed-house cozy mystery with a Jane Austen twist! The cast is comprised of all Jane Austen characters and their children, which is a definite niche. The comfort also comes from having all of your favorite Austen characters in one book!
3. Death of a Showman by Mariah Fredricks
This is another cozy mystery set in New York City, this time in 1914. Jane Prescott is a lady’s maid to Louise Tyler, and the niche comes in the upstairs/downstairs culture that existed back then. Jane and Louise also spend some time on Broadway in this one. The comfort comes from the humor that is scattered throughout the book.
4. The Baked Bean Supper Murders by Virginia Rich.
Virginia Rich wrote three food-related cozy mysteries in the 1980s before she died. They are centered around a retired widow, Eugenia Potter, who splits time between her ranch in Arizona and her cottage in Maine. The niche is definitely in the settings, and the comfort comes from the food and the recipes! Rich’s books are the first food-centered murder mysteries I ever read.
5. On What Grounds by Cleo Coyle
Cleo Coyle’s popular coffee house cozy mysteries have reached 19 books! The niche is in the coffeehouse setting, their customers, and their neighbors. The comfort comes from the coffee of course!
Lucky in life but unlucky in love, Lucy Greenfield owns a successful carriage business along with her best friend Max, and they have never been busier since their shire horses gained fame from their roles in the hit movie A Little in Love.
Too busy for romance, Lucy is surprisingly swept off her feet when Spencer arrives seeking help with his horse, and something more from Lucy. As quickly as Lucy falls, she wonders if all is not as it seems. Max can prove it, but that means he will have to express his true feelings for Lucy.
Relationships are strained as secrets unravel, and Lucy needs to solve the riddle of words to best describe how she feels… For her best friend.
Together, they must overcome what’s keeping them apart before it’s too late, if they are going to realize that the word is love.
Florence Keeling was born in Coventry but now lives in Nuneaton. She married the love of her life over 20 years ago and they have two almost grown-up children. They share their lives with two mad dogs as well.
Writing is a great passion of hers, and one day she hopes to be able to turn it into a career. Until that day comes, she will continue working in accounts and payroll.
When self-made gentleman Freddie Walton rescued penniless Philomena Nichols at Christmas eight years ago, he never imagined that he would build his empire with her. Yet whilst they have created a life together as friends, Freddie can’t let their special connection become more than that. Not when his dangerous past continues to haunt him… But what happens when Freddie’s feelings for Philomena also refuse to stay hidden?
This is a slow-burn Historical Christmas Romance that will transport you to the holiday season in 1830s London. The characters Freddie and Mena have an unusual relationship. They’ve been long-time friends since Freddie saved Mena’s life eight years ago, but share an unacknowledged love for each other that both of them are fighting in this slow-burn romance. I enjoyed both characters, who share so much, including feelings of inadequacy that keep them apart. I especially liked Mena’s fierceness, independence, and compassion for others. It did move a bit slowly for me at times, but overall this is a satisfying Christmas romance that historical fiction fans will enjoy.
I received a free copy of this book from Harlequin Historical via Rachel’s Random Resources. My review is voluntary and the opinions expressed are my own.
Lotte James trained as an actor and theatre director, but spent most of her life working day jobs crunching numbers whilst dreaming up stories of love and adventure. She’s thrilled to finally be writing those stories, and when she’s not scribbling on tiny pieces of paper, she can usually be found wandering the countryside for inspiration, or nestling with coffee and a book.
My Dark Vanessa meets The Queen’s Gambit in this new novel of suspense about the bonds of family, the limits of talent, the risks of ambition, and the rewards of revenge.
When former piano prodigy Saskia Kreis returns home to Milwaukee after her mother’s unexpected death, she expects to inherit the family estate, the Elf House. But with the discovery that her mother’s will bequeathed the Elf House to a man that Saskia shares a complicated history with, she is forced to reexamine her own past–and the romantic relationship that changed the course of her life–for answers. Can she find a way to claim her heritage while keeping her secrets buried, or will the fallout from digging too deep destroy her?
Set against a post #MeToo landscape, Rachel Kapelke-Dale’s The Ingenue delves into mother-daughter relationships, the expectations of talent, the stories we tell ourselves, and what happens when the things that once made you special are taken from you. Moving between Saskia’s childhood and the present day, this dark, contemporary fairy tale pulses with desire, longing, and uncertainty, as it builds to its spectacular, shocking climax.
Saskia, a former piano prodigy, comes home after her mother’s death to find that she is not inheriting The Elf House, their family mansion. Instead, it is going to the most improbable person she could have imagined. As Saskia begins to investigate why her mother would have done this, shocking truths are revealed.
I was absolutely awed by this. The writing is fantastic, and the premise is unique and original. The weaving together of Saskia’s present and past is exquisitely done. Her mother’s personality shines through the book as well. The author flawlessly presents a unique work of fiction combining music, art, and the depths and heights a human being can reach. The “me too” movement is a part of this book in a big way, but that’s all I will say.
Each chapter is headed by an excerpt from a book written by Saskia’s mother called “Fairytales for Little Feminists.” In each one, the woman or girl takes control of her own story. What I realized at the end of the book is that this novel is Saskia’s fairytale.
If you think you’ve figured out what’s going on in this book by reading my review or the synopsis, you haven’t. Read it.
The narrator, Stephanie Willis, does a wonderful job of capturing the suspense and emotion of this book in all the different characters. I will look for her work in the future.
I received a free audiobook from MacMillan Audio. My review is voluntary and the opinions expressed are my own.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rachel Kapelke-Dale is a writer of fiction, memoir, and satire. She currently resides in Paris.
This is another entry in the 2022 Short Story Challenge, started by A Virginia Writer’s Diary. See the original post here. I’m a bit behind and have a few more to post so I can have 12 for the year. The theme this year is folklore, and I’ve teamed up with my husband Doug to write 12 stories featuring Appalachian folklore with a twist. Together we write as Bonnie Douglas. Thanks to Gail Meath for editing this for us!
By Bonnie Douglas
It was a simple Fall day in the mountains when I met Ted. Even a simple autumn day is a sight to behold in the Smokies. Orange and auburn leaves decorated the ground and drifted softly from the glowing trees. The mountains above were golden domes decorated with blankets of clouds. I was driving in my Chevy truck, having just interviewed the leader of a local group for my blog.
I was an IT professional by trade, and working from home gave me plenty of time to pursue my hiking and blogging passions in my off hours. The interview I had just completed was going to be a great comedy piece for my blog, The Mountain Dweller. Jonah McCleary, leader of a group called “Bigfoot Lives,” had warily agreed to speak with me, provided I added a request for volunteers in their ongoing search for Bigfoot. That’s right. A group of 30 people was actually spending days camping and scouring the mountains for a large, hairy, Wookie-like creature. Jonah was friendly enough, but firm in his conviction that Bigfoot exists. He showed me fur samples and pictures of footprints and images of a tall, shadowy, out-of-focus something that could have been a very tall man or an animal. I certainly didn’t think it was enough proof to abandon a normal life and scour the mountains for a mythical creature, but Jonah did. He was crazy, and I planned to paint him that way in my blog. But for now, I headed towards my favorite parking spot, looking forward to my hike.
He came out of nowhere, a large blur, and I’m not sure if I hit him or he hit me. But suddenly I was at a stop. My airbag had not deployed, but I had heard a crunch of metal, and somebody was lying on the ground. I did a quick self-assessment as I got out of the car. I seemed to be okay. Then I stared.
Even lying on the ground, he was enormous. He was probably at least 8 feet tall. His body was covered with auburn-colored fur. His large head, hands, and feet were very much like the depictions I’d seen of a Neanderthal man in one textbook or another. I also couldn’t get away from the one word that was screaming in my brain—Bigfoot! He began to stir, and I stumbled backward.
As he stood up, all my estimations about his height seemed to be true. I continued to gape and tried to speak. “Are…you okay…?”
“I think so,” he replied in what seemed to be a perfect Southern Mountain accent. “I’m not bleeding and I don’t think I’m injured.” He saw my face and added, “I won’t hurt you.”
I was still rooted to the spot. “What..why?…Where?…I managed to stutter out, and I wondered why that infamous fight or flight reflex was not kicking in. “Are you…?”
He sighed. “Yes, I’m Bigfoot, I guess.” I am being pursued by some people who I would rather avoid. Can you give me a ride? I can pay my way. I won’t hurt you.” He repeated, “But I could really use that ride.”
I didn’t see any pockets, or any pants for that matter, so I wasn’t sure where he would keep money, or how he would get it in the first place. Should I jump in my now-dented truck and drive away? Maybe. But when he lifted his shaggy arm to check a very large Timex watch that was lodged there, I swayed. How could I walk away from this? I cleared my throat and tried to square my shoulders, a move which seemed tiny and insignificant next to this giant. “Okay. Let’s go.”
He stopped then and grinned. “You’re the Mountain Dweller, aren’t you?” He stuck out his big, fur-covered hand. I’m Ted. I follow your blog.”
I shook his hand, assuming that to him it felt as though he were shaking hands with a child. I took a deep breath, and said “I have many questions.”
And so I ended up driving down the road with Bigfoot wedged uncomfortably into the passenger seat of my truck. He seemed to be perfectly fine and expecting my barrage of questions. Before I could begin, he held up a huge hand. “I’ll give you the basic story, and then you can ask more questions.” He began his tale:
“I live in comfort underground in these mountains. Living in the national park seemed the best idea, so the land would be undisturbed most of the time. The way I manage to do that is another story in itself, but I will simply tell you right now I’m not of this world.”
I gaped. “You’re an alien! But your English is perfect.”
“I’ve learned many languages during my time here. I spoke to you as anyone born in Eastern Tennessee might.”
I was astounded, but a little less scared. The queries began to tumble out.
He held up his hand again. “First you need to know why I’m in trouble. There is a Bigfoot research group called…
“Bigfoot Lives,” I interrupted.
“Yes, exactly, he exclaimed. They have arrived in my part of the woods. They are camping much closer to me than I would like. They’re scouring the woods for any trace of me, and they’ve found much more than they realize right now.”
“What did they find?” I asked, mesmerized.
“They collected some of my hair, footprints–things like that. But they began picking up a lot of electronic interference, which they didn’t realize was from my home. I was outside and had to run. I have to get everything shut off before they realize that I have technology and follow it right to me.”
“How do you know about the electronic interference?”
“ I was hiding in the woods, watching them more closely than they knew. I heard them talking about it, but I couldn’t safely get to my home to shut it down. None of them seemed to associate that with me.”
“Did you come here in a spaceship?”
“Yes, you would call it a spaceship because I traveled in space. But it was designed to be much more. It became a home. It has the technology to open up an area underground and then transform itself into a community dwelling, which it did.”
So he obviously didn’t plan to return. It was a one-way trip.
“Why are you here?”
“My people want to have a settlement here. We have a few already that are scattered around your world. The reason I am alone is because I was sent to set up our community. A few families will join me later.”
“Are you married?”
“No!” He laughed. “I’m only 40. We live much longer than you, so I’m considered almost a teenager in my world.
“How did you come to follow my blog?”
He smiled. I see you in the mountains often, hiking and taking pictures. Sometimes you video your blog posts and I heard you mention the name of the blog. I started following it. It’s really good!”
I had continued driving while trying to process this and realized I was heading towards home, trying to fathom the fact that Bigfoot was digital and used modern conveniences. “I guess I’m taking you to my Mom’s house.”
He laughed. “You still live with your Mom, dude?” Later I would learn much of his English training involved movies, and his favorite was an 80s film, Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
Shaking my head at Bigfoot sitting in my truck and calling me “dude,” I gave him a half smile. “My parents passed away a few years ago. The house was my mother’s. It had been in her family for many years. It’s mine now, but I still think of it as Mom’s house.”
He nodded in understanding, and we soon arrived at my little piece of land. Six acres in the Smoky Mountains. Under the circumstances, the best thing about it was that I had no neighbors within sight of my house, so Ted was able to walk in freely—well almost. My blonde lab, Dooley, came running up, growling in warning.
To my surprise, Ted bent towards him, giving a few yips and barks, and Dooley settled down, wagging his tail.
“How did you do that?” I exclaimed.
“His language is easy to understand and has some of the same nuances as mine.”
“Can HE understand YOU?”
“Of course. But his language is more advanced than yours.”
I’m sure I must have had a slightly offended look on my face. “Well at least I can talk.”
Ted smiled, which was almost a friendly baring of teeth, and lowered his large head a little. “Dooley can talk too. Did you ever think maybe you’re the one who can’t understand HIM?”
I would learn more baffling things about Ted and his world later, but for now we had to tackle the problem at hand: “Bigfoot Lives.” For I had decided to help him. Bigfoot deserves his privacy too. We bent our heads together as much as a giant and an average-sized man can do, and came up with a plan.
When I arrived at the site, I was greeted by several men who must have been serving as security. They were big and beefy, but did not appear to be armed. I headed towards the biggest one and stuck out my hand.
“I’m Bill Toliver. I write a blog called “Mountain Dweller” about life in the Smokies. I interviewed Jonah in town the other day and I’d love to get some shots of him in action.”
The man responded by jerking a thumb towards a semi-official-looking tent. “Jonah’s in there,” he grunted.
Jonah greeted me with suspicion at first, as I’m not sure I’d hidden my opinion of his group during our interview. But having learned about Ted, it was easy to convince him that I believed him. After taking a few pictures, I volunteered for the search and was accepted.
I was given a grid and told what to look for: hair, footprints, waste, or anything that looked like it did not necessarily come from any known animal. Ted had told me where his underground home was, and my grid was headed in that direction, which was perfect.
Accessing the secret entrance would be the hardest part, because I had to be completely alone. That’s where Ted came in. He was back here, running through the woods, dropping clues, and trying to lead them away.
I heard a shout not long after I started searching, and saw one of the women running towards Jonah’s tent. “We saw him, we saw him!” He’s headed east. More shouts rose up and the searchers began to shift, heading in an eastern direction. Everyone but me.
Ted had given me precise instructions and a device. When I reached the proper GPS coordinates, all I had to do was push a button. There was a soft whirring sound, and a door appeared in the ground. I felt like my world was spinning. Of course I had believed Ted, but here was the proof. I entered and closed the door behind me. Shutting down his power was pretty easy. Levers, switches, and a button or two. He had written it all out for me. Yes, Ted can write. His mastery of language is something to behold.
“Bill!” I heard Jonah’s voice and I froze. He was out there calling my name. How was I going to be able to leave? After shutting down the power, the door would have to be manually opened, which was going to take some effort. I would have to wait until Jonah was gone.
I would have loved to look around Ted’s home, but without power I was sitting in the dark. I probably could have used the flashlight on my phone, but Jonah’s presence outside was paralyzing.
“Jonah, why are you still here?” One of the other searchers must have joined him.
“I saw that fool blogger head this way.” Jonah answered. “I was trying to find him and send him in the right direction.”
“He probably went home.”
“Maybe. He’s not as invested in this as we are.”
“We might really get him this time.” The man’s voice quivered with excitement.
“We will get him.” Jonah’s voice took on a fervor I didn’t like. “And we’ve gotten more proof than ever before.” His voice began to rise, almost to a yell. “And those scientists who laugh at us will see! They will see when we bring them a new link in the evolution of man!”
Sitting in the dark in Ted’s spaceship community, I could see why Jonah must never be trusted with the knowledge of Ted. He was obsessed, and he was wrong. Ted needed to steer clear of him, and I would help with that however I could.
I don’t know how many hours I stayed there. I heard Jonah and his companion leave, but I wasn’t sure the coast was clear.
“Bill!” A familiar voice sounded outside and my laugh was weak with relief. Ted was safe. When I look back on that day, I realize how quickly Ted and I had bonded.
With his coaching, I was able to turn the manual wheel on the door and open it. We then slipped quietly back to my truck.
Ted stayed with me a few more weeks until we were sure that “Bigfoot Lives” was gone. While he was staying with me, we had some more question-and-answer sessions, leaving me more dumbfounded than before.
“When will your people be here?”
At this he winced. “Ten years.”
I was thunderstruck. “Ten years!” What are you going to do for ten years!
He explained that some of his duties so far had been to maintain the underground community, set up supply chains, and get hydroponic gardens going. He had done this but of course, I had to shut everything down.
“I’ll have to see what kind of shape everything is in when I get back. I also need some help from you.”
I looked up calmly at the hairy face that was already becoming quite familiar. “Whatever you need.”
He began to explain. “I’ve been here for three years,” he said. “I have been able to produce food in addition to the stores I have with me. I also have much better internet than you, and I have been able to build up some nice investments for my people.
I laughed. “Do you spend a lot of time on the internet?”
“Oh yeah,” he responded with a smile. “Twitter is my favorite.”
He turned serious then. “But I can’t do it all online. I sometimes need a friend to sell gold or other items for me. And I need someone to pick up packages at my P.O. box because UPS doesn’t deliver to the middle of the woods and Bigfoot can’t exactly walk into the post office. That’s how I was able to get my watch and whatever else I needed.”
“Well, who did it before?”
“Jacob,” he said simply, looking sad. “He was a “friend” of my people who served as a sponsor when I arrived. He was quite elderly, but he did those things for me until he died a couple months ago. I had plans in place with Jacob in case Bigfoot Lives or other groups came around. Without him, I began to look for someone else. I was already following your blog, so I began to watch you and waited for the right time to approach. I was trying to stop your truck when you hit me.”
“How come I couldn’t see you watching me?”
“I can blend into the forest pretty well. It’s just something my people can do.”
“Do you have other contacts on this world?”
“My people do, of course. They’ve been coming to your world for a long time. But Jacob was the last one around here.
“Will you reach out to the whole planet one day?” I asked.
“One day. But your world isn’t ready yet. For now, I need your help. Will you do it? I can pay you, in a way.”
Of course I said he didn’t have to pay me to pick up his packages, but he basically ignored that. I became Bigfoot’s sponsor, and ultimately, he became my best friend.
So now Ted visits a lot and spends quite a bit of time in the basement of my house, which is now known as “Ted’s room.” His love of the internet continues, and he is often engaged in political arguments on Twitter. If he could vote, I would guess he would be an Independent. He seems to get a kick out of enraging both sides of the aisle. For a while back in 2016, he pretended to be someone called “Q,” but I put a stop to that. He thought it was great fun, but I became worried because people were actually beginning to believe him. For all of his knowledge and abilities, he is still a teenager at heart.
Mostly he gives me great investment tips and great conversation. Thanks to Ted, I was able to retire a couple of years ago at the ripe old age of 32. He will not yet tell me how he knows what is going to happen in the investment world, but he always knows. Thanks to that, I get to spend a lot more time hiking and taking photos. If I can pry Ted away from Twitter he joins me, blending seamlessly into nature whenever someone passes by.
What does the future hold for Bigfoot? His people will eventually join him here, and he is working towards that. Meanwhile, in his downtime, Ted is considering starting an online blog from Bigfoot’s perspective. I’ll keep you posted.
Author’s note: We realize there are Bigfoot research groups out there and are not picking on them at all. “Bigfoot Lives” was not inspired by any of them. We just wanted to put a fun twist on the Bigfoot legend and we hope you enjoyed it.
Grieving the loss of her mother, she sets off to the Isles of Scilly with her five-year-old daughter, Ellie.
Their holiday cottage is utterly charming, but it’s meeting Trystan – the owner of the cottage – that makes Beth’s stay so perfect.
When their holiday fling starts to feel like something more, she knows she’s in trouble. Her life is in Plymouth, while he lives in London. Besides, Trystan has already admitted he’s not ready for a family.
Is he prepared to take a leap of faith for Beth and Ellie? And with the odds stacked against them, can they find a way to make their relationship last beyond the lazy days of summer?
Hannah Ellis spent many years working in childcare before deciding she’d like to write books. When she’s not busy writing she likes to read, drink tea and eat chocolate. She also enjoys yoga and jogging.
Sales have started! Gail Meath’s new release, the prequel to the Jax Diamond series, Two of a Kind, is out now and only .99. The first three books in her series are also .99. You can get them by clicking on the cover below
Nguyen Trong Hien’s two books are both on sale. Click the covers below to get The Siege of An Loc and Village Teacher.