Friday, October 29, 2021

Dear Abby - Dachshund Jack O' Lanterns for Halloween

Happy Halloween, dear friends!

It has been a while since I posted here. I had intended to post the first week of every month, but decided to wait a little longer for Halloween in October. I hope you are doing well and having a great fall.

I went on a search to look at dachshund Jack O' Lanterns on Pinterest and I sure found some fun ones!  I thought you would enjoy seeing them too.

This is a very intricate carving - look at that face!

This is a clever idea and looks easier to do -- a dachshund silhouette painted across two pumpkins: 

A dachshund silhouette on a pumpkin:

A dachshund face carved in a Jack O' Lantern - with a dachshund checking it out!

The same design with another dachshund friend:

Ooh - my favorite! Look at all that light! A Jack O'Lantern in three parts with a cute little dachshund:

A dachshund silhouette carved into a pumpkin:

A cute dachshund face on this Jack O' Lantern:

Fun! A dachshund in a witch hat on this Jack O' Lantern:

If you are more ambitious than me and my Momma (!), I found two good links with free dog theme Jack O' Lantern stencils:

Better Homes and Gardens - 24 dog breed stencils

The Pumpkin Lady - cute dog stencils, including one of my favorite dachshund designs

Whether you carve a Jack O' Lantern or not, I hope your Halloween involves lots of TREATS!!  Thanks for popping by and I will try to post again sooner next time.

Love and Halloween greetings,




Book Review - National Geographic Photo Ark Wonders by Joel Sartore

Book Review

Photo Ark Wonders: Celebrating Diversity in the Animal Kingdom is a big, oversized book of animal photographs.  I wanted to read this book because I am an lifelong animal lover and also love animal photographs.

After an introduction, the book is divided into four chapters: Shape, Pattern, Extra, and Attitude. The introduction was a fascinating behind the scenes glimpse at the making of this book. Joel Sartore flew home from an assignment to be with his wife Kathy, who had breast cancer, and their three children.  In the period after this, the idea of the Photo Ark - photographing all the animal species of the world - came to be.  This involved adventures like staying in a zoo's rhino barn.

I love what the photographer writes about animals:

"... Sparing some mouse or little brown toad is simply the right and noble thing to do. There's no money in it, just the satisfaction of doing the right thing as gauged by someone who simply can't stand the thought of living in a world that's being diminished daily.

To me at least, none of this is too burdensome - this invitation for us to pause, and marvel, and act,  before a prairie wind carries that rare bird's soft song away for the very last time, or the mountain stream loses that native trout that has continued to glow brilliant red and gold even through the most violent of storms" (p. 21).   

The photographs in this book are exceptional. I love the close up views of animals that are unexpected, like Budgett's Frog, or a collage of photos of the varieties of crabs!  There are familiar animals, like giraffes, and unfamiliar (at least to me!) animals like the gerenuk, which looks like a long-legged deer.  I think my personal favorite photo was a two page close up of the face of a Sand Cat that lives in the Sahara.  At close range the Sand Cat looks so much like domestic cats that we all know and love.

I cannot recommend Photo Ark Wonders highly enough for anyone who loves animals. This would make an exceptional gift too. It is a book I will leave out to look through and enjoy again and again.

Book Synopsis

A glorious new volume of Sartore’s signature animal portraits, this time highlighting the fascinating shapes, patterns, and expressions of animals both familiar and little known.

Joel Sartore, on a mission to photograph all the animal species in human care, now delights us with more photographs, this time selected to represent the amazing diversity of the world’s animals.

The book’s four chapters — Pattern, Shape, Extra, and Personality — invite us to revel in these photographs, many cleverly paired into amusing and often surprising comparisons, like the catfish and the mouse with the same stripes down their backs, the tarantula and the poison dart frog both cobalt blue, or the tiny lizard and the weighty ox both sporting pointed horns.

  • Each photograph gets its own page or two-page spread.
  • Scientifically accurate captions highlight distinctive features.
  • Throughout, Sartore recalls telling moments from his photographic adventures.

With all new image selections, this book expands the best-selling Photo Ark series, sure to be a hit with those who already treasure National Geographic Photo ArkBirds of the Photo Ark, and Photo Ark Vanishing.

Purchase Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble


Friday, October 22, 2021

Book Review and Giveaway - Champagne Widows by Rebecca Rosenberg

My Review

Champagne Widows is the story of Barbe-Nicole Clicquot, who perseveres through tragedy to create extraordinary champagne during the Napoleonic era.

I wanted to read this novel because I absolutely loved Gold Digger by Rebecca Rosenberg;  it was one of my top 10 novels the year I read it. I knew that Ms. Rosenberg has a real gift for making history come to life, and that was certainly the case here!

Although I am a bit of a Francophile, I was completely unaware of the life of Barbe-Nicole Clicquot. (I don't even drink champagne.) This glimpse of 1800's history was new, and fascinating, to me. The author has a lively, engaging writing style, and makes history from long ago fun to read.

I especially liked the chapter titles, like "En faire tout un fromage. To make a whole cheese of it."

Barbe-Nicole's life, and the role of women in 1800 France, was interesting to read about. Women had very few options at that time and were controlled by their family and then their husband. Barbe-Nicole's extraordinary nose for champagne led her to a different life.

I enjoyed the author's style of writing, with short, lively chapters and a lot of dialogue driven action.  A very light note - the cover art is fabulous!

Champagne Widows is a wonderful read for fans of historical fiction, French history, or women's history.

Book Synopsis

Champagne, France, 1800
Twenty-year-old Barbe-Nicole has inherited Le Nez (an uncanny sense of smell that makes her picky, persnickety, and particularly perceptive) from her great-grandfather, a renowned champagne maker.

Her parents, however, see Le Nez as a curse and try to marry her off to an unsuspecting suitor. But Barbe-Nicole is determined to use Le Nez to make great champagne. When she learns her childhood sweetheart, Fran├žois Clicquot, wants to start a winery, she rejects her parents’ suitors and marries Fran├žois despite his mental illness.

The Widow Known as Veuve Clicquot
Soon, Barbe-Nicole Clicquot must cope with her husband’s death. Becoming a widow known as Veuve Clicquot, she grapples with a new overbearing partner, the difficulties of making champagne and the Napoleon Codes preventing women from owning a business.

All this while her father takes a military uniform contract from Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, who wages six wars against European monarchs, crippling Veuve Clicquot’s ability to sell her champagne.

Challenging Napoleon
Using Le Nez, Veuve Clicquot struggles through unbearable hardships and challenges Napoleon himself.  When she falls in love with her sales manager, Louis Bohne, who asks her to marry, she must choose between losing her winery to her husband, as dictated by Napoleon Code or losing Louis. In the ultimate showdown, Veuve Clicquot risks imprisonment and even death as she defies Napoleon.

Available on Amazon

Author Bio

California native Rebecca Rosenberg lives on a lavender farm with her family in Sonoma, the Valley of the Moon, where she and her husband founded the largest lavender product company in America. A long-time student of Jack London’s work and an avid fan of his daring wife, Charmian, Rosenberg is a graduate of the Stanford Writing Certificate Program. Her books include: GOLD DIGGER, the Remarkable Baby Doe Tabor, The Secret Life of Mrs. London, Lavender Fields of America, and the Champagne Widows series.

For more information, please visit Rebecca’s website and blog. You can also find her on Amazon, BookBubFacebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads.


Enter to win a paperback copy or eBook of Champagne Widows by Rebecca Rosenberg!

The giveaway is open to US addresses only and ends on October 29th. You must be 18 or older to enter.

Champagne Widows

Friday, October 15, 2021

Book Review and Giveaway - Once Upon a Seaside Murder (A Beach Reads Mystery) by Maggie Blackburn

My Review

Summer Merriweather lives in the small coastal town of Brigid's Island, North Carolina. She is grieving her mother's death and operating her late mother's bookstore on the boardwalk. She wants to solve a decades old mystery involving her mother, and while she is researching what happened, a cozy mystery writer who has been visiting her (and her bookstore) is kidnapped.  Maggie works with some book friends to solve the mystery.

I wanted to read Once Upon a Seaside Murder because I was intrigued by the bookstore by the sea setting. Bookstores are one of my favorite mystery locales.

I have not read the first book in the series. By jumping in with the second book I felt like I was missing some important details about Summer and her mother, and what happened before.  There is also a large cast of characters to get to know and keep up with. I always wish for a list of characters with cozy mysteries.

This is definitely edgier than the average cozy mystery. The mood is very melancholy and reflective, as Summer deals with her mother's passing.  She is just learning about her birth father and as a result is meeting many new relatives and getting to know them.

I really liked the bookstore setting; the bookstore scenes were my favorite in this novel. The author does a good job at capturing life in a little coastal town.  I enjoyed getting to know Summer's co-workers, friends, and her loyal aunt and cousins in the book as well.  

There were even some vegan recipes at the end of the book, and they sound delicious! I am especially intrigued by Vegan Chocolate Peppermint Cupcakes.

The mystery aspect of the novel was well plotted. The chapters are short and action packed, leading to a quick read.  I had some clues about the killer but enjoyed seeing Summer solve the mystery.

Once Upon a Seaside Murder is an interesting and unique mystery.  I do think readers will benefit from reading the first book in the series to set the scene and get to know all the characters.

Book Synopsis

As the holidays approach, bookstore owner Summer Merriwether learns a dark secret in this second volume of Maggie Blackburn’s Beach Reads mystery series. There’s no place like home for the holidays, even if home is sleepy, beachside Brigid’s Island, NC. During this season for giving, the town wakes up to a welcome throng of shoppers–and Beach Reads is no exception. But bookseller Summer Merriwether’s Christmas cheer turns to cringing fear when she uncovers a deadly secret about her late mother–a secret someone will kill to keep. When the local library hosts a cozy mystery panel discussion, Summer learns that one of the authors on the panel based her book on an actual murder that shook Brigid’s Island thirty-five years before. Worse, she soon learns that her dearly missed mother, Hildy, took a disturbingly deep interest in the case, going so far as to collect clippings and keep a journal of the dark doings. This doesn’t jibe with Summer’s memories of her usually cheery mother at all. Tidings get worse when Summer learns of her long-lost biological family’s involvement in the crime…and still worse when the life of the book’s author is threatened. With the help of Hildy’s plucky book club, Summer puts her scholarly smarts to work on protecting the cozy author and solving the decades-old murder. But this ghost from Christmas past may still be deadly in the present, and if she can’t find the killer, Summer’s future will be brief.

Author Bio

Maggie Blackburn is the pen name of Mollie Cox Bryan. She writes cozy mysteries with edge. She’s the author of several bestselling mystery series. She’s recently released a novella mystery series: The Victoria Town Mysteries. Her book, “Goodnight Moo,” has been shortlisted for a Fresh Fiction Reader’s Choice Award. Her books have been selected as finalists for an Agatha Award and a Daphne du Maurier Award and as a Top 10 Beach Reads by Woman’s World. She makes her home at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the Shenandoah Valley, Va.

Author Links





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Friday, October 8, 2021

Book Review - A Royal Christmas Fairy Tale by Karen Schaler

My Review

A Royal Christmas Fairy Tale is the story of Kaylie Karlyle. After Kaylie loses her NYC reporting job, she takes a last minute assignment in Europe.  When she arrives at the mysterious assignment, she discovers that she is expected to write a Christmas fairy tale for a young princess in a small eastern European country. As Kaylie explores Christmas traditions in Tolvania, she slowly becomes interested in the princess's widowed father, Prince Alex  ... and she learns to open her heart to Christmas and to love.

I wanted to read this book because I have enjoyed reviewing previous Christmas novels by Karen Schaler. She is the queen of Hallmark movies - both writing scripts and writing novels that are turned into movies. Her books have a warm, cozy feeling, and this novel is no exception!

I will admit that at first the whole Tolvania setting was a bit over the top for me. But I decided to just settle in and enjoy the charm of this story, and I found a lot to like. In this very sweet, fairy tale setting, it helps that Kaylie is a more cynical New Yorker - an investigative journalist by trade. It was fun seeing her explore this fairy tale world with skepticism at first, and then finding much to love in the castle and outlying quaint village at Christmas time.

I loved so many of the details, like the upside down Christmas trees, storage room full of vintage Christmas (I would love to explore that!), and tour of a village chocolate factory. The food descriptions in this book are amazing, and there are even some recipes included at the end of the book.  (Gingerbread pancakes sound amazing!)

The love story between Kaylie and Alex develops slowly and with great warmth. I also enjoyed Kaylie's growing friendship with little Princess Anna. There is a delightful chapter when Anna (who is 10 years old) tries to teach Kaylie how to paint.

A Royal Christmas Fairy Tale is exactly like watching a Hallmark movie - lovely and comforting, perfect for a long afternoon with cocoa or tea by a cozy reading chair. I recommend this novel for anyone who loves Christmas and who enjoys holiday romance.

Book Synopsis

This feel-good, humorous, and heartwarming new Christmas romance, about the power of believing in yourself to find your happily ever after, is from the Emmy Award-winning writer of the Netflix sensation A Christmas Prince and Hallmark’s beloved Christmas Camp, the movie and novel. This enchanting escape is just what your heart needs this holiday season…

A charming Christmas village, a storybook castle, a royal ball, and a gorgeous prince are the last things New York City reporter Kaylie Karlyle expects to find on her holiday freelance assignment to Europe. But when the family she’s interviewing turns out to be the royal family of Tolvania, Kaylie has a meltdown when the quirky queen wants her to write a Christmas fairy tale for the spunky, young princess. Kaylie must battle the princess’s father, who doesn’t trust the media, and her own insecurities about writing anything beyond the news.

To spark inspiration for the fairy tale, the queen recruits the prickly Prince Alexander to show Kaylie the family’s most spectacular royal holiday traditions. And sparks definitely fly when the only thing Kaylie and the prince agree on is that they’re both more “bah humbug” than “ho, ho, ho.”

But somewhere between sleigh rides and snow angels, merrymaking and mistletoe, upside-down Christmas trees, and a legendary Christmas crown, Kaylie and the prince open their hearts to Christmas and start believing in themselves and each other. It’s a real-life fairy tale in the making until Kaylie discovers a secret about a royal Christmas heirloom that jeopardizes everyone’s happily ever after. Can the magic of the season save this holiday happy ending?

Bonus Content: Includes delicious royal Christmas recipes and holiday activities.

Purchase Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Thriftbooks

Author Bio

Karen Schaler is a prolific and passionate three-time Emmy Award–winning storyteller, author, screenwriter, journalist, and national TV host. In the last three years, she has written five rom-com novels and five Christmas movies for Netflix, Hallmark, and Lifetime, including the Netflix sensation A Christmas Prince and Hallmark’s Christmas Camp. Karen also wrote the Christmas Camp and Christmas Camp Wedding books (HarperCollins). For her next novels, Finding Christmas, Christmas Ever After, and A Royal Christmas Fairy Tale, Karen is also writing the movies and writing three feature films, including a summer rom-com and an inspiring true-life story.

All of Karen’s books and movies have received ongoing national TV, print, and online media attention including two exclusive features on NBC’s TODAY show and features in Forbes, Parade, Entertainment Weekly, Entertainment Tonight, The Wall Street Journal, Southern Living, Bustle, and Cosmo.

Embracing the Christmas spirit of giving back, Karen trademarked her Christmas Camp concept and is bringing her Hallmark movie and books to life hosting fun and festive one-of-a-kind Christmas Camp experiences worldwide where everyone is invited! All of Karen’s stories are filled with humor, heart, and hope. For more

Find out more about Karen at her website, and connect with her on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and YouTube.


Friday, October 1, 2021

Book Review and Giveaway - A Perfect Bind (A Beloved Bookroom Mystery) by Dorothy St. James

My Review

A Perfect Bind is a cozy mystery featuring Tru Beckett. Tru is a librarian in a small town in South Carolina. As a lover of printed books, she makes a secret bookroom for old books in the library basement when her branch goes digital. After the bookroom is vandalized more than once, a body is found, and Tru goes on the hunt for the killer, along with her friends Flossie and Tori. Their motto is always WWMMD (What Would Miss Marple Do?). 

I wanted to read this mystery because I enjoyed the first book in the series so much. The secret bookroom is a clever idea and the library setting is appealing. I always am partial to southern mysteries too.

This was a fun read. Tru and her friends Flossie and Tori are back to solve another mystery. I enjoy these characters and their friendship. I also like Tru's slowly developing romance with her high school crush, Jace, who is now a police detectove in the little town of Cypress. The addition of a lovable cat - with the cute name Dewey Decimel - makes the book even more appealing.

The mystery aspect of the story was set up perfectly with several possible suspects. I figured out the killer before Tru did but enjoyed watching her solve the case. Tru has a knack for getting herself in danger, and that happened again in this book.

As someone interested in history and the past, I loved the town history and the story of the basement area of the library.  Before it was a secret bookroom or a storage area, it was a bomb shelter, and long before that, it was an illegal speakeasy!

"'I think we can get it tonight . . . right now, even.' I hoped we could. I laid out the photographs I’d been studying. 'Look here. The old speakeasy became one of the new storage rooms in the 1930s. But then, look here. The bomb shelter, with its metal walls, was built in a way that blocks the only door leading into the speakeasy, essentially shutting it off from the outside world forever.'” (eBook location 3916).

I recommend A Perfect Bind, and the first book in the series, The Broken Spine, for fans of cozy mysteries and especially for anyone who loves a library setting. This series is so unique and enjoyable!

Book Synopsis

Librarian Tru Beckett, ardent defender of the printed word, is about to find out that keeping murder checked out of her beloved library is much harder than she thought…  Tru Beckett succeeded in building a secret book room in her now bookless library, where book lovers from lovely Cypress, South Carolina, can rejoice in the printed word. Now she’s working hard to maintain the little library downstairs while keeping her “real job” upstairs in the bookless technology center. The last thing she needs is a mysterious vandal who seems intent on breaking into her secret book-filled sanctuary and creating chaos. The nasty interloper doesn’t steal anything, but brutalizes the books, damaging them and knocking them off shelves. A patron of the secret book room tells Tru that there have been creepy goings-on at the library for years, especially in the basement where the secret book room is located. He’s heard rumors of a poltergeist that haunts the library, determined to scare off readers. Tru is certain it’s hogwash, but she’s at a loss to think of who might be vandalizing the beautiful books she fought so hard to protect.  And when a dead body shows up right behind the library, Tru is certain that it’s not a ghost but a cold-blooded killer that she and her trusty tabby Dewey Decimal will need to uncover.

Author Bio

Dorothy St. James is the author of the White House Gardener Mysteries and the Southern Chocolate Shop Mysteries. She lives in the Lowcountry of South Carolina with her sculptor husband. Dorothy is a member of Mystery Writers of America (MWA) and the International Thriller Writers (ITW) and Sister’s in Crime (SInC). This is her second Beloved Bookroom Mystery.

Follow Dorothy Online:





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