Friday, November 19, 2021

Dear Abby - Thankful for YOU!


Dear Friends,

Happy almost-Thanksgiving to you! I hope you have a good day. I wanted to take just a minute and thank you for visiting my blog over the past few years. I especially appreciate the friendly comments left here!  I usually leave comments back.  Thanks, too, for sharing my blog post links - I often see them when my Momma is on social media and it makes me happy.

In short, I am thankful for YOU!


Abby xoxoxo

Book Review - A Saint a Day: 365 True Stories of Faith and Heroism

My Review

A Saint a Day: 365 True Stories of Faith and Heroism is a devotional book for children. Readers will learn about a different saint each day.

I wanted to read this book because I am interested in church history and found the idea of learning more about saints in a devotional book both interesting and inspiring.

This is a beautifully designed book. The cover art is appealing and the small hardcover book is also sturdy and well made. There is a place inside the book for a gift inscription, and this would be a lovely gift - especially at Christmas, so children could start reading in the New Year.

Each devotional is on one page, with the dates of the saint's life, a Bible verse, and a short biography. The book concludes with a short one line prayer for the day inspired by the reading. 

The writing is engaging and the details about the saints' lives are really interesting!  I think the short, lively entries will engage and inspire children who read this book through the year.

I highly recommend A Saint a Day, especially as a gift - and a source of inspiration and learning through the upcoming year.

Book Synopsis

Teach your child to walk in faith, act justly, and lead with kindness and humility with this 365-day devotional for kids. A Saint a Day includes fascinating historical stories as it introduces young readers to over 300 saints who did extraordinary things for God.

Mother Teresa left her family at age 18 to become a missionary. St. Patrick helped spread Christianity to Ireland. St. Jerome translated the Bible into Latin–and also had a pet lion!

Written for ages 8 to 12, A Saint a Day inspires young readers with remarkable stories of people who made extraordinary choices to love and serve God. Featuring popular saints such as Teresa of Ávila, Francis of Assisi, Juan Diego, and Thomas Aquinas, each of the 365 devotions includes:

A Scripture verse and prayer
A short summary or inspiring story of a saint
A fun fact
Artwork with a fresh, kid-friendly design

This daily devotional for kids is:

An ideal gift for First Communion, Confirmation, or Advent
A unique book for strengthening a child’s faith
A great way to share Catholic church history with kids

A Saint a Day will help your child realize the long history of people of faith. As you journey through this yearlong devotional, your children will grow in their understanding of church history and better understand how they can love and serve God.

Book Review and Giveaway - The Debutante's Code by Erica Vetsch

My Review

In 1816 England, Lady Juliette Thorndike returns to London from school with her best friend, ready to make her society debut. Her parents, however, are mysteriously absent. At every society event she attends, there seems to be a mystery involving a lost or stolen work of art. Juliette becomes involved in the mystery - with the help of handsome police detective Daniel Swann.

I wanted to read this novel because I love the Regency period. I enjoyed the author's Serendipity and Secrets series, and knew what a strong writer she is.

The Debutante's Code is a delightful start to a new series! I enjoy Regency fiction, but rarely see books set during this period that are also engaging mysteries. The mystery aspect of this novel was my favorite part. There are so many fascinating details about the art that is stolen (and all the art was based on real pieces, as detailed in the last section of the book!). I actually felt I learned some interesting details about art history just from reading this book.  (The Shakespeare folio was especially fascinating!)

Juliette is a bold amateur detective, especially when paired with Daniel Swann.  The romantic sparks between them makes the book even more intriguing.

This was an unusually fast paced read for a historical novel - I couldn't put it down and found myself planning the evening around extra reading time.

I highly recommend The Debutante's Code for fans of historical fiction, and especially for anyone who enjoys historical mysteries and the Regency period.

Book Synopsis

Jane Austen meets Sherlock Holmes in this new Regency mystery series

Newly returned from finishing school, Lady Juliette Thorndike is ready to debut in London society. Due to her years away, she hasn't spent much time with her parents, and sees them only as the flighty, dilettante couple the other nobles love. But when they disappear, she discovers she never really knew them at all. They've been living double lives as government spies--and they're only the latest in a long history of espionage that is the family's legacy.

Now Juliette is determined to continue their work. Mentored by her uncle, she plunges into the dangerous world of spies. From the glittering ballrooms of London to the fox hunts, regattas, and soirees of country high society, she must chase down hidden clues, solve the mysterious code her parents left behind, and stay out of danger. All the while, she has to keep her endeavors a secret from her best friend and her suitors--not to mention the nosy, irritatingly handsome Bow Street runner, who suspects her of a daring theft.

Can Juliette outwit her enemies and complete her parents' last mission?

Best-selling author Erica Vetsch is back with a rollicking, exciting new series destined to be a hit with Regency readers who enjoy a touch of mystery in their love stories. Fans of Julie Klassen, Sarah Ladd, and Anne Perry will love the wit, action, and romance. 

Author Bio

Erica Vetsch is a New York Times best-selling author and    ACFW Carol Award winner, and has been a Romantic        Times top pick for her previous books. She loves Jesus,        history, romance, and watching sports. This transplanted    Kansan now makes her home in Rochester, Minnesota.

The Serendipity & Secrets trilogy, her first Regency series, launched in 2020 to rave reader reviews. Her latest           release, The Debutante's Code is the first of the Thorndike & Swann Regency Mysteries.

Learn more about Erica at or find her on Facebook.


Friday, November 12, 2021

Book Review - National Geographic Complete Birds of North America

My Review

National Geographic's Complete Birds of North America is a beautiful, oversized book about birds.  The cover promises "More than 1000 species - the most detailed information in a single volume," and I certainly found this to be true.

I wanted to read this book because I have a lifelong love of birds -- my small business is even called Birdhouse Books! Every day when I am out walking on my own or with my dog, I look for birds and love to identify them. This big book of birds held a natural fascination for me.

This is truly an exceptional book for a bird lover. The book is divided into types of birds - for instance - Pigeons and Doves, Loons, Swallows, Larks, Mockingbirds and Thrashers, etc. Then if you look up a bird there is much more specific information, including illustrations of the bird, a map where the bird is found in North America, and: Identification (adult male, adult female, and juvenile), Status and Distribution, Breeding, and Population.  The common name of the bird is given along with the proper name - for instance Rock Pigeon, Columba livia.

I thought this book would be a field guide but am delighted to find it is the most fabulous encyclopedia of birds.  I have truly enjoyed looking up favorite birds, reading about them, and am sure I will consult with this book again and again as I see new birds on walks that I want to learn about.

National Geographic's Complete Birds of North America is a beautifully made book - big, oversized, with gorgeous illustrations. It would be an exceptional gift book for a bird lover.

Book Synopsis

More an encyclopedia than a field guide, National Geographic’s Complete Birds is a browsable treasure trove of facts. This comprehensive volume profiles every bird observable in the continental United States and Canada, featuring species accounts with details that include calls and songs, breeding behaviors, molting patterns, and the vast extent of their polar and neotropical migrations. The precision maps, illuminating photographs, and more than 4,000 exquisite pieces of annotated art make this the biggest and best bird book ever.

This third edition, thoroughly updated, includes:

Information on more than 1,000 species and subspecies
Overviews of every family
Organization reflecting current taxonomy
850 range maps, more than half updated since the last edition
Sidebars on identification challenges such as distinguishing between Bay-breasted and Blackpoll Warblers in fall or separating the various species of white egrets

These 752 pages add up to a lifetime of learning for all devoted birders, from those just beginning birders to those who have been building their life lists for decades.


Book Review and Giveaway - Death on the Shelf: A Haunted Library Mystery by Allison Brook

My Review

Death on the Shelf is the 5th book in the Haunted Library mystery series. Carrie Singleton, librarian and amateur sleuth, witnesses a murder at her best friend's wedding when the bride's cousin falls into a chocolate fountain. Carrie becomes involved in solving the mystery ... and also finding her ghostly librarian friend Evelyn's long lost brother.

I wanted to read this book because I have enjoyed every single book in the Haunted Library series. This is one of my favorite cozy series and it is one I have enthusiastically recommended to friends. The series has all the ingredients of a perfect cozy: a charming small town setting, a library, some romance, and a lovable pet (in this case, Smoky Joe, Carrie's cat).

This was a fun read. There were a wealth of solid suspects and I enjoyed solving the case right along with Carrie. The wedding was a strong setting for a murder because there were so many people there, including many plausible suspects.

I especially enjoyed Carrie and Dylan's romance in this book, as they moved closer.  Dylan, who also is an investigator (of high end items that are lost or stolen) is a great book boyfriend, supporting Carrie but also helping to keep her safe.  

Since part of the wedding involves Carrie's best friend, Angela, she is in the book a lot, and so is Carrie's charming reformed thief dad, Jim.  And Smoky Joe the cat is his lovable self as well!

I recommend Death on the Shelf - and the entire Haunted Library series - very highly.  It is such a fun, fast moving read, and unique thanks to Carrie's ghostly friend Evelyn. 

Book Synopsis

Librarian Carrie Singleton sleuths a murder at her best friend’s wedding in Agatha Award nominee Allison Brook’s fifth Haunted Library mystery.  

Clover Ridge librarian Carrie Singleton is thrilled to attend her best friend Angela’s wedding, but Angela’s family can be a bit…much. Angela’s wealthy cousin Donna hosts an extravagant bridal shower at her resplendent home, but the celebrations turn to gossip as the guests notice Donna’s surgeon husband, Aiden, spending a bit too much time with Donna’s cousin Roxy. At the wedding reception, the sweet occasion turns darkly bitter when Aiden topples into the chocolate fountain–dead. 

The suspect list is as long as the guest list, and as difficult to sort out as the seating chart. A few of the top contenders on Carrie’s suspect list are the flirtatious Roxy, emotionally unstable since her recent divorce; Angela’s grouchy brother, who feels Aiden betrayed him; and Roxy’s scorned ex-husband. Even Donna may have had reason to want her husband dead. And Aiden’s gossipy office manager has plenty to say about them all.  

Then another member of Angela’s family is murdered, making Carrie more determined than ever to find the killer. Can library ghost Evelyn and library cat Smoky Joe help Carrie solve the murders before she becomes the next of Angela’s wedding guests to head to the grave?

Author Bio

Library series. DEATH OVERDUE, the first in the series, was an Agatha nominee for Best Contemporary Novel in 2018. Other mysteries include the Golden Age of Mystery Book Club series and the Twin Lakes series.

Her juvenile novel, Rufus and Magic Run Amok, was an International Reading Association-Children’s Book Council Children’s Choice. And Don’t Bring Jeremy was a nominee for six state awards.

Marilyn lives on Long Island, where many of her books take place. She loves traveling, reading, doing crossword puzzles and Sudoku, and chatting on FaceTime with her grandkids.

Author Links

Amazon page:
Twitter: @MarilynLevinson; @AllisonBrookML

Purchase Links – AmazonB&NKoboIndieBound


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Friday, November 5, 2021

Book Review - Night, Night Angel: A Sleepy Christmas Celebration by Amy Parker

My Review

Night, Night Angel is a board book for young children. It tells the story of Little Fox, who discovers the true meaning of Christmas.

This is such a charmingly designed picture book for young children, with illustrations by Virginia Allyn. The cover is glittery and sparkly, with sleeping woodland animal friends. 

The animals say goodnight to snow, to a tree, to cookies, to family, as they hear the story of the first Christmas.  Little Fox snuggles into his mother's arms, happy to learn about Christmas.

I am a former preschool teacher and I love children's books. Night, Night Angel is so lovingly told, with an appealing storytelling style, charming illustrations, and a sweet, meaningful story.  I love the design of the book, the sturdy pages (perfect for even the youngest children!) and think it would be a comforting bedtime story book.  Recommended for gift giving -- or for family reading leading up Christmas.

Book Synopsis

‘Tis the season for joy! Celebrate the family fun and season’s blessings of Christmas with a young arctic fox as your family remembers that Jesus is the best gift of all. Amy Parker’s delightful rhymes and Virginia Allyn’s sweet illustrations make Night Night, Angel the perfect read-aloud for toddlers and preschoolers enjoying the Christmas season.

Little fox loves all the excitement that Christmas brings to the forest: making creative presents, placing the star on the tree, and making sure she is spotlight-ready for the big Christmas play. But soon she realizes that the perfect gift has already been given through the baby who arrived on the first Christmas night!

As the fourth seasonal title in the hugely successful Night Night bedtime storybook brand, this Christmas board book

  • gives families a fun way to say goodnight during the Advent season
  • celebrates the special moments of family holiday activities
  • gently reminds children that Baby Jesus is the reason for the season

The Christmas theme and sparkling cover make Night Night, Angel perfect for an Advent gift, stocking stuffer, or Christmas morning surprise from parents, grandparents, Sunday school teachers, and friends. Your little angel will be ready to snuggle in for the night as together you celebrate the many blessings of Christmas!

TLC Book Review - Slothy Claus: A Christmas Story by Jodie Shepherd

My Review

Slothy Claus is a picture book about animal children waiting for a special visit from Slothy Claus. Unfortunately, sloths move slowly ... but the animal children learn about what really matters at Christmas.

I wanted to read this book because sloths are such fascinating little animals! The holiday tie-in made the book even more appealing.

The story is told in rhyme and it would be a great read aloud for bedtime or for a group of children.  The illustrations are exceptionally charming!  Slothy Claus is so cute.

Children will love seeing little animals getting ready for Christmas, just as they do.  Slothy moves slowly, though ... and doesn't arrive until July.  When he does arrive with gifts and cheer, the animal children are so happy to see him, and feel the joy of Christmas all over again.

Slothy Claus is a cute and clever picture book with a unique protagonist and unique storyline too. I think it will appeal to young children, preschool to kindergarten age.

Book Synopsis

What will children do when a sluggish Slothy Claus doesn’t make it to their home in time for Christmas morning? This charming story helps kids learn that Christmas is about more than just presents under the tree.

Slothy Claus has lots of presents for good boys and girls this year, but how is this notoriously lethargic animal supposed to travel all around the world in just one night? You guessed it! Slothy takes his sweet time, and when kids wake up to empty stockings and bare trees, it feels like Christmas is ruined! How will they ever find happiness without their chocolates and toys?

Slothy Claus is equal parts humorous and heartwarming. Children ages 4 to 8 will

  • learn that the joy of Christmas doesn’t come from material things but from the love between family and friends
  • enjoy the delightfully funny one-of-a-kind artwork
  • love the classic rhyme that will fill your own family’s Christmas with love, laughter, and a spirit of giving

Slothy Claus concludes with a summer scene complete with flip flops and a barbecue when Slothy Claus finally flies down in his sleigh to deliver gift after gift–for a special celebration of Christmas in July. With a bright, glittery cover, this fun picture book is the perfect gift for advent or Christmas.

Book Review - A View Most Glorious by Regina Scott

My Review

A View Most Glorious is part of the American Wonders Collection by Regina Scott. These historical novels all are set in national parks.  This novel is set in Tacoma, Washington and Mount Rainier in 1893. Coraline Baxter is a debutante turned suffragette who wants to climb Mount Rainier to prove that woman can do anything. Her mother objects but her good-natured stepfather wants to climb the mountain as well.  Nathan Hardee was once part of society, but now he works in the wilderness ... and he agrees to help guide Cora and her hiking party up the mountain.

I wanted to read this novel because I enjoyed the previous two books in the series so much. I love historical fiction and am interested in the national parks.  The subtle inspirational message of these books is also very appealing to me.

This was a delightful read! Cora is a sympathetic protagonist. She wants more out of life than an arranged society marriage. I admired her determination and strength of conviction. And Nathan!  I enjoyed getting to know him slowly, as a reader, as Cora got to know him on their trip. Their slow building love story was very appealing.

I recommend A View Most Glorious, and this series, for fans of historical fiction and especially for anyone who is interested in the national parks.  The novels are so well written and provide a glimpse at a historical setting that is rarely seen in fiction.

Book Synopsis

Reluctant socialite Coraline Baxter longs to live a life of significance and leave her mark on the world. When her local suffragette group asks her to climb Mount Rainier to raise awareness of their cause, she jumps at the chance, even though she has absolutely no climbing experience. If she can do it, any woman can do it. And after her mother issues an ultimatum--that Cora marry the man of her mother's choosing if she fails--Cora must do it. But she can't do it alone.

Noted mountain guide Nathan Hardee initially refuses to help Cora but has a change of heart when he sees what is at stake. He knows enough about the man Cora's mother has chosen to know that the headstrong young woman should have nothing to do with him, much less marry him.

These unlikely partners may just discover that only together is the view most glorious.

Author Bio

Regina Scott is the author of more than fifty works of warm, witty historical romance, including A Distance Too Grand--named one of the top ten romances of 2020 by Booklist--and Nothing Short of Wondrous. She was twice awarded the prestigious RT Book Reviews best book of the year in her category. A devotee of history, she has learned to fence, driven four-in-hand, and sailed on a tall ship, all in the name of research. She and her husband of thirty years live south of Tacoma, Washington, on the way to Mt. Rainier.

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, François Clicquot, wants to start a winery, she rejects her parents’ suitors and marries François 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





Purchase Links – AmazonB&NKoboIndieBound


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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.

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Purchase Links – AmazonPenguin Random HouseB&NKoboGoogle PlayIndieBound


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