Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Dream a Little Dream by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

 Rachel Stone's bad luck has taken a turn for the worse. With an empty wallet, a car's that's spilling smoke, and a five-year-old son to support, she's come home to a town that hates her. But this determined young widow with a scandalous past has learned how to be a fighter. And she'll do anything to keep her child safe—even take on. . .

Gabe Bonner wants to be left alone, especially by the beautiful outcast who's invaded his property. She has a ton of attitude, a talent for trouble, and a child who brings back bad memories. Yet Rachel's feisty spirit might just be heaven-sent to save a tough, stubborn man.

Series: Series: Chicago Stars #4 | Publisher: Books on Tape | Narrator: Anna Fields | Length: 11 hrs and 32 mins | Genre: Contemporary Romance | Source: Publisher | Ratings: 1.5 Cups

Challenges Read For: Blogger Shame

Okay, so it’s official, while I like most of SEP’s romances, the Bonner brothers are not for me and, apparently, neither is Anna Fields’ narration.
While this one wasn’t nearly as torturous as Nobody’s Baby but Mine, I still spent the majority of the book wanting to hurl things at the characters.  So, why did I read/listen to it? Apparently, I like to be tortured and I really wanted to mark this one off my Blogger Shame list because it was now or never with this one.
Here’s what drove me insane, I mean, what’s going on. Penniless and with a five-year-old son, Rachel Stone decided to return to the town that hates her in search of something that could improve her and her son’s future but when her car finally gives up the ghost across from the drive-in Gabe Bonner is renovating, she makes it impossible for him to say no to hiring her. Gabe wants nothing to do with Rachel Stone and her son but seeing as the town is treating her like a pariah and she is in danger of losing her son, he steps in and soon finds Rachel awakening things he thought he lost.
This one had the potential to be a great read but the characters ruined it.
Okay, so I understand that Rachel’s desperate and, at this point is willingly to do anything for her son, but I don’t understand why a mother would return to the town that basically cast them out to search for something that may not exist. She knows the town residents will treat her and her son like garbage and that no one would be willingly to hire her so I can’t understand why someone would be willing to subject their child to that. It was very hard to get behind her actions. Then there’s the fact that she was willing to be with Gabe knowing that he hates her son and is mean to him.
I couldn’t stand Gabe. I understand that he lost his wife and child in a car accident but that doesn’t justify his treatment of Rachel’s son or his actions toward Rachel. And rather than holding him accountable, his brothers coddled him and treated him like a toddler. Gabe does eventually change is behavior but by that time it was way too late.
So, there’s a side plot that gives Ethan Bonner’s story and, honestly, I could have done without it. He’s a preacher that’s highly judgmental of Rachel—without knowing or caring about her side of the story—yet he’s basically a horny toad lusting after the women in his congregation who wear tight clothing. Apparently, he’s not the practice what you preach type of preacher. Then there’s his secretary, who’s trying to catch his attention, so she enlists Rachel’s help with a makeover, then Ethan turns around and calls her a whore and slut for dressing like that—allthewhile he’s still lusting over the women who dress the same way. Then there’s the fact that he hears God’s voice as three different t.v. personalities. Cue the eyerolling.
I’m just not a fan of the narrator. She makes a trying book even more trying.
Overall, that Bonner brothers are so not my cuppa tea. I’ve heard good things about the rest of this series so, hopefully, one of the other books will catch my fancy.

Have you read the Chicago Stars series?


Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Arsenic with Austen: A Mystery by Katherine Bolger Hyde

When Emily Cavanaugh inherits a fortune from her great-aunt, she expects her life to change. She doesn't expect to embark on a murder investigation, confront the man who broke her heart 35 years before, and nearly lose her own life.

Emily travels to the sleepy coastal village of Stony Beach, Oregon, to claim her inheritance, centered on a beautiful Victorian estate called Windy Corner but also including a substantial portion of the real estate of the whole town. As she gets to know the town's eccentric inhabitants - including her own once-and-possibly-future love, Sheriff Luke Richards - she learns of a covert plan to develop Stony Beach into a major resort. She also hears hints that her aunt may have been murdered. Soon another suspicious death confirms this, and before long Emily herself experiences a near-fatal accident.
Meanwhile Emily reads Persuasion, hoping to find belated happiness with her first love, as Anne Elliot did with Captain Wentworth. She notices a similarity between her not-quite-cousin, Brock Runcible, heir to a smaller portion of her aunt's property, and Mr. Elliot in Persuasion, and her suspicions of Brock crystallize. But as she and Luke continue to investigate and events speed toward a climax, Emily realizes that underneath the innocent-looking rocks of Stony Beach lurk festering jealousies that would have shocked even the worst of Jane Austen's charming reprobates.
Series: The Crime with the Classics # 1| Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.| Narrator: Caroline Shaffer | Length: 10 hrs and 3 mins | Genre: Contemporary Cozy | Source: Publisher | Ratings: 3.5 Cups
I’m always looking for a new cozy mystery series and when I received the second book in the series, Bloodstains with Bronte, for review, I immediately picked up the first book on audio. While I liked most of it, I’m a bit on the fence about some things.
Emily’s a bit hard to take. She’s snobbish, judgmental, and—for a woman in her fifties—she’s occasionally immature. Yet, at times—even though they were rare—I found her to be likable.
Luke, the sheriff, wasn’t exactly on the top of his game when it came to his job. Several times, I found myself questioning his practices and procedures. I seriously wondered how he became sheriff. However, I did like Luke the man, he was just a good guy.
The mystery was actually solid although I did figure it out fairly early on. Still there were a few red herrings thrown in that made me question my choice.
So, the romance aspect was interesting—it’s a second chance romance for Luke and Emily. The attraction and old feelings are still there but Emily spent so much time trying to distance herself from Luke while carrying on lengthy internal ramblings about how she still loved/longed for him that it became annoying. On more than one occasion, I found myself wanting to shout at her to just tell him how she was feeling.
I really enjoyed how this one mirrored the actions of characters from Persuasion. I liked combination of a cozy and a classic and it was fun hunting for the Easter eggs. There were also a few nods to Agatha Christie and Harry Potter.
I had more than a few problems with this one but the ones that really stood out to me were the following. Emily referred to an overweight character as a ‘marshmallow’ and ‘memory foam’. I thought it was a bit distasteful. Then there was the town doctor who knew the cause of her aunt’s death and swept it under the rug so she would get the money that was left to her in the will. And rather than doing anything about it once she found out, Emily decided to keep it to herself. There was also the fact that Emily more or less threw a tantrum over the stupidest things.
I wasn’t a fan of Caroline Shaffer’s narration. She just couldn’t keep my attention and I’m wondering if her overly snobbish portrayal of Emily is made me dislike Emily.
Overall, this one had its share of problems—I’m hoping that’s due to the fact it’s the first book in a series and the author was trying to find her footing. There were a few pacing problems and some scenes just felt a bit odd but I still found aspects of this one to be interesting. We shall see what the next book holds.

Do you struggle with narrators?  

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday #69: A Perilous Passion by Elizabeth Keysian

Release Date: December 11, 2017
Why it’s my WoW: First off, the cover practically screams ‘read me’. Then there’s the small fact that I love anything spy related. And last but not least, I have a feeling Charlotte and the Earl of Beckport are in for some interesting times.

Miss Charlotte Allston is unwittingly ensnared in a sinister web of traitors and spies when she is literally swept off her feet by a handsome stranger on the beach. Fiercely determined to redeem his honor after a humiliating military defeat, the Earl of Beckport is living incognito, hunting a band of smugglers at the center of a French plot to invade England.

The enigmatic Miss Allston instantly becomes a person of interest to the earl...and not just in the smuggling case. Passion flares swift and hot between the two. But when her attempts to help with his secret mission only endanger it, he must question where her loyalty truly lies.

Stunned by the sudden revelation that the woman he is falling for is the daughter of a notorious smuggler, Beckport feels duty-bound to report her. But then Charlotte is captured by the very traitor he's after, forcing the earl to decide between redemption...and love.

What are you lovelies waiting on?


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

A Baby for Christmas by Joan Kilby

When Mia Tempesta goes into labor during a snowstorm on Christmas Eve, she stumbles into Will Jackson’s cherry packing shed. As a war widow, she’s lost everything–her husband, her home, and her job. But when Will, a caring stranger, delivers her beautiful baby boy into her arms, she has hope for a brighter future.

After being betrayed and dumped by his long-time girlfriend, Will’s dreading the holidays, but when he helps deliver Mia’s son on Christmas morning, he gains a renewed purpose in life. The beautiful Mia and her child tug on his protective heart strings and he finds himself longing to help. They fight their growing attraction–Will’s on the rebound and Mia is still grieving. Will their reckless passion end in heartbreak?

Can two damaged hearts find healing and happiness? One Christmas baby might just be the miracle they need to love again.

Series: Sweet Home Montana Book 2 | Publisher: Tule | Genre: Contemporary Christmas Romance | Source: Publisher | Rating: 2.5 Cups

This was one cute and sweet but also annoying and totally made me all growly—Christmas books should not make me growly.
Here’s what’s going on. Not only is Mia trapped in a snowstorm, she’s in labor. Taking shelter in a cherry packing shed, she soon receives help from Will Jackson, who delivers her baby. After being dumped by his girlfriend, Will was prepared to have a blue Christmas but Mia and her newborn son puts his life back on track. As the weeks pass, they soon discover their connection goes deeper than just gratitude but they’re both carrying around past wounds that could end their relationship before it starts.
Okay, so I liked this one to a point. It had a cute premise and potential but I feel like the potential was buried under too much internal drama from the characters.
Mia has some things she has to sort out. She’s just given birth, she’s dealing with her husband’s death and his gambling problems, she’s also dealing with his controlling parents. Will’s struggling to figure why his high school girlfriend left him for another guy just days before he was going to propose, he’s also trying to figure out what he wants in life.
The relationship just sort of annoyed me. Both are mad about the other but they are too stubborn to sit down and talk to each other and explain what’s going on. Instead of clearing the air, Mia decides that she’s just going to use Will as a bed buddy then, more or less, treat him poorly when in public. I’m not a fan of thing angle, it just feels slimy to me.
Then there’s the fact that Mia lets her ex-in-laws to walk all over her. She goes on and on about their treatment of her in her head but refuses to say anything to their face. I just have a hard time getting behind timid heroines.
Overall, it had its cute and sweet moments but there was just too much drama and poor decisions that made this one just an okay read rather than a great one. 
2017 Christmas Reads


Monday, November 20, 2017

Tea with Milk and Murder by H.Y. Hanna

While at an Oxford cocktail party, tearoom owner Gemma Rose overhears a sinister conversation minutes before a University student is fatally poisoned. Could there be a connection? And could her best friend Cassie's new boyfriend have anything to do with the murder? Gemma decides to start her own investigation, helped by the nosy ladies from her Oxfordshire village and her old college flame, CID detective Devlin O'Connor.
But her mother is causing havoc at Gemma's quaint English tearoom and her best friend is furious at her snooping...and this mystery is turning out to have more twists than a chocolate pretzel! Too late, Gemma realizes that she could be the next item on the killer's menu. Or will her little tabby cat, Muesli, save the day?

Series: Oxford Tearoom Mysteries # 2 | Publisher: H.Y. Hanna | Narrator: Pearl Hewitt | Length: 7 hrs and 10 mins | Genre: Contemporary Cozy Mystery | Source: Publisher | Ratings: 4.5 Cups

Challenges Read For: Blogger Shame

So, yeah, this one was a blogger shame. *hangs head* I received the audiobook for review then completely forgot to download it to my Kindle. I found it when I was going through my audiobook library and it was just the right cozy mystery that I needed.
This is such a great cozy mystery series and I’m having such a good time reading through it.
In this one, we have a death by poison—very Agatha Christie—that occurs during her best friend’s gallery show. Now Gemma’s left wondering if Cassie’s new boyfriend is the murderer. As the investigation heats up and another person is poisoned, Gemma becomes the prime target.
Gemma is such a fun character. She left the corporate world behind, moved back to her hometown, opened a tearoom, and now finds herself acting as amateur sleuth. But she isn’t in it alone, there’s an entire cast of secondary characters, including a charming yet quirky cat, that we finally get to know more about them and I really enjoyed that.
Like most cozy mysteries, there’s a love triangle developing. I’m not entirely thrilled about this, I think that the romance angle should focus more on the second chance romance between Gemma and Devlin. While I’m not a fan of the love triangle, it was expected and it wasn’t overly trying on my nerves.
The mystery was pleasing. I do like a good death by poisoning mystery because it makes the where, when, and by whom a bit more challenging to nail down and I wasn’t disappointed. I had a short list of suspects and, when the killer was revealed, the clues made sense and I was proved right.
So some of the scenes felt a little—I don’t want to say odd—but perhaps forced. Obviously, it was necessary to have Gemma in certain spots as she’s investigating but a smoother approach would have been nice.
I enjoyed Pearl Hewitt as the narrator but I still feel that she portrays Gemma older than she is.
Overall, I had such a great time with this one. The mystery was solid and I really enjoyed getting to know more about the characters.   

Oxford Tearoom Mystery Series
All-Butter ShortDead 0.5
Tea with Milk and Murder #2 
Two Down, Bun to Go #3 
Till Death Do Us Tart  #4 
Muffins and Mourning Tea  #5 
Four Puddings and a Funeral  #6 
Another One Bites the Crust  #7  


Thursday, November 9, 2017

DIY No-Sew Fabric Covered Journal/Planner

I’ve been using Pen+Gear’s Lay Flat Journal that I found at Wal-Mart for my planner for about a year now. It’s a little smaller than the planners that I’ve used in the past but, for some reason, the smaller size works better for me. One of things that drew me to this journal was the fact it lays flay. I also liked that the pages aren’t white but a nice light craft-paper brown and they’re acid-free, which is a plus for me since I use it as a sort of scrapbook/memory keeper and not just a standard planner
Sadly, I reached the last page and had to get a new one. I ordered one on-line thinking I was going to get the cute little gold dot cover that I had before. Unfortunately, this one had a horrid looking hot pink cover that was so loud it was practically screaming. Yeah, that wasn’t going to work. So, I browsed around and ended up ordering a dot journal from Etsy. It was cute but the dot/grid paper just really isn’t my style and I just couldn’t get into planning my layouts in it.
So, I decided to get creative and transform my screaming hot pink journal into something more me.

Supplies Needed
Pen+Gear Lay Flat Journal
Heat ‘n Bond Ultrahold iron-on adhesive
Fat Quarter of Fabric (I used Creative Cuts in pattern PCQ Words Onyx)
Superglue (I used the gel type because it doesn’t run or leak through the fabric/paper)
Stick glue ( I used Sticky Thumb because it offers a two-way bond)

1—Gently remove the front and back covers from the journal’s binding tape then remove the decorative covers from both covers. Both covers should be blank pieces of cardboard.

2—Iron fabric and cut two panels leaving about an1 inch of fabric around the covers.

3—Cut out two pieces of iron-on adhesive the same size as the fabric panels. Iron adhesive to the back of the fabric per adhesive package instructions. Allow to cool for 3-5 minutes. 

4—Iron fabric on to the correct sides of the covers per adhesive package instructions. Allow to cool for 3-5 minutes.

5—Flip covers over and iron down the remaining fabric to the back of the covers creating neat tucked in edges. Allow to cool 3-5 minutes.

6—Lift up the edge of the binding tape, run a line of superglue on down the back and attach to the page beneath it. Then add lines of superglue along the perimeter of the journal including on the binding tape. Apply stick glue in the middle of the page. Then carefully place on the fabric-covered cover and press down. Allow to dry for 5-10 minutes.
7—Repeat steps 5 and 6 with the remaining cover and allow to dry overnight.

Cost of project under $10.
Supplies: What they are and where I bought them.
Pen+Gear’s Lay Flat Journal: Available at Wal-Mart of Wal-Mart.com for under $5.
Fat Quarters: are taken from one yard of fabric,cut in half lengthwise, and then in half width-wise and are approximately 18" x 22". I bought mine from Wal-Mart for 97cents. You can also find them on Amazon, Etsy, or your local fabric/craft shop.
Heat ‘n Bond Ultrahold Iron-on Adhesive: I had this left over from a Renaissance outfit I’m working on and I probably pick it up at Wal-Mart or my local craft store. It’s available in most stores that have a craft department and runs under $3. Because the fabric is being attached to cardboard, it’s important to use the Ultrahold that comes in the red package because it’s a fixed bond.
Sticky Thumb 2-Way Glue Pen: I bought this during the Summer for a foil project and ended up liking the way the glue pen worked and the fact it can be used on just about any surface. It has a wide tip and a 2-way bond: permanent with wet/white or repositionable when sticky/clear. The tip is also reversible, which is another plus. I purchased it at Pat Catan’s for around $5.
  What type of planner do you use? 

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

HoHoHo Readathon Goal and Progress Post

HoHoHo Readathon
The HoHoHo Readathon hosted by Kimberly @ The Caffeinated Reviewer kicks off today and I’m super excited to be joining in on the fun! It’s runs until November 15th and it’s a fun way to binge read holiday/wintery reads, meet new blogger/bookish people, participate in challenges, and win prizes. Sounds lovely, right?!
I have a pot of hot tea sitting on the stand and stack of books at the ready. I’m hoping to finish at least four full-length books and a few e-novella. We shall see how it goes.
I’ll be posting my progress on here as well as on my Instagram account, @simplyangelarenee, so feel free to stop by there as well. 

My Progress:

Good luck and happy reading, if you’re joining in on the challenge!


Tuesday, November 7, 2017

A Fatal Collection by Mary Ellen Hughes

Callie Reed makes a long overdue visit to her aunt Melodie, who lives in a fairy-tale cottage in quaint Keepsake Cove, home to a bevy of unique collectible shops on Maryland's Eastern Shore. Just as they're beginning to reconnect, Callie discovers her aunt's body on the floor of her music box shop. Grief-stricken, Callie finds she can't accept Melodie's death being called accidental. How could her strong and healthy aunt take such a fatal fall? And why was she there in the middle of the night?


As Callie searches for the truth, signs seem to come from her late aunt through a favorite music box, urging Callie on. Or are they warnings? If Callie isn't careful, she could meet a similar deadly fate amid Melodie's collection.


Series: Keepsake Cove Mystery #1| Publisher: Midnight Ink | Release Date: 11/7/2017 | Genre: Cozy Mystery | Source: Publisher | Rating: 4.5 Cups

I have a feeling this series is going to be one of my favorites. It’s cozy, friendly, charming, and quirky with unique characters and a fictional town I would love to visit.
Here’s what’s going on. Needing to clear her head, Callie Reed decides it’s time to reconnect with her aunt Melodie. Although their reunion is cut short when Callie discovers her aunt dead on the floor of her music box shop. Callie’s left wondering if her aunt’s death was truly accidental and now that she’s inherited her aunt’s shop and cottage, she’s able to search for the answers while getting acquainted with her new neighbors.
What drew me to this book was how unique the setting was. Not only was it different, I just loved the idea of a town full of unique collectable shops and it reminds me of a little town I like to visit that’s street after street of antique and collectable shops.
As this is the start of a new series, the first half of the book focuses on setting up the town and the characters with the mystery in the background but, thankfully, it didn’t drag and it held my attention.
I really liked Callie. She has some stuff going on in her life that she’s working through then she’s hit with the death of her aunt. Now she has her hands full trying to run a music box shop, figuring out who murdered her aunt, and getting to know a potential love interest.
So, I had a feeling who the murderer was then I started to question my guess and I love a mystery that allows me to do that.
Overall, I really enjoyed this one. It had all the right elements that pulled me in and hooked me.