Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

Title: Anne of Green Gables
Author: L.M. Montgomery
Read by: Laurel Schroeder
Publisher: Spoken Realms
Length: Approximately 9 hours and 48 minutes
Source: Review Copy from Audiobook Jukebox – Thank-you!

Anne of Green Gables is one of my favorite novels of all time, and the 1980’s mini-series is one of my favorite shows of all time.  L.M. Montgomery also ranks as one of my all-time favorite authors.  I trolled bookstores for years looking for any books of hers that I did not own.  Throughout the 90’s they slowly released short story collections.  I believe I have the entire L.M. Montgomery collection in paperback now waiting for Penelope to read and for me to re-read.  I wish they were in hard cover!

Although I’ve read the entire L.M. Montgomery collection, I have never listened to any L.M. Montgomery audiobooks.  I was happy to be able to review this audiobook of Anne of Green Gables.  It’s been quite a few years since I’ve read the novel so it was wonderful to immerse myself back into the world of Anne.

Anne Shirley is a 12-year old orphan.  Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert are siblings looking to adopt a boy to help Matthew out with the farm work.   Anne is sent by mistake, but they find themselves unwilling to send her back, a decision they never regret.  Anne is full of imagination and soon becomes bosom friends with neighbor Diana Berry and rivals with Gilbert Blythe.  Anne often gets herself into scrapes and she is very dramatic which is highly amusing.  She’s also a hard worker and moves from being a 12 year old to going on to Queen’s Academy for high school.

Listening to this tale, I remembered again why I love this book so much.  Montgomery has vividly drawn the characters and the entire community of Avonlea very lovingly.  The characters are three dimensional and I could relate with them or think of people I know like them.  I love that there is a lot of humor in the tale to make me laugh. 

This was a good audiobook to get me occupied on my long drive to Milwaukee for work.  I must admit though that I had a hard time getting into this narrator’s version.  She had a strange lilt at the end of each sentence that drove me silently insane for a while.  Then I slowly grew used to it and to her acting of each character and I had a fine time listening to it. 

One part of the story I found kind of strange now as an adult is when Anne first starts school and her teacher, Mr. Phillips, is always flirting over the top with a student, Prissy. Marilla tells Anne not to question the teacher, but this seemed really inappropriate to me.  How times change!

Favorite Quotes:

“I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”

“Life is worth living as long as there's a laugh in it.”

“True friends are always together in spirit.”

“Oh, it's delightful to have ambitions. I'm so glad I have such a lot. And there never seems to be any end to them-- that's the best of it. Just as soon as you attain to one ambition you see another one glittering higher up still. It does make life so interesting.”

Overall, Anne of Green Gables is as much of a delight to read as an adult as it was when I was a child. I loved it and it is an intriguing story to listen to on audio.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb

At the start of WWI, there was a general feeling in Great Britain that it was a lark that would soon be over.  As men headed overseas to France and started battling in the trenches, the feelings soon changed to hopelessness.  Will they ever be able to return home?  Will they ever be able to have a Last Christmas in Paris?

Thomas Harding is spending one last Christmas in Paris in 1968.  With him is a collection of letters from World War I between Evie Elliot, her brother Will, Will’s best friend Thomas Harding, and other friends and family.  As Thomas reads through the letters, he revisits the past, the heartache and loss of the war, and also the great love.

I love, love, loved Last Christmas in Paris.  I think epistolary novels are fun to read, it’s like discovering the story of your Grandparents told through their letters.  I loved the characters, especially Evie.  She lives a privileged youth growing up with Will and Thomas near London.  It all seems a lark when they first go off to war, but as the war progresses, Ellie longs to both become more involved and scared that she may never see Will and Thomas again. 

When going off to war, Thomas feels like it will be over soon, but also doesn’t want to settle into the family business of running a newspaper.  Only when he is overseas does he realize the importance of the paper and his father, and also the importance of his friend Will’s little sister.

I also appreciated that the novel faced a serious problem, PTSD or shell shock as they called it then, squarely on and talked about it as a major part of the story.  

Favorite Quotes:

“Life is forever changed without her without the sense of her somewhere near.  Empty hours wander by as I listen for the soft tread of her football on the stair and wait for her laugher to cheer these lifeless rooms.  When I close my eyes I can conjure her; the scent of her perfume, the feather-touch of her fingertips against my cheek, those intense blue eyes looking back at me.  But it is all illusion.  Smoke and mirrors that conceal the truth of her absence.”

“A new year lies ahead.  Though I am losing hope every day that I will ever return to England in one piece – or at all – at least time marches forward, paying no heed to the follies of men.”

Overall, The Last Christmas in Paris is a wonderful novel of love, life, and war.  I highly recommend it!

Book Source:  Review Copy from William Morrow. Thank-you!

Murder for Christmas by Francis Duncan

Mordecai Tremaine is an amateur detective and he has been invited by Benedict Grame to his estate in the country for a Christmas house party.  As often seems to happen to amateur detectives, murder seems to follow in Tremaine’s wake.  The house party is shocked to discover one of its members murdered at the foot of the Christmas tree dressed as Father Christmas.  Knowing a murdered is amongst their midst, the party is on edge and Mordecai Tremaine is on the case.

I enjoyed this mystery and it was my book for Christmas day reading this year.  I LOVED the setting, a 1930’s English Christmas house party.  Mordecai Tremaine is an eccentric detective and it reminded me of one of my other favorite eccentric detectives Hercule Poirot by Agatha Christie.  I loved all of the side characters and how Tremaine unraveled their histories and hidden secrets.  It was an intriguing mystery.

I was also intrigued about the author Francis Duncan.  I read in the back of the book that he published more than twenty crime novels between 1937 and 1959.  I really enjoyed his writing style.  He has beautiful almost lyrical passages.  I would love to read more of his work.  I also found this interesting article about the mystery of who exactly Francis Duncan is online.  I think it is interesting that this book became a bestseller in England last year, sixty-six years after its publication.  I hope that means more of his work will be published!

Favorite Quotes:

“But no human plan, however devilish its ingenuity, can be depended upon to follow in practice the exact lines of its own theory.”

“He was romantic enough to believe firmly in the sanctity of marriage.”
“It was as though Tremaine was not looking out upon a real scene but gazing at a Christmas picture in a shop window, a picture that possessed a stereoscopic quality that gave it the illusion of life, but which must remain eternally unchanged.”

“Of course!  Without power, what purpose is there in life?  Fame?  Money?  Of what real value are they except for the power they bring with them?  It’s the sense of mastery that lifts a man and makes him forget that he came from dust!”

“It was all wrong that the cold winter beauty upon which he was gazing should be marred by man’s inability to live in charity with his neighbors and that murder should lie like an evil smudge across perfection.”

Overall, Murder for Christmas was an intriguing mystery with fascinating characters and setting.

Book Source:  Review Copy from Sourcebooks.  Thank-you!

2018 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

I love reading a variety of different types of books, but my favorite genre is Historical Fiction.  I'm happy again this year to be a part of Passages to the Past Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.

I am not sure what this year will bring me for historical fiction, but I will set myself a modest goal of Medieval - 15 books.

Happy Reading!  What is your favorite genre?  Will you be a part of a reading challenge this year?

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Pupcakes by Annie England Noblin

I’ve gotten a bit behind on the blog with the holidays, ending one job, and starting another.  I read a few really wonderful Christmas books the week before Christmas and I want to make sure I share about them before it is too late.  I enjoyed them and think they would be great every day reads or great Christmas reads for next year.

I loved the novel Pupcakes by Annie England Noblin.   It has everything I enjoy is a modern woman’s story, a woman whose life has experienced a setback that needs to start over.  She learns to have a new life, meets new friends, starts a new romantic relationship, and tasty food is involved in her future career.  Pupcakes also added a dog to this good book recipe.

Byrdie Benson has recently gotten divorced from her baker husband when she caught him “baking” with an employee.  They sold the bakery they owned together and Byrdie has moved to Memphis with her best friend, Elliot and her family.  Elliot hooks her up with a new gig, housesitting for an elderly lady’s townhouse and dog, while she is in a retirement community.  Pauline may be gone, but she is not forgotten as Byrdie must visit her once a week with Pauline’s pug Teddy Roosevelt.  Byrdie also gets a 3rd shift job at the bakery inside of ShopCo.  She also meets handsome doctor Nathan Reid at the dog park while on a walk with Teddy.  Can these two make it work in a new relationship?  Why is Pauline’s basement locked?  What secrets does she not want Byrdie to find?  Will Byrdie be able to get her career back on track?

Favorite Quotes: 

“The dog came with the house.  Or maybe the house came with the dog.  Either way, no matter how the sentence was constructed, the house and the dog came together. “

“’You’ll love him,’ her mother went on, ignoring her.  ‘He’s good looking, owns his own home, and has all of his own teeth and hair.  What more could you ask for?’”

Overall, Pupcakes was a great delight.  I thought the characters were riveting and very well developed.  I wanted to sit at Thanksgiving dinner with all of them.  I loved Byrdie's character growth throughout the novel.  I always think a good book is able to showcase characters that we relate to and emphasize with through the high and lows of life.  Pupcakes does this perfectly.  I highly recommend it!

Book Source:  Review Copy from William Morrow Books. Thank-you!

Winner of Little Broken Things!

The winner of Little Broken Things by Nicole Bart is Traveler!  Traveler has been emailed and has one week to send me their mailing address in order to receive a copy of the book.  Traveler was chosen from the comments using random.org.

Thank-you to all who entered the giveway and thank-you for TLC Book Tours and author Nicole Baart for allowing me to host this giveaway.  To read a review of this interesting read, check out this link.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Little Broken Things by Nicole Baart Review and GIVEWAY (TLC Book Tours)

A dysfunctional family with a big secret, Little Broken things is a great family drama and mystery for those who love Liane Moriarty’s novels.

Quinn Cruz is back in Key Lake Minnesota living in one of her mother’s luxury vacation cabin rentals with her artist husband Walker.  Her family isn’t close, but Quinn really wants to start a family of her own with Walker although they are having troubles.  One day her sister Nora shows up with a secret, who happens to be a scared little girl with dyed hair.  Who is Lucy and why does she look like she’s related to Quinn – is she Nora’s daughter?

Nora has always been there for her best friend Tiffany, but she’s at the point where she’s in too far.  Tiffany is in a relationship with a bad man and needs to escape.  How can Nora help her and keep herself safe?  Her co-worker Ethan is the only person who can help her.

Liz is Quinn and Nora’s mother.  She takes pride in appearances and living life as perfectly as she can.  She tried to raise her children right, and can’t understand now that she is a widow, why she doesn’t have a relationship with them.  When mysterious things start to happen around the lake involving her children, she starts to try to figure out what is going on . . .

I liked the three main point of views in this story of Liz the mother and her two estranged daughters Quinn and Nora.  What happened to this family and how can it be repaired?  The story is also suspenseful – who exactly is Lucy?  What has Nora gotten herself into?  It’s a slow burn suspense centered on the family and their problems. 

I was drawn into the story and it was a very interesting read during this hectic time of year.

Favorite Quotes:

“Indifference was for people who had no reason to care.”

“Even her cutlery knew that one was a melancholy number.”

Overall, Little Broken Things is a good suspenseful family drama.

Book Source:  Review Copy as a part of the TLC Book Tour.  For more stops on the tour check out this link.


One lucky winner will receive a copy of Little Broken Things by Nicole Baart. If you would like to win this book, please leave a comment on what interests you about this book.

As part of your comment, you must include an email address. If I can't find a way to contact you I will draw another winner.

For an additional entry, blog about this giveaway or post it on your sidebar. Provide a link to this post in your comment.

I will be using random.org (or a Monte Carlo simulation in excel) to pick the winners from the comments.

This contest is only open to addresses in the United States and Canada.

The deadline for entry is midnight on Friday December 29th!

Please make sure to check the week of January 1st to see if you are a winner. I send emails to the winner, but lately I've been put in their "junk mail" folder instead of their inbox.

Good luck!

Monday, December 18, 2017

The Noel Diary by Richard Paul Evans

Title: The Noel Diary
Author: Richard Paul Evans
Read by: Richard Paul Evans
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Length: Approximately 4 hours and 56 minutes
Source: Simon & Schuster Digital Review Copy - Thank-you! 

Jacob Churcher is a famous author living a lonely life.  After a tragedy killed his older brother when they were young children, his parents divorced and his mother slowly sank into mental illness.  Kicked out of the house at 16, Jacob was able to make his way through hard work and the kindness of others.  Now a successful author, Jacob does not have a close relationship with anyone save his publicist.  With Christmas approaching, Jacob finds out his mother has passed away.  Going back home for the first time in twenty years, Jacob finds out the truth about his family and helps to unravel a mystery involving the mysterious Noel Diary.  Will he be able to find happiness and perhaps love along the way? 

I really enjoyed this audiobook.  I love that Richard Paul Evans narrated the audiobook himself and gave personality to the lonely author searching for truth about his past.  I was intrigued by the storyline and thought it was very well told.  I’ll admit I hadn’t really thought about the title too much until the diary made its appearance.  I really liked how the story unraveled and I don’t want to ruin it by giving away too much information!  I really liked all of the characters and I enjoyed how the Jacob went from being a lonely author to developing relationships and starting to think about more than himself.  It was great growth for the character.

Overall, The Noel Diary was an enjoyable holiday audiobook about what makes a family and relationships and how the truth can set you free.  I highly recommend it!

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Title: A Christmas Carol
Author: Charles Dickens
Read by: Patrick Stewart
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Length: Approximately 1 hour and 47 minutes
Source: Simon & Schuster Digital Copy  - Purchased from Amazon.com

What can be better than A Christmas Carol read by Patrick Stewart aka Jean Luc Picard?  Nothing I say!  This riveting version of A Christmas Carol is vividly brought to life by Patrick Stewart.  He is a wonderful narrator giving great depth to each character and bringing them to life.  It makes the story fascinating having such a great character actor actually acting out the story using his voice rather than just reading it.  Having the story narrated with a British accent is a must.

The only downfall to this narration is that it is an abridged version of the tale.  I wish Patrick Stewart narrated an unabridged edition.  I recently pulled out my childhood copy of A Christmas Carol only to find out I’ve been reading an abridged version my entire life.  I should remedy that next Christmas!

A Christmas Carol is one of the quintessential tales of Christmas.  Scrooge is a miserly old man that learns through the spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Future the true meaning of Christmas.  I love how Dickens uses the names to really symbolize the characters such as Scrooge – it sounds like a miserly old man.  I also love how he used the tale to make money for himself, but also to bring back Christmas traditions that were starting to die away in England.  I just adore how the tale makes Scrooge think about how he was treated in his life and how he should treat his fellow man.  It’s a tale that all of us should heed – do unto others as you would like them to do unto you.

Overall, Patrick Stewart’s rendition of A Christmas Carol is a not to miss audiobook.  I highly recommend it!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Lady Osbaldestone’s Christmas Goose by Stephanie Laurens

Title: Lady Osbaldestone’s Christmas Goose
Author: Stephanie Laurens
Read by: Helen Lloyd
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Length: Approximately 7 hours
Source: Blackstone Audio Digital Review Copy as a part of the Audiobook Jukebox Review– Thank-you!  I read this along in a print copy of the book that was a Christmas gift from my best friend Jenn.

Lady Therese Osbaldestone is a widow who is trying to find her way in the world.  Settling in Little Moseley in Hampshire at an estate left to her by her Aunt, Lady Osbaldestone sets to work getting reacquainted with the community and also caring for her three young grandchildren who are visiting while their parents are ill.  As it nears Christmas, Lady Osbaldestone and the three children are soon embroiled in mystery as the flock of geese the village is looking forward to eating for Christmas dinner has gone missing. 

As they search the village, the family also finds themselves helping to bring a wounded veteran of the Napoleon wars, Lord Christian Longfellow, back out into village life and hopefully into romance with his neighbor, Miss Eugenia Fitzgibbon.  Will love be found as well as the “blasted” geese?

I really, really loved this novel.  I am a great fan of Christmas regency romance and I found this to be a delightful story.  The village of Little Mosely was charming and delightful and I love the characters that inhabited the village.  I also loved how the grandchildren were entranced with not only finding the geese, but also helping their grandmother to play matchmaker.  There was a nail biting incidence of suspense toward the end of the book, but I overall enjoyed that it had a little mystery, a little romance, but no violence and the romance was clean with only a kiss.

I listened to the audiobook while also reading along with the actual novel which was fun to do.  I thought Helen Lloyd was an excellent narrator and it was a very enjoyable book to listen to as an audio.  She did great with the characters and pacing of the story.

This is a first book in a planned series and I can’t wait to read the rest of the series!

Overall, Lady Osbaldestone’s Christmas Goose is a delightful Christmas mystery and romance novel.  I highly recommend it!