Monday, February 11, 2019

Murders and Metaphors by Amanda Flower

January means ice wine season in the Niagara Falls region, but the festivities leave Charming Books owner Violet Waverly cold, still reeling from a past heartbreak. A past heartbreak who will be present at the annual midnight grape-harvest festival, and no magic in the world or incantation powerful enough could get Violet to attend. But Grandma Daisy, an omniscient force all on her own, informs Violet that she’s already arranged for the mystical Charming Books to host celebrity sommelier Belinda Perkins’s book signing at the party. Little do either Waverly women know, the ice wine festival will turn colder still when Violet finds Belinda in the middle of the frozen vineyard—with a grape harvest knife protruding from her chest.

Belinda grew up in Cascade Springs, but she left town years ago after a huge falling-out with her three sisters. One of those sisters, Violet’s high school friend Lacey Dupont, attends the book signing in the hope of making amends with her sister, but Belinda and Lacey end up disrupting the signing with a very public shouting match and Lacey quickly becomes the prime suspect in the sommelier’s murder.  

Violet is sure Lacey is innocent, and to keep her friend out of prison, Violet asks for guidance from her magical bookshop. The shop’s ethereal essence points her to Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, but what have the four March sisters to do with the four Perkins sisters? If she can’t figure it out, Violet, herself, may turn as cold as ice. Violet, Grandma Daisy, Emerson the tuxedo cat, and resident crow Faulkner are back on the case.
Series: Magical Bookshop Mysteries #3 | Publisher:  Crooked Lane Books | Release Date: 2/12/2019  | Genre: Cozy Mystery | Source: Publisher  | Rating: 4 Cups

Challenges Read For:  -  Cruisin' Thru The Cozies - Paranormal Cozy - 2019 Try Something New- New-to-Me Author
I picked this up for review on a whim and I have to say I was so delighted that I did. How could I resist a cozy mystery with a quirky, magical bookshop that helps solve the mysteries? It was definitely a different take on a paranormal cozy, which I found refreshing.
Here’s what’s going on. When hometown girl and sommelier Belinda Perkins is murdered at her book signing, Violet and Grandma Daisy are determined to prove that Belinda’s sister and Violet’s best friend, Lacey, is innocent. Violet has a feeling she knows who the murderer is but when her bookshop’s essence keeps dropping clues in the lap in the form of Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, Violet starts wondering if there’s something more going on with the Perkins sisters. Will Violet and Grandma Daisy be able to figure out who the murderer is now that Violet seems to be a target?
I wasn’t sure what to expect with this one and I did struggle a bit at the start with the magical tree bit as I was worried this one would feel a bit childish but I finally found my groove with this book and I’m so glad I did. I really ended up enjoying the magic of the shop and the way the shop’s essence helps solve the crime.
Violet and Grandma Daisy were fun characters to get to know. Both and a bit quirky and completely determined to do what they set out to do and that often leads them into trouble. Violet having recently returned, they’re both still sorting out their relationship and Violet’s trying to come to terms with what it means to be the caretaker of the magical tree. She’s struggling a bit as she figured out how to balance that responsibility with her personal life.
The mystery was brilliant and I liked how the book paralleled things in Little Women with things going on with Belinda’s mystery. I had an inkling who the murderer was and I was right but I still enjoyed watching how it unfolded.
So, there’s a bit of a love triangle that seems to be happening between Violet, Nathan Morton—the mayor and son of a wealthy family, and David Rainwater—the local police chief. As of now, Violet seems to be giving David a chance but there’s still something—not so much a romance but a lingering connection—to Nathan.
There’s a major chunk of Violet’s story I missed having not read the first two books and, while I wished I had her entire backstory, I had no trouble following along with this one.
Overall, I really enjoyed this one and look forward reading the previous books in the series.

Magical Bookshop Mystery Series
Crime and Poetry
Pros and Cons
Murders and Metaphors

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

WoW #72: Day of the Dragon by Katie MacAlister

Release Date: March 5, 2019
Publisher: Forever
Series: Dragon Hunter’s #2
Why it’s my WoW: I loved Memoirs of a Dragon Hunter (the first book in the series) and I’ve been itching to get my hands on the next book since finishing the arc of the first. I can’t wait to see what happens next in this fun dragon-filled world that MacAlister has created.

With dragons like him, who needs enemies?

Real scholars know that supernatural beings don't exist. But the moment I meet Archer Andras of the Storm Dragons, all my academic training goes out the window. Thanks to Mr. Tall, Dark, And Infuriating, I'm learning that I really should worry about those things that go bump in the night. . . and that dragons like Archer are 100 percent pure trouble.  

Now I'm caught in the middle of a war. On one side is Archer. On the other is his twin brother. And I am the key to translating an ancient text that could bring balance-or deadly ruin-to our world. But none of that is as dangerous as the seriously sexy sparks between Archer and me. He's too tempting to be real. Too gorgeous to trust. And when it comes to dragons, there's no smoke without deadly fire.

Includes the novel WOLF'S MATE by Celia Kyle: When Abby Carter is threatened by an anti-shifter organization, werewolf shifter Declan Reed will have to convince her that there's no safer place in the world than in the arms of a big bad werewolf.

What are you waiting on?

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

The House Mate by Kendall Ryan

What's sexier than a bad boy? A bad ass man who's got his shit together.

Max Alexander is nearing 35. He's built a successful company, and he's conquered the professional world, but he's never been lucky in love. Focusing so much time on his business and raising his daughter, adulting has come at the expense of his personal life.  

His social skills are shit, his patience is shot, and at times, his temper runs hot.  

The last thing he has time for is the recently single, too gorgeous for her own good young woman he hires to take care of his little girl. She's a distraction he doesn't need, and besides, there's no way she'd be interested. But you know what they say about assumptions?  

Series: Roommates, Book 3 | Publisher: Kendall Ryan | Narrators: Ava Erickson, Sebastian York | Length: 5 hrs and 6 mins | Genre: Contemporary Romance | Source: Giveaway | Ratings:  3.5
I want to say I’ve read something by Kendall Ryan years ago, but I can’t recall what that was or if I liked it. I really need to make a review master list for the blog so I can check because, apparently, my brain just doesn’t have the capacity to store the vast amount of books I’ve read.
Here’s what’s going on. When Max’s ex shows up with a one-year-old little girl that’s she’s claiming is his daughter, he knows he has to step up and give her the best life possible—even though she’s turning his world upside down. His first step is hiring a nanny although he never thought he’d end up falling for said nanny. After her life blew up around her, Addison needs a change and acting as nanny to an adorable one-year-old is the perfect opportunity to figure out what she wants. The only problem is, she’s attracted to her charges dad and it’s apparent he feels the same. The only thing left to do is figure out how to balance their relationship with their work.
It was really nice to see a guy that finally has his crap together. He’s ready, and willing, to step up and be the father that Dylan needs and he’s willing to put his own happiness second. Addison’s been through the wringer. She’s trying to figure out who she is and what her self-worth is since her relationship with her ex crumbled around her. While they’re both insanely attracted to each other, they know that Dylan comes first and they’re determined to make sure she’s happy and cared for.
There was a bit of added drama in the form of Tiffany, Max’s secretary, and it worked and felt believable. Although there were several occasions I wanted Max to open his eyes and see what she was up to.
While this one had attraction, chemistry, and fun, I feel like this was just one of those romances that just shows the day-to-day things that happens in life so it wasn’t a grand romance but it was nice and light.   
Overall, this one wasn’t bad, it wasn’t one of my favorites and didn’t really stand out to me but it was an okay listen. I feel like this trope has been done so many times before so I feel like this one needed its own special something to make standout from the crowd and, sadly, this one just didn’t have it.

Roomates Series

The Room Mate

The Play Mate

The House Mate

Monday, February 4, 2019

The Birthday Girl by Sue Fortin

Dear Carys, Zoe and Andrea

Come and join me for my fortieth birthday adventure weekend, full of mysteries and surprises the like of which you can’t imagine.  

When Joanne’s friends reluctantly accept an invitation to her birthday party, it quickly becomes clear that there is more to this weekend than they are expecting.

One of them is hiding a secret.

And Joanne is planning to reveal it…

A weekend away in a cottage in the woods sounds like fun – until no one can hear your cries for help.
Publisher: Harper Impulse | Genre: Psychological Thriller/ Mystery  | Source: Publisher (?)| Rating: 4 Cups

Challenges Read For:  - 2019 Try Something New New-to-me Author
This arrived sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas and I ended up putting it in my maybe pile, as I hadn’t requested it. It came in a padded mailer from the UK with the customs form over the sender’s address, so I’m guessing it came from the publisher—there was nothing inside to say where it came from. I ended up forgetting about it until I was searching for something a bit different to read a few weeks ago.
I’m so glad I gave this book a try. It drew me in from the start and I ended up reading the majority of the book in one sitting. As this is one of those books where any little spoiler will ruin it, I’m not going to delve too deep into a review.
Here’s what’s going on. After a bit of a falling out, Joanne guilts her three friends into spending a weekend in a remote cabin for her birthday and she promises it will be filled mysteries and surprises they won’t forget. Carys, Zoe, and Andrea quickly discover that Joanne’s ‘games’ have a bit of bite to them and she’ll stop at nothing to expose their darkest secrets. Although before they realize it, Joanne’s lost control of her little ‘game’ and they discover there is a killer in their midst. Is it one them or an outsider? Will they last until help arrives?
All four women are harboring significant secrets that will potentially ruin them if they were to be exposed. Carys, Zoe, and Andrea believe that no one knows what they’re hiding but Joanne has figured them out and she determined that they pay for what she considers their ‘wrongdoings’. Joanne’s decided that she’s going to play judge, jury, and exposer during this weekend but didn’t expect that someone else also knows these secrets and is planning to use them for their own benefit.
While the four of them were friends, it was obvious from the start they didn’t trust each other. They were leery from the start so when things started to kick up, it was easy for them to turn on each other. Then the added stress of them being in the middle of nowhere only compounded things.
I thought I had the entire book figured out in the first few chapters and I couldn’t have been more wrong. Once I thought I had it nailed down, a twist popped up that had me changing my entire thought process. I enjoyed that I couldn’t figure this one out right out of the gate and I was guessing until the last few chapters.
My only problem with this one was that the dialogue, at times, felt a bit like lines from a soap opera. It was brief and random when it happened so I wasn’t being constantly bombarded with it but it threw me off a time of two.
If your like British thrillers, mysteries, or crime dramas you’ll want to pick up this book.
Overall, this one was a great read. I enjoyed the process of figuring out what was happening and who was pulling the strings. It kept me turning the pages until the very end. I look forward to reading more from this author. Also, this would make a killer movie.

Have you read Sue Fortin?
Are you a fan of Psychological Thrillers?

Friday, February 1, 2019

Confessions of a Makeup Magpie: Beauty Rituals Blending Trio (EcoTools) Review

Thanks to my Magpie tendencies I’ve been hoarding makeup and beauty supplies like a dragon amassing it’s hoard (I do love pretty things), so I thought every now and then I’d shared my thoughts on what I’ve been trying out. The good, the bad, the why-did-I-buy- that will all be included. Things could get interesting so stick around and see what I keep and what I toss.


Ulta was offering the Beauty Rituals Blending Trio from EcoTools as one of their Platinum Perks and I couldn’t resist this offer so in the cart they went. EcoTools is one of my favorite brush/sponge companies so I was expecting great things. Things happened, they sure did. Sadly, they were not great.

Just as a FYI: This set is an Ulta exclusive. As a Platinum Perk, I was able purchase this before it was available on-line and it stores. I believe it’s available on-line now and will be in stores February 2, 2019.

Here’s why I picked them up.
1-They were $6.99 and shipped free (I needed to pick up a few lip balms, so this was the perfect opportunity to do so without having to pay shipping)
2-I’m a huge fan of EcoTools’ brushes. (I love their fan brushes; they are dense and apply highlighter like a charm)
3-I needed a few flat sponges for my cream blushes and highlighters
4-They’re latex-free (I’ve been having a bit of a reaction to latex in my beauty sponges as of late).
5-They’re vegan and Eco-friendly
The set comes with three blenders:
1-Base Blender (emerald)—for foundation
2-Cover Blender—(amethyst) Concealer and such
3-Glow Blender—(rose quartz) Cream Highlighters and such
The wedge tips can be used to apply baking powders
Like all beauty sponges, you wet them then remove excess water before use.
My first impression—Right out of the package, these were super soft (they weren’t as bouncy as the mini perfecting blenders that I have from them but they were still soft). They plumped up nicely when I wet them and I was easily able to remove the excess water.

Application—I started with the Base Blender (the emerald one) and I wasn’t liking the way it was applying my foundation, which was Milani’s Conceal + Perfect 2-in-1 Foundation, so I remembered watching a video saying that the Glow Blender (the rose quartz one) applied foundation much smoother, so I picked that one up.
I do have to say that it applied my foundation effortlessly. It wasn’t being soaked up in the sponge and it wasn’t leaving that weird sponge texture on my face like the emerald on did.
Then I noticed a problem. I had tiny pieces of sponge all over my entire face. I mean, all over my face. The sponge had started crumbling from the center. Being late, as is my fashion, I didn’t have time to redo my foundation, so I did my best to brush off the crumbles. (I ended up picking random bits of sponge off my face all day long, so that was fun).

I continued on and used the Base Blender (the emerald one) to apply my cream blush and it allowed me to get a sheer wash of color, which is what I wanted since the blusher I was trying out was what could only be described as DayGlo pink (thanks, Ipsy lol). I did notice that it sucked up a lot of product, so I’m not sure how it would do with a lighter blusher. The Cover Blender worked okay for my cream highlighter. Parts were a bit patchy but I don’t feel like this one sucked up as much product as the other sponge did.

These weren’t the easiest to clean—obviously, I didn’t clean the one that’s falling apart—but I couldn’t really get these to look clean and even with my sponge cleaner the emerald one still has a bit of blush in it that’s refusing to come out.
Overall, I’m not a big fan of these. One crumbled with the first use and the others were just okay. If I use the blusher again, I’ll use the emerald sponge again, but I don’t think I’ll use the amethyst sponge for my highlighter. I might use it if I ever decide to bake under my eyes because it’s pointy and will probably pick up a nice amount of powder.
They were $6.99, so they weren’t the most expensive sponges out there but they’re not the best ones that I’ve had from this company and I feel that they could have been made a bit better. I’ve never had a sponge—even a cheap Equate beauty sponge—to crumble while using it for the first time. I’ve actually never had a sponge to crumble.
I just don’t feel that the quality is there with these sponges and I would honestly recommend picking another option.  
I would like to say that Ulta did give me a refund for these—even though I tossed the packaging—so kudos to them for having amazing customer service.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Two Down, Bun to Go by H.Y. Hanna

A sinister phone call in the middle of the night throws tearoom owner, Gemma Rose, straight into the heart of a new murder mystery - this time with her friend, Seth, arrested as the key suspect! The mysterious killing in the cloisters of an old Oxford college points to a bitter feud within the University - but Gemma finds unexpected clues popping up in her tiny Cotswolds village.

Meanwhile, her love life is in turmoil as Gemma struggles to decide between eminent doctor, Lincoln Green, and sexy CID detective, Devlin O'Connor...whilst her quaint English tearoom is in hot water as she struggles to find a new baking chef.

With her exasperating mother and her mischievous little tabby cat, Muesli, driving her nutty as a fruitcake - and the nosy Old Biddies at her heels - Gemma must crack her toughest case yet if she is to save her friend from a life behind bars.

Series: Oxford Tearoom Mysteries #3 | Publisher: H.Y. Hanna | Narrator: Pearl Hewitt | Length: 7 hours, 40 minutes | Genre: Contemporary Cozy Mystery | Source: Author | Rating: 3 Cups
Challenges Read For:  Blogger Shame - Cruisin' Thru The Cozies - Freebie
When Gemma receives a late night call from her dear friend, Seth, she never imagined it was going to lead her to the center of a murder investigation with Seth as the prime suspect and now she will stop at nothing to clear his name and find the real killer. Although that’s not the only plate Gemma has in the air; it’s time for her to finally choose which man has her heart—the dashing doctor, Lincoln Green, or the sexy CID detective, Devlin O’Connor. Then there’s the little matter of her tearoom having no baker.
While it was fun to be back in the tearoom, this one wasn’t my favorite and I struggled to finish it.
I didn’t care for Gemma’s attitude. She was demanding, demeaning, and just plain rude for most of the book. Sure, she had a lot on her but that’s no excuse for treating people that way. She eventually figures out she’s being a cow but it was too late to save this book for me.
The mystery was actually decent and there were a few red herrings thrown in here and there, which made things interesting. While I was pretty sure I knew who the killer was early on, I found myself guessing until the end because I couldn’t work out the motive.
The love triangle finally comes to an end in this one. Gemma makes her choice and I was rather pleased by the man she chose. I’m hoping that things go well but I have a feeling her choice is going to cause some rocky roads in the books to come.
This one wasn’t as light as the previous books in the series as it focused on the homeless crisis. While I think it was a worthy cause, I feel like there was so much focus on the cause that it took away from plot. I would have much rather seen the cause blended into the plot so it gave the book a smoother feel.
While I do enjoy Pearl Hewitt’s narration, I still feel that the voice she lends to Gemma is just a bit too old.
Overall, not my favorite in the series. I feel like the author tried to change the direction of the characters and plot and fell flat. Hopefully the next book will set everything to rights.

Oxford Tearoom Mystery Series
All-Butter ShortDead 0.5
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  
The Dough Must Go On #8

Friday, January 11, 2019

The Trouble with Christmas by Debbie Mason

Resort developer Madison Lane is about to lose the one thing she loves most in the world—her job. Dubbed "The Grinch Who Killed Christmas," Madison spoiled a deal that would turn quaint Christmas, Colorado, into a tourist's winter wonderland. Now the citizens want her fired but the company gives her one last chance, sending Madison to the small town to restore the holiday cheer.

For Sheriff Gage McBride, no hotshot executive from New York City is going to destroy the dreams of the people he loves. But one look at this beautiful woman and it's his heart that may be broken. In just a few days, Madison causes more trouble than he's had to deal with all year. He can't decide if she's naughty or nice, but one thing is for certain—Christmas will never be the same again...
Series: Christmas, Colorado #1 | Publisher: Forever |  Genre:  Contemporary Romance | Source: Publisher | Rating: 4.5 Cups

Challenges Read For: - Literary Pickers: Monitor/Screen
I requested this book and the third book (It Happened at Christmas) when Forever re-released them and they never arrived. I assumed they ran out of copies or missed my request. Then, a few days ago, the UPS driver was knocking on my door apologizing because a package had somehow managed to get stuck under his seat and he’s been driving around with it for quite some time. Needless to say, I was ecstatic when I opened the package and found my two missing books. So, I fixed a nice pot of Winter Spice tea and joined the loveable residents of Christmas, Colorado.
I loved this book Madison and Gage were perfect together, even if they needed a little convincing to get there.
Here’s what’s going on. Determined to keep her job, Madison Lane is determined to prove to the citizens of Christmas that their town isn’t the right choice to build a winter resort. She intended for it to be a quick business trip, but when she crashes her car into the town’s sign, her plans get extended. And now that the local sheriff has caught her eye, she’s wondering if maybe she should extend her trip a little longer. As a single father with a meddling Aunt, Gage has enough on his plate but there’s something about Madison that calls to him, even when she’s unintentionally causing trouble.
Gage and Madison were great together and often found themselves in interesting situations seeing as Madison causes trouble wherever she goes and Gage is the sheriff.
While there was an attraction between Gage and Madison, they took things slow and I enjoyed that. They’ve both been hurt before so they’re both a bit cautious figuring out where they stood and how to proceed.
The only thing that put me a bit off was the odd relationship between Gage and his ex-wife. I know they have kids and he was trying to stay on friendly terms for them but he really needed to get a handle on things and set things straight.
Having read a few of the latter books in the series, I knew I liked the zany citizens of Christmas, especially Nell and her meddling ways—she always makes things interesting and I’m never sure what she’ll come up with next. It was nice have a proper introduction to the town and seeing it for the first time.
Overall, this book just made me love the series even more and now I’m even more eager to catch up on the parts I missed.

Christmas, Colorado Series
The Trouble with Christmas
Christmas in July
It Happened at Christmas
Snowbound at Christmas
Kiss Me in Christmas
Happy Ever After in Christmas
7.5- Miracle at Christmas

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Deck the Hallways by Kate Carlisle

Even during the holidays, Shannon is more spackle than sparkle, which is why she leaps at the chance to transform a grand old Victorian mansion into 10 charming apartments for homeless families. Filled with the spirit of the season, all of Lighthouse Cove turns out to help - including her best friends, a troupe of far-from-angelic Santa Claus impersonators, and her father, Jack.

But their merriment is soon dashed by a heated scuffle between Jack and the miserly president of the bank who's backing the project. When the man is murdered, all eyes are on Jack, and visions of prison time dance in Shannon's head. Now she needs to pull off a crime-solving miracle before her father's Christmas goose is cooked....

Series: Fixer Upper #4 | Publisher: Audible | Narrator: Alex Barrett | Length: 7 hours 59 minutes | Genre: Contemporary Cozy Mystery | Source: Publisher | Rating: 3.5 Cups
Challenge Read for: Cruisin’ Thru the Cozies—Holiday Themed
When Shannon’s father finds himself as the lead suspect in a murder case, she will stop at nothing to clear his name and catch the killer. Although when she stumbles upon something unexpected in the back of her truck, things take an odd turn leaving Shannon with two mysteries to solve and very little time to solve them.
Okay, so this one wasn’t my favorite. Some of the events that happened were way out there—I really have no clue who would act like that in real life. And some things were just way too obvious, even for a cozy mystery.
Shannon’s insecurity regarding Mac is starting to become a bit grating. I want to see a bit more maturity from her rather than her clinging to her high school days. Seeing as we are on book four, I really thought the whole ‘mean girls’ thing would dissipate but instead it just seems to be taking up more and more page time.
While things are a bit up in the air with Shannon and Mac, they’re still attempting a relationship, which seems a bit forced. Shannon’s still a bit flirty with Eric, the police chief, and I can’t help but to feel they’d be a better fit.
The main mystery was rather predictable and I found myself losing a bit of interest in the book. I had it worked out from the start and there really wasn’t any surprises that came along. The second mystery was just a bit out there in left field but, again, it was predictable from the start.
I wasn’t thrilled with the narration. Rather than sticking with the narrator that started the series, they picked a new narrator and while Alex Barrett wasn’t bad she just seemed a bit detached from the story. There were also several editing errors. Rather than cutting out the messed up lines, they were left in and the correct lines added after. So, this one could really benefit from a spot of editing.
Overall, I’m really hoping that this one was just a fluke and the next one in the series will have improved. I’m still eager to see how it plays out with the love triangle between Shannon, Mac, and Eric. I’m just hoping the mystery will be a bit more valid and not so obvious.

Fixer Upper Series
Deck the Hallways (A Fixer-Upper Mystery, #4) 
Eaves of Destruction (Fixer-Upper Mystery #5)