Friday, July 20, 2018

We Need Your Tea Vote!

Hey, lovelies! I have some exciting news to share with you and a favor to ask.
My Mom’s tea blend the AGED BLACK BOURBON was one of four teas selected by Harney & Sons Fine Tea to move to the next level of their Endless PossibiliTEAS: Tea Blend Competition.

She’s so excited and we’d appreciate it if you would visit the link below and vote for her AGED BLACK BOURBON. When you vote you’ll also have a chance to win a $100 Harney & Sons gift certificate.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Literary Pickers Update

I’m having such a blast with this challenge. 
Goal: Level Two – Garage Sale Guru- 25 items
Items Found So Far: 16
Here’s what I’ve found:
1-Patio Furniture: Wanderlust by Lauren Blakley
3-Bathroom Mirror: Dirty by Kylie Scott
5-Shuttle/small space ship: Time Was by Nora Roberts
6-Classic Car: Must Love Babies by Lynette Austin
8-Campfire Cooking: Reed by R.C. Ryan
9-Specialty Tea or Coffee: How to Date Your Dragon by Molly Harper
10-Toolbox: Twistby Kylie Scott
11-Oven: In Bed With a Beast by Tara Sivec
12-Costume/Disguise: Almost Jamie by Gina Robinson
14-Engagement Ring: Sandpiper Shore by Debbie Mason
16-Skirt: Truly, Madly, Whiskey by Melissa Foster

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Fatal Throne: The Wives of Henry VIII Tell All

He was King Henry VIII, a charismatic and extravagant ruler obsessed with both his power as king and with siring a male heir.
They were his queens--six ill-fated women, each bound for divorce, or beheading, or death.
Watch spellbound as each of Henry's wives attempts to survive their unpredictable king and his power-hungry court. See the sword flash as fiery Anne Boleyn is beheaded for adultery. Follow Jane Seymour as she rises from bullied court maiden to beloved queen, only to die after giving birth. Feel Catherine Howard's terror as old lovers resurface and whisper vicious rumors to Henry's influential advisors. Experience the heartache of mothers as they lose son after son, heir after heir.
Told in stirring first-person accounts, Fatal Throne is at once provocative and heartbreaking, an epic tale that is also an intimate look at the royalty of the most perilous times in English history.

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade | Genre: Historical Fiction | Source: Publisher | Rating: 2 Cups

Challenges Read For: Historical Fiction Challenge -
I’m always up for any type of Tudor book be it fiction or nonfiction, so when Fatal Throne: The Wives of Henry VIII Tell All was offered for review, I jumped at the chance.
This one’s a bit different from the standard Henry VIII fiction I’ve read. First, it’s a young adult book geared for ages 12 and up (I didn’t realize when I accepted this book for review that it was a YA book). Second, it’s divided into six sections (one section for each wife), each broken down, almost diary-like, with a short section revealing Henry VIII’s thoughts on each of his wives.
Before I get into my review, I do want to say that this reads a bit older than your standard YA 12 and up book. This takes you inside Henry VIII’s court so there is blood, death, beheadings, and sex. If you’ve read The King’s Rose by Alisa M. Libby, this book is on the same level.
Getting into my review, I just wasn’t impressed with this one. While having seven writers gave this book a unique perspective, it also made it feel disjointed, take for example Fleming portraying Katherine of Aragon as the silent type yet Sandell had her railing at Henry, which was truer to history.
I didn’t feel as though any of the authors captured the essence of these six queens or of Henry VIII. At times, the history was very askew and let’s not forget that somehow the editor and authors failed to notice that the last entry from Catherine Parr is dated 1846-1847, so did she time travel all the way from the 1500s? Also, why was this subtitled as ‘The Wives of Henry VIII Tell All’ when, in fact, very little of their lives were revealed.
Fleming reduced Katherine of Aragon to this whiny, woe-is-me type when, in fact, she was the daughter of a warrior queen. Katherine was a very strong woman who wasn’t afraid to stand up for herself and I feel like this book slighted her strong-willed character. Out of all of Henry’s wives, she, I feel was the strongest. She did a lot of things that Henry couldn’t. And she was also his longest marriage, so there was no way her story could be told in 50 pages. Also, the whole Nun of Kent debacle was just plain weird.  
While I found Anne’s story to be the best in the book, I wasn’t too impressed with how Hemphill turned Anne into a regretful loon. Yes, she was a bit manic when she was arrested and during her imprisonment but I don’t believe she was ever regretful of her actions, especially regarding her treatment of Mary. Also, I found it odd that the author made no mention of Thomas Wyatt while talking of those arrested along with Anne for adultery. Out of all the men arrested, he was the one who had a previous relationship with Anne and likely had an affair with her during her marriage to Henry.
Sandell’s Jane wasn’t too bad. There’s a lot of backstory in Jane’s story, it made it a bit boring, but I’ve always found Jane to have been a bit of a bore. And the fact that time timeline in the story was a bit shuffled about was a bit irksome.
I was surprised that Jennifer Donnelly’s take on Anne of Cleves was rather a letdown. I’ve always enjoyed Donnelly’s writing in the past so I’m not sure what happened with this one. It did have a nice gothic vibe to it with ghosts coming to Anne during her last days telling her she had unfinished business. Sadly, when it came time to reveal Anne’s unfinished business, it was a major disappointment and so far out of the realm of believability that all I could do was roll my eyes and try not to chuck the book in the bin. I also didn’t care for the way Anne and Henry’s relationship was portrayed. Henry was actually kind to Anne and she lived rather well as the King’s honorary sister so the fact that the author was bent to portraying Henry as a tyrant just didn’t work for me.
Park did rather a decent job telling Catherine Howard’s story. It’s your basic retelling of her life. She captured the naivety and stupidity that Catherine had. She also captured the way that Catherine was a pawn for the Howard family.
I thought Hopkinson did a brilliant job with the story of Henry’s last queen although I felt like she hid Catherine Parr’s manipulative side under a rug. In the end, I felt like she did a nice job capturing her reign as queen and some of her actions. Still it was nothing to write home about.
I didn’t care for Anderson’s interpretation of Henry at all. It doesn’t fit with Henry. It started off bad with him having an affair when Katherine was in labor and just went downhill from there. I cringed the entire time I was reading Henry’s POV. People tend to forget two major things when I comes to Henry VIII. The first being, he was a bit of a prude—there’s only two confirmed mistresses he had—and he often reprimanded courtiers for bawdy jokes. The second being, he was a second son raised for life in the church rather than life as a king so when they have Henry prat on about how he was raised from birth to rule, it just falls flat.
To cap this one off, there’s a snippet from Elizabeth at the end. I hate when authors only include Elizabeth and gloss over the fact Henry had two other legitimate children who inherited the throne.
Overall, this one wasn’t my cuppa tea. Perhaps if I was a Tudor newbie I would have enjoyed this more than I did but, for me, I couldn’t mesh the characters in this book to their real-life counterparts. Considering the forward in this book states that the authors went to great pains ‘trying to decipher their souls’ and read through diaries, papers, proclamations, writs, depositions, etc.,  I was expecting so much more.

M. T. Anderson – Henry VIII
Candace Fleming – Katharine of Aragon
Stephanie Hemphill – Anne Boleyn
Lisa Ann Sandell – Jane Seymour
Jennifer Donnelly – Anna of Cleves
Linda Sue Park – Catherine Howard
Deborah Hopkinson – Kateryn Parr

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

This Old Homicide by Kate Carlisle

Contractor and part-time sleuth Shannon Hammer specializes in improving the quirks and flaws of the Victorian homes in Lighthouse Cove, California. The quirks and flaws of their residents are another story... Valentine's Day is approaching, and while Shannon is delighted to be friends with not one but two handsome men, not everyone in town is feeling the love. After her elderly neighbor Jesse Hennessey fails to make his daily appearance at the local diner, Shannon swings by his place to check on him. Not only does she find Jesse dead - of an apparent heart attack - but she also realizes that his home has been ransacked.
Someone suggests that a thief was searching for a priceless necklace Jesse claimed to have retrieved from a capsized sailing ship, but Shannon doesn't believe it. Everyone knows Jesse had a penchant for constructing tall tales - like the one about him having a hot new girlfriend. But his death is soon ruled a homicide, and shady suspects begin popping out of the woodwork. When another victim turns up dead, Shannon is convinced she must find the killer before someone else gets nailed.
Series: Fixer-Upper Mysteries, Book 2 | Publisher: Audible Studios | Length: 11 hrs and 37 mins | Narrator: Angela Starling | Source: Publisher | Rating: 4 Cups
A cozy mystery with a sunken treasure? Yes, please!
I could not stop listening to this one. When Shannon’s neighbor and dear friend is found dead, Shannon can’t help but question whether or not his death was murder. And the fact that Jesse’s house was searched has Shannon wondering if the killer was searching for a necklace Jesse supposedly salvaged from a sunken ship. When a friend of Jesse’s ends up dead and someone keeps breaking in to Jesse’s house, Shannon now realizes there’s a killer on the loose and she will do everything she can to stop them.
This is the second book in the series and I enjoyed it more than the first. Thankfully, the mean girls drama subsided a bit so I was able to enjoy the book rather than feel like I was stuck inside some type of high school drama.
The mystery in this one solid and I enjoyed working it out along with the characters. They had a lot to sort through as Jesse was known for telling tall tales, so no one was really sure what was fact and what was fiction, not even his niece. I felt there was more investigation going on in this one as well.
There’s still a bit of the love triangle going on with Eric (the police chief) and Mac (the writer). I’m still rooting for Eric and it seems Shannon was leaning a bit more towards him in this novel. It seems to me that Mac is more on friend level.
So, this had a bit of a paranormal aspect to the ending and I’m excited and eager to see where it goes.
Overall, I enjoyed this one. I love the hometown-vibe this one had and the fact the mystery had a bit of depth to it.

 Learn more about Lighthouse Cove and its residents HERE.

This Old Homicide (A Fixer-Upper Mystery, #2) 
Crowned and Moldering (A Fixer-Upper Mystery, #3)
Deck the Hallways (A Fixer-Upper Mystery, #4) 
Eaves of Destruction (Fixer-Upper Mystery #5) 

Monday, July 9, 2018

Twist by Kylie Scott

When his younger brother loses interest in online dating, hot, bearded, bartender extraordinaire, Joe Collins, only intends to log into his account and shut it down. Until he reads about her.

Alex Parks is funny, friendly, and pretty much everything he's been looking for in a woman. And in no time at all they're emailing up a storm, telling each other their deepest darkest secrets... apart from the one that really matters.  

And when it comes to love, serving it straight up works better than with a twist.

Series: Dive Bar, Book 2 | Publisher: Macmillan Audio | Narrator: Andi Arndt | Length: 7 hrs and 37 mins | Genre: Contemporary Romance | Source: Won | Ratings: 3.5 Cups
Challenges Read For: Literary Pickers  Toolbox
I wasn’t sure what to expect from this one since Dirty (book 1) fell flat for me. Although Joe was acting sneaky in the first book and I was curious to see what he was doing. Thankfully, Twist did not disappoint.
Here’s what’s going on. Pretending to be his younger brother, Joe Collins strikes up a conversation with a woman on an online dating site. Convinced she’s been talking to Eric, Alex decides to surprise him at his birthday party although she’s the one surprised when Eric doesn’t have a clue who she is. When Joe finally confesses, Alex feels betrayed but as time goes on, she starts realizing that Joe’s the catch in the Collins family.
For the most part, I liked Joe. He’s sort of this strong, silent type that goes with the flow rather than rocking the boat. Eventually, with Alex’s help, he finally starts speaking his own mind. Although there’s a moment in the book that has Joe pulling away and had me yelling ‘don’t be a douche’. I really wanted him to tell his ex to take a long walk off a short pier, but, sadly, it never happened.
Alex was a bit odd. She was likeable but some of her reasoning just didn’t make sense. The excuses she used for why she didn’t want to get involved in a relationship kept up coming off as juvenile and I wanted something a bit more solid.
I felt their relationship had a nice flow to it. They balanced each other out and brought out what the other was lacking. They could have handled a few things a bit differently but they managed.
So, I wasn’t a fan of when the ex-girlfriend showed up and it had the drama for dramas sake feel. I wanted Joe to put her in her place but instead he just went along with her. I know he had some things going on in his head, but still it was a poor move on his part. It would have been nice if Alex fought harder for what she wanted. The other thing that felt a bit off was how rushed the ending was.  
Once again, Andi Arndt delivered a brilliant narration.
Overall, this was more my speed than book one. I felt I had a better sense of these characters and their struggles.

Dive Bar Series

Twist #2
Chaser #3

Monday, July 2, 2018

Sandpiper Shore by Debbie Mason

Jenna Bell loves her job as a wedding planner and loves a happy ever after even more. Until the day she meets with her newest client and discovers that the bride's fiancé is the man she's had a crush on for years. But she knows the #1 work rule: Never fall in love with the groom.

Secret Service Agent Logan Gallagher arrives at Tie the Knot to make plans with his bride-to-be. But coming face to face with Jenna after all these years brings back feelings that he's fought long and hard to forget. Does his attraction to Jenna mean that he's about to make the biggest mistake of his life?
Series: Harmony Harbor #6 | Publisher: Forever | Genre: Contemporary Romance  | Source:  Publisher | Rating: 3.5 Cups

Challenges Read For:  Literary Pickers  Engagement Ring
Why have I missed so many Harmony Harbor books? I really need to remedy that ASAP.
Logan and Jenna…oh my, so many things went wrong. So many things…I was starting to wondering if they would ever catch a break but, no matter what happened, they were there for each other. And they were such a perfect fit.
Here’s what’s going on. After realizing her fiancĂ© was a conman, Jenna starts doubting happily ever afters. Although when Logan Gallagher becomes her knight in shining armor, she soon realizes that he’s her one and only. There’s just a few small problems standing in the way, the first being Logan’s not looking for a committed relationship, the second being he has somehow become mysteriously engaged. Now Jenna has to figure out what’s going on before she gives away her fantasy wedding—and groom—to another woman.
I really enjoyed diving back into a Debbie Mason romance. When I pick up one of her books, I know I’m in for a treat and Sandpiper Shore did not disappoint.
Oh, Jenna, I felt so bad for her. She’s been dealt a rather lousy hand but rather adopting a woe is me attitude, she starts fighting for what she wants. I loved seeing that given that she’s not as loud as some of the other heroines. I couldn’t help but like Logan. He put up a good fight but Jenna won him over. There were a few times I wanted to shake him but, for the most part, he was a good guy, even though I had to question some of his questions in the last few chapters.
The romance was brilliant. I enjoyed watching the way Logan and Jenna figured out their feelings for each other. They had a ton of bumps in the road but they eventually got it right.
I do want to say that while Logan does end up engaged to another woman, it’s not what it seems—keep in mind he is a secret service agent.
I love how this was tinged with just the right amount of suspense. I knew what was going on but, at times, it kept me on my toes.
My only problem with this one was how much was going on. It sort of felt like it drew inspiration from Murphey’s Law, and I’m not saying all this crazy couldn’t happen to one person but I think it would have been a bit smoother if a few of the incidents would have been left out.
Overall, I enjoyed this one. I jumped headfirst into the sixth book of the series and found myself drawn in by the romance, suspense, and the paranormal aspect.