Saturday, December 3, 2022

Book Review: 'Fatality by Firelight' by Lynn Cahoon

✰✰✰✰ Colorado bed-and-breakfast owner, Cat Latimer, is settling in to her new life in her old hometown. With a winter writing retreat just starting and repairs still being made, Cat has her hands full. So when the new group of writers quickly get into trouble, Cat's town sheriff uncle shows up. It seems that instead of experiencing the snowy slopes of Colorado, the writers checked out the ski lodge bar instead, while romance novelist, Christina, quickly became entangled with a hunky (and engaged) local ski bum. When he meets his demise, Christina naturally becomes the prime suspect. 

Keeping tabs on Christina and the other guests is just the beginning of the challenges Cat and her friends meet as a rare book gets stolen and a mysterious stranger shows up. And if that is not enough, Cat still has unanswered questions about her ex-husband's untimely death. With lots of twists and turns, this mystery is sure to keep you turning the pages.

The Bottom Line: This delightful cozy mystery is perfect prescription for a dreary weekend. This is the second book in a new series by the author of The Tourist Trap Mysteries. True to form, I somehow managed to not read the books in order (I just received Book 1, which I'll be reading soon.) Highly recommended for fans of cozies.

Details: Fatality by Firelight (A Cat Latimer Mystery) by Lynn Cahoon. Paperback published by Kensington Books in 2017. 304 p. ISBN: 978-1-4967-0437-5

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Book Review: 'Cranberry Thanksgiving' by Wende & Harry Devlin

✰✰✰✰½ Thanksgiving on the cranberry bog farm is Grandmother's favorite. Each year she encourages Maggie to invite someone to dinner who is lonely or poor. Grandmother herself has invited Mr. Horace, who uses a gold cane, smells of lavender, and is all alone. Maggie chooses to invite her friend, Mr. Whiskers. Grandmother is less than thrilled as she suspects that Mr. Whiskers is after her secret cranberry bread recipe. Nevertheless, Maggie is hopeful Grandmother will change her mind. When there is a scuffle in the dining room followed by both guests exiting quickly, it looks like Grandmother was right. Or was she? Things are not always as they appear, and Maggie knows the truth. Just when it looks like the recipe is gone for good, Grandmother is in for a surprise.

The Bottom Line: This book originally became popular in 1971, and now it's back. The illustrations in watercolor and ink have classic appeal. This delightful tale reminds readers what is truly important at Thanksgiving: family and friends. 

And as a bonus, the secret recipe for Grandmother's Famous Cranberry Bread is included on the back cover. I took the time to make this treat and found it to be yummy, but tart. Additionally, it's beautiful with crimson cranberries and golden raisins in every slice. While I prepared the recipe according to directions, I decided to use mini loaf pans instead and reduced the baking time to 40 - 42". 
Grandma's Famous Cranberry Bread

Both the book and the recipe are highly recommended for kids in grade school. Try making the delicious recipe by asking an adult to help. It's worth the effort and will become a new Thanksgiving tradition.

Details: Cranberry Thanksgiving written & illustrated by Wende & Harry Devlin. Picture book published by Purple House Press in 2012. 32 p. ISBN: 9781930900639   

Monday, November 14, 2022

Book Review: 'Thankful' by Eileen Spinelli

✰✰✰✰½ This simple and easy-to-read picture book features different characters and what they are thankful for. There's the waitress, fireman, poet, pastor, and artist. All are thankful for something very different from their friends and family. This book highlights the many different ways there are to be thankful. 

The Bottom Line: By featuring different things to be thankful for, this gentle picture book will inspire children of all ages to take part in a November Thankfulness Challenge. Preston's illustrations bring the text to life by conveying the rhymes and blessings. Enthusiastically recommended. 

Details: Thankful written by Eileen Spinelli & illustrated by Archie Preston. Picture book published by Zonderkidz in 2015. 32 p. ISBN: 978-0-310-00088-4 

Monday, November 7, 2022

Book Review: 'A Street Cat Named Bob' by James Bowen

✰✰✰✰½ James Bowen was one of many buskers in London. Originally from Australia, Bowen had struggled to make his way. As a recovering addict, he had recently secured a flat. One day he noticed an injured cat in the hallway. He was immediately inspired to help this creature even though he could barely take care of himself. With little to spare, James sought medical help for the cat, now named Bob. After nursing Bob back to good health, Bowen released him. Given the choice, Bob had other ideas and decided to follow Bowen on his busking jobs. The man and cat quickly became an inseparable duo. And this is their story…one of friendship, adventure, survival, and love.

The Bottom Line: This heartwarming tale is perfect to read anytime…on a lunch break, while traveling, or even at the beach. It’s an easy read that will inspire you to look at people differently. Sadly, Bob passed away in 2020, but this story will live on and continue to inspire. Highly recommended for everyone interested in human-animal relationships, friendship, homelessness, and addiction.

Book Club Notes: In a nutshell, we loved this book! On a scale from 1 – 5 with 5 being the highest, the average rating for this book was 4.5. The movie was entertaining and captured the essence of the book. We enjoyed the unique perspective of seeing things from Bob’s point of view; how cute was that?

All in all, the book/movie taught us to see things from a different perspective, to stop stereotyping, and to give people (and animals) a chance. Most of us have interacted with a special animal sometime in our lives, so it was easy to connect with Bob’s story. Discussion questions are plentiful online, but the resource that stood out is available from the Okanagan Regional Library.

This book club pick is very highly recommended for book clubs interested in a feel good title that still has lots of deep topics to discuss. Check it out for your book club today!

Details: A Street Cat Named Bob: And How He Saved My Life by James Bowen. Paperback published by Thomas Dunne Books in 2012. 320 p. ISBN: 978-1-250-04867-7 

Monday, October 31, 2022

Book Review: 'The Dollhouse: A Ghost Story' by Charis Cotter

✰✰✰✰½ Alice and her friends had their whole summer planned, but now that her parents are getting a divorce, summer is ruined. She suddenly finds herself on a train to a small town where her mother has taken a job as a live-in nurse. The rich lady who lives there is known to be cantankerous and dislikes kids. The house is huge and spooky, but Alice quickly befriends the housekeeper's daughter, Lily. 

Soon Lily lets Alice in on a secret, there's a ghost in Alice's bedroom. But that's not the only secret being kept at the house. When Alice discovers a dollhouse locked away in the attic, things start to get really weird and spooky. As Alice drifts back and forth between real-time and era represented by the dollhouse, she starts to lose herself. Will she be able to find her way back to the real world? Or is she lost forever? Pick up this supernatural page-turner to find out.

The Bottom Line: There's nothing I love more than a good ghost story, and Charis Cotter is one of the best at telling them. With an eerie Gothic feel to this story, readers won't be able to put this one down. Enthusiastically recommended for kids, teens, and adults who enjoy suspenseful ghost stories and stories with the supernatural at work.

Details: The Dollhouse: A Ghost Story by Charis Cotter. Paperback published by Tundra in 2022. 368 p. ISBN: 978-0-7352-6908-8 [NOTE: I received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This was made possible via the Early Reviewers program at LibraryThing.]

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Book Review: 'The Miracles of the Namiya General Store' by Keigo Higashino

✰✰✰✰½  When three petty thieves take refuge in an old abandoned general store, they think they are in for a quiet night. However, when a letter falls through the door’s mail slot, the trio is concerned and intrigued. The letter asks for advice from the former shopkeeper who offered thoughtful guidance to those seeking help. In his absence, the trio steps into his role. As the night slowly moves on, the correspondence they provide through their unique perspective of modern time proves life changing for everyone involved. By morning, the trio emerge to a different world than what they knew before.

The Bottom Line: With shifting time, this book is magical. The interwoven layers of plot in this novel submerses you into a rich world full of unexpected twists and turns. It makes you realize that people may be connected somehow even if they don’t realize it. Enthusiastically recommended for fans of Japanese literature with a bit of magic sprinkled in.

Details: The Miracles of the Namiya General Store by Keigo Higashino. Paperback published by Yen On in 2019. 320 p. ISBN: 978-1-9753-3386-7

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Book Review: 'Bells, Spells, & Murders' by Carole J. Perry

✰✰✰ As a field reporter for WICH-TV, Lee Barrett is living the dream. Unfortunately, when the topic of her next interview turns up dead, Lee has some questions. Luckily, Lee’s detective boyfriend catches the case as Lee experiences some disturbing psychic visions that leave her reeling. Nevertheless, Lee is determined to follow the biggest scoop of her life, even if it means her own downfall.

The Bottom Line: While this was a pleasant, quick read, this book just seemed average to me. Maybe it was because I have not read the first six installments of the series, but I just didn’t connect with the characters or setting. Still fans of cozies with witches as the main character may want to check it out.

Details: Bells, Spells, & Murders (A Witch City Mystery): 7 by Carole J. Perry. Paperback published by Dafina Books in 2018. 384 p. ISBN: 978-1-4967-1458-9