Mailbox Monday – January 30



January host:  At Home With Books

♦  ♦  ♦


I won:

Lucky in Love by Deborah Coonts

Paris in Love: A Memoir by Eloisa James

I bought:

Everything That Rises Must Converge by Flannery O’Connor (audio) – after reading Literate Housewife’s review

My Heart May Be Broken, But My Hair Still Looks Great by Dixie Cash

What was in your mailbox?

Sunday Post #4

Last week went by in a flash. I read a book – Blood Orchids  by Toby Neal –  for a blog tour next month. I really stretched out of my reading comfort zone on this one! It’s a crime/suspense novel and the first in a series – I can’t wait to tell you about it.

Yesterday my husband and I took the train to Chicago to meet our first born for lunch. She was there on business all week and had a late flight back to Maine so we wanted to catch her before she left. We had such a good time – did a bit of shopping and walking in the Lincoln Park neighborhood and then said our goodbyes. Not sure if we’ll see her before June when her baby is due but we plan to grab the first flight out as soon as we hear of our grandchild’s arrival 🙂

War & Peace update: I’m at page 1124 0f 1215

Lucky in Love by Deborah Coonts

Title:  Lucky in Love

Lucky O’Toole Vegas Adventure series

Author:  Deborah Coonts

Genre:  Mystery/Light Romance

Published:  January 2012 – MPS

About:  (from the Goodreads synopsis) Lucky O’Toole, the vice president of Customer Relations for the Babylon, one of Las Vegas’s most over-the-top strip properties, is seriously regretting booking a reality television show, The Forever Game, in the hotel’s small theater.

The four contestant-couples add their own mischief to the incendiary mix normally available in Sin City while competing for a Las Vegas wedding extravaganza. The host of The Forever Game, Trey Gold, appears interested only in keeping the spotlight on himself while the contestants run wild, sampling all Vegas has to offer and threatening to blow the whole show out of the water.

Not only must Lucky keep the couples from killing each other, killing their relationships, or ending up on the front page of the Review-Journal, she has to navigate her own rocky road of love. Teddie, her live-in lover, seems ready to chase a new career as a singer, leaving Vegas . . . and Lucky . . . behind. And the Babylon’s new French chef seems determined to muddy the murky waters of love even further.

My take:  Lucky in Love is a novella and Love is the key word. It’s not the usual mystery adventure that I’ve come to expect in the series. This week Lucky O’Toole’s primary job is to keep the reality show contestants focused on showing up at the appointed times. Each couple has their own agenda which keeps Lucky busier than normal. On top of everything else she’s worried about the possible changes in her relationship with her boyfriend Teddie.

If you’ve read the previous two novels in the series you’ll recognize characters who make brief appearances. It was fun to see them – especially Teddie.

I enjoyed this short visit to Vegas and Lucky O’Toole’s world. The next book in the series, So Damn Lucky, will be published in February. I can’t wait to read it!

Source:  Giveaway win

Spotlight on Home By Morning by Alexis Harrington (excerpt)

HOME BY MORNING begins in October, 1918 as Dr. Jessica Layton returns to her hometown of Powell Springs for the first time since leaving for medical school in the east.  The Great War is in its fifth year, shortages abound, the home front mourns the massive loss of life, and women physicians remain an anomaly. Her efforts to treat New York City’s desperately poor left her drained and exhausted, in need of time to recuperate physically and emotionally. Having done so, she has now given up on a traditional medical practice and is headed to a research position in Seattle.

The stop in Powell Springs will be difficult. The town holds bitter memories and reminders of failure.  Jess couldn’t save the family home, she broke her promise to continue her father’s medical practice and it’s the first time she’ll face Cole Braddock, the man who broke her heart and who her sister Amy is planning to marry. 

Convinced to stand in for the absent town doctor for a few weeks before continuing north, Jess treats her first patient that very day, a soldier about to leave for Europe. Crossing paths with Cole, she hardens her heart, but can’t help but see he is still the same man with whom she fell in love, and still the only one who stirs her passion.

Cole is fighting his own demons.  After his brother Riley enlisted, he was left to run the family business supplying desperately needed horses to the Army. Cole feels guilt about not fighting—a frustration exacerbated by his alcoholic father who belittles him at every turn. He worries, too, about Susannah, Riley’s wife, who is exhausted by work and worry. Drifting toward marriage with Amy, Cole has yet to put aside his anger over Jess. Seeing her stirs up memories of all they shared and the pain that has never healed.

The young soldier dies, the first person in Powell Springs to succumb to the influenza pandemic gripping the world. As more and more townspeople take ill, it is clear that a new war has come to the home front.  Now, Jess and Cole work side-by-side as they struggle to save lives, an intimacy that makes it impossible to ignore their feelings for each other.   Amid the turmoil, as Jess desperately treats the sick, she incurs the wrath of a minister bent on revenge and becomes the target of a slanderous campaign to keep her from her patients.

Jess has to decide. She can choose to fight on all fronts, or leave, turning her back on her hometown, its people and Cole forever.

♦  ♦  ♦

From HOME BY MORNING by Alexis Harrington

      Cole found the coffee, ground the beans, and soon the room was filled with its rich redolence as it perked. Without help, he also located the cups, cream, and spoons. He searched for something to go with the coffee—Granny Mae was right, they had to eat. The best he found was a loaf of bread and a square of butter on a saucer. Jessica hadn’t been wrong about her lack of food.

But then as Amy had often reminded him, Jess had never had much talent in the kitchen.

He’d never cared.

Although the bread looked more like scraps by the time he’d butchered it, he was glad for the distraction. But he could feel Jessica’s eyes on his back as he puttered.

“Eat your sandwich,” he said over his shoulder. “The coffee’s about ready.”

Satisfied to see her nibbling on the chicken, he balanced the cups, coffee pot and other stuff to carry to the table. He’d never had much talent in the kitchen, either.

“Sorry about the bread,” he muttered, putting it down.

Jessica looked at the uneven hunks he’d sawed off the loaf and smiled. “It would probably look the same if I’d done it. She ate mechanically, simply because she knew she had to.

He poured coffee for both of them. Then he sat down in the chair across from her and splashed a drip of cream into his coffee.

“How long before you know . . . how will we . . . ”

“How will we know if Amy is going to live?” Jessica’s interpretation of his stumbling question sounded blunt and clinical, even to her own ears.

He sighed. “Yeah.”

“I wish I knew. Some people who ought to die seem to hang on through sheer will or what I can only call luck. Others I expect to improve don’t survive. Some people who’ve been exposed again and again seem to have immunity, but I’ve had cases from outlying farms that have had no visitors.” She put down the sandwich and rubbed her temples. “Talk about feeling useless—that doesn’t begin to describe how I feel.”

Cole nudged her foot under the table with his boot. “I’ve never seen a useless person work as hard as you.”

“It’s not difficult to look busy when you’re running around like a chicken with its head cut off.”

“So you’re not really busy?”

“Of course, I am. But I’m scared too.”

“You? Jess, I don’t think you’ve ever really been afraid of anything in your life.” He said it not as a compliment, but as a statement of fact.

“What on earth makes you say that?”

“You’ve tackled jobs that would have knocked some men flat on their backs. And you’ve succeeded.”

“Obviously, you haven’t listened to some of the things I’ve told you.”

He stared into his cup. “Trust me, I heard all of it.”

Suddenly a pocket of pitch exploded in the wood stove, sounding as loud as a gunshot in the quiet room. Jessica flinched.

(You can read the rest of the excerpt here)

♦  ♦  ♦


      Historical novelist Alexis Harrington has entertained readers since her first book was published in 1994. She has been spinning tales of characters and situations that include mail order brides, the Yukon Gold Rush, seafaring, ranching, and protagonists heading west ever since.  Her latest, HOME BY MORNING, is the first of her books published as an e-book original. Initially available in 2010, it will be re-released on December 24th electronically and, for the first time, in paperback by Amazon’s new Montlake Romance imprint. 

      Since that first novel, Homeward Hearts, was published Alexis has written and published ten more books, all historical romances. They include Homeward HeartsA Light For My LoveA Taste of HeavenDesperate Hearts, and Harper’s Bride, originally published by New American Library (NAL).  Her novels Allie’s MoonMontana Born and BredThe Bridal Veil and The Irish Bride were published by St. Martin’s Press.  Though Alexis originally published HOME BY MORNING independently, it has since been acquired by Amazon’s Montlake Romance imprint. 

      Alexis lives in the Pacific Northwest near the Columbia River within ten miles of her old high school.  She has numerous pets, including three chickens.  In addition to being a writer for the past twenty years, she makes jewelry, is a fine needlework artist specializing in embroidery, thread crochet and sewing. She enjoys cooking, reading, entertaining, and decorating, and is a lover of all things Victorian.

      She is currently hard at work on HOME BY NIGHTFALL, which Montlake will publish in July 2012.

Sunday Post #3

Do you remember the photo I posted last week of my knitting project? Well, you can look at it again because that’s how it looks this week. Almost no knitting the past 7 days. I managed to read one book. One! I’m still reading W&P (that line will be included in each Sunday Post for the next several weeks).  What’s been taking up some of my time? Gracie (my first grandchild) visits every Wednesday and Thursday while her parents are at work. She is a joy to have around but when she’s here nothing else gets done. No reading. No knitting. No cleaning. Ok, now I’m just making excuses 😉

The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen

Title:  The Peach Keeper

Author:  Sarah Addison Allen

Genre:  Magical Realism; Women’s Fiction

Published:  March 2011 – Bantam

About: (from the Goodreads synopsis) It’s the dubious distinction of thirty-year-old Willa Jackson to hail from a fine old Southern family of means that met with financial ruin generations ago. The Blue Ridge Madam—built by Willa’s great-great-grandfather during Walls of Water’s heyday, and once the town’s grandest home—has stood for years as a lonely monument to misfortune and scandal. And Willa herself has long strived to build a life beyond the brooding Jackson family shadow. No easy task in a town shaped by years of tradition and the well-marked boundaries of the haves and have-nots.

But Willa has lately learned that an old classmate—socialite do-gooder Paxton Osgood—of the very prominent Osgood family, has restored the Blue Ridge Madam to her former glory, with plans to open a top-flight inn. Maybe, at last, the troubled past can be laid to rest while something new and wonderful rises from its ashes. But what rises instead is a skeleton, found buried beneath the property’s lone peach tree, and certain to drag up dire consequences along with it.

Now, thrust together in an unlikely friendship, united by a full-blooded mystery, Willa and Paxton must confront the dangerous passions and tragic betrayals that once bound their families—and uncover truths of the long-dead that have transcended time and defied the grave to touch the hearts and souls of the living.

My brief take:  Sarah Addison Allen serves up another feast for the senses in her latest book The Peach Keeper. The magical realism woven throughout the novel is what I like most in her books. Well, that and her characters. I really enjoyed Willa and Paxton’s path to friendship. They helped each other get past the expectations of others and started to live their own lives. The same held true for Paxton’s friend Sebastian as well as her brother Colin. They all learned that happiness meant taking risks. It’s a lovely story and I look forward to Sarah Addison Allen’s next book.

Fate never promises to tell you everything up front. You aren’t always shown the path in life you’re supposed to take. But if there was one thing she’d learned in the past few weeks, it was that sometimes, when you’re really lucky, you meet someone with a map.  p.242

Source:  Giveaway at Life in the Thumb (Thanks, Staci!)

Disclaimer:  See sidebar. I was not compensated for my review.

Sunday Post #2

It finally looks like winter in my neck of the woods. Snow arrived on Thursday – only three inches that the wind blew around all night. It’s pretty to look at until it’s not. Those of you who live in the snow belt know what I mean.

So with the weather becoming more wintery I decided to visit my local yarn shop. I’ve been without a project for a few weeks and my fingers were itching to start something new. My friend Sherri blogged about a cowl she was working on. I decided to give it a try while listening to Catch of the Day by Marcia Evanick. It’s been on my iPod for a while and was a fun one to listen to while knitting 🙂

I also read a book from my shelves last week: The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen. I ♥ her books and will post my review in a few days.

My back yard

Do you like to listen to audiobooks?  If so, do you multitask?

Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale

Title:  Midnight in Austenland (Austenland #2)

Author:  Shannon Hale

Genre:  Fiction; Mystery; Romance

Published:  January 31, 2012 – Bloomsbury USA

About:  (from Goodreads synopsis)  When Charlotte Kinder treats herself to a two-week vacation at Austenland, she happily leaves behind her ex-husband and his delightful new wife, her ever-grateful children, and all the rest of her real life in America. She dons a bonnet and stays at a country manor house that provides an immersive Austen experience, complete with gentleman actors who cater to the guests’ Austen fantasies.
Everyone at Pembrook Park is playing a role, but increasingly, Charlotte isn’t sure where roles end and reality begins. And as the parlor games turn a little bit menacing, she finds she needs more than a good corset to keep herself safe. Is the brooding Mr. Mallery as sinister as he seems? What is Miss Gardenside’s mysterious ailment? Was that an actual dead body in the secret attic room? And-perhaps of the most lasting importance-could the stirrings in Charlotte’s heart be a sign of real-life love?

My take:  Even though Charlotte is a self-made success story in the business world she’s kind of a doormat in her personal life. She’s relegated herself to a corner and just wants to be nice (and unnoticed). When she signs on for a two-week stay at Austenland she gives herself a second chance at becoming her own person.

I liked how Charlotte came into her own at Austenland as she played the part of a young, strong-minded widow in the drama and mystery that unfolded throughout the two weeks. People listened to what she had to say – something she hadn’t experienced for a while. Shannon Hale revealed Charlotte’s real life story through back flashes between the present day chapters. That really worked for me as I grew to understand how she got to her current place in life. I really liked her and found the Austenland characters enjoyable – especially when things didn’t go as scripted! Hale’s novel is at times poignant, mysterious and funny. I love a book that makes me laugh.

All in all, I really enjoyed the second novel in the Austenland series. Need to escape your day-to-day life? This could be the book for you! I also recommend the first book: Austenland.

Source:  Bloomsbury USA via NetGalley

Disclaimer:  See sidebar. I was not compensated for my review.

Sunday Post

The first week of 2012 is behind us and I’m still playing catch up with reading. The holidays and a cold slowed me down so there were no reviews posted last week.

I’m still reading War & Peace. I’m at 88% on the kindle edition which is page 1069 in the Pevear and Volokhonsky paperback – love that I can read two ways.

I finished Midnight in Austenland (arc) – review will post on Wednesday. Currently reading Ali in Wonderland (arc). Next up is a book from my shelves – not sure which one.

What about you? Are you back in the swing of things with your reading?

2012 Reading From My Shelves Project

This is my personal challenge for 2012. I want to clear a lot of books from my own shelves and I’ll keep track here.

Books cleared from my shelves and Kindle:

1.  The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen

2.  War & Peace by Leo Tolstoy (started 1/1/11 –  finished 1/31/12)

3.  Catch of the Day by Marcia Evanick

4.  Good Enough to Eat by Stacey Ballis

5.  Rush Home Road by Lori Lansens

6.  The Violets of March by Sarah Jio

7.  Abby Cooper, Psychic Eye by Victoria Laurie (audio)

8.  What Happens in London by Julia Quinn (audio)

9.  Better Read Than Dead by Victoria Laurie (audio)

10.Secrets of a Summer Night by Lisa Kleypas (audio)