REVIEW: Deadly Assets by Wendy Tyson

Deadly Assets Book Cover Deadly Assets
An Allison Campbell Mystery
Wendy Tyson

An eccentric Italian heiress from the Finger Lakes. An eighteen-year-old pop star from Scranton, Pennsylvania. Allison Campbell's latest clients seem worlds apart in every respect, except one: Both women disappear on the same day. And Allison's colleague Vaughn is the last to have seen each.

Allison's search for a connection uncovers an intricate web of family secrets, corporate transgressions and an age-old rivalry that crosses continents. The closer Allison gets to the truth, the deadlier her quest becomes. All paths lead back to a sinister Finger Lakes estate and the suicide of a woman thirty years earlier. Allison soon realizes the lives of her clients and the safety of those closest to her aren't the only things at stake.

I received a copy of Deadly Assets by Wendy Tyson in exchange for a review and my honest opinion. 

From the book summary that I received, I was under the impression that impeccably groomed Allison Campbell was a female detective. In fact, she is an image consultant! I thought that was a pretty interesting job to have, especially when it involves the occasional crime fighting on the side!

I found the mystery that unravelled in Deadly Assets to be fascinating; I was drawn into the complicated webs woven between the characters and didn’t know who the bad guys were and what their motives were until the very end.  I consider that the mark of a successful crime novel!

I’ll admit that I didn’t feel a huge connection to the characters; perhaps it was because this was the second book in the series and Tyson didn’t waste words giving much backstory, which meant I may have missed some of the nuances in a few of the relationships. I felt Allison was a bit stiff (and had lots of unexplained headaches), but that could of been a part of her persona as image consultant. Overall, I appreciated the mystery more than the characters themselves.

Earlier this year, I read and reviewed another mystery by Tyson, called The Seduction of Miriam Cross (A Delilah Powers Mystery). The mystery was equally riveting, if not more so, and I found the characters a little more interesting. I think I preferred that book over this one, but would happily pick up the next book in either series! I’d be quite interested to see how Tyson develops her characters in subsequent books.

Book Depository | Amazon

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REVIEW: American Honey by Nancy Scrofano

American Honey Book Cover American Honey
Nancy Scrofano
Young Adult

After graduating high school, Olivia “Ollie” McKenna leaves her small town roots in Summerville, Georgia, to pursue her dream of becoming a professional singer. With her best friend and older sister in tow, wholesome Ollie travels to the big city to compete in singing contest Atlanta Idol. There she meets nineteen-year-old Jack Bradley, a fellow country singer who quickly becomes a close friend. The connection between them is magnetic and an opportunity to sing together could change their lives forever. But what about Ollie's mama's fear of the music business? She's been burned by the lures of the bright lights before and doesn't want Ollie anywhere near that world. And Ollie's growing feelings for Jack as more than just a pal could ruin everything. Despite her own doubts, Ollie is determined to win. Can she make her dream come true or will she return to her hometown empty-handed and brokenhearted?

I received a copy of American Honey by Nancy Scrofano in exchange for a review and my honest opinion.

I prefer to jump into books without much idea of what to expect, so that (hopefully) I can be pleasantly surprised! This book was definitely unexpected.

The main character, eighteen year old Ollie, has big dreams of becoming a music star. The book follows her as she attempts to break into the music business and make it to the country music mecca that is Nashville, Tennessee.

I liked the plot; it wasn’t particularly unexpected, drawing on shows like American Idol for inspiration, but I always enjoy these kind of journey-stories, and particularly liked the music aspect. The addition of some cute boys helped, too.

What was surprising, however, was the overall tone of the book. Scrofano chose to write a young, naive character who was extremely religious; throughout the book she (and other characters) regularly pray and consider the morality of their actions. Combined with the extremely Southern mannerisms of the characters – there were lots of ‘ma’am”s, and ‘mama”s – this did at times make the story saccharine sweet. That said, from what I know, this is a pretty realistic representation of the South, so while unfamiliar to me, it didn’t feel fake.

Scrofano’s aim was to write a book for young adults that was more age-appropriate than many of the other, far more explicit, books in the same genre. Personally, I think this was an admirable aim, and fairly well executed. It’s extremely difficult to write a relatively sex-free book aimed at Young Adults, and keep young readers interested. As far as Christian Fiction is concerned, I’d consider this one of the better examples. In a more general Young Adult category, I suspect that many readers might be startled by the restraint showed by Scrofano in holding off on throwing her main characters into bed. That said, the Ollie’s best friend and older sister were less reserved, so perhaps it all balances out.

My main issue with the book was with the relationship between the two main characters. In practically the first page, Ollie introduces herself to Jack (the boy who will take centre stage in her life for the rest of the book), and immediately decides that they  are connected – with scarcely a dozen words exchanged. This felt very unrealistic, and I wasn’t sure why Scrofano rushed the connection. Ollie goes on to flip between saying that she’s falling for him and that she just thinks of him as a friend, which got a little frustrating, as it was obvious that she’d fallen for him in that first conversation, regardless of what she later said… That aside, as the book progressed, their interactions became more authentic.

Personally, knowing that Scrofano plans for this to be the first book in a series of at least three, I wasn’t too upset that Ollie and Jack didn’t race into a physical relationship. I’m of the mind that young people these days grow up too quickly, and believe that it’s normal to be sexually active from a young age. I know, that makes me sound like a Grandma. But I think if you’re not mature enough to understand the consequences of something, then you shouldn’t be doing it! I liked that this book portrayed a different way of growing up; if there were more books for like this for maturing readers, then maybe they’d feel like there are more options than just sleeping around because it’s ‘what everyone does’.

So, you see, this relatively simple book raised a whole set of issues about society, that really set me thinking. I definitely recommend giving it a try, and seeing what you think. It’s available from Amazon here. I’d be interested in knowing what you think!

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REVIEW: “Strangely, Incredibly Good’ by Heather Grace Stewart

Strangely, Incredibly Good Book Cover Strangely, Incredibly Good
Heather Grace Stewart
Chick Lit

Cat Glamour is lost in a world of pain and self-imposed guilt. She hides behind her weight, her children, and a past she can’t forget. While her 91-year-old, decidedly different, grandmother provides emotional support, Cat needs to take control of her life which has been shattered by her abusive ex-husband and tragic events of the past. 

On the day Cat decides to start an exercise routine, the last thing she expects is a modern-day genie to pop out of her Wii machine. Unfortunately for Cat, her genie is somewhat unreliable in his wish-granting capabilities. In a series of hilarious misadventures, he sends Cat to a castle in France and back in time 20 years in an attempt to solve both Cat’s weight issues and emotional stresses. 

Cat’s journey is one filled with quirky adventures, realistic love, and above all, self-discovery.

I received a copy of Strangely, Incredibly Good by Heather Grace Stewart in exchange for a review of my honest opinion.

This quirky, modern twist on a genie-in-a-bottle fairytale surprised me. I wasn’t sure what to expect from a story about a man popping out of a Wii machine, but was pleased to find an unexpected story unfold throughout this short but sweet novel.

At first, I was a little worried about Cat throwing her wishes away on material things, and that the book was perpetuating the myth that skinny is successful. However, I soon realised that Strangely, Incredibly Good was curve-positive – enforcing the message that body shape isn’t what defines a happy life. Cat lived a hard life before her Genie appeared – with comic-relief provided by her hilariously quirky Grandmother. Most of the story focuses on her overcoming her past troubles, but Stewart cleverly added a genie to the mix, which stopped this story from blending in with so many others.

I read the book in one sitting – it was the perfect light read, great for a day at the beach. Sure, it was a little cliche, and the romance between woman and genie blossomed a little too fast… but a happy ending, with a little magic thrown in, can never go astray You can get the e-book from Amazon for less than $5 and see for yourself!

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GIVEAWAY & REVIEW: “The Job Proposal” by Wendy Chen

The Job Proposal Book Cover The Job Proposal
Wendy Chen
Chick Lit

All's fair in love and work.

Kate is enjoying being engaged—that it's a hoax is beside the point. To succeed at her ultra-conservative finance job she needs to reform her flighty, party-girl reputation, and a good old fashioned marriage of convenience is exactly what she needs to put her one step closer to the promotion of her dreams. But when Adam, Kate's best friend from high school, arrives for a visit, her perfect arrangement suddenly isn't so perfect anymore.

The nerdy boy she remembers from her teen years has grown into a gorgeous and successful man, and he's vying for her affection. Soon all the things Kate thinks she wants will change, and everything she doesn't know she needs, she may not be able to live without.

But will she be able to let down the walls she’s built to guard her heart and trade her fierce independence for love?

I received a copy of The Job Proposal by Wendy Chen in exchange for a review of my honest opinion.

When I began this book, I’ll admit that I didn’t immediately take a shine to the main character, Katie. Despite her together, Sex and the City lifestyle, her single-minded focus on success and unwillingness to form attachments with the men she slept with made it hard to connect with her. She definitely wasn’t a warm, fuzzy character. Her ‘Legacy Friend’ (read the book, you’ll definitely know the type!) Adam, however, was boyishly charming and adorable from the get go. His ability to see the ‘real’ Katie was what convinced me to give her a chance, and keep reading!

Through Adam’s eyes, we see how Katie’s life growing up led her to put up walls around herself and not take them down for anyone. After so long, she doesn’t even remember putting any up, and Adam settles in for the long haul as he steadily starts chipping away at them. As he makes progress, Katie begins to share tidbits of insight into herself too. The finance shark who would do anything for a place in the company hierarchy loosens her chignon and looses the stilettos as she gradually remembers just how great being herself could be.

I’m always a fan of chick lit that’s told from both the main female and male perspectives. Perhaps it adds a layer of depth to the story, I’m not quite sure! In this case, it was definitely Adam that drew me in to the story, not Katie, which is unusual for chick lit. However, as the book progressed, Katie became a more complex, interesting character, and I wanted to know what she would do.

As ever, when I sat down to write this review and tried to summarise the plot in a few sentences, I realised that it was a fairly typical chick lit plot: girl thinks she’s happy without a man, but eventually can’t resist falling for her adorable platonic friend… a subcategory of chick lit’s leading theme: ‘love will find you when you least expect it’. That said, it’s not the happy ending that makes us read the book. Sure, it’s nice to go to sleep and not be crying because your favourite character just died in a fiery car crash – but it’s more about the journey, and HOW the main character overcame whatever issues she was dealing with and lives happily ever after. Let’s face it, we all empathise with many of those issues in our own lives, and it’s nice to read a story where everything ends well!

You can find this book on Amazon OR you can enter the giveaway below for the chance to win a digital copy for yourself! This is my first giveaway, I’m pretty excited!

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REVIEW: “Woman in Bed” Jessica Keener

Women in Bed Book Cover Women in Bed
Jessica Keener
Short Stories

Jessica Keener returns with this collection of nine stories that thematically address variations of love -- love of self, family, and sexual relationships -- from loneliness and isolation, desperation and rejection -- to need and passion, forgiveness and, finally, to love found.

"Secrets" follows a young woman that gets involved with a female friend who pushes her boundaries around sex, love, and intimacy. In "Papier Mache," a college student who loses brother to suicide is grieving and gets entangled with a professor who is a critic and over-intellectualizes everything. The student challenges the professor and vice versa in a strange power dance with emotional fallout. "Boarders" tells the story of a young college student who drops out to be with her narcissistic lover. She lives in grim boarding house with desolate, lonely men until she realizes that she must flee to find something better, healthier, more nurturing and loving. "Woman with Birds in her Chest" involves a woman who leaves her social worker job and realizes she has never truly nurtured herself. Her ensuing breakdown puts her loving marriage to the test. "Recovery" tells of a young woman in a hospital room who witnesses death, escapes her own, and comes to terms with life's uncertainties and the unexpected power of sibling love. In "Shoreline," a woman leaves her husband, goes to a cottage on the beach, and has a flirtation with a client. She soon discovers that she must end her marriage before she can move on to find a new love. In "Bird of Grief," a grad student recovering from a broken relationship projects her anger and grief onto a new man, eventually coming to terms with letting go. "Forgiveness" is a spare, stark story of two sisters, family violence, and the quest for forgiveness. In "Heart," a woman meets her lover in a Paris hotel room and goes through a cycle of anxiety, worry, and the expectation that things will not work out, only to be surprised by the goodness that emerges.

Poignant, surprising, funny and profound, and always perceptive and gorgeously written, Women in Bed is a rich collection of moving tales that will engage you from the first page.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

I never quite know whether I like short stories or not. In some ways, I appreciate the snapshot-like aspect of the condensed story. On the other hand, I miss the extension, the detail, the closure of a longer, more resolved novel.

Jessica Keener’s Women in Bed contains nine stories about women and the relationships they have; with other women, with their families, with their peers and their superiors. Keener’s writing style is distinctive throughout; much of the time the writing is almost disjointed, and gives the impression that the reader is floating through life alongside the protagonists. It’s a strange experience, much like I imagine being inside the head of a character might be like, all broken thought patterns and emotion. However, the broken exposition could be frustrating, as it often wasn’t clear exactly what was happening – although, perhaps that was what was intended, as a nod to how we often don’t know how to make sense of our thoughts and actions.

Sometimes I wonder if there are two kinds of writers; the storytellers and the photographers. Equally talented, but both writing a different story. Storytellers are masters of expanding a narrative and giving it a life of it’s own. Photographers have the ability to capture a moment, or a period, in time; describing it in detail or with such truth that it is clear in the mind of the reader. A storyteller and a photographer could tell the same story in two completely different ways. Keener definitely seems more like the photographer-type.

While I still like my short stories a little more fleshed out, so as to get to know my characters more broadly, Keener’s collection was an interesting read; not just in topic but in writing style. A tribute to women, Women in Bed is a more a more existential, emotional read – if that sound like your cup of tea, definitely try it! You can find it here or here. I’d be interested to know what you think!

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REVIEW: ‘Conditional Love’ Cathy Bramley

Conditional Love Book Cover Conditional Love
Cathy Bramley
Chick Lit

Meet Sophie Stone, a thirty-something serial procrastinator. Tesco knickers, Take That and tea with two sugars is about as exciting as it gets. Sophie’s life is safe and predictable, which is just the way she likes it, thank you very much.

But when her boyfriend dumps her on Valentine’s Day and a mysterious benefactor leaves her an inheritance, Sophie has to accept that change is afoot. There is a catch: in order to inherit, Sophie must agree to meet the father she has never seen.

With interference from an evil boss, bickering flat mates, warring parents and a sexy ex-boyfriend, Sophie has plenty to contend with without an architect who puts his foot in it every time he opens his mouth.

She will have to face the past and learn some uncomfortable home truths before she can finally build a future on her own terms.

Sophie is a serial procrastinator, and is worried that she’s not achieving the things she dreamed of doing when she was younger. Both traits that strike a chord in me. I could win gold in the procrastinating Olympics, and go to sleep worrying about all the things that I ‘should have’ done by now. So, Bramley had me intrigued from the start – but I was well and truly hooked when protagonist Sophie got into the home renovation game.

Written with characteristic British wit, Bramley imbues her cast of characters with quirky personalities, giving each of them enough background for the reader to be interested in what’s happening with them, but not enough to detract from the main storyline. It took me a little while to get into it, but soon enough was drawn into Sophie’s life, and rooting for her to get it together. It was a little frustrating that she let herself be taken advantage of by her idiot ex for so long, but I felt that some of her push-over personality traits were due to low self esteem, so I tried to be patient with her!

A story about family dramas and growing up, Conditional Love is an aptly named novel about a woman finding her way in life. Check it out and grab a copy here or here.

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REVIEW: “When Girlfriends Take Chances” Savannah Page

When Girlfriends Take Chances Book Cover When Girlfriends Take Chances
Savannah Page
Chick Lit

A novel about exploring love and life's path, and taking chances along the way.

Emily Saunders has never thought twice about grabbing her passport, rucksack, and camera and trekking across the globe. If there's an NGO, a study abroad program, or simply the travel itch, Emily's on the first plane out. Free-spirited, open-minded, and eager to explore, it's no wonder Emily's hardly in one spot (or relationship) for long.

For the past year and a half, though, Emily's found herself planted in her college hometown of Seattle. She's surrounded by her best friends, has steady work as a photographer and at her friend Sophie's café, and is certainly kept busy by the wild antics of her BFF Jackie. Life's enjoyable, but Emily's looking for something more. She's ready for a change, for adventure!But when Emily tells her girlfriends she's ready for something new she does not expect Operation Blind Date!

Sure, Emily's single. Sure, she hopes to some day find true love. But being thrown into an insane challenge like this is not exactly the adventure she had in mind! Couldn't she just travel and focus on her photography? Or volunteer in Africa? Will a string of eligible bachelors lined up by her friends--a shot at finding a real and lasting love--really be that change she's searching for?

This is a spirited story about seeking adventure while being true to yourself, wherever you are in life. It's a story about love, risk, and self-discovery. About what happens when girlfriends take chances.

I received a copy of When Girlfriends Take Chances by Savannah Page in exchange for my honest opinion.

The latest in a series of books about a group of six women living in Seattle, I’ll admit that I had mixed feelings about this book. For starters, I think it’s necessary to read the earlier books in the series before picking up When Girlfriends Take Chances. While Page was clever in filling new readers in on the highlights of each character without overdoing the details and boring longtime fans, I felt that I didn’t really have enough detail about each woman’s story to really connect to any of them, and it took awhile to get them all straight.

Perhaps this is why I struggled to warm to protagonist Emily. On the surface, I thought we had one big thing in common – an insatiable wanderlust! However, as I continued to read I started to feel that she was a little two-dimensional… Unsure of where she is going in life, she’s wavering between taking off overseas again and trying to settle down. In itself, that’s a recognisable feeling. However, her apparent disdain of those who don’t share her love of travel, and the fact that her life is largely funded by her trust fund (although she prefers to spend it on travel than flashy possessions, which is admirable), were a little off putting. That said, she did read as a loyal friend, which was definitely a redeeming feature.

The actual plot of the book was entertaining – although the feminist in me takes issue with how important it is to the women that Emily find a man to ‘settle down’ with. I liked how the different stories intertwined, and took some comfort in the fact that these (albeit fictional) ladies remain friends despite their markedly different personalities. I also liked how Page was able to use a number of different locations for the story that added new layers; the start-up shop of Emily’s friend, her new book club, her shabby flat and the homes of her friends.

Overall, I think my opinion of the book would have been very different if I had read all of the books in the series. The writing style was light and easy – a perfect beach read – and reader’s will likely identify with one of the many characters. Luckily for you, you’ve read this post and now know to start at he beginning of the series. You can pick up the first three books in the series here. When I get a chance, I’m going to start at the beginning and read about their adventures from the start!

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REVIEW: “Confessions of a Paris Party Girl” Vicki Lesage

Confessions of a Paris Party Girl Book Cover Confessions of a Paris Party Girl
Vicki Lesage
Chick Lit

Drinking too much bubbly. Meeting sappy Frenchmen who have girlfriends or are creeps or both. Encountering problème after problème with French bureaucracy. When newly-single party girl Vicki moved to Paris, she was hoping to taste wine, stuff her face with croissants, and maybe fall in love.

In her first book, this long-time blogger and semi-professional drinker recounts the ups and downs of her life in Paris. Full of sass, shamefully honest admissions, and situations that seem too absurd to be true, Vicki makes you feel as if you're stumbling along the cobblestones with her.

Will she find love? Will she learn to consume reasonable amounts of alcohol? Will the French administration ever cut her a break?

I received a copy of Confessions of a Paris Party Girl by Vicki Lesage in exchange for my honest opinion. 

For the travellers out there, I would definitely recommend giving this one a go. Lesage’s memoirs about her time in Paris, beginning as a young twenty-something, are written as a string of amusing anecdotes. Anybody who’d ever ventured into the unknown alone is sure to recognise some of the situations she’s found herself in; standing in a building with a room key but no idea which room is yours, walking home barefoot from a night out because you know they’d rip you off because you’re not a local, the pain of lugging heavy suitcases up and down stairs when you’re lost, the excitement of hearing a familiar accent in a room full of people…

Less familiar, and more educational, were the stories about French bureaucracy and the red tape that expats face. Should I ever move to France, I’ll be well prepared with every receipt and pay slip I’ve ever received!

This book certainly lived up to it’s name. Twenty-something Vicki’s love for partying is well documented in this expat memoir. Somewhere along the line, her (sometimes excessive, in a way that all travellers have experienced) hard partying ways lead to all sorts of amusing stories. Later, as her Frenchie boyfriend – who reads like quite the catch – tempers her wild habits, and leads her to question whether she’s become old and boring. I know that feeling!

As Vicki grows up, her stories change, and this provides for readers of all ages to take something from her memoir. Personally, I think the book would resonate well with travellers, but perhaps hold less interest for those who are without wanderlust. Luckily for me, I have a healthy dose of travel bug, and gladly read anything that reminds me of the exciting life adventures to be had overseas. Lesage’s story is inspirational in that it shows that all it takes is one brave leap – or one expensive plane ticket – to change your life. It’s an excellent reminder of all the wonderful things that can come of such a leap. Travellers out there: get on it!! Check it out here. Let me know what you think!

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REVIEW: A Cold Day for Murder – Kate Stabenow

A Cold Day for Murder Book Cover A Cold Day for Murder
Kate Shugak #1
Dana Stabenow

Somewhere in twenty million acres of forest and glaciers, a ranger has disappeared: Mark Miller. Missing six weeks. It's assumed by the Alaskan Parks Department that Miller has been caught in a snowstorm and frozen to death, the typical fate of those who get lost in this vast and desolate terrain. But as a favour to his congressman father, the FBI send in an investigator: Ken Dahl. Last heard from two weeks and two days ago.Now it's time to send in a professional. Kate Shugak: light brown eyes, black hair, five foot tall with an angry scar from ear to ear. Last seen yesterday...

Kate Shugak is a fairly volatile character. The 5ft 1″ spitfire is a native Aleut, Private Investigator who knows the Alaskan wilderness better than anyone else. When the local authorities can’t find the answers, they brave the icy demeanour of reclusive Kate.

In A Cold Day for Murder Shugak investigates two disapearances in her small hometown. Facing small-town suspicion and gossip-mongering, she slowly finds the truth. Her quirky Husky/Wolf mix, Mutt, acts as quite the animated sidekick and bodyguard, as Kate breaks hearts and busts lies left, right and centre.

From the get go, Stabenow’s talent at describing the landscape and lifestyle of the Alaskan wilderness is apparent. Throughout the book, she sets the scene in a way that brings the surroundings to life, and her passion for the culture is evident.

At times, it almost seems that the characters and the mystery are secondary to the illustrative descriptions and a peek into the lifestyle of people who are cut off from the rest of the world for six months of the year. While this focus on surroundings and community was fascinating, and did go towards explaining why people acted as they did, the novel could have benefited from more detail in the development of characters and the mystery itself – which was, after all, what the story was based around!

I enjoyed the book, and found the ending a surprise (which was great, as I often pick the endings of crime novels early on). However, upon reflection, the plot was a little weak. It was Stabenow’s ability to transport the reader to the Alaskan wilds that saved it, and made the book a worthwhile read.

If you are after a crime novel with an intricate plot, and many twists and turns, perhaps this isn’t the book for you. But if you are interested in a book that draws you into a very foreign culture, with some light mystery on the side, then why not give it a try? The e-book only cost a few dollars on iTunes, and you can get the paperback for a good price from Amazon or the Book Depository. I have downloaded and read the next book in the series the day after I read the first – so that’s saying something!

I’d love to hear from anyone else who’s read this book, and find out what they thought about it!

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REVIEW: Merry & Bright Christmas Anthology

Merry & Bright Book Cover Merry & Bright
Lauren Clark, Libby Mercer, Cindy Arora, Nancy Scrofano, Laura Chapman, Isabella Louise Anderson
Chick Lit

Sip your eggnog, linger under the mistletoe, and make a Christmas wish. Merry & Bright brings you six tales of Christmas cheer, featuring stories of budding romances, Southern charm, lost loves, heaps of humour, and lots of pie by authors Isabella Louise Anderson, Cindy Arora, Laura Chapman, Lauren Clark, Libby Mercer, and Nancy Scrofano. From sunny Los Angeles to the Rocky Mountains to the Deep South, Merry & Bright will take you on a heartwarming adventure you’ll love to visit again and again. Wrap yourself in holiday mirth and prepare to be swept off your feet.

I received a copy of this e-book in exchange for a review and my honest opinion. 

Merry Christmas Blogosphere! I hope you’re all enjoying some freedom. family, and friends over the Christmas/New Years break! If you’re suffering from some holiday blues, however, then I suggest picking up a copy of Merry & Bright for a cheer-up. These six stories are full of Christmas cheer, romance, family drama, mistletoe and fresh-baked goodies.

Each story was based on a different female character’s experiences in the holidays. Personally, my favourite was the first story in the anthology; “A Very Dixie Christmas” by Lauren Clark. Perhaps this had something to do with it being the longest story in the anthology, or perhaps it was the skill with which Clark immediately pulled us into the warm world of the Ella Rae Bakery. Had this story been turned into a full length novel, I think I could have easily devoured it. I’ll be keeping an eye out for her future works!

In “Christmas at Mulberry Inn” Cindy Arora quickly set the scene of her Christmas tale with some interesting characters and a festive holiday setting. These characters were surprisingly well developed for such a short story, and I was again left wanting more. I did feel that the story was wrapped up a little quickly, considering the details in the first half of it, but it was fun and engaging. I’d be happy to return to the Mulberry Inn anytime!

I found “Ice Dating” by Nancy Scrofano and “Secret Santa” by Libby Mercy a little cliché… In part, I blame the length. It’s hard to describe four failed engagements in 30 pages, as Scrofano tried to do in “Ice Dating”, which meant that the story seemed a little far-fetched, and hard to relate to. Similarly, in “Secret Santa”, I picked the ‘twist’ early on and found the story quite un-engaging; perhaps there just wasn’t the time to hook me.

“Twelve Drummers Drumming” by Laura Chapman was a feel good love story, about finding a good man and trusting your instincts – jumping to conclusions can be a bad idea! The idyllic snowy setting and little Christmas miracle brought a smile to my face.

For those looking for a more racy read, “Meet Me Under the Mistletoe” (Isabella Louise Anderson) held tinges of what I imagine “50 Shades of Grey” to hold – though I refuse to read the latter for the sake of my literary integrity. While things can’t get too spicy under the mistletoe in less than 35 pages, Anderson manages to write a love-at-first-sight romance.

All in all, I think this anthology had a little something for everyone. The stories were short, and perfect to read in one sitting in between the crazy running around of Christmas, or when you’re feeling a little of the Christmas blues. I did catch a few spelling mistakes, enough to drive a grammar nut a little crazy, but not enough to turn me off the book.

Christmas may be over for 2013, but you can grab a copy on Amazon here for a few dollars and keep it on your bookshelf ready for next year! Merry Christmas!

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