High Spirits. Carol J. Perry

High Spirits

Published: Kensington
Date: 25th October 2022
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Christmas lights on palm trees and Santa hats on plastic pink flamingos are far from the snowy landscape Maureen and her beloved golden retriever, Finn, are used to. But Maureen is determined to make this a holiday to remember—which means finding a way to promote Haven House on a shoestring. Fortunately, Haven’s vintage movie theater, the Paramount, has come up with a great “Twelve Days of Christmas” idea. They’ll feature an impressive list of the best classic Christmas movies ever made—shown by one-time movie actor-turned-projectionist Decklin Monroe . . .
But nobody bothered to tell Maureen that the Paramount is haunted by the ghost of a man who was murdered a few years back. Haven’s top cop Frank Hubbard doesn’t believe in ghosts but, believing that Decklin Monroe was somehow involved, he wants a reluctant Maureen’s help. 
That plan is derailed when, on the first day of the festival, a fresh murder victim is found at the theater. Now Maureen has to defend her staff and guests, while trying to keep her high-spirited resident ghosts out of the picture—before they have company for the holidays . . .

High Spirits  is #2 in the Haunted Haven series, and follows Be My Ghost. We find Maureen settling into the Inn that she has inherited rather mysteriously. She has plans for it’s development and they seem to be going well. Ted the chef, and herself also seem to be getting along well and are a great team, along with the rest of the staff.

A fund raiser that involves old movies at the Paramount, leads to a murder. Who killed the victim? Frank Hubbard the local police officer is out to find out, and he does believe that Maureen knows more than she is telling. It’s a weird set up really and his consulting her all the time I found a bit strange. One thing Maureen is though is observant and knowledgeable about fashion and this is an asset in this murder. As well the present day murder seems linked to a long ago one.

I enjoyed the story but found it rather slow paced. There is the murder, and the mystery of who funds the Haven Inn and how did Maureen become chosen to take up as the owner. This isn’t solved yet and no doubt will be a thread going through the series. I will certainly want to read the next one but I am certainly hoping it will have a faster pace to it.


The Man She Married by Cathy Lamb

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I love a Cathy Lamb book, and this latest one, is no exception. Occasionally  a reader might be turned off by the sometimes deliciously irreverent tone, but that’s just part of her unique writing voice. I do believe I could be read a page of her writing and name it as a Cathy Lamb book. Now you can’t recognise a writer’s voice with many books, but hers – unique.

Sometimes there is always a little touch of the tall story, I could see that with the story her Grandma Dixie tells of shooting a man, such fun.

Natalie is married to Zack, and they sure do love each other, but… Zack seems to be hiding something and when Natalie meets with an accident and has a bad brain injury slowly all is revealed. (It takes the whole book!) Natalie makes a slow recovery, there is no magic wand that cures her within a chapter. And will Zack and Natalie last with all that has been hidden?

I loved all the characters who filled this story, Natalie has such great friends in Justine and Chick – together since kindergarten they are the Moonshine and Milky Way Maverick girls – which sums up perfectly there fun loving, risk taking, sweet, compassionate selves.  Then there are many of the local people, plus the three in rehab who were wonderful too.

Lastly I could not leave without looking at Natalie’s mother, she sure is something else!  She deserted her child and husband when Natalie was seven and now she is on husband number five. I’m telling you, however she does have a surprise up her sleeve and neither Natalie or I saw it coming.

There is so much I could say, I laughed out loud, I shed tears, I delighted in the antics and hyperbole, and as the friendship, love and compassion shone through I just knew I am so grateful that Cathy Lamb is a writer.

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Published by  Kensington. 30th October 2018. An e-ARC from the publisher via NetGalley.  But… I did buy a paperback copy as well! If you haven’t read her, what are you waiting for!

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Bridge of Scarlet Leaves. Kristina McMorris

Published:Kensington Books
Date: 2012
Format: Paperback
Genre: Historical Fiction
5 stars          Add to Goodreads

Los Angeles, 1941. Violinist Maddie Kern’s life seemed destined to unfold with the predictable elegance of a Bach concerto. Then she fell in love with Lane Moritomo. Her brother’s best friend, Lane is the handsome, ambitious son of Japanese immigrants. Maddie was prepared for disapproval from their families, but when Pearl Harbor is bombed the day after she and Lane elope, the full force of their decision becomes apparent. In the eyes of a fearful nation, Lane is no longer just an outsider, but an enemy.

When her husband is interned at a war relocation camp, Maddie follows, sacrificing her Juilliard ambitions. Behind barbed wire, tension simmers and the line between patriot and traitor blurs. As Maddie strives for the hard-won acceptance of her new family, Lane risks everything to prove his allegiance to America, at tremendous cost.

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Bridge of Scarlet Leaves – my first book of the year – what a powerful read.  I had read a picture book a number of years ago that told the story of how the Japanese immigrants – many of them citizens of America, were herded into camps in the U.S.A once the war broke out. So I was prepared but… Kristina McMorris’ thoroughly researched, extremely well written novel opened my eyes to this time in history.  I know we are meant to learn from history and not repeat its mistakes. However  I suspect those who need to, don’t read these kind of books. For I know the kind of indiscriminate decisions made then could be repeated now, in most or all countries of the world. However let us read and have our hearts and minds opened.
I loved the story of Maddie – in love with Lane a son of a Japanese immigrant and a U.S. citizen. They kept their love hidden for quite awhile because of the opposition they knew they would meet. Lane was also the best friend of T.J. Maddie’s brother. T.J. took it on himself to be responsible for Maddie after their mother died and their father sunk into deep depression. T.J. would not look kindly on any relationship between Maddie and Lane.
When the war against Japan starts all their lives are changed forever. Lane’s family are sent away, T.J joins up and Maddie is determined not to be separated from Lane and sets out to find him and be with him. I really don’t want to give any more away, only to say it is a deeply emotional and at times very hard story to read. War atrocities and the camp at Manzanar (where Lane’s family ended upt) were terrible. 
Yet there is powerful hope and a sense of the importance of life and living.   I loved the exploration of the Japanese culture and the emphasis on how important it is to reach out to each other in forgiveness, peace and hope. I loved the way Maddie integrated with Lane’s family and the blossoming of Lane’s mother and their ultimate decisions. I also loved how the latest addition to the family reaches out and awakens someone who has long been sunken in grief. 
I highly recommend this book to everyone.  You can also read a  review and interview with Kristina McMorris over at The Reading Frenzy if you would like to know more.
heartfelt keeper shelfthought provokingpage turner

The Education of Dixie Dupree. Donna Everhart

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Published: Kensington
Date: October 25th 2016
Format: e-ARC
Genre: Southern Fiction
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss
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In 1969, Dixie Dupree is eleven years old and already an expert liar. Sometimes the lies are for her mama, Evie’s sake—to explain away a bruise brought on by her quick-as-lightning temper. And sometimes the lies are to spite Evie, who longs to leave her unhappy marriage in Perry County, Alabama, and return to her beloved New Hampshire. But for Dixie and her brother, Alabama is home, a place of pine-scented breezes and hot, languid afternoons.

Though Dixie is learning that the family she once believed was happy has deep fractures, even her vivid imagination couldn’t concoct the events about to unfold. Dixie records everything in her diary—her parents’ fights, her father’s drinking and his unexplained departure, and the arrival of Uncle Ray. Only when Dixie desperately needs help and is met with disbelief does she realize how much damage her past lies have done. But she has courage and a spirit that may yet prevail, forcing secrets into the open and allowing her to forgive and become whole again.

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The voice of Dixie just grabbed me and drew me into this story. Had I known how the story was going to unfold, maybe I would never have read this book, so I am very pleased I went in cold. The Education of Dixie Dupree is the debut novel of Donna Everhart, yet it felt like to me that it was coming from a very experienced writer, it was so well written.

Dixie is an inquisitive, strong personality and I was often horrified by the relationship she had with her mother. My heart went out to Dixie as she endured the many questions she had in her mind and the love and wonderings she had about her father. Her mother is a very unhappy woman and it could be said much of what happens, happens because of this unhappiness. Her secrets though are dark and as yet have not seen enough light. When something isn’t healed, then ugly things can result.

Dixie keeps a diary and in it she writes her truths. Later this diary will become very important. However what she doesn’t know is her mother kept a diary like she did too, and eventually it will answer some of the questions Dixie has.

Most of the story is set in Alabama and the setting – the heat, the red dust and the love of the land comes through from Dixie. What happens to Dixie is dark and abusive. This is not an easy book to read, but Dixie’s powerful voice just mesmerised me and kept me reading. And there is justice and hope and resilience. Perhaps the final revelation was a little ‘too tidy’, and I will be interested to see what others think about that.

debut novelheart breakingthought provokingbook club perfect


Hearth Song. Lois Greiman

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Hearth Song
Lois Greiman
Published: Kensington
Date: 26th January 2016
Format: e-Arc
Pages: 304
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
3.5 stars                  Add to Goodreads

Bravura Lambert has a daughter to raise, a tumbledown house to restore, and a struggling business to run. She doesn’t have time to cry over a husband who only shows up when he needs money. She also doesn’t need Tonkiaishawien Redhawk, a Native American artist and wild horse jockey, interfering in her life. So what if he’s charming and helpful and makes her autistic five-year-old giggle until she can’t stand up? Bravura’s husband, Dane, was once all those things too.

When Dane returns to find Tonk’s horses in Bravura’s pasture and his tools in her shed, he insists on moving back home. Despite his faults, Bravura longs to make her marriage work—after all, she took a vow.

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Hearth Song is #2 in the Home in the Hills books. I hadn’t read the first one and it didn’t matter as this was easy to read as it stands.
Bravera is a plucky, hardworking woman – following in her father’s footsteps she is an excellent builder and businesswoman. She has a daughter Lily who is a live wire and rarely still. She has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, although Bravura is not quite sure the diagnosis fits. However her knowledge of horses surpasses most. The only thing Bravera hasn’t got going for her is that she married a con vincing male who is weak and thinks the world owes him. And most of all Bravera owes him.  He is a blind spot that Bravera has and in spite of what she hears and sees, seems to swallow it. Mostly!
Tonkaiashawien is a recovering alcoholic with a somewhat difficult upbringing. He is also a gifted artist and in touch with his American Indian values and customs. He senses in Lily a wise spirit, and bonds with her. Lily of course is delighted, she is drawn to him and his horses. 
I liked the American Indian aspect to this story, and Lily who delights in animals and is deeply loved by most of the adults she knows. I love the cover of the book, although just not quite decided as to how well matched it is to the story. The ending was a little surprising and very satisfying.
new to me authorCover Love book iconSetting: South DakotaWomen's Fiction book icon