Thursday, January 20, 2022

The Maid by Nita Prose


To order, click here
 This delightful mystery has been getting all the buzz lately, and I couldn't wait to read it. 

Molly Gray is a maid at the Regency Grand Hotel, and she takes her job very, very seriously. She will not leave a hotel room less than perfect for a hotel guest. Her tag line: "I am here to restore your room to a state of perfection". 

Molly is a character that is certainly memorable. She has trouble reading social cues and takes everything people say literally. She's painfully honest, too. Sadly, she's a loner amongst the hotel employees, and of course they make fun of her. Yet she is the sweetest, most honest person around. 

One day, Molly returns to the hotel suite of the Blacks, a rich couple who frequent the hotel. Molly doesn't care for Mr. Black, as he's rude, crude, and treats his young second wife badly. He's been known to be mean to hotel staff, too. Molly had already been in the suite once that morning, but had to leave before she could finish cleaning the bathroom. Upon returning, she notices the suite she left in tip-top shape (except for the bathroom) is now messy again. Moving into the bedroom, she discovers Mr. Black, dead on the bed. 

Oh dear. 

Molly quickly becomes the center of the murder investigation-mostly because police can't understand how or why she can remain calm, cool, and emotionally detached as they question her. Well, Molly is a bit different, and unfortunately, the police just don't understand her at all. 

Molly gets herself into a pickle, mostly because she just can't read people very well, and mistakes attention for caring when it's not. As Molly finds herself getting deeper into the muck of the murder, will she be able to save herself from going to jail?

Molly will tug at your heart, for sure. She's lonely, has only the best intentions, and is struggling to make ends meet. You will certainly cheer her on, worry about her, and want to make her a cup of tea. The murder definitely takes some twists and turns, too. 

Rating: 5/6 for an entertaining mystery centered around a maid who falls under suspicion after discovering a dead body at a hotel. This novel takes a few surprise turns, all the way to the end. I loved it. 

Available in hardcover, ebook, and audio. 

**“As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases made through links on this site.**

Sunday, January 16, 2022

I Finally Read a Taylor Jenkins Reid Novel: Malibu Rising


To order from Amazon click here
  I'll admit sometimes I stubbornly refuse to read an author right out of the gate--mostly because there's so much praise about the novels that I have to take a step back and not rush to jump on the bandwagon. I don't want to read something just because everyone else is--I'd rather come around in my own time. 

So, I ordered Malibu Rising from BOTM and decided to give it whirl. I was looking to read something very different after reading my Christmas novels in December. This fit the bill!

Yeah, I loved it. I don't know if it was the setting: Malibu in the early 1980's; or the characters, or reading a novel set by the Pacific Ocean in the warm California sun. All of it combined to create a read that I simply couldn't put down. 

So, the Riva family: Nina, Jay, Hud, and Kit. Children of singer Mick Riva (I kept picturing Dean Martin), who was a famous crooner in the 1950's, all the way up to the early 1980's. He had married their mother June before he hit it big, and left her after only a few years of marriage--but was never completely out of her life. Their mother became an alcoholic, and did her best to raise her children in Malibu when it was a sleepy beach community. 

Now the kids are all grown up: Nina is a famous model and surfer; Jay is a famous surfer competing for world titles; Hud is the photographer who keeps Jay in magazines. Kit is the youngest-an amazing surfer, but her talent hasn't been noticed by her siblings just yet. It's the day of their famous once a year party at Nina's malibu mansion. A party that started out small years ago, and now has reached epic proportions: only those who are in the know attend-famous people and hangers on. 

Leading up to the party, we learn about the Riva family history, and how all of the kids came to be in this spot at this certain time. The sacrifices Nina has made to  raise her siblings; the unhappiness they experienced growing up without a father present, and where they plan to go in life and love. 

I loved the setting, all of the siblings, and the back story of June and Mick Riva. I definitely felt myself back in the early 1980's, too. It's a character driven novel, but enough happens that you're never bored. Once the party kicks into gear, so much is happening all over the place you don't want to stop reading. 

So yeah, now I'm going to read another of Taylor Jenkin Reid's novels. She's definitely talented, and writes a darn good story. I don't think I would have been able to stick to this novel if I'd tried to read it before now, so I'm glad I waited and read it when I wanted to, and not because I felt I had to join the crowd. 

Rating: 5/6 for a novel that transports you to 1980's Malibu-the surfing, the beaches, the sun. All of the characters were well defined and each had a compelling story. Loved it!

Available in hardcover, ebook, and audio. 

Friday, January 14, 2022

The Bone Cay by Eliza Nellums


To purchase, click here
This novel wasn't on my TBR list until I came across it at work. A quick glance at the cover had me quickly checking it out and taking it home.

Magda Trudell is the caretaker of the Whimbrel Estate in Key West, the home of poet Isobel Reyes. Isobel famously walked off the dock near her home in 1918, drowning in the ocean. Her body was never found. Now, that reputation has people visiting the area to also end their lives. Magda makes it part of her duties to walk the beach and check the mangroves to see if any bodies appear. Not exactly what a caretaker should be doing on a daily basis. 

Madga has fought and fought to get extra funding for the Whimbrel Estate. She's poured all her love and admiration for Isobel's poetry into her life and is an expert on Isobel's poetry. She's been caretaker of the estate for ten years, and has fought tooth and nail to preserve the gorgeous estate and bring a historic landmark designation to it. Unfortunately, she's been unsuccessful. She has one more chance to try for the designation; funding is guaranteed if she's successful.

Unfortunately, there's a major hurricane forming and heading right towards Key West. Magda decides she's going to stay at Whimbrel and take on the storm. It goes against everything--everyone is being evacuated. But Madga won't leave the estate, and is confident it will survive the hurricane. 

As the storm approaches and hits, it quickly becomes apparent it is a monster hurricane, with relentless rain and winds. It's just not stopping or lessening in intensity. Magda makes a fascinating discovery after the gift shop is damaged--one that could turn the story of Isobel completely around, and change the future of the Whimbrel Estate--and Magda, too. But will she survive the hurricane?

There's more to the story, but I don't want to give it all away--more characters, too. Part thriller, part ghost story, it's also a nail biter as the hurricane just keeps clawing its way onshore, creeping closer and closer to the house. It brings a lot of darkness with it, and it soon becomes a battle of survival for Magda. 

I enjoyed this novel, but it did take me a bit to finish it. I kept putting it down and picking it up. I thought the plot was very interesting, but Madga, darn it--she annoyed me sometimes. Her stubbornness was not admirable in the face of such a terrible storm. The action does build with the introduction of a few other characters, with a twisty turn towards the end. 

Rating: 3/6 for an interesting plot thick with the history of Key West, ghostly happenings, and a hurricane determined to destroy everything in its path. It's definitely human vs. nature. 

Available in hardcover, audio and Kindle ebook. 

**“As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases made through links on this site.**

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

The Bookalicious Babe's Top Ten Books of 2021

     It's here! My Top Ten! Where did this year go? I think I'd like to just blank out 2020 & 2021 and jump right to 2022.  Only problem is then I would have to forget all the wonderful books I saw, touched, read, and yes, dreamed about reading. 

The end of the year is always a time of reflection for me as I look back and think about my DNF's, titles I bought and are still sitting on a shelf (or in a pile on the floor); the books I said I'd read and review and didn't. I look at other bloggers and sometimes feel like I'm not reading the books I should be reading. It can all become a downward spiral pretty quickly, until I stop myself and think about why I've been blogging for over 11 years. 

I do it because I like to talk about what I've been reading. Sometimes I read the popular books, and other times I like to read books that didn't get the spotlight but are absolutely wonderful reads. Sometimes I get on a kick and only read one type of book until that phase ends and I'm on to something new. Here's what I've noticed in my reading for 2021:

1. I am having difficulty concentrating on reading--doesn't matter what genre or how long of a book. 

2.  I'm definitely reading books and authors that bring me comfort. 

3. Non-Fiction reading has been almost completely absent, save for a few titles. 

4.  I haven't read very many ebooks and haven't listened to any audio books. 

5.  I'm burnt out on book clubs. Meeting in person is just exhausting to me. Running a book club is exhausting, too. I've been in book clubs for 20 years, and I need a break from being in charge! 

Reading is still my go-to comfort and my stress reliever. I still read every night before I shut the light off. I'm still borrowing books from the library, and buying books every month from my favorite bookstore. I still want to come home from work and sit on the couch and read (I try, but dang it I get distracted!). I haven't lost my love of reading, and my love of books. Phew. 

I was a bit worried I wouldn't have a top ten this year, but once I began looking at my list, I quickly realized I did and then the task began to try and decide my top read for 2021. That's the toughest part of all. 

Here it is--my Top Ten Reads of 2021:











And my #1 Top Book of 2021:


There were a lot of other books I read and enjoyed so much, but I have to go with my first, instinctive picks as I go through my reading list. These books rose to the top. Some books made me cry, some made me laugh; others kept me up at night! They all, most importantly, kept me grounded when I needed it. 

I don't know what 2022 is going to bring, and I can't even begin to even try to guess. What I do know is that I'm enthusiastic about books that are coming out this year, and I've already got a big pile for January that I won't even begin to get through. But I will try. My focus on 2022 is to read what brings me joy and captures my attention; push a little bit on the tough reads, and know when to set something down and walk away. I'm going to try an online book club which allows me to participate when I want and however much I want--and I'm not in charge! Wahoo! 

I wish you all a safe, happy New Year. Thank you for following my blog; it means the world to me! If I've pointed you in the direction of a good book, I'm so thrilled. It's what I love to do. Let me know what your favorite read was for 2021, and what you look forward to reading in 2022. 

I'm going to take a few weeks off to rest, relax, and reset. I'll be back with reviews in Mid-January. 

With much affection-

The Bookalicious Babe 

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Christmas by the Book by Anne Marie Ryan

To purchase from Amazon, click here
 There's nothing I like better than to recommend books to people. It's no surprise, then, that this novel gave me all the feels and a lot of sighing over my "if I could do it all over again" wish to own a bookstore in a small town. 

Nora and Simon operate a small bookstore in the village of Stowford, England. Nora inherited the shop from her mother, and they've been a cornerstone of the village for thirty years. 

Unfortunately, unpaid taxes and a slowdown in sales has meant Nora is keeping some important news from Simon: they are in danger of losing the shop if payments aren't brought up to date by the end of the year. 

Simon is oblivious to the financial pickle they're in because Nora is worried about his heart (he had a minor heart episode previously) and won't let him help much in the shop. 

An elderly man stops in and purchases a special book--it's the one book that has gone unsold in the shop for thirty years. He's buying it for his grandson, who has a school project due and is ill. 

This, along with a late night bottle of wine, gives Nora and Simon the idea to give six books to random people who have been nominated by others in the village. It's a way to spread the happiness that books can bring and hopefully drive more business to the shop, too. 

Nora picks out the books and delivers them to each recipient. All the books are wrapped and the same size, so she doesn't know who gets what book. However, book magic happens, and each person who receives a book gets exactly the book they need at that time. From a young actor struggling to get a break, to a single father who's lost his job and worries about presents for his twins, to a retired school teacher who feels lost and alone, each person discovers something important in the book they receive. For all of them, the books are life-changing in small yet significant ways. 

As Christmas approaches, Nora stresses about losing the shop and how to tell Simon. Will she finally come clean to Simon? Can they save the shop or will they be forced to sell it? 

I absolutely loved loved loved this novel. Gentle, warm, full of books; a village full of interesting characters, and holiday cheer. People looking out for people. The magic of books and the way they bring people together. Heck, there's even a snow storm on Christmas Eve. Some folks who receive the books have serious problems: depression, grief, loneliness. But the bookshop brings them together in a really wonderful way. 

I hope you get a chance to read this novel. It was perfect to read in the week leading to Christmas. I have a few more holiday books here, but I think I'm going to end my holiday reading with this novel. I have a few non-holiday books I'm going to try and finish before the end of the year, and I'll have my top ten reads out before January first. 

Rating: 5/6 for a novel about the power of books, community, and the Christmas spirit. Book lovers will enjoy this book very much. 

Available in paperback and ebook. 

**“As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases made through links on this site.**

Saturday, December 11, 2021

A Magical New York Christmas by Anita Hughes

To purchase from Amazon, click here
 I've read quite a few Anita Hughes novels and she has a way of putting me right into glamorous places that I'm pretty sure I won't have a chance to experience in my real life. And that's exactly what I enjoy about her novels. 

This one is particularly interesting because it takes place over the Christmas holiday at the Plaza Hotel in New York City. It also involves the author of the Eloise books, Kay Thompson. A little bit of literary history tossed in with the magic of New York City at Christmas time--and romance, too.

Sabrina is a struggling writer who is just scraping by when she gets hired by renowned art dealer Grayson Prescott to help write his memoir. Part of the deal is staying at the Plaza Hotel for six days and nights on his dime. Sabrina is thrilled not only for the paycheck, but also because Eloise is her favorite heroine from childhood.

 What makes it even more appealing  are Grayson's stories of his time as a butler at the Plaza, and taking care of Kay Thompson herself. 

Sabrina's first night at the Plaza has her bumping into Ian, who is there as personal secretary to his friend Spencer, a member of the British peer. Young and handsome, Ian is working on putting together a collection of Braxton family jewels at the Met and keeping an eye on Spencer, who has a big heart and is always falling in love. 

Ian, however, is smitten with Sabrina, and she mistakenly assumes he's the man with a title--while Ian assumes Sabrina is a wealthy woman staying at the Plaza and wouldn't be interested in him. Along with their romance, Grayson recounts his time with Kay at the Plaza in the early 1960's and his romance with the lovely Veronica. 

It sounds like a lot, but it actually all goes together pretty well. I had to Google Kay Thompson to read about her life, and she was a pretty amazing woman! And she did live at the Plaza for a number of years at one point in her life. 

As per usual Anita Hughes novels, there is a lot of high end clothing, swanky places to dine and drink, and frequent mentions of Tiffany and Co. And of course the Plaza is the best place to stay in NYC at Christmas time. Sounds like a marvelous experience. 

This was a fun holiday read, for sure. My only annoyance was the mistaken identity plot went on a lot longer than it should have and got a bit old. But I did enjoy feeling just a bit luxurious for a few days!

Rating: 4/6 for a novel set in a magical place: the Plaza Hotel during Christmas. Themes of lost love, taking chances, and recognizing the good things life brings us are all woven through the tales of Kay, Grayson, and Sabrina. Grab a comfy throw, light the fireplace, and sip some tea while you enjoy this novel. 

Available in paperback, audio, and e-book. 

**“As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases made through links on this site.**

Thursday, December 9, 2021

The Christmas Dress by Courtney Cole


To purchase from Amazon, click here
 My holiday reading continues with this entertaining tale that takes place in Chicago. 

Meg Julliard has returned to Chicago after her father dies and leaves her to manage the apartment building he's owned and managed for decades. It's an apartment building for senior citizens, and Meg grew up there with her family but  fled to New York City after her sister died and the memories were just too painful. Now she's had to leave her fashion career to take on the management of the apartment building and she's got her hands full. 

This is no ordinary building, and the residents are no ordinary residents, either. From sassy Sylvie who knows all about running the building, to beautiful and elegant Ellie who once, a long time ago, had her heart broken on Christmas Eve at that very same building--the people who populate this novel are all warm, caring characters. 

Of course, there's the handyman with a heart of gold and a good-looking face, too! Logan is immediately drawn to Meg, and together they discover some important historical facts about the building that may just save it from disaster.

Did I also mention the Christmas dress? It's a bit of magic, for sure--not only does it perfectly fit any woman who wears it, but it inspires Meg to create a line of women's wear that may revive her career and win her some much needed funds to repair the building. Gosh, there's a lot going on in this novel, but it all flows together and made this a very enjoyable read. 

Holidays are always a bit sad for anyone who has lost loved ones, and this novel touches on that quite a bit. Meg is grieving her father, and also her sister and mother, too. Ellie is also grieving her long-lost love, and as we all do as we age, we think about what might have been and if the right choices were made. 

This was a really good read--the mark of a good story for me is if I can't wait to pick it up again and keep reading. I'll find a few minutes here and there in my day to read a few more pages. I especially liked the history involved in the apartment building and how that was worked into the plot and ended up being the big driver of the story. I'm always happy when a historical building can be saved, and its history uncovered. 

Rating: 5/6 for a novel that has a bit of history, some romance, humor, fashion, and yes, a bit of holiday magic, too. It also faces head on the grief people experience during the Christmas season, but happy memories help soften the sadness. 

Available in paperback, e-book, and audio. 

**“As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases made through links on this site.**