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

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 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.**

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

A Christmas Feast and Other Stories by Katie Fforde


To purchase from Amazon click here
 As I've said before Katie Fforde is one of my go-to authors when I want a comforting read. 

I was pleased to find this collection of short stories from 2014 a few months back, and have faithfully kept my promise not to dip into it until the Christmas season arrived. 

However, I ripped into it a few days ago, and as the author promises in the forward, these short stories are perfect for those times you want to read but can't settle down for very long. A bite here, a bite there of stories involving women during the holidays in a variety of settings: Scotland on New Year's Eve, moving into a new cottage the day before Christmas Eve; going away on a post-Christmas vacation with a partner that seems to have lost his spark. 

Each story is short: anywhere from ten pages up to 25 or so. Just enough to whet your appetite. It was fun to read stories where romance bloomed in a short time, in a variety of circumstances. Who knew you could meet the love of your life bumping into his cart in a grocery store? Or, failing to do your PR job correctly with an author book signing, and deciding to track him down to sign bookplates to redeem yourself--and instead, finding out he's not so bad, after all. 

I found myself reading stories before bed, at lunch, while waiting for supper to finish cooking. They really are quick reads with guaranteed charming endings. It was refreshing to read a collection of stories and to take a break from a longer novel. 

Thanks Katie Fforde for delivering a lovely collection of stories centered around Christmas. Perfect for anyone who likes a bit of gentle romance.

Rating: 4/6 for short, contemporary Christmas stories that help set your mood for the holidays. Take a break from your busy days and read one while the cookies bake!

Available in paperback. 

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Tree is Up, Holiday Tunes on the Radio; Christmas Novel Reading has Begun: The Santa Suit by Mary Kay Andrews

 I waited as long as I could, which was Wednesday night. Snuggled into bed with a Christmas book and was pretty darn happy. 

Of course, I started that novel, and had another non-holiday novel with me and I started that one, too. And then, of course, I started a third novel. This one I finished quickly. 

Thanksgiving was a chance for myself and my partner to hunker down and spend some quality time together. We made a feast for Thanksgiving and spent a few days just relaxing (as much as he can relax--he's always working on something!). We actually watched movies, although we had to start a few over because neither of us can stay awake past 9 PM anymore. Having a few cocktails may have sped that sleepy process along...

Anyway. I grew up in a big family, and my parents always had everyone to their house for Thanksgiving. It was always a lot of fun, with a lot of people. Now it's just Lee and I, and while I do miss those get togethers, I really enjoy it just being the two of us. Aside from a run to get the newspaper, we happily stayed home and puttered around the house. Friday I set up our tree and decorated his house, and now on Sunday I've finished putting out a few things at my house. Christmas has arrived. Tomorrow night we are going to a holiday concert (which we have to keep reminding ourselves is tomorrow night). Some baking in the next few weeks, some shopping, and I'm ready for December 25th. 

So, the first holiday book I read: The Santa Suit by Mary Kay Andrews. It's a really fast read and only a few hundred pages. Perfect to ease into holiday reading. It was released in September, and I grabbed a copy from my library last week. 

Ivy Perkins is newly divorced and making a big fresh start by leaving Atlanta and moving to the small town of Tarburton, North Carolina. She's purchased a farmhouse known as The Four Roses. Only thing, is Ivy purchased it based on photos she saw on the internet, so when she arrives with her dog Punkin, it's a bit more dilapidated than she expects. It's also full of the previous owner's furniture and possessions. Great. 

Ivy has a lot more work ahead of her to make the farmhouse a home. As she's cleaning out a closet, she finds a santa suit obviously made with a lot of care and love. Inside a pocket, she finds a letter from a little girl asking Santa to bring her father home from the war. Ivy is immediately touched and intrigued. Who is Carlette, the little girl who wrote the letter? Did her father ever come home from the war? Ivy decides to try and track down Carlette and solve the mystery. 

As Ivy settles into her home, her realtor Ezra sparks some interest in her wounded heart. He's awful cute, and so darn helpful. Will Ivy be able to find love again? And will she find Carlette? 

I gobbled this story right up. I was mad at myself Saturday night because I couldn't stay awake to keep reading it. Delightful characters; Punkin is a lovable mutt, and the townspeople of Tarburton are all sweet and welcoming. Ivy found herself a safe place to land after her divorce, and the perfect place to reset and begin a new life. 

Mary Kay Andrews is one of my favorite authors, and I've enjoyed all three of her holiday titles: Blue Christmas, Christmas Bliss, and now The Santa Suit. All are available in a variety of reading formats. 

Rating: 4/6 for a short and sweet novel about starting over and finding your place in the most magical time of the year. 

Available in hardcover, audio, and e-book. 

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

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Sophie Valroux's Paris Stars by Samantha Verant


To purchase from Amazon click here
Ooh, I couldn't wait to dive into the sequel to The Secret French Recipes of Sophie Valroux (click on the title to see my review from 2020). 

I would definitely recommend reading the first novel before grabbing this in order to just dive right into the world of Sophie and the magical Chateau de Champvert. 

Sophie has inherited the chateau from her grandmother, a celebrated chef who turned the chateau into a renowned place to stay and dine. Now Sophie is the Grand Chef and life looks to be pretty wonderful for her: she's rich, talented, beautiful, and happily engaged to her childhood sweetheart Remi. 

Sophie is unsettled, though. Having all of this handed to her has left her feeling overwhelmed and not worthy. She's also still determined to get her Michelin star. After all, she was blamed for her previous restaurant's loss of a Michelin star. That blame was misplaced, but it still cost her her reputation and career in New York City, causing her to flee to France. 

Remi is ready to get married, but Sophie is hesitant. Is the Chateau what she wants, or will it drag her down? Is her future in Paris? 

An accident causes Sophie to suffer from a bizarre injury that she has to keep quiet--it could cost the Chateau its reputation, and Sophie her career. Will she recover? How long can she keep it secret?

This novel is full of the wonderful characters introduced in the first novel. Relationships continue to evolve, amazing, mouth-watering foods are prepared, and the Chateau is an unforgettable place to spend time away. I love the support Sophie has at the Chateau, and how everyone becomes family, helping each other through tough times and celebrating the good times. 

The food--oh lord, the food. You have to read the book to appreciate the food. There are book club discussion questions in the back of the book, as well as recipes for a full French five course meal. It would be great fun to recreate these recipes for a book club!

Rating: 5/6 for a satisfying sequel to Sophie's original story. I hope there is more to Sophie and Remi's story, because two novels just aren't enough for me. If you want to get away, dream of delicious food, and just enjoy a good story, add this to your list. 

Available in paperback, audio, and ebook. 

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

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Plenty: A Memoir of Food and Family by Hannah Howard

*Warning: this memoir discusses anorexia, bulimia and a miscarriage
To Purchase from Amazon, c 

It's only fitting I read a food memoir in the month of Thanksgiving, which is all about the food. I want to have a special appetizer on Thanksgiving and I haven't figured out just what it will be. I will say, however, this memoir gave me some inspiration, and my appetizer will definitely have a cheese component to it! 

Hannah Howard is a food writer and has a varied background in all things food: waitressing, working at a cheese shop, traveling and writing about food, and supporting local restaurants in New York City. 

Hannah has also suffered from anorexia and bulimia and her relationship with food is definitely unusual. How do you pick food as a career when it is the one thing that drives you to constantly count calories, skip meals, and gorge yourself?

The restaurant & food industry is male dominated, and Hannah decided it was time to start seeking out those women who are making a difference in a variety of ways: from opening their own restaurants, to creating getaways for foodies, to being responsible for the introduction of goat cheese to an American audience. 

As Hannah travels and makes connections, she gets married and decides to try for a baby. It's a struggle for her to make peace with her body, but as she meets and befriends women in the food community, she begins to appreciate and come to terms with her relationship to food. She has some pretty big highs and lows in her journey to motherhood. 

I haven't met a cheese I haven't liked, so all of Hannah's descriptions of various cheeses kept me salivating! Her obvious love and appreciation for food and the people who create masterpieces from simple ingredients again reminded me to stop, savor, and take time to enjoy food. It's easy in a busy world to just eat whatever is easiest and not even taste it. It also made me a bit brave--I am always hesitant to try cooking something complicated. This was a good wake up call to step out of my comfort zone and explore and enjoy the process (and the results, if I don't muck them up!). 

I enjoyed this memoir and Hannah's journey to motherhood. It was exciting to read about so many women who are making waves in the food world. Hannah's struggle with anorexia and bulimia also helped me understand the mental pain women go through trying to uphold extreme society standards and expectations. 

Rating: 4/6 for a thoughtful memoir about food, motherhood, and mental illness. Hannah's writing is engaging, thoughtful, and from the heart. 

Available in hardcover, paperback, audio, and ebook. 

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

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

The PIlot's Daughter by Meredith Jaeger


This book came out of nowhere thanks to an invite to read and review it (thank you Dutton/Penguin/Random House).  I just got back from vacation and found it in a pile of books while I was unpacking and immediately started reading it. I'm not exaggerating when I say I couldn't put it down. I spent quite a bit of Sunday on the couch reading this historical novel that bounced between 1920's New York ad 1945 San Francisco. 

Ellie Morgan is a secretary at the San Francisco Chronicle and has recently become engaged to a handsome officer stationed in San Francisco as World War 2 rages on. She chafes against societal rules that keep her career limited to housewife or secretary--when all she wants to do is write for the newspaper and wear trousers like Katherine Hepburn. 

However this all falls to the wayside with a telegram stating that her father, a pilot, is missing and presumed dead over the Adriatic Sea near Italy in December, 1944. Devastated, she refuses to believe he's dead--after all, her father was a resourceful man, and surely he survived. The arrival of her father's personal effects is a blow, and comes with an unwelcome surprise: a package of letters from a woman named Lillian in New York, which clearly illustrate a decades long love affair. What??!!

This sends Ellie on a trip to New York City with her Aunt Iris, determined to find Lillian and see if she has any information on her father. What Ellie finds out from her Aunt Iris, as well as the discoveries she makes in New York City change her life forever. 

This did remind me of Fiona Davis novels, in that it took place in NYC and set in the early to mid-20th century. The 1920's portion of the novel involves the Zigfeld Follies, rich men, and an unsolved murder. Yes, it ties into Ellie's quest in 1944 very neatly-you'll see as you read. I just found it fascinating. 

Many parts were predictable, but that didn't lessen my enjoyment at all. I blazed through this story and am eager to read more of Meredith Jaeger's novels. 

Definitely fans of World War 2, early-mid 20th century history, Broadway history, San Francisco, journalism-you name it, this has a little bit of everything in it. It's also about societal and familial expectations, and how going against them can ruin a woman, or set her free. 

A big thanks to Dutton (part of Penguin/Random House) for the chance to read and review this novel. I found an author I enjoy, and that's always a gift. 

This novel is available in trade paperback, ebook, and audio.

Rating: 5/6 for a fast paced historical novel that didn't disappoint-it definitely transported me to the glam of 1920's NYC, and the foggy streets of San Francisco. Likeable characters and definitely a few bad apples, too. 

Saturday, November 13, 2021

The Attic on Queen Street by Karen White


There aren't many series that I start and read all the way through to the last book. However, The Tradd Street Series by Karen White is one that I have loved from the first novel published in 2008: The House on Tradd Street. 

I was so excited to read this novel I purposely bought a backpack purse large enough to fit a hardcover and took it on the plane with me when I went on vacation last week. I promptly buckled myself into my seat, opened my book, and read for the next three hours of my flight. 

So, no, do not start with this book if you've never read the series. This really is a series that needs to be read in order so you aren't confused because BIG things happen over the course of the series. So, for a quick recap: Melanie is a realtor selling historical homes in her hometown of Charleston. She's called to a home on Tradd Street to talk to the owner about listing it. However, the owner has something else in mind, and dies, leaving the home to Melanie. 

A gorgeous, stately home, it needs a heck of a lot of work--and as an extra bonus, comes with a few mysteries and ghosts. Melanie has psychic gifts (which she tries to ignore) and gets sucked into not only falling in love with the house, but begins to dive into the history of the house and the previous owners. Along comes author Jack Trenholm, a hot looking man who is also interested in the mysteries attached to the home--and interested in Melanie, as well. 

I won't give anything away that will surprise anyone, but here at the end of the series, Jack and Melanie are married with twin toddlers and Jack's teenage daughter all living in the house on Tradd street. Relationships have formed, strengthened, and have had quite a few tough spots. Melanie is still coming to grips with her transition from an independent go-getter to a mother of three and a wife to a man who continues to challenge her every day. And the spirits that inhabit her home, as well as the others who inhabit homes around Charleston are still calling on Melanie to solve mysteries and murders of the past. Will she finally embrace her gifts and use them to solve one last legendary mystery at her home? 

I can't tell you how much I love this series. It has everything in it I adore in a good book: a bit of romance, paranormal mysteries, history, historical restoration, and evolving relationships. Humor, quirky characters, and realistic relationships keep this series from becoming stale. One day I will visit Charleston! 

Here is the series in order of publication:

The House on Tradd Street

The Girl on Legare Street

The Strangers on Montagu Street

Return to Tradd Street

The Guests on South Battery

The Christmas Spirits on Tradd Street

The Attic on Queen Street

Thank you, thank you Karen White for such a wonderful series. I looked forward to every new novel in this series, and am happy to report while Jack and Melanie's story has come to an end, a new series will begin in 2022 featuring Jack's daughter Nola in New Orleans. The title is The Shop on Royal Street. To say I'm giddy with excitement is an understatement. You can bet I'll be reading and reviewing it!

Rating: 5/6 for a satisfying conclusion to the Tradd Street Series. While I was sad to turn the last page, I did so with a big sigh of happiness-characters got their just rewards.

Available in hardcover, ebook, and audio. 

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

Sunday, October 31, 2021

October Flew by and I'm Still Resisting Winter Holiday Reads--Hanging on by a Thread

Well darn it all! Here it is October 31st and I failed at my reading goal this month. I've got four books started and just couldn't finish them, so I'll continue working on them in November. Honestly this month flew by so quickly my head is spinning just a bit. 

I've already started collecting my holiday reads and I'm trying my very best not to start them just yet. It helps if I put them on the bottom of my TBR pile so I can't see them. Thanksgiving Day I'm breaking out the holiday books wahoo! 

Until then, I have a few that I will be diving into this month:

I'm terribly sad this is the last book in this series. It seriously is one of my favorite series, and Karen White is one of my favorite authors. Charleston, restless spirits, and a marriage in trouble. Will there be a happy ending? 

A memoir from food writer Hannah Howard.

Yes, still reading about witches! A remote Scottish island, a weird lighthouse, and a missing sister who sudden appears 20 years later--the exact same age as when she disappeared. Gothic thriller!

I loved Samantha Verant's first novel about Sophie and she's back with more adventures as Sophie has a chance to become even more famous as a chef--if only she can keep a few secrets from being revealed. If you're a foodie fan, this is the book for you! 

I'm finally taking some time off in early November so I will have a chance to read and relax. Once I'm back I'll be posting reviews. Until then, take care and enjoy the changing seasons. 

--The Bookalicious Babe

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

Thursday, October 28, 2021

The Ex-Hex by Erin Sterling


First off, a big thanks to HarperCollins and Avon for a copy of this book. I entered a giveaway and won! This was a fast read and I thoroughly enjoyed it, especially just a few days before Halloween. 

Vivienne Jones lives in the small Georgia town of Graves Glen with her Aunt Elaine and cousin Gwyn. They are all witches. Elaine and Gwyn even own and operate a "witchy" store that keeps them busy with tourists. They are all good witches, of course, and the most Vivienne has done with her magical ability is reheat her tea and set a spell on her student's papers to alert her to any that are plagiarized. She's a professor of history at Penhallow College, a unique place where magic is taught as well as normal college subjects. 

It's the anniversary of the founding of Graves Glen, and Rhys Penhallow of Wales has been ordered by his father to return to Graves Glen to recharge the ley lines that keep the magic flowing peacefully around town. It's also the place where, nine years before, Rhys met and has an intense summer of love with Vivienne. Upon returning to Wales, a broken hearted (and a little tipsy) Vivienne placed a curse on Rhys. 

As her Aunt always says, never mix witchcraft with vodka. 

Rhys returns, and it's one thing after another; near misses, close calls, you name it. For someone like Rhys who is a warlock and never has any issues, it's a bit strange. And when he takes Vivienne to help him recharge the ley lines, disaster strikes-the curse is let lose in the ley lines, traveling all the way to Graves Glen and starting up some crazy, weird off-kilter magic. 

Now it's up to Rhys and Vivienne to figure out how to reverse the curse before Halloween, or the town and possibly Rhys are doomed. 

Of course, through all of this, Rhys and Vivienne can't keep their hands off each other. If Rhys survives the curse reversal, will he return to Wales, breaking Vivienne's heart again?

This was a fun read, with characters I absolutely enjoyed. I'd love to return to Graves Glen for more stories. I kind of hate to say goodbye to this novel, because it just hit me at the right moment and I gobbled it up. I really, really hope Rhys' brothers have their own stories to tell, along with Gwyn and Elaine. 

4/6 for a delightful romance filled with magic, a curse gone very wrong, and a second chance at love. 

Available in hardcover, paperback, ebook, and audio. 

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

Sunday, October 24, 2021

The Moon, the Stars, and Madame Burova by Ruth Hogan


In keeping with my magical, mysterious reads for October, I grabbed Ruth Hogan's latest novel featuring a fortune telling woman who keeps everyone's secrets, no matter what. 

This story bounces back and forth between present day and 1973 in the English seaside town of Brighton. Imelda Burova is young and full of life. She's taking over her mother's fortune telling business on the pier, and she's very, very good at it. Imelda spends her whole life reading fortunes, and after decades of business, she decides its time to retire. 

Only retirement and Imelda just don't quite go together. As a keeper of promises and secrets, Imelda has one whopper of a secret she just can't share. She can, however, do some digging and make contact with the woman who was left as an infant in front of Imelda's storefront on the pier. 

Enter Billie, who has just sold her parent's home and laid her father to rest. Newly divorced and without a job, she is at a crossroads in life. Two letters turn her life upside down. One is from her father, telling her she was adopted, and the second is from Imelda, inviting her to tea in Brighton so she can talk to Billie. Shocked her parents never told her she was adopted, Billie decides that yes, she does want to know where she came from, and maybe Madam Burova has some of the answers she is seeking. 

As Billie and Imelda meet and get to know each other, Billie has more questions than answers. The cast of characters in Brighton are all charming, and all have ties to Imelda's past, and ties to what was once a wildly popular entertainment venue, the Larkin Holiday Park. Are Billie's parents entertainers from the park? 

This was a charming story full of characters who all made some great and not so great choices in their youth. Now, they all have chances to try again. Billie has a chance to start completely over in life; will she remain in Brighton or return to London? Will Imelda finally get the answers her broken heart needs after almost fifty years of heartache? 

This is a great read for an afternoon in front of the fireplace, sipping tea. It took me a bit to click into the story; I confess I was a bit confused at the beginning--mostly because I stopped and started a lot. But once I sat down and read for a bit, it all clicked and I was curious how everything would play out. 

Rating: 3/6 for a charming novel about second chances, secrets, and love. 

Available in paperback, ebook, and audio. 

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

Sunday, October 17, 2021

The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco


I picked up a few creepy tales from B&N a few weeks ago and finally managed to read one of them. I'll confess I've been starting books, then picking up another one, over and over this month so far and not making progress on too many of them. Super restless reading-wise this month. However, I stuck with this and after a few "I'm not so sure about this one" moments, it clicked and wow, this was a great read. Just enough spooky to make you sit up and take notice, but not so much that you can't sleep at night. At least, for me it wasn't so scary. 

This novel is actually the first in a series about Okiku, a three hundred-year old spirit of a young woman who was brutally murdered in Japan. She was tortured, then tossed down a well, breaking her neck. She died upside down. So now, she spends a lot of time upside down, hanging from ceilings. She can look pretty gruesome, too. But sometimes she reverts back to what she looked like as a servant girl all those years ago. Her mission is to seek and destroy (yes, kill) people who murder children. She's pretty brutal about it, too. These serial killers carry the souls of those children with them--literally these souls are chained to these people (who are completely unaware of them). But Okiku can see them, and the only way to free those poor souls is to kill the horrible person who keeps them trapped. 

So, Okiku has been doing this for hundreds of years. Now she's taken an interest in Tark, a young teen boy who moves to a new community with his father. Tark has something strange about him--he has black tattoos covering his arms, chest and back. These tattoos look like they move, which is a bit freaky. Tark's mother gave those tattoos to him when he was five years old, and they are a symbol of something truly horrible living in Tark and trying to get out. Okiku sees what that horrible creature is, and is strong enough to defend Tark against it, but a final showdown can only come about if Tark and his father travel to a special shrine in Japan and undergo a dangerous ritual. 

Tark's cousin Callie can see Okiku, too. Freaked out a bit by her, but eventually gets a little more comfortable once she understands Okiku is there to protect Tark. Callie joins Tark in Japan and together they uncover the story of Okiku and the horrible spirit that lives inside Tark and is desperate to be free and kill, kill, kill. 

Sounds dark, right? It is actually a really well written story, full of Japanese mysticism, ritual, and legends. Fascinating look at how other cultures deal with death, spirits, and the afterworld. Okiku is even referenced as the inspiration for the movie The Ring. Her story continues in the next novel: The Suffering

This novel was published in 2015, so it's not new. Wow, it really was a gripping read. If you're easily queasy, don't read it. It's not super gory, but it has some moments. I'd read more of Rin Chupeco's novels any day. 

Rating: 5/6 for a truly creepy read, based in Japanese folklore and mysticism. Took me a bit to get into it, but BAM! it suddenly became unputdownable and I got completely sucked into it. 

Available in paperback, ebook, and audio.

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

Sunday, October 10, 2021

The Inheritance of Orquidea Divina by Zoraida Cordova


The Montoya family is an interesting group of people; their matriarch Orquidea Divina is especially interesting and different. She's quite magical, too. Appearing in Four Winds decades before as a very young woman, she created an oasis out of nothing, leaving the townspeople to whisper about her and send the sheriff out on occasion to try to get her to leave. 

However, Orquidea stayed. She never left her little oasis, where food was always plentiful, the weather was beautiful, and there was a definite other-worldliness about it. 

Now Orquidea is calling her children and grandchildren back to Four Winds because she is dying and it's time to leave each of them an inheritance. When her family arrives, they are shocked to see Orquidea is not only dying, but is slowly transforming into a tree. Questions abound!

Now it's seven years later, and two of her grandchildren and one great-grandchild have gifts that are definitely odd: Rey, Marimar, and Rhiannon all have flowers growing out of their flesh. None of them understand why or what the flowers mean. 

Soon it becomes clear something is stalking the Montoya family, and it wants to destroy them. Seeking to figure out what is killing family members, they travel to Ecuador, Orquidea's home, to discover where her story began and to uncover the truth before they are all destroyed. 

Wow. This was one heck of a great read. Magic is everywhere in this story, and toss in a circus with a mysterious connection to Orquidea and you've got quite an interesting tale of bad decisions, promises made and broken, and heartbreak that never goes away. Revenge weaves its way through Orquidea's life story, and a big theme is the damage done to children by parents who do not love or care for them. Those children grow up to inflict damage on themselves and others, because of their rage, sorrow, and unanswered questions. 

I loved the mix of legends and magic, folklore and family love and connections. The story goes back and forth between present day (7 years after Orquidea transforms) and decades before, slowly revealing her journey and the price she paid for freedom. It all culminates in a showdown between the evil that stalks the family, and the gifts Orquidea gave her grandchildren. 

If you're looking for books with magic, cultural lore and otherworldliness, you'll enjoy this very much. The cover is just gorgeous. 

Rating: 5/6 for a tale of one woman's choices that create a magic safe place for family that is threatened by an evil that seeks revenge and will stop at nothing to destroy everything. 

Available in hardcover, ebook, and audio. 

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Witch Please (Fix-It Witches #1) by Ann Aguirre


If you'd like some spice with your romance, pick this book up, the first in the Fix-It Witches series.  Hot hot hot! 

Danica Waterhouse lives with her cousin Clem in the small town of St. Claire, Illinois. They own a repair shop--and use their magical witch gifts to fix anything from toasters on the fritz to refrigerators. The latest generation of talented, magical witches from the Waterhouse family, they are both looking for love. Unfortunately, their grandmother is an interfering busy-body and insists if they fall for a "mundane" (non-witchy person) they will lose their magic forever. Danica's mother married a mundane and Grandmother claims her magic is diluted because of it, and her mother completely lost hers as a result. 

Titus runs a local bakery with his sister Maya. He's known around town as the CinnaMan because not only does he make the most divine cinnamon rolls, but he's one gooood looking man. Titus has never been able to have a successful relationship--they always end after a few months, and he can't figure out why. Until he meets Danica, and sparks fly. BIG sparks. These two would make butter melt in seconds, their chemistry is so sizzling hot. 

Titus is a mundane, however. Danica's cousin and grandmother put the pressure on her to end her flirtation with Titus and find a witchy match. Her grandmother even threatens to hex Titus if she doesn't do her bidding. Can Danica follow her heart and have a happy ending? Will she really lose her magic if she decides Titus is worth it?

Wonky magic spells, electronics on the fritz--Danica's magic is definitely not all working as it always does. But she just can't stay away from Titus. And Titus is head  over heels pretty quickly, too. Has CinnaMan finally found his one and only?

This novel has plenty of heart and zippy do dah a heck of a lot of chemistry and steamy scenes between Titus and Danica. I enjoyed getting to know the players in this novel: Maya, Titus' sister; Clem, Danica's cousin, and other friends and family. The magic of the witches is gentle and not over the top. The best part: there's a second book coming out in 2022 which focuses on Clem and her dangerous romance with an honest to God modern witch hunter. Their story begins in this novel, so I am intrigued to read their story. It's way more complicated than Titus and Danica, so I'm eager to see how it all plays out. 

Rating: 4/6. If you want a modern romance with a lot of heart, a heart-tugger of a hero, and a bit of magic tossed in, grab this one. It does have some explicit sex and there are same-sex relationships and talk of bi-sexuality. 

Available in paperback, ebook, and audio.

Second in the series is out in April, 2022:

Thursday, September 30, 2021

October is Here! I Give Myself Permission to Read Spooky Books and Eat All Things Pumpkin

 I set a pretty ambitious goal for reading in September and while I made a serious dent, I didn't quite get everything read. I just started one book and am about 3/4 way through another from my September list. I'll roll them over into October and review them this month. 

October is going to be a busy work month, and of course it's my month to get the yard ready for the approaching winter. My poor hosta plants are just done. Not having my big tree in the back yard to give them some protection, along with a very hot and dry summer, just burned them. Time to cut them back, along with the strange weeds that have appeared this year in my flower beds. Post-Derecho weirdness. I don't think I sat on my back deck more than a handful of times this summer. It was just too dang hot. So in many ways, it feels like a bit of a lost summer. Not much outside enjoyment and near constant a/c running all summer. It's even on today, the last day of September as we get another blast of heat. Hopefully it will cool down soon, in time to enjoy the changing season. 

I do so love to read witchy and ghosty novels. I'm not a huge fan of horror, but I do tend to read more of it this time of year. So many new books out, it's hard to pick what to read this month since I want to read them all. I've tried to narrow down my list to this group:

👻💀 A ghost preys on child killers. Not my usual pick for a read, but the cover got me! 

💀💀👮A bookshop, a murder, and all the elements of a delightful cozy mystery. 

👀👻 This cover creeps me out every time I look at it! 1890's Chicago World Fair, a missing sister, a horrific serial killer, and a monster in human form. 


Non-fiction stories about the people who live in Natchez, MS. 

Highly anticipated! 

Historical novel about the woman who was the first to see King Tut's tomb. Did the curse wait fifty years to threaten her life?

A woman discovers an island where her powers aren't unusual, and she may finally find a home.

A second chance at love! 

Love Ruth Hogan! A magical world of 1970's seaside life, complete with tarot readers, magicians, and fortune-telling. 

Yes, most of them are of a supernatural slant, but I've sprinkled in a few historical novels and one non-fiction book that I picked up at B&N and thought looked really interesting. And I've got a stack of cozy mysteries, so I added one of those, too. 

I've also got a few review requests in October, too. I am a busy woman this month in my reading life. I wouldn't have it any other way. 💓💀👻💀💀💀

Happy October friends, and Happy Halloween! 

                Click here to find this gif! 

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Three Words for Goodbye by Hazel Gaynor & Heather Webb


I picked this up at B&N on a whim and added it to my TBR stack and forgot about it (as I usually do!) until I was compiling my list for September reads and decided to add it in as a switch from my   otherwise heavy on the magic and literary theme choices. I'm glad I did, because this was perfectly enjoyable. Yes, it's on the eve of World War 2 (1937); the Nazis are rising and unease is building, but I don't think I've ever read a novel that includes the Hindenburg in it! 

This is a novel about two sisters: Clara and Madeleine Sommers. They are from a wealthy East Coast family. Their grandmother, Violet, has terminal cancer and has requested the two women travel to Europe to deliver letters to three people that meant something to Violet. All expenses paid, and they get to travel on the Queen Mary, the Orient Express, and return home on the Hindenburg-the latest in fast, luxurious travel between Europe and the U.S. 

The sisters don't get along--Clara is engaged to a wealthy businessman who treats her like a possession, and Madeleine is a journalist searching for her big break. Nellie Bly was a good friend of Violet, and her spirit is infused in this novel. Both ladies called her Auntie Nellie and remember her fondly. In fact Madeleine was inspired to become a journalist because of her. Clara loves art and is quite talented, but has had to set her talents aside as she prepares to marry Charles. She's not in love, but knows the marriage is what's expected of her. 

The two sisters set off on the Queen Mary--and yes, one is messy and wears trousers; the other is neat as a pin and dresses to the nines. One plays by society's rules, and the other drinks whiskey and gambles with men. They rub each other the wrong way and have many clashes. I was actually beginning to think they would never resolve their differences! 

However, as the sisters arrive in Paris to deliver the first letter, family history starts to pull them together. Madeleine feels the sense of unease that has settled over Europe and is eager to write about it. Clara is worried they are in the wrong place at the wrong time. But they promised Violet they would deliver the letters, and so after Paris, they travel to Venice, and then onto Austria. Along the way they discover more family secrets, find moments of sisterhood (followed by arguments, of course!), and start to realize the trip is also about discovering themselves and what they want out of life. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. I thought it was well written; the sisters were enough alike and enough different to make their relationship interesting and believable. Their love interests were there to provide some relief from what otherwise would have been too much sister time. The travel sounded marvelous--the clothes and food, divine. 

This kind of novel always reminds me of people digging around their family trees and discovering their ancestors were not perfect, play by the rules people. Clara and Madeleine certainly discover things about their family that would have stayed secret if not for this trip. Discovering those secrets helped them be brave and reach for the lives they truly wanted. 

Fans of World War 2 fiction, or fiction set in the late 1930's are sure to enjoy this novel. Relationships are a central theme, as well as forgiveness and living a life of happiness--even if it means a bit of scandal comes your way. Anyone who likes to read about women traveling and especially Nellie Bly would also enjoy this novel. 

Rating: 4/6 for an entertaining novel about sisters, the golden age of travel, relationships, love, and last wishes. An elegant read. 

Available in hardcover, paperback, audio, and ebook.