Saturday, December 31, 2022

Downton Abbey: A New Era


I finally had a chance to watch Downton Abbey: A New Era. What a great movie. There are two main plots: a producer/director wants to make a film at Downton, and the Dowager Countess inherits a villa in the south of France from a man she was acquainted with decades earlier. Alongside these two plots, are a variety of subplots:

  • Tom starts life with Lucy.
  • Cora is facing a health crisis.
  • Thomas Barrow feels lonely despite having the role of butler he always desired.
  • Andy and Daisy are finding Mr. Mason's farm a bit cramped.
  • Edith misses her work at the magazine.
  • Henry Talbot continues to be away from Downton as he focuses on cars.
  • Talking movie pictures threaten the silent picture industry.
There are others, but these are some of the most important ones. In many ways, Downton Abbey: A New Era is all a fan could ask for, especially if this is the final movie. 

  • Many of the regular characters are facing happy futures.
  • Tom's daughter Sybbie's future is solidified.
  • Mary embraces her role as the leader for the future of Downton.
  • Robert learns the truth about his mother and this mysterious man who bequeathed Violet the villa.
  • If they had to (spoiler ahead) allow Violet to die, they handled it in a wonderful way with her family around her.
  • Edith and Mary getting along.
I like that even though we have hints at the future for some of these characters, not everything was wrapped up nice and tidy, so they have something to work with if a third movie is made. 

A few things I didn't care for:

  • Lord Grantham, Dr. Clarkson, and Murray were so orange it looked like they had been tanning for weeks.
  • Jack Barber's pursuit of Lady Mary. It was handled well, but it could have been a great film without this plotline.
  • We didn't see much of Sybbie, George, Marigold or Johnnie Bates.
  • (spoiler ahead) Thomas Barrow leaving Downton. 

Did you see this movie? What did you think? Would you like to see a third movie? 

First Chapter Review: A Face Within by Kate Cornwell


This contemporary novel tells the story of two sisters and their mysterious artist mother. I downloaded it as a Kindle freebie in 2014.

BLURB: A tiny child's face hidden within each painting is at the heart of the mystery surrounding world-renowned artist, Catarina di Rossi. It's this mystery that is also at the heart of the broken relationships with her two daughters. Anna and her sister, Jilly, walked away from their mother and the family fortune over a decade ago in order to not only find themselves out from under the shadow of their famous mother, but also to get away from the constant pain of being ignored for the sake of their mother's passion. Catarina paints breathtaking landscapes, but always with the little child's face somewhere in the midst of the painting. Instinctively, Anna knows it is the child in the painting who has stolen their mother's ability to love her own children, although she doesn't know who the child is. Anna also knows that unless her mother faces her past, they cannot have a future together.

COVER: This is a beautiful cover that ties into the prologue of the story. I love the old country look and feel to it and the warm colors. 

FIRST CHAPTER: Anna is hesitant to attend her friend Mel's art gallery exhibit, which features a painting by the famous Catarina di Rossi. 

KEEP READING: Definitely! After an intriguing prologue from Catarina's point of view, the reader is drawn into Anna's world as she is preparing to attend Mel's event, the most exciting thing happening in town. 

The author drops the reader right into the heart of conflict from the opening. Cornwell does not hold back on the emotions and turmoil facing this family, even though the reader doesn't quite yet know the whole story, which is what propels them to reader further. 

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (April 24, 2012)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 322 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1475249039
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1475249033
  • Purchase here!

This First Chapter Review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

Thursday, December 29, 2022

First Chapter Review: The Ornament Keeper by Eva Marie Everson


I grabbed this novel as a Kindle freebie earlier this month.

BLURB: Award-winning author Eva Marie Everson wraps up a Christmas story of hope, love, and forgiveness just in time for the holidays. The Ornament Keeper, a contemporary Christmas novella, features Felicia and Jackson Morgan who are spending their first Christmas apart after twenty years of marriage. But a lifetime of gifted ornaments helps Felicia piece together the story of their marriage and the one mistake of unforgiveness she made before they said, “I do.” 

Can these memory-filled ornaments reunite this family before Christmas? Only time will tell.

COVER: Simple and seasonal. I love the color scheme. 

FIRST CHAPTER: When Felicia announces to her oldest child, Sara, that she has decided not to put up the Christmas decorations this year, she is met with resistance.

KEEP READING: I'm interested. I know what this book is about by the blurb, so I know what to expect. The opening chapter definitely sets the stage for tension. My only niggle is that the author describes the characters' actions in excruciating detail. I would prefer less detail to move the plot along. 

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B098PC1V1H
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ New Hope Publishers (July 4, 2021)
  • Publication date ‏ : ‎ July 4, 2021
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • File size ‏ : ‎ 1212 KB
  • Purchase here!

This First Chapter Review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Most Recent Additions to My Book Collection

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.    

Welcome to the last Top Ten Tuesday of 2022. Thanks to Jana for keeping us on track and to her and my fellow bloggers for coming up with such great topics. I love the community of readers that blogging creates. 

Today's topic is the Top Ten Most Recent Additions to My Book Collection, whether we received these books as gifts, ordered them with gift cards, or received them some other way. Here are mine. 





Bought with a gift card

Bought with a gift card



Kindle freebie

Bought with a gift card 

What do you think of my list? Have you read any of these? 

Monday, December 26, 2022

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? and Mailbox Monday - Dec 26

Welcome to It's Monday! What Are You Reading? and Mailbox Monday.   


It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week. It's a great post to organize yourself. It's an opportunity to visit and comment, and er... add to that ever growing TBR pile! So welcome in everyone. This meme started with J Kaye's Blog and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at the Book Date.     

Welcome to the last Monday of  2022! I hope those who celebrate Christmas enjoyed their holiday. Hannukah ends tonight, and I believe Kwanzaa starts today. I hope your holidays have been or will be filled with blessings.  

Though it took me forever, the last Christmas tree got decorated Christmas Eve, all the presents got wrapped, and baking managed to get done. We visited the in-laws on Friday, so Christmas day it was just us, the three kids, and the Lil' Diva's boyfriend. What a special day.  

Dwight thought he would help with the tree collar (still not sure I like this trend)

It was so cold this weekend that Theo hung out in one of his sweaters

With all there was to do, I didn't get much reading done. 

You can find my review of this children's book at The Children's and Teens' Book Connection

I am still working on these these.

Then this one comes next. 

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came in their mailbox during the last week. Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists.

The family was good to me. I received several books.

Two books I had ordered from during a huge sale arrived as well.

Did you receive any books over the holidays? If you did, which will you read first?

Friday, December 23, 2022

Interview with Mike Martin, Author of Christmas in Newfoundland: Memories and Mysteries


Mike Martin was born in St. John’s, NL on the east coast of Canada and now lives and works in Ottawa, Ontario. He is a long-time freelance writer and his articles and essays have appeared in newspapers, magazines and online across Canada as well as in the United States and New Zealand.

He is the author of the award-winning Sgt. Windflower Mystery series set in beautiful Grand Bank. There are now 12 books in this light mystery series with the publication of Dangerous Waters. A Tangled Web was shortlisted in 2017 for the best light mystery of the year, and Darkest Before the Dawn won the 2019 Bony Blithe Light Mystery Award. Mike has also published Christmas in Newfoundland: Memories and Mysteries, a Sgt. Windflower Book of Christmas past and present. And now Christmas in Newfoundland: Memories and Mysteries 2.


Mike is Past Chair of the Board of Crime Writers of Canada, a national organization promoting Canadian crime and mystery writers and a member of the Newfoundland Writers’ Guild and Ottawa Independent Writers and Capital Crime Writers.


You can follow the Sgt. Windflower Mysteries on Facebook at



Twitter: @mike54martin

Where did you grow up?


I grew up in St. John’s, Newfoundland on the easternmost tip of Canada 


When did you begin writing?


I have always been a reader and a writer. I started reading early because I had two older sisters who dragged me to the library where I fell in love with the magic and adventure of books.


What is this book about?


Christmas in Newfoundland Book 2 is the second collection of stories and vignettes featuring my own memories of Christmas in a small town and then stories from imaginary Christmases of characters from the Sgt. Windflower Mystery series. A stroll down a Christmas memory lane. 


What inspired you to write it?


I am a big Christmas guy. I always have been and for years I have written a special Christmas story for my family and friends. Some of those stories are here as well as the new ones from my award-winning mystery series


How is it similar to other books in its genre? How is it different?


I think this is a unique book because it blends both personal memories and stories based on characters from the mystery series. But anyone who likes reading about Christmas memories will like this book and can probably connect it to their own experiences.


What is the most important thing readers can learn from your book?


That Christmas is about giving and the more you give, the more you will receive. And that Christmas is magical if only you believe.


Where can readers purchase a copy?


Christmas in Newfoundland Book 2 is available from Amazon all over the world and in many fine bookstores in Canada.


What is up next for you?


I have a new book in the Sgt. Windflower series coming out in the spring of 2023 as well as a new audiobook in the series. And starting to write a new adventure for Sgt. Windflower and his friends.


Is there anything you would like to add?

Thank you!

Book Blast: Sapphires in Snow by Amy Schisler


Cindy never had a real home or a real Christmas, and Jackson plans to leave home as soon as Christmas is over; they never planned on meeting each other, but now secrets from Cindy’s past threaten both of their futures…

By Amy Schisler

Book Blurb

The little white house on Main Street in Buffalo Springs, Arkansas, is the only home Jackson Nelson has ever known. With college behind him and both his sisters back in town to look after their aging parents, Jackson knows now is the time to make his big move. All he’s ever wanted is to move to New York and lead the high-stakes life of a real estate investor. He’s determined to leave town right after Christmas and never look back.

Cindy Kline has never had a real home or a real Christmas. Abandoned by her father and raised by an unfit mother, Cindy thought she had finally found the family she always wanted when the man of her dreams asked her to marry him; but when his Navy SEAL helicopter went down in a fiery crash before their wedding, Cindy had nothing left to keep her in sunny California. Packing her meager belongings into her old, beat-up car, Cindy drives straight to Buffalo Springs and to the only real friend she’s ever had – Andi Nelson. With Christmas around the corner, Andi, Jackson, and the whole Nelson family convince Cindy to stay through the holidays even finding her a job that may turn out to be a real career.

Just when Cindy is beginning to get into the Christmas spirit, her life is once again up-ended – this time by a series of break-ins and the news that her dangerous father may be lurking nearby. Cindy has no idea that her father’s mysterious past will put her life in jeopardy, and Jackson has no idea that the bright lights of New York are but a flickering flame when it comes to the sparks of the heart.

Release Date: November 11, 2022

Publisher: Chesapeake Sunrise Publishing




Barnes & Noble: 


Book Excerpt  

And unto you a child is born!” The child actor belted out the play’s most robust line with all the enthusiasm he could muster. 

It was all Cindy could do not to jump to her feet and applaud. She laughed and clapped along with the rest of the audience. When the play was over, she went with the Nelson family to the town drug store that boasted an old-fashioned ice cream parlor and soda fountain in the back of the store. The proprietor had kept the doors open late to welcome the theatergoers.

“What would you like?” Jackson asked as Cindy eyed the many choices written on the blackboard.

“There are too many to choose just one.”

Jackson laughed. “Andi is partial to anything with peanut butter, and Helena always goes for something super sweet and fruity like cherry or raspberry. Mama likes plain old chocolate.”

She looked at Jackson. “And what do you like, Jackson?”

She saw his expression falter for just a moment, and a curtain of pink danced across his features, reminiscent of the curtains that closed at the end of the show. He blinked and just as quickly as the odd look appeared, it disappeared, and he broke into a wide grin. 

“I always go for a good, old-fashioned root beer float with vanilla ice cream.”

“Would you believe, I’ve never had a root beer float?”

The look he gave her was one of exaggerated shock. “What? That might be the most un-American thing I’ve ever heard.” He clutched at his chest. “A shot to the heart.”

Cindy laughed, and Andi inserted herself between them to grab some extra napkins from the top of the ice cream display case. 

“Is this guy bothering you?” she asked with a mock scowl.

Cindy shook her head. “Not at all. This has been one of the best nights of my life, and I’m going to top it off with my very first root beer float.”

Andi smiled. “I think that’s a great idea.”

On their turn, Jackson ordered for them both then reached for his wallet to pay, but Cindy put her hand on his arm.

“Jackson, no, I can’t let you do that.”

“Why not?”

“Because I can pay for my own ice cream. You all have been so generous already.”

“Sorry, Cindy, but my daddy would skin me alive if he heard that I allowed a female to pay for her own ice cream.”

She frowned and said in a firm voice, “Jackson, this isn’t a date. I can pay for my own ice cream.”

Again, she saw his face redden. “I never said it was a date, and you should accept an act of kindness when presented with one.”

The cashier cleared her throat, and Cindy realized they were holding up the line. Embarrassed for drawing attention, she said, “You’re right. Go ahead and pay, but I owe you.”

“That’s fair. On the next family outing, you can buy me ice cream.”

Cindy accepted her root beer float from the young girl behind the counter and took a sip. She didn’t know how to respond to Jackson. She wasn’t part of the ‘family’ and didn’t know if she’d be there for the next outing. Rather than agree, she concentrated on her float and sat quietly while listening to the rest of them banter about Christmas and New Year’s and the June wedding. She couldn’t help but wonder what she would be doing by then and where she would be.

As she ate, Cindy felt a peculiar tingling on the back of her neck. She looked around, peering up and down the streets. Other families hovered nearby, eating ice cream, and several couples walked along the sidewalk. It looked like everyone in town had come out to see the play. None of the other theater goers paid any attention to Cindy or the Nelsons, and Cindy had no reason to be paranoid, but she could not shake the eerie feeling that she was being watched. 


About the Author

Amy Schisler is a novelist, poet, children’s book author, spiritual writer, blogger, reader, and avid traveler with years of professional experience in all manner of writing-related endeavors. Whether she’s writing novels filled with faith and inspiration, books that children will love, or her weekly blog devoted to family life and faith, she loves connecting and resonating with her readers. Amy’s first novel, A Place to Call Home, a romantic suspense, debuted in 2014, and her much-loved Chincoteague Island Trilogy has won numerous literary awards.

Amy lives on the Eastern Shore of Maryland with her husband, Ken, their daughters, Katie and Morgan (and sometimes their daughter and son-in-law, Rebecca and Anthony), and their dogs, Rosie and Luna. When she’s not writing, Amy can usually be found on a boat in the Chesapeake Bay or hiking in the Rocky Mountains, most often with a good book in her hand.





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Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I Hope Santa Brings This Year/Bookish Wishes

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.    

Oh, I love when we get to this time of year. I am not sure Santa will bring me books. He knows I have enough unread books already, but I truly hope he reads the list I sent him. 

Top Ten Books I Hope Santa Brings This Year/Bookish Wishes 

Like I mentioned last week, I've been wanting to read this since it came out.

A new take on Anne? I am up for that.

This is my favorite era to read about, and I find this Little Women tie in makes it even better. 

It has been so long since I read a book by C.W. Gortner, but he is one of my favorite authors of historical fiction. 

These last two I want to read just for fun.

Another great Little Women tie-in. 

Ever since I received The Midcentury Christmas, I have wanted this book.

Does this one need an explanation?

The Sound of Music is one of my favorite films.

I also have one bookish wish: to have more reading time in 2023 than I did in 2022.

So, what's on your list? Do we share any of the same titles? Does Santa usually leave books under your tree?