Mrs. Claus' Tea Shop


Participating in: 

24 Festive Tasks (November 1st to December 31st)

COYER Winter 2018 Edition (December 1st to March 1st)

Bout of Books Cycle 24 (January 2019)

24 in 48 Read-a-thon (January 26-27, 2019)





24 Festive Tasks, Door 20 - Christmas

Purring around the Christmas Tree (A Pawsitively Organic Mystery) - Liz Mugavero



Book: I will read Purring Around the Christmas Tree by Liz Mugavero.


Task #1

I really like wooden ornaments. The squirrel one is the new addition to the tree; we got that one from the Oxburgh Hall gift shop. The other one is to remind us of home.


Task #2

I would love to have dinner with Nora Roberts, just to get her perspective on the changes to the romance genre in the almost 40 years she has been writing and how she juggled a writing career with raising kids.


Task #3

I only like four Christmas movies total. Elf, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, A Charlie Brown Christmas, and It's a Wonderful Life. The last one is watched on Christmas Eve, the other three on Christmas Day. With The Grinch, I prefer the old school cartoon movie.  I feel like the only person in Romancelandia that can't stand/avoid like the plague the Hallmark Christmas romance movies.





24 Festive Tasks, Door 19 - Festivus

You Can't Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain - Phoebe Robinson, Jessica Williams



Book: I will be reading You Can't Touch My Hair by Phoebe Robinson.


Task #1

1. Born a Crime by Trevor Noah - tone deaf, no self-reflection, and way too much talk about feces.


2. One Wish (Thunder Point #7) by Robyn Carr - it's 2018, you are in your late twenties/early thirties - fucking use the birth control.


3. Winds of Salem (Witches of East End #3) by Melissa de la Cruz - such a strong start and middle of the series, and it ends on a messy whimper. 


4. The Irish Americans by Jay P. Dolan - dry text plus a focus on political and religious people without any mention of the Irish reflecting or influencing social or pop culture. Also very little to almost no mention of the Catholic Church scandals (mother homes, child sexual abuse, etc).


5. Triangle: The Fire that Changed America by David von Drehle - for a disaster that killed, injured, or impacted in some way so many young immigrant women, this book focuses way too much on men (politicians, labor union bosses, friends of the women, etc).


Task #2

I'm a huge Peanuts fan, so here's my Festivus pole

Image result for festivus pole

24 Festive Tasks, Door 18 - Yule/Solstice

Yule / Solstice


Book: I will be reading Miss Kane's Christmas by Caroline Mickelson, which the NOOK version has Miss Kane standing in front of a house while the snow falls on the cover.



Task #1

For this task, I am using Shadow: Five Presidents and the Legacy of Watergate by Bob Woodward.


Q1. Will I read all the books on my TBR? (page 378, line 29)

A1. "The deposition began at 10:30. Clinton was sworn." Don't think the outlook on this one is a positive with Slick Willy answering.


Q2. Will any of my 2019 reads be 5 stars? (page 227, line 31)

A2. "...but the one thing I can't handle is surprises, and I need your assurance..." Well, thanks a lot Regan.


Q3. Will I discover a new favorite book / author / series?(page 309, line 23)

A3. "Stephanopoulos wanted Fabiani and Sherburne to smooth over this problem." I'm taking this one as a no.


Q4. Will I discover that a major twist (hopefully, for the [even] better) has occurred in one of my favorite series? (page 459, line 16)

A4. "...Two copies of the supplementary material, documents, FBI interviews..." Okay, the In Death series is about to get twisted if Lt Dallas finally gets promoted or joins the FBI, LOL. Maybe they finally figured out Roarke's unregistered?


Q5. Will I finish all of my reading challenges in 2019? (page 69, line 7).

A5. "Yet appointing a special prosecutor to investigate..." I'm leaving this question for Robert Mueller to handle.


Q6.  Will I stay within my book budget in 2019? (page 98, line 5)

A6. "...[we have] been talking about the future of Iran." My book budget will be based on the price of crude oil and diplomatic relations with Iran in 2019. GREAT...


Task #2

The book that seem to go on forever was The Finest Hours by Michael Tougias and Casey Sherman. And the version I read was the YA, so it was shorter than the adult version. Honestly, the movie was better and stars one of the Good Chris (Pine).

24 Festive Tasks - The Points...So Far

The Soldier's Secrets - Naomi Rawlings Princess Elizabeth's Spy - Susan Elia MacNeal A Gentleman's Game (Romance of the Turf) - Theresa Romain Love's Unfading Light: Historical Christian Romance (Eagle Harbor Book 1) - Melissa Jagears, Naomi Rawlings, Roseanna White A Moveable Feast - Ernest Hemingway Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America - Michael Eric Dyson The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America's Shining Women - Kate Moore Amelia: An Autumn Bride - Hildie McQueen Star Dust (Fly Me to the Moon, Book One) - Genevieve Turner, Emma Barry

This is my collection of points for the game. Links back to tasks, will update with links to book reviews once they are written.


Current Points Collected: 40


Door 1: 3 tasks (3 pts) + read The Soldier's Secrets (1 pt) = 4pts

Door 2: 2 tasks (2pts) + read Princess Elizabeth's Spy (1pt) = 3pts

Door 3: 3 tasks (3pts) + read The Gentleman's Game (1pt) = 4pts

Door 4: 2 tasks (2pts) + read Love's Unfading Light (1pt) = 3pts

Door 5: 1 task (1pt) + read A Moveable Feast (1pt) = 2 pts

Door 6: 2 tasks (2pts) + read Tears We Cannot Stop (1pt) = 3pts

Door 7: 2 tasks (2pts) + read Radium Girls (1pt) = 3pts

Door 8: 2 tasks (2pts) +

Door 9: 4 tasks (4pts) + read Amelia: An Autumn Bride (1pt) = 5 pts

Door 10: 2 tasks (2pts) +

Door 11: 1 task (1pt) + currently reading Star Dust

Door 12: 1 task (1pt) +

Door 13: 2 tasks (2pts) + 

Door 14: 0 tasks (0pt) +

Door 15: 2 tasks (2pts) +

Door 16: 3 tasks (3pts) +

Door 17: 1 task (1pt) +

Door 18:

Door 19:

Door 20:

Door 21:

Door 22:

Door 23:

Door 24:


24 Festive Tasks, Door 13 - Advent UPDATED WITH PICTURES

The Sword Dancer - Jeannie Lin



Book: Since today is also the start of COYER Winter, I chose a book off my COYER reading list. I will read The Sword Dancer (Tang Dynasty #4) by Jeannie Lin.


Task #1

Here's a picture of my kids' advent calendars for this year.


Task #2

British Christmas traditions: going to house/castle/hall to see the decorations, caroling, and pantos!


Took the kids to our local National Trust site, Oxburgh Hall, to see the early Victorian decorations. The hall's volunteers get together in late August to rehearse for their free 20 minute caroling show; the last song, We Wish You A Merry Christmas, is a sing-along with audience participation. They put this show on 3x a day on Saturday and Sundays in December. 


Joshua went on his field trip to the Royal Theater in Bury St Edmunds and saw a pantomime production of Sleeping Beauty - his favorite part was the dragon (of course). He didn't care for the kissing part. Sophia was supposed to go with her class the next day, but that date turned into the National Day of Mourning, and with no school came no field trip. She is rescheduled to see it in early January. 


As a family, we went to see a local pantomime production of Snow White and the Dwarves of Foulden. My friend's oldest son was in the show as fox (woodland creature) and Dipstick, one of the dwarves. Here's a pic of the program.

24 Festive Tasks, Door 17 - St Lucia's Day

Santa Puppy - Lynn Cahoon

St. Lucia's Day


Yeah, I am a little late with this day. Sorry, my Mom brain went into meltdown mode for a little while.


Book: I am reading Santa Puppy (Tourist Trap Mysteries #9.75) by Lynn Cahoon. I forgot I pre-ordered it when I bought the other two novellas in the series for Halloween Bingo. It was published November 6, 2018.


Task #4

My guess is the goat stays "alive" and upright. Guess I'm an optimist this time of year.



24 Festive Tasks, Door 16 - Human Rights Day

The Swan: The Seventh Day: The 12 Days of Christmas Mail Order Brides, #7 - Piper Huguley

Human Rights Day


Book: I chose to read The Swan: The Seventh Day (The 12 Brides of Christmas #7) by Piper Huguley. It's a romance set in Wyoming in the 1870s with a biracial heroine and the author is African-American woman. 


Task #1


From top to bottom:

Hope at Dawn by Stacey Henrie

The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama

A Champion's Heart by Piper Huguley

An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole

Our Endangered Values by Jimmy Carter

Love is Love: A Comic Book Anthology to Benefit Equality Florida by Various Authors


Task #2: Readers' Rights Charter

1. You have the right to read the last chapter first, especially if reading a romance. 

2. You have the right to read in any format (electronic, audio, hardcover, paperback, etc)and the right to combine those formats.

3. You have the right to read magazines, long-form journalism on the Internet, and newspapers and call it reading/call yourself a reader.

4. You have the right to read a book and not review it (unless contractually to do so). 

5. You have the right to DNF a book.

6. You have the right to read a book with either the original cover or the movie still cover.

7. You have the right to read proof-read books. 

8. Put public school librarians back into the schools. 

9. You have the right to never apologize for your reading tastes.

10. You have the right to have a virtual shelf of Authors Behaving Badly or a list of authors you would rather not buy/read/support. 


Task #3: 

I went camping once with a friend of my mom's and her daughter (the girl and I were like 11 years old). The daughter and I were quasi-friends, and we decided to take a walk around the lake near the campsite. I didn't know this area at all, but the other girl knew this area well, as this place was a frequent camping area that they camped at. So I followed her lead. Now I am horrible with directions and navigation, so my sanity was in this girl's hands. And she got us lost, so lost. I ended up sitting on a rock at one point and just crying my eyes out. I have a deep fear of being lost and do actually keep to the road most often traveled, the one with all the signs at even intervals pointing me in the right direction (oh the joys of traveling in the UK, where the signage is crap on the best roads and non-existent most of the time). Her mom finally came and got us, then had the gall to lecture me about getting lost and her having to come get us. I hated camping from then on and didn't socialize with either of them after that.




Gift Boxes for the Jane Austen fan in your life

There are various gift boxes the Ripped Bodice bookstore is selling. These boxes include the Mary Bennet, the Lydia Bennet, the Georgina Darcy, the Caroline Bingley, and two estate boxes. I think the Caroline Bingley one is the best based on what is in the box other than the books. Two gently used books come in each box, with the estate boxes coming with three books; the books come from the RB used book section. The purchaser of the box can choose from three subgenres: contemporary, historical, or paranormal; the purchaser can also choose to upgrade for free "blind date" books, meaning any book that Leah or Bea can choose a combo of the three subgenres and it's a surprise for everyone what books are included. Prices vary.


The only issue I can see happening is the book selection - I am definitely the romance reader that picks books based on tropes and not necessary on subgenre. I am also very picky about contemporary romance, so getting two contemporary romances in my expensive box may not be a good gift for me. 

24 Festive Tasks, Door 15 - St Nicholas Day

A Perfect Holiday Fling (Moments in Maplesville) - Farrah Rochon Gaijin: American Prisoner of War - Matt Faulkner Anya's Ghost - Vera Brosgol The Soldier's Secrets - Naomi Rawlings

Sinterklaas / St. Nicholas Day


Book: I will read A Perfect Holiday Fling (Moments in Maplesville #1) by Farrah Rochon.


Task #2

1. For myself - the appliances in the In Death series. An Autochef would top the list, along with a drying tube and a car that can go "vertical" and bypass traffic. A computer that can run searches for me while I go to sleep would come in handy when grad school starts.


2. For my community - in this case, I claim the military veteran community for this wish. I want a competent, science and advance medical Veteran Affairs system, from the administrative and the medical sides. The system is broken and has been before this current administration took over, but three schmucks running the agency from Mar-Largo is not helping. A completely overhauled agency that not only takes care of OEF/OIF veterans, but the veterans of the humanitarian missions, the Gulf War veterans (especially those affected by Gulf War Syndrome, which needs more research!), and one that takes military sexual assault seriously. 


Sorry that was a downer, but it's frustrating to deal with this ass backward agency.


3. For the world - Every C-suite executive at Facebook goes to jail/is somehow punished for the shit that has been going in in global politics since 2015/16. Punitive fines would go to libraries to fund their digital citizenship/digital literacy programs for all ages. Also Net Neutrality laws in every country, even the good old USA, and regulate it as an utility.


Task #4

I tend to avoid kids in my reading unless I am reading a MG level book because I don't like to read about kids in peril. However, this year I read three great books that had this trope:


1. Gaijin: American Prisoner of War by Matt Faulkner

2. Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol

3. The Soldier's Secrets (Belanger Family #2) by Naomi Rawlings

24 Festive Tasks, Door 9 - Thanksgiving UPDATED to include Task 2

Amelia: An Autumn Bride - Hildie McQueen To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918 - Adam Hochschild Hamilton's Battalion: A Trio of Romances - Alyssa Cole, Rose Lerner, Courtney Milan Conspiracy of Fools: A True Story - Kurt Eichenwald The Lotus Palace - Jeannie Lin The Jade Temptress - Jeannie Lin Once Upon a Spine  - Kate Carlisle Bitch Planet Volume 1 - Kelly Sue DeConnick, Robert Wilson IV, Valentine De Landro Bitch Planet Volume 2: President Bitch - Kelly Sue DeConnick Nightingales Under the Mistletoe: (Nightingales 7) - Donna Douglas



Book: Today, I read Amelia: An Autumn Bride (Brides for All Seasons #7) by Hildie McQueen (autumn colors).


Task #1

The three books I am most thankful for reading this year are:


1. To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918 by Adam Hochschild

          This is what I would recommend to anyone, but especially non-history readers, if they wanted to read one book about World War I. 


2. Hamilton's Battalion: A Trio of Romances by Rose Lerner, Courtney Milan, and Alyssa Cole

              I'm not a fangirl of Hamilton or his musical (although I do listen and enjoy the soundtrack), but getting new material from these authors was enough for me to buy it. Courtney Milan's story was my favorite, but Rose Lerner's and Alyssa Cole's stories were wonderful as well. 


3. Conspiracy of Fools: A True Story by Kurt Eichenwald

             This book was a door stopper, but read so much like a novel that it didn't feel over long at all. This is the true story of the rise and fall of Enron.


Honorable mention: The Lotus Palace and The Jade Temptress (Pingkang Li Mysteries #1 and 2) by Jeannie Lin.


Task #2

My perfect meal, created by a chef and his/her/their team, is inspired by my Italian heritage. It would be time and resource intensive, ergo I would never make it for myself.

1. Starters - Caprese salad and friend calamari

2. Main - Zuppa di Pesce e Frutti de Mare (just a ton of seafood in a clear broth)

3. Sides - Baked Fennel with Parmesan and Mushroom risotto

4. Dessert - Tiramisu


Task #3

The book I read this year with the most "stuffing" was Once Upon a Spine (A Bibliophile Mystery #11) by Kate Carlisle. Details about the most mundane things with boring vanilla characters and constant wedding talk - and the murder mystery was an afterthought until the very end. 


Task #4

Honestly, I can't remember all the freebies I download in a single month, let alone in a year. So here is what I bought this month:


1. Bitch Planet Volume 1 and 2 by Kelly Sue DeConnick et al (from Foyles)

2. A Nightingale Christmas Carol and Nightingales Under the Mistletoe by Donna Douglas (from a charity shop)

24 Festive Tasks, Door 14 - Hanukkah

Fool for Love - Merry Farmer



Book: Fool for Love (Montana Romance #2) by Merry Farmer.


No tasks for this door.

November 2018 Reading Wrap Up

Citizen: An American Lyric - Claudia Rankine Feminasty: The Complicated Woman's Guide to Surviving the Patriarchy Without Drinking Herself to Death - Erin Gibson Princess Elizabeth's Spy - Susan Elia MacNeal A Moveable Feast - Ernest Hemingway The End of Epidemics: The Looming Threat to Humanity and How to Stop It - Bronwyn Fryer, Jonathan D. Quick Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America - Michael Eric Dyson Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis - J.E. Vance Amelia: An Autumn Bride - Hildie McQueen Love's Unfading Light: Historical Christian Romance (Eagle Harbor Book 1) - Melissa Jagears, Naomi Rawlings, Roseanna White

24 Festive Task challenge have goosed up my reading this month, plus the English winter weather has set in (darkness at 4:30pm kills any desire for going outside). 



1. Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine 3.5 stars

2. Feminasty by Erin Gibson 4 stars

3. Princess Elizabeth's Spy (Maggie Hope #2) by Susan Ella MacNeal 4 stars

4. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway 3.5 stars

5. The End of Epidemics by Jonathan D. Quick, MD 3.5 stars

6. Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America by Michael Eric Dyson 5 stars

7. Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance 3.5 stars

8. Amelia: An Autumn Bride (Brides for All Seasons #7) by Hildie McQueen 3 stars

9. Love's Unfading Light (Eagle Harbor #1) by Naomi Rawlings 2.5 stars

24 Festive Tasks, Door 12: St Andrews Day

Highland Fire: Guardians of the Stone - Tanya Anne Crosby

St. Andrew's Day


Book: I will be reading Highland Fire (Guardians of the Stone #1) by Tanya Anne Crosby.


Task #1

I would like to nominate author Beverley Jenkins for sainthood. She was accused today on Twitter for (I KID YOU NOT) "hiding behind her [Jenkins] white privilege" by a stan/follower of a YA who is in deep shit for her thirsty slam on Nora Roberts. 


Holy shit. YA Twitter going wild, yet can't go to Google and do a search on who Ms. Jenkins is and what she has brought to the romance genre.


I have Irish and Italian heritage, so my temper can be shorter than Tom Cruise without shoe lifts. Ms. Jenkins must have patience of a saint for not dragging this Twitter user to hell. I am in awe of her restraint and her mocking of this idea of her having white privilege without giving any attention to the Twitter user or using anyone's name/handle.


Honorable mention for sainthood would be Nora Roberts. 


Task #2

Not trying to sound like a snob, but golf bores me to no end, so I would actively avoid books with golf in the storylines. But if you are wondering if golf and romance mix, here is a list of golf romances (including a few set in Scotland, in case you need a book for this door).

24 Festive Tasks, Door 11 - Russian Mother's Day

Star Dust (Fly Me to the Moon, Book One) - Genevieve Turner, Emma Barry

Russian Mother's Day


Book: I chose Star Dust (Fly Me to the Moon #1) by Emma Barry and Genevieve Turner. The heroine is a single mom of two kids.


Task #1

The mother of all writerly sins would be telling not showing, especially in romance. If the author keeps telling the reader that the couple is falling in love, but the reader doesn't see one example of that love and trusting building, then the romance fails. I want to look back on a book and remember scenes of action, conversation, and progress in the relationship, not paragraphs of the heroine or hero thinking to themselves that they are falling in love or having a side character say they are falling in love.

24 Festive Tasks, Door 10 - Bon Om Touk

Summer With A Star - Merry Farmer

Bon om Touk

Book: I choose Summer with a Star by Merry Farmer.


Task #2

My kids' Cub Scouts pack had their annual Rain Gutter Regatta in September. Here are their boats, built with help from Dad.


Task #3

I really dig a slow, almost misty, rainy day. A day that requires a light blanket, a comfy chair, and tea and scone on a nearby table. Also, a table lamp for enough light to read but not too bright along with a scented candle burning. 





Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis - J.E. Vance

The second part of my childhood was spent growing up in the northern end of Applachia (Pike County, Pennsylvania - the last town before you hit New York state or the Delaware River and New Jersey). I too come from struggling, working poor parents that divorced when I was 15 after years of emotional and mental abuse and financial hardship. And like Vance, I used the military to get the hell out of there, although I do go back to visit. There was no manufacturing industry in my neck of the woods though, so people had to commute to the other states or work service jobs - the main industry in my region was tourism. My mother's family has lived there since they moved from Ireland, and remained if not poor, definitely working class. Alcoholism runs through my family and I have had an immediate family member go to rehab before she turned 18 for harder drugs. Early in life marriages, even earlier babies (some out of wedlock), lots of divorce/single parenting - yep, my family (I was the oddball for having my kids in my 30s). So I say this with the personal background of someone who could relate to Vance - this book is important to read to understand hillbillies/mountain people, but don't try to glean political truths or strategies out of our story - which all the media tried to do when discussing this book (both book media and the general media). I don't want to make it out that we are some kind of special snowflakes, but the geographical and cultural mindset of the area isn't really reproduced anywhere else in the country (I've lived in South Dakota and California). 


And I agree with Vance - we need to make changes as our decisions on a daily basis is killing us. I don't see myself belonging anymore to the area I grew up in because I made changes in my life and continue to make decisions that are illogical to people back home. Because I chose to make those changes, my kids are going to be better off but they are going to be seen as outsiders and not to be trusted, some by their own family members. I am okay with this. Here's the deal though - in order to make those changes, society and our government have to stop coddling us. Government assistance has to be given with greater oversight and media must turn an objective lens on the problems we made and not give soft ball questions to our politicians. 


My life and politics aside, this book is mostly a memoir with some discussion of possible solutions/beginnings to end the cycle of poverty and abuse. This is not a book about how Trump won, though, which the media kept going on about. Yes, some hillbillies are Trump supporters, but some are not (some are - gasp! - liberal or Democrat, like Vance's grandmother and grandfather). The roots of the problems facing Applachia go much further than party politics. It does end on a hopeful note, as Vance broke the cycle as did his sister and his two aunts (funny, they did so by marrying "outsiders" - again, choices).

Currently reading

The Swan: The Seventh Day: The 12 Days of Christmas Mail Order Brides, #7 by Piper Huguley
Star Dust (Fly Me to the Moon, Book One) by Genevieve Turner, Emma Barry
Progress: 43%