Ice

Ice

By Linda Howard

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’Tis the season for mistletoe and holly, Santa . . . and suspense. And the gift that keeps on giving is Ice: premier thriller author Linda Howard’s breathless tale of a man, a woman, and a battle for survival against an unforgiving winter–and an unrelenting killer. Oh what fun it is to read.

Gabriel McQueen has only just arrived home on holiday leave from the service when his county-sheriff father sends him back out again with new marching orders. A brewing ice storm, and a distant neighbor who’s fallen out of contact, have the local lawman concerned. So he enlists Gabriel to make the long haul to the middle of nowhere, and make sure Lolly Helton is safe and sound. It’s a trip the younger McQueen would rather not make given the bitter winter weather–and the icy conditions that have always existed between him and Lolly.

But there’s no talking back when your dad is the town’s top cop. And there’ s no turning back when night falls just as Gabriel arrives–and discovers that the weather outside isn’t the only thing that’s frightful. Spotting strangers in Lolly’ s home–one of them packing a weapon–is all it takes to kick Gabriel into combat mode. And his stealth training is all he needs to extract Lolly from the house without alerting her captors. But when the escape is discovered, the heat–and the hunt–are on. And the winter woods are nowhere to be once the ice storm touches down, dropping trees, blocking roads, and trapping the fleeing pair in the freezing dark.

So my books of choice the last few weeks have been arctic romantic thrillers….don’t ask me why. Just go with it!

Ice was the perfect book to get me fired up for winter weather. I listened to the audio book and the short gripping passages left transfixed during my drive and frustrated upon parking.

The main characters, Gabe and Lolly, aredecently  developed and relatable. Both must deal with their past and budding attraction for each other while also attempting to survive the icy Maine wilderness.  I enjoyed reading Lolly’s introspection about her personal growth since childhood and I loved that they stuck battling both the elements and two drug addicts. I like that Howard had the bad guys be simple meth addicts. I feel that too often these type of stories try too hard to make the villain over the top, like a professional thief, spy, or professional killer. I am pleased Howard opted for a couple that are too high on drugs to feel pain and too greedy to care about survival. She perfectly captured the frantic thinking of their drug addled minds, the intense self obsession of the addict, and their insane ability to survive the elements thanks to the drugs.

Lily and Gabe’s struggle to survive the ice storm is intense and its good Lolly isn’t an outdoors and survival guru. This makes her character even more relatable for the majority of readers.

Their relationship was a little awkward, which makes sense in this situation but I felt that Howard was trying to keep it steamy while the characters are fighting for their lives against drug addicts and the weather. It’s good they don’t have instant love and romance, but it still felt a tad awkward at times. Ice is a tad repetitive as well, especially during Lolly’s moments of introspection. Yes, I know that our minds tend to be repetitive when we are focused on our insecurities and future, but it was a little too much for my liking.

Ice was a great book to read during my work commute! I enjoyed the short survival thriller and recommend the book if you enjoy the genre. You’ll definitely enjoy the frantic escape attempts through icy Maine. Happy New Year’s Eve!

Lindsay

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Gingerbread Cookie Murder

Gingerbread Cookie Murder

by Joanne Fluke

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Nothing’s better on Christmas Eve than waiting for the stroke of midnight with a cup of eggnog and a plate of warm gingerbread cookies. This text presents a collection of three Christmas mystery stories.

I want to start this review by stating that I only read Gingerbread Cookie Murder by Joanne Fluke and didn’t have time to read the short stories by Leslie Meier and Laura Levine. Nothing against the other ladies; I just didn’t have the time during the holidays to finish the second two short stories.

Gingerbread Cookie Murder follows Fluke’s leading lady, Hannah, as she tackles the Christmas holidays. She is slammed with cookie orders and stuck embracing her mother’s over active love life, but Hannah is still enjoying the season. That is until she discovers her obnoxious neighbor dead in his kitchen. Everyone deserves justice and Hannah sets out to find this Christmas killer!

I love a good cozy mystery but have avoided diving in to Fluke’s extensive series primarily because I lack the baking enthusiasm. I may have to remedy this because I enjoyed spunky Hannah!

Gingerbread Cookie Mystery was a fun read but you will figure out the culprit quite quickly. I don’t really understand our main character’s love triangle relationship, but that’s my fault for jumping in mid series. It was cute, funny, and full of delicious cookies!

I recommend reading now before those New Years resolutions kick in! Anyone a Joanne Fluke fan?

Lindsay

Starry Night

Starry Night

by Debbie Macomber

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’Tis the season for romance, second chances, and Christmas cheer with this new novel from Debbie Macomber.

Carrie Slayton, a big-city society-page columnist, longs to write more serious news stories. So her editor hands her a challenge: She can cover any topic she wants, but only if she first scores the paper an interview with Finn Dalton, the notoriously reclusive author.

Living in the remote Alaskan wilderness, Finn has written a mega-bestselling memoir about surviving in the wild. But he stubbornly declines to speak to anyone in the press, and no one even knows exactly where he lives.

Digging deep into Finn’s past, Carrie develops a theory on his whereabouts. It is the holidays, but her career is at stake, so she forsakes her family celebrations and flies out to snowy Alaska. When she finally finds Finn, she discovers a man both more charismatic and more stubborn than she even expected. And soon she is torn between pursuing the story of a lifetime and following her heart.

Filled with all the comforts and joys of Christmastime, Starry Night is a delightful novel of finding happiness in the most surprising places.

A couple of weeks ago I was in desperate need of a Hallmark style holiday romance read since I can no longer actually watch Hallmark movies (no cable). I knew Debbie Macomber was pretty much the queen of Christmas romances so I picked up Starry Night at the local library.

It was the perfect choice! Starry Night tells the love story of reclusive author Finn and vivacious reporter Carrie. I loved the snarky relationship development between Carrie and Finn while they are stuck in his Alaskan cottage. The nightly conversations between them and the dog kept me giggling and I love how sweet Carrie is despite Finn’s moodiness. I even love how protective she is over his feelings and privacy. I just couldn’t quit reading!

I finished Starry Night in one sitting but the best part of the story is Finn and Carrie in Alaska. I’m a sucker for the rugged snowy outdoors setting despite being a winter wimp in real life. I don’t like cold, but the setting was perfect. The story just kinda faltered for me once the main characters were back in the city. I think it’s because I identify more with Finn instead of Carrie. The magical aspect of building a relationship in the city together did not feel all that magical for me. There interactions were just a little too forced for me. I also wouldn’t have hesitated to relocate to Alaska, especially if, like Carrie, I wasn’t happy with my job and already planning on moving.

I did enjoy the read and found the relationship between the main characters sweet. It was cute story that focused on love, compromise, and the small important things. All wonderful points in my opinion. Plus, I wish Finn’s novel was real because I want to read it!

So, definitely pick up Starry Night if you’re in need of a sweet winter romance to chase away any holiday blues. Any Debbie Macomber fans out there? What is your favorite?

Lindsay

Holiday Loves: Christmas Episodes

Do y’all remember last years Christmas post series called Holiday Loves and Quirks? I shared some of my favorite aspects of the holidays and felt like resharing them! Feel free to share your favorite aspects of the Christmas!

Christmas Episodes

I collect favorite TV shows.  Just ask my husband; he has to put up with it on a daily basis.  Some shows come and go, but each year I find myself watching the same Christmas special episodes.  They never fail to put me in the Christmas spirit!  So, without further ado, here are my favorite four Christmas episodes.  Note: All images are from my Holiday Pinterest board.

Warehouse 13 – Secret Santa

(Season 2, Episode 13)

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Warehouse 13 is my all time favorite show.  Unfortunately, I don’t have enough time to discuss all the reasons why I love it this time around.  Myka and Pete are sent on an artifact retrieval in California while Claudia is determined to find the perfect gift for Artie.  Secret Santa focuses on the importance of family, specifically the relationship between father and child.  The artifact retrieval is gloriously outlandish as are Claudia’s antics.   The highlights of the episode are Judd Hirsch as Artie’s father and of the mention of the Christmas Truce of 1914 during World War I.

Eureka – O Little Town

(Season 4, Episode 10)

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Sheriff Jack Carter recalls the first Christmas he spent in Eureka in O Little Town.  He is stuck spending Christmas in pure Eureka style, which means the town is on the verge of disaster thanks to the perfect fruitcake!  O Little Town emphasizes that family is not just blood; family are those who are always there for you.  The whole community comes together to save Eureka from being wiped of the map.  Plus, Taggart as Santa….

Bones – The Man in the Fallout Shelter

(Season 1, Episode 10)

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I will always consider The Man in the Fallout Shelter one of the best Bones episodes of all time.  A 50 year old body is discovered in an atomic fallout shelter and brought to the lab.  A fungal spore is released from the bones leaving everyone stuck in the lab under quarantine.  The emphasis of this episode is, once again, family.  We learn the details of Brennan’s parents disappearing while the team works to uncover ‘Careful Lionel’s’ story.  The witty banter keeps you laughing, except during the revolving family scene.  I cry buckets every time!

Supernatural – A Very Supernatural Christmas

(Season 3, Episode 8)

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Sam and Dean Winchester must hunt down a cannibalistic Santa Claus.  YES!  A Very Supernatural Christmas is a surprisingly uplifting episode.  Yes the brothers must vanquish a pair of pagan gods, but we get to learn more about their childhood in the process.  It is Dean’s last Christmas thanks to a deal with the crossroads demon and he is determined to do it right.  Sam is forced to relive some painful childhood memories only to realize that Dean has always been there for him.  They end up spending a touching Christmas Eve in pure Winchester style.

Honorable Mentions:

Doctor Who and Psych!  Both series have a number of Christmas Specials that are usually watched in December.  I enjoy them as well.

I definitely recommend all of these if you are looking for a different type of Christmas show!  What are your favorite shows?  Do you have certain episodes that get watched yearly?

Lindsay

Holiday Loves: Christmas Decorations

Do y’all remember last years Christmas post series called Holiday Loves and Quirks? I shared some of my favorite aspects of the holidays and felt like resharing them! Feel free to share your favorite aspects of the Christmas!

Christmas Decorations

White Christmas lights have to be one of the greatest invention of all time.  They have always been my favorite and I cant help but feel all warm and happy when I see them.  This is a good thing because I am in charge of putting up, and taking down, our Christmas decorations.  My husband does not want to deal with them and I love organizing them all…it works!

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Simple is the key word for our decorations.  Our house isn’t big and we just don’t have the dough to compete with the Griswolds.  So our outdoor decorations are restricted to the bay window area and our indoor decorations are placed strategically around the living room.  We also reuse our decorations from year to year.  I made our stockings three years ago and we still use the fake tree I bought seven years ago during my first round of college.  We lovingly refer to it as our Charlie Brown tree.

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Our decorations have stories and some of our favorites are my husband’s homemade pieces.  Each were handcrafted by his grandparents.  They are a sweet reminder that one of the best parts of the holidays is spending time with family.  A reminder for us to ignore the frustration and stress we may feel during the season and to focus on the good parts.  They are a reminder that our loved ones remain with us years after they have gone.  Each one has a story to share.

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The decorations are simple.  And we wouldn’t want them any other way!  My favorite will always be my great-grandmother’s ceramic Christmas tree that has been the Christmas nightlight in my room since I was seven.  What are your favorite decorations?  What stories do they tell?

Lindsay

Christmas Music

Do y’all remember last years Christmas post series called Holiday Loves and Quirks? I shared some of my favorite aspects of the holidays and felt like resharing them! Feel free to share your favorite aspects of the Christmas!

Christmas Music

Today’s post is about Christmas music. I loved Christmas music as a kid and still couldn’t wait to start rocking out to my Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas CD during my first round of college. Then I worked in retail…and I never wanted to hear Christmas music ever again. All day. Everyday. For two months. There is only so many times you can listen to Grandma Got Ran Over By A Reindeer before you lose it! I spent years refusing to listen to Christmas music.

Then I heard Nat King Cole’s Christmas Song. That was all it took to get over my Christmas music hiatus. That song always induces happy tears. It was one of my grandpa’s favorites and a can see my Daddy Bill’s smiling face every time I hear it. How could I not listen to music that brings such wonderful, happy memories?

So now I’m back to listening to Christmas music, but I am still quite a picky connoisseur. I prefer Judy Garland’s Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas and my Christmas playlist includes Elvis, Dolly Parton, and Nat King Cole. I just can’t get in to the new pop versions of songs that insist on adding two-three syllables to each word! But I’m not completely archaic 😀 I do have some Kelly Clarkson and classic N’SYNC on that playlist, as well as the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Now I sing along at the top of my lungs!

So here is some music to brighten your day and I have included my favorite, Carol of the Bells. What is your favorite Christmas song? What happy memories do they hold for you?

Lindsay

Letters Home: 1944-1945

One of my all time favorites about a wonderful female pilot!

History and Mystery

Letters Home: 1944-1945
Women Airforce Service Pilots
by Bernice ‘Bee’ Falk Haydu

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In February of 1944 Bernice Falk was accepted into the Women Airforce Service Pilots of World War II (WASP).  Her mother saved the letters Bee wrote home describing her training and tour of active duty.  They tell a fascinating storyof her military experiences and some of the problems she had to overcome in order to become and remain a professional pilot.  She explains how aviation and piloting continued to be an important part of her life while rearing a family who all learned to love flying.  She also chronicles the WASP struggle to be recognized as veterans during her term as president of their organization.

I was having a difficult time finding a book to share after finishing my thesis last week and starting Camp NaNoWriMo this week. I wanted something uplifting and inspirational for the 4th of July and…

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December 7th 1941

Today is the 74th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. It is an important day in American history for a variety of reasons, but it always makes me relect on what I consider to be the greatest American generation. 

So many lives were lost but that morning brought together a nation. A nation that went to work. A nation that fought to protect their homes and countrymen. A nation proud of the country they called home.
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 This week will be devoted to reviewing books about the Americans who served during World War II. And you can plan to hear about pilots because you know how much I love avatar ion history!
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Sit back folks! it’s time to enjoy some non-fiction on Sand Between the Pages!
Lindsay

What to Expect: DECEMBER

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Happy December fellow readers! I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving full of family, friends, and great food!

December is here (though most days still feel like October here in Florida) which means you can expect reviews of Christmas themed mysteries! Y’all know I’m a sucker for holiday themed stories….

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I don’t have much else planned on the review front this month. I’ll be crazy busy, just like the rest of you, Christmas shopping and enjoying all my favorite aspects of the season. I will be revisiting the Holiday Loves and Quirks post series from last year (check out the December 2014 archives) and sharing my favorite family traditions.

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It’s going to be a fun month! Happy Holidays everyone!

Lindsay