Mutts and Mistletoe by Natalie Cox- a 5/5 Star review!

Charlie’s least favorite time of the year, the holidays, is the worst it could possibly be this year. Not only did her long-time boyfriend cheat on her, but her apartment is destroyed and she has a concussion as a result of it. Her cousin, Jez, needs Charlie as much as Charlie needs a place to stay peacefully to eat as much chocolate in front of the tv. Jez runs Cozy Canine Cottage, a dog boarding place, out of her country home on several acres in the country. Jez needs someone to look after the dogs while she jets off to the Arctic, Charlie needs a place to stay, sounds like an easy trade. There’s just one teensy, tiny problem: Charlie is a city girl who hates dogs as much as she hates the holidays.

I was at my local library on the hunt for a fun holiday romance book when I came across a recommendation from one of my favorite authors, Sophie Kinsella (see reviews: #1  & #2 ), for this book. I figured, she knew what she was talking about when it came to fun romances as I am a big fan of hers. I was right. Mutts and Mistletoe is a funny romance that will warm a reader from the inside out. Many times I audibly gasped followed by a “Noooo!” or I laughed out loud. It is an engaging storyline with a lovable yet mischievous main character that seems to attract disaster wherever she goes. I loved the tumultuous way in which the relationship between her and Cal, the veterinarian who seems to be opposite of her in every way, grew. This is further complicated when another love interest wedges his way into the house crammed with a growing number of friends of all species.

My favorite interaction was on page 233:

“What do you know about alpacas?” Hugo asks Cal in a jaunty tone.

“They make great sweaters,” says Cal stonily.

It was tough to choose my favorite character in this book as there are several great choices. My top three were: Cal, Charlie’s father, and Malcom-the great dane. Charlie’s father was very reasonable, open-minded, and optimistic-much like my own father- which was endearing and seemed to be very good at stabilizing Charlie. In the end, Cal won my heart as I am sure he will warm the hearts of many other readers, as will all of the animals in this book. Natalie Cox did a wonderful job of assigning each animal with distinctive personalities. She also created a fun winter wonderland in a remote location with situations that would be ridiculous outside of this plot. Furthermore, the vocabulary in the writing is exquisite. There were many times that I had to put the book down to look up words such as “munificence” and “rictus” or I resorted to consulting with my logophile friends.

I would recommend this book to adult readers looking for a fun holiday romance. I would also recommend this book for animal lovers, particularly of dogs, wolves, and alpacas. Fans of the English countryside, or small towns in general, and of winter snow will also enjoy this book. There were only suggestions of sexual scenarios and there is a big scene of birthing puppies which is why I did not recommend it for an audience younger than adults. I do not remember any foul language or violence but that is not to say that there was not any in the book. If there was, it was not enough to stick out in my mind.

 

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The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton-A 5/5 Star Review!

Aiden Bishop awakens in an unknown forest with only one name resonating in his mind-Anna.  He does not know where he is, when it is, and he does not even know his own name.  The only thing he knows is that he has to get out of here.  Fast.

As he later discovers, he cannot get out of Blackheath until he solves the murder of Evelyn Hardcastle repeating the same day in a different body.  The clues will be given to each character and the events cannot and should not be changed.  Meanwhile, danger lurks in the shadows, in every corner, and not everything is what it seems.

Although the main character, Aiden Bishop, has to inhabit 8 individual bodies, the storyline remained the same and details from previous perspectives bring clarity to the mystery.  Not only does Aiden have to figure out who murdered Evelyn Hardcastle to save his own life, he also has to figure out how to save the life of both Evelyn and Anna.  This is made more difficult as there are others who are also trying to escape and manipulate him to advance their chances.  There is also the issue that the more bodies that Aiden resides in, the more voices and characters compound his psyche.  As if that was not complicated enough, he also has to do all of this while protecting his hosts from being prematurely murdered by The Footman who is stalking him and ready to pounce at any moment to shorten his day and thus reducing his chances of solving the murder and escaping.

All of these factors intertwine into a fantastic plot with surprises, mystery, and an epic finale.  I would recommend this book for all adult mystery readers.  It is very fast-paced and I felt myself rooting for Aiden and Anna through their many obstacles.  I loved the small details that became big clues later on in the story.  The fact that this is Stuart Turton’s debut novel is incredible!

Conversely, I would not recommend this book for readers who may be triggered or offended by the following: arranged marriage, murder, revenge, death, graphic violence, and suggestions of rape.

Please note: An Advanced Reader Copy of this book was generously provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.