Book Review: “Mrs Claus and the Santaland Slayings” by Liz Ireland

Title: Mrs Claus and the Santaland Slayings (Mrs Claus #1)
Author: Liz Ireland
Genre: Urban fantasy/cozy mystery
Intended audience: Adult
Date Read: 02/12/2021 – 06/12/2021


When I walked past this book at the library, I had to pick it up. A cozy mystery with Santa as the prime suspect? My theory was it would be enjoyable even if it turned out to be a case of “so bad it’s good”.

I was actually taken by surprise by how in depth the world-building was! It was so over-the-top cheesy festive, but it worked. There were elves and talking reindeer, and even sentient snowmen. It was fun!

I liked amateur sleuth, April Claus, and her and Nick’s valet, Jingles. The overbearing mother-in-law, Pamela Claus, was also great – she was so fussy and prim and reminded me strongly of my grandmother!

I have to admit, though, that I wasn’t overly fussed on the rest of the rest of the Claus family. While it is clear that Nick Claus has taken on the mantle of Santa somewhat unwillingly, he just seemed… so un-Santa-like. It was a bit jarring.

I know some of the other reviews have said the identity of the murderer was obvious from the beginning. I had the opposite problem, in that I felt I hadn’t really seen enough of this character, and the things that pointed towards them as the murderer either weren’t clear or I missed them. So I was just a bit “meh” about the whole revelation.

Still, this was a fun, seasonal read with a unique twist!

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Book Review: “A Holiday by Gaslight” by Mimi Matthews

Title: A Holiday By Gaslight
Author: Mimi Matthews
Historical romance
Intended audience: Adult
Date Read: 17/12/2019
Rating: ★★★★


I’ve got to be honest, I wasn’t 100% this novella would be my cup of tea going in, but I’m so glad I picked it up because my holiday reading this season has been a mixed bag and this one finally pulled me out of the dumps.

Sophie Ampersett is used to making sacrifices for the happiness and security of her family, but she hopes that when she marries, it might be someone she at least likes.

Ned Sharpe, a wealthy tradesman, is smitten with Sophie the first time he lays eyes on her, but after following the advise in a gentleman’s ettiquette guide,  he doesn’t seem to be getting anywhere, and Sophie is about to call the courtship off.

But Sophie decides their courtship is worth one last chance, so she invites Ned and his family to her family home in Derbyshire for Christmas, with the hope of finally finding love.

This was such a sweet book! In such a short book, it can be hard to really flesh out your characters, but Matthews has really done just that, not just for the two leads, but the supporting characters as well. There are so many different attitudes from the characters, which leads to misunderstandings and conflict. I loved it.

I loved Ned and Sophie, and how their relationship developed once they agreed to be candid with one another. I loved Ned’s awkwardness. As a tradesman, he was trying so hard to fit in with the upper classes and floundering. Sophie was strong and independent without being anachronistic. I loved the stolen moments they shared in secret alcoves around the house. Secret kisses under mistletoe! Things never felt lusty or steamy; it suited the period and the tone of the writing perfectly.

found myself getting frustrated and angry at Sophie’s father, who has spent the entire family fortune, including his two daughters’ dowries, on upgrades to their home, such as gaslight and eventually indoor plumbing.

There is a side plot with Ned’s friend and business partner and Sophie’s sister which felt less well-developed. I was taken a bit by surprise with that one, though its outcome did lead to more misunderstandings and moved the Sophie and Ned’s story into its final stages.

I hadn’t come across Mimi Matthews before, but I am definitely going to check out her other historical romances when I am in the mood for this kind of thing.

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Book Review: “A Christmas Wish and a Cranberry Kiss at the Cosy Kettle” by Liz Eeles

Title: A Christmas Wish and a Cranberry Kiss at the Cosy Kettle
Author: Liz Eeles
Contemporary romance
Intended audience: Adult
Date Read: 30/10/19 – 06/11/19
Rating: ★★


Ah man. I hate being that person. That is, the first person to give a negative review of a book. I just didn’t love this one!

Look, I probably should have checked my review of A Summer Escape and Strawberry Cake at the Cosy Kettle, the second book in this series, before I requested this one. I thought I had given that one four stars, and that this one would be much the same. But actually, it was only a 3-star read for me, and I think I had a lot of the same issues with this one.

It started out well. I found Becca really relatable at first. But her inability to see that Logan was usiing her combined with letting the book club crew walk over her and insist on helping her (“they’re being kind” she says as they push her into something she’s not entirely comfortable with for the fifth time) just made her feel more like a doormat after a while.

Most of the side characters were pretty one dimensional. I ddi mention in my review of the previous book that I thought Stanley was a bit over the top, and that feeling continued in this one. He was pushy, and inserted himself into situations he had no real right to be in. While I understood Becca’s anxieties about her twin sister and thought they were well-written, Jasmine herself was irritating. I guess she was supposed to be a little, though.

A lot of the complications in the second half of the book would be alleviated if the characters just talked to one another. I get that it’s difficult to tell someone you have feelings for them, but a quck “Are you and my sister a couple?” would have helped.

And given that Logan was booking the Cosy Kettle for one night only, it seemed odd that Becca spent a good couple of weeks leading up to his party redecorating the cafe to his requirements.

I feel like such a Grinch giving a feel-good holiday romance a bad review, but I guess at the end of the day I just had too many niggles to really enjoy.

(Thank you to Bookouture for sending a free copy my way in exchange for an honest review)

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Cover Reveal! Christmas Australis: A Frighteningly Festive Anthology of Spine-Jingling Tales

Hello everyone! It’s been ages since I did a cover reveal on this blog, and this one is especially exciting because I’m one of the authors!

Christmas Australis: A Frighteningly Festive Anthology of Spine-Jingling Tales brings together eight stories that reflect the Australian experience of Christmas: it’s summer here in December and we spend December 25 at the beach or under the air conditioner, gorging on seafood and lemonade.

Over the past few months, I’ve got to know some fantastic other Australian writers via our hashtag #6amAusWriters, and I’m super-proud to be included!

There’s something for everyone in Christmas Australis, whether you are a fan of contemporary stories, sci-fi, fantasy, or even steampunk!

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for! Here it is!

The fabulous cover was designed by Cassi Strachan at Creative Girl Tuesday. Thank you so much, Cassi!

The contributors are V. E. Patton, Darren Kasenkow, Emily Wrayburn (that’s me!), Lyn Webster, Andrew Roff, Natasha O’Connor, Madeleine D’Este and Belinda Grant.

My story is called Operation: Sugarplum, and it’s a modern-day retelling of The Nutcracker.  Here’s a bit about it.

Clara gets more than she bargained for when she plays a new virtual reality platform with boy-genius developer, Max Drosselmeier.

Suddenly virtual characters are coming after her in reality and the only way to stop them is to play the game to the end…

It’s a bit of this:

Combined with a bit of this:

To great effect if I do say so myself. 😉

You can find out more about the other stories on the Amazon Page.

You can pre-order now by clicking the button below for the special pre-order price of $3 US, before it bumps up to $3.99 US on release day, November 11.

don’t forget to add it to your GoodReads TBR shelf! 

#WWW Wednesday – 21 November 2018

It’s time for WWW Wednesday! This blog hop is hosted by Sam over at A World Of Words. Link up with us by commenting on Sam’s post for this week, and just answer the three questions.

I can’t believe November is two-thirds gone! Septemberand October seemed so long to me, but this month has flown past! I’m well on my way to completing the ARCs I have due by the end of the year, as well as finishing up my Australian Women Writer’s Challenge. So yay all around!

What have you recently finished reading?

I read ‘Twas the Knife Before Christmas by Jacqueline Frost, and it was so fun! I actually wasn’t expecting to be able to take it too seriously, but I got quite invested! You can read my review here. I have the first book in the series still to read (this one was an ARC and the release date is this Friday, hence my reading it first), so I plan to read it over the holidays.

What are you currently reading?

This answer hasn’t changed much from last week!

I am about a quarter of the way through Outrun the Wind by Elizabeth Tammi. So far overall it’s okay but there are little things bothering me, like the fact that this is based in Greek mythology, but keeps referring to Greece, as though the country existed at that time. And I’m not really getting much of a sense of the Greek mythology aspect coming through. You could replace the names and this could be any fantasy. But we’ll see if it picks up.

Wundersmith by Jessica Townsend continues to be delightful. I feel like everyone needs a Jupiter North in their life, who goes on grand expeditions to prove to you that you are more than you think you are.

On audio, I am still listening to The Midnight Watch by David Dyer. I’m finding I have to be in the right mood for it, but it is  still quite interesting. I’m finding the character of Captain Lord of the Californian quite interesting. I don’t know if the historical figure was like this, but in the book he’s basically blackmailing his subordinates into lying about them seeing the Titanic’s distress rockets.

What do you think you will read next?

I have owned a copy of Olmec Obituary by L.  J. M. Owen for ages, and so I picked up the two sequels when I saw them at the library today in the hopes I  will then read all three and tick that off my TBR. The fact that I already had the cover uploaded to this blog suggests I have planned to read it at some earlier stage and never got around to it, so it will be good to finally make a start. Owens is a local author and one of the locations in the book is apparently slightly based on my workplace, so it’ll be fun trying to spot those references!

What are you reading this week?

Book Review: “‘Twas the Knife Before Christmas” by Jacqueline Frost

Title: ‘Twas the Knife Before Christmas (A Christmas Tree Farm Mystery #2)
Jacqueline Frost
Genre: Cozy mystery
Target audience: Adult
Date Read: 14/11/18 – 17/11/18


Okay, I have to be honest, I went into this book not expecting too much. I thought the story would be a bit OTT, and that I wouldn’t be abe to take it too seriously, but that I wouldn’t mind, because it’s a Christmas story and you can get away with that in Christmas stories.I didn’t expect to get really invested!

When Holly’s best friend, Caroline, is accused of the murder of Derek Waggoner, whose body is found in a giant bowl of mints at the town’s annual Christmas Lights ceremony, Holly sets out to prove her innocence. But doing so attracts the attention of the killer, putting Holly in danger for the second Christmas in a row.

While this is the second in a series, it stood alone well enough. The book filled me in on the details I needed to know from the previous book, and most of the focus was on the events of this one.

As i said, I got quite invested in Holly and her friends. I wanted Caroline to get out of jail. I wanted to know why Sherriff Gray seemed to have pushed Holly away after kissing her quite publicly and dramatically last Christmas (I actually really loved Sherriff Gray a lot just in general). Even the minor characters had really distinct personalites and I really enjoyed getting to know them.

I was a bit annoyed that when the murderer is finally revealed, they have a big villain monologue while they train a gun on Holly. I did raise my eyebrows a little bit at the suggestion that the real Santa did have something to do with  Holly getting out alive, as well as a few other Christmas miracles. But hey, didn’t I say you can get away with a lot in a Christmas book?

I do have the first book  in this series on my Kindle and I intend to read it closer to Christmas (when I am hopefully through my ARCs and have finished my 2018 challenges). I’m definitely looking forward to revisiting Mistletoe, Maine, even if I am doing it in the wrong order.

(Thank you to the Publishers and NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for a review)

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Book Review: “Merry and Knight” by Debbie Macomber

Title: Merry and Bright
Author: Debbie Macomber
Date Read: 16/12/17
Rating: ★★★


For obvious reasons, it’s fitting that this review will be going live on Christmas Day. I wanted something nice and fluffy and Christmas-y to read, and this fitted the bill. I ended up reading it all in one sitting.

Merry Knight’s life is crazy  and she has barely any time for herself, or for romance, so her brother and mother sign her up for a dating website. There she meets Jay, and there is an instant connection. But when they decide to meet, she discovers that Jay is someone she would never have wanted a relationship with…

I did find that at the start of the book, there was more telling than showing as Macomber introduced all the characters and their motivations.

However, as the story went on and the conflicts became apparent, it became an addictive read. It’s not a mystery to the reader who Jay is, as he has his own point-of-view chapters alternating with Merry’s, and I did find seeing the two sides of him fun. It got maybe a little convoluted in the last third with some mistaken-identity-type shenanigans (except not… I don’t want to say too much because of spoilers).

The story takes place between Thanksgiving and Christmas and the Happy Ending takes place on Christmas Day. There was nothing especially unique in this story, but it was definitely still enjoyable and a sweet Christmas read.


The Christmas Book Tag

 Anticipation – The Christmas excitement is real, what book release(s) are you most anticipating.

These are a few upcoming releases that I’ve come across recently and added to my TBR pile.


  • Noteworthy by Riley Redgate
    This is a contemporary YA so not my usual fare, but it’s basically Mulan set in the a capella music world and it sounds delightful. Also I have friends who are altos (I’m one of those sopranos who enjoys getting carried away on all the high notes) so I’m hoping I’ll be able to recommend it to those friends.
  • Long May She Reign by Rhiannon Thomas
    Love the idea of a geeky scientist girl accidentally becoming Queen after the 21 people in front of her in line for the throne all end up dead. I’ve enjoyed Rhiannon Thomas’ other books, so I think I will definitely enjoy this one.
  • Hunted by Meaghan Spooner
    I have tried reading Meaghan Spooner’s books before and not finished them, but this is a Beauty and the Beast retelling and it’s another stunning cover and so I’m willing to give her writing another shot.
  • Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh
    I haven’t read any of this author’s other work but holy moly that cover. Also it’s a sort of Mulan retelling except in Japan (or a Japanese-inspired world. There are samurai).
  • The Dragon’s Price (Transference #1) by Bethany Wiggins
    This is one of those “Princess either marries the prince or gets fed to the dragon and she chooses the dragon” type premises. Basically any dragon book that sounds mildly interested gets on my TBR.

Honourable mention to Release by Patrick Ness which doesn’t have a cover yet but it’s a new YA, so you bet I’ll have it pre-ordered.

 Christmas Songs & Carols – What book or author can you not help but sing its praises.

Patrick Ness! Marissa Meyer! Jonathan Stroud!

 Gingerbread Houses – What book or series has wonderful world building.

golemdjinniThe Djinni and the Golem by Helene Wecker. At first it was a bit slow, but it builds up a beautiful magical version of turn-of-the-century New York City that I fell in love with.

 A Christmas Carol – Favorite classic or one that you want to read.

LOL, A Christmas Carol is actually one of my favourite classics. I’m more into classic plays than books; I love things like Much Ado About Nothing and The Crucible.

 Christmas Sweets – What book would you love to receive for Christmas.

Disenchanted: the Trials of Cinderella (Tyme #2) by Megan Morrison. For some reason this was only released in hardback in October, and an ebook (or even a paperback) doesn’t appear anywhere in sight. I could get it for a reasonable enough price on Book Depository but if someone gave it to me for Christmas, I wouldn’t complain. The first book in the series was so wonderful!

 Candles in the Window – What book gives you that warm fuzzy feeling.

The House at Pooh Corner
by A. A. Milne. I love the others as well, but I had a copy of this one at my grandmother’s house growing up, so I’ve read this one a lot more than the other three.

 Christmas Trees & Decorations – What are some of your favorite book covers.

Recently I was raving about the cover of Elenore by Faith Rivens. Stars Above is definitely my favourite of the Lunar Chronicles covers, even if I haven’t read the books yet. Digital versions of The Last Days of Magic and Rebel of the Sands don’t really do the covers justice, because they just don’t give you a sense of just how shiny they are. Ad Cinnamon Girl is just a perfect cover for a near-perfect book.

 Christmas Joy – What are some of your favorite things about Christmas.

The Doctor Who Christmas episode! Lol kidding. Mostly. Actually not really kidding. Loudly singing carols, and throwing in the descants and surprising the people next to me in church (see note about my soprano tendencies in the first question). Also fruit mince pies. And my mum’s Christmas pudding (seriously, no other Christmas pudding has ever lived up to it).

… is this the part where I’m supposed to say spending time with family and all that? Yeeaaah, let’s not go there. 😉

I’m not going to tag anyone, simply wish you a Merry Christmas if you celebrate that, and a Happy Holiday season if not. 🙂 See you next year!

~ Emily

December 23 – Only for one night…

Author’s note: Prompt is the opening line. All my writing is becoming Christmas-y lately. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. 😀 I was actually hoping it would end up a little longer and deeper, but not to worry.

It was only for one night. Darren supposed he could manage that. Maybe earn some karma points. His girlfriend, Erin, had volunteered them both to help out at the local soup kitchen on Christmas Eve. She hadn’t consulted him, but how do you back out of something like that?

When they arrivead, they were each presented with a Santa hat and loud wished for a Merry Christmas. Since neither of them had been there before, they were introduced to the regular organisers, before being led around into the kitchen area, where three Bain-maries were full of various seasonal foods. Darren and Erin were put on stations there, along with two others.

It wasn’t very long before the recipients of the food began arriving. Those who volunteered regularly greeted several of the guests by name. Darren flinched at a couple of them. Their clothes were tatty, some had holes where you didn’t really want holes to be, and some of them really did smell like they hadn’t showered in a week. But he found that the other volunteers seemed to be able to ignore all that, and that once he got chatting, so could he.

Once the food had been dished out, the volunteers sat down with their guests. Toasts were made, grace was said, and then they all tucked in together. Darren was sitting next to a man who was trying to find a job so he could begin supporting his kids again. As they talked, Darren found himself thinking about how he might really help this guy out. He would certainly have wanted some sort of support if it were him in the situation.

When they got back in the car at the end of the night, Erin turned to Darren. “That wasn’t bad, was it?”

“Actually, it was kind of awesome,” Darren admitted.

“And who was grumbling all the way here?”

“All right, you win. Maybe we should come back in the New Year. Do this more often.”

“I like the sound of that.”

#MirthMusicMon – Thank you for shopping at Volde-mart.

So last Saturday I was eating breakfast and watching Saturday Disney, as one does. I feel that since my days of watching Saturday Disney, the quality of the shows has gone down, but maybe it’s just that I grew up. Anyway. There was one show called Random As, which was essentially a sketch show, and this sketch was on it. Apologies for the bad quality; there were only two versions on YouTube and both were people aiming their camera at the screen.

And on a more traditional note, here’s another one from King’s College in Cambridge.

As one last holiday video, the quality of this one is pretty terrible, but I’m mostly sharing it for the cloak-swishing. I’m not sure when this was. Hugh Jackman looks very young.

The link-up tool for Mirth and Music Monday is over here, and we would love to have you! Feel free to join in! I’m going to go now, and will probably be back on Wednesday, but in case I don’t see you there, have a wonderful holiday season (whatever you do or don’t celebrate).

~ Emily