Holiday Reviews: The Christmas Appeal and Tide and Punishment

Posted December 8, 2023 / Book Reviews, Review Roundup / 0 Comments

holiday-review-headerHoliday Reviews: The Christmas Appeal and Tide and PunishmentThe Christmas Appeal by Janice Hallett
Series: The Appeal #1.5
Genres: Adult, Holiday, Mystery/Thriller
Published by Atria on October 24, 2023
Also by this author: The Appeal, The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels
Format: Audiobook (208 pages) • Source: Scribd
GoodreadsAmazon Barnes & Noble
four-stars

This immersive holiday caper from the “modern Agatha Christie” (The Sunday Times, London) follows the hilarious Fairway Players theater group as they put on a Christmas play—and solve a murder that threatens their production.

The Christmas season has arrived in Lower Lockwood, and the Fairway Players are busy rehearsing their festive holiday production of Jack and the Beanstalk to raise money for a new church roof. But despite the season, goodwill is distinctly lacking among the amateur theater enthusiasts with petty rivalries, a possibly asbestos-filled beanstalk, and some perennially absent players behind the scenes.

Of course, there’s also the matter of the dead body onstage. Who could possibly have had the victim on their naughty list? Join lawyers Femi and Charlotte as they investigate Christmas letters, examine emails, and pore over police transcripts to identify both the victim and killer before the curtain closes on their holiday production—for good.

Story

I really enjoyed THE APPEAL when I randomly picked it up last year on a vacation. I couldn’t put it down and found it super addicting due to the mixed media format. (I still haven’t read anything else by Hallett but I have multiple books ready to go on my Kindle!) This was a Christmas novella featuring the same Fairway Players from the initial book. They decided to put on a holiday play of Jack and the Beanstalk using a gross old beanstalk from years and years ago.

The mystery unfolded in a really neat way, much like THE APPEAL. I didn’t figure it out right away but there were definitely a few elements later in the book that I saw coming. It was a pretty fun mystery in general given its length.

Wintery Setting & Holiday Feels

There were somewhat limited holiday feels in this one, partially because of the mixed media format and partially because the content itself wasn’t overly holiday-oriented. I liked the “holiday round robin” emails sent out to set the stage and time of year at the beginning, which also reacquainted us with the characters. The play of Jack and the Beanstalk is not really Christmassy… I think it was necessary for the plot and mystery that comes in later, but A Christmas Carol or literally any other holiday play would have upped the seasonal feels for me.

Overall

I really enjoyed this one, and think the audiobook was done well! I’d recommend readers of THE APPEAL go ahead and check it out… especially if you need a novella to help you reach your Goodreads goal 😉 I liked being back in this world and seeing the drama unfold around the holidays. Some of it was really funny and the whole mystery was intriguing.

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Holiday Reviews: The Christmas Appeal and Tide and PunishmentTide and Punishment by Bree Baker
Series: Seaside Café Mystery #3
Genres: Adult, Mystery/Thriller
Published by Poisoned Pen Press on September 24, 2019
Also by this author: Live and Let Chai , No Good Tea Goes Unpunished
Format: Audio/Physical (384 pages) • Source: Hoopla, Purchased
GoodreadsAmazon Barnes & Noble
four-stars

No one dreams of a killer Christmas...

It's Christmastime in Charm, North Carolina, and while Everly Swan would prefer to focus on decorating her iced tea shop for its first holiday season, Great-Aunt Fran has decided to run for mayor against her long-time nemesis. But when the other candidate turns up dead just before the first scheduled debate, all eyes turn to Fran as the suspect with the most obvious motive.

Everly knows her sweet, elderly Aunt Fran couldn't have murdered anyone, but as she struggles to find the real killer, it begins to seem like this may be the last merry Christmas her family may ever have.

Story

This series continues to impress me, honestly! Cozy mysteries are a new and fun subgenre on my TBR but they can be so hit-or-miss. Many are too cheesy and I can’t get through them. However, the Seaside Cafe series has been lovely and solid so far. I think all three books now are four-star reads for me, which is all I could ask for from a cozy mystery series!

TIDE AND PUNISHMENT follows Everly and the rest of the town as they prepare for the holiday season. There was lots of baking and discussion of seasonal treats in this one. The mayor is unexpectedly murdered during Everly’s holiday party and her Aunt Fran, who is running against him, is the main suspect. I started to figure this one out toward the end because the red herrings were a bit obvious but overall I don’t think these are AS predictable as other cozies.

Wintery Setting & Holiday Feels

Charm, NC is not a place where you’d expect to see a lot of snow, but the author decided to have a freak snowstorm hit the town in time for this Christmas story 😉 I was definitely here for it! It had the same island charm as the first couple of books but added holiday feels, especially with snow added.

The book takes place in the leadup to the holidays and I think the final chapters/epilogue happen on Christmas Eve? I enjoyed the town traditions of the holiday multi-course meal around town and the frequent descriptions of holiday decor and cheer. It wasn’t overly holiday-oriented where I would have not enjoyed reading it in March, for example, but I was glad I waited until December to read it this year.

Overall

Like I said, it worked out really well that the holiday-themed book was up next for me in this series right around November/December. The holiday feels weren’t intense but the ambiance was definitely there in general. If it’s not clear already, I would definitely recommend this series for those looking for less cheesy cozy mysteries with a cute setting. My only real complaints are Everly’s obsessions with her weight and weight loss, and the fact that she gets a concussion in every book lol.

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