Mistletoe Can Be Murder and a #giveaway

I’m so excited that Mistletoe Can Be Murder: Every Wife has a Story, the tenth book in Susan Santangelo’s “funny with point” Baby Boomer Mystery series is out today!

Susan is giving away a copy to one lucky commenter below!

About the Book

Carol Andrews is planning her grandson CJ’s first Christmas down to the last detail. What she didn’t plan for is a furnace fiasco, the unexpected appearance of CJ’s Other Grandmother, Margo, and her new boyfriend, a family feud, a stolen credit card, and murder. When Margo’s boyfriend becomes the police’s chief suspect, Carol is forced to add crime-solving to her holiday to-do list before Santa can come down the chimney.

Take it away, Susan!

Several years ago I attended my first writers’ conference and signed up for an in-person agent critique of my first mystery, Retirement Can Be Murder. Although I was very nervous, I was also secretly confident that my manuscript would dazzle the agent so much that she’d immediately sign me to a long-term contract and discuss the movie rights. After all, my friends had read it and everyone loved it.

Imagine my joy when the agent told me I’d written one of the best opening sentences she’d ever read. I’m sure I had a silly grin on my face, but then she delivered her punch line. “Unfortunately, the sentence is in Chapter 14.”

A teachable moment, for sure. Then she gave me a homework assignment before I went back to my own manuscript. She told me to pick five or six mystery authors whose work I admired and only read the first chapter of their books. I learned a lot from that agent, and I learned even more when I completed her homework assignment.      

Each of my Baby Boomer mysteries starts with the murder. Because I am a pantser, not a plotter, sometimes even I don’t know who the victim is until the plot really starts to develop. 

Here’s the opening of Mistletoe Can Be Murder.

“It was a dark and stormy night. No, that’s not true. It was a dark and freezing night. My husband, Jim and I should have been warm and cozy fast asleep in bed like normal people. But, sad to say, we’re not normal people. We’re dog people. Our lives are ruled by two English cocker spaniels, Lucy and Ethel. When they have doggy needs that must be attended to, no matter what the hour is…I’m sure you get the idea. Which was why, as I explained to the policemen, we happened to be outside in the middle of the night to discover the dead body.”

My own two English cockers, Boomer and Lilly, insisted I use this opening line as an homage to Snoopy, whose writer’s block is the stuff of legends thanks to masterful cartoonist Charles Schultz. Yes, dogs rule in my house, too.

Boomer and Lilly

Recently I happened to overhear (okay, I moved closer so I could properly eavesdrop) a discussion between two patrons in my local library about their reading habits. One said she gives each book 38 pages to hook her into the plot, and if she doesn’t like it by then, she gives up. The other said she gives a book 50 pages. I couldn’t help inserting myself into their conversation and asked if either of them had ever broken their “pages rule” and ended up loving that book after reading more. They both said no. 

Boomer, Lilly and I are now wondering how many other readers have a similar rule.            

Readers: Do you have a similar 38 pages or 50 pages or some number of pages rule? Have you ever broken it and ended up loving the book after reading more? Comment below or simply say “hi” to be entered to win a copy of Mistletoe Can Be Murder.

100 Thoughts

  1. I normally give a book 50 pages but it has only happened twice that I just couldn’t go on reading the book. Mostly I only read books that I know I will like now. Thank you so much for this chance at your giveaway. pgenest57 at aol dot com

    1. I usually choose books to read from an author I’ve read and enjoyed before. But it’s fun to discover someone new. So many good choices these days.

  2. Love this question. Being in a book club means others often choose a book that I just wouldn’t. I promise myself I will read the book. By 20 pages in, I may hate it. But I am in a book club. By 30 pages in, I have totally lost interest. I trudge on. By 50, I am switching to other books. for pleasure. I give it to 60 and then I give myself permission to shelve it!

    1. I gotta confess, Doris. This happens to me, too. I belong to a few book clubs, and sometimes the chosen book of the month is way out of my wheelhouse.

  3. Welcome, Susan, and congratulations on the new book! Sometimes I stop after two or three pages. I can tell by then if the writing isn’t worth my time. And there are SO many books I want to read.

    Glad your agent was helpful to you!

  4. I stop reading a book at any time…even 50 pages from the end. If I become annoyed, I won’t finish it. Life’s too short & there are too many books out there to waste time on something that doesn’t work for me. However…I once started a book for the third time (because I generally love the author plus the book’s premise seemed so strong!) and this time became enthralled somewhere around page 45. I’ve now read it three times and will read it again!

    1. It’s funny you say you tried a book three separate times and ended up loving it. Sometimes putting a book aside for a while — months, even years — makes me look at it again with a whole new mindset.

    2. How cool that you ended up loving the book after three tries! Kind of like going on 2 dates that made you want to go home early, but then you went on a third one and fell madly in love!

  5. Hi Susan! I’ve only recently given myself permission to not finish a book and I’m well into my 6th decade. Must be the parochial school girl in me – finish what you started. Now I acknowledge the book may just not be for me, or it may not be for me at this particular time. Anyway, it gets shelved if I can’t connect. No particular page number, just a feeling. So little time, so many good books out there.
    By the way – I have a grand cat named boomer who was a rescue.
    Best buddy 🐈‍⬛❤️

  6. Susan, congrats on the new book.

    I’m not sure that I have a specific page count that makes or breaks me finishing a book. I’ve read some all the way through that left me unsatisfied. But I had to finish it. Then there were other books that I had to stop reading after a few pages because I wanted to throw the book against the wall and not indulge some kind of masochism by continuing to read.

    I guess it all depends on where my tolerance levels are at the time I am reading any particular book.

  7. Congrats on the new release, Susan! Over the last ten years or so, I’ve found that if a book doesn’t hook me by the time I’m about 25% in, I give up and find something else to read. So many books, and so little time.

  8. I love the color scheme, layout, and illustration on your cover, Susan. Like others, I’ve gotten pickier about what I’ll tolerate. Life’s too short to read books that don’t entertain, inform, and inspire.

    Amazon samples got me over the hump of having to finish what I start. Now I can be in (and if need be, out) in minutes instead of hours.

    1. Thank you so much for the compliment about the book’s cover. I’ve been so lucky to have Cape Cod artist Elizabeth Moisan do the cover art for the series. I love them, and we have such fun planning them. We always try to have the murder weapon on the cover — cleverly disguised in some way so as not to give away the plot.

  9. Hi and congrats! I don’t have a certain number of pages that I will read before giving up on a book. I usually will read it for a good while to see if I will finish it and it turns out I do in the end.

  10. Always the optimist, I always trudge on through with hopes that it will get better or start to make sense with me. Most times it does. Maybe not make it to my favorites list, or one I would highly recommend, but enough so that I don’t feel that my time was wasted. The only time I can think of off hand that I refused to read more than the first few pages was a book I won on Goodreads. No where in the write up and details of the book did it mention foul language or I wouldn’t have signed up to win it. Now I’m not against maybe a word or two if it fits appropriately into the scheme of things, but this was just for the sake of cussing that I could tell. I felt bad and even asked Goodreads what they wanted me to do with the book.

    Can’t wait for the opportunity to read and review “Mistletoe Can Be Murder: Every Wife has a Story”. LOVE the cover and the opening, which had me wanted to continue reading. Thank you for the chance to win a copy. Shared and hoping to be the fortunate one selected.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

    1. I’m not a fan of offensive language in books, either. But every now and then, I think Carol Andrews, my protagonist, who has a mind of her own, may say “damn” now and then. I can’t seem to stop her.

  11. I’ve never counted pages, but have definitely tossed a book aside when not very far into it–generally because I didn’t really care what happened next. Susan’s books are good looking, interesting and funny–and so is Susan! Don’t enter me into the contest. I’ll wait for Susan to come back to Florida and get a signed copy!

  12. Yes, I’ll read a couple chapters before losing interest and no, I’ve never read one where it got better later on. Your pups are adorable!!

    1. An honest answer! Boomer is 12. His AKC registered name is “Life of the Party,” and believe me, he is! Lilly is 7. Her registered name is “My Pulitzer Prize,” for Lilly Pulitzer, whose clothes take up a lot of my closet. I finally have a Pulitzer Prize!

  13. Congratulations on the release of your tenth book, Susan! I read the ARC, and loved it! Can’t say I have a page limit in terms of when I’ll stop reading if a book doesn’t grab me. Sometimes, though, I’ll actually force myself to finish a book out of a Puritanical sense that I should finish what I started. Curious if anyone else has had that experience.

    1. Isn’t it interesting how many readers feel bad if they chose not to finish a book? Including me, sometimes.
      And thank you for your kind words about my series.

  14. Welcome back and congratulations on the new book! I loved the pictures of your dogs! I don’t have reading rules, but I remember reading The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood when it came out. It took me a while to get into and I did end up loving it. I’m reading a book now that I’m interested in the premise but the execution seems slow. I’m trying to decide whether to continue or not.

    1. I seem to recall having trouble with that book, too. thanks for the congratulations. I knew you’d love the dogs. I remember you have a Lily, too, right??? Not spelled the same as mine.

  15. I used to be a “finish it at all costs” reader. Now, I’ve gotten good enough that I can tell after a page or two whether it would be worth buying. Once I’ve bought it, I’m pretty generous as to how far I’ll go before I reach the “nope, can’t do it any more” point. Especially if someone I trust has recommended the book or said it was worth reading.

    The exception is a gratuitous act of sexual violence. Or something I believe the author has shoe-horned in there for a “shock.” I’ll put the book down immediately after that.

    1. I completely agree with you. I won’t read anything that includes sexual violence. Ditto anything that involves violence toward children or animals. Big no no for me. Ugh.

      1. I should clarify “active sexual violence.” I don’t want to see it happening. But if it happened and my sleuth is finding out later (like a cop processing a scene), that’s okay.

        But don’t hurt the dog! LOL

  16. I generally have that rule and have broken it many times. I always think, it’s going to get better and it does.

  17. I’m actually reading “Class Reunions Can be Murder” right now. I just discovered this series, and I am loving it. I actually just stopped reading another book before this one, I just couldn’t get into the plot and the characters. I usually give it a few chapters before giving up.

    1. Karen, I’m so glad you’re enjoying Class Reunions Can Be Murder. i had such a ball researching that book. My own high school is now an assisted living facility for seniors. No kidding! BTW, I attended my own class reunion this past weekend. You’ll be happy to know that no dead bodies were found at the event. Ho ho ho.

  18. I used to be one of those people who felt guilty if I didn’t plod on to the end. No more. Even when a book doesn’t start out too strong, I’ll give it a fair try, but sometimes I get fed up pretty early on. I quit mid first chapter on a book with great reviews. I found it annoying. I later read a review that agreed with me. A couple of times I’ve slogged through a book for a book club, but nowadays, I just go and say that I couldn’t get into it and that’s that. Seriously, don’t think that will happen with y our latest book!

  19. I start by reading the blurb, then a few of the first pages. Flipping to the middle of the book, I read another 2 pages. Finally, I check a page near the end of the book and if it’s still a tedious read, I give up.

    1. Writing the cover blurb is very tough for me. I agonize over each word choice. I applaud your reading system. A very intelligent approach. Thank you.

  20. I was just thinking about how I gave The Da Vinci Code so many pages because of recommendations, but at 90 pages I ended my effort. It was actually getting worse for me.

    1. We’re all different. I have trouble with reading too much description, especially in the first few chapters. Fortunately, there are so many book choices these days — almost overwhelming!

  21. Susan, your dogs are simply gorgeous. I, too, have gotten up in the middle of the night to take the dog outside. Winter, summer, rain, sleet, snow…thunder…name it!

    I do not have a rule about how many pages before I abandon a book. Sometimes I do not finish a book. Occasionally I’ll put one aside for a while. This happened more during the pandemic when I was looking for lighter, funnier stories and found some books a bit too intense, but I intend to finish them this summer. The ones I give up on will have a theme I do not want to read about at all, such as social media terrorizing or will not have a single likeable character. I have stopped reading a series if it becomes too tedious to me or if the author does something to a beloved character that I cannot forgive.

    1. You are my kind of person, for sure! Boomer’s and Lilly’s, too!
      It sounds like you try hard to give each book a fair reading, and thank you.

  22. No, I don ‘t have a number of pages rule. I give the book a fighting chance, ESPECIALLY if it is the first book in a series, because the author has to introduce the characters and give the readers a lot of background information. I have given up on a few books in my lifetime, but it is definitely not my normal way of living.

    1. Love this reply. First books in a series may not be the best books in a series. Sometimes a writer has to get to know his/her characters better, and when that happens, as the series progresses, the writing improves. Thank you for giving a series a chance to mature.

  23. I don’t have a page rule. I’m the oddball who will read the whole book regardless, because I always think, well maybe it will get better. If I read a new series I will give it at least 2 books in before deciding not to read more, since sometimes the first book is so much setup it’s not necessarily an indication of how I’ll feel about the entire series.

  24. Hi Susan, so excited about book 10! Wow, how can that be.

    I don’t have page drop-deads, I read on a Kindle. I also don’t need body drops in the first few pages, but I do need something to catch my interest to keep on reading! Never a problem with the Baby Boomer books – they are marvelous.

  25. I don’t have a rule, and I can only think of a couple of times I didn’t finish a book. Several times, I’ve wound up enjoying a book I was struggling with early on. But, usually, if I struggle near the beginning, I find myself struggling the entire way through. I find I am more nitpicky when I’m not enjoying a book, so that’s part of it.

  26. I do not have a rule about when to abandon a book. I try to finish books for book group discussion even if I don’t care for them, on the rare occasions I give up it’s usually after reading well into the book to give it a chance.

    1. I know what you mean. Sometimes I haven’t finished reading a book club choice because I don’t like it, but I go to the meeting anyway and the discussion is so interesting I pick up the book again and read it with a fresh perspective.

  27. I don’t have a rule, I will stop and maybe try again on another day. I do remember on 3 different occasions and authors I was ready to give it up for another day maybe 4 chapters in, when the story really picked up and I had to give it 5 stars. My review stated that it was important to hang in, because the story improved dramatically after the slow start

    1. I’m glad you’ve found a system that works for you. As I said when I wrote the blog post, the opening of a book is so important. Nobody gets a second chance to make a first impression.

  28. I keep reading, hoping the book will get better. Fortunately, most times it does. For new series, I will read at least the first two, possibly a third before deciding whether to continue the series.

  29. My rule is 50 pages or 3 chapters to “get into” a book. If the story doesn’t grab me, I’ll close the book and put it in my stack to go back to the library. Once in a while I’ll finish a book I’m not really “into” but I’ll never read another in the series. I make a note to myself in my “book file” to not read any more books by that author. Luckily it doesn’t happen very often.

  30. I don’t have a rule of so many pages. If I start reading a book and it hasn’t grabbed me yet, it hasn’t gotten out of the lab as my dad would say, I will give it a little time. When it gets to the point that I have to force myself to pick up the book, much less open it up, I set it aside and move on to something else.I’m glad to say that doesn’t happen very often. Im the same way with movies. It has to get my interest early on or I lose interest altogether.

  31. Hi! I try to choose books I will like. I kind of do the opposite. I am okay not finishing a book is I am not enjoying it, but sometimes, that can mean halfway thru!

  32. I very rarely give up on a book. I’m optimistic and feel like it’s just a slow starter. The last book I gave up on, it was in about 10 pages. There was so many people in the beginning I couldn’t keep them all straight. Maybe some day I’ll try to read again.

    1. I often have trouble keeping track of characters in a book. I appreciate an author including a list that a reader can refer to when there are many names and relationships to keep track of, so I can concentrate on reading the story.

    1. I have a similar rule which I’ve broken only 3 times Out of the Silent Planet by CS Lewis, The Fellowship of the Ring by JRR Tolkien and Lord Foul’s Bane by Stephen R Donaldson. The pace of the story for the first two books took me over a month to get past the first 50 pages (100 for the Fellowship of the Ring), but I endured and came to love the entire series. Lord Foul’s Bane was a completely different problem – I continued in hopes that the story would stop being so grim; I was disappointed (this was back in the day when such titles were only available in specialty book stores, and I bought the books shortly after the bookstore received the titles from the publisher as the title became available). After completing the trilogy, I swore that I will never read anything by the author ever again. Life is too short to be so depressed.

  33. Hello. I have to say that I force myself to finish a book even if it is not my type of book. I keep telling myself that maybe if I read a bit more, I may find something I like. Thank you for sharing. God bless you.

    1. I hope you don’t have to do that very often. I hate to think of readers forcing themselves to finish what should be an enjoyable activity.

  34. Thank you to everyone who commented on my post today. Boomer, Lilly and I learned a lot, and hope we made some new friends along the way. And a huge thank you to the Wickeds for hosting me. I had a great time!

  35. I usually read the whole book not just have a designated page that it has to grab me by.

  36. “My own two English cockers, Boomer and Lilly, insisted I use this opening line as an homage to Snoopy,” I presume at some point a shot rings out, a maid screams and a door slams?
    I will give a disappointing book at least 100 pages. After that my options are a)go into super-speed-reading mode to finish it or b)flip ahead to the last three chapters (I’ve never once done this and cursed myself for skipping the middle section) and c)DNF. Not finishing is rare though.

  37. I usually try and read to the half way point of the book. I have finished a book that started out slow and ended up loving it.

  38. I usually try and read the whole book. I have also read books that started slow and the book picked up and I enjoyed it.

    Thanks for the chance! Love the adorable book cover!

    1. Good for you for keeping on reading and discovering you really are enjoying a book after all!
      Thank you for liking the cover. I do, too! Hope you’ll enjoy the book.

  39. I try to read the whole book but I have given up reading a book after a couple of chapters if I cannot get into it.

  40. I must admit I don’t tend to read maybe 75 pages before I give up. Can’t think of reading any book I stopped reading.

  41. No pages rule, but if something disgusts me early on (mention of pubic hair on page one) I close the book and never return to it.

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