Thursday, December 31, 2020

FAREWELL 2020 AND WELCOME 2021


HAPPY NEW YEAR! The year 2020 will go down in history for many reasons. I, for one, am optimistic that 2021 will bring an end to the pandemic, at least relieving one of the factors that has contributed to a rough last 9 months.  Aside from the pandemic and the economic and political aftermath, we've dealt with fires, extreme weather conditions, and violence. Also, in August 2020, I retired from my full-time job (though with lots to catch up on and working remotely to do that, it doesn't seem that way. Yet). For all these reasons, I've decided to look ahead, instead of back. 

My goals (not resolutions) for 2021:

  • Be kind. Do something nice for someone, pay it forward, make someone else smile.
  • Be productive. Keep writing and reading and remembering to leave reviews for books I read. No set words/day. Keep moving forward. 
  • Think positive. I'm a sucker for a happy ending.
  • Stay in touch with people I care about. It is too easy, with everything remote these days, to become isolated. Safe, not satisfying. 
  • Work on the travel bucket list (once safe to travel again) - this was a big part of the retirement plan, and has now been postponed until probably June or July, with Bouchercon in August in New Orleans. It's important to have something to look forward to.
  • Strive to be healthy. COVID-19 has made it too easy to eat and sleep. Need to engage in a more healthy lifestyle.
  • Continue to engage with readers and other writers in a variety of ways - maybe even figure out instagram on a mac?
Most of all, as we move into a new year, wishing all peace, good health, and good will toward others, despite differences.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Book Review: THE MOST MAJESTIC CRIME OF THE YEAR - MISSING MASTERPIECE: A Massanutten Tale (The Artzy Chicks Book 5) by Judith Lucci

Synopsis

The gun-toting Artzy Chicks, Lily and LauraLea are off on another adventure. This time, they’ll leave Massanutten Mountain behind to venture off to uncharted waters. Uncharted for them anyway. Flying to London was the easy part. Their newest creation, The Majestic Norway, had been selected for auction aboard a prestigious cruise ship bound for Norway. They’d planned to sit back, relax, and enjoy the tranquil atmosphere. Maybe even check off one of their bucket-list items and view the spectacular northern lights. As usual, things didn’t go as expected. Amid suspicious Vikings, irate security guards, and a terrified cruise staff, LauraLea is missing her gun within hours of departure. What have they gotten themselves into this time?

Review

Lily and LauraLea have landed a great venue to show off their creation of Majestic Norway, a three piece panorama of the Aurora Borealis against the magnificent landscape and mountains of Norway. It is a mixed media creation with layers of different forms from jewels to metals on top of paint. It's to be auctioned off on the cruise with part of the funds donated to help animals in Australia. A visitor to their (LauraLea's) gallery in Massanutten Mountain takes a picture and they're featured in an art magazine. All of this is a dream come true, until it isn't.

Initial concern over whether the three pieces will make it to the cruise ship is replaced with consternation when the original is stolen off the ship and not-so-good replica is put in its place. In between arguing with ship security, Norway police, and Lily's well-placed phone calls to her FBI friend, Roger, the ladies get to see and enjoy parts of the Norway cruise. Then all the other mixed media works are stolen from the gallery at home.

Both ladies have strong personalities, and though they are gun-toting in their home town, they are gun-less, but not gut-less in Norway. There is drama, humor, and the mystery on two continents, with expected twists and surprises. As they try to enjoy the cruise, the reader gets a taste of Norway and some of the sights, like the Viking, make sense as the story comes together.  

This is the fifth in the Artzy Chicks series, but my first. It can easily be read as a standalone. If you enjoy cozy mystery, and yearn to travel without leaving your house, you will enjoy Lily and LauraLea's adventure. 

Thursday, December 24, 2020

HAPPY HOLIDAYS, MERRY CHRISTMAS, HAPPY KWANZAA Seasonal Reads

From my home to yours, may your  holiday season be healthy and happy, regardless of what you celebrate or observe. Many people are not traveling or celebrating in the same way they did last year. Many have an empty seat at the table. Regardless of the reason for the gathering, we're all in similar situations. As a reader, I "escaped" the pandemic and the confines through books. What about you?

Here are some of the seasonal books I've spotted this year that caught my fancy. Most are Christmas cozies. Feel free to leave your favorites in the comments! (I'll add them to my TBR list for next year!)


Monday, December 21, 2020

Book Review: THE WORST NOEL : Juniper Junction Holiday Mysteries #1 by Amy M Reade

 Synopsis

Christmas is supposed to be a time of peace, love, and joy, but for Lilly Carlsen, this Christmas is murder. As a single mom, small business owner, and president of the local Chamber of Commerce, the last thing she needs is to find a dead body on the floor of her jewelry shop on the busiest shopping day of the year. And as if that isn't enough, Lilly has to deal with a deadbeat ex-husband, a mother with declining mental health, and two teenagers. But when a second body turns up, Lilly finds herself squarely in the crosshairs of suspicion. Can she figure out who killed the victims before she becomes one herself? And will her family's Christmas be merry...or scary?

Review

Jewelry designer and creator, Lilly Carlsen, is all set to open for Black Friday sales when she discovers her back door open, the jewelry vault open, and a dead body in her showroom, strangled with Lilly's strand of pearls. And the victim, Eden, and Lilly had recently argued. It's a good thing her brother, David, is on the police force, though she doesn't always listen to him. Or her best friend, Noley. Then the another retailer she disagreed with is killed as well. She's the obvious suspect for both. Thankfully, there is a lack of hard evidence as well as other suspects. 

Along with the two murders, there's the budding romance of her daughter, Lauren, the unwelcome return of her ex, Beau, who deserted fifteen years before, the increasing dementia of her mother, and the sudden attention of the Asian gem digger and his family, visiting the Colorado Rockies for their extended vacation. There's a touch of humor, family conflict, and twists and turns to keep the reader guessing. 

I liked Lilly, even if she sometimes needed to not be so honest, as well as Noley and the rest of the family, and Hassan. The pace is steady and it comes together naturally at the end, with a surprise or two. An enjoyable read for the holiday season.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Release Day! WINE AND DEAD, ANOTHER MURDER : A Sheridan Hendley Cozy Mystery by Christa Nardi


 Synopsis

Wine tasting, murder, and more. 

A murder and a toxic substance in a vineyard would spell doom for the manager of any winery. And when that manager is a woman, a rarity in the wine industry, people are quick to place the blame on her shoulders. Even though Sheridan's husband, Brett, and his partner are already on the case, the amateur sleuth, is quick to jump in. In her search for clues, Sheridan and her friends explore the offerings at several nearby vineyards, where they discover more than great wine. 

Join Sheridan, Brett, and their friends as they explore the wine country and solve intertwined mysteries.

*This is the fifth in the Sheridan Hendley cozy mysteries. The mysteries are solved in each book; the relationships and the characters continue from book to book. 

GIVEAWAY - Leave a comment on this post and one lucky person will receive a free e-copy of this book. Enter before 12/24/2020!

AMAZON

Read an excerpt:

CHAPTER 1                                                                                                                                                  I was startled awake when my husband, Brett McMann, catapulted out of bed after an early morning call from his partner, James Fabry. With both detectives assigned to the Appomattox Field Office for the Virginia State Police, something major must have happened and warranted not one, but both of them. Worried about their safety, I felt out of sorts. My Sheltie, Charlie, hovered near the door, her tail wagging.                                                                                                                                “Come on, Charlie. We need to shake off the funk and get Maddie up and out the door.” I shook my upper body for effect and to loosen tense muscles. Walking past Maddie’s room, I opened the door a crack and Charlie did the rest, with Bella, a lab mix, helping out. Maddie’s initial shriek and then her laughter followed me to the kitchen. When Brett and I married, I instantly became mom to his teenaged daughter.                                                                                                                                       With Brett called out so early, I turned on the television to the local news as I made coffee and threw together the batter for simple apple crepes for breakfast. The aroma of the coffee and the prospect of much needed caffeine perked me up as I divided my attention between the screen and the crepes. Charlie and Bella joined me and headed straight for the back door. After letting them out, I got them food and fresh water.                                                                                                                     Hearing the door to the bathroom close, I started the crepes cooking. Distracted by a news update, the first one burned. Only politics. By the time Maddie trudged to the kitchen table, two light golden crepes filled with apple and cinnamon, and sprinkled with confectioner sugar, awaited her.                     Maddie whistled. “Morning, Sheridan. Fancy. Dad gone already?”                                                         “Yup.” I glanced at the television screen, reading the crawler on the bottom. “Fabry called around 6 o’clock and your dad bolted. Nothing on the local news so far. Might not be local.”                                 Maddie finished eating, grabbed her back pack, and was gone. I cleaned up the mess, showered, and collected my book bag. The weather was clear and surprisingly brisk for May in Virginia as I stepped outside. Opening my car windows, I hoped the fresh air would invigorate me as I drove to Lynchburg and Millicent College where I taught part time.                                                                         Even as my mind wandered, I caught the radio announcer announcement of an incident that could affect the many wineries on the popular wine trail near Lynchburg. The immediate cut to music made me scream and slam my hands on the steering wheel. As I continued my way west from Appomattox, I recalled what I knew of the wineries in the area. A wine drinker, I had noticed the sign for the DeVault Family Vineyards many times as I drove to Millicent College, though we’d never been there.                                                                                                                                                             When I lived in Cold Creek, people had commented on all the wineries from Charlottesville south to Roanoke and even close to North Shore where my best friend, Kim Pennzel, and I would go for dinner. Funny, Kim and I had talked about wine tours many times over the five years I lived there, yet we never did any of them.                                                                                                                           I smiled as it occurred to me a winery tour and tasting might be fun. Depending on what else was available at the winery, it might be a good setting for a pre-wedding party for Kim and Marty. As I approached Lynchburg and turned toward Millicent College, my mind shifted to my work day until the radio announcer prompted his colleague for updates.                                                                           “Jake, any updates on the incident at the Cantina Saracena Winery?”                                                     “All we know at this point is that the State Police arrived early this morning. Part of US 29 North is closed near Bedford. If that’s your usual way to work, you’ll need to use 29 Business instead. I’ll check back with any updates on the hour.”                                                                                                 The station immediately cut back to music and I groaned, my tension mixed with frustration. That was probably where Brett and Fabry went this morning. I pulled into the Millicent College faculty parking lot and smiled. Surely, this close to the college, someone would have heard the scuttlebutt on whatever the “incident” might be. My curiosity piqued.                                                                              It didn’t take long for me to find Leah Buxbaum. She was a faculty member in psychology as well. My adjunct office was next to hers and she loved coffee and mysteries almost as much as I did. In the short time I’d been at Millicent, we’d become friends. Although, as always, she was dressed conservatively, her blonde curls were loose instead of tied back.                                                               “Morning, Leah. I like the new hairdo.” My dark brown tresses hung straight and I regretted not taking the time to add some curl.                                                                                                                 “Thanks. Did you catch the news? The body found at the Cantina Saracena Winery?”                           A possible murder nearby explained Brett’s early call and as an amateur sleuth, my interest grew.       “Wow. All I got from the radio was some kind of ‘incident’ at the winery. How far from here is that?”                                                                                                                                                             “It’s the closest and the newest winery on the wine trail. It only opened last year. If I remember correctly, the same family has another one somewhere north of here and was able to bring in stock from there, while they got the vines in. It will be at least three years before the new vines yield grapes for their wine.”                                                                                                                                 “That’s a long time. Why would they extend their reach like that?”                                                         “Location is everything. And this winery is about halfway between the Lazy Days Winery and the DeVault Family Vineyards this side of Lynchburg. And not too far from a few other wineries west of Lynchburg and south.”                                                                                                                                  Geography not being my strong suit, I shrugged. “Where is that from here?”                                       “If you go north from here on 29, Amherst is about thirty minutes from here, but the turn for the Cantina is only about fifteen or twenty minutes away. The signage is pretty good and you head east about ten minutes and you’re there. If you keep going past Amherst, you’ll arrive at the Lazy Days Winery. A few others up there are part of wine trail trips running at different times of the year.”             “Huh. Now, that sounds like fun. Have you ever gone on one?”                                                             “Many years ago. A bunch of us did the four-winery tour. The Cantina hadn’t opened and I’ve never been there. I understand they have a small bed-and-breakfast and a cafĂ©. Not just the wine tasting and maybe a tour.”                                                                                                                            “We may have to check it out.” Wine is good and a murder provided a puzzle to solve, a challenge.                                                                                                                                                      She laughed. “I have to run.” She grabbed her papers and files, as did I. Worried, I took my phone in case Brett called or a new update came in.

Excerpt from Wine and Dead, Another Murder. Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Book Review: A CHRISTMAS WISH A Sweet Small Town Christmas Romance (Sapphire Bay #3) by Leeanna Morgan

'Tis the season and here's a Christmas romance with a bit of suspense. Be sure to have tissues handy...

Synopsis
Can a little girl's Christmas wish come true? 

After a tragic accident, Megan Stevenson is determined to give Nora, her five-year-old niece, a loving and stable home. With her fantasy cake business thriving and her niece’s nightmares finally over, her life is more stable than it has ever been--until a stranger knocks on her door. FBI Special Agent William Parker knows what it’s like to lose the people you love. He’s convinced himself that his job is all he needs to be happy. But while he's protecting Megan and Nora from a brutal terrorist group, his emotionless and solitary life is torn to shreds. 

With Christmas fast approaching, can Megan and Nora convince him that it’s safe to love again…even if loving them is harder than letting them go? A CHRISTMAS WISH is the third book in the Sapphire Bay series and can easily be read as a standalone. Each of Leeanna's series are linked so you can find out what happens to your favorite characters in other books. Happy reading!

Review
The romance builds as William does his job and protects Megan and Nora from terrorists and helps her deal with the discovery that she was adopted. Moving them from Milwaukee to a house in Sapphire Bay, Montana is the best way to keep them safe. 

The characters, from Megan and Nora to William, and others in the town of Sapphire Bay are well-developed. Five year old Nora, with her rag doll and exuberance is the best. She definitely made me smile. Both Megan and William have history that obstructs a smooth romance and both try to deal with their own issues. Then, there is the danger that brings them together. 

I loved the town of Sapphire Bay and the sledding and decorating for Christmas. It sounds like a great place to unwind with community spirit. And the cakes and cookies Megan makes sound oh, so yummy! Lots of emotional scenes, a few scares, and a happy ever after. As noted above, have tissues handy. A good read for the holidays, for sure, with new meaning for "family" and "home."

This is the third in the Sapphire Bay series and the first one I've read. It can be easily read as a stand alone, though I will be checking out the others in the series now. Oh, and it's FREE,
as of today at least!

Falling for You (Sapphire Bay #1)
Once in a Lifetime (Sapphire Bay #2)
Before Today (Sapphire Bay #4)
The Sweetest Thing (Sapphire Bay #5)

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07JFZLBC9
Psst! It looks like there's a spin-off series coming in 2021 - Return to Sapphire Bay)

For all the books by Leeana Morgan, check out her amazon author page here.

Monday, December 7, 2020

Blog Tour Spotlight : Erin's Children by Eileen O'Finlan

Today, we have a definite change of pace. The spotlight is on historical fiction that captures unrest and wars in both the US and Ireland... 


 

About Erin's Children

 
In 1851 Irish Famine survivor, Meg O'Connor, buys passage to America for her younger sister, Kathleen, and arranges employment for her as a maid. Kathleen's feisty spirit soon puts her at odds with her employers, the bigoted and predatory Pratts. Driven from their home, Kathleen ends up on a wild adventure taking her to places she could never have imagined.

As a domestic servant in the Worcester, Massachusetts home of the kindly Claprood family, Meg enjoys a life beyond her wildest imaginings. Yet she must keep her marriage to Rory Quinn a secret. Rory, still in Ireland, eagerly awaits the day he will join her. But as the only jobs open to Irish men pay poorly, Rory's imminent arrival threatens to plunge her back into dire poverty.

On the eve of the Civil War, while America is being rent asunder by the fight over slavery, Irish Catholics wage their own war with the growing anti-immigrant Know Nothing party. Through grave doubts, dangers, and turmoil, Meg and Kathleen must rely on their faith and the resilient bonds of sisterhood to survive and claim their destinies in a new and often hostile land. 

About Eileen O’Finlan

Eileen O’Finlan writes historical fiction, telling the stories on history’s margins, the things rarely taught in the classroom. For her, that’s where history really gets fun. Her promise to her readers is to craft stories that will thoroughly immerse them in another time and place.

Born in Springfield, Massachusetts, her family moved to Worcester when she was two. Four years later they moved to Holden where Eileen grew up and where she now resides.

Eileen holds a Bachelor’s degree in history and a Master’s Degree in Pastoral Ministry. She works full time for the Diocese of Worcester and teaches online courses in Catholic studies for the University of Dayton, Ohio. Erin's Children is her second novel and the sequel to her debut novel, Kelegeen. 

Author Links 

Purchase Links 

Amazon B&N 

a Rafflecopter giveaway 

TOUR PARTICIPANTS 

December 7 – I'm All About Books – SPOTLIGHT 
December 7 – Sapphyria's Book Reviews – SPOTLIGHT 
December 8 – Ascroft, eh? – CHARACTER INTERVIEW 
December 8 – Christa Reads and Writes – SPOTLIGHT 
December 9 – StoreyBook Reviews – GUEST POST 
December 9 – Baroness' Book Trove - SPOTLIGHT 
December 10 – Christy's Cozy Corners – AUTHOR INTERVIEW 
December 10 – Thoughts in Progress – SPOTLIGHT 
December 11 – MJB Reviewers – SPOTLIGHT 
December 11 – Books a Plenty Book Reviews – REVIEW 
December 12 – I Read What You Write – GUEST POST 
December 12 – My Journey Back – CHARACTER GUEST POST 
December 13 – Literary Gold – CHARACTER GUEST POST 
December 14 – eBook Addicts – SPOTLIGHT 
December 14 – Diane Reviews Books – CHARACTER GUEST POST 
December 15 – Mysteries with Character – AUTHOR INTERVIEW 
December 15 – Author Elena Taylor's Blog – CHARACTER INTERVIEW 
December 16 – Celticlady's Reviews – SPOTLIGHT 
December 16 – Sapphyria's Book Reviews – SPOTLIGHT 



Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Book Review : Christmas cozy... Organized for Christmas Wishes (Organized Mysteries)

In the spirit of the season, I have a number of Christmas books and novellas to share with you, starting with this one. 


About Organized for Christmas Wishes

Christmas is days away, but a puzzling mystery leaves residents in Hazelton, Vermont wondering about more than what presents are wrapped and under the tree... 

Kate & Meg are making their lists and checking them twice, trying to finish all their Christmas tasks on time and stress free. However, things take an unexpected turn when they find a mystery in their hometown. 

This year, there's a Secret Santa who's keeping everyone wondering who the mysterious benefactor is, why the goodwill is suddenly coming to town, and if more surprises are on the way. What is this benefactor's true motive? There might not be a murder to solve this time, but there is a festive mystery that grows bigger each day--and the organizing duo keep a-sleuthing... 

Organized for Christmas Wishes is a holiday novelette in the popular Organized Mysteries series from USA TODAY bestselling author Ritter Ames. The series features a small town New England setting and interesting characters, along with humor, strong family and friendship ties, and absorbing cozy mysteries.

Review

Kate and Meg have their hands full with the cookie exchange - one larger than I've ever heard of. This was a fun "mystery" and Ted is an interesting character. There are a few not so fun characters, and the twins, Sam and Suze, add to the family friendly story of kindness without recognition.  If you've enjoyed the "Organized" series, you will like this one. New to the series? No worries. This is easily read as a stand-alone, and will give you a taste of the characters. Beware, though, you might get hooked and have to read the rest! Best yet? This short Christmas story is FREE.

Amazon

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Blog Tour and Review: ON DEADLY TIDES : A Penny Brannigan Mystery by Elizabeth J. Duncan

About On Deadly Tides

With a picturesque black and white lighthouse, pebble beaches and stunning views of sea and mountains, the island of Anglesey off the coast of North Wales is the perfect place for an idyllic mid-summer painting holiday. 
And watercolour artist, businesswoman, and amateur sleuth Penny Brannigan is enjoying the retreat enormously - until she discovers the body of a New Zealand journalist on a secluded beach just as the tide is going out, threatening to take the body with it. 

The post mortem reveals the victim died from injuries "consistent with a fall from a great height," and the death is ruled accidental. But Penny thinks there's more to the story. Curious how the victim came to such an untimely end at this most inhospitable spot, she uncovers a link to a mysterious disappearance several years earlier. 

And as her holiday romance with a wildlife photographer turns to love, she learns some truths about herself, too, that surprise her. 

As the winds of change blow through Penny's own life, she sets sail on a friendly tide for a future she never dreamed possible, in a beautiful place she never imagined. 

Review

A quaint Welsh village, artists, and a murder. Penny normally is a businesswoman, partner in a spa in her home town. She and a friend travel to Anglesy to paint and get feedback from an actor turned artist. Their first night in town, they meet Colin, a wildlife photographer, and a young journalist from New Zealand who's there to interview the famous actor, get some good photos, and look into a possible murder. Penny stumbles on the dead body the next morning. That, her curiosity, and her existing relationship with Bethan, the detective for the area, lead her to disentangling the relationships and hostilities that resulted in this person's death.

The characters are well developed and there is sufficient back story of Penny's prior experiences with murder and Bethan to give her credence without being excessive. The island village of Anglesy sounds lovely, a place I'd like to visit some day. The pace is steady with unexpected discoveries that keep the story moving. If you're a fan of British cozy mysteries, you'll enjoy Penny 
Brannigan's latest adventure. Although part of a series, this is easily read as a stand alone. 

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book in the hopes that I would post an honest review. This has not affected the content of my review in any way.

  
About Elizabeth J. Duncan


A two-time winner of the Bloody Words (Bony Blithe) Award for Canada’s best light mystery, Elizabeth J. Duncan is the author of two series: the Penny Brannigan mysteries set in North Wales and Shakespeare in the Catskills featuring costume designer Charlotte Fairfax. A former journalist, public relations practioner, and college professor, Elizabeth is a faculty member of the Humber School for Writers. She divides her time between Toronto, Canada and Llandudno, North Wales.

Author Links 
Twitter: @elizabethduncan 

Purchase Links 


TOUR PARTICIPANTS 

November 27 – I'm All About Books – SPOTLIGHT 
November 27 – Books a Plenty Book Reviews – REVIEW 
November 28 – I Read What You Write – CHARACTER GUEST POST 
November 28 – MJB Reviewers – SPOTLIGHT 
November 29 – Author Elena Taylor's Blog – AUTHOR INTERVIEW 
November 29 – Christa Reads and Writes – REVIEW 
November 30 – eBook Addicts – SPOTLIGHT 
November 30 – My Reading Journeys – REVIEW 
December 1 – Ruff Drafts – GUEST POST 
December 1 – Mystery Thrillers and Romantic Suspense Reviews – SPOTLIGHT December 2 – The Book's the Thing – REVIEW 
December 2 – Thoughts in Progress – SPOTLIGHT 
December 2 – Island Confidential – SPOTLIGHT 
December 2 – Reading, Writing & Stitch-Metic – SPOTLIGHT 
December 3 – Ascroft, eh? – CHARACTER INTERVIEW 
December 3 – Baroness' Book Trove – REVIEW 
December 3 – The Pulp and Mystery Shelf – SPOTLIGHT 
December 4 – Christy's Cozy Corners – GUEST POST 
December 4 – Sapphyria's Book Reviews – SPOTLIGHT 
December 5 – Literary Gold – CHARACTER GUEST POST 
December 5 – StoreyBook Reviews – SPOTLIGHT 
December 6 – Celticlady's Reviews – SPOTLIGHT 
December 6 – Brooke Blogs – SPOTLIGHT 

 





Wednesday, November 25, 2020

GIVING THANKS


For those of us in the US and Canada, today is the celebration of Thanksgiving. It is a time to celebrate the harvest and the blessings of the past year. Americans traditionally model the festivities based on historical descriptions of a harvest feast shared by the pilgrims who settled in Plymouth and Wampanoag people who lived there before the pilgrims. Although not sharing a language, these two groups of people shared food and friendship.

I'm not sure if the pilgrims and Wampanoag people truly ate turkey and dressing, cranberry sauce, and potatoes. Having lived in different regions of the US, I've discovered that what constitutes the Thanksgiving meal, aside from the turkey, varies considerably, handed down within families and then blended with other family's traditions. But one thing stays the same. The idea of giving thanks.

This year has been a stressful one, not just here, but worldwide. A pandemic, weather systems that have broken records, massive fires, economic upheaval, and unrest. Yet, there are still things to be thankful for:


  • The continued efforts and dedication of our first responders and health care workers who have given so much
  • The resilience and adaptability of people and businesses, including schools and colleges, to come up with innovative means to meet needs from telehealth to shipping and delivery
  • The scientists and the volunteers who are working hard on developing a vaccine and better approaches to reduce the spread of COVID-19
  • The health and well-being of my family, friends, and colleagues, providing support and laughs as we all deal with cabin fever
  • As always, I give thanks to my fellow authors for their encouragement, and, of course, to my readers. What are you thankful for?

BEST WISHES FOR A HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

(or a happy Thursday if you don't celebrate Thanksgiving)

Ever wonder about the tradition of Black Friday? Check it out here: https://www.history.com/news/whats-the-real-history-of-black-friday

In the spirit of the holiday season... 

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Blog Tour and Book Review: THE LIGHT CATCHER MURDERS A Kate Atherton Mystery by Jo Cassie McRae

  

About The Light Catcher Murders

 

Kate Atherton’s idyllic retirement is going well…if you don’t count the two murders, the mysterious drone, and her photographer friend who manages to poke a hornet’s nest of criminal activity, that is.Nestled in the scenic Texas Hill Country, the cozy town of Wheaton Creek seemed to Kate Atherton an idyllic place to escape the world’s harsh realities. And then there was the first murder.

Kate once enjoyed a long, successful career with a specialized, highly secret federal intelligence agency. Crises in both her personal and professional life drove her to early retirement and, ultimately, to Wheaton Creek, the perfect place for her and her former-military husband to escape what had come to feel like a world made up of wars, hatred, fear, and untimely death. And, at first, the escape was all Kate had hoped for. Then murder came to Wheaton Creek—a crime that a corrupt county sheriff seems determined to pin on Kate’s photographer friend, Lucy Celek. 

Lucy’s work has been chosen to appear at a prestigious photography festival, a festival that could take her from amateur to professional standing. All goes well until the gallery displaying her work is broken into, and one of Lucy’s photographs is vandalized. A week later, the man Lucy suspected of destroying her photograph—a fellow photographer who was angry that his own work was not chosen by the festival committee—is murdered. Faced with a sheriff who shows little interest in expanding his list of suspects beyond Lucy, Kate feels she must dust off her puzzle-solving skills to find the real killer. Murder is just the beginning, though, as Kate’s amateur sleuthing begins to reveal a tangled web of crimes that go beyond anything she could have imagined.

Review

This was an interesting read with potentially two related mysteries, an artist (Lucy) who managed to photograph something worth ruining her showcase photograph, Kate's sleuthing, a potentially corrupt sheriff, and a deputy Kate trusts. She and her husband get involved to find additional suspects in a competitor's death. As the story unfolds, the accidentally photographed activity and use of a drone to gain more information take on growing importance. Time is of the essence. 

Like most cozy mysteries, this book revolves around friends in a small town. The characters are well-developed, with unique personalities that fit their role in the story. Kate may be retired and many may not know her background, but I suspect she will continue to find mysteries to solve. The pace speeds up quickly and maintains the quicker pace to the resolution. If you like cozy mystery with twists and turns, you'll enjoy this one. 

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book in the hopes that I would post an honest review. This has not affected the content of my review in any way.


About Jo Cassie McRae

Jo Cassie McRae is a native Texan who has lived near Austin on the edge of the Texas Hill country for over 30 years. In addition to writing, McRae loves to read, garden, and cook. Like Kate Atherton (The Light Catcher Murders), McRae’s bookshelves overflow with history books, biographies, historical fiction, and mystery novels. Unlike Kate, McRae does not have a mysterious, secret former career, having worked instead as a rather ordinary legal assistant at an Austin law firm.

Author Links
Purchase Link - Amazon 


TOUR PARTICIPANTS 
November 17 – I Read What You Write- SPOTLIGHT WITH EXCERPT 
November 18 – My Journey Back – SPOTLIGHT 
November 18 – Brooke Blogs – SPOTLIGHT 
November 19 – I'm All About Books – SPOTLIGHT 
November 20 – My Reading Journeys – REVIEW 
                        WITH EXCERPT 
November 21 – StoreyBook Reviews – SPOTLIGHT 
November 22 – Christa Reads and Writes – REVIEW 
November 22 – Sapphyria's Book Reviews – SPOTLIGHT 
November 23 – FUONLYKNEW – SPOTLIGHT 
November 24 – Reading, Writing & Stitch-Metic - SPOTLIGHT WITH EXCERPT 
November 25 – Reading Is My SuperPower – REVIEW 
November 25 – Literary Gold – SPOTLIGHT WITH EXCERPT 
November 26 – THANKSGIVING U.S. 
November 27 – Christy's Cozy Corners – SPOTLIGHT 
November 28 – Diane Reviews Books – SPOTLIGHT 
November 29 – Cassidy's Bookshelves- REVIEW 
November 30 – Here's How It Happened – SPOTLIGHT 

 

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Blog Tour Spotlight : DEAD OF WINTER BREAK A Cassandra Sato Mystery by Kelly Brakenhoff

About Dead of Winter Break
It's beginning to look a lot like murder . . . And Cassandra is knee deep in . . . 

Suspects. Her boss is dead, and the police are calling it burglary gone wrong. But when the killer comes after her, it's going to take more than a pair of furry boots to keep the smart, witty Morton College administrator, Cassandra Sato, out of the deep. . . 
Snow. Her first Christmas in Nebraska could be her last unless her friends help unravel the mystery and housebreak her dog. 

Buy now for a fast-paced, holiday themed whodunit. 

Dead of Winter Break is the third book in Kelly Brakenhoff's popular Cassandra Sato Mystery Series. Death by Dissertation was a 2020 RONE Award Finalist. Publishers Weekly called Dead Week, "a diverting whodunit."

About Kelly Brakenhoff
 
KELLY BRAKENHOFF writes the Cassandra Sato Mystery series including DEATH BY DISSERTATION, a 2020 RONE Award Mystery Finalist, DEAD WEEK, "a diverting whodunit," (Publishers Weekly), and DEAD OF WINTER BREAK available in November 2020.   Kelly is an American Sign Language Interpreter whose motivation for learning ASL began in high school when she wanted to converse with her deaf friends. NEVER MIND and FARTS MAKE NOISE, her children’s picture books featuring Duke the Deaf Dog and illustrated by her sister, Theresa Murray, have quickly become popular with children, parents, and educators for promoting inclusive conversations about children with differences.   The mother of four young adults and a German Wirehair Pointer, Kelly and her husband call Nebraska home. 

Author Links:


Purchase Link 



TOUR PARTICIPANTS 

November 16 – I'm All About Books – SPOTLIGHT 
November 16 – Maureen's Musings – SPOTLIGHT 
November 17 – Sneaky the Library Cat's Blog – CHARACTER INTERVIEW 
November 17 – Sapphyria's Book Reviews – SPOTLIGHT 
November 18 – Socrates Book Reviews- RECIPE 
November 18 – Island Confidential – REVIEW 
November 19 – Baroness' Book Trove – SPOTLIGHT 
November 19 – Christa Reads and Writes – SPOTLIGHT 
November 20 – Ascroft, eh? – AUTHOR INTERVIEW 
November 21 – I Read What You Write - GUEST POST 
November 21 – Books a Plenty Book Reviews - REVIEW, CHARACTER INTERVIEW 
November 22 – Cozy Up With Kathy – CHARACTER GUEST POST 
November 23 – Christy's Cozy Corners – GUEST POST 
November 24 – Book Club Librarian - REVIEW 
November 25 – Reading, Writing & Stitch-Metic - SPOTLIGHT 
November 26 – Mysteries with Character – GUEST POST 
November 27 – Literary Gold – CHARACTER GUEST POST 
November 27 – Diane Reviews Books – SPOTLIGHT 
November 28 – This Is My Truth Now – REVIEW 
November 29 – Brooke Blogs -SPOTLIGHT   

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Book Review: IT'S STEELE CHRISTMAS : A Lacy Steele Christmas Novella by Vanessa Gray Bartal

Synopsis

Christmas is fast approaching and Lacy Steele is nowhere near ready. Not only does she not have a gift for Jason, despite several failed attempts to make one, but she volunteered to host a Christmas party she accidentally forgot to plan. As she's distracted trying to find the perfect gift for him, Jason is meanwhile immersed in a baffling mystery of his own. All over town, ugly little handmade dolls have popped up in the unlikeliest of places. No one knows if the dolls are supposed to be lovable or creepy. Worse, they all look like they were made by someone who has no idea how to knit, someone a lot like Lacy Steele. Investigating her has never been fun, and she doesn't make it easier with her cryptic hints and frequent disappearances. When the truth is finally revealed, will Jason have to make an arrest or will Christmas finally soften his law-loving heart?

Review

This is a blast of Christmas cheer with a mystery to boot. Between Lacy and her brother, and a few friends, she manages to stay in trouble. All the while working to keep Jason from losing it as she steps a little over the legal line. Characters are great with a quirk or two. There are several "mysteries" and lots of laughs. This is one to get and read when you need a good laugh!



Sunday, November 8, 2020

Blog Tour and Spotlight: SAVING GRACE A Psychological Thriller by D. M. Barr

Saving Grace by D.M. Barr Banner 

Saving Grace 
A Psychological Thriller 
by D.M. Barr 
on Tour October 12 - November 13, 2020

Synopsis:

Saving Grace by D.M. Barr

Grace Pierrepoint Rendell, the only child of an ailing billionaire, has been treated for paranoia since childhood. When she secretly quits her meds, she begins to suspect that once her father passes, her husband will murder her for her inheritance. Realizing that no one will believe the ravings of a supposed psychotic, she devises a creative way to save herself – she will write herself out of danger, authoring a novel with the heroine in exactly the same circumstances, thus subtly exposing her husband's scheme to the world. She hires acclaimed author Lynn Andrews to help edit her literary insurance policy, but when Lynn is murdered, Grace is discovered standing over the bloody remains. The clock is ticking: can she write and publish her manuscript before she is strapped into a straitjacket, accused of homicide, or lowered six feet under?

With a cast of secondary characters whose challenges mirror Grace's own, Saving Grace is, at it's core, an allegory for the struggle of the marginalized to be heard and live life on their own terms.

"A psychological thriller with more than enough twists, turns, and misdirection to keep even the most jaded reader turning pages all night long." Lori Robbins, author of the Silver Falchion Award-winning novel, Lesson Plan for Murder

Book Details: 
Genre: Psychological Thriller, Domestic Suspense
Published by: Black Rose Writing
Publication Date: October 15th 2020
Number of Pages: 255
ISBN: 978-1684335565
Purchase Links:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | BlackRose Writing | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

One felony was all it took to convince Andrea Lin she was better suited to committing crime on paper than in person. As renowned mystery author Lynn Andrews, she understood conflict equaled good drama. Like her readers, she should have expected the hiccups, even relished them. What she hadn’t counted on was the accompanying agita, especially while sitting in her Bergen County kitchen, far from the action at the Bitcoin Teller Machine.

Her one job had been to place a single phone call when the money hit and tell the hacker to lift the encryption on Grace’s computer. Trouble was, her dozen calls remained unanswered until a few minutes ago, throwing their meticulous plan off schedule.

Andrea stroked the blue-gray Nebulung purring on her lap and tried to ignore the churning in her stomach. “Denver, the next time I consider helping a sibling with some crazy scheme, you have my permission to use my leg as a scratching post until I come to my senses. Agreed?”

Denver looked up, his green eyes filled with innocence, and answered with a single meow before leaping onto the table toward her plate of shortbread cookies.

“I’ll take that as a yes.” She sipped her tea, willing the sugar to sweeten the acrid taste in her mouth. The phone interrupted her meditation. No doubt a check-in from her brother, the extorter-in-chief.

“I figured you’d have called by now. Everything on track?” Joe’s strained voice conveyed his own jangled nerves. They’d agreed to be vague when communicating. In these days of Siri and Alexa, anyone could be listening.

“Finally. Took forever to get through to our friend, but she said she’d take care of ‘our project’ as soon as her meetings wrapped up. From here on out though, I’m sticking to fiction. Real-life intrigue is too stressful.”

Andrea missed Joe’s response, instead perplexed by her cats’ sudden change of behavior. Denver had tilted his head and leapt from the table; Vail and Aspen sat frozen, ears perked, staring toward the foyer. Then she heard it too, the sound of papers shuffling in the living room. She leaned forward, muscles taut, hackles raised, ready to pounce. “Joe, hold on a sec. I think someone’s in the house. I’ll call you back later.”

***

“Wait, what? Andrea??” Silence. The connection was dead.

After twenty minutes of weaving in and out of rush-hour traffic to travel one mile, Joe “Hack” Hackford pulled up outside his sister’s Ridgewood home. Adrenaline pumping on overdrive, he jumped from his car and sprinted toward the house. Door wide open—not an encouraging sign. He steeled his nerves and hastened inside. The living room looked like a hurricane’s aftermath, with furniture overturned and papers littering the carpets and floor.

“Andrea? Are you here?” He rushed into the kitchen, which lacked any signs of their celebratory dinner—no spaghetti boiling on the stove, no cake rising in the oven. Only the door to the backyard ajar and a shriek emanating from the next room, piercing the eerie silence. Hair stiffening at the back of his neck, he raced into the dining room where a redheaded woman stood frozen, staring across the room.

“Who the hell are you?” he growled.

The stranger remained wide-eyed and unresponsive. He followed her gaze to the floor, where he witnessed the unthinkable. His beloved sister lay in the corner, surrounded by a pool of blood, a kitchen knife stuck in her chest. Her eyes remained fixed on the ceiling. A trio of feline guards circled her lifeless body.

Hack’s knees turned to jelly, and he grabbed onto a chair for support, forcing back the remains of the snack he’d consumed only minutes earlier. Once the initial shock waned, he reverted his attention back to the intruder. At second glance, she did look somewhat familiar, though the woman he’d met a few weeks back—the missing heiress whose computer they’d just hacked—was brunette. Had she uncovered their con? With a bolt of fury, he reached forward and pulled the wig from her head. A thousand questions zigzagged in his brain, but only one forced its way past his lips:

“Oh my God. Grace. Oh my God. What the hell have you done?”

***

Excerpt from Saving Grace by D.M. Barr. Copyright 2020 by D.M. Barr. Reproduced with permission from D.M. Barr. All rights reserved.

 Author Bio:

D.M. Barr

By day, a mild-mannered salesperson, wife, mother, rescuer of senior shelter dogs, competitive trivia player and author groupie, happily living just north of New York City. By night, an author of sex, suspense and satire.

My background includes stints in travel marketing, travel journalism, meeting planning, public relations and real estate. I was, for a long and happy time, an award-winning magazine writer and editor. Then kids happened. And I needed to actually make money. Now they're off doing whatever it is they do (of which I have no idea since they won't friend me on Facebook) and I can spend my spare time weaving tales of debauchery and whatever else tickles my fancy.

The main thing to remember about my work is that I am NOT one of my characters. For example, as a real estate broker, I've never played Bondage Bingo in one of my empty listings or offed anyone at my local diet clinic. And I haven't run away from home in fear that my husband was planning to off me.

But that's not to say that I haven't wanted to…

Catch Up With Our Author On:
www.DMBarr.com, Goodreads, BookBub, Instagram, Twitter, & Facebook!

 

Enter To Win!:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for D.M. Barr. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card. The giveaway begins on October 12, 2020 and runs through November 15, 2020. Void where prohibited.

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Get More Great Reads at Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Book Review: TAKE THE BODY AND RUN : Macey Malloy Mysteries with a Chick-Lit Twist by Jada Ryker

Synopsis

"TAKE THE BODY AND RUN is a fast-paced ride with a sparkling character and written in a new, original voice. This is a don't-miss debut." -Carolyn Haines, USA Today bestselling author of Pluto's Snitch and Sarah Booth Delaney 

Macey Malloy Mysteries with a Chick-Lit Twist Series Sassy Macey Malloy and her grumpy cat Wikket debuted in Take the Body and Run. The Kindle Scout winner is about a hunted woman, a handsome lawman, a have fart machine-will travel doctor, and a crime-solving cat. The series is fun to read in any order. Here's the list in chronological order. #0 - Prequel: Two Tickets to Paradise Macey risks her life when she's embroiled in a brutal murder, and meets her feline, crime-solving partner. The novelette appears in the Kindle Scout winners' anthology, Winter Solstice. The story is also included in Gone Cat and Other Stories. #1 - Take the Body and Run The Kindle Scout winner is a "goofy thriller" about a hunted woman, a handsome lawman, a have fart machine-will travel doctor, and a crime-solving cat.

Review

Macey Malloy is no nonsense and a strong woman. Not everyone likes that and her first day on the job, she is begins to wonder at how she was selected about the time someone pulls a knife. Macey discovers several "odd" things including clerks still typing on a typewriter and doing reports on paper. Aside from their dislike of her insistence the ancient typewriter go, there are a few other characters, including the man from the morgue and the detective. 

There are two plot lines that take twists and turns and overlap, with fart bags and a great cat, Wikket. The story is well paced, with humor and surprises. The characters are well-developed. I look forward to reading more of Macey Malloy.

AMAZON