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