Monday, August 29, 2016

REVIEW: After Church Mysteries by Will Martin

After Church Mysteries
Author: Will Martin

**I received a copy of this upcoming book via NetGalley in exhange for a fair, honest review**

Tired of his life as a pastor, Reverend Richard Burgess is eager to start a new career as a private investigator. Armed with a certificate from a fly-by-night PI course and a love for Robert B Parker's Spenser, Rev. Burgess finds himself in all sorts of new situations. This book is a collection of short chapters detailing the detective exploits of the retired reverend. Each time he finds himself faced with a new mystery, Burgess asks himself WWSD (What Would Spenser Do), and forges ahead.

A pastor as a detective is not a new idea, but Martin's book is an entertaining humor-filled peek into the life of a Spenser-loving retired clergyman. The story was enjoyable, although the writing at times was a bit rambling and apt to wander off plot a bit. It didn't hamper my enjoyment of the character and his adventures, however.  Mostly because the good reverend himself seems to be a rambling, apt to wander a bit off task, sort of person -- what's not to love? It made for an enjoyable afternoon of mystery and humor.

I would recommend another round of editing to tighten up the writing and plot a little. Not to fence in the rambling reverend, but to make it easier for readers to follow his adventures.

I would definitely like to read more about the adventures of this mystery-loving reverend. This is Will Martin's first book. I look forward to his second!

After Church Mysteries will release September 15th. This is a perfect read for anyone who enjoys detective novels with a splash of humor. WWSD? Spenser would read this book!

Will Martin is a retired minister living in New England. Check out his website:

REVIEW: Kiss Me Like a Stranger by Gene Wilder. RIP Gene.

RIP Gene Wilder. Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful talents with the world. You will be missed. I read this book back in April, and loved his candid discussion about his life and career. 

Kiss Me Like a Stranger: My Search for Love & Art
Author: Gene Wilder

When I first started reading this book, I felt uncomfortable -- maybe even a little embarrassed. It was almost like eavesdropping on a therapy session. But then, after a few chapters, I realized something -- Gene Wilder was being totally honest. He was sharing what he really thought, giving his real opinion, and telling about things he did or said, regardless of whether they would be judged as good or bad by his readers.

Don't read this book expecting Gene to be funny. Watch his movies for that. This book is about his career, his life, his friends, relationships, the ups and downs of his career, his marriages....his real feelings, his real struggles with mental illness and life in general. Creative people often have the hardest time with "real'' life. It makes sense -- if you spend more time pretending to be other people than being do you remember who you really are?

He shares about his self doubt, talks about his failed marriages, loving and losing Gilda Radner, his own struggle with cancer and finally finding love again with his present wife.

It was nice to have a peek at the real man behind the acting skills. I was a fan of Gene Wilder before I read this book -- I am an even bigger fan now.

Thank you for being candid and real, Gene. Your story was amazing.

My rating: 8/10
Ages: 18+
Candid discussions of sex and adult situations

Sunday, August 28, 2016

REVIEW: British Manor Murder

British Manor Murder
Author: Leslie Meier

**I was provided a copy of this upcoming book by Kensington via NetGalley in exchange for a fair, honest review.**

Lucy Stone is back in Leslie Meier's newest book, British Manor Murder!  Revisiting a favorite character is always a joy! This is the 23rd Lucy Stone cozy mystery, and it is just as enjoyable a read as all the others!

The Basics:  Lucy is upset because her grandson has moved to Alaska with his parents. Her friends decide she needs a vacation to help her relax. What better place to get some R&R than a British Manor House? She jets off to England for a vintage hat exhibition with her friend, Sue, to stay at Moreton Manor. The Earl of Wickham and his wife, who prefer to be called Perry and Poppy, are surprisingly down to earth and gracious hosts. The household gets a bit riled up when a portrait falls from the wall, damaging the painting and frame. The portrait is supposedly cursed and bad things will befall the Manor and its residents if it is ever removed from the wall. It fell once before, and a member of the family died. Immediately things start going wrong. A dead body is discovered in the maze, dry rot threatens the Manor House itself, and a horrible stench invades a portion of the house. When the stench is traced to another corpse in a sealed-off room in the Manor, Lucy knows the killer is in the house, lurking and perhaps waiting to do more harm. She knows she has to ferret out the culprit, while following the traditions and rules of the vast British estate, before anyone else dies.

As usual, Leslie Meier delivers a delightful, well-written mystery! Plenty of suspense, lots of suspects, great supporting characters, twists and turns -- just a fun, cozy mystery!

It started out a bit slow for me, as Lucy was depressed and whiny for the first chapter or so. But, as soon as she was in England and mystery was afoot, she perked up and forgot about her depression. She wasn't whiny for long!

It isn't necessary to read the Lucy Stone books in order. I haven't read them all -- and was still able to jump right in and enjoy this book! Don't worry if you haven't read any of the series, or only some of the books -- give this one a read!! Definitely an enjoyable, suspenseful mystery!

British Manor Murder releases September 27th!

Check out the author's website for more information on the Lucy Stone series:

REVIEW: It's Your Party, Die If You Want To

It's Your Party, Die If You Want To
Author: Vickie Fee

Liv McKay is quite busy with her party planning business in this 2nd installment of the Liv and Di in Dixie Mystery series. She comes up with the best themes for her events -- Riverboat gamblers, Murder Mysteries, and even ghost hunting! But little does she know that this Halloween the murder mystery is going to be real.  When Morgan Robison's body is discovered in the cemetery, the girls are on the case once again. Robison was a wild girl, chasing married men and causing drama wherever she went. There are plenty of suspects who might have wanted her dead. Sorting through the angry wives and scorned lovers won't be easy, but Liv and Di are determined to get to the truth.

This is a very well-written mystery filled with southern charm. The main characters are best friends and delightfully fun. The plot is filled with many possible suspects, quirky supporting characters and many twists and turns. The Fall/Halloween theme was fun -- ghost-hunting divas, dead bodies in grave yards....loved it!!!

And, what's a mystery book about a party planner sleuth without some party planning tips?? At the end of the book, there are tips for planning a riverboat gambler themed party and a murder mystery dinner.

Plus for those readers who haven't read Death Crashes the Party (the 1st Liv and Di Murder Mystery) the first chapter is included at the end of the book as well. It isn't necessary to read the books in order. I followed the characters and plot  easily in this second book without having read the first. But, I will definitely be reading the other book now! The characters and southern charm made this a very enjoyable cozy mystery!

Check out the author's website for more information on her books & events:

Saturday, August 27, 2016

REVIEW: All the Little Liars

All the Little Liars
Author: Charlaine Harris

Aurora Teagarden!!!

After more than 10 years away dealing with vampires and fairies, Charlaine Harris returns to her Aurora Teagarden Mystery series with this new book, All the Little Liars. I was so excited when I heard about this book that I couldn't wait to read it. I was not disappointed! Not only was it wonderful to read about Roe's life and new marriage, but the book was well-written and thrilling, as usual. Charlaine Harris never disappoints! Move over Sookie Stackhouse -- Aurora is back!!!

The basics:  Aurora has just re-married and is expected her first baby. Her half-brother Phillip is living with them. The happy couple is basking in their bliss and life looks good. Then children start disappearing, including Aurora's brother. The local police department begins frantically searching for the missing kids and interviewing anyone that might have information about the case. Aurora, and her crime novelist husband Robin, don't wait for the authorities to solve the case, they begin their own investigation. With Christmas approaching, Aurora hopes her brother and the other kids are still alive,

This book was great!! The story was full of suspense with lots of twists and turns! I was fully engrossed in the story from beginning to end! And, it was so nice to re-visit a favorite character after so long! :)

All the Little Liars is the 9th book in the Aurora Teagarden series. All Aurora fans will love this book -- and cozy mystery fans who haven't "met'' Aurora yet, I highly recommend this series! All the Little Liars will be available in bookstores September 27th.

Find out more about best-selling author Charlaine Harris at her website:

Monday, August 15, 2016

REVIEW: The Semi-Sweet Hereafter

The Semi-Sweet Hereafter
Author;  Colette London

**I was provided a copy of this book by Kensington Publishers via NetGalley in exchange for a fair, honest review.**

Wealthy heiress Hayden  Munday Moore is an expert on chocolate. She terms herself a "chocolate whisperer'' as she travels the world, helping improve chocolate in all its forms. In this 3rd Chocolate Whisperer Mystery, Hayden travels to London to help improve chocolate pastries at Primrose, a posh pastry shop. Phoebe Wright, owner of Primrose, is married to a famous television chef. Hayden assures her friends, and herself, that this time she will be doing nothing but tasting chocolate and training kitchen staff. She does not plan to get involved in anything that isn't chocolate-related. Just as she is settling into the Wrights' guesthouse, plans go awry (as usual). Hayden returns from a shopping trip to discover Chef Jeremy Wright dead on the floor of the guesthouse. He has been bludgeoned to death with a stone metlapil. Suddenly Hayden is a murder suspect, along with a disgruntled former assistant, a rival chef and an overzealous agent. So much for her sticking to chocolate only while in London! Once again, Hayden is on the trail of a killer. She has to discover the murderer's identity to clear her own name.

This was a fun mystery to read! All the different facts and information about cacao beans, chocolate and cooking tips for baking with chocolate were very interesting! There are some yummy chocolate recipes at the end of the book as well! The mystery portion of the plot was well-written with multiple suspects, a few red herrings and some great twists and turns before the ending. I had to suspend reality a little bit to buy into Hayden's back-story, but that wasn't too hard to do. Although I seriously doubt there is a wealthy heiress in the world who travels constantly as a chocolate advisor, it made for a fun cozy mystery! Hayden is a strong, intelligent main character. It was nice to read a cozy that wasn't centered around a bookshop, library or cupcakes.

At times the author explained some British terms as an aside, which I thought was unnecessary. Most American readers know that "sacked'' means to be fired from a job or that a "desktop diary'' is a planner.

All in all, this is an enjoyable, light mystery with a great chocolate theme! Semi-Sweet Hereafter releases September 27th! Pick up a copy for a sweet, chocolately escape! :)

Colette London is a pseudonym used by best-selling romance author Lisa Plumley. Find out more about the Chocolate Whisperer Mystery series at

REVIEW: Death by Pumpkin Spice

Death By Pumpkin Spice
Author: Alex Erickson

**I received a copy of this book from Kensington Publishers via NetGalley in exchange for writing a fair, honest review.**

Bookstore Cafe owner, Krissy Hancock, snags a great date for the annual Halloween festivities at Yarborough Mansion, but the evening quickly becomes a horror. Not only does she have to dodge an old flame and a marriage proposal, but a woman dressed as Marilyn Monroe is found strangled in a room eerily decorated with creepy jack o'lanterns. The estate is locked down and everyone is a suspect. Krissy helps Officer Paul Dalton in his investigation to discover who brought death to the party.

The Halloween theme is definitely well represented in this book -- torrential rainstorm, creepy old house, scary jack o'lanterns and a murder!

I haven't read the other books in the Bookstore Cafe series, but I enjoyed this book without having read the books in order. The main character was likable, but a bit socially awkward. She has some real issues in her personal relationships with men. But, all in all, I found the plot engaging and the mystery interesting. There were plenty of suspects, twists and turns.

Death by Pumpkin Spice releases September 27th!

This is the 3rd book in the Bookstore Cafe Mystery series. Check out the author's website here:

REVIEW: High Kicks, Hot Chocolate and Homicides

High Kicks, Hot Chocolate and Homicides
Author: Mary McHugh

**I received a copy of this book from Kensington Publishing via NetGalley in return for a fair, honest review.**

In this 5th book in the Happy Hoofers Mystery series, the girls are joining the Rockettes in New York City for their annual Christmas performance. Set to dance to Santa Claus is Coming to Town in 40 lb big-bellied Santa outfits, the troupe is ready to start daily rehearsals with the famous Rockettes. As usual, a murder puts a bit of a damper on their holiday spirits. Head Rockette Glenna Parsons is found dead under the stage, mangled by machinery. The show must go on, but the Happy Hoofers know the murderer must be found before another dancer falls prey.

This book was an enjoyable, light read. I loved reading about what the Rockettes training is like, and all about the holiday decorations and preparations for their Christmas performance. As usual, the story was a nice blend of humor and light mystery. This book is told from the point of view of  Mary Louise (called Weezy by her friends), and she delights in asking restaurants for their recipes. In real life, I think most would say no....but, in this case, they said yes....and the yummy recipes appear at the end of each chapter! :)

I enjoyed the characters for the most part, although Weezy's inability to make a final decision regarding her marriage was a bit frustrating. It was not any fault of the writing or the plot....just my wishing I could somehow jump in there and tell her to make up her mind already! ha! :) She did finally make up her mind...but no spoilers! Read the book to discover her choice -- George or Mike.

This was definitely a fun, quick afternoon read. The recipes are for really yummy dishes like lobster salad, crabcakes, trout and bacon, and pastry shells with caviar.

High Kicks, Hot Chocolate & Homicides releases September 27th!

Mary McHugh has written several other books including How Not to Become A Little Old Lady. Visit her website at

Sunday, August 14, 2016

REVIEW: Chills

Author: Mary SanGiovanni

**I was provided a copy of this book by Kensington Publishers via NetGalley in exchange for a fair, honest review.**

A freak snowstorm hits Colby, Connecticut in mid-May, dropping more than four feet of snow on the small town. The lateness of the storm seems unusual enough, but then a body is discovered hanging from a tree surrounded by strange cultish symbols. local police detectives Jack Glazier and Reece Teagan know it's time to call in Kathy Ryan. Ryan, a detective with knowledge of ritual occult murders, begins investigating the Hand of the Black Stars Cult. The cult is performing rituals and making sacrifices to bring about an event that is too horrific to contemplate. If the detectives can't stop the cult before they complete their mission, unspeakable horrors will be unleashed on the residents of Colby and all of humanity.

This was truly a chilling tale. This fast-paced story is a mix of police procedural and horror, starting with a seemingly innocent late season snow storm and progressing to nightmarish horrors.

Kathy Ryan is a well-developed main character. The author provides enough of her back story to explain why she became a detective and an expert in the occult. The rest of the characters are pretty thinly developed, but I believe that is because this is a fast-paced story that really doesn't require a whole cast of completely developed characters. The story jumped right into the creepiness without getting bogged down in too much unnecessary detail. The ending was satisfying, and set up the possibility of a follow-up book or continuing series.

For me, this story was paced well and most definitely creepy. It definitely gave me the chills -- so I think the title is perfect. A fast-paced, horrific trip into the black abyss of ritual murder and nightmarish monsters!

Don't read this book at home alone during a blizzard! Nightmares will abound! :)

Mary Sangiovanni is no new-comer to the horror genre. She has written several horror novels including The Hallower trilogy, Thrall and The Fading Place. Check out her website here:

REVIEW: Murder at Rough Point

Murder at Rough Point
Author: Alyssa Maxwell

**I received a copy of this book from Kensington Publishers via NetGalley in exchange for a fair, honest review.**

Murder and intrigue return to Newport, Rhode Island in this 4th installment of the Gilded Newport series by Alyssa Maxwell.

Emma Cross, a poor relation of the stately Vanderbilt family, is invited to attend an artists retreat at Rough Point, a stately home owned by her Uncle Frederick Vanderbilt. Emma is to write a newspaper article about the retreat. She hopes that the exposure will help boost her career to covering more than the usual Fancies and Fashions articles she normally writes.

In attendance are several well-known artists ranging from ballet dancers to sculptors, including the renowned Edith Wharton. Surprisingly enough, Emma's parents are attending as well, returning from an extended stay in Paris.

The group is not a peaceful one. The artists soon start bickering among themselves, revealing strained relationships. Soon, however, Emma has more to worry about than clashing personalities. An English Baronet, Sir Randall Clifford, is found dead at the bottom of a cliff. At first it is assumed he committed suicide over his failing ambitions as a sculptor, but when a second guest is found dead in his bathtub, suspicious turn to murder. Emma finds herself once again assisting police detective Jesse Whyte to discover the identity of the killer before anyone else dies.

This book reminded me of Agatha Christie's novels -- a large house, illustrious guests, servants, dark secrets and murder. As Christie is my favorite author, I found myself absolutely loving this book! It is a great blend of fictional characters and real people, all centered in a historic Newport home.

Rough Point - Newport, RI

The mystery is engaging, with plenty of plausible suspects, plot twists and surprises. The killer is revealed in an exciting ending, wrapping up this story in Christie-like eloquent fashion.

I read this book without previously reading any of the novels in the Gilded Newport series, so it isn't necessary to read the books in order. However, there are some nuances to character relationships that would be better understood by reading in order. My jumping in with this newest installment in the series didn't dampen my enjoyment of the book. But, it did make me want to go back and read all of the prior novels! And, I also spent some time researching Rough Point and the other Newport mansions that Maxwell writes about in her books. I live about 40 minutes from Biltmore Estate, located in Asheville, NC, and I find the history of iconic American families like the Vanderbilts and their mansions captivating! I will most definitely be reading more of this series!

In addition to the Gilded Newport series, Alyssa Maxwell has also written two mysteries set in post-World War I England, A Pinch of Poison and Murder Most Malicious. Check out her website here:

Saturday, August 13, 2016

REVIEW: The Cottage at Pumpkin and Vine

The Cottage at Pumpkin and Vine
Authors:  Kate Angell, Jennifer Dawson, Sharla Lovelace

**I received a copy of this book from Kensington Press via NetGalley in exchange for a fair, honest review**

For Halloween fans who hunger for spice other than pumpkin this fall, this new book from Kensington Press adds a bit of heat to the season of witches, pumpkins and ghosts. The Cottage at Pumpkin and Vine is a collection of 3 romantic short stories. The stories all center around Halloween in Moonbright, Maine at Amelia Rose's Bed and Breakfast.  Every year Amelia hosts a Halloween costume party. One story happens before the party, one during, and the last tale unfolds after the costume party is over.

The first story, "Charmed by You''  is by Kate Angell. Cade Maxwell is hired by local costume shop owner Grace Alden to help decorate the B&B for the Halloween party. At first they dislike each other, but as they work together to make Amelia's party a success, they discover they have more in common than they think.

The story has great sexual tension between the two main characters. Enjoyable and definitely hot!

Second is "Mesmerized by You,'' written by Jennifer Dawson. Chloe and her best friend, Jack are on their way to visit her Aunt Iris who lives in Moonbright. Just as they arrive in town, Aunt Iris informs Chloe that they will have to stay at the local B&B because bees have invaded her home. When they arrive at Amelia Rose's B&B, they find out there is only one room available. Halloween, and a bit of magic, weaves a spell over the couple and they find they might want to be more than just best friends.

More steamy, sexy vibes in this story. Definitely a fun, light romantic romp. Lots of action, too!

And, last, Sharla Lovelace adds her story, "Enchanted by You.''  Sidney Jenson and Caleb James were high school sweethearts. Due to a misunderstanding, they broke up years before. They are re-united in this story and find that they still have feelings for each other.

A nice feel-good, second-chance-at-love story! Lots of steam and heat in this tale as well!

I don't usually read the romance genre, but I love Halloween, so I gave this book a try. It was an enjoyable, light read. Don't expect any in-depth characterization or plot, but that's not the purpose of these stories. The stories are meant to be emotional and sexy -- and they definitely met that goal! This would be a great book to read while enjoying a glass of wine on a cool, autumn night before ravaging your spouse, boyfriend or significant other.

I liked the Halloween theme, and the way the stories were unrelated but all centered around the B&B and the annual Halloween shin-dig. Amelia Rose doing tarot readings and fortune telling for each couple was a really neat Halloween-y addition.

All in all, not my usual read, but a nice feel-good, sexual fantasy sort of afternoon. Might just have to sip wine tonight and then rock my husband's world. HA HA

Kate Angell, Jennifer Dawson and Sharla Lovelace have all written multiple romance novels. Check out their websites here: , ,  and

The Cottage at Pumpkin and Vine will release August 30th. Pick up a copy and put some spice in your Autumn!!

Friday, August 12, 2016

REVIEW: A Story to Kill

A Story to Kill
Author: Lynn Cahoon

**I received a copy of this book from Kensington Books via NetGalley in exhange for a fair, honest review**

A Story to Kill is the first book in a new series by Lynn Cahoon, author of the Tourist Trap Mystery Series!

Cat Latimer moves back to her hometown in Colorado after inheriting a Victorian mansion from her ex-husband. She lived in the home with Michael when they were married and both teaching at the local college. Still shocked that he left the house to her in his will, Cat plans to turn the home into a writer's retreat bed and breakfast. As the first group of writers arrives for a week-long retreat, Cat is struggling with some strong emotions. Living in the house again brings back memories of her marriage and her husband's infidelity. Then old feelings are rekindled when Seth, her former high school sweetheart, is hired to do renovations. World-famous author Tom Cook is attending the first retreat, giving Cat high hopes her new business venture will be successful. Those hopes are dashed when Cook is murdered in his room. To save her business and its reputation, Cat finds herself on the trail of a killer.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book! I couldn't put it down! The characters and plot are believable, and the story is well-written. The mystery was well-developed and engaging, with plenty of suspects, twists and turns. The two main sub-plots didn't take away from the mystery, but added to it.  The book was nicely paced and spiced up with just a little bit of romance. The ending was unexpected and exciting, ending in an intriguing cliff-hanger.

A Story to Kill is set for release August 30th! The second book in this series follows in March 2017.

Lynn Cahoon has published seven books in the Tourist Trap Mystery series, and several romance novels. Check out her website at

Thursday, August 11, 2016

My 10 Favorite Children's Books!

What books were your favorites as a child? Here is a list of my top 10!! 

10. The Trixie Belden Series. I read the entire series and loved every book! Trixie was like Nancy Drew. She and her friends solved mysteries. There were 39 books published from 1948-1986.

The books were written by Julie Campbell Tatham and Kathryn Kenny. I loved them because I could imagine my friends and I being just like Trixie and her friends. More information about the series is available at this website. The language is a bit outdated at times (they call jeans "dungarees" for example), but the books are still great reads for preteen and teen girls!

9. The Secret Garden. Frances Hodgson Burnett wrote the book as a serial in 1910. It was first published as a novel in 1911. The story centers around a spoiled but troubled little girl who discovers a hidden, overgrown garden. The garden has a profound effect on Mary Lennox and her friends. It’s a wonderful story! The cover picture I include here is the artwork I remember from my first copy of the paperback. I loved the book because I could just immerse myself in the adventure and imagine myself finding that hidden garden!

8. and 7. Harry Cat’s Pet Puppy. This book by George Selden is one of several sequels to The Cricket In Times Square. That’s why this entry gets two spots! There were seven books in all:The Cricket in Times Square, Tucker’s Countryside, Harry Cat’s Pet Puppy, Chester Cricket’s Pigeon Ride, Chester Cricket’s New Home, Harry Kitten and Tucker Mouse, and The Old Meadow.Harry Cat's Pet Puppy was my favorite book in the series. Garth Williams illustrated the books and I loved his artwork as a
child! I just learned while looking for photos of these old favorites that in 2011 Macmillan published 3 new books based on the characters of this series: Harry to the Rescue, Starring Harry and Tucker’s Beetle Band. These books were so delightful to read! I’m glad to know that they are continuing on and that Harry Cat, Tucker and Chester are still up to their old adventures! I loved these books because the characters were so charming and the stories were just a great innocent romp.

6. The Little House on the Prairie SeriesI think every little girl reads this series! The books were published between 1932 and 1943 by Laura Ingalls Wilder. There are 10 books in the series and two unedited books published posthumously. I spent many hours imagining what it was like to live in a log cabin, or to ride in a covered wagon. Garth Williams also illustrated this paperback series published in the 70s. I enjoyed his pictures of Pa fiddling and the dog Jack running behind the wagon.        

5. The Sword of ShannaraI was a voracious reader as a child. In 5th grade, I read The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks. It was the first 500+ page book I read. The book was massive to me. I carried it to school and no amount of teasing made me stop reading it at every chance. It was a wonderful story and a great follow-up read to my favorite book, which will be listed at the tippy top of this list of favorite children’s books. The book was published in 1977. Brooks published several other Shannara books. This one was my favorite. I read the other 2 books in the Original Shannara Trilogy (The Elfstones of Shannara & The Wishsong of Shannara), but I didn’t enjoy them as much because the main characters from the first book (Shea and Flick) were not the main characters in subsequent books. For me, this book was just magical! It was my 2nd trip into epic fantasy. My first is included later on in this list. I wanted to be just like Shea and Flick, running from evil with the help of the Druid Alanon. I felt very grown up because I was reading a book that was at least 3 inches thick. I remember receiving the book from my sister for my birthday. Then when the next two books came out she gave me those as well. I think I didn’t like the next two books for the same reason I didn’t like it when Tom Baker’s 4th Doctor Who morphed into the 5th Doctor Peter Davidson ….. I did not like change when it came to major characters. The second book is about Shea’s grandson Wil Ohmsford and the third was centered around Wil’s children. I wanted more about Shea and Flick! The sequels were good. I just wanted more information about what happened to the characters from the first book. 

4. The Wizard of Oz Series. Most people have no idea that L. Frank Baum wrote 14 Oz books, not just the first one, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The books were published from 1900-1920. I love the movie, but the movie left out or changed much of the book. I had the entire set and read them over and over. Wonderful children’s fantasy series! L. Frank Baum (the L stands for Lyman) also wrote several Oz stage plays which were very successful. The last book Glinda of Oz was published after Baum’s death in 1919. An additional 19 Oz books were written by another author, Ruth Plumly Thompson. I have never read any of the Thompson books, but would be interested to try them and see how they compare to Baum’s books. My favorite character in the book series was Jack Pumpkinhead. Jack was made by a little boy to scare a witch. When she saw him, she thought about smashing him, but instead, sprinkled the Powder of Life on him to bring him to life. His joints (wooden pegs) were prone to problems so the little boy made him a Sawhorse to ride on. Just a delightful character!! 

3. Gus Was a Friendly Ghost. There are two young children’s books from my childhood that I bought for my son Joshua when he was little. This is one of those books. I absolutely adored this book when I was 5!! The book was first published in 1962 by Jane Thayer. It was illustrated by Seymour Fleishman. I got my copy from the Weekly Reader Book Club. The illustrations were so colorful and wonderful! I read this book over and over and over again. The story never got old. I always wondered what it
would be like to stay at a cabin for the summer that had a friendly ghost living in it. Gus loved the family that came to stay and was so angry that a mouse kept scaring the Mom. So he made the mouse behave, and they became friends. It is an absolutely joyful story and the illustrations are just awesome with all their 1970’s wild fonts and bright colors.
2. The Laughing Dragon. This is another book that I bought for my son because I loved it as a child. Published in 1970 by Kenneth Mahood,The Laughing Dragon is another book I got from the Weekly Reader Book Club. Hojo the Dragon is a member of the emperor’s court. He gets into trouble because when he laughs he can’t control his flames. The story is funny and heartwarming. It is one of my most prized possessions. The story is just delightful because the one thing that made Hojo not fit in was also the thing that made him needed the most. 

1.  And my favorite children’s book of all time is…………
The Hobbit. I read this book for the first time in 4th grade. I was absolutely mesmerized by JRR Tolkien's tale of Hobbits, wizards and black riders. I enjoyed the recent movies, but they removed so much and changed many plot points. It
really disappointed me. The story never should have been stretched and edited into 3 movies. The 1970 animated special I enjoyed much more than the movies. This book is my absolutely, hands-down favorite children’s book. It is an epic tale of fantasy, friendship and courage!! My first copy of the book looked just like the photo here. I remember the day I started reading it for the first time. It was a bitterly cold snow day and I was stuck indoors. It was too cold to go out and play so my sister handed me the book and told me to read. Glad she did! I have loved this book ever since! 

I hope you have enjoyed my list of favorites!!  I do have to mention Runner-ups: 

The Chronicles of Narnia. I had a box set of the paperbacks when I was a child. They were read so often that they fell apart. 

And another classic that I adore:  Winnie The Pooh by A.A. Milne. The original book – NOT Disney! The wit and wonder of Pooh Bear is just fantastic!
What books were your favorites??


REVIEW: A Catered Tea Party

A Catered Tea Party
Author: Isis Crawford

**I was provided with a copy of this book by Kensington Publishing via NetGalley in return for an honest, fair review.**

While I love cozy mysteries and prior books in this series, A Catered Tea Party just wasn't my cup of tea.


I didn't care for the main characters' behavior. Libby spent the entire book whining. And Bernie just came off as rude and loud. Bleck. I'd like the old Libby and Bernie back....sure they have their differences, but in prior books, it worked. In this just had the wrong vibe. More whiny and spoiled rather than two sisters playing off each other.

The plot was slow, and I just never really got "into'' the story.  The plot seemed contrived. I didn't find  it believable that a man would spend $2 million dollars on a teapot then use it as a prop during a play. Who spends $2 million on a teapot? And wouldn't you keep the silly thing under lock and key after spending that much money? I do realize that in cozy mysteries you have to suspend disbelief at times and just let the plot be fun....but for me, I just couldn't seem to do it this time.

But, it was not entirely a disappointment. When it comes to the sisters' behavior in this book, I think the author was just trying to get across the point that the girls don't like their father's girlfriend. And who wouldn't behave a bit "off'' after watching a billionaire electrocute himself to death with a booby-trapped teapot?

The ending was exciting and I didn't figure out everything before the end. So, the mystery portion of the plot was interesting, and not overly simple.

For me this was just ok. Given my enjoyment of other books in this series, it was a bit of a disappointment. I will be first in line to read the next book though! For readers who haven't read prior books in this series, I highly recommend this mystery series as a whole!  Yummy recipes, murderous mystery. and humor. The books are just fun to read! This latest one was just a bit meh for me.  It happens sometimes.

A Catered Tea Party is the 12th book in the A Mystery with Recipes series. Isis Crawford is a pen-name used by Barbara Block, author of the Robin Light Mystery Series. Check our her website at:

REVIEW: Die, Die Birdie

Die, Die Birdie
Author: J.R. Ripley

**I received a digital copy of this book from Kensington Publishing via NetGalley in return for a fair, honest review**

Amy Simms is realizing her dream of opening a business. She purchased an old Victorian home for the location of Birds & Bees and is dealing with all sorts of pre-opening SNAFU problems: undelivered product, electrical problems, and worst of all, a dead body in her storage room. An older woman who rents an apartment on the second floor of the old house tells the local police that she saw Amy kill the man with a birdhouse hook. So added to her opening week woes are attorney fees, multiple police interviews, and sleuthing to try and clear her name. When the dead corpse is identified as an old flame of hers in disguise, and disturbing banging and scraping sounds are heard in the houses's basement and attic at night, Amy's problems further escalate. Can she juggle her fledgling business stress and defend herself from possible murder charges? Read this book to find out!

I enjoyed this book! Amy Simms is a fun, intelligent main character. At first, I didn't like her tenant, Esther Pilaster (or as the main characters call her behind her back, Esther Pester), but as the story went on the cantankerous old woman became one of my favorite characters.

The idea of a store selling products for bird and bee enthusiasts is interesting. Amy purchases locally handcrafted bird houses and mixes her own specialty bird seed. I would love a store like Birds & Bees! :)

The mystery portion of the plot kept me interested, although I did figure out some of the clues relatively early in the book. It didn't harm my enjoyment of the story though. The characters were enjoyable and developed as well as any light cozy mystery. All in all, a fun, quick read!

Die, Die Birdie is the first book in the Bird Lover's Mystery series. It has a release date of August 16th, 2016.  J.R. Ripley is the pseudonym of Glenn Meganck, writer of the Tony Kozol and Maggie Miller Mystery series. He also writes the Kitty Karlyle Pet Chef mystery series under the pen-name Marie Celine. Check out his website here:

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Review: The Murder of a Queen Bee

The Murder of a Queen Bee
Author: Meera Lester

**I received a copy of this book from Kensington Press via NetGalley in exchange for a fair, honest review**

When Abigail Mackenzie left her job as a police officer in Las Flores, CA, she bought a farmette and settled into a life of farming and beekeeping. She pads her income with private investigation services on the side. When her friend and local businessowner, Fiona Mary Ryan is murdered, Abby steps up to help investigate. Cult tie-ins, an ex-boyfriend and possible drug connctions soon have local law enforcement and Abby scrambling to discover who is the murderer in their midst.

I enjoyed this book! Every chapter starts with a note from The Henny Penny Farmette Almanac and ends with a recipe or tips about farming. Some of the tips are quite informative, like the proper way to clean freshly collected farm eggs (I never knew there was a proper way to wash them off -- I've been doing it wrong!) and how to make tea from fresh herbs.

When I first started reading the book, I did a bit of reading on Farmettes. Basically, a Farmette is a small, residential farm where the owner makes their main income off-farm. In my mind, I see it as somewhere between a hobby farm and a regular farm. Abby makes some money off honey and herbs, but her side-jobs doing investigations help pay the bills. Living in the South, I know a lot of women who do the same secretary, teacher or some-such by day and evening/weekend farmer, crafter, herbalist.  This made Abby seem like a very believable and likable character for me.

The mystery portion of the plot was well-written with plenty of possible suspects, red-herrings, twists and turns. The side plots did not over-power the mystery, although one character was extremely annoying. I will not provide any spoilers ... but readers will know immediately which one I wanted to punch in the face. :) The character was written to incite that very emotion in readers, I believe....and it was extremely successful in my case. :) The engaging wanting to know what happened with the detestable character....kept my attention right up to the very end of this book!

I will definitely be reading more in this series! A fun, mysterious time down on the Farmette!

This is the 2nd book in Meera Lester's Henny Penny Farmette Mystery series. Murder of a Queen Bee has a release date of September 27th, 2016 from Kensington Press. Lester has also written several non-fiction books including 365 Ways to Live Happy, and Why Does Santa Wear Red and 100 Other Christmas Curiosities Unwrapped.  Check out her website at:

REVIEW: The Aeronaut's Windlass

The Aeronaut's Windlass
Author: Jim Butcher


Just wow.

It  is not often that a book leaves me speechless. As I sat down to write this review, I realized I was faced with doing something I don't do often.

I'm giving full stars to this book. 5/5

Outstanding start to the Cinder Spires series! This novel caught me by surprise. I expected a Harry Dresden reprise re-tooled into steampunk.  No, this is something new from Jim Butcher - a real action/adventure! I loved it!

Before I go much further, let me say this: I am a die-hard Dresden fan. My husband is too. We read the books and then discuss everything our favorite wizard does. We are both eagerly awaiting Peace Talks. And we have on occasion made George R.R. Martin jokes regarding the wait for the new book.

Now, having said that, I am shoving Dresden aside to write this review. This new series is totally unlike Dresden and deserves a better chance than some have given it because they are butt-hurt about Peace Talks taking longer for Butcher to finish. These things  take time. It will be finished when Butcher is ready for it to be finished. He had some upheaval in his personal life. Give the man a break. There will be no Harry until it's time. Relax. Be Zen. Preorder Shadowed Souls for a Dresden short story fix...and stop whining.

Things I loved about this book:

1. This is real action/adventure! It doesn't get bogged down in overly descriptive world-building at the cost of the action. I want less talk and more action -- more butt-kicking!!  This book is definitely not short on well-paced, exciting action sequences. The entire last third of the book is an exciting, action-packed battle. I sat up most of the night finishing this book.

2. The world is described and revealed to readers as part of the action. The book jumps into the fray from the start and never stops building. There are no chapters of pure description to bog down the storyline. The world building and character development happens right along with the action. For me, this made the story flow so much better! It doesn't get bogged down in long, detailed paragraphs of background, but instead Butcher weaves the world and the characters in and around his story. As far as I'm concerned, this is by far the best book Butcher has ever written. The writing is tight and his descriptions are concise and well-suited to the action style. Butcher doesn't fall into the pit of spoon-feeding details or characterization to readers. He doesn't "over tell'' but instead lets the story tell the tale.

3. The characters evolve and change. It's not just action for the sake of story, but characterization as well. All of the main characters learn, change, and grow as a result of what they are going through in this first book.

4. The storyline doesn't get sidetracked into thinly veiled political rants, romance or any of the other distractions that kill most action books. Not once did I channel my inner-Elvis to sing "A little less talk a little more action'' inside my head as I read. The story stayed on-point from beginning to end without meandering down useless, distracting side paths. No gratuitous sex scenes or unnecessary romantic interludes. No rants about politics, society or mishmash like that. Don't get me wrong -- the characters do have emotions and there is some reference to sex (how could you have soldiers and a ship's crew without sex?), love, anger, revenge, etc....but it comes as necessary parts of the plot not distraction from it.

5. Cats.

The basic premise: For centuries, humanity has lived in Spires towering for miles above the mist-covered, dangerous surface of the planet. In the air, people are safe from dangerous surface-dwellers. Within the Spires, aristocratic houses rule, developing technology, trading with other Spires, and building airships. The ships, used for trading and warfare, are held aloft by the power of ethric crystals.  Ethrealists can manipulate the power of the crystals, but the effects of the energies warp their minds. Captain Grimm and his crew man the AMS Predator, a private, trading vessel. When Predator is damaged in an altercation with much larger airships, Grimm is approached by the Spireach of Albion. If Grimm will agree to complete a dangerous mission for Spire Albion, the Spireach will repair Grimm's ship. Grimm and his crew are soon swept into the war between Spire Albion and Spire Aurora. The war re-awakens dark monsters from the planet's surface, threatening all of humanity.

For Dresden fans, this is a departure from Butcher's usual writing style. There are no pop culture references, no wizard's magic, and no modern cop drama. Push Dresden aside and read this book for what it is. Don't lament that it isn't the Butcher you are used to reading. This is new, steampunk-y, swashbuckling, airship-riding Butcher. We will all get our Harry Dresden fix soon. In the meantime, enjoy Captain Grimm and his rag-tag crew. I know I did!!

This book is not 600+ pages of plodding description and narrative. It's an action-packed romp through a steampunk world of airships, monsters and war. I can't wait for the next book! (But I will very happily read Peace Talks while waiting......)

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Review: The Christie Curse by Victoria Abbott

The Christie Curse
Author: Victoria Abbott

Agatha Christie has been my favorite author since I first read The Mysterious Affair at Styles when I was 9 years old. I love all things Agatha. Not only did she write mysteries set in exotic places, but her life was also very interesting to me. She even had her own mysterious incident. In 1926, Agatha Christie disappeared, making headlines around the world. She was discovered at a hotel 11 days later, registered under the name of her husband's mistress. In the 90 years since, many theories about her disappearance have circulated -- she was trying to frame her husband for her murder, she was in a fugue state and didn't know what was going on, she just wanted to get away from her philandering husband for a few days and figure out what to do with her life, etc. In the end, only Agatha knew exactly what happened and she never spoke about it. She divorced the unfaithful rat in 1928 and re-married two years later, having a delightful life with her new husband, Max Mallowan, a British Archaeologist.

The Christie Curse is a cozy mystery about the hunt for an unpublished play by Christie supposedly written during the 11 days she was missing in 1926. Jordan Bingham, after a bad break-up, is looking for a job and a place to live. She is hired by Vera Van Alst, a wealthy rare book collector, to research and locate the mysterious unpublished Christie manuscript. Free room and board at the Van Alst mansion should make this the perfect job, but Jordan soon discovers there's a lot more to it than that. Her new, high-brow job is complicated by local hatred for the Van Alst family, a smiling cop who turns up wherever Jordan goes, the suspicious death of several people connected to the manuscript, and a shadowy, underworld figure known only as Merlin. The missing manuscript soon becomes a deeper and much more dangerous mystery than the 11-day disappearance of the author.

I loved this book! The main character is a strong, independent woman. She has three uncles who have connections in criminal circles, and who taught her life skills like lock picking and how to shake off cops who are following you. The story was a perfect mix of humor and serious tone. The mystery had plenty of suspects, twists and turns and excitement to keep me interested from beginning to end. Plus, I love old books. The thought of hunting down a previously unknown Christie manuscript had me completely intrigued.

The Christie Curse is the first book in the Book Collector Mystery series. There are 4 books in the series, with a fifth scheduled for publication in October 2016. Victoria Abbott is a pseudonym used by Victoria Maffini and her mother, Mary Jane Maffini. Mary Jane Maffini is the author of several mystery series, including the Camilla MacPhee Mystery books.  Learn more about the authors and the Book Collector Series at their website,

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Review: Through the Grinder by Cleo Coyle

Through the Grinder
Author: Cleo Coyle

Through the Grinder is the second book in the Coffeehouse Mystery series.

Once  again, we join Clare Cosi at the Village Blend, a historic coffeehouse in NYC. Business is good as usual, until female customers of the coffeehouse start committing suicide. Detective Quinn suspects the deaths are actually murders. Things get a bit awkward when it becomes clear that the chief suspect in the killings is Clare's new love interest, Bruce Bowman. Clare knows that Bruce couldn't possibly be a cold-hearted killer, so once again she is tracking a murderer and collecting clues, hoping to prove her lover isn't involved.

I enjoy this series, despite some of the sub-plot being a bit too frou-frou for me. At times, the main character describes the furnishings and items in the apartment above the coffeehouse where she lives. The apartment is filled with very expensive furnishings, persian rugs and priceless antiques. If I lived somewhere like that, I would be afraid to sit down or even touch the china in the kitchen cupboards. Clare Cosi just lives a completely different life than my own.  But, I think that's part of what makes this series interesting for me. It gives me a nice departure from reality. Just don't tell Clare I drink decaf! :)

I enjoyed this second book even more than the first. The mystery portion of the plot was engaging with several twists and turns. I didn't see the ending was a total surprise. Nice!

There are recipes at the back of the book for coffee drinks and even steak marinated with coffee, plus coffee storage tips.

I already have the next two books in the series on hold at the library!

There are 15 books in this award-winning series so far. Cleo Coyle is a pseudonym for Alice Alfonsi and her husband, Mark Cerasini.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

REVIEW: Death of a Pumpkin Carver by Lee Hollis

Death of a Pumpkin Carver
Author: Lee Hollis
Publication Date: 8/30/16

**I was given a copy of this upcoming book from Kensington Press via NetGalley in exchange for a fair, honest review**

Food and cocktails columnist, Hayley Powell is gearing up for Halloween (and Pumpkin Spice season!!!) in Bar Harbor, Maine when she discovers her wayward ex-husband, Danny, is back in town. While the treat is her kids getting to spend time with their dad, she wonders what tricks are behind his sudden visit.  When Danny's moonshine brewing Uncle Otis is discovered dead in the local cemetery and shady mobsters appear in town, Hayley finds herself once again trailing after a killer.

Death of a Pumpkin Carver is the 8th book in the Hayley Powell Food and Cocktails series. It is not necessary to read this series in order, but it might be advisable in order to be familiar with all of the characters and situations. I haven't read any of the other books in this series yet, and I was able to follow the plot just fine. But, now I want to read the rest of this series so I know what led up to some of the situations between characters in this book! I've already ordered book 1! :)

This book was a delightful mix of humor, Halloween fun, and murder mystery. I liked how Hollis included columns written by the main character telling anecdotes and stories from Hayley's life, followed by fall theme recipes for all sorts of different foods and cocktails. I'm definitely going to try the pumpkin soup recipe!

The mystery and several sub-plots are well written and interesting. The story kept my attention throughout. Fall is my favorite season, and I am a sucker for all things pumpkin, so I loved the recipes included in this book! This is the first cozy I've read that included cocktail recipes! I love it when culinary cozies include recipes for more than just desserts. Death Among the Doilies includes recipes for main courses, desserts and cocktails. All pumpkin/fall themed recipes! Love it!

The cover art for this book is delightful! :)

All in all, a fun read! It made me really look forward to fall (pumpkin spice!!!!!)

Lee Hollis is the pen name for writing duo, Rick Copp and his sister Holly Simason. Find out more about their books at     Death of a Pumpkin Carver has a release date of August 30th, 2016.

REVIEW: Death Among the Doilies

Death Among the Doilies
Author: Mollie Cox Bryan
Publication Date: 8/30/16

**I received a copy of this upcoming book from Kensington Press via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review**

As an avid crafter, I understand the therapeutic benefits of creative endeavors. When I read the description of this upcoming cozy mystery by Mollie Cox Bryan, I  knew I would identify with the main character! Cora Chevalier is a blogger, crafter, and former counselor at a women's shelter. She left her counseling position because the constant stress was causing her to have panic attacks and anxiety. What better way to find zen in her life than to open a crafting retreat business in a historic Victorian home? But when her business partner and friend, Jane, becomes a murder suspect just as their first craft retreat guests begin arriving, Cora is worried that their crafting dream might be an immediate flop. Can she help clear her friend, while handling a womanizing craft instructor and caterer problems?

This book was a fun read. I loved the idea of crafting retreat weekends! I liked the two main characters, Cora and Jane. Jane has a bit of a checkered past but is trying to improve life for her and her daughter. Cora is her friend through thick and thin, despite occasional frustrations or differences of opinion. For me, the portrayal of the main characters as less than perfect made this a more believable story.

The mystery portion of the plot is engaging and well written. Small town gossip and politics, lots of possible suspects, and some good plot twists combine to make this an excellent mystery. At the end of the book are instructions for several craft projects from the story and a recipe, too.

I liked how Bryan sprinkled facts and information about broom-making throughout the story. Their opening craft retreat weekend features classes taught by a master broom-maker. While the man teaching the classes is definitely a womanizing cad, the information about making brooms is very interesting! I had no idea that some people collect vintage handmade brooms. I knew nothing about how to make handmade brooms either. Now I'm interested in learning more!

Mollie Cox Bryan is the author of several crafty cozy mysteries in the Cumberland Creek series. Death Among the Doilies is the first book in the new Cora Crafts series. Find out more information about the author at her website: