Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Review: Better Off Thread




Better Off Thread
By Amanda Lee
Embroidery Mystery #10
Berkley, 2016


Summary

Santa finds himself in a stitch of trouble in the tenth in the series from the national bestselling author of The Stitching Hour…

Marcy is busy helping her customers make hand-crafted ornaments at her embroidery shop, the Seven-Year Stitch. But despite the yuletide bustle, when her friend Captain Moe asks for her help, she can’t refuse—especially when the favor is to play the elf to his Santa for sick children at a local hospital. Despite the ridiculous outfit, Marcy finds herself enjoying spreading cheer—until the hospital’s administrator is found murdered.

Although the deceased had plenty of people willing to fill her stocking with coal, evidence pins the crime on Moe. Now it’s up to Marcy, with the help of her police officer boyfriend Ted and her Irish Wolfhound Angus, to stitch together the clues to clear Moe’s name—before someone else winds up crossed off Santa’s list for good…


My thoughts

This is the first of Amanda Lee’s series that I’ve read and I enjoyed it very much. When I think of the term “cozy mystery,” Better Off Thread fits the description perfectly. All the essential elements are present … small-town setting in Oregon, amateur detective who owns an embroidery shop, a strong supporting cast of friends, intuitive investigation, humor, a sweet romance, and the most adorable Irish Wolfhound named Angus! The writing is tight, flowing smoothly throughout. And, to top it all off, this story is completely clean – no graphic scenes or profanity!

A story or series is only as strong as its heroine, and Marcy, owner of Seven-Year Stitch, is wonderfully appealing. She’s sensitive, caring, and intelligent – the kind of person you would want for a friend. Marcy even has the hidden talent of stunt driving, revealed in a most creative way. Her romantic interest, Ted, is admirable also and readers will love the surprise ending. This story stands alone, but I’m eager to follow all the characters through the previous books as time allows.

The mystery is well plotted and kept me turning the pages. Character depth can make or break a book for me, and that is one of this story’s strengths. I especially enjoyed the scenes of Marcy assisting Santa with the children at the hospital. While Better Off Thread is a perfect read for any time of the year, it is especially enjoyable during the Christmas season.

Highly recommended. Within the cozy mystery genre, 5 stars.


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Gayle Trent (and pseudonym Amanda Lee) writes the Daphne Martin Cake Decorating series  and the Embroidery Mystery series. The cake decorating series features a heroine who is starting her life over in Southwest Virginia after a nasty divorce. The Embroidery Mystery series  features a heroine who recently moved to the Oregon coast to open an embroidery specialty shop. She also writes the Down South CafĂ© Mysteries  as Gayle Leeson.

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Purchase Links:  Amazon │ B&N │ kobo

I was provided a free copy of this book through Great Escapes Tours. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.



Monday, December 5, 2016

Review: Pursuing Gold


Pursuing Gold
By Cynthia L. Simmons
Elk Lake, 2016


Summary

With his father dead and his business partner incapacitated, Peter Chandler inherits the leadership of a bank in economic crisis.

With only a newly-minted college degree and little experience, Peter joins his partner's daughter, Mary Beth Roper, in a struggle to keep C&R Bank afloat while the Civil War rages around Chattanooga. Political pressure for unsecured loans of gold to the government stirs up trouble as tempers and prices rise. Their problems multiply when Mary Beth discovers counterfeit money with Peter's forged signature. Can they find the forger before the bank fails? The two friends must pursue gold on behalf of their business, as they learn to pursue their heavenly Father to find hope and peace.


My thoughts

Pursuing Gold is an unusual and interesting Civil War novel, one that looks at the war through the lens of the financial industry rather than the battlefield. Its approach is serious and informative as it weaves elements of mystery, family relationships, and romance throughout. Historical detail is the novel’s strength and I found that aspect intriguing, as well as the Chattanooga, Tennessee setting.

Peter and Mary Beth are likeable, intelligent characters who struggle daily in a world where greed and desire for power strive to make them stumble. The C&R Bank becomes Peter’s responsibility after his father’s death, and there are those who seek to undermine him. I loved Mary Beth’s relationship with and care for her father, whose health is failing.

The story is written in short chapters, broken up into various times of day and character voices. I found this format easy to follow, although the narrative doesn’t flow as smoothly as I’m used to. My favorite characters are Peter and Mary Beth’s father, who were well developed, but I would have liked more depth with Mary Beth.

I enjoyed Pursuing Gold for all the historical detail and think it is a story fans of Civil War history would enjoy.

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Cynthia L Simmons and her husband, Ray, have five children and reside in Atlanta. She has taught for over thirty years as a homeschool mother and Bible teacher. She's a columnist for Leading Hearts Magazine and she directs Atlanta Christian Writing Conference. Cyndi has a heart for encouraging women in today's crazy, upside-down world. She loves history and peppers her speaking and teaching with fascinating vignettes from the past. Her first book, Struggles and Triumphs, was nominated for 2008 Georgia Author of the Year. She co-founded Homeschool Answers and hosts Heart of the Matter Radio.

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I was provided a free copy of this book through Litfuse Publicity. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

http://litfusegroup.com/author/csimmons

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Spotlight: The Seven-Course Christmas Killer


Just released:  The Seven-Course Christmas Killer, a novella in Rosie Genova’s highly-rated Italian Kitchen Mysteries. This looks like a really cute cozy mystery series and I’m eager to check it out. Here’s more about the newly-released novella . . .


Rosie Genova, author of the Italian Kitchen Mysteries, serves up a new dish this week with the release of her e-book holiday novella, The Seven Course Christmas Killer: A Holiday Novella from the Italian Kitchen. Priced at .99, the e-book will be available on Amazon and most other retailers.

The story takes place on Christmas Eve, as Vic and the gang prepare the traditional Feast of the Seven Fishes for their annual holiday party. But before you can say “shrimp scampi,” Mayor Anne McCrae takes a nasty fall that may not be an accident. Add a nosy reporter, guests with grudges, and a missing kitchen knife—and Vic suddenly has all the ingredients for murder!


Summary

On Christmas Eve, someone might be sleeping with the fishes . . .

It’s December at the Casa Lido, which means only one thing: the Rienzi family’s traditional Christmas Eve celebration, including wine, song, and seven Italian seafood courses. As Victoria and Tim prep scungilli and calamari, Nonna directs the cooking until all is in readiness for the big night.

But the holiday cheer is interrupted by the attempted murder of Mayor Anne McCrae, who asks Vic to investigate. Trouble is, there are as many suspects as there are fishes on the Christmas Eve menu . . . 

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A Jersey girl born and bred, national bestselling author Rosie Genova left her heart at the shore, which serves as the setting for her cozy series, the Italian Kitchen Mysteries. Her debut, Murder and Marinara, was voted a Best Cozy of 2013 by Suspense Magazine and was a finalist for a 2014 Daphne Award. Her books have been described as blending “mystery with comedy, romance, family drama, a vivid and affectionate portrayal of the Jersey shore and…oh yes, cooking.”

The proud mama of three grown sons, Rosie still lives in her home state with her husband and a charming mutt named Lucy. She also writes women's fiction as Rosemary DiBattista.

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Purchase at Amazon for 99¢

Friday, December 2, 2016

Review + 2 GIVEAWAYS: Crime and Catnip




Crime and Catnip
By T. C. LoTempio
A Nick and Nora Mystery #3
Berkley, 2016


Summary

Nick and Nora aren’t just pussyfooting around this time as they deal with a missing person’s case and murder.

While catering a gala for the Cruz Museum, Nora Charles agrees to look into the disappearance of director Violet Crenshaw’s niece, a case previously undertaken by her frisky feline friend Nick’s former owner, a private eye whose whereabouts are also currently unknown.

As Nora and her curious cat Nick pull at the string of clues, they begin to unravel a twisted tale of coded messages, theft, false identities, murder, and international espionage. Nora dares to hope that the labyrinth of leads will not only help them locate the missing young woman, but also solve the disappearance of the detective. That’s if Nora can stay alive long enough to find him…

Includes delicious sandwich recipes!


My thoughts

With the title and handsome tuxedo cat pictured on the cover, Crime and Catnip is a book that called out to me, and I enjoyed it overall. Although #3 in the Nick and Nora mystery series, it can stand alone.

Crime and Catnip has several strengths – strong writing by T. C. LoTempio, lots of interesting characters, elements of international intrigue, a mystery that is complex and well plotted. And then there’s Nick, a smart tuxedo cat that steals the show! The story has certain cozy mystery elements, but feels more like suspense at times – resulting in a good blend of the two styles. I liked Nora and admired her determination and skill. There is some romance involved, although it doesn’t play a major part, and I’m glad to say there are no graphic scenes. The narrative held my interest and the final solution was a surprise.

There were a couple of things that I didn’t personally care for, but these won’t bother most readers. One is the psychic element brought in by a friend of Nora’s who owns a New Age shop. And secondly, the frequent use of mild profanity detracted from my enjoyment.

Overall, Crime and Catnip is an entertaining mystery.


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While Toni Lotempio does not commit – or solve – murders in real life, she has no trouble doing it on paper. Her lifelong love of mysteries began early on when she was introduced to her first Nancy Drew mystery at age 10 – The Secret in the Old Attic. She (and ROCCO, albeit he’s uncredited) pen the Nick and Nora mystery series from Berkley Prime Crime – and in Spring 2017, the new CAT RESCUE mysteries from Crooked Lane! She, Rocco and company make their home in Clifton, New Jersey, just twenty minutes from the Big Apple – New York. Catch up with them in various places below . . .

Rocco's BlogWebsiteFacebookTwitterGoodreads

Purchase Links:  Amazon B&N

I was provided a free copy of this book through Great Escapes Tours. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.


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GIVEAWAY #1

To enter the drawing for a print copy of Crime and Catnip, please click on this link and share my Facebook post, then leave a comment here.

BE SURE to leave your name and your email address in a safe format - [at] and [dot] - for the drawing. E-mail required for entry. Contest ends at midnight PST on Saturday, December 10. Winner will be chosen by random.org and contacted by e-mail.

Eligibility: US residents



GIVEAWAY #2

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Thursday, December 1, 2016

Christmas with Erma Bombeck, #1


A timeless Christmas classic from my favorite funny lady, Erma Bombeck . . .


If there is one man singularly responsible for the children of this country, it's Doctor Spock. (That reads strange, but I don't know how to fix it.)

What I'm getting at is, this man is the great white father of every parent who has bungled his way through a vaporizer tent or a two-year-old's tantrum. Why, there was a time when, if Doctor Spock had told me to use one-legged diapers, I would have done so without question.

Now he has shaken me up. He has said there is no Santa Claus and urges us to tell our children the truth.

"Kids, brace yourselves," I said. "Doctor Spock says there is no Santa Claus and that I should never have taken you to see a live one in the first place because his behavior is noisy and his clothes are strange. Also, he inspires greed."

They looked at each other, obviously stunned.

"That's just not true," one said. "You know there's a Santa Claus, just as you believe there are fairies dancing on our lawn."

"Knock it off with the 'Yes, Virginia' bit. I told you that. Now I'm telling you Santa Claus is an upsetting experience. There can't be a Santa Claus."

"There can if you want him to be," they said cautiously.

"I don't know," I hesitated. "He does have a certain magic that makes people happy and kind toward one another. He does keep the work economy steady for elves and gives seasonal employment to reindeer. Heaven knows, he has your father spending more money than he earns and all of us crawling around on the rooftops with strings of lights in our teeth. I don't know what to believe anymore. I've always had such faith in Dr. Spock!"

"Have you ever seen Dr. Spock?" asked one.

"No, but . . . now cut that out! I know he exists. The point is how can I go on believing in a Santa Claus who parachutes from a helicopter over a shopping center parking lot, breaks his leg and ends up in a hospital?"

"Well, where else would you go with a broken leg?" asked another.

"The point is, kids, he's merely a mortal man, and mortal men don't go around pushing their fat stomachs down skinny chimneys."

"Of course he's mortal," they explained. "Otherwise, how could he have eaten all those cookies you put out for him last year?"

"That's right," I said excitedly, "he really did come, didn't he, and left me that dreamy black jacket that I know your father wouldn't have bought. You know something? I believe in Yogi Bear, and his behavior is noisy. I believe in Phyllis Diller and her clothes are strange. I believe in the Bureau of Internal Revenue and they're not exactly philanthropic. Kids, there is a Santa Claus!"

As the curtain closed on this domestic scene, the seven-year-old leaned over to whisper in his father's ear, "Boy, Dad, she gets harder to convince every year!"

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If you’re an Erma Bombeck fan, or if you enjoyed this post,
I’d love to hear from you!


Erma Bombeck, At Wit's End, Nelson Doubleday, Inc., 1965
Artwork:  Caught by Surprise by Tom Browning



Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Review (+ Tour Giveaway): Love for All Seasons



On Tour with Prism Book Tours.



Love for All Seasons: Four Inspirational Historical Romance NovellasLove for All Seasons
(Four Inspirational Historical Romance Novellas)
Inspirational Historical Romance
ebook, 164 pages
November 9th 2016

If you like the inspirational historical romances of Deanne Gist and Lauraine Snelling, you’ll love USA Today bestselling author Stacy Henrie! With four novellas—one for each season of the year—you’ll find a heartwarming collection of couples from a simpler time in America who discover the redeeming powers of faith and love.

A Long Winter Kiss

As Samantha and Rex’s childhood friendship matured into young love, they promised their hearts to one another, even as Rex headed off to war. But their hope for a bright future was shattered when Rex succumbed to his belief that the horrors of war had made him a man no woman could love. Now he has returned, and Samantha must help Rex see that he still has much to give—and much more to gain—by replacing fear with faith and opening himself to love.

An Unlikely Spring Courtship

Tempest worked hard to secure her independence as a woman running her own mercantile, so when Bram has the audacity to open a competing shop in a town with only enough room for one, Tempest is driven to despair. And then to retaliation. But when tragedy strikes their community and threatens everything they both hold dear, will they be able to recognize that what they share is far more important than what separates them?

A Summer for Love

Loralee’s life has changed dramatically in the eight years since she’s last seen the resort town of Bayocean, but one thing that has never changed is her feelings for Wyatt, a man she promised to meet at the resort on a specific day if they were both still unattached. When Wyatt appears on that date, as hopeful and uncertain as Loralee, the two must see if an old and abiding love has outlasted the changes wrought by time—and begin to build a new life together.

Romance in Autumn

Phoebe and James grew up together but apart in the same beautiful mansion, he as the son of the owners, she as the daughter of a servant. In the years since, Phoebe’s fortunes have changed dramatically, and she carries the dream of one day owning the mansion that is still close to her heart. Until James—now a deeply compelling man—delivers the bad news that securing the purchase will be all but impossible. As Phoebe reluctantly relinquishes her dream, she will also look deep into her soul to learn that a true home might exist in her budding love for James.



USA Today bestselling author Stacy Henrie is the author of western romances and the Of Love and War series, which includes Hope at Dawn, a 2015 RITA Award finalist for excellence in romance. She was born and raised in the West, where she currently resides with her family. She enjoys reading, road trips, interior decorating, chocolate, and most of all, laughing with her husband and kids. You can learn more about Stacy and her books by visiting her website at stacyhenrie.com.



My Thoughts

Novella collections and Christmas seem to go together for some reason, possibly because I’m looking for shorter stories during this busy season. Also, I’ve enjoyed other stories by Stacy Henrie in the Love Inspired series, so I was eager to read Love for All Seasons.

These four stories are built around a seasonal theme, set in different eras and settings – and I have to say that I love the cover. I was pleasantly surprised at how complete each story was, an element not always found in novellas. The characters are likeable, easy to connect with, and have depth. Spiritual themes are woven throughout as the characters live out their faith.

I enjoyed each novella very much and won’t even try to pick a favorite. Love for All Seasons is filled with sweet, touching stories – perfect for any time of the year when you’re looking for a satisfying shorter read.

Recommended.


Tour Schedule

November 27th: Launch
November 28th:
November 29th:
November 30th:
December 1st:
December 2nd:
December 4th: Grand Finale


Tour Giveaway

$40 Amazon eGift Card and Winner's Choice of an ebook of Any of Stacy Henrie's Books (you can see her books listed on Amazon here)
Open internationally
Ends December 8th

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Monday, November 28, 2016

Review (+Tour Giveaway): Finding Margo



 
Click here to purchase your copy.


About the Book

Off the charts and on the run.

International pop star Margo Hartman could use a night off. A grueling tour and overbearing entourage have sent her over the edge. It’s time for this diva to disappear. And who would think to look for the superstar in a small town in Ohio?

Sheriff’s deputy Brock Moore is undercover as well. He knows Margo isn’t who she appears to be, but her uncanny resemblance to a local Amish woman is raising all sorts of questions . . . the kinds that make her a target for a killer.

Both are determined to find answers, but their mutual attraction stands in the way of either of them doing it alone. Is finding Margo the solution to Brock’s problems or the just the beginning . . . ?


About the Author

USA Today best-selling author Jen Turano writes contemporary and historical romances with quirky characters and unusual storylines. Just outside Denver, Colorado, Jen and her husband live as empty-nesters, and they do so fabulously. Contact Jen at jenturano.com.






My thoughts


With Finding Margo, Jen Turano has waded into the waters of contemporary romance/suspense and delivered one highly entertaining novel! The era might be different, but the writing is not. I loved everything about this story and could have identified Jen as the author even if I hadn’t seen her name on the cover.

Finding Margo is fresh. It’s filled with Jen’s laugh-out-loud humor. It has a quirky feel to it and blends together several elements – a cold-case child abduction, mystery, romance, a touch of the Amish/Mennonite community, and witty dialogue. Margo and Brock are unique, very appealing characters with hidden depth, and their sweet romance is well balanced with the suspense elements. And then there’s the duck, which delivers one of the most delightful animal themes I’ve ever come across.

I appreciated the spiritual theme that we are more than the expectations family and culture might put upon us – and that God never leaves or stops loving us, but is always working to fulfill His plans and purposes for our lives.

An epilogue beautifully sets up book #2, to be released in fall of 2017. Not to wish the passing of time, but I’m eager for this!

Highly recommended.

I was provided a free copy of this book through Celebrate Lit. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.



Blog Stops

November 17: Book by Book
November 17: cherylbbookblog
November 18: A Reader’s Brain
November 18: I Hope You Dance
November 18: Blogging with Carol
November 19: ASC Book Reviews
November 19: Bibliophile Reviews
November 20: Lighthouse Academy
November 20: Karen Sue Hadley
November 20: Back Porch Reads
November 21: Genesis 5020
November 21: 100 Pages per Hour
November 22: Pause for Tales
November 22: Quiet Quilter
November 22: Bigreadersite
November 23: Just Commonly
November 23: A Greater Yes
November 23: D’S QUILTS & BOOKS
November 24: Smiling Book Reviews
November 24: Ashley’s Bookshelf
November 25: inklings and notions
November 26: Daysong Reflections
November 26: The Scribbler
November 28: The Power of Words
November 29: Faithfully Bookish
November 29: Christian Bookaholic


Giveaway


To celebrate her tour, Jen is giving away a $25 Amazon gift card and signed copies of her book! Enter below - and be sure to comment on this post to claim your nine entries on the giveaway!