Saturday, January 25, 2020

Spotlight + GIVEAWAY: Rocks and Flowers by Cynthia Hilston

Rocks and Flowers in a Box JustRead Blog + Review Tour 
Welcome to the Blog + Review Tour & Giveaway for Rocks and Flowers in a Box by Cynthia Hilston, hosted by JustRead Publicity Tours!

Here’s a new historical romance by Cynthia Hilston,
#2 in the Lorna & Triatan series …


Rocks and Flowers in a Box by Cynthia Hilston Title: Rocks and Flowers in a Box
Author: Cynthia Hilston
Series: Lorna & Tristan #2
Genre: Historical Fiction
Release Date: December 21, 2019

The wedding bells for Lorna and Tristan Blake toll doom right as the honeymoon begins with an unexpected turn in Tristan’s health. 

While World War II winds down, Lorna receives a letter from the War Department informing her that the brother she thought killed in action is still alive. She is overjoyed, but his return will dredge up a devastating secret about their parents’ tragic death –a secret that could destroy her new marriage and threaten her husband’s physical and mental well-being. 

What unfolds is balancing act of keeping the faith and shattering the pieces of the life she’s worked so hard to put back together.

PURCHASE LINKS*: Goodreads | Amazon | BookDepository


Context: After her husband, Tristan, threw an old address book away because he wants nothing to do with his family, Lorna sneaks out after he’s gone to bed to retrieve it.

      I sat in my dad’s old armchair as the clock struck midnight that evening. Tristan went to bed hours ago, his snores traveling from our bedroom into the living room. I fiddled with my brother’s dog tag, the chain smooth from everyday wear. Nearly a year had passed since I’d received the awful news of Chucky’s death in Tunisia. I smiled ruefully, kissed the dog tag, and placed the chain around my neck.
      In the months that followed his death, I’d received his belongings in the mail, followed by his Purple Heart and his life insurance policy. The money had meant little to me, a meager replacement that would never fill the void left by the loss of my last family member. I’d opened an account at the local bank and left the money, in the hopes of one day giving it to my children, telling them it was from their uncle, a man they would have loved as much as I had.
      One brother. That was all I’d had. Tristan had at least two brothers still living and likely sisters as well. Tristan’s siblings were probably scattered around the country. Do they have children? Does Tristan know or care if he’s an uncle?
      I shook my head. What was the matter with me? I was meddling in things best left alone, but as I stood and slid into some shoes to step outside, something prodded me to keep moving. In the black of night, I glanced around, as if I were a thief sneaking about and hoping not to get caught. No movement came from my house, so I continued to Tristan’s house, all the way to the back yard. The stones crunched underfoot as I approached the trash cans.
      “If I were smart, I would’ve brought a flashlight,” I muttered.
      The closest can was piled to the brim. With only the moonlight as my guide, I scanned the contents. My eyes fell on a black book. It was almost too easy as I grabbed it. I returned to the house and sat at the kitchen table with the light on over the sink. The book weighed heavy in my hands like I was hoarding an illegal substance. I opened it. On the inner cover, a name and address written in thick, loopy letters stared back at me: Stephen Richardson, 145 Stephens St., Cleveland, OH. I ran my fingers over the words. Tristan’s original name, before the accident. I read more pages. After a few minutes, I yawned, my eyesight going blurry. I stood and tucked the book into the back of the ironing board cupboard. The last thing Tristan ever did was the ironing.
      I joined my husband in bed a minute later. As I pulled the sheet up to my chin, the warmth emanating from his body almost burned me.


Cynthia Hilston

Cynthia Hilston is a stay-at-home mom of three young kids, happily married, and lives in the Cleveland, Ohio, area. Writing has always been like another child to her. After twenty years of waltzing in the world of fan fiction, she stepped away to do her debut dance with original works of fiction. Visit her website for more information.

 In her spare time - what spare time? - she devours books, watches Supernatural and Outlander, pets her orange kitty, looks at the stars, drinks wine or coffee with good friends, and dreams of what other stories she wishes to tell.

CONNECT WITH CYNTHIA: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram


(1) winner will receive a $25 Amazon gift card!

Rocks and Flowers in a Box JustRead Giveaway

Be sure to check out each stop on the tour for more chances to win. Full tour schedule shown below. Giveaway will begin at midnight January 24, 2020 and last through 11:59 PM EST on January 31, 2020. Winner will be notified within 2 weeks of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or risk forfeiture of prize. Void where prohibited by law or logistics.

Giveaway is subject to the policies found here.

Follow along at JustRead Tours for a full list of stops!


*NOTE: This post contains affiliate links.

Grand Finale Blitz + GIVEAWAY: Dawn King by Janalyn Voigt

On Tour with Prism Book Tours

We hope you enjoyed the tour! If you missed any of the stops
you'll find snippets, as well as the link to each full post, below:

Launch - Note from the Author

. . . DawnKing is the fourth book in the series and wraps up many story threads from earlier books. It can be read as part of the series for a fuller experience or read as a stand-alone. Following the stops on this blog tour will offer you glimpse into the lives of engaging characters within a vivid storyworld.


Heidi Reads... - Excerpt

Elcon and Mara had been among those who’d escaped with him from Torindan. If he had anything to say in the matter, they would yet avoid capture. Surviving a clash with two of Freaer’s finest seemed unlikely, but Kai could delay the assassins.

The giant raptor birds flapped their ragged wings and snapped the air with pointed beaks in a display of ferocity. Sunlight gleamed along their rider’s swords, no doubt honed to wicked sharpness.

Kai’s skin crawled. Garbed in the red of Freaer’s elite assassins, the welke riders glared at him across the intervening distance, a space closing with alarming speed.

Uplifting Reads - Excerpt

The assassins took turns punishing Kai, allowing him no rest.

Flecht’s sides heaved but bore Kai without balking. Kai faced his tormentors, panting like an old man. Neither he nor his wingabeast could go on like this. If the assassins took his life they might spare Flecht.

Kai bowed his head and waited for the end to come.

"As the last book in the series, DawnKing had a very triumphant and satisfying ending. . . . I enjoyed DawnKing just as much as I enjoyed the rest of the series and I recommend you pick up this series today!"

Something felt wrong.

A grove of strongwoods lifted twisted branches against the deepening sky. The trees bordered a meadow thick with undergrowth. Anything could be hiding in there.

She should go back. Curiosity lured her onward. The bend wasn't far. She started forward, darting glances into the shadows. The sensation of someone watching crawled over her skin. Mara’s steps slowed. She should persuade Rand to come back with her.

Movement flickered at the edge of her vision.

Bookworm Lisa - Review

". . . This book lived up to my hopes and expectations.

The best part is there is a happily-ever-after for several of the characters. Two of them, in particular, made me very happy. :) If you follow the series you should know what I mean. If not, you should read it to find out."

“What shall we do with him?” A burly man, one of several who remained beside Rand, asked in gruff tones.

“Blindfold him.” The outlaw leader gestured with his head. “Take him to camp.”

“Must we?” the burly man screwed up an eye. “I’ve an idea he’s trouble.”

“You’re probably right, Trader, but he and I need to finish our talk.” He circled Rand, looking him up and down. “Something tells me he’s not who he seems.”

Wishful Endings - Excerpt

“Milady…” Eathnor moved to her side. “My brother is doing everything within his power to help the Lof Shraen.”

“Except remove him from this cave.” Dorann’s frustration came through despite the soft tone he used.

Anders’s eyes gleamed as he glanced back from the cave entrance, where he stood guard. “Do we dare risk leaving?”

“It might save the Lof Shraen’s life,” Eathnor answered, “but at the risk of ending it. With Pilaer’s warriors searching the forest for those fleeing Torindan, we could all be killed.”

Remembrancy - Review

"In the fourth and final book in her Tales of Faeraven series, Janalyn Voigt weaves a story of a group of people split apart, surrounded by danger, and all trying to arrive at once destination. . . . I was pleased to find that Voigt managed to resolve everything I’ve been following since book one. Plus, she did it in a way that left me satisfied with the end results."

"I really love how this series is written, and I enjoyed this one perhaps most of all! So many twists and turns, and I loved all the surprises!"

"Whether you have a child in need of some good reading, want to read the book(s) aloud to your family, or if you yourself enjoy fantasy tales, the Tales Of Faeraven have you covered. It's an excellent series and one that I would not hesitate to recommend."

Among the Reads - Excerpt

She stirred as if irritated. “I didn’t seek you out to talk about Searcher, if that’s what you mean.”

He glanced up, surprising an expression of sorrow on her face. “What do you want with me?” He went on in a softer tone.

Her chest rose and fell on a sigh. “Only to say goodbye. We’ll ride for Cobbleford soon.”

Jypsylynn - Review

"Overall, this story is thrilling, dramatic and thought provoking with courageous sincere characters. The journey is imaginative and unique, and the author beautifully renders the background setting. It has been my pleasure to read each book, and I recommend for anyone looking to start a new series in the new year."

"All in all, I was pleased with how it ended and how Janalyn pulled the entire series together. With four books, that took some serious skill on her part. . . . If you enjoy a good fantasy series, I recommend this one. It has all the requisite characters and elements with plenty of ups and downs to keep you on your toes then pulls together beautifully in the end."

Don't forget to enter the giveaway at the end of this post...

(Tales of Faeraven #4)
By Janalyn Voigt
Fantasy, Christian Fantasy
Paperback & ebook, 342 Pages
February 1st 2020 by Pelican Book Group

A prince marked for death, a princess without a kingdom, and a world at war.

Unlikely travelers band together to accomplish the impossible—bring peace to their kingdom. But traitorous forces are at work, and a treacherous hand is destroying everything they accomplish.
Honor and soul-searching bring the travelers to hidden truth, and when a sacrifice is made, the broken-hearted band of misfits must cleanse the evil from their midst to free their world...or lose everything.

(Affiliate link included.)

Other Books in the Series

About the Author

Janalyn Voigt is a writer and professional speaker with a photography habit and a passion for travel. Her unique blend of adventure, romance, suspense, and fantasy creates worlds of beauty and danger for readers. Tales of Faeraven, her epic fantasy series beginning with DawnSinger, carries readers into a land only imagined in dreams. She is represented by Sarah Joy Freese of Wordserve Literary.

Tour Giveaway

One winner will receive a Tales of Faeraven bookmark and a $15 Amazon Gift Card (US only)
Ends January 29, 2020

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Thursday, January 23, 2020

Review + GIVEAWAY: The Matchmaker's Rogue by Regina Scott

On Tour with Prism Book Tours

The Matchmaker's Rogue
(Grace-by-the-Sea #1)
By Regina Scott
Historical Romance
Paperback & ebook, 272 Pages
January 8th 2020

Grace-by-the-Sea: Where romance and adventure come home.

Polished Jesslyn Chance has one of the most enviable positions in the little Regency coastal village of Grace-by-the-Sea. She is the hostess of the spa, arranging introductions and entertainments and playing matchmaker to the ladies and gentlemen who come to take the waters, promenade through the shops, and dance at the assembly. But when a rogue returns from her past, Jess finds herself suddenly at sea.

Always an adventurer, Larkin Denby left Grace-by-the-Sea to right the wrongful death of his father. Now he’s back on a mission: to identify the mysterious Lord of the Smugglers who allegedly sails from Grace Cove and takes England’s secrets to France. But Grace-by-the-Sea is the perfect little spa town, run by the still oh-so-perfect Jesslyn Chance. When the village’s future is threatened, Jess must work with Lark to solve the mystery and protect the town’s own. In doing so, the matchmaker of Grace-by-the-Sea may just find that the best match for her is the rogue who stole her heart years ago.

(Affiliate links included.)

My thoughts

Whether it’s historical or Regency romance, Regina Scott always delivers an entertaining, solid story. Regencies are a strong suit for her, however, and I loved The Matchmaker’s Rogue, which begins a new series set on the Dorset coast.

The year is 1804, during the Napoleonic Wars, the setting is the idyllic town of Grace-by-the-Sea, a quaint coastal village built around the healing mineral waters of a local spa, and whose very name calls to me. There’s a perfect blend of history, romance, mystery, and humor,  with the action being steady rather than fast paced – which I loved, as it gave me time to know the characters well. Certain aspects of this story, such as the Dorset setting and smuggling theme, reminded me of the writing of one of my favorite gothic romance authors, Victoria Holt.

Lark and Jess are appealing lead characters, so easy to connect with. Jess, who finds fulfillment in helping others, is an ideal hostess for the spa and its guests. She has a natural feel for people, and uses that intuitiveness to arrange friendships and sometimes even courtships … “On any given day, she kept as many as three dozen people healthy and happy.” Yet for all her interaction with people, at times she seemed to be the type of person who finds themselves alone in a crowded room. Lark, who grew up in the area and cares for Jess, returns after eight years with the assignment of capturing a smuggling ring suspected of operating out of Grace-by-the-Sea. Memories resurface for both of them, with Jess sensing that “Lark was a storm cloud on the horizon, promising wind, rain, an upset to conditions.” I loved the sweet romance and chemistry between them, as Lark found the home he didn’t realize he’d been missing.

The Matchmaker’s Rogue is filled with charming and sometimes quirky secondary characters. I adored Jess’s aunt, Maudie, and always felt her folklore allusions to trolls, mermaids, fairies, etc., might hold a little truth. In addition to the criminal element of smuggling, there’s also the concern of spies and passing of England’s secrets to Napoleon. The author skillfully aroused this reader’s suspicion of almost all of Grace-by-the-Sea residents, including the local vicar, magistrate, and even Jess’s own brother. There’s also some interesting history involved in the political aspects of the conscripting of soldiers and the value of small-town militias.

The ending arrives at a very satisfying conclusion, with the village coming together in a unique way. Very little is quite as it seems on the surface! I hated to leave Grace-by-the-Sea and its many endearing characters, but there’s the promise of much more to come.


I received a copy of this book through Prism Book Tours. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

About the Author

Regina Scott started writing novels in the third grade. Thankfully for literature as we know it, she didn’t sell her first novel until she learned a bit more about writing. Since her first book was published, her stories have traveled the globe, with translations in many languages including Dutch, German, Italian, and Portuguese. She now has more than forty-five published works of warm, witty romance.

She loves everything about England, so it was only a matter of time before she started her own village. Where more perfect than the gorgeous Dorset Coast? She can imagine herself sailing along the chalk cliffs, racing her horse across the Downs, dancing at the assembly, and even drinking the spa waters. She drank the waters in Bath, after all!

Regina Scott and her husband of 30 years reside in the Puget Sound area of Washington State on the way to Mt. Rainier. She has dressed as a Regency dandy, learned to fence, driven four-in-hand, and sailed on a tall ship, all in the name of research, of course. Learn more about her at her website.

Tour Schedule

Tour Giveaway

One winner will receive print copies of all six books in Fortune's Brides series (Never Doubt a Duke, Never Borrow a Baronet, Never Envy an Earl, Never Vow for a Viscount, Never Kneel to a Knight, and Never Marry a Marquess)

US only
Ends January 29, 2020

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Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Review + GIVEAWAY: Legion by Shadia Hrichi

About the Book

Book: Legion
Author: Shadia Hrichi
Genre: Bible Study
Release Date: Oct 8, 2019

How far will Jesus go to rescue one lost soul?

Tormented, chained, and living in a graveyard, the man known only by the name of the demons that tormented him had no one to help him–no one to intercede for him. No one but Jesus. Climb into the boat with Jesus as He heads into enemy territory. Witness Jesus’s power and passion as He battles violent storms and armies of demons in order to rescue . . . one . . . lost . . . soul.

Through this six-week, action-packed Bible study, you will experience God’s relentless love as you celebrate the impassioned Savior Who moved heaven and earth to rescue you.

Click here for your copy!

My thoughts

I am excited to have discovered the Bible studies written by Shadia Hrichi and highly recommend her work. Hrichi is very knowledgeable about Scripture and biblical culture, personable, and a clear communicator. And best of all, she covers unusual topics – people and subjects that wouldn’t normally pop into your mind when you think of doing a Bible study – but with life-changing messages that speak to the heart.

Legion: Rediscovering the God Who Rescues Me focuses on the Gospel of Mark’s account of Jesus healing the demoniac. I’ve been a student of the Bible almost all my life and am familiar with this story, yet am amazed at the freshness and so many eye-opening moments and I worked my way through this study. The demoniac’s story doesn’t actually begin and end in Mark, but rather goes back all the way to the days of Creation and why God allowed sin to enter the His perfect world. I loved Hrichi’s quote from commentator Victor Hamilton:

There are only four chapters in the Bible where Satan is not present, the first two and the last two. The Bible begins and ends with him out of existence. But between Genesis 3 and Revelation 20 he is a factor to be reckoned with.

Legion is spread out over six weeks, but can be done at any pace. It works well for either personal or group study, for new believer, seeker, or the seasoned Christian. Hrichi suggests varying levels of commitment, going from 15 minutes to 60 minutes a day. I suspect those starting out “light” at 15 minutes will quickly desire to spend more time delving into these lessons, for they are that good!

Legion begins in Genesis 1 and addresses the age-old question that causes so many to stumble … How could a loving God allow so much evil in the world? The three main sections are entitled The Bondage, The Battle, and The Blessing, ending with powerful teaching from Revelation. I really can’t say enough good things about this study, so I’ll just encourage you to try it for yourself – personally or in a small group.

Very highly recommended.

I received a copy of this book through Celebrate Lit and Leafwood Publishers. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

About the Author

      SHADIA HRICHI is a passionate Bible teacher, author, and speaker who has a heart for seeing lives transformed by the power of God’s Word. She has received a master’s in biblical and theological studies from Western Seminary as well as master’s in criminal justice from the State University of New York. 
      In addition to LEGION, Shadia is the author of several Bible studies, including HAGAR and Worthy of Love. Shadia is often invited to speak at churches, conferences, and other events. Her insightful, witty, yet vulnerable teaching style reveals a compassion for the hurting, love for Jesus, and uncompromising commitment to the truth of God’s Word. 

More from Shadia

      If there is one universal truth, it is that every human heart longs for paradise. A perfect world without death, pain, or sorrow. A world at peace, where each of us is secure, treasured, and loved. But the reality is that the world as we know it will never deliver; it cannot. Scripture tells us that “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). 
      As a result, you and I live in a broken world. A world that has been drifting off course ever since that slippery serpent enticed our first parents to reject God’s authority in that garden paradise so long ago. In that moment, they unwittingly handed over dominion of the earth to Satan on a silver platter. But this then begs the question. Why was God willing to risk rebellion in the Garden? And why would God allow His perfect creation to fall victim to the enemy’s schemes? And if God is good, why does He allow evil to exist? 
      Through this six-week study, you and I will explore the answers to these questions and more as we step into the fascinating story of the man known only by the name of the demons that tormented him. To be honest, I don’t know why I am attracted to the hard stories in the Bible. The messy stories. I suspect it stems, in part, from my own broken past. I can relate much easier to the broken people. The ones who experienced times when they felt unseen, or unloved, or unwanted. At the same time, their stories captivate my heart because when God reveals what He is doing behind the seen, His power and glory are displayed in ways that make my spirit soar! 
      So I invite you to come with me as we climb into the boat with Jesus and head into enemy territory. We will witness Jesus’s power and passion as He battles violent storms and armies of demons in order to rescue . . . one . . . lost . . . soul. Tormented, chained, and living in a graveyard, the man had no one to help him. No one to intercede for him. No one but Jesus. As a result:
  • A demoniac becomes a disciple.
  • A house of demons becomes a dwelling for the Living God.
  • The chained becomes a champion of good news.
      You and I live in a world crying out for rescue. And just as Jesus was willing to cross the sea and rescue one man from the enemy’s chains, He crossed the heavens to rescue you and me from a fate even worse: eternal chains. But praise God that through His sacrifice for sin, Jesus conquered all the forces of evil and opened up the gates of paradise to all who embrace His mercy. So come with me. Let’s rediscover the God Who Rescues Me! 
      “For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son.” —Colossians 1:13 NASB


To celebrate her tour, Shadia is giving away the grand prize package of 1 book of Legion, 1 book of Hagar and a $50 gift certificate to two winners each!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the image above or the link below to enter.

Blog Stops

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Review + GIVEAWAY: Murder at the Courthouse by Meghan Carver

Murder at the Courthouse JustRead Blog Tour 
Welcome to the Blog Tour & Giveaway for Murder at the Courthouse by Meghan Carver, hosted by JustRead Publicity Tours!


Murder at the Courthouse by Meghan Carver Title: Murder at the Courthouse
Series: Grace Pointe Cozy Mystery #1
Author: Meghan Carver
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Release Date: October 28, 2019

The first book in the Grace Pointe Cozy Mystery Series!

“Fiction is a waste of time.”

The heated comment made by a church library ministry team member shocks MacKenzie Baker, but it quickly becomes the least of her worries. 

MacKenzie Baker is an impetuous, eavesdropping small-town librarian who lives in the apartment above the parsonage garage and refuses to be defined as the pastor’s single sister. She thought she was happy for years re-shelving books and helping patrons find their next great read, but as she turns forty, she suddenly struggles to figure out what more to do with her life. Solving murders in her small town of Grace Pointe wasn’t a part of her plan...until she and her brother find a local judge who had come to Pastor Baker for counseling murdered in his chambers, hit over the head with a massive volume of the Indiana Code.

Now, to clear the name of a family friend, she begins to work with the handsome criminal justice professor Ian Canter. Even though the detective with the chocolate brown eyes tells her to stick with making casseroles for the church pitch-in, she soon discovers the Judge’s scheming wife, his rebellious teen daughter, a network of lawyers in Grace Point who were disgruntled with the Judge, and even secrets that lurk among the library ministry team. But with the help of her new kitten Mr. Darcy, her best friend Callie, and her always-pastoring brother, MacKenzie debates the pros and cons of attending law school mid-life while she searches out a killer.

Welcome to Grace Pointe… where most of the people are friendly, the church is to die for, and the sleuthing is as strong as the coffee.

PURCHASE LINKS*: Goodreads | Amazon


I love a good cozy mystery, and after complaining about so many in the general market that contain some profanity, it’s refreshing to find an entertaining cozy in Christian fiction. Murder at the Courthouse by Meghan Carver introduces us to the lovely small-town community of Grace Point, Indiana, where murder is not the norm. I enjoyed this first book of a new series and look forward to future releases.

MacKenzie Baker is an appealing lead character, easy to connect with. Her brother is a pastor and, while she has a passion for books, she is a little restless about settling for a library career. The 40-year-old MacKenzie also has a natural inquisitiveness that leads her to ask questions when the body of a local judge is discovered – by MacKenzie and her brother. Hoping to clear a fellow judge of the deceased, layers are gradually peeled back as MacKenzie discovers revealing aspects of the victim’s personal life.

Secondary characters and friends add richness to the story, such as Callie, Ian, and even MacKenzie’s kitten, Mr. Darcy. I loved the Christian element with its focus on prayer and seeking God’s direction for our lives. Murder at the Courthouse is a well-written classic mystery with just the right number of viable suspects and some nice twists.


I received a copy of this book through JustRead Tours. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.


Meghan Carver

By sixth grade, Meghan Carver knew she wanted to write. After earning a degree in English from Millikin University, she detoured to law school, earning a Juris Doctorate from Indiana University. She then worked in immigration law and taught Comp 101 at the local college. Now, she homeschools her six children with her college professor husband, writing her stories of cozy mystery and romantic suspense in the nooks and crannies of her time. Her debut novel hit the Publisher's Weekly Bestseller list. When she isn't writing, homeschooling, or planning the family's next travel adventure, she is active in her church, sews for her kidlets, and reads.

CONNECT WITH MEGHAN: Website | Facebook Twitter | Instagram


(1) winner will receive a Cozy Mystery Prize Pack including a “I’d rather be reading a cozy mystery” tee-shirt – size and color to be determined by winner, a signed paperback of Murder at the Courthouse, and $10 Amazon gift card!

(Tee Sizes: small – xxx-large, colors: white, red, gray, pink, or green)

Murder at the Courthouse JustRead Giveaway

Be sure to check out each stop on the tour for more chances to win. Full tour schedule shown below. Giveaway will begin at midnight January 14, 2020 and last through 11:59 PM EST on January 21, 2020. US only. Winner will be notified within 2 weeks of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or risk forfeiture of prize.

Giveaway is subject to the policies found here.


Follow along at JustRead Tours for a full list of stops!


*NOTE: This post contains affiliate links.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Review + GIVEAWAY: Hems & Homicide by Elizabeth Penney

Hems and Homicide
By Elizabeth Penney
Apron Shop #1
St. Martin’s, 2019


Welcome to the first in the Apron Shop mystery series by Elizabeth Penney, set in the quaint village of Blueberry Cove, Maine where an expert seamstress turned amateur sleuth is getting measured for murder. . .

Iris Buckley is sew ready for a change. After the death of her beloved grandfather, Iris decides to stay in her Maine hometown to help out her widowed grandmother, Anne—and bring her online hand-made apron designs to real-time retail life. Her and Anne’s shop, Ruffles & Bows, is set to include all the latest and vintage linen fashions, a studio for sewing groups and classes, and a friendly orange cat. The only thing that they were not planning to have on the property? A skeleton in the basement

Anne recognizes the remains of an old friend, and when a second body shows up in the apron shop—this time their corrupt landlord, whom Anne had been feuding with for decades—she becomes a prime suspect. Now, it’s up to Iris to help clear her name. Enlisting the help of her old high-school crush Ian Stewart who, like certain fabrics, has only gotten better-looking with age and her plucky BFF Madison Morris, Iris must piece together an investigation to find out who the real killer is. . .and find a way to keep her brand-new business from being scrapped in the process.

My thoughts

I enjoyed Hems & Homicide so much and am glad to start on the ground floor of what promises to be a highly entertaining new series. The illness of her grandfather brings Iris back to her hometown of Blueberry Cove, Maine, and she stays on after his death to open a shop with her grandmother, Anne. Hems & Homicide has that perfect blend of appealing setting, vocational theme, engaging characters, and well-crafted storyline. From beginning to end, I thoroughly enjoyed this story and look forward to future releases in the series.

Iris and Anne are easily relatable characters and I love the close relationship between these two. I’m always drawn to books with New England settings and relished the vividly conveyed images of the coastal town of Blueberry Cove and its quaint stores. A shop featuring Iris’s homemade apron and other linen designs is refreshing and stands out in the field of cozy mysteries. I loved how the close-knit community and the Ruffles & Bows shop are woven throughout the story.

The mystery itself is well developed and complex. And there’s two mystery themes actually– a cold case from 1972 of Annie’s friend, Star Moonshine, and the present-day murder of their landlord, Elliot Parker. But are they connected? Of course, they are, and discovering how steadily propels the action. Star’s skeleton is uncovered as the clean up and remodeling begins in the new shop, and a scarf triggers Anne’s recognition of Anne. An old photo is later found, one that features Star, Anne, and others still living in the community. This story especially resonated with me because the hippie movement was a big part of the culture that I experienced as a young adult.

I especially appreciated that Hems and Homicide is completely clean, no profanity or graphic scenes. A great read for all who enjoy cozy mysteries.


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


      Elizabeth Penney is an author, entrepreneur, and local food advocate living in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. In addition to writing full-time, she operates a small farm. Elements that often appear in her novels include vintage summer cottages, past/present mysteries, and the arts. She is represented by the fabulous Elizabeth Bewley at Sterling Lord Literistic.
      Elizabeth’s writing credits include over twenty mysteries, short stories, and hundreds of business articles. A former consultant and nonprofit executive, she holds a BS and an MBA. She’s also written screenplays with her musician husband.
      She loves walking in the woods, kayaking on quiet ponds, trying new recipes, and feeding family and friends.



Monday, January 13, 2020

Review + GIVEAWAY: Dead in Dublin by Catie Murphy

Dead in Dublin
By Catie Murphy
The Dublin Driver Mysteries #1
Kensington, 2019


In Dublin’s fair city, where the girls are so pretty, murder occurs at the feet of sweet Molly Malone . . .

Ferrying tourists around Dublin for the Leprechaun Limo Service makes quite a change after years in the military. Still, Megan Malone is enjoying her life in Ireland. She likes the scenery, the easy pace, the quirky, quick-witted locals. Everything—except having one of her clients drop dead at the statue of fabled fishmonger, Molly Malone.

Most restaurant critics notch up their share of enemies. Elizabeth Darr, however, was a well-loved international star. She and her husband, Simon, had just had dinner when Elizabeth collapsed, and spoiled seafood is the first suspect. The restaurant’s owner, worried her business is doomed, begs Megan to look into it. Between her irate boss and a handsome Garda who’s both amused and annoyed by her persistence, Megan has her hands full even before she’s cajoled into taking care of two adorable Jack Russell puppies (which she is almost definitely not keeping). But if cockles and mussels aren’t to blame, can Megan find the real culprit . . .before another fishy death occurs?

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My thoughts

Dead in Dublin by Catie Murphy is a refreshing addition to the cozy mystery field and I enjoyed it very much overall. Several things set it apart from other cozy mysteries … The setting, for one. What’s not to like about an Irish setting? And then there’s the lead character, Megan Malone, whose very name alludes to the legendary Molly Malone of Dublin fame. Megan is an appealing and original character, with her Army medic background and totally unrelated current job of driving for the Leprechaun Limo Service.

Megan’s job seems interesting, but pretty routine – until one of her repeat customers drops dead after eating at a friend’s restaurant. Molly is intelligent and caring, qualities that compel her to ask questions. The mystery is well crafted, complex, and flows steadily with a few twists and surprises along the way. There’s some good chemistry between Megan and DI Paul Bourke with the Dublin Garda, so I hope for further development between the two. And a few canine characters steal hearts, a Jack Russell terrier and two pups, born in a restaurant kitchen.

The only real negative for me was the totally unnecessary use of profanity. I enjoy clean reads and did not expect to find this in a cozy mystery.

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


      Catie Murphy, who has written numerous award-winning fantasy and Sci-fi books under the pseudonym C. E. Murphy, began writing around age six, when she submitted three poems to a school publication. The teacher producing the magazine selected (inevitably) the one she thought was by far the worst, but also told her—a six-year-old kid—to keep writing, which she has. 
      She has also held the usual grab-bag of jobs often seen in an authorial biography, including public library volunteer (at ages 9 and 10; it’s clear she was doomed to a career involving books), archival assistant, cannery worker, and web designer. Writing books is better. 
      She was born and raised in Alaska, and now lives with her family in her ancestral homeland of Ireland.