Friday, February 28, 2020

Review + GIVEAWAY: Here Comes the Body by Maria DiRico




Here Comes the Body
By Maria DiRico
A Catering Hall Mystery #1
Kensington, 2020


Summary

After her philandering husband’s boat went down, newly single Mia Carina went back to Astoria, the bustling Queens neighborhood of her youth. Living with her Nonna and her oversized cat, Doorstop, she’s got a whole new life—including some amateur sleuthing...

Mia is starting work at Belle View, her father’s catering hall, a popular spot for weddings, office parties, and more—despite the planes that occasionally roar overhead on their way to LaGuardia and rattle the crystal chandelier. Soon she’s planning a bachelor party for a less-than-gentlemanly groom. But it goes awry when the gigantic cake is wheeled in and a deadly surprise is revealed...

Since some of her family’s associates are on the shady side, the NYPD wastes no time in casting suspicion on Mia’s father. Now, Mia’s going to have to use all her street smarts to keep him out of Rikers Island...

Italian recipes included!

Amazon – B&N – Kobo – Google Play – IndieBound


My thoughts

It is an honor to review Here Comes the Body by Maria DiRico because reading it was pure pleasure. Mystery, humor, character depth, and vivid setting are all woven together in this story which flows evenly across the page. DiRico is actually the author of a Cajun mystery series under the name of Ellen Byron, which I also enjoy, so I was eager to read her new catering hall series. I was caught up from the first page and, although eager to see how things resolved, enjoyed the characters so much that I hated to reach the conclusion.

Mia leaves Florida and its unpleasant baggage behind, returning to her Queens neighborhood to help run her father’s catering business. Mystery surrounds her, both past and present … suspicion remains because her husband’s body was never found, and now her father is a person of interest in the murder of a stripper at a bachelor party. There’s humor, an adorable cat (appropriately named Doorstop), and even an emotional tug over the loss of her beloved parakeet while traveling home, Pizzazz. The Queens setting is vividly conveyed and has an authentic feel, becoming a key part of the story.

One strength of this story is Mia’s endearing, quirky family, who provide interesting secondary themes. Her father may be running a legit business, but their mob connections still come in handy at times. There’s visits with Mia’s brother, Posi, in a minimum-security prison. But best of all is Mia’s grandmother, Elisabetta. I loved Elisabetta and her “Army” of 80-something friends in the Queens neighborhood, who are slowly beginning to sell out as an unscrupulous real estate agent uses her wiles to convince them they no longer need to live alone.

The mystery itself is skillfully interwoven amidst these themes and delightful Queens setting, reminding us that there is much more to NYC than Manhattan. Here Comes the Body reaches a very satisfying conclusion and I hope for many more stories in this new series.

Highly recommended.

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


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Maria DiRico was born in Queens, New York, and raised in Queens and Westchester County. She is a first-generation Italian-American on her mother’s side. On her father’s side, her grandfather was a low-level Jewish mobster who disappeared in 1933 under mysterious circumstances. She also writes the award-winning, bestselling Cajun Country Mystery series under the name Ellen Byron.



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Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Review + GIVEAWAY: No Chance Meeting by Jaye Elliot


On Tour with Prism Book Tours


No Chance Meeting
(No Chance Love #1)
By Jaye Elliot
Christian Contemporary Romance
Paperback & ebook, 393 Pages
February 11th 2020 by Living Sword Publishing

Alex Jennings is done with life. After losing her brother in Afghanistan, everything has collapsed around her. Getting laid off from her day job and failing in her art career, she has nowhere left to turn. She once had faith to believe that all things would work together for good, but that faith died with her brother. Now she just wants the pain to end.

Riley Conrad served thirteen years in the military until three bullets sent him home. After a year and a half of physical therapy and scraping together a living, all he wants is to live a simple life and perhaps even open the coffee shop he dreams about. However, the weight of failing his parents’ expectations doesn’t make it easy, and working as a bartender isn’t getting him anywhere fast.

Could a “chance” meeting between Alex and Riley set them both on the path God always intended?

(Affiliate link included.)


My thoughts

No Chance Meeting by Jaye Elliot is a character-driven romance with realistically flawed characters and strong spiritual themes. I’m a firm believer in the way God is always working behind the scenes, leaving nothing to chance, so the title is especially meaningful. It’s refreshing to see a Christian fiction book where God is actually the main character.

Riley and Alex are sympathetic and relatable lead characters. They’re far from perfect and both realize the need for God’s grace in their lives. The loss of her brother to a suicide bomber in Afghanistan caused Alex’s life to spiral downward. Riley, a Marine who had tried to save her brother, deals with memories, past sins before becoming a Christian, and a strained relationship with his parents. It was no accident that these two met. Personal tragedy in life can draw us closer to God or cause us to drift away, as in Alex’s case. I enjoyed the connection between these two from the first and that it was Riley’s faith that helped to open Alex’s eyes. I loved Riley’s heart and also thought it was great that he was the proud owner of a tuxedo cat that he had rescued, appropriately named Tux.

No Chance Meeting effectively deals with some darker topics, such as suicidal thoughts and depression. Although emotionally raw at times, it’s a beautiful story of hope and healing. I appreciated that the relationship between Riley and Alex was smooth and built gradually, rather than being filled with the tension of high and lows.

No Chance Meeting is not a fast-paced story, rather moving from one day’s activity to another with a lot of inward thoughts and details that kept things moving slowly. However, the storyline and characters, both main and secondary, are very appealing. For me, more emphasis on storyline with less introspection and daily life details would have made a much stronger story. I still enjoyed No Chance Meeting overall and would like to read more stories in this series.

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



About the Author



Jaye Elliot is an award-winning author, country girl, and hopeless romantic at heart. She loves a good hero and will always sigh happily during the lights scene in Tangled. She writes from her home in the Northwoods of Wisconsin, which she shares with three cats she considers her kids. When not writing romance novels, she pens fantasy and adventure stories as Jaye L. Knight.



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One winner will receive a signed copy of No Chance Meeting, a coffee mug, a bag of chocolates, and a hand painted watercolor bookmark (US only)

Ends March 4, 2020

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Monday, February 24, 2020

Review + GIVEAWAY: Murder Makes Scents by Christin Brecher




Murder Makes Scents
By Christin Brecher
Nantucket Candle Maker #2
Kensington, 2020


Summary

Stella Wright loves creating candles at her Nantucket store—and she also has a burning passion for justice. Now, after visiting a perfume conference, she must solve a vial crime . . .

Stella and her globe-trotting mom, Millie, have come home from a perfume industry conference in Paris, where their trip was marred by witnessing the stabbing death of a young man. It’s a relief for Stella to be back on her picturesque island, with the comforting company of her cat, Tinker. But lingering danger may have followed them back across the ocean.

After someone breaks into her candle store, the Wick & Flame, Stella starts feeling spooked. And just as things threaten to ignite, Millie suffers a blow to the head. Stella receives an anonymous note claiming that her mother smuggled a secret formula out of France—and threatening her life if it isn’t returned. Now Stella’s picked up the scent of a cold-hearted criminal and an intriguing puzzle, and things are about to get wicked . . .




Jared Coffin House


My thoughts

The combination of a Nantucket setting and the craft of candle making initially drew me to this series by Christin Brecher and I enjoyed book two, Murder Makes Scents. Brecher’s knowledge and love for the island convey the vividness of setting with such places as Brant Point, jetties beach, the village’s cobblestone streets, and the historical Jared Coffin House. Stella, owner of the Wick & Flame store, is easy to connect with.

The story opens with Stella and her mother, Millie, attending the World Perfumery Conference in Paris, where Millie is making a presentation. Stella and her mother share a love for scents – Millie traveling around the world in search of unique and exotic scents, and Stella perfecting fragrances into her making of candles. It’s great to see them together in this story and I enjoyed not only their relationship, but the knowledge I gained about the development of scents for candles and their extraction from the Amazon jungles.

Murder Makes Scents is somewhat different from other stories in this genre because it contains elements of international espionage. The murder that takes place in the opening pages at the Paris conference, related to an upcoming international Peace Jubilee, follows Stella and Millie back to Nantucket. While the plot is intriguing, I did think it was a little over the top and far fetched for a cozy mystery. That being said, however, the writing is very good and I greatly enjoyed setting and characters. We are presented with five or six characters who are new to the island, any one of which could be the murderer, and the author does a great job at creating varying levels of suspicion for each.

Stella’s cat, Tinker, is precious as he radiates the endearing behavior of cats, as well as a few actions that are entirely his. I can’t wait to see if he is eventually successful in cultivating the friendship with Millie. A secondary theme is Stella’s romance with Peter, which I’m not quite sure about, because I didn’t sense much chemistry between them and I actually like her strong friendship with the police officer, Andy.

Murder Makes Scents is an enjoyable cozy mystery with very little profanity, and I look forward to more stories in the Nantucket Candle Making series.

Recommended.

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

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      Christin Brecher was born and raised in NYC, where her family and many childhood friends still reside. As such, she feels she is as much of a small-town girl as any. 
      The idea to write the Nantucket Candle Maker series sprang from her life-long connection to the small island off the coast of Massachusetts. Spending summers there as a child, Christin read from her family’s library of mystery novels, after which she began to imagine stories inspired by the island’s whaling heyday, its notoriously foggy nights, and during long bike rides to the beach. 
      After many years in marketing for the publishing industry, followed by years raising her children, Murder’s No Votive Confidence is Christin’s debut novel.




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Monday, February 17, 2020

Review + GIVEAWAY: Under the Radar by Annette Dashofy




Under the Radar
By Annette Dashofy
A Zoe Chambers Mystery #9
Henery Press, 2020


Summary

Paramedic and deputy coroner Zoe Chambers responds to a shooting and discovers her longtime friend, Horace Pavelka, has gunned down a man who’d bullied him mercilessly for decades. Ruled self-defense, no charges are filed. When another of his tormentors turns up dead in Horace’s kitchen, Police Chief Pete Adams questions the man’s innocence in both cases…especially after Horace and his girlfriend go into hiding.

While fighting to clear her friend, Zoe is handed the opportunity to finally learn what really happened to her long-lost sibling. What starts out as a quick road trip on a quest for answers leads her to an unfamiliar city in the middle of a November blizzard, where she finds way more trouble than she bargained for.

Pete’s own search for his missing fiancĂ©e and a missing murderer ultimately traps him in a web of deception. Face-to-face with one of the most cunning and deadly killers of his law enforcement career, Pete realizes too late that this confrontation may well be his last.

Amazon – B&N – Kobo


My thoughts

Annette Dashofy’s Zoe Chambers series is one of my favorites. In this newest release, Under the Radar, the writing is exquisite, characters well drawn, and the mystery spellbinding. Character development is one of the highlights of this series, as we get to know the regulars well and care about them. They are realistically drawn and relatable, people you could expect to meet in your own community.

While the story has elements of cozy mystery genre – small-town setting, murder takes place off screen, amateur involved in the investigation – Under the Radar has more of a traditional mystery or police procedural feel. The action is fast paced with good, solid investigation techniques employed by Zoe, Pete, and his staff. This book is hard to put down, and while I was eager to reach the conclusion, I wanted to savor every word.

Multiple storylines add richness to the story. Pete and Zoe’s wedding is in the planning stages with possible complications from Zoe’s mother. A highly contested race for county coroner could threaten Zoe’s job. Horace, a friend of Zoe’s who has experienced a lifetime of bullying, is a murder suspect. And then there’s word of the existence of Zoe’s half-brother, resulting in a road-trip search and further suspense. I can honestly say that there is nothing predictable about Under the Radar.

I greatly enjoyed Under the Radar and am eager for much more from these characters. Highly recommended.

Note: Readers will find some mild profanity, but the story is otherwise clean.

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

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      Annette Dashofy is the USA Today best-selling author of the Zoe Chambers mystery series about a paramedic and deputy coroner in rural southwestern Pennsylvania. 
      A former EMT and lifelong resident of the area about which she writes, Annette lives with her husband and one very spoiled cat on what was once her grandfather’s dairy farm. 
      UNDER THE RADAR (February 2020) is the ninth in her series.




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Thursday, February 13, 2020

Spotlight + GIVEAWAY: Hannah's Courage by Molly Jebber



About the Book

Book:  Hannah’s Courage
Author: Molly Jebber
Genre:  Amish Historical Romance
Release Date: January 28, 2020

A loaf of fragrant cinnamon bread for breakfast . . . a sweet and creamy custard pie for dessert. In 1912 Ohio, the Amish Charm Bakery has something to delight locals and visiting Englischer alike. And within this warm, welcoming community, there’s always room for love to grow . . .


Hannah Lapp’s life, like a long-cherished recipe, is satisfying just the way it is. She enjoys whipping up desserts at the bakery, tutoring local children, and socializing with dear friends. One of those friends, Timothy Barkman, has made his interest in Hannah clear, but she’s been in no hurry to change her circumstances.

No sooner does she feel ready to grow closer to hard-working, handsome Timothy than Hannah finds she may have waited too long. Charlene Shetler intends to become Timothy’s fraa. It’s little wonder he’s attracted to such a pretty, forthright young woman, but is the newcomer all that she seems? Only when Hannah is willing to confront some difficult truths can she move bravely toward a life of abiding faith and love . . .

Click here to get your copy!


About the Author



      Molly Jebber’s Amish Historical Romance books have been featured on Publisher’s Weekly’s Best Ten Recommended Reads, in USA Today’s HEA, Romantic Times and many other media sites. She tours and speaks for Stonecroft Ministries – Women’s Christian Connection, and about Amish history/traditions, writing, marketing, publishing, and her books. 
      She loves God, her family, and friends. She enjoys swimming, golf, reading, and says yes to butterscotch pie and parasailing, but no to coconut and skydiving! 
      Visit http://www.mollyjebber.com for a complete list of her books and speaking events.


More from Molly

      I related to Hannah in this book where I had to find the courage to make some hard decisions. Maybe you’ve had some hard choices to make and finding the courage to follow through has been difficult for you. 
      Have you had a bad day where nothing goes right? We’ve all had those. Hannah’s has many days like this, and she is torn about what to do from one problem to the next in her life. She makes some snap decisions, and faces life-altering challenges. You’ll laugh and want to stomp your feet at the twists and turns in this story.  She’s good at giving her friends advice, but has trouble following it. I can relate to this in my life at times. Maybe you can too. 
      The Sheriff and Dr. Harrison are still regular customers at the bakery where she whips up mouth-watering desserts. She and her friends cry, laugh, and offer each other advice. I love time with girlfriends, and Hannah’s no different. You’ll relate to her, root for her, want to reach in the book and shake her at times (I’m sure my friends have wanted to do this with me a time or two!), and wonder how what the future holds for her. 
      I hope you’ll follow my blog tour and enter for a chance to win the Grand Prize at the end of the tour. The more you enter, the more chances you have of winning! 
      Thank you so much for your support and encouragement. Your Facebook comments help me to get to know you better, and I appreciate it so much! 

Here’s a recipe Hannah’s whipped up for you. And there are more in the back of Hannah’s story. 

Cake
  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 ¾ teaspoons cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ¼ cups vegetable oil
  • 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 large apples, peeled and cut into large pieced
Glaze
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease 9 x 13 pan with butter and coat with 2 tablespoons of flour
  2. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Sift two additional times and set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine oil and both sugars, and mix until well blended.
  4. Add eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition. Add vanilla and mix again.
  5. Add the sifted dry ingredients to the batter and mix thoroughly. By hand, fold in apples and walnuts and mix until evenly combined.
  6. Spoon the batter into the prepared bundt pan. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
  7. Remove cake from the oven and allow to cool in the bundt pan for 20 minutes.
  8. While the cake is cooling, prepare the glaze. In a saucepan, over medium heat, combine all of the glaze ingredients. Bring to a boil and allow the mixture to boil for 1 minute.
  9. Remove the cake from the pan, onto a serving plate. Spoon the glaze over the warm cake.
  10. Cool for a little longer before serving.

Giveaway



To celebrate her tour, Molly is giving away a Molly Jebber grand prize collection that includes a handmade quilt and Amazon card!!

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

The Avid Reader, January 30
Genesis 5020, January 30
Texas Book-aholic, January 31
Batya’s Bits, February 1
Quiet Quilter, February 1
She Lives to Read, February 2
Bigreadersite , February 3
deb’s Book Review, February 4
Pause for Tales, February 5
Older & Smarter?, February 6
Lighthouse Academy Blog, February 7 (Guest Review from Marilyn Ridgway)
SusanLovesBooks, February 10
SPLASHES of Joy , February 11
Vicky Sluiter, February 12

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Review: The Fifth Avenue Story Society by Rachel Hauck



About the Book


Book:  The Fifth Avenue Story Society
Author: Rachel Hauck
Genre:  Contemporary Romance/ Women’s Fiction
Release Date: February 4, 2020

An invitation to join The Fifth Avenue Story Society gives five New York strangers a chance to rewrite their own stories.

Executive assistant Lexa is eager for a much-deserved promotion, but her boss is determined to keep her underemployed.

Literature professor Jett is dealing with a broken heart, as well as a nagging suspicion his literary idol, Gordon Phipps Roth, might be a fraud.

Uber driver Chuck just wants a second chance with his kids.

Aging widower Ed is eager to write the true story of his incredible marriage.

Coral, queen of the cosmetics industry, has broken her engagement and is on the verge of losing her great grandmother’s multimillion-dollar empire.

When all five New Yorkers receive an anonymous, mysterious invitation to the Fifth Avenue Story Society, they suspect they’re victims of a practical joke. No one knows who sent the invitations or why. No one has heard of the literary society. And no one is prepared to bear their deepest secrets to a roomful of strangers.

Yet curiosity and loneliness bring them back week after week to the old library. And it’s there they discover the stories of their hearts, and the kind of friendship and love that heals their souls.

Get your copy of the book here.



My thoughts


The Fifth Avenue Story Society by Rachel Hauck is a moving story that goes on my “best of the best” list. The bookstore setting is atmospheric and charming, the characters rich and endearing, and every word of the prose is to be treasured. It’s a story of friendship, renewal and second chances, with a few heartwarming moments that moved me to tears.

The anonymous story society invitation goes out to five characters from various backgrounds and social status, all anchored to something in their pasts that kept them from moving on and living life to the fullest. The story is like a piece of fabric, with threads of each character’s past, present and future woven together and interconnected.

As with any good book, it’s easy to care about the characters. This story, however, took me to a new level of caring. Hauck not only knows people, but she is able to project their innermost hearts and desires through her characters, desires that are common to all of us. I came to know Lexa, Jett, Chuck, Coral and Ed well through their raw honesty and humanness – their fears, insecurities, needs, and hopes. There’s a little mystery and supernatural element, but the real story is in what happens through these Monday night meetings. The librarian, Gilda, is an interesting character and I’d love to see what’s on the other side of her door that’s marked “private.”

The spiritual thread is gentle and subtle, culminating in a beautiful way toward the end. The image of Christ knocking at the door instantly came to mind and these closing words speak to all …

The invitation is always waiting.
All you have to do is say yes.

Highly recommended.

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


About the Author



Rachel Hauck is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA TODAY bestselling author of The Wedding Dress, which was also named Inspirational Novel of the Year by Romantic Times and was a RITA finalist. Rachel lives in central Florida with her husband and pet and writes from her ivory tower. Visit her online at RachelHauck.com; Facebook: RachelHauck; Twitter: @RachelHauck; Instagram: @rachelhauck.


Read an Excerpt

Read an excerpt here. 


Blog Stops

The Avid Reader, February 10
Livin’ Lit, February 10
Genesis 5020, February 10
The Power of Words, February 11
Rebecca Tews, February 11
All-of-a-kind Mom, February 11
Older & Smarter?, February 12
Texas Book-aholic, February 12
Inklings and notions, February 12
deb’s Book Review, February 12
Just the Write Escape, February 13
For Him and My Family, February 13
CarpeDiem, February 13
Remembrancy, February 14
Christian Bookaholic, February 14
Connect in Fiction, February 14
April Hayman, Author, February 14
Robin’s Nest, February 15
Britt Reads Fiction, February 15
Blogging With Carol, February 15
Batya’s Bits, February 16
Bigreadersite, February 16
A Reader’s Brain, February 16
Worthy2Read, February 16
Stories By Gina, February 16
Back Porch Reads, February 17
janicesbookreviews, February 17
Inside the Wong Mind, February 17
Mary Hake, February 17
Mia Reads, February 18
Baker Kella, February 18
EmpowerMoms, February 18
Maureen’s Musings, February 19
Coast and Anchor, February 19
Spoken from the Heart, February 19
SPLASHES of Joy, February 19
She Lives to Read, February 20
By The Book, February 20
Wishful Endings, February 20
Moments, February 20
Simple Harvest Reads, February 20 (Guest Review from Mindy Houng)
Andrea Christenson, February 21
Pause for Tales, February 21
For The Love of Books, February 21
Lis Loves Reading, February 21
Hallie Reads, February 22
Godly Book Reviews, February 23
Daysong Reflections, February 23
SusanLovesBooks, February 23