Monday, March 30, 2020

Review + GIVEAWAY: Shenanigans by Heather Norman Smith


Shenanigans JustRead Blog Tour 
Welcome to the Blog + Review Tour & Giveaway for Shenanigans by Heather Norman Smith, hosted by JustRead Publicity Tours!

ABOUT THE BOOKS


Shenanigans by Heather Norman Smith Title: Shenanigans
Author: Heather Norman Smith
Publisher: Every Season Books
Release Date: April 1, 2020
Genre: Inspirational Contemporary Fiction

You're never too old for fun, faith, or love.

Lavinia Lewis is a wealthy southern widow who enjoys a good prank. But when a resident at her posh retirement community in Southport, North Carolina gets sick at a potluck, Lavinia's reputation as a jokester lands her in big trouble. How can she clear her name when her own daughter doesn't believe she's innocent?

Neville McGrath is a long-in-the-tooth lawyer, afraid of being put out to pasture. Torn between his nephew's offer to move to Maine to live with him and his desire to keep working, Neville discovers other options when he takes Lavinia's case.

The jokes keep her young, but Lavinia remembers the true source of joy as she faces criminal charges. Can she help Neville find his faith for the first time, and can they both find love at eighty-years-old?

A humorous and inspirational story with lovable characters, a beautiful setting, fun mystery, sweet romance, family drama, and an ending that will leave you sighing in satisfaction.

PURCHASE LINKS*: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository  



MY THOUGHTS

Heather Norman Smith is quickly becoming one of my favorite writers. Her stories are well written, rich in character depth, filled with gentle romance and spiritual themes applicable to daily living, and always entertaining.

Smith’s newest release, Shenanigans, is pure delight. The lead characters may be 80 years old, but the story will appeal to readers of all ages. The first sentence in the book’s description – You’re never too old for fun, faith or love – couldn’t be more relevant.

Lavinia had always had at least three things in common with Scarlett O’Hara, her personal hero. She was sometimes childish, she loved a good party, and after a brief, cathartic fit of self-pity, she preferred to put off worrying until another day.

Lavinia is one of my favorite fictional characters – caring of family, a genteel southern lady to the core, and loves to have good-hearted fun. Although beloved by many in her North Carolina retirement community, not all appreciate her pranks. Like a very funny dear friend in real life, Lavinia had been “relying on things she could control, namely the jokes. The jokes distracted her from things she couldn’t change.”

Neville, a lawyer who doesn’t want to retire and agrees to represent Lavinia when one of her supposed jokes goes horribly wrong, is a complete contrast to her and the chemistry between them works beautifully. I loved this gentle man and enjoyed things about him that were revealed as the story progressed, such as the reason behind his coldness toward God.

Lavinia comes to realize that she has distanced herself from God over the years, which leads to one of my favorite scenes as she and her family visit a church recommended by Neville’s secretary. The church service, filled with people of varied ages and cultures “reminded her of flowers, picked from all over the garden, bunched together, and placed in a crystal vase to make a gorgeous bouquet.”

Shenanigans is a heartwarming story to which every reader can relate and goes on my favorites list. I look forward to many more stories from the talented hand of Heather Norman Smith.

Highly recommended.

Please click on the title to see my review of Smith’s previous story, Grace & Lavender.

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




ABOUT THE AUTHOR



Heather Norman Smith

Heather Norman Smith is a Christian Fiction and devotions author. Her goal is to use the written word to entertain and encourage while illuminating the redemptive love of God. She is proud to be a life-long North Carolinian and also aims to present the beauty of the Tar Heel State in her fiction. Heather's home is just outside Winston-Salem, NC, where she lives with her husband, their four children (currently including a foster son,) and several very spoiled pets. In addition to writing and spending time with her family, Heather enjoys singing about Jesus. Her "day job" is in the Information Technology field, and she is also involved in youth ministry with her husband. Heather's other novels include Grace & Lavender and Where I Was Planted.

CONNECT WITH HEATHER: Website | FacebookTwitter | Instagram  



TOUR GIVEAWAY


(1) winner will receive a print copy of Shenanigans and a story inspired glass ornament! Plus (1) additional winner will receive a print copy of Shenanigans!


Shenanigans JustRead Blog Tour 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 March 30, 2020 and last through 11:59 PM EST on April 6, 2020. Winner will be notified within 2 weeks of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or risk forfeiture of prize. US mailing addresses only. Void where prohibited by law or logistics.

Giveaway is subject to the policies found here.



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Thursday, March 12, 2020

Review + GIVEAWAY: Easter Hair Hunt by Nancy J. Cohen




Easter Hair Hunt
By Nancy J. Cohen
Orange Grove Press, 2020


Summary

Hare today, dead tomorrow… Can a stylish sleuth pull a rabbit out of her hat to solve an Easter murder in this to-dye-for cozy mystery?

When hairstylist Marla Vail attends an Easter egg hunt at historic Tremayne Manor, she’s only there to fix hair for a client, Bonnie “Blinky” Morris. But when she’s asked to comb the grounds for leftover goodies, Marla discovers more than just a few dyed eggs. The dead body in the bunny costume is definitely not having a good hare day. And Blinky seems to have disappeared down a rabbit hole.

When trying to solve a murder, everyone needs a friend who’s all ears. For Marla, that’s her husband, homicide detective Dalton Vail. They make an eggcellent team. Dalton isn’t the kind to leap to conclusions, but with his wife seven months pregnant, and knowing Marla finds crime-solving to be irresistible, he worries about her running off on another hare-raising adventure.

Marla’s peeps are hoping for a happy ending, but she may have found a basketful of trouble this time. Can she crack the case before Blinky becomes the next victim?

Recipes Included!


Amazon Kindle –  Amazon Print –  B&N –  Kobo – Apple – Books2Read – IndieBound – Goodreads – BookBub – Website


My thoughts

I greatly enjoyed Nancy J. Cohen’s new release, Easter Hair Hunt. This cozy mystery beautifully blends together important key elements – rich characterization, vivid setting, historical tidbits, and a mystery that keeps you guessing. Although book #16 in a popular series, Easter Hair Hunt easily stands alone. It would be well worth reading the whole series, however, for the great character arc throughout.

I enjoy seasonal-themed cozy series, especially ones that go beyond the popular Christmas and Halloween to incorporate other holidays as well. Easter’s pastel coloring and events make up the perfect background for this story – an Easter egg hunt, the theft of a valuable FabergĂ© egg, and the victim was discovered clothed in the Easter bunny costume Marla’s missing friend was supposed to be wearing. I found the Tremayne manor and grounds fascinating and enjoyed the historical information about Lacey Tremayne’s collection of Russian objects. There’s plenty of suspects, well defined and easy to keep up with, all seemingly with something to hide.

What I loved most about Easter Hair Hunt is the characterization. Marla, owner of the Cut ‘N Dye Hair Salon in south Florida, is seven months pregnant. Her husband, Dalton, is a homicide detective with a teenage daughter, Brianna. Something we don’t often see in mysteries is the mutual respect that Dalton and Marla have for each other, and Dalton appreciates how valuable Marla’s people skills and insight can be to his investigation. Family is a strong feature and the characters are easy to connect with, literally becoming best friends as the series progresses. I enjoyed everything about this story and hope for many more to come.

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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      Nancy J. Cohen writes the Bad Hair Day Mysteries featuring South Florida hairstylist Marla Vail. Titles in this series have been named Best Cozy Mystery by Suspense Magazine, won a Readers’ Favorite gold medal and a RONE Award, earned first place in the Chanticleer International Book Awards and third place in the Arizona Literary Awards. Nancy’s instructional guide, Writing the Cozy Mystery, was nominated for an Agatha Award, earned first place in the Royal Palm Literary Awards and the TopShelf Magazine Book Awards, and won a gold medal in the President’s Book Awards. 
      A featured speaker at libraries, conferences, and community events, Nancy is a past president of  Florida Romance Writers and Mystery Writers of America Florida Chapter. She is listed in Contemporary Authors, Poets & Writers, and Who’s Who in U.S. Writers, Editors, & Poets. 
      When not busy writing, she enjoys cooking, fine dining, cruising, and visiting Disney World.





GIVEAWAY


Enter Here March 10 – 23 to win an Easter Fun Box with a signed proof copy of Easter Hair Hunt, a scarf, cosmetic bag, gardening gloves, candy, hair ties, dish towel and socks. $25 value

Click on the image above or the link below to enter.





Friday, March 6, 2020

Review: An Amish Picnic by Amy Clipston, Kelly Irvin, Kathleen Fuller, & Vannetta Chapman




About the Book

Book:  An Amish Picnic
Author: Amy Clipston, Kelly Irvin, Kathleen Fuller, and Vannetta Chapman
Genre: Amish; Christian Romance
Release Date: March 3, 2020


From bestselling authors in the Amish genre come four sweet stories about picnics and romance.

Baskets of Sunshine by Amy Clipston

      Kevin Weaver has lived with his brother’s family since his parents passed away when he was young, but he craves a home and family to call his own. Freeman Kurtz owns a successful brick mason business, and Kevin takes the job as Freeman’s apprentice to pursue his own financial freedom.
      Phoebe Kurtz is helping her sister with her booth at the marketplace when she notices Kevin, her father’s employee. Their friendship grows, but Kevin is convinced that the difference in their ages makes a relationship between them impossible. Amidst summer outings, Kevin and Phoebe must decide if taking a chance on love is worth the risk.

Candlelight Sweethearts by Kelly Irvin

      Esther Marie Shrock loves her job at Valley Grocery Store where she’s worked for four years. Despite a stutter that has plagued her since childhood, she thrives filling orders from a steady stream of customers. Still, at 25, she and her family wonder if romance is in her future.
      Jasper Cotter isn’t good with people, but he’s found himself obligated to take over day-to-day operations of the family owned grocery store—a store he doesn’t have the first clue how to run. Thrown together, Esther Marie and Jasper don’t exactly see eye to eye. One night, the store loses power, and the candles aren’t the only things shooting off sparks. Esther Marie and Jasper are suddenly forced to discover common ground when it matters most, and they might be surprised with 
love along the way.

Reeling in Love by Kathleen Fuller

      Nina Stoll and Ira Yoder are just friends. Just friends and fishing buddies. Every Saturday afternoon, they have a picnic at their favorite fishing hole and see who can out fish the other. Until Nina starts to wonder if there’s more.
      Her plans to share her feelings go awry, and circumstances seem destined to keep Nina and Ira apart. With both Nina and Ira confused and hurting, it’s going to take courage, some help from the community matchmakers, and a little bit of divine intervention for Nina and Ira to realize they’re each other’s perfect catch.

Picnics and Prospects by Vannetta Chapman

Faith Troyer is claustrophobic, and David Lapp builds tiny houses. They went on a date years ago with disastrous results. Now that they’re in their late twenties, their families and friends are beginning to wonder if either will ever find that special someone. When a picnic outing is diverted by the discovery of a package of letters dating back to the 1970s, they take it upon themselves to find answers to a mystery that causes them to rethink their past and consider their future.

Click here to get your copy!


My thoughts

An Amish Picnic is a delightful novella collection by four beloved authors of Amish fiction – Amy Clipston, Kelly Irvin, Kathleen Fuller, and Vannetta Chapman. The romances are sweet, characters realistic and appealing. Each shows God’s provision and perfect timing. Some stories are drawn from secondary characters in an author’s previous series, but each story stands alone.

The stories creatively use various picnic settings and themes – with swimming and volleyball activities in Clipston’s Baskets of Sunshine, best friends fishing in Fuller’s Reeling in Love, an indoor picnic during a thunderstorm in Irvin’s Candlelight Sweethearts, and the rescue of an injured dog in the midst of thick kudzu vines in Chapman’s Picnics and Prospects. I especially liked how the characters were so realistically drawn and human in their flaws. Doubts, lack of self-esteem, and misunderstandings play a part, as often happens in real life. Lead characters weren’t picture-perfect models. One character stuttered, another suffered with panic attacks. One sweet romance was based on best friends becoming something more, and I thought another romance was going to end before it got started.

These novellas are very enjoyable, heartwarming, and easy to read. Novella collections are perfect for busy times – or any time, for that matter – and I loved every minute spent with these characters.

Recommended.

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


About the Author

      Amy Clipston is the award-winning and bestselling author of the Kauffman Amish Bakery, Hearts of Lancaster Grand Hotel, Amish Heirloom, Amish Homestead, and Amish Marketplace series. Her novels have hit multiple bestseller lists including CBD, CBA, and ECPA. 
      Amy holds a degree in communication from Virginia Wesleyan University and works full-time for the City of Charlotte, NC. Amy lives in North Carolina with her husband, two sons, and four spoiled rotten cats. 
      Visit her online at AmyClipston.com; Facebook: AmyClipstonBooks; Twitter: @AmyClipston; Instagram: @amy_clipston.

      Kelly Irvin is the bestselling author of the Every Amish Season and Amish of Bee County series. The Beekeeper’s Son received a starred review from Publishers Weekly, who called it a “beautifully woven masterpiece.” 
      The two-time Carol Award finalist is a former newspaper reporter and retired public relations professional. Kelly lives in Texas with her husband, photographer Tim Irvin. They have two children, three grandchildren, and two cats. In her spare time, she likes to read books by her favorite authors. 
      Visit her online at KellyIrvin.com; Instagram: kelly_irvin; Facebook: Kelly.Irvin.Author; Twitter: @Kelly_S_Irvin.


      With over a million copies sold, Kathleen Fuller is the author of several bestselling novels, including the Hearts of Middlefield novels, the Middlefield Family novels, the Amish of Birch Creek series, and the Amish Letters series as well as a middle-grade Amish series, the Mysteries of Middlefield. 
      Visit her online at KathleenFuller.com; Instagram: kf_booksandhooks; Facebook: WriterKathleenFuller; Twitter: @TheKatJam.

      Vannetta Chapman writes inspirational fiction full of grace. She is the author of sixteen novels, including the Pebble Creek Amish series, The Shipshewana Amish Mystery series, and Anna’s Healing, a 2016 Christy Award finalist. Vannetta is a Carol award winner and has also received more than two dozen awards from Romance Writers of America chapter groups. 
      She was a teacher for fifteen years and currently resides in the Texas hill country. 
      Visit Vannetta online: VannettaChapman.com, Twitter: @VannettaChapman, Facebook: VannettaChapmanBooks.



Read an Excerpt

Read an excerpt here.


Blog Stops

Batya's Bits, March 6
The Avid Reader, March 6
Bigreadersite, March 8
Quiet Quilter, March 10
Splashes of Joy, March 15
Artistic Nobody, March 18 (Guest Review from Donna Cline)
EmpowerMoms, March 18


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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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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