Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Review + Double GIVEAWAY: A Midwinter's Tail by Bethany Blake

A Midwinter’s Tail
By Bethany Blake
Lucky Paws Petsitting Mystery #4
Kensington, 2018


To bark or not to bark . . .

Professional pet sitter Daphne Templeton loves the holidays in Sylvan Creek, Pennsylvania. And nothing gets her into the spirit more than the town’s annual Bark the Halls Ball. The whole community will be there to wag their tails, especially this year’s special guest—Celeste “CeeCee” French, founder of a national chain of pet care franchises, who’s returning home to announce plans for a bright new flagship store.

But not everyone’s celebrating CeeCee’s homecoming. Daphne’s friend Moxie Bloom, owner of Spa and Paw, a unique salon for people and their pets, has plenty to growl about. So when CeeCee is found face down under Sylvan Creek’s town Christmas tree, stabbed with a distinctive pair of professional-grade pet shears, suspicion lands squarely on Moxie. Despite Daphne’s promises to Detective Jonathan Black, she quickly reprises her role as amateur sleuth. Ably assisted by her basset hound sidekick, Socrates, she must hurry to prove her friend’s innocence before a killer barks again . . .

Includes recipes for homemade pet treats!

Amazon  B&N  Kobo    Google Play   IndieBound   BookBub 

My thoughts

This series by Bethany Blake is one of my favorites, and A Midwinter's Tail carries on the clean, joyful entertainment. From the quaint shops of Pennsylvania’s Sylvan Creek and its Pocono Mountain backdrop, to the appealing ensemble cast, this story has all the essential elements for the best of quality cozy reading. The well-written narrative is filled with the most delightful gentle humor, and I’m pretty sure I had a smile on my face the whole way through. Each story stands alone, but following the series gives a better understanding of the regular characters.

A series is only as good as its characters, and the whole cast shines here. Daphne Templeton, pet sitter and bakery owner, has a heart for animals, as well as friends and family - and willingly takes risks for them. Detective Jonathan Black, who I hope ends up being her sole romantic interest, is definitely a favorite of mine. A “handsome, enigmatic former Navy SEAL,” he believed in helping former convicts transition back into society … “If you put people away, you probably have a responsibility to help them when they get out.” Two different ways of connecting - friend vs. detective - add complexity to their relationship.

I don’t know if it’s possible for a community like Sylvan Creek to actually exist, but I love to imagine walking down the streets of this quirky, pet-friendly town and shopping at leisure. In fact, it might be the most pet-friendly town ever, with the Bark the Halls Christmas ball being just one example. And second only to my attraction for the detective is that for Daphne’s basset hound, Socrates. I love how the author imbues him with human-like senses, and I often found myself waiting to see what his reaction might be.

The mystery theme itself is well crafted, with elements going back in time to the characters' senior year in high school. As much as I wanted to discover the solution, I hated to reach the conclusion. May this series continue with many more stories.

Highly recommended.

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


Bethany Blake lives in a small, quaint town in Pennsylvania with her husband and three daughters. When she’s not writing or riding horses, she’s wrangling a menagerie of furry family members that includes a nervous pit bull, a fearsome feline, a blind goldfish, and an attack cardinal named Robert.

Like Daphne Templeton, the heroine of her Lucky Paws Mysteries, Bethany holds a Ph.D. and operates a pet sitting business called Barkley’s Premium Pet Care.

WebpageBookBubTwitter Facebook


In addition to the Rafflecopter tour giveaway below, Bethany Blake is offering a print copy of A Midwinter’s Tail to one of my readers!

To enter the drawing, please click on this link and share my Facebook post, then leave a comment here, letting me know that you shared. And if you do something special for or with your pet(s) at Christmas, please share that also.

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 Thursday, December 6. Winner will be chosen by and contacted by e-mail.

Eligibility: US residents


Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Review + Tour GIVEAWAY: When the Heart Sings by Liz Tolsma


Welcome to the Blog Tour & Giveaway for When the Heart Sings by Liz Tolsma, hosted by JustRead Publicity Tours!


When the Heart Sings-FINAL-front_cover_020518a-HR Title: When the Heart Sings  
Series: Music of Hope #2  
Author: Liz Tolsma  
Publisher: Gilead Publishing  
Release Date: October 9, 2018
Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance  

Natia has a secret, and she’s hiding him right beneath her captor’s nose...

The Nazis have forced Natia and Teodor from their Polish farm to a labor camp. When the couple is separated, Natia is chosen to be the housekeeper for the camp’s overseer, and Teodor is sent to work in the factory. Despite the strict camp rules—and the consequences for disobeying them—Natia finds a way to communicate with Teodor by sending messages through song as she passes Teodor’s dormitory.

The stakes get higher when Natia finds a Jewish orphan on the overseer’s doorstep. She is determined to protect the boy and raise him as the child she and her husband were unable to bear— but if her German captors discover how much she’s hiding, both she and Teodor may pay the ultimate price.  

PURCHASE LINKS: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Christian Book | Book Depository


God, my Lord, my strength,
My place of hiding, and confiding,
In all needs by night and day;
Though foes surround me,
And Satan mark his prey,
God shall have his way.

When the Heart Sings is not only a book that entertained and held me spellbound, but it touched me in a profound way. The Nazi-occupied Poland of World War II is not an easy setting to read about, but Liz Tolsma’s exquisitely written narrative that focuses on two Polish Christians is one of hope. I was emotionally caught up from the very beginning, and although I was anxious to see how things turned out, I hated to turn the last page.

The scenario of a Polish woman living in a German home and trying to protect a Jewish baby is filled with tension. I grieved with Natia over the loss of her unborn child, and then when she and Teodor were forced to leave their beloved home shortly thereafter. The squalid conditions in train cars felt so very real and the separation of families upon arrival was pure agony. But the joy Natia found in music and the way she used it to communicate with Teodore in the factory dormitory was delightful.

God’s grace shines brightest in the darkest of nights, and that is beautifully reflected in this story. A steady thread of faith and hope is visible in the seemingly hopeless times when the Enemy works to destroy that faith. Natia and Teodore, as well as others – such as the wife of the camp overseer and a local doctor – are good people trying to do the right thing when the personal risk is great. I especially enjoyed the unlikely friendship between Natia and the overseer’s wife, Elfriede – one that grows over shared loss in spite of the language barrier. When the Heart Sings is a moving and uplifting story that will long stay with me.

Highly recommended.

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


liz tolsma

Passionate might best describe Liz Tolsma. She loves writing, research, and editing. Her passion shone through in her first novel which was a double award finalist. On any given day, you might find her pulling weeds in her perennial garden, walking her hyperactive dog, or curled up with a good book. Nothing means more to her than her family. She's married her high-school sweetheart twenty-eight years ago. Get her talking about international adoption, and you might never get her to stop. She and her husband adopted three children, including a son who is a U.S. Marine, and two daughters.

CONNECT WITH LIZ: website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest

when the heart sings blog giveaway


(1) winner will receive (US only)
  • a print copy of When the Heart Sings
  • 'Just One More Chapter' throw pillow seen HERE

Enter via the Rafflecopter giveaway below. Giveaway will begin at midnight November 26, 2018 and last through 11:59pm December 3, 2018. US only. Winners will be notified within a week of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen.

Giveaway is subject to the policies found here.

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


Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Review + Tour GIVEAWAY: Shelter of the Most High by Connilyn Cossette

About the Book

Book: Shelter of the Most High  
Author: Connilyn Cossette  
Genre: Christian Biblical Fiction  
Release Date: October, 2018

The daughter of a pagan high priest, Sofea finds solace from her troubles in the freedom of the ocean. But when marauders attack her village on the island of Sicily, she and her cousin are taken across the sea to the shores of Canaan. 

Eitan has lived in Kedesh, a city of refuge, for the last eleven years, haunted by a tragedy in his childhood, yet chafing at the boundaries placed on him. He is immediately captivated by Sofea, but revealing his most guarded secret could mean drawing her into the danger of his past. 

As threats from outside the walls loom and traitors are uncovered within, Sofea and Eitan are plunged into the midst of a murder plot. Can they uncover the betrayal in time to save their lives and the lives of those they love?

Click here to purchase your copy!

My Thoughts

Shelter of the Most High by Connilyn Cossette is a novel not to be missed. It’s difficult for my words to adequately reflect the magnificence of this story, and a 5-star rating falls far short. I found it entertaining, informative, and uplifting. It stands tall in the biblical fiction genre, but reads purely as exquisite historical fiction also.

When a writer describes a setting or scene, I usually feel one of two ways – either standing at the edge, looking on to what is happening, or being drawn in, practically breathing the same air as the characters. I can’t explain how Cossette does it, but the second effect is what I felt on every page. Everything from Sicily to Kedesh of 1388 BC is vivid, and I have a much greater understanding of the depth of meaning in the term refuge.

Characters are so very rich and complex …
     … the relationship between Sofea and Eitan: “I’d vowed from the beginning that I wanted nothing of Eitan’s interest, but at this moment I wanted nothing more than to live at the center of it.”
     … Moriyah, a devout woman who felt that Sofea and Prezi had been brought to their family in order to heal
     … the strained relationship between Eitan and his stepfather, Darek
     … Prezi, Sofea’s cousin, once a follower who now found her voice: “Given the choice between the gods our people venerated on that hill and the God who offers shelter for even the most undeserving, I know whom I choose.”

But what touched me the most was seeing Yahweh through the eyes of Sofea and Prezi, with their heritage of pagan gods and evil worship practices. I’ve always loved the revelation of God’s character that the Old Testament gives us, and Cossette’s narrative makes it fresh and new all over again. Yahweh, the God of refuge, shelter, protection … the God who values all life.

It’s hard to put this book down at any point, especially when the danger and action picks up in the second half, but Cossette still gives readers time to breathe. Shelter of the Most High is a story that lives on long after the last page is turned.

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

Connilyn Cossette is the CBA bestselling author of the Out From Egypt series. Her debut novel, Counted with the Stars, was a finalist for the Christy Award, the INSPY Award, and the Christian Retailing’s Best Award. 

She lives in North Carolina with her husband of twenty years and a son and a daughter who fill her days with joy, inspiration, and laughter. Connect with her at

Guest Post from Connilyn

Shelter of the Most High, the second book in my Cities of Refuge Series, will be the first I’ve written to have been influenced by my trip to Israel last year. When I started writing Biblical fiction almost nine years ago, I was limited to exploring the Land of Promise via Google Earth, books, and through a plethora of photos on the good ol’ world wide web, but of course nothing can compare to actually experiencing the atmosphere and scenery for yourself. 

So although I’d already written Shelter of the Most High by the time I hopped on a plane to join fellow author Cliff Graham’s GoodBattle Tour, once I returned my editing was filtered through the sights and sounds I’d witnessed for myself. It had been a life-long dream to go to Israel and it did not disappoint, in fact it just went way too fast! 

One of my greatest fears was that I would see the places I’d written about in my books and realize I totally messed up my descriptions, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that for the most part I’d been fairly accurate (although I did tweak a few things here and there). 

Standing on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee I was able to envision Eitan, our hero in Shelter of the Most High, sitting on one of the black boulders there, defeated and weary as he searched for his love. I was able to look toward the snowy peaks of Mount Hermon in the north and over the fertile Hula Valley just below the ancient ruins of Kedesh, the city of refuge, and consider how Sofea must have felt as she experienced the landscape of her new home for the first time, both the fear and the awe. 

One of my favorite sites was Tel Dan and although it does not feature in Shelter of the Most High it’s lush greenness and dense forest gave me a better sense of what Israel must have been in the past before deforestation, war, and shifts in climate have done to the fertile land God himself called a land of milk and honey. Since I was so affected by Tel Dan (or Laish in ancient times) that city will be one of the settings in my upcoming third installment of the Cities of Refuge Series, Until the Mountains Fall. 

Being a super visual person who is highly sensitive to sensory input, I took great pleasure in absorbing with all my senses as we walked paths, climbed mountains (yes, mountains), slogged through a long, cold, and wet tunnel deep beneath Jerusalem, hiked up to the secret oasis of Ein Gedi where David hid from Saul, and rocked along on a boat over the glassy surface of the Galilee. I felt like a sponge just soaking up every little detail and every grand vista. 

Smelling the salty breeze off the Mediterranean and hearing the waves crash against the sandy beach in Tel Aviv and Caesarea Phillipi made me imagine our heroine Sofea looking over that enormous, blue expanse and wondering what sort of god had control of such a powerful thing. 

Feeling the timeworn cobblestones beneath my feet gave me a sense of what it must have been like for Eitan and Sofea to walk through the streets of Kedesh, their own sandals scuffing against the rough-hewn stone as they went about their daily activities. 

Running my fingers along the pitted surfaces of ancient buildings and tracing the chisel marks from craftsmen of the Bronze Age wrapped me in a whirl of imagination about who the people were that hefted those same rocks into place and the ingenuity it took to create structures that have lasted so long. 

Tasting the unique spices and flavors of the Middle East gave me a sense of the passion Moryiah (our hero’s mother) has for creating delicious new dishes to feed her growing family and the guests at her inn. 

Although I write fiction, my stories are woven into Biblical accounts so going to Israel was a perfect reminder for me that the people that lived between the pages of Genesis to Revelations were real. They breathed, they cried, they loved, they mourned, they suffered, and they celebrated with their families. I am so grateful to have gleaned some great new insight into the Land and its resilient, vibrant people and hope that through Shelter of the Most High readers get a small sense of the beauty and wonder I experienced there. I cannot wait to go back!


To celebrate her tour, Connilyn is giving away ...

-- Grand Prize: All five of Conni’s novels, including Shelter of the Most High, plus AHAVA Dead Sea Bath Salts
-- Three other winners will receive a copy of Shelter of the Most High!!

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 Power of Words, November 20
Among the Reads, November 21
Gensis 5020, November 21
Book by Book, November 22
Remembrancy, November 23
Inklings and notions, November 23
The Becca Files, November 24
Baker Kella, November 24
Bibliophile Reviews, November 25
By The Book, November 26
Aryn The Libraryan, November 27
All-of-a-kind Mom, November 27
Simple Harvest Reads, November 29 (Guest post from Mindy Houng)
Janices book reviews, November 29
The Lit Addict, November 30
Texas Book-aholic, November 30
Connect in Fiction, December 2
Bigreadersite, December 2
Purposeful Learning, December 3
Carpe Diem, December 3

Monday, November 19, 2018

Review: If the Coffin Fits by Lillian Bell

If the Coffin Fits
By Lillian Bell
Funeral Parlor Mysteries #2
Crooked Lane Books, 2018


Funeral director Desiree Turner deals with death by natural causes all the time. Death by unnatural causes? Not so much. Yet, she and her boyfriend Nate have heard some not-so-dear things about the recently departed. A suspicious remark by the late Frank Fiore’s daughters sparks some concern. And when Violet Daugherty faints behind the wheel of her car, Desiree suspects she’s got a front seat to murder.

Desiree can’t help but look into Violet’s untimely end, but soon after, rumors begin to spread that she’s accusing her clients of murder, which quickly spurs a mass cancellation and Desiree is on the verge of going out of business. What began as an effort to do due diligence for her client turns into a wild goose chase for Violet’s murderer. Desiree must find her proof before everything she's worked for is lost. But that’s easier said than done, because while everyone else in town is looking to take their business elsewhere, the killer sets sights directly upon Desiree.

Now it’s up to Desiree to find the murderer before she becomes the next body her funeral parlor serves.


My thoughts

I don’t know when I’ve enjoyed a cozy mystery as much as If the Coffin Fits, book #2 in the Funeral Parlor Mysteries series by Lillian Bell. This new-to-me author has crafted the most delightful storyline and a lead character that I want to spend more and more time with. Bell’s writing is smooth, filled with snappy dialogue, and flows steadily across the page; not a wasted word to be found here. The sense of humor that comes across effortlessly in the prose makes me wish I could meet this author personally.

Two elements that surprised me personally turned out to be huge strengths. First, the funeral parlor setting and theme, which was not depressing at all. Quite humorous, in fact. Despite the best of intentions, Desiree seems to be accident prone when it comes to her words, which is kind of how she ended back up in the family business in the first place. And then there’s the family, the mystery around Desiree’s dad in particular. Is he really dead? Only time will tell.

German shepherd/malamute mix
The second surprising element is Orion, a malamute and German shepherd mix who instantly stole this cat lover’s heart. I loved his antics, the way he interacted with Desiree and her reluctance to seek a home for him – but when he showed an unusual sensitivity to the needs of funeral parlor clients, I was hooked. The idea of Orion possibly becoming a therapy dog was fascinating.

Strong secondary characters add depth and complexity, as well as possible romantic interests for Desiree. I also loved her easy curiosity and sense that the occasional deceased person might not have died a natural death. Cleverly woven into the narrative are several short articles Desiree has written for her hometown newspaper, the Verbena Free Press. The mystery plot is well crafted and easy to follow, but not easy for me to solve.

If the Coffin Fits goes on my favorites list and I’m eager to read more of Lillian Bell’s mysteries. May there be many more books in this series!

Highly recommended.

Note: There’s some mild profanity that I wish had been omitted, but very clean otherwise.

I received a copy of this book through the Review Crew and Crooked Lane Books. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.


Lillian Bell is the author of the Funeral Parlor Mysteries published by Crooked Lane Books. As Kristi Abbott, she is the author of the Popcorn Shop Mysteries published by Berkley Prime Crime. She also writes as Eileen Rendahl and Eileen Carr.

Lillian lives and writes in northern California.


Saturday, November 17, 2018

Review + Tour GIVEAWAY: Why Did You Choose Me? by Katie Cruice Smith


November is National Adoption Month, and we're celebrating with the Why Did You Choose Me? Saturday Hop and giveaway, hosted by JustRead Tours and Ambassador International! Every Saturday in November, hop along to the different host blogs and enter the great giveaway!


WDYCM_FullCover Title: Why Did You Choose Me?  
Author: Katie Cruice Smith 
Illustrator: Sarah Strickling Jones 
Publisher: Ambassador International 
Release Date: November 12, 2017 
Genre: Children's Picture Book, Adoption

Most adoptive and foster children struggle at some point in their life with knowing who they are and where they belong. They want to ask questions, and parents need to be prepared with an answer that helps their child feel loved and secure.

After searching for adoption storybooks to read to her own adopted children, Katie Cruice Smith decided that there was a need for more books that parents could read at bedtime to connect with their adopted and fostered children.

In Why Did You Choose Me?, Katie Cruice Smith answers that question in a way that young children can understand. Drawing from her own experience as an adoptive mom to three children, Katie uses the questions her own children have asked to help them see there never really was a choice she knew right away that they were hers.

With beautiful illustrations by artist Sarah Strickling Jones, Why Did You Choose Me? lovingly demonstrates the uniqueness that each child brings to a family.  

PURCHASE LINKS: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Ambassador International


I was blessed to grow up in a home where love and security were never in doubt, almost to the point of being taken for granted. Beautifully written and illustrated by Katie Cruice Smith and Sarah Strickling Jones, Why Did You Choose Me? caused me to reflect on what my growing up years could have been like had my situation been different. This book gives voice to a child’s insecurities and questions, and also the parent’s need to communicate feelings of unconditional love, security, and acceptance. Best of all, it opens the door leading to a pathway for that communication.

I’m not familiar with children’s books, but I suspect there’s a void in this area and that Katie Cruice Smith will speak to many adoptive families with these words that God put on her heart, for questions will arise if they haven’t already. This story is easy to read, filled with heartwarming and cute illustrations that will capture a child’s imagination, yet contains a profound message.

Why Did You Choose Me? would be an asset to any church library. It would also be a great gift for adoptive parents, those on the path to adoption, or even someone just thinking about it.

Highly recommended.

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


View More:

Katie Cruice Smith is a freelance writer, journalist, and editor, and she resides in the Upstate of South Carolina with her husband and three adopted children. Katie is an adoption and foster care advocate, and she and husband are licensed foster parents and the founders of their church’s orphan ministry. She is currently working on a devotional book to accompany Why Did You Choose Me?

CONNECT WITH KATIE: website | Facebook | Twitter


Sarah Strickling Jones enjoys working with oils, acrylics, ceramics, and printmaking. She creates her artwork and teaches students of all ages from her country home. She lives in Greer, South Carolina, with her husband Darren and four children: Trevor, Peyton, Blake, and Renea. Why Did You Choose Me? is Sarah Strickling Jones’ first illustrated children’s book in watercolor.


saturday hop giveaway


(1) winner will receive
  • a print copy of Why Did You Choose Me?
  • "For This Child I Prayed" ornament (more info HERE)
Enter via the Rafflecopter giveaway below. Giveaway will begin at midnight November 3, 2018 and last through 11:59pm December 1, 2018. US only. Winners will be notified within a week of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. Giveaway is subject to the policies found here.


Follow along at JustRead for a full list of stops/dates!

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Review + Tour GIVEAWAY: Return of the Song by Phyllis Clark Nichols


Welcome to the Blog Tour & Giveaway for Return of the Song by Phyllis Clark Nichols, hosted by JustRead Publicity Tours!


return of the song Title: Return of the Song
Series: The Rockwater Suite #1  
Author: Phyllis Clark Nichols  
Publisher: Gilead Publishing
Release Date: September 18, 2018  
Genre: Contemporary Women’s Fiction  

When Caroline lost her love, she lost the music too.

Caroline Carlyle's dreams were crushed when her fiancĂ© died six weeks before their wedding. For years she wrestled with aching loss and shattered faith, struggling to find the inspiration that once came so easily. Abandoning her half-finished piano compositions, Caroline trades her old ambitions for the comfort and familiarity of life as the town’s piano teacher.

But Caroline's world turns upside down when a mysterious stranger enters her life. Filled with courage and fresh purpose, Caroline embarks on a quest to track down the beloved, rare piano she played as a child. Her search leads her to Rockwater, the Kentucky estate of a wealthy gentleman, where Caroline finds her heart may be composing a surprising new song.  

PURCHASE LINKS: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Christian Book | Book Depository


She had been walking a straight, dull path the last six years, living on level ground in a valley of monotony void of mountain peaks. She had found comfort in the simmering state of her daily days; but from somewhere deep inside herself, a place she could not describe or explain, came the unsettling sense her path was about to take a turn.

Return of the Song by the gifted Phyllis Clark Nichols is the type of story I love most and I enjoyed every minute spent within its pages. There’s a gentle thread of romance, but this is primarily in the women’s fiction genre – the character-driven story of a woman gradually finding newness and hope after a heartbreaking loss six years previously. The prose is simply exquisite, the pace steady, and characterization is rich.

The story resonated with me on many levels, for like Caroline, I’m a musician who has taught piano, and I live in Georgia. From the small-town Moss Point setting, to Caroline’s performance of the classics, composing, and instilling a love for music in her students, Nichols crafted a story that sparkles. The prologue gives us the last few hours of David’s life in Guatemala and I’m so glad this was included, because it shows his heart for the Lord and his fiancĂ©, allowing his spirit to live through the book.

There’s a wealth of strong supporting characters – such as Sam and Angel, an older couple who love Caroline like a daughter, and the young savant Bella. And oh, how I loved Roderick! Because they converse by phone and don’t actually meet in person until way in the book, it might seem at first that romance isn’t a key element. However, I think this reflects the author’s pure genius because I connected with Roderick from the beginning and felt the realness of their steadily growing friendship. Can’t wait to see what happens with these two!

Although very much open ended, Return of the Song concluded satisfactorily for me and I understand that Freedom of the Song, to be released next spring, will pick up right where this one leaves off.

Highly recommended, “best of the best” for me!

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

Please click on the title to see my review of the previous excellent book by Phyllis Clark Nichols, Christmas at Grey Sage.



Phyllis Clark Nichols’s character-driven Southern fiction explores profound human questions using the imagined residents of small town communities you just know you’ve visited before. With a strong faith and a love for nature, art, music, and ordinary people, she tells redemptive tales of loss and recovery, estrangement and connection, longing and fulfillment . . . often through surprisingly serendipitous events.

Phyllis grew up in the deep shade of magnolia trees in South Georgia. Born during a hurricane, she is no stranger to the winds of change: In addition to her life as a novelist, Phyllis is a seminary graduate, concert pianist, and cofounder of a national cable network with health- and disability-related programming. Regardless of the role she’s playing, Phyllis brings creativity and compelling storytelling.

She frequently appears at conventions, conferences, civic groups, and churches, performing half-hour musical monologues that express her faith, joy, and thoughts about life—all with the homespun humor and gentility of a true Southern woman.

Phyllis currently serves on several nonprofit boards. She lives in the Texas Hill Country with her portrait-artist husband.  

CONNECT WITH PHYLLIS: website | Facebook | Twitter

return of the song blog giveaway


(1) winner will receive (US only)
  • a print copy of Christmas at Grey Sage
  • a print copy of Return of the Song
Enter via the Rafflecopter giveaway below. Giveaway will begin at midnight November 12, 2018 and last through 11:59pm November 19, 2018. US only. Winners will be notified within a week of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. Giveaway is subject to the policies found here.

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

Review + Double GIVEAWAY: The Killer Christmas Sweater Club by Terry Ambrose

The Killer Christmas Sweater Club
By Terry Ambrose
A Seaside Cove Bed & Breakfast Mystery #3
Satori, 2018


All ten-year-old Alexandra Atwood wants for Christmas is to get her dad and the B&B’s cook Marquetta under the mistletoe. After all, how can they get married if they don’t kiss first?

When murder strikes in Seaside Cove, bed-and-breakfast owner Rick Atwood is asked to help find the killer. But this will not be an easy case to crack. Not only did the killer contaminate the crime scene, but there are suspects all over town. And they all received the same Christmas sweater from the victim.

Alex hears rumors about the murder and decides that since she’s on Christmas break, she has time for a little multitasking. She launches her own investigation even as she continues her efforts to get her dad and Marquetta together.

Just when Rick thinks he’s identified all the suspects, he discovers a new one—his estranged wife. With the days until Christmas ticking down, Rick feels pressured from all sides. He needs to solve the case. He needs to send his wife back to New York. But the one thing he doesn’t need is for his daughter to be one step ahead of him and the cops.


My thoughts

The Killer Christmas Sweater Club is a fun cozy mystery with a great Christmas theme. The main characters are Rick, owner of the Seaside Cove B&B on California’s coast, his lively ten-year-old daughter, Alex, and the B&B’s chef, Marquetta. Reading the previous two books would give a better sense of the regular characters, but this story works well as a standalone.

Small towns make great cozy mystery settings, and Seaside Cove is no exception … “a small town without a whole lot to do other than watch what your neighbors are doing.” The Christmas sweater theme really resonated with me because of personal experience. Some time ago, my eyes were opened when my daughter asked to borrow several of my Christmas sweaters for a contest she was planning with her campus ministry team – and until then, I had no idea these sweaters were anything but cherished by those who wore them. Such a fun theme for a book! The problem arises because the murder victim had given a few Christmas sweaters, all alike, to members of the community – apparently to make amends for the grief he had caused, but the real reason might have been to create divisiveness and distrust.

A lot of the fun in this story comes packed in the pint-sized body of Rick’s daughter, Alex. Manipulative in a cute way in trying to get her dad and Marquetta together, and highly inquisitive when it comes to mystery investigation, she will literally steal the hearts of readers. And when she becomes a reporter for the Cove Talkers Newsletter – lookout! The story is told from two perspectives, Alex and her dad, and I loved getting to know Alex’s thoughts and heart from her journal entries.

I liked that the romance between Rick and Marquetta is progressing slowly through the series, and Marquetta is great with Alex. However, a small hiccup in Alex’s plans develops when Rick’s estranged wife surfaces as a murder suspect. Suspects are plentiful and it’s fun to figure things out along with Alex.

The Killer Christmas Sweater Club is an enjoyable story, recommended to cozy mystery fans.

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


Terry Ambrose is a former skip tracer who tracked down deadbeats for a living. He’s long since turned his talents to writing mysteries and thrillers. Several of his books have been award finalists and in 2014 his thriller, “Con Game,” won the San Diego Book Awards for Best Action-Thriller. 

He likes cool photography, funny mysteries, and finding the oddest things while walking on the beach.




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