Sunday, May 17, 2020

Review: Killer Jam by Karen MacInerney

Killer Jam
By Karen MacInerney
Dewberry Farm #1
Thomas & Mercer, 2015


When Houston reporter Lucy Resnick cashes in her retirement to buy her grandmother’s farm in Buttercup, Texas, she’s looking forward to a simple life as a homesteader. But Lucy has barely finished putting up her first batch of Killer Dewberry Jam when an oil exploration truck rolls up to the farm and announces plans to replace her broccoli patch with an oil derrick. Two days later, Nettie Kocurek, the woman who ordered the drilling, turns up dead at the Founders’ Day Festival with a bratwurst skewer through her heart and one of Lucy’s jam jars beside her…and the sheriff fingers Lucy as the prime suspect.

Horrified, Lucy begins to talk to Nettie’s neighbors, but the more she gets to know the townspeople, the more she realizes she’s not the only one who had a beef with Nettie. Can she clear her name, or will her dream life turn into a nightmare?


My thoughts

Killer Jam by Karen MacInerney beautifully fits into the cozy mystery genre that I enjoy so much. The rural setting of Buttercup, Texas is vividly conveyed and central to the story. Characters are created in this first-of-series story that will keep me wanting to come back. The mystery plot is well crafted, with the murder victim being a character you love to hate and the number of possible suspects just right. And Killer Jam is a clean read, which I greatly appreciate.

A series succeeds or fails based on the main character, and I found Lucy very appealing. During her years as a Houston crime reporter, Lucy had dreamed of the simpler life that she had experienced years earlier in Grandma Vogel’s kitchen, which led to her purchase of Dewberry Farm … “I went from being Lucy Resnick, reporter, to Lucy Resnick, unemployed homesteader of my grandparents’ derelict farm.” Lucy doesn’t go over the top in investigating the murder, but draws on her investigative journalist skills and contacts in order to defend herself.

There’s a gentle humor throughout that I loved. A couple of secondary characters add depth – Tobias, a veterinarian and possible romantic interest, and Quinn, a good friend with an abusive husband. There’s Rooster, an uncooperative sheriff who was elected more for his family connections than skill. We also see local prejudice between the German and Czech communities, and an unsolved murder going back to 1940.

And, of course, what would a cozy be without endearing animals? I fell in love with Chuck, a bald, slightly overweight poodle, and Blossom, a cow that likes to overturn buckets of milk when they are full and has hidden talents as an escape artist. I’ve got a feeling that Lucy is going to increase the animal population on Dewberry Farm in future stories and can’t wait for these developments.

Going forward, I hope for more character depth and maybe a little less descriptive passages. But Killer Jam is a great beginning to what promises to be a delightful cozy series.


Note:  Karen MacInerney also writes the Gray Whale Inn mysteries, a cozy series set in one of my very favorite places to visit through fiction – Maine.


      Karen is the USA Today bestselling author of multiple cozy mystery series, and her victims number well into the double digits. She lives in Austin, Texas with her sassy family and a menagerie of animals.
      When she’s not chauffeuring children or coming up with creative ways to kill people, you can usually find Karen hiding away with a book, dodging laundry, playing in the kitchen, or attending martial arts classes. (No fatalities on the last two fronts–at least not yet.)

Thursday, May 7, 2020

The National Day of Prayer: We Pray for Children

The National Day of Prayer is an annual national observance, established into public law in 1952 and observed publicly on the first Thursday in May since 1988. Each year, people gather across our nation in local community events to pray together for America.

Today – May 7, 2020 – is this year’s National Day of Prayer. Regardless of the unprecedented challenges that our nation is facing today due to the covid-19 outbreak and resulting economic shutdown, it will not be canceled nor postponed – but will look very different from years past. The NDOP website writes that by using the use many digital platforms available, “this year’s ‘virtual’ observances have the potential to become the largest prayer gathering in U.S. history – with millions PRAYING TOGETHER, INDIVIDUALLY.”

I vividly remember the first time I helped prepare our church’s worship center for the special day. The focus was not only on America as a nation, but on individuals, families, and children. Scripture, pictures and quotes on prayer rotated across the screen with meditative music playing softly in the background. Prayer guides were placed at the entrance. It was moving to see people quietly enter throughout the day and into the evening – coming as individuals, friends, coworkers, and in family groups. This year will look quite different, but meaningful and effective nonetheless, and maybe with even more prayers than ever before reaching the Father’s ear.

Jennifer Beckstrand, one of my favorite authors, posted a poem on her blog in honor of the National Day of Prayer, and you can read her whole post here. It’s simply too moving not to share. Jennifer writes: “I can’t remember where I found this poem, but it holds special meaning for me because I know that all children are in Jesus’s tender care. I hope that this week on the National Day of Prayer, you will pray for your loved ones, your enemies, your family, and the children.”

By Ina Hughes

We pray for children
   who sneak popsicles before supper,
   who erase holes in math workbooks,
   who can never find their shoes.
And we pray, for those
   who stare at photographers from behind barbed wire,
   who can’t bound down the street in a new pair of sneakers,
   who never “counted potatoes,”
   who are born in places where we wouldn’t be caught dead,
   who never go to the circus,
   who live in an X-rated world.

We pray for children
   who bring us sticky kisses and fistfuls of dandelions,
   who sleep with the cat and bury goldfish,
   who hug us in a hurry and forget their lunch money,
   who squeeze toothpaste all over the sink,
   who slurp their soup.
And we pray for those
   who never get dessert,
   who have no safe blanket to drag behind them,
   who watch their parents watch them die,
   who can’t find any bread to steal,
   who don’t have any rooms to clean up,
   whose pictures aren’t on anybody’s dresser,
   whose monsters are real.

We pray for children
   who spend all their allowance before Tuesday,
   who throw tantrums in the grocery store and pick at their food,
   who like ghost stories,
   who shove dirty clothes under the bed,
   and never rinse out the tub,
   who get visits from the tooth fairy,
   who don’t like to be kissed in front of the carpool,
   who squirm in church or temple and scream in the phone,
   whose tears we sometimes laugh at
   and whose smiles can make us cry.
And we pray for those
   whose nightmares come in the daytime,
   who will eat anything,
   who have never seen a dentist,
   who aren’t spoiled by anybody,
   who go to bed hungry and cry themselves to sleep,
   who live and move, but have no being.

We pray for children
   who want to be carried
   and for those who must,
   for those we never give up on
   and for those who don’t get a second chance.
   for those we smother…
   and for those who will grab the hand of anybody
   kind enough to offer it.

We pray for children. Amen

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Review + GIVEAWAY: The House at the End of the Moor by Michelle Griep

About the Book

Book:  House at the End of the Moor
Author: Michelle Griep
Genre:  Christian Historical
Release Date: April 2020

An Opulent London Opera Star Escapes to the Rugged Landscape of the English Moors

Opera star Maggie Lee escapes her opulent lifestyle when threatened by a powerful politician who aims to ruin her life. She runs off to the wilds of the moors to live in anonymity. All that changes the day she discovers a half-dead man near her house. 

Escaped convict Oliver Ward is on the run to prove his innocence, until he gets hurt and is taken in by Maggie. He discovers some jewels in her possession—the very same jewels that got him convicted. Together they hatch a plan to return the jewels, clearing Oliver’s name and hopefully maintaining Maggie’s anonymity.

Click here for your copy!

My thoughts

Due to family circumstances, my review will be delayed a few days. I always enjoy Michelle Griep’s writing and eagerly anticipate this story.

About the Author

      Michelle Griep’s been writing since she first discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. She is the Christy Award-winning author of historical romances: A Tale of Two Hearts, The Captured Bride, The Innkeeper’s Daughter, 12 Days at Bleakly Manor, The Captive Heart, Brentwood’s Ward, A Heart Deceived, and Gallimore, but also leaped the historical fence into the realm of contemporary with the zany romantic mystery Out of the Frying Pan. 
      If you’d like to keep up with her escapades, find her at or stalk her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

 More from Michelle

What comes to mind when you hear the word moor? For some, images of Jane Eyre spring to life. For others, The Hound of the Baskervilles starts barking. But for most, it’s a big fat goose egg. The fact is that most Americans don’t have a clue what a moor is, but never fear, my friend…after you read the next few paragraphs, you’ll never again go blank-minded when you hear the word moor.

Last summer I skipped across the pond and tromped around Dartmoor with my daughter and husband. What an awesome experience. I learned first-hand just how windy this vast stretch of land can be, for that’s really what a moor is at heart: a vast stretch of land. Webster’s defines it as an expanse of open rolling infertile land. Sounds rather desolate, eh? Yeah. Kind of. But it’s oh so much more.

In spring and summer, green does abound. Gorse bushes. Scrubby grasses. Lambs and sheep and goats. All these animals roam free so there are trails worn into the dirt that you can hike along. But I hear you…where could you possibly go if there’s nothing besides some farm animals roaming around the place?

You could hike to a tor, which is a “high, craggy hill.” Some of them can be a little treacherous to climb, but sweet mercy, what a view! The earth stretches out like a green and brown quilt. As I hiked that day last spring, whispers in the wind inspired me to wonder a lot of what-ifs, and those what-ifs came together in a story of intrigue and betrayal.

What would you do if you found a half-dead man bleeding in the middle of nowhere? Find out what heroine Maggie Lee does in The House at the End of the Moor.


To celebrate her tour, Michelle is giving away the grand prize package of a $25 Amazon gift card and a free copy of the book!!

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

Batya’s Bits, April 18
The Avid Reader, April 18
Among the Reads, April 20
Remembrancy, April 23
Hookmeinabook, April 23
Emily Yager, April 24
Betti Mace, April 25
Stories By Gina, April 25
Splashes of Joy, April 26
Simple Harvest Reads, April 26 (Guest Review from Mindy Houng)
Vicky Sluiter, April 26
Pause for Tales, April 27
Hallie Reads, April 28
Bigreadersite, April 29
Older & Smarter?, April 29
Genesis 5020, April 30
By The Book, April 30
Artistic Nobody, May 1 (Guest Review from Donna Cline)

Friday, April 17, 2020

Spotlight: The Joy of Falling by Lindsay Harrel

About the Book

Book:  The Joy of Falling
Author: Lindsay Harrel
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Release Date: April 14, 2020

Eva and Angela must learn to live again. One step at a time.

It has been fifteen months since Eva and Angela lost their thrill-seeking husbands in a scuba diving accident. Both women are trying to navigate their way through the grief, but neither one is making much progress. Angela is barely making ends meet, angry at her husband for leaving her to raise three children on her own. Meanwhile, Eva is stuck, unable to move forward after losing the love of her life and her source of inspiration.

But then Eva gets a life-changing phone call. Before Brent and Wes died, they had signed up for a race of a lifetime—an ultra-marathon in beautiful New Zealand. Eva begs Angela to run the race with her in their husbands’ place, and Angela finally agrees, hoping to finally understand her husband’s choices.

Training is exhausting, and the race is even more demanding. Their journey grows more complicated by the presence of two men—Marc is Brent’s best friend who is running the race with Eva and Angela, and Simon King is a writer who is covering their inspiring story. With every step, Eva and Angela must ask themselves questions that they haven’t had the courage to ask before. As the women literally put one foot in front of the other, they wonder: Is it possible to find their way forward in hope?

Click here to get your copy!

My thoughts

Due to family circumstances, my review will be delayed a few days. I’m already enjoy this story!

About the Author

      Lindsay Harrel is a lifelong book nerd who lives in Arizona with her young family and two golden retrievers in serious need of training. She’s held a variety of writing and editing jobs over the years and now juggles stay-at-home mommyhood with writing novels. 
      When she’s not writing or chasing after her children, Lindsay enjoys making a fool of herself at Zumba, curling up with anything by Jane Austen, and savoring sour candy one piece at a time. 
      Connect with her at

Read an Excerpt

Click here to read the first four chapters.

Blog Stops

Remembrancy, April 19
Genesis 5020, April 20
Splashes of Joy, April 20
Older & Smarter?, April 22
Hookmeinabook, April 24
Hallie Reads, April 26
CarpeDiem, April 27
Stories By Gina, April 28
The Becca Files, April 29

Monday, April 13, 2020

Review + GIVEAWAY: Desert Willow by Patricia Beal

About the Book

Book:  Desert Willow
Author: Patricia Beal
Genre:  Romance
Release Date: February 12, 2020

After a failed engagement, Captain Andrew Lee James has focused on building a career in the Army he loves. That commitment includes helping a feisty, out-of-work ballerina whose devotion to her grandmother’s dying wish immediately grabs his heart. She’s the one, but will he be able to win the heart of a woman who has vowed to never be involved with a soldier?

College graduate Clara Malone swore to never love anyone in the military again but when her dying grandmother asks her to deliver a love letter to the general who broke her heart decades ago, she agrees and finds herself escorted by a handsome Army captain whose kindness challenges her beliefs. Surrounded by desert willows that shower her path with pretty pink flowers and sing with the buzzing of hummingbirds, Clara enjoys the wild beauty of El Paso—and her time with Andrew—more than expected.

Can she deliver her grandmother’s last love letter without losing her heart to a man who represents everything she fears?

Click here to get your copy!

My thoughts

Desert Willow is an entertaining and emotional story, enriched by character depth, a blending of past and present, and a strong spiritual theme. Drawing from personal experience, Patricia Beal writes a heartwarming story straight from the heart. The narrative flows at a steady pace, holding my attention throughout.

Andrew and Clara are brought together by a story from the past involving Clara’s grandmother and a general. Clara travels to El Paso, Texas on a mission from her dying grandmother, that of delivering a letter to a general who had broken her young heart. In the process, she meets Andrew, a friend of the general’s family. There’s a vivid sense of place and I was drawn to El Paso as I was introduced to its sights and culture through Clara’s eyes. The author’s personal experience in both the military and this town made the story rich in detail.

Clara and Andrew are appealing characters, easy to connect with. Andrew, nicknamed “Ginger” by Clara (picture a Prince Harry without the British accent), is a kind and caring man, with a strong faith that he unashamedly shares. Clara has just graduated from college with a degree in dance, emphasis on ballet, and is trying to figure out exactly what can be done with that degree. Clara has pulled away from God over the years and in her family, “relationships never lasted long, and forever was a pipe dream.” Although attracted to Andrew, family history has convinced her that relationships with military men are destined to fail.

Desert Willow is an emotional story of family relationships and forgiveness, including self-forgiveness. Past events cast a long shadow, which many readers can identify with. Themes include serious topics, such as infidelity and the struggle to remain pure until marriage. I loved the strong faith message skillfully woven throughout, applicable to our daily walk. I also enjoy how the author brings in the beauty of music and dance.

I enjoyed Desert Willow very much and look forward to many more stories by Patricia Beal.


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

About the Author

      Patricia Beal is a 2015 Genesis semi-finalist and First Impressions finalist. A Season to Dance is her debut novel (Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, May 2017). Her second novel comes out in February of 2020. 
      Patricia graduated magna cum laude from the University of Cincinnati in 1998 with a B.A. in English Literature and has worked for the U.S. Army as a writer and editor for many years. 
      Patricia writes from Fayetteville, North Carolina, where she lives with her husband and two children. You can find more info about Patricia on her website here.

More from Patricia

Desert Willow: A Love Song to the City of El Paso, to Family, and to Prince Harry

      I enjoy this story so much! It’s great to finally get to share it with you.
     Desert Willow started as a NaNoWriMo project in 2015 and has a lot of my grandma’s history in it—life in the German colonies of the south of Brazil, the beginning of the shoe industry there, and the story of the most influential man her town has ever known, my great-grandfather.
      And what does that have to do with El Paso and Prince Harry?
      Well, my Prince Harry lookalike, a young Army captain named Andrew Lee James who lives in El Paso, is helping the protagonist deliver her grandmother’s last love letter, a letter she was urged to write all those years ago after what happened in Brazil.
      The contemporary story of Clara (protagonist) and Andrew was fun to write too because I’ve been around the Army since the nineties. We moved to Fort Bliss/El Paso in 2012 and lived there for six years. I thought I was going to hate it, but I loved it, so I just had to write an El Paso story.
      Now I think that what I enjoyed the most about writing this novel was making all the connections and showing how the actions of a distant past affect and inform the modern story so deeply.
      Some of you have journeyed with me for a while and know that my debut, A Season to Dance, was my salvation process. What comes after salvation can be hard. What’s that? Well, looking at past mistakes through God’s eyes and realizing just how wrong we were, for starters.
      We know how quickly God forgives us, but can we forgive ourselves and each other as quickly?
      Desert Willow deals with all that. And with Prince Harry… 😊


To celebrate her tour, Patricia is giving away the grand prize of a Kindle Fire 7 (!!

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

Among the Reads, April 13
Robin’s Nest, April 14
Batya’s Bits, April 15
Older & Smarter?, April 16
Rebecca Tews, April 19
Emily Yager, April 20
Simple Harvest Reads, April 20 (Guest Review from Mindy Houng)
Hallie Reads, April 20
Pause for Tales, April 26