Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Murder in the Locked Library: A Book Retreat Mystery

Happy Book Release Day!  The Marmalade Murders by Elizabeth J. Duncan, Bleeding Tarts by Kirsten Weiss, Read Herring Hunt by V.M. Burns, Murder in the Locked Library by Ellery Adams, Death of a Cookbook Author by Lee Hollis, Dead Girl Running by Christina DoddExpiration Date by Devon Delaney, Antique Blues by Jane K. Cleland, Murder Most Fermented by Christine Blum, Antiques Wanted by Barbara Allen, Murder Will Speak by Penny Richards, Hide and Sneak by G.A. McMcKevett, The Mother's Day Mishap by Kathi Daley and The Amish Teacher's Gift by Rachel Good are a few of the new novels out today.

Murder in the Locked Library by Ellery Adams is the fourth tale in A Book Retreat Mystery series.  Jane Steward is excited that the construction is beginning on the Walt Whitman Spa.  The groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for the next evening.  After the digging begins, it looks like the festivities will have to be postponed.  Bones were uncovered by the excavator along with a padlocked box and a farthing.  Inside the box is the remains of a badly deteriorated book.  It so happens that the Robert Harley Rare Book Society is attending a conference at the Storyton Hall and they are happy to help discern the books title.  Bart Baylor identifies the book and then expires in the Henry James library.  Jane, with the aid of her trusted, employees delves into the lives of the members of the Rare Book Society to pinpoint the culprit before the conference ends.  How does the skeleton relate to Bart’s death?  Jane is also worried about Edwin Alcott.  There has been limited communication and the recent postcards people have been receiving seem unusually chatty (for Edwin).  As the investigation into Bart’s murder heats up, her concerns about Edwin will have to take a backseat.    Time is of the essence.  They need to work quickly or something very precious could be lost.

I love the concept for A Book Retreat Mystery series.  As a booklover, I would love to visit (let’s face it—live at) Storyton Hall.  If you are new to the series, I suggest starting with Murder in the Mystery Suite.  There is more to Storyton Hall than a beautiful book themed inn.  Jane is the latest Guardian who safeguards a hidden library filled with priceless (and rare) books and manuscripts.  Jane’s role and that of her staff (the Fins) is explained in the first book.  Murder in the Locked Library is well-written, but it does have a slower pace.  I did not mind the pace because the story drew me in from the very beginning. Storyton Hall with its beautiful book themed rooms were brought to life for me courtesy of the author’s descriptions. The characters are established and engaging.  There is a cast of regular characters that include Mr. Sinclair, Mr. Butterworth, Hem and Fitz (Jane’s twin boys), and the Cover Girls (Jane’s friends which make up the female book club).  I like the boys are portrayed as mischievous and curious.  Jane loves them dearly, but she does get frustrated with them at times (which is realistic).  I like how the three storylines come together in the end.  The mystery was compelling and complex.  I do wish, though, that it had been harder to identify the guilty party.  Two little pieces of information gave it away to me (this is the only weak part of the book).  The why did not become apparent until much later in the book.  I am glad that the sheriff works with Jane and her group on the investigation.  They have resources that are not available to the local police.  At the end of Murder in the Locked Library, we get a glimpse of what will be happening in the next A Book Retreat Mystery (which I am eager to read).  My rating for Murder in the Locked Library is 4.5 out of 5 stars.

The other books in A Book Retreat Mystery series are Murder in the Mystery Suite, Murder in the Paperback Parlor, and Murder in the Secret Garden.  Thank you for reading my latest review.  If you find it helpful, please consider hitting the Follow button (top right).  On Wednesday I will be featuring Soul of the Witch by Deanna Chase.   I hope your day is filled with delightful new books.  Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Monday, April 23, 2018

Dead Girl Running: Cape Charade Novel

Welcome!  Crime and Punctuation by Kaitlyn Dunnett comes out on May 29.  It is the first book Deadly Edits series.  Dying Truth by Angela Marsons will be available on May 18.  It is the eighth book in DI Kim Stone series

Dead Girl Running by Christina Dodd is the first novel in Cape Charade series.  Kellen Adams does not remember a year of her life, and she has a gunshot wound on her forehead with no clue how she received it.  Kellen is a United States Army veteran who is the assistant resort manager at Yearning Sands on the coast of Washington.  Leo and Annie Di Luca, the owners of the resort, are going away for a holiday and leaving Kellen in charge.  Kellen notices some bones in the yard as she arrives with guests and goes to inspect them believing they are that of a wild animal.  She is shocked to discover that they are human bones.  The victim is identified from her ring as Priscilla Carter, the previous assistant manager who left unexpectedly. Lloyd Magnuson is responsible for transporting the victim to the morgue, but he disappears along with the bones.  Kellen uses her skills to investigate the crime.  She does not know who she can trust and anyone on the estate could be guilty. 

Dead Girl Running is well-written and has a steady pace.  The book captured my attention from the very first page, and I was captivated until the very end.  The story is complex with many twists and turns (which I love).  There are three major storylines in the book and, in the end, they all come together.  There is the murder of Priscilla, smuggling, and Kellen’s missing year.  The setting sounded beautiful yet haunting.  It is the perfect locale for nefarious activities.  The resort sounds like a lovely place to spend a relaxing few days (when they are not finding dead bodies).  The mystery was well-crafted, and many readers will be surprised when the solution is revealed.  I could feel the suspense as it built up and the tension as it increased.  There is some romance sprinkled throughout the story and it blended nicely into the book. I discovered after reading Dead Girl Running that it ties into the Virtue Falls and Bella Terra series.  I had no problem, though, with reading Dead Girl Running as a standalone.  Dead Girl Running is a gripping tale that will have you on the edge of your seat (and hoping you will not fall off).  Be prepared to stay up late to finish Dead Girl Running.  My rating for Dead Girl Running is 5 out of 5 stars (I loved it).   I am eager for the next book in the Cape Charade series (What Doesn't Kill Me) to find out what happens next.  
Dead Girl Running will be out on Tuesday, April 24.  I appreciate you stopping by and reading my review.  Tomorrow I share my thoughts on Murder in the Locked Library by Ellery Adams.  May you have a day filled with joy.  See you next time and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader  

Sunday, April 22, 2018

The Price Guide to the Occult: A Paranormal Novel by Leslye Walton

Good Day!  Room on the Porch Swing by Amy Clipston comes out on May 8 along with Flowers and Foul Play by Amanda FlowerThe Hawaiian Discovery by Wanda E. Brunstetter and Jean Brunstetter releases on June 1.  A free preview of The Hawaiian Discovery is available on Amazon.

The Price Guide to the Occult by Leslye Walton is a unique paranormal novel.  Rona Blackburn moved to Anathema Island off the coast of Washington over a hundred years ago.  She claimed a plot of land and put a sign on the door that said “witch”.  A year after she arrives on the island, the men come at her home and set fire to it.  Rona escapes into the woods and casts a dark spell on them using her blood and that of her daughter.  A hundred years later, her descendant Nor is the eighth (and last) of the Blackburn daughters.  She lives with her grandmother, Judd and has what she calls an unremarkable gift (she can hear and talk to plants as well as animals).  Nor’s goal is to make the slightest mark as humanly possible on the world.  Nor dropped out of high school and works in a dead-end part-time position at the Witching Hour.  Then The Price Guide to the Occult comes out which allows people to order spells for a price.  Two things catch Nor’s attention:  the picture of the author and the free spell included.  The author and the caster of the spells is Fern Blackburn, Nor’s mother and the free spell is a Blackburn family spell.  Fern is a dangerous witch with formidable magic.  As Fern’s book becomes more popular, the island starts deteriorating.  Trouble is coming to Anathema Island and there is nothing that can be done to prevent it.  There is only one person who can defeat the evil but is she ready to face her destiny.

The Price Guide to the Occult had a captivating description, and I was eager to read it.  The prologue captured my attention, and I soon discovered it was the best part of the book.  I am not sure what happened to the author after she wrote the prologue.  Her writing became stilted and her word choices made for a slow-paced story (good for insomnia).  It seemed like Ms. Walton was overthinking her writing.  The transitions between sections were awkward and jarring.  Ms. Walt does provide some lovely descriptions that help readers imagine the island and the foliage.  The book is better at the end when the action picks up, but I feel that few readers would make it that far into the story.   There is a lack of character development and depth.  Nor was the most developed character, but she was not likeable nor is she compelling.  Nor was too busy trying to be bland and fixated on Reed (her love interest).  Of course, the author had to insert a love triangle.  The romance did not feel natural.  Fern had the potential to be a great antagonist, but she did not reach it.  She is evil, but one dimensional.  I did like Ms. Walton’s unique take on magic.  I have not encountered it before in other paranormal novels.  The Price Guide to the Occult does contain foul language, gruesome violence, and self-harm (fair warning).  The ending was lackluster, unsatisfying, rushed and predictable.  The author left the possibility of a sequel (oh dear).  The Price Guide to the Occult is geared to the New Adult audience (over sixteen).  My rating for The Price Guide to the Occult is 2 out of 5 stars.

Thank you for checking in today and reading my review.  I will be featuring Dead Girl Running by Christina Dodd on Monday and Murder in the Locked Library by Ellery Adams on Tuesday.  May you have a blessed day.  I hope you find time to relax with a good book today.  Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Plain Confession: A Stone Mill Amish Mystery

Happy Saturday!  I hope everyone is having a lovely day.  Expiration Date by Devon Delaney along with Bleeding Tarts by Kirsten Weiss, Death of a Cookbook Author by Lee Hollis and The Marmalade Murders by Elizabeth J. Duncan will be published on April 24.

Plain Confession by Emma Miller is the fifth book in A Stone Miller Amish Mystery series (aka An Amish Mystery series).  Rachel Mast owns Stone Mill House, a bed and breakfast, in Stone Mill, Pennsylvania.  She is attending the funeral of Daniel Fisher who died in a hunting accident.  Many people comment on Daniel’s kindness and the improvements he made to the Studer farm since his marriage to Mary Rose.  Rachel is surprised when Evan Parks, her fiancé and a state trooper, shows up at the funeral with the news that Daniel’s death was not an accident.  Detective Sharp is in charge of the investigation (since Evan stepped down), but he is unfamiliar with the Amish and he is lacking in people skills.  Moses Studer, Daniel’s brother-in-law, confesses to killing Daniel when he is questioned which leads to his arrest and the end of the police’s investigation.  Alma Studer, Daniel’s mother-in-law, comes to Rachel asks her to prove Moses innocence.  Rachel agrees to help Moses and sets out to find the truth.  She needs to work in her wedding preparations in between her sleuthing.  Rachel and Evan’s wedding is fast approaching, and Rachel has yet to have her final dress fitting.  Townspeople are wondering if Rachel will show up at the altar or become a runaway bride.  After making some inquiries, Rachel soon discovers that outward appearances are deceiving.  Rachel becomes intent on solving the case before she walks down the aisle.   Who killed Daniel Fisher?  Will Rachel make it to her wedding?  Return to Stone Mill and help Rachel solve the case in Plain Confession.

Plain Confession is the fifth book in the series, and it can be read as a standalone.  Details on Rachel, her family and Evan are included.  I found Plain Confession to contain good writing, and it was easy to read.  Emma Miller is a descriptive writer which helps bring a book to life.  I did feel that some details were not needed.  An example is as a person is driving down the road readers get a detailed description of the scenery, the turns the person makes while driving, etc.  Rachel Mast is a unique character.  She was raised Amish, but she was not baptized into the faith.  She stayed in the community where she was raised and runs a bed and breakfast.  This allows her to interact with the Amish and Englisch. I like that Rachel honors Amish traditions (dressing modestly and covering her head for example) and is respectful.  I felt that she became too fixated on the case.   It made it seem like she was having second thoughts about her marriage to Evan Parks.  I did not like how Evan did not want her to look into Daniel’s case and kept reminding her (once was enough).  It felt off since Rachel has helped Evan on past cases. I like that the main characters are established and nicely developed.  I was not a fan of Detective Sharp.  Sharp is a cliché nasty detective that is similar to those in other cozy mysteries.  The mystery has some good components, but I felt it was too simple.  I wish it had been more complicated and harder to identify the culprit.  The investigation consists of Rachel asking questions and then speculating on the case.  I was curious as to why Daniel’s body had been released for the funeral when the investigation into his death was not complete and the autopsy results were not in.  Of course, the police showing up at the funeral was tacky and inconsiderate (they could not wait until the next day).  Plain Confession needed more action.  The pace was too slow at times which made my attention wander.  Christian elements are woven seamlessly into the story (having faith, God’s mercy), power of prayer).  My rating for Plain Confession is 3 out of 5 stars.  While Plain Confession is not my favorite book in the series, I will continue to read the books in A Stone Mill Amish Mystery series

The other novels in A Stone Mill Amish Mystery series are Plain Murder, Plain Killing, Plain Dead and Plain Missing. Tomorrow I will be sharing my thoughts on The Price Guide to the Occult by Leslye Walton.  I hope you have a relaxing day.  Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader 

Friday, April 20, 2018

What to Expect When Your Demon Slayer is Expecting: Biker Witches Mystery

What to Expect When Your Demon Slayer is Expecting by Angie Fox is the eighth installment in the Biker Witches Mystery series.  Lizzie Brown-Kallinikos along with her husband, Pirate, Flappy, Grandma and the Red Skull biker witches are back in Georgia.  Lizzie is on the phone with her mother, Hillary when something attacks her.  They rush over to Lizzie’s apartment to discover Hillary has been possessed.  After defeating a baddie in Lizzie’s condo, they had failed to properly ward the place (they were in a rush and did not anticipate Hillary stopping by to water the plants).  When their regular potions fail to oust the dark entity, they are forced to explore other alternatives.  They must first obtain moly, a hard to obtain herb that is also difficult to transport.   They obtain the herb, but the potion does not produce the desired results.  That leaves Lizzie with only one alternative—the dark spirit from New Orleans.  Lizzie will do whatever it takes to rescue her mother, but will she be willing to give up what the spirit wants for his help.  Lizzie has been tired and sick lately (you know where this is leading).  She is having a baby!  Before the group can rejoice (which means a party with food and alcoholic beverages), they need to finish the fight to save Hillary.  Join Lizzie, Dimitri and the Red Skulls in their latest battle in Whatto Expect When Your Demon Slayer is Expecting.

What to Expect When Your Demon Slayer is Expecting is one laugh out loud moment after another.  The book is well-written and contains a variety of well-developed characters.  If you have not read the other books in the Biker Witches Mystery series, I do not suggest starting with this book.  Start at the beginning with The Accidental Demon Slayer (kindle version is currently free on Amazon) and you can chuckle your way through the whole series.  I liked that the book was full of action which makes for a fast-paced story.  One of my favorite characters is Pirate, the talking dog.  He is hilarious and reminds me of my dog, Doozy (his top priority is filling his stomach as well).  One of my favorite scenes is when two of the ladies get a makeover by ditching their leather bustiers for khaki.  I could have done with fewer steamy scenes between Lizzie and Dimitri.  What to Expect When Your Demon Slayer is Expecting is a delightful paranormal tale full of magic, mayhem and mischief. 

I appreciate you stopping by today and reading my review.  I will be sharing my thoughts on Plain Confession by Emma Miller next time.  It is the fifth book in A Stone Mill Amish Mystery series.  I hope everyone is enjoying spring weather.  We have been fortunate to have another bout of gorgeous weather which is very unusual in April (normally it is in the high 80s).  See you next time and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader   

Thursday, April 19, 2018

A Charming Corpse: A Magical Cures Mystery

A Charming Corpse by Tonya Kappes is the eleventh book in A Magical Cures Mystery series.  June Heal lives in Whispering Falls, Kentucky where she owns The Charming Cure.  Business has been off lately, and June discovers why courtesy of a flyer.  A mortal, Gabby Summerfield, is selling Life Choice Homeopathic products out of Leah LeRoy’s Crazy Craft Chicks.  June decides to check out her competitor and discovers that the “cures” smell nice, but they are not going to have the effect of June’s magical potions.  The next morning, Gabby is found dead outside Crazy Craft Chicks.  When Leah is arrested for Gabby’s murder, she needs June’s help in clearing her name.  Someone is setting up Leah for the crime, and June needs to work quickly before the Order of Elders descend on the town.  While June is busy deciphering the clues to uncover the evildoer, she must also think about a job that has come to her attention.  June’s Great Aunt Helena, who teaches at A Spiritualist University, told June about an opening at the university to teach potions, potion building and intuition.  It is a perfect fit for June, but it would mean being away from her husband and shop (I think she should commute via the nearby portal).  What choice will June make?  Can June find Gabby’s killer?  Come back to Whispering Falls for another magical adventure in A Charming Corpse.

A Charming Corpse is an enchanting tale.  I like Tonya Kappes writing style (friendly is the best word to describe it) because it makes for an easy to read story.  Her writing has an ease to it.  The book has a steady pace and entertaining characters.  One sweetie is Mr. Prince Charming, June’s fairy-god cat, who is one smart feline and protective of his charge.  Madame Torres who dishes out premonitions from June’s crystal ball is unique.  I thought the characters were well established and quirky which suits this series.  The author provides great descriptions of the characters, shops, and town that allow the reader to visualize them.  I especially love the descriptions of June’s potion bottles and the ornamental gates for each shop (the gate for Crazy Craft Chicks is gorgeous).  It is interesting how each witch has a unique gift.  I can tell that Ms. Kappes has a wonderful imagination which puts to good use in writing this series.  There are good clues to aid readers in solving the murder, and I appreciated that there was an active investigation.  I felt that A Charming Corpse could be read alone.  I have not read many books in the series (I am looking forward to reading them when I have an opportunity), and I did not have a problem.  The author provides June’s background (how she came to the village, met her husband, her magical gifts) and details on the town.  When you finish reading A Charming Corpse, you will have a smile on your face (I just love books like that).  The first book in A Magical Cures Mystery series is A Charming Crime which is currently free (Kindle version) on Amazon.  The whole series is available under the Kindle Unlimited program (which you can check out free for 30 days).

Thank you for stopping by today.  I will be featuring What to Expect When Your Demon Slayer is Expecting by Angie Fox on April 20.  It is the latest novel in the Biker Witches Mystery series.  May you have a day filled with sunshine.  Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

A Riesling to Die: The Wine Trail Mysteries

Welcome!  A Charming Corpse by Tonya Kappes and What to Expect When Your Demon Slayer is Expecting by Angie Fox (not available for pre-order at this time) will be released on April 20.  Dead Girl Running by Christina Dodd  will be published on April 24.  It is the first book in the Cape Charade series.

A Riesling to Die is the first novel in The Wine Trail Mysteries.  Norrie Ellington, a screenwriter, has reluctantly agreed to oversee the Two Witches Vineyard, in which she is a co-owner, for a year while her sister and her husband go off to Costa Rica on a research trip.  Norrie believes that with the experienced winery staff, her role will be minimal which will leave her plenty of quiet time to write.  The day after Francine and Jason leave the local crank is found dead in the new Riesling vines.  Norrie decides to investigate the matter because the winery cannot afford to lose money or have bad publicity.  She starts asking questions and believes she has discovered the guilty party.  Norrie hatches with a plan to get the individual to confess.  Unfortunately, things do not go quite as expected.  Join Norrie at the Two Witches Vineyard in her search for a killer in A Riesling to Die.

A Riesling to Die is a light cozy mystery.  Norrie is one of those main characters that babbles when nervous and turns into a blithering idiot in front of a handsome man.  There was a lack of development in Norrie’s character.  The author fails to provide her background which would establish the character (any of the characters).  There are some unique people working in the tasting room of the winery.  Glenda, Roger, Lizzie and Cammy provide comic relief along with Cammy’s cousin, Marc and Enzo (they cracked me up).  There is also a dog that manages to get into smelly messes every day (it makes me wonder if these people have not heard of a leash or a fenced in area for dogs) and Alvin, the spitting dwarf goat that is an attraction for children (just what every vineyard needs when you have guests wandering about). The mystery was straightforward, and the identity of the guilty party came as no surprise.  Norrie’s investigation was proceeding nicely until she came up a harebrained scheme to reel in who she believes is the killer (she jumped to conclusions instead of following the evidence and thinking things through).  The grand plan jeopardizes the winery and reminds me of Lucy Ricardo’s schemes.  Norrie’s spends a significant amount of time speculating on who could have committed the crime.  You can really see her overactive imagination at work.  All the loose ends are wrapped up at the end of the story.  A Riesling to Die had a good start, but then it stalled out for a while and then it became foolish.  There is some interesting information about growing grapes, taking care of the vines, running a vineyard and producing wines.  I am curious how many dead people will turn up in the area during Norrie’s year at Two Witches Winery (maybe the author will throw in a burglary).  A Riesling to Die is a quick read that will appeal to readers who prefer lighter cozy mysteries filled with quirky characters.  The next book in The Wine Trail Mysteries is Chardonnayed to Rest.

Thank you for visiting today.  I will be featuring A Charming Corpse by Tonya Kappes tomorrow.  It is eleventh book in A Magical Cures Mystery series.  I hope that you have a delightful day.  Take care of yourself and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Murder at the Mushroom Festival: A Kelly Jackson Mystery

Murder at the Mushroom Festival by Janet Finsilver is fourth installment in A Kelly Jackson Mystery series.  Kelly Jackson, the manager of the Redwood Cove Bed-and-Breakfast, is looking forward to the Mushroom Festival in Redwood Cove, California.  She has agreed to let Elise Jackson teach her mushroom class in the multipurpose room.  Elise will be teaching the participants how to identify various mushrooms, how to cook with mushrooms and provide maps on where to find the fungi in the local area.  One of the highlights of the festival is the mushroom hunting contest.  Ned Blaine, reporter for the Redwood Cove Messenger, is attending Elise’s class and manages to anger a few people before it disperses.  The next morning Deputy Sheriff Bill Stanton arrives to speak with Kelly.  Ned Blaine was found shot dead (I’m so shocked) on sacred tribal land in Mallory National Park.  When Daniel ends up the prime suspect, Kelly and the sleuthing seniors known as the Silver Sentinels dig into the case.  Ned was investigating illegal redwood logging which included the stealing sinker logs and writing a book on places to locate mushrooms in Redwood Cove.  Both items stirred up dark feelings and could have gotten Ned murdered. Someone is not happy with Kelly’s snooping and attempts to take her out of commission.  It is up to Kelly and the Silver Sentinels to find the wrongdoer before they strike again.

Murder at the Mushroom Festival can be read alone.  Everything you need to know about Kelly is included in Murder at the Mushroom Festival.  I thought the book contained good writing and had a steady pace. Janet Finsilver has a conversational writing style that makes the story easy to read.  I thought the characters were well established.  Kelly’s coworkers, friends and the Silver Sentinels are friendly, welcoming characters.  They are the type of people I would like to know and have as my friends.  I appreciate that there is a diverse group of people.  I especially enjoy the younger characters as well as the dogs.  They provide levity and humor to the story.  Kelly is friendly, caring, smart and level headed.  I like the setting of Redwood Cove.  It sounds like a great place to live with the water and forests (I have always wanted to life in the Pacific Northwest).  It was interesting to learn about mushrooms.  I had no idea there were so many varieties and how easy it is to find them.  People do need to be careful since there are numerous poisonous varieties (great weapon for a killer).   I would never have thought of using mushrooms in a dessert.  The mystery had a couple of different components that all come together in the end with the loose ends wrapped up.  Identifying the guilty, though, is a piece of cake.  I really like that Kelly actively investigates.  She asks clever questions while being subtle.  Kelly does not blindly dive into dangerous situations (hooray).  There are many cozy moments in the book (cooking, chatting, mushroom hunting, cookie baking and decorating, horseback riding, traversing down the river in a canoe) that aid in making Murder at the Mushroom Festival a delight to read.  My rating for Murder at the Mushroom Festival 4 out of 5 stars (I liked it).  This is my favorite book so far in A Kelly Jackson Mystery series. 

Thank you for reading my review.  I will be sharing my thoughts on A Riesling to Die by J.C. Eaton on Wednesday.  I hope you will visit again.  May you have a day filled with joy.  Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Monday, April 16, 2018

Alice's Notions: A historical novel by Tamera Lynn Kraft

Welcome!  I am featuring Tamera Lynn Kraft today.  Ms. Kraft includes faith, adventure, mystery and suspense in her stories along with setting them in the past.  Tamera Lynn Kraft has been married for thirty-nine years with two married children and three grandchildren.  Readers can interact with the author through her website, Facebook, and Twitter.  You can sign up for her newsletter here.
Alice’s Notions by Tamera Lynn Kraft is set in Burning Bush, West Virginia in April of 1946.  Alice Morgan Brighton has returned to Burning Bush after the death of her husband, Joe in the war.  She has decided to use her savings to open Alice’s Notions.  Burning Bush has not been doing well and needs something that will help attract tourists.  Alice has come up an idea and runs it past Mr. & Mrs. Toliver.  She wants to have a barn quilt tour.  Quilt patches will be painted on various barns around the town and, hopefully, the tourists will stay to eat and shop.  Gwendolyn Toliver is all in favor of the notion and immediately sets to planning.  Rick Morrison, Alice’s landlord, raises objections to Alice opening a shop and the tour.  Rick is evasive about his business dealings, and he takes numerous out of town trips.  Alice signed up to sponsor a European refugee, but Greta Engel from Germany is not what she expected.  When Alice sprains her ankle just days before the opening of Alice’s Notions, she has no choice but to let Greta stay.  What should be a wonderful opportunity for the Burning Bush ends up dividing the townspeople and causing dissention.  During the planning, Alice notices that some of her friends are becoming secretive and there is something off about the tour plans.  Does someone have a different agenda for the barn tour?  Who are they and what is their plan?  Alice intends to find out, but she does not know who she can trust. 

Alice’s Notions is nicely written, and the story has a steady pace.  It has a good flow and smooth transitions.  Alice’s Notions is a story with intrigue, mystery, suspense, romance, and overcoming prejudices and anger.  The author captured the setting of a small town in a rural area along with how the people felt and acted.  Ms. Kraft captured the time-period with the language, dress, and people’s attitudes after the war.  It helped that the slang from the 1940s was included along with films and books.  I did, though, tire of Rick’s use of “dame” and “doll” when referring to Alice (it was annoying).  Greta Engel was a wonderful addition to Alice’s Notions.  In the story the author showed how people felt towards Germans after the war.  Townspeople would call her Alice’s servant or girl (and other derogatory names) which properly reflected how people felt (it wasn’t right, but it was the attitude after the war based on fear and prejudice). Greta’s misunderstanding of American slang added humor to the story (just the right touch).  I enjoyed seeing the relationship progress between Greta and Alice.  Alice changed over the course of the book as well.  She returned home to Burning Bush because she was afraid to live alone in New York City without her husband.  Alice was timid in the beginning.  If she is to thwart the evil that has invaded her town, she must step up.  The mystery was well constructed, and there will be twists that will surprise readers.  There is romance (of course) but it was not over-the-top.  There is one steamy kiss.  Otherwise, the relationship progressed at a pace congruent to the era.  I am giving Alice’s Notions 4 out of 5 stars (I liked it).  Alice’s Notions is an engaging novel that will sweep you back to a small town in 1946 that is the unlikely hotbed of a conspiracy.

Alice's Notions is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, Kobo, Chapter's and Christianbook.com.  Thank you for visiting today and reading my review.  I will return on Tuesday with my thoughts on Murder at the Mushroom Festival by Janet Finsilver.  May you have a day filled with blessings.  Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader   

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Starting From Scratch: Lancaster Discoveries

Happy Sunday!  Did you know that many authors hold contests for readers on Facebook and Twitter?  Follow your favorite authors and watch for a chance to win prizes (books for example).  It also gives you a chance to connect with the authors (ask questions about their writing process or when a new book will be coming out).  Here are a couple to get you started:  Kate Lloyd on Facebook, Wanda Brunstetter on Twitter, Ellery Adams on Facebook, Kate Carlisle on Facebook, or Diane Vallere on Twitter.

Starting from Scratch by Kate Lloyd is the second book in Lancaster Discoveries series.  Eva Lapp has just been ousted from her family home by her sister-in-law, Marta.  Eva’s father has retired, and her parents are moving into the Dawdi house while Rueben and Marta along with their children are moving into the main house.  Eva has accepted a job at Yoder’s Nursery which comes with a cottage.  She is surprised to discover that her new job is not in the nursery but as the manager of Yoder’s Nursery Café.  Eva wishes that she had paid more attention when her mother was cooking.  At twenty-nine, Eva is unmarried and has yet to join the church.  She longs to marry and have children, but she is still pining for Jake Miller who left the community many years ago under a dark cloud.  Stephen Troyer is the manager of the nursery and Eva discovers that he is friends with Jake.  With the Yoder family out of town, Beatrice Valenti, their Italian housekeeper, is at loose ends.  She winds up at the café “assisting” Eva with the cooking and providing some guidance along the way.  Eva was hoping she would meet some eligible men at her new position and she is fortunate to have three men interested in her.  But then Jake returns to town and all her old feelings for him resurface.  For them to have a future together, several issues need to be resolved including the reason Jake left Lancaster County.  Is there a chance at a happily ever after for Jake and Eva?  Or will one of the other men capture her heart?

Starting from Scratch is well-written and has gentle pacing.  It can be enjoyed without having read A Letter from Lancaster County (first book in Lancaster Discoveries series).  I was not a fan of Eva.  I found her to be contradictory.  She is twenty-nine, but she acts like someone who is sixteen.  I fond her immature in many respects.  Eva takes a job and has no clue what she will be doing.  She has never inspected the cottage where she will be living and is not prepared to move out on her own.  Eva does not bring sheets, towels, or kitchenware with her.  If Marta had not packed her clothing, I have a feeling she would have been without that as well.  Eva left a job at a quilt shop that she loved to work at the nursery in the hopes that she will meet some eligible men.  I wondered if no men lived in her town or went to her church.  I did not feel that Eva is ready to be married.  Eva is a woman who needs to be comfortable with herself (become independent) before she embarks on a relationship.  Beatrice Valenti starts out gruff in the beginning and as a little pushy.  I like how she softens over the course of the novel as her story is revealed.  The Christian theme is prevalent throughout the book.  Forgiveness, grace, acceptance of others, in God’s timing, and following the path God has planned for you are some of the Christian elements.  In Starting from Scratch there is a homeless man, a barn fire, a past mystery that needs to be resolved, and someone is breaking into the café.  I liked the way the author tied the various events together in the story.  I was, though, disappointed in the ending.  I would have liked to see Eva make a different choice where she is truly starting from scratch.  The story is told strictly from Eva’s point-of-view (first person).  It would have helped to know what some of the other characters were thinking and feeling.  It would have added more depth.  I am giving Starting from Scratch 3 out of 5 stars.  Starting from Scratch felt like it was missing something (not sure what) and there were unresolved issues at the end of the book.

I will be featuring Alice's Notions by Tamera Lynn Kraft on Monday.  I hope you have a blessed Sunday.  I am off to the grocery store to pick up some necessities (we are out of ice cream).  Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader