Thursday, November 23, 2023

Happy Thanksgiving!

 Happy Thanksgiving!

I will be enjoying a quiet day with my mother. We will be having an untraditional meal of fried chicken with biscuits (I am not a fan of turkey). We will finally be getting the Christmas tree up. In other words, my mother will supervise from her recliner while I do the heavy lifting. Tomorrow I will begin decorating the front yard.  I have all the pieces (various inflatables and lights), now I need to put them together to form one cohesive display.  I hope that you, your family, and friends have a heartwarming day. Take care and Happy Reading!


The Avid Reader 

Thursday, November 9, 2023

Her Secret Hope by Shelley Shepard Gray

Her Secret Hope
Book Summary

Almost two years after Lilly Kurtz first traveled to Pinecraft, Florida, with friends, she's decided to make a fresh start there. She's ready to be new-and-improved Lilly, a Lilly without a past, a Lilly with no secrets. At first, everything goes well. She gets a job, her coworkers feel like family, and she enjoys reconnecting with her friends. But it turns out the past is reluctant to be left behind.

When Lilly meets hardworking farmer Eddie Byler, she can't get him off of her mind. But then she discovers that Eddie actually lives just a few miles from her hometown in Ohio. Lilly knows that he's not going to like it when he finds out what secrets she's been running from. And she knows she could never follow the man she's falling in love with back to a place where she's never felt accepted.

Will Lilly have to give up on love in order to find peace? Or could it be that love is actually the solution to all of her problems?
Siesta Key is a beach that Lilly visits (it is my favorite beach)
My Thoughts

Her Secret Hope by Shelley Shepard Gray has Lilly Kurtz returning to Pinecraft for a fresh start. It has been two years since her first visit to the unique Amish and Mennonite town.  Lilly was adopted as a baby and her family never kept it a secret.  Actually, it seems one of the first things Mrs. Kurtz’s tells people (heavens knows why).  Lilly also did not feel accepted by the children at school.  Mary Margaret, Betsy, and Esther are the first true friends Lilly had had in her life.  I know what it is like to feel that you do not fit in and to have people judge you.  Lilly may be in a new city, but she has still has to learn to let people get to know her.  It seems that Lilly keeps a protective a shield around her.  The characters are realistic and developed.  I like that we get to catch up with Mary Margaret, Betsy, Esther, and their husbands.  

Lilly gets a job at bed and breakfast that is run by Nancy (the place the young women stayed on their first visit to Pinecraft).  I like that we get to catch up with Nancy and her friendly chef.  Lilly may believe that she is destined to remain single, but it seems God has other plans for her.  Of course, Lilly needs to be willing to let down her barriers and be happy with who she is.  I just love November Byler.  She is a spirited character.  I hope I am as lively and quick witted at that age.  I did feel that the story moved a little slow in places and there was a repetition of details.  The author captured Pinecraft and Siesta Key.  I understood why Lilly liked going to Siesta Key beach, it is a beautiful beach (it is my favorite beach).  Her Secret Hope is the third and final book in A Season in Pinecraft series.  It can be read as a standalone, but I recommend reading the series in order.  It will allow you to get to know the characters and their stories.  There are good life lessons in Her Secret Hope including that God is in control.  Her Secret Hope is a touching tale with a returning friend, a spirited grandmother, a bored farmer, a flirtatious chef, an alarming allegation, and a gracious God.

Her Secret Hope can be ordered through Amazon*.  The first two books in A Season in Pinecraft series are Her Heart's Desire and Her Only Wish.  Shelley Shepard Gray will have A is for Amish out on May 21, 2024.  It is the debut of the Amish ABCs series.  You can follow Shelley Shepard Gray on Amazon and they will send you an email when she has  new book release.  I appreciate you joining me today.  Due to health issues, I am taking some time off.  I will return on November 30 as a stop on the Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours for Christmas in the Crosshairs by Deena Alexander.  I am taking a little extra time off for health reasons.  I hope that you have a relaxing weekend.  Take care and Happy Reading!


The Avid Reader 

*This post contains affiliate links.  As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Murder Under the Mistletoe by Sherry Lynn

 Murder Under the Mistletoe
Book Summary

In a fresh new Maine-set holiday cozy, landscaper Kinsley Clark must root out a killer before she becomes the prime suspect.

Landscape artist and owner of SeaScapes, Kinsley Clark has been re-hired to decorate the town of Harborside for the upcoming holiday season and boat parade. Using the local elements found in Maine, Kinsley creates kissing balls—the town’s official mistletoe—to hang downtown and along the wharf. Kinsley is also responsible for Harborside’s official “lobster-stacked” Christmas tree, located beside the local marina, where the annual Harborside Boat Parade & Fireworks Display takes place.
When local alderman Chris Chesterfield—dressed up as the Grinch, right down to the green face paint—falls off the pier and into the icy Atlanticthe night of the annual kickoff event, the town is in shock. But all eyes turn to Kinsley and her beautiful decorations when it becomes evident that Chris didn't fall after all—and that he was looking to replace SeaScapes with a different decorating team. Kinsley, along with bestie, Becca, and Pete, the owner of the Blue Lobstah, must unearth the truth before Kinsley takes the fall.
My Thoughts

Murder Under the Mistletoe by Sherry Lynn has Kinsley Clark’s business Seascapes decorating Harborside, Maine for the holidays.  Kinsley gets help from volunteers to make the numerous kissing balls she needs to bedeck the town.  I enjoyed the descriptions of the town decorated for the holidays as well as the homes Kinsley and her crew adorned.  A boat parade is something that I am familiar with living in Florida.  At least I do not shiver (not most years) while watching it.  The author captured the chilly temperatures of Maine.  I could imagine the cold wind coming in off the water (brr).  The town alderman dressed appropriately as the Grinch gets murdered during the boat parade. 

The suspect list is longer than a five-year-olds Christmas list for Santa.  Kinsley accompanied by bestie, Becca set out to solve the murder.  I wish the guilty party had not been so obvious (there might as well have been a neon arrow pointing at the person). The mystery is neatly wrapped up at the end of the book in time for the holidays.  Kinsley’s brother is home for a month, but some unexpected news gets his visit off to a rough start.  There is a secondary mystery that is not resolved in this book.  I could have done with less romance.  There are numerous mentions of Pete and how Kinsley feels about him.  I like the gift Kinsley receives from her brother for Christmas.  I had a feeling she would receive this particular gift from the references throughout the story, but I still enjoyed her reaction to it.  Murder Under the Mistletoe is the second A Mainely Murder Mystery.  It can be read as a standalone for those who have not read Digging Up DaisyMurder Under the Mistletoe is a Christmas cozy with a chilly climate, a petty politician, a bar bruhaha, a slew of suspects, a surprising secret, scrumptious cocoa, and a Happy Holiday!

Murder Under the Mistletoe is available from Amazon*.  The first book in A Mainely Murder Mysteries is Digging Up Daisy.  If you follow Sherry Lynn on Amazon, they will send you an email when she has a new book release.  Thank you for stopping by today.  Tomorrow I will be featuring Her Secret Hope by Shelley Shepard Gray.  It is the final book in A Season in Pinecraft series.  We have been having delightful weather in Florida.  I have had the air conditioning off for almost a week (it is in the mid 70s during the day--still shorts and t-shirt weather).  I would like this lovely weather to continue.  I hope that you have a happy day.  Take care and Happy Reading!


The Avid Reader 

*This post contains affiliate links.  As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

The Wishing Bridge by Viola Shipman


The Wishing Bridge

Book Summary

Once the hottest mergers and acquisitions executive in the company, Henrietta Wegner can see the ambitious and impossibly young up-and-comers gunning for her job. When Henri's boss makes it clear she'll be starting the New Year unemployed unless she can close a big deal before the holidays, Henri impulsively tells him that she can convince her aging parents to sell Wegner's--their iconic Frankenmuth, Michigan, Christmas store--to a massive, soulless corporation. It's the kind of deal cool, corporate Henri has built her career on.

Home for the holidays has typically meant a perfunctory twenty-four-hour visit for Henri, then back to Detroit as fast as her car will drive her. So, turning up at the Wegner's offices in early December raises some eyebrows: from her delighted, if puzzled, parents to her suspicious brother and curious childhood friends. But as Henri fields impatient texts from her boss while reconnecting with the magic of the store and warmth of her hometown, what sounded great in the boardroom begins to lose its luster in real life. She's running out of time to pull the trigger on what could be the greatest success of her career...or the most awkward family holiday of her life.

With unabashed winter charm, The Wishing Bridge sparkles with the humor and heart fans of Kristy Woodson Harvey, Nancy Thayer and Jenny Colgan love most.

Includes the bonus novella Christmas Angels.

About the Author

VIOLA SHIPMAN is the pen name for internationally bestselling LGBTQIA author Wade Rouse. Wade is the author of fifteen books, which have been translated into 21 languages and sold over a million copies around the world. Wade writes under his grandmother’s name, Viola Shipman, to honor the working poor Ozarks seamstress whose sacrifices changed his family’s life and whose memory inspires his fiction.

Wade’s books have been selected multiple times as Must-Reads by NBC’s Today Show, Michigan Notable Books of the Year and Indie Next Picks. He lives in Michigan and California, and hosts Wine & Words with Wade, A Literary Happy Hour, every Thursday.

Author Links

Author Website

Twitter: @Viola_Shipman

Facebook: Author Viola Shipman

Instagram: @Viola_Shipman


My Thoughts

The Wishing Bridge by Viola Shipman takes readers on a journey to Frankenmuth, Michigan.  I enjoyed the descriptions of the town decked out for Christmas.  I felt transported to this Bavarianesque town.  I had mixed feelings about Henri (I believe that is the idea.) I was not a fan of some of Henri’s choices and I had to wonder what she was thinking (she needed an intervention).  We get to see Henri look at her family, the town, and the family business through the eyes of a mature adult.  I enjoyed Henri’s memories of the Sears Wish Book as well as the JCPenney and Montgomery Ward Christmas Catalogs.  I looked forward to their arrival just like Henri.  Henri’s mentions a couple of items in the catalog that would not have been available in 1975.  Like other girls of that time period, I was a fan of Shaun Cassidy (I watched the Hardy Boys), and his first album was not released until 1977.  The Simon Says electronic game was released in 1978 (one of my cousins got one for Christmas) and the Star Wars figures came out in 1978 (I had a cousin who got the whole set, and we had fun playing with them). 

There were some good characters in the story.  I especially liked Henri’s parents, Bea, and Mabel, the family dog.  The store that Henri’s parents started was wonderful.  It is a Christmas wonderland (it would takes days to go through the whole place).  Henri’s high school boyfriend is divorced and the chemistry between the two is still palpable.  In a small town, they are bound to run into each other.  Henri is getting a second chance not only with her family but with a special fellow.  The Wishing Bridge is a heartwarming holiday tale that will appeal to those who love Hallmark’s Christmas movies (you never know, it could be one someday).  


December 7

I hit the brakes, my car fishtailing on the slippery road. I came to a stop just inches from the car before me.

Ah, the hazards of winter in Michigan and Detroit drivers who think snow is a reason to hit the gas.

I cock my head and see an accident just a few cars in front of me. A man is out of his car, screaming into the window of the car he hit.

Merry Christmas!

I take a breath, sip my coffee—which miraculously didn’t spill—hit my blinker and wait to merge into the next lane.

That’s when I notice it: the abandoned house I drive by every day to work.

There are many abandoned homes in many forgotten neighborhoods in this proud city whose shoulders were slumped by the mortgage crisis, layoffs in the auto industry and never-ending winters that used to be as brutal and mind-numbing as a Detroit Lions football season.  Neighborhoods stand like ghost towns, and, in winter, they look even sadder, the grass dead, the green gone, broken glass shimmering in the sun before the snow arrives to cover their remains.

This particular home is a three-story redbrick beauty that looks like a castle. The windows are broken, the walls are collapsing and yet the wooden staircase—visible to the world— remains intact. I slow down just enough every day to admire the finials, worn and shining from the hands that have polished them over the years.

There is a line of shattered windows just above the ground, and as you pass by, you catch a glimmer of red in the basement. Coming the opposite way, you swear you can see a man smiling.

I stopped years ago to investigate. I parked, careful to avoid nails, and wound my way in high heels through the weeds to the broken window. I knelt and peeked into the basement.


A plastic molded Santa smiled at me. It was a vintage mold—like the one my grandparents centered in the middle of a wreath on their front door every year—of a cheery Santa with red cheeks, blue eyes, green gloves, holding a candy cane tied in a golden bow.

I scanned the basement. Boxes were still stacked everywhere.

Tubs were marked Christmas!

In the corner of the basement sat a sign overrun with cobwebs that read Santa’s Toy Shop!

December 1975

“They’re here! They’re here!”

My voice echoed through my grandparents’ house. I ran to the front door, grabbed the first catalog, which seemed to weigh nearly as much as I did, and tottered down the steep basement stairs. Back up I went to retrieve the next one from Mr. Haley, the postman, who looked exactly like Captain Kangaroo.

“Don’t move!” I said, disappearing and returning moments later.

Then back down the stairs I scrambled once again.

Mr. Haley laughed when I returned the final time, out of breath.

“Last one,” he said. “Oh, and a bunch of Christmas cards for your grandmother.”

I bent over, panting, as if I’d just done wind sprints on the track.

“Tired?” he asked.

I shook my head. “No! Think of what Santa carries! Not to mention what you carry every day!”

“You got me there,” he said. “Here’s the cards. I’ll see you tomorrow. Merry Christmas!”

I watched him trudge through the freshly fallen snow, just enough to dust the world in white. If there’s one thing we never had to worry about in our town of Frankenmuth, it was a white Christmas. My dad said it was one of the gifts of living in a Christmas wonderland.

“Merry Christmas, Mr. Haley!” I yelled, my breath coming out in puffs.

I shut the door, tossed the cards on the telephone desk sitting in the foyer and hightailed it back down to the basement.

I looked at the catalogs where I’d set them on the shag carpet and ran around them in a happy circle doing a little jig.

I turned on the electric fireplace. It was so cool, fake brick, and it just faded into the Z-BRICK walls. The flames seemed

to dance, even though they weren’t real.

I went over to the card table where my grandparents played games—bridge, canasta, hearts—and I grabbed my marker from a cup.

The red one.

The one I used every year.

The one Santa would recognize.

I took a seat on the orange shag and arranged the catalogs in a semicircle around me: the Christmas catalogs from JCPenney and Monkey Wards, and my favorite, the Sears Wish Book.

The catalogs were heavy and thick, big as the Buick my grandpa drove. They were brand-new and all mine. I began to f lip through the crisp pages, turning quickly to the ones that showed all the toys, clothes and games I wanted for Christmas.

I was lost for hours in the pages, dreaming, hoping, wishing. “Yes, yes, yes!” I said, my marker in constant motion.

“Are you using a red marker so Santa will see?”

I looked up, and my dad was standing over me. He was tall, hair as fair as mine. He had just gotten off work. He was an accountant at a car dealership, and he never seemed happy when he got home from work.

Until he came down to my grandparents’ basement.

“Of course!” I said. “Finn gets green. I use red!”

“So what do you want Santa to bring you this year?”

 I patted the carpet, and my dad took a seat next to me. I began showing him all the things I’d marked in the wish catalogs.

 “I want this eight-room dollhouse, and, oh! this Shaun Cassidy phono with sing-along microphone and this battery-operated sewing machine! It’s the first ever like this!” I stopped,

took a deep breath and continued, “And this dress, and this Raggedy Ann doll, but—” I stopped again, flipping through pages as quickly as I could “—more than anything I want this

game called Simon. It’s computer controlled, Daddy! It’s like Simon Says, and you have to be really fast, and…”

“Slow down,” he said, rubbing my back. “And what about your brother?”

“What about him?”

“What does he want?”

“He’ll want all the stupid stuff boys like,” I said. “Stars Wars figurines, an erector set, a Nerf rocket and probably a drum set.”

My cousin had the whole set including the Millennium Falcon

My father winced at the last suggestion.

“Maybe a scooter instead,” my dad suggested. “What do you think?”

“Good idea, Daddy.” I placed my hands over my ears.

He laughed and stood up.

“Hey?” I asked. “What do you want for Christmas?”

My dad headed over to the workshop he had on the other side of the basement. We lived in a small ranch house on the other side of town that didn’t have a basement, much less any extra room. My grandparents let my father convert this space a few years ago so he could pursue a second career and his true passion: Christmas.

“You know what I want,” he said with a smile.

My dad picked up a sign and turned it my way. It was a hand carved wooden sign that read Frohe Weihnachten! Frankenmuth is a Bavarian town filled with all things German: a wooden bridge flowing over a charming river, a glockenspiel that—on the hour—played the Westminster chimes followed by an entire show complete with dancing figurines,

a cheese haus and competing chicken-and-noodle restaurants. I was named Henrietta, my father Jakob, my brother, Finn. Only my mother, Debbie, escaped the German name game with the very American moniker.

“What’s this mean, Henri?” my dad asked.

“Merry Christmas,” I said.

“And what do I want?”

“Christmas all year long.”

“Exactly,” he said. “Just like you. Except as a grown-up.” He looked at his sign. 

“That’s my Christmas wish.”

For a long time, everyone thought this was just a hobby of my father’s, sort of like other dads tinkered on car engines, went fishing or coached baseball. For an even longer time, people thought my dad was nuts.

Why would a man spend all of his time creating Christmas signs in July, or designing ornaments in March?

They didn’t know my dad.

They didn’t how serious he was, that he often worked until three in the morning from October through December and countless weekends the rest of the year.

“You have a good job, Jakob,” friends would tell him. “Don’t ruin your life over some silly notion.”

But my mom and grandparents believed in him just as much as I believed in Santa.

I watched my father work. As he did, he began to whistle Christmas tunes.

The world was finally catching up with my father’s dream.

He was now creating window displays for two of the biggest stores in town: Shepherd Woolen Mill and Koch’s Country Store.

The Wishing Bridge is available from Amazon*, Barnes & Noble, Bookshop, and HarperCollins.  You can follow Viola Shipman on Amazon and you will receive an email when she has a new book release.  Thank you for joining me today.  Tomorrow I am sharing my thoughts on Murder Under the Mistletoe by Sherry Lynn.  It is the second A Mainely Murder Mystery.  I hope that you have a jolly day.  Take care and Happy Reading!


The Avid Reader 

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Snowbound Escape by Dana Mentink


About the Book

To rescue a witness…

this K-9 team must face a killer and a storm.

After months tracking a colleague falsely accused of a double homicide, officer Tanner Ford and his K-9 partner finally locate crime tech Mara Gilmore—but the real murderer is closing in. Now they must run into a frozen wilderness to survive. Evading the killer is the only way for Mara to clear her name. But will the harsh winter conditions cover their tracks…or bury them forever?

Click here to get your copy!

About the Author

Dana Mentink is a USA Today and Publisher’s Weekly bestselling author as well as a two-time American Christian Fiction Writers Carol Award winner, and the recipient of a Holt Medallion. She’s written over fifty titles in the suspense, lighthearted romance and mystery genres. She is pleased to write for Harlequin’s Love Inspired Suspense and Poisoned Pen Press. You can connect with Dana via her website at, on Facebook, YouTube (Author Dana Mentink) and Instagram (dana_mentink.)

More from Dana

What a challenge to write the eighth book in this fabulous Pacific Northwest K-9 Unit series! Writing a continuity (linked books with an overarching mystery) with seven other authors requires us to work closely together which is a rare blessing in this solitary business. There were so many good conversations, emails and texts that went into the construction of this series. Since wilderness escape novels are my favorite, it was great fun to write Tanner, Mara and Boxer Britta’s dramatic survival story. I hope you enjoy the book and the entire series as much as we enjoyed putting it together for you!

My Thoughts

Snowbound Escape by Dana Mentink is a page turner.  I enjoyed getting to know Mara, Tanner, and Britta.  I do not know how Mara managed to live on the run for seven months. The author captured the stress, the terror, the cold, the worry, hunger, and loneliness.  The way the author described the cold weather had me feeling Jack Frost nipping at my nose.  I was caught in a blizzard once; I know that bone chilling cold and how the wind feels like icy needles on your skin.  You quickly become disoriented.  It did not take me long to get caught up in Mara and Tanner’s story.  I loved Britta.  She is a smart, sweet dog. I loved all the action along with the suspense.  It had me flipping the pages to find out what would happen next (it is a wonder that my kindle was not smoking).  The characters are strong, smart, and likeable.   Faith was nicely woven into the story.  Mara’s faith grew while on the run and I like how she shared what she had learned with Tanner.  Snowbound Escape is the eighth book in the Pacific Northwest K-9 Unit.  While Snowbound Escape can be read as a standalone, I believe it would have been helpful if I had read the series in order.  It would allow me to get to know the other members of the K9 unit and their stories.  Before beginning Snowbound Escape, you will want to settle into a cozy chair with a warm blanket and a cup of hot cocoa.  Snowbound Escape is a chilling tale with a cruel killer, a clever canine, a cold climate, blasting bullets, a terrible threat, and mountains of snow.  


To celebrate her tour, Dana is giving away the grand prize package of a $50 Amazon gift card and a copy of the book!!  Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click here to enter. Good Luck!

Snowbound Escape is available from Amazon*.  You can find the other seven Pacific Northwest K-9 Unit novels here.  Dana Mentink has Tracking the Truth coming out March 26, 2024.  It is the first book in the Security Hound Investigations.  If you follow Dana Mentink on Amazon, you will receive an email when she has a new book release.  Thank you for stopping by today.  I will be taking a few days off.  Between a new medication and a fibro flare up, I find myself needing a little extra rest.  I will return on Tuesday, November 7 with The Wishing Bridge by Viola Shipman.  I hope that you have a fun weekend.  Do not forget to enter the giveaway and leave a comment for nine extra entries. Take care and Happy Reading! 


The Avid Reader 

Blog Stops

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, October 31

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, October 31

The Avid Reader, November 1

Pause for Tales, November 1

Paula’s Pad of Inspiration, November 1

Texas Book-aholic, November 2

Life on Chickadee Lane, November 2

Babbling Becky L’s Book Impressions, November 3

Devoted to Hope, November 3

Bizwings Book Blog, November 3

She Lives to Read, November 4

Vicky Sluiter, November 4

Because I said so — and other adventures in Parenting, November 5

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, November 5

Betti Mace, November 6

Pens Pages & Pulses, November 6

A Good Bok and Cup of Tea, November 6

Locks, Hooks and Books, November 7

Blogging With Carol, November 7

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, November 8

Simple Harvest Reads, November 8 (Guest Review from Donna Cline)

For Him and My Family, November 9

EmpowerMoms, November 9

Wishful Endings, November 10

Blossoms and Blessings, November 10

Bigreadersite, November 11

Labor Not in Vain, November 11

Gina Holder, Author and Blogger, November 12 (Author Interview)

Raining Butterfly Kisses, November 12

Lily’s Book Reviews, November 13

Holly’s Book Corner, November 13