Saturday, December 31, 2016

My Valentine with bonus story of Little Shoes and Mistletoe

Happy New Year's Eve!  I will be enjoying a quiet evening at home with my mother and my babies (the cats and dogs).  My fur babies will be huddling under my bed as the fireworks go off in our neighborhood (poor little things).  How are you enjoying your New Year's Eve?

My Valentine by Tracie Peterson is a Christian romance novel that also contains Little Shoes and Mistletoe by Sally Laity.  My Valentine starts in January 1835 in New York City.  Darlene and her father, Abraham Lewy live and work in the Old Slip district (near the docks).  Abraham has a fine tailoring shop that is patronized by Dennison and his son, Pierce Blackwell.  Pierce has just returned to New York after being in Europe for the last three years (mostly to avoid his stuffy, snobbish Aunt Eugenia).  Pierce and Darlene are instantly attracted to each, but Darlene knows there is no chance of romance between them.  They are not only separated by social classes, but also by religion.  Darlene is a Jewess and Pierce is a Christian.  One day she happens to overhear her father and Dennison talking about religion.  Dennison is explaining some aspects of Christianity to Abraham.  When Darlene questions her father, he states he is seeking the truth.  Abraham wants to make sure he has made the right choice.  This is the start of trouble for the Lewy family with their neighbors (they live in a Jewish neighborhood).  As Abraham learns more about Christianity, he shares it with Darlene. What choices will the Lewy’s make?  Is there a chance of a future between Darlene and Pierce?

Little Shoes and Mistletoe by Sally Laity is set in Manhattan in 1898.  Eliza Grace Criswell has left her family home in Harrisburg to live with her Aunt Phoebe Harper in Harper House.  Eliza was jilted by her fiancé, Weston Elliot.  Eliza is hoping for a fresh start with her Aunt Phoebe.  Phoebe introduces Eliza to Micah Richmond, a member of Faith Community Church.  Micah bears an uncanny resemblance to Weston Elliot.  Micah is a social worker with Child Placement Services.  He is devoted to his work and Phoebe helps by providing funds.  Micah is engaged to Annabelle Dumont, who does not care for Micah’s profession.  After Eliza gets a glimpse at the troubles facing orphaned children in New York City, she wants to help.  Eliza convinces Aunt Phoebe to open up the home to orphaned children (until they find permanent placement).  Micah wishes Anabelle was more like Eliza in her feelings towards the children and others needing assistance in the tenements.  Is Anabelle the right person for Micah? 

I found My Valentine to be nicely written and contained good characters.  It is, though, very heavy in scripture, religious practices, and prayer.  The romance is very subtle with the conversion (from Jewish to Christianity) being the primary focus of the story.  I found the story to be very heavy or bogged down. It was difficult to get through.  The pace was just very slow. I did enjoy reading about Abraham’s journey towards the Christian religion, and My Valentine has a lovely ending.  Little Shoes and Mistletoe was a sweet story.  It was easy to read and well written.  I liked the characters, the setting, time period, and the ending.  The religious aspect is much lighter in Little Shoes and Mistletoe.  I found it to be an uplifting novella.  Both stories contain good morals and life lessons that readers can apply to their lives.  I give this book 3.5 out of 5 stars (My Valentine gets 3 stars and Little Shoes and Mistletoe gets 4 stars).  My Valentine will be out tomorrow (January 1, 2017)!

I appreciate you taking the time to visit. I am currently reading Towhee Get Your Gun by J.R. Ripley.  I hope all of you have a wonderful New Year's Eve.   Take care, stay safe and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Friday, December 30, 2016

A Pinch of Poison: A Lady and Lady's Maid Mystery

It is the last Friday of 2016!  I have been enjoying our one day of cool weather today.  I find it glorious, but my mother is huddling in her bed under a mound of blankets (which is why we live in Florida).  Alyssa Maxwell writes A Gilded Newport Mystery series and A Lady and Lady's Maid Mystery series.  Murder Most Malicious is the first book in A Lady and Lady's Maid Mystery series and is currently $2.99 o Amazon. You can follow Alyssa Maxwell on Amazon and they will email you updates on her latest releases. Alyssa Maxwell can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

A Pinch of Poison by Alyssa Maxwell is the second book in the A Lady & Lady’s Maid Mystery series.  It is April in 1919 in Little Barlow.  Lady Phoebe Renshaw is at a charity luncheon at Haverleigh School for Young Ladies.  Phoebe has helped organize this event (along with the help of her lady’s maid, Eva Huntford) to help raise items and funds to help war veterans (Relief and Comfort for Veterans and their Families).  The young ladies at the school helped collect the items, and they prepared the luncheon for today’s guests.  The girls bring out the desserts and Zara Worthington presents the headmistress, Miss Henrietta Finch, with a Madeira cake.  Several minutes later, Miss Finch starts choking and clutching at her throat.  The nurse is called but Miss Finch collapses before Nurse Delacy can arrive.  Chief Inspector Isaac Perkins and Constable Miles Brannock are called to scene. It is suspected that Miss Finch has been poisoned.  Lady Phoebe assists with the questioning of the scholars while Eva helps with the staff.  It turns out that Miss Finch was not well liked because of her progressive ideas (she was a suffragist and wanted the girls to learn mathematics as well as other unladylike subjects).  Phoebe sets out to find the guilty party with help from Eva, Major Lord Owen Seabright, and Constable Brannock.  The killer, though, does not wish to be caught and will go to great lengths to stay free.  Will this investigation be Phoebe’s undoing?

A Pinch of Poison was an engaging book.  I liked the characters as well as the setting (and time period).  I liked Phoebe’s attitude, determination and inquisitive mind.  I summarized the main storyline, but there are other situations happening as well (Julia, Phoebe’s sister, is being particularly secretive).  I found A Pinch of Poison to be nicely written and had a good, steady pace.  I give A Pinch of Poison 4.5 out of 5 stars (I enjoyed it, but I was able to solve the mystery).  There is a good moral lesson contained within the storyline.  The mystery was complicated, but it can be solved if the reader pays careful attention to the clues (one in particular).   I think many people will be surprised by the culprit which is the sign of a well-crafted mystery.  While this is the second book in the series, you can enjoy it as a stand-alone.  The author provides the needed information for the reader (you will not be lost).  I eagerly anticipate the next novel in the A Lady & Lady’s Maid Mystery series. 

I hope all of you had a lovely day and have an equally delightful night.  I am going to enjoy dinner (we are having sausage chili which is perfect for a cool evening) and continue watching the Downton Abbey marathon (I wish the show had not ended).  I am currently reading The Guests on South Battery by Karen White. Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Custom Baked Murder: A Pawsitively Organic Mystery

I hope everyone has had a good Thursday.  I am still fighting this awful cold, so I took it easy today. I am reading Amish Weddings by Leslie Gould while lounging in bed.  After all the hustle and bustle before Christmas, I think all of us deserve a nice rest.  Today I am featuring A Pawsitively Organic Mystery series by Liz Mugavero.  The books in the series are Kneading to Die; A Biscuit, A Casket; The Icing on the Corpse, and Murder Most Finicky.

Custom Baked Murder by Liz Mugavero is the fifth book in A Pawsitively Organic Mystery series.  Kristan “Stan” Connor is working hard on getting everything ready for the opening of her shop, Pawsitively Organic Pet Patisserie and Café, in three months (in December before Christmas) in Frog Ledge, Connecticut.  Stan is running late for her mother’s engagement party when her sister, Christine shows up at her home with her daughter, Evangeline in tow.  Christine has left her husband, Michael and wishes to stay with Stan (like she has a choice in the matter).  Stan is really running late now and quickly changes for the party.  Stan is going with her boyfriend, Jake McGee (who owns McSwigg’s).  The four of them end up arriving an hour late to the party (Stan was hoping they could skip it altogether).  Patricia Connor, Stan and Christine’s mother, greets them (with a comment about their tardiness), but her fiancé, Tony Falco is not present.  Patricia failed to tell Stan about some of guests she invited (people she would like to avoid).  Richard Ruse, Stan’s ex-boyfriend, along with some of her old co-workers including Eleanor Chang.  Tony, the town’s newly elected mayor, hired Eleanor to be his “executive coach”.  Eleanor has an abrasive personality, and she seems to make enemies wherever she goes (she is particularly hard on her daughter, Monica).  Stan is upstairs with her sister, Caitlyn.  Caitlyn stops to freshen up in the ladies room and lets out a scream upon entering the room.  There is Eleanor Chang strangled with a scarf with Patricia’s diamond ring between her teeth.  Richard Ruse ends up being the main suspect when he stumbles out of the woods in a disheveled and drunken state.  Stan will not let Richard be railroaded for a crime he did not commit (just because Tony wants everything wrapped up quickly and quietly).  Stan sets out to find Eleanor’s killer and clear Richard’s name.  Things are made a little complicated by Christine’s ex-lover, Kyle McLeod arriving in town.  He is determined to woo Christine and win her back.  Then there is the matter of Patricia and her meddling in Stan’s shop design.  Stan knew it was a bad idea to let her invest.  Life is never dull in Frog Ledge.  Join Stan on her latest adventure in Custom Baked Murder.

Custom Baked Murder is full of quirky, fun characters (even the animals have great personalities).  I found Custom Baked Murder to be an easy and enjoyable book to read.  I like the small-town setting and various townspeople.  There are some definite laugh out loud moments as well as some “oh my” areas.  It was nice to catch up with Stan’s family and friends in Frog Ledge.  I am happy to see Stan’s relationships with Jake, Patricia, and Caitlyn developing over the course of the series (and especially in Custom Baked Murder).  I give Custom Baked Murder 4 out of 5 stars (I liked it). I found the murder to be one that could be quickly solved by the reader (or an avid mystery reader who loves to solve the puzzles presented in the books).  One clue is the key to solving the murder (it’s like there is a big, neon arrow pointing to the killer).  There are other small clues in the book that will help the reader discover the culprit’s identity.  I wish the mystery had been a little more complicated (more difficult to figure out the killer’s identity).  I found the two words “long story” repeated frequently throughout the book.  I am also curious about Stan’s trust fund that was mentioned again in Custom Baked Murder.  I did not understand why Stan did not tap into this money to finance Pawsitively Organic Pet Patisserie and Café.  Why did Stan need investors (Jake and Patricia)?  It is mentioned that Stan wanted to live on her own (working) and not rely on her trust fund (I am curious).  If you enjoy reading well-written, humorous cozy mysteries with entertaining characters, then read Custom Baked Murder.

I appreciate you reading my latest book evaluation.  I am going to put on my pj's and climb back into bed (the cold has to go away soon).  PBS is showing Downton Abbey from the beginning starting tonight at 9 p.m. (I just love this show). I am going to enjoy the marathon.  I hope everyone has a good night.  Take care, stay warm and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Iced Under: A Maine Clambake Mystery

Welcome!  I am featuring Barbara Ross, writer of A Maine Clambake Mystery series, today.  Ms. Ross has written Clammed Up, Boiled Over, Musseled Out, Fogged Inn, Iced Under and Eggnog Murder (along with Leslie Meier and Lee Hollis).  Readers can follow Barbara Ross on Amazon (they will let you know when she releases a new book) and Facebook.

Iced Under by Barbara Ross is the fourth book in A Maine Clambake Mystery series.  It is February in Busman’s Harbor, Maine.  Julia Snowden is on her way to her mother’s house and stops to pick up the mail.  There is a package for Jacqueline, Julia’s mother.  Upon opening it, they discover a beautiful necklace inside with a note that states “For Windsholme” (the old family summer home that recently suffered fire damage).  The necklace is called the Black Widow (contains a rare black diamond) and has been missing for almost a hundred years.  There is no return address on the package and, as far as Jacqueline knows, she has no other family.  Julia starts delving into her family history (hoping to find family for her mother) which sends Julia on a journey to Boston.  It turns out that Julia and Jacqueline do have family, but one member just passed away.   Jacqueline is to receive a nice inheritance from this lost relative (Hugh) but others are not happy about this revelation.  Julia gets to meet new relatives, find out one of them is deceased, her sister is about to have her baby, a big snow storm is about to descent upon the area, and then the police show up.  It turns out that Hugh did not die of natural causes.  The suspect list is limited to the people inside Hugh’s home.  Which one of them did in poor Hugh?  Then an attempt is made on the matriarch’s life just after she stated she was going to change her will!  Julia needs to flee and then find the culprit before the killer strikes again.  Will Julia be successful?  Join Julia on her latest escapade in IcedUnder.

Iced Under is my favorite book in the series.  I enjoyed Julia’s search into her family history and how the Black Widow disappeared in the 1920s.  I wish the mystery behind the matriarch’s attempted murder had been as puzzling (easily solved).  Hugh’s death is also easily figured out (one question will give you the answer).   Iced Under is well-written and has a good pace.  While Iced Under is the fifth book in the series, it can be read alone.  The author provides the needed information on the characters and previous books for the reader to catch up.  I liked that we get to know more about Julia’s ancestors and her mother’s history.  I found the history of ice very interesting (did not realize that it was such a cut-throat business). I found Iced Under a nice change of pace from the other books in the series.  It was nice to get away from the family business.  I give Iced Under 4 out of 5 stars (I liked it).  I did feel that the ending was too abrupt.  There needed to be a little more to the last chapter or an epilogue.  I will be reading the next book in A Maine Clambake Mystery series

I appreciate you visiting!  I am currently reading Fudge and Jury by Ellie Alexander.  We are preparing for a one day of cold weather in our area! It will actually be down in the 40s overnight (good sleeping weather). May all of you have a great evening (only a few left in 2016).  Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Titus Returns: A Wells Landing Romance

I hope everyone has had a lovely Tuesday.  The final days of 2016 are going by swiftly.  Today is the last book release day for the year.  Some of the new books out today are A Ghostly Reunion by Tonya Kappes; Iced Under by Barbara Ross; Bell, Book and Candlemas by Jennifer David Hesse; Custom Baked Murder by Liz Mugavero; Titus Returns by Amy Lillard; and A Pinch of Poison by Alyssa Maxwell.  

Titus Returns by Amy Lillard is the fifth book in Wells Landing Romance series.  Titus Lambert is returning to Wells Landing, Oklahoma after being gone for five years.  Titus has just been released from prison after serving five years for second-degree manslaughter.   Two people died in the car accident that night and one man will never walk again.  Titus had been courting Mandy Yoder before the incident.  Mandy assured Titus that she would wait for him to return home.  Mandy waited one year before she started going out with Levi Burkholder.  A year later they were married.  When Mandy sees Titus, she knows she made the wrong decision.  But the Amish marry for life.  There is only one way they could be together, but would Titus take another man’s wife?  Titus is not sure if he will be able to fit back into the Amish community, but he does not feel at home in the Englisch world either.  One thing Titus feels compelled to do is make amends to the King family.  They lost their son, Alvin in the car accident.  Alvin was Abbie’s twin brother.  Life has not been the same for Abbie since Alvin passed away.  Both of her parents have succumbed to depression and her father has taken to the bottle.  This leaves Abbie doing the housework as well the farm chores.  The King family runs a dairy farm.  But things have become rundown (Abbie can only do so much).  Titus sets out to help the King family and starts doing repairs (despite the objections of Abbie).  The two of them start spending time together as Titus helps Abbie with her plans for the farm. It also leads to Titus to start making plans for his future. Feelings develop between Abbie and Titus, but Titus has a secret he has yet to reveal.  What choice will Titus ultimately make?  Will Titus get his second chance at love?

Titus Returns is a sweet and heartwarming story.  The novel is well-written, easy to read, and has a good pace.  While Titus Returns is part of a series, it can easily be read alone.  The book deals with alcoholism, depression, forgiveness, love, trust, betrayal, secrets and second chances.  I give Titus Returns 4 out of 5 stars (I liked it).  The ending is expected, but it is still pleasing.  Titus Returns is a great way to spend an afternoon (great change of pace).  I liked the addition of the camels and Titus’ plans for the future (I cannot include everything in the summary).  The next book in the series is Marrying Jonah (starring Jonah Miller and Sarah Yoder) out March 28, 2017.

I am off to make pizza for dinner (it is better than most restaurant pizzas) and finish reading Death at Victoria Dock by Kerry Greenwood (loving it). I will return tomorrow to review Iced Under by Barbara Ross.  May all of you have a lovely evening. Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Monday, December 26, 2016

Michelangelo's Ghost: A Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery

Happy Boxing Day!  This is a holiday celebrated in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Scotland, Ireland and many countries that previously belonged to the British Empire.  In many of these countries it is their "shopping day" which is similar to our "Black Friday".  

Michelangelo’s Ghost by Gigi Pandian is the fourth book in A Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery series.  Jaya Jones is going through her back emails from people who would like her assistance with treasure hunts when she discovers one from Dr. Lilth Vine.  Lilith used to be Jaya’s professor and a mentor.  Lilth needs Jaya helps and requests she pay a visit.  Lilth found a small reference in Wilson Meeks paper regarding Renaissance artist, Lozzaro Allegri.  It sent Lilth to Italy where she purchased lost sketchbooks from his ancestors.  In the sketchbooks, there are references to his hidden studio.  Lilth was unable to continue her search, and she would like Jaya to finish the hunt.  Lilth entrusts three sketchbooks along with research into Jaya’s care.  There are clues to the location of Lozzaro’s hidden studio in his sketchbooks. A few days later Jaya receives a call from Lilth. Lilth is dying and gives Jaya a cryptic message.  Jaya believes she was murdered for her research information.  Jaya discusses the quest with her brother, Mahilan and his girlfriend, Ava.  Jaya is determined to get answers.  When the semester ends, the three of them head to Italy to search Bomarzo’s Park of Monsters (a sculpture garden).  But someone is trying to thwart Jaya’s investigation and a ghost is protecting the sculpture garden.  Will Jaya be able to discover the location of Lozzaro’s lost art studio?  Is there a chance his works of art have survived (it has been 500 years)?  Join Jaya on her pursuit in Michelangelo’s Ghost.

Michelangelo’s Ghost is a well-researched novel.  I found the book to be jam packed with historical information (it can be very over whelming).  It took me two attempts to get through the novel (I just could not get into it the first time I tried to read it).  I found the pace to be a little slow, and it can be hard to keep track of the various characters and details (I only talked about three characters).  I found information about the search to be repeated frequently (especially about the artist, the historical period, how Jaya felt about Lane).  I found many things to be implausible.  Jaya is a professor, but she does minimal research (does not verify the information given to her by Lilth).  She is working without all the facts and Jaya jumps to wrong conclusions (several times).  Jaya should be keeping her search a secret (so she can discover it, get the credit, and write a paper or book).  However, she seems to tell anyone she meets about it.  I give Michelangelo’s Ghost 3 out of 5 stars (just not my type of book).  The mystery may seem complex, but it can easily be solved.  The “twists” are easily discovered long before they are revealed.  Michelangelo’s Ghost is not a stand-alone novel.  I would suggest reading the first novel (at least) in the series before tackling this one (or you will be missing information).  A Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery series is just not for me.  The first three books in A Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery series are Artifact, Pirate Vishnu, and Quicksand.

Thank you for visiting and reading my latest review.  I am currently reading The 4th Man by Lisa Gardner.  I will be back tomorrow to tell you about this week's new releases.  I hope all of you have a delightful night. Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!  

I hope all of you have a delightful holiday.  I hope Santa brings you many wonderful books to read during the coming year (or a gift card so you can buy the books yourself).  Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Bell, Book and Candlemas: A Wiccan Wheel Mystery

Merry Christmas Eve!  I hope all of you are having a fabulous day. I am actually ready for Christmas (I am very shocked).  The Christmas tree is decorated, the presents are wrapped, Christmas dinner is ready to go, and the stockings are hung (not by a fireplace).  The only thing I did not get done is the outside lights.  I figure there is always next year.

Bell, Book and Candlemas is the second book in A Wiccan Wheel Mystery series.  Keli Milanni is an attorney and a solitary Wiccan in Edindale, Illinois.  Keli has yet to tell her friends and co-workers about her Wiccan beliefs.  Keli is walking to work and notices a crowd near a Moonstone Treasures.  Someone has defaced the outside of the store by writing "witch".  The owner of Moonstone Treasures is Mila Douglas.  Mila is a Wiccan and Keli gets her supplies from her store.  Moonstone Treasures is part gift shop and part psychic boutique (tarot card readings are one service offered).  It turns out that this is not the first problem Mila has had recently.  She has been receiving threatening notes.  Someone wants Mila to give up her shop.  There have also been a rash of burglaries in the town.  The police have not been able to catch the culprit.  Keli and her best friend, Farrah decide to stake out the shops and see if they can catch the burglar.  Instead, the find a dead body inside Moonstone Treasures.  Keli sets out to find the killer as well as who is behind the threats to Mila.  

Bell, Book and Candlemas is easy to read and nicely written.  While it is the second book in the series, it can be read alone (without reading the first book in the series).  The pace is good and the book can be completed in just a couple of hours.  I did find Bell, Book and Candlemas interesting and I enjoyed reading it. I give Bell, Book and Candlemas 3.5 out of 5 stars.  The mystery, though, is not complex and most readers will be able to puzzle out the perpetrator.   I also felt that the romance was too dominate in the story.  The mystery should have been the main focus, but it was competing with the romance storyline between Kali and Wes (I prefer a slow building in the background romance in cozy mystery novels).   I wish the author had not put so much detail about Keli’s spells or rituals (we did not need that much information on each and every spell/ritual).  I also felt we did not constantly need to be told that Keli is a vegan (once was enough).  It seemed to be mentioned in every chapter (sometimes more than once).   I did find Bell, Book and Candlemas to be better than the first book in the series.  I will be continuing with A Wiccan Wheel Mystery series.  The first book in the series is Midsummer Night's Mischief. Bell, Book and Candlemas will be out on Tuesday, December 27.

May each and every one of you have a delightful Christmas.  I am going to go relax and finish reading The Workhouse Children by Lindsey Hutchinson.  Take care, hope you get lots of books for Christmas, and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Friday, December 23, 2016

Fate of the Fallen: A Hope Street Church Mystery

Happy Friday.  I hope all of you had a productive day (so many things to do before Christmas). Today I am featuring Ellery Adams. She writes A Book Retreat Mystery series, A Charmed Pie Shoppe Mystery series and A Books by the Bay Mystery series.  I just adore the mysteries she creates in A Book Retreat Mystery series.  They are complex and difficult to solve.  Ellery Adams can be found on Twitter and Facebook.  You can also follow her on Amazon.

Fate of the Fallen by Ellery Adams and Elizabeth Lockard is the fifth book in A Hope Street Church Mystery series.  The Sunrise Bible Study Group is spending the day at a blue grass festival.  There are many activities for them to enjoy (booths, food trucks, music) as well as hiking and swimming.  They are enjoying a hike when the group encounters Nathan’s sister, Christine.  Christine is on a mini-work retreat with her boss, Sinclair Gordon and fellow Sphinx Digital Systems and Solutions employees.  Later in the afternoon, Cooper Lee and Nathan are enjoying some quiet time together when Christine comes stumbling out of the woods—with blood on her hands.  Christine and her group were looking for their missing boss, Sinclair.  He had failed to show up for dinner.  Christine stumbled upon him in the woods off a hiking trail.  Inspector McNamara is assigned the case. Christine quickly rises to the top of the suspect list.  Cooper cannot let her future sister-in-law be accused of the crime.  Cooper, with the help of the Sunrise Bible Study Group (Savannah, Trish, Bryant, Quinton, Jake, and Nathan), sets out to find the real culprit.  Nathan also has some very important news to share with Cooper.  But, every time Nathan tries to talk with Cooper, they get interrupted.  How will Nathan’s news affect Cooper and Nathan’s future? 

Fate of the Fallen is easy to read and nicely written.  The book did not have the same touch as Ellery Adams other novels (like her A Book Retreat Mystery series and The Charmed Pie Shoppe series, for example).  I found the pace to be very slow in the beginning (and periodically throughout the novel).  I give Fate of the Fallen 3 out of 5 stars.  The mystery in Fate of the Fallen was easily solved.  I could tell who was going to be murdered, who would get blamed, and the actual killer before the crime was committed (very disappointing).  The actual crime did not take place until I was 15% of the way into the book.   Fate of the Fallen was not as enjoyable as the previous novels in A Hope Street Church Mystery series.  I just felt the book was lacking which is very atypical of Ellery Adams’ novels.

I appreciate you visiting.  I have to finish wrapping some gifts (by daughter insisted we do them today) and finish a few more chores around the house.  I am currently reading Modern Crimes by Chris Nickson.  May all of you have a heartwarming night.  Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Thursday, December 22, 2016

A Lesson in Hope

Welcome, Fellow Readers!  My featured author today is Philip Gulley.  He writes engaging Christian novels.  Some of his novels are Home to Harmony, Just Shy of Harmony, Front Porch Tales, The Christmas Scrapbook, and Almost Friends.  His books are reminiscent of Jan Karon and Virginia Smith.  You can find a complete list of his books at  Philip Gulley is also on Facebook.

A Lesson in Hope by Philip Gulley is a Christian novel and is the second book in the Hope Friend Meeting series.  Sam Gardner is a Quaker pastor for Hope Friends Meeting.  Sam has only had the job for four months, when Olive Charles, their oldest member, passes away at age 98.  Olive leaves Hope Friends Meeting $800,000, a 1979 Ford Granada, her home and its contents.  This could be a blessing for the group.  Unfortunately, things are never easy when money is involved (and a group of people).  Everyone has an idea on how the money should be spent.  Then Olive Charles’ niece, Regina Charles arrives in town.  Regina has decided to contest the will.  As she is leaving their meeting house, Regina “trips” on the church’s sidewalk and sues them for damages (what a coincidence).  Then, Sam finds out that his parents are moving to town.  Actually, just down the street.  Sam’s patience is really going to be tested during the coming weeks.  

A Lesson in Hope is an entertaining novel.  The book is nicely written and easy to read.  I especially liked the quirky characters.  The tone of the humor was just right in this book (and I rarely say that).  We get to read about the life of a pastor in a small town.  A pastor’s life is not his own and that is especially true for Sam Gardner.  I give A Lesson in Hope 4 out of 5 stars (I liked it).  I appreciated the theme that there is always a little hope.  A Lesson in Hope is part of a series, but it can be read alone (easily).  I look forward to reading the other books in this series and other novels by Philip Gulley.  

Thank you so much for visiting.  I have to go finish working on a special gift for my mother.  I have had difficulty finding time to work on it.  My mother is in snoop mode (she wants to find out what she is getting for Christmas).  I am currently reading My Valentine by Tracie Peterson. May all of you have a special evening.  Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Lady Who Drew Me In: The Sole Survivor Series

Happy Wednesday!  Only a few days left until Christmas (I could really use another week).  My featured author today is Thomasine Rappold. She has written The Sole Survivor Series.  The book in the series include The Lady Who Lived Again, The Lady Who Saw Too Much, and The Lady Who Drew Me In (the latest novel).  Ms. Rappold writes historical, romance novels with a touch of paranormal in them. Thomas Rappold is on Twitter (@ThomRappold) and you can follow her on Amazon (to get updates when she releases a new book).   

The Lady Who Drew Me In by Thomasine Rappold is the third book in The Sole Survivor Series.  Daisy Lansing is a widow living in Misty Lake, New York in 1885.  Daisy has the unique ability to transfer images from people’s thoughts onto paper.  Daisy used to use her skill to entertain her guardian’s friends at parties until one night a married woman’s thought got her in deep trouble with her husband.  It caused a big scandal.  Daisy’s guardians, The Palmers married Daisy off to Lawry Lansing (a man thirty years older) in exchange for a house in Newport and the promise of their daughter, Grace being well received in society.  Lawry was strict and insisted that Daisy not draw or paint (she rarely left the house).  Lawry has now passed away and left Daisy with a small monthly allowance (much to her dismay).  Jackson “Jax” Gallway is an attorney from Troy.  He is the brother-in-law to Daisy’s best friend, Tessa Gallway.  Jax needs Daisy’s assistance on his latest case (his future depends upon this task.  He needs Daisy to use her ability to get information from a young witness.  Jax’s client, Randal Morgan has been wrongly accused of murder.  The only witness is a young boy, Andy Wendell who has not talked since he saw his father murdered.  Daisy assists Jax, but she ends up with her reputation in shatters.  With help from Jax’s brother, Dannion the two are quickly wed.  But, can Jax, a notorious rogue, be content as a married man or living in the country town of Misty Lake?  Jax is also alienating the towns people with his pursuit of justice for Randal Morgan.  Will there be a happily ever after for Jax and Daisy?  Will Jax be able to prove Randal Morgan’s innocence?

The Lady Who Drew Me In is a sweet yet steamy novel.  I liked the characters and the setting.  The book is well-written and, for the most part, kept my attention.  The mystery was interesting and the author provided good clues.  Ms. Rappold also did a very good job at capturing the time period of the late 1800s in New York as well as the personalities of society people.  I give The Lady Who Drew Me In 3.5 out of 5 stars.  I just wish there had been more of the paranormal element in the novel.  The romance or attraction between Daisy and Jax dominated the story with the Jax’ case taking second place.  The paranormal element was very much in the background (like an extra in a movie).  There are highly stimulating scenes (I have to find creative uses for the word "sex" because many review sites do not allow this word) between Jax and Daisy after they are married (cold water would rise like steam if it was doused on them).  In addition, the story has the usual miscommunication between the couple that leads to a distance between the couple.  The ending is expected (there has to be a happy ending).  While The Lady Who Drew Me In is the third book in series, it can be read alone.  Each book is independent of the others.  What ties them together is the paranormal aspect.  If you like to read historical romance novels, then you will enjoy reading The Lady Who Drew In.

I appreciate you taking the time to visit and read my latest book evaluation.  I am off to enjoy dinner.  I will return tomorrow to review another novel. May all of you have a lovely, relaxing night. Take care, stay warm and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Death Comes to the Fair: A Kurland St. Mary Mystery

Happy Holidays!  I hope everyone had a good Tuesday.  Today I am featuring the author Catherine Lloyd who writes A Kurland St. Mary Mystery series.  The four books in the series are Death Comes to the Village, Death Comes to London, Death Comes to Kurland Hall, and Death Comes to the Fair. You can follow Catherine Lloyd on Amazon and Facebook.

Death Comes to the Fair by Catherine Lloyd is the fourth book in A Kurland St. Mary Mystery series.  It is October in 1817 in Kurland St. Mary (England).  Major Sir Robert Kurland is engaged to Miss Lucy Harrington, the rector’s daughter.  Sir Robert wants the wedding to be soon, but Lucy is the niece of an earl.  Her relative’s want her to have a big wedding in London (which will take time to plan).  Sir Robert is not known for his patience.  It is time for the village fair (done after the harvest) and, Robert is to judge the vegetables.  Robert is new to judging, and he believes in the best should win.  Ezekiel Thurrock, the local verger, wins the majority of the prizes for the vegetables. Many of the locals are angry at the outcome (Lucy tried to warn Robert).  Lucy goes to arrange the church’s harvest display, and she finds Ezekiel dead.  A gargoyle lays nearby, and it is obvious it hit Ezekiel on the head.  Upon investigation (Lucy cannot help herself) Lucy discovers that the gargoyle is not part of the church.  Robert is the local magistrate and, with Lucy’s help, starts looking into Ezekiel’s background.  Ezekiel’s brother, Nathaniel happens to be staying at the rectory.  It turns out that Nathaniel is trying to prove that the Kurland family stole land from the Thurrock’s.  The more the pair look into the Thurrock family history, the more secrets they uncover.  Someone in the village does not like their inquiries and takes action to sideline the pair.  Lucy and Robert will need to keep their wits about them to make it out of this situation!

Death Comes to the Fair is well-written, engaging, and easy to read.  I liked the characters, the historical period, and the setting. Catherine Lloyd certainly captures the historical period.  I also liked the side stories that took place in the novel (my favorite was between Dr. Fletcher and Miss Penelope Chingford).  I appreciated the author’s descriptions of the Lucy’s clothes (even though Penelope kept spiriting them off).  The novel contains just the right amount of humor (it will make you laugh) and romance.  I give Death Comes to the Fair 4.5 out of 5 stars (I really liked it).  The mystery seems complicated (which I relished), but it can be solved (if you pay careful attention to the details).  I was delighted that the mystery was the main focus of the book.  Death Comes to the Fair is the fourth book in the series, but it can be enjoyed as a stand-alone novel.  I will unequivocally be reading the next book in A Kurland St. Mary Mystery series.  

I hope you enjoyed today's review.  I am off to relax.  My cold has taken a bad turn.  I am going to take some more cold medicine and climb into my bed.  I will see you tomorrow when I return!  Take care, have a lovely night and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Girls in the Garden

Happy Monday!  I hope your Monday was far better than mine.  It started off well, but quickly went downhill.  I was blow drying my hair when my bathroom went dark.  I went outside and flipped the breaker.  Returned to the bathroom and no lights again.  I forgot to turn off the blow dryer.  So I went and flipped the breaker again (we have electricity).  I get ready to leave on my errands and the car will not start.  The battery was dead. Thankfully, my nephew, Matt quickly sent someone to our rescue (he owns a garage with tow truck drivers). Things can only go uphill from here--right?

The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell is set in modern day London.  Clare Wild and her two daughters, Pip (11) and Clare (12) have just moved into an open plan housing estate.  The various buildings all back up onto a private park called Virginia Park (three acres).  It is one giant backyard for the children who live in these buildings.  The family had to move from their home because their father, Chris set fire to it (luckily no one was home).  He wanted to stop the alien rat invasion that had infested their home.  He thought he was saving the world (paranoid schizophrenia).  Chris is currently in a mental health facility (they are putting him on new meds).  Clare and Grace do not want any contact with him, but Pip writes him frequently.  Pip is not allowed, though, to tell him where they have moved or any information that will lead Chris to their current whereabouts.  Adele and Leo live across the way from the and they have three daughters (Willow, Catkin, and Fern).  Grace quickly makes friends with the girls along with Tyler (another girl) and Dylan Maxwell-Reid.  Pip is more of an observer.  On July 5 (six months after they moved in) there is the Virginia Park Annual Summer Party.  It is also Grace’s thirteenth birthday.  Pip goes to look for Grace about 10 p.m. and finds her unconscious (and in a state of undress).  Grace is in a coma with a broken nose.  What happened to Grace in the park?  The police are called in and they start questioning the residents.  Will they be able to uncover what happened that night in Virginia Park?

I found The Girls in the Garden to be an odd novel.  It took me about four tries to get through this book.  I have been trying to finish it since June (it was just hard to get into).  The book is set up with Pip finding Grace in the park, then there is the “before” section.  Grace is found and then we have the “after” section.  The writing is satisfactory, but the pace is slow.  At first it seems to be from Pip’s perspective, but then it changes to Clare, then Adele (it keeps changing).  The letters Pip writes to her father are also included in the book along with childish drawings.  I felt the author tried to put too many characters into the books.  We have the main characters and then all the strange neighbors (Rhea with her giant rabbit was my favorite).  All the various characters just muddles the story and confuses the reader.  I give The Girls in the Garden 2 out of 5 stars (I did not like it).  The book contains inappropriate language, large quantities of alcohol, and intimate relations (the majority of this is among the kids).  I did not feel any suspense or mystery.  The identity of the perpetrator is obvious (in both crimes).  The ending is terribly unsatisfying (and very peculiar).  This would be a good book for parents to read on how not to raise their children.  After I finished the novel, I was just disappointed (and felt I had wasted four hour of my life).  I could not believe this novel was written by Lisa Jewell (I enjoyed her The House We Grew Up In).

Thank you so much for visiting and reading my latest review.  I am off to relax for the night and finish reading A Pinch of Poison by Alyssa Maxwell.  May all of you have a delightful evening.  I will see you tomorrow.  Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader 

Sunday, December 18, 2016

To The Last Drop: A Maggy Thorsen Mystery

Welcome!  I hope all of you have had an enjoyable Sunday.  Sandra Balzo is the author of A Coffee House Cozy Mystery series.  The first book in the series is Uncommon Grounds. You can find a full list of the book in the series here.   You can follow Sandra Balzo on Amazon and Facebook.  Many authors sponsor contests on Facebook and you can win books and other prizes. 

To The Last Drop by Sandra Balzo is the ninth book in A Maggy Thorsen Mystery series.  Maggy Thorson owns Uncommon Grounds with her business partner and friend, Sarah Kingston in Brookhills, Wisconsin.  Maggy inherited almost $50,000 from her brother and is visiting Lynne Swope, a financial advisor.  Lynne is married to William who just joined Maggy’s ex-husband’s (Ted) dental practice.  That evening the book club group is meeting at Uncommon Grounds.  The group includes Lynne and William.  Ted storms in very angry and wishes to see William.  They go outside, but Maggy manages to hear a tidbit of their “discussion”.  Ted tells William to pack up his office and leave.  The next day Maggy is visiting Thorsen Dental when a body is found on the ground by protestor, Rita Pahlke.  It turns out to be William Swope.   Did William jump out his tenth-floor window or did someone give him a little help out that window?  Maggy, of course, cannot help but look into the matter much to her boyfriend’s dismay.  Maggy is dating Sheriff Jake Pavlik, the Brookhills County Sheriff.  Maggy is soon knee deep in the secrets of the Swope family.  Will Maggy be able to uncover the truth? 

You will enjoy To The Last Drop if you read at least the first novel in the series first.  It is really not a stand-alone book.  It can be confusing trying to understand the characters, relationships and their backstories.  I really did not enjoy To The Last Drop.  I tried, but was not a fan of the human characters (the dog was the only one I enjoyed).  The main character, Maggy Thorsen is unappealing.  Maggy comes across as nosy and pesky (annoying).  Maggy’s best friend, Sarah Kingston is odd (I do not see what they have in common besides the business).  The author tried to make the mystery complex, but it was very simple to solve (the killer was extremely obvious—there might as well be a giant arrow pointing to the culprit).  I was able to identify the killer by the time I was 25% of the way through the book.  I give To The Last Drop 2.5 out of 5 stars (not for me).  Some information is repeated a few times throughout the book.  An example is Maggy’s divorce from Ted and why they are divorced.  I was astounded that anyone would trust Lynne Swope with their money.  I thought that once Maggy got to know Lynne, she would take back her $50,00 (and give it to someone more reliable).  The book does have a sweet, romantic ending.  This was just not the right cozy mystery for me.

I am going to go cook dinner and finish reading The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell.  This is my third attempt at reading it (I am determined to get it finished this time).  I hope all of you have a lovely winter evening. Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader