Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Lies That Comfort and Betray: A Gilded Age Mystery

Thank you for stopping by today.  January just flew by so quickly.  The Runaway Wife by Rosie Clarke will be out on February 1.  It is a new historical novel.  Amish Cooking Class - The Celebration by Wanda E. Brunstetter will be available on February 6.

Lies that Comfort and Betray by Rosemary Simpson is the second book in A Gilded Age Mystery series.  It is November of 1888 and Jack the Ripper is terrorizing London with his savage butchery.  Prudence MacKenzie is a partner in the private inquiry firm of Hunter and MacKenzie with Geoffrey Hunter in New York.  Prudence is distressed when her childhood friend, Nora Kenny is ruthlessly murdered and left dead in Colonial Park.  The manner in which Nora was killed mimics the Ripper’s.  She had been expected at the MacKenzie home on Fifth Avenue to help prepare for the holidays.  Where did she go after getting off the ferry from Staten Island?  Then Nora’s fiancé is arrested for the crime and the police make him disappear.    Prudence, Geoffrey and their well-connected assistant, Josiah Gregory start investigating by looking into Nora’s movements the day she died.  They soon discover that Nora had secrets she was keeping from her family and friends.  Then Ellen Tierney turns up dead in the same manner as Nora.  Soon another woman is dead.  There is a murderer loose in New York and the police just want to sweep the deaths under the rug.  What connects the victims?  Prudence and her associates intend to find out and put the killer behind bars.  

I thought that Lies that Comfort and Betray would be a historical cozy mystery.  I quickly found out that Lies that Comfort and Betray is a dark and graphic novel.  Readers are given detailed descriptions of the mutilation done to the bodies as well as graphic sex scenes (one person has a strange religious fetish described in detail). There is also foul language in the story.  At the beginning, my attention was captured.  After a while, though, my mind started to wander (I was bored).  I thought the author was wordy and overly detailed (do we need to know what the church smells like for example).  We are given the minutest of details.  This led to a slow pace that lasted throughout the whole book.  We are also given details on what every character is thinking and feeling (including the dog).  I liked Prudence MacKenzie.  I thought she was well-crafted and developed.  She is a strong, intelligent female doing an unusual occupation (studied law with her father). She is also struggling to overcome her addiction to laudanum.   It is a shame that women were not admitted to the New York State Bar at that time.  I also liked the character of Josiah Gregory.  The mystery is one, for the most part, that plays out (which I find frustrating).  The killer is not introduced until the halfway mark and we are given one miniscule clue.  Otherwise, we are not given the details needed until right before the reveal (which is drawn out).  The ending does wrap up all the storylines.  I did appreciate the mention of Jo’s Boys in the story (Prudence was reading it).  While Lies that Comfort and Betray is the second book in A Gilded Age Mystery series, it can be read alone.  The author includes a summary of what occurred in the first book as well as background on the main characters.  With a different writing style this could have been an interesting novel (had potential). The first book in A Gilded Age Mystery series is What the Dead Leave Behind.

I will be featuring The Hat by C.S. Boyack tomorrow.  It is a paranormal novel (a magical hat).  I hope that you have a sensational day.  Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Biscuits and Slashed Browns: A Country Store Mystery

Biscuits and Slashed Browns by Maddie Day is the fourth book in A Country Store Mystery series.  Robbie Jordan owns Pans ‘N Pancakes in South Lick, Tennessee.  It is March and time for the Fifth Annual Brown County Maple Festival.  Robbie has arranged for a breakfast cook off to be held at her restaurant and Robbie will be making her maple biscuits.  Professor Warren Connolly is one of the judges for the contest, but several people are not happy with him.  Robbie witnesses him having a disagreement with Professor Sonia Genest and Dr. Sajit Rao.  The next morning Warren is found dead by the sugar shack on the Rao’s maple farm.  The murder weapon turns out to be one of Christina James’ Tojiro knives.  Christina is Robbie’s best friend and she has an excellent motive for wishing harm to come to Warren.  Robbie knows that her friend did not kill Warren and sets out to find the culprit.  The suspect list is quite long since Warren seemed to make enemies wherever he ventured.  Then Robbie’s prime suspect, Sajit goes missing.  While searching for Sajit, Robbie stumbles upon an illegal venture.  Will Robbie find the killer, or will she end up the next victim? 

Biscuits and Slashed Browns is well-written and entertaining.  The book was easy to read and had a good pace.  The characters are well-developed, colorful and relatable (they will remind you of your family and friends). I appreciate that the author includes characters of various ages and nationalities.   I enjoy the great small-town locale.  While Biscuits and Slashed Browns is the fourth book in the series, it can be read alone.  The author provides readers with Robbie’s history and touches on past storylines.  There is a dash of romance which plays out softly in the background.  I like that Abe supports Robbie in her sleuthing (though he does worry about her).  The mystery was nicely woven into the story, there are several suspects and the author provided good clues to aid readers.  I love the vintage implements featured in the story.  The cozy elements include family, friends, the making of maple syrup, cooking, Southern colloquialisms, humor, romance and a smidgen of jealousy.  There are recipes included at the end of the book.  Biscuits and Slashed Browns is my favorite book in A Country Store Mystery seriesDeath Over Easy is the next book in this series and it will be available on July 31.

I appreciate you visiting today.  Tomorrow I will be featuring Lies that Comfort and Betray by Rosemary Simpson.  Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Monday, January 29, 2018

Survival of the Fritters: A Deputy Donut Mystery

Happy National Puzzle Day!  Puzzles are a wonderful way to pass the time and have something beautiful when you finish.  I like vintage looking puzzles. The puzzle currently on my wish list is the Cobble Hill Nancy Drew.  It contains the covers of Nancy Drew books. Do you like working on puzzles? A Grave Search by Wendy Roberts is out today. It is the second book in Bodies of Evidence series.  Plain as Day by Laura Bradford will be out on March 13.  It is An Amish Mystery short story (ebook only).

Survival of the Fritters by Ginger Bolton (aka Janet Bolin-A Threadville Mystery series) is the first book in A Deputy Donut Mystery series.  Emily Westhill co-owns Deputy Donut with Tom Westhill (her father-in-law) in Fallingbrook, Wisconsin.  Emily has been a widow for three years and gave up her job as a 911 operator after the death of her husband.  Emily greets the Knitpickers (a group of women who meet at Deputy Donut) and their newest recruit Lois Underlaw.  They are missing Georgia Treetor who runs the local doll hospital.  At the end of the day when no one has heard from Georgia, the Knitpickers along with Emily head to Georgia’s home to check on her.  They find the kitchen is a disarray and Georgia dead.  It turns out that Georgia was killed on the five-year anniversary of her son’s murder.  It is the one case Emily’s husband, Alec was unable to solve.  Are the cases linked?  When Lois’ nephew, Randy becomes a prime suspect, Emily starts nosing around for clues.  Thanks to Emily leaving her fingerprints all over the crime scene, Detective Brent Fyne (Alec’s old partner) is taken off the case.  Yvonne Passenmath from Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation is brought in to handle the case.  This does not bode well for Emily since Yvonne dislikes her.  Emily soon uncovers a connection between the deaths.  Follow Emily as she follows the clues to uncover a killer in Survival of the Fritters.

Survival of the Fritters is nicely written, the characters are developed (with room for growth in future books) and there is a clever, adorable cat.  The author took the time to set the stage for the book which I appreciate.  I found that the pace varied throughout the book (sometimes steady and other times it was slower).  I did find there was repetition especially regarding the handsomeness of some of the men (especially Detective Brent Fyne).  The stage is set for a possible romance between Emily and Brent in the future if Emily is willing to move on after the death of her husband.  You could feel the chemistry between Emily and Brent (it was palpable).  Another example of reiteration is Emily would uncover details of the mystery.  She would then discuss them with Lois and then repeat the details to Brent.  These sections felt like filler and were unnecessary.  These discussions went along with the speculation over who could have committed the crime.  I would have liked more investigation and action (instead of the case being rehashed multiple times).  The mystery was interesting (nicely developed) and there were some good clues.  I believe many readers will be surprised by the identity of the killer (avid mystery readers should have it solved out before the solution is revealed).  I was not a fan of DCI Yvonne Passenmath.  There seems to be a trend to have unlikeable cops in cozy mysteries and I hope it ends soon.  Yvonne resents Emily for taking Alec away from her (there was nothing between them) and dislikes Tom for not promoting her when he was chief of police (she was lacking in skills and everyone is amazed that DCI hired her).  There are some delectable donut descriptions in the book and recipes are included at the end.  I am giving Survival of the Fritters 3 stars.  The next book in A Deputy Donut Mystery series is Goodbye Cruller World (to be published on August 28).  Survival of the Fritters will be available on Tuesday, January 30.

Thank you for reading my review.  On Tuesday I will be featuring Biscuits and Slashed Browns by Maddie Day.  May you have a incredible day (you deserve it).  Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Death by Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake: A Death by Chocolate Mystery

Welcome!  Desired in Darkness by Heather Sunseri will be published on February 5.  It is the fifth book in the In Darkness series.  If you like to read romantic suspense book, then check out this series.  You can download a long excerpt from Desired in Darkness here.

Death by Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake by Sarah Graves is the first book in A Death by Chocolate Mystery series.  Jacobia “Jake” Tiptree co-owns The Chocolate Moose in Eastport, Maine with her best friend, Ellie White.  They have agreed to make a dozen chocolate cherry cheesecakes to be auctioned off by the Coast Guard to pay for the town’s fireworks.  Jake received an early morning call from Miss Halligan who owns Second Hand Rose that the door to the chocolate shop was ajar.  When Jake arrives at The Chocolate Moose, she finds Matt Muldoon dead in the kitchen with his head in a pot of melted chocolate (what a waste of good chocolate).  Matt had been trying to get the ladies out of their shop with baseless (and ridiculous) accusations that he would report to the health department as violations.  Ellie is at the top of the suspect list thanks to her recent altercation with the victim.  Jake needs to prove that Ellie is innocent of the crime while trying to get the cheesecakes baked in time for the auction without their commercial ovens.  Then they discover a hurricane is heading towards Maine, and they need to batten down the hatches.  Jake is also worried about her son, Sam who failed to arrive home from Boston (afraid he fell off the wagon) and her father who has left the hospital against medical advice (and he refuses to stay in bed).  Even with a hurricane heading their way and the threat of Ellie being arrested, they must get the cheesecakes done.  Thanks to overwhelming demand, they now need to make twenty-eight instead of twelve (the town is not canceling their Fourth of July celebration).  Can Jake prove that Ellie did not kill Matt Muldoon?  Will they get the cheesecakes done in time for the auction?

Death by Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake is the first book in A Death by Chocolate Mystery series, but it is technically a continuation of A Home Repair is Homicide Mystery series (there are sixteen books in that series).  I was not aware of this until I started the book, and I felt like I had been plopped into the middle of a series.  I wish the author had taken the time to introduce her readers to her characters in the beginning of the book, because I felt lost and confused.  We are given more details on the characters as the book progresses (thankfully).  However, I never fully connected with the characters and I felt out of step (there were still holes not filled in).   Death by Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake is packed full of action.  There is one situation after another throughout the story.  The action starts with the murder in the first chapter, then Jake and Ellie almost get hit by another boat when fog strands them in the water, Jake’s father disappearing from hospital, Jake’s father takes off with car (and with his medications, he should not be driving), Marla and her dog attacked, lack of chocolate to make cheesecakes, Jake and Ellie breaking into Marla’s house, someone shoots at the duo, Sam is missing, Hurricane Amber and so much more.  I wish the author had cut down on the zany incidents.  It was too much and I beginning to wonder if Jake had a death wish.  I wanted more solid content.  I did find some aspects of the book to be unrealistic.  Most mystery readers will have no problem figuring out the identity of the culprit long before it is revealed in the book.  There is a repetition of information in the story especially regarding the stepmom’s attitude towards cleaning (the same details are repeated over and over).  I know it is a culinary mystery, but the author did not need to include so many scenes on the baking of the cheesecakes.  The ending felt rushed (take away a baking scene and the ending could have been less abrupt).  For readers who love Sarah Graves A Home Repair is Homicide Mystery series, you will enjoy the continuing antics of Ellie and Jake.  Death by Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake will be published on January 30.  Readers can follow Sarah Graves on Amazon and Facebook.

I will return on Monday with my thoughts on Survival of the Fritters by Ginger Bolton.  I hope that you have a pleasant weekend.  Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Friday, January 26, 2018

Class Reunions are Murder: A Poppy McAllister Mystery

Greetings Fellow Readers!  Phoebe's Light by Suzanne Woods Fisher will be published on February 6.  It is the first book in the Nantucket Legacy series.  

Class Reunions are Murder by Libby Klein is the first installment in A Poppy McAllister Mystery series.  Poppy McAllister is a widow of six months.  Since her husband passed away, she has stayed cooped up in her home watching cooking shows, overindulging in sweets, talking to her cat (Sir Figaro Newton) and avoiding her overbearing mother-in-law, Georgina.  She receives an invitation for her twenty-fifth high school reunion along with a strange note from her high school nemesis, Barbie Pomeroy Clark.  The last thing Poppy wishes to do is attend, but her friend Sawyer insists she attend (responds to the invitation for her).  It does give Poppy a chance to visit her unique Aunt Ginny and see how she is faring.  After purchasing a new (hideous) dress that fits, Poppy is off to the reunion.  Barbie has not changed one iota since high school (mean, nasty, bully).  Poppy’s friend, Sawyer gets into an altercation with Barbie.  When Poppy goes to check on Sawyer, she finds Barbie dead in front of her old locker.  Amber, another high school nemesis, is now a police officer and arrests Poppy of the crime.  Poppy is soon released (thanks to old high school boyfriend) and she sets out to prove her innocence.  The suspects list is quite long since Barbie made enemies on a daily basis.  Poppy must also help her Aunt Ginny deal with an aggressive social services worker and cope with her new diet/exercise regimen prescribed by the holistic doctor (to help with her depression).  Poppy needs to locate the murderer before she ends up celebrating her 30th reunion behind bars.

Class Reunions are Murder is a debut novel from Libby Klein.  The book opens with middle aged Poppy McAllister a hot mess.  She is grieving the loss of her husband (understandable) and dealing with a difficult mother-in-law (who objects to Poppy spending any of her inheritance).  Poppy has been eating donuts, fudge, cookies, brownies and other sweet (unhealthy but delicious) treats for the last six months (gained 60 pounds).  She spends her days in workout/yoga clothes that are ill fitting and stained while watching cooking shows (and talking to Figaro).  The last thing she wants to do is return to Cape May, New Jersey for her high school reunion (I do not blame her).  Circumstances (and a conversation with an inmate while she was in the local jail) in Cape May force Poppy out of her funk.  There is a murder (she is being railroaded by an angry police officer), a social services worker is trying to force Aunt Ginny into an assisted living facility, a holistic doctor puts her on the Paleo diet and suggests Poppy try yoga, and none of her clothes fit her.  Aunt Ginny is a lively, eccentric and lonely woman.  I believe she has missed having family nearby and that is why her home has been neglected.  There are two love interests for Poppy (which I found odd since she is still grieving her husband).  The handsome barista, Giampaolo and her old high school boyfriend, Tim.  The mystery was interesting with several suspects (her high school class had a number of mean girls).  The clues are sprinkled throughout the book to aid readers in identifying the culprit.  Poppy does not take to sleuthing right off, but gets better as the story progresses.  She is fortunate to have help from her friends and Aunt Ginny. I believe many readers can relate to high school drama with the bullying mean girls, the jocks and good friends. I like the point the author made about perception.  Every story has two sides with each person having a different perspective. The various storylines were nicely wrapped up at the end of the book.  I did find a repetition of information (a common problem lately in cozy mysteries), and I felt the book was a too long (407 pages).  A little editing would have enhanced the story.  Class Reunions are Murder is a light, humorous cozy mystery that will have readers chuckling through the whole book.  Class Reunions are Murder will be published on January 30.  Midnight Snacks are Murder is the next novel in A Poppy McAllister Mystery series and it will be available on July 31.

I will be back tomorrow with my thoughts on Death by Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake by Sarah Graves.  I hope that you have a stupendous day.  Thank you for visiting, take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Liza's Second Chance: An Amish Charm Bakery Novel

Welcome!  On January 30 there will be some new cozy mystery releases.  They include Survival of the Fritters by Ginger Bolton and Biscuits and Slashed Browns by Maddie DayMolly Jebber is the author of A Keepsake Pocket Quilt series and has novellas in Amish Brides and The Amish Christmas Sleigh.  You can follow Ms. Jebber on Amazon and Facebook.

Liza’s Second Chance by Molly Jebber is the first novel in The Amish Charm Bakery series.  We go back in time to 1912 in Charm, Ohio. Paul Schrock purchased the bakery for Liza (as an investment), and Liza considers the bakery her haven.  Liza was happy to be off in her bakery each day making delectable delights for her customers.  It allowed her to be away from her husband’s criticisms (mental abuse).  Paul projected a different persona to the community.  Liza never told a soul about her miserable marriage.  He has been gone a year, and Liza is happy with her single status.  Then Jacob Graber and his troubled daughter, Ellie arrive in town.  Esther, Liza’s sister, believes Jacob would be the perfect mate for Liza (a matchmaker at heart).  Ellie has a belligerent attitude and ruined Jacob’s last relationship.  Jacob moved them to Charm to give Ellie a chance to start over, but the outside world fascinates her.  Liza aids Jacob and Ellie in adjusting to the new town.  She introduces Ellie to her niece, Hannah hoping they will become friends (and it will help Ellie’s attitude).  Things seem to be improving with Ellie, but then she disappears into the English world with a young man. Why did she take off and where did she go?  While Ellie is away, Jacob and Liza spend time together and grow closer.  Jacob wishes to marry, but Liza is reluctant.  What would happen when Ellie returns?  Will there be a happily ever after for Liza and Jacob?   

Liza’s Second Chance is nicely written and has a nice flow.  I found the book easy to read.  The author incorporated major events from the time-period like the sinking of the Titanic, the Olympics, and Harry Houdini.  I did find a repetition of information.  Details surrounding Liza’s first marriage for example are repeated several times.  Amish words are interjected into the dialogue.  The meaning of them can be discerned from the text.  Christian elements include scripture, accepting God and his plan for a person’s life, forgiveness, power of prayer and having faith.  We get to see the importance of family and friends.  Liza has a close relationship with her family and they are happy to include the Graber family.  I felt that the author could have developed the characters more.  There is a lack of details on the main characters background that could have given them depth.  I did become annoyed with Jacob at times.  Liza wants to allow time for a friendship to develop between herself and Ellie, but Jacob keeps forcing the issue.  His lack of understanding was frustrating for me.  Liza’s Second Chance is a light, sweet Amish romance that will appeal to fans of Amish fiction.  Liza's Second Chance will be released on January 30. 

I hope you find my review helpful to you.  If you like my blog, please consider following it (upper right).  I will return tomorrow with my evaluation of Class Reunions are Murder by Libby Klein (her debut cozy mystery).  I hope you have a smashing day.  Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Hattie's Home

Good Morrow!  Lethal Licorice by Amanda Flower which is the second book in An Amish Candy Shop Mystery series will be published on February 27 (yummy descriptions of candy)!  Mary Gibson is the author of The Factory Girls series (four books) and Hattie's Home.  

Hattie’s Home by Mary Gibson sweeps you back in time to 1947 in Bermondsey, England.  Hattie Wright is returning home after serving eight years as a sergeant in the ATS.  Hattie received a letter from her mother, Cissie asking her to return because she was “almost blind”.  Bermondsey was hit hard by the bombs during the war leaving devastation behind.  Many homes were destroyed causing a severe housing shortage.  After traveling two days from Belgium to get home and then being attacked by a gang of kids, Hattie discovers her mother is just fine and has a new beau living with her in the one habitable room of their house.  Unable to find office work, Hattie returns to the Alaska-a fur factory (thanks to her friend, Buster).  While working in the factory, she takes Clara and Lou under her wing.  Clara is returning from Australia disgraced and with a child.  She has no money and her parents will not welcome her in their home.  Clara fell in love with an Australian soldier who was not white and hiding a terrible secret.  Lou is a widow with a mischievous (and unruly) son and a new baby.  She is grieving the loss of her daughter, Sue who died in the bombings along with her husband.  Unable to take living on her mother’s couch, Hattie seeks out a new place to live.  She discovers empty army huts that would be habitable with a few improvements.  One is occupied by a chemist from the Alaska named Joe.  Hattie and others move in to the dwellings, but then Hattie’s ex-fiancé (a dangerous man) decides they want them (and force people to pay rent).  He will go to great lengths to get the tenants to vacate.  Will the tenants be able to defeat the bullies? 

Hattie’s Home is well-written, and I was drawn into the book at the beginning.  I thought it was an engaging story.  The author captured the city and what it was like after World War II (the devastation—the bombed-out buildings).  Rationing was still in effect for many years (on food and clothing) and housing was impossible to find (unless you had deep pockets).  The author did her research for the book and incorporated the facts without overwhelming the story (or making it seem like a textbook).  I thought Hattie’s Home was realistic.  Life was hard for these people, but they had hope, love, family, resilience, determination, community and friendship.  The author did not sugar coat the grim realities. I liked how people came together to help each other out (something we do not see today).    Hattie was a great main character.  She is strong, independent, intelligent and spunky.  I liked that Hattie’s Home takes place after the war.  It affected each person differently and we get to experience it from different perspectives in Hattie’s Home. The book has a slower pace, but it goes with the story (suits it).  I found the children flats program creative and a wonderful way to get the kids off the street where they were wreaking havoc (and getting killed from unexploded ordinances).  The ending is heartwarming and will have readers smiling.  This was the first book that I have read by Mary Gibson, but it will not be my last.

Thank you for reading my latest review.  By the way--What did one book say to the other?  I just wanted to see if we were on the same page!  May you have a blissful day.  I will be featuring Liza's Second Chance by Molly Jebber on January 25.  Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Scone Cold Killer: An All-Day Breakfast Cafe Mystery

Hello!  I hope everyone is having a good day so far.  Some of the new books out today are The King of Bones and Ashes by J.D. Horn, Scone Cold Killer by Lena Gregory, and Midnight Ice by Diane Vallere.  Lena Gregory is the author of A Bay Island Psychic Mystery series and the new An All-Day Breakfast Cafe Mystery series.    

Scone Cold Killer by Lena Gregory is the first book in An All-Day Breakfast Café Mystery series.  Gia Morelli has relocated from New York to Boggy Creek, Florida.  Her ex-husband was an investor who stole millions from his clients and Gia needs to escape the upset investors.  Gia purchased two properties and is turning one of them into the All-Day Breakfast Café.  The other property (which she purchased sight unseen) will be her new home.  Her best friend, Savannah helped her get the café ready for customers and she has hired two employees (she failed to look at their applications or check references).  Gia opens her café the next day and it is a hit with the customers.  The only drawback is her new cook, Maybelle who can only cook one meal at a time and lacks social skills (in other words, lazy and rude).  At the end of a long day, Gia goes outside to put the trash in the dumpster and sees an arm sticking out.  Gia recognizes the ring on the hand as well as the expensive manicure and realizes that her ex-husband’s crimes have finally caught up with him.  Later that night when Gia arrives home, she discovers that someone has broken in.  They are looking for something, but what?  Gia then finds a threatening note in her mailbox. The killer believes she has something of her ex-husbands and they are willing to kill to get it.  Gia needs to discover what it is they want before she ends up the next victim.

Scone Cold Killer has a good pace with plenty of activity.  I felt, though, that the characters and town lacked development.  We are told very little about the Boggy Creek.  I was not fond of the main character, Gia Morelli.  She is an emotional mess who should not be running a business.  She jumps at every little noise.  She starts shaking, sweating, etc.  She is nervous thanks to the investors that have been harassing her in New York (someone needs to find her a good therapist).  Gia is also afraid of spider, snakes (I can relate to this one), wild animals and so much more.  Gia had a complete meltdown when she was confronted by a spider (it was just ridiculous).  It seems that Gia did not do her research on her new town (unaware that wild animals were nearby).  Would you hire someone without looking at their application or checking with past employers? Gia did!  Would you open a restaurant without checking to see what locals like to eat?  Gia seemed oblivious that Southerners like grits (I do not get the fascination, but my Father loved them).  She is also scatter brained and a dreamer (her attention drifts in the middle of conversations).  I can see how Bradley was able to take advantage of Gia.  Gia came across as annoying and off-putting.  Drama surrounding Gia and her anxiety took up a good portion of the book.  Savannah, on the other hand, was a character I liked.  She has a great attitude and personality.  It is a shame she is not the main character.  There is a love interest for Gia in the form of Detective Hunter Quinn.  We know that he is handsome, well built, sexy, and manly (we are told this quite a few times).  I never felt the connection between the two characters (no spark).  The dialogue between them is lackluster.  If I was Hunter, I would run (not walk) away from the anxious and whiny Gia.  I was hoping that the mystery would be compelling to make up for the rest of the book, but I was once again disappointed.  One tiny clue (if you need it) gives it away.  Scone Cold Killer was not a good fit for me.   The next book in An All-Day Breakfast Café Mystery series is Murder Made to Order (June 19).  While Scone Cold Killer was not for me, other readers will find it entertaining.  I suggest getting a sample of the book and see if it is your type of book.

Thank you for reading my latest review.  I will return tomorrow to feature Hattie's Home by Mary Gibson.  Readers get swept back to Bermondsey, England in 1947 to see how Hattie Wright fares after the war.  May you have a satisfying day.  Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Monday, January 22, 2018

The King of Bones and Ashes: A Witches of New Orleans Novel

Welcome!  J.D. Horn is the author of A Witching Savannah series which includes The Line, The Void, The Source and Jilo.  He has also written Shivaree.  All of these novels are available through the Kindle Unlimited Program on Amazon.  

The King of Bones and Ashes by J.D. Horn is the first book in A Witches of New Orleans series (releases January 23).  On Monday, August 29, 2005 the witches of the Chanticleer Coven tried to divert the storm without success.  They are now preparing to evacuate. While waiting for her father, young Alice is drawn outside and sees Babau Jean (John the Bogey) in the water, and he almost succeeds in grabbing her.  While Alice got away from his clutches, Babau Jean is still with her.  In the present day, Celestin Marin has passed away after being in a coma for the past eight years.  Celestin was the head of their clan and the witches are looking forward to claiming his residual magic for themselves (in a disgusting ritual).  Magic is fading from the world and has been for some time.  Those who have relied on it are not coping well.  Some are going mad, others are taking the “Dreaming Road”, and a few are managing to cope.  Alice is finally being freed from the asylum where she was placed by her father.  Her oldest brother, Luc is dead.  No one believed Alice when she told them Babau Jean forced Luc to kill himself.  Witches have been disappearing from New Orleans and people are told they have taken the “Dreaming Road”.  Alice’s mother supposedly took this path when Alice was a child.   If this is the path the witches took, where are there bodies?  They have not been found.    There are dark forces at work in New Orleans.  What will the witches do to keep their magic alive?

The King of Bones and Ashes is an odd book.  I did like the setting of New Orleans and that it involved witches.  There are numerous characters in the book and the POV changes frequently.  It can be difficult to keep track of the various people and their storylines.  I found the book to be a convoluted and disjointed.  I think the author tried to put too much into one book.  I wish the author had focused the story on Alice.  That alone would have been an intriguing story. Evangeline and Lisette (other main characters) should have had their own books. I thought the book lacked focus and continuity.  The writer was overly descriptive which led to a glacial pace (I fell asleep more than once).    It was a struggle to finish this novel. And this is just the first book in the trilogy. Please be aware that The King of Bones and Ashes contains foul language, extreme violence, drugs and large quantities of alcohol.  I was surprised that The King of Bones and Ashes is by the same author that wrote The Line.  The writing style is very different (what I enjoyed in The Line is missing from this tome).  While The King of Bones and Ashes is not my cup of tea, it will appeal to other readers.  I suggest getting a sample of the book and see if the book interests you.  The Book of the Unwinding is the next book in this series.  It will be available on June 26.  Both books are available through Amazon's Kindle Unlimited Program.

Thank you for visiting my blog today and reading my review.  I will return tomorrow with my thoughts on Scone Cold Killer by Lena Gregory.  I am off to get some work done.  May you have a truly delightful day.  Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Friday, January 19, 2018

Heartaches and Christmas Cakes: Debut Novel by Amy Miller

Thank you for stopping by today.  Who the Bishop Knows by Vannetta Chapman will be available on March 6.  It is the third book in The Amish Bishop Mysteries.  The first two books in the series are When the Bishop Needs an Alibi and What the Bishop Saw.

Heartaches and Christmas Cakes by Amy Miller takes us back to the fall of 1939 in Bournemouth, England. Audrey and Charlie Barton own Barton’s Bakery providing delectable delights for the people in their area. The bakery is a place where everyone knows they will be welcomed and have a chance to exchange a little gossip.  War has caused many changes in their lives including rationing of food and clothing.  Audrey’s brother, William heading off to fight with the British Expeditionary Forces.  William is engaged to Elsie and she wonders if he will return home to her.  Audrey’s stepsister, Lily shows up unexpectedly.  Lily had been working as a typist at the Ministry of Information headquarters in London.  Lily’s father, Victor is a controlling man who hit Lily.  Audrey knows there is more to the story, but Lily is not yet ready to confide in Audrey. The Barton’s have taken in wounded French solider, Jacques who becomes fascinated with Lily.   Audrey and Charlie have been unable to have a child of their own.  Evacuees arrive needing homes, and Audrey takes in little Mary Lintin.  Mary has been traumatized and does not speak.  Audrey knows that the little girl needs their love and a safe haven.  The family is worried when the fail to hear from William after he was posted over overseas.  Life is a constant struggle, but they have their family, friends and hope.  Will William return home to his family and fiancé?  Can the Barton family help Mary to heal?  What is Lily’s secret?  Will romance bloom between Jacques and Lily? 

Heartaches and Christmas Cakes is a lovely story.  It starts in 1939 and continues through 1940.  I found the book to be well-written with good characters.  Audrey is a strong, thoughtful woman who cares about her friends and family.  She will do what she can to help.  Audrey is the glue that holds her family together.  We get to experience the ups and downs of the Barton family and those connected with them.  They have so little, but are willing to share it to help others.  The story has family, secrets, loss, love, friendship, pride, delectable baked goods, and hope.  They have hope that the future will be better.  We get to see how the war changes people and their character. Women stepped up and assumed roles that had previously been held by men. Thanks to rationing, they had to get creative and inventive.  The people from this era were strong and resilient.  It was fascinating to learn about how rationing worked in Great Britain.  It was very different from what Americans experienced.  Readers get to read about their daily struggles.  I admit that I had a little trouble getting into the story.  Once I got into it, I was hooked.  The author did a wonderful job at incorporating the events of the war into the story and I appreciate that she did not just make this a feel-good book.  The characters experience loss and have their share of troubles as well as happy moments.  Heartaches and Christmas Cakes is a heartwarming story.  I am ready to continue their story in Wartime Brides and Wedding Cakes (out on March 7).

I appreciate you reading my latest review.  I am taking the weekend off, and I will return on Monday, January 22 with my review of King of Bones and Ashes by J.D. Horn.  May you have a wonderful, relaxing weekend.  Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Thursday, January 18, 2018

You Were There Before My Eyes: Debut Novel by Maria Riva

Hello!  Claws for Concern by Miranda James will be available on February 20.  It is ninth book in A Cat in the Stacks Mystery seriesTwelve Angry Librarians (the eighth book in the series) was a delight to read.  It contained good characters and a great mystery.    

You Were There Before My Eyes is a historical novel by Maria Riva.  It is 1913 in Cirie, Italy where Giovanna “Jane” Zanchetta lives.  Jane has big dreams and they do not include staying in her village.  Then Giovanni or John returns from America looking for a bride.  John is an employee of the Ford Motor Company.  When John’s first choice for a bride falls through, he is encouraged to consider Jane.  They are soon wed and start their journey to Michigan.  Jane discovers many new wonders along the way.  She must learn English and how to run a modern household.  She is grateful for the help from Hannah Geiger, John’s landlady who helps her adapt to America.  After a while, John purchases them their own home.  Jane must deal with regulations enforced on employees for their homes by Ford (inspectors).  America enters World War I which brings its own set of challenges for Jane and her circle of friends.  What is in store for Jane in the future?  Read You Were There Before My Eyes to find out.

You Were There Before My Eyes was not what I expected.  I found the book to be too long (587 pages) and slow paced.  To be blunt, it was dull, tedious and predictable.  The dialogue was awkward (it was bad) and Hannah Geiger’s accent was exaggerated.  There was overuse of the word “vifey” and it was a struggle at time to decipher her dialogue.  It was obvious that the author did her research on Henry Ford and his company (she knew many details and included them in the story).  The book seemed to be an opus to Mr. Ford.  Maria Riva was overly descriptive.  I did feel that the author captured what new immigrants went through upon coming to America.  However, we did not need some of the minute details that she included (describe an outfit down to the buttons on it for example).  We are subjected to endless pages of Jane cleaning her home, cooking, baking, doing laundry, and taking care of her children.  Every holiday is described and historical event.  It seemed like the author was trying to include every historical event that took place during the time period of this novel as well as the inventions (postcards, Kellogg’s cereal, Sears Roebuck and their mail order catalog).  The characters are not fleshed out and given life.  They were flat and there were numerous peripheral characters.   The book lacked emotion and depth.  It felt like the author did not connect with her own story.  It is just the telling of a story (reminded me of a person who reads out loud in a monotone voice—uninspiring, bland).  I finally reached the end and it felt incomplete.  Unfortunately, You Were There Before My Eyes is not a book I can recommend.  Maria Riva is the only child of actress, Marlene Dietrich. 

Thank you for taking the time to read my review.  Next time I will be sharing my thoughts on Heartaches and Christmas Cakes by Amy Miller.  I hope that you have a happy day.  Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Orphan Girl: Historical novel by Lindsey Hutchinson

Welcome!  Lindsey Hutchinson is the author of The Workhouse Children, The Wives' Revenge and The Lost Sisters.  You can follow Ms. Hutchinson on Amazon (get updates when a new book is released), BookBub, Goodreads,  Facebook and Twitter (@LHutchAuthor).  Lindsey lives in Shropshire with her husband.  She has two children and three grandchildren.  Ms. Hutchinson is the daughter of author, Meg Hutchinson.  

The Orphan Girl is the latest novel by Lindsey Hutchinson.  Lily Rae is a maid at Ryder House in 1900.  One afternoon she is attacked by the master’s son, Sebastian Ryder.  Lily realizes that if she stays in the household, Sebastian will continue to attack her.  Lily takes her savings and quickly departs Ryder House for the town of Wednesbury.  Unable to find employment, Lily stays in a local churchyard.  One day she encounters Rose Downey who takes her to Mrs. Johnston’s rooming house.  Lily is then able to locate a position as a waitress at Ann’s Café.  Then Lily discovers that her fear has become a realization.   What will she do?  Sebastian is upset that Lily disappeared and is determined to locate her.  Tilley Green has a beautiful voice and one night, Seb Ryder happens to hear her perform.  Seb’s life has taken a downturn and he sees Tilley as his meal ticket (a way to earn money with little work).  Tilley, though, is not as ambitious as her new beau and will need persuading.  What happens when she realizes that Seb is deceiving her?  Tilley and Lily have lives that have peaks and valleys.  They continue to struggle and hope for a brighter, happier future.  See what happens with Lilly, Tilley and Sebastian in The Orphan Girl.

The Orphan Girl contains good writing and strong, resilient female characters with caring hearts.  The book is not predictable and has many unexpected surprises.  The author did a wonderful job at capturing the time-period and the locale.  She portrayed the struggles of women in this era.  I found it very realistic and gritty.  One of my favorite characters is Emily Johnston, who owns the rooming house.  Emily becomes a mother figure to Lily who provides needed advice and comfort.  The author provided good descriptions that helped bring the book to life.  I could picture the scenes in my head as I read the book.  Modern readers will find the language odd, but it was accurate for the time and the education level of the characters.  What the characters are saying can be discerned from the text.  The opening scene between Sebastian and Lily is very graphic and realistic (fair warning).  The Orphan Girl is an authentic historical novel that will have you riveted until the very last page.  The Orphan Girl can be purchased at Amazon, Kobo, iBooks and Google Play.  

Thank you for visiting today.  I hope you have found a new book to read and enjoy.  I will return tomorrow with my thoughts on You Were There Before My Eyes by Maria Riva.  For now, I am off to do more work on my house (my home is a work in progress).  May you have a fascinating day.  Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Beneath the Summer Sun: An Every Amish Season

Welcome!  I want to share with you some upcoming releases of Amish novels.  They include Amish Cooking Class - The Celebration by Wanda Brunstetter (February 1), Liza's Second Chance by Molly Jebber (January 30), and Phoebe's Light by Suzanne Woods Fisher (February 6).

Beneath the Summer Sun by Kelly Irvin is the second installment in An Every Amish Season series.  Jennie Troyer is a widow with seven children in Jamesport, Missouri.  It has been four years since her husband, Atlee passed away, and Jennie is content to live without a spouse.  Jennie never told a soul about the type of husband Atlee was and how she can still hear his voice in her head belittling her.  Leo Graber has been in love with Jennie since they were young.  His guilt over his father’s death has prevented him from pursuing a relationship with Jennie or living a happy, fulfilling life.  Nathan Walker is a Mennonite traveling book salesman who has fallen for Jennie.  He visits her farm whenever he is in the area and enjoys spending time with Jennie and the children.  Nathan has been unable to settle down in one place because of resentment towards his parents for their mission work and leaving him behind when he was younger. He is contemplating becoming Amish to be with Jennie.  Matthew Troyer, Jennie’s oldest son, has been moody, rude, sneaking out of the house at night and refuses to discuss what is troubling him with Jennie.  What will it take for the four of them (Jennie, Leo, Nathan, and Matthew) to resolve their issues and move forward with their lives?

While Beneath the Summer Sun is the second book in the series, it can be read alone.  You need not have read Upon a Spring Breeze which involves different characters (but in the same community).  Beneath the Summer Sun is well-written and engaging. I appreciate this author’s writing style (makes for an easy and enjoyable novel).  I was drawn in right away and my attention was held until the end of the book.  The story contains lovely characters that are nicely constructed and develop over the course of the book.  They are realistic and relatable as well as the issues that they are experiencing.  I like how Ms. Irvin handled the subject of domestic abuse (physical and mental).  It is an issue that is generally not addressed in Amish novels and the author shows that abuse is not limited to Englischers (as we are called).  I am grateful that the author does not paint the Amish in a picture-perfect world.  The author has a way of incorporating Christian values into the book (light touch).  It flows nicely with the story and does not come across as preachy.  Some of the issues that are addressed are faith, following God’s path for your life, power of prayer, scripture, trust, forgiveness (of oneself and others), love, grace and guilt.  Beneath the Summer Sun is a captivating book that will stay with you long after you finish it.    I am eager to read the next book in An Every Amish Season series which is Through the Autumn Air.  We get Mary Katherine Ropp’s story who is in Beneath the Summer Sun.

Thank you for taking the time to read my review.  I will be featuring The Orphan Girl by Lindsey Hutchinson tomorrow.  I am off to continue my work in the attic.  I am only able to do a little at a time (small cramped space).  May you have a beautiful day.  Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader