Monday, April 30, 2018

Death of a Cookbook Author: A Hayley Powell Food & Cocktails Mystery

Good Day!  Silver Anniversary Murder by Leslie Meier comes out on September 25.  It is the latest A Lucy Stone Mystery.  Christmas Cake Murder by Joanne Fluke also releases on September 25.  It is the newest A Hannah Swensen Mystery.  It takes readers back to before the Cookie Jar opened in Lake Eden.  

Death of a Cookbook Author by Lee Hollis is the tenth book in A Hayley Powell Food & Cocktails Mystery series (that’s a mouthful).  Hayley Powell is shocked when Penelope Janice, cookbook author and television personality, is a fan of her column.  Penelope invites Hayley to participate in her Third Annual Fourth of July Celebrity Potluck Celebration at her estate in Seal Harbor, Maine.  The competition along with the other festivities for the weekend will be filmed for Penelope’s show.  Hayley is thrilled to be invited and hopes that her cooking will measure up.  The first night they have steamed mussels for dinner which Hayley devours.  She soon regrets her over indulgence when she wakes up with food poisoning in the middle of the night and is unable to find a bathroom.  She overhears two people plotting a murder, but Penelope just laughs off Hayley’s concerns.  The following day Hayley is awakened to screams.  Conrad Janice has been found at the bottom of the cliff.  The victim had been extremely drunk the night before and Chief of Police Sergio Alvares rules it an accident.  Hayley believes foul play is involved, but she will need to find hard evidence to prove it.  Penelope is not about to let the death of her husband stop the weekend, so the festivities proceed (gives Hayley time to snoop).  Hayley is unprepared for an unexpected dip into the ocean, a boyfriend for the weekend, or a second body.  It is going to be a wild Fourth of July weekend in Death of a Cookbook Author.

Death of a Cookbook Author is nicely written and has a steady pace.  While this is the tenth installment in the series, it can be read alone.  The necessary background details are provided for new readers. I thought the mystery was well-crafted and clever (I never thought to use an automated cat feeder in that way).  There are several suspects and good misdirection.  I have to admit that I enjoyed the dig at a certain politician who loves Twitter.  All the loose ends are wrapped up at the end of the book.  There are some great laugh out loud moments and Hayley’s columns were entertaining.    It will be interesting to see how Hayley’s new romance progresses in future books.  I did not think Hayley would ever admit her feeling for this man.  I would like to see Hayley mature in future books as she does not always act her age (she comes across as immature at times).  There are recipes included in the book.  Death of a Cookbook Author is my favorite book so far in this series. 

Lee Hollis has a new series starting this summer with A Desert Flowers Mystery series.  The first book is Poppy Harmon Investigates and it will be out on July 31.  Thank you so much for visiting.  I am featuring The Wedding Quilt Bride by Marta Perry tomorrow (May 1).  I hope you have a beautiful day.  Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Sunday, April 29, 2018

The Promise: The Amish of Southern Maryland

Felicitations!  The Angel Makers by Tessa Harris comes out on May 29 along with Confessions of a Red Herring by Dana Dratch and Bear Witness to Murder by Meg MacyMurder on Memory Lake by J.D. Griffo  will be released on July 31.  It is the first book in A Ferrara Family Mystery series.  

The Promise by Susan Lantz Simpson is the first book in The Amish of Southern Maryland series.  Phoebe Yoder is at the farmer’s market with her mother, Martha, Susannah and Naomi (her sisters).  Phoebe stops to admire the alpacas leaving Martha with the younger girls.  It is Phoebe’s dream to raise her own alpacas.  When Phoebe returns, Susannah is on her own and Naomi has disappeared.  Someone took advantage of the situation to snatch Naomi from the market.  Phoebe feels responsible and makes a rash promise to God that she will marry Micah Graber (who she does not care for at all) and give up her dream of raising alpacas if He will return her baby sister.  Benjamin Miller has recently returned to the area and is taken with Phoebe when he sees her at the market.  It is also his dream to have an alpaca farm.  Ben gets a chance to spend time with Phoebe when they help Dori Ryland with her alpacas.  Ben can imagine a wonderful future with Phoebe, but she is unwilling to forgo the vow she made to God.  Phoebe is willing to give up a happy life to honor the promise she made in haste.  What will it take to convince her that God would not want her to make this sacrifice?

The Promise is nicely written and to have a steady pace.  I did, though, to find too much repetition in the book.  The promise Phoebe made, how unlikeable Micah Graber is, and her love of alpacas are some of things that are repeated.  There are good themes or life lessons in the book.  The main theme in the story is trusting in God.  We need to trust that the good Lord will guide us.  Other Christian elements are God’s expectation, forgiveness of self and others, and the power of prayer.  Going after your dreams is another theme in the story.  It is important to have obtainable goals or dreams.  The author included some good information on alpacas.  There fiber is so soft and wonderful to use in fiber projects (spinning, knitting, crocheting, weaving, etc.).  Phoebe was a frustrating character.  I did not understand why she would not talk to her parents (at least her mother).  She is going to marry someone she dislikes because she made a promise.  God would not want her to be unhappy.   Ben is a great character and readers will be rooting for him.  I also enjoyed Ben’s grandmother, Lena Kurtz. The ending will have you cheering.  I give The Promise 3 out of 5 stars.  There is an excerpt of the next book in the series at the end.  The Promise is a sweet Amish story.

Thank you for stopping by today.  On Monday I will be sharing my review of Death of a Cookbook Author by Lee Hollis.  May you have a very special day (you deserve it).  Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Expiration Date: A Cook-Off Mystery

Greetings!  A Last Goodbye by Dee Yates comes out on May 1 along with Together Forever by Jody Hedlund.  A new cozy that I am looking forward to reading is Murder by the Book by Lauren Elliott which will be published on October 30.  It is the first cozy mystery in A Beyond the Page Bookstore Mystery series.

Expiration Date by Devon Delaney is the premier novel in A Cook-Off Mystery series.  Sherry Frazzelle (rhyme with la belly) is one of the finalists in the OrgaNicks Cook-Off in Augustin, Connecticut.  The grand prize is $10,000 and title of OrgaNicks Supreme Home Chef.  The judging is completed, and Chef Tony Birns is announcing the winner when he collapses.  After it is determined he was poisoned, Sherry rises to the top of the suspect list since her dish was the last one sampled by the victim.  Sherry with help from fellow competitor, Amber Sherman sets out to clear her name and her pork tenderloin.  The killer, though, is less than thrilled with Sherry’s sleuthing and attempts to warn her off the case.  Sherry is missing the last pieces of the puzzle that will help her identify the guilty party.  She just needs to assemble the clues like the ingredients in a recipe and stir until she cooks up the killer.  Sherry will need to be careful or she will get burned.

Expiration Date is a light, humorous cozy mystery.  I felt that Expiration Date could have done with some rewriting to give it a better flow along with a more solid mystery.  The pacing slowed down considerably when food was being cooked and described.  When Sherry was cooking, the book was reminiscent of a cookbook instead of a work of fiction.  We are told each ingredient along with every step in the cooking process.  The dialogue could have used some tweaking.  It was awkward.  Sherry is not a likeable main character.  She is a neat freak, likes to be in control, gets anxious quickly, has panic attacks, scares easily and she expects situations to turn out badly (she comes across as neurotic instead of realistic).  Sherry does not like her name to be pronounced incorrectly and corrects people throughout the book.  She also cannot stand being called ma’am (this happens throughout the book as well).   A contradiction to her neat fetish is one of the guest rooms is filled with her estranged husband’s clothing (looks like the inside of a men’s clothing boutique).  Sherry is waiting for him to pick them up.  Personally, I would have given the man an ultimatum (I believe he is looking for an excuse to stop by).  My favorite part of Expiration Date was barely touched on.  Sherry’s father owns Oliveri’s Ruggery, a hooked rug shop (rug hooking is a wonderful art form).  I dearly wish the author had centered the book around the shop instead of food competitions (that would have been unique).  The mystery was simple and solving it is a cinch (might as well be a giant neon arrow pointing to the killer).  The author gives away the who and why early in the story.  The case details are repeated (more repetition) and there is a lack of action (more cooking than crime solving).  I did find the method of murder to be unique and clever.  I was left with one question at the end of the book—who won the cooking competition? I am hoping the author ups her game in the next A Cook-Off Mystery.  My rating for Expiration Date is 3 out of 5 stars.

Final Roasting Place is the next book in A Cook-Off Mystery series.  It will be available on September 25.  I really appreciate you visiting today.  On Sunday I am sharing my thoughts on The Promise by Susan Lantz Simpson.  I hope you have a lovely relaxing day.  Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Friday, April 27, 2018

The Road Home: New Novel by Beverly Lewis

The Road Home by Beverly Lewis takes us back to August of 1977.  Lena Rose Schwartz is eighteen years old and has been courting Hans Bontrager for two months.  She lives with her parents and ten siblings in Centreville, Michigan on their farm.  Lena is surprised when two police officers arrive in the afternoon to tell her that parents died in an accident on their way home.  There is no one relative or nearby family that can take in all of the children, and they are not allowed to stay in their home.  Homes are found for everyone except Lena.  Harley and Mimi Stolzfus, her father’s second cousin, writes that they can use Lena’s assistance.  Lena has never been away from hometown and she has raised her youngest brother, Chris since he was born.  It also means leaving her beau, Hans.  Lena helps her siblings settle into their new homes and then departs for Leacock Township, Pennsylvania with the hopes that the move is temporary.  Mimi and Harley are welcoming to Lena.  Mimi has been lonely since their daughter, Tessa married and moved away after a quick courtship.  Lena misses her family back home, but her new home has its own enticements.  Which path is the right one for one for Lena?  She will need to have faith and wait to see what the Lord has in store for her.

The Road Home contains good writing and lovely characters.  Beverly Lewis is a descriptive writer.  Her word imagery helps me to visualize the scenes and characters.  There are good messages in the story.  The importance of family, friendship and community for example. My favorite being that we must have faith in God and wait for him to reveal the path he has planned for our life (being patient can be difficult).  Lena not only has to grieve for her parents but deal with leaving her siblings and the only home she has known.  She then relocates to another state with people she has never met.  When Lena is presented with a difficult choice, she must decide what to do (I do not want to say too much and spoil it for you).  The Christian elements were nicely incorporated into the story (faith, prayer, God knows what is in your heart, trust in God, God’s will).  I especially appreciate the message about using the talents/gifts God has given us to help others.  The pace of the book was slow in places (those scenes would take me out of the story) and there is some repetitiveness (could have used editing to tighten up the story).  The Road Home has an uplifting ending that put a smile on my face.  I am giving The Road Home 4 out of 5 stars (I liked it).  Some of my favorite Beverly Lewis books are The Redemption of Sarah Cain, The Reckoning, The Sunroom, The Confession, The Shunning, The Postcard and October Song.

The First Love by Beverly Lewis will be out on September 4.  Thank you for visiting.  Tomorrow I will return with my review of Expiration Date by Devon Delaney.  I hope you have a joyful day.  Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Thursday, April 26, 2018

The Marmalade Murders: A Penny Brannigan Mystery

Good Day!  Flowers and Foul Play by Amanda Flower comes out on May 8.  It is the first book in A Magic Garden Mystery series.  I cannot wait to read it.  Best Beach Ever by Wendy Wax will be out on May 22.  

The Marmalade Murders by Elizabeth J. Duncan is the ninth book in A Penny Brannigan Mystery series.  Mrs. Lloyd has wrangled Penny Brannigan into assisting with the annual Llanelen agriculture show.  Penny and Victoria Hopkirk co-own Llanelen Spa in Llanelen, North Wales.  They are accepting the domestic arts entries and get their instructions from Joyce Devlin, president of the show committee.  A half an hour before the deadline, they notice that Florence Semble has yet to drop off her entries and give her a call.  It seems that someone had telephoned and told her she could drop off her entries the next morning (odd).  Penny is judging the children’s pet competition the next day when a little girl gets upset because her grandmother, Gaynor Lewis failed to show up.  Gaynor is not the only thing missing at the agriculture show.  Florence’s carrot cake and her marmalade entries have disappeared as well.  Joyce’s dog soon finds Florence’s cake under a table in the judging tent along with Gaynor Lewis.  Was someone trying to eliminate the competition?  Penny looks into the victim’s life to see who could have wished her harm and soon discovers that these competitions are taken seriously by the competitors.  One women has something to important to tell Penny, but she ends up dead before she can speak with her.  Penny needs to work quickly to expose the killer or she could be next. 

The Marmalade Murders can be read alone.  The information a reader needs is included in the book.  I thought The Marmalade Murders was well-written and had a nice pace which made the story easy to read and enjoy.  The characters are established and relatable (especially to those who live in small towns).  Mrs. Lloyd and Florence are delightful.  They provide levity to the story.  I especially appreciate that the main character is in her 50s.  It is a refreshing change from other cozy mysteries where the characters are in their late 20s and early 30s. Penny is smart, friendly, caring and level-headed.  The village of Llanelen is charming and the author’s descriptions of the Welsh countryside brought it alive for me.  Llanelen is a small village where the people grew up together, everyone knows each other’s business, and the rumor mill is alive and well.  I think it is funny that after living in Llanelen for thirty years, Penny is still considered an outsider.  The mystery has several suspects who each have a good motive for doing in the victim.  I liked the misdirection that could easily lead readers down the wrong path.  The investigation consists of Penny asking questions of the various townspeople.  I felt that the story could have used some action.  Inspector Bethan Morgan is a friendly detective who values Penny’s input into the case.  She realizes that Penny has access to information that she does not.  I did enjoy the historical information on Speke Hall (there really is a Speke Hall outside Liverpool).  The Speke Hall in the book has a priest hole and an eavesdropper (just like the real Speke Hall).  The Marmalade Murders has a sweet, heartwarming moment at the end.  I am giving The Marmalade Murders 4 out of 5 stars (I liked it).  It was lovely to visit Llanelen again and spend time with Penny, Mrs. Lloyd and the other villagers.  I look forward to returning to Wales in the next A Penny Brannigan Mystery. 

Thank you for stopping by today.  I will return on Friday with my review of The Road Home by Beverly Lewis.  I hope you have a beautiful spring day.  Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Soul of the Witch: Witches of Keating Hollow

Greetings!  Deanna Chase is the author of The Jade Calhoun Series, Pyper Raine series, Witches of Keating Hollow series, Last Witch Standing series, Crescent City Fae series, and Witch Island Brides series.  Readers can follow her on Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, and Bookbub.  You can join her readers group--The Coven--on Facebook where you can chat about her books.  

Soul of the Witch by Deanna Chase is the first installment in the Witches of Keating Hollow series.  Abigail “Abby” Townsend is returning home to Keating Hollow after receiving news that her father, Lincoln has cancer.  It has been ten years since Abby left after the death of her best friend, Charlotte.  Abby has felt guilty since that day and has not created a potion since then.  Abby arrives in town and is surprised when she sees Clay Garrison outside Townsend’s Keating Hollow Brewery which is owned by her father.  She wishes to avoid him since Abby does not look her best but ends up in an accident which brings him over immediately (of course).  The attraction between Clay and Abigail is palpable. Abby knows a relationship is not possible since she has no intention of staying in Keating Hollow.  Clay has just gotten out of a bad marriage and has his eight-year-old daughter, Olive to consider.  Lincoln is ill from the chemotherapy and none of the potions they have obtained are helping.  Abby wants to alleviate his symptoms, but her magic is blocked.  What will it take for Abby to have full use of her powers again?  Clay has the fight of his life before him.  His ex-wife has decided to seek custody of Olive, and Clay will need his wits about him if he to win this battle to keep Olive safe.  Can Abby overcome the past, so she can have a bright future?  Come along to Keating Hollow to find out what happens with Clay, Abby and Olive in this magical tale.

Soul of the Witch is the story of witches, family, friendship, magic, guilt, tragedy, lost love, forgiveness and so much more.  The Townsend family has four girls:  Faith, Noel, Yvette and Abby who were raised by their father, Lincoln.  Soul of the Witch focuses on Abby.  The point-of-view alternates between Abby and Clay.  I like that we get to see things from each character’s perspective.  Soul of the Witch is well written and has a steady pace.  The story contains great characters with my favorites being Daisy and Olive.  Val is the villain of the story and she adds drama (one of those characters that you love to dislike).  It allows readers to see what Clay will do to protect his daughter (we get to see his core beliefs).  Abby is a complex character.  She has been living in New Orleans where she earns a living creating soaps and lotions infused with a touch of magic as well as selling her art.  Abby has a boyfriend who has become focused on himself (his career and how Abby can help him succeed).  She needs to understand what exactly happened ten years ago which means talking to Charlotte’s mother.  To move forward with her life, Abby needs to forgive herself.  Keating Hollow is a small town where everyone knows your business.  The descriptions of the delectable delights available at A Spoon Full of Magic will have your mouth watering and wishing you could transport yourself into the story.  For those of you that enjoy alcoholic beverages, there are some creative brews available at Townsend’s Keating Hollow Brewery (I am amazed at the various flavors).  My only negative comment is there is some predictability.  Soul of the Witch is a charming paranormal romance novel.  My rating for Soul of the Witch is 4 out of 5 stars (I liked it).  There is a scene near the end that will just melt your heart (one of those “ahhhh” moments).  It is a heartwarming, magical story that will delight fans of Denna Chase (click her name to discover the authors other novels).  Heart of the Witch is the next book in Witches of Keating Hollow series.

Thank you for joining me today.  I will be featuring The Marmalade Murders by Elizabeth J. Duncan on Thursday.  It is the latest novel in The Penny Brannigan Mystery series.  I hope you have a delightful day.  Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader 

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Murder in the Locked Library: A Book Retreat Mystery

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

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

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

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

The Avid Reader

Monday, April 23, 2018

Dead Girl Running: Cape Charade Novel

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

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

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

The Avid Reader  

Sunday, April 22, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

The Avid Reader

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Plain Confession: A Stone Mill Amish Mystery

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

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

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

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

The Avid Reader 

Friday, April 20, 2018

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

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

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

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

The Avid Reader