12 Days at Bleakly Manor by Michelle Griep is the first book in Once Upon a Dickens Christmas. Clare Chapman lost everything nine months ago. She is surprised when she receives an invitation to spend twelve days Bleakly Manor. If Clare lasts the full duration, she will receive a sum of 500 pounds. When Clare arrives at the manor, she finds she was not the only person to receive the unusual invitation and promised something in return. Ben Lane was arrested on his way to marry Clare for a crime he did not commit. He was promised his freedom if he stays through the twelfth day of Christmas. Their anonymous host has decided that only one of the guests will win their promised prize. Which guest will last the full twelve days and what is the person willing to do to win?
12 Days at Bleakly Manor is a well-crafted and entertaining novel. It is short, but it is packed full of action and intrigue. The mystery was delightful (see if you can figure out the culprit in this one) and the characters interesting. I like the Christian beliefs expressed in the story (compassion, prayer, faith, forgiveness, second chances, God is in control, trust, and hope). The Christian theme is light but the point is gotten across. My rating for 12 Days at Bleakly Manor is 4 out of 5 stars (I liked it). The author combined Bleak House by Charles Dickens with And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie in 12 Days at Bleakly Manor. I appreciated the colorful, unique characters (especially the lady with the mice) that Ms. Griep created. I am looking forward to the next installment in Once Upon a Dickens Christmas in A Tale of Two Hearts.
15 Minutes of Flame is the 3rd novel in A Nantucket Candle Maker Mystery series. It can be read as a standalone for those new to the series. Christin Brecher upped her game with 15 Minutes of Flame. Stella Wright owns Wick & Flame on Nantucket Island, Massachusetts. It is interesting learning about unique candles and how to make them in each book. This time Stella teaches the Candleers how to make clock candles. I enjoyed the word imagery describing Nantucket Island especially the Morton house. I can understand why Stella loves the beautiful old home. Stella is a likeable and relatable protagonist. She is a clever, friendly, kind, and brave. Stella stands up for herself and her friends. She is quick to notice details and discern clues. Stella also has a knack for getting people to talk which is helpful in her investigations. There are a variety of quirky characters including Old Holly, Agnes, Jameson Bellows, and Brenda Worthington. The mystery was fascinating. I like how the modern mystery weaves effortlessly with the historical one. There were a variety of suspicious suspects. There are some great twists as well. It was fun following Stella as she worked to solve the two whodunits. Who does not love a mystery that involves a treasure map? There was a good wrap up of both mysteries with the exception of one little detail (I cannot say because it would be a spoiler). The ending was satisfying and just what I had hoped would happen. 15 Minutes of Flame is my favorite book so far in this series. I am eager for Stella's next adventure. 15 Minutes of Flame is a delightful whodunit with clock candles, scary skeletons, a tumbling tree, a missing map, creepy cobwebs, and a curious candlemaker.
Three Truths and a Lie by Lisa Gardner is a wonderful mystery novella. Detective D.D. Warren has been asked to speak at the yearly Writers Police Academy in Wisconsin. She is to provide details on what a homicide detective really does during a day (or a case). The speech is titled Guide to Policing. Her husband, Alex Wilson talked her into coming to the conference. There is an old game called three truths and a lie. She is going to tell the details about a case and the class has to guess what the lie is (and we get to figure out who the killer is).
Three Truths and a Lie is wonderful. I read it straight through. It is well-written and engaging. It has a great flow (pace). I thought the mystery was easy to solve but I loved it. The author provided great clues for the reader. I give Three Truths and a Lie 5 out of 5 stars. This was my first book by Lisa Gardner, but I will definitely be reading more of her books (especially about D.D. Warren). Lisa Gardner gives us an interesting character.
I received a complimentary copy of Three Truths and a Lie from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
30 Second Death by Laura Bradford is the second book in A Tobi Tobias Mystery series. Tobi's friend Carter McDade needs a little help. He is a hairdresser for the Central West End Theater and has been having a hard time with the temperamental and troublesome Fiona Renoir. Carter ended up having an extremely vocal argument with her at the theater and is afraid of losing his job (which he loves). Frank Martindale, the theater's owner, will not go against Fiona, because she is his niece (which is why she has a job along with the fact that no one else would put up with her antics and diva attitude). Tobi decides to help Carter by giving Fiona a role in the Salonquility commercial. Tobi immediately regrets her act of kindness when Fiona causes drama on the set (upsetting the crew). They get through the first two segments of the commercial and take a short break before they start the hair dying portion of the commercial. Tobi is getting ready to return to the set when she hears Carter scream. She rushes in and finds him staring at Fiona on the floorâdead! Thanks to the very public argument Carter had with Fiona, he is suspect number one. Grandpa Stu returns to town to help Tobi with the investigation and spend a little quality time with Martha Rapple (which makes Tobi cringe). Tobi, with Grandpa Stu's assistance, needs to whittle down the long suspect list (no one liked Fiona) and find the killer. Will she be able to clear Carter's name before the cops slap him behind bars?
30 Second Death is an easy to read book. There are some cute moments in the story and the details the author allowed me to envision it in my head (an example is Rudder described in pj's, nightcap and slippers). I wish, though, that the author had devoted more time and effort into the mystery. It was obvious who would be murdered and how (the nasty person is always bumped off). I identified the killer early in the novel (very limited suspect pool). I am rating 30 Second Death 3 out of 5 stars. Tobi has the maturity of a teenager girl at times (with regard to her personal life). Grandpa Stu's relationship with Martha Rapple makes her want to throw up. This fact is frequently mentioned. Then the parrot, Rudder makes fun of her laugh (snort, snort). She gets annoyed with the bird (over and over). I admit that I got annoyed with it being mentioned every single time she called the pet store or visited it (repetition of details seems to be a common theme). The whodunit took a backseat in 30 Second Death. More time was devoted to Tobi's relationship with Andy (and the current problem they are experiencing), Mary Fran's noise problem at the pet store, Tobi's need to have sweets and chocolate on hand, and Mary Fran's high school reunion (and getting the chance to reconnect with the guy she liked in high school). I just felt 30 Second Death was lacking (I wanted more, but that is me). Readers who prefer a light, humorous âcozyâ mystery will enjoy 30 Second Death.
48 Hour Lockdown by Carla Cassidy has Evan Duran, a hostage negotiator, heading to Pearson, North Carolina to rescue children and adults who were taken hostage at Sandhurst School for the Gifted and Talented. The case is personal for Evan because his ex-girlfriend, Annalise Taylor is one of the teacher's being held hostage. Evan and Annalise broke up three yeas ago, but he still loves her. Evan will need to utilize all the resources of the Tactical Crime Division is he is to rescue the hostages from people with extreme agenda. 48 Hour Lockdown is the debut of the Tactical Crime Division series. I enjoyed meeting Evan Duran and the other individuals in the Tactical Crime Division. I thought the story was well-written and it moved along swiftly thanks to the action. Evan and Annalise still care for each other. Evan's feelings are obvious from the moment he learns Annalise is being held hostage. I like that the romance was clean (no intimate scenes) and I like how it progressed. The tension was thick as Evan negotiated with the hostage takers who kept shooting out the windows and threatening the hostages. I enjoyed the suspense that kept me swiftly turning the pages. There is a mystery as well which was fun to solve. It was interesting to see how the police handle a hostage situation. I am looking forward to reading Silent Investigation. 48 Hour Lockdown is a riveting romantic suspense with tense situations, a touching romance, complex characters, and cruel kidnappers.
Abiding Mercy by Ruth Reid is An Amish Mercies Novel. Fifteen years prior in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, Roslyn Colepepper is loading groceries into her car. She is attacked and her car is stolen with her eighteen-month-old daughter, Adrianna inside. The FBI are immediately called in. They soon find the abductors car and watch as it goes over a bridge and into the river. They do not find any survivors. Fast forward fifteen years to Posen, Michigan. Faith Pinkham is sixteen years old and works at her families' restaurant, The Amish Table with her sister, mother and cousin. Olivia, Faith's sister, seems to resent Faith and treats her terribly. One day they receive a call that their parents, Mordecai and Irma, were in an accident. It will take them weeks to recover. In the meantime, they must ensure that the farm chores are done and the restaurant continues to earn money. Olivia prefers to spend her time with her Englischer friends, and Faith is afraid that Olivia will soon jump the fence. Luckily, Faith has the help of Gideon Fohrer. As they spend time together, they grow closer. On the fifteenth anniversary of Adrianna's kidnapping, The Detroit News runs an article with a picture of what Adrianna would look like now. Faith's parents return home and life is getting back on track. Then one day Faith's life changes irrevocably. Faith now questions who she is and where she belongs. What does the future hold for her? Faith is embarking on a journey. To see what happens to Faith, you will need to read Abiding Mercy.
Abiding Mercy is a well-crafted story. The book has well-developed characters in an engaging story. I was drawn into the story and read late into the night. We get to see both sides of the situation in Abiding Mercy as the novel tells us Faith's story and the Colepepper's (mostly Roslyn). Ms. Reid did a superb job at weaving the past and present together into one appealing story. My rating for Abiding Mercy is 4.25 out of 5 stars. I did, though, find it a wee bit predictable. Partway into the book, I knew how the story would play out. That did not stop me, though, from devouring the book. There are a couple of unexpected twists. I appreciated that the romantic element was light. I liked the message that God is always with us. He is there to help and guide us (if we want His help). I did feel that the ending was a little rushed. At the end of the book, I am left wondering about the red-haired man. He is a present in different forms throughout the whole book. Who is he? I will be curious to see if he is present in the other books in the series. I would like to know more about Olivia (she needs a book of her own). Abiding Mercy is not your traditional (expected) Amish novel (which I welcomed). I will be eagerly anticipating the next edition in An Amish Mercies series.
Abraham by Jennifer Beckstrand is the second novel in The Petersheim Brothers series. Alfie and Benji Petersheim are eight year old twin brothers who are tired of sleeping in the cellar. They were excited when their plan to marry off their brother, Andrew worked. Unfortunately, their mother turned Andrew's bedroom into her sewing room so she could have a place to escape from Mammi (I don't blame her). So, the twins have turned their attention to Abraham. Abraham seems smitten with Emma Wengerd so the twins come up with a plan to get the pair together. Abraham is a delightful story. Alfie and Benji manage to get themselves into numerous scrapes. Of course, it falls onto big brother, Abraham to assist these mischievous twins. I thought the characters were developed and realistic. They each had insecurities like Abraham's shyness and how he would put himself down. He had such a kind heart and is a thoughtful man. The twins are going to have their work cut out for them matching their shy brother with the lovely and outgoing Emma. It is going to be a bumpy ride especially with Perry in the picture. Jennifer Beckstrand's descriptions allowed me to envision the story and characters. I could just see the twin's grandfather being pushed into the woods in his wheelchair. I could tell that he was having the time of his life. I believe the twins are what is helping the grandfather recover from his stroke. I love the inclusion of Bitsy Weaver. She is my favorite character (I wish I had half her gumption). I was tickled that the author included her in this series. It was interesting to learn about some unique variety of chickens (Emma loves her chickens) like the Silke and their colorful eggs. Abraham is well-written with steady pacing. I did not want to put down this engaging story. I laughed so often while reading this charming tale. Abraham can be read on its own, but I highly recommend Andrew. I cannot wait to read Austin. I have a feeling that the twins are still without their much wanted bedroom and will have to find Austin a mate next. Abraham is an enchanting story with exotic chickens, wily lads, a meddling Mammi, a bothersome boy, a skinflint store owner, and peanut butter problems.
Across the Winding River by Aimie K. Runyan is a rich historical novel. Dr. Beth Cohen regrets that she did not spend more time with her mother when she was dying, and she is not going to make that mistake with her father. His request to look at his old box of World War II mementoes provides Beth with insight into her father and has her on a quest. The story takes place from 1937 to 2007. It goes back in forth in time and switches point-of-view from Beth, Max (Beth's father), and Johanna. Johanna lost touch with her sister after the war and she has wondered all these years what happened to her. Johanna would like to get answers for herself and for her children. We see how the war affected Max and Johanna plus we get answers on Beth's hunt. It sounds confusing, but it is not. It is all beautifully woven together into one complete piece. I like how their stories connected. We get transported back to World War II where Max is serving as a medic and Johanna is an engineer who designs planes. Johanna has a brother in the SS and her sister marries a high-ranking SS officer. Johanna is against everything Hitler stands for and believes in, but she loves her job. We get a look at life inside Germany during the war. Across the Winding River is a well-written with a complex plot and developed characters. The story does play out in an expected manner and the pacing is slow in the beginning. It is a compelling story, though, that will soon capture and hold your interest. The last seventy-five percent is the best part of the book. The pace and tension ramp up. Everything begins coming together and you get that aha moment. Across the Winding River is a captivating story about hope, love, loss, and courage.
The Address is the second novel by Fiona Davis. Sara J. Smythe is the head housekeeper at Langham Hotel in London in June 1884. Sara happens to notice a little girl walking on the ledge outside a hotel room and rushes to rescue her. Theodore Camden, the child's father and an architect, offers Sara a job in New York at The Dakota. The Dakota is a fancy apartment house with hotel amenities. Sara, after some thought, accepts the position and sails for New York. She arrives at The Dakota and finds herself promoted to managerette. Sara works closely with Theo in getting the building ready for its new occupants. Life is full of possibilities in America. Will Sara find the happiness she has been yearning for in America?
Bailey Camden has just been released from Silver Hill, a rehab facility, in New York in 1985. She was hoping to return to her position at Crespo and O'Reilly, but it seems Bailey burned her bridges with them. Her last hope is her cousin, Melinda. Melinda and her twin brother, Manvel own an apartment in the Upper West Side of New York at The Dakota. Bailey has loved the building since she was a child. Her grandfather was a ward of Theodore Camden, who was murdered in that very apartment. Melinda is redecorating and offers the job to Bailey along with a place to live. Melinda's âstyleâ involves ripping out all the beautiful woodwork and vintage features of the gilded age apartment. In the storage area of the building, Bailey uncovers trunks belong to Theodore Camden and Sara Smythe. Secrets that have long been hidden are about to come to light. Bailey embarks on a journey of discovery. Dark family secrets have a way of coming forth into the light.
Address to Die For by Mary Feliz is the first book in A Maggie McDonald Mystery series. Maggie McDonald and her family have picked up moved from Stockton to Orchard View, California (near Silicon Valley). Max (Maggie's hubby) inherited a beautiful old home from his Aunt Kay (a hundred year old California Craftsman). Max has fond memories of the house, barn, and property and is looking forward to moving in. Maggie is a professional organizer and believes she has everything in hand. Things do not go quite as planned (of course). Max goes down the basement to check on the electrical panel (the lights are not working) and stumbles over a pile (he thought it was laundry at first) at the bottom of the stairs. It turns out to be the dead body of the house's caretaker, Javier Hernandez (which explains the dilapidated condition of the house). The police investigate and discover that the electrical panel was rigged to cause a fire when the family started using the electricity. To top it off their moving truck has encountered problems and has been delayed. Thankfully, they can stay in the barn (while the police process the house) since it has electricity and full bathroom. Then Max gets a call from his new boss and finds out that he has to leave for India (for a few weeks) on Monday (it is Labor Day weekend). When it rains it pours. Can the things get any worse? The family takes a walk with their dog, Belle and upon their return the mailbox explodes (not from a bomb). It turns out that Javier reported several incidents of vandalism since Aunt Kay passed away. What is going on and why is there house being targeted? Maggie is inquisitive and cannot help poking around (and asking questions). School opens for the year and incidents start happening at the middle school (nasty ones). Maggie has to run a permission slip over to the school one evening and finds the office door unlocked. She enters and finds the principal, Miss Harrier dead in her office. Miss Harrier was not well-liked which makes for a long suspect list (one way for Maggie to meet the townspeople). All of these incidents are not giving the McDonald family a good feeling about Orchard View. Why was Miss Harrier killed? Is the killer also behind the malicious mischief at the school and the McDonald House? Maggie wants to help the investigation, but will her inquisitiveness put her in the path of a killer.
Address to Die For was a good first book. The town is unusual (the schools do not have buses) with quirky characters, the new home sounds gorgeous (just needs a facelift), and I liked the main characters/family (McDonald family). The mysteries are easily solved if you pay careful attention to the clues provided. The first half of the book is slow paced because of all the details (the family, town, house, etc.) which bog it down a little. The pace does pick up in the second half of the book. I found some of the vandalism offensive because it involved animals (I really wish the author had not included it), but that is just me. Address to Die For is easy to read and is nicely written. I give Address to Die For 4 out of 5 stars (I liked it). I will definitely be reading the next book in A Maggie McDonald Mystery series which is Scheduled to Death.
I received a complimentary copy of Address to Die For from NetGalley (and the publisher) in exchange for an honest evaluation of the novel. The comments and opinions expressed above are strictly my own.
After She's Gone by Lisa Jackson is the third book in the West Coast series. Cassie Kramer and her younger sister, Allie grew up with a famous mother. Their mother, Jenna Hughes was a famous actress. When she was a child, Cassie (and her mother) had a horrible incident with a crazy (and very dangerous) fan. Cassie still has issues with it to this day. However, that did not stop Cassie from moving to Hollywood to try her hand at acting. When her sister, Allie turned eighteen, Cassie encouraged her to join her. Allie was an instant success (with some help from their father). They are filming (actually filming it again) a scene for Allie's latest movie Dead Heat, when Allie turns up missing. When Cassie ends up being the number one suspect, she checks herself into a psychiatric hospital in Portland, Oregon. One night Cassie gets a visit from someone dressed like an old-fashioned nurse (with the cape and nursing cap). The person tells Cassie that her sister is still alive (was she visited by a real person or was it a hallucination). Cassie checks herself out of the hospital the next morning and sets out to find her sister (she thinks she is the only person who can find her). Will Cassie be able to find her sister?
After She's Gone sounded like a great novel of suspense, intrigue, and mystery. It was actually a very predictable book with little intrigue (or suspense). The characters are very unlikable (especially Cassie). Cassie had so many issues (anger, trust, blackouts, hallucinations) that I wanted to commit her. There were so few clues that would help the reader solve the mystery (though it was very easy to figure out). The author used the same phrases and sentences several times throughout the book (it was like she was short on the required word count so she copied and pasted). There is also many pages of Cassie's internal dialogue. It was monotonous (I just started skimming past it after a while). This novel was tedious and dragged on for too long (sorry, but just being truthful). I give After She's Gone 2.5 out of 5 stars.
I received a complimentary copy of After She's Gone from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Against the Paw by Diane Kelly is the fourth book in A Paw Enforcement series. Megan Luz is an officer with the Fort Worth Police Department. Megan's partner is Sergeant Brigit (Megan does not play well with others--a Taser was involved). Megan is a patrol officer and they are currently on the lookout for Ralph Hurley, a dangerous fugitive. He targets females (who are alone), breaks in, steals their debit cards and coerces their PIN from them (awful man). In addition, a peeper has popped up! Megan is determined (and a little fixated) to catch this creeper before he escalates. The press dubs him the Berkley Place Peeper (not very original). The local neighborhood watch is getting involved thanks to Garrett Hawke, president of Berkley Place Neighborhood Watch. Garrett is very proactive and is increasing the neighborhood watch patrols (and getting in the way of the police). Will Megan and Brigit be able to find this guy (without getting into more hot water with the chief)? Of course, Brigit might go on strike. The vet stated that Brigit needs to lose some weight, but Brigit does not agree. Brigit looks forward to her rewarding liver treats (for doing a good job). Megan has her work cut out for her. Join Megan and Brigit in Against the Paw to see if their hard work pays off with an arrest (and treats for Brigit)!
Against the Paw has good writing, some interesting characters, and a good setting of Fort Worth, Texas. I love Brigit's comments (she gets her own chapters). They are hilarious and provide a nice humor to the book. I love how she manages to get her treats despite her diet. Dogs can be stubborn and that is shown with Brigit. She loves her work as long as she gets the appropriate rewards (food). Brigit is a nice contrast to Megan. The story is told is alternating points-of-view: Megan, Brigit, and "Tom" (the peeper). There are parts of the novel that I really did not like. There is one character, Derek "The Big Di--" Mackay that is rude, crude, and sexist. I really wish the author would write him out of the series (he is what prevents this book from being a true cozy mystery). Mackay is sexist and makes horrible (degrading) comments. I do not understand why Megan does not file a sexual harassment complaint with human resources (I would document his comments and find a way to record them). I know it is just a book, but Mackay and his remarks extremely offensive (and they affect my enjoyment of the novel as well as the rating I give it). I thought it was easy to figure out the identity of the peeper. I give Against the Paw 3.75 out of 5 stars. The book does contain some foul language and there are a couple of slow areas. I thought there was a little too much of the book devoted to the romance between Megan and Seth Rutledge (bomb person with the Ft. Worth Fire Department). We get to see them on a date and then a double date (and then there is Sean's mother). Will I read the next book in the series? Yes. I can hope that Mackay gets another Taser taken to his nether regions (that really made me laugh because he deserved it). Also, I like the characters and want to see what happens with them (especially Brigit).
I received a complimentary copy of Against the Paw from NetGalley in exchange for an honest evaluation of the novel.
Alaskan Holiday by Debbie Macomber takes readers to Ponder, Alaska. Josie Avery has spent the last six months working as the chef at Caribou Lake Lodge. The season is over, and Josie is heading back to Seattle to start her new position as sous chef at Chef Douglas Anton's new restaurant. Josie will miss Alaska, the freedom to create unique dishes with local game, Jack Corcoran who supplies game to the lodge and loves to eat, and will especially miss swordsmith, Palmer Saxon. Josie and Palmer spent many hours together during the season. But her mother is her only family and she lives in Seattle. Plus, working for Chef Anton is a wonderful opportunity and she has worked hard to obtain her culinary training. Palmer proposes the night before Josie departs, but she feels she cannot stay (though she is very tempted). The next morning, Josie awakens late and learns she missed the last ferry out of Ponder. Jack insists that this is Palmer's chance to convince Josie to stay in their rustic town (and keep cooking her delicious food). When Josie finally departs for Seattle, the pair want to make their long distance relationship work. Palmer is willing to give Josie the time and space she needs. Reality gets in the way of their plans and a picture of Josie with the handsome chef awakens the green eyed monster in Palmer. Can the magic of Christmas find a way to bring these two star-crossed lovers together?
Alaskan Holiday is a charming story. I loved Debbie Macomber's descriptions of the Alaskan wilderness and the people who live in Ponder. Jack Corcoran's is a delightful character. He is rough around the edges, but a softy inside. He loves to eat and wants to keep his favorite chef in Alaska. Jack provides plenty of humor in Alaskan Holiday. Josie has fallen for the quiet, rugged Palmer Saxon who is a master swordsmith. But she does not want to leave her mother alone in Seattle plus she has gotten her dream job of working for a big name chef. But if two people love each other, life has a way of working things out. Compromise is the key to any relationship. I thought Alaskan Holiday was well-written, with engaging characters and a good flow. While the story does have an expected outcome, it did not hinder my reading pleasure. Debbie Macomber has a way of drawing readers into her books and keeping them entertained. I am giving Alaskan Holiday 4 out of 5 stars. Alaskan Holiday is a light, feel good story which is just what we need during the holiday season.
Alice and Oliver by Charles Bock is the story of Alice's diagnosis with cancer (in 1993) and her struggle to survive. Alice and her husband, Oliver have a five-month old daughter named Doe (poor kid). Alice, Oliver, and Doe are on their way to Alice's hometown to visit her mother for Thanksgiving when Alice becomes very sick. when Alice falls ill and is taken to Dr. Glenn. Dr. Glenn discovers that Alice has an extremely low white count and immediately has her transferred by ambulance to the hospital. The book follows Alice through the hospital, doctor's appointments, struggle to get a nanny, understanding her insurance, billing issues, filling out the endless forms at each doctor, and her various treatments (we get details on each procedure, how the medicines affect her). We get to see how this affects Alice and Oliver (their relationship). Read Alice and Oliver to find out if Alice survives.
Alice and Oliver is written like Alice opened her mouth, started talking and never shut up. We get details on everything (it is too much) from people to rooms (it is excruciating). There is one paragraph that is particularly disgusting, and I highly suggest you avoid it (trust me you do not want to know and have this visual in your head). I really, really did not want to finish this book (I started skimming after the first hundred pages). I give Alice and Oliver 1 out of 5 stars. I just did not enjoy this novel. I read fiction as an escape and this book is more like non-fiction or reality. This type of novel should tug at the reader's heartstrings, but instead I found myself disliking the main characters (especially the husband). The epilogue (takes us to 2010) was unusual. They only thing it really lets us know is if Alice survived. The author's writing style did not help this book. It was disjointed and confusing. You were never sure who was talking (Alice, Oliver). I'm sorry but this novel was just not for me.
I received a complimentary copy of Alice and Oliver in exchange for an honest evaluation of the novel.
Alice's Notions by Tamera Lynn Kraft is set in Burning Bush, West Virginia in April of 1946. Alice Morgan Brighton has returned to Burning Bush after the death of her husband, Joe in the war. She has decided to use her savings to open Alice's Notions. Burning Bush has not been doing well and needs something that will help attract tourists. Alice has come up an idea and runs it past Mr. & Mrs. Toliver. She wants to have a barn quilt tour. Quilt patches will be painted on various barns around the town and, hopefully, the tourists will stay to eat and shop. Gwendolyn Toliver is all in favor of the notion and immediately sets to planning. Rick Morrison, Alice's landlord, raises objections to Alice opening a shop and the tour. Rick is evasive about his business dealings, and he takes numerous out of town trips. Alice signed up to sponsor a European refugee, but Greta Engel from Germany is not what she expected. When Alice sprains her ankle just days before the opening of Alice's Notions, she has no choice but to let Greta stay. What should be a wonderful opportunity for the Burning Bush ends up dividing the townspeople and causing dissention. During the planning, Alice notices that some of her friends are becoming secretive and there is something off about the tour plans. Does someone have a different agenda for the barn tour? Who are they and what is their plan? Alice intends to find out, but she does not know who she can trust.
Alice's Notions is nicely written, and the story has a steady pace. It has a good flow and smooth transitions. Alice's Notions is a story with intrigue, mystery, suspense, romance, and overcoming prejudices and anger. The author captured the setting of a small town in a rural area along with how the people felt and acted. Ms. Kraft captured the time-period with the language, dress, and people's attitudes after the war. It helped that the slang from the 1940s was included along with films and books. I did, though, tire of Rick's use of âdameâ and âdollâ when referring to Alice (it was annoying). Greta Engel was a wonderful addition to Alice's Notions. In the story the author showed how people felt towards Germans after the war. Townspeople would call her Alice's servant or girl (and other derogatory names) which properly reflected how people felt (it wasn't right, but it was the attitude after the war based on fear and prejudice). Greta's misunderstanding of American slang added humor to the story (just the right touch). I enjoyed seeing the relationship progress between Greta and Alice. Alice changed over the course of the book as well. She returned home to Burning Bush because she was afraid to live alone in New York City without her husband. Alice was timid in the beginning. If she is to thwart the evil that has invaded her town, she must step up. The mystery was well constructed, and there will be twists that will surprise readers. There is romance (of course) but it was not over-the-top. There is one steamy kiss. Otherwise, the relationship progressed at a pace congruent to the era. I am giving Alice's Notions 4 out of 5 stars (I liked it). Alice's Notions is an engaging novel that will sweep you back to a small town in 1946 that is the unlikely hotbed of a conspiracy.
All He'll Ever Need by Loree Lough is the first book in A Little Child Lead Shall Them series. Phillip Baker is a unique male Amish character with his Englisch dress and speech. He struggles with the rules of the community. Phillip is more open and friendly than most Amish as we see by his interactions with Emily. Phillip's attitude comes from working among Englischers from an early age and needing to fit in instead of getting picked on. Phillip's faith is weak because he does not understand why God let Rebecca die. Dr. Emily White is suffered heartache and understands what Phillip is going through. She also loves Phillip's adorable son, Gabe. I did feel that the romance progressed at fast pace, but love can happen that way depending on the people and the circumstances. I understood Phillip's struggles with faith and his community's rules. Bishop Fisher had certain set ideas for how people should act and behave. He even disapproved of books that Gabe read. I am glad the author provided an epilogue to nicely wrap up the book. All He'll Ever Need is lovey Amish romance that is a diverting way to spend a couple of hours.
All Murders Final! by Sherry Harris is the third book in A Sarah Winston Garage Sale Mystery series. It is a cold February in Ellington, Massachusetts. Since it is next to impossible to hold garage sales during the winter, Sarah Winston (she is a garage sale organizer) has started a virtual garage sale website. People can list their items for sale (people who live in the area). Sarah monitors the site as well as listing items (and buying items). She thought this would be a great idea and help supplement her income. It is turning out not to be as easy as she thought. Just last night Sarah had problems with a listing when the seller agreed to sell her a tablecloth. Then someone offered the seller a higher amount of money and the seller (Margaret More) backed out of their agreement with Sarah (very unethical). The next day Sarah heads over to Margaret More's house to pick up some items that Margaret is donating to the February Blues garage sale at the Air Force base, and Sarah finds Margaret dead in her car. The tablecloth in question (from the virtual listing) is shoved in her mouth. Sarah immediately calls the police. While Sarah is waiting for the police to show up, someone sends her a photo on PopIt (a photo site like Snapchat). The photo shows Sarah standing by Margaret's car waiting for the police (it then disappears). Who is watching her and why? Sarah sets out to find the killer (she just cannot help herself). But Sarah keeps getting threats. Sarah seeks help from her ex-husband, Police Chief CJ Hooker (who has been cold and distant lately towards Sarah). Will Sarah be able to solve the crimes without becoming the next victim?
All Murders Final! was a little disappointing to me. There seemed to be more focus on the love triangle between Sarah, CJ, and Seth Anderson than on the mysteries (I am tired of love triangles). The book was easy to read, had a good pace (flow), and was just the right length for a cozy mystery. I liked the mysteries (murder and stalker) though there is a definite lack of clues (you can figure out the killer and stalker without them) until just before the reveal. The author did a good job at trying to misdirect the reader. This is the third book in the series, but it can be read as a stand-alone novel. I give All Murders Final! 3.5 out of 5 stars. I just wanted a more difficult mystery and a lot less romance. One thing that was annoying were the many references to fluffernutter sandwiches (which is peanut butter and marshmallow fluff on bread--sounds disgusting) throughout the novel (they are actually trying to make it the Massachusetts state sandwich). Will I read the next book in the series? Yes. I will give it another go and see if there is improvement. One thing I learned from All Murders Final! is that virtual garage sale sites are dangerous. The author did provide some helpful safety tips at the end of the novel regarding these sites (the danger is in the delivery or pick up of items).
I received a complimentary copy of All Murders Final! from NetGalley (and the publisher) in exchange for an honest review of the novel.
All Signs Point to Murder by Connie di Marco is the second novel in A Zodiac Mystery series. Julia Bonatti is a bridesmaid in her friend, Geneva Leary's wedding. The wedding is about to start, but no one can find Moira, Geneva's sister. The wedding proceeds without the missing bridesmaid and goes off without a hitch. After the ceremony, Moira is found collapsed at the bottom of a set of stairs. She claims she was not drunk this time (sound suspicious). During the dancing, Sally Stark, the wedding planner, collapses on the dance floor. Moira states it was supposed to be her. Geneva's marriage is starting off with a bang. Julia is sleeping at the Brooke Leary Ramer's house when she hears shots ring out. She heads downstairs and Rob Ramer enters the house from the garage. Rob states he shot an intruder. Julia enters the garage and finds a hooded figure on the floorâit is Moira. Moira dies before reaching the hospital. Geneva asks Julia to investigate Moira's death. Someone, though, does not appreciate Julia's meddling. Julia uses her astrological knowledge to help her uncover the facts and determine what happened to Moira. Will the killer let her share her knowledge with the police or will Julia end up the next victim?
All Signs Point to Murder may be the second book in A Zodiac Mystery series, but it can be read alone. All Signs Point to Murder is easy to read except for the astrological sections. The information provided is not written in a way for lay people to understand (the terms are not explained). It was gobbledygook to me. I do, though, like that Julia uses astrological information to solve crimes. It is unique. I just wish it was written in a way that was easier to understand (for people not familiar with astrology). The mystery is intriguing and slightly complex. Unfortunately, I identified the guilty parties (and the victim) before Moira was pronounced dead. I believe many readers, though, will be surprised. The reason why Moira was killed is what kept me reading. My rating for All Signs Point to Murder is 3 out of 5 stars. I do feel that the author included too much detail. Julia hunting for parking spots, walking instead of driving to avoid hunting for a parking spot (it must be difficult to park in San Francisco), the cost of parking in San Francisco, looking through each item in Moira's apartment, the size of the goose egg on her head, etc. It was nice to see Cheryl (from The Madness to Mercury) get a happy outcome. Will I read the next book in A Zodiac Mystery series? I am undecided. It will depend on the mystery in the next installment.
All the Best People is a new novel by Sonja Yoerg is the story of Carole LaPorte and her family. Carole is forty-four years old, married and has three children. Lately, Carole has been having trouble concentrating and she has been hearing things (that people are mocking her, talking behind her back, the cat is evil). Carole is afraid to tell her husband about her troubles for fear of ending up in Underhill State Hospital like her mother, Solange Gifford. Alison, Carole's daughter, can tell something is wrong with her mother, but no one will listen to her. She tries to find another way to help her mother. Alison is becoming a young woman and needs her mother's love and guidance. Janine, Carole's younger sister, is a widow and has her eyes on Greg Bayliss, Alison's teacher, as her new husband. Then April Honeycutt, the new special education teacher, and Greg start spending time together. Janine is not going to let April take away her prize. Solange has been in Underhill since she was thirty-four years old. Her husband, Osborn had her committed after the birth of Janine leaving the girls in the care of his sisters. Carole continues to get worse and starts withdrawing from her family. Pick up All the Best People to find out what happens with Carole, how Solange ended up in Underhill, and if Janine gets her man.
All the Best People shows how mental illness can affect a family and not just one generation. The story is told from Carole, Janine, Alison, and Solange's point-of-view. The book takes us back to when Solange agreed to marry Osborn. Solange came from river people in Burlington, Vermont and Osborn from the upper class. This pairing is doomed right from the beginning. A trial case of Ploof v. Putnam divides Osborn and Carole as well as the citizens of Burlington. The changing viewpoints made it difficult to get into the story. I wish the story had been told from third person. The pace of the book slowed down considerably during Solange's story which I did not enjoy. How Solange ended up in Underhill was a necessary part of the story. However, it was predictable by delving into the division of the classes. I knew where the story would go as soon as the read that Solange and Osborn were from different sections of town. I give All the Best People 2 out of 5 stars. The book is full of unlikeable characters. The only person I found endearing was Lester. I found information to be repeated often throughout the story and the ending was a letdown. A blue box and a pearl figure prominently into the story, but I did not get why (except to represent water). The blurb for the story hints at magic, but the only magic is Alison reading spells from books (there was a definite lack of supervision). I was never able to get into the All the Best People. I did like some of the references to shows and items from the 70s (I was a little girl in the 70s). The author handles the serious issue of mental illness very well. She showed how mental illness was treated in the late 30s and in the 70s. All the Best People was not the right novel for me, but I do recommend Ms. Yoerg's House Broken.