Book Spotlight and Giveaway: It’s a Mad, Mad Murder by Cindy Vincent

BNR Mad, Mad Murder

 

About the book, It’s a Mad, Mad Murder

  • Series: Maddie Montgomery
  • Cozy Culinary Mystery / Women Sleuths / Amateur Sleuths
  • Publisher: Whodunit Press
  • Date of Publication: November 15, 2021
  • Number of Pages: 303 pages
  • Scroll down for Giveaway

Cover Mad Mad Murder Things are a little too hot to handle for famous culinary-mystery author, Maddie Montgomery, in her normally quiet neighborhood set in the Houston suburb of Abbott Cove. Especially after her neighbor, Randall Rathburn, has a heart attack and rams his vintage car into a light pole. Though his death is ruled an accident, another of Maddie’s neighbors insists that Randall was murdered, and he implores her to investigate. But Maddie isn’t on board with the half-baked idea, not until she attends the over-the-top funeral where she develops some suspicions of her own. That’s when she decides to take the leap from crime writing to crime solving. After all, she doesn’t exactly want a killer running around her cul-de-sac . . .

But the murder of her neighbor isn’t the only mystery she’s got cooking. When her publisher goes belly-up and her agent happily dumps her in favor of younger, dystopian authors, Maddie boils over into a full-blown career crisis. And while she tries to simmer down, her new role as amateur sleuth only stirs the pot even more. Then from car chases to stakeouts, and from a neighbor who owns a suspicious amount of spy gadgetry to a widow who seems a little too merry, Maddie’s first case has her head spinning like the beaters on her handheld mixer. And soon Maddie finds that solving a crime in “real life” is a lot more difficult . . . and a lot more dangerous . . .

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Goodreads


About the author, Cindy Vincent

AuthorPhotoCindy copy_1Cindy Vincent is the award-winning author of the Buckley and Bogey Cat Detective Capers, and the Tracy Truworth, Apprentice P.I., 1940s Homefront Mysteries. She is also the creator of the Mysteries by Vincent murder mystery party games and the Daisy Diamond Detective Series games for girls. She lives in Houston, Texas with her husband and an assortment of fantastic felines.  Cindy is a self-professed “Christmas-a-holic,” and she starts the planning for her ever-expanding, “extreme” Christmas lights display sometime in the early spring.

Connect with Cindy:

WEBSITE  ◆ BUCKLEY AND BOGEYFACEBOOK  ◆ AMAZON  ◆  GOODREADS


Giveaway

THREE WINNERS! 

1ST PRIZE:

Signed copy of It’s a Mad, Mad Murder, a sweetheart-neckline apron, a set of multicolored, Farberware measuring cups, and a set of stainless steel, oblong measuring spoons.
2ND & 3RD PRIZES:

Signed copies of It’s a Mad, Mad Murder and novella, Yes, Carol . . . It’s Christmas!, which features a heroine trying to get back home to Texas.
(US only; ends midnight, CDT, 5/26/2022)

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Review and Giveaway: Fatal Code by Natalie Walters

Fatal Code Blog Tour

 

About the book, Fatal Code

  • Series: The Snap Agency (Book 2)
  • Fiction / Christian / Suspense / Romance
  • Publisher: Revell
  • Date of Publication: May 1, 2022
  • Number of Pages: 320 pages
  • Scroll down for Giveaway!

Cover Hi Res Fatal CodeIn 1964, a group of scientists called the Los Alamos Five came close to finishing a nuclear energy project for the United States government when they were abruptly disbanded. Now the granddaughter of one of those five scientists, aerospace engineer Elinor Mitchell, discovers that she has highly sensitive information on the project in her possession–and a target on her back.

SNAP agent and former Navy cryptologist Kekoa Young is tasked with monitoring Elinor. This is both convenient since she’s his neighbor in Washington, DC, and decidedly inconvenient because . . . well, he kind of likes her.

Natalie Walters sucks you into the global race for space domination in this perfectly paced second installment of her SNAP Agency romantic suspense series.

Praise for this book:

Fatal Code is reminiscent of cold war spy thrillers and riveted me to the page as I rooted for Kekoa and Elinor to expose secrets, survive danger, and fall in love.” — Elizabeth Goddard, bestselling author of the Rocky Mountain Courage series

“Warning: once you pick it up, you won’t be able to put it down!” — Andrew Huff, author of the Shepherd Suspense series

“Enough suspense to make you need warm milk and a cozy blanket to calm you down.” — Jaime Jo Wright, author of The Souls of Lost Lake and the Christy award-winning novel The House on Foster Hill

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

AmazonBaker Book House | Christianbooks.com | Barnes and Noble|Other Revell Affiliates | Goodreads


Author Pic WaltersAbout the author, Natalie Walters

Natalie Walters is the author of Lights Out, as well as the Harbored Secrets series. A military wife, she currently resides in Texas with her soldier husband and is the proud mom of three. She loves traveling, spending time with her family, and connecting with readers.

Connect with Natalie:

WEBSITE  ◆  FACEBOOK  ◆  TWITTER  ◆ AMAZON  ◆  GOODREADS ◆ BOOKBUB ◆ INSTAGRAMPINTEREST


My Thoughts

MissMelissLeaping into a series at book two is always a little bit risky. There’s the worry about whether or not the characters and situations will make sense without the back story of the first book.

Well, readers who are leaping into the world of The Snap Agency with Natalie Walker’s second book in the series, Fatal Code, need not worry. All the necessary information comes out in this well-paced story that combines the suspense of the race for aerospace dominance with enough romance to keep things interesting and a really witty overall voice.

Not that this is a comedy. It’s not. But Natalie Walters wonderfully captures the gentle humor of every-day situations. An example of this is when the vibrant and dimensional lead character Kekoa Young muses that he’s just finished a deadly-dangerous assignment but is dreading speaking to his father on the phone.

XTRA Praise 1

His concern over the fact that he’s got to “babysit” his neighbor Elinor, whom he is attracted to is also very plausible. It’s this human factor that makes Fatal Code so enjoyable.

In fact, it’s the byplay between the characters that really grabbed me. The scenes where Kekoa and his colleagues are bantering about food choices while also going over mission notes is the perfect depiction of workplace relationships, and really sold me on the whole premise.

I’m a sucker for anything to do with aerospace, and I love character-driven stories. This novel checked both of those boxes. I also enjoyed the audiobook version, which I’ve been listening to all week (the narrator is great, and has a little bit of an Asian lilt in her voice that really sells the Kekoa’s Hawaiian origin.) because the story is just delightful.

Intriguing, entertaining, romantic, and suspenseful, Natalie Walters’ second The Snap Agency novel, Fatal Code has it all.

Goes well with: A hamburger with eggs and gravy.


Giveaway

TWO WINNERS! 

Each receive copies of Lights Out and Fatal Code!
(US only; ends midnight, CDT, 5/20/2022)

Giveaway Fatal Code

 

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5/10/22 BONUS Series Spotlight Hall Ways Blog
5/10/22 Review Jennifer Silverwood
5/11/22 Review StoreyBook Reviews
5/11/22 BONUS Promo LSBBT Blog
5/12/22 Excerpt Chapter Break Book Blog
5/13/22 Review The Plain-Spoken Pen
5/14/22 Deleted Scene 1 All the Ups and Downs
5/15/22 Deleted Scene 2 KayBee’s Book Shelf
5/16/22 Author Interview The Page Unbound
5/17/22 Review Shelf Life Blog
5/18/22 Top 9 List Boys’ Mom Reads
5/19/22 Review Bibliotica

 

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Review: The Storm Girl, by Kathleen McGurl

The Storm Girl

 

About the Book, The Storm Girl

Cover: The Storm GirlThe gripping new historical novel from the USA Today bestselling author of The Girl from Bletchley Park and The Forgotten Secret.

A heartbreaking choice. A secret kept for centuries.

1784. When Esther Harris’s father hurts his back, she takes over his role helping smugglers hide contraband in the secret cellar in their pub. But when the free traders’ ships are trapped in the harbour, a battle between the smugglers and the revenue officers leads to murder and betrayal – and Esther is forced to choose between the love of her life and protecting her family…

Present day. Fresh from her divorce, Millie Galton moves into a former inn overlooking the harbour in Mudeford and plans to create her dream home. When a chance discovery behind an old fireplace reveals the house’s secret history as a haven for smugglers and the devastating story of its former residents, could the mystery of a disappearance from centuries ago finally be solved?

Sweeping historical fiction perfect for fans of Lucinda Riley, Kathryn Hughes and Tracy Rees.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (UK) | Amazon (US) | Goodreads


About the author, Kathleen McGurl

Kathleen McGurlKathleen McGurl lives near the coast in Christchurch, England. She writes dual timeline novels in which a historical mystery is uncovered and resolved in the present day. She is married to an Irishman and has two adult sons. She enjoys travelling, especially in her motorhome around Europe but home is Mudeford, where this novel is set.

Connect with Kathleen:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

MissMelissThe Storm Girl is my first Kathleen McGurl nsovel, but it won’t be my last.

A dual-timeline story, this book follows Esther, in 1784, beginning with an opening faintly reminiscent of Alfred Noyes’s “The Highwayman,” though it quickly moves beyond that trope. Our historical heroine is no lovestruck maiden idly braiding her hair in moonlit windows; rather she is a vibrant and dimensional young woman, acting with her own agency.

Similarly, recent divorcee Millie, our present day heroine, is bright and curious, and game for minor adventures. We first meet her as she is rescuing kittens (and a mama cat) from a blocked off fireplace, and her helper Nick, sparks her love of a good mystery when he suggests that said fireplace would be worth restoring (something she was already considering.)

Both women end up tangled in a mystery involving smuggling, which we modern audiences think of as a romantic form of crime, but is really very violent and dangerous, still, the puzzle that begins in the past is resolved in the present in a gripping story that is well plotted and perfectly paced.

What I especially loved about this book was that the author captures the language and tone of each period with great accuracy. You really don’t need to be told the date of each chapter; rather the writing makes it obvious where the story is in time.

I also loved that there were equal parts suspense and romance. Nothing ever got TOO tense or TOO fluffy; instead there was balance, and that made for a delightful read.

I’ve long been a fan of parallel narratives. Now I’m a fan of Kathleen McGurl and The Storm Girl as well.

Goes well with: hot tea and blueberry cobbler with a dash of firelight.

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Spotlight and Giveaway: Turn To Me, by Becky Wade

BNR Turn to Me

 

About the book, Turn to Me (a Misty River romance)

  • Series: A Misty River Romance
  • Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
  • Date of Publication: May 3, 2022
  • Number of Pages: 416 pages
  • Scroll down for Giveaway!

Cover Turn to MeHis promise will cost him far more than he imagined. 

Guilt has defined Luke Dempsey’s life, but it was self-destructiveness that landed him in prison. When his friend and fellow inmate lay dying shortly before Luke’s release, the older man revealed he left a string of clues for his daughter, Finley, that will lead her to the treasure he’s hidden. Worried that she won’t be the only one pursuing the treasure, he gains Luke’s promise to protect her until the end of her search.

Spunky and idealistic, Finley Sutherland is the owner of an animal rescue center and a defender of lost causes. She accepts Luke’s help on the treasure hunt while secretly planning to help him in return–by coaxing him to embrace the forgiveness he’s long denied himself.

As they draw closer to the final clue, their reasons for resisting each other begin to crumble, and Luke realizes his promise will push him to the limit in more ways than one. He’ll do his best to shield Finley from unseen threats, but who’s going to shield him from losing his heart?

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

AmazonBaker Book House | BookBub | Goodreads


About the author, Becky Wade

Author Photo Wade © Emilie Hendryx of E.A. Creative PhotographyBecky Wade is the 2018 Christy Award Book of the Year winner for True to You. She is a native of California who attended Baylor University, met and married a Texan, and moved to Dallas. She published historical romances for the general market, then put her career on hold for several years to care for her children. When God called her back to writing, Becky knew He meant for her to turn her attention to Christian fiction. Her humorous, heart-pounding contemporary romance novels have won three Christy Awards, the Carol Award, the INSPY Award, and the Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award for Romance. Becky lives in Dallas, Texas with her husband and three children.

Connect with Becky

WEBSITE  |  FACEBOOK  | BECKY’S CHEER SQUAD  | TWITTER  |  AMAZON  |  GOODREADS  | BOOKBUB | INSTAGRAM | PINTEREST

Connect with Bethany House Publishers

WEBSITE | INSTAGRAM | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | TIKTOK | GOODREADS


Giveaway

 TWO WINNERS! 

AUTOGRAPHED COPIES OF TURN TO ME!
(US only; ends midnight, CDT, 5/12/2022)

Giveaway Turn to Me

 

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Review and Giveaway: Comfort Zone, by Kimberly Fish

BNR Comfort Zone

 

About the book Comfort Zone

  • Genre: Contemporary / Second Chance Romance / Women’s Fiction
  • Publisher: Fish Tales Publishing
  • Date of Publication: November 1, 2021
  • Number of Pages: 289 pages
  • Scroll down for Giveaway!

Cover Comfort ZoneThe award-winning author of Comfort Songs, Comfort Plans, and Comfort Foods digs into the life of single-mom Anna Weber, an appraiser who gives value to other people’s found treasures. On assignment to research a handwritten sheet of music, Anna helps a stranded motorist, only to discover she’s rescued retired NFL quarterback Jack Moses. His confidence and fascination for solving problems makes him impossible for Anna to ignore even as they both dart along separate deadlines to save the finances at an inner-city school. Little does Anna know that as she wrestles with secrets from her past and a suspicious approach to people, Jack is running too—dodging women, pro athletes, and a future with no definable end zone.

As a nemesis threatens Anna’s young daughters, these two unlikely partners discover that it’s in stepping back from years of self-sufficiency that Anna and Jack can find the best treasure of all: a series of sweet, second chances.

Praise and Awards for this book:

“Kimberly Fish’s Comfort books are wonderful, charming stories set in the Texas Hill Country. Fans of small towns family relationships will enjoy these feel-good books. Two thumbs up!” – Jan Moran, USA Today bestselling author of Seabreeze Inn. 

Comfort Zone is a Literary Titan Gold Award winner and a Reader Views Bronze Award winner in romance. It was also a runner-up in the regional fiction category of the New England Book Festival awards.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Goodreads


About the author, Kimberly Fish

Author Photo FishKimberly Fish has been a professional writer in marketing and media for over thirty years, with regular contributions to area newspapers and magazines. As an accidental historian, she wrote two novels, The Big Inch and Harmon General, both based on factual events  in Longview, Texas that changed world history. Kimberly also offers a set of contemporary women’s fiction, based in the Texas Hill Country, that reveal her fascination with characters discovering their grit and sweet, second chances; all four of these novels have won distinguished awards

Connect with Kimberly:

Website | Facebook  |  Twitter I  Amazon  |  Goodreads | YouTube | Instagram | Pinterest | BookBub


XTRA Comfort Zone series graphic

My Thoughts

MissMelissOpening a new Kimberly Fish novel – especially a Comfort Stories novel – is more than just the beginning of a good read. It’s a road trip back to the fictional home town we all wish we were from. It is, as described in this latest installment, Comfort Zone, “a town of free-thinkers,” full of entrepreneurial spirit, a love of art and nature, and kind hearts.

In this visit to Comfort, TX, we meet Anna, an appraiser of relics and treasures, and Jack, a retired NFL football player. It would be easy to predict that a gift to the local school brings them together and things progress from there, but that would be a gross simplification of this story,  which is more than a second-chance romance, but a nuanced character study of two people who have been banged about a bit by life and circumstance.

I really loved getting to know Jack and Anna (and her two daughters). Anna’s job, especially, fascinated me. Part detective, part storyteller… I’d love to spend an hour or two just hearing the tales she might tell. All four of these new characters were as real and dimensional, with plausible flaws and anxieties, as anyone you might meet at a local coffee shop (or taco truck, or lavender farm), and I especially appreciated the way Anna observed her friend Lacy’s romance with local celebrity chef Rudy, which relationship was the focus of the previous entry into the Comfort Stories collection, Comfort Foods.

My favorite character, however, has got to be Comfort itself. It’s a slightly idealized small town, and it’s not difficult to imagine the various women (and men) in Anna’s friend-circle getting together to share their overlapping lives and businesses. Comfort is one of those places you just know has wide sidewalks, friendly dogs, excellent coffee, a decent bookstore, and real mail in the mailboxes.

If you enjoy romances between working adults, stories where there’s enough mystery to keep the plot going without being a whodunnit – mysteries of discovery and self-discovery – and a cup or two of cozy life, then the Comfort series as a whole, and this novel, Comfort Zone, specifically, will satisfy your heart and mind. More than that, you’ll feel like you’ve visited the hometown you were never actually born in.

Goes well with: a farmhouse breakfast – dark roast coffee, toast, eggs, and bacon.


Giveaway

 ONE WINNER!

Autographed copy of Comfort Zone,
hand-painted note card from artist Elaine McMillan,
and NFL official Silver Series football signed by Jack Moses.
(US only; ends midnight, CDT, 4/29/2022)

 

Giveaway Comfort Zone

 

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Visit the Other Great Blogs on This Tour

or Visit the tour page at Lone Star Literary Life.

4/19/22 Review Jennie Reads
4/19/22 BONUS Promo Hall Ways Blog
4/20/22 Review Bibliotica
4/20/22 BONUS Promo LSBBT Blog
4/21/22 Review Carpe Diem Chronicles
4/22/22 Review StoreyBook Reviews
4/23/22 Review Reading by Moonlight
4/24/22 Review Rox Burkey Blog
4/25/22 Review Book Fidelity
4/25/22 BONUS Promo All the Ups and Downs
4/26/22 Review The Plain-Spoken Pen
4/27/22 Review It’s Not All Gravy
4/28/22 Review Forgotten Winds

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Spotlight and Excerpt Tour: The Summer Getaway, by Susan Mallery

About the Book, The Summer Getaway The Summer Getaway

  • Publisher: HQN; Original edition (March 15, 2022)
  • Hardcover: 416 pages

One woman discovers the beauty in chaos in this poignant and heartwarming story about the threads that hold family together from #1 New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery.

One woman discovers the beauty in chaos in this poignant and heartwarming story about the threads that hold family together from #1 New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery.

With her divorce settlement about to run out and a mortgage she can’t afford, Robyn Caldwell needs a plan for her future. She nurtured her family and neglected herself. But how’s she supposed to think when her daughter has become the most demanding bride ever, her son won’t even consider college, her best friend is on the brink of marital disaster and her ex is making a monumentally bad decision that could bring everything crashing down on Robyn’s head? So when her great-aunt Lillian invites her to Santa Barbara for the summer, Robyn hops on the first plane.

But it’s hard to run away when you’re the heart of the family. One by one, everyone she left behind follows her across the country. Somehow, their baggage doesn’t feel as heavy in the sun-drenched, mishmash mansion. The more time Robyn spends with free-spirited Lillian, the more she sees the appeal in taking chances—on dreams, on love, on family. Life is meant to be lived on purpose. All she has to do is muster the courage to take a chance on herself.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Pre-order from Amazon | Add to Goodreads


About the Author, Susan Mallery

Susan MalleryOne woman discovers the beauty in chaos in this poignant and heartwarming story about the threads that hold family together from #1 New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery.

With her divorce settlement about to run out and a mortgage she can’t afford, Robyn Caldwell needs a plan for her future. She nurtured her family and neglected herself. But how’s she supposed to think when her daughter has become the most demanding bride ever, her son won’t even consider college, her best friend is on the brink of marital disaster and her ex is making a monumentally bad decision that could bring everything crashing down on Robyn’s head? So when her great-aunt Lillian invites her to Santa Barbara for the summer, Robyn hops on the first plane.

But it’s hard to run away when you’re the heart of the family. One by one, everyone she left behind follows her across the country. Somehow, their baggage doesn’t feel as heavy in the sun-drenched, mishmash mansion. The more time Robyn spends with free-spirited Lillian, the more she sees the appeal in taking chances—on dreams, on love, on family. Life is meant to be lived on purpose. All she has to do is muster the courage to take a chance on herself.

Connect with Susan:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


Read an Excerpt

Since her parents’ divorce four years ago, Cord Caldwell had been enjoying the single life. He was a serial dater who always had a girlfriend. The longest she’d known him to be without someone in his life was maybe three days. Her mother, on the other hand, had waited a year to start dating. She told Harlow that she hadn’t met anyone interesting enough to see more than a couple of times. That had changed about a year ago, when her mom had gotten involved with Jase, a local cardiologist. They’d become a thing, dating exclusively. Her mother rarely shared details, unlike her dad, who sometimes told her too much.

She waited a couple of minutes, but her father showed no signs of ending the call. Finally she caught his eye and tapped on her watch.

“Hey, let me call you back,” he said, his tone low and sexy. “Uh-huh. Me, too.”

Harlow did her best not to gag. Yes, she and her father were both adults, but she didn’t like seeing this side of him. He was her parent, not a friend. But Cord had never been big on boundaries.

“What’s up?” he asked when he’d ended the call.

“We’re back from the charter.” She tossed him the keys. “She’s clean and ready for tomorrow. Austin’s off, and I’m taking out the fishermen. I’ll be back at five thirty.” In the morning. Not her favorite, but part of the job. “You’ll look over the paperwork from the lawyer?”

Her father hesitated just long enough for her to guess the truth. “Dad, why won’t you read through the offer? You have to agree to the terms before we can move forward on buying the business.”

“I’ll get to it.”

“It’s been nearly a week. Can you read it tonight?”

“Sure. Tonight.”

She ignored her surge of frustration. “We talked about this all last summer. You said it was a great idea for us to expand into the easy money of kayak and paddleboard rentals. I did everything you said. I found a good business to buy, I came up with a business plan, I talked to a lawyer, and now we’re ready to present an offer as soon as you say go. Have you changed your mind?”

“I’ve been busy, Harlow. I’ll get to it.”

When? But she knew there was no point in pushing. Her father moved at his own pace.

“Then I guess I’ll see you tomorrow,” she said before walking out of his office.

She collected her handbag, then joined Enid out front.

“What?” her friend asked. “You upset?”

“It’s just my dad. He’s dragging his feet on the purchase.”

“Of the business you want him to buy?”

“Yeah. But I’ll let it go. Come on, you. We’ll have the best girls’ night out ever.”

Enid laughed. “That’s a very high bar.”


Check Out the Other Great Blogs on this Tour

Monday, February 21st: Books Cooks Looks

Tuesday, February 22nd: Reading Reality

Wednesday, February 23rd:SusanLovesBooks

Thursday, February 24th: Kahakai Kitchen

Friday, February 25th: From the TBR Pile

Friday, February 25th: View from the Birdhouse

Sunday, February 27th: Subakka.bookstuff

Monday, February 28th: Laura’s Reviews

Tuesday, March 1st: Bookchickdi

Wednesday, March 2nd: The Bookish Dilettante

Thursday, March 3rd: What is That Book About

Friday, March 4th: The Romance Dish

Sunday, March 6th: The Cozy Book Blog

Monday, March 7th: Girl Who Reads

Tuesday, March 8th: Bibliotica

Wednesday, March 9th: Helen’s Book Blog

Thursday, March 10th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

Friday, March 11th: Book Reviews and More by Kathy

Sunday, March 13th: Novel Gossip

Monday, March 14th: Books and Bindings

 

This Excerpt Tour is hosted by TLC Book Tours.

 

Review and Giveaway: Out of Temper, by Amber Royer

BNR Out of Temper

 

About the Book: Out of Temper (Bean to Bar Mysteries #3)

  • Categories: Cozy Mystery / Women Sleuth / Romance
  • Publisher: Golden Tip Press
  • Date of Publication: February 1, 2022
  • Number of Pages: 264 pages
  • Scroll down for Giveaway!

Out of TemperFelicity Koerber’s bean to bar chocolate shop on Galveston’s historic Strand has been the scene of two murders – both of which she has been instrumental in helping solve. So when she gets invited to demo her chocolate skills aboard a cruise ship sailing out of the local port, she’s excited at the chance to get away from the shop long enough to regain her equilibrium. She even brings her best friend along and makes plans for time at the spa. But when she gets on board, she finds out that she’s been booked for a mystery-themed cruise, and said best friend, Autumn, has to finally deal with the real reasons she quit writing mysteries. Only – if that wasn’t stressful enough – it doesn’t take long before there’s a real murder on the cruise, and someone Felicity knows becomes the prime suspect. When said suspect asks her for help, she can’t exactly say no, can she?

Felicity finds herself surrounded by cruise goers who all had connections to the victim – and finds that both Logan (her business partner, whom she recently kissed) and Arlo (the cop who was once Felicity’s first boyfriend, before she moved away from Galveston) are dealing with the case until more official help can arrive. How will Felicity survive the ensuing awkwardness?

One thing that helps: the retired police dog turned therapy dog she meets on board. Satchmo helps Felicity deal with being back on the water after tragedy in her past – and also helps her uncover a vital clue to the case. Can Felicity unmask the killer and keep a friend from being framed before all the suspects leave the ship?

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

AmazonBarnes and NobleApple BooksKoboGoodreads

Watch the Trailer for This Book


About the Author, Amber Royer

Amber RoyerAmber Royer writes the Chocoverse comic telenovela-style foodie-inspired space opera series, and the Bean to Bar Mysteries. She is also the author of Story Like a Journalist: a Workbook for Novelists, which boils down her writing knowledge into an actionable plan involving over 100 worksheets to build a comprehensive story plan for your novel. She also teaches creative writing and is an author coach. Amber and her husband live in the DFW Area, where you can often find them hiking or taking landscape/architecture/wildlife photographs.  If you are very nice to Amber, she might make you cupcakes.  Chocolate cupcakes, of course! Amber blogs about creative writing technique and all things chocolate.

Connect with Amber

WEBSITE ◆ BLOG ◆ FACEBOOK ◆ TWITTER AMAZON ◆ GOODREADS  ◆INSTAGRAM  ◆  YOUTUBE


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellI’ve long been a fan of cozy mysteries having been raised – rather appropriately – on TV shows like Magnum P.I. (he can believe he’s an action hero all he wants, that show was cozy) and Murder, She Wrote, and on series like Lillian Jackson Braun’s The Cat Who… novels, and the amazing Mrs. Pollifax series by Dorothy Gilman. It’s as if I’ve had a lifetime of training that left me primed and ready for Amber Royer’s “Bean to Bar” series, though alas, I’m only encountering it with this book – book three – Out of Temper.

I’m so sorry I waited this long.

Out of Temper is a breathtakingly brilliant read combining a dynamic cast of quirky characters, led by chocolatier and accidental sleuth, Felicity Koerber, with the perfect “locked room” setting: a cruise ship, and mixing in a murder.

I liked Felicity from the start, and really enjoyed the first-person narrative from her perspective. First person can be tricky to do well, but author Royer handles it deftly, and it really gave this story more impact. Felicity’s best friend, Autumn, who just happens to write mysteries, her colleague Logan, and her longtime-friend Arlo comprise the core cast, but Ash, Craig, Bea, and Bea’s beagle, Satchmo, round out the story providing motive, murder, and a means of solving it (not necessarily in that order – because spoilers).

It will only out me as a dog lover when I confess that after Felicity, Satchmo was my favorite character.

What I liked about this novel was the way Royer balanced the pacing. The business of the convention at sea was intercut nicely  both with Felicitiy’s angst over her lovelife, her legitimate concern about her chocolate making, and her amateur detective work. No element seemed out of place, no thread was too long or too short.

I also want to applaud Royer for working animals into her story so organically. Like small children, animals can take over a story in unpleasant ways if written too sweetly. This author made Satchmo a true character rather than an accessory or a piece of comic relief and I appreciated it immensely. I really like the detail that Felicity encouraged the animal’s friendship with bits of beef given under the table.

If you want a cozy mystery that is equal parts sleuthing and serious chocolate, you need to read Out of Temper.

Goes well with: extra sharp cheddar cheese, a glass of red wine, and a chocolate “salami” from Dude, Sweet Chocolate in Dallas, TX.

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Giveaway

 ONE WINNER 

Signed copy of Out of Temper +

a chocolate bar from French Broad Chocolates!
(US only, ends midnight CST, 3/5/2022)

Giveaway Out of Temper

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Review and Giveaway: Mars Adrift, by Kathleen McFall and Clark Hays

Mars Adrift Review + Giveaway

 

About the book, Mars Adrift (The Halo Trilogy: Book 3) 

  • Categories: Science Fiction / Detective (Hard-Boiled) / Mystery
  • Publisher: Pumpjack Press
  • Date of Publication: February 14, 2022
  • Number of Pages: 300 pages
  • Scroll down for Giveaway!

Mars Adrift -CoverAn interplanetary mystery and a searing critique of the contemporary billionaire quest for Mars. The year is (still) 2188 and Crucial Larsen is officially done with Mars. But just as he’s set to head back to his beloved Earth, meteors crash into the orbital platforms, ravage the luxury domes and knock Halo—the powerful AI running Mars and Earth—offline. And this is no random cosmic event. An invading force has the technology to redirect space rocks at will and intends to level the Five Families.

Their first act? Put a bounty on missing Staff Scientist Melinda Hopwire, Crucial’s ex-lover—the only person left alive who can find the back-up servers to introduce the AI empathy hack, the endgame of the beleaguered Resistance. Crucial has to claw his way across the deadly Choke armed with nothing more than a glue gun, expired maple rum and Sanders, a malfunctioning cybanism, to find Mel and her synthetic perma-kitten Wisp. If he fails, it’s the end for both planets.

Praise for this book:

“A compelling saga, edgy and different…the personal, political, and social issues create a Mars story that is thoroughly absorbing. Other books have attempted to blend the genres of an investigative detective piece with sci-fi, but few achieve such a seamless integration.” – Midwest Book Review

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

AmazonPumpjack PressGoodreads


About the authors, Kathleen McFall and Clark Hays

Author Pic Hays_Mcfall AuthorClark and Kathleen wrote their first book together in 1999 as a test for marriage. They passed.  Mars Adrift is their tenth co-authored book.

Connect with McFall and Hays:

Facebook |  IInstagram

Connect with Kathleen

Amazon | Goodreads | FacebookTwitter

Connect with Clark

Amazon | Goodreads |  Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellThe last time I reviewed a McFall & Hays novel it was Gates of Mars, the first book of this trilogy. (I somehow missed book two, but doing so didn’t seem to adversely effect my understanding or enjoyment of book three.) Back then (July, 2020) I wrote, “It takes a lot of talent to combine a detective plot with a sci-fi setting, and make us care about the characters even when their flaws are all too visible, but McFall and Hays have that talent. They also infuse their work with just enough wry humor to keep things from being overwhelming.”

It was true then, and it’s even more so with this novel, Mars Adrift, the third book in the Halo Trilogy.

I found that I was just as invested in Crucial Larsen’s story as I was a year and a half ago, but I noticed different things in this duo’s writing this time around. Specifically, I love the way the character has grown over the course of these novels. He’s still cantankerous and prone to making poor choices, but he’s also become less self-serving – not entirely, just less. Saving his own family is now slightly more than mere enlightened self-interest.

I was also really struck by the language in Mars Adrift.  Ever snappy, the dialogue in this novel really sings. It’s science fiction with a neo-noir flare, and it’s just a pleasure to read.

McFall & Clark have always used their futuristic fiction to shine a light on contemporary issues – climate change key among them, and this story certainly does that. In a community living under domes to keep atmosphere in, what’s the scariest thing that could happen? Meteors, of course! That technology (construction, alien ships) based on fungi are part of this book is forward-thinking as well, but I hope the authors aren’t offended if I prefer my mushrooms on pizza, at least for now.

Overall, Mars Adrift is a satisfying conclusion to a trilogy that has never lost its freshness. It would be best enjoyed by those who have read books one and two, but I had no trouble following the plot after skipping the middle book, and I feel that if you encountered it first, it wouldn’t be too hard to figure things out from context.

Goes well with: Neapolitan-style wood-fired pizza with mushrooms and onions, and a glass of cold iced tea (sweet or unsweet as you prefer.)


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 ONE WINNER: 

One winner gets autographed copies of all three books in The Halo Trilogy.
(US only. Ends 2/21/22).

GIVEAWAY Mars Adrift

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Review: Shapeshifting by Michelle Ross

ShapeshiftingAbout the book: Shapeshifting: Stories

  • Publisher: Stillhouse Press
  • Paperback: 232 pages

The fourteen spellbinding stories in Michelle Ross’s second collection invite readers into the shadows of social-media perfectionism and the relentless cult of motherhood. A recovering alcoholic navigates the social landscape of a toddler playdate; a mother of two camps out in a van to secure her son’s spot at a prestigious kindergarten; a young girl forces her friends to play an elaborate, unwinnable game. With unflinching honesty and vivid, lyric prose, Ross explores the familial ties that bind us together-or, sometimes, tear us apart.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million | Goodreads


About the author, Michelle Ross

Michelle Ross is the author of three story collections, There’s So Much They Haven’t Told You, winner of the 2016 Moon City Press Short Fiction Award and Finalist for the 2017 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Award for Short Stories, Shapeshifting, winner of the Stillhouse Press Short Story Award (forthcoming in 2021), and They Kept Running, winner of the 2021 Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Short Fiction (forthcoming in Spring 2022). Her fiction has appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Colorado Review, The Common, Epiphany, Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading, TriQuarterly, Witness, and other venues. Her fiction has been selected for Best Microfiction, Best Small Fictions, and the Wigleaf Top 50, among other anthologies. She is fiction editor of Atticus Review and was a consulting editor for the 2018 Best Small Fictions anthology. A native of Texas, she received her B.A. from Emory University and her M.F.A and M.A. from Indiana University. She currently lives in Tucson, Arizona, with her husband and son.

Connect with Michelle:

Website


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellMichelle Ross’s collection of short stories, Shapeshifting, is a haunting, provocative anthology focusing on motherhood and womanhood, and how the two are intertwined.

These  fourteen stories are not shiny, fluffy, stories about how becoming a mother is the be-all and end-all of life. Rather they are  often hilarious, sometimes dark glimpses at the struggle to retain oneself within the context of being responsible for another human being.

Rather than the retouched moms and tots we see on Instagram, these stories show a mother sleeping in a van with her still-nursing baby to get her other child into the right school, while her husband can’t even feed said child dinner because he’s busy running parenting support groups and offering advice. Ross also shows us a mother separated from her adult daughter and the bitter, skewed images each has of the other, and the collection goes on – different mothers, different stages of motherhood, all flawed and dimensional and real. All individual women.

What I loved about Ross’s writing, in addition to her brutal clarity, was the detail she put in each story – the way mothers will extend their arms to keep their children safe in their plane or car seats, even though they have seat belts – something my own mother still does when we’re in a car together even though I’m now fifty-one.

Motherhood is often called a transformative experience. Ross’s stories look at the truth of those transformations, these shifting shapes of our bodies, our minds, and our souls and reveal the parts we think, but don’t share. They are compelling mirrors of the lives of women.

Goes well with: hot coffee, a cinnamon pastry, and twenty minutes of solitude.


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Review & Giveaway – Scattered Legacy: Murder in Southern Italy, by Marlene M. Bell

Scattered Legacy

 

About the book, Scattered Legacy: Murder in Southern Italy

  • Genre: Mystery / Romance
  • Publisher: Ewephoric Publishing
  • Date of Publication: November 4, 2021
  • Number of Pages: 352 pages
  • Series: Annalisse (Book 3)
  • Scroll down for Giveaway!

Scattered LegacyTo outsiders, the relationship between Manhattan antiquities assessor Annalisse Drury and sports car magnate Alec Zavos must look carefree and glamorous. In reality, it’s a love affair regularly punctuated by treasure hunting, high adventure, and the occasional dead body.

When Alec schedules a getaway trip to show Annalisse his mother’s Italian birthplace, he squeezes in the high-stakes business of divesting his family’s corporation. But things go terribly wrong as murder makes its familiar reappearance in their lives – and this time it’s Alec’s disgraced former CFO who’s the main suspect.

Accompanied by friend and detective Bill Drake, Annalisse and Alec find themselves embroiled in a behind-closed-doors conspiracy that threatens the reputation and legacy of Alec’s late father – linking him to embezzlement, extortion, and the dirty business of the Sicilian Mafia. The key to it all might be a gifted set of rosary beads where Annalisse can use her skills for appraising artifacts to uncover the truth. She leads Alec toward answers that are unthinkable—and events that will change their futures forever.

Scattered Legacy is the third in Marlene M. Bell’s thrilling Annalisse series, which weaves romance, crime, and historical mystery into addictive tales to instantly captivate fans of TV show Bones or Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code.

Watch the trailer for this book:

 

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Purchase | Goodreads


About the author, Marlene M. Bell

Marlene M. BellMarlene M. Bell is an award-winning writer and acclaimed artist as well as a photographer. Her sheep landscapes grace the covers of Sheep!, The Shepherd, Ranch & Rural Living and Sheep Industry News, to name a few.

Marlene and her husband, Gregg reside in beautiful East Texas on a wooded ranch with their dreadfully spoiled horned Dorset sheep, a large Maremma guard dog named, Tia, along with Hollywood, Leo and Squeaks, the cats that believe they rule the household—and do.

Connect with Marlene:

WEBSITE  ◆  BLOG ◆ FACEBOOK  ◆  TWITTER ◆ AMAZON  ◆  GOODREADS  ◆ BOOKBUB


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellMurder. Intrigue. Scandal. Romance. Scattered Legacy: Murder in Southern Italy has it all.

While this is the third book in Marlene M. Bell’s Annalisse series, it’s my introduction to the series (though I did feature a guest post from the author when book one was published several years ago). Nevertheless, I had no trouble recognizing the relationships between Anna and Alec, and Anna and Gen (both of which are central to the story) or following any of the through-plots that were obviously set up in previous installments. Rather, I found this to be a richly developed, if slightly heightened, version of reality. Bell’s opening scene captured my attention from the first paragraph. The juxtaposition of impending doom, family drama, and a shoplifting attempt (that clearly meant something more) was instantly intriguing.

As a second-generation Italian-American myself, I really appreciated the way Italian words and slang were dropped into the dialogue by some of the characters (Gen, especially) and how naturally ALL the dialogue sounded. I loved the way the family drama was both sweeping, involving an antique rosary, and intimate at the same time. The interactions between all the core characters felt believable. In many ways, I felt as if I’d met them before.

I also appreciated the pacing of the novel, which had a contemporary feel complimented by a neo-noire undertone that worked perfectly. Exposition unrolled organically, and I never felt like any scene was just a gratuitous info-dump. Of course, when the action moved to Italy, everything became even more heightened. The Italian characters really stood out here, but Anna and the rest of the non-Italians, Bill Drake most prominently, were equally dynamic. (In truth, I’d read a whole series about Bill.)

But it was the story that stayed front-and-center, and Bell did not let me down. Passion, scandal, blackmail, murder, intrigue, and even history are woven into a intricate plot with just enough twists and turns to keep the reader guessing without causing confusion. I’m definitely going to go back and read the first two novels – I’m hooked on Anna and her story. This book was a satisfying read as a stand-alone, but I want more.

Goes well with: Sicilian blood oranges and a glass of chilled Prosecco.

Scattered Legacy


Giveaway

 THREE WINNERS (US ONLY):

1st SUPER GRANDPRIZE ($425 VALUE):
Patricia Nash leather bag; Extra Virgin Olive Oil from the Puglia Region of Italy; Orecchiette Pasta from the Puglia Region; Weekly 2022 Engagement Spiral Calendar; Silver/Gold Italy Coin necklace on 18” silver chain; autographed copy of Scattered Legacy; $50 VISA gift card.

2ND PRIZE & 3rd PRIZE – Signed copies of Scattered Legacy.

(US only; ends midnight, CST, 12/10/21)

Giveaway Scattered Legacy

 

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11/30/21 Review The Plain-Spoken Pen
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12/3/21 Review Julia Picks 1
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