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The Confession Club–baring your soul

The Confession Club

by Elizabeth Berg

The Confession ClubAs a group of women, representative of all ages, convene each week, we get a glimpse into their pasts and their presents, their hopes and dreams for the future. The members of the Confession Club eat, drink, talk, laugh, and cry as they share their most secret moments with each other. There is joy and also an underlying sadness as we experience poignant moments of human desires and frailties. The meetings tie together the characters; but their stories extend into other chapters, and their lives overlap outside the club and with others who are not a part of the group.

My favorite characters are Iris, who teaches a baking class, and Maddy, Iris’ landlady. I also enjoyed Maddy’s daughter, Nola, a precocious seven year old with an insatiable appetite for learning, life, and fun. Although unstated, a current flows through the book pointing to the concern that  everyone is going through something. The characters are realistically portrayed with frailties and strengths that make you want to know them. The Confession Club by Elizabeth Berg is a quick read with a tale that draws you in and keeps you coming back. Berg is a master of both storytelling and language, This is the third book I have read by her, and it just makes me want to return to the well of literary magic found in her writing.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Random House for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: General Fiction (Adult)

Notes: Though I wouldn’t officially consider this a series, there are characters and references in it that originate in The Story of Arthur Truluv and Night of Miracles. It is certainly not necessary to read either to enjoy The Confession Club.

Publication:   November 19, 2019—Random House

Memorable Lines:

“They’re snobby. The displays are so fancy you don’t feel you can touch them. You stand in front of the cheeses and it’s like they’re whispering to one another about you, in French.”

The filing of citizenry out from coffee shops always reminds Iris of cattle coming out of a barn in the morning, in their slow, blinking line. Not the most flattering of images, but for her, it’s calming, suggesting a kind of optimism about at least one thing in the world. A new day. A new start.

She envies Nola for the way she is always in a rush to do everything, the way she rises so quickly to the possibility of joy. Most of all, she envies Nola her default setting of goodwill toward man, beast, or weather.

Murder with Cherry Tarts–tearoom delights throughout the mystery

Murder with Cherry Tarts

by Karen Rose Smith

Murder with Cherry TartsWhat a delightful cozy mystery! I enjoyed Murder with Cherry Tarts by Karen Rose Smith from beginning to end. It has interesting characters including Daisy Swanson, a widow and co-owner of Daisy’s Tea Garden with her Aunt Iris. Daisy is at the center of the book’s many threads. There is, of course, a murder mystery which Daisy tries not to get involved in, but her kind nature won’t allow her to stand by while an innocent man is railroaded by a detective with a chip on his shoulder. That chip is connected to Daisy’s boyfriend Jonas, a former detective. Other tensions include a homeless man and his daughter and an elderly antique shop owner possibly being cheated by a family member. Also, Daisy has continuing relationship issues with her mother, preparations for the upcoming wedding of her pregnant daughter, and the struggles of her youngest daughter, who is adopted, to connect with her biological mother. It is a busy story!

The setting is Lancaster County in Pennsylvania. Although Daisy is not Amish, there are a sprinkling of references to horse and buggy transport and other Amish customs as Willow Creek is a seasonal tourist town.

Despite the various focuses on relationships, the mystery is still key. There are several suspects with plausible motives, but when the murderer is revealed in a scene replete with danger, the surprise ending is stunning.

The author follows up with an epilogue that provides a promisingly happy conclusion to the relationship threads as well as the murder investigation. There are, however, still developments to look forward to in the next cozy in this series.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: 1. #4 in the Daisy’s Tea Garden Mystery Series, but works very well as a standalone. The characters’ backgrounds  are skillfully woven into the first chapter.

2. The book concludes with recipes, including one for Daisy’s famous cherry tarts that everyone raves about.

Publication:   November 26, 2019—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

“Sharing tea with a friend is a calming experience. I think it has to do with just taking time out of your day to talk and to share. It doesn’t matter the type of tea or if you use sugar or honey or milk. It’s just the experience of sipping it that counts.”

That was exactly what grief felt like, a hole that could never be filled up.

The photographs would never reveal the tension that always bubbled up within her family. But that was the point of happy photos, wasn’t it? To remember the good times and cherish them.

Christmas at Silver Falls–saving the family heritage

Christmas at Silver Falls

by Jenny Hale

Christmas at Silver FallsFrom Jenny Hale, author of books set in summer and at Christmas time, comes another “heartwarming, feel-good Christmas romance” in the form of Christmas at Silver Falls.  Scarlett Bailey realizes that this Christmas will probably be the last Christmas gathering of her family at her Gran’s beloved White Oaks Inn. Gran will be forced to sell because she is unable to compete with the newer resorts springing up in the area. Charles Bryant, one of the developers of the popular resorts, shows up unexpectedly in the area, and Scarlett determines to enlist his help in saving the Inn. The complicated becomes even more so when Julie and her young son Trevor, who have obviously undergone hard times, make a dramatic entrance that changes everything.

Christmas at Silver Falls is a fun Christmas read with a beautiful setting. Not all the characters were as well fleshed out as they might have been, but you can not come away without feeling for them in their predicaments.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Bookouture for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Romance, Women’s Fiction

Publication:   October 15, 2019—Bookouture

Memorable Lines:

“We all go through things like that in life, and the good news, at least from what I’ve found, is that after the lows you notice the highs, and when you’re up there, it feels so good. Just hang on. It’s coming.”

Scarlett felt hope surge in her veins like rocket fuel.

“In an old run-down cottage, you are like fresh bouquets; you’re like a misty-morning view, a sunrise, a barefoot dance in a field of wildflowers…”

Little Girls Sleeping: an absolutely gripping crime thriller

Little Girls Sleeping: an absolutely gripping crime thriller

by Jennifer Chase

Little Girls SleepingMy general philosophy is “I don’t read thrillers, especially psychological thrillers.” They just hold too much impact for me. I read an online review, however, that led me to believe that perhaps I should make an exception for Little Girls Sleeping, the first in a new series by Jennifer Chase. As I started reading this thriller, I wondered if I had made a mistake as the story involves the disappearance of young girls and gives some insight into the twisted mind of the perpetrator. Soon, however, the tale expands into the story of returning veteran Katie Scott and Cisco, her K9 military companion.

A former police officer, Katie is taking some time to decide her next career move when she comes across a cold case file on her uncle’s desk. For Katie, the case is personal because it brings up memories of a childhood friend at camp who was murdered. The rest of the book tracks Katie’s pursuit of the truth and is part thriller, part mystery, and part police procedural. If you are drawn to K9 stories you will certainly enjoy this one as Cisco plays a major role.

Katie, who suffers from PTSD, is a strong and determined young woman. Her character is likable, and readers will look forward to watching her develop in future books in this series. She has support from a childhood friend, Chad, and from her uncle, Sheriff Scott. The plot line is engaging. At about 60% through the book, I had figured out who the evil “Toymaker” is—but I was wrong, and at about 80%, the true murderer is revealed. At that point, however, the action just gets more intense. I’m glad I read this page turner, and I am happy to report no nightmares as a result.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Bookouture for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery and Thriller

Notes: 1. If you are interested in the review that inspired my choosing this book, visit blogger/reviewer Shalini.  

          2. #1 in the Detective Katie Scott Series

Publication:   May 31, 2019—Bookouture

Memorable Lines:

The detective didn’t scare her. She had encountered some real tyrants in the army, from sergeants to training officers, so Templeton was like a yapping little dog to her—fierce, but only annoying at best.

Anxiety was a stealthy and unpredictable enemy.

She rubbed her hands together and let the happy memories flood her mind—at least for a short period. Sometimes it was difficult for her to let the positive things into her life. Her experiences had skewed her perception so that everything seemed on the verge of catastrophe. It was as if she had blocked out anything good in her life.

All This Homeless Veteran and His Dog Needed Was Human Kindness…

Being the hands and feet of Jesus…

Kindness Blog

homeless man in starbucksWhile seated at a Starbucks, a homeless man came in and sat nearby.

His scent was unpleasant and people looked at him and rolled their eyes. He was simply doing what we were all doing, drinking coffee and taking advantage of free WiFi.

He brought his dog, Legacy, who was well behaved. He proceeded to tell me he walked 60 miles from Seattle to Tumwater over a few days period. He spoke highly of Legacy who, in stride, journeyed along with his master every step of the way without complaint. As soon as Legacy was told to lay down, he fell asleep.

It was sad to see people distance themselves from this homeless veteran. Kids who inquired about the dog were quickly shielded by their parents and hurried away.

This Veteran explained most people have no concept of being Christ like because they simply place Christ on the shelf as…

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Thread on Arrival–helping the helpless

Thread on Arrival

by Lea Wait

Thread on ArrivalI’m so happy to have read Thread on Arrival, the latest in the Mainely Needlepoint Series, by Lea Wait. Angie Curtis, with some private investigator training in Arizona, has returned to Maine to run the Mainely Needlepoint group formerly run by her grandmother who raised her. She finds herself involved in several simultaneous investigations in this mystery, but they all spring from a runaway boy, Leo, who is in a panic because the homeless man who has taken him under his wing has been brutally murdered. To prove Leo did not murder his friend, Angie must find the real killer and suspects abound. I did guess the murderer before the end of the book, but I still have trouble understanding how anyone could be so cruel. If you like watching how investigative clues are put together, you’ll enjoy this book.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes:  #8 in the Mainely Needlepoint Series

Publication:   April 30, 2019—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

As long as men and women made a living from the waters, mourning and remembering would continue, and names would continue to be carved on the monument.

Being a teenager was never easy. But it was much harder when you weren’t like everyone else in your town or school.

Murder with All the Trimmings–catering mystery with a focus on dancers

Murder with All the Trimmings

by Shawn Reilly Simmons

Murder with All the TrimmingsOne of the appealing things about the Red Carpet Catering Mystery Series is that as a caterer associated with a movie star, Penelope Sutherland works in a variety of settings, each with its own catering problems. This setup allows the author, Shawn Reilly Simmons, opportunities for exploring  various kinds of offenses without the main character seeming to follow or be followed by crime. In Murder with All the Trimmings, the setting is the old Vitrine Theater where the Big Apple Dancers perform a show that is a holiday tradition for many locals and a big attraction for tourists. Trouble plagues the show with murder and accidents. Penelope herself is endangered as she tries to get to the bottom of this mystery which involves a missing girl, a neighboring homeless shelter, fraud, and a dine and dash artist.

Murder with All the Trimmings has a complicated plot with lots of interesting threads. In spite of my having lots of interruptions due to travel, I enjoyed this book and had no problem picking up where I left off each time. Although the action occurs at Christmas time, it doesn’t have any warm and fuzzy Christmas connections, but it is a good mystery.

I would like to extend my thanks to Edelweiss and to Henery Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: # 6 in the Red Carpet Catering Mystery Series, but acceptable as a standalone.

Publication:  November 13, 2018—Henery Press

A Cold Brew Killing–political aspirations turn deadly

A Cold Brew Killing

by Lena Gregory

A Cold Brew KillingA group of former high school friends converge on their hometown in Florida as two of their number compete for the job of mayor. As all eyes are focused on the politics, one is found murdered in the ice cream shop belonging to Gia’s friend, Trevor. Trevor appears guilty, and Gia wonders if she knew him as well as she thought she did.

If you have read other books in the series, you will remember the regular cast of characters. In A Cold Brew Killing, author Lena Gregory gives more depth to these characters as she reveals some of their background. She also adds many more characters for this storyline. The author boldly dances between plot threads and the importance of characters, intertwining the two into an inseparable and fascinating storyline. Are secrets of the past playing out in the present? How far should one go to keep a secret that protects someone else?

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Lyrical Underground (Kensington Press) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: 1. #3 in the All-Day Breakfast Café Series, but can be read as a standalone

2. If you are not a coffee drinker or are an old school coffee drinker, you can learn about something new: cold brew coffee!

Publication:   November 6, 2018—Kensington Press (Lyrical Underground)

Memorable Lines:

“I believe there are a few people we meet in our lives who are meant to be a part of something special. Sometimes lasting friends, other times just part of an important event in your life. Either way, I think we recognize those people when our paths cross.”

Her mental to-do list was getting longer and longer. If she didn’t start writing this stuff down somewhere, there was no way she’d remember to do it all. She hadn’t even remembered she was supposed to go away in less than a day.

Sometimes you didn’t need a friend to interfere; sometimes you needed them to stand by while you made a mess of your life, then jump in and help pick up the pieces.

Murder Made to Order–good basic cozy

Murder Made to Order

by Lena Gregory

Murder Made to OrderIf you have ever wondered what it would be like to move from cold, urban New York to small town Florida complete with snakes, alligators, and monkeys, try reading Murder Made to Order. In this cozy mystery, Gia’s diner, the All-Day Breakfast Café, is in danger of being shut down because of zoning regulations. When Gia finds the town council’s president dead, things get complicated. 

Not even sure she wants to live in Florida, Gia finds herself in the middle of a forest fire, a tornado, and a murder investigation. On the plus side, however, are her supportive friend of ten years Savannah, her potential boyfriend Hunt, and a lot of encouraging townsfolk.

Author Lena Gregory draws the reader into Murder Made to Order with a good background, interesting characters, and surprising complications. Along the way you learn a lot of interesting things about life near the Ocala National Forest.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Lyrical Underground (Kensington Press) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes:  #2 in the All-Day Breakfast Café Mystery Series, but works as a standalone.

Publication:  June 19, 2018 — Kensington Press (Lyrical Underground)

Memorable Lines:

Gia stood in the middle of the living room and stared out the window. Rain pounded against the house. Lightning flashed, bolt after bolt, illuminating the yard. Mesmerizing. The tall, thin palm tree outside her front window bent in half.

“Twenty-one years old, barely old enough to drink, and he struts in like he owns the place. Drunk as a skunk and dumber than a bag of rocks, carryin’ on about how his daddy was going to own the place.”

Gia watched them walk away, realizing nothing united a community the way tragedy did. It seemed the need to help others brought out the best in people.

Shadow Dancing–society mom meets teenage prostitute

Shadow Dancing

by Julie Mulhern

Shadow DancingWould this book be THE ONE? Would the seventh book in the Country Club Murder series be the one that would let me down? Would that great sense of humor mixed into a fascinating mystery fall flat? Would the 70’s backdrop become cliché? Would I tire of Ellison’s love affair with Mr. Coffee or her battles with her imperious mother? The answer to all of these questions about Julie Mulhern’s Shadow Dancing is a resounding “NO!”.  I enjoyed the book all the way through and was sad when it came to an end.

As usual, the pace is perfect and the storyline is inventive. Mulhern’s use of descriptive language puts the reader in the scene as she transports Ellison through high society cocktail parties and into the danger of the night. This story focuses on homeless girls forced into prostitution and drug addiction; the seriousness of the theme gives an edge to the book with its fast-moving plot. Detective and boyfriend Anarchy Jones plays an important role in providing physical and emotional support for Ellison who finds herself in the role of protector as the murderer challenges her. This cozy mystery is full of surprises and suspense.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Henery Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #7 in the Country Club Murder Series

Publication:   June 19, 2018—Henery  Press

Memorable Lines:

Aggie marched up to a second librarian—one who made the woman downstairs look like a congeniality winner in a beauty contest. The librarian on the second floor looked like the woman in American Gothic by Grand Wood: close-set eyes, marionette lines that dragged the corners of her lips into a frown, and a long, thin neck. The expression in those close-set eyes could have scared General Westmoreland into immediate surrender.

Winstead’s didn’t sell hamburgers; it sold steakburgers. The burgers were cooked to a deep shade of brown and flavored with salt and grease. They arrived at the table wrapped in wax paper sleeves and the first bite could change a life.

Outside, the night swirled with a heavy, cold mist. March deciding lion or lamb. The mist clung to my hair, and lashes, and coat. The click of my heels echoed on the pavement. The darkness breathed—thick and dangerous. I shivered.

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