Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Review: Killed on Blueberry Hill by Sharon Farrow

Killed on Blueberry Hill (A Berry Basket Mystery, Book #3)
by Sharon Farrow
Release Date: October 30th 2018
2018 Kensington
ARC Paperback Edition
ISBN: 978-1496704900
Genre: Fiction / Cozy Mystery
Source: Review copy from author

5 / 5 Stars

The Blueberry Blow Out festival has begun and it's time for Marlee Jacob, owner of The Berry Basket, to shine. Unfortunately it's also bringing out the worst in her fiance Ryan Zeller. Ryan's rivalry with Porter Gale, owner of Blueberry Hill Farm, spills over into a very public and very ugly fight. And after they compete in the pie-eating contest and a raucous tug of war, their orchard blood feud takes a deadly turn . . .

The death of the king of Blueberry Hill is a shock but not too surprising--he was a diabetic whose last pig out meal was deliciously fatal. But when authorities discover that someone tampered with Porter's insulin, a tragic accident is looking like murder--and Ryan is the key ingredient. Now Marlee's investigation to clear his name is taking her deep into the Gale family secrets, and she's being shadowed every step of the way by a killer whose sweet revenge is just beginning . . .
Includes Berry Recipes!

My Thoughts
Killed on Blueberry Hill is the third installment in the A Berry Basket Mystery series and so far, is my favourite.  In this one, Marlee and the gang are dealing with another festival, this one being the Blueberry Blow Out, and it seemed to be affecting her fiance Ryan in a very negative way.  I wasn't overly fond of him before, but right from the beginning he drove me nuts with his commanding ways and his superior attitude.  It didn't help matters that the festival featured blueberry competitions, and Ryan's family and their arch-nemesis, Porter Gale, were at the center of everything.  For that matter, the first scene in the book was a pie-eating contest in which Marlee was roped and the pressure was on for her to win.  Having seen a few pie-eating contests myself, they are quite comical, and I enjoyed the author's descriptions of the scene.  It definitely set up this book for quite a ride, and I enjoyed it tremendously.

Generally, I read cozy mysteries as a break between heavier fantasy tomes and the historical novels of which I am so fond.  They tend to be lighter in tone and often can be quite hilarious, something desperately needed.  While the novel definitely dealt with some serious undertones, there was a lighter touch which made it easy to read and the characters are so likeable that you just can't help but laugh at their antics.  I love Marlee and how she was able to see right through what people were saying.  Yes, she could be a bit naive, certainly when it came to Ryan, but he was quite manipulative and deceptive, anyone would have missed the signs too.  I liked how she listened to her emotions and her little inner voice saying something was seriously wrong and didn't rush headlong into stupid things and situations.  She also didn't condescend those professionals looking into the murder and didn't go out of her way to search for clues.  The only reason she was trying to help was because the situation got personal, but she didn't go up to people and ask them all sorts of weird questions with that person answering them as if that was perfectly normal.  Things just seemed to happen naturally which kept the flow of the book moving nicely and kept Marlee moving and associating with some characters from previous books that I wanted her to meet.  So glad she did so I could find out what was happening with them. And if you love parrots, well, there's one in here too; Minnie is a hoot.

The events moved along quite quickly, with quite a few twists and turns, and I have to admit I didn't quite figure out everything in the end which kind of surprised me, as I thought I knew who the murderer was, but I was only partly right.  I love that I got surprised, and looking back, I realized the clues were there but I missed them.  Awesome when that happens.  I actually read the book in one sitting as I couldn't put it down, staying up way too late.  There were so many interesting themes running through this book that it was quite fascinating: relationships, theft, drug use, addiction, ambition, and secrets. Even when the murderer was discovered, there was so much more to the story.  What I really liked though, is how everything was not quite wrapped up as nicely as most books, where we might have to wait until the next book to really see how things ended and I am okay with that. In the real world, that's how it works too.

Killed on Blueberry Hill was a really interesting novel and I think anyone who enjoys cozy mysteries will love this book.  Even though it's the third book of the series, you could read it as a stand-alone as the author does a great job filling in some background information without giving away too much from previous books.  I have read the previous books and didn't find it repetitive at all.  It also helps if you love blueberries as there are so many foods mentioned with berries in them, you will probably be salivating.  Luckily, the book comes with some blueberry recipes for you to try.  Enjoy!! 
Monday, October 29, 2018

Review: Dracul by Dacre Stoker & J.D. Barker

by Dacre Stoker & J.D. Barker
Release Date: October 2nd 2018
2018 Putnam
Kindle Edition; 512 Pages
ISBN: 978-0735219366
Genre: Fiction / Historical / Horror
Source: Review copy from publisher

5 / 5 Stars

It is 1868, and a twenty-one-year-old Bram Stoker waits in a desolate tower to face an indescribable evil. Armed only with crucifixes, holy water, and a rifle, he prays to survive a single night, the longest of his life. Desperate to record what he has witnessed, Bram scribbles down the events that led him here...

A sickly child, Bram spent his early days bedridden in his parents' Dublin home, tended to by his caretaker, a young woman named Ellen Crone. When a string of strange deaths occur in a nearby town, Bram and his sister Matilda detect a pattern of bizarre behavior by Ellen -- a mystery that deepens chillingly until Ellen vanishes suddenly from their lives. Years later, Matilda returns from studying in Paris to tell Bram the news that she has seen Ellen -- and that the nightmare they've thought long ended is only beginning.

My Thoughts 
As a kid, Dracula was the first real horror book that I read at eight years old and for years I wondered where and how he would have been inspired to write such a thing.  What you have here is a prequel, written by a descendant of Bram Stoker no less, told in multiple POVs, one of which is Bram Stoker himself, both as a child and as an adult, in order to tell us what inspired the events in his signature novel, Dracula. I have to say I was very reluctant to read this as I remember the magic of Dracula, but I am SO GLAD I DID.  This story is written using Bram Stoker's original papers as the first 100 pages of his original Dracula were removed from the story and although no one is sure what was actually in those pages, they did use his original journals and other papers to create this story.  So the basics of this story do lie within Bram Stoker's original work and I loved learning that fact.

This is definitely a fine piece of gothic literature and I enjoyed it tremendously.  Although told in multiple POVs, the one I preferred was Bram's, and we first meet him as a child of seven years old suffering from a disease that has kept him bed-ridden for most of his young life.  The story is set in Ireland, where Bram and his family lived, and the authors tried to remain as true to his original background as possible,  I kept looking up facts on the Internet as I didn't really know a lot about Bram Stoker's life before reading this and almost all of the incidents that surrounded his family had been documented.  I loved all of the characters and enjoyed reading about them and although I liked Bram's POV the best, the others, mainly his sister and later his older brother, were quite interesting as well.  I kept making comparisons to the original Dracula (I couldn't help myself) and the links between this novel and the original were amazing.  

I have always loved Barker's writing, which is really what drew me to this novel, and although I wasn't sure about Stoker, the two together wrote one amazing book.  I love gothic novels and when well done, are quite fascinating.  The atmosphere and the setting in this novel raises it to a whole new level, capturing the reader and never letting go until the end.  I was actually disappointed when I got to the end as I didn't want to stop reading.  The tale is superb and the build-up is fantastic.  I could almost see the interwoven laces of the tale being woven throughout the novel as I read and I have nothing but admiration for the authors who could pull off something like this.   I can't even imagine what the editing process would have been like.  Throughout the story there is this chill that is woven throughout the narrative that you can feel but can't quite put a finger on which is perfect for gothic literature.  It's in the atmosphere, the characters, their actions, the weather, their secrets, their words, all woven together to create a suspense that makes you wonder what will actually happen.  When you have scenes in run-down old castles, in dark forests, and in morgues, you are being set up for something quite interesting.  I loved it all!

Dracul is one of those novels that succeeded on every level. Bram is one precocious child who is very curious about the world and wants answers to questions about things he doesn't understand.  So faced with a mysterious nanny who does mysterious things, he set out to discover her secret, only discovering far more that he bargained for, which shaped his life and his future.  The authors did a great job with Bram and the other characters, and you can see his progression throughout the story, where he would get his ideas for his future works of literature.  The story was impressively strong, kept me enthralled throughout and I began to wonder what was fact and what was fiction.  Luckily, the authors sorted that out in the end in the Author's Note, but even there much can be left to speculation.  I liked how the novel was written from different POVs as well as through the use of journals and letters as it all flowed seamlessly together.  I have to give credit to both of these authors for creating something that really remained true to the original work, and I highly recommend it to anyone who loved Dracula as much as I did.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Child of Love and Water by D.K. Marley

Child of Love and Water by D.K. Marley

Publication Date: October 19, 2018 The White Rabbit Publishing eBook; 291 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

The year is 1722. A child is born on the isolated island of Ospo off the Georgia coast. In the midst of General Oglethorpe's vision for this new land, and the emerging townships of Frederica and Savannah, four lives entwine together on this island like the woven fronds in a sea-grass basket - the orphaned Irish girl born free of hate or prejudice, a war-ravaged British soldier seeking forgiveness and absolution, a runaway Gullah slave girl desperate for a word of kindness on the wind, and a Creek Indian warrior searching for answers about this intrusion onto his homeland. What they learn from this wild innocent girl, and from each other, will change their lives forever. A new birth, a new country, and the elements - Water, Wind, Fire, and Earth - entwine to teach one thing: Love conquers all. Love sees beyond borders. There is no ignorance in love.

Available on Amazon

About the Author

D. K. Marley is a historical fiction writer specializing in Shakespearean themes. Her grandmother, an English Literature teacher, gave her a volume of Shakespeare's plays when she was eleven, inspiring DK to delve further into the rich Elizabethan language. Eleven years ago she began the research leading to the publication of her first novel "Blood and Ink," an epic tale of lost dreams, spurned love, jealousy and deception in Tudor England as the two men, William Shakespeare and Kit Marlowe, fight for one name and the famous works now known as the Shakespeare Folio.She is an avid Shakespearean / Marlowan, a member of the Marlowe Society, the Shakespeare Fellowship and a signer of the Declaration of Intent for the Shakespeare Authorship Debate. She has traveled to England three times for intensive research and debate workshops, and is a graduate of the intense training workshop "The Writer's Retreat Workshop" founded by Gary Provost and hosted by Jason Sitzes.She lives in Georgia with her husband and a Scottish Terriers named Maggie and Buster. For more information, please visit D.K. Marley's website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

Book Blast Schedule

Friday, October 19 Passages to the Past  
Saturday, October 20 A Darn Good Read Donna's Book Blog  
Monday, October 22 A Book Geek  
Tuesday, October 23 Curling up by the Fire
Wednesday, October 24 Bri's Book Nook
Thursday, October 25 Pursuing Stacie
Friday, October 26 The Book Junkie Reads What Is That Book About View from the Birdhouse

Monday, October 29 Book Nerd Clarissa Reads it All

Monday, October 22, 2018

Review: The Christmas Sisters by Sarah Morgan

The Christmas Sisters
by Sarah Morgan
Release Date: September 25th 2018
2018 HQN Books
Kindle Edition; 416 Pages
ISBN: 978-1335946478
Genre: Fiction / Contemporary
Source: Review copy from publisher

4.5 / 5 Stars

In the snowy Highlands of Scotland, Suzanne McBride is dreaming of the perfect cozy Christmas. Her three adopted daughters are coming home for the holidays and she can’t wait to see them. But tensions are running high…

Workaholic Hannah knows she can’t avoid spending the holidays with her family two years in a row. But it’s not the weight of their expectations that’s panicking her—it’s the life-changing secret she’s hiding. Stay-at-home mom Beth is having a personal crisis. All she wants for Christmas is time to decide if she’s ready to return to work—seeing everyone was supposed to help her stress levels, not increase them! Posy isn’t sure she’s living her best life, but with her parents depending on her, making a change seems risky. But not as risky as falling for gorgeous new neighbor Luke…

As Suzanne’s dreams of the perfect McBride Christmas unravel, she must rely on the magic of the season to bring her daughters together. But will this new togetherness teach the sisters that their close-knit bond is strong enough to withstand anything—including a family Christmas?

My Thoughts
The Christmas Sisters is one those warm Christmas stories that you just can help but love. Drawn to the story just by the words "snowy Highlands of Scotland" myself, I couldn't wait to be treated to large fires, hot chocolate, cozy nights, and of course, the snow storms. It is what drew me to this book in the first place and I wasn't disappointed at all.  Basically, it's an escapist story for me, far different from the usual fare I read, but Sarah Morgan is so good at writing escapist stories that just make you want to read another one and another one.  Take family trauma, sisters who love each other but struggle to really understand one another, an adoptive mother with some secrets, and a location that is just made for Christmas, and you have a story just waiting to be told. Curling up in from the fire on a rainy day and reading this was just an added bonus.

For twenty-five years, the family has avoided discussing what really happened the night the girls' parents died in an ice climbing accident on Mount Rainier just days before Christmas.  However, the tragedy left scars on all three of the girls and on Suzanne, the woman who survived the avalanche and who took in the girls after the accident.  Coming together this Christmas would set off a chain of events that would force everyone to look at past events and confront their fears and what actually happened that night and afterwards.  I don't want to say more as it would spoil the story but I loved how it all came together and how it was all revealed.  First of all, you have Suzanne, suffering from nightmares all these years of the event, trying to block it all out and raise the girls the best to her ability.  Hannah's development is the one I loved the most as she learned to show emotion and not always be so perfect all of the time; I thought the author dealt with her character the best of them all.  Beth, wanting to go back to work but taking a path that was not greatly conducive to her or her family; watching her struggle through this and seeing her husband support her was wonderful.  And then there was Posy, who never really left home, but who was looking for adventures of her own and was afraid to reveal her plans to her family.  Having two sisters of my own, I could relate to a lot of the scenarios that were going on in this story, even laughing out loud a few times as I could picture it in my own house so easily.  

When Suzanne came down with a nasty flu right before Christmas, it was up to the girls to pick up the tasks and try to keep Christmas from flying apart.  Through all of the commotion, the girls were able to discuss their lives and work through some of their issues and really talk for the first time in ages.  I enjoyed the humour and witty situations that occurred throughout these discussions, especially the scenes with Hannah and her nieces, so fun; the aftermath and her sister's reaction to some of the things her sisters did with her kids was fun too as I remember my own grand-father being like that and telling everyone to relax.  It brought back a lot of my own memories and the fun times I had at my grandparents when I was young.

The Christmas Sisters was an engaging story that was a bit deceptive in its presentation.  While presenting as a fun Christmas story, there were deeper elements that were addressed in this book like acceptance, forgiveness,, communicating, and embracing the future.  The writing just draws you in, makes you feel like part of the family, and within the plot, are many unexpected subplots that I enjoyed tremendously, all of which flowed together at the end.  I have always enjoyed Sarah Morgan's books, and this one is no exception.  If you are looking for a fun, engaging Christmas read, then I highly recommend this one.
Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Review: Storm Glass by Jeff Wheeler

Storm Glass (Harbinger, Book #1)
by Jeff Wheeler
Release Date: June 19th 2018
2018 47North
Kindle Edition; 353 Pages
ISBN: 978-1503902329
ASIN: B077D62HN7
Genre: Fiction / Fantasy
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars


Cettie Pratt is a waif doomed to the world below, until an admiral attempts to adopt her. But in her new home in the clouds, not everyone treats her as one of the family.

Sera Fitzempress is a princess born into power. She yearns to meet the orphan girl she has heard so much about, but her father deems the girl unworthy of his daughter’s curiosity.

Neither girl feels that she belongs. Each seeks to break free of imposed rules. Now, as Cettie dreams of living above and as Sera is drawn to the world below, they will follow the paths of their own choosing.
But both girls will be needed for the coming storm that threatens to overturn both their worlds.

My Thoughts
Storm Glass is the first novel is the Harbinger series, a planned five book series, and I really enjoyed it. The author has mentioned in some of his posts that he tried to create a more Dickensian world in this novel, and I think he has succeeded quite well.  What you have are the incredibly wealthy living on these suspended cities using some type of magic called the 'mysteries', while the rest of the population live in "The Fells', cities felled by incredible pollution and disease whereby most children don't survive to adulthood.  The entire world-building was quite incredible and I enjoyed it tremendously.

I am very familiar with Jeff Wheeler's work and he is very fastidious when it comes to world-building, often leaving the development of his characters and story until later books.  That's not to say there isn't any development in the first books of his series, it just doesn't seem to be a priority and I am okay with that as the world development is so great.  What you get are bits and pieces at a time and it is up to you to put them all together and that is something that I really like.  I can't stand it when an author goes on and on about stuff as if you can't figure things out on your own.  That being said, having read the Covenant of Muirwood series helped as well as I was familiar with certain things that I think readers who have not read those books might struggle with a bit.

The story is told in alternating story lines, one from Sera's and one from Cettie's.  I liked both of these characters, for different reasons, but I really loved their independence and their spunk.  Even though oth of these girls had difficulties in their lives, they kept plugging on and kept fighting.  Sera, the heir to the throne, struggled against a jealous father who wanted to be the only heir to the throne and saw Sera as a threat, keeping her a prisoner.  Cettie, raised in 'The Fells' and brought to the sky to live with an admiral's family, lived in constant fear of being sent back through no fault of her own.  Although these girls do not actually meet in this story, you know they eventually will, and the how and why was its own anticipation.  

Even though the character development was not overly strong, there was enough there to get a good sense of them; there was a great variety and I liked all of them, even the quirky and odd ones.  You even met a few odd ones for a few minutes knowing they will probably play greater roles in future books and I can't wait to see how some of those secondary plot lines will unfold.  There was a lot of interesting subplots going on and you really had to pay attention to catch them all.

The author writes with a light, engaging manner that quickly draws you in; I pretty much read the whole book in one sitting.  I've learned as I've read his books not to discount any trivial detail as it usually means something later on so I pay close attention to everything now. 

Storm Glass is a great entry to a new series and I am so glad I had the chance to read this.  The world-building was very interesting and I am so glad there is a connection to previous series.  I enjoyed the characters and look forward to seeing how they develop and what they do.  Another intricately woven book, and highly recommended!

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Review: The Ghost and the Bogus Bestseller by Cleo Coyle

The Ghost and the Bogus Bestseller (Haunted Bookshop Mystery, Book #6)
by Cleo Coyle
Release Date: September 25th 2018
2018 Berkley
Kindle Edition; 320 Pages
ISBN: 978-0425237458
Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Cozy
Source: Review copy from publisher / Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours

4/5 Stars

Bookshop owner Penelope Thornton-McClure didn't believe in ghosts, until she was haunted by the hard-boiled spirit of 1940s private investigator Jack Shepard. Now Jack is back on the job, and Pen is eternally grateful...

After an elegant new customer has a breakdown in her shop, Penelope suspects there is something bogus behind the biggest bestseller of the year. This popular potboiler is so hot that folks in her tiny Rhode Island town are dying to read it--literally. First one customer turns up dead, followed by another mysterious fatality connected to the book, which Pen discovers is more than just fiction. Now, with the help of her gumshoe ghost, Pen must solve the real-life cold case behind the bogus bestseller before the killer closes the book on her.

My Thoughts
The Ghost and the Bogus Bestseller is the sixth book in the Haunted Bookshop Mystery series, and is quite a long-anticipated book considering the last one came out around 2009. I had been a big fan of the series, but admittedly lost interest when I saw there was no further book in sight so I literally jumped at the chance to read this when I saw it.  Then I wondered if I had to read the other ones again in order to remind myself of the characters and events, slightly panicked as I really did not have the time, but once I started the book, realized I didn't have to do that.  The author made it really easy to slip back into Penny and Sadie's world and I truly enjoyed that fact and the book.

Penelope, Sadie, Jack, Spencer, Seymour, and Eddie are definitely back for another great adventure and I really felt like I slipped into their world so easily, despite it being almost ten years.  Jack, by the way, is a ghost who is attached to Penelope (a tale told in another book) and I have always loved his 1940s slang and way of looking at things.  I always imagined he has this really sexy voice to go with his looks (he is able to take Pen to his time in her dreams), and love the scenes when he is around. He also has a unique perspective which helps her look at things differently from how she would see them.  I often wondered what the author would do with Jack though if and when Pen finds someone and develops a new relationship.  I think it would be awkward to have Jack in the background making comments during the more intimate moments, you know?  What I really enjoy about the characters however, is the way they treat each other.  It's not one of those novels where the police are put down or seen as not doing their jobs and I rather like that, but I could have done without the cliche Chief Ciders.  There is little sneaking into things, but people finding out information through random events which make it seem more realistic.  I definitely enjoyed Seymour a lot more in this one and thought his character was funny and interesting.  I would love to see a lot more development for him as I think there is a lot going for him.

I really enjoyed the events in this novel, even if I found the mystery easy to solve and pretty much knew who the murderer was almost from the beginning.  But it was definitely fun watching Pen and Seymour sort through the clues trying to figure out who the author of the bogus bestseller was as well as who was the murderer.  The author has such an engaging writing style that knowing who did it didn't really matter (which is why I love her Coffeehouse Mystery series so much); I was just along for the ride and the entertainment.  That being said, I don't want to downplay the mystery as it was complex and full of twists and turns. I also liked how Jack's past cases connected with the current one - so neatly done.  

The Ghost and the Bogus Bestseller was a great new addition to the series and I really hope there are more coming our way and we don't have to wait almost ten years before the next one.  Because it's been so long between books, I don't think it really matters if you've read the previous books or not, although you might want to read them just because.  I like the relationship Penelope has with Jack and love the trick of Pen carrying a token from Jack's past which enables him to leave the bookshop with her.  It's a neat little twist that opens so many doors and continues to make this series so successful.

About the Author

 Cleo Coyle is a pseudonym for Alice Alfonsi, writing in collaboration with her husband, Marc Cerasini. Both are New York Times bestselling authors of the Coffeehouse Mysteries–now celebrating nearly fifteen years in print. They also write the nationally bestselling Haunted Bookshop Mysteries, which were originally published under their second pseudonym, Alice Kimberly (The Ghost and Mrs. McClureThe Ghost and the Dead DebThe Ghost and the Dead Man’s LibraryThe Ghost and the Femme FataleThe Ghost and the Haunted Mansion). Alice has worked as a journalist in Washington, DC, and New York, and has written popular fiction for adults and children. A former magazine editor, Marc has authored espionage thrillers and nonfiction for adults and children. Alice and Marc are also bestselling media tie-in writers who have penned properties for Lucasfilm, NBC, Fox, Disney, Imagine, and MGM. They live and work in New York City, where they write independently and together. You can learn more about Cleo, her husband, and the books they write by visiting


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