Friday, May 12, 2023

Book Spotlight - The Twenty-One-Year Contract: Sequel to Secrets, Shame, and a Shoebox by L. B. Griffin

Book Synopsis

Kathleen Gray—talented, a little wild, at times rebellious, but always popular—has a fun, easy life in rural Somerset, with a doting family.  

Suddenly, they are gone, everything is changed, and she has only Uncle Jack.  Try as he might, he cannot be father and mother to her—he has a business to run and his own life to manage.

Kathleen takes a chance and becomes Kate Westfield, fending for herself in London, with a new life built on her hopes and dreams and new friends. She could hardly have imagined that one of those friends has a shoebox full of answers.

Author Bio

L.B. Griffin was born and raised in the UK. She is married and came out of retirement when she received a contract for her debut novel. Griffin loves to write stories to touch people’s hearts, She draws upon social issues that are often hidden in deep drawers but readers can identify with. Her women don’t see themselves as courageous, strong, or survivors, but they certainly are. 

Her debut, Secrets, Shame, and a Shoebox has received superb 5 star reviews, amongst them Whispering stories and VINE VOICE reader/blogger Michelle Ryles, singing high praise: ‘Incredibly well-written, Secrets, Shame, and a Shoebox is a magnificent debut. It’s a poignant, disturbing and a heart-warming page-turner that has left me chomping at the bit to continue Harriet’s story.’ 

The sequel, and also standalone – The Twenty-One-Year Contract, is already receiving fantastic five star reviews such as: VINE VOICE “This book will have you laughing, crying and cheering.” 

L.B. Griffin continues to turn silent stories into courage, hope, and survival. Be warned, she is a self-confessed chocolate-raisin and strawberry addict!

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Friday, May 5, 2023

Book Review and Giveaway - The Ghost Goes to the Dogs (Haunted Bookshop Mystery) by Cleo Coyle

My Review

The Ghost Goes to the Dogs is a unique cozy mystery. "Pen" (Penelope) McClure is a single mother running a mystery bookstore in small town Rhode Island.  When a dog shows up out of the blue, Pen's son follows the dog - only to find the dog's owner unconscious on the sidewalk. Pen works to find what happened to the woman who was injured, with the help of a ghostly 1940's gumshoe detective, Jack Shepard.

I wanted to read this novel because I love cozy mysteries and I enjoyed reading this series early on.  I haven't read the more recent books, but had no problem jumping in and enjoying this book.  (And I do want to catch up with the books I missed!)

As someone who loves 1940's mysteries (both books and movies) I absolutely love the character of Jack Shepard and the 1940's setting for his flashback scenes.  I also enjoy his interaction with Pen, which works amazingly well and adds an interesting layer to the mystery.

I loved the idea of a week of pet mysteries at a bookstore (with a pet festival as well) and appreciated how well the pet owner mystery in this book fit in with that theme.  Lovable Sparky the dog and Bookmark the cat were great additions to the story! 

The Ghost Goes to the Dogs is fast paced and well plotted. I enjoyed the way Pen and Jack worked together to solve the mystery.

I recommend this mystery to fans of cozy mysteries, and especially for anyone who loves 1940's detectives or pet theme cozies.

Book Synopsis

A stray dog leads bookseller Penelope McClure and her gumshoe ghost on a chase for a cunning criminal in this brand-new entry in the “UTTERLY CHARMING” (Mystery Scene) Haunted Bookshop Mysteries from New York Times bestselling author Cleo Coyle. Pet Mystery Week brings brisk business to Penelope’s Rhode Island bookshop, but a real mystery comes barking at her door when a lost dog turns up in a panic. Pen and her son Spencer follow the furry fugitive to a wooded area where the dog’s owner lies unconscious. Mrs. Cunningham is a warm-hearted widow who volunteers at the animal shelter and runs Buy the Book’s pet lovers book club. Why would anyone shoot such a sweet soul? The police believe it’s an accident, a shot by a careless deer hunter, but Pen remains skeptical. To straighten out this doggone mess, she whistles for the ghost of PI Jack Shepard, an expert in hounding as well as haunting. Jack has a dog story of his own, a case from the 1940s that may help Pen sniff out clues to her present predicament. Yet even with Jack’s hard-boiled help, Pen may not be able to stop the killer from striking again or letting this whole case go to the dogs…

Author Bio

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 long-running Coffeehouse Mysteries and Haunted Bookshop Mysteries, now celebrating nearly 20 years in print. With more than one million books sold, their work has been honored with starred reviews and multiple best-of-year list selections by reviewers. Alice and Marc are also bestselling media tie-in writers who have penned properties for Lucasfilm, NBC, Fox, Disney, Imagine, Toho, and MGM. They live and work in New York City, where they write independently and together.

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Thursday, April 27, 2023

Book Review - Windswept Way by Irene Hannon

My Review

Ashley Scott comes to Hope Harbor on the coast of Oregon to work at a historic mansion as a wedding and event planner. She befriends the mansion's owner, Rose, who is an elderly recluse.  When she meets the new landscaper, Jon, she feels a connection with him, but he is  a war veteran who has physical scars -- and a great wariness of relationships. Windswept Way explores Ashley's new life in this small town and her tentative friendship with Jon.

I wanted to read this novel because I enjoyed an earlier book in the Hope Harbor series. I love small town fiction, and Hope Harbor is a charming town - complete with friendly business owners, neighbors who care, and two clerics (one Protestant, one Catholic) who are best friends. It is enjoyable to spend time in this little town via this series.

Ashley is a likable protagonist - warm and kind, with great compassion for others.  Her caring helps Rose open up to others and also makes a real difference in Jon's life.  Ashley and Jon's romance is sweet and moving, as he is truly emotionally as well as physically scarred by his experience at war.

I have enjoyed the books I've read in this series and need to go back and read the other books as well.  I also look forward to the next chapter in this series.   I recommend Windswept Way for fans of small town settings, sweet romance, and comforting, life-affirming fiction.

Book Synopsis

One house that deserves a second chance meets two hearts that deserve the same . . .

Buying a haunted house was never in Ashley Scott's plans, but when an intriguing opportunity drops into her lap after a major life setback, she finds herself trekking cross-country to Hope Harbor on the Oregon coast to launch a new life.

Wounded warrior Jonathan Gray isn't sure what to make of the attractive woman on his reclusive older neighbor's isolated property, but her presence is none of his business--until she enlists his help with an ambitious project. When Jonathan finds his interest in the new arrival becoming more personal than professional, however, his defenses go up. There's no room in his life--or his heart--for romance.

Yet as these two hurting souls join forces to restore life, laughter, and love to a historic estate, might they also find healing, hope, and happiness themselves?

Come home to Hope Harbor--where hearts heal . . . and love blooms.

Author Bio

Irene Hannon is the bestselling and award-winning author of more than 60 contemporary romance and romantic suspense novels. In addition to her many other honors, she is a three-time winner of the prestigious RITA Award from Romance Writers of America. She is also a member of RWA's elite Hall of Fame and has received a Career Achievement Award from RT Book Reviews for her entire body of work. Learn more at

Friday, April 14, 2023

Book Review and Giveaway - Bowled Over Americano by Carolyn Arnold

My Review

Bowled Over Americano is the start of a new cozy series.  Sara Cain is a police detective who works days and nights sleuthing, along with her partner Sean McKinley.  While investigating a case involving a champion bowler who is murdered, Sara ends up adopting the bowler's beagle Magnum, and the dog goes along on a few cases.  

I wanted to read this book because the bowling storyline sounded like fun.  I love cozy mysteries and I also liked that this is the first book in a new series.

This is a great start to a new series with Sara and Sean solving mysteries together.  They are a great pair - detectives and friends, but there is also a sweet romantic storyline.  The mystery aspect of this story is well written.  Sara and Sean have great sleuthing experience because of their work.  There are several possible suspects, and it was fun to tag along with Sara and Sean as they worked to solve the case.

Magnum the beagle was a fun addition to the story!  The author captures the beagle personality perfectly in this book.  I am a lifelong animal lover and especially enjoy mysteries that involve dogs or cats.

I look forward to future books in this series, and recommend Bowled Over Americano to other fans of cozy mysteries.  This is a lively, well written start to a new series!

Book Synopsis

Sara Cain isn’t your typical thirty-two-year-old woman. Murder detective by day, writer and… sleuth by night? Just as long as there’s enough coffee to keep her going…

When her first novel gives her trouble, Sara goes for a walk to clear her writer’s block and ends up stumbling right into a real-life murder mystery. Magnum, an adventurous beagle, comes running off leash toward her in the local park, and she returns him home only to find his master dead on the entry floor. 

Cliff Cunningham was a championship bowler with a mean streak and a temper, and police are pegging his Golden Pin bowling trophy as the murder weapon. While any number of people could have clocked a strike by knocking him on the noggin, the prime suspect is a friend of Sara’s mother—and she expects Sara to prove the woman’s innocence. A tall order, as the case isn’t officially hers and belongs to a rival detective.

But a promise is a promise, and Sara soon finds herself sleuthing undercover—and off the clock—in a world of polyester shirts and rental shoes. It’s not all bad, though, as she’s taking her friend and partner Sean McKinley along for the ride. They are better together than they’ve ever been split, and they’re not amateurs at finding killers. Despite being up against small-town hijinks and colorful characters who threaten to roll their efforts into the gutter, they are having fun. That is, until they get close to the killer and a dangerous twist puts their lives at risk.  

A completely addictive caper full of twists that offers up a serving of murder, a dollop of romance, and a dash of humor. This perfect blend of robust and sweet is bound to hit the spot with readers who are fans of Verity Bright, Tonya Kappes, and Agatha Frost.

Author Bio

CAROLYN ARNOLD is an internationally bestselling and award-winning author, as well as a speaker, teacher, and inspirational mentor. She has several continuing fiction series and has many published books. Her genre diversity offers readers police procedurals, hard-boiled and cozy mysteries, thrillers, and action adventures. Her crime fiction series have been praised by those in law enforcement as being accurate and entertaining. This led to her adopting the trademark: POLICE PROCEDURALS RESPECTED BY LAW ENFORCEMENT™. 

Carolyn was born in a small town and enjoys spending time outdoors, but she also loves the lights of a big city. Grounded by her roots and lifted by her dreams, her overactive imagination insists that she tell her stories. Her intention is to touch the hearts of millions with her books, to entertain, inspire, and empower. 

She currently lives near London, Ontario, Canada with her husband and two beagles.

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Friday, April 7, 2023

Book Review - The Vanishing at Castle Moreau by Jaime Jo Wright

My Review

The Vanishing at Castle Moreau is a Gothic novel told in three timelines.  In present day, Cleo Clemmons agrees to do a big job for cash payment because she is on the run.  She goes to Castle Moreau, an American castle in Wisconsin, to help a celebrity's grandmother declutter the items she has hoarded for many years. In 1870 Daisy Francois goes to work at Castle Moreau, but becomes concerned about all the rumors of women disappearing from the castle.  There are also flashbacks to 1801 when a young girl is living a rather frightening life at the castle, haunted by a woman with a crooked hand.

I wanted to read this novel because I love the Gothic tradition of novels like Jane Eyre and Rebecca.  I enjoy historical fiction and don't encounter a lot of new Gothic historical novels, so I was curious!

The author, Jaime Jo Wright, did a wonderful job with the atmospheric setting and mystery elements of this novel.  This evocative description is a good example of the storytelling in this book:

"The castle cast its hypnotic pull over any passerby who happened along to find it, tucked deep in the woods in a place where no one would build a castle, let alone live in one. It served no purpose there. No strategy of war, no boast of wealth, no respite for a tired soul. Instead, it simply existed. Tugging. Coercing. Entrapping. Its two turrets mimicked bookends, and if removed, one would fear the entire castle would collapse like a row of standing volumes. Windows covered the façade above a stone archway, which drew her eyes to the heavy wooden door with its iron hinges, the bushes along the foundation, and the stone steps leading to the mouth of the edifice. Beyond it was a small orchard of apple trees, their tiny pink blossoms serving as a delicate backdrop for the magnificent property" (eBook location 38).

I found the present day storyline of Cleo, with the added mystery of why she was on the run, the most compelling in the book.  She is cautious to make connections, but surprisingly finds herself drawn to Deacon, the grandson of the older woman she is helping.  Deacon was one of my favorite characters in the novel.  

The story takes several twists and turns, and I enjoyed the meandering road to the answer to the mystery of Castle Moreau.  I recommend this unique and intriguing novel for fans of historical fiction, and especially for anyone who enjoys Gothic fiction.

Book Synopsis

A haunting legend. An ominous curse. A search for a secret buried deep within the castle walls.  

In 1870, orphaned Daisy François takes a position as housemaid at a Wisconsin castle to escape the horrors of her past life. There she finds a reclusive and eccentric Gothic authoress who hides tales more harrowing than the ones in her novels. As women disappear from the area and the eerie circumstances seem to parallel a local legend, Daisy is thrust into a web that could ultimately steal her sanity, if not her life.

In the present day, Cleo Clemmons is hired by the grandson of an American aristocratic family to help his grandmother face her hoarding in the dilapidated Castle Moreau. But when Cleo uncovers more than just the woman's stash of collectibles, a century-old mystery and the dust of the old castle's curse threaten to rise again . . . this time to leave no one alive to tell the sordid tale.

Award-winning author Jaime Jo Wright seamlessly weaves a dual-time tale of two women who must do all they can to seek the light amid the darkness shrouding Castle Moreau.



Author Bio

Jaime Jo Wright is the author of eight novels, including Christy Award and Daphne du Maurier Award-winner The House on Foster Hill and Carol Award winner The Reckoning at Gossamer Pond. She's also the Publishers Weekly and ECPA bestselling author of two novellas. Jaime lives in Wisconsin with her cat named Foo; her husband, Cap'n Hook; and their two mini-adults, Peter Pan and CoCo.