Book Review: Every Cloak Rolled in Blood (Holland Family Saga #4) by James Lee Burke

  • Title: Every Cloak Rolled in Blood
  • Author: James Lee Burke
  • Where to buy: Amazon (affiliate link)
  • Genre: Paranormal Mystery, Suspense, Supernatural, Crime Fiction
  • Would I recommend: Yes. It’s an engrossing look at the profound mystery of good versus evil, and a stark picture of the pain of loss and the redemptive power of family.

Synopsis:

In his most autobiographical novel to date, James Lee Burke continues the epic Holland family saga with a writer grieving the death of his daughter while battling earthly and supernatural outlaws.

Novelist Aaron Holland Broussard is shattered when his daughter Fannie Mae dies suddenly. As he tries to honor her memory by saving two young men from a life of crime amid their opioid-ravaged community, he is drawn into a network of villainy that includes a violent former Klansman, a far-from-holy minister, a biker club posing as evangelicals, and a murderer who has been hiding in plain sight.

Aaron’s only ally is state police officer Ruby Spotted Horse, a no-nonsense woman who harbors some powerful secrets in her cellar. Despite the air of mystery surrounding her, Ruby is the only one Aaron can trust. That is, until the ghost of Fannie Mae shows up, guiding her father through a tangled web of the present and past and helping him vanquish his foes from both this world and the next.

Drawn from James Lee Burke’s own life experiences, Every Cloak Rolled in Blood is a devastating exploration of the nature of good and evil and a deeply moving story about the power of love and family. 

My review:

I’m familiar with James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux books (one of which I reviewed here). Before reading Every Cloak Rolled in Blood, I had not read any of his Holland Family Saga works. Y’all know how this goes. Now I gotta go read all of them. I need to win the Powerball and be independently wealthy just so I have time to read all of the books that are calling my name.

Aaron Holland Broussard is cut adrift. Since the sudden, violent death of his daughter, Fannie Mae, he has lost his anchor. Death isn’t unfamiliar to him, but the loss of Fannie Mae cuts deep – deeper than deaths on the battlefield in Vietnam, deaths of parents, deaths of friends. He is determined to find a way to reconnect with her, to bring her back or join her beyond the veil. He isn’t actively suicidal, but you get the feeling he wouldn’t mind if the Good Lord called his number.

I believe the world to be a cathedral shaped by a divine hand, and if this is true, I should fear death no more than I should fear returning to the home of my birth.

Aaron Holland Broussard, “Every Cloak Rolled in Blood”

When two local boys paint a swastika on his barn, his 911 call leads Broussard to an ally – a friend? a soulmate? – state trooper Ruby Spotted Horse. Ruby is also struggling with her own grief over the death of her niece, and, like many others in the story, is not entirely what she seems. She confesses to Broussard that she is one of a group called the Guardians, and that the Old People – monsters wrapped in myth and story from ages past – are trapped in her basement.

Broussard knows that people, that things, are not always what they appear to be. He’s seen – and talked to – Colonel Eugene Baker, the long-dead architect of a horribly brutal attack on a peaceful band of Blackfeet. He’s faced a malevolent little girl who looks like Ruby’s murdered niece, but probably isn’t. And as the evils of the past bleed over ever more forcefully into Broussard’s present, he knows that he must fight evil, in human or spiritual form, with everything he has. Otherwise, it may overtake them all, and Fannie Mae may be lost to him forever.

Burke’s books are always filled with turns of phrase sometimes graceful, sometimes spare, sometimes philosophical, and this book is no exception. That, for me, is one of the greatest pleasures of reading his novels – seeing how he will express himself when I turn the next page. Whether Burke wrote the words himself or, as he says in the note at the beginning of the book, “another hand wrote it for me,” the prose is magnificent, and it stayed with me long after the last page was turned.

Burke tackles a lot of chewy issues in this book. The pandemic, social distancing, BLM, white supremacy, twisted politics. But it all takes a backseat to the constant underlying thrum of the pain and loss a parent feels upon losing a child. If this story is Burke’s most autobiographical yet, he is surely sharing his grief with us here, and inviting us to feel its weight for a moment.

This is not necessarily an easy read, as emotionally laden as it is, but it is worthwhile. Love opens us up to pain and loss, but it also offers healing and redemption. Burke portrays both masterfully.

Disclaimer: I received an advance review copy from Simon & Schuster and NetGalley. All opinions here are my own, and I don’t say nice things about books I don’t actually like.

Posted in ARC Reads, Book Reviews, Crime Fiction, Mystery, Paranormal | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Book Review: Bless Your Heart, Rae Sutton by Susannah B. Lewis

  • Title: Bless Your Heart, Rae Sutton
  • Author: Susannah B. Lewis
  • Where to buy: Amazon (affiliate link)
  • Genre: Humor, Southern Fiction, Christian Fiction, Women’s Fiction
  • Would I recommend: YES.

Synopsis:

Sometimes what your life is missing is an eccentric group of older ladies to take you under their wing . . .

When Raeley Ann Sutton’s mama passes away and leaves her the house where she grew up, Rae can’t imagine how the little old place might restore her broken life. Mourning the recent loss of her marriage, she takes the house and settles back in tiny, “one-horse Whitten” with her fourteen-year-old daughter, Molly Margaret, and their overweight dog.

There she’s embraced by her mother’s close-knit circle of friends, the Third Thursday ladies: Mrs. Fannie, Mrs. Dora, and Aunt Maxine. Though almost half their age and far less confident of positive outcomes, Rae joins their ministry-slash-book-club-slash-gossip circle and allows the women to speak wry honesty and witty humor into her tired heart. As a new career and a new romance bring their own complications, Rae relies on the unlikely family she’s found and begins to wonder if her future holds more hope than she ever could have imagined.

Known for her heartwarming stories and genuine Southern voice, Susannah B. Lewis dazzles with her latest story of women strengthening women.

“Settle in for an enchanting tale, featuring a delightful cast of characters. At turns humorous and heart-wrenching, Lewis’s novel delivers on themes of forgiveness and restoration. Wise, witty, and full of Southern charm, Bless Your Heart, Rea Sutton is as refreshing as a tall glass of sweet tea on a hot summer day!” —Denise Hunter, bestselling author of the Riverbend Romances

My review:

Let me just say this right up front: I LOVE THIS BOOK!!!!!!

I’ve read Susannah B. Lewis’s non-fiction before (How May I Offend You Today? and Can’t Make This Stuff Up are both hilarious and thought-provoking and must-reads in my book), but this is the first of her fictions works that I’ve read. I’ve got to go back and read some of her other fiction books now.

Raeley Ann Sutton, or Rae, has a lot on her plate. Her ex-husband, Carter, divorced her for some pretty young thing (although Rae never had the heart to tell her mama why Carter really left), and now her mama has passed away and left her the small house she grew up in. Is moving back to Whitten, Alabama really the right thing?

Lewis tells her story with her trademark Southern wit and wisdom, and that just brings me right back to my childhood. When talking about the meal after the funeral, Aunt Maxine tells Rae, “Dora is bringing chicken. Lena will bring a dessert. She’ll pass it off in her own Tupperware, but it will be storebought. The woman can’t boil water. Bless her heart.” How many of us who grew up in the South haven’t heard something along those lines?

Rae’s story may not be exactly like mine or yours, but it rings true for all of us. How many of us have been left gobsmacked by life’s disappointments, wondering if anyone got the license plate of the truck that just hit us? How many of us have felt like hope is distant and God surely must have given up listening to our prayers, because we can’t see a thing that He’s doing to improve the situation? Rae struggles to find the faith she grew up in, and the Third Thursday ladies and their “ministry” (where, “for an hour each month, they laughed, gossiped, reminisced about days gone by, and solved all the problems in Whitten, Alabama”) point her in the right direction. She hears their stories of their own struggles, she sees their hearts for helping others as they have the ability to do so, and she realizes that she can’t – and doesn’t have to – carry her hurt on her own. As Rae says, “Iron sharpens iron, and they had certainly sharpened me.”

And this particular quote, from a letter that Rae’s mother left for her to find, really struck me: “Appreciate the good and even the bad, Rae. Cherish the valley, because that is where you find the strength to reach the mountaintop.” What a wonderful reminder for Rae from her mama, and what a wonderful truth for me to hang onto, tucked away into a really good book.

This book is a delight. I’d like to have my own group of Third Thursday ladies now. If you love a wonderfully told story set in a small Southern town, filled with characters you feel like you know (or might be kin to), brimming with love and faith and redemption, you need to read Bless Your Heart, Rae Sutton. Don’t wait. Go get it now, and enjoy. You can thank me later.

Disclaimer: I was provided an advance review copy of this book by the publisher and NetGalley. All opinions here are mine, and I don’t say nice things about books I don’t actually like.

Posted in ARC Reads, Book Reviews, Christian Fiction, NetGalley, Southern Fiction, Women's Fiction | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Book Blitz and Giveaway: It’s a Mad, Mad Murder by Cindy Vincent | Lone Star Book Blog Tours

IT’S A MAD, MAD MURDER
A Maddie Montgomery Mystery
by
CINDY VINCENT

Cozy Culinary Mystery / Women Sleuths / Amateur Sleuths
Publisher: Whodunit Press
Date of Publication: November 15, 2021
Number of Pages: 303 pages
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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 . . .
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Cindy 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.
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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
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Book Review and Blog Tour: Mystery at Lovelace Manor by Clare Chase

About the book:

Lovelace Manor has a famous past… but when a historian becomes history at its annual open day, amateur sleuth Eve Mallow is on the case!

Everyone in Saxford St Peter flocks to Lovelace Sunday, the festival celebrating the romantic history of beautiful Lovelace Manor. This year will be even more exciting, as famous TV historian Cammie Harington is planning a spectacular stunt with a hot-air balloon for her new show.

Eve Mallow jumps at the chance to volunteer – it’s a great people-watching opportunity. But she soon realises there is no love lost between Cammie and the family who owns the manor… so why did Cammie agree to come?

When Cammie’s hot-air balloon tumbles from the sky, Eve feels sure this is no accident. Alongside dachshund Gus, she sets to work investigating the mystery, piecing together all the odd things she’s seen and heard.

Could the killer be discreet Diana, lady of the manor, who fell out with Cammie years ago? Or Diana’s dashing brother Sebastian, whose dark secret Cammie knew? Why was the loyal gardener following Cammie around? And had Cammie uncovered something explosive about the manor’s past, as she claimed?

When someone breaks into Cammie’s cottage and a priceless Lovelace heirloom goes missing, Eve is sure she’s on the right track… but can she solve the case, before the killer brings her crashing down?

A completely gripping English cozy mystery, perfect for fans of Frances Evesham, J.R. Ellis and Betty Rowlands.

My review:

Eve Mallow jumps at the opportunity to volunteer for Lovelace Sunday, a big to-do held each year at Lovelace Manor. The manor has quite the history and romantic legend, and this year popular historian Cammie Harrington will be there as well, so Eve figures it will be worth taking part. What she didn’t expect was that she’d be writing Cammie’s obituary and working to solve her murder, too.

Clare Chase writes a delightful mystery! It’s full of people like you’d expect to find in a small English town, and some you might not expect. Eve’s love interest, Robin, is actually in the witness protection program. That tidbit makes their relationship a bit more complicated than most, as they can’t do anything that will risk his true identity being revealed.

Eve is one of my favorite kinds of protagonists – intelligent, keenly observant, and just a bit quirky. I mean, she’s a professional obituary writer. That’s not your everyday kind of job. And she’s got a dachshund. That automatically makes her good people as far as I’m concerned.

Eve’s job drafting Cammie’s obituary gives her an opportunity to ask all sorts of questions to plenty of suspects. It seems like there are any number of people who might have had reason to want Cammie out of the way. Could it be Ralph Roscoe, her university ex-boyfriend, who tried to jump into the hot air balloon at the last minute? What about Diana Pickford-Jones, the owner of Lovelace Manor, who had once been so close to Cammie? Or Diana’s drop-dead gorgeous model brother, Sebastian, and the deep dark secret Cammie said she knew? The taciturn gardener, Josh Standish? And what about the mysterious storyteller, Raven, who may or may not be who she seems to be?

The story is also full of twists and surprises, and even more than one death. Some I saw coming, some I didn’t, and one or two I suspected.

Is there anything really new and unexpected about the story? No. But it’s an enjoyable cozy mystery in a British setting, which I always like. It’s set in a small town, full of characters that I feel like I’d like to know. It’s a quick, easy read, perfect for unwinding after a hard day at work or relaxing in a comfy chair by the pool. If you like a mystery heavy on cozy and light on gory details, with just a touch of romance, I highly recommend Mystery at Lovelace Manor!

Disclaimer: I received an advance review copy from Bookouture and NetGalley. All opinions here are mine, and I don’t say nice things about books I don’t actually like.

About the author:

Clare Chase writes classic mysteries. Her aim is to take readers away from it all via some armchair sleuthing in atmospheric locations.

Her debut novel was shortlisted for Novelicious’s Undiscovered Award, as well as an EPIC award post-publication, and was chosen as a Debut of the Month by LoveReading. Murder on the Marshes (Tara Thorpe 1) was shortlisted for an International Thriller Writers award.

Like her heroines, Clare is fascinated by people and what makes them tick. Before becoming a full-time writer, she worked in settings as diverse as Littlehey Prison and the University of Cambridge, in her home city. She’s lived everywhere from the house of a lord to a slug-infested flat and finds the mid-terrace she currently occupies a good happy medium.

As well as writing, Clare loves family time, art and architecture, cooking, and of course, reading other people’s books.You can find Clare’s website and blog at www.clarechase.com.

Posted in Blog Tours, Bookouture, Cozy Mystery, Mystery, NetGalley | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Book Review and Giveaway: Fatal Code (The SNAP Agency Series, #2) by Natalie Walters

FATAL CODE
The SNAP Agency Series, Book 2
by
NATALIE WALTERS
Fiction / Christian / Suspense / Romance
Publisher: Revell
Date of Publication: May 1, 2022
Number of Pages: 320 pages
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In 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.
As Elinor follows the clues her grandfather left behind to a top-secret nuclear project, Kekoa has no choice but to step in. When Elinor learns he has been spying on her, she’s crushed. But with danger closing in on all sides, she’ll have to trust him to ensure her discoveries stay out of enemy hands.
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 FATAL CODE:
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
CLICK TO PURCHASE!

Fatal Code is the second in Natalie Walters’ SNAP Agency series. I haven’t read the first, but after reading this one, you better believe I’m going to to grab it.

Buckle up, y’all! This book takes off right out of the gate and doesn’t slow down. Elinor, an aerospace engineer, is grieving the death of her grandfather who practically raised her, hanging onto the journals he left her. But when she discovers some secret codes in the journals, she knows they’re a puzzle she has to solve. Kekoa is part of the SNAP Agency, and they’ve been tasked with investigating leaks at the company where Elinor works. Everything seems to point to Elinor as the leak, and Kekoa is tagged to monitor her. As he gets to know Elinor, though, and finds himself rescuing her from hazardous situations, he can’t reconcile what he’s seeing with what the data is telling him.

I couldn’t even tell you which character I liked more. Elinor is my kind of girl. She’s incredibly intelligent, unabashedly nerdy, and a genuinely decent human being. And Kekoa? I want to hug him and hang out with his family and have some of those “ono grindz” they kept talking about. (I’m pretty sure that means tasty, tasty food. If only the book came with recipes….) He’s smart, and he doesn’t see himself as a protector, but he’s willing to do whatever it takes to keep Elinor safe. They’re both delightfully three-dimensional, and they aren’t perfect. Elinor hesitates to let anyone get close to her. Kekoa is battling the guilt he feels over his younger brother’s death several years earlier. They’re all the more real and relatable by having to work through issues that their pasts have left them with.

And as I would expect in Christian fiction, both Elinor and Kekoa rely on their faith to help them in difficult times! Elinor often recalls “His Eye is on the Sparrow,” one of the hymns her grandfather would sing to her. I love having a good old-fashioned hymn woven into a story. Walters doesn’t just pay lip service to faith in Christ. Her characters are living it out. The language is clean, and the romance is, too, and I appreciate that.

But don’t think this is some precious, too sweet for words story. It is a butt-kickin’ thrill ride of a suspense read. There are two mystery storylines to try to sort out – one, what the codes in Elinor’s grandfather’s journals mean, and two, who is leaking information on the top secret project and trying to case Elinor as the source. Walters does a great job in laying down hints and clues that take you first one way, then another, and in keeping the tension almost constant. I didn’t peg the identity of the leak until she laid it out, and I do love books that keep me guessing until the end.

To sum up, if you love a clean slow burn romance, a good redemption story, and suspense that just never stops, get your hands on Fatal Code. Bonus that it let me learn about Hawaiian culture and nerdy tech stuff. It’s a five-star read for me, and Natalie Walters has added herself to my favorite authors list.


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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.
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Posted in Blog Tours, Christian Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Lone Star Book Blog Tours, Lone Star Literary Life, Revell, Romance, Suspense | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Book Review: The Master Craftsman by Kelli Stuart

  • Title: The Master Craftsman
  • Author: Kelli Stuart
  • Where to buy: Amazon (affiliate link)
  • Genre: Christian Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Historical Fiction
  • Would I recommend: If you like a good historical read, you may enjoy this one, but the characters’ Christian faith isn’t clearly on display. If you prefer strong faith themes in your Christian fiction, this may not be the right read for you.

Synopsis:

In 1917, Alma Pihl, a master craftsman in The House of Fabergé, was charged to protect one of the greatest secrets in Russian history–an unknown Fabergé Egg that Peter Karl Fabergé secretly created to honor his divided allegiance to both the people of Russia and the Imperial Czar’s family. When Alma and her husband escaped Russia for their native Finland in 1921, she took the secret with her, guarding her past connection to the Romanov family.

Three generations later, world-renowned treasure hunter Nick Laine is sick and fears the secret of the missing egg will die with him. With time running out, he entrusts the mission of retrieving the egg to his estranged daughter, Ava, who has little idea of the dangers she is about to face. As the stakes are raised, Ava is forced to declare her own allegiance–and the consequences are greater than she could have imagined.

This modern-day treasure hunt from award-winning author Kelli Stuart transports you into the opulent and treacherous world of the Russian Revolution to unearth mysteries long buried. 

My review:

I am a sucker for Russian history. I remember traveling to see the Catherine the Great exhibit in Memphis with my mother back in the early 1990s. Such opulence! Such treasure! Such beauty on display! It made an impression. So I jumped at the chance to read and review Kelli Stuart’s The Master Craftsman. A secret egg crafted by the master himself, Peter Karl Fabergé? A treasure hunt for this lost piece of history? Yes, please! Sadly, it didn’t quite hit on all cylinders for me.

First, the things I liked. The story is told in a dual-timeline fashion, and Stuart uses that technique to great effect. A portion of the past revealed would often provide information on the next clue our treasure hunters needed to move forward. I didn’t find the shifts between time periods too confusing, and I enjoyed the historical sections most of all. You hear about the Russian Revolution from the aristocrats’ point of view, and you hear about the impact it had on the everyday folks. Fabergé, as one of the royal family’s master artisans, wasn’t quite royalty, but had perks in life that the common folk were lacking. You never really hear the story from that perspective. In this telling, it sounds like being close to royalty wasn’t a benefit and might have even been a detriment to the Fabergé family.

The treasure hunt was also a pretty good adventure! There are clues to be figured out, a little bit of cyber sleuthing to be done, and some pretty nasty bad guys to be faced down. It offered some nice suspenseful moments, and I was invested in the outcome. I also appreciated that an older character (closer to my age!) was involved in the hunt. Good not to let the youngsters have all the adventure!

Now for what didn’t really work for me. My biggest disappointment is the distinct lack of a strong faith underlying any of the characters’ actions. Nick Laine, a renowned treasure hunter, bailed on his family years ago to chase the dream and the goods. Now that he’s dying of cancer, he hopes to reunite with his estranged ex-wife, Carol, and daughter, Ava. My goodness, what a golden opportunity there for characters to act out their faith and portray a beautiful moment of reconciliation and redemption of the years they had lost. Did that happen? Nope. There may have been a couple of mentions given to prayer, and Carol cautions against the use of swearing as “unnecessary language.” But none of the characters portray any sort of real faith in God or any sort of reliance on Him, even in really hairy situations. If you like your Christian fiction more overtly Christian, keep in mind that you won’t find that here.

It also bothered me that Ava tended to take advantage of her neighbor, Zac. He obviously had feelings for her, and she knew it, but it felt to me like she played on his feelings when it was advantageous for her. She was slobbering all over Xander, their treasure hunt guide, very nearly from his first appearance. She persisted even when Carol tried to remind her more than once that hey, maybe you need to tone that down, knowing that Zac is clearly hooked on you. I know, the heart wants what the heart wants. But that part of the storyline seemed almost high schoolish in the way Ava so visibly crushed on Xander and ignored how Zac felt.

In summary: Interesting historical detail, vivid imagining of what Fabergé’s life might have actually been like during the Revolution, lots of adventure with the treasure hunt, minimal mention of the Christian faith, and Ava came across as kind of a mean girl to Zac a lot of the time. I enjoyed it enough to give it three stars. Had the faith component been more prominent and fleshed out, my rating would have bumped up to four stars. Read it for the adventure, not the faith.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher, Revell. All opinions here are mine, and I don’t say nice things about books I don’t actually like.

Posted in Adventure, Book Reviews, Christian Fiction, Historical Fiction, NetGalley, Revell, Revell Reads, Women's Fiction | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Book Blitz and Giveaway: Turn to Me by Becky Wade | Lone Star Book Blog Tours

TURN TO ME
A Misty River Romance
by
BECKY WADE
Contemporary Romance / Christian Fiction / Clean & Wholesome
Date of Publication: May 3, 2022
Number of Pages: 416 pages 
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His 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?
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Becky 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.
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Book Review: Nonna Maria and the Case of the Missing Bride

  • Title: Nonna Maria and the Case of the Missing Bride
  • Author: Lorenzo Carcaterra
  • Where to buy: Amazon (affiliate link)
  • Genre: Cozy Mystery
  • Would I recommend: Absolutely. Y’all don’t be fooled by the fact that she isn’t young and tech-savvy. Nonna Maria is a sleuth to be reckoned with.

Synopsis:

When a crime on a beautiful Italian island stumps the police, locals turn to the trusted, elderly widow Nonna Maria in this transporting mystery from #1 New York Times bestselling author Lorenzo Carcaterra, one of the all-time greats (Jeffery Deaver).

Nonna Maria has lived in Ischia, an island in the Gulf of Naples, her entire life. Recognizable by the widow’s black she’s worn every day for decades, she always has pasta on the stove and espresso in the pot for the neighbors who stop by to ask her advice on life and love. Everyone knows her, and she knows everyone’s business. So if something goes wrong, islanders look to her, and not the local carabinieri, to find the solution.

When a recently engaged woman confesses that she’s afraid her fiance might not be who he seems, Nonna Maria helps her disappear while she investigates the true nature of her betrothed, a stranger to Ischia with a murky past. The stranger has also raised the suspicions of Captain Murino of the carabinieri, but he’s occupied investigating the death of a tour boat captain who drowned in the wee hours of the morning. Captain Murino believes it’s an accident, but Nonna Maria knew the man was a born sailor, and too good a swimmer to drown, no matter how much wine he might have drunk. While Captain Murino has his hands full, she pours herself a glass of white wine and gets to work, even though getting involved will expose her to the dangers lurking just beneath the surface of her idyllic home. 

My review:

Nonna Maria has lived on the island of Ischia her whole life. In fact, she’s never traveled anywhere else. She knows everyone on the island quite well (and is probably related to half the people there), and they know and trust her. They come to her with their problems before they’ll go to the law because of their long-standing relationships with her. And Nonna Maria helps. She says she doesn’t investigate, she helps friends.

There are two threads to follow here. First, we have Anna, our “missing bride,” who comes to Nonna Maria in tears as the book opens. She has agreed to marry a man, a stranger to Ischia, and now doubts that he is who he claims to be. Then we have Pasquale, a sailor born if ever there was one, who has fallen overboard to his death in the ocean that he loved. The police have very little to go on with Pasquale’s death, and can’t really do anything with Anna’s fiance, but Nonna Maria can and does sort things out.

This is not a fast-paced, action-packed book. If that’s what you’re looking for, you might not enjoy it. Me, I loved it! I’m not as young as I used to be myself, and it’s always a treat for a book to feature a more seasoned sleuth. Nonna Maria is precisely that, and in addition, she’s an independent woman who definitely knows her own mind. She only drinks the coffee she makes (and she makes it strong!), and she sees no point in water, but will indulge in a glass of wine. I think she’s my new favorite main character.

And true to her assertion, Nonna Maria doesn’t really investigate. She has no phone, no car, no television. She doesn’t get on the internet to dig up public records or old news articles. She talks to people, one friend to another, to learn the things she needs to know. Her circle of friends is broad, ranging from the parish priest at the local church (you know, the one she doesn’t attend) to a man who keeps to the shadows but whose reputation still carries weight, to a crime lord from Naples to the local mechanic. It is her many connections and relationships that allow her to get to the heart of just about any matter.

She doesn’t go it alone, either. The whole island looks out for their Nonna. She is on good terms with Captain Murino of the carabinieri as well. He may not be local to Ischia, but he would no more let harm come to Nonna Maria than any of her friends or family would. He’s got a personal stake in one of the two mysteries, and he hopes she can ferret out information that he might never have access to in his official capacity.

I loved the slower pace of this book. I want to visit Ischia now, to hear Aldo Poli play piano at the Bar Calise while I enjoy a cool beverage. It sounds like a lovely place to spend some time, and I hope the author takes us back there in future books!

If pulse-pounding thrillers are more your speed, don’t pick up this book. But if, like me, you enjoy a well-crafted mystery set in a jewel of a place, with a protagonist who’s sharp as a tack and who looks out for her friends, you need to read this. It’s a hit with me.

Disclaimer: I received an advance review copy from NetGalley and Random House. All opinions here are mine, and I don’t say nice things about books that I don’t actually like.

Posted in ARC Reads, Book Reviews, Cover Reveals, Detective Fiction, Mystery, NetGalley, Random House | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fun Facts and Giveaway: Charleston Conundrum (A Liz Adams Mystery) by Stacy Wilder


 CHARLESTON CONUNDRUM

A Liz Adams Mystery
by
STACY WILDER
 
Cozy Mystery / Female Sleuth / Cozy Animal
Publisher: Wild Hawk Press
Series: A Liz Adams Mystery
Date of Publication: January 15, 2022
Number of Pages: 235 pages 
 
Scroll down for Giveaway!
A Cozy Mystery with a Twist…
Liz Adams never imagined when she moved to Charleston with her truth sniffing Labrador retriever, Duke, that she would use her skills as a private investigator to avoid winding up on Death Row.  

Liz’s life is upended when her best friend, Peg, is murdered and she becomes a suspect.  Liz’s gun was the murder weapon. Tensions flare between Liz and the cops as she rises to the top of their suspect list.

At the request of Peg’s father, Liz agrees to take on the investigation. Riding a roller coaster of emotions, Liz uncovers many secrets Peg kept from her despite being best friends. The suspects include a cast of characters: the ex-husband, the boyfriend, a coworker, several neighbors and family members. 

Charleston Conundrum takes the reader from Charleston, South Carolina to Paris and back in the emotional unraveling of Peg’s life and death to a killer ending. It is the first book in the Conundrum series.
 
Link to the YouTube Video

AUTHOR STACY WILDER SHARES FUN FACTS ABOUT HER LABRADORS
(And names which one was the model for Duke, in Charleston Conundrum)

Our first Labrador, Bear, was a surprise first-year anniversary gift from my sisters. Bear had the special talent of being able to open the refrigerator. We had to keep a child lock on it.

Our second Labrador, Buddy, had a sense of humor, my sister-in-law and niece were watching him while we were out of town and he stole her car keys and made her chase him around the house to retrieve them.

Our third Labrador, Rudy, was the athlete. He could scale a six-foot fence. Rudy was Buddy’s guilty conscience. Whenever Buddy did something wrong. Rudy would hang his head. One Christmas, I was to host the family Christmas Day dinner and Buddy and Rudy helped themselves to the beef tenderloin that was defrosting in the sink while we were with family Christmas Eve. How they managed to get to it is still a mystery.

Our current Lab, Eve, is the most communicative of all our Labs. She howls the words, “I love you,” for her breakfast in the mornings. The Labrador, Duke, in Charleston Conundrum was modeled after Eve.


Stacy writes mysteries, children’s stories, short stories, and poetry. Her debut novel, Charleston Conundrum, is the first in the Conundrum mystery series. 

 

Stacy’s mission is to deliver a delightful story to readers of all ages while benefiting a larger community. She donates a portion of the proceeds from the sales of her books to causes that support wildlife conservation, and the homeless, both people and pets. A portion of the proceeds from Charleston Conundrum are donated to National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

As well as writing, Stacy is passionate about her faith, family, Labradors, the causes that she supports, the beach, art, and reading books.

She and her husband live in Houston, Texas, with a totally spoiled Labrador retriever, Eve.
 
◆  WEBSITE  ◆  FACEBOOK  ◆ AMAZON  ◆  INSTAGRAM  ◆
———————–
GIVEAWAY!  GIVEAWAY!  GIVEAWAY!
 TWO WINNERS! 
Autographed copies of Charleston Conundrum
(US only; ends midnight, CDT, 5/06/2022)
Posted in ARC Reads, Blog Tours, Lone Star Book Blog Tours, Lone Star Literary Life, Mystery | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Book Review: The Vanishing Type (Secret, Book, & Scone Society #5) by Ellery Adams

  • Title: The Vanishing Type
  • Author: Ellery Adams
  • Where to buy: Amazon (affiliate link)
  • Genre: Cozy Mystery, Magical Realism
  • Would I recommend: Yes!!! Go get the entire series. Right now. Don’t wait. Best cozy mystery series ever.

Synopsis:

While January snow falls outside in Miracle Springs, North Carolina, Nora Pennington is encouraging customers to cozy up indoors with a good book. Even though the shop and her bibliotherapy sessions keep Nora busy during the day, her nights are a little too quiet—until Deputy Andrews pulls Nora into the sci-fi section and asks her to help him plan a wedding proposal.

His bride-to-be, Hester, loves Little Women, and Nora sets to work arranging a special screening at the town’s new movie theater. But right before the deputy pops the question, Nora makes an unsettling discovery—someone has mutilated all her store’s copies of The Scarlet Letter, slicing angrily into the pages wherever Hester Prynne’s name is mentioned.

The coincidence disturbs Nora, who’s one of the few in Miracle Springs who knows that Hester gave up a baby for adoption many years ago. Her family heaped shame on her, and Hester still feels so guilty that she hasn’t even told her future husband. But when a dead man is found on a hiking trail just outside town, carrying a rare book, the members of the Secret, Book, and Scone Society unearth a connection to Hester’s past. Someone is intent on bringing the past to light, and it’s not just Hester’s relationship at stake, but her life…

My review:

Happy book birthday plus a day to Ellery Adams! Y’all may remember, this book made my Can’t-Wait Wednesday list a couple of months back. And now it’s here! It’s here! And it is GLORIOUS.

Nora and Sheldon are busy planning their Blind Date Book Bash when Deputy Jasper Andrews asks Nora to help him create a special moment for him to propose to his beloved Hester. Nora comes up with a great idea – Jasper can pop the question at a special movie screening of Little Women, Hester’s favorite. But when Nora finds that the name “Hester” has been obliterated from all of Miracle Books’ copies of The Scarlet Letter, she’s concerned that Hester may be in danger. That concern only grows when she learns that the dead man found outside of town has a connection with Hester.

Y’all, this book Has. It. All. We’ve got romance with Jasper and Hester, and we also see Nora and the ever delightful Sheriff Grant McCabe growing closer. Jasper and Hester are sweet and all, but I just adore the interactions between Nora and Grant. Please, please, please let there be a wedding for them at some point in the series!

We’ve got tension. Is Hester in danger? From whom? We’ve got mystery. Who is the dead man? Why was there a rare vintage book in his coat pocket, and why do other books in that same rare series keep turning up around Miracle Springs?

And most of all, we’ve got the love of books and story and the wonderful friendships among Nora, Hester, June, and Estella. These ladies are each other’s cheering section and biggest support, and they aren’t afraid to have the hard conversations if it’s called for. Those are the kinds of friendships we could all do with more of. It would be a delight to get to join them for book club!

There are other little treats woven throughout the story. I appreciate how Nora works with Sheldon to keep him working even when his health issues are giving him trouble. When he needs time to rest and recover, she gives it to him, no fuss, no muss. When he’s feeling well and strong, there’s work for him at Miracle Books. All workplaces should be as understanding with physical or mental ailments. The vintage book angle was also fascinating, and I liked that it allowed us to see more of Nora’s dear friend Roberta. She’s an occasional character, but a fun one!

I loved this book, just as I have all the others in the series. We got a fair bit of backstory on Hester and why she’s been estranged from her family, and I enjoyed that. I like getting to know the main characters better as the series goes along. I also didn’t see the big reveal on any of the threads of the mystery coming right away. I had inklings, but I didn’t figure it all out before the end. It tickles me when a mystery can keep me at least a little bit in the dark!

This should surprise exactly no one who’s read along with me here, but I give The Vanishing Type five ginormous book-lovin’ stars. I will gladly be a part of the Secret, Book, and Scone Society for as long as Ellery Adams keeps the series alive. If you’re a lover of mystery and story and wonderful characters, run get yourself this book. Don’t wait. Enjoy.

Disclaimer: I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley and Kensington Books. All opinions here are my own, and I don’t say nice things about books I don’t like.

Posted in ARC Reads, Book Reviews, Cozy Mystery, Magical Realism, Mystery, NetGalley | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment