Book Review and Blog Tour: The Ghost of Whispering Willow

THE GHOST OF WHISPERING WILLOW

Second Edition by AMANDA M. THRASHER

Children’s Horror / Fantasy / Magic / Chapter Book

Publisher: Progressive Rising Phoenix Press

Page Count: 246

Publication Date: January 9, 2024

SYNOPSIS

Stewart sees a ghostly figure out of the corner of his eye. He and his friend, Andy, begin a ghost investigation that leads to an adventure of a lifetime.  Coming face-to-face with a ghost, the boys make a decision to join forces with a group of girls, who have encountered a ghost of their own. The kids soon find that the ghosts that they’ve encountered are in imminent danger and need their help. Can the kids devise a plan to help the ghost in time? Will they be able to reunite a ghost with his lost family? Complete with a ghost village and a feud, this story takes on a life of its own.

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Andy, Stewart, and Zach are convinced there’s something in the woods. They set out to prove it’s a ghost – and imagine their surprise (and a little bit of fear) when they find out they’re right! Then, much to their astonishment, a group of girls at school – Ally, Kendall, Krista, and Maggie – inform the boys that they know what the boys have seen. In fact, the girls have seen a little ghost girl. The two groups decide to get over their middle-school general dislike of the opposite sex and work together to find out just how many ghosts may be out there.

Our (mostly) intrepid crew of ghost hunters get more than they bargained for when they make contact and learn that the boy and girl ghosts they’d seen, Elias and Margaret-Rose, were brother and sister, trapped for decades between life and death, ripped from their parents and now held in a ghost village. Elias fears they’ll move to a new village soon, and he suspects it’s because his father, also a ghost, is coming for him and his sister.

Amanda Thrasher has given us a delightful, chilling, suspenseful, uplifting story! The interactions between boys and girls were spot on, and just the shenanigans they got up to – sneaking out after bedtime, girls giggling together, and texts in the middle of the night – were absolutely accurate to what my friends and I might have been up to at that age.

The story is spooky, but doesn’t cross the line into what I would call a deeply scary book. It’s got enough of a scare factor to be a lot of fun and give you those good frissons down your spine, and it offers some really heartwarming moments, too. It’s written for middle-grade readers, but I think anyone who appreciates a good ghost story would enjoy it. This middle-aged woman liked it quite a lot! Five adorable ghosties from me.

Keep on scrolling to enter the giveaway! A good book and coffee, too? Yes, please!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Award-winning author Amanda M. Thrasher was born in England and moved to Texas, where she lives with her family. She writes YA, general fiction, middle grade, early reader chapter, and picture books. She is the founder and CEO of Progressive Rising Phoenix Press.

AMANDA M. THRASHER

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Posted in Blog Tours, Book Reviews, Lone Star Book Blog Tours, Lone Star Literary Life, Middle Grade Fiction, Paranormal | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Top Ten Tuesday: Authors I’d Love a New Book From

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish and is now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. Check out upcoming Top Ten themes on Jana’s blog and go here to see what others have on their Top Ten Tuesday lists!

This week’s TTT: Authors I’d Love a New Book From (These could be authors that have passed away, who have retired from writing, who have inexplicably gone quiet, or who might jut not be able to keep up with how quickly you read their books!)

In no particular order, here are my ten:

  1. Anne McCaffrey – The author who drew me in to the wonderful world of fantasy. I can’t even tell you how many times I reread her Dragonriders of Pern series. I wore those books slap out.
  2. Melanie Rawn – Specifically, I want book three in the Exiles series. It’s been decades. I fear it will never come.
  3. Terry Pratchett – He was an absolute genius. Good Omens will forever be one of my favorites, and the Discworld series is unmatched. You gotta love books you can read by yourself in a public place and unashamedly snort-laugh at because they are so funny and so satirical and so absolutely on point.
  4. Grant Price – His Sundown series is some of the best dystopian fiction I’ve read in a while. Very compelling, and I hope there’s more to come!
  5. Manning Wolfe – She can write a cracking good legal thriller! Her Proxy series is one I’ve devoured so far, and I sure hope she’s got more of it to write.
  6. S. Usher Evans – I can’t think of any of her books that I haven’t loved. Space opera, urban fantasy, romantic fantasy, YA fantasy, cozy fantasy, cozy paranormal mystery – she’s got it all. I love her current Weary Dragon Inn series, and I’m waiting eagerly for more of her latest, Witch’s Cove. But I really hope she gets to go back and finish Seod Croi. I gotta know what happens!
  7. Teri M. Brown – If you love historical fiction, you need to get acquainted with Teri M. Brown. From one of my reviews: “If you want a historical fiction read that is thoroughly researched, that will draw you right into the time and place the author writes about and make you feel like you are THERE, you need to read Teri M. Brown’s books.” I can’t say enough good things about her books, and I would be thrilled to have more of them.
  8. Olivia Matthews – I’d love more of her Spice Isle Bakery series. Alas, it’s my understanding the publisher has elected not to continue with it. It’s a wonderful series, and it’s got recipes that sound positively droolworthy.
  9. Ellery Adams – I want more in the Secret, Book, and Scone Society series! It is one of the most amazing mystery series I’ve ever read.
  10. Charlie N. Holmberg – I can’t wait to read more in her Whimbrel House series! And thankfully, it’s just a matter of waiting. The third one is out (yay!), and the fourth one is in the works. If y’all haven’t read this series, you really should. I love a good sentient house story with a little magic and mystery and romance!
  11. Bonus: Audrey Grey – Her Kingdom of Runes series is phenomenal. I was anxiously awaiting book 5, Dark Bringer – the finale. The anticipated 2021 release was delayed, and the last word I know of was that there was an anticipated 2023 publication date. (It wasn’t published in 2023.) She’s a person. She has life and struggles just like the rest of us, and those things may keep her from writing and publishing as she’d hoped. But oh, how I would love to get my hands on this fifth book. The series is just.so.dang.good. I hope she can finish it. I don’t want Kingdom of Runes to join Exiles (see above) and A Song of Ice and Fire (looking at you, George R.R. Martin) on the pile of Sadly Never Will Be Finished series.
  12. Bonus 2: Alan Hurst – Ever heard of him? He wrote a positively stunning African fantasy called The Onyx Crown. It was billed as part one of a trilogy. It was published in 2019. The audiobook came out in December 2020, and book two, The Onyx Inferno, was “soon to follow.” And since then? Crickets. I want to know the rest of the story! His website no longer exists, which probably doesn’t bode well. Sigh.

And since I missed last week’s TTT about bookish quotes, I’ll share this one because I love it.

“A book, too, can be a star, a living fire to lighten the darkness, leading out into the expanding universe.”

― Madeleine L’Engle
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Book Review and Blog Tour: Her Dying Secret by Lisa Regan

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Her Dying Secret, #20 in Lisa Regan’s Detective Josie Quinn series!

Title:         HER DYING SECRET 

Author:     Lisa Regan  

Publication Day: MAY 14th 2024

Buy Links :
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Book description:

She gently opens the woman’s tightly clenched fist, uncurling each finger to reveal a square of folded paper hidden in her palm. Scrawled in thick crayon, beside a child’s crooked drawing of a red flower, is one word that sends a shiver through the evening mist: HELP

It was supposed to be a routine road accident recovery, but the moment Detective Josie Quinn sees the passenger—pale and painfully thin, a sharp tool lodged in her stomach—it’s clear she was the victim of something far more sinister, and likely dead before the crash. Watching the driver taken away in an ambulance, questions spin through Josie’s mind. Where were these two women going? Was the driver trying to save a life, or hide a body? And—most heartbreaking of all—is there a child in danger, crying out for help with no reply?

Josie quickly identifies the crash survivor as Mira Summers, a singleton and animal-lover on her way home from nearby stables. Mira swears she doesn’t know who the woman in the car beside her is, or how she was injured. And when she’s diagnosed with concussion and memory loss, Josie is forced to back down.

But the discovery of Mira’s prints on the child’s drawing is all the proof Josie needs that Mira knows more than she’s letting on, and a witness saw Mira meeting with a man with a gnarled diamond-shaped tattoo at the stables. In a race against the clock to track down this elusive man, Josie faces danger from the most unexpected places. Pushed to her limit, can she stay alive long enough to catch the killer and save the life of an innocent child?

An absolutely gripping and truly unputdownable crime thriller that will have you racing through pages until the final jaw-dropping twist hits you like a train. From an Amazon, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author, and perfect for fans of Angela Marsons, Robert Dugoni and Rachel Caine.

Lisa Regan does it again! Book 20 in her Detective Josie Quinn series, and each book continues to uphold the high bar she’s set.

Josie thinks she’s responding to a routine car accident, but it turns out to be anything but routine. The passenger is dead, but from her emaciated appearance and the pointy thing sticking out of her abdomen, it doesn’t look like it was the wreck that killed her. She’s got a piece of paper clutched in her hand, and it’s got the word HELP written on it in red crayon. The driver, Mira Summers, who was injured in the crash, insists she has no idea who the woman is or how she got in the car. She says she doesn’t know anything about that paper, and she has no children. But her prints on the paper would indicate she knows more than she lets on. And then Mira disappears.

This book. Up past my bedtime AGAIN. Couldn’t tear myself away AGAIN. Lisa Regan writes some of the best police procedurals I’ve ever read, but her books are more than just a formula. I feel like I know Josie and Noah and the team. I feel like they’re my friends, and had I worked with them when I was prosecuting, I think we would have gotten along swimmingly. They’re dedicated to their work and to doing it well, but they’re real people, too. Trying to do a good job while handling the crap life throws at all of us, only their job is a lot harder and more stressful than mine.

I don’t know where Ms. Regan gets all her inspiration from, either. Each book brings us a new twist on the capacity people have to be awful to each other. Here the focus is on how mental illness can affect not just the person suffering, but others in their sphere of influence as well. Sometimes it’s tough to read. There is a child involved in this story, and their situation isn’t always sunshine and roses. As Mira’s backstory unfolds, as we learn about the dead woman, my heart hurt for what they’d been through. My brain simply does not work to create scenarios like these, but man, I’m glad Lisa Regan’s does. It makes for some compelling reading.

And as an adoptee, I am super excited that Josie and Noah have decided to adopt! I’m thinking positively for them and hoping we see that story arc come to a happy conclusion (and beginning, because adopting a child would really be the beginning of a whole new adventure) in later books. I love that Ms. Regan lets us see these aspects of her characters’ personal lives. This is part of what makes her characters so good, these glimpses into things that go on with them outside of work.

Oh, I haven’t mentioned the new team member yet. Perhaps I should just say the new detective, because he certainly doesn’t act like a team player, and I’m pretty sure no one sees him that way. Kyle Turner. I think Josie must be biting a hole in her tongue to keep from telling him exactly what she thinks, and it sure seems like he never misses a chance to get in a dig or say something he knows will get a rise out of people. Is he just there to be that one co-worker everybody has had to deal with at some point? Will he ever learn how to work well with others? What backstory does he have that made him this way? I hope there’s more to come, because he is awfully fun to hate.

Kudos to you, Lisa Regan, on keeping Josie Quinn exciting and interesting and so much fun to read through twenty books. This is another five-star read as far as I’m concerned, and I’ll keep reading as long as Josie and crew keep having stories to tell!

Disclaimer: I received an advance copy of this book from Bookouture. I was not required to leave a review. All opinions here are mine, and I don’t say nice things about books I don’t actually like.

About the author:

Lisa Regan is the USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of the Detective Josie Quinn series. Lisa is a member of Sisters In Crime, International Thriller Writers, and Mystery Writers of America. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in English and Master of Education Degree from Bloomsburg University. She lives near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the U.S. with her husband, daughter, and Boston Terrier named Mr. Phillip. Find out more at her website: www.lisaregan.com

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Posted in Blog Tours, Book Reviews, Bookouture, Detective Fiction, Police Procedural, Suspense | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Book Review and Blog Tour: Darkness Calls the Tiger by Janyre Tromp

Darkness Calls the Tiger JustRead Blog + Review Tour

Welcome to the Blog + Review Tour for Darkness Calls the Tiger by Janyre Tromp, hosted by JustRead Publicity Tours!

About the Book

Darkness Calls the Tiger

Title: Darkness Calls the Tiger: A Novel of World War II Burma
Author: Janyre Tromp
Publisher: Kregel Publications
Release Date: May 14, 2024
Genre: Christian Historical Fiction

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Imperial Japan devours the southern portion of Burma, intent on taking over mainland Asia. Unaware of the coming darkness, Kailyn Moran drifts in her role as the only daughter of a widowed missionary.

As whispers of war snake through the Kachin mountains, Kai’s father is convinced God will protect the mission. He entrusts the village to her and the kind yet inexperienced new missionary, Ryan McDonough, while he makes routine visits to neighboring villages.

War descends like a tempest upon the mountain peaks, and an unbreakable bond forms between Kailyn and Ryan as they unite to provide solace to both villagers and the flood of refugees. Despite their tireless efforts, a brutal enemy shatters almost everything they love, pushing Kailyn to embark on a path of unrestrained vengeance.

Afraid he’s losing the woman he loves, Ryan fights to protect Kai from the deadly consequences of her choices. But in the face of destruction, can he convince her of the power and freedom of forgiveness?

“Evocative and transportive, filled with nuance and spiked with the violence of war, Darkness Calls the Tiger is a story of redemption in the midst of hopelessness.” –Tosca Lee, New York Times best-selling author

PURCHASE LINKS: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | ChristianBook | Bookshop | BookBub

I love a good work of historical fiction. I was especially interested to read Darkness Calls the Tiger because I’ve never read a story that focuses on World War II in Burma. When you think of the Japanese involvement in World War II, you think of Pearl Harbor, the Bataan Death March. But their efforts to conquer Burma with an eye to taking over all of mainland Asia were no less atrocious.

Kailyn Moran, or Kai, has grown up in the village of Tingrabum, on the mountain. The Kachin people call her father, John, the Jungle Light, because he shares the light of the Gospel with them, pointing the way to Karai Kasang, the supreme God. But all Kai sees of her father is unrelenting harshness. Since her mother died, he has all but turned away from Kai unless he’s criticizing her, and she feels like nothing she ever does is good enough to earn his praise or his love.

When the Japanese start encroaching on Burmese territory, John sees no need to flee. He confidently states that God will protect them, and he goes on his usual routine visits to other villages, leaving Kai and the new missionary, Ryan, in charge of their village. But war finds them, and Kai and Ryan must try to get the villagers to safety.

This was not an easy read. Tromp doesn’t flinch at describing the brutality of the Japanese soldiers to anyone who stood in their way, and there are some pretty stout descriptions of battles and injuries suffered. She also doesn’t pull back from the very real emotional challenges her characters faced. Her characters don’t have a touchy-feely, “God loves us all and everything is going to be just fine” kind of faith on display. Kai and Ryan wrestle hard with their faith, and that struggle is writ large on the page. Kai wonders how she can trust Karai Kasang when He has let people she loves be hurt or killed, when her father has basically walked away from her. Ryan questions how he can carry on when his efforts seem to go for naught, when every choice he makes seems to be the wrong one and evil seems to be winning the day.

But this is a compelling, beautiful story, well worth the reading of it. Our characters struggle, yes. When they open their eyes and pay attention, though, they can see God’s hand at work. And when they learn to trust that He is working all things, even the hard and ugly ones, together for good, they can find peace, healing of hearts and minds and old emotional wounds, and the ability to forgive even the most loathed of enemies.

If you’ve read and enjoyed The Long March Home by Tosca Lee and Marcus Brotherton, you’ll love Darkness Calls the Tiger.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy from JustRead Tours. I was not required to leave a review. All opinions here are mine, and I don’t say nice things about books I don’t actually like.


About the Author

Janyre Tromp

Janyre Tromp is a developmental book editor who has worked in the publishing industry for more than twenty years, spending time in both marketing and editorial. She’s the author of Shadows in the Mind’s Eye and contributor to It’s a Wonderful Christmas, a Christmas novella collection with other award-winning authors, including Julie Cantrell and Lynne Gentry. When she isn’t writing, she’s a Bible study leader, writers conference speaker, ACFW member, wife, and mom of two kids and their menagerie of slightly eccentric pets.

Connect with Janyre at janyretromp.com to follow her on social media and sign up for email updates.


Tour Giveaway

(1) winner will win a signed copy of Darkness Calls the Tiger, a bookmark, and other book-themed goodies!

Darkness Calls the Tiger JustRead blog tour giveaway

Full tour schedule linked below. The giveaway begins at midnight May 13, 2024 and will last through 11:59 PM EST on May 20, 2024. Winner will be notified within 2 weeks of close of the giveaway and given 48 hours to respond or risk forfeiture of prize. US only. Void where prohibited by law or logistics.

Giveaway is subject to JustRead Publicity Tours Giveaway Policies.

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Follow along at JustRead Tours for a full list of stops!

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Posted in Blog Tours, Book Reviews, Christian Fiction, Historical Fiction, JustRead Blog Tours | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Book Blitz: Second Lives – now available in audiobook!

NOW AVAILABLE IN AUDIOBOOK FORMAT!

Click to purchase on Audible!

“Discharged from a hospital just means you’re not dead.” These words of Ralph B. Lilly, M.D., describe his early struggle to recover from a traumatic brain injury. Lilly was a forty-four-year-old practicing neurologist sitting on his motorcycle at a red light when a drunk driver rear-ended him in 1980. In the ICU, after regaining consciousness and being told what happened, he asked, “What’s a hospital? What’s a motorcycle?” This tragic experience transformed his life and his approach to his neurology practice: doctors treat those with brain injury; but loved ones heal them.

Second Lives: The Journey of Brain Injury Survivors and Their Healers is written by Dr. Lilly and Diane F. Kramer. After his death in 2021, Kramer completed the book with the assistance of Lilly’s wife Joyce Stamp Lilly. This memoir weaves together Ralph Lilly’s experience with a collage of stories about his patients and their healers. After his recovery, Lilly retrained in the emerging field of behavioral neurology, which focuses on behavior, memory, cognition, and emotion after brain injury.

CLICK TO PURCHASE:

Amazon | Audible

Stoney Creek Publishing

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

A neurologist for over half a century, Ralph B. Lilly, MD had a passion for learning and teaching. A traumatic brain injury in 1980 shifted his focus from general neurology to behavioral neurology, the study of how brain injury affects behavior. After completing a fellowship in neurobehavior at the University of California, Los Angeles, he served as a clinical assistant professor with the Brown University Program in Medicine in Providence, Rhode Island, consulting with psychiatrists looking for possible neurological causes for their patients’ psychiatric symptoms. In Texas, he worked joined what is now Nexus Health Systems and became a clinical assistant professor at The University of Texas in Houston. Lilly focused his life’s work on treating brain-injury survivors and counseling their families, who were victims in their own right. He saw these “healers” as instrumental in guiding the injured loved one to a “new life.” He practiced in Arizona, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Texas, and wherever he was called to help. Before his death in 2021, Lilly lived in Washington, Texas, with his wife, Joyce, three dogs, six cats, and two horses.

Diane F. Kramer retired from the counseling and psychology departments of Austin Community College in 2008 and began writing personal essays, family histories, and fiction. As a volunteer with the Brenham Animal Shelter, she wrote a weekly column on animal welfare for The Brenham Banner Press. Her writing has also appeared in Alamo Bay Press anthologies and blogs Peace through Pie and Drash Pit. She currently writes website copy and press releases for Brenham Lifetime Learning and the Read of Washington County. She lives with her husband and their rescue dog and cat in rural Texas.

STONEY CREEK PUBLISHING

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Book Beginnings on Friday and Book Blogger Hop: May 10, 2024

Book Beginnings on Fridays is hosted each week by Rose City Reader. It’s a chance to share the first sentence or so of the book you are reading this week. You can check out others’ book beginnings here. I’m also going to link up with Carrie at Reading Is My Superpower for First Line Friday. And I’ll be sharing for Friday 56 with Anne at Head Full of Books! She’s keeping the meme alive – y’all hop over to her blog and join in the fun!

This week’s book beginning:

Synopsis:

“Evocative and transportive, filled with nuance and spiked with the violence of war, Darkness Calls the Tiger is a story of redemption in the midst of hopelessness.”
–Tosca Lee, New York Times best-selling author

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Imperial Japan devours the southern portion of Burma, intent on taking over mainland Asia. Unaware of the coming darkness, Kailyn Moran drifts in her role as the only daughter of a widowed missionary.

As whispers of war snake through the Kachin mountains, Kai’s father is convinced God will protect the mission. He entrusts the village to her and the kind yet inexperienced new missionary, Ryan McDonough, while he makes routine visits to neighboring villages.

War descends like a tempest upon the mountain peaks, and an unbreakable bond forms between Kailyn and Ryan as they unite to provide solace to both villagers and the flood of refugees. Despite their tireless efforts, a brutal enemy shatters almost everything they love, pushing Kailyn to embark on a path of unrestrained vengeance.

Afraid he’s losing the woman he loves, Ryan fights to protect Kai from the deadly consequences of her choices. But in the face of destruction, can he convince her of the power and freedom of forgiveness?

1933
The Village of Tingrabum
Kachin State, in the Himalayas of North Burma

The beating of ancestral drums throbbed across the mountain, tangling with the rhythm of my thudding heart.

Ryan stood stiff, watching me as I awkwardly bent and rubbed the bowl clean with snow. He took a step forward, but I ignored him. I would earn my place on this team.

What do you think? Does this sound like a book you’d enjoy?

Book Blogger Hop

Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Coffee Addicted Writer. It starts each Friday and runs through the following Thursday. Each week, there’s a new prompt featuring a book-related question. It’s designed to give bloggers a chance to follow other blogs, learn about new books, make new blogging friends, and gain followers. See what others have to say on this topic and link up your own post here.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Are there any books with themes or characters dealing with issues related to mental health that you have found to be enlightening or comforting? 
(submitted by Billy @ Coffee Addicted Writer)

I don’t know that it’s so much enlightening or comforting, but I enjoyed Unseelie by Ivelisse Housman. The main character, Iselia (Seelie) is autistic. Her twin sister is not. What I liked about it was how “autistic” was just something Seelie was, not who she was. She was developed as a character, not a label. You can see my review of Unseelie here.

Got any thoughts to share on the Hop topic? Leave a comment, and link up at the hop page!

Posted in Book Beginnings on Fridays, Book Blogger Hop, Book Memes, First Line Friday, Friday 56 | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Book Review and Blog Tour: Mystery on Meadowsweet Grove by Clare Chase

Book: Mystery on Meadowsweet Grove
Author: Clare Chase
Pub Day: May 2, 2024 
Buy Link: Amazon

About the book:

Saxford St Peter is having an open gardens day! But one of the villagers has murder, not marigolds, in mind… And now Eve Mallow needs to unearth a killer.

Everyone in Saxford is delighted when jeweller Cleo Marbeck suggests a prize for the village’s best garden. Flowers are planted, grass is cut, and the competition is on. But the event only digs up dirt… Twenty-five years ago, a young woman fell to her death in Cleo’s house, and rumours soon resurface about Cleo’s part in the tragedy.

Eve’s best friend Viv is hosting Stevie, her son’s fiancée, ahead of the wedding. On the open garden day, Stevie has a horrible flashback: the memory of a woman lying at the bottom of a staircase. But she sees it in a totally different house from the one where Honor died…

Hours later Cleo’s body is found, drowned in her own pond. Almost everyone in Saxford has been in and out of her garden, sowing suspicion everywhere. But Eve is convinced the flashback has triggered the crime… and when the police turn their sights on Stevie, she’ll have to work fast to solve the case and save the wedding.

So who wanted Cleo in the ground? The son of the woman who died, out for revenge? The employee passed over for promotion? Her long-term lover, who she refused to marry? And why do so many suspects live on Meadowsweet Grove?

When someone else takes a tumble downstairs, Eve knows she’s close to grubbing up the truth. But can she catch the killer or is she heading for a fatal fall?

A page-turning and completely charming English cozy mystery, perfect for fans of Agatha Christie, Faith Martin and Sarah Yarwood-Lovett.

I haven’t read all of Clare Chase’s Eve Mallow series (too many books, not enough hours in the day), but I’ve read enough of them to know that so far, I think this is my favorite!

Everyone in Saxford-St.-Peter is looking forward to open gardens day. Folks are putting on their landscaping best in hopes of winning a prize. Robin will be judging, so Eve can’t participate – she just plans to enjoy the event.

Eve is also looking forward to the upcoming wedding of her best friend Viv’s son Jonah and his fiancée Stevie. Stevie has come to town in advance of the wedding, and her presence in the village renews the whispers that wealthy local businesswoman Cleo Marbeck was somehow involved in Stevie’s aunt Honor’s untimely demise. While on the tour, Stevie has a horrific flashback in which she remembers seeing Honor’s body, but not much else. And when Cleo is found murdered in her meticulously manicured garden at The Briars, it doesn’t take much to bump Stevie up to the top of the suspect list. Eve gets the go-ahead to write Cleo’s obituary for a local publication, and she knows she’ll have to do a lot of digging to solve the case and save the wedding day.

We see a cast of familiar characters here – Eve, Robin, Viv, the loathsome (and possibly criminally incompetent) DI Palmer. We also meet plenty of new characters, each with a reason they might have wanted Cleo dead. There’s Cleo, who seems to be respected for her business acumen but not terribly well liked; Max, who had an affair with Cleo; his estranged son Perry, back in town to write a book on Marbeck’s; Richie, Honor’s son who works for Cleo and who got a fat promotion over Abby, taking the position she moved back from Paris to take on Cleo’s word that it was hers; and Lara, whose brother Freddy’s death seems to have some connection to Cleo.

Cleo owns all the houses on Meadowsweet Grove but one, and she seems to have something to hold over each of her tenants. Could that have led one of them to strike her down in a fit of rage? What about Lara, who’s the only person on the block (so to speak) whose house Cleo doesn’t own? Why was Cleo trying so hard to get her to sell? Chase gives us lots of trails to wander down and rabbits to run after. There are hidden tunnels, jewelry theft, repressed memories, wedding planning, and a host of other details that add up to make this an engrossing and thoroughly enjoyable read.

The stories do run to a formula, to a certain extent, but that’s okay by me. Familiar characters, a lovely small-town setting, locations I’d like to visit, and enough excitement to keep the pages turning make for a lovely escape from the everyday. I’m here for all of the Eve Mallow books!

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

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Book Review: The Elusive Truth of Lily Temple by Joanna Davidson Politano

  • Title: The Elusive Truth of Lily Temple
  • Author: Joanna Davidson Politano
  • Where to buy: Amazon (affiliate link)
  • Genre: Christian Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mystery
  • Would I recommend: Yes! This is an engaging story, sometimes whimsical, sometimes wistful, that points readers toward the best Story ever told.

Synopsis:

Peter Driscoll, an underground investigator to the wealthy, has never met anyone like Lily Temple. The beautiful silent-film actress spins fairy tales and plays frivolous roles in front of the cine-camera, but beneath the costumes and stage makeup is a woman with a quick wit–and a murky past.

Peter has been tasked with locating the legendary Briarwood Teardrop, an exquisite sapphire, which Lily wears beneath her gown. In order to stay close to her and hopefully unravel the mystery of her story–and the sapphire–Peter employs Lily’s help on a case, which leads to a useful partnership. But as they are investigating together, Peter is also investigating Lily. The closer he gets to the truth, the more danger they face. And the closer he gets to Lily, the clearer it is that he needs her even more than she needs him.

Award-winning author Joanna Davidson Politano whisks you away to Edwardian England in 1903 for a whimsical and layered tale that treads the crooked line between real and make-believe.

Lily Temple is an enigma. Oh, people see her onscreen in the flickers. They see her portrayal of the winsome fairy, ever searching through the looking glass for her heart’s desire. But they don’t know the real person behind the persona. She never lets anyone get close to her for fear of her past catching up to her. And what does her past have to do with the stunning gemstone she hides away?

Peter Driscoll would certainly like to know. He’s a private inquiry agent, and he’s been hired to track down the gemstone – the lauded Briarwood Teardrop, reputed to have mystical healing powers. It doesn’t take Peter too long to determine that Lily at least knows where the stone is. But as he seeks to trace the gem, he’s also realizing that Lily’s story is much deeper than she lets on, and it isn’t enough to know Lily’s public face. He’s investigating her just as much as he is any of his cases, despite warnings from his assistant Roderick that she isn’t the kind of woman Peter should fall in with.

Oh, this story, y’all. It drew me in with a good mystery, and I know from reading The Lost Melody that I enjoy Joanna Davidson Politano’s books. The story starts at the end, and then reveals the events through Lily’s storytelling. That threw me a little at first, but once I was caught up in the tale, there was no getting out of it.

Joanna Davidson Politano spins as marvelous a tale as anything Gordon Makepiece told Lily in the book. She gives us historical details of a real place (St. Anne’s Well Gardens) and a real person (George Albert Smith, one of the earliest filmmakers), and she wraps those details in a story that is by turns whimsical and wistful.

Lily truly is a mystery, as Peter learns. Lily isn’t her given name, but one of many she’s used in the past. What is she running from? How did she get the Briarwood Teardrop? Why is a magistrate sending Scotland Yard after her? Politano unwinds Lily’s story and weaves it together with Peter’s with humor, tension, language that positively glows, and moments of tension where I held my breath waiting to see how they’d get out of THIS jam.

But the real beauty of this story is Lily’s realization that, even when she thought God was nowhere to be found, He never left her. And through her beloved garden, He who created the very first Garden is drawing her back. When Lily started paying attention, she realized that God had been there all along, even when she couldn’t see Him. This story points us squarely to “the truest story. The largest. The one we try to express in the tales we spin.” Just as she used light as the metaphor underlying The Lost Melody, here Politano uses storytelling to show us the Truth that forms the foundation for every tale ever told.

If you love a good mystery, beautiful prose, and a story that will make you weep with its beauty and its parallels to THE Story, you’ll want to pick up The Elusive Truth of Lily Temple.

Disclaimer: I received an advance copy of this book from Revell. I was not required to leave a review. All opinions here are mine, and I don’t say nice things about books I don’t actually like.

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Book Review and Blog Tour: Death in the Crypt by Fliss Chester

Book: Death in the Crypt
Author: Fliss Chester
Pub Day: April 26, 2024 
Buy Link: Amazon

Book Description:

The Honourable Cressida Fawcett is expecting the cathedral crypt to be full of dry old bones. But when she finds a body murdered just moments before, she’ll need divine inspiration to solve her most mysterious case yet…

Winchester, 1925. When heiress and amateur sleuth Cressida Fawcett is invited to her aunt’s mansion on Cloister Close, she is looking forward to a quiet stay in the historic town. The views of the cathedral are heavenly – and her aunt’s maid, Nancy, makes devilishly good ginger biscuits! But it seems Cressy and her pug Ruby won’t be allowed to rest in peace… On a tour of the crypt, they are shocked to stumble across the body of Anthony, the gentle, devoted verger. And a wild-eyed Nancy is standing over him, bloodied candlestick in hand…

Since Nancy was caught red-handed and the only other suspect is the Silent Friar, the legendary local ghost, Detective Andrews of Scotland Yard thinks the case is closed. But Nancy swears she would never have killed Anthony; they were in love. And while Cressy may not believe in ghosts, she does believe Nancy. So, whose soul is full of murder most foul? And will they strike again?

As she digs through parishioner gossip, Cressy discovers that for a man of the cloth, the verger had a surprising number of enemies. Was a local antiques dealer driven to murder over an illegal trade in holy relics? Would the head bellringer kill to achieve his musical ambitions? Or is the saintly Dean, whose black-cloaked figure resembles the Silent Friar and whose wife recently drowned, hiding a deadly sin?

The cathedral conceals many secrets, and it seems Cressy will need a miracle to uncover the truth. But then Cressy finds a hidden passageway to the crypt. Is this how the murderer escaped? The sceptical police lack faith in her theories, but can she catch the killer and save Nancy from the hangman’s noose? Or will she be too late to prevent another funeral march?

A totally gripping and deliciously witty historical murder mystery with a gasp-out-loud reveal, perfect for fans of Agatha Christie, T.E. Kinsey and Lee Strauss.

Fliss Chester has given us another delightful adventure with Cressida Fawcett and friends! Here Cressy is visiting her Aunt Mary in Winchester. She’s come to help her aunt with some interior design questions, and her dear friends Dotty and Alfred will be joining them as well. Winchester, in addition to offering a lovely spot for a vacation and a bit of shopping, is also home to a venerable old cathedral. While on a tour of the cathedral, Cressy comes upon the body of Anthony, the recently, violently deceased verger, with Aunt Mary’s maid Nancy standing over the body, holding a heavy candlestick that appears to be the weapon responsible for the man’s demise.

Cressy can’t help but start digging for answers, but she also calls for law enforcement assistance in the form of DCI Andrews and his sergeant, Kirby. When they arrive, they’re inclined to call it an open-and-shut case. Suspect found standing over the body with the murder weapon, what could be more straightforward? But Nancy protests her innocence, saying she and the verger were in love, and neither Cressy nor Aunt Mary can believe sweet Nancy guilty of such a heinous crime. So Cressy enlists Dotty and Alfred’s help (eventually with Andrews’ blessing!) to see what more she can uncover.

I had to go look up what a verger was, y’all. (For those with inquisitive minds like me, it’s a layperson who serves the church in a ministry of organization, service, and welcome. That educational tidbit aside, Fliss Chester spins an engaging yarn here!

This may be my favorite Cressida mystery yet. The setting is fabulous. If I were visiting England, I’d gladly go potter around old cathedrals, and reading the historical details about Winchester Cathedral, while not quite as enjoyable as seeing it for myself, was a lot of fun. Chester also gave us a sense of the town environment by having Cressy’s investigations bring her into contact with local shopkeepers and church members, both lay and clergy alike.

And boy, do we have mysteries! Chester gives us not one but two murders, and for an added twist, has Alfred pegged as the murderer of one of them (or maybe both?). Then there’s the question of who might have wanted to sell the sainted relics of the cathedral enough to kill over it, and why some of Aunt Mary’s silver is in the local antiques shop. And is the Silent Friar really a ghost wandering the grounds of the cathedral, or a very real person up to malice aforethought?

Red herrings aplenty, Cressy (and Dotty!) wondering if this is the dangerous position they can’t get out of, lots of suspects with plenty of motives – Death in the Crypt has everything I love in a good cozy. Ruby the pug is the hero of the day, making the final discovery that ties it all together. And finally, Cressida, who has always been an avowed single woman, is realizing that those feelings she has for Alfred are more than just friendly affection! That move toward romance is the icing on the cake for me. I can’t wait to see where Fliss Chester transports us on Cressy’s next adventure!

Disclaimer: I received an advance copy of this book from Bookouture. I was not required to leave a review. All opinions here are mine, and I don’t say nice things about books I don’t actually like.

About the author:

Fliss Chester lives in Surrey with her husband and writes historical cozy crime. When she is not killing people off in her 1940s whodunnits, she helps her husband, who is a wine merchant, run their business. Never far from a decent glass of something, Fliss also loves cooking (and writing up her favourite recipes on her blog), enjoying the beautiful Surrey and West Sussex countryside and having a good natter.

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Book Blitz, Review, and Giveaway: Just a Hat

JUST A HAT
By SHANAH KHUBIAR
Young Adult / Coming of Age / Jewish Fiction / Small-Town Texas / 1970s
Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
Page Count: 254
Publication Date: July 18, 2023
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Action-packed, humorous, and bittersweet, this 1970s-era coming-of-age novel is more relevant than ever–exploring how a second-generation immigrant kid in a new hometown must navigate bullying, unexpected friendships, and the struggle of keeping both feet firmly planted in two very different cultures.
It’s 1979, and thirteen-year-old Joseph Nissan can’t help but notice that small-town Texas has something in common with Revolution-era Iran: an absence of fellow Jews. And in such a small town it seems obvious that a brown kid like him was bound to make friends with Latinos–which is a plus, since his new buds, the Ybarra twins, have his back. But when the Iran hostage crisis, two neighborhood bullies, and the local reverend’s beautiful daughter put him in all sorts of danger, Joseph must find new ways to cope at home and at school.
As he struggles to trust others and stay true to himself, a fiercely guarded family secret keeps his father at a distance, and even his piano teacher, Miss Eleanor–who is like a grandmother to him–can’t always protect him. But Joseph is not alone, and with a little help from his friends, he finds the courage to confront his fears and discovers he can inspire others to find their courage, too.
Just a Hat is an authentically one-of-a-kind YA debut that fuses the humor of Firoozeh Dumas’s Funny in Farsi with the poignancy of Daniel Nayeri’s Everything Sad Is Untrue.
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Youssef Nissan, or Joseph, as he’s known in the small town of Hazel, Texas, doesn’t quite fit in. He and his parents are Persian Jews (the only ones in town, although they’re often lumped in with the Mexicans, because one brown-skinned person must be the same as another, right?) and there are many things he doesn’t understand, like why his parents really fled Iran and why his big, strong baba allows himself to be talked down to and treated poorly. Joseph is learning that in a conservative small town, different isn’t necessarily a good thing to be. He’s a good student, generally kind and helpful to others, but that isn’t enough to win him acceptance. He’s got to figure out how to balance his different “hats” – being a good Jew and a good Iranian son with making his way in the American world that he was born into – and that’s not always an easy matter.

This book is a wonderful depiction of the challenges of growing up “other,” told with humor, poignancy, and wit. It’s one of our failings as humans that we belittle what we don’t understand, and some of the good people of Hazel, Texas are no exception. Sure, there are some good folks, like Miss Eleanor, or LaLa, the elderly piano teacher who lives next door, and the Ybarra twins and their family. But the very idea of Joseph being anywhere near the Reverend Baer’s beautiful daughter sends the man into fits of pique, and two other students bully and attack Joseph just because of his differences. At first, they make no effort to get to know him or understand him or learn where he’s coming from. They just pick on him and cause him pain. Since his baba would never condone him fighting, Joseph has to figure out some other way he can engage in battle with his tormentors. He finds that way on the football field.

But in finding creative ways to take his revenge, Joseph learns more about his tormentors than he ever expected, and this new knowledge gives him a different perspective. He learns more about the prejudices and unkindnesses that can be intentionally inflicted by people you wouldn’t expect to act that way, and he also realizes that there are good people who won’t stand by and watch evil have its way. And isn’t that all part of growing up and finding your place in the world?

Khubiar sets her story in the 1970s, against the backdrop of the Iranian hostage crisis. This is the perfect stage for people to express their distrust and dislike of anyone different from them, anyone who might be like those “ragheads” over in the Middle East, who ought to just “go back to where they belong.” I’m not Middle Eastern, and it hurt my heart to think of anyone born in this country, or anyone who came here seeking a better life than what their home country offered, hearing words like that. The book is an excellent teaching tool for middle grades (especially since there’s an educator’s guide available) and a cautionary tale for those of us who may be past school age, but who can still learn a bit about treating others with respect, whether they look like us or not.

Scroll on down to enter the giveaway!

Shanah Khubiar is a retired law enforcement officer, and she is now self-employed as a subject matter specialist. She holds a BS and MEd in education from East Texas State University and a PhD in philosophy. A student of her Persian ancestry, she incorporates (Mizrachi) Middle Eastern Jewry into her fiction, examining the historical challenges and triumphs of a different culture and narrative than what usually appears in literature. Khubiar is a sometime resident and always fan of most things Texas.
GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY!
THREE WINNERS:
Signed hardback copy of JUST A HAT
(US only; ends midnight, CDT, 5/9/24)

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