Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Cruisin' Thru the Cozies 2022 Wrap-Up


Yvonne at Socrates' Book Reviews hosts the Cruisin' thru the Cozies Reading Challenge.   I participated at Level 2 (Investigator) - reading 20 books of my choice.  Here's what I read:

1. The Amazing Mrs. Pollifax (Mrs. Pollifax #2) by Dorothy Gilman

2. Reserved for Murder (Booklover's B&B #2) by Victoria Gilbert

3. Death at High Tide (Island Sisters Mystery #1) by Hannah Dennison

4. Dead Wrong (Agatha's B & B #1) by Vannetta Chapman

5. In the Company of Cheerful Ladies (No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency #6) by Alexander McCall Smith

6. The Highland Fling Murders (Murder, She Wrote #8) by Jessica Fletcher and Donald Bain

7. Plain Deception (Amish Inn Mysteries #2) by Tara Randel

8. Clause & Effect (Deadly Edits #2) by Kaitlynn Dunnett

9. Partners in Lime (Seaside Cafe #6) by Bree Baker

10. Danger at the Cove (Island Sisters Mystery #2) by Hannah Dennison

11. Body on the Bayou (Cajun Country Mystery #2) by Ellen Byron

12. Murder with Darjeeling Tea (Daisy's Tea Garden #8) by Karen Rose Smith

13. Murder on the QE2 (Murder, She Wrote #9) by Jessica Fletcher and Donald Bain

14. Blue Shoes and Happiness (No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency #7) by Alexander McCall Smith

15. Chained (Kate Turner, DVM #3) by Eileen Brady

16. Books Can Be Deceiving (Library Lovers #1) by Jenn McKinlay

17. Peg and Rose Solve a Murder (Peg and Rose #1) by Laurien Berenson 

18. Hot and Sour Suspects (Noodle Shop #8) by Vivien Chien

19. A Tourist's Guide to Murder (Mystery Bookshop #6) by V. M. Burns

20. A Christmas Candy Killing (Killer Chocolate #1) by Christina Romeril

Monday, November 28, 2022

Book Review: Hostile Intent by Lynette Eason

Hostile IntentHostile Intent (Danger Never Sleeps #4). Lynette Eason. Fleming H. Revell Company (2021). 320 pages. Genre: Suspense, Christian Fiction.

First Lines: "Beginning of April. New Mexico. Today, the watching ended and the killing started."

Summary:  FBI Special Agent Caden Denning has seen many crime scenes during his career, but this is one of the most difficult.  An entire family has been murdered. As he and his partner are searching the house for clues, he comes across a photo of Ava Jackson as a child.  Ava and his sister, Sarah, have been best friends since they were children.  But why is there a picture of Ava in this home?

Ava Jackson left the military when her mother got ill.  She had lost her father a few months earlier and is not willing to let her mother suffer alone.  She spends several hours each day at the nursing facility where her mother lives.  Caden Denning often visits her there.  When he shows her the picture he found at the crime scene, she is stunned.  She remembers the picture, but didn't know the family that was murdered.  As Caden and Ava begin looking for a connection between the murdered family and Ava's, they discover there were a lot of things Ava didn't know about her dad.  Will they be able to discover the killer before another family is murdered?

My thoughts:  This was a thrilling finale to the Danger Never Sleeps series.  Each of the books in the series has been a page turner filled with interesting characters.  However, I think this one was my favorite.

I really liked Ava as a character.  She is smart and talented, but not overly sure of herself.  Her dad was a travel writer and was often gone for weeks at a time.  So when he was home, Ava liked to spend as much time as possible with him.  They often worked on jigsaw puzzles together, not because Ava wanted to, but because this was a favorite pass time of her father.  Because of this, Ava became very good at solving puzzles of all kinds.  She eventually became very skilled at computers. Her father also taught her how to defend herself.  That, combined with her military training, makes her quite capable of defending herself.

Ava and Caden become closer as they work together to catch the killer.  As is always the case in Eason's books, the romance never takes over the story, but is just a background thread.  There were lots of secrets to uncover, but their combined skills and areas of expertise made all the difference.  There were lot of surprises, complications and injuries along the way.  I enjoyed being immersed in the world of puzzles, hacking and figuring out how a criminal thinks. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this hard-to-put-down book.  There are some heavier topics covered - serial killer, suicide, torture - however the descriptions are never graphic, but are dealt with realistically while keeping the overall tone light.  This could be read as a stand alone without missing too much, but I would highly recommend the entire series.

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Crusin' Thru the Cozies Reading Challenge 2023

Yvonne at Socrates' Book Reviews is hosting the 13th annual Crusin' thru the Cozies Reading Challenge.  The link to the sign up is here.  I will be participating at Level 2 (Investigator) - reading 20 cozy mysteries of my choice (option A). I will be keeping track of them here.






















Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving, Fall, Pumpkin, Flowers

"Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever!" I Chronicles 16:34

Happy Thanksgiving to those who are celebrating!

I will be hosting Thanksgiving this year and have been busy preparing food.  I like to prepare my mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes and turkey ahead of time.  This makes for a much more relaxed day for me.  

Here's what I will be reading over the weekend:

A Seaside Wonder (Muir Harbor #2)

 A Seaside Wonder (Muir Harbor #2) by Melissa Tagg

Isn't that a beautiful cover?

We are hoping to watch this over the weekend:

See How They Run (2022 film).jpg

See How They Run

I hope you all have a lovely Thanksgiving weekend!

~ Gretchen

Adrien Brody, Sam Rockwell, David Oyelowo, Saoirse Ronan, Ruth Wilson, Pearl Chanda, and Harris Dickinson in See How They Run (2022)

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Book Review: Castle Deadly, Castle Deep by Veronica Bond

Castle Deadly, Castle Deep (A Dinner and a Murder Mystery, #2)Castle Deadly, Castle Deep (A Dinner and a Murder Mystery #2). Veronica Bond. Berkley Books (2022). 288 pages. Genre: Cozy Mystery.

First Line: "The candle in my hand shook slightly, the flame flickering in the drafty cavern."

Summary:  Nora Blake has settled into her new life living in a castle and acting in the murder mystery troupe that performs there.  Her boss, Derek, has added an extra level of spookiness to this fall's play.  He has decked out the catacombs of the castle in spooky attire, complete with skeletons and spider webs. The audience will be taken there as part of the murder mystery they are attempting to solve.

Derek and the cast from the castle have also taken on another play at the local community theater.  When a group of actors from the theater wants to see the castle play, Derek arranges a special performance.  Unfortunately, as the actors and audience enter the catacombs, the lights go out.  When they come back on, someone has been murdered.  The entire cast is under suspicion since they were in the room.  

My thoughts:  I enjoyed Death in Castle Dark, the first book in this series, so I was really looking forward to reading this book.  Unfortunately, this second book was disappointing.  It felt more like a romance that included a murder.

Nora has been dating Detective John Dashiell, but things between them have been strained.  Nora felt like Dash wasn't giving her enough time of his time.   They had some wonderful months together over the summer, but now, even though she is feeling neglected by Dash, Nora joins a second play so that her time is even more limited.  Many pages are taken up with Nora trying to figure out where their relationship stands.  There is another romance story line involving Derek and Nora's good friend, Connie.  This also takes up many pages.  There is a lot of suggestive talk, as well as closed-door intimacy.  It was just way more romance than necessary in a murder mystery, in my opinion.  

As far as the mystery goes, there really wasn't much sleuthing involved.  There weren't many clues to even consider.  Nora did visit some of the cast members she knew from the community theater and tried to find out how well they knew the victim.  Once the killer was revealed and then caught, the book continued for several more chapters.  I kept wondering when it would end. 

I really like the idea of a dinner and a mystery show that takes place at a castle, but this time, after the murder took place, that story line was non-existent.  I would have liked to see more of that.  The other play that the troupe was performing at the community theater was a version of Ibsen's A Doll's House.  At times, that play was performed line-by-line in the story which was confusing and not very interesting if you were not familiar with the play.  Sometimes the lines would start and I wasn't sure if it was the play or the characters in our story talking.  

Nora's twin brothers make another appearance in this book.  They add some humor to the story.  I also like how Nora's parents are a big part of her life and really interested in her work.  The premise of this series is great and the characters have a lot of potential.  I am hoping the author can get back to focusing on a mystery story line for the next book.


"I opened the door now, enjoying the waxy scent from the polished floor and the lavender scent that emanated from the carpet after cleaning day. Below these aromas was the slightly musty smell of old books."

"The October air had remained calendar-appropriate cold, but the sun had shone for days, and Wood Glen was alive with the scents of autumn - leaves and grasses, pumpkin bread in Zana's kitchen, sweet-smelling hay bales brought to our front porch by the landscaper, woodsmoke from fireplaces up and down Apprehension Road."

Monday, November 21, 2022

Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks 2023

I will be joining Robin at 52 Books in 52 Weeks for this reading challenge again.  The goal is simple - read 52 books.  Click on the link to see the official rules and to sign up.   Robin also hosts other fun challenges at her blog including an Agatha Christie challenge, A Well Educated Mind challenge, and a Bingo challenge to name a few.  I will be listing the books I read for this challenge here.


Saturday, November 19, 2022

What I've Been Reading Lately

The Last Battle (Chronicles of Narnia, #7)I finally finished reading The Chronicles of Narnia.  The Last Battle was a great ending to the series.  It was fun to see some of our favorite characters from other books make an appearance.  One of my favorite scenes in the book involves some talking mice feeding a human small bits of food and tiny drinks of water until he is satisfied.


"And peace, Eustace.  Do not scold, like a kitchen-girl.  No warrior scolds.  Courteous words or else hard knocks are his only language."

"He knew why they were laughing and joined in the laugh himself.  But very quickly they all became grave again: for, as you know, there is a kind of happiness and wonder that makes you serious.  It is too good to waste on jokes."

Stillmeadow Calendar: A Countrywoman's Journal

I have been continuing to read through Stillmeadow Calendar by Gladys Taber month-by-month.  Each month she writes about the things going on in her community, the world and at Stillmeadow.  It is a joy to read.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from November:

"When the air is blue with haze and smells of woodsmoke and the sun is gentle and dreamy; I sit on the terrace by the old well house and read, turning the pages slowly and most of the time just sitting."

"There isn't really any such thing as summer reading, I think, or winter reading; there is just reading."

"I cannot understand women who 'adore shopping'. I have a friend who can spend a whole day looking for a hat.  I never wear hats.  I gave away the ones I had a long time ago.  When it snows, I tie one of those slippery things on my head.  And I never go to a formal affair, so I only need casual clothes, easy to work in, easy to run in and out in."

Anne of Windy Poplars (Anne of Green Gables #4)Next I started reading Anne of Windy Poplars.  I have been meaning to get to this for over a year.  I only got a few chapters in when some books I requested from the library came in.  I put it aside so I could read my library books.  I was enjoying it and will pick it up again.

Castle Deadly, Castle Deep (A Dinner and a Murder Mystery, #2)I am currently reading Castle Deadly, Castle Deep by Victoria Bond.  It is the second book in the Dinner and a Murder Mystery series.  I should finish it this weekend.

I hope you are all well and cozy this weekend!

~ Gretchen

Monday, November 14, 2022

Book Review: A Christmas Candy Killing by Christina Romeril

A Christmas Candy KillingA Christmas Candy Killing (Killer Chocolate #1). Christina Romeril. Crooked Lane Books (2022). 304 pages. Genre: Cozy Mystery.

First Line: "What was an alliterative word that worked with cyanide?"

Summary:  Murder and Mayhem, a bookshop owned by twins Alex and Hanna, has been featuring poison-themed killer chocolates.  They have given the chocolates names like Strychnine Strawberry or Candy Cane Coniine.  Of course, there is no poison in the chocolates.  Just before Christmas, the twins' neighbor Jane confides in Alex that she thinks she spotted a town resident on a true-crime show.  Before Jane can show Alex the show, she is murdered.  Unfortunately, a box of killer chocolates is by her bedside.  

Alex is one of two suspects in the murder.  In order to prove her innocence, Alex begins drafting a list of other potential suspects. Things start to become clear when Alex gets ahold of Jane's journal.  But, will Alex be able to expose the killer before the killer gets her?

My thoughts:  This was a great debut by author Christina Romeril.  It contains several things I like in a cozy mystery: a savvy sleuth, great supporting characters, a solid mystery and lots of daily life details.

Alex and Hanna are well into middle age and have seen their share of difficulties.  They both have failed marriages in their past and are glad to be living and working in the small town of Harriston, Montana.  Hanna learned chocolate making from their mother and has really excelled at it.  Alex worked in banking for twenty years before deciding she needed a change.  The sisters have a great relationship, but we mostly get to know Alex. Hanna's character felt a little shallow and I am hoping that we get to know her a little better in future books.  

The mystery was well-plotted.  Alex approaches solving the murder in a very methodical way.  She and Hanna create a murder board, which is basically a spreadsheet to collect information about suspects This was fun and allowed Alex and Hanna to approach gathering information in an orderly way. There were plenty of solid suspects and it took some time to eliminate them. 

One thing I really liked about this book was that the characters ate sensible meals on a regular basis.  It is a pet peeve of mine when characters constantly skip meals or eat nothing but sweet treats all the time.  This book was delightfully different.  Alex and Hanna often fixed dinner when they got home or pulled something out of the freezer such as individual portions of lasagna they had frozen.  There was even one time when Alex was running short on time but knew she should eat something before heading out so she made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  They definitely did eat sweet treats, but it wasn't constantly.  

Overall this was a delightful mystery that put me in the Christmas spirit.  I am looking forward to the next book in the series. 


"Louise wore an expression suggesting she had just bitten into a lemon, her lips pursed together disapprovingly and her skin, the texture of old paper, stretched taut over her face as if there wasn't quite enough of it to cover her skull."

"With a great deal of hard work, she and her identical-twin sister, Hanna, had turned the antiquated home, built in 1926, from an outdated quilt and fabric store into an homage to the Victorian era of the early twentieth century.  The store allowed their customers to escape the modern world for a short time."

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Book Review: Sundown by Susan May Warren

Sundown (Sky King Ranch, #3)Sundown (Sky King Ranch #3). Susan May Warren. Fleming H. Revell (2022). 368 pages. Genre: Romantic Suspense, Christian Fiction.

First Line: "Colt Kingston was in worse shape than he thought."

Summary:  Taylor Price has been helping out at Sky King Ranch while she recovers from the events that led to a plane crash.  In fact, she helped nurse Delta Force operator, Colt Kingston back to health after he was beaten to within an inch of his life by terrorists.  Now that Colt is on the mend, Taylor is ready to talk about what led the plane to crash.  The problem is her story is hard to believe.  It involves the Russian Mafia, a kidnapping, her attempts to crash the plane and her survival of the crash. But, when they locate the downed plane, everything Taylor has said proves to be true.  And if it is true, Taylor's life and the lives of many other people are in danger.  As Taylor goes into hiding, Colt, with the help of his brothers and their connections, set out on a mission to eliminate the threat.  

My thoughts:  In this final book in the Sky King Ranch trilogy, Susan May Warren has given her readers another hard-to-put-down story.  

Colt Kingston, ex-Delta Force operator, has been living out of a duffle bag for ten years.  After an altercation with one of his brothers, he has not wanted to return to the ranch in Alaska.  But, after being severely injured by terrorists in Nigeria, he has no where else to go.  Of the three Kingston brothers, Colt is the one who seems the most fearless.  He is always first to enter the fray and often takes chances that others wouldn't.  Some think this is because Colt doesn't value his life and is being reckless.  Colt doesn't see it that way or does he?  He definitely has some things to work through and he does just that in this story.  

Taylor Price is a a doctor of infectious diseases and a medical scientist who is trying to create a treatment for a deadly virus.  That is why she was kidnapped.  Someone wanted to stop her work so that they could use the deadly virus as a weapon.  Taylor is brave and smart, but she doesn't know who she can trust.  She suspects there is no one she can trust. Taylor also has some things to work through, but first she has to save the world. 

Every time I read a book by Susan May Warren, I find myself being so thankful for the men and women who daily protect our country from threats.  She gives me a deeper understanding of the costs of serving in this way.  But she also highlights the reality that each of us is created with gifts and talents by God for a specific purpose.  In this story, Colt is seen by some as being reckless.  But he has saved so many lives by his actions.  God has given him the ability to take risks that others won't.  We need people like that.  On the other hand, Taylor is not someone who regularly takes physical risks, but she daily examines terrifying diseases and works hard to figure out how to stop them.  She is not afraid to step into the middle of a situation that has left someone injured.  We also need people like that. 

In the middle of all of that, there is romance blossoming between Colt and Taylor.  At times, it felt like the romance was bogging the story down.  But, that was a minor thing.  

Overall, this was a great conclusion to the Sky King Ranch trilogy.  There were several loose ends tied up.  I will be sad to say good-bye to these characters, but if I know Susan May Warren, some of these characters will make appearances in future books.  I look forward to seeing what is next.


"Tae sat on the deck of her tiny cabin that overlooked the lake on Kingston property, the mountains tracing their outline against the magnificent blue sky.  The sun shone through wispy clouds, and the scent of wildflowers layered the air."

"'You don't have to control every moment, plan every step.  Maybe you just say yes to the doors God opens.'"

"'The role of a soldier isn't to ask why, or even determine the course of the fight.  Our job is to just say yes.'"

"'People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf."' George Orwell

Monday, November 7, 2022

Book Review: This Side of Murder by Anna Lee Huber

This Side of Murder (Verity Kent, #1)This Side of Murder (Verity Kent #1). Anna Lee Huber. Kensington (2017). 289 pages. Genre: Mystery.

First Lines: "You might question whether this is all a ruse, whether I truly have anything to reveal.  But I know what kind of work you really did during the war.  I know the secrets you hide.  Why shouldn't I also know your husband's?"

Summary:  Verity Kent is invited to a house party to celebrate the engagement of one of her deceased husband's fellow officers.  Initially she intends to send her regrets.  But when she receives a letter claiming the writer had information about her late husband and his treasonous activities, Verity decides she must attend the party and perhaps learn more about this accusation of treasonous activity.  

Soon after the party gets started, one of the guests disappears.  Verity and three other guests discover his body when they are exploring the island.  Before long another body is discovered.  To make matters worse, there is a storm raging outside and the phone lines are down.  Will Verity be able to discover who the murderer is before someone else loses their life?

My thoughts:  I love the covers of the books in this series.  I was also drawn to the time period - the time between the wars.  

I was glad I had read a few reviews before beginning this book because several of them indicated that the beginning of the book was slow.  I found this to be true and probably would not have continued had I not been prepared for this. There is a lot of set up for the first half or so of the book.  But once things start to happen it really picks up.  

It has been fifteen months since Verity's husband was shot in a battle.  She thought she would be done grieving by now, but finds herself still missing him terribly.  That makes it especially hard to attend this party where everyone knew her husband.  The letter she received suggesting that her husband was involved in treasonous activities is what compels her to go.  She can't believe Sidney would have been involved in anything treasonous, but then again, they hadn't had a lot of time to spend together before he was sent off to war. Verity was keeping secrets from her husband, so it is possible he was keeping secrets from her.  

The setting and atmosphere of this book are similar to And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie.  It is set on an island in a large house, actually a castle in this case, and when a storm hits, no one can leave.  However, that is where the similarities end.  Verity and one of the other guests, Max, trust one another, but they are not sure who else they can trust.  The mystery is not straight forward and after a major plot twist, things get more complicated. 

Another thing that took away from my enjoyment of the novel was a section involving a seance and tarot cards.  In most cases, this would have been a deal breaker for me.  However, all of the characters except the one who wants to hold the seance were uncomfortable and Verity lets the reader know that she believes the other character is just pretending to converse with the dead person.  Also, it occurred more than half way through the novel and by that point I wanted to finish.  

Unfortunately, I was left with mixed feelings about the novel.  I have heard great things about Anna Lee Huber and her writing is terrific, but I am not sure if I will continue with this series. 


"Our fighting men simply didn't discuss such things with those at home.  They couldn't. Not without exposing us to the horrors they were trying so hard to keep us from finding out about."

"The music grew softer and the hushed sounds of night reached my ears again - the hum of crickets and the rustle of the wind trailing its fingers through the leaves.  On this side of the castle, away from the sea, the trees grew thicker, for I could smell them and the faint perfume of London Pride in the bushes bordering this end of the terrace."

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Book Review: Autumn by the Sea by Melissa Tagg

Autumn by the Sea (Muir Harbor #1)Autumn by the Sea (Muir Harbor #1). Melissa Tagg. Larkspur Press (2021). 356 pages. Genre: Christian Fiction.

First Line of Prologue: "My Dearest Robert, Sometimes I think about how no one understands."

Summary:  Maggie Muir has been searching for her granddaughter for years.  The child was never located after an accident that killed her mother.  Maggie is convinced that the child is still alive and has used a private investigator to try and locate her.  

Sydney Rose was abandoned as a toddler and spent years in foster homes.  She has made a life for herself and her foster brother, but she often wonders what life would have been like if she had not been abandoned.  When Maggie's private investigator enters her life and suggests that she might be Maggie's granddaughter, Sydney Rose begins to hope.  

Neil MacKean was taken in by Maggie as a teenager.  He loves Muir Farm and feels like farming is his calling.  But he is suspicious of the latest "granddaughter" who shows up. She seems to be different from the others and Neil finds himself drawn to her.  However, he doesn't want Maggie to be hurt again.  

My thoughts:  This book drew me in immediately.  I fell in love with Muir Harbor and the farm that has seen better days.  I wanted to know if Maggie was finally going to find her granddaughter and if Sydney Rose would fit in.  I wanted to know how Neil, Lillian and Indi came to be taken in by Maggie and how does Wilder Monroe fit in the picture?

There are a lot of mysteries to be solved and the author did a great job of revealing them layer by layer.  In the process, we get to meet some really great characters.  Maggie has suffered much loss in her life, but she has also offered much hope to others.  However, she is not an open book and there is still much to learn about her. One thing we do know is that she is not willing to give up the search for her granddaughter until she is found, no matter the cost. 

In addition to the mysteries to be solved, there is a little romance, a little humor and realistic interactions of a family trying to get along. I enjoyed every minute of it.  The story has a satisfying ending, but not everything is solved.  There are a few loose ends that make me eager to get my hands on the next book in the series. 


"Trees burning with color, fiery red and orange and gold, lined the lane on one side, and up ahead, she could just make out the shape of the house."

"'I think Maggie would say that's what love does.  It keeps hoping even when the answers don't come easily.  It invites strangers in.  It doesn't give up.  Love keeps searching.'"

"Maybe she was here because God had led her here.  Laid a path for her feet and whispered for her to walk.  Maybe He hadn't forgotten her, after all."