Tuesday, September 29, 2015

COZY MYSTERY: Well Read, Then Dead by Terrie Farley Moran


First in a new series!

Nestled in the barrier islands of Florida’s Gulf Coast, Fort Myers Beach is home to Mary “Sassy” Cabot and Bridget Mayfield—owners of the bookstore café, Read ’Em and Eat. But when they’re not dishing about books or serving up scones, Sassy and Bridgy are keeping tabs on hard-boiled murder.

Read ’Em and Eat is known for its delicious breakfast and lunch treats, along with quite a colorful clientele. If it’s not Rowena Gustavson loudly debating the merits of the current book club selection, it’s Miss Augusta Maddox lecturing tourists on rumors of sunken treasure among the islands. It’s no wonder Sassy’s favorite is Delia Batson, a regular at the Emily Dickinson table. Augusta’s cousin and best friend Delia is painfully shy—which makes the news of her murder all the more shocking.

No one is more distraught than Augusta, and Sassy wants to help any way she can. But Augusta doesn’t have time for sympathy. She wants Delia’s killer found—and she’s not taking no for an answer. Now Sassy is on the case, and she’d better act fast before there’s any more trouble in paradise.

Includes a buttermilk pie recipe!


I quite enjoyed this book. Sassy is quite an amusing character with her combination of down home charm and fiestiness.  It was especially fun to read about her interactions with the by-the-book new deputy, Frank Anthony. Clearly there is attraction there but the two also annoy each other greatly especially once Sassy starts looking into Delia's death on her own in her efforts to keep a promise.  One of the things I like about cozy mysteries are the settings and Moran has done a great job of that here, I could practically feel the ocean breezes and I desperately wanted to stroll into The Read 'Em and Eat cafe to browse and eat and enjoy the author tables.  The relationship between Sassy and her best friend, Bridgy was laugh out loud funny at times. And Bridgy's Aunt Ophelia was an absolute hoot.  The mystery itself had plenty of nice twists and turns as it first appeared to head in one direction before swinging around to go in a different direction.  I also liked all the nice details involving everything from Delia's cat, Bow, to the cafe's chef, Miguel and his broken leg.  All in all a fun read, and I look forward to reading more in this series.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

CD REVIEW: Hold On: A Modern Tribute to the Music of Michael McLean


Eric Robertson, a popular producer in Provo, has brought together an impressive list of talented vocalists to sing on new, fresh productions of classic Michael McLean songs. The vocalists include some of the top names from the burgeoning Provo music scene, including Elaine Bradley, from Neon Trees, and Ryan Innes, one of the top contestants on NBC's The Voice. Eric grew up listening to Michael McLean songs and still feels a strong connection to them. This album is an effort to pay tribute to those songs and produce them in a way that will speak to a younger generation of LDS youth.

Track List

Hold On, the Light Will Come feat. Scott Shepard
Give a Little Bit of Yourself feat. Catherine Leavy
You're Not Alone feat. Andrew Langdon
Gentle feat. Drew Danburry
I Can't Do Everything feat. Brooke White of American Idol
Homeless feat. Ryan Innes of The Voice
You've Always Been There for Me feat. Elaine Bradley of Neon Trees
Share the Joy feat. Severin Bozung
Be the Joy feat. Eric Robertson
Promise of Light feat. Adam and Darcie Sanders
**Individual tracks available on iTunes.


I was a bit startled by the new arrangements of some of my old favorite Michael McClean songs.  But once I got used to it, I really liked it.  The jazzier feel to the music is bound to appeal to young listeners and a whole new generation.  While the changes aren't likely to appeal to everyone, I thoroughly enjoyed them.  I couldn't help singing along and tapping my foot. And the messages are as great as always.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

CLEAN HISTORICAL ROMANCE: Heart's Journey by Kristen McKendry


Adventure is in her blood, so when wealthy eighteen-year-old Rachel Hamilton’s treasure-hunting father disappears in the wilderness of British Columbia, she considers only one course of action: she will embark on a quest to find him. But for a well-bred woman with little understanding of the world beyond her upper-class existence, the harsh realities of the trail quickly become apparent. Woefully unprepared for the hardships of crossing a wild and unsettled continent, Rachel is hungry, lost, and distraught when handsome frontiersman Peter finds her in the middle of nowhere. Taking pity on the downtrodden young woman, Peter promises to escort her to the safety of civilization. Little does he realize he’s taking on a naïve and foolishly brave girl who will test the limits of his patience. But he also discovers the same naïve girl will blossom into a strong, competent, and captivating woman as they undertake an epic journey that will forever alter both their lives.


I thoroughly enjoyed McKendry's book Heart's Journey.  It was interesting to watch Rachel grow up as she faced some pretty tough situations.  And I had to admire Peter for being willing to help Rachel when she wasn't the easiest person to get a long with -- she was down right snooty at times, but considering her background that isn't too surprising.  I haven't read much about the settling of Canada so I also really enjoyed the setting.  And there were some great secondary characters as well that helped both Rachel and Peter along the way.  The romance felt believable as Rachel and Peter had to learn to look beyond the obvious outer trappings to find the gold inside each other.  Even the ending felt real and suited the rest of the story.  For those who enjoy great historical stories with a touch of romance, I can heartily recommend this one.


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Thursday, September 17, 2015

BLOG TOUR: Simply Anna by Jennifer Moore


Suffering from a cruel heartbreak, Lord Philip Hamilton has been driven to seek refuge from the painful memories haunting London, and his father’s Jamaican sugar cane plantation provides just the escape he needs. Philip finds solace in his hard work and takes comfort in the fact that his distance from society ensures that his heart will be protected from future entanglements. Protected, that is, until the unexpected appearance of a mysterious woman with no memory of her past. The only clue to her identity is a necklace inscribed with a name: Anna.

In a matter of weeks, this gentle, intelligent, and impossibly beautiful stranger turns Philip’s world upside down. But as the bond between the pair grows, the threat of Philip losing his heart once more is only the beginning of the dangers that await. Island renegades and a ruthless band of pirates clash in a swashbuckling battle, and it soon becomes clear that these villains may be the key to unlocking Anna’s past . .


Whenever I pick up a Jennifer Moore book I know I'm going to love it.  And I have never been disappointed.  Once again I thoroughly enjoyed Jennifer's characters, plot, and writing.  Philip and Anna are both loveable characters who I cheered for from the first page.  Admittedly the slave parts were hard to read but the author handles them well and the fact is it was a part of life in Jamaica at that time, so it wouldn't have been right to ignore it.  I appreciated the way that Philip and Anna came to grips with the whole slave thing.  Perhaps they were ahead of their time, but when I read historical books, I like to read about people who are ahead of their time.  It was also fun to catch a glimpse of characters from previous books that I loved (Lord and Lady Lockwood, etc.)  Jennifer Moore will continue to be one of my favorite writers.


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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

PICTURE BOOK REVIEW w/ CD Giveaway: My Home Can be a Holy Place by Kristen M. Oaks


Lily is a young girl who is helping to make her home a holy place.

Through Lily's story, told by Kristen M. Oaks and illustrated by award-winning Latter-day Saint artist Dan Burr, we are invited into Lily's home to share time with her family.

Children will love seeing how Lily and the other children contribute to the spiritual environment of their home through their everyday activities. We seem them praying, working together, eating dinner as a family, reading the scriptures, counseling together to make good decisions, participating in family home evening, sharing the gospel with friends and family, and learning to love one another. They love the Lord and feel His Spirit in their home.

This delightful book shows readers of every age how homes can becomes holy places in which children grow up in the Lord.

The website www.HomeCanBeAHolyPlace.com is designed to be a living document. It develops the themes introduced in the book and is enriched by contributions from reader to reinforce teachings, expand ideas, and inspire children and parents to make their home a holy place.


KRISTEN MCMAIN OAKS has spent much of her life teaching. She earned a bachelor's degree in English, a master's degree in special education (both from the University of Utah), and a doctorate degree in curriculum and instruction from Brigham Young University. She was a former educational consultant in the publishing industry, instructing teachers and supervisors both nationally and internationally. She was also a Visiting Assistant Professor at BYU and served a full-time mission to Japan. After marrying Elder Dallin H. Oaks, she taught and trained auxiliaries in the Philippines for two years while he served as Area President. She currently serves on the board of trustees of the Deseret International Foundation and the Primary Children's Hospital and recently authored the book, A Single Voice. In addition to her love of teaching, she loves being a wife, mother, and grandmother. She and her husband reside in Utah.

DAN BURR, an award-winning illustrator, earned a bachelor of fine arts degree from Utah State University and a master's degree in illustration from Syracuse University. He and his wife, Patti, are the parents of two children and live in Tetonia, Idaho. Dan has illustrated many children's books, including The Miracle of the Wooden Shoes, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, The Mansion, and The Christmas Train.


While not strictly a story, My Home Can Be a Holy Place, shares the experiences of Lily and her family as they strive to make their home a holy place.  Each page details a particular aspect of their efforts, a home of prayer, a home where members work together, a home blessed by priesthood power, etc.  Additionally, each page has a quote from a general authority or a scripture that highlights the principle being shared.  Dan Burr's illustrations are gorgeous (as usual) and do a beautiful job of highlighting important aspects of the text. The book would work well with younger children and families that need help focusing on making their home a better place.  Plus the book is just a beautiful reminder of what an ideal home looks like.  While home is rarely a perfect place, following the principles outlined in this book will sure bring a family that much closer to it.  Perfect for family home evenings or even bedtime.

My Home Can Be a Holy PlaceABOUT THE CD

From one of the world's premier violinists comes a new collection of beautiful songs celebrating family and motherhood. The album features classic hymns, such as "Love at Home" and "I Am a Child of God," stunning classical arrangements, including Brahms's "Cradle Song," and beloved children's tunes. The gorgeous track "Love Is Spoken Here" features Jenny performing with all four of her children, ages eleven and younger.

Track list:

Love at Home
Jesus Once Was a Little Child
Songs My Mother Taught Me
I Feel My Savior's Love
Brahms's Cradle Song
I Am a Child of God
Love Is Spoken Here


Jenny Oaks Baker proves once again her prowess with the violin.  I absolutely loved listening to this CD.  The songs are so tenderly shared, I don't see how you could listen to these performances and not be touched.  The arrangements are gorgeous and Baker plays beautifully.  Highly, highly recommended.


1 CD of Music by Jenny Oaks Baker
US only

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Friday, September 11, 2015

A Tale of Light and Shadow: Secrets of Neverak by Jacob Gowans


Henry Vestin always believed that, despite being a carpenter with no training in swordplay or survival, he could lead Isabelle and his friends to safety. He thought he could defy an emperor and protect Isabelle from harm. He was certain that love and friendship would help them survive.

He was wrong.

The second volume in the Tale of Light and Shadow series follows Henry and his friends after the disastrous battle at the Iron Pass. Horrors await the band of travelers in strange new lands. Crippled and broken, Henry must rely on his friends more than ever. New allies and foes find them at every turn, but which are friendly and which are deadly? Isabelle, now a slave in Neverak, finds herself surrounded by enemies, uncertain about the fate of her friends, and relying on only herself to survive. The Emperor moves forward with his plans of conquest, spurred on by the Seer’s dark prophecy, but he has not forgotten those who defied him.

Return to the world of Atolas, where swords and daggers extend life or end it, where feuds and friendships influence kingdoms and courtships, and where magic is feared by all but a few.


JACOB GOWANS was raised in Papillion, Nebraska, graduated with a bachelor's degree in theater studies and then moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where he graduated from dental school at Case Western Reserve University. Jacob and his wife and three children live in Arizona where he works as a dentist for the Indian Health Services.


It can be hard to find adult fantasy that is clean enough for me to want to read it, but Jacob Gowans series A Tale of Light and Shadow fits the bill nicely. Not only are the characters great but the incredible challenges the characters face kept me turning the pages rapidly.  I was slow to pick up this series because I suspected it would draw me in and never let go and I was right.  Once I met Henry and Isabelle I couldn't help but cheer for them but everything was against them from the beginning, including Isabelle's father.  Here is book two, the pair are separated.  Henry struggles to recover from his injuries while longing to go after Isabelle who is now imprisoned in the Emperor of Neverack's palace being prepared to become one of his concubines.  Isabelle struggles to deal with her circumstances and find a way to escape while having no idea what is happening to Henry or her friends. Not only is the plot one that moves along quickly but I loved the depth of the story as each of the characters faces difficult choices and struggles and because of it they grow.  The complications that ensue as each of the major characters makes choices that directly or indirectly effect all of the others made me anxious to see what was going to happen to them.  Even the secondary characters were of interest as I wondered about motivations and choices they made.  A wonderful, thought-provoking new series from an author to watch.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

COZY MYSTERY: Murder at the Mikado by Julianna Deering


Just as Drew Farthering thinks his life has found smooth waters, Fleur Landis, an old flame, reappears in his life. She's married now, no longer an actress, and he expects she'll soon disappear--until she comes to him in dire need. The lead actor in her old troupe's production of The Mikado has been murdered, and Fleur is the police's number one suspect.

Drew would love nothing more than to just focus on his fiance, Madeline, and their upcoming wedding, but he can't leave Fleur in the lurch--even if she did break his heart once. As Drew, Nick, and Madeline dive into the murder, they discover more going on behind the scenes of the theater troupe than could ever have been imagined. Nearly everyone had a motive, and alibis are few and far between. It's Drew's most complicated case yet.


I've fallen in love with Deering's Drew Farthering, a gentleman in every sense of the word.  But Drew also has a penchant for solving mysteries and this one seemingly falls into his lap when a former girlfriend asks for his help.  But the charming and beautiful Fleur wreaks havoc wherever she goes and Drew's fiance is reluctant to have Drew help her.  But Fleur's husband works for Drew and Drew likes him so he sets out to find out who killed Fleur's former lover.  But as Drew's relationship with Madeline grows tense so does the mystery as additional bodies turn up confusing things mightily.  Will faith and love be enough to help Drew solve the mystery and hang on to his fiance? Or will Drew lose that which has the most meaning in his life.

Once again I thoroughly enjoyed both the mystery and the relationships portrayed between Drew and his allies, Madeline and Nick.  The addition of an adorable little boy didn't hurt any.  The author manages to beautifully intertwine the mystery with Drew's real and complicated life making for a surprisingly quick read.  The setting also helps set the mood (1930's English countryside) giving the book a bit of a noir feel to it.  The book is presented as Christian fiction but the religious aspects don't it any way overwhelm the story or feel preachy.  Definitely going on my favorites shelf.
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