Review: Huckleberry Hearts by Jennifer Beckstrand

  
This is the perfect book to read around Thanksgiving – when you’re full and happy, and maybe a little nostalgic… or when you’re remembering the dearly departed and hoping new memories fill up the empty spaces. 

Amish grandparents Anna and Felty use their matchmaking skills – and love! – to bring Cassie together with her meant-to-be. Nevermind that Cassie’s mom wants her to marry an Amish guy.  And come back home. And rejoin the church. What?!  While Cassie wants to remain in the modern world and find a moral Englischer, she doesn’t fight her family. But while Cassie tries to keep the peace, her soul mate is going through a crisis of faith.

I love all of the Huckleberry Hill books, but I especially appreciated the messages in this one. Beckstrand touches on love, loss, death, staying true to yourself, freedom of religion, and the popular question of why evil exists and why God doesn’t stop it.  

I stayed up late, I bawled my eyes out, and even though Beckstrand is taking a break from the series, I’ll be stalking her page to see if she changes her mind. Excellent read, with plenty of laughs, some tears at the end, and a whole lot of warm hearts. 

-calliope

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Review: If Anything Should Happen by Bonnie Hearn Hill

  
If Anything Should Happen is a cute introduction to a new mystery series. It didn’t really seem mystery-series-ish to me, but that could be because Hill is developing background and setting the scene. 

Two radio station friends lend each other emotional support through life’s ups and downs… And when Kit’s mom leaves a mysterious note that opens up a few cans of worms, her colleague is there for her every step of the way. 

The contents of the note thrust  Kit into a decades-old, small town scandal that’s serious business. Someone has already died at the hands of a psycho, and he’s not afraid to do more damage. 

I felt like the plot and subplots were a little disconnected. I didn’t get enough of Kit at the radio station to really know her personality like her colleagues do. I did see her as a daughter, and I enjoyed the exploration of her relationship with her parents. The story was more family drama than mystery, if you ask me. But book two may have a different tone, and I hope to see more of Kit’s talk radio stuff. 🙂 

-calliope

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Review: Heartsong Cottage by Emily March

  
Shannon has a broken heart – and a secret. Daniel has a broken heart – and is a detective.  It’s up in the air whether they can find healing and solace together, or if their trust issues supercede their chemistry. 

Heartsong Cottage is the latest in the Eternity Springs series, which I find charming and heartwarming. 

Romance? Check. A wedding? Check. A drunken mess? Check. Good friends? Check. Celeste working her magic? Check and double-check. 

When Shannon and Daniel wade through uncertainty, the Eternity Springs community comes through for them. Love from their friends and the healing spirit of the town are more than these broken people hoped for. And I appreciate that kind of charming embrace. 

But the trope has been overdone. I’ve read too many stalker-traumatizes-and-detective-saves-the-day suspenseful romances. I skim-read about a dozen pages in the middle of the book because I felt like I had read them before – in a half dozen romance novels in the last five years. 

March’s writing is excellent. The characters are loveable. Eventually there’s resolution and a nice, tidy, happy ending. But the journey there wasn’t the fresh new adventure I was hoping for. 

-calliope 

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Review: A Body to Spare by Sue Ann Jaffarian

  
Here we have Book 10 in the Odelia Grey Mystery series… And it’s TERRIFIC. Jaffarian makes Odelia’s crazy world of hit men, private eyes, cops and ex-cons seem almost run of the mill. But it’s still a surprise to find a dead guy in the trunk of her car. 

The dead guy has a bizarre past. Odelia and the gang manage to dig into it and find more than one bad apple who could be responsible. As usual, the more they know, the deeper trouble they get themselves into. 

Jaffarian rocks at creating believable relationships. Whether it’s Odelia’s marriage, immediate family, or professional contacts, I like eavesdropping on their conversations and coming along for the ride while they solve the mystery. 

You can read the books in this series as standalones, but if you choose to read several, go in somewhat chronological order. 🙂 

-calliope

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Review: Too Many Cooks by Dana Bate

  
Kelly Madigan is a ghostwriter – for cookbooks. Reading Too Many Cooks, I loved living the life of a cookbook writer for a while. Kelly tested recipes in a fabulous London kitchen, bought produce from street markets, and rubbed elbows with a movie star and her British politico husband. 

My favorite part was the food! Kelly had to refine recipes to perfection. Though it may have been tedious for her to repeat recipes, it was pretty mouth-watering for me. Breads, soups, burgers, fries… Even the leftovers sounded good. 

There’s a little “love” story in here, but the book is mainly about Kelly gaining confidence, finding direction, and making her own way in a world that caters to those in the spotlight, not those behind the scenes. 

-calliope

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Review: Bittersweet Creek by Sally Kilpatrick


Romy may have looked citified on the outside, but she was still country at heart when she returned to her dad’s farm for a couple of months. And that country heart still pulled at ex-boyfriend-but-current-husband-on-paper (long story).

Julian loved Romy from the moment he set eyes on her, but a hard life changed him. Love would be dangerous.

I struggled to read the violent scenes in this book, because I am a wimp LOL, but I appreciate that those scenes made the characters real, pushed the plot forward, and opened up the chance for real love and forgiveness.

Sally Kilpatrick set Bittersweet Creek in the same town as her last book, The Happy Hour Choir. While Bittersweet is its own story, I loved the cameos by Beulah Land — and the fresh perspective from which Kilpatrick wrote her.

My absolute favorite part was the allusion to Fight Club. And in true English major fashion, I enjoyed all the other literary and film allusions.

-calliope
PS There’s a happy ever after… for some people.  🙂

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Review: Thy Rod and Thy Staff by Debbie Viguié

  
If you haven’t read anything by Debbie Viguié yet, you should. She writes so well that I can fly through her novels effortlessly. The dialogue, character and plot development, and the raveling of the mystery flow naturally. There’s nothing contrived or hokey. Just excellent stories. And the Psalm 23 Mysteries aren’t her only endeavor. Viguié also writes dark fantasy and historical thrillers. Check http://www.debbieviguie.com to see her full book list. 

So, Thy Rod and Thy Staff. Now that Cindy and Jeremiah have solidified and publicized their relationship, it’s a lot easier for them to team up to solve mysteries. Except they are separated for two weeks while Cindy is called for jury duty. For a murder trial. The day after a second murder “randomly” occurs. See where this is going? Rabbi Jeremiah has to figure out how to help Cindy, the police, and his synagogue secretary, all in the same week. He’s spread a little thin but saves the day more than once! Cindy holds her own: Even while avoiding getting killed, she manages to help Jeremiah out of a pinch. 

Though there are textual references to Scripture, The Psalm 23 Mysteries aren’t about religion or worship. They are about making connections…  in the criminal world and in a personal sense. 

Five big stars, because as usual I am astounded and impressed by Dbbie Viguié. 

-calliope

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