Posted in Reviews

Review of Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah

*****5 stars

If I could give this book more than 5 stars, I would. It was excellent, and I’m embarrassed to admit that it’s the first book I’ve read by this popular author. I read it for a library book club and wasn’t sure how I would feel about it. I found the story picked up for me toward the middle. From that point on, I couldn’t put it down.

The story centers around two sisters, Meredith and Nina, and their relationship to their parents. The sisters have very different personalities. Meredith helps her father run the family business, an orchard, along with her husband, Jeff. Their grown children are in college. Nina is a photojournalist who travels to war-torn countries and has won awards for her photography. In her late thirties, she still hasn’t settled down but has an Irish boyfriend.

The women share a great love of their father but have not had a close relationship with their mother, Anya, who they know little about except that she’s Russian. The closest they’ve been to her is when she’s told them a fairytale about a peasant girl and a prince. But when Meredith staged a play about the fairytale, Anya reacts angrily and refuses to continue the tale. When their father dies, he asks them both to take care of Anya and requests that Nina ask her mother to tell the whole fairytale. Nina has no idea why but wants to satisfy his dying wish.

The story then alternates between the present and Anya’s recitation of the fairytale. Without giving spoilers, the sisters discover that there’s more to the fairytale than they believed. Once told, it changes their view of their mother and their relationship with her, with their loved ones, and with each other.

I loved the way the “fairytale” was told, the depiction of Russia during Stalin’s reign and World War II, and the way the author captured the beauty and vastness of current-day Alaska in the final part of the book. I recommend this highly for historical fiction fans and those who enjoy relationship stories. Don’t forget to bring a tissue with you as you read because you’ll shed tears of both sadness and joy. This will be a book you won’t quickly forget and one that is great for discussion.



Posted in Reviews

Review of The Writing Retreat by Julia Bartz

*Note: This book was an advanced reader’s copy from Net Galley. It will be published on February 21, 2023, and is available for pre-order on Amazon at

****4 stars

This book disappointed me, although some readers may enjoy it. I read it because I like fictional stories about authors. It started out with an interesting theme. A famous horror writer sponsors a writing retreat for young female authors at her secluded home. After reading samples of their writing, she chooses six women under thirty. Alex, a fan of Rosa Vallo since reading one of her bestselling books as a teen, ends up taking the place of one of the retreat members even though she’s thirty-years-old and is suffering from writer’s block. Alex is unaware that another retreat member is her previous best friend, Wren. After they broke up, Wren was accidentally injured at a party that Alex attended. Alex has blamed herself for Wren’s injury since. When they’re reunited at Rosa’s mansion, they initially regard one another with animosity. That changes when incidents occur that cause both women to realize the pettiness or their hostility toward one another.

A central theme to the book involves the history of Rosa’s home and how the previous occupants, a woman named Daphne and her husband Horace, were found brutally murdered in the 1800’s.. Daphne had been involved in spiritualism that her husband didn’t condone and was rumored to have conjured up an evil spirit. Alex uses these characters and background for the work-in-progress Rosa requests of the retreat members who must each submit a certain word count each day to participate in a contest where the winner will be published by Rosa’s publisher.

Without giving away the twists, this book contains elements of the supernatural, lesbianism, and how far an author will go to become famously published. Not recommended, but everyone, but some will find it a unique read.

Posted in Reviews

Review of Cowboys and Chaos, Magical Mystery Book Club #3 by Elizabeth Pantley


This is another delightful addition to Elizabeth Pantley’s Magical Mystery Book Club cozy mystery series that features a group of book club members who go into cozy mystery books to solve mysteries. In this story, Paige and her aunt Glo, along with the members of their book club including Frank, the talking cat, end up in an old western town where they’re reunited with GeeGee, the owner of the bookstore that was bequeathed to Paige and Glo upon her death, but GeeGee didn’t die. She simply retired into a 3-book series set in the Old West.

The murder that the book club members must solve this time is that of Mollie, the saloon girl who, not realizing she’s died, is a ghost that only they can see. Plot twists abound in this imaginative and fun tale. If you haven’t read the first two, I’d highly recommend it, although you won’t have trouble following this third installment on its own.

You can pick up your copy here:

Posted in retirement

Debbie’s Retirement Life, Week 4: Day 29, 1/20/23

It’s hard to believe it’s been a month since I retired. This is the last weekly blog post about my post-retirement adventures, but I’ll continue writing them on a monthly basis. Last week ended on a fun note when I attended a Zoom lecture on one of my favorite musical groups, the Bee Gees. It was given by Vinnie Bruno, who also gives in-person and virtual lectures on the Beatles and other sixties and seventies music groups. The Bee Gees lecture was hosted by the Seaford Library and had over 80 attendees. Mr. Bruno’s presentation was both informative and enjoyable. He played songs from the early years of the group, as well as those from Saturday Night Fever and one by Andy Gibb.

Over the Martin Luther King weekend, I did more cleaning and also continued writing the next book in my Buttercup Bend series. I was challenged by my cat, Harry, when I cleaned my closet and by Hermione, when I sat at my computer to write.

On Monday, I went out to lunch with friends at Fanatico’s Italian Restaurant and had a delicious eggplant dish with a salad. Needless to say, I didn’t eat dinner that night.

My friends and I also exchanged late Christmas presents. One gave me an adorable cat tea mug and cat calendar. The other gave me hot chocolate balls and a lavender bath set.

On Tuesday, I spoke with Andrea Parent- Tibbetts from Clover Brooke Farm in Hyde Park via Zoom to research llamas and llama farms. She gave me some interesting information that I’ll be able to use in my forthcoming book, The Case of the Llama Raising Librarian. I’m up to Chapter 5 in the book and, although Cathy and Mildred have arrived at the llama farm where they are investigating a murder incognito, they haven’t yet met Lulu the Llama. The llama’s name was chosen by a reader of my newsletter who submitted it for a contest. Below is an excerpt from the first draft.

“I always wondered what the difference was between alpacas and llamas. Do you know?” Cathy had maneuvered around a red truck, and a barn came into view. It was large and sat next to a pen where she saw several llamas grazing.

“Of course I do. I’m a librarian, Cathy. The main differences are their size and ears. You might consider them cousins. Alpacas are smaller than llamas and have t-shaped ears, while llamas have banana-shaped ears. They’re both gentle and friendly animals.”

“Interesting.” Cathy pulled into a space between the house and the barn. The spots weren’t marked, and the lot wasn’t paved, but there were two cars parked there. A small blue Mazda and a silver station wagon.

Mildred checked her watch. “We’re a little early. We made great time. Maybe you want to walk around with me a bit before we go up to the house.”

“That’s a good idea. I’m eager to see the animals.” Cathy got out, and Mildred joined her. They headed for the barn and the llama pen. As they passed the barn, Cathy exclaimed, “Oh, my gosh! Look, Mildred. Cats! They look just like Harry and Hermione, only older, and the calico one doesn’t have Hermione’s white undercoat and paws.”

“They must be barn cats,” Mildred said. “They usually have them on farms to keep the mice in check. The calico is a tortoiseshell. Notice her brown markings.”

Cathy walked slowly toward the cats. She noticed a gray one behind them. The black cat came right up to her. She extended her hand, and the cat sniffed it. “You look just like my Harry,” she said. “I bet you enjoy living here?”

Mildred laughed. “I love how you talk to animals, Cathy. C’mon, let’s go see the llamas.”

The rest of the week wasn’t as pleasant or productive. My daughter and I both had dentist visits, and I’ll be going to the orthopedic today.

Next week, I’m planning to visit three local bookstores with an author friend.

Thanks for reading about my retirement adventures. I’ll post another in February.

Posted in Blog Tour, Spotlight

Spotlight and Blog Tour for Snuffed Out, the first Magic Candle Shop Mystery, by Valona Jones

Snuffed Out (Magic Candle Shop Mystery)
by Valona Jones

About Snuffed Out

Snuffed Out (Magic Candle Shop Mystery)
Paranormal Cozy Mystery
1st in Series
Setting – Savannah, GA
Crooked Lane Books (January 10, 2023)
Hardcover 304 Pages
ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1639102051
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1639102051
Digital ASIN ‏ : ‎ B09XM5PKP7

Twin sisters Tabby and Sage co-own a candle shop, but will it all go up in flames in Valona Jones’ series debut, perfect for fans of Amanda Flower and Bailey Cates.

30-year-old fraternal twins Tabby and Sage Winslow own The Book and Candle Shop in Savannah. Sage is hot-headed and impulsive while Tabby is calm and collected, making them the perfect partnership. When one of their customers is found murdered, from a blow to the head, that partnership is put to the test.

Blithe McAdam had been seen in a heated argument with shop clerk Gerard, which immediately makes him suspect number one. The twins are convinced of Gerard’s innocence and start digging into Blithe’s past. But no one is cooperating. The neighbor who found the body isn’t talking, medical examiner Quig won’t give any details about the autopsy, and nasty rumors begin surfacing about the drowning of Blithe’s father years earlier—evidence that could seal Gerard’s fate.

Tabby and Sage dig desperately for the truth. But it’s not only their friend who’s in peril. With the clock ticking, the twins find themselves in the grip of an unseen and deadly energy that has seeped into their midst—and in the sights of a ruthless killer.

About Valona Jones

Valona Jones writes paranormal cozy mysteries set in Southern locales. Her work blends mystery and the unexplained, along with a sprinkle of romance. A former scientist, she’s drawn to the study of personal energy. She sharpened her people-watching skills as a lifelong introvert and thankfully had a bank vault full of personal observations when she began to write fiction. Her forthcoming release, Snuffed Out, A Magic Candle Shop Mystery, is slated for January 10, 2023, release. She’s a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime. She lives in coastal Georgia, where time and tide wait for no one. Visit her at

Author Links





(Valona is not on twitter, Instagram, TikTok, nor Pinterest)

Purchase Links – Amazon KindleAmazon HardcoverNookB&N HardcoverKobo


January 12 – The Book Decoder – REVIEW

January 12 – Maureen’s Musings – SPOTLIGHT

January 12 – Socrates Book Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

January 13 – Celticlady’s Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

January 13 – Jane Reads – AUTHOR GUEST POST

January 13 – Paranormal and Romantic Suspense Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

January 14 – I’m Into Books – SPOTLIGHT

January 14 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – SPOTLIGHT

January 15 – Brooke Blogs – AUTHOR GUEST POST

January 15 – #BRVL Book Review Virginia Lee Blog – SPOTLIGHT

January 16 – Lady Hawkeye – SPOTLIGHT

January 16 – Ruff Drafts – SPOTLIGHT


January 17 – Christy’s Cozy Corners – CHARACTER GUEST POST

January 17 – Mythical Books – SPOTLIGHT

January 18 – Literary Gold – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

January 18 – Sapphyria’s Book Reviews – REVIEW

January 19 – Guatemala Paula Loves to Read – REVIEW

January 19 – StoreyBook Reviews – AUTHOR GUEST POST

January 19 – The Book’s the Thing – CHARACTER GUEST POST

January 20 – Books to the Ceiling – SPOTLIGHT*

January 20 – Cozy Up With Kathy – REVIEW, AUTHOR INTERVIEW

January 21 – Melina’s Book Blog – REVIEW

January 21 – Books a Plenty Book Reviews – REVIEW, CHARACTER GUEST POST

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Posted in retirement

Debbie’s Retirement Life, Week 3: Day 22, 1/13/23

During my third week of retirement, I continued decluttering and taking virtual exercise classes, began writing my next Buttercup Bend cozy mystery, had my nails done, went out with a friend to a Luminosity Light Festival, attended a real estate show, had my cats’ nails trimmed, and participated in a library book club discussion.

The virtual library exercise classes I’m taking are working out well. I purchased light, 1 pound weights and a small exercise ball that’s used in a few classes. I’m also getting an exercise mat. My cats were curious about these new items. I’d also gotten a new laundry hamper, and Harry enjoyed trying it out.

I was excited to start my third Buttercup Bend mystery, The Case of the Llama Raising Librarian. Along with Cathy Carter and the returning characters, it features a retired librarian. I wonder where I got that idea.

Last Friday, I had my nails done at Joy Nails, my local nail salon. I chose a glittery silver color that I thought would be nice for winter.

That night, I attended the Luminosity Festival at Eisenhower Park with my friend, Jenny. She took a cute photo of me by the Cheshire Cat in the Alice in Wonderland section of the festival.

On Saturday, I went to the Ideal Living Resort & Retirement Expo at the Huntington Hilton that featured 55+ communities in other states. It was somewhat disappointing because South Carolina and Virginia weren’t present as advertised, and, although representatives from North Carolina were there, they were mostly from Wilmington and the Coast.

On Sunday, the groomer came to give my cats well-needed mani pedis. Hermione suprised me by not even crying when she usually puts up a big fight. Harry, however, wasn’t his docile self. He cried the whole time.

On Wednesday, I went to my library for a book club discussion about The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray. I enjoyed the group and was also able to share my latest books and bookmarks with the members. I’m hoping they will choose one of my books for a future discussion. They’d discussed Sea Scope in the past and seemed interested in Time’s Relative that won the Cat Writers’ Association’s Muse Medallion award this year.

Later today, I’ll be viewing a virtual lecture on one of my past favorite music groups, the Bee Gees. This weekend or on Monday, I’m planning to go to lunch with two friends from church and exchange late Christmas presents. Next week, I’m also viewing a decluttering webinar that may be helpful to me as I continue that household project. I’m also seeing the chiropractor about my knee and possibly getting another cortisone injection. I’ve found that my knees aren’t bothering me as much during the exercises I’ve been doing, but I modify them if they do.

Thanks for reading about my retirement adventures. Next week, I might give you a sneak peek at the first chapter of the rough draft of my new book.

Posted in retirement

Debbie’s Retirement Life, Week 2: Day 15, 1/6/23

During my second week of retirement, I did some decluttering, started some virtual exercise classes, took an online writing webinar, and published my January newsletter.

I sent my January newsletter to subscribers the day before New Year’s Eve. It featured a Llama naming contest, survey contest, a list of my favorite 2022 books, and a few other features. Although only subscribers can enter the contests, you can read the January newsletter here:

New Year’s Eve was quiet. We toasted 2023 with sparkling cider and ate from a cheese and sausage tray. Even my cat, Hermione, got in the holiday mood.

I enjoyed the virtual exercise classes I took this week. I started with Stay Active, a Nassau Library System health share program on Wednesday, January 4. The class was a mix of aerobics and strength training. The instructor used weights in the second part of the class but said we didn’t have to use them and would still get some benefits. Since I’m not used to working with weights, I chose not to use them. The class wasn’t hard to follow, and I liked the oldies music. That night, I took a Body Sculpting class given by Seaford Library. The instructor, Kristen, was excellent. When she did floor work, I typed into the chat that I have difficulty getting on the floor because of my knees, and she showed me how to moderate those exercises sitting or standing by a chair. She also provided her email if any of the participants had questions for her. I thought that was very nice and look forward to the next class. Her music was also great.

On Thursday, the only virtual exercise class I took was Simply Stronger, given by my library. The instructor, Mindy Vasta, welcomed me and introduced me to the class as the retired librarian who used to organize the exercise programs. It was great to attend the class after having monitored it in the past. I was also happy to hear that a participant has been reading my books. Mindy does a very energetic class with good tunes and lots of strength training. She also used weights in the second half but was careful to instruct people in the proper safety protocols and said I could use weights when I felt I was ready and to start with light ones. Tomorrow, I’ll be taking Tai Chi with Linda Cafiero. I’ve known Linda a long time and look forward to her relaxing class.

Although I haven’t yet started writing the third book of my series as I’d planned, I viewed a Writers’ Digest University publishing webinar given by Jane Friedman that had been a Christmas gift from my husband. The webinar was informative, and I can view the replay and answers to all the questions typed in the chat.

Besides putting away all the Christmas decorations after New Year’s, I’ve also been organizing and decluttering each day. Again, I’m sorry that I don’t have a “before” shot of the coat rack, but it was really a mess before I straightened it out. I even found my husband’s lost hat.

I also decluttered my bedroom wardrobe, removing clothes that are out of season and straightening out the shelves. I also hang my cats’ long toys in there.

In between exercising, cleaning, and housework, I’ve been reading two books on my Kindle app: Cowboys and Chaos, the 3rd book of Elizabeth Pantley’s Magical Mystery Book Club cozy mystery series. Elizabeth is one of my favorite authors, and I featured one of the other books in this series as a 2022 favorite in my January newsletter. In The Magical Mystery Book Club stories members of a book club travel into the cozy mystery books they read. In Cowboys and Chaos, that’s the Wild West! To return to the present, they need to solve the mystery in the book, which is the disappearance of a saloon girl.

I’m also reading The Writing Retreat by Julia Bartz. I’m reviewing this unpublished book through NetGalley. It can be preordered now and will be published on February 21. So far, I’m enjoying it. It’s a mix of horror and psychological fiction about a woman whose been invited by her favorite dark fiction author to attend a writing retreat at her reclusive, and rumored to be haunted, estate along with four other authors, one of whom used to be her best friend until an angry break up.

On Wednesday, I learned that my brother’s daughter gave birth to twin sons. Welcome, Jackson and Maxwell! Congratulations to my niece, her husband, and my brother and sister-in-law on their double blessings.

I didn’t go out much this week except for a walk on Wednesday when the temperatures reached over 60 degrees. I’m planning to have my nails done today and attend a light show with my friend this evening (more on that next week with photos, I promise). Thanks for reading about my retirement adventures.

Posted in Spotlight

Spotlight and Blog Tour for Of Mushrooms and Matrimony: A Tish Tarragon Mystery by Amy Patricia Meade

Of Mushrooms and Matrimony (A Tish Tarragon Mystery)
by Amy Patricia Meade

About Of Mushrooms and Matrimony

Of Mushrooms and Matrimony (A Tish Tarragon Mystery)
Cozy Mystery
6th in Series
Severn House; Main edition (January 3, 2023)
Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 224 pages
ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 144830654X
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1448306541
Digital ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0B8ZMBLCL

Tish Tarragon is catering for a wedding, but the weekend goes from sweet to sour when a guest at the venue is poisoned.

Literary caterer and owner of Cookin’ the Books cafe Tish Tarragon is pushing thoughts of her impending eviction aside to prepare an appetising welcome buffet for a wedding weekend at Abbingdon Green Bed and Breakfast. While there, Tish witnesses one of the guests, controversial TV chef and restaurant critic, Gunner Randall, threatening staff after missing breakfast and making do with a mushroom omelet.

When Randall is found dead the following day, it soon becomes clear that poisoned mushrooms were behind his demise. With no shortage of potential suspects and motives, can Tish and her new beau, Sheriff Clemson Reade, uncover who was enraged enough with the unsavoury star to silence him for good?

About Amy Patricia Meade

Author of the critically acclaimed Marjorie McClelland Mysteries, Vermont Country Living Mysteries, and Tish Tarragon Mysteries, Amy Patricia Meade is a native of Long Island, NY, where she cut her teeth on classic films and books featuring Nancy Drew and Encyclopedia Brown.

After stints as an Operations Manager for a document imaging company and as a freelance technical writer, Amy left the bright lights of New York City and headed north to pursue her creative writing career amidst the idyllic beauty of Vermont’s Green Mountains.

After five years living in Bristol, England, Amy now resides in upstate New York.

When not writing, Amy spends her time working for her musician husband, watching classic films, testing new recipes, belly dancing, and cleaning cat hair from her lap.

Author Links:




Purchase Links – AmazonB&NKoboIndieBound


January 4 – Literary Gold – SPOTLIGHT

January 4 – Ruff Drafts – SPOTLIGHT

January 5 – Ascroft, eh? – CHARACTER INTERVIEW

January 5 – Ebook addicts – SPOTLIGHT

January 6 – Books to the Ceiling – SPOTLIGHT*

January 6 – MJB Reviewers – SPOTLIGHT

January 7 – Bootsie’s Book Nook – SPOTLIGHT

January 7 – Mystery Thrillers and Romantic Suspense Reviews – SPOTLIGHT


January 8 – Sapphyria’s Book Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

January 9 – #BRVL Book Review Virginia Lee Blog – SPOTLIGHT

January 10 – Celticlady’s Reviews – RECIPE

January 11 – Lady Hawkeye – SPOTLIGHT

January 12 – Christy’s Cozy Corners – CHARACTER GUEST POST

January 13 – Maureen’s Musings – SPOTLIGHT

January 14 – Read Your Writes Book Reviews – AUTHOR GUEST POST

January 15 – I’m Into Books – RECIPE

January 16 – Baroness Book Trove – SPOTLIGHT

January 17 – Cozy Up With Kathy – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

January 17 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – REVIEW

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