Posted in Anthology, Reviews

Review: The Moments edited by JK Larkin

***** 5 stars

The Moments is another interesting anthology from the Red Penguin Collection. In this book, nine authors share a special moment in their lives. There are some amazing stories here and others that are everyday events that are still unique to the author.

Air Force veteran David Lange, recounts the birth of each of his children in different places in “Welcoming Life.” Swan Rose, a former musician and current poet, writes about various special moments with his daughters and wife in “The Best Time of My Life.” Retired navy pilot, Jim Tritten, describes a once-in-a-lifetime experience he had on a nine-day warrior expedition to Big Bend National Park in “Touched by Rapture.” Skye Ballantine pens “Christmas Kindness,” a story about sharing gifts with those less fortunate and the true meaning of the holidays in simple pleasures of special moments. “When the Music’s Over” by William John Rostron relates his failed attempts at playing in a band and attending Woodstock and what it taught him about life. Nika Jordan Rose completes the collection with a play called “Lost & Found” which explores the deeply human need for connection in a self-isolated world.

These essays and the others in this anthology make for a great read any time of year but especially during the holiday season when the opportunity to encounter special moments of your own are more likely. I especially enjoyed editor J.K. Larkin’s introduction to this book and how he began the popular Red Penguin Collection during the pandemic.

Pick up a copy of The Moments here: https://amzn.to/3oQ1hek

Posted in Books, Reviews

Review: The Cat Who Saved Books by Sosuke Natsukawa (traslated from the Japanese by Louise Heal Kawai)

****4 stars

Note: I reviewed this book through a NetGalley advanced reader copy. It will be published in December.

Although this book is geared toward a young adult audience, as the main character, Rintaro Natsuki, is a high school student, book lovers of all ages will enjoy this story. There’s a paranormal theme as well as a sweet romance, and it all takes place during the holiday season.

Rintaro’s grandfather has died leaving him a used bookstore. As he is grieving for his grandfather and contemplating his move to his aunt’s house, Rintaro is visited by a talking tabby cat who requests his help saving books. Thus follows Rintaro’s adventures into three labyrinths that appear in the back of the bookstore. After solving the mystery of the first labyrinth, Rintaro’s friend, Sayo, the school rep who has been bringing him makeup work after he’s missed classes, is able to see the cat who reappears and asks for help in the second labyrinth.

As Rintaro becomes more involved with Sayo, the cat named Tiger begins to make comments that they could be girlfiend and boyfriend. Working together, Sayo and Rintaro solve two other labyrinths and save more books. The stories behind these adventures will make sense to booklovers who know that in today’s society, print books and classics are less in demand than digital, commercial reads. Rintaro’s love of books increases as he solves each labyrinth’s dilemma.

The final labyrinth has Rintaro facing his feelings for Sayo and realizing the true worth of books and how they connect people. A story that can be read on several levels. Book and cat lovers will enjoy it very much.

Posted in Reviews, short stories

Review: Two Carrot Ring And Other Fascinating Jewelry Stories by Janet Metz Walter

****5 stars

When I first learned about this book, I thought it was a great idea for a unique read. After finishing it, I’m even more convinced of that. The book contains true stories contributed by people about a piece or pieces of jewelry. It’s divided into eight parts: Proposals; Gifts; Humor; Lost and Found; Repurposed Jewelry; Up Above; and Travel Stories. The story that gave the book its title, “Two Carrot Ring and the Central Park Charm,” was in the “Gifts” section. It was contributed by D. Sabel and tells a sweet tale involving a Woolworth ring and a special charm. It’s a very romantic story and also includes a nice poem.

The other stories in this collection are just as interesting. Some are nostalgic; others are modern, but they are all shared from the heart. Reading them, I realized I, too, had stories about my own jewelry pieces. Hopefully, the author who assists her husband in his jewelry business, Gold Fire Diamonds, will publish another volume.

Posted in Anthology, Recipe, Reviews

Review of Feeding the Flock: Recipes from the Red Penguin Family

***5 stars

Feeding the Flock is part of the Red Penguin Collection of anthologies of various genres. This one focuses on cooking recipes for large gatherings, although the ingredients can be modified for smaller servings. Whether hosting Thanksgiving, a special birthday party, or other occasion or holiday, this is a perfect book to keep by your stove. What’s unique about this collection is that, besides some interesting yet simple recipes for groups, it includes note about how the cook/author created the recipe. It also features illustrations of each dish. Some of the familiar recipes included are Basic Stuffing Recipe, Dutch Apple Pie, Twice Baked Potato, and Linguine with Clams. Other less familiar recipes featured are Cawl Mamgu, a Welsh dish; Hungarian Krumpli Haluska; and Golabki (Polished stuffed cabbage). My favorite was the “Do You Take Your Peppered Peppers Laying Down or Vertical?” because I love stuffed peppers. I also enjoyed Mussels Marinara in Oyster Bay by Elaine Donadio who shared her memories of when she and her family lived and boated around this Long Island town which is one of my favorite places to visit. If you’re looking for a recipe book with a varied collection of dishes along with some great stories, this is the book for you.

Amazon Purchase Link: https://amzn.to/2YHvd3m

Bookshop.org Purchase Link: https://bit.ly/3FgInDZ

Posted in Dogs, Reviews

Review of Muffin, Digby and Petal Together Forever by Brian L. Porter

*****5 stars

This is the first book I’ve read in Brian L. Porter’s Family of Rescue Dogs series. Previously, I’d read one of his Mersey mysteries and knew he was a great fiction writer, but reading his non-fiction dog book, it was obvious to me how talented he is in both genres. If you have a pet, whether it be a dog, cat, or other animal, you will recognize many of the anecdotes featured in this book. You will laugh when Brian relates the funny things his dogs have done and cry when you read about their health concerns and passing. It’s evident that Brian and his wife, Juliet, are animal lovers. As a cat person, I was still able to relate to these dog tales. In fact, I found striking similarities to some of the experiences Brian related about his dogs that I’ve also seen in my cats.

The book begins with Brian explaining how he and Juliet came to adopt three dogs together. It was after they’d lost one of their dogs Juliet was very bonded to, and it reminded me of how I adopted two kittens after I’d lost my old Siamese and my mother in the same year. I loved how Brian described the puppies as “one dog with twelve legs” and how he pointed out that “Bringing up three was no different than bringing up one.” I felt that same way about my two cats. I also enjoyed the way he described the playfights the dogs engaged in and that he found it “amazing that nobody gets hurt.” My cats also play fight, and I’ve often wondered how they survive after all that yowling and screaming.

I also empathized with Brian’s story about Digby’s close call to death when a mass was found on his spleen, and how he survived after it was removed by a doctor at a special veterinary surgery. I felt Brian’s disappointment and anxiety when a storm delayed Digby’s initial surgery and the issues he had driving to the surgery including car problems on the way home. I was relieved to learn that all turned out well. This emotional story was conveyed so well that I felt as if I was going through it with my own pets.

Another feature I loved about this book were the beautiful photos illustrating each chapter and the gallery of photos at the back. While Brian didn’t restrict this book to the three dogs in its title, he’s written books about his other rescue dogs. They’re all listed in the bibliography at the end along with his Mersey mystery series. I’m sure readers will want to check out both these series, as Brian is an international bestselling author and a talented writer of different genres.

Purchase Link: https://amzn.to/3o2EmfI

Posted in Reviews

Review of Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult

*****5 stars

I’ve read a few of Jodi Picoult’s books, and I think this is one of her best. Diana an art dealer turning 30 who has the rest of her life planned, or at least she thinks so until the COVID-19 pandemic strikes, and her boyfriend Finn, a resident at a New York City hospital, is unable to accompany her on their long anticipated trip to the Galapagos islands. Diana believes he was about to pop the question on their vacation, but she agrees to go by herself when he convinces her it would be safer. That decision turns out to be unwise because, once on the island which is locked down, she has no way to return and can’t contact Finn because of weak and unstable WiFi. The hotel she booked is closed, and her bags were lost on her flight. Luckily, she’s befriended by a woman who allows her to stay in part of her house. She later learns the apartment belongs to a man with a teenage daughter in need of help.

After Diana meets the man, Gabriel, a previous tour guide, and his daughter, and spends time with them and the island residents, she attempts to contact Finn and her mother, who suffers from Alzheimers and is in a nursing home. She reaches them, but the connection is short and erratic.

With detailed descriptions of the wildlife and habitats of the Galapagos including an inactive volcano, this absorbing story comes to life. As Diana becomes emotionally attached to Gabriel and the island, her perspective about life begins to change.

About midway in the book, there’s a twist I didn’t see coming. Picoult realistically portrayed several serious themes including mental illness, Alzheimer’s Disease, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Her author notes at the back of the book also gave insight into how she was inspired to write it and her own experience during the pandemic. I highly recommend this read that Picoult’s fans will gobble up and new readers will find totally absorbing.

This review was from the NetGalley ARC. The book will be released on November 30, 2021.

Posted in Reviews

Review: The Lighthouse Witches by C. J. Cook

***** 5-stars

In 1998, Liv, a single mother of three daughters, takes on a project involving the painting of a mural in a lighthouse on an island in Scotland called Lon Haven. She soon learns of a local legend involving the killing of women accused of witchcraft and the wildlings that were rumored to take over the bodies of missing children and destroy their families.

Although Liv doesn’t initially believe these crazy stories, she begins to wonder about them when two of her daughters disappear, and one returns bearing the branded numbers that are said to differentiate a wildling from the real child. The story changes perspective from Liv to her daughter, Luna, twenty years later. Luna, now grown, is still searching for her sisters. When she is contacted with the news that her younger sister, Clover, has been found after all this time and is at a hospital, she rushes there expecting to see a woman close to her own age. Instead, she finds a young girl who seems to be Clover but hasn’t aged. How can this be? The book answers this question as it goes back and forth in time.

I found the explanation an interesting twist. My only criticism of this absorbing book was that it sometimes was difficult to keep the characters and time periods clear. Other than that, I found the writing compelling with realistic characters. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys supernatural novels that take place in different time periods.

This review was from the NetGalley ARC. The book will be released on October 5, 2021.

Posted in mystery, Reviews, Thriller

Review of Last Girl Ghosted by Lisa Unger

*****5 stars

This was my first Lisa Unger book, but it won’t be my last. I couldn’t stop turning the pages (or actually swiping them because I was reading the NetGalley digital ARC copy on my phone). The book, publishing in October but available for pre-order now, is somewhat dark. Although very different, I can compare it to Gone Girl which I also enjoyed and which also featured a missing person. In this case, several missing women. It takes place in New York City, right before the COVID pandemic closed things down and refers to a Chinese virus that was starting to spread.

The main character, Wren Greenwood (not her real name), is the author of the popular Dear Birdie advice column that is also a podcast. Only her friend Jax knows her background, how, at 15, Wren’s world was turned upside down after her family moved to an isolated area because her father, a war veteran, had become what some term a Doomsday Prepper. His actions culminated in a tragedy that caused Wren, born as Robin, to change her name and return to society to build a life to help others facing challenges in their lives.

When Wren hooks up with a man named Adam through Torch, an online dating site, she finds herself opening up to him and revealing her dark past. When Adam unexpectedly disappears and a detective comes to Wren’s door seeking help in finding missing women who used Torch to meet a man he believed was Adam, Wren once again faces horror.

The twists and turns in this book had me on the edge of my seat. Although I liked the ending that featured additional twists, I found the pace a bit slow in the last part of the book after the climax. I thought each character in the book was well depicted and would highly recommend it if you’re a fan of Gillian Flynn and Lisa Diaz Meyer, two dark fiction authors I admire.

Posted in Next Chapter, Reviews

Review: A Liverpool Lullaby: Mersey Murder Mysteries Book 8, by Brian L. Porter

*****5-stars

If you haven’t read any of the Mersey Murder Mysteries, you’re missing some great reads. Book 8, A Liverpool Lullaby, is no exception and is easily read as a standalone. What intrigued me most, besides the search for a killer who took his victims’ hearts and played a tape of lullaby’s as he was killing them, was the interplay between the characters of the Merseyside Police Special Murder Investigation Team. The glimpses into the back stories of each of these detectives makes me want to go back and read each prior book. There’s one scene in particular that is quite emotional and that both shocked and touched me toward the end of the story. I won’t give this away, but I highly recommend this book and the series to anyone who enjoys a good police procedural with great characters and fast-paced action. It reminded me of Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct Mysteries.

Purchase Link: https://amzn.to/3xnOuCi

Posted in Cozy Mystery, Reviews

Review: Mrs. Peabody’s Party Line: A Honeyspoon Murder Mystery by Marianna Heusler

*****5 stars

Mrs. Peabody is a character you’ll enjoy meeting. Living in the 1950’s and being connected to her neighbors through a party line, she can’t help but listen in to all the conversations through which she becomes privy to secrets, adulterous affairs, and other matters some people would’ve preferred kept private.

When a murder occurs in the town library, she takes it upon herself to investigate. Teaming up with a cute little dog who joins her later in the book, she faces danger but also helps solve the mystery.

I loved the period setting of this quaint town and all the quirky characters including the nun who isn’t happy following her vows and some of the kids who are smarter than their parents. It was a perfect cozy and one that gets this fun series off to a great start.