Thursday, December 6, 2018

Silver Bells Slaying by Madison Kent - #review #COYER

It's Christmas in Chicago in 1889, and amateur sleuth, Madeline Donovan, is looking forward to a joyous holiday. Since the tragedy, it has always been a difficult time for her, but she is determined this year will be different, perhaps even Jonathan will be here.

But that all changes abruptly when the mysterious red box with the dangling silvery bells attached arrives on Erie Street. The contents will shock her and the police, and set her on a path to stop a murderer.

All novels are unique and do not require reading the series in any order.



Beware the red present with silver bells decoration.

As if it weren't enough to lose a husband and two young sons to a fire, Madeline, who is just starting to be able to function again, now has to contend with some presents from an evildoer unknown.  It's enough to put a lady off the holiday season.  I do give her points for not falling apart all over again.  But then she had a little assistance from her father the doctor, and a 'perfectly safe and non-addicting' little chemical called morphine.

Madeline kind of reminds me of Sherlock Holmes and his "Seven Percent Solution" of cocaine.  He used it when not on a case to keep his mind occupied.  Madeline started taking medicines after the fire to be able to function at all, and who can blame her.  On top of that, she recognized that she was becoming addicted, and was taking first steps to control the problem.

I found it somewhat confusing to figure out if she favored Hugh, an English nobleman (staying with her father until his own house was built), Oliver (a friend from Florida) or John (a newspaper reporter from New York).  But I can kind of understand her actions here again; after what happened, she's not really ready and/or in the mood to start another romantic relationship.  She should get some kind of credit for having all three of them to dinner at the same time with no fights breaking out.  I don't know that she could get away with it in this day and age.

And you know she gets extra credit for sneaking into a gentlemen's club disguised as a man ... TWICE!

Whichever friend of hers 'wins' Madeline's heart in the end will have his hands full, and be very grateful for it.

Silver Bells Slaying is the 5th of 6 Madeline Donovan mysteries.



Madison Kent books include: The Mystery at Belle Magnolia, Stalking Jack, The Harrison, Some Saints Prey, Silver Bells Slaying, A Smidgeon of Ghosts, Devil on Deck, and coming soon, the eighth in the series...Sweet Murder.

She is a poetry contributor to Sacramento Free Press (Poems for All Chapbook) Pomona Valley Review #7 and 8, The Voices Project, The UK Poetry Library, Creations Magazine and Prose and Rhyme; short stories to Prose and Rose and The Book Patch as well as others.


Silver Bells Slaying helps to fulfill my 2018 - 2019 Winter #COYER Reading Challenge.

(Disclaimer:  I received a copy of this book free during an Amazon promotion found due to one of the following 'deal notification' services:  BookBubFreebooksy, Robin Reads, or eBookSoda.  This review is given under no obligation and represents my own views.)

Sunday, November 25, 2018

My 2018 #COYER Winter RC Sign-up Post

The 2018 COYER (Clean Out Your E-Reader) Reading Challenge is hosted by Berls and Michelle @Because Reading.  Rules are below.  Click the button above to go to the sign-up page!

  1. Read Your E-Reads! Every book you read MUST be in an electronic format – meaning E-Book or Audiobook. It’s okay to start a book before December 1st, you must be less than half way for it to count then review it during COYER.
  2. The books must be FREE or NEARLY FREE! This includes review books, tour books, NetGalley, Edelweiss, etc. What’s nearly free? No more than $2 for eBooks and no more than $5 for Audiobooks (or the equivalent in your currency). This does NOT include library books, borrowed books, or Kindle Unlimited books.
  3. Announce your participation! This can be a blog post (or if you don’t have a blog – Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Booklikes, Goodreads, Shelfari, etc.) If you want to list books you would like to read, that’s great, but not necessary. The point is to let everyone know you’re committed to COYER, maybe share some goals, and help spread the word. Not sure how to do your post? Check out this example from a previous COYER.
  4. Link up! Link that post (not just your blog homepage) to the linky below. (remember if you signed up before our site crashed we need you to sign up again)
  5. Review & Link Reviews! Your review may be on your blog, Goodreads, Shelfari, Booklikes, etc. Link the review to the Review Linky (which will be available on the kick off post on December 1st).
  6. We are giving away (2) $10 Gift Cards. One is for the review link and the other is for a goody type of giveaway. It will be for readathons, participating, visiting, etc. We will have all the info on the kick off post.
  7. Visit Each Other, Chat & Have Fun!

I never have a problem with the reading, but fall flat as a pancake on the record-keeping and updates of reading challenges.  So, here I am, going for it again!  And I couldn't think of a better book to start with than:

-to give you an idea, and to show you that the books on my e-reader are almost as old as I am (!), I've had "21 Days" on my Kindle since before Halloween 2112!  The other 'oldest' reads are from not much past that.  I'm aiming for 10 reads, trying to mix up genres and fiction/non-fiction, etc. etc. etc.

My List:

1.  Silver Bells Slaying by Madison Kent (5 Dec)
2.  Treasures of the North by Tracie Petersen (6 Dec)

I'll add links to review posts as I go (yeah, fingers crossed on that one) and reveal just long each book has been on my e-shelf.  Hopefully I won't get so embarrassed that way and want to go hide in the stacks! :p

So click on the button at the top of this post, join in and declutter your eclutter with the rest of us!

Fun question:
Just how full is your e-reader?  Give yourself a totally subjective rating from 1-10
1-being that the lone ebook on your ereader desperately needs some company to
10 - one more book on your ereader will take out large portions of the national power grid!

Yeah, I'm at least a 9.9! *faint*


Also sharing with:  



Thanks to Marlene of Tynga's Reviews, Kathryn at Book Date, and Ramona at Create With Joy for hosting these respective link-ups!  (Click on the buttons to go to the respective blogs.)


Updated 6 Dec 2018 to add first two books read.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Into the Deep by Lauren Gaskill - #review

Develop enduring faith for the turbulent waters of life.

Following Jesus doesn’t guarantee sunny skies and smooth sailing. In fact, the waters of life are often tumultuous, crashing over us. Sometimes we can feel that we’re drowning in a sea of confusion, division, frustration, complacency, or disillusionment. We need more than a shallow faith to survive these deep waters.

Into the Deep is an invitation to dive headfirst into a life of courageous faith. With endearing warmth and authenticity, Lauren Gaskill shares how she and others have learned to swim with Jesus in the deep waters of life—facing challenges such as anxiety, depression, and chronic illness—only to discover a more authentic, enduring faith that cannot be shaken by circumstances. In addition to examining the character of God and the lives of women and men of the Bible who chose to dive deeper with God, she provides practical examples and tools that help us take our faith to the next level by learning to make decisions by faith alone, control our reactions to overwhelming situations, and live a life rooted in love.

Get ready to exchange fear and frustration for the boldness, courage, and holy confidence that lead to a life of deep faith and joy!



At my first swimming lesson as a child, I refused to put my head under the water ... or even my face in the water.  This unfortunate pattern of fearing to venture outside of my comfort boundaries has delayed many wonderful experiences from being part of my life.  Delayed?  Yes.  Stopped entirely?  Well ... not exactly!

My heart stopped following my body to church services when I was about twelve years old and just beginning to get 'too big for my britches', as the saying goes.  Of course, being berated in front of the Sunday School for not providing the expected response to a question, might have had something to do with my choice to distance myself from 'all things church'. 

So the deep end of pretty much anything, from a swimming pool, to my faith, has never been especially familiar to me.  And the unknown usually breeds fear.  (Just look at the news headlines these days.)  Luckily for me, when I needed help most, said help would 'magically' be there.  Like now.

I am so grateful for Lauren Gaskill's book "Into the Deep: Diving Into a Life of Courageous Faith".  Because lately, I've been feeling that my relationship with God is not what it should be.  To continue the swimming/pool analogy, I feel like I've been splashing around in the shallow end, looking at the deeper end, longing to be one of 'those' people who seem to be getting so much more out of the experience. 

By sharing her own experiences and providing examples from the Bible, Lauren shows that I am not alone (we are not alone) in our struggles.  That in itself would make Into the Deep a gift from God to us through the author.  Lauren helped me to see another way to strengthen my relationship with God.  This book has been a right message for this season of my life to do just that.  I can't tell you the number of times "Wow, I never thought of it that way," escaped my lips while I was reading this book.

Like some books, Into the Deep deserves more than a single read-through.  It's the type of book I like to work through or to 'digest' idea by idea or chapter by chapter, instead of all at once.  So, I read it through (for the review), and now I'm starting over again and really studying the message now.

I highly recommend this book to anyone seeking to strengthen their spiritual relationships.



Lauren Gaskill is an author, speaker and host of the Finding Joy podcast and Finding Joy Ladies Night Out events. After being diagnosed with an incurable connective tissue disorder, Lauren made it her life mission to encourage others to fight for faith and find joy — no matter what life’s circumstances might bring.

Gaskill is a storyteller who believes stories are powerful and loves how God uses them for His good. She writes and speaks to motivate and inspire others to experience abundant life in Christ. She is particularly passionate about encouraging women to fight for faith and go deeper in their relationship with Jesus. Gaskill also writes and speaks about what it looks like to walk with Jesus through pain and suffering.

She lives in Raleigh, NC with her husband and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.



"Abingdon Press"


Click on the banner above to go to the tour site for more information.  

(Disclosure:  I received a copy of this book from the author and publishers via "I Read With Amber" book tours in exchange for my honest review.)

Friday, November 9, 2018

#HoHoHoRAT Nov 9 - 18 @kimbacaffeinate

Get your sleigh bells on, y'all because it is time for the "Ho Ho Ho Readathon" hosted by Kimba at the Caffeinated Reviewer.  Click on the cute little picture above to go to the sign-up page and get all the details!  Dig out your winter/holiday themed books and/or ebooks or audiobooks, grab a nice cup of hot chocolate and get reading (at midnight on the 9th in your time zone)!  Santa hat optional. (Personally, I'm heading to the dollar store in the morning!)






These are the books from which I will choose what to read.  Yeah, I'd love to be able to read all of them (that's one book a day).  Now I just have to decide if I am crazy enough to do it! *ho ho ho* Covers are linked to each book's GoodReads page.

Remember to click on the picture at the top of the cute little owl with the big eyes and Santa hat and join with other winter fan-atics as we read our way into the winter holidays!  And remember to share on social media with the hashtag #HoHoHoRAT!


So, are you already in the readathon?  What are some of the books you hope to read?  Feel free to leave all of that in a comment below, and/or tell me what is your favorite holiday?

Thursday, October 4, 2018

The Girl in the Empty Dress by Lise McClendon - #review

Merle Bennett is turning fifty, and her four sisters are helping her celebrate by going to France on a walking tour of the Dordogne. But one sister invites along a law colleague whose annoying ways upset what Merle had hoped would be just 'wine, women, and walking.' When Gillian Sargent, the sixth wheel, finds an injured dog beside the road the idyllic summer vacation takes a dark and dangerous turn. Why is the dog special? Who is after her? And what will they do to get the dog back?

Truffles, wine, romance, and intrigue in the heart of France.

All five Bennett sisters are lawyers. One is writing a blog about their trip, baring family details. As the intrigue heats up, one of Merle's boyfriends shows up from New York while her French boyfriend arrives unexpectedly. The delicate karma of sisterhood is rife with bickering, tears, and French law as the questions about Gillian Sargent pile up. Who exactly is she? What is she hiding? And where the hell has she gone with the dog?

Do you love women's suspense? Are you a not-so-secret lover of all things French? Come along on a trip to France with the Bennett sisters.



This is my first experience with a Lise McClendon book.  It will not be my last.  'Empty Dress' is the 2nd of seven "Bennett Sisters Mysteries".

I do not have any sisters, so missed out on that best friend girl talk, as well as the aggravation that goes along with having female siblings.  One of the sisters brings along a co-worker (Gillian) who seems to have little to no social life.  Understandably the other sisters are a little put out that a 'non-sister' has joined what is supposed to be their time to reconnect.  And Gillian?  She does nothing to change their opinion.  She is cold, standoffish and disapproves of most people and things, other than herself.

Merle has her vacation 'ami' (boyfriend) in this little village in France, at least when he's in town and not working.  But that's ok (?) because her on-again, off-again from New York shows up out of the blue.  (That bit of tension is delicious, btw.) And she's kept plenty busy after Mr. NY is arrested for assault on a local priest.  The only lawyer in town is the former mayor, whom Merle got dismissed in disgrace after a previous investigation.  So yeah, he's a lawyer, but does he have his client's best interests at heart?

And then there's the dog.  The sisters + 1 find an injured dog by the side of the road during a walk in the country.  Unbeknownst to them, it was stolen by force from an elderly couple.  It turns out the dog is a truffle snuffler and is quite valuable. 

I don't know what the French expression is for "15-bean soup", but there are a lot of threads and sub-plots running through the story.  But, like the soup, the story works, and quite well.  And I did love 'revisiting' France, the setting and general tone of the story seemed quite authentic.  (No, I haven't had the pleasure of actually visiting there myself, but I did take 7 years of French in school.)

I was a bit confused at the choice of title.  A little bit of an oblique reference, IMO, but hey, I read-vesting in the story, not just the title.

There are six more books in the Bennett Sister Mysteries, and I am looking forward delving into, well, all of them, eventually.  'Empty Dress' is an engaging read, almost like being on vacation oneself, especially if you're in the habit of having bad guys stalk you and try end your holiday suddenly, with extreme prejudice.  Nice bit of tension in the thriller aspects of the book.

These are definitely worth your investments of time and money.



Lise McClendon is a fiction writer living in the Rocky Mountains of Montana. She has been a film reviewer, a film maker, a journalism professor, and a PR flack. Since her first novel, The Bluejay Shaman, in 1994, she has served on the national board of Mystery Writers of America and the International Association of Crime Writers/North America, as well as on faculty of the Jackson Hole Writers Conference where each year she critiques, speaks, and learns from writers new and old. 

(Disclaimer:  I received a copy of this book for free from Amazon, having been notified by one of the following:  BookBub, Robin's Reads, Freebooksy, eBooksoda, or other similar deal-finding services.  I was under no obligation to review, but that's kind of what I do, so here we are. :D)

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Plot Your Health, a Journey to Wellness Planner by C.J. Ellisson - #review

Book Description:

Are you struggling to stay on top of multiple medications and supplements throughout your day? Or maybe your doctor has asked for daily details on your symptoms? Do you miss treatment appointments, or have problems juggling all the details? If you need space to log your steps, moods, hours of sleep, blood sugar levels, or even foods — we've got you covered!

Introducing a one-year wellness planner for managing severe and chronic health concerns! Terrific for parents managing a child’s complex care, teenagers or adults who need to organize their health concerns, or for caregivers and adults managing the care of senior patients.
220 pages in length, with a repeat of multiple tracking pages for twelve months.

Notebook Contents:

-        Owner’s Info page with room for doctor info, personal data, emergency contacts, allergies and more!
-        Two pages for Condition Details, room to list six per page.
-        Four pages of Medicine and Supplement Records, six per page.
-        Four pages for tracking test results, scans, and blood work throughout the year.

Twelve monthly sections, each with the following:
  • Undated monthly calendar pages, for jotting down doctor appointments, wellness visits, physical therapy, IV infusions, or whatever you need.
  • Two Doctor/ Wellness visit pages, for questions to ask at each appointment, room for notes, and an area to jot down tests needed.
  • Treatment Record pages, with room to track nine treatments per month, plus an extra lined page for notes or more appointments.
  • A two-page Symptom trackers, each with room to track twenty symptoms for an entire month.
  • Three-pages per month of Medicine and Supplement tracking grids. Each contains room to track four meds that need to be taken three times a day, and room to track twenty-one meds required twice a day. (This area can be customized for more meds if they are taken only once per day).
  • Mood-tracking coloring image. Assign a color to a mood and color each section per day according to how you feel.
  • Additional two-page grid for tracking sleep, food, blood pressure, habits, blood sugar, oxygen levels... pretty much anything you need! Eighteen spaces to track for each month.
  • Two lined pages per month for additional needs.
  • Future planning area on the last page for appointments and scheduling for the next year.



(Apparently I am not the only one in my family with health problems.  A couple of days ago, my power supply blew up.  The new one came today (my birthday, btw), which lead us to find out that it took out the motherboard as well.  Oy!  Luckily my daughter recently got a new laptop and I am working for the time being off her old one.)

Why do I tell you all of the above?  Because, while this is not the review I had planned to write, I just HAD to tell you all about C.J. Ellisson's new workbook: "Plot Your Health: a Journey to Wellness Planner".  Anybody who personally deals with multiple and/or chronic health conditions, as well as anyone with friends, family or acquaintainces experiencing the same.

For myself, I have experienced depression for years and years.  For the time being, that is likely to continue.  In each of my 3 pregnancies I experienced gestational diabetes and pregnancy induced hypertension.  The high blood pressure has continued since that time.  The diabetes seems to be reminding me these days that it is still there.  Most recently, I have begun to forget the name for common objects while I am talking, although I can usually explain what it looks like or does, so the meaning gets across; and over the last 6 months or so, I have developed arm tremors which have increased in frequency and intensity.

So you can see how the Plot Your Health Planner is something about which I could say, "Where have you been all my life?"  Even with the forgetfulness, I have been able to keep better track of appointments with various doctors, and whether or not I have taken my medications at the right times, etc.  I have been able to feel a measure of control over my health conditions, and that gives me hope ... which is a powerful medicine in itself.

I consider the Plot Your Health: a Journey to Wellness Planner an indispensible addition to any family's medical records.


C.J. Ellisson is a New York Times & USA Today bestselling author, who writes adult urban fantasy, mystery, and romance. She lives in northern Virginia with her husband, two teenagers, three dogs, and two cats--reporting to love the energetic zoo that's become their home. 

When forced to give up a career due to her decreasing health, C.J. turned to writing in 2009 and claims the escape helped save her sanity. She battled severe chronic illness for years and has finally reached the end of her long-term treatment.

Instead of dozens of pills, IVs, exhaustion, and pain, C.J.'s days are now filled with writing, exercising, eating healthy, and running a novel-writing club at her daughter's school. It all leads to a fun-filled, busy day, and she's incredibly grateful to be so involved in life again.


Click on the banner above to go to the tour site, where you will find links to more reviews of this title.

(Disclosure:  I received a  3-month trial planner from the author, via Bewitching Book Tours in exchange for my honest review.)

Note:  As you can see from the tour banner, this tour actually concluded yesterday.  This post was supposed to be up Monday, but my own computer had other plans.  I regret this delay and any problems it has caused for the author or tour planner, although  the tone of my review was not affected.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Monday Bookish Linkups & #Frightfall Readathon

Time to get your scary story jammies on, readers!  The #FrightFall Read-a-thon for October 2018 is on!  Click the banner above to go to the sign-up page and Seasons of Reading.

The only "rule" I could see was that you should read at least one scary book (thriller, mystery, Gothic, etc.)!

There are all sorts of fun things planned, so be sure to check out on the host blog!

Possible reads for me include:
No Way Out and Other Scary Short Stories by MJ Ware
The Happy Hollisters and the Scarecrow Mystery by Jerry West
The Scarecrow: Solom #1 by Scott Nicholson
The Mountain King: Resurrected Horrors #1 by George Ernsberger

....and there are, oh, about 21 more books on my Kindle list that have 'horror' in the title.  That's "horror-ble" (cue the groans).

Anyhow, if you love fall, Halloween, etc, I hope you'll join the folks at Seasons of Reading (and me)! Happy Hauntings, y'all!

Also sharing with:


Thanks to Stephanie of Tynga's Reviews, Kathryn at Book Date, Ramona at Create With Joy
and Janice at Mostly Blogging for hosting these respective link-ups!  
(Click on the buttons to go to the respective blogs.)