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Posted by on August 3, 2015 in Uncategorized


Great Escapes Blog Tour: Give Em Something To Talk About by Joyce and Jim Laverne – Guest Post and Review


FTC Disclosure: I received an advance e-copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

It is my pleasure to welcome one of my favorite authors to the the blog today.


By Joyce Lavene

People ask where our inspiration comes from. “You write so much, how do you stay inspired?”

I’m sitting at the beach today with my wonderful family and ideas are pouring through me. Being with people I love or admire always inspires me. It’s an energy thing. Maybe there’s an idea wandering around in your head and suddenly that idea takes form. Not that I discuss my ideas with my family or friends but their energy gets mine pumping and that brings characters to life.

Jim and I toss a lot of ideas around before they become real in our minds. We might go through hundreds of ideas before one takes hold and we think we can write it. Sometimes ideas are discarded but come back later with something added that changes them and makes them what we’re looking for.

We thought about writing our Sweet Pepper mysteries because we passed a small volunteer fire department with a sign out that they were looking for volunteers. We’d had Stella’s character in mind for a while but didn’t have a story for her. Ideas came flooding in while we sat and looked at that fire station. We also took plenty of pictures.

Our new Pumpkin Patch mystery series began when we saw an abandoned farm with an old pumpkin patch sign on a gate. It seemed like such a simple idea that we almost discarded it. But we had a friend who grew up on a farm with a famous pumpkin patch. When we thought about her, and her family’s decision to leave their farm, Give ‘Em Pumpkin to Talk About began to come together.

Inspiration comes from everywhere and everything. People offer us their stories to write but we will never have long enough to write the stories buzzing around in our own heads. It seems to me that many readers think that writer’s block means there are no stories. In reality, it’s more like you have a story but aren’t sure how to write it.

But that’s a blog for the future!

Thanks Joyce! I love hearing where authors get their ideas. 

Give ‘Em Pumpkin To Talk About
by Joyce and Jim Lavene

These skilled writers have done it again. They’ve penned a book that had me completely transfixed. Their style of writing feels as though it was so effortless to them. (I bet they would say different). It just flows across the pages.
~Lisa K’s Book Reviews

Well-tuned, with plenty of romance, mystery, suspense, history, legend–and some just plain ornery people. The book became a really fast read, because I couldn’t bear to stop before finishing!
~Mallory Heart Reviews

pumpkin to talk aboutGive Em Pumpkin To Talk About
(Pumpkin Patch Mysteries Book 1)

Cozy Mystery
Print Length: 199 pages
Publisher: J. Lavene (August 4, 2015)

Richmond attorney Sarah Tucker returns to sell her family’s abandoned farm in Misty River, Virginia despite unanswered questions about her grandparents’ disappearance sixteen years earlier. Sarah was only twelve when she went to visit and found her grandparents had vanished. No amount of searching has brought answers.
Now Sarah is faced with other issues when a man is killed who claimed to have information about what happened to her grandparents. She learns of a Confederate chest of gold that is said to be buried on the property, and treasure hunters who are willing to do anything to get their hands on it.
Were her grandparents murdered for the gold? Sarah can’t sell the land and go back to her life until she has answers. But the cost of the answers may be her life.
Includes farm-fresh recipes!

10497504_10203996507538565_7985334038155587208_oAbout these Authors

Joyce and Jim Lavene write award-winning, bestselling mystery fiction as themselves, J.J. Cook, and Ellie Grant. They have written and published more than 70 novels for Harlequin, Berkley, Amazon, and Gallery Books along with hundreds of non-fiction articles for national and regional publications. They live in rural North Carolina with their family.

Author Links

Purchase Link

My thoughts: Ok, the simple truth is that I’ve never read a book by this wonderful writing team that I didn’t like. So, whenever there is an opportunity to participate in a blog tour for one of their books I jump on it. I love it when they have a new series. Pumpkin Patch Mysteries is no exception. Up until now, The Renaissance Faire Mystery Series was my favorite of their series, but this new series just might move up to the top spot.

Give Em Something Pumpkin to Talk About is one of those wonderful stories that has a mystery within a mystery.  When this is done well (and in this book it certainly is) this adds to the story without distracting from the current mystery. Ok, that was probably not the best constructed sentence. In this new book we meet Sarah, learn about the mystery of the disappearance of her grandparents, the mysterious Jack and of course the current mystery of who would kill to stop the sale of the farm. All these mysteries blend together to keep the reader on the edge of their seat and coming back for more.

One of the things I love about Joyce and Jim’s books is that I always feel as though the characters are someone I could be friends with. Their communities are places I’d like to visit. No matter what is going on, they feel very real. I really like Sarah, though I have to admit that if she were indeed my friend, I would have grabbed her by the shoulders early on and shook her saying ” You know you want to stay on the farm! Stop fighting it!”

This is a great read, with wonderful characters and a great plot. You’ll want to read it all in one sitting. If you are looking for a great new mystery series then I highly recommend this one. I’m really looking forward to book two.

If you would like to win a print copy of Give Em Pumpkin to Talk About, plus a copy of Killer Weeds and a $20 Amazon Gift card visit the tour page here for a chance to enter.

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Posted by on August 4, 2015 in Uncategorized


Great Escapes Tour: Fudging the Books by Daryl Woods Gerber – Review, Recipe and Giveaway


FTC Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

It is my pleasure to be a part of the Fudging The Books Great Escapes Tour. Be sure to scroll down for a delicious recipe and my review.

Fudging The Books
by Daryl Wood Gerber


Fudging the Books (A Cookbook Nook Mystery)
Series: A Cookbook Nook Mystery (Book 4)
Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Berkley (August 4, 2015)
ISBN-13: 978-0425279403
E-Book ASIN: B00QH8320E

The Agatha Award–winning author of Stirring the Plotreturns to the Cookbook Nook in Crystal Cove, California, where February brings Pirate Week, National Chocolate Month—and bitter murder…

Pirate Week is sweeping through Crystal Cove and keeping Jenna Hart and her bookstore, the Cookbook Nook, plenty busy. But she’s not too swamped to also host the local Chocolate Cookbook Club’s meeting—especially because the guest of honor is her friend, candy maker and cookbook author Coco Chastain.

Jenna whips up a delicious event amidst the rowdy festivities, but the mood is soon broken by robberies, simmering tempers, and a dead body—Coco’s editor, Alison. The suspects turn out to be more plentiful than a pot full of gold doubloons, so to prove Coco isn’t responsible for the dastardly deed, Jenna will have to stir up some clues and figure out who’s the real sticky-fingered killer…


Daryl Wood Gerber 0218 100dpi

About This Author

DARYL WOOD GERBER writes the nationally bestselling Cookbook Nook Mystery series featuring a cookbook store owner who is an avid reader and admitted foodie, set on the coast of California.  As AVERY AAMES, she pens the Agatha Award-winning, nationally bestselling Cheese Shop Mystery series featuring a cheese shop owner amateur sleuth, set in the fictional town of Providence, Ohio. Daryl’s short stories have been nominated for the Agatha, Anthony, and other awards. Fun tidbit: as an actress, Daryl has appeared in “Murder, She Wrote” and more.

Author Links

Visit Daryl or Avery

“They” blog on as well as




Twitter: @AveryAames @DarylWoodGerber


Daryl Wood Gerber

Avery Aames


Purchase Links

Amazon –

B &N –

My Thoughts: I’ve been a fan of Daryl’s other series The Cheese Shop Mysteries written under the name Avery Aames for a long time. So I knew I would enjoy this series. And I was right. Since I was participating in the blog tour, I took the opportunity to move the entire series up to the top of my TBR pile. And so far it has been favorite summer series read.  Daryl has created a delightful community in Crystal Cove. I would love to vacation there. I really like all the characters, even cranky old Pepper Pritchett who is the resident grump. I have to say that I didn’t expect to like her. Many cozy authors include a nemesis character for their sleuth. I don’t think we are supposed to like those characters. I generally don’t and in fact find them an annoyance. So, this is a first for me – I actually like the nemesis and look forward to reading more about Jenna’s efforts to sweeten this woman’s disposition.  Now, back to the mystery at hand: Fudging the Books is not only an enjoyable read, it’s a quick read. If life hadn’t gotten in the way, I would have finished this book in one sitting. There are plenty of twists and turns to keep the reader engaged and entertained. Daryl kept me guessing to the end. Like many mystery fans I like to try to solve it before the sleuth does. And though I enjoy beating them at their own game, I especially enjoy it when a writer keeps me on my toes.

If you like mysteries, cookbooks, sea side retreats, good fun and chocolate then this is a must read for you. I have a co-worker who loves good mysteries as much as I do. I can’t wait to get back to school and share this book (and the entire series) with her.

Now a delicious recipe from the author:


Yes, Irish cream cake is perfect for St. Patrick’s Day or any Irish celebration, but it’s also simply a lovely cake, and a delicious end for any specialty dinner. It would probably be a wow-factor cake at a book club event, too, if you’re in the mood.

No matter what, it’s a perfect cake to share while I’ve got chocolate on the brain. I’m in full PR mode for Fudging the Books, the 4th Cookbook Nook Mystery. I’ve been eating and dreaming chocolate for weeks, months…honestly, a year. When I write, it’s amazing how ensconced I get in the process. If I’m writing about cheese (for a Cheese Shop Mystery), I think and eat cheese. If I’m writing about barbecue (like I am right now for the next Cookbook Nook Mystery, which will come out in a year), I’m dreaming of grilling, bacon, barbecue sauce, and more. Yum!

This cake is easy to make. Promise! Now, I made it gluten-free by using a gluten-free chocolate cake mix, but you can make this using a regular chocolate cake mix, too. Note: The Bailey’s website says their beverage is gluten-free, and I had no digestive trouble with it. Good to know!

Have you ever cooked with liquor or liqueur?

Savor the Mystery!

Daryl Wood Gerber

Tasty ~ Zesty ~ Dangerous

Chocolate Bailey’s Irish Cream Cake


(serves 8-12)

For cake:

1 pkg. dark chocolate cake mix, regular or *gluten-free (if necessary)

3 eggs

2/3 cup Bailey’s Irish cream

1/2 cup oil

2/3 cup water

For frosting:

1 ½ cups butter, at room temp

1 cup white chocolate chips, melted

3 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar (more if needed)

1/3 cup Bailey’s Irish cream


For cake:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat two 8”-round cake pans with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, beat cake mix, eggs, Bailey’s lrish cream, oil, and water.

Divide the mixture between cake pans.

Bake 30-35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes. Remove from pans. Cool completely (at least 20-30 minutes).

For frosting:

Melt the white chocolate in the microwave on medium-high for about 45 seconds to 1 minute. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, on medium speed, beat butter until smooth and fluffy. Add white chocolate. Beat until blended. Add sugar until combined. Add Irish cream. Beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. (You might need more powered sugar. Your call.)

To frost:

Place one cake layer, top down on serving plate. Spread with 1 cup frosting. Top with remaining cake layer, smooth side up. Spread with remaining frosting on top and along sides.

*If desired, reserve ¾ cup frosting for rosette garnish. I did not do this.


Thanks to the Author I am able to give one lucky reader their choice of a print copy of

Cookbook Nook Mystery.

Fudging the Books (A Cookbook Nook Mystery 4) or 

Inherit the Word (A Cookbook Nook Mystery 2) or

Final Sentence (A Cookbook Nook Mystery 1) or

Stirring the Plot (A Cookbook Nook Mystery 3)

To be entered for a chance to win, just leave a comment by midnight August 6th. Please be sure to leave a way for me to contact you if you win.

You can also enter the Great Escapes Tour Giveaway for a chance to win


just click here to enter.


Posted by on August 1, 2015 in Uncategorized


Review: Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead

Goodbye Stranger

Goodreads Summary:  Bridge is an accident survivor who’s wondering why she’s still alive. Emily has new curves and an almost-boyfriend who wants a certain kind of picture. Tabitha sees through everybody’s games–or so she tells the world. The three girls are best friends with one rule: No fighting. Can it get them through seventh grade? 
This year everything is different for Sherm Russo as he gets to know Bridge Barsamian. What does it mean to fall for a girl–as a friend? 
On Valentine’s Day, an unnamed high school girl struggles with a betrayal. How long can she hide in plain sight?

FTC Disclosure: I received an e-galley of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My thoughts:  I loved Rebecca Stead’s Newbery winning When You Reach Me. I was excited to read this new book, especially as it is appearing on several Mock 2016 Newbery lists.

The bare facts: I enjoyed the book, but I found it sometimes hard to follow. It’s not that the story is told  in alternating view points. That can make a book interesting. It’s the add-in story of the un-named (until the end) high school girl. For me, that just made the story more confusing. I liked the characters, especially Bridge. Bridge has a quirkiness that makes her a joy to read about. As an educator and a parent, I appreciated the message about social media and young people need to realize just how serious, texting, Twitter, Facebook and all the other social media are. As someone has said, “It’s all fun and games until it hits Facebook.”

Will I buy this for my library? Probably not. I might reconsider if it wins the Newbery.  However, I don’t believe its audience is elementary school. (My library is K-5).  I will recommend it to my fellow librarians who work in Middle Schools. And I’ve already recommended it to several friends who have children that are in Middle School and High School. I think it’s a great book for parents and children to read together – provided you can find any who still read books together.

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Posted by on July 29, 2015 in Uncategorized


Creative Bloggers Swap Reveal


I recently participated in a new (at least new to me) blogger swap: The Creative Bloggers Swap hosted by

I love crafty stuff almost as much as I love books, so I knew this would be a fun swap.

I was paired with Pam over at Hodgepodge Moments.

She sent me a lovely box of items.


Everything was great, but I especially like the wine cork key chains that she made herself. They are adorable and have given me an idea for a fun activity at the next “Wining On The Deck Event.”

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Posted by on July 13, 2015 in Uncategorized


Review: Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

roller girl

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

Goodreads Summary:  Twelve-year-old Astrid has always done everything with her best friend Nicole. So when Astrid signs up for roller derby camp, she assumes Nicole will too. But Nicole signs up for dance camp with a new friends instead, and so begins the toughest summer of Astrid’s life. There are bumps and bruises as Astrid learns who she is without Nicole…and what it takes to be a strong, tough roller girl.

My thoughts: I have to be honest. I’m not a big fan of graphic novels for my personal reading. I do think they are great for some readers, especially those who are more of a visual reader.

I enjoyed this book, including the illustrations. Not only is it a quick read, it’s great for generating a discussion about perseverance and changing friendships.  I’m adding this one to my purchase list for the school library.

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Posted by on July 1, 2015 in Uncategorized


Re-reading Classic Books

classic novels

Do you ever re-read any of the classic novels you either chose to read or more likely were assigned to read when you were younger?

I don’t do a great deal of re-reading, except for books that I use for library lessons. However, I do have a few favorites that I like to re-read from time to time. (To Kill A Mockingbird, Catcher in the Rye, The Giver, Jane Eyre, Gone With the Wind, Atlas Shrugged and maybe a few others.)  And occasionally I will re-read another classic novel because a young relative has been assigned to read it for school. I want the book to be fresh in my mind in case they actually want to discuss the book with me. Sometimes people avoid talking books with me because well, I’m a book nerd and it’s often hard to shut me up once I get started.

So, if you do re-read classic novels is your reaction to them now different from when you first read them?

I sometimes find myself questioning the experts who assigned these novels “classic” status. Some of them are truly horrible and I’m not just talking about the storyline. I’m talking about the writing. When I was in graduate school I had a professor chastise me for being critical of a critically acclaimed novel. I don’t remember what it was, but I didn’t like it and I wasn’t going to pretend otherwise. Still for  a long time, it was hard for me to share my less than positive opinions about classic novels. I just kept my opinions to myself.

Now days. . . well, I’m survived cancer, several deployments, raised two boys – all while reading, reviewing and recommending hundreds of books. I’m not saying I’m an expert, but I do have a good background for having an “educated” opinion.  I’m not afraid to say that in my opinion, some “classic” novels are just horrid.

lord of the fliesWhat book has me on my soap box, you might ask? Lord of the Flies. My young cousin, who will be a freshman in high school in the fall, has been assigned to read this book over the summer. I didn’t like it when I read it a couple of decades ago, but thought I’d read along with her just for fun. Time has not made me like the story line any better, but time has also made me question why this book is thought to be great literature. I find the writing to be jumbled and pretentious.

What a horrible book to assign to young people who already have many different options competing for their time. This is one of those books that will suck the love of reading right out of a bookworm’s soul.

Of course I’m only a few chapters into the book. It’s possible somewhere between now and the ned of the book, a light bulb will go on and I’ll understand why the book is a “classic.” Don’t hold your breath.

What classic book do you think is just horrible?

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Posted by on June 17, 2015 in Uncategorized


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