Books are food for my soul! Pull up a beach chair and stick your toes in the sand as the Jersey surf rolls in and out, now open your book and let your imagination take you away.

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Winter House by Joanne DeMaio (Book Review)

In association with Author Joanne DeMaio, Jersey Girl Book Reviews is pleased to host the virtual book tour event for Winter House!






Book Review



Winter House by Joanne DeMaio
Winter Novel Collection
Publisher: Independent Self Publishing
Publication Date: PB - September 7, 2021 / eBook - September 14, 2021
Format: Paperback - 256 pages
               Kindle - 2387 KB
               Audible Audiobook - 6 Hours 20 Minutes
               Nook: 1 MB
ISBN: 979-8744649753
ASIN (Audiobook): B098FGKRS3
ASIN (Kindle): B091J52CND
BNID: 2940162223207
Genre: Holiday Romance / Winter Novel / Women's Fiction



Buy The Book:



Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for my honest review.



Book Description:

From New York Times bestselling author Joanne DeMaio comes an enchanting novel about a beautiful old house and the love story it opens its doors to.

New England in December is a special world. Wreath-topped lampposts shine, balsam garland drapes across picket fences, and fresh snow dusts the land. Then there are the decorated houses: saltboxes, Victorians, farmhouses, Tudors. Tiny lights shimmer on front porches; candles glow in paned windows. But one imposing stone colonial towers dark in the night.

Since moving to town, Millie Ives has heard hushed whisperings of that house -- and of the mysterious man who lives and works there. A chance happening leads Millie to this Mr. Winter's spellbinding shop just past the bell tower. Surprisingly, he's not who she thought he'd be.

As the month unfolds, both find themselves on each other's minds and in each other's hearts. Yet when Millie tries to bridge a gap in his life, she risks losing him. Unless the spirit of the season can bring them back together at the Winter House



Book Excerpt:

Click on the link to read an excerpt from Winter House



My Book Review:

In Winter House, author Joanne DeMaio transports the reader to the quaint small New England lakeside town of Addison, Connecticut for another heartwarming holiday tale of family, friendship, new beginnings, and finding a chance at unexpected love.

Winter House is a wonderful holiday story that will tug at the heartstrings and fill the reader with seasonal joy. Author Joanne DeMaio weaves a spellbinding tale set in the quaint New England town of Addison, Connecticut, that captivates the reader's attention with the latest heartwarming holiday romance from her Winter Novels collection.

Dean Winter's life is upturned when his father Hank gives him a proposition / ultimatum ... leave his Southern California life of flipping houses and return home to Addison, Connecticut, and buy the family home and lighting shop, or he'll put it up for sale. One year later, Dean is very busy running the shop, Lighting Lodge, but he neglects the Christmas decorating tradition of the Winter House, and has a rocky relationship with his father. 

Millie Ives just broke up with her longtime boyfriend and lost her job working at their woodworking company. On a whim Millie is ready for a new beginning, and she takes a job as an image scout for Perfect Puzzles, and buys a beautiful small cabin named Finch Farmhouse in the Snowflake Lake cabin community of Addison, Connecticut. 

Millie meets Dean when she takes her favorite painted mason jar lamp to get repaired. Millie is unaware that Dean is the abrupt, cold as ice, distant Mr. Winter that the townsfolk warned her about. Millie is enjoying everything that the picturesque town of Addison offers, even the unexpected chance meetings with Dean that slowly develops into something more. But there is just one thing that hampers their happiness, Dean's rocky relationship with his dad, especially when Hank offers to help Dean with the shop and decorating the neglected family home. Can Millie thaw Dean's frosty heart, and help him re-establish his relationship with his dad, and bring the holiday tradition back to the Winter House

Winter House is a wonderful story that has a rich description of the breathtaking holiday decorated small town setting filled with holiday traditions. Dean and Millie find an unexpected chance at love as their story unfolds in a magical way that will make the reader believe in the power of love, family, friendship, new beginnings, and the joy of the holiday season.

There are not enough words that I can express about the simplicity and beauty in which author Joanne DeMaio weaves her heartwarming and multi-layered stories filled with a mixture of love, friendship, family, life's changes, and unexpected special moments, it is simply breathtaking. As the reader follows Dean and Millie's story, the author cleverly interweaves characters and events from the previous books in the collection that provides a seamless continuation of their stories from winter to winter. 

I would be remiss if I didn't mention how the richly vivid description of the town of Addison is phenomenal, you'll yearn to visit the area and experience the quaint lakeside town's holiday tradition and friendly townspeople. Ms. DeMaio has a special gift for transporting the readers into every story that she weaves while leaving them yearning for more!

Winter House is an enchanting holiday story full of warmth and comfort that will remind the reader of the magic, joy, cheer, and spirit of Christmas. It is a lovely story that will resonate with the reader for a very long time.

Winter House is the latest installment in The Winter Novels collection, each book is a stand alone read, but each book does have intertwining snippets from the previous books, so you'll want to read the whole collection!


RATING: 5 STARS 




About The Author



Joanne DeMaio is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of contemporary fiction. She enjoys writing about friendship, family, love, and choices while setting her stories in New England towns or by the sea. Winter House is her newest novel. Currently at work on her next book, Joanne lives with her family in Connecticut.


Author Website
Amazon Author Page
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Monday, October 4, 2021

Murder Worth The Weight by D.M. Barr (VBT: Book Review / Contest Giveaway)

In association with Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews is pleased to host the virtual book tour event for Murder Worth The Weight by author D.M. Barr!







Book Review



Murder Worth The Weight by D.M. Barr
Publisher: Punctuated Publishing
Publication Date: PB - August 5, 2021 / eBook - August 9, 2021
Format: Paperback - 340 pages
               Kindle - 5117 KB
               Nook - 1 MB
ISBN: 978-0997711868
ASIN: B09BZVW9HW
BNID: 2940165682353
Genre: Romantic Suspense



Buy The Book:



Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author / publisher in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours.



Book Description:

Whenever Terry Mangel’s body acceptance revival meeting rolls into town, local diet execs and “fat shamers” turn up dead, often in grotesque, ironic ways. All single murders in small suburbs, no one’s noticed a pattern, until rookie investigative reporter Camarin Torres takes a closer look.

Torres is a crusader against discrimination. She reluctantly accepts a job offered by handsome publisher Lyle Fletcher, a man with a vendetta, who sees the recent college grad as salvation for Trend, his fledgling fashion magazine. Torres, however, detests everything the publication stands for, and joins solely to transform its judgmental, objectifying content.

As an unexpected romance blossoms, the overconfident, justice-hungry reporter defies orders and infiltrates Mangel’s world, only to find herself in the crosshairs of a vigilante group targeting the $60 billion diet industry. To this vindictive mob, murder is definitely worth the weight. But as Torres soon learns, unmasking the killer may save her life but shatter her heart: every clue seems to implicate Fletcher, her mercurial mentor and lover, as the group’s mastermind.

Previously published as Slashing Mona Lisa



Book Excerpt:


Chapter 1

CAMARIN TORRES PEERED down the tracks again, as if repeated checking would cause her delayed train to magically appear. It was a warm April afternoon, but the unexpected heat did little to lift her spirits. She was heading back to her apartment after yet another unsuccessful interview. If this kept up, she’d be the only one of her NYU friends graduating next month without a job lined up. How ironic not to be able to afford the food she wouldn’t allow herself to eat anyway. She checked her watch a third time. The 5:03 from White Plains to Grand Central was already ten minutes late.

Camarin heard a voice a few feet behind her softly exclaim, “Dammit!” Curiosity aroused, she spied a girl in her late teens standing by the vending machine, fervently searching through her handbag.

Camarin stared, mesmerized by what could have been a mirror image of her late twin sister Monaeka. Long, dark hair partially obscured her tanned, pretty face, and despite the temperature, she’d draped her two-hundred-plus pound body in an oversized raincoat. But as Camarin well knew, yards of fabric didn’t really fool anyone. The girl hunched over slightly, a stance her sister Monaeka had perfected, a sign of deference to a world demanding an apology for violating their arbitrary standards.

Camarin felt a familiar tug of compassion as the girl plunked a few coins into the machine and then searched for more. Looking on, she debated the merits of acquiescing to her own desire for a late-afternoon sweet. What’s really the harm? Cam reached into the pocket of her dress and pulled out three quarters, which she held out toward the stranger as she walked toward her.

“Want to share something?”

The girl tensed and gave her a quizzical look, but after a moment her shoulders relaxed. “That’s so nice of you. Thanks.”

Camarin winked and pushed the quarters into the machine. One click and clunk later, she retrieved their prize—a Kit Kat bar. One of Monaeka’s favorites. As she held it out to the girl, a slim, stylish woman clad in black came out of nowhere and snatched the chocolate bar right out of her hand.

“You don’t need it,” she said. “You’ll thank me later.”

The girl’s face turned bright red, but she said nothing, just watched in shock as the thief continued down the platform.

Camarin felt the blood rush to her temples. No matter how many years and miles she’d put between herself and her past, the critical voices kept seeking her out, today in the form of this interloper. Enough, she decided. She set down the briefcase containing her resume and clips and tore after the woman, grabbing her arm and pulling her around so they stood face-to-face.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Camarin yelled.

Heads turned. Conversations ceased.

“What’s it to you?” the offender shot back.

Camarin pointed at the girl, whose eyes were wide in disbelief. “That girl happens to be a friend of mine, so I’m asking a second time… what are you doing?”

“Saving her from herself, that’s what. Your friend is huge, and it’s unhealthy. If she can’t control herself, she needs others to do it for her.”

“Well, Miss High-and-Mighty, since you know everything about everyone, did you ever consider that my friend…Sabrina’s…size might have nothing to do with self-control? Could it be the result of…the lithium she takes to control her bipolar disorder? Are you a psychiatrist who has a better suggestion for more appropriate meds that don’t put on weight?”

“Well, no… no,” the woman stammered, as if the rush of passion suddenly drained from her, leaving her feeling exposed.

“You know what I think?”

The fat shamer glared back but remained silent, so Camarin summoned her courage and repeated herself, a few decibels louder. “I said, do you know what I think?”

“No. What?” The woman sneered.

“I think you should go over to Sabrina and apologize.”

“Apologize for helping her get thin?” Her voice dripped with indignation.

“No, apologize for sticking your big nose where it doesn’t belong,” interjected a young, beer-bellied man in overalls a few feet away. A Joe’s Plumbing patch was embroidered on his chest pocket.

“What exactly do we have to do to be accepted by you people? Why can’t you just leave us alone?” screamed a plump, older woman with perfectly coiffed hair and a fitted suit.

“Give her back the Kit Kat bar,” hollered a man clad in military garb, who then started chanting, “Kit Kat, Kit Kat, Kit Kat…” Others joined in, and the cacophony grew stronger.

“You may have grabbed a Kit Kat, but you ended up with Snickers,” said Cam with a smirk. “Maybe you want to just hand over the candy, so we can forget this whole ugly incident?”

The woman spat at the ground in front of Camarin and defiantly threw the chocolate bar on the tracks, eliciting loud boos from the small but agitated crowd. Then she ran down the platform, heading for the stairs that led to the parking lot.

“Good riddance,” the plumber called after her.

Camarin stood for a moment, shaking from the encounter. Then she returned to the now teary-eyed girl. “Sorry I made you bipolar,” she whispered. “I needed to make a point, and it was all I could come up with on the spur of the moment. Hi, I’m Camarin.”

“I’m Lexie,” the girl said. “No one has ever stood up for me before. Thank you.”

“Hey, I know what it’s like. I used to deal with jerks like that all the time.”

The plumber pushed a run of quarters into the vending machine and took out two Kit Kat bars, handing one to each of the women. Others on the platform clapped and cheered. The sound was slowly drowned out by the roar of the oncoming 5:03 PM train.

As the doors opened, Camarin noticed Lexie and the plumber now chatting animatedly. Not wishing to intrude, she entered the next car over. It was practically empty, not unusual considering most people were traveling in the opposite direction at this hour. A perfect opportunity to relax after an upsetting confrontation. Perhaps savor that chocolate bar. She could always purge later.

Given the plethora of unoccupied seats, she was surprised when a handsome man in an expensive-looking suit asked if the spot beside her was taken. She guessed he was in his early forties, since his face was too young for the silver in his hair and beard. He spoke with a confidence so lacking in her gawky college-boy contemporaries. She felt a shiver as the silk of his sleeve touched her bare arm as he settled in.

She wondered what clever icebreaker she could use to engage her attractive new neighbor in conversation. Nice weather, huh? would be too lame. Seconds passed. Other passengers shuffled by. Soon, the moment would be lost.

Then, to her delight, he leaned in covertly, as if sharing a private confidence. “Nice going. You’d never seen that girl before in your life, had you?”

She pulled back and studied his expression. Affable or accusatory? His smile assured her of his friendly intentions.

“What gave me away?”

“Nothing. Just a hunch. One you just confirmed.”

Camarin twisted her mouth, irked at having been so easily played.

“Do you always go around tricking strangers into confessing their secrets?” she asked.

“Probably as often as you go around defending the underdog.” The man winked. “Nothing to be ashamed of though. Quite the opposite. As I think you’ve already figured out, life is just a series of bluffs.”

Camarin considered the comment as the train rumbled along the tracks toward Scarsdale.

“And do you bluff much?”

“Funny you should ask. These days, it’s all I do.”

Grateful for such a provocative opening, she pressed forward. “That sounds intriguing. Care to elaborate?”

“Thought you’d never ask,” he said with a smile. “Up until a few years ago, I’d spent my entire career practicing law. Then my circumstances and interests changed, and I decided to become a redeemer of lost causes. I just purchased a failing magazine, which I intend to make profitable again. If that’s not the bluff of the century, I don’t know what is.”

Elegant and he owns a magazine? Camarin’s heart skipped a beat.

“That’s such a coincidence. I’m just coming from an interview with a magazine.”

“Some might call it a coincidence. I call it kismet,” the man said as he held out his hand. “Lyle Fletcher, fledgling publisher.”

Chapter 2

AS THE TRAIN rolled down the tracks toward Manhattan, Camarin sensed her future suddenly lurching ahead as well. “Camarin Torres, journalism and prelaw major. Pleased to make your acquaintance.”

She reached out to shake his hand, eager to see if his grip would be as firm as she imagined, but the conductor interrupted, asking to punch their tickets. There was no way to try again without looking awkward, so she swallowed her disappointment and returned her hand to her side.

Fletcher broke the pregnant pause. “So, there must be many professions out there for someone as bold and beautiful as you. Why journalism and law?”

Camarin’s face grew warm. Had anyone else handed her that line, she would have regarded it as a come-on. But he seemed sincere, so she felt comfortable opening up. “All my life I’ve seen bullying and discrimination. As a child, I felt helpless to stop it. But as an adult, I can make a difference.”

“Bullying because of your ethnicity? You’re… ”

“My mother’s side of the family comes from Guam. But no, fortunately, I’ve encountered very little bias because of my roots. Maybe it’s because we live just outside Los Angeles, where I’m part of a large Chamorro community who share an intense sense of cultural pride. In fact, I think my background may have worked in my favor, that push for diversity in colleges and all.”

“So, discriminated against as a woman?”

“No again,” she said, reluctant to share too much of her past with a stranger, no matter how charming. “Let’s just say I’ve seen how cruel people can be to those who don’t quite fit in, no matter how hard they try. I’m going to make sure that doesn’t happen to anyone else ever again.”

“You’re going to personally end intolerance?” Fletcher seemed both dubious and amused.

“Well, at least make a sizeable dent in it,” she said with a smile. It wasn’t the first time that people had appeared incredulous at her idealism. “You’re speaking to the world’s first female Chamorro anti-discrimination crusader. After graduation anyway. And eventually law school, when I can afford it.”

“Lofty ambitions. You’ll need them in a world that doesn’t always cooperate with people’s dreams. Again, I’m impressed.”

“Thank you,” she said, her face growing even hotter. A charismatic publisher thought she was impressive. A once-disappointing day was rapidly metamorphosing into something magical, like a child’s giant, colorful carnival balloon.

“Have you interviewed at my magazine, Trend?”

Pop! Camarin did her best not to cringe with contempt. Trend represented everything in the world she’d come to hate: the brainwashing of women to fit into narrow, permissible roles dictated by fashion designers and greedy advertisers. And this man, appealing or not, was one of their leaders. Camarin paused, trying to formulate a polite and diplomatic response.

“You have heard of it, right?”

“Yes, of course. But no, I didn’t interview there. No offense, but as you said, it’s failing. As a matter of fact, I turned down an unsolicited offer from one of your competitors, Drift. I’m just interested in more…serious publications.”

“No offense taken,” he said with a grin. “I realize that up to now Trend has just covered style and gossip—total fluff. That’s what I’m planning to change. In your words, go in a more serious direction.”

She wondered if the comment was authentic or if he was just another jerk and this was an excuse that allowed him to live with himself. They remained quiet for a bit, and then curiosity got the better of her.

“I didn’t realize Trend is based in Westchester.”

Fletcher’s face clouded over. “No, it’s in Manhattan. I was out here today because…my late wife owned a condo in White Plains that we’d been renting out. I was just meeting with the real estate agent I might hire to sell it for me.”

Cam looked down at her pumps, annoyed at herself for bringing up such a sensitive subject. “I’m so sorry for your loss.”

“Of my wife or the condo?”

She glanced back, astonished. He started to laugh, and she felt the earlier harshness of her judgment soften by a smidgen. He really was quite charming—for a body shamer.

“Are you ever serious?” she asked.

“Oh, when I am, you’ll definitely know it. Like now. How many years of college do you have left?”

His tone switched from whimsical to all business, and something about the way he commanded control sent a shiver up her spine. Hot as hell. Dammit. “About a month. Then I’m done.”

The conductor announced that they would soon be arriving at Grand Central Station, their final destination, and the windows grew dark as they entered the tunnel.

He reached into his suit pocket and pulled out a business card. It read Trend Magazine, with a fashionable NoHo address, close to her own apartment.

She held up her hand. “That’s kind of you, but I really don’t think—”

“Hey, I can see you’re not enamored with our current format. Nevertheless, I’d still like you to come in, show us your work. Allow us to describe the magazine’s revamped editorial direction. I think it may surprise you. I can use someone with your guts and ambition to develop our investigative-reporting beat. That is, if you have any interest.”

She took the card, slipping it into her jacket pocket. “If you’re really serious about moving away from your current focus, I’ll try to keep an open mind.” After all, a job was a job, and up to now, no one else but Drift had made an offer.

“Call tomorrow and speak to Rachel. She’ll set everything up. You’re going to be a superstar. Of that, I’m already certain.” He reached out to shake her hand. It felt as forceful as Camarin had imagined earlier. She didn’t try to read anything into the almost imperceptible squeeze he added at the end. Until proven otherwise, he was still the enemy.

As he rose and headed for the exit, she waited a few beats longer before also joining the crowd jostling toward the platform. By the stairs a newsstand featured the latest issue of Trend. Hating herself, she slapped down her $3.50 for a copy. Magazines like this were part of what had driven her sister over the edge, but she needed to see if there was anything redeemable within its pages. The jury was still out until Lyle Fletcher had proven himself a reformer, and not an enabler.

***

Excerpt from Murder Worth the Weight by D.M. Barr. Copyright 2021 by D.M. Barr. Reproduced with permission from D.M. Barr. All rights reserved.




My Book Review:

In Murder Worth The Weight, author D.M. Barr weaves an intriguing romantic suspense tale that follows a young woman's determination to use her investigative reporter position, and as a passionate crusader against discrimination especially body shaming, to solve a pattern of weight-loss industry murders. 

Camarin Torres is a recent NYU graduate with a degree in journalism and prelaw. After Camarin stopped a fat-shamer on a train platform, she met Lyle Fletcher, an ex-lawyer turned new owner/publisher of Trend fashion magazine on the train. Lyle was intrigued by her passion to make a difference as a anti-discrimination body acceptance crusader. He tells her that the magazine is going in a different editorial direction, and he offers her the position as an investigative reporter. When Camarin starts to research a recent weight-loss clinic owner's murder in Chicago, she discovers a pattern of gruesome weight-loss and body-shamer murders that occur in the cities that weight-loss evangelist Terry Mangel's Feel Good About Yourself revival events were held. As Camarin delves into Mangel's world against Lyle's orders, she puts herself in danger trying to identify the killer when she discovers that Lyle, who she's becoming romantically involved with may also be connected to a weight-loss vigilante group. Camarin is determined to figure out the killer at all costs, especially before it's too late. 

Murder Worth The Weight is an intriguing romantic suspense tale that easily captivates the reader's attention, and draws them into Camarin's investigation. Camarin's determination to find the weight-loss industry killer is interwoven with her unexpected steamy romance with Trend Magazine owner Lyle Fletcher, who has his own vendetta that he's determined to see completed. As the dual storyline unfolds, it is told in a clever way, and is interwoven with enough raw emotions, chilling suspense, secrets, treachery, surprising twists and turns, and thought provoking intrigue, that easily keeps the reader engaged and guessing until the surprising conclusion. 

Murder Worth The Weight is a cleverly written romantic suspense tale that takes the reader on one heck of a rollercoaster ride. 


RATING: 4 STARS 






About The Author



By day, author D.M. Barr is a mild-mannered salesperson, wife, mother, rescuer of senior shelter dogs, competitive trivia player and author groupie, happily living just north of New York City. By night, an author of sex, suspense and satire.

My background includes stints in travel marketing, travel journalism, meeting planning, public relations and real estate. I was, for a long and happy time, an award-winning magazine writer and editor. Then kids happened. And I needed to actually make money. Now they’re off doing whatever it is they do (of which I have no idea since they won’t friend me on Facebook) and I can spend my spare time weaving tales of debauchery and whatever else tickles my fancy.

The main thing to remember about my work is that I am NOT one of my characters. For example, as a real estate broker, I’ve never played Bondage Bingo in one of my empty listings. As a yo-yo dieter, I’ve never offed anyone at my local diet clinic. While I’m a bit paranoid, I’ve never suspected my husband of wanting to murder me for my inheritance. Well, that’s not entirely true, but let’s go with that for now. And while I’ve volunteered at senior centers, I’ve never mastered the hula hoop. But that’s not to say I haven’t wanted to… 






Contest Giveaway

Win A $10 Amazon Gift Card







This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for D.M. Barr. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card (U.S. ONLY). The giveaway runs September 13 through October 10, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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Virtual Book Tour 



Tour Participants:


09/13 Review @ Wall-to-wall Books

09/14 Guest post @ Novels Alive

09/15 Review @ Archaeolibrarian - I Dig Good Books!

09/17 Review @ Novels Alive

09/17 Showcase @ Brooke Blogs

09/18 Review @ Booking With Janelle

09/20 Interview @ I Read What You Write

09/21 Review @ Quiet Fury Books

09/22 Review @ 5 Minutes for Books

09/23 Showcase @ The Bookwyrm

09/24 Showcase @ Nesies Place

09/25 Showcase @ I Heart Reading

09/28 Guest post @ The Book Divas Reads

09/29 Review @ Avonna Loves Genres

10/01 Review @ Books with Bircky

10/04 Review @ Jersey Girl Book Reviews

10/05 Review @ Book Reviews From an Avid Reader

10/06 Showcase @ 411 ON BOOKS, AUTHORS, AND PUBLISHING NEWS

10/06 Showcase @ Im All About Books

10/06 Showcase @ The Authors Harbor

10/07 Showcase @ nanasbookreviews

10/08 Review @ A Room Without Books is Empty

10/08 Showcase @ Celticladys Reviews

10/08 Showcase @ Reading Authors Network





Thursday, September 30, 2021

The Memory Bell by Kat Flannery (VBT: Book Review / Contest Giveaway)

In association with Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews is pleased to host the virtual book tour event for The Memory Bell by author Kat Flannery!





The Memory Bell by Kat Flannery
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Publication Date: PB - June 30, 2021 / eBook - July 1, 2021
Format: Paperback - 251 pages
               Kindle - 1122 KB
ISBN: 978-1684337088
ASIN: B094S7DJH3
BNID: 978-1684337088
Genre: Mystery



Buy The Book:
Amazon (Free on Kindle Unlimited Program)



Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author / publisher in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours.



Book Description:


Grace Penner’s safe haven crumbles when a body is found outside of town.

Gifted the memory bell, a family heirloom, from her grandfather’s will, Grace’s excitement is soon squashed when the bell gets broken right after she receives it. While gluing the pieces back in place, she discovers three are still missing.

Determined to find them, she is halted when the new detective, Bennet James, investigates her family. Grace is intent on showing the detective her family isn’t capable of murder, but as the investigation deepens, and pieces of the bell show up with ominous notes, Grace soon realizes the Penners are not what they seem. Amidst the tightly knit family; dark secrets, deception, and possibly even murder unfold.

Will Grace be able to save the family she loves more than anything without losing herself forever?



Praise for The Memory Bell:

“A na├»ve small-town girl and a disillusioned big-city cop, drawn together by an unsolved crime that is itself only the tip of the iceberg, The Memory Bell serves up the perfect steamy summer read.”
–Jenny Jaeckel, author of House of Rougeaux

“The story moves beyond a small town whodunit to probe the underlying bonds of history that connect a family.”
-Midwest Book Review

“Wonderful, engaging, and fast-paced! Flannery knows what she’s doing!”
-Jonas Saul, author of the Sarah Roberts series



Book Excerpt:


“Family is supposed to be our safe haven. Very often, it’s the place where we find the deepest heartache.” ~ Iyanla Vanzant

CHAPTER ONE

Detective Bennet James stood over the remains of a hand dug grave. The morning air was brisk for July, and a foggy cloud permeated the air as he exhaled. He’d woken as the first rays of dawn crept through his hotel window casting sundogs along the planked floor.

Bones were found by the grain elevators at the mill in Oakville. The sleepy town was an hour’s drive from Chicago and where he’d been stationed for the last two weeks. It was hell, but anything was better than sitting at home waiting to hear his fate. He flexed his shoulders. The muscles ached from the mounting pressure.

He took a sip of the coffee he’d bought at the local gas station. The bitter blend was cold and old. Probably made the night before and just waiting for some poor soul to drain the last of the dregs from the decanter.

With no details other than the presence of human remains to work with, Ben made quick work of taping off the area and closing all access in and out of the mill. The trains were halted and all productivity near the tracks was at a standstill. He surveyed the grounds. Three metal silos stood in a row to his left with tracks laid in front of them. Directly behind were wooden buildings with peaked roofs, and a single track led to a dead end.

He gathered the mill was over fifty years old by the way the boards heaved and sagged. Out of commission for some time, he wondered why no one had torn the dilapidated buildings down. Being that the place was pretty much deserted it’d make things difficult in the investigation. He snorted. It wasn’t his investigation, and if things didn’t work out for him with the state, he’d never see another one again.

He rubbed his hand across his face. His heart quickened with the familiar feeling of piecing together a puzzle. It was the same feeling he got every time he was dealt a new case. Except this one was different. It wasn’t his, and even though the thought of having something to occupy his mind was appealing, he doubted Sheriff Rhoads would let him take the lead on it, much less be a part of it.

Ben glanced down at the body. Nothing left but bones and a few fragments of hair which signified the death happened years before. The grave was not shallow, but not deep either. Ben guessed it was four feet into the ground. A blue blanket caught his eye. He fingered the soft cotton with a gloved hand, a crocheted throw that was now pulled from the knots someone delicately placed there. Whoever had wrapped the victim in it did so with pristine care.

“Where is the witness?” he asked the young deputy standing to his left. He couldn’t remember the boy’s name, or was it he didn’t care? It didn’t really matter. He’d stopped caring about those around him a long time ago.

The deputy looked a bit flushed, and Ben figured the kid living in the small town had never seen anything like this before. Regret settled in his stomach at making the boy stay with him while he looked over the body and its surroundings. Ben remembered seeing his first body, a young girl, no more than six. Her image still haunted him on nights when sleep wouldn’t come.

He blinked, collected his thoughts, and faced the young man.

“You’re no longer needed here,” he said.

“The men who found the body are over there,” the kid stammered. His hand shook as he pointed to the two silhouettes standing twenty yards away.

“Thanks.” Ben dismissed him and walked toward the two men sipping coffee from their mugs. A part of him wanted to turn back to his car and leave now that Rhoads was here, but his pride and his duty wouldn’t allow it. He pulled out the small note pad and pen he kept in his pocket.

“Morning. I need to ask you a few questions.”

“Ain’t you the new fella?” one of the men asked.

“Yeah.”

“You’re that swanky detective from the city.”

Ben didn’t answer.

“Why in hell would you want to come out here?”

He remained silent. It was none of the old man’s business why he’d been placed in this shithole town.

“Talk is you got into hot water up there.”

“I need to ask you some questions,” Ben repeated, an edge creeping into his voice. He wasn’t about to discuss his shit with these guys. He shifted from one foot to the other, took a deep calming breath, cleared his throat, and waited.

“Not much to tell,” the man said. His thick white moustache spanned the whole of his upper lip and the bottoms of his cheeks.

“Your name?” he asked.

“Walter Smythe.” The man leaned in to read what Ben wrote and tapped his index finger onto the paper. “That’s Smythe with a Y not an I.”

Ben nodded.

“Can you tell me how you came upon the body?”

“Ol’ Russ was the one who found it.”

He turned to the other man.

“I ain’t Russ,” the farmer said.

“Who is—”

“That’s my dog.” Walter whistled. A large St. Bernard came loping up from the field behind the buildings.

“The dog found the body?”

“That’s right.”

“What were you doing out here?”

“I come out from time to time.”

“Why if the place is closed down?”

The man shrugged.

“Have you brought Russ out here before?” Ben asked, still trying to piece together how the remains were found.

“Sure. I bring him everywhere.”

“Why was he in the elevators?”

Walter’s wide shoulders lifted underneath the plaid jacket.

“Did the dog take anything from the grave, or disturb it in anyway?”

“Once I seen him diggin’, I called him over.” Walter guffawed. “But the damn mutt just kept on going back. So, I went over to see what the hell he was after.”

“At what point did you figure out it was a body?”

“Right away when I saw the bones.”

“Russ dug up most of the grave?”

“Nah, maybe a foot of it.” Walter nudged the farmer beside him. “I called Bill and we determined it was best to call the sheriff.”

“Why didn’t you call the sheriff first?”

Walter didn’t answer.

“Did you remove or touch anything?” Ben asked.

“Nope.”

As much as the farmer was rough around the edges, he could tell Walter Smythe spoke the truth.

“One more question. Has anyone gone missing in the last ten years?”

“Not around these parts. Most people who go missing leave for the city.”

“Why is that?”

“Small towns ain’t for everybody.” Walter’s eyes narrowed. “Stuff like this don’t happen around here.”

Ben nodded before he walked away and headed back to his car. He opened the door but didn’t get in. Tall silos, train cars and tracks were surrounded by a field. Waist-high stalks of yellow waved in the breeze and from what he knew of farming, it looked to be canola. Why wasn’t the body buried in the field? There must be over a hundred acres of land. Until he received the coroner’s report, he couldn’t begin to guess at anything yet. Before he left, he’d need to talk to Sheriff Rhoads and see about any missing persons reports in the area.

“Well, that is odd.” Rhoads sauntered toward him, brows furrowed.

“What is?” Ben asked.

“A body, here, at the elevators, in Oakville.” His forehead wrinkled, and a perplexed look crossed his face. “Nobody has been here in years.”

“These things can happen anywhere. There are no rules for death.”

Rhoads focused on him, but remained quiet for some time before he said, “Not here.”

“I’d like to take the lead on this,” Ben said. The words surprised him, but he couldn’t take them back now. Besides, he needed something to keep him busy. The minor misdemeanors at the old folk’s home, break-ins, and an occasional kid in trouble wasn’t enough to keep him from going crazy with boredom.

“Not sure that’s wise, with your probation and all.”

Ben nodded, figuring that would be the answer.

“But I don’t see it as more than an unfortunate accident, so go ahead.”

Ben wasn’t so sure.

***

Excerpt from The Memory Bell by Kat Flannery. Copyright 2021 by Kat Flannery. Reproduced with permission from Kat Flannery. All rights reserved.





My Book Review:


In The Memory Bell, author Kat Flannery transports the reader to the small town of Oakville, Illinois, for an intriguing mystery tale that will keep the reader guessing and turning the pages.

Grace Penner's family means everything to her. When her grandfather passed away, she is gifted the family heriloom, a porcelain memory bell that he said would always bring their family together. But when the bell shatters, Grace glues the bell back together and realizes that three pieces are missing. She is determined to find the three pieces and put the bell back together. 

Detective Bennet James was placed on probation after an incident at the Chicago Police Department, and was sent down to Oakville until Internal Affairs makes a decision. While in Oakville, Ben investigates the remains of a young woman found in a hand dug grave at a closed down mill. The coroner reports that the death of the Jane Doe was a murder that took place twenty-five to thirty years ago. Ben befriends Grace, but as his investigation into the murder brings her family into question, Grace begins to realize that her tight-knit family aren't what they appear to really be as long buried secrets, lies, and deceptions come to the surface. 

Author Kat Flannery weaves a fast-paced and suspenseful tale written in alternating third person narrative that follows Grace and Ben's story as a shattered memory bell and an old murder investigation brings them together, and reveals an interconnection that threathens to tear the Penner family apart.  

The reader is easily drawn into this well written story with its richly descriptive plot and setting. It is filled with enough family dysfunction and dark secrets, possible motives and suspects, a touch of an unexpected romance, and intriguing twists and turns that definitely keeps the reader guessing until the surprising conclusion.

This was a really interesting story to read! The author does a wonderful job of providing enough clues to engage the reader, and I found myself so caught up on trying to figure out all the Penner secrets and the identity of the murderer. I loved that both Grace and Ben's backstory and personal baggage brought them together, even when Grace's family was being investigated for the murder. I loved how the author put all the pieces of the Penner's dyfunctional and traumatically emotional family mystery puzzle together, and how appearances are deceiving. I would be remiss if I didn't mention how much I loved how Grace and Ben were both finally able to overcome their emotional baggage. 

The Memory Bell will definitely take readers on one heck of a suspenseful roller coaster ride.


RATING: 5 STARS 






About The Author






Kat Flannery’s love of history shows in her novels. She is an avid reader of historical, suspense, paranormal, and romance. A member of many writing Kat enjoys promoting other authors on her blog. When she’s not busy writing, or marketing Kat volunteers her time to other aspiring authors. She has been a keynote speaker, lecturer and guest author inspiring readers and writers at every event she attends. Kat’s been published in numerous periodicals throughout her career, and continues to write for blogs and online magazines. A bestselling author, Kat’s books are available all over the world. The Branded Trilogy is Kat’s award-winning series. With seven books published, Kat continues to plot what story will be next. Creativity is in all aspects of Kat’s career. She does Social Media and Marketing for her own career and businesses, writing ads, and other content.







Contest Giveaway

Win A $50 Amazon Gift Card



This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Kat Flannery. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card (U.S. ONLY). The giveaway runs September 1 through October 3, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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Virtual Book Tour 




Tour Participants:

09/01 Guest post @ Novels Alive

09/02 Review @ Book Reviews From an Avid Reader

09/03 Review @ Margaret Yelton

09/04 Review @ Splashes of Joy

09/05 Showcase @ Brooke Blogs

09/06 Guest post @ The Book Divas Reads

09/07 Review @ sunny island breezes

09/08 Guest post @ Quiet Fury Books

09/08 Review @ It’s All About the Book

09/10 Showcase @ Archaeolibrarian - I Dig Good Books!

09/10 Showcase @ Books to the Ceiling

09/10 Showcase @ I Read What You Write

09/11 Review @ lovemybooks2020

09/12 Showcase @ nanasbookreviews

09/13 Showcase @ Books, Ramblings, and Tea

09/14 Showcase @ Celticladys Reviews

09/15 Review @ Pat Fayo Reviews

09/15 Showcase @ 411 ON BOOKS, AUTHORS, AND PUBLISHING NEWS

09/15 Showcase @ The Authors Harbor

09/16 Showcase @ Silvers Reviews

09/17 Review @ The World As I See It

09/18 Interview @ A Blue Million Books

09/22 Interview/showcase @ CMash Reads

09/23 Review @ Buried Under Books

09/24 Showcase @ Nesies Place

09/25 Review @ Our Town Book Reviews

09/28 Review @ Review Thick & Thin

09/29 Review @ A Room Without Books is Empty

09/30 Review @ Jersey Girl Book Reviews

10/14 Interview @ Blog Talk Radio

10/14 Review @ Just reviews






Friday, September 24, 2021

Trace Of Doubt by DiAnn Mills (VBT: Book Review / Contest Giveaway)

In association with Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews is pleased to host the virtual book tour event for Trace Of Doubt by DiAnn Mills!








Book Review




Trace Of Doubt by DiAnn Mills
Publication Date: September 7, 2021
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
Format: Hardcover - 432 pages
               Paperback - 432 pages
               Audio Book - 8 Hours 50 Minutes
               Kindle - 11181 KB / 412 pages
               Nook - 5 MB
ISBN (HC): 978-1496451842
ISBN (PB):  978-1496451859
ASIN (Audible): B09D413C6S
ASIN (Kindle): B08XRZ1GCL
BNID (Nook): 978-1496451873
Genre: Christian Fiction / Romantic Suspense 



Buy The Book:



Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author / publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest book review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours.



Book Description:

Bestselling and award-winning author DiAnn Mills delivers a heart-stopping story of dark secrets, desperate enemies, and dangerous lies.

Fifteen years ago, Shelby Pearce confessed to murdering her brother-in-law and was sent to prison. Now she’s out on parole and looking for a fresh start in the small town of Valleysburg, Texas. But starting over won’t be easy for an ex-con.

FBI Special Agent Denton McClure was a rookie fresh out of Quantico when he was first assigned the Pearce case. He’s always believed Shelby embezzled five hundred thousand dollars from her brother-in-law’s account. So he’s going undercover to befriend Shelby, track down the missing money, and finally crack this case.

But as Denton gets closer to Shelby, he begins to have a trace of doubt about her guilt. Someone has Shelby in their crosshairs. It’s up to Denton to stop them before they silence Shelby—and the truth—forever.


Praise for Trace of Doubt:

“Well-researched… with some surprising twists along the way. In Trace of Doubt, Mills weaves together a tale of faith, intrigue, and suspense that her fans are sure to enjoy.” – STEVEN JAMES, award-winning author of SYNAPSE and EVERY WICKED MAN

Trace of Doubt is a suspense reader’s best friend. From page one until the end, the action is intense and the storyline keeps you guessing.” – EVA MARIE EVERSON, bestselling author of FIVE BRIDES and DUST

“DiAnn Mills serves up a perfect blend of action, grit, and heart… Trace of Doubt takes romantic suspense to a whole new level.” – JAMES R. HANNIBAL, award-winning author of THE PARIS BETRAYAL

“Filled with high stakes, high emotion, and high intrigue.” – JLYNN H. BLACKBURN, award-winning author of UNKNOWN THREAT and ONE FINAL BREATH



Book Excerpt:


PROLOGUE

SHELBY

Would I ever learn? I’d spent too many years looking out for someone else, and here I was doing the same thing again. Holly had disappeared after I sent her to the rear pantry for potatoes. She’d been gone long enough to plant and dig them up. I needed to get those potatoes boiling to feed hungry stomachs.

I left the kitchen to find her. The hallway to the pantry needed better lighting or maybe fewer corners. In any event, uneasiness swirled around me like a dust storm.

A plea to stop met my ears. I raced to the rear pantry fearing what I’d find.

Four women circled Holly. One held her arms behind her back, and the other three took turns punching her small body. My stomach tightened. I’d been in her shoes, and I’d do anything to stop the women from beating her.

“Please, stop,” Holly said through a raspy breath. For one who was eighteen years old, she looked fifteen.

“Hey, what’s going on?” I forced my voice to rise above my fear of them.

“Stay out of it, freak.”

I’d run into this woman before, and she had a mean streak. “What’s she done to you?” I eyed the woman.

“None of your business unless you want the same.”

“It’s okay, Shelby. I can handle this.” Holly’s courageous words would only earn her another fist to her battered face.

And it did.

“Enough!” I drew my fists and stepped nose to nose with the leader.

The four turned on me. I’d lived through their beatings before, and I would again. I fell and the kicks to my ribs told me a few would be broken.

A whistle blew, and prison guards stopped the gang from delivering any more blows to Holly or me. They clamped cuffs on the four and left Holly and me on the floor with reassurance help was on its way.

I’d been her age once and forced to grow up fast. No one had counseled me but hard knocks, securing an education, and letting Jesus pave the way. I’d vowed to keep my eyes and ears open for others less fortunate.

Holly’s lip dripped blood and a huge lump formed on the side of her head. I crawled to her. “Are you okay?”

“Not sure. Thank you for standing up for me. I thought they would kill me. Why do they do this? I’ve never done a thing to them.”

“Because they can. They want to exert power, control. Stick by me, and I’ll do my best to keep you safe.”

CHAPTER 1

I tightened my grip on the black trash bag slung over my shoulder containing my personal belongings—parole papers, a denim shoulder bag from high school, a ragged backpack, fifty dollars gate money, my driver’s license at age sixteen, and the clothes I’d worn to prison fifteen years ago.

The bus slowed to pick me up outside the prison gates, its windshield wipers keeping pace with the downpour. The rain splattered the flat ground in a steady cadence like a drum leading a prisoner to execution. I stepped back to avoid the splash of muddy water from the front tires dipping into a pothole. Air brakes breathed in and out, a massive beast taking respite from its life labors.

The door hissed open. At the top of the steps, a balding driver took my ticket, no doubt recognizing the prison’s release of a for- mer inmate. He must have been accustomed to weary souls who’d paid their debts to society. The coldness glaring from his graphite eyes told me he wagered I’d be locked up again within a year. Maybe less. I couldn’t blame him. The reoffend stats for female convicts like me soared high.

For too many years, I imagined the day I left prison would be bathed in sunlight. I’d be enveloped in welcoming arms and hear encouraging words from my family.

Reality hosted neither.

I moved to the rear of the bus, past a handful of people, and found a seat by myself. All around me were those engrossed in their devices. My life had been frozen in time, and now that I had permission to thaw, the world had changed. Was I ready for the fear digging its claws into my heart?

The cloudy view through the water-streaked window added to my doubts about the future. I’d memorized the prison rules, even prayed through them, and now I feared breaking one unknowingly.

The last time I’d breathed free air, riding the bus was a social gathering—in my case, a school bus. Kids chatted and laughter rose above the hum of tires. Now an eerie silence had descended.

I hadn’t been alone then.

My mind drifted back to high school days, when the future rested on maintaining a 4.0 average and planning the next party. Maintaining my grades took a fraction of time, while my mind schemed forbidden fun. I’d dreamed of attending college and exploring the world on my terms.

Rebellion held bold colors, like a kaleidoscope shrouded in black light. The more I shocked others, the more I plotted something darker. My choices often seemed a means of expressing my creativity. While in my youth I viewed life as a cynic. By the time I was able to see a reflection of my brokenness and vowed to change, no one trusted me.

All that happened . . .

Before I took the blame for murdering my brother-in-law. Before I traded my high school diploma and a career in interior design for a locked cell.

Before I spent years searching for answers.

Before I found new meaning and purpose.

How easy it would be to give in to a dismal, gray future when I longed for blue skies. I had to prove the odds against me were wrong.

***

Excerpt from Trace of Doubt by DiAnn Mills. Copyright 2021 by DiAnn Mills. Reproduced with permission from DiAnn Mills. All rights reserved.




Book Trailer:





My Book Review:

In Trace Of Doubt, author DiAnn Mills transports the reader to Valleysburg, Texas for an intriguing Christian Romantic Suspense story that will keep the reader guessing and turning the pages.

Shelby Pearce is paroled after serving fifteen years in prison for the murder of her brother-in-law Travis Stover. She's looking for a fresh start in the small town of Valleysburg, Texas, hoping for a second chance to be a productive and contributing member of the community, and the opportunity grow her custom made jewelry business. But someone is determined to stop her from doing just that.

FBI Special Agent Denton McClure has been on the Pearce case since the beginning. Fifteen years later, he is still in pursuit of the missing five hundred thousand dollars from Travis Stover's non-profit organization account. He's given the undercover assignment in Valleysburg, and he's determined to expose Shelby and locate the stolen money. But when Shelby comes under numerous threats from an anonymous person, he starts to question Shelby's guilt, and is determined to find out who is targeting Shelby, get the truth, and crack this case once and for all. 

Author DiAnn Mills weaves a fast-paced and suspenseful tale written in the first person alternating narrative that follows ex-con Shelby Pearce, FBI Special Agent Denton McClure, and Sheriff Wendall team up to track down the person who is trying to silence Shelby over the missing money, and prove Shelby's innocence beyond a trace of doubt. 

I loved reading this action-packed story. Shelby and Denton's investigation kept me intrigued as their unlikely partnership in finding the person threatening her life brings two people with a lot of baggage together, and how an unexpected attraction sparked between them mixed with humor and a new-found acceptance of Christian faith helped build trust between them during the investigation, and a chance at truth and redemption as well. 

The reader will be easily drawn into this well written story with its richly descriptive plot that will keep them guessing as family dysfunction and secrets, possible motives, and clues are uncovered during the investigation. 

Trace Of Doubt has enough drama, tension, action, dark secrets, a touch of romance, and unexpected twists and turns that will take the reader on one heck of a thrilling roller coaster ride.


RATING: 5 STARS  







About The Author



DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She weaves memorable characters with unpredictable plots to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels. DiAnn believes every breath of life is someone’s story, so why not capture those moments and create a thrilling adventure?

Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests.

DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. She is co-director of The Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference, Mountainside Marketing Conference, and the Mountainside Novelist Retreat with social media specialist Edie Melson where she continues her passion of helping other writers be successful. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country.

DiAnn has been termed a coffee snob and roasts her own coffee beans. She’s an avid reader, loves to cook, and believes her grandchildren are the smartest kids in the universe. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas.


Author Website
Amazon Author Page
Barnes & Noble Author Page
BookBub Author Page
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Contest Giveaway

Win $25 Amazon or B&N Gift Card





This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for DiAnn Mills. There will be 2 winners who will each receive one gift card. Winners may select either Amazon or Barnes & Noble. (U.S. ONLY). The giveaway runs September 1 through October 3, 2021. Void where prohibited.

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Virtual Book Tour Event




Tour Participants:


09/01 Review @ Book Reviews From an Avid Reader

09/02 Guest post @ Novels Alive

09/03 Showcase @ Books, Ramblings, and Tea

09/05 Guest post @ The Adventures of a Travelers Wife

09/08 Review @ Wall-to-wall books

09/09 Guest post @ The Book Divas Reads

09/10 Interview @ Quiet Fury Books

09/13 Review @ Splashes of Joy

09/14 Review @ Novels Alive

09/14 Review @ sunny island breezes

09/15 Review @ Inkwell Inspirations

09/15 Showcase @ The Reading Frenzy

09/16 Review @ Archaeolibrarian - I Dig Good Books!

09/16 Review @ Avonna Loves Genres

09/17 Review @ Savings in seconds

09/18 Showcase @ Brooke Blogs

09/20 Interview @ I Read What You Write

09/21 Showcase @ The Bookwyrm

09/23 Interview/showcase @ CMash Reads

09/24 Review @ Jersey Girl Book Reviews

09/26 Review @ Read Review Rejoice

09/27 Review @ Totally Addicted to Reading

09/27 Showcase @ Celticladys Reviews

09/28 Review @ A Room Without Books is Empty

09/28 Review @ Margaret Yelton

09/29 Review @ Nesies Place

09/29 Review @ The World As I See It

09/30 Review @ Pat Fayo Reviews