Book Review- Smothered by G.P. Gottlieb


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Title: Smothered

Author: G.P. Gottlieb

Publisher: DX Varos

Series: A Whipped and Sipped Mystery

Format: Paperback $18.95 U.S.

Published on: February 16, 2021

Set in: Chicago

Includes: Cast of Characters and recipes

Author provided the book for an honest review

Alene Baron, mother of three and owner of the Whipped and Sipped vegan cafe in Chicago, has her hands full trying to balance her responsibilities. Then there’s the personal issues of her staff, her ill father who needs to be watched closely and the possibility of a relationship that usually gets put on hold.

To make life even more complicated, one of Alene’s staff members finds Stanley Huff, the neighboring business owner, dead. There’s a good chance he’s been murdered. Huff owned the “Better Be Fit” fitness center and seemed to have wandering hands and no concern for the health of his clients.

Shortly after, Homicide Detectives Frank Shaw and Lee Bautista arrive on the scene to begin their investigation. Alene feels she can uncover the truth one morsel at a time and begins her own investigation. She discovers that Stanley’s son is transitioning to be a woman and she’s one of Alene’s employees. Then there’s the possibility of an associate being the guilty party and family members eager to get their hands on their inheritance. There seems to be more concern about Stanley’s will than the reason why Stanley was killed. 

One character Gottlieb really captured was Sylvie, Huff’s widow, who is loud, demanding, free to point the finger of guilt, and has dementia. I can still hear her yelling to Alene as she visited her father in the hospital. How convenient is that for finding clues? As with any mystery, there are other characters intentionally placed in the story to have you thinking they have to be the guilty party. They make frequent appearances and act inquisitive, guilty, annoying and offer a morsel of fact to help you determine who is the guilty individual. Frequently, Stanley’s family members popped in the cafe or were at the hospital. Then there were those sitting off in the distance, visible, but not offering a lot of input. Those are the characters you have to watch out for.

A couple of things that made the book a little difficult to read. I can handle books that aren’t linear, think the amazing TV show “This is Us.” But I get lost when there are too many characters introduced. The character list was a must for me to review. There were also a few storylines that kind of fizzled with no resolution. I would have also liked to see more action or danger. All in all, it was an interesting book with characters you can relate to and some who cared about the people they loved.

three and a half out of five slices of baked pumpkin apple cake

Denise Fleischer (

April 10, 2021

Guest Blog Post by Abby Collette, author of A Game of Cones


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There is an old adage in writing—write what you know. But when a writer does that, they limit their reach and their imagination. To reach outside those bounds, writers can do research to learn about the things they don’t know or know little about but want to write about. Research can be difficult. Tedious. Time consuming. And it’s easy to do too much research. But in writing, it’s crucial. 

And the research for A Game of Cones was, as I often describe it, torture. Can you imagine having to eat tons of ice cream—scoop after yummy scoop, flavor after scrumptious flavor just to write a book? Yes, pure torture! But I buckled down and gave in to it for the sake of my story!

Cozy mysteries have a dictated formula—amateur sleuth, murder happens off stage, no graphic violence. If you read coziness, you know exactly what I mean. And although there have been a few changes made to this subgenre of mystery—stories catering to millennials, being more socially aware, diverse and a little edgier, another unwavering main staple is the setting. 

As some readers may already know, Chagrin Falls isn’t a fictional place. It exists here in Ohio and there really is a waterfall that dissects the little village. A suburb of Cleveland, it is quaint and unique and the perfect setting for a cozy mystery. And what made me know it was the right place, there is a store that sits atop of the falls. That store, unlike Crewse Creamery sells mainly popcorn, but they do have ice cream. And that was when I got the idea.

Visiting the falls had been my goal that day, but after seeing it, I knew I wanted to write a book set there.  Close to home and home to such delicious flavors. (There are actually two ice cream stores a couple of doors apart, so we were not lacking on finding what I needed to do for my research.) The village drew me in. I could picture my book taking place there and could imagine my characters walking around the streets with me.

My grandchildren and I landed there one warm day in May. Out to enjoy the sunshine (in Cleveland you never know how long the good weather will last), we looked forward to a day of adventure, but found the basis for my new series. Yes, the research we did there that day was grueling (I was even forced to make a second trip to made sure I got it right), eating so much ice cream. But I learned a lot—taking the steps down to get an up-close look at the falls, traversing the village, enjoying the wares in the storefront shops’ windows, the center triangle (there’s no square in downtown Chagrin Falls) and talking to residents to get a feel for everything. But all in all, we had a good time, one that I incorporated for the reader to enjoy as well. 

Book Review – Haunted Hibiscus by Laura Childs


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Title: Haunted Hibiscus

Author: Laura Childs

Publisher: Berkley

Series: A Tea Shop Mystery

Format: Hardcover, $26.00

Published on: March 2, 2021

Set in: Charleston

Received this book from NetGalley and Berkley for an honest review.

During the grand opening of the literary and historical themed haunted house a tragedy unfolds. The Heritage Society’s first fundraising effort for The Bouchard Mansion was intended to help raise funds for renovations.

Enjoying the role-playing opportunity are actors portraying Edgar Allan Poe, Lady Macbeth and other literary figures. An honored guest is Willow French, the grand niece of Timothy Neville, a long-time supporter of the Heritage Society. Willow’s book “Carolina Crimes & Creepers” is hot off the press and she had a book signing during the event. Tragically, she becomes a future story for a crime book. To the horror of the event’s guests, they witness Willow’s death. Among those attending are Theodosia Browning, the owner of Indigo Tea Shop, and Drayton, her tea sommelier. Being close with Timothy, they will not let this terrible event end without answers.

If that wasn’t difficult enough, Theo’s boyfriend, Detective Pete Riley, is shot at the door of Willow’s apartment when he goes to search for clues of who may have killed her. The next thing he knows, he’s being guided through the sliding doors of the hospital. The only thing he recalls is Willow’s computer is missing and the place was ransacked.

Shortly after, Theo mentally recovers from the shock of Riley’s brush with death, she goes to the Heritage Society to speak with Timothy. Timothy begs Theo to investigate and, of course, Theo can’t refuse. She’s known Timothy for years and feels terrible about Willow’s death.

There are so many possibilities here for who the guilty party is. For one, the house is allegedly haunted. Then there’s the rantings from the man that should have inherited the Bouchard Mansion, but it was willed to the Heritage Society. Anger brewing there. What about Willow’s fiancé inheriting their new home and they never got married. But there are far more clues and motives presented that will leave the reader guessing to the end. And I did.

Haunted Hibiscus is another enjoyable read by Laura Childs. I don’t know how she continues to write all these interesting to the last page novels. They are always the first book I want to read in my TBR pile (which is growing by the minute). What drew me to the book was an author as the victim, a haunted house with secrets, portrayal of literary characters for a fundraiser and, of course, Theo, Drayton, Pete and Haley. Don’t forget the themed tea parties. What I didn’t like: it ended. 

four cups of Indigo Tea Shop special blended tea out of five

Denise Fleischer

April 2, 2021

Blog Tour Spotlight – Off Location – How To Write Remotely About Your Book’s Setting?





The Big Weekend

I had a plan. The annual Penseythen, a special weekend for Cornish language learners and speakers, was set for the summer. I’d reserved a beautiful room overlooking Mevagissey Bay. It would be my first visit to Cornwall for many moons. While there, I’d meet fellow students,and  ramp up my Kernowek (Cornish). Just as importantly, I’d get a feel for the land, the towns and its people. It was also, crucially, an opportunity to take stills and video for the trailer of my first ever Cornwall-set book to be: Amanda Cadabra and The Strange Case of Lucy Penlowr.

A Twist of Fate

In the delightful realms of my imagination, I’d packed, was on the road, and stopping off at my chosen places for breakfast and lunch along the way. I’d be seeing my Cornish teacher, Kensa, in person for the first time. The excitement was mounting! And then …

The global game changed. As it happened, for me, for the better. More of that later.

Far, Far Away

So, if you want to communicate, either with writing or visuals, about a place you’ve never been or haven’t visited for a long time, how do you do it and still ring true? This is the question with which I was faced.

Guest Post - Denise - India - Taj Mahal

From West London to the East Indies

I took inspiration from HR Keating, author of the famous Inspector Ghote novels, set in Mumbai. He wrote at least eight of these before he had ever visited India. News of his literary exploits reached the ears of Air India, who offered him a free flight so he could journey to the land of his hero. Keating accomplished his authenticity years before the domestic availability of the internet. If he can do it, so can you and I, especially now that we have the world at our fingertips. But where to start?

New Best Friends

First, your Passepartout: Google Maps. It’s free, and easy to use. Type in the location — it can be as general as a continent — and you’re on your way. The action in my latest novel takes place on Bodmin Moor. I can zoom in and see a map of the towns and the rivers. Satellite view will show me how it looks from the air. Street view puts me on the ground on the roads and lanes. I can see the trees and plants, houses and shops, as though I were standing there.

Second, Wikipedia. I type in Bodmin Moor, and there are links at the bottom of the article to other websites, as well as links in the text I can click on.  The secret is to follow your nose. See where your interest and enthusiasm lead you.

Questions, Questions

On Wiki, you can start your investigation with the history of the location. What are its customs, language or dialect, traditions, costume, food? What makes it different from the surrounding countries or regions? What is the weather like? Is there a difference in the way different generations dress, live, or speak the language?

How Will I Know?

Just write these questions into Google or your preferred search engine. Somebody somewhere has very likely posted the same question and garnered a treasure trove of answers. Alternatively, maybe someone who lives there is just waiting for someone to ask that question. That someone could be you. You could make their day for showing an interest in their corner of the world.

Glorious Global Food

Can you sample the cuisine? Can you buy it, order it in or even make it? For me, that would be pastis, scones and jam with Cornish clotted cream, Cornish Mead, Stargazy Pie, Saffron Cake, and more. Is there a festival, even if it’s just online, associated with that area? In my case, it would be St Piran’s Day.

Watch and Learn

A entertaing way to gather more experience of your chosen location is to watch films set in the area. I watched Doc Martin and Fisherman’s Friends, not forgetting classics such as Jamaica Inn and Treasure Island. In fact, I’ve just found some more! There are also documentaries, and, on YouTube, you may even find walkabout videos made by keen hobbyists and hikers. Let’s not forget Instagram and Pinterest boards. What about stock photography sites like Shutterstock, and iStock? It costs nothing to browse.

Ask questions of the people who post on social sites, and you’ll engage in some delightful interactions and even make some internet friends, along the way with whom you may one day be able to meet up.

Buddies on the Ground

I needed to know what birds and flowers there are, where and what time of year on Bodmin Moor. And what does it smell like, what is on the ground?

Hold on, though, I hear you say. Now we’re getting down to details that you surely need to be there for. Or do you? Actually, no. There are people who live there who can tell you. But how do you find these valuable individuals? And would they talk to you if you did?

Yes. On Facebook, there is a group for practically any place you can name, even for tiny villages. On Facebook, I found the splendid Bodmin Moor a-droos – which mean around Bodmin Moor. It includes actual residents and visitors who regularly walk there, covering all parts of the moor. There are many keen photographers among them. They are delighted to admit a fellow enthusiast for their beloved patch to their group. They will be happy to answer your questions, show you photos, direct you to websites for more information. There are groups for writers where you can ask for more ideas like these.

Lighting A Spark

It’s a wonderful journey and all from the comfort of your favourite chair, desk, or even your bed. One thing is certain: it will inspire you, and your inspiration will spill out onto your page, into your video, into your audience and into your life, infusing you and them with the desire to visit your on-location. And everything begins with a wish.

Seeing Results

So, that is how I brought Looe (Parhayle in the books) Talland Bay (Mornan Bay) and Bodmin Moor to life in Amanda Cadabra and The Strange Case of Lucy Penlowr, released last month. I discovered delectable details and encountered kind, knowledgable and generous souls I would never have met if I’ve just been able to go there.

My Cornish teacher moved her in-person class to online. This meant I then had the pleasure of becoming part of a friendly, kind, and lovable group of students who, again, I would never have met if the unexpected had not happened. If you’d like to see the book trailer I created, courtesy of generous photographers I found on YouTube, you can find the link at the end of this article.

And you know, you don’t even have to be writing an article or making a video to do this. Pick a spot and start your journey today. Who knows where it could take you.

Bon voyage!

Holly Bell

Cat adorer and chocolate lover, British author Holly Bell is a photographer and video maker when not creating novels. She had long experience of non-fiction writing before a serendipitous meeting with a successful fiction author. He convinced Holly that she could pen cozy mysteries.

Holly devoured all of the Agatha Christie books long before she knew that Miss Marple was the godmother of the Cozy Mystery genre. Her love of JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings meant that her first literary creation in this area would have to be a cozy paranormal.

Having derived immense delight from the adventure of writing Amanda Cadabra and The Hidey-Hole Truth and its sequels, Holly has more in the pipeline. The sixth book in the series Amanda Cadabra and The Strange Case of Lucy Penlowr has just been released and the next book is already in the plotting.

You can see a trailer here:

Trailer AC6 Lucy Penlowr

Guest Post - Denise - Journey - aeroplane sunrise

Rosemont Native Pens Family-Friendly Christmas Film, Shoots Scenes in Area


Lead actors Claire Van Der Linden and Kyle Patrick star in “Lacey’s Christmas Do-Over,” a new movie for the holidays written for the screen by Rosemont, IL native Nichole (Lennstrom) Fronk.

By Denise Fleischer/GWN Blogger

Nichole (Lennstrom) Fronk grew up in Rosemont and graduated from East Leyden High School in 1994. She’s been married to Dean Fronk, an established casting director in Los Angeles, for the past 16 years, and they have three kids: Dean, 14, and twins Scarlett and Levon, 11.

Through a lot of hard work they are living their dream. Scarlett has appeared on several TV shows and was a lead on the Lifetime movie “Dying for a Daughter” this past November. On weekends, the Fronks teach kids acting classes. Between movies, classes and balancing schedules they are always running in 10 different directions. When they find down time, they head to the beach.

Throughout the years, Nichole has worked on numerous TV comedy shows such as BSTV (Comedy, Reality TV), “Girls Behaving Badly” and “Go Sick.” Then there’s the guest spots on “CSI”, “One on One” and “Mad TV.” As an actress, she goes by the name Nichole Lennstrom.

Recently, the trained actress with an improv background added something exceptional to her resume: credit as a screenwriter.

“I’m a performer who has always loved being creative. If you look at my resume it’s all acting,” she said. “During the pandemic to keep my creative juices flowing I chose to write. An opportunity was presented to me. I sold a pitch and was hired to write a screenplay.”

She got to writing immediately. The family feature film was in production in less than six months.

“I’m very excited as it will air at Christmas time. The film is titled ‘Lacey’s Christmas Do-Over,’ but as we all know, titles could change during the process,” she said. “It has a cast of Chicago actors, which I was thrilled about. There’s definitely something special about traveling home to film and being able to use local talent.”

Not only does the cast of up-and-coming talent bring her characters to life, but they add the humorous angle that was intended. All along, Fronk knew that Chicago would provide trained actors that could pull off comedy.

Lead actress Scarlett Roselynn giving graham cracker kisses to her co-star Jingles.

“Lacey’s Christmas Do-Over” is a romantic Christmas film where the lead character is trapped in a Christmas time warp, the same day repeating over and over. Lacy has no holiday spirit and must find her true meaning of Christmas. Along the way, she meets colorful characters that help her find holiday magic and true love.

“It took three weeks from selling the pitch to turning in the first draft. We filmed the movie in Illinois,” said Fronk. “We had locations in downtown Chicago and also traveled and filmed in Oregon, IL, for a few days. We wrapped on March 4.”

While filming, she stayed with her parents, Ken and Rosalie Lennstrom, who have been “the most supportive and loving parents anyone could ask for.” Her mother used to be the Rosemont village clerk and secretary to Donald E. Stephens II.

Fronk said that it’s hard work, but she loved the experience and feels driven to continue. From writing to production meetings to filming and traveling, it’s been an adventure for her.

“Not only am I learning and growing, but my kids are, as well,” she said. “This is definitely a family affair. I’m so proud to be able to gift my kids with experiences in the arts. All three of my kids are performers and I was able to write characters specifically for them. It was an incredible opportunity. Inspiration definitely comes from them and I try to draw from my life’s experiences.”

Fronk enjoyed writing the script and will see what opportunities come next. She already has a couple of ideas brewing.

(Reprinted from the Journal & Topics Newspapers)

An Interview with Amy Pershing, author of ‘A Side of Murder’


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Amy Pershing is a lifelong mystery lover and wordsmith. She was an editor, a restaurant reviewer and a journalist before leading employee communications at a global bank. A few years ago (with the final college tuition bill paid), she waved goodbye to Wall Street to write full time (and spend more time sailing on the Cape!). A Side of Murder, the first of the Cape Cod Foodie mysteries, is her debut novel.

Gotta Write: How did you come up with the idea for A Side of Murder?

Amy: I’m a big believer in writing what you know.  I don’t know a lot, but I do know mysteries, my absolute drug of choice (after grilled cheese sandwiches). And I know and love Cape Cod, having spent every summer of my life there (and spent, I once figured, 1,000 days sailing its waters). I spent two years in New York reviewing restaurants, so I know that world and that job. And a bit about cooking (thanks to a mother who worshipped St. Julia of Child).  So I guess it makes sense that my heroine, Samantha Barnes, is a disgraced ex-chef, current restaurant reviewer, reluctant returnee to her hometown on Cape Cod and a dynamite sailor.  On the other hand, she is also tall (very tall), brave and an extrovert – three things I know absolutely nothing about! Go figure…

Gotta Write: What are some of your favorite dishes your characters enjoy in A Side of Murder?

Amy: Give me a slow-roasted leg of lamb studded with garlic and rosemary, and I am your friend for life!  On the other hand, there’s also Aunt Ida’s clam chowder… and those fried-onion-ring “nests” … and those thin and chewy chocolate chip cookies… (recipes included!).

Gotta Write: What is one of your favorite (non-spoilery) scenes from A Side of Murder?

Amy: It has to be when Sam, who has had an unfortunate encounter with a body in a pond outside a restaurant she is reviewing, changes into the only dry clothes at hand:

I stripped off my sopping clothes, including bra and underpants, and stepped com­mando into my borrowed finery. Carol’s chef, it seemed, was both much wider and much shorter than I. The jacket flapped around me like a giant pillowcase, and the pants stopped attractively at mid-calf. A pair of men’s black socks, donated to the cause by Miles, completed the en­semble.

At this point, the town’s harbormaster arrives, who turns out to be none other than Sam’s first, disastrous crush, Jason Captiva. There is a moment of shocked silence from them both and then:

His eyes took me in from top to bottom. He seemed to have regained his composure. I wished I had.

“I like the outfit,” he said. “Very fetching.”

He looked pointedly at the soggy bra dangling from my hand, adding, “And so well accessorized.”

“I picked it out specially for you,” I said, grinning at him, although my one overwhelming thought was, Why to­night of all nights did I have to wear my oldest bra?

Gotta Write: What are the top five books on your TBR list?

Amy: I’m really looking forward to Edith Maxwell’s next Quaker midwife novel, A Changing Light, coming out on April 13.  I’m currently in the middle (so half is TBR, right?) of Donna Leon’s wonderful Transient Desires, the latest Commassario Brunetti mystery. In the TBR pile on my nightstand, you’ll find James McBride’s Deacon King Kong, A Promised Land by Barack Obama, and the re-release of the great crime writer Dorothy Hughes’ Ride the Pink Horse.

Gotta Write: If you had to write in a different genre, what would it be and why?

Amy: OK, this may sound like it comes out of left field, but ever since my mother gave me Mary Renault’s fantastic series of historical novels set in ancient Greece (The Bull From the Sea, The Persian Boy, etc.) which then inspired me to study Classical Archaeology in college, I’ve wanted to write historical novels set in Italy’s ancient Etruria, the fascinating culture that paved the way for the power that became Rome. In contrast to much of the ancient world, Etruscan culture seems to have been on in which women played important roles. So I’m thinking maybe an Etruscan priestess (who also solves mysteries?) …

Gotta Write: What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Amy: First, I know it’s a cliché, but write the book you want to read. That’s what makes it fun. I tried to write a thriller once because I thought that was what the market wanted to read.  Lesson learned – I am not a “dark” writer.  Second, do everything you can to find the right agent for that book. A subscription to Publisher’s Marketplace, though pricy, is very helpful there.  You can search for the agents of authors whose books are most like your own and then reach out to them saying why you think they’d enjoy your book.  Third, do what your agent tells you.  She will probably make suggestions on the book. That’s fine. In fact, that’s great.  Everybody needs an editor, especially before they actually have an editor.  And fourth, be patient. It takes a very long time to get your book into the hands of the right editor. But eventually, with any luck, the stars will align.

Gotta Write: Where is your favorite place to write?

Amy: At a beautiful old desk once belonging to my mother, who left us two years ago and to whom A Side of Murder is dedicated. She was my favorite “partner in crime,” introducing me to all the classic mystery novelists. As I write at her desk, I imagine her saying “remember, whydunit is as important as whodunit” and “careful, that’s a dangling participle.”

Gotta Write: Do you prefer writing in the morning, day, or at night?

Amy: Mornings and through the course of the day, absolutely. Preferably with a gallon of coffee at my elbow.  Never in the evening. As I used to tell my children, “There is no more good mommy after 8 o’clock at night.”

Gotta Write: What is your favorite way to practice self-care?

Amy: Read. Read, read, read, read.

Gotta Write: What can readers expect from you next?

Amy: I’m sticking with Sam and the Fair Harbor gang! Poor Sam, I’m afraid, is going to be falling over more bodies. There’s that not-so-jolly Santa in the holiday season’s An Eggnog to Die For.  And a famous chef/cookbook author the following summer in Murder is No Picnic. And, of course, there’s an embarrassing YouTube video or two.

The rest of the gang will be doing their bit – Helene offering her usual no-nonsense response to Sam’s nonsense, Miles making Sam laugh and trying to keep Aunt Ida’s house from falling down, Jillian making up for Sam’s lack of baking prowess, and Jason still causing Sam to go weak at the knees.

Diogi, of course, understands that the series is all about him and will be taking his usual starring role.

Book Review – The Magnolia That Bloomed Unseen by Ray Smith

Title: The Magnolia That Bloomed Unseen

Author: Ray Smith

Publisher: Upon the Sea Books

Format: Trade paperback, 230 pages

Published: Nov. 7, 2019

Set in: Mississippi and California

Back when Ronald Reagan was the 40th President of the United States, 15-year-old RC had a final history assignment. His teacher suggested he interview a teaching colleague of hers. Molly Valle was a Civil Rights activist. RC feels he would get a good grade following through on the recommendation. He visits Molly and learns about a dark period of American history.

Readers are then introduced to John Pressman’s thoughts about a “Idyllic” Mississippi town. The antebellum mansions, yesteryear churches, brownstone facdes and ironwork balconies presents a civilized historical image. But the truth surfaces through segregation and racism. There was no denying slave labor created the town and Jim Crow kept rules in place so the order of things would remain the same. Out of necessity, came the Civil Rights movement where activists dared to cross the line.

For John and the other activists, their strategy was far from simple: they would enter a popular all-white downtown diner and have a sit-in, an action which drew attention to the unfairness of segregation. It also was seen as rocking the boat and known to lead to serious injuries and arrests. The woman sitting next to John doesn’t take the side of the town. Molly, who is a teacher, for the first time in her life sees the truth and refuses to remain neutral. She sides with the activists. The position she took is looked down upon by the residents and those she called friends. As John and his peers are arrested for their disturbance, Molly picks up the watch John dropped in hopes of returning it to him and learning more about his perspective. John, who is white, was a chef, but considers fighting for the equality of his fellow man a more noble cause. After returning his watch to him at the black college where he’s staying, they begin to spend time together, which makes Bethanee Avery, one of the young activists jealous. Shortly after, Molly has a run in with the police chief’s son, a student of hers, in a non-segregated grocery store on the other side of town. After preparing a special dinner for her, John realizes that he has fallen in love with Molly on a level he has never experienced. After making love, both realize that their random encounter was meant to be. John’s very nature allows her to see life not influenced by society’s negative attitudes and actions. She can now see the truth on a higher level.

Both know there is a great danger in following through in an ever bigger plan of action. Intuition warns them but they do what they feel they must for the cause.

In the future, RC listens to Molly tell her and John’s story. She’s older and weaker, but her memories live on or the stories she prefers to tell.

Though the book has a fictional perspective, the characters experience real life situations that remind us of the important sacrifices of The Freedom Riders and what happened during the Woolworth’s lunch counter sit-ins. This book is about enlightenment. How you can go through life being blinded because society’s ignorance and injustices make you think that it’s okay, that this is the way it has always been and that’s the way it should remain. You wonder what’s really changed generations later and not just in the South, but throughout the world.

As John and Molly would say: “Experience happiness by helping people. Life is an adventure. See the deeper truth.”

four hummingbirds out of five

Denise Fleischer

March 10, 2021


Book Review – Falling Into Magic by Elizabeth Pantley


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Title: Falling into Magic

Author: Elizabeth Pantley

Series: Destiny Falls Mystery & Magic 1

Format: Trade paperback, 289 pages

Published: Nov. 4, 2020

Set in: Seattle and Destiny Falls

Since she was a child, Hayden knew there was something magical about mirrors. When her cat mysteriously disappears, she knew it wasn’t just her imagination.

Years later, she’s content as a co-owner of an online magazine. Luna, her business partner works well with her and both are motivated to achieve their productive goals.

Something wants to change all that. It began when Hayden and her Himalayan cat are on the way back home from the pet groomer and she realizes she’s being followed by a suspicious individual with a reddish beard. When he tries to grab a hold of her, she falls in a construction hole and is transported into another dimension with the aide of her compact mirror.

Her life takes a 360 degree turn when she meets, Axel, her missing brother and his family on the other side of existence. The background story is unique. Hayden’s father comes from this other dimension where you’re not allowed to live long term beyond its boundaries. Well, he was young and set out on an adventure, fell in love, and for a short time lived with his wife and son. Then Hayden was born and her father was forced to return home, but he didn’t take Hayden. He took his son. So they grew up separated and while Axel knew about his little sister, Hayden had no idea about him. Turns out he was able to keep an eye on her through his mirror in Destiny Falls.

What’s interesting is that the family is considered like royalty to Destiny Falls residents. They have a “dream home” that changes at will. When Hayden was invited to stay with them, the house made her a room to suit her needs. How cool is that? But, things aren’t as perfect as they appear. There’s a shadow hanging over the family that they weren’t even aware of. It begins with one of the family members being in a car accident and another becoming ill quite suddenly. So the question is who wants them dead and why?

“Falling into Magic” is a mystery wrapped up in fantasy elements. It’s like a cozy as there aren’t gruesome scenes. I know homes can’t be characters, but their family estate seemed alive, aware, and on a mission of its own. While I wanted to know who the guilty party was, I was often equally interested in why the town exists? Why does it have to keep its residents from venturing into the real world? Who created it and why? I also wanted to know if Hayden returns to her real life. So, this is a mystery that lures you read the next book. Very clever.

three and a half magical mirrors out of five

Denise Fleischer

March 10, 2021

New Title – An Unexpected Peril by Deanna Raybourn


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A Veronica Speedwell Mystery

By Deanna Raybourn

Berkley Hardcover, $26.00

on sale March 2

A princess is missing and a peace treaty is on the verge of collapse in this new Veronica Speedwell adventure from the New York Times bestselling and Edgar Award-nominated author Deanna Raybourn.

January 1889. As the newest member of the Curiosity Club–an elite society of brilliant, intrepid women–Veronica Speedwell is excited to put her many skills to good use. As she assembles a memorial exhibition for pioneering mountain climber Alice Baker-Greene, Veronica discovers evidence that the recent death was not a tragic climbing accident but murder. Veronica and her natural historian beau, Stoker, tell the patron of the exhibit, Princess Gisela of Alpenwald, of their findings. With Europe on the verge of war, Gisela’s chancellor, Count von Rechstein, does not want to make waves–and before Veronica and Stoker can figure out their next move, the princess disappears.

Having noted Veronica’s resemblance to the princess, von Rechstein begs her to pose as Gisela for the sake of the peace treaty that brought the princess to England. Veronica reluctantly agrees to the scheme. She and Stoker must work together to keep the treaty intact while navigating unwelcome advances, assassination attempts, and Veronica’s own family–the royalty who has never claimed her.


Guest Blog Post – The Magic of Reading by Sofie Ryan


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Do you remember learning how to read? I do. I don’t remember what I had for lunch yesterday and I once forgot my mother at the mall, but I remember when I learned to read. I was sitting at my little wooden desk in my first grade classroom and the teacher, Mrs. Martin, was patiently explaining the sounds the different letters made and how when we put the letters together to make words, we put the sounds together too. I don’t remember how many times before she’d explained the same thing. I don’t know what was different about that Friday, and I’m certain it was a Friday. But suddenly, it all made sense. As far-fetched as it sounds, I went from not being able to read to being able to make sense of simple words in the same amount of time it would take you to snap your fingers. (Something I couldn’t do when I was in first grade, by the way.) No, I didn’t go home and read War and Peace over the weekend, but I did spend hours with my head bent over my collection of Little Golden Books, slowly sounding out the words. It was magical.

“Yes, she can read,” Mrs. Martin told my baffled mother. “I think it’s because she wanted to so badly.” I think she was right. I did want to read. Books were full of stories, ideas and adventures. Before I could read I was either badgering someone to read to me, or making up my own stories. Once I learned to read I’d bring stacks of books home from the library. I was mesmerized by the building. Three floors of books and they’d actually let you take them home.

My mother’s rule was that I could bring home as many books as the library would let me have and I could carry. I could carry a lot of books, she discovered. I’d even stuff a couple in the hood of my jacket. I would have balanced a stack on my head if the top of it had been a little flatter. Is it any surprise that the library became my favorite place? My home-town library has long since moved out of that stone building that like many places from childhood, seems so much smaller now, but my local library is one of my favorite places in the city. And yes, I still think reading is magical.