Best Books of 2015

I took the Goodreads Challenge this year & truly challenged nyself by committing to read 100 books. I have succeeded by fulfilling my goal ūüôā

Although not all of the books I read were published in 2015, this list, in no particular order, were the ones I feel were the top 10 I’ve read.

  1. The Latke in the Library & Other Mystery Stories for Chanukah: Libi Astaire
  2. In the Waning Light: Loreth Anne White
  3. Where the Wild Roses Grow: Willow Rose
  4. Where the Memories Lie: Sibel Hodge
  5. Raveled: Anne McAneny
  6. Skewed: Anne McAneny
  7. Desolation Sound: Fraser C. Heston & Heather J. McAdams
  8. The Good Neighbor: A.J. Banner
  9. Follow You Home: Mark Edwards
  10. Black Sunshine: Ninie Hammon

Here’s to 2016 with many more good reads to come!

2015 Reflections

Good bye 2015. Hello 2016. I have to laugh because as kids, the 2000s seemed so far away. We dreamed¬†it would have flying cars & such. Not yet, but then again, we do have drones…. Regardless, it’s time to look back & then focus forward.

As 2014 closed, I’d received my disability approval. Now, I have been on it for a full year. Although it isn’t close to my monthly take home when I worked, it’s been a huge blessing to the family.

Speaking of which, this summer brought us a new family member. Buster, our terrier mix, joined us. He has been such a huge part of this year. Everyday, he brings a lot of laughter & more love than I thought possible. Our youngest was so afraid of him initially. Much of that came from inexperience with dogs in general. But, Buster has become such a part of our lives that we scarcely remember not having him.

Our family dynamic changed again when our middle son, age 18, spread his wings & flew the nest. It’s been an enormous change. But, he felt he was ready so I couldn’t hold him back. It certainly hasn’t been easy for him or us, but he is determined.

We completed 6th grade, homeschooling, & started 7th. Halfway through another school year & I still maintain it was the right choice. We have plenty of ups & downs, but it’s so worth it.

Christmas Day marked 4 years since Dad went Home to be with the Lord. I still think of him everyday & occasionally have to stop myself from calling him. He would have loved Buster. But, I know he’s free from the disease & pain that devastated his body.

Thanks to God’s amazing grace & provision, we’ve achieved a number of repairs, long overdue, on our home. For the first time in almost 2 decades, our well is working. We won’t have to fret over winter weather preventing us from getting a water delivery. We worked alongside our nearest neighbor to fix our road (not maintained by township). Travel has been so much easier.

In many ways, I feel the biggest change this year has been in me. God is definitely refining me. I feel a maturity growing that I hadn’t had before. I’m relying more & more on Him & less on me. The result is a peace & contentment that’s new to me. I pray it continues into the New Year.

Here’s to a great 2016!

 

 

The Agitated Elocutionist: Richard Behrens

A Lizzie Borden Girl Detective Mini-Mystery #1

Perhaps you’ve heard of Lizzie Borden. Most readers will recognize the name based off the limerick sung about her murder trial. However, before that unfortunate business, she worked as a PI.

In the ‘Elocutionist’, Lizzie is hired on by Mrs. Arbuthnot. During the early fall of 1876, Lizzie & her cousin, Sara, meet with Mrs. Arbuthnot, a celebrated elocutionist. It seems that Mrs. A is missing a very expensive jewel. While giving vocal lessons, her pride & joy, The Star of Swansea, has vanished. She’s quite certain that the gentleman receiving help with stuttering that evening has taken it. To add further insult, Mrs. A’s drink was drugged & valet was finished for the night when her home was burglarized.

While the police have been notified & investigated, they haven’t uncovered the missing piece. Beside herself, Mrs. Arbuthnot has followed a referral & asked Lizzie to find it for her.

Clever girl that she is, Lizzie agrees to help & she and Sara begin another adventure.

Richard Behrens has done a wonderful job of turning Lizzie into a Nancy Drew type detective. For a mini mystery, there are enough clues for the reader to develop their own theory. Lizzie is actually a likable heroine, clever & kind in her way. There are bits of humor mixed in & no violence (despite the Borden reputation).

For a quick read that readers will enjoy, I recommend giving this series a whirl. I give ‘The Agitated Elocutionist’ a 4 star rating.

The Mystery of the One-Armed Man: Liz Dodwell

A Captain Finn Treasure Mystery

Docked in Sarasota Bay, Florida, Captain Rex Finsmer & his First Mate, Phill, are disrupted by an odd noise.  Neither one expects to see anything other than storm debris. Imagine their surprise when they haul in a one-armed corpse.

Phill has accompanied the Captain on many of his treasure hunting expeditions. She’s also seen him unravel a few mysteries. So, when the one-armed deceased man’s granddaughter arrives seeking the Captain’s assistance, Phill isn’t surprised that he agrees to help. Before they know it, they’re smak in the middle of a historical treasure hunts, murderous revenge, & tales of the seas.

Liz Dodwell has taken a love for high seas adventures & molded it into a modern-day mystery series. Phill breaks stereotypes by being a female First Mate who loves her job & has ni qualms about getting her hands dirty. Captain Finsmer, based off a real life Captain, is wise & adventurous with a tender heart he often hides. The duo works alongside investigators, searching for answers for the family. A tad of historically relevent material is used & it’s done in a way as to increase our interest in the Captain’s adventures.

I’m impressed with the amount of mystery & information that Liz Dodwell was able to pack into these few pages. It’s fast-paced, but still a novella. It’s a series that both mystery & adventure story lovers can agree on. I give it 5 stars.

The Latke in the Library & Other Mystery Stories for Chanukah: Libi Astaire

A Collection of 5 Chanukah themed stories:

Acclaimed mystery writer, Agatha Krinsky, has just arrived at her new home. Due to a number of nasty falls in her previous residence, Agatha has been moved into an assisted living facility. Unhappy with her new arrangement, but understanding nonetheless, Agatha tries to adjust. Her day of arrival happens to be the First Day of Chanukah. Hoping a little lunch will brighten her mood, Agatha attempts to find her way around.

As she passed what would be the Library, she’s startled to see a body on the floor. No one nearby is of any help so she proceeds to the dining room. When she’s introduced to her tablemates, she tries to gain their assistance. Miss Eppel, Mr. Perlow, Mr. & Mrs. Bernfeld are all seated when she arrives. But when she tries to explain the Library corpse, she’s ignored. Instead each of them launches into their own story, their memories being stirred by Agatha’s discovery. Miss Eppel tells ‘The Latke in the Library’. Mr. Perlow owns ‘Evil Under the Wick’. Both Bernfeld’s join in for ‘And Then There Were Gornisht’. Agatha gets her chance with ‘The Olive Cracked’. Despite the enjoyable stories, will anyone listen to poor Agatha & check on the body upstairs?

I absolutely enjoyed every bit of these stories. What an adorable group of characters! It was so nice to read about seasoned citizens who are active, fun-loving & continue with everything they enjoy.  Most of all, they are treated with respect by the facility. Libi Astaire has developed a phenomenal group of main characters. Each of them brings a different personality & skill set to the group. Each is ornery, opinionated, & most of all, lovable.

I also enjoyed the Chanukah traditions sprinkled throughout the plot. Even with all that was going on in their residence, the crew was careful to observe their religion. There is no violence or risky situations- just good, clean fun. I highly recommend reading it. It’s not lengthy, but very enjoyable. I give it 5 stars.

What Hurts the Most: Willow Rose

Book #1 in the ‘7th Street Crew’ Series

Mary Mills has just been fired from a prominent newspaper writing job. Thinking her day couldn’t get any worse, she returns home to her son & dog only to get a call from her father. Blake, her baby brother, has been arrested for murder. Despite loathing the thought, Mary packs up her world & returns to her hometown. Cocoa Beach, FL has nothing but tragic memories for Mary. One would think that growing up steps from the ocean, surfing daily with a group of best friends would be heavenly. However, this town is where her mother died, her stepmom resented her, & her father became¬†a distant entity. Add in that it is where her cheating ex-husband resides & Mary isn’t sure she wants to return. But, Blake needs help so she goes.

In her heart, Mary believes that Blake isn’t capable of murder. A local artist, Blake has always been gentile & kind. Launching her own investigation, Mary draws on her previous work as an investigative journalist. Without much info to rely upon, all she knows is that a young woman was found dead & a bloody chisel was found in Blake’s studio. Being home has one advantage. Nearby are the group of friends she grew up with, still together, all living on 7th Street like they used to. Knowing she needs help, they put everything aside & regroup.

Everyone one is focused on Blake’s case until more bodies start turning up. At first glance, it just seems tragic. That is until one of ‘The Crew’ realizes that these victims are all people that went to their high school. In fact, they were part of a clique, too. Is Blake being framed? Could these murders all be tied together in some type of systematic annihilation? Pretty soon Mary & her friends conclude that they’ll need to figure out what’s going on before more victims turn up, especially if one of them may be next.

Willow Rose has launched a brand new series with tremendous potential. True to her other novels, this one is creepy, suspenseful, & has a strong female lead. While she is the ‘star’ of the book, Mary shares her spotlight with the entire 7th Street Crew. This way we have some heroines & some heroes. Also in following with her past works, Willow goes from past to present, chapter by chapter, seamlessly. It isn’t a light read. Readers will need to do a bit of thinking as the secrets pile up & are methodically revealed.

Unlike her other books, there is significantly less gore & sex (which is a good thing). The plot is very creative. Willow Rose is extremely talented & has taken a bold move in starting a fresh, new series, especially one with multiple main characters. However, it works. This series can be huge for her if she maintains the same quality that this debut has to it. It’s a 4 star novel & I am really looking forward to more.

Give the Gift of Cookies Giveaway

This giveaway will run from now – 1/8 at 11pm Eastern Time.

It is open to US residents ages 18+

1 winner will receive a Krusteaz prize pack including: 10 boxes of cookie mixes, apron, tote bag, cookie cutters, frosting decorating pen, mason jar and recipes

Give the Gift of Cookies Giveaway Sponsored by Krusteaz

Hosted by Pea of Sweetness

Krusteaz Giveaway

Cookies make great gifts! They are fun to bake and make a tasty and thoughtful gift! The easy-to-bake cookie from Krusteaz makes it easy to bake cookies even with a busy schedule! Emilee at Pea of Sweetness shared 3 fun ways to package cookies for gifts!

Would you like to win a prize pack from Krusteaz? One winner will receive a Krusteaz prize pack that includes: two boxes each of the following mixes – Shortbread, Gingerbread, Snickerdoodle, Butter Vanilla Sugar and Oatmeal Scotchie as well as an apron and tote bag, cookie cutters, frosting decorating pens, mason jar and a festive red lid and holiday cookie recipe ideas!

This giveaway runs through 1/8/16 at 11:00pm Eastern Time and is open to US residents ages 18+. Winner is subject to eligibility verification and will have 48 hours to confirm before a new winner will be drawn. For any questions/concerns please email emilee.roberts (at) peaofsweetness (dot) com (consider adding this email to your ‚ÄúSafe List‚ÄĚ as winning email notification will be sent from this email). Please refer to the full terms and conditions in the Giveaway Tools.

 

Disclosure: Emilee at Pea of Sweetness received complimentary products to facilitate her review. No additional compensation was received. Participating bloggers are not responsible for prize fulfillment.

 
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