Worth the Risk (Pine Valley novel – book 1) – by Heather B. Moore (Audiobook – Tantor Audio)

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 – 4.5 stars

He broke her heart back then, will he be worth the risk ten years later?

Alicia didn’t want to see Jeff ever again after he took her to the senior prom, ditched her there, and took up with some other girl he thought he liked. Alicia was crushed. They were best friends. They confided in each other about everything. How could he do that to her?

It’s ten years later and Alicia and Jeff run into each other. He’s never forgiven himself for doing her wrong so many years ago. Alicia’s reluctant to give him a chance to make it up to her. She’s already got her hands full trying to care for her mom who’s a hoarder with serious mental health issues. Alicia’s made tremendous sacrifices and difficult decisions to deal with that situation. Does she want to possibly bring more heartache into her already complicated life?

I love a good knight-in-shining-armor-like story. 😃 Jeff was a jerk to Alicia back when they were in High School when he left her at their prom, and he knows it. She’s always been the girl he’s cared deeply for. His superficial, brief relationships since then are a testament to that. But now he’s been given a chance to make things right between them. How he goes about doing that is sweet and endearing and made for a tender love story that warmed my heart.

The audio narrator, Ann Marie Gideon, did an excellent job portraying Alicia and the other characters. She helped me to feel connected to the story.

Thank you, Tantor Audio, for a complimentary download of Worth the Risk. All opinions expressed about it are my own.

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The Dough Must Go On: (Oxford Tearoom Mystery – Book 9) by H.Y. Hanna

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5-stars

Gemma Rose gets the opportunity of a lifetime when a wealthy talent show creator, Monty Gibbs, chooses her Little Stables Tearoom to provide the daily catering for his show, From Pleb to Celeb.

A menagerie of contestants ranging from the talented to the eccentric, eager to get their chance at fame, are practicing their talents in preparation for their big chance at winning the show.

Gemma isn’t too keen on the show’s creator. She’s figured out that behind his magnanimous facade is an ambitious businessman more interested in sensationalism than the welfare of his contestants. He’s even resorted to embellishing their backgrounds and exploiting them for the benefit of ratings. And although some may have checkered pasts, Gemma is adamant that it’s no reason to take advantage of them. So when one of the contestants is found dead behind the stage, Gemma wonders just how far Monty Gibbs might go to advance his show. Or might there be some other killer lurking amongst them?

H.Y. Hanna has done it again. I was thoroughly entertained by The Dough Must Go On. The “old biddies” characters are always comical….

“The police are as effective as a chocolate teapot.”— Old Biddies

One of the highlights of this series is revisiting some of my favorite characters. Gemma’s geeky friend, Seth, always teaches some interesting scientific fact or lesson that enlightens me. And Gemma’s uppity but harmless, sweet mother is a great character whose appearance in the books always makes me happy. These Oxford Tearoom Mysteries never fail to provide a hilarious scene or three, and I can count on a great mystery and a top-notch narrating performance from the inimitable Pearl Hewitt. The Oxford Tearoom Mysteries is one of my absolute favorite cozy mystery series.

Thank you, H.Y. Hanna, for a complimentary download of The Dough Must Go On. All opinions expressed about it are my own.

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – 5 stars

I have to admit, I thought it might seem odd listening to the memoir of someone so young, but after hearing what Trevor Noah had to say I concluded that he’s lived a more colourful and hazardous life than many people twice his age.

Trevor Noah is fortunate to be alive to tell his story. He talks of growing up in South Africa as a “coloured” child (a child of mixed race) during Apartheid and its aftermath, with a mother who was determined to defy the government that sought to oppress her. He was somewhat of a menace and juvenile delinquent during the impressionable years, and narrowly escaped his abusive step-father who almost killed his family.

Trevor spoke a lot about his mother, Patricia. She is an incredible woman, strong and determined, who surmounted many formidable obstacles including poverty, racism and abuse, and yet still managed to teach Trevor many valuable lessons that no doubt shaped him into the highly intelligent and talented individual he is today. She didn’t stifle his exposure to grander things in life, but rather she expanded his world by teaching him and showing him that he could achieve a better life than she’d had.

I was impressed to learn that Trevor Noah speaks several African languages, including Afrikaans. Knowing English, as well as these other languages, was of great benefit to him in many ways in South Africa. If you want to know how, you’ll have to listen for yourself. 😉

Trevor’s transparency in sharing details about so many aspects of his life endeared me to his story. I see where he gets some of the material for his comedy shows.

I didn’t know much, if anything, about Trevor Noah before “reading” this book, but after having listened to him tell his story I have developed a deep respect for him. He’s overcome many challenges and has prevailed, and considering all he’s been through, that is truly amazing. EXCELLENT!!

WARNING: This book contains some profanity.

We Hope for Better Things by Erin Bartels

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – 5-stars

EXCELLENT writing!! This story is a gradual build-up. I felt like the writer was taking me on a leisurely stroll through time, casually relating events in the lives of three women, blood relatives. As we continued to walk along I could feel the tension mounting until it reached a crescendo, and I couldn’t bear to abandon it until I turned the last adventure-filled page!

We Hope for Better Things is set in and around Detroit, MI, and follows a triple timeline—Lapeer County, 1861 (civil war); the 1960’s (civil rights movement and Detroit riots); and modern day Detroit.

When Journalist, Elizabeth Balsam, is given a camera and the promise of some old photographs to deliver to a great aunt she’s never known, by a black man who claims his uncle was married to her aunt, her interest is piqued. The photos, which were allegedly taken during the ‘67 Detroit riots, are just the thing Elizabeth could use to develop the kind of story that aligns with her reputation as one who exposes corruption and neglect. Recently fired, Elizabeth is eager to get her hands on the elusive photographs, but first she has to visit with their rightful owner, her old great aunt, Nora Balsam. Nora lives in the old family house in Lapeer County, Michigan, which was also the home of Nora’s great-grandmother, Mary Balsam. All three women, Mary, Nora and Elizabeth, are linked by blood, and as Elizabeth stays on at the Lapeer house and gets to know Nora through the many objects in her home, where she finds treasures from the attic to the cellar, she’s intrigued. What does it all mean? Close-lipped thus far, Elizabeth hopes that in time Nora will open up and contribute to her story in her own words. As time goes on, and Nora starts talking, secrets about the past overshadow Elizabeth’s career ambitions and she becomes more determined to devote herself to contributing to her family’s legacy.

Forbidden relationships, racism, secrets, lies, betrayals, tragedy. Yup, it’s all in there, cleverly constructed with each little fragment eventually coming together to form a unique, atmospheric tale that was impressive. I couldn’t believe this was the author’s first book.

Here’s another thing that I loved. Although there were tumultuous scenes and turbulent times depicted, there was not one profane word or gruesome account. That’s what I call excellent writing. When I can envision what a riot must be like through dialog or prose, without having it described to me in expletives, I consider that the mark of a great writer. Very highly recommended.

Thank you, Revell Books, for a complimentary copy of We Hope for Better Things. All opinions expressed about it are my own.

Thanks for reading!! 😊

Confessions of a Mediocre Widow by Catherine Tidd (Audiobook – Tantor Audio)

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5-stars

**TOP PICK**

I have to admit that based on the cover I didn’t know this book was non-fiction. It quickly became apparent to me that it was. This is an emotional read that left me with a tear-stained face several times. It’s one of the best memoirs I’ve read thus far.

Brad Tidd, thirty-four, could not have known when he left his house one morning in 2007 that a single decision would immediately change his life, and then end it. Catherine, his wife, thirty-one, and the mother of their three small children, would spend her eleventh wedding anniversary planning her husband’s funeral. She details the agony of that experience, along with the surreal feelings that followed her husband’s sudden death and the ways it affected her life. She chronicles the many stages of grief she experienced, and she does it candidly and in a poignant, yet inspiring way.

Tidd talks about many pertinent aspects relating to the grieving process, and gives excellent advice to widows, as well as to friends, relatives and associates of widows, emphasizing what to say, what to avoid saying, and how to help. I found her advice very practical and beneficial since I’ve had the awkward experience of feeling at a loss for words when speaking with newly widowed friends. She recites her journey through the beginning stages of widowhood, and shares her experiences and feelings about dating, her in-laws, counseling, anxiety, the widow stigma and much more.

This book had a profound effect on me. As I listened to the author recount the sudden loss of her husband it shook me to my core and made me uncomfortable. It forced me to think about what it might be like to lose my own husband, or for him to lose me, a thought I try to avoid. My heart went out to Catherine because she was so young when it happened to her, and it was totally unexpected. Having to plan a funeral, deal with feelings of intense loss, raise three children under the age of five, alone, and become the sole breadwinner after having been out of the workforce for several years would feel overwhelming to anyone. And yet, she eventually confronted her fears, got her life in order and triumphed.

Confessions of a mediocre widow was gripping, moving and memorable. If you’re a widow, young or old, this book will likely resonate with you and stir up many raw emotions. If you have not yet come to terms with your widowhood status, this book might be a bit difficult for you to get through, but I can say confidently that it will be informative and affirming as well. For the rest of us, especially those who are married, if you read this book you will look at your spouse in a very different way. I felt the need to make a conscious decision not to take any days that I share with my husband for granted. Very highly recommended.

After reading this book, as regards the title, Confessions of a Mediocre Widow, I’m convinced that the author is anything but.

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Narrator – Celeste Oliva: I cannot think of a better narrator for this book. Celeste Oliva’s voice was composed, mellow, and pleasant to listen to; comforting, but not weak. Many times I had to remind myself that the voice was that of a narrator and not the author herself. She sounded so convincing, as though she was telling her own personal story. She was appropriately animated when necessary, which brought the author’s feelings to life. Excellent!!

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Thank you, Tantor Audio, for a complimentary download of Confessions of a Mediocre Widow. In exchange I have provided an honest review.

Murder on Cape Cod by Maddie Day – REVIEW and GIVEAWAY

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – 4 stars

When bike shop owner, Mackenzie “Mac” Almeida, stumbles over handyman Jake Lacey’s body on the path behind her micro-home on Cape Cod, suspicion initially falls on her. Mac’s frustration with Jake over the low-standard job he did on her roof repair raised the eyebrows of Westham Police Chief, Victoria Laitinen. Might Mac’s dissatisfaction from the shoddy roof job be a motive for murder? Mac is not overly concerned about proving her own innocence. But how can she explain away the murder weapon that belongs to her brother, Derrick? Sure, Derrick’s had some alcohol problems in the past, but that doesn’t make him a killer. And he’s over all of that now….isn’t he? As Mac and the Cozy Capers book group, of which she is a part of, start piecing together clues in the hopes of finding out who murdered Jake, Mac learns things about her brother that raises concerns about his innocence. Could Derrick really do such a thing? Mac’s sleuthing, along with help from the Cozy Capers, directs her attention to a few individuals who may have had a motive for wanting Jake out of the picture, for good. But can she find out which one?

The Cape Cod setting, plausible suspects and little red herrings kept me guessing and jumping from suspect to suspect trying to identify the culprit. The author’s menagerie of characters was an indication that she heartily embraces diversity in many forms. There might have been a little over-eagerness to portray this, but it made for interesting reading. There’s an African grey parrot named Belle that I loved, and the descriptions of Cape Cod made me want to go there.

Murder on Cape Cod is a refreshing start to a new series.

Thank you, Kensington Publishing, for a complimentary copy of Murder on Cape Cod. All opinions expressed about it are my own.

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**GIVEAWAY**

Thanks to the publisher I have an extra ARC copy of Murder on Cape Cod to give away. (It is currently being sold exclusively at Barnes & Noble.)

Comment below for a chance to win. U.S. residents only. 😔 Winner will be announced on 1/18/19.