The Girl Who Was Taken by Charlie Donlea

[I’m trying to get back on a regular reading schedule amid doctor’s appointments and other life complications. Thank you for being patient with me as I play catch up with reading your posts and posting reviews. You guys are the best!! 😊]

Charlie Donlea sets the bar incredibly high for suspense novels. His books are compulsively readable. They are automatic buys for me, and I’ve read all three of his releases. His writing style is uniquely appealing, and I connect with it immediately. From the first few pages a mental picture develops and evolves into a vivid story that’s so engrossing that I’m completely immersed until the last page.

Phew! Now that I’ve finished gushing about Donlea’s writing skills, here’s a look at The Girl Who Was Taken….

Two girls go missing one night from the same beach party. One girl, Megan McDonald, escapes her abductor and returns home. The other girl, Nicole Cutty, is still missing. The book opens about a year after the girls were taken. Livia Cutty, Nicole’s older sister, has not given up looking for her. She’s a fellow in forensic pathology and is hopeful that she will find her sister and put an end to the mystery of what happened to her. As Livia intensifies her investigation into Nicole’s life she discovers many bizarre things about her sister and the activities she was involved in—shocking things.

Nicole has been all but forgotten by the general public, whereas Megan is in the spotlight, receiving accolades and recognition from her bestselling book, Missing, about her ordeal. And while Livia can’t help feeling bitter about Megan’s lot, she also couldn’t resist buying and reading Megan’s book, hoping that she would somehow discover clues leading to her sister’s whereabouts. What Livia doesn’t expect is to perform an autopsy on a man who is linked to her sister. What, if any, clues can come about from this discovery?

The Girl Who Was Taken was spectacular!! Seriously, I was on the edge of my seat, especially toward the end when the chapter lengths shortened and the tension amped up. I felt as though I was on an exhilarating joy ride that refused to slow down and release me, and it was wonderful.

I loved the plot development. Intricate details are successively woven throughout the chapters that begin to paint a picture of the lives of the abductees. I was in eager anticipation of the twist I knew would come, and I was not disappointed. And while the book left me with a few questions, it in no way detracted from my overall opinion of it. Excellent read. Highly recommended.

(Warning: There’s some teenage foul language, and detailed forensic descriptions in this book.)

Have you read a book by Charlie Donlea?

Thanks for reading everyone!!

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A Sparkle of Silver by Liz Johnson

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 – 4.5 stars

Thank you, Baker Publishing Group and Revell Books, for a complimentary paperback copy of A Sparkle of Silver.

And Tantor Audio, for the free audio download.

This pairing made for a perfect book reader experience. ☺️


Camilla “Millie” Sullivan is heartbroken. She’s being forced to move her beloved grandma Joy from the assisted living facility where she’s being cared for because her memory loss has worsened, necessitating more specialized care. Millie is strapped financially and can hardly afford to take care of herself. She’s out of options and feeling hopeless and dejected until her grandma mutters details about a long-held family secret that might help Millie to get the funds she needs. It involves her great grandmother, Ruth, an opulent Chateau and a diary containing a treasure map that’s hidden somewhere within the Chateau’s walls. Fortunate to get part-time employment at the Chateau, Millie sets about snooping to locate Ruth’s diary. Her efforts are thwarted when security guard, Ben Thornton, catches her and threatens to expose her. Desperate to escape dismissal, Millie recruits Ben to help her, promising to split whatever treasure she finds with him. Ben, carrying his own load and in need of money as much as Millie, agrees to help her. Together, Ben and Millie become a formidable team, uncovering more than a few secrets, and in the process, learning that love is more valuable than money.

In this book we find treasure hunts, thefts, homicide, scandal, romance, and lots of mystery. I enjoyed the dual narrative aspect, taking us from the present and back to 1929, just before the Great Depression when Millie’s great-grandmother, Ruth, and her friend, Jane, both bank tellers, were invited to be summer guests at the Dawkins Chateau on St. Simons Island, GA, by Mr. Dawkins’s “particular friend,” 🙄 Lucille Globe. (Mr. Dawkins’s wife and child were back in Chicago at their permanent residence.) The elusive diary describes Ruth’s activities in and around the Chateau during her visit.

The juxtaposition of high-society socialites and the working class guests mingling at the Chateau was fun to observe—the common folks enamored with the lives of the elite. Ruth was a poor farm girl from Central Georgia. Nineteen at the time, she was a fickle young girl who was confused about where she should direct her affection. I anxiously awaited which way Ruth’s heart would steer her. Would it be towards the lowly, solicitous gardener, George? Or the handsome, debonair, wealthy Claude?

This book is categorized as Christian fiction, but it is not strewn with bible verses or dominated by the author’s own interpretations of scripture, which I appreciated. It was not didactic at all, but simply lacked foul language, violence and immoral activity.

Audiobook: The audio narrator’s sugary sweet southern accent took some getting used to initially, but once I acclimated myself to it I was able to relax and enjoy her performance. She did a very good job with the characters’ voices and her pace was just right.

I loved this story that required me to suspend disbelief; to accept the far-fetched plot and coincidences. I liked the balance of unscrupulous characters and benevolent ones throughout the story, and how the romances within were convincingly developed. Recommended.

Thanks for visiting everyone! Have a beautiful day. 😊

Apple Strudel Alibi – Oxford Tearoom Mystery series – Book 8 – by H.Y. Hanna (Audiobook)

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – 5- stars

H.Y. Hanna has done it again. Apple Strudel Alibi is another successful installment to the Oxford Tearoom Mystery series. In it we find ourselves on a trip to Vienna, Austria, where we’re introduced to a few new characters that become suspects in a murder investigation that Gemma Rose and the Old Biddies find themselves entangled in.

When Gemma’s planned holiday for a trip to Malta with her beau, Devlin O’Connor, is derailed yet again because of a last-minute work assignment she’s devastated. That is until her mother convinces her that it’s a perfect opportunity for Gemma to attend the rewards ceremony in Vienna. Gemma’s Little Stables Tearoom has won a contest for the best scones in Oxfordshire thanks to her dear senior citizen friends, the “Old Biddies,” who entered her tearoom in the contest without her knowledge. Gemma takes her mother’s advice and heads off to Vienna, availing herself of the invitation to stay in her mother’s friend’s newly-opened, pet-friendly hotel at a reduced rate, if ever she were in Austria. So Gemma finds herself in Vienna, sharing a suite with Muesli and the Old Biddies, and things seem perfect. That is until an art critic is murdered at the hotel, and the suspect could still be amongst them.

I thoroughly enjoyed this cozy mystery. I learned much about Austrian cuisine, culture, architecture and art. Of particular interest to me were facts about the Austrian artist, Gustav Klimt, and the Spanish Riding School where Lippizaner horses are trained to perform. Listening was like receiving a brief history lesson pertaining to these subjects and I loved it. Equally satisfying were the new characters, as well as those that’ve been present from the start of the series. And the mystery kept me in suspense until the jaw-dropping denouement. I appreciate H.Y. Hanna’s subliminal message of love, honor and respect for all humanity, and how everyone’s contributions to the world benefit all of mankind. It has been enlightening and gratifying becoming acquainted with characters from various countries and backgrounds while reading many of the books in this series.

Regarding the audio narrator, Pearl Hewitt, her voice is absolute perfection. Her depictions of the various characters, (including Muesli the tabby cat’s audible expressions), is incredible. Her masterful narration brings this series to life in a way that can only be fully described if you listen for yourself. Extraordinary talent. I always look forward to listening to Ms. Hewitt’s narration. I highly recommended Apple Strudel Alibi.

Thank you, H.Y. Hanna, for a complimentary download of Apple Strudel Alibi. In exchange I have provided an honest review.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone!! Thanks for stopping by. 😊

The Rancher’s Rescue – Return of the Blackwell Brothers – Book 2

What would you do if you were saddled with debt and jobless even though you are a licensed veterinarian but not in the state where you just found out that your ex-girlfriend’s sister was having your baby and you know she would never consider leaving the state where you’re not licensed to practice even though you vowed you’d never return to said state unless it was to sit through the reading of your grandfather’s Will but meanwhile you’ve been called back there because your beloved brother needs your help to try to save your grandfather’s ranch that you grew up on but that your grandfather has run off and abandoned leaving behind mounting debts that you’re not in a position to shore up and the only person who can help you to access some of your grandfather’s assets to temporarily save the ranch is one of his ex-wives who is a judge that grandpa was married to for five days who you believe still hates you for blowing out her truck’s tires when you were a kid and who refers to you as “Day Two” but who you need help from desperately because you don’t want to let your brother down in his time of need?

Are you still with me? Welcome to Ethan Blackwell’s life! He’s got a lot going on, but he’s not willing to stay in Falcon Creek longer than what’s necessary to help his brother. But what about Grace Gardner and his baby dilemma? Someone has to be willing to compromise, but neither seems likely to budge on their convictions. Will Ethan “stop running” and find that what he’s looking for is right in front of him? And will Grace recognize Ethan’s true feelings and get to fulfill her dreams in the only place she’s destined to call home?I loved this book!! The fully fleshed-out characters endear you to this series. I liked the build up to Ethan’s finding out he was going to be a father, along with the suspense of learning how Grace’s sister, Sarah Ashley, would react to the news that her sister is carrying her ex-boyfriend’s baby. I didn’t know what to expect but the way the author tidies up all of these seemingly impossible scenarios was truly impressive. And again, those characters!! Judge Myrna Edwards was one of my favorites. The way the scene played out between her and Ethan put a smile on my face. I can’t provide any more details because I don’t want to give too much away. This book has substance. And that epilogue! 😂

All I can say is I am enjoying this series to the point that I’ve thrust aside a couple of other reading commitments to squeeze these books in because I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Thank you so much, Cari Lynn Webb, for a complimentary copy of The Rancher’s Rescue. In exchange I have provided an honest review.

Have a great one everybody!! Thanks for visiting Cozynookbks. Your support is so greatly appreciated. 😊

Miranda’s Big Mistake by Jill Mansell (Audiobook-Tantor Audio)

Goodreads Description:

Miranda is thrilled when she meets Greg at a cocktail party. He’s gorgeous, he’s funny – and he’s very keen. Just what a girl needs to put some sparkle in her life. Heavens, he’s practically perfect! Greg likes Miranda a lot. She’s young, she’s pretty, and she never talks about babies. Of course he hasn’t told her everything about himself – even the sweetest girls can be a bit funny about a man who’s just left his newly pregnant wife. But there’s no way she’s going to find out – or is there?

Luckily for Miranda men are like buses – you don’t see any for ages then three come along at once. She just needs to catch the right one…

I’m sorry folks. I DNF’d this one, so I didn’t write my own description or rate it. After listening to about 10 hrs., (the last 1.5 hrs. of which felt like torture), with another nearly 4 hrs. to go, I decided that life’s too short and I quit. I’m so disappointed because it got off to a splendid start and I was in my happy place enjoying the characters and the storyline tremendously. But then something odd happened. That wonderfully plotted story ended and a mishmash of silly themes began to emerge and I quickly lost interest. I began to despise the main character and her multiple love-interests to the point where I realized that I no longer cared about what happened to any of them.

I believe this book would have been successful had it been roughly half as long with the focus on the one major plot which stole the show in the initial part of the book. Had it retained that theme and those secondary characters, a couple of which I adored, I would have rated it 4.5 stars. But sadly it lost steam when it veered off in a direction that left me feeling like…

Another pet peeve I had is that Mansell uses the expression “Oh, God” too much! Perhaps this is a common British expression but it annoyed me. And the expletives! 😡 I don’t like profanity. There, I’ve said it. So even when it occurs infrequently, it’s too many times for me. I wanted to say to the author…

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So there you have it. I loved the first Jill Mansell book I read, This Could Change Everything. But as for this one, well…😔 I won’t give up on Jill Mansell because I know what she’s capable of.

Thank you, Tantor Audio, for a complimentary download of Miranda’s Big Mistake. The audio narrator, Gabrielle Baker, did an excellent job!!

Have a great week everyone!! Thanks for visiting.

The Rancher’s Twins by Carol Ross

💚💚💚💚💚 5-stars

Single father and owner of the JB Bar Ranch, Jon Blackwell, needs help. Badly. His twin girls, aged five, can’t keep a babysitter, and Jon doesn’t have time to supervise them while working his cattle ranch. In addition, he’s having to make decisions regarding his grandfather’s ranch since he’s run off somewhere with his fifth wife, Zoe, leaving behind unpaid bills and frustrated employees. So Jon requests a nanny with a country background, only to be sent a city girl from Philadelphia. He doesn’t have time to train her, and he’s not about to experience a repeat performance of his ex-wife’s disdain for ranch life. So despite how attractive she is, and how well she gets on with his girls—teaching them, cooking delicious meals, organizing things, etc., he decides it’s necessary to let her go. Lydia is devastated, not only because she feels qualified for the job, but because she’s harbouring a secret and needs the seclusion of the Montana ranch and nanny job to stay safe. Lydia manages to talk her employer into giving her two weeks to convince him that she can learn to be everything he needs. Will she succeed in convincing him to let her stay, or will her past catch up to her and sabotage her plans?

I absolutely adored this rancher story!! It immediately drew me in and then it captured my heart. Jon’s twin girls were absolutely adorable. Here’s an excerpt of dialogue between them and their new nanny, Lydia…

“You don’t look nothin’ like a old pear.”

Lydia looked at Genevieve. “Excuse me?”

“It’s noth-ing, Gen,” Abby said. “Not nothin’.”

“I know that, Abby, but I like the way Tom says nothin’.”

Abby rolled her eyes at her sister. “Well, I think you should say you don’t look anything like an old pear.” Face taut with concentration, she studied Lydia. “But she’s right, you don’t.”

“Who told you I did? And are we talking about fruit or boots?”

“Tom,” Gen answered.

“Fruit,” Abby said.

“Tom said I look like an old pear?” Lydia asked.

Abby explained, “No, Tom said we were getting an old pear. It’s a fancy name for nanny.”

Ah. Lydia smothered a laugh. “Actually, it’s au pair not old pear.”

Gen frowned. “Oh. What’s an oh pear? That don’t make no sense.”

I enjoy learning about new things when I read, and this book gave me a glimpse into the difficult life of cowboys. They work hard from sun up to sun down. Jon had to keep those animals in line and cared for, assist with calving, mend broken fences, and the list goes on and on. I liked to envision him riding his horse.

I loved so much about this book: the suspense of Lydia’s past threatening to catch up with her; Jon, the handsome, rugged cowboy 😍; the farm animals and ranch dogs; the secondary characters. It all worked, and the story flowed seamlessly from beginning to end.

Thank you, Carol Ross, for a complimentary copy of The Rancher’s Twins. In exchange I have provided an honest review.

Have a great weekend everyone! And thanks for visiting cozynookbks. 😊

Death Over Easy by Maddie Day – Audiobook (Tantor Audio)

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – 4 stars

The Bill Monroe Bluegrass Festival in Beanblossom, IN, is underway, and Robbie Jordan, owner of Pans n’ Pancakes, is excited since the venue will provide opportunities for a few musicians and dancers to stay at her newly opened B&B. Her boyfriend, Abe, is one of the performers at the festival, and she feels proud watching him from the audience. But when she and other observers see him arguing with one of the band members, and then that same member is found dead the next day, Robbie gets involved in the investigation since the suspects include her boyfriend, her father and a couple of guests staying at her small B&B.

Death Over Easy is Book five in the Country Store Mystery series. I enjoyed it despite having absolutely no knowledge of bluegrass music, banjos and whatnot. One of my favorite things about this series is revisiting with recurring characters, particularly Lt. Buck Bird, a tall, lanky Detective with a bottomless pit appetite and a deep Hoosier accent.

I liked that several of the characters were potential suspects, and it was interesting how various characters had different opinions of the victim; some thought she was a great person, others thought she was awful. I kept trying to ascertain her true nature. And even though I had an inkling of who the murderer was fairly early on, it didn’t lessen my enjoyment of the story.

I had a niggle with the occasional instances of sexual innuendo in the book. It was unnecessary. And since the audio narrator had a very senior voice those instances sounded a little ridiculous. The flirty exchanges between Robbie and Abe sounded like an overgrown school girl with a dirty old man and it was not appealing.

An issue I had with the audio narrator, Laural Merlington, was that her voice was not that of a person in her twenties or thirties, which I believe was the age of the protagonist. She sounded, at the very least, to be a woman in her sixties, maybe even seventies. It’s not that the narrator wasn’t perfectly capable or articulate, it’s just that she sounded much older than some of the characters, and as a consequence I found it difficult to connect with some of them. I kept thinking to myself that she’d be a lot more convincing as the voice of Jessica Fletcher, or possibly the book (not movie) version of Agatha Raisin—but not Robbie Jordan. I’d wished I had a paperback copy in addition to the audio version so that I could switch up when her voice began to harass me.

All things considered, Death Over Easy was an enjoyable cozy mystery and I will be on the lookout for further additions to the series.

Thank you, Tantor Audio, for a free download of Death Over Easy. In exchange I have provided an honest review.

Thanks for visiting everyone. 🤗