Friday, September 17, 2021

A Giant Murder by Marji Laine Blog Tour and Giveaway

About the Book

Book:  A Giant Murder

Author: Marji Laine

Genre: Christian Historical Mystery, Fairytale retelling

Release date: August 3, 2021

Would you like a shot of… death with that, sir?

Josephine Jacobs was just doing her job, serving at an exclusive party, so why is she now being accused of shooting TG Taggert?

At a party full of suspects in the murder of Taggert, Josie served the food giant everything but an eternally “parting shot.” Who really killed TG Taggert?  His wife?  His son, Jack?  What about Harper Davis?  Rumor has it, she was having an affair with him—motive for her or Taggert’s wife! The list of those who seemed to hate him keeps growing, including a chemist and a chef!

With her long-time friend, Office Porter O’Brien, Josie sets out to find out who really killed “the giant,” and clear her name.

Find out in this next book in the Ever After Mysteries, combining beloved fairy tales and mysteries. A Giant Murder offers a retelling of “Jack and the Beanstalk” with enough clues and suspects to keep you looking over your shoulder. We’d recommend Kevlar… but it hasn’t been invented yet!

Click here to get your copy!

My Review

This is an enjoyable historical mystery. Josie is a good amateur sleuth. She is tenacious in her attempt to find the murderer after she is initially accused of being the villain. I like how she gets her friend and her maybe boyfriend to help out. The plot is a bit complex and needs some explaining at the end. I liked the consistent movement in the action and the periodic scenes of suspense. Josie kept her head during the tense times.

This mystery is loosely related to a tale with a Jack, a giant of a man, some beans, and lots of up and down on stairs. Laine did a good job of placing the mystery in the 1920s Dallas setting. There is a solid Christian message included, even if it does appear a bit awkwardly. All in all, a good historical mystery.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

About the Author

Marji Laine is a graduated home-schooling mom of four with two college students staying in the nest for a little longer. She and her hubby of 34 years also share their North Texas home with a rescue pup named Rosie. When Marji isn’t editing or publishing the books for her authors at Write Integrity Press, she indulges in penning her own mystery, suspense, and romance novels. She loves acting in musical comedy, has directed many stage productions, leads a high school Bible study and sings in her church choir. She prefers mountains to beaches, dogs to cats, NASCAR to football, Magnolia pie, white roses, green, and Hallmark Movies and Mysteries. You can find her at her website:

More from Marji

I so enjoyed researching the history of downtown Dallas as I crafted my story, A GIANT MURDER. The house that I chose for Josie and her mom is actually still there on Haskell Avenue. The photo with the wrought iron is about twenty years old, but the house was built circa 1914. The photo with the wooden fence is from last year, after a big remodel. This house was also the setting of another of my books. It and the field that used to be next to it was an after-school child care center in AIN’T MISBEHAVING.

Thinking about what life might have been like in this house in the twenties, I can’t help but think about my grandparents. They were teenagers at the time of my story – 1926 – and while my grandfather grew up in, what was then, a little farming town called Paris, Texas, my grandmother grew up in Oak Cliff, just across the bridge over the Trinity River from this house in downtown Dallas.

Makes the research that I did on this era even that much more special. Having come through COVID, I realize that my great-grandparents had to nurture their preteens and teenagers through the Spanish Flu that devastated whole communities. The more things change, the more they stay the same?

All of this reminiscing sent me to an old recipe book that had been a wedding present for me from my mom almost thirty-five years ago. In the dessert section near the back, I found a precious recipe for Date Candy that had come by way of my great-grandmother, Carrie Ethel Leatherwood Morin. I never met her, but I do remember hearing from my mom that she was a woman of faith, and I have a poem she wrote late in life, about growing up in the country.

I would say this is a 1920s recipe, but who could tell? She was a middle-aged mom at that point, so it’s a good bet.

Date Candy

1 box – light brown sugar

4 T – corn syrup

½ pt – whipping cream

1 cup – dates

1 cup – pecans

1 t – vanilla

Mix sugar, syrup, and cream. Cook until almost a hard ball. Just before removing from pan, put in dates and stir until they melt. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Beat until almost hard – then add pecans. Wet a cup towel. Pour mixture onto cup towel and roll into a roll. Let it cool – firm – then slice.

Let me know if you decide to make my great-grandmother’s candy. I’d love to find out how it turned out!

Blog Stops

Texas Book-aholic, September 17

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, September 17

Debbie's Dusty Deliberations, September 18

For the Love of Literature, September 18

Inklings and notions, September 19

Gina Holder, Author and Blogger, September 19 (Author Interview)

Babbling Becky L’s Book Impressions, September 20

For Him and My Family, September 20

deb's Book Review, September 21

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, September 21

Locks, Hooks and Books, September 22

A Reader’s Brain, September 23

Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, September 23

Connie's History Classroom, September 24

Simple Harvest Reads, September 24 (Guest Review from Donna Cline)

A Modern Day Fairy Tale, September 25

Mary Hake, September 25

Rebecca Tews, September 26

Musings of a Sassy Bookish Mama, September 26

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, September 27

Connect in Fiction, September 28

Bigreadersite, September 28

Through the fire blogs, September 29

Blogging With Carol, September 30

Back Porch Reads, September 30


To celebrate her tour, Marji is giving away the grand prize package of a $50 Amazon gift card and a copy of the book!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through Celebrate Lit. My comments are an independent and honest review. The rest of the copy of this post was provided by Celebrate Lit.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Thursday, September 16, 2021

The Watcher by Sara Davison Blog Tour and Giveaway


About the Book

Book:  The Watcher

Author: Sara Davison

Genre: Speculative Romantic Suspense

Release date: March 2021

Someone or something is watching Kathryn Ellison.

Kathryn thought she had buried memories of That Night for good—until Nick Lawson returns, reigniting her long-suppressed feelings for him. Seeing Nick has always reminded her too much of the horrible night that changed her life. As much as she wants to be with him, she wants even more to forget. When Nick unexpectedly shows up at her family ranch, Kathryn knows it is finally time to let go of the traumatic past that has held her captive for so long.

David Henley is a captive too—of the dark secret involving Kathryn, a secret he’s kept even from his wife. Now the truth is about to be revealed. And when it is, he could be stripped of everything in his life that matters to him.

A storm is brewing in the spiritual realm, and its effects reverberate through the natural world, summoning otherworldly Beings to the ranch. While Kathryn confronts the memories of That Night and struggles to let them go, she is not as alone in her home as she thinks.

As spiritual and temporal forces collide, Kathryn—and everyone she loves—is about to be caught in the crossfire.

Click here to get your copy!

My Review

First off, readers should know that this novel has a flash back scene that could be a trigger situation for readers who have experienced sexual assault. That out of the way, I found this to be a very interesting novel. The point of view is unique as it is that of an angel, I think. I am a little unsure that the being is an angel because it is described as being immortal and omnipresent. (4944/6319) Generally, those are attributes ascribed only to God. Yet God is elsewhere referenced as “He” by this being (4988/6319) so I am going to conclude the narrator is an angel. I was further confused as the being was said to not be able to move physical things, like letters on a kitchen counter, yet worried about getting hit on the backside by a door and had rain splash on its head. (5415/6319, 5705/6319)

While the description of the narrator was inconsistent, I found the personification of emotions and other characteristics as spiritual beings very interesting. For example, “Pain is an interesting Being.” (4378/6319) And, “Justice is an intimidating Being.” (4472/6319) Capitalization aside as it is usually reserved for deity, it is interesting to think about spiritual beings influencing people to feel pain or to exercise justice. I liked Determination being described as a being perpetually covered in grit. (2553/6319) That's clever writing.

There are several spiritual issues explored in this novel. One is a faith issue of doing what God has called you to do and yet experiencing something terrible. Another issue is honesty. We are confronted with a redeemed man not telling his wife nor the church where he is called to pastor about his previous, sinful life. He pays the price of eventually having to bare all anyway.

I found this novel to be a very interesting one, exploring tragedy, redemption and grace from a unique point of view. If readers can overlook some issues, such as I've described above and a pet peeve of mine, starting a chapter with a dream, this is an entertaining and thought provoking novel.

My rating: 4/5 stars.


About the Author

Sara Davison is the author of three romantic suspense series—The Seven Trilogy, The Night Guardians, and The Rose Tattoo Trilogy, as well as the standalone, The Watcher. She has been a finalist for more than a dozen national writing awards, including Best New Canadian Christian author, a Carol, two Selahs, a Holt Medallion, and three Daphne du Maurier Awards for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense. She is a Word and Cascade Award winner. She currently resides in Ontario, Canada with her husband Michael and their three children. The words on the mug she uses every morning pretty much sum up her life—I just want to sleep, drink coffee, and make stuff up. Get to know Sara better at and @sarajdavison.

More from Sara

The Watcher has taken me on an incredible journey over the last decade. After obtaining my degree in English literature, I longed to write a book. However, I found the idea of sitting down and actually writing one extremely daunting. So, I took every creative writing course, read every book on the subject, and attended every writing conference and seminar I could fine—basically doing everything except writing. Then one Easter Sunday morning, in church, the idea for an entire book—beginning, middle, ending, characters—came to me. Over the next five years, I wrote, rewrote, edited, polished, and got feedback on the book, until I felt it was nearly ready to submit to a publishing contest.

I say nearly because, while the feedback I had received was largely positive, it was still clear that something was missing. A month before the deadline to submit to the publishing contest, it occurred to me what that something was—the timeline. The novel read a bit like a sweeping epic novel that took place over twenty years. While that might work in some genres, it doesn’t play well in romantic suspense.

I had always been intrigued by the idea of a non-human narrator, and it occurred to me that could work with this book. That led me to the idea of using The Watcher, an unseen being in the spiritual realm, as my narrator. When I added in that being and numerous other beings, I was able to shorten the timeline of the book from twenty years to six days.

Of course, this required a major overhaul of the book. I closeted myself in my office for a month, only completing the story the day before the deadline for the contest. That meant I didn’t have an opportunity to show it to anyone or get feedback, so I had no idea whether the idea worked or if the story even made sense anymore.

The Watcher ended up winning the contest and was published in 2011. A decade and eight other published novels later, I got back the rights to my debut novel, polished it up, added several more chapters, and re-released it through Mountain Brook Ink in 2021.

As my first novel, my only (so-far) standalone, and the sole novel I have released that is speculative romantic suspense as opposed to contemporary romantic suspense, The Watcher holds a special place in my heart. As with all my books, my hope and prayer is that it will touch readers’ hearts and draw them closer to the God who has promised to never leave them or forsake them.

Blog Stops

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, September 16

Locks, Hooks and Books, September 17

Blogging With Carol, September 17

By the Book, September 17

Inklings and notions, September 18

Texas Book-aholic, September 19

Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, September 20

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, September 21

For Him and My Family, September 21

deb's Book Review, September 22

A Modern Day Fairy Tale, September 23

The Meanderings of a Bookworm, September 24

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, September 25

Debbie's Dusty Deliberations, September 26

Library Lady's Kid Lit, September 27

Musings of a Sassy Bookish Mama, September 28

Because I said so -- and other adventures in Parenting, September 29


To celebrate her tour, Sara is giving away the grand prize package of a $50 Amazon gift card and a paperback copy of the book!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through Celebrate Lit. My comments are an independent and honest review. The rest of the copy of this post was provided by Celebrate Lit.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Dust to Dust by Audrey Keown

This is an interesting combination of murder mystery and a sort of adult coming of age novel. The setting of the historic hotel, location of the murder, was well done. It immediately set the stage for secrets from the past. And the secrets were fundamental to solving the murder mystery and to revealing a family heritage.

The plot structure moves along at a methodical pace as Ivy, a clerk at the hotel and also a descendant of the original owners of the building, uncovers possibilities as to the identity of the murderer. In that sense, this is not a fast paced nor page turning novel. There is some suspense but only near the end of the mystery section. A bit more of the book reveals family secrets as Ivy comes to understand more of her heritage. I felt the solution to the murder came out of left field, so to speak. It was an unexpected surprise as I either missed clues or there were none.

This is a mystery for readers who like the story of the amateur sleuth to be as important as, if not more so, the actual solving of the mystery. I do like Ivy as a sleuth and will be looking for the next in the series.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Audrey Keown set her mystery series in Chattanooga, Tennessee, a place she calls home. For ten years she wrote professionally for periodicals, sharpening her story telling skills. Themes of redemption and connection to history appear in her novels. Like her protagonist, Ivy, Keown has battled anxiety and writes about mental illness in her fiction, hoping to help lift the stigma. You can find out more at

Crooked Lane Books, 288 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Illusion of Love by Sarah Hamaker Blog Tour and Giveaway

About the Book

Book:  Illusion of Love

Author: Sarah Hamaker

Genre: Romantic Suspense

Release date: October 2020

A suspicious online romance reconnects an agoraphobe and an old friend.

Nursing a hurt leg, psychiatrist Jared Quinby arrives in Culpeper, Virginia, on a case for the FBI. The investigation leads him to the doorstep of his childhood best friend, Mary Divers. Meeting Mary again is the one bright spot in his life.

Suffering from agoraphobia, Mary has at last found love with online beau David Kline and dares to dream of a future with him. Then David reveals he will be leaving the United States to become a missionary in Peru. Determined to stop living in fear, she accepts David’s marriage proposal, even though she’s never met him face-to-face.

As Jared’s case intersects with Mary’s online relationship, the more he uncovers, the more he fears for her safety. Jared tries to convince Mary not all is right with David, but she refuses to believe him. When tragedy strikes, Mary pushes Jared even farther away.

Will Jared convince Mary of the truth—and of his love for her—before it’s too late?

Click here to get your copy!

My Review

This novel is a good exploration of the deceptive nature of an online romantic pursuit. As a senior citizen, I was appalled that Mary fell for an online dating scam. But I know it happens and this novel is a good warning for those who naively approach dating sites.

There were plot points I found very interesting. One was the idea of missionaries. Mary's parents abandoned her to become missionaries. (Or did they?) David tries to swindle Mary by claiming he is becoming a missionary and needs immediate finances. I am not sure what the message is, but using God's work to deceive others was disturbing.

I am too old fashioned to believe that romance could happen over the Internet, sight unseen. This interesting novel, with a na├»ve heroine and a gallant hero, is a good one for young people to read. It well portrays the dangers possible with online interaction verses the reality of actual in person relationships.

My rating: 4/5 stars.


About the Author

Sarah Hamaker has been spinning stories since she was a child, with nonfiction and romantic suspense books published. Her stories have also appeared in several Chicken Soup for the Soul volumes. She’s a member of ACFW and ACFW Virginia Chapter, as well as the president of Capital Christian Writers Fellowship. Her podcast, “The Romantic Side of Suspense,” can be found wherever you listen to podcasts. Sarah lives in Virginia with her husband, four children, and three cats.

More from Sarah

Have you ever heard a story from a friend (or a friend of a friend) and thought it sounded more like fiction than reality? That’s what happened to me years ago when I heard first-hand a story about a woman who had been deceived by someone close to her.

Even while I grieved with my friend about the lies that had been told at her expense, I also admit to thinking, “That would make a fantastic storyline.” A couple of years later, I asked the friend for permission to use the basic outline of that story for what became Illusion of Love. To keep this friend’s identity a secret—and to avoid giving away the ending of my book—that’s all I can reveal to you.

However, what I can talk about is how interesting people’s reaction to the based-on-a-true story aspect has been along this book’s journey to publication. Most expressed their conviction that something similar could never happen to them. Part of that disbelief comes from our faith in our own ability to ferret out the truth from those around us.

Unfortunately, time and again, it’s been proven that we can be terrible when it comes to judging the true character of others! This is why people get away with pretending to be royalty or people lose money to someone’s Ponzi scheme or why those in authority can often get away with heinous crimes for years (#MeToo, Catholic priest sexual scandals are too horrific examples). Along the way, you’ll find people who wanted to think they wouldn’t be deceived…and were or who overlooked signs that in hindsight pointed right at the lie or perpetrator.

Why has this kept happening over and over again throughout history? I think it boils down to the simple fact that we want to believe we have excellent judgment when it comes to the character and intentions of others, whether we meet those people face to face or online. We also have a tendency, especially if we’re female, to ignore our gut when it tells us to be careful or wary of someone or a particular situation.

Especially when there’s real danger involved—in cases of potential abuse or criminal activity—it’s important to be prepared as much as we can be. One of the best books on this topic is Gavin de Becker’s The Gift of Fear. It’s a book I’ve recommended my teenage daughters and sons read before heading to college. What Gavin does is break down why our initial impressions can be wrong and why paying attention to our gut—that unconscious part of ourselves—can be crucial to staying safe, even if it means we sometimes offend or make people mad or upset. If only Mary, my heroine in Illusion of Love, had read The Gift of Fear, things might have turned out differently for her.

Why do you think we believe in our own judgment when it comes to people?

Blog Stops

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, September 15

CarpeDiem, September 15

Debbie's Dusty Deliberations, September 16

Inklings and notions, September 17

Texas Book-aholic, September 18

lakesidelivingsite, September 18

For Him and My Family, September 19

deb's Book Review, September 20

Mary Hake, September 20

Locks, Hooks and Books, September 21

Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, September 22

Because I said so -- and other adventures in Parenting, September 23

A Reader’s Brain, September 23

A Modern Day Fairy Tale, September 24

Musings of a Sassy Bookish Mama, September 25

Pause for Tales , September 25

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, September 26

Gina Holder, Author and Blogger, September 27 (Author Interview)

Spoken from the Heart, September 27

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, September 28


To celebrate her tour, Sarah is giving away the grand prize package of a $50 Amazon gift card & eBook copy of the book!!

Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.

I received a complimentary digital copy of this book through Celebrate Lit. My comments are an independent and honest review. The rest of the copy of this post was provided by Celebrate Lit.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Monday, September 13, 2021

The Genius of Jesus by Erwin Raphael McManus

We often turn to geniuses for solutions to seemingly unsolvable problems. Turning to Jesus, McManus found his life changed. He shares insights on living life he has gained from knowing Jesus. Unlike other geniuses, in knowing Jesus a transformation takes place. There is a transformation of genius – not necessarily in understanding physics but in becoming aware of the wonder around us, to becoming a conduit for good, to being fully alive.

McManus explores the lessons he has learned from intimacy with God. He shares insights into engaging with people and dealing with controversy, conflict and opposition. The lesson from Jesus that most impacted me was on empathy. Jesus reveals that “empathy is the highest form of intelligence,” McManus writes. (533/1869) And this empathy is not just so we can care deeply and care well for others. It is also so we would know that God truly understands us.

I appreciate this study on the character and actions of Jesus and how they are to be an example and encouragement for our lives. Those who look to Jesus for clues to increase productivity may be surprised by this book. McManus highlights Jesus showing us power is servanthood, for example, not control. He writes about how Jesus helps us see the beauty in the world, not how we can manipulate it. This is a good book for readers who want to know how knowing Jesus is how we know to truly live.

You can read an excerpt here.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Erwin Raphael McManus is an iconoclast, entrepreneur, storyteller, fashion designer, filmmaker, and cultural thought leader. He is the founder of Mosaic, a church movement based in the heart of Hollywood with a community that spans the globe. He is the author of previous books on spirituality and creativity, selling more than a million copies worldwide. McManus studied philosophy at Elon University, has a BA in psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a doctorate in humane letters from Southeastern University. He and his wife live in Los Angeles.

Convergent Books, 208 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Sunday, September 12, 2021

At Your Best by Carey Nieuwhof

You've got a great deal to do and feel overwhelmed. You feel you are on your way to burnout. Many productivity books will suggest you evaluate your tasks and cut some out. You know that is just not a possibility.

Nieuwhof's philosophy is different. As a previous lawyer and current business owner, he knows the amount of tasks that must be accomplished. Cutting some out is just not an option. He suggestions fall into the working smarter category. He delves into best utilizing the three resources every person has: time, energy, and priorities.

Nieuwhof advocates doing what we do best at the time when we are at our best. That means finding out the rhythm of our day. We all have the same number of hours but not all hours have the same potential for us. It was surprising to find out that most people have 3-5 productive hours each day. That's why finding one's highest energy time is so important. One can accomplish much more in fewer hours when utilizing the proper time. I'm a morning person and I'm at my best before noon. I'll focus on what's most important then. But that means I have to establish priorities and Nieuwhof helps me do that too.

This is a good book for people who want to make the best use of the hours God has given them. You'll have suggestions for finding your most productive hours and determining the tasks you want to do in that time. You'll find ways to protect that time and your priorities, including preventing people from distracting you with their priorities. You'll have suggestions for getting back on track when life is disrupted. Soon you'll be doing your best when you're at your best.

You can find out more about the book, start reading the first chapter and watch a book trailer here.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Carey Nieuwhof is a former lawyer, a bestselling leadership author, a podcaster, and the CEO of Carey Nieuwhof Communications. You can find out more about his work at He and his wife have two grown sons and live north of Toronto.

WaterBrook, 240 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)