Book Review: Bat Wings, Rings & Apron Strings by Erin Johnson

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Bat Wings, Rings & Apron Strings: A Cozy Witch Mystery (Spells & Caramels Book 10)Bat Wings, Rings & Apron Strings: A Cozy Witch Mystery by Erin Johnson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Erin Johnson is my heroine these days… Ten (10 books) of semi-substantial page content in less than 2 years… all are great, tie together well, and make me yearn for the next release. But now I suffer… because with this 10th one in the Spells & Caramels Cozy Witch Mystery series, we have the final one: Bat Wings, Rings & Apron Strings. Is it okay to cry over the end of a book even though I know the author and she’s already gearing up for another series?

If you’re new to the series, here’s the brief scoop: Imogen is human and doesn’t know she’s a witch. She has an odd baking incident and sets a building on fire, then finds herself magically transported somewhere near France. She learns the truth about her heritage, meets and falls in love with royalty, fights monsters, meets her real family, and solves crimes in the world of witchery!

In this final book, Imogen is finally about to marry her beloved, but disaster strikes. Half the book involves her wedding preparations, the other half is figuring out who poisoned someone she’s close to. No spoilers here! In the end, of course, she saves the day, but the path to it is quite treacherous. I loved getting to revisit characters we missed from earlier books, as Imogen goes to each of them for help. The wedding is such a fun scene, and the ending is touching.

I highly recommend the series. The mysteries are light, the magic is low-level, and the characters are hilarious. When you add it together, it’s a recipe for awesomeness! Thanks for a great series, Erin Johnson. I’ll be with you on to the next one…

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About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations but with a twist. There are four books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, and Mistaken Identity Crisis. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.


Book Review: Blood Rain in Trieste by George Henry

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Blood Rain in TriesteBlood Rain in Trieste by George Henry
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Blood Rain in Trieste is a thriller written by George Henry and published in 2015 by Creativia. I saw the book available on Amazon at a discounted price last month and picked it up. I’d definitely recommend keeping an eye out for future discounts or heading to the site to grab a copy now. What a roller coaster of emotions, battles, and intense drama.

I am a frequent thriller reader, but it’s usually psychological or medical. I’ve read a few international ones (mostly series) about various historical time periods that I love, but this was a new kind for me. The story mostly takes place in Italy but there are American, Canadian, and Afghani components that created a much larger cultural and religious read than I’ve devoured before. Not a worry, I found it all easy to follow and quick to suck me in.

Milo is a former… well, I’ll let you be the judge of how former his job really is, hit man. His Muslim wife was murdered. His Canadian CIA-equivalent boss seems to be responsible. A lookalike shows up begging for his help. And that’s just the beginning. Milo’s life explodes in the dirty and wealthy streets of Trieste where he beds hookers, murders mafia folks, falls in love, gets injured, and learns many secrets of the underworld (not Hell, although it certainly could feel like it at some points). Author Henry has a powerful voice in his protagonist, one who I loved in many scenes and wanted to sucker punch for being stupid in others. But that’s real life, we don’t always make the right decisions. And talking about real life, while I’m sure some people might experience similar things to Milo, this was about as far removed from my cozy little world as one could get. But I loved it!

George Henry is a new author to me. I’ll read his work again. He’s created memorable characters and settings. He’s unfolded layers of drama where no one stays on one side forever — there are secret allies, promises, and vengeance that must be fulfilled. Just when you think you know who’s behind it all, or which character is double-crossing another, one of the nuts in this cast releases a flame thrower, and readers, you better watch out! You won’t see it coming, but it makes sense when it glides past you and singes the hair off your arms. If you don’t have any, maybe just your shirt sleeve!

This is the kind of book that is consuming. While a few sections were overly detailed, the majority was a perfect balance of dialog and narrative that kept me coming back for more. My favorite scenes had to be between Mohammed and Milo. There is a tension not unlike father and son, but of two men who could kill each other or promise to protect one another forever at given times. There is anger but respect, admiration but pain, love but frustration. The author has done a phenomenal job at creating the tentative bond between these two characters, then tossed Mohammed’s greedy and sinning children in the mix.

Take a chance on this new author… especially if you like a raw, sometimes explicit but tasteful, and challenging read full of spider webs and multi-level dimension.

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TITLE REVEAL: Book 4 in the Braxton Campus Mysteries

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It’s an exciting week on the Braxton College campus! We have two great promotions going on: (1) the 2nd book in the series, Broken Heart Attack, available for .99 cents from 3/28 thru 4/1 and (2) the 3rd book in the series, Flower Power Trip, had its launch day on 3/30. But that’s not all… today, we reveal the title for the upcoming 4th book in the series which will be published in June 2019. We’ll also share the official cover in a few weeks…


A clever thief with a sinister calling card has invaded Braxton campus. A string of jewelry thefts continues to puzzle the sheriff given they’re remarkably similar to an unsolved eight-year-old case from shortly before Gabriel vanished one stormy night. When a missing ruby is discovered near an electrified dead body during the campus cable car redesign project, Kellan must investigate the real killer in order to protect his brother. Amidst sorority hazing practices and the victim’s connections to several prominent Wharton County citizens, a malicious motive becomes more obvious and trickier to prove.

As if the latest murder isn’t enough to keep him busy, Kellan partners with April to end the Castigliano and Vargas crime family feud. What really happened to Francesca while all those postcards showed up in Braxton? The mafia world is more calculating than Kellan realized, and if he wants to move forward, he’ll have to make a few ruthless sacrifices.

Election Day is over, and the new mayor takes office. Nana D celebrates her 75th birthday with an adventure. A double wedding occurs at Crilly Lake on Independence Day. And Kellan receives a few more surprises as the summer heat begins to settle in Wharton County.

All Books in the Series

Academic Curveball (#1) – 10/15/18

Broken Heart Attack (#2) – 11/25/18

Flower Power Trip (#3) – 3/30/19


Visit the blog tour for Academic Curveball to read reviews, author interviews, and character guest posts
Visit the blog tour for Broken Heart Attack to read reviews, author interviews, and character guest posts
Visit the blog tour for Flower Power Trip to read reviews, author interviews, and character guest posts

Book Review: Leave It to Cleaver by Victoria Hamilton

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Leave It to Cleaver (Vintage Kitchen Mystery #6)Leave It to Cleaver by Victoria Hamilton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Leave It to Cleaver is the 6th book in the ‘Vintage Kitchen Mystery’ series written by Victoria Hamilton. All I can say is… this series keeps on getting better. Jaymie and her sister are cleaning out a friend’s home when they discover a body trapped in a trunk for over 30 years. Who killed the missing teenager? It seems to be one of their friends who fought back in high school with the girl, except a second body turns up days later. That girl disappeared from high school around the same time. Someone was up to no good… what kinda shady characters was Becca hanging out with!?!?

Hamilton’s mystery itself is complex and full of believable suspects. I liked the way Jaymie went back and forth with her suspicion cast upon several people she knew and was close with. As she learns the truth about adoption, abuse, cheating, and hidden tempers, everything comes to a blow. What excelled in this story was the structure and approach. In alternating chapters, we see exactly what happened to different characters thirty years ago, all in third person perspective. We also see Jaymie’s current investigation, and decide for ourselves how the details will play out.

On the personal side, Jaymie is engaged, which we knew from the last book… but her wedding is finally here and it’s a double one with Becca, her sister. We meet more members of Jakob’s family – he’s such a good influence and match for Jaymie. And Grandma Leighton comes for a visit. Another wonderful edition in this series. I’ve already got the next one in my queue to order.

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Book Review: Eaves of Destruction by Kate Carlisle

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Eaves of Destruction (Fixer-Upper Mystery #5)Eaves of Destruction by Kate Carlisle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Eaves of Destruction is the fifth book in the ‘Fixer-Upper Mystery’ cozy series by Kate Carlisle. In these books, Shannon, a ~30ish construction business owner, solves crimes as an amateur sleuth while helping renovate a wonderful seaside town in California. In this edition, the local town inspector causes trouble at several of her job sites and finds himself murdered in the neighbor’s orangery (sun room / conservatory). Whodunit!?!

Shannon is a fun protagonist. She pokes fun at herself but also knows when to be serious, just like the series itself. Obviously, if this many murders occurred in a small town, and the same person found the body all the time, she’d be locked up for some sort of charge to prevent anything else from happening! But this is a book, and there needs to be some level of recognition for that fine line of reality versus fiction. Of all the cozies I’ve read, this one is near the top of the list of those that manage that balance quite adeptly.

The victim was mean and ruthless, he just invaded people’s homes to inspect work even when it wasn’t time or he didn’t have permission to enter. The culprit was semi-believable, but I wish it had been someone else. The family we’re focusing on is interesting, and I liked the addition of Amanda, a new contractor who helps save the day when too many jobs turn up. I liked that we saw more of Shannon’s friends and their personal relationships with the men and/or families in their lives. I was glad to see the connection between the sheriff and Shannon turning into something much more easy-going.

The ending was a little over-the-top, but it made me laugh and I enjoyed how it all came together. I have already ordered the next one in the series and will read it in early April. My goal is to be caught up as soon as possible because the seventh book comes out later this year. BTW, it was adapted into a TV series in case anyone is interested in watching it. Maybe then I can shift over to the author’s other series.

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Book Review: One Little Secret by Cate Holahan

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One Little SecretOne Little Secret by Cate Holahan
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

One Little Secret is the second novel written by Cate Holahan that I’ve read. Part mystery and thriller, it tells the story of six neighbors (three couples) who rent a house on the eastern shores of Long Island for part of the summer. As each chapter unfolds in third person perspective, we learn of the drama transpiring in their individual and combined households.

This book was a very easy read. I devoured it in two chunks over a twenty-four hour period, finding myself unwilling to put it down except for meals and priorities that I couldn’t skip out on. The characters are vivid, realistic but with a slight caricature-like tendency, and will clearly show their motivation for each move they make. Holahan has weaved clever tension beyond just the normal marital problems of infidelity and monotonous boredom. At times, I thought these people were all horrible, yet at others, I saw moments of intimacy and pain that provoked sentimental feelings for them.

Given where they rented a summer home, it’s obvious they came from money, though some try to indicate they do not. Doctors, lawyers, tech start-ups, and sports reporters earn a lot in this world, so be prepared for a high amount of affluence and the drama that comes with it. From the start in the prologue where someone is being pushed under water, you know there is a secret worth protecting, but which of the six is the victim and which is the murderer is the game you’ve signed on to play when you picked up this book. Love it!

By 15% in, all the major clues are dropped. We know the victim’s hair color or body type, then one by one the author described the six people so that it became obvious who died. The detective from the Suffolk County police force is also a key focus, as she’s called to scene of this crime and another one which has a connection we’ve yet to realize. It’s also personal for the detective given her young daughter was innocently sucked into a party gone wrong, and that party was attended by one of the six house guests.

My favorite aspect of the book is how the story alternates across three days–day before, day of, and day after. There are flashbacks, and information dropped about the past, but the critical elements are what’s not being said in conversations and which neighbor has a connection we don’t understand to someone else. I adore that suspense, especially trying to guess not only who but what happened.

Overall, I waffled between a 4 and 4.5 stars, but settled on the higher rating. There were a few items that needed a better closure or clarity, so I couldn’t give it a perfect rating. The ending was apropos, but I felt like the detective lingered in the story and made too many mistakes. I didn’t always believe she was smart enough to solve the puzzle and felt like a distraction to the story. It was minor, but enough that I noticed it. Also, we didn’t get enough time with the victim to understand exactly who (s)he was as a person and parent. I felt bad for the death, but one or two more scenes to show the vibrant life and charisma once held would’ve made it pop even more.

Holahan’s writing style is engaging and has a stellar fluidity that makes you believe you’re standing in the rental house or on the beach as everything occurs around you. I look forward to her next book as it will be at the top of my reading list.

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Book Review: Honey Homicide by Vikki Walton

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Honey Homicide: A Backyard Farming MysteryHoney Homicide: A Backyard Farming Mystery by Vikki Walton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Honey Homicide is the third book in Vikki Walton’s ‘A Backyard Farming Mystery’ series. I’ve read the previous two and wanted to read this one, so I stayed current on the series. I enjoy learning all about beekeeping and other farming activities, so it’s a nice change of pace from other books I’ve been reading.

In this caper, Kandi and Anne are trying to help their friends survive a string of burglaries, fires, and corruption occurring somewhere in the town. It takes place in Colorado, and there are some pot growers who may or may not be behaving properly. When the cops get involved, and a few bodies start showing up, something is definitely out of sorts. Anne tries to manage her friendship with the sheriff only to find he’s accused of the crimes this time! Who do you trust? For Anne, she’s slowly falling in love with him, so she’ll do what’s necessary to protect the man.

Walton’s characters are cute. She has a nice balance of dialog and narrative to tell the story. I like getting to see the improvements on the inn. And it’s great how everyone works together to solve the crime and help each other survive in the town. Of the three so far, the second is my favorite, but this has fun elements with the bees and the police corruption. I’m looking forward to the next one.

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About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My debut novel, Watching Glass Shatter, can be purchased on Amazon. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.