Book Review: Tales from the Irish Garden by Sally Cronin

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Tales from the Irish GardenTales from the Irish Garden by Sally Cronin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Tales from the Irish Garden is the third book I’ve read by Sally Cronin. There is a connection with this book to one of her earlier ones (that I haven’t read yet) but the author does an excellent job at covering what happened in the first publication so that you you’re not missing out on anything critical to the story. After enjoying this magical fantasy novella, I’ll be sure to check out the original Tales from the Garden in the future. Let’s chat more about this story…

There is an entire world beneath a beautiful magnolia tree where our characters have lived for a very long time. Unfortunately, the tree will be chopped down and the land will be re-purposed by its new owners. What will Queen Filigree and her fellow creatures do without a home? She and her many wonderful friends (and perhaps a few not so friendly) take us through the seasons on their journey to find a new home and re-build their lives. Among the travels are romance, friendship, and hilarity. We meet fantastic characters such as the Storyteller, royal pigeons, Jacamo the pigeon master, butterflies, the Dapper Man, the donkey, foxes, piglet, mice, and so many more.

Toss in various holidays and seemingly normal events for humans, and you’ll have have a grandiose (in a good way) tale about a new romance for the queen, a marriage, and a surprise. Each mini-story adds up to the larger world of all those who live in the magic land. What they experience might feel like a metaphor for what us humans go through in life. The imagery is beautiful, and the settings are stunning. I felt like I was in the fountain or traveling through the gardens… whether I was a tiny mouse, a bird in flight, or a furry animal gallivanting around. There is levity too, so the entire piece is well-balanced. It’s the kind of writing that easily reads itself– simple yet descriptive, immersive, and crafty. If you enjoy fantasies and the charming world of our animal, insect, and fairy friends, then you will love this one.

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For more on Sally Cronin, check out her amazing blog or see my dedicated author page where I hope to interview her in the future (hint hint).

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 five books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, Mistaken Identity Crisis, and Haunted House Ghost. 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: Justice for Belle by Didi Oviatt

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Justice for BelleJustice for Belle by Didi Oviatt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Justice for Belle is one fast-faced novella! But in truth, I wouldn’t expect any less from author Didi Oviatt whose thrillers and suspense novels I’ve read in the past always get your heart racing and your mind flying. Another fantastic release showing why she’s on the rise as an amazing storyteller who will gut-punch you with twists and shocks when you least expect them.

The story: Ahnia did something wrong. We don’t know what it is, but it was bad. Very bad. Only one person knows. Or so she thought! The problem, other than what this other person might do to Ahnia, is that Ahnia seems to only be able to write when she’s coming off the high of doing something awful. A best seller as a teenager / early 20s young woman made her popular, but now, can she live up to that expectation? Several years later, she’s intrigued by a guy who makes an offer, but then she finds out what’s really going on behind the scenes. Who should she trust?

GIRL – no one! Never trust anyone once you’ve done what you’ve done. Poor Belle… will there ever be justice? Interested in the novella yet? The premise is outstanding, and the best part, we really don’t ever know why something happened in the past. We get bits and pieces, but it’s not really important. It’s the psychological FREAK-OUT we go thru wondering what happened that revs our engines. That’s a great author… now… the ending?!? I don’t ever expect Oviatt to do what you think she will, and that’s an amazing thing. She likes to make you wait just a bit longer, then pops you one with a doozy of a shock factor. Nothing personal, but I’m staying away from her in a dark alley!

Less than two hours, this is a wild ride… it slows down for a few chapters to let you catch your breath, but don’t be fooled. You’re not getting a break again after that first pause, so relish the hunt and figure out who’s behind the games in this great novella.

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It’s my latest author alert and today we’re revisiting Didi Oviatt, a past spotlightee (is that a word… wait, I’m a writer — should I know?), to reveal the cover of her newest book. I’ve read and loved two of Didi’s other books, Search for Maylee and Aggravated Momentum. Check out her dedicated profile page on my blog too! But today… it’s all about ‘Justice for Belle’ which drops on May 15th, 2019 and is available for sale NOW!

Pre-Order/Purchase Link

Book Quote:

***Call me weird, obsessed, paranoid, twisted or whatever, but I have this nasty little habit of trying to guess what kind of killers people would be… if they were actually killers, that is. Whenever I see someone in a crowd who stands out among the rest, I see it. It all depends on their size, the way they move, the look in their eyes. Everything plays a part, and the image is usually fairly detailed. Then, I jot down my observations for future use.***


Ahnia, has a very dicey past, one that is scratching under the surface, just dying to get out. She’s hit rock bottom, broke and desperate to be on top again. When she finds herself partnering up with man she hardly knows, and who’s utterly untouchable, she’s forced out of her comfort zone and left to question her own sanity. Will Ahnia and Mac’s dangerous business move be a success? Or, will Ahnia find herself in the clutches of an unforgiving force, brought about by her childhood sin? In this nail biting thrill ride, no one is as they seem… and no one is truly safe with those they trust.


Didi Oviatt is an intuitive soul. She’s a wife and mother first, with one son and one daughter. Her  thirst to write was developed at an early age, and she never looked back. After digging down deep and getting in touch with her literary self, she’s writing mystery/thrillers like Search For Maylee, Aggravated Momentum, Justice for Belle, and New Age Lamians. Along with a six- piece short story collection called the Time Wasters. She’s also collaborated with Kim Knight in an ongoing interactive short story anthology The Suspenseful Collection. When Didi doesn’t have her nose buried in a book, she can be found enjoying a laid back outdoorsy life. Time spent sleeping under the stars, hiking, fishing, and ATVing the back roads of beautiful mountain trails, sun-bathing in the desert heat, along with watching the relaxing dance of a campfire plays an important part of her day-to-day lifestyle. 

Didi can be found on her Website/Blog, Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and most importantly AMAZON

Excerpt #1:

“You get lost?” Mac’s voice rings loudly at my side.

I jump, knocking a cold glass bottle of booze over with my arm. I grab it back up with trembling hands. I straighten myself to a stand and hand it over before grabbing two more for myself. Mac takes a step closer to me no sooner than the fridge door shuts completely.

The scent of him is just as fresh as the first day we met; only tonight there is a muskier underlining. The delicious smell of his natural skin, no doubt. My knees weaken, and I take a step back. The center of my back touches the counter causing me to reach back with my free hand and grab ahold of it for balance.

“What are you doing?” I ask desperately under my breath.

“You were taking a while, so I thought I’d check up on you.” His voice is wanting and raspy.

“I’m fine.”

I duck and spin, maneuvering my body around him. I’m careful not to brush our flesh together. He props himself against the exact spot of the counter that I just left by the hip, his gaze fixated on me. I look away, twist the top off of my first drink and guzzle the entire thing as if my life depends on it. He, too, takes a drink, but barely a sip. The serious clench of his jaw tells me that he means business. My chest tightens.

“Why are you really here?” I ask.

“A few reasons, actually.”

“Which are?”

“I’m trying to decide which one I wanna tell you first.”

He takes another sip and continues to stare. I toss my empty bottle into the trash can, and twist open the top of my next. It’s quiet enough to hear a pin drop. Aside from my own heavy breath, I hear only haunting silence.

“Start with whatever it is you’re so afraid to say.” I breathe, my heart quickening another pace.

Mac takes a few quick steps forward, again closing the gap between us. The wildness of his eyes and his hair reminds me of a lion, ready to pounce. Soon I’m backed against the wall, with our chests pressed together. I stare at his mouth. His lips are the perfect shade of pink. I want to lick them. I tuck my own in and bite the insides lowering my head…denying him access. He places his palms against the wall, beside my shoulders, and lowers his forehead to mine.

“You’re not who I thought you were,” he says, the hops in his breath mixing with my own.

I close my eyes tightly and breathe him in. The image I once had of his fists closing in around the neck of an unknown man as he shook the life from him is all I can think about. God, I wish I could stop enjoying the thought of death. I can feel his heartbeat through my shirt and my nipples harden. The heat from his body screams danger, and the pool of nerves between my legs wants it.

“Mac,” I whisper, our foreheads still together.

I try and lift my arms to push him away, but can’t. Like dead weight, they stay motionless at my sides. I shake my head against his. This is wrong.

“Ahnia, I know we can’t do this. I just… I…”

Mac slaps an open palm against the wall. It’s an angry, powerful blow a mere foot from my face. I jump, feeling the vibration of it against my entire body.

“F**k!” He shouts, and pulls himself away.

He runs a fist through his hair and storms off. After helping himself to another beer from my fridge, he disappears back into the living room, leaving me behind to gather myself. I take a couple deep breaths and run my shaking hands down the front of my shirt a few times.

I’m scared to death of him right now, but I don’t want him to leave either. I can’t kick him out, what if he comes at me? Or worse, what if I wind up throwing myself at him. I don’t trust me at this point, any more than I don’t trust him.


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 five books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, Mistaken Identity Crisis, and Haunted House Ghost. 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.

Review: Candy Canes of Christmas Past

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candy canes of christmas pastMy rating 4 of 5 stars to Leslie Meier‘s candy canes of christmas past, a novella in the “Lucy Stone” mystery series. What a fun book! It started out a little concerning as 20% into this 100+ page story, there was no mystery yet… but then it suddenly got cooking with tons of side stories. Definite series read.


Lucy Stone is reminiscing one holiday with her children about her first Christmas with her eldest son when they lived in Maine. They’d just moved to town and knew very little folks, having left a cushy life back in Manhattan. Lucy meets the librarian and gifts her a glass candy cane that turns out to be remarkably similar to one located next to the librarian’s mother when she was found dead at the bottom of the stairs 50 years ago. Everyone thought it was her TB disease that caused the fall, but her daughter the librarian suspected potential foul-play. Through various intro meetings with folks about town, Lucy puts the puzzle together and learns who she thinks really killed the librarian’s mother when she gets her Christmas present from her husband.


1. The concept of solving a 50 year old murder is great. And it seems reasonable. No one trying to kill her in the process. It’s just a light mystery with the readers and the characters getting the clues all at the same time. I loved the approach.

2. The use of side-stories and meeting new friends works really well as a character study and intro for me. I’m not sure if this is a newer book in the series or an older one, but I definitely will go back and read from the beginning. Great family fun.


None yet… it was that fun and readable.

Final Thoughts

If you have an hour to spare, and just want a light-hearted puzzle to solve, go for this one!

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Review: The Dangers of Candy Canes

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The Dangers of Candy CanesMy rating: 3+ of 5 stars to Laura Levine‘s The Dangers of Candy Canes, a short Christmas novella in the Jaine Austen mystery series. I haven’t read anything by this author before and stumbled across this in a collection of stories about candy cane killers; it was fun and gave me an interest in reading more in this series.


Jaine Austen (no relation) is an unlicensed, sort of part-time, freelance private investigator in LA, and she is preparing for her annual holiday trip back home to Florida to visit family, which she is very unhappy about. Her friend Seymour calls and asks for help when he’s been accused of murder, by way of someone falling off a roof Seymour just finished roofing. Jaine sets about asking all the neighbors and learns the victim was a nasty man with tons of enemies, and someone likely damaged the finished roof on purpose to cause the victim to fall off. Jaine finds several possibilities and as she settles on who she thinks the killer is, she realizes she fell right into the real killer’s trap. But she narrowly survives and ends up having a better trip to Florida.


1. Cast of characters were very clear, and each had a motive. I enjoyed the guessing game but still picked the wrong killer. Jaine’s humor is great. She sometimes talks directly to the readers. Also to herself. And she talks to her cat.

2. The sub-plot side-stories were very fun. Prozac the cat and Angel the demon child make for many hilarious moments and good comic relief.


Too short to really find anything that needed improvement or I didn’t like. It received a 3 as it was a very basic story and didn’t have tremendous complexity. If it were longer, and added a few more scenes, it would have been stronger.

Final Thoughts

A definite series to give a shot to… especially when I need to laugh.

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Review: The Case of the Killer Divorce

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The Case of the Killer Divorce
The Case of the Killer Divorce by Barbara Venkataraman

3+ stars to Barbara Venkataraman‘s The Case of the Killer Divorce, her second novella in the “Jamie Quinn Mystery” e-book series. It fell a little short of a 4 because it’s not quite a traditional cozy mystery or romance mystery given there’s very little romance and a small cast of characters involved in the murder. But it had some good fun, quirky characters and sharp dialogue so it was better than a 3 in my world. (I rarely give out a 5 just to set the scale).


Jamie’s a family law attorney who took off a couple of years when her mother passed away. In the first book in the series, she’s thrust into a criminal case to save her cousin, but in this second book, she’s helping her client Becca get through what seems like a rough divorce from her husband Joe — that is, until Joe turns up dead from an overdose of Becca’s sleeping pills hidden in a Tylenol bottle. Did Joe accidentally kill himself? Was it Becca hoping to ensure she retained fully custody of their children? Or was it Becca’s new boyfriend (and previously a good friend of Joe’s) trying to get the ex out of the picture?

In this short novella, readers experience drama both in and out of the courtroom with this case, including Jamie’s budding friendships with the DA Nick and PI Duke. Throw in her Aunt Peg and her criminal lawyer best friend Grace and Jamie’s got tons of folks to help her get through her re-acclimation to the legal world. But in this book, we learn Jamie never knew her father and is looking to find out more about him. When she stumbles upon a few leads, and a gift from her late mother, Jamie’s world begins to turn upside down as she embraces all sorts of change in her life.


For a novella, there is a lot of action and multiple side-stories packed into the plot. It’s quick-paced and you’ll find yourself enjoying the read in about 60 to 90 minutes — perfect for when you can’t fall asleep quickly but are afraid to start an entire new 300 page novel that threatens to keep you awake all night! The characters are funny and the easy dialogue makes you feel like you’re talking to or reading about a friend. It’s simple and straightforward without any fluffy language that attempts to send you off into complex literary bliss — which is a good thing when you just want a fun little mystery to solve.


I am not sure I’d call it a mystery though! There is certainly an element of “who killed Joe” and “will Jamie find her father” but if you’re a traditional cozy mystery buff, this may seem out of character. It’s still a good story, but doesn’t have a cast of 5 or 6 characters who could be the killer, and you don’t get a lot of clues to try to figure it out yourself. I’d like to see maybe one more potential suspect to build up a little more suspense and reader involvement in the story (but that’s just me!).

Final Thoughts

I enjoy the series. It’s fun and easy to read. Jamie seems very real and Duke is a blast. I can hear his accent and see him parading around whenever he’s in a scene. I look forward to watching this series build and grow into a more substantial story.

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