Showing posts with label Book Reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Book Reviews. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Shari Lapena's What Have You Done? ~ A Book Review

Are you a Murder/Mystery Fan?  If so, this is a book that you should put on your radar!  Shari Lapena's  novel, What Have You Done? is a page turner and will keep you guessing right until the very end.  

what have you done book

Right now it is in pre-publishing and is scheduled for release on July 30th of this year.  

Shari does a masterful job in keeping the suspense growing in this novel.  The story begins in a small town where everyone knows everyone and nothing ever happens either!  The folks in Fairhill, Vermont are about to find out what happens when something happens......

A farmer's field and a tired farmer coming back to the homestead after a hard day in the fields, notices turkey vultures flying in the distance.  This can only mean something is out there and it could be some forest critter or something bigger.

Roy Ressler (the farmer) must go out and investigate, but he's not really looking forward to finding out  what those vultures are gorging on. He's not too fazed by what he's facing, after all he's a volunteer firefighter in the town and has seen some pretty nasty things, but nothing has prepared him for this find.

The small town is home to one high school, one grocery store and a hardware store.  There is not too much going on in Fairhill.  Until now!

This book had me reading into the late hours of the night.  I just had to find out how everyone was connected and who could possibly have caused so much tragedy in such a short time.

The author does an amazing job of making you feel like you would know these people and so you become invested in the story before the second chapter is complete.  I guess it's a good thing I'm not a great sleeper.  

Everything you ever thought about living in a small town is true in Fairhill.  No one worries about locking their doors, drawing the drapes or having a security system in place.  Everyone knows everyone and very little is ever out of place.

The kids hang out at the local graveyard telling ghost stories and spooking each other out.  But it is more comedy than anything else.

All of that is about to change.....Evan, Taylor, Riley and Diana (friends since grade school days) are about to have their world torn apart!

I don't want to give away too much of the story, so I will just let you know that there is some "colorful" language and a little bit of teenage dating angst in this story.  But nothing that is too "in your face".  

I'm sure that you will become totally involved in this story as I was. 

 As a member of, I was privileged to read this book as "An Advanced Readers Copy".   I would give this novel 5 STARS *****!

 If you would like to join me and read lots of different types of books just click on the link above, but if you want to read a great book than click the link to Amazon to order your own copy!

Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate, Ebay (EPN) and/or Esty (Awin) Affiliate, I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”

Monday, July 15, 2024

Book Review: The Earthwise Herbal Books by Matthew Wood

In my quest to move away from drinking soda and multiple-ingredient drink powders, I am trying to transition to a variety of teas. My goal is to learn about herbal teas and to be able to grow or forage my own plants for teas with confidence. This desire grew as I learned that I like chamomile tea and experienced the benefits that tea provided at night. And the desire multiplied when I had a really good experience drinking cleaver tea. Who knew that this annoying weed found on almost all of my hiking trips and taking over the edge of my yard is a tasty, organic, and helpful tea?! Now I know. 

photo of The Earthwise Herbal book spines

Note: This is NOT a focus on purported medical benefits nor is this any sort of medical advice. Please see your doctor or trained expert for that sort of information. 

This review is about my desire find ways to accurately identify plants that I may enjoy for tea and ensuring that I do not use plants, or parts of plants, that might be contra-indicated for my body's needs. I definitely don't want to make myself ill by accidentally consuming toxic plants.

I had been watching videos on the internet about foraging and using beneficial plants when one day I saw a family misidentifying pokeweed as elderberry. While I know very little about herbs and plants, I was aware that they were showing pokeweed and were planning on processing it and consuming it as elderberry juice.  I asked them to pause and correctly identify the berries they had. I had always been taught that Pokeweed was toxic but I knew nothing in addition to that.  It was at that time that I became even more cautious about learning about plants on the internet. 

I learned that cleavers, this weed that annoys me with it's vines and fuzzy hitchhikers that are hard to remove from pets and clothing, is a plant that creates a tea with benefits. I began to research it's level of safety and how to identify it. After becoming more confident, I harvested some in the spring and drank the tea. I found that the tea really seems to agree with me and I experienced benefits that I won't go into here. BUT I still couldn't find more in-depth information about it.

For example, I didn't know when it could be harvested (only in the spring or through the entire year), which parts of the plant to harvest, how to best prepare it, how much to use for a glass of tea, and if it was possible to store it. Fortunately, I found many of the answers to these questions within the 592 pages of The Earthwise Herbal, volume 1.  

I found 4 pages of information about cleavers. That information included: plant family group, historical uses, taste (flavor), specific indications, cautions, and most importantly for my needs the preparation and dosage. I learned that there are no parts of this plant that is toxic and that it is best prepared in cold water. 

Volume 1 includes information for many other Old World plants such as dandelion, peppermint, clover, ginger, saffron, and the list goes on and on. The Earthwise Herbal, volume 2 provides detailed descriptions of 126 North American herbs. Now, I will admit, that I am confused a bit by this "New World/North American" versus "Old World" categorization of plants as I clearly have many of the "old world" plants growing in my yard and in my region. I have not yet read the section that discusses how those categories were decided. 

If you are at all interested in foraging or growing plants for teas, culinary, or herbal uses, I recommend that you add these books to your library. These volumes are packed full of information and are written in a way that is easy to understand.  Author Matthew Wood is a master's degreed graduate from the Scottish School of Medicine and is also a registered herbalist of the American Herbalists Guild. He is clearly trained, experienced, and is not mistakenly recommending toxic berries to others for consumption.

To read more reviews, get more information about the contents or author, and to check current prices, please click the links below (at the time of this writing, the books are 35% and 26% off respectively). 

The Earthwise Herbal: A Complete Guide to Old World Medicinal Plants (vol 1)

The Earthwise Herbal: A Complete Guide to New World Medicinal Plants (vol 2)

Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate, Ebay (EPN) and/or Esty (Awin) Affiliate, I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”

Wednesday, July 3, 2024

Hepburn's Necklace: Jan Moran's Beautiful, Enthralling Romantic Saga

My husband and I recently listened to the audiobook of Hepburn’s Necklace by bestselling author Jan Moran. It is a 20th-century historical romance novel that weaves together a captivating, multigenerational story of love lost and found. It effortlessly blends history, mystery, the glamour of old Hollywood, the hardships of rural Texas farming life, and the gorgeous, scenic Italian coast. We loved every minute of it, so much that I also purchased the Kindle version. Here is my book review.

Hepburns Necklace

Hepburns Necklace
Escape to the shores of beautiful Lake Como in Italy for this multigenerational historical romance
that combines the magic of the Italian coast with the glamour of Hollywood in its heyday


When costume designer Ariana Ricci discovers that her controlling bridegroom has been unfaithful, she leaves him at the altar. Her rigid, ambitious, and workaholic mother, Mari, refused to take time off to attend the wedding. Fortunately, the desolate bride finds solace with her great-aunt, glamorous Hollywood legend Ruby Raines, who whisks Ariana away from the church and off to Italy for some much-needed healing time.

Ruby has strong emotional ties to Italy, where she traveled as a teenager to work as an extra in the 1952 film Roman Holiday starring Audrey Hepburn. It’s also where she fell deeply and irrevocably in love with Niccolò, an Italian extra in the iconic movie, and was befriended by Hepburn who gifted her with the necklace that gives this novel its name. Ruby and Niccolò had pledged themselves to each other faithfully, but his sudden silence soon after Ariana’s forced return to Hollywood remains a mystery. Ruby can only assume that he must have died, the only reason she can accept that would have kept him from her. During the filming of Roman Holiday, she and Niccolò had spent a magical few days on beautiful Lago di Como (Lake Como). Now, roughly half a century later, Ruby decides to purchase Villa Fiori, a rundown but historic villa there. Lago di Como holds precious memories for the aging Ruby, and she engages Ariana’s design expertise to refurbish the villa and restore it to its former glory.

As Ariana is looking for fabrics for Villa Fiori’s makeover, she is introduced to Alesandro, the handsome, savvy, and charming owner of the silk factory that provides textiles for all the top designer fashion houses, such as Versace, Missoni, Armani, Prada, and Ferragamo. Ruby encourages her grand-niece to accept Alessandro’s invitation to go out socially. However, Ariana is a bit gun-shy after her recent, narrow escape from her untrustworthy fiancé. While redecorating the villa, as Ariana combs through some of her famous great-aunt’s keepsakes she comes across some old letters with Italian postmarks from the 1950s. However, the famous and normally effusive Ruby is surprisingly closed-mouthed when asked about their contents, and we slowly learn more of her long-held secrets as the book progresses.

The relationship between Ariana and Alessandro gradually blooms, and Ruby relives her romantic past vicariously through them, musing on the secret love of her youth and the betrayal of a trusted relative that dramatically transformed the trajectory of her life.

The more we learn about Hollywood legend Ruby Raines as the book unfolds, the more questions we have.

  • What happened to the letter in Ruby’s empty envelope that Ariana found?
  • What were Ruby’s sister’s dying wishes?
  • What is behind the estrangement between Mari and Ariana?
  • Why do Ruby and her great-niece have such a special bond?
  • Why was Ruby’s aunt Vivienne jealous of her?
  • What really happened to Ruby’s beloved Niccolò?
  • Will Ariana, Ruby, or both get a second chance at love and, if so, will they have the courage to take it?

Jan Moran’s writing is elegant and immersive, characterized by detailed descriptions and a keen sense of pacing. The dual timelines are seamlessly integrated, allowing us to move fluidly between Ruby’s present-day experiences and the historical context of her teenage and subsequent years in Hollywood. The Italian coast is depicted with lush, evocative descriptions that transport readers to the sun-drenched landscapes and quaint villages. The setting serves as a perfect backdrop for the romantic and historical elements of the story. 

Hepburn’s Necklace is a beautifully crafted novel that blends romance, history, and self-discovery into a compelling narrative. Jan Moran’s ability to evoke the magic of old Hollywood and the charm of the Italian coast makes this book a standout in contemporary romance.

This novel takes us on a long (356 pages) and winding journey that is well worth the trip. My husband and I loved it and, despite the satisfying conclusion, we were sorry to see it end. I highly recommend the audiobook, which provides nearly 13 hours of listening pleasure and is skillfully narrated by Erin Bennett. I also purchased the Kindle version as I look forward to rereading it.

The formats listed below are (in order) Kindle, audiobook, and paperback. Enjoy the ride!

Hepburn's Necklace: Jan Moran's Beautiful, Enthralling Romantic Saga by Margaret Schindel

Read More Book Reviews by Our Review This Reviews Contributors

Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate, Ebay (EPN) and/or Esty (Awin) Affiliate, I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”

Monday, July 1, 2024

Book Review: Damaging Secrets (Rachel Ryder Book 1) by Carolyn Ridder Aspenson

Rachel Ryder is a gutsy, sarcastic, emotionally damaged and extremely talented Detective who relocated from Chicago to small town Hamby, Georgia after the murder of her husband. Her life was turned upside in Chicago and she's hoping for a new start in Hamby. Besides, she has promises to keep.

Book cover

Damaging Secrets (Rachel Ryder Book 1) opens with a call of a "suspicious person" at a questionable hotel. When Detective Ryder arrives, she learns that it is actually a deceased person. A deceased person who happens to be a city councilman. That is her first taste of the politics in this small town. You see, if you are a politician and you want your town to be rated as "safe", you'll avoid using certain terminology, such as murder and suicide, in order to keep the crime rate at less than one tenth of a percentage. In Chicago, there was plenty of political corruption to go around, but Detective Ryder struggles with this new small town status quo. And she struggles with the fact that they quickly decide the manner of death is suicide when it is clear to her, and should be clear to all of them, that it was murder.

Rachel Ryder's husband, Tommy, was murdered on a street in Chicago in front of her very eyes due to his part of addressing political corruption and crime. His death was why she moved to a small town; to leave the memories attached to Chicago and to live their dream. That dream included living in a rural area.

"Years ago, I promised Tommy I'd learn to care for and ride horses before we bought an acreage. He didn't want me walking blindly into that lifestyle. I intend to keep that promise..."

Detective Ryder's rough approach doesn't win her any fans as she tries to prove that the death was a murder. She also has a great deal of difficulty making friends. Rachel isn't concerned about making friends but she should be concerned about making enemies as she tries to figure out what the town is hiding at this seedy hotel. Was the councilman killed by a prostitute? An angry wife? A political opponent?  With everyone who matters in town insisting that it was a suicide, she may never learn the truth. 

Why I Chose This Book by Bestselling Author Carolyn Ridder Aspenson

I am not sure I've ever heard of this author previously.  I only happened upon this series when searching for a book that would hold my attention during my staycation. While I had many plans for my staycation, I wasn't feeling 100% and decided to spend much of my time reading and relaxing. 

Have you ever been in one of those moods that it is hard to choose a book? When all of the books sound like been-there-done-that, boring, and the same plot just recycled. I just wasn't in the mood to choose a book. My Amazon search brought me to Damaging Secrets a thriller by Aspenson and the first in the series.  I thought I'd give it a try and frankly, I was just tired of trying to choose a book.

I enjoyed the "scrappy" detective so much. She was brilliant and experienced but her approach created barriers time and time again.

As someone who has moved from a rural area, to a metro area, and back again so many parts of the book rang true. Each area has it's own unspoken rules, terminology, and customs. Aspenson's writing hit the nail on the head for me with some of these items and helped the story to come alive for me. 

I enjoyed book 1 so much that I'm already halfway through book 2. It is no wonder that Aspenson is a best selling author. 

Read more reviews of Damaging Secrets (Rachel Ryder Book 1) by Carolyn Ridder Aspenson here. 

Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate, Ebay (EPN) and/or Esty (Awin) Affiliate, I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”

Thursday, June 27, 2024

Reviewing The Secret Book of Flora Lea

Ai creation of girl on river bank

Just when I think I've read my fill of World War II historical fiction, 
our book club picks another one for our May meeting.   After reading just a few pages I was totally engrossed in the story and happy to read another WWII historical fiction.

The Secret Book of Flora Lea is based on Operation Pied Piper, a true event during WWII.  In this plan the British Government is looking for a way to keep the children of London safe during the bombing.  They find people willing to take care of the children until the war is over, these people are located in far off lands like Australia and America and many of them are sent to the English countryside.

Brief Summary of the Book

In this book the author, Patti Callahan Henry, tells the story of two young girls, Hazel age 14 and Flora age 5 who are sent to the English countryside.  The story begins with the girls boarding a train that takes them to towns in the countryside where people choose from the children to see who they want to stay in their home.

The girls are fortunate to be placed in a lovely cottage near a small English town and the river Thames.  Here they live with Bridie and her son Henry.  They are very kind and good to the girls.

The girls spend their times going on walks and playing games, which include a wonderful fairy tale that Hazel makes up to entertain Flora and distract her from missing her mother.  In this story the girls escape to a magical land with a cast of delightful characters.  The secret place they escape to is called Whisper Woods.  All is going well until one day Flora goes missing and everyone searches for her but are unable to find her.  The police believe she fell into the river and drowned.

We next meet Hazel 20 years later when she is working in a rare book store.  She is doing well but still misses her sister and feels guilty that she took her eyes off her a few minutes and Flora went missing.  While sorting through a batch of new books that came to the book store, Hazel finds one with the title Whisper Woods.  When she looks through the book she finds many similarities to the story she made up for Flora.  The story that they hadn't told to anyone.

After this, Hazel is on a quest to find her lost sister.  Along the way she meets some Americans who have had the book published and also an English journalist who writes articles about the lost children.  

I will leave the rest of the story for you to discover as you read the book. I highly recommend this book.  

Purchase the Book on Amazon

You can find the book at your local library, or you may purchase it both in paperback, hardback or electronic formats on Amazon.  Here is a link to the book on Amazon. The Secret Life of Flora Lea


Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate, Ebay (EPN) and/or Esty (Awin) Affiliate, I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Chartres Cathedral Seen in the Best Light!.....~ A Book Review

While travelling I love to learn all about what I have seen and what really impressed me!  To that end, I found out that there was a  difference between a Maze and a Labyrinth.  It was something that I had never thought of before.  That is until I saw the Labyrinth in the Chartres Cathedral in France. Google defines a maze as " a network of paths and hedges designed as a puzzle. The goal is to find your way out or to a central "prize".

So the difference for all of those like me who have never ever thought about it is, a Maze is a place where tall walls of greenery send you down a path with many different directions in which you can go.  They are made so that  you can get lost in them and take a lot of time to find your way out.  In North America Mazes are a fun aspect to the Halloween holidays.  Corn mazes spring up in the country side just waiting for people to try and find their way out!  It's a lot of fun for people of all ages.

A Labyrinth on the other hand, is also a path that twists and turns but has no sides to make you feel isolated and you can easily see where you should go next.  A labyrinth in the 1200's was a geometric pattern on the floor that was used mainly for meditation.   The idea is to walk the path slowly, meditating on whatever is pressing on your mind, walking the path until you reach the center. At that point you just may have found the solution to whatever it was that was on your mind.  

Today,  Mazes and Labyrinths mean pretty much the same thing.

This past spring My other half and I made a trip to Portugal, Spain and France.  We are particularly interested in old churches, the art, architecture, artistry and history of the churches.  

Chartres Cathedral was amazing but when you are on a tour, your time in that place is limited.  So what do you do?  You take lots of pictures, hoping to capture the beauty, the space, the art and statues, stained glass windows, doors and floors and so much more.  

After you come home you realize that your pictures just don't do justice to the beauty that filled you with awe!  So you go looking for something that will help you to remember the beauty.

The Hubby found a most beautiful book with pictures that really do make you re-live the time you were there.  When you consider that this church was built in 1260, it certainly has aged well and the history within it's walls is truly amazing.  

I love books that will tell me all about how it was built, Who commissioned it and how long it took to complete and all the history that happened since the time it was built.

This book is the finishing touch to a trip that had us both spellbound and wondering how on earth the workers could build something so beautiful, mathematically precise and long lasting without all the tools that modern day builders have today.  It truly is mind boggling.
When you travel and enjoy the sights, sometime a great book is the best gift you give yourself to remember the beauty that you had a chance to see up close and personal. Usually the pictures in these books are also clearer.  The day you visit might be rainy or windy making your pictures less than perfect.  With a well done book, everything that is pictured was taken at the right time and conditions.    Now you can revisit whenever you want and share the beauty with your friends too.  Chartres Cathedral is a place that you should put on your bucket list.  We continue to enjoy it even after the suitcases are put away.

The pictures shown in this review are taken from the book which we continue to enjoy.

Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate, Ebay (EPN) and/or Esty (Awin) Affiliate, I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”

Saturday, June 22, 2024

Toxic Prey by John Sandford - A Book Review

A Lucas and Letty Davenport Novel

Bookcase filled with John Sandford novels

Lucas, and his daughter Letty, team up to track down a dangerous scientist whose latest project could prove disastrous for the entire world. 


Lucas Davenport is a US Marshal. His adopted daughter Letty Davenport is an investigator for the Department of Homeland Security. When it is discovered that a dangerous scientist has a project that could prove disastrous for the entire world, father and daughter team up to track him down.

Dr. Lionel Scott, an expert in tropical and infectious diseases, has come to believe that society is in danger of becoming nonexistent due to Earth’s out of control population levels. He thinks the disorder that has been allowed to run rampant will destroy Gaia (the earth) if the threat to the planet is allowed to continue. With a small group of dedicated followers, Scott thinks Gaia is dying and he has decided the only way to save it is to eliminate at least one-half of the world’s population. He plans to do this by releasing a deadly virus he has developed through his knowledge of infectious diseases.  He has combined two toxic diseases, making them extremely infectious, that will create a world-wide epidemic worse than any the world has yet seen. 


About the time the threat is discovered, Dr. Scott has disappeared completely. Lucas and Letty, working with a group of specialists, set out to find Scott as soon as possible. When their worst fears are confirmed, it becomes a frantic race to find Scott before the virus he created turns into the perfect weapon. 

Toxic Prey is book #34 of 34 in John Sandford’s Prey Series, published in April 2024.

Related Reviews:

*Toxic Prey book review written by Wednesday Elf 

Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate, Ebay (EPN) and/or Esty (Awin) Affiliate, I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”

Thursday, June 13, 2024

Reviewing Murder at Sea Oaks Beach


Sea Oats Beach Photo by mbgphoto

If you enjoy reading cozy mysteries, Karen C. Whalen has a wonderful selection of books for you.  Her first two series The Dinner Club Mysteries and The Tow Truck Mysteries, all take place in Colorado and are fun reading and keep you guessing at the culprit.  In her latest book Murder at Sea Oaks Beach, the author brings you to a new setting, the coast of North Carolina.  This beach setting makes a wonderful cozy mystery to read on your summer vacation or just sitting in your own back yard.

Brief Summary of Murder at Sea Oaks Beach

In this cozy mystery we meet Breanna Hart.  She is new to the beach town and rents a Airbnb not far from the beach.  Since she is a dog lover she decides to volunteer at the local animal shelter.

Along the way we meet a host of delightful characters.  There is a local surfer, Roscoe, who makes his living pushing a red cart on the beach selling flavored ices. Breanna meets him while walking on the beach.

The animal shelter shares a building with the Sea Oats police department and Breanna meets several of the members of the police department.  There is Ty, the handsome officer she meets on her first day.  There is Claire, the vet tech, who becomes a friend and others that work there become friends too, particularly Serenity and Emma.

Breanna has a "Social Anxiety Disorder" that makes it hard for her to socialize with new people, but she is working hard to overcome her anxiety.

Breanna loves her job as a volunteer, particularly walking the dogs.
All is going well with her job and the people she meets until the police chief is found dead under suspicious circumstances.  He is found in a dog's cage with bite marks all over him.  The dog is Samson, a bulldog that is one of Breanna's favorites.  The investigation into the Chief's death takes a lot of twist and turns.  When Breanna hears that Samson will be put down because he is implicated in the Chief's death, she is determined to do all she can to help find the true killer and clear Samson.

My Recommendation

I really enjoyed this book and recommend it for anyone looking for a good cozy mystery.  It will be particularly interesting for anyone loving dogs, mysteries and the beach.  

Order on Amazon

Karen Whalen's latest book can be ordered on Amazon.  It will be released
June 20th, 2024 but can be pre-ordered before then.  Here is the link to the book  Murder at Sea Oaks Beach

More Reviews on Karen C Whalen Books

I have written several reviews on these wonderful cozy mysteries.  Here are a few:
Stiletto to the Pedal
Friends Come to Call
Toes on the Dash

Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate, Ebay (EPN) and/or Esty (Awin) Affiliate, I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”

Monday, June 10, 2024

Review: Jean Haines Atmospheric Watercolor Books

I was introduced to watercolorist Jean Haines in a watercolor class at the local art institute. I immediately felt a kindred spirit with her style, but with the difference of a beginning student hoping to one day be able to create original works inspired by her style - certainly not as a peer.

The entire beginner class loved her style and it was very helpful to have an established artist/teacher dissect how Jean Haines' paints in the realm of our learning different styles and techniques.

atmospheric watercolor books

I was inspired enough to purchase a few of her books with the acknowledgement this was a style I would hope to be able to incorporate, but still much learning and experience was needed.


I would classify her style as loose and expressive. The paintings in the Atmospheric Animals and Flowers books are definitley expressionist type paintings as well as beautiful. Her style is not painting or example a cardinal as one sees a cardinal in real time; she adds her own expressive twist.

Daniel Smith Watercolor paint and Haines have partnered with a master paint set with colors she prefers. The paint set is not required as paint manufacturers and brushes are so individual to each person. 

Step by step Instructions

The books contain step by step instructions which is so incredibly helpful for the beginner and advanced beginner painter. Beginner students will immediately notice she does not draw images on the paper as a guide first. Second beginner students will notice (and may not be familiar with the technique of wet on wet) which is wet paper first then paint directly on the paper with paint. No mixing the paint in a palette and then applying to paper.

Haines on Youtube

Jean Haines has quite a few videos on youtube, but (and smartly so!) provides snippets of upcoming lessons or ideas as she has a monthly subscription service to access the entire content. The snippets are a good whet you appetitite of what can be accessed for a price.

Jean Haines' website does provide the details of her work, workshops and online learning opportunity. The Haines books and online learning could be a great gift for the watercolorist in your circle!

A few Of Jean Haines' Books

Atmospheric Watercolours

Atmospheric Flowers

Atmospheric Animals

Colour & Light In Watercolour

World of Watercolour

Paint Yourself Calm

Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate, Ebay (EPN) and/or Esty (Awin) Affiliate, I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”

Saturday, June 8, 2024

The Dog Man Series by Dav Pilkey - Book Review

From the creator of Captain Underpants comes a spin-off series called Dog Man!  The Dog Man Series is a group of graphic novels for children ages 8 to 10 created by writer/illustrator/cartoonist Dav Pilkey. My 10-year-old grandson is a huge fan of these books. 

When Tyler first showed me his Dog Man books, I saw them from an adult standpoint and thought them rather silly – cartoon strips with dopey dialogue and ridiculous situations. Then I saw the joy in my grandson’s demeanor as he described these books to me.  I quickly changed my mind when I realized how much he loved them and how funny he thought they were. For a ten year old boy to enjoy reading books, no matter how silly, is something any adult should encourage. 

A selection of books from the Dog Man Series by Dav Pilkey

The Dog Man Series

The book series centers around Dog Man, a new hero with the body of a police officer and the head of a dog sewed together. They are graphic novel chapter books written and illustrated by Dav Pilkey. There are currently 12 books in the series, with a new one coming out in December 2024. 

Author Dav Pilkey

Dav Pilkey, Author of the Dog Man Series of Books
Source: Wikipedia

The author’s true name is David Murray Pilkey Jr. Early on, Dave worked for Pizza Hut and someone left the ‘e’ off on his name tag. Thus, he adopted this atypical spelling as his pen name ‘Dav’ when he began writing his novels for children. 

Dav was diagnosed with ADHD as a kid and was also dyslexic. He was so disruptive in class that his teachers made him sit out in the hallway each day. Well, Dav loved to draw and enjoyed making up stories, so he spent his hallway time creating his own original comic books.  Luckily Dav was not a very good listener when told by his teacher that he couldn’t spend the rest of his life making silly books because the adventures he created later became his bestselling books of Captain Underpants and Dog Man. 

In addition to the Dog Man series and the already popular Captain Underpants series, Dav Pilkey has published six other series of graphic novels, plus 18 standalone stories. 


Adults may find these children’s series of graphic novels silly, but children, like my grandson Tyler, love them and Dav Pilkey has proven that a difficult beginning in school can be overcome with a positive attitude and a born talent for drawing and storytelling.

Today he is a bestseller author and illustrator of numerous children's book series, with his Dog Man Grime and Punishment being his #1 best-selling book in the United States and Canada. His Cat Kid Comic Club book is also on the top-25 list.

Check out the Dav Pilkey website here for a list of all his children's book series. 

Book #13 in the Dog Man Series coming December 3, 2024. Preorder below.

In DOG MAN: BIG JIM BEGINS, discover the origin of our beloved characters from the Dog Man series as they join forces to stop the Space Cuties from destroying the city. 

*Book review of the Dog Man series is written by Wednesday Elf

Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate, Ebay (EPN) and/or Esty (Awin) Affiliate, I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”

Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Reviewing The Ellie McEwan Mysteries by Joy Ellis

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I love Joy Ellis police series and have read them all. When I heard that two manuscripts had languished in her attic for two decades before being 'rediscovered' I immediately downloaded both titles.

An Aura of Mystery is book one and introduces us to Ellie McEwan in a crime thriller with a supernatural twist. The characters are quirky and well-rounded as all of her characters are - I find it hard to believe this was her first foray into writing. 

Ellie McEwan is a flower shop owner who has an accident while driving home late one night. Days later she wakes up with a new ability, she can see auras. Her friend Carole is well versed in the spiritual side and tries to help her learn to master this new gift, introducing her to an old professor friend of hers who is an expert in these matters. 

While Ellie is coming to terms with what this new gift is going to mean with her getting on with her life, along with her healing from her car accident; the local police force is dealing with a couple of murders.

Inevitably, given it's a Joy Ellis mystery, Ellie realises that her new-found gift could help to catch a killer. The very sceptical DCI Bob Foreman decides to involve Ellie in the investigation and I will leave it at that. You will have to read the book to discover the how, why, what & when! 

The second book - The Colour of Mystery sees Ellie and Michael set up a Healing Centre for specialty care with a variety of 'alternative' healers. While they are busy setting up the new centre and coming to terms with the circumstances they found themselves in at the end of the last book it appears that there is another spate of murders. 

This time respected and well-loved people are acting completely out of character and murdering people. DCI Forman once again asks for Ellie's help as it really seems as though the murderers may be victims themselves. After committing the murder the 'murderers' go into a catatonic state. 

The second book was a lot more obvious, but wanting to know how the characters were going to deal with things kept me thoroughly engaged. These two books will be the only books in this series which is a shame as I found them to be really easy to read and would love to see more. 

These are two perfect books to curl up with one weekend when you don't anticipate any interruptions. Enjoy them with a lovely cup of cocoa and a few nibbles. 

The series that introduced me to Joy Ellis was the Nikki Galena series that I wrote about here - Joy Ellis' Nikki Galena Series. I've read all of Joy Ellis' books as part of my Kindle Unlimited Membership which I can't recommend enough for any fellow bookworms.

Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate, Ebay (EPN) and/or Esty (Awin) Affiliate, I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”

Saturday, June 1, 2024

Rough Country by John Sandford - Book Review

 A Virgil Flowers Novel

Image of a Minnesota Lake
John Sandford is the author of the Prey Series starring Lucas Davenport. He has written 32 books in this series since 1989.

In 2007, Sandford introduced his readers to a new character, Virgil Flowers. To date, he has written 12 novels starring Virgil. This is my review of Book #3 in the series ~ Rough Country

Review of the Main Character, Virgil Flowers

Virgil is a tall, lean cop in his late thirties, three times divorced, hair too long for a cop. He is very casual in his attire, usually wearing jeans, a band T-shirt from one of his favorite Indy bands, and cowboy boots.  He was a cop with the St. Paul, MN police for several years and was enticed by Lucas Davenport to join the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension with the promise that “we’ll only give you the hard stuff.” The reason Lucas wanted him was because, despite his casual dress and unusual style of investigating, Virgil has a very high ‘solve’ rate when it comes to crimes.

In Rough Country, Virgil encounters a ‘hard case’ that is like none he has had before. 

Synopsis of Rough Country

As Rough Country begins, Virgil is on vacation competing in a fishing tournament in northern Minnesota. Lucas Davenport (his nominal boss) calls him to investigate a murder in a nearby resort where a woman has been shot. No one else is available and Virgil is nearby, so he has to go, despite preferring fishing to investigating. 

The biggest problem with the investigation is that there are too  many suspects and they all seem to have secrets. Is the murderer among the woman’s work force at an ad agency in Minneapolis she is soon to take over and where she plans to fire several people? Or is it her live-in lover whom she was about to break up with? Then there are several people in the town near where this peaceful wooded resort on a Minnesota lake is located who have their own agendas and would benefit from the elimination of this woman. A suspenseful mystery that will keep you guessing as the story unfolds. 


I have been enjoying all John Sandford books for many years (and own them all). I really like Lucas Davenport in the Prey Series, but I have to admit that Virgil Flowers has moved to the top of my favorites list. He is a delightful character and the humor sprinkled among the suspense is such fun to read. Murder and mayhem and humor makes for a very enjoyable read. 

*Book Review of Rough Country is written by Wednesday Elf

Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate, Ebay (EPN) and/or Esty (Awin) Affiliate, I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”

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