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

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Panda Girl ~ A Historical Novel by Lawrence V. Drake ~ A Book Review

 So I'm going to tell you a secret!  Historical Novels are one of my favorite genre of books. It doesn't really matter what the time period is, I just happen to be very adept at getting my mind into whatever period I am reading about!

Panda Girl by Lawrence Drake is one of these books.  Set in the period of the Second World War, just after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, this novel had me right from the opening few sentences of the Prologue.

Based on true life experiences, Panda Girl captivates and sheds some light on a part of WWII that many people don't know anything about.  It certainly was the case for me.  We think of the war as taking part mostly in Europe, but there was a whole contingent of the War that was taking place in  China, Burma, and India. 

Known collectively as the CBI Theater of WWII,  the Americans, while fighting Germany and the Japanese in the Pacific, also vowed that Japan would not overrun China.

Victor Dance (the main character) knows little about the world beyond his family's dairy farm in Montana.  He is reserved, shy, a hard worker and well liked.  He's also a talented artist in his own right.

When Pearl Harbor was bombed and the scope of destruction was realized, Victor and many of his friends enlisted in the Army to do their part for America and world peace.  Victor knew he wanted to fly!  It was a dream of his since he once witnessed Lindbergh flying over the family farm.  

When Victor and his friends had enlisted, their minds were full of thoughts of flying to France or England, they had never in their wildest dreams thought they would end up in India and  thought much less of the terrain they would be flying in.

Lawrence Drake does a wonderful job of bringing the realities of some of these missions to the pages of this book.  At times I felt that I was drowning in the heat that many of these pilots had to endure and just as I was getting comfortable in the heat,  I'd find myself freezing right along with them when they were flying at 20,000 ft.  I can't imagine the shock to the body when those kinds of extremes are happening within a short span of time. 

Missions over the Himalayas  were treacherous as winds, clouds and some of the highest mountains in the world stood between the pilots and their missions to take out Japanese tankers, railroads, bridges and transfer stations.  

Sometimes the only thing that kept these guys in the air and focused on their missions were the thoughts of those people back home who were counting on their success in this War. Letters from home were the only way many of these men kept going.  Hobbies helped too, as Victor in his "off time" was often drawing.  His talents as a pilot and an artist were in high demand, but you will have to read the book to see why.

War is never an easy thing and writing about it in a way that makes you fully understand the sacrifices is a real gift for us who have never had those experiences.  Truly it makes you even more thankful that we have not had to take part in this kind of "action".

If there is someone on your list of friends that enjoys Historical Novels, then this book gets a big Green Light from me.  I really enjoyed the story and came away with a much better understanding and thankfulness for all the sacrifices these men and women made for us.

You can get your own copy right here and I do hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Happy Reading, until the next Review!

Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”

Monday, November 20, 2023

Book Review: October in the Earth: A Novel by Olivia Hawker

Mrs. Wensley is a proper preacher's wife living in Harlan County, Kentucky in 1931. Life has always been hard in coal country but it became even more difficult after the Great Crash of 1929. Is it blasphemy that Adella questions her life in the largest home with 100 miles in any direction, her difficulty becoming pregnant after 8 years of marriage, and her role as the preacher's wife? Is it wrong that she disagrees with him in how to respond to the homeless folks passing through? 

book cover photo of October In The Earth

While she ministered to the women of the county tirelessly and she felt as though she were failing. Something did not feel right to Adella. 

"That afternoon, I came up the last shaded rise of the old road with that loaf of bread tucked under my arm, and I rounded the bend, and there before me was home - the only place that had ever felt like home to me, even after I'd settled with my eminent husband in the finest house in the whole danged valley. My parents' place could scarcely be called a house at all." - October in the Earth

Adella was visiting her family's shack when her brother pulled up; pale and shaken. Miners were in the midst of strikes after the mining companies had slashed wages due to the economy. Violence was breaking out, men killed during a shooting related to a mining company. 

"A couple of fellas pulled up in a truck that was all painted with the sign of the Evarts company". "They jumped out of the cab" Benjamin went on, "hollering and wringing their hands about a full-on war."  - October in the Earth

Benjamin drove Adella back to her home so that she could share the news with her husband and they could minister to the local families involved. 

As the plans to help defuse the situation were made, Adella found herself questioning the responses. Internally questioning what should and shouldn't be done - what is a sin and what isn't. Adella finds her husband in the midst of what is clearly a sin and yet she cannot openly address it. She cannot bring herself to question things aloud. 

"It's the baby. My thoughts tripped over one another, tangling themselves. No baby. I haven't given him a family. No wonder he's losing interest." - October in the Earth

Adella visits the Granny Woman, as her mom has advised. The Granny Woman who can help women with their health problems. But it wasn't fertility help that Adella finds during that visit. She finds a woman willing to speak truth aloud. The shocking truth.

In her desperation, she prepares to flee. Adella follows the hobos that she has secretly fed - against her husband's wishes - during their trip through town looking for work. The proper preacher's wife dresses as a man, takes the few belongings she is able to carry, and hops a train away from it all.  The remainder of the story is a peek into the life of hobos on the rails. Riding from one town to the next, in a desperate search for work and food during the great depression. If the hobos are barely able to survive, will Adella be able to transform from a proper preachers wife living in plush comfort - thanks to the collection plate - to a lone woman traveling from town to town to find work? 

Unfortunately, I am not doing this story justice. I have clearly become an Olivia Hawker fan and find myself drawn into the stories of people living lives very different than mine. Olivia Hawker writes about believable characters with descriptions that immerse me into the story. 

I previously read and reviewed One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow by Olivia Hawker. You can read my review here. 

Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”

Saturday, November 18, 2023

The Two-Book Series of Mr. Murray McBride – Book Reviews

This is a review of a charming pair of books by Joe Stiple. This dual includes The Five Wishes of Mr. Murray McBride and its sequel, The Final Wish of Mr. Murray McBride.

The Mr. Murray McBride 2-book series Book Covers

The Five Wishes of Mr. Murray McBride (Book 1 of 2)

The  Five Wishes of Mr. Murray McBride book cover
Mr. Murray McBride is one-hundred-years old. His marriage to his beloved wife Jenny ended 18-months ago with her death at age 99. His two sons are also gone and Murray feels he no longer has a reason to live. Then he meets Jason Cashman, a 10-year-old boy who suffers from a terminal heart defect and needs a heart transplant or he will not live another six months. 

Jason has a list of five things he wants to do before he dies. Together, Murray and Jason race against the limited time each has left to complete the wishes one-by-one. And, the wishes are not easy ones to complete. 

Jason's Wish List

Five Things I want to do before my heart dies and I go to Heaven:

  1. Kiss a girl (on the lips.)
  2. Hit a home-run in a major league baseball stadium
  3. Be a Superhero
  4. Find a nice boyfriend for mom
  5. Do real magic

~By the amazing Jason Cashman

Wish number 2 is helped by the fact that old Mr. Murray McBride happens to have been a professional baseball player for the Chicago Cubs and that they live in a small town in Illinois just 20 miles from Chicago's Wrigley Field.

As Murray and Jason work on the 'wishes', along with Jason's best friend Tiegan (the 10-year-old girl who lives next door), Murray remembers what it's like to be young, and Jason fights for the opportunity to grow old. 

Their worlds are turned upside-down when tragedy strikes, and an unexpected gift is the only thing that can make Jason's final wish come true. 

The story continues on with the sequel ….

The Final Wish of Mr. Murray McBride (Book 2 of 2)

The Final Wish of Mr. Murray McBride book cover
It has been twenty years since Jason Cashman was given his five wishes by Mr. Murray McBride. He grew up to become a Magician (which was his fifth wish), performing all over the world. He has finally accomplished the goal he was seeking. He thought reaching his special goal would bring contentment, but instead he feels empty. 

Then, he meets Alexandra Lopez, an 11-and-a-quarter year old Guatemalan girl who loves America so much that she always dresses in red, white & blue. Trouble is, her father, Juan, entered the United States illegally when she was a baby, so they are effectively undocumented aliens. Now they face deportation. This presents a terrible problem because Alexandra has Type I Diabetes and would die without her insulin. The tiny Guatemalan village they come from has no doctor or any type of medical facility and getting insulin regularly would be very chancy there. 

Inspired by his old friend, Mr. Murray McBride, Jason decides the only thing he can do to help is to give Alexandra five wishes before she must leave. 

Jason & Alexandra set off to check off as many wishes as they can, but when Jason's transplanted heart begins to fail, he must choose between his obligation to the past, and his hopes for the future. 


These two Mr. Murray McBride books by Joe Siple are heart-warming. These Coming-of-Age & Family Life stories will make you laugh; they will make you cry, and they will completely capture your heart. I highly recommend them. 

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*Book Reviews by Wednesday Elf

Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

The Beauty Doctor, Elizabeth Hutchison Bernard ~ A Book Review

The Beauty Doctor is a work of fiction set in the early 1900's when the medical field was in it's infancy.  Regulatory bodies were not yet in place and quackery abounded.

It was also a time of social upheaval as well.  Women were just starting to demand attention not only for their family ties, but also for their own inherent worth as individuals.  It was a time when the old and the new were very much at loggerheads with each other and social status was not the defining standard.

Many people  made fortunes selling snake oils that promised all kinds of magical results and often times these potions and lotions were causing some very serious problems. 

European trends on what constituted beauty abounded.  Hence some very unsavory characters who called themselves "Doctor",  managed to make themselves known to those who were wealthy and could afford their services.  Working on these women's weaknesses was what worked for them.  Subtle and sometimes not so subtle augmentation could make a woman feel beautiful and therefore much more attractive to her peer group.  

The Beauty Doctor is the story of a young woman (Abigail), whose father was a decent doctor, and in whose footsteps she had hoped to follow.  She routinely would aid her father when he made house calls and became quite efficient and proficient at many of the tasks she assisted with.  What she needed now was the proper education to continue in her quest to become a doctor in truth.  Alas, such was not to be the case, Abigail's father has died and her mother remarried.  The new step father was not adverse to make lewd advances to his beautiful new step-daughter.

Stunned by this turn of events in her life, she decides to leave home and ask a friend for sanctuary.  Arthur has taken her into his home.  Being part of  New York society at that time, it was only shortly after her arrival in the Hennessy Family that Arthur  knew he would have to propose so that the family could keep their heads held high in their social circle.  Again Abigail's life is taking a turn she did not wish for herself.  She wants to become a doctor and has to find a way to do just that.

At the party to introduce Abigail to the rest of New York society, Abigail finds herself seated next to Dr. Franklin Rome, who is accompanying another wealthy socialite  to this affair.  He has a way about him. ""Beauty is power," Dr. Rome told her. "And with enough power, one can achieve anything."  And here the plot thickens.  Abigail sees a possibility that might just get her out of this engagement and further her own desires.

What follows is a twisting and turning story of her introduction to what we know today as cosmetic surgery.

This book was a very interesting story and you could picture yourself watching these lives unfold.  What lengths some people would go through for their own sometimes perverse ideas of what human beauty should be and look like.  I'm sure you will find it interesting and thought provoking.  So many ideas being put forth by the new medical establishment and funded by those who have the money to do so.  

This book certainly makes you see what was possible in an unregulated profession such as medicine was and why it's a good thing that regulations are in place today. It's a history lesson that I won't forget anytime soon for sure.

For anyone who enjoys historical novels and the development of society as we know it today, this book will surely be a hit.  The Beauty Doctor scores more than 4 out of 5 stars on it's Amazon ratings.

I was given an advanced copy of the second edition by in exchange for my honest review,

I would not hesitate to recommend this as a great book to read and/or enjoy with a book club.  It certainly makes you stop and think!


Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”

Monday, October 30, 2023

Cookbook Review: Betty Crocker Bisquick Impossibly Easy Pies

Imagine, "Pies That Magically Bake Their Own Crust". The Betty Crocker Bisquick Impossibly Easy Pies cookbook has been a very welcomed addition to my kitchen. With just several ingredients, Bisquick, an egg, and milk I have been able to make savory and sweet pies and have over 130 pages of recipes to try.

Homemade chicken pot pie

As someone who isn't incredibly talented in the kitchen but likes good food, I have tried baking pies in the past. (Sams recipe?). Combining my lack of experience with my lack of time and energy, I am always looking for hardy - but extremely easy - meal ideas. These Impossibly Easy Pies hit the mark perfectly. I can whip one together very quickly after work, pop it into the oven, and dinner is ready by the time I walk the dogs and feed the chickens.

My favorite so far is the chicken pot pie.

Stir together these ingredients and place in a pie plate:

  • 2 cups of chunks of cooked chicken (I used canned chicken)
  • 1 cup of frozen peas and carrots (I used a frozen vegetable mix that also included green beans)
  • 1/4 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion

Stir together the Bisquick, egg, and milk. Pour this mixture over the vegetable mixture. Bake.

The final product is a hot, filling, delicious, comfort food. In my household, as a single person, I am left with extra portions to use for my lunches at work. 

I have begun to use a can of cream of chicken soup, the frozen vegetables, and the cooked chicken chunks routinely. Making a creamier version of the meal. 

I did find that my cookbook recommends one part Bisquick to two parts milk. This makes a thin crust that forms more evenly over the top of the dish. The recipes on the internet reverse that to two parts Bisquick and one part milk. I prefer that amount as it makes more of a thick biscuit or dumpling topping (as seen in the my photo). 

homemade chicken pot pie

This week I am going to make a beef pot pie - with a can of vegetable beef soup, frozen vegetables, and grilled chunks of steak.

Additional Tips:

I found my copy of Betty Crocker Bisquick Impossibly Easy Pies cookbook at a store called Ollies for only $3.99. If thrifting is your thing, have a look at the discount stores.

Similar recipes can be found on the internet. I usually refrain from the expense of the cookbook purchase by using the internet. However, in this case, having the book with all of the different menus in one place is easy and inspiring. In this case, having the printed version is helpful to consider the varieties of pies that could be made.

The cookbook has a contents section that lists the pies into chapter based on the ingredients. Such as Beef, Chicken and Turkey, Ham/Sausage/Bacon, Fish and Seafood, Meatless, Fruity, and Sweet-Tooth Temptations. They also list some of the pies into these helpful categories:

  • All-American Supper
  • Summer Dinner on the Deck
  • Mexi-Meal
  • Sunday Brunch
  • Kids' Choice
  • Thanksgiving
  • Special Occasion Dinner
  • Appetizer Party

Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”

Saturday, October 28, 2023

Book Review: Blessings of the Lost Girls by J.A. Jance

 A Brady and Walker Family Novel

Fans of author Judith (J.A.) Jance love her three popular series, one starring Joanna Brady, another J.P. Beaumont and the series with Ali Reynolds. She also wrote a short series (5 books) about the Walker Family featuring Native Americans from the Tohono O’Odham reservation in Arizona. 

In this review of her latest book, Blessings of the Lost Girls, Jance combines members of the Walker Family and characters from the Joanna Brady series in an exciting adventure that includes Joanna's daughter Jenny and Brandon Walker's son-in-law, Dan Pardee. 

Native American hieroglyphics

Synopsis of Blessings of the Lost Girls

Blessings of the Lost Girls Book Cover
The story begins with a background of the serial killer who is the villain in the novel. 

Then we are introduced to Danial Pardee, a former member of the Shadow Wolves Border Patrol, who patrol the U.S./Mexico border along the Tohono O’Odham Nation Reservation in Arizona. Now he is a field officer in the newly formed MIP agency (Missing and Murdered Indigenous People), an agency under the Department of Interior. The main purpose of MIP is to investigate and put right how law enforcement agencies all over the country had dealt with both solved and unsolved cases involving the deaths and disappearances of Native American victims. 

A body is found in the desert on a ranch near Tucson consisting of nothing but burned bones.  It took nearly 3 years, but the bones are finally identified as those of Rosa Rios, a young woman of Apache descent who was a one-time rodeo star. Dan is called to investigate, as the victim was found in his territory. As it turns out, all reports each MIP investigator files are automatically shared with other MIP field agents, which soon leads to other agents contacting Dan with reports of similar cases involving young women of indigenous descent, each of whom had some connection to rodeos. Soon, the agency realizes that Rosa's death is connected to a serial killer.

Dan contacts Joanna Brady, Sheriff of Cochise County, Arizona where Rosa's body was found. Later, Joanna's daughter Jenny, currently a criminal justice major at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, becomes involved in the case due to having once met Rosa at a rodeo. 

Turns out, Jenny knows another girl who was once attacked at a rodeo by a man who matches the description of the killer they are looking for. And this girl happens to have saved a pair of eyeglasses which were knocked off the man during the attack. The girl never reported the attack at the time because her Morman family would not have approved of the boy she was dating, but finally agrees to turn in the glasses, from which fingerprints are obtained. 


Between Dan, Joanna and Jenny, and Dan's best friend, Brian Fellows, Sheriff of Pina County in Tucson, a case is put together and the serial killer is tracked down.

*Special Note: Throughout the novel, the author weaves in a few fascinating ancient legends from the (Papago) Tohono O’Odham (Desert People) where the basis of the story begins. The legends, plus the excellent writing of J.A. Jance, makes Blessings of the Lost Girls a very special story indeed. I highly recommend it.

Blessings of the Lost Girls Book Cover

Blessings of the Lost Girls, Book 20 of 20 in the Joanna Brady mystery series, is available in several formats on Amazon

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*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 I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

A Review of the Book Chair Exercises for Seniors


A Review of Chair Exercises for Seniors

Chair Exercises for Seniors came about after the author, Luke Adams, realized that getting older does not mean that a person's life is over.  The latter part of life can instead be a time for exploring new interests and writing a book, as Luke Adams did!  It was a fortunate thing for all the people that have been helped by his book, including me!

This book is not a long read, only 206 pages, 11 chapters listed below:


1. Stay In Sync With Your Body—The Changes

2. Why Chair Exercises? 

3. Get Your Chair 

4. Warming up 

5. Ankle and Leg Exercises 

6. Neck and Shoulder Exercises 

7. Upper and Lower Back Exercises 

8. Arm, Wrist and Hand Exercises 

9. Build Strength From Your Core 

10. Cooldown & Recovery 

11. Building Your 7-Day Routine 

What Does the Book Contain?

The book as a whole is full of useful information, it is far more than just a list of exercises.  It also deals with some of the psychology of aging, and the decisions that are made along the way that impact the life we will experience as we get older.  The presentation of the material is easy to understand and is formatted in a personal, almost cozy, conversational style that is both interesting and appealing.  

The following outlines what I found to be the most pertinent of what this book offers to the reader:

  • An informative discussion of the changes the body goes through with age
  • Concise explanations of what chair exercises are and why they are perfect for seniors; also how they benefit the different part of the body
  • How to exercise if you are recovering from an injury
  • Clear, easy to understand instructions with pictures for everything discussed in this book
  • A 7 day routine designed to help strengthen your most used muscles
  • Modifications for making the exercises easier for beginners or more difficult as you advance your fitness level as well as ways to modify the routine to fit your personal needs
  • Low impact exercises that can help you to relax and reduce stress
  • Exercises for specific parts of your body that you want to work on
  • Warm up and cool down exercises that help you ease in and out of activities
  • Advice on the equipment needed and optional equipment for the routine and the best attire to wear (much of which you already own, no expensive accessories needed!)
  • How to stay safe while exercising, including before and after.
  • Pertinent information of how exercise helps overall health, plus the improvement in balance and mobility which can help prevent falls
  • The book ends with a glossary of terms, in case you are unfamiliar with some of the terms used.

Sample Illustration 

Hip and Knee Extension Illustration
Seated Knee and Hip Extension Illustration from
Chair Exercises for Seniors

My Thoughts

Reading this book gave me hope about the future for the first time in a long time.  It is easy to become down in the dumps when you get older, but as was said in the book's introduction, it is more important to focus on what we can do than what we can no longer do.  Getting older does not mean losing the life you love, it only means that you have to work a bit harder to keep it.  You can even go on to make it even more fulfilling with the right tools and determination. Keeping upbeat and active helps you to maintain an independent lifestyle, which is what every senior wants.  All this can be achieved in just a few minutes a day, starting at any fitness level.
One of the most important things this book taught me is you can control how you age.  You can be the older person who spends all their time in a easy chair watching TV, or you can be the one outside planting flowers in the garden or going shopping and out to lunch with family and friends.  Which you want to be is up to you.  If you want to be the second type, this book can be the start of getting there.  Why wait?

Chair Exercises for Seniors

Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”

Saturday, October 21, 2023

The Bone Hacker by Kathy Reichs

The Bone Hacker is Kathy Reichs' latest book in her Temperance Brennan Series ~ Number 22 of 22. 

Image of an island beach and ocean, with a beach umbrella.

Synopsis of The Bone Hacker

Readers of earlier Temperance Brennan novels will be thrilled with The Bone Hacker, the latest book in the series.  

The Bone Hacker book cover
Temperance Brennan is a forensic anthropologist, dividing her time  between her headquarters in North Carolina and Montreal. 

As the story opens, Tempe is working in Montreal, Canada, where she shares an apartment with her significant other, Andrew Ryan, a lieutenant with the Quebec police working in homicide.

Tempe is called in to examine what is left of a person thought to have been struck by lightning during a storm. As she traces an unusual tattoo on the body, she discovers it is a symbol of a gang operating in the islands of Turks and Caicos. A call to the police department there brings a high-ranking officer to Montreal to meet with Tempe and persuade her to return to the islands to help with two sets of bones recently discovered and possibly connected to three young men – tourists – two of whom have disappeared without a trace in the past seven years. 

The case becomes much larger than Tempe expected and tantalizing leads begin to emerge.  At first it was thought that the gang violence in the islands was connected to these deaths, but Tempe is not so sure. As she discovers more evidence, it seems to point to something that will have global significance. 


As the story nears its climax, it becomes apparent that new technology may wreak worldwide havoc and Tempe herself becomes a target. A thriller with an exciting and surprising ending. 

The Bone Hacker is available here on Amazon

The Bone Hacker book cover

Links to more Kathy Reichs' reviews:

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*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 I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Book Review: Lights Out by Elise Hart Kipness

Lights Out by Elise Hart Kipness, a whodunnit novel
I read this book for free as part of the Amazon Prime first read for October. I am so glad I picked this book out of the selection as the characters are well rounded and the whodunnit is an interesting plot without being too complicated.

So imagine you're on suspension from your job and your best friend's husband is killed, it just begs for you to solve the crime really doesn't it? Kate Green is the main character and she's a former professional soccer player who is now a network sports reporter (well she's on forced suspension, but you can find out all about that in the book!). The author, Elise Hart Kipness is a former television sports reporter which may be why the book's scenes seem really authentic.

Her best friend's husband is a much-loved elite basketball player and the prime suspect is his wife, Kate's best friend Yvette. Kate knows a lot of Yvette's flaws, but she doesn't believe that she is capable of murder. The fly in the ointment is the lead detective in the case who is always camera-ready and seems determined to jail Yvette without investigating other leads.

Along the way, we meet Yvette and Kurt's (the aforementioned basketball player) daughter and Kate's son and daughter. We also meet Kate's ex-husband and third wife, and we also discover that the pin for his phone is Kate's birthday - does this mean anything.

We also learn a little bit about Kate's life such as her relationship with her mother and stepdad and the fact that her father is an NYPD detective and just like that when assistance is needed from the NYPD it comes in his form! He also makes a cryptic comment towards the end of the book which had me hoping for another book.

Luckily as I looked up the book on Amazon to see if it's available for everyone to purchase yet (it is) I see it is now titled Lights Out (Kate Green Book 1) and there is a the title of a second book in the series which you can preorder. The release date is next year.

One reviewer called this book an entertaining read and summed it up rather aptly with this sentence, 'There is a clever plot, twists and turns and a satisfying ending with a hint of intrigue'. I think that sums it up beautifully and I thoroughly recommend this book.

I enjoyed reading this book with a large fizz and a couple of protein cookies, what will you be enjoying when you read this book?

Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”

Monday, October 16, 2023

Book Review: The Girl Behind the Gates by Brenda Davies

Nora Jennings is a 17 year old in England during the 1930's which is a time of war and a time of mental asylums. While Nora is a privileged young lady, she is also found to be a "moral defective" and as such she is moved to an asylum. Based on a true story The Girl Behind the Gates is a harrowing, moving, and hopeful account of a young lady trying to survive her mental health treatment the best she can and the few people who are kind to her and help her stay alive.

photograph of the book cover for The Girl Behind the Gates

The Girl Behind the Gates by Brenda Davies

The book begins with the Author's note that ensured I would tear through this story in every free moment. The author is a medical practitioner, who came to work in the asylum when Nora had been held for decades. 

"Over the years I tried to encourage Nora to tell her story, but she always backed away from doing so. However, several times she asked me if I would write it for her. I always refused. Then following her death in 1995, one of her friends sent me a note and included a letter from Nora reminding me of her request. So, at long last, this is a true yet fictionalised account of Nora's story."

At 17, Nora made two life-changing decisions that began with falling in love. Those decisions were deemed by her parents, The local religious and governmental folks  in charge, and by the mental health practitioners of the day as morally defective. A person that needed to be kept out of the public in order to protect society. 

Little to no patient records were kept, many who worked in the asylum were abusive, and it was acceptable to slap a patient into line. It was extremely easy to find yourself placed in an asylum and impossible to find your way out while still alive. 

Some staff were kind, but those staff had little to no power in the hierarchy. Kind staff were reprimanded and/or did not remain employed at the facility. The treatments of the day included sedation, ice baths, removal of personal belongings, and electric shock therapy. Nora experienced all of those treatments.

Forty-two years later, in 1981, Dr. Janet is newly employed at the Hillinghurst Hospital and is working in the acute ward when she is directed to do a review of the patients on the back wards. Dr. Janet begins with reviewing the files before entering the back wards and meeting the staff and patients.

"She's been at it for hours and feels pretty over-whelmed. No real patient notes, just individual sentences, often separated by bald patches where nothing at all was recorded, as though the patient simply stopped existing for months at a time."

It is in those back wards that she meets the woman who has been kept there since age 17. A woman who has learned to survive the abuse, neglect, and psychological trauma. A woman who inspires Dr. Janet to re-examine her own life and eventually write a book to tell the story.

A Personal Note

Having worked in mental health for decades, this story was profoundly meaningful to me. Dr. Janet's thoughts and approaches rang true. So many "patients" (then and now) have exceedingly important stories to be told yet go unheard due to the issues of confidentiality, difficulty with timelines, and hazy details. Yet, they are stories that should be shared. 

I am thankful that Brenda Davies found a way to share this story to not only educate about the common treatments used decades ago but also the personal story of a woman who survived it all. 

Nora Jennings survived. But how? And did she thrive or remain merely the shell of a person? You'll have to read the story to find out.

Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”

Thursday, October 12, 2023

Book Review - Friends Come to Call


Red Boots by Trees AI created image
Finding the Perfect Christmas Tree-AI generated image

In the fourth book of the "Tow Truck Mysteries", author Karen Whalen delights us with another mystery starring Delaney, a tow truck driver with a love for shoes, and her interesting cast of friends.  This mystery takes place in the days leading up to Christmas at a Christkindl Market.

Summary of Storyline

Delaney loves everything about the Christkindl Market.  She can spend hours each day wandering through the booths and enjoying all the lights, music, refreshments and decorations.

The book opens with Delaney and her latest boyfriend, Sheriff Ephraim Lopez looking for that perfect Christmas tree at the tree booth at the market.  As they wander through the trees they come across a dead body of a woman near the back of the lot.

After her initial shock and concern for the identity of the woman and her family Delaney starts to worry about all of the negative effects this could have on the Christkindl market.  Her best friend has a coffee kiosk at the market and Delaney worries about if this will have a negative effect on her sales and that of the other booth operators.

Delaney has a reputation in her town of Spruce Ridge, Colorado of not only being the high heeled tow truck driver but of also being a bit of an amateur detective.  When her family and friends are involved, she can't seem to stay away from the investigation.  This time is no different and even though she is told to leave this to law enforcement she just can't help herself and proceeds to wander the market questioning people and trying to uncover the guilty party.

Will she discover who is guilty, will the Christkindl Market be saved and will Delaney find the perfect gift for Ephraim?  These are all questions you will need to read the book to discover.

Book Release

The book will be released on October 25, 2023.  Click on the Amazon link below to order the book.

More Books by Karen Whalen

Here is a link to a review I wrote about the first book in the Tow Truck Mystery Series.

Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”

Friday, October 6, 2023

His Disinclined Bride by Jennie Goutet Reviewed

His Disinclined Bride by Jennie Goutet
"His Disinclined Bride" is the 7th book in the Seasons of Change historical romance series.

I have really enjoyed reading this series.  I have read books in the past written by several of the contributing authors to this collection.  A few of the authors are on my "favorite authors" list and I know when I see their names, that I can look forward to an excellent read before I even start the book.

Over the last year, Jennie Goutet has quickly become one of those trusted authors.  Her books are always exceptional and unique.  "His Disinclined Bride" is no exception and I admit, I really wanted to read it sooner, but I waited so I could read the books in the series in order.

It is absolutely not necessary to read this series in order, or to even read all of them.  Therefore, I recommend that, if you enjoy a historical romance novel, you will want to grab this one immediately.

I have always thought how uncertain and scary it would be to have parents arrange a marriage to a complete stranger based on social status.  I have always been grateful that I was not born in an era where women were treated as possessions and "given" to a groom they did not choose or even want.  

Jennie Goutet opened another door in this social paradigm for me in "His Disinclined Bride" when the marriage arrangement fell to the oldest brother because their father was deceased.  I have read lots of books and seen many movies when the brother was the head of the family and had to give permission to court, but I don't ever remember a plot where the brother made a marriage arrangement for his sister without her knowledge and to a complete stranger.  As I read though the book, I couldn't help but consider how a young woman would feel when thrown into this situation without any input or choice.  Where she was simply told that she would be getting married within a month and that she should be grateful.


His Disinclined Bride

Katherine "Kitty" Stokes was quite content living in her brother's home with him, his wife, their children and her younger brother.  She was quite close to her youngest brother and doted on her niece and nephews.  However, her serenity was shattered the day her brother informed her that she would be marrying Lord Hayworth in a month and would move to his estate several hours away.

 His Disinclined BrideCheck PriceLord Phineas Hayworth was tired of living under his father's thumb, helping to manage his estates.  When it came to choosing a wife, he did not want his parents dictating the choice.  Because his maternal grandmother had left him her estate, he wanted to marry, move to that estate, and take control of his own life.  He would continue to help his father with the other property, but he needed the distance from his parents that the Giddenhall estate offered.  He didn't know anyone he wished to marry so he told his man of business to investigate potential brides and make a business arrangement for him.  Phineas needed money to restore and maintain the Giddenhall estate in Castle Combe.  A bride's dowry would be the perfect way to obtain a large amount of money quickly.

Erasmus Stokes was thrilled with the opportunity to buy an alliance with a future Earl.  He was willing to pay a high price for such an arrangement.  He knew his association with a high standing member of the peerage would advance his business.  His shipping company was already extremely successful and he was admired by other businessmen, but he wanted to be able to claim family ties with Lord Hayworth.

Stokes and Hayworth entered into an agreement before Kitty even knew there was any consideration of such an arrangement that would dictate the rest of her life.  When she objected, her brother made it perfectly clear that she would do as he said, and that she should be grateful for such an arrangement.  After all, he could have chosen to send her out to be a governess or a companion.  As far as he was concerned, this arrangement served all three of them well.

Kitty was considered an inadequate, perhaps unrefined, bride choice by Lord Hayworth's parents and the peerage.  Even the servants of Giddenhall did not treat her with the respect due to Lady Hayworth (her new title by marriage).  Plus, the stable manager considered himself her equal and pursued her for a romantic relationship.

How would she ever find happiness again?  You will have to read the book to find out!


Previously Reviewed from the Seasons of Change Series

Books by Jennie Goutet Previously Reviewed on

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Saturday, September 30, 2023

Book Review of Relentless, a Dean Koontz Novel


Relentless, published in 2009, is a completely compelling suspense thriller that is fearless and funny.

An image of a galaxy in space

Synopsis of 'Relentless'

Relentless Book Cover
Cullen Greenwich, known as “Cubby” is a successful and happy man. He is a bestselling novelist and knows how lucky he is to be making a living doing what he enjoys.  The love of his life is his wife, Penny, a children's book author and illustrator. Together, Penny & Cubby have a brilliant six-year-old son, Milo (affectionately called 'Spooky' for his genius abilities in math and science), and an unusual non-collie puppy Milo insisted on naming Lassie. 

Life in the  Greenwich household is happy and serene until Cubby receives a bad review on his otherwise well-received newest book. The bad review is penned by a much feared and seldom seen critic Shearman Waxx.  Cubby knows he should ignore the review, Penny & Milo know this; even Lassie knows. And he plans to do just that. Then he happens to learn where Shearman Waxx is taking his lunch and Cubby wants to just get a look at this mysterious recluse whose mere opinion seems to affect careers, and maybe even a life.

But Waxx isn't what anyone would expect and what seemed to be an innocent encounter turns into an escalating terror. It seems Waxx gives criticism but doesn't take it and he has ways of dealing with those who cross him. Soon Cubby and his family find themselves desperately struggling against a relentless sociopath and on the run for their lives.


In Relentless, Dean Koontz brings us another unforgettable tale involving evil, fate, and the power of love.  You will be cheering for Cubby, Penny, Milo and Lassie and their extended family and friends as they set out to free themselves from the force that is Shearman Waxx. 

Relentless, a Dean Koontz Novel Book Cover
Relentless, available on Amazon
in several formats

For Several More Dean Koontz Book Reviews, 

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*Book Review of Relentless written by Wednesday Elf

Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”

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