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Read and Review (R&R) – The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

A good friend of mine recommended, “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.” It is South Fayette Library’s community read this month. I decided to read it, and I am glad I did. This book warmed my heart.

A sweet story about second chances.

Recently retired, Harold Fry has lived a life full of missed connections and poorly communicated emotions, but that is about to change when he receives a letter from a former co‑worker, Queeney Hennessy.

A quiet man in his later years, Harold cannot find the words to express to Queenie how he feels when he reads the letter. Queenie has cancer and it is terminal. Harold jots down a few quick words of encouragement on her cancer illness and impending death and heads to the mailbox to mail it. He gets to the first box and cannot bring himself to put the letter in the mail, so he walks on to the second, and the third. Before Harold knows it, he is making a pilgrimage 600 miles from Kingsbridge to the hospice in Berwick-upon-Tweed dressed in trousers, a shirt, tie, and yachting shoes, with no maps and no cell phone. Harold believes, as long as he walks, Queenie Hennessey will live. Determined that his walk will somehow restore Queenie to health, he walks on. In doing so, he becomes a beacon of hope to people who are struggling with their own lives and problems.

This story was written in 2012 but the principles remain a true testament to the human spirit.

As Harold walks, he meets people who help him understand and restore his faith. He phones the care home where Queenie is being taken care of and tells them to tell her to have faith and stay alive until he arrives from his 600 mile walk.

Back at home, Harold has left behind his wife, Maureen, who is filled with worry that Harold is leaving her. She talks to her son, David and her neighbor who has experienced his own loss of his wife.

This unforgettable novel provides insight into the thoughts and feelings we all have in our hearts.

Written by Rachel Joyce this was her debut novel and she was awarded the “New Writer of the Year” award by the National Book Awards. It is well-written and allows plenty of food for thought.

Harold Fry manages to prove that you’re never too old to start fresh and make a change.

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Book review fiction mystery reading suspense Uncategorized

Read & Review (R&R) – “Dead Man’s Leap” by Tina de Bellegarde

It’s another intriguing and suspense-filled, character-driven mystery for Agatha Award nominee, Tina de Bellegarde. In her latest mystery, “Dead Man’s Leap,” the flood waters are washing away more than material possessions. In the tiny town of Batavia-on-Hudson, relationships are put to the test, a dead body, bones and long-buried secrets from the past all threaten to alter the quaint village life.

This is the author’s 2nd book of her series “Batavia -on Hudson Mystery,” and while it is not necessary to read her first book “Winter Witness,” it is helpful as you are familiar with the characters.

Her main character, Bianca St. Denis is teaming up again with Sheriff Mike Riley to solve the mystery. De Bellegarde vividly sets the scene, beautifully portrays love and loss and writes characters that jump off the page and into her reader’s hearts. I am looking forward to reading the next Bativa-on-Hudson Mystery.

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Book review crime fiction mystery psychological thriller reading suspense thriller Uncategorized

Read and Review (R&R) “Survive the Night” by Riley Sager

Riley Sager weaves a masterful tale of psychological suspense.

When Charlie’s parents are killed in a car accident, she turns to movies as a way of escaping real life. At college, Charlie becomes best friends with Maddy. But, one horrific night changes everything. Maddy has been killed by the “Campus Killer.” A serial killer who has killed three times before. Charlie can’t get over Maddy’s death and decides to leave campus before Thanksgiving accepting a ride from a male stranger who she meets at the ride-share board. As their ride ensues, Charlie begins to doubt the sincerity of the man. Could he be the campus killer or is her mistrust a figment of her movie-fueled imagination?

This book takes place in the 1990’s, when pay phones were the only way to check in with someone or call for help. No cell phones, no texting. The premise of a girl getting into a car with a stranger and things going wrong is nothing new and Sager presents it with a road trip story that is filled with twisted, unbelievable characters. To Riley Sager’s credit, I couldn’t put it down. It kept me on the edge of my seat with tension, intense emotion, and danger around every turn. I had to find out – would the campus killer be revealed? What would happen to Charlie?

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Book review crime fiction mystery reading suspense thriller Uncategorized

Read and Review (R&R) – “Not a Happy Family,” by Shari Lapena

“Not a Happy Family”
By Shari Lapena

Normally, I write my own brief synopsis on the books I’ve read, but this synopsis on Goodreads of “Not a Happy Family,” by Shari Lapena, says it all!

In this family, everyone is keeping secrets–especially the dead. Brecken Hill in upstate New York is an expensive place to live. You have to be rich to have a house there. And they don’t come much richer than Fred and Sheila Merton. But even all their money can’t protect them when a killer comes to call. The Mertons are brutally murdered the night after an Easter Dinner with their three adult kids. Who, of course, are devastated.

Or are they? They each stand to inherit millions. They were never a happy family, thanks to their capricious father and neglectful mother, but perhaps one of them is more disturbed than anyone knew. Did one of them snap after that dreadful evening? Or was it someone else that night who crept in with the worst of intentions? It must be. After all, if one of your siblings could do something this gruesome, you’d know.

Wouldn’t you?

From a reader/writer’s standpoint, I loved the quick, easy read chapters which switch from one POV to another. Shari Lapena does a great job of creating a rivetingly good book where everyone is a suspect and could have a motive. “Not a Happy Family” is full of deceit, troubled siblings, rivalry, and greed.

A binge-worthy book!

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Book review crime fiction mystery reading suspense thriller Uncategorized

Read and Review (R&R) – “The Redemption,” by C.L. Tolbert

The Redemption
By C.L. Tolbert

A suspenseful legal thriller!

Emma Thornton, a law professor in New Orleans is one tough woman. When two men are murdered on the grounds of the Redemption housing projects, she and her law students mount a defense case.

Louis Bishop is a 16-year-old boy, who grew up hard and fast in the housing development. He is charged with the crimes as an adult and incarcerated with violent adult offenders. Emma takes on a gang, guns, and corruption in the police force to defend him against the potential of a death penalty verdict.

The story is set in a seedy area of New Orleans where the cousin of the accused runs the show and everyone is afraid to talk. As the murders of witnesses who have spoken to Emma began to pile up, she knows she and her family are in the crosshairs, but she won’t stop until there is justice.

I wasn’t surprised to find out the author was a retired attorney. She wove the law, the court system and police procedure throughout the book seamlessly.

Kudos to CL Tolbert for creating such unique characters and plot line. The story is rich with vivid descriptions of New Orleans, secrets, twists, turns, and a developing romance.

I enjoyed reading this well-written, action-packed story.

I only have one question for the author – There was a lot of foreshadowing about a man referred to as “Ninja,” and I kept waiting for him to appear. Will he appear in a future Emma Thornton mystery?

I purchased this book after hearing the author speak on a Zoom event conducted by my local independent bookstore, Mystery Lovers in Oakmont, Pennsylvania. This is the second book in the Thornton Mystery Series, but can be read as a stand-alone. I hadn’t read the first book entitled “Out of Silence,” but I will be sure to pick it up now.

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Book review fiction history mystery reading suspense Uncategorized

Read and Review (R&R) – “The Lost Apothecary” by Sarah Penner

The Lost Apothecary
By Sarah Penner

I am a fan of historical fiction and when I read the synopsis of this book, it immediately caught my interest.

A female apothecary in 1791 dispenses poisons to women to liberate the women from the men who have wronged them.

During this time period, a woman could do little to remedy a horrible situation. That is where Nella, the apothecary came in handy. Her shop of poison remedies is discretely hidden in Bear Alley, a back street in London.

This story is written in first person and goes back and forth between three POVs:
Nella, the apothecary who dispenses the poisons;
Eliza, a twelve year old lady’s maid who comes to Nella’s shop seeking assistance for her mistress; and
Caroline, a present day woman traveling to London on her 10th wedding anniversary. Her plans and dreams however are ruined by the infidelity of her husband shortly before the trip causing Caroline to take a soul searching journey to London alone.

When Caroline is invited to go mudlarking (scrounging for treasures along the shoreline) of the Thames’ River, and discovers an old vial with a bear logo scratched into the bottle, the past and present collide.

I enjoyed this book and found the old natural remedies fascinating. Sarah Penner did a wonderful job of creating in her characters a likeability that I found myself rooting on even the apothecary, Nella.

Filled with mystery, murder, betrayal, heartache, and lost dreams, “The Lost Apothecary” is Sarah Penner’s debut novel and a New York Times Bestseller.

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Book review fiction mystery reading suspense Uncategorized

Read and Review (R&R) – Potluck and Pandemonium by S.C. Merritt

Potluck and Pandemonium

by S.C. Merritt

I won this book through a drawing held by Kim Heniadis in the Cozy Mystery Launch Party. This story came out in 2019 and there have been five books by S.C. Merritt in the Sweetwater Springs Southern Mysteries since then.

There is a prologue giving the background on Glory Harper, her late husband, and how she and her daughter Macy came back to Alabama. Because of this, I wondered if any of her husband’s past would play into the mystery, but it didn’t. At first, I assumed it was put there to show how she loves solving mysteries. But, now I am thinking that perhaps, in a future book in the series, I will find out the truth behind her mysterious husband’s life and death.

The story really heats up with a “Decoration Day” service at church where Glory discovers the dead body of J.R. Jenkins. When the murder weapon turns out to be Glory’s engraved letter opener, she finds herself on the top of the suspect list. Her brother, Jake, a detective on the local police force knows Glory’s love of mysteries. He makes her promise she won’t involve herself in the investigation. But, Glory simply cannot sit idly by. With the help of Momma, she is determined to solve the mystery and track down the killer before another dead body is found.

The town of Sweetwater Springs if very southern and charming. I loved the cast of characters that Glory meets and learning some of the southern traditions.

With more than a few suspects with motive and opportunity to kill J.R., the story and plot flowed nicely and kept me guessing at the killer.

Throughout the book there are light touches on faith and religion which I thought enhanced the story.

Macy starting a bakery is a nice subplot and leads room in future stories for her character development.

And, did I mention, there are some great recipes at the end of the book!

I would love to hear your comments. Have you read this book? Are you going to read this or any of the other Sweetwater mysteries after my review?

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Book review crime fiction mystery reading suspense Uncategorized

Read and Review (R&R) – “Winter Witness” – By Tina DeBellegarde

Winter Witness

By Tina DeBellegarde

Are you looking for a great fall read? “Winter Witness” is an intriguing, page-turning mystery.

Tina DeBellegarde’s writing shines in her first mystery novel. Her setting comes alive on the page, her plot is intriguing, and her characters so well-written. Small town life with characters who on the outside seem like everyday folks.

This is a story about a grieving widow who is considered a “outsider” in the small Catskill Mountain town of Batavia-on-Hudson.

The town of Bativia and its “locals” secrets are revealed with the death of an elderly loved nun and her closest friend, the local historian, that the villagers “loved to hate.”

The main character, Bianca, becomes intwined in solving the mystery and also in the troubled marriage of Sheriff Mike.

If you want to hear her first chapter read by Hank Phillippi Ryan, check out First Chapter Fun. Tina’s book was read on September 2nd.

Such a great story! I am hoping for another Bativia-on-Hudson mystery.

Categories
Book review cozy mysteries fiction mystery reading Uncategorized writing

Read and Review (R&R) – “Punning with Scissors”

I was lucky and won a copy of “Punning with Scissors.” Becky Clark’s second book in her Crossword Puzzle Mystery series.

I call this book an “I can’t wait to see what happens next, whodunit!” A great read filled with puns and humor. It is an entertaining, page-turning cozy mystery with loads of suspects and a quirky cast of characters.

Quinn Carr works at the Chestnut Station diner and writes crossword puzzles for the Chestnut Station Chronicle. When the newest member of the “Retireds,” Hugh Pugh, is arrested for the murder of his husband, Quinn is determined to prove his innocence. She enlists the help of her police officer friend, Rico, and drops clues to the police chief in her crossword puzzles.

I hadn’t read the first book, “Puzzling Ink,” in her Crossword Puzzle Mystery series, so I was unfamiliar with this fun cast of characters. I especially loved the dog’s name “Virginia Woof,” his owner’s name “Hugh Pugh,” the back-and-forth prattle between the Retireds, the Chestnut Station diner, and its owner, Jake. Rico’s inability to tell a fib is an amusing character trait that is sure to bring lots of laughs in future stories.

This author did an excellent job of world-building and bringing to light the severity of true OCD. Quinn is a very interesting protagonist. I am looking forward to reading Becky Clark’s next book in this series. Will more than friendship develop between Quinn and Rico?

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Book review crime fiction mystery reading suspense Uncategorized writing

Read and Review (R&R)


I was so fortunate to receive an ARC copy of “Harm Not the Earth.” This is Liz Milliron fourth book in her Laurel Highland Mystery series set in beautiful Western Pennsylvania involving Sally Castle, a public defender, and Jim Duncan, a state trooper.

In “Harm Not the Earth,” two experienced outdoorsmen from an environmental group are found dead in the Casselman River. Jim and Sally both feel this was no accident, but Jim’s resources to investigate are limited as this is out of his jurisdiction. Never one to back down and both displaying resolve and ingenuity, Jim sets out to find the killer while Sally takes on the case of protecting an abused woman intertwined with the murders. Their personal lives become a bit more tangled however, when presented with new job opportunities. During the course of their investigations, they must be careful not to ruin their solid and growing relationship. But, can a public defender and a state trooper stay committed to their careers and each other?

Liz Milliron expertly introduces the characters, and the scenic landscape of Southwestern, PA. Then, ride along shotgun, as one by one she systematically examines each lead and ticks down the suspects. In her typical style, the reader feels the action and the characters come alive on the page.

Another great read in the Laurel Highland Mystery series!