Marji Laine

I Love a Good Mystery!

3 Reasons for Reading Satisfaction

I just finished Nipped in the Bud a cozy mystery by Susan Sleeman. The first of a series. I love a new series. They keep me coming back and I will definitely pick up Susan’s second book, Read Between the Tines.

This cozy didn’t come close to a “can’t-put-down” book, but it proved a lovely distraction. In analyzing this story, I found 3 main reasons that I enjoyed it.

Lightheartedness – This story does not take itself seriously. I mean the main character, whose mom was a librarian, is named Paige Turner. (And if you don’t like puns, don’t bother!) Each chapter begins with a clip from Paige’s Through the Garden Gate” radio show. Now I’m betting that one or two of those clips found inspiration in real callers to some program, but most of them became variations on a theme. I also enjoyed the way Paige Turner compares everyone to different types of plants. Insightful to the reader and the cleverness of the auther is downright inspiring to the writer in me!

Twists and Turns – Ms. Sleeman wove together a compelling mystery with several redirections, red-herrings included. Paige determines to fight all obstacles to learn who killed a “pillar” of her small community. Especially when she’s blamed for the murder. The fact that I suspected the murderer at the beginning annoyed me, but didn’t remove the delight of uncovering the fun paths that Paige’s journey took me on.

Quirks – Paige desires total control over every aspect of her life. No wonder she’s still single in her mid-thirties. She’s funny, honest, and flirtatious. In fact, Ms. Sleeman wrote Paige so carefully, that I could easily perceive her personality. But I didn’t like her very much. Headstrong and unwise, at times she behaved like an old woman. At others, like a child. She had school-girl reactions to a handsome stranger and made choices and decisions that weren’t just poor, they bordered on ridiculous. And I would hate to learn what type of plant she’d compare me to!

As to the comparison, though enlightening, for many of the characters it proved the only hint to their personality. Not even the hero was developed into a living person. Maybe the first-person point of view of the story hindered character development, but everyone seemed terribly shallow.

Also lacking depth was the spiritual aspect of the story. The author set up a great opportunity with Paige’s controlling personality, but all mentions of God and faith floated along the surface.

I think I’ve mentioned before how easily I cry, especially with a sincere moment of brokeness before God, whether in worship or reading a story. I longed for that moment in this book and it never came. Almost as though the spiritual aspect of the story was an after-thought.

♥♥♥1/2♥  All in all, I truly enjoyed Nipped in the Bud and look forward to the next segment of Paige’s life in Reading Between the Tines. And looking at Susan Sleeman’s website, I see several others that I’m going to read as well!

Your turn: Do you read mysteries or suspense? What elements must they have to capture your favor?

By the way, I have a whole page of books I’ve reviewed over the last year. Please stop by as you’ll likely find a gem!

Author Interview with Philip M. Bryant

Philip M. Bryant is my guest this week. His historical novel, They Met At Shiloh is available for only $1.99 at The following is a description of his book from his website:

Pittsburg Landing was a place at peace—one that never expected to be the site for one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. Peace is shattered as Confederate and Federal troops meet on the fields and farms surrounding a tiny Methodist church. In the midst of death and destruction, friendships form as four soldiers struggle to survive the battle.
Forced to leave his position as minister, Phillip Pearson knows his life is in danger, but not just from the Confederates. The Harper family, incensed at Pearson’s

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Review – Songbird Under a German Moon

I'm really not a historical fiction reader. Really. Not. And yet, there's just something that keeps drawing me to them. Maybe I'm a closet historical fiction lover. (Or would that be a wardrobe historical fiction lover?) Either way, another one has captured my heart!

Tricia Goyer's book Songbird Under a German Moon not only delighted me with it's spunky characters of the 1940s, but the story intrigued me with a pressing mystery that kept me guessing. Set in a small German town with a rich heritage, the story surrounds a USO group performing for the area soldiers.

Betty Lake is a new singer on the tour. Dubbed "Songbird" by the manager, she's a showstopper that threatens the standing of the "real star" of the group. Being assigned to share a room with the woman
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Cowboy Up! A New Book Review

Back Story on this Review: I have to admit, it was the third “indie” book that I picked up to read.  Most of the time, I’ll push through and read a book if it is remotely interesting, but I couldn’t bear to waste my time with the others. The first one didn’t interest me. The second one seemed to make all of the “first-time author mistakes” that I’ve read about on blogs. After wading through pages of back story and unimportant details, I was beyond bored and couldn’t force myself to continue. 

I won’t review those books. First, I hate to be negative. I know the authors have poured their very soul into their literary babies and I wouldn’t want to hurt anyone. Second, I couldn’t do a review justice since I didn’t finish the books. 

Pet Peeve Alert: I’ve read several reviews in Amazon and Barnes & Noble where the writers admit that they never finished the books but gave them horrible ratings and ranted through their reviews. I just don’t think that’s fair. If I don’t read a whole book, how do I review it? Simple answer is – I don’t. 

So when I picked up Cowboy, my opinion was already a negative color. Another “indie” book set my standard pretty low since I had few positive experiences with them. I needn’t have worried. 🙂

Staci Stallings has two books out in her Harmony series. I read the first of them, Cowboy, and was so delighted with it. 

Ms. Stallings drew together an emotional romance and a moving story of new-found faith. I enjoyed getting a peek into the world of country music. Her lyrics and song titles seemed so natural, I could Continue reading

Dateline: Nashville …

News From Nashville & Beyond

(Transcribed from a television interview with "The Music Plays… World Tour" featuring opening solo artist Kalin Lane and headliner Ashton Raines, both accompanied by their wives, Beth Raines and Danae Lane.) 
N&B: First of all, welcome to you all. Thanks for sitting down with us.
Ashton: Thank you for having us.
N&B: Let's start with what it's like to be on a world tour. What cities? What are the crowds like?
Kalin: Well, for me it's been an absolute dream come true. I mean, getting invited to be here with Ashton who, let's face it is the King of Country music right now. Standing on that stage every night, hearing the fans singing my songs, cheering, in all these different countries…. it's truly amazing.
AshtonI have to agree. I stand down there as Kalin's playing, and
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A new genre for me, the military thriller, opens realms of delight. Ronie Kendig’s Firethorn keeps action pouring over each page. The Discarded Heroes series encompasses four books in all. While I’m sure they all share many of the same characters, Firethorn stands alone as its own story.

I admit, I was a little concerned reading book #4 when I hadn’t read any of the others. I shouldn’t have worried. Ms. Kendig makes sure to cover all of the pertinent information about the characters, giving little bite-sized pieces at just the right times.
Shifting between two main story lines and at least 3 other sub-plots, movements are handled expertly. I never felt confused. Never had to turn back to recheck where I’d been. In fact, the stories weave together flawlessly. The varying points of view give insight to the characters, allowing easy understanding what the different people think, and why they take

The characters, men from a black ops team called Nightshade along with their wives, share emotions on a variety of levels. Stress and despair intersperse with determination and confidence along with other reactions. Bringing to light the challenges of our military, Firethorn hints at difficulties that real soldiers and their families go through.

I confess, my experience with thrillers is limited. Those I’ve read, while best-sellers, are from decades ago, so I don’t remember them very well. Firethorn riveted me with the way the chapters open with a simple situation, a conversation or thought-process. Then BAM. Something unexpected shifts or scuttles the plans. Maybe that’s the way they all are? I don’t know, but I like it!

I give Firethorn my coveted five-kiss ranking! The book grabbed me at the first page. The only complaint I had was the length. Not that it was too long, especially for this type of novel. My problem was that it kept me on the edge of my seat, but I couldn’t finish it in one sitting. Bummer! Halfway through I remarked on my Goodreads page:

“Total awe. You can bet I’ll be reading Ronie Kendig again if the ending of this book is anywhere near as good as the beginning and where I am now!”

And fifty pages shy of the end, I noted:

“Eyelids rebelling. Darn. Gonna have to finish tomorrow. Sleep is highly overrated when I’m enjoying a great book!”

For the record, the ending easily matches the middle of the book. In fact, the strings tie up nicely. A very satisfying finish. I laughed. I cried. No, I’m not proud of that, but great fiction affects me!

I received an Advanced Reviewers Copy of this book from the publisher for an honest review, and I’m so glad I did! I might not have chosen this genre on my own. (Although I will now!) But not only did I love Firethorn, I’m convinced that my college-age son, who can’t get enough of XBox battle games, will love the Discarded Heroes series. (He inhales books!) Christmas gift! Yea!


Awesome New Book!

I’m having so much fun reading A Bride’s Portrait of Dodge City, Kansas by author, Erica Vetsch. My own writing has delayed my reading a little, so I’ll have a review by next week, (LOVE the spunky main character!) but for today, I wanted to share all the information that I learned about this historical fiction. I was chomping at the bit to read it!

This summary was taking directly from the author’s website. You can find it HERE.

Quench your craving for good fiction with this wonderfully written Old West adventure. Hoping to leave the shadows of her shady yesteryears behind, Adeline Reid is focusing on her photography career. But when her ex-boyfriend’s compatriot in crime shows up in Dodge City her entire past is threatened by exposure. Can Addie keep her secrets while helping to catch a killer? Deputy Miles Carr’s investigation into a shopkeeper’s murder leads him to Addie’s door. Will his attraction to this female photographer keep him from catching the true culprit? Or will Addie lead him off course in more ways than one?
Deputy Miles Carr has his hands full trying to keep the peace in Dodge City and find a local shopkeeper’s killer. When his inquiries lead him to the door of Addie Reid’s photography studio, he finds himself more than a little distracted. Does this beauty hold the clue to the killer’s identity?

(I swear the model on the cover reminds me of Alyssa Milano, the gal that starred as Tony Danza’s daughter in the sit-com “Who’s the Boss.”) And, for as much as I’ve gotten to read of it, the heroine in the story has some of the same personality traits as Milano’s character, like her strength and willingness to take a risk. I look forward to putting more reading time in!

You can purchase a copy of this great book for yourself at this link for Christian Book Distributors. Come back next week for my review!


Recipe for Romantic Comedy

In anticipation of the second book in this series (Always the Wedding Planner, Never the Bride which releases Friday) I snuggled down with Sandra D. Bricker's Always the Baker, Never the Bride. What an intricate recipe! Character-driven, Ms. Bricker uses a huge helping of irony as her base.

The main character and her family serve as the foundation. Emma Rae is an award-winning baker who can scarcely enjoy tastes of her creations because of diabetes. Not one to let that detail get her down, she applies humor to overcome the rest of her dysfunctions. Her parents hide huge secrets with masks of sophistication and sarcasm. Even her aunt, who provides comic relief, blends ludicrous behavior with sage wisdom.

Into the mix, spreads other unique characters. A gothic-themed BFF, complete with piercings and tattoos provides the spiritual encouragement proving that things aren't always what
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Usually I read over the weekends. With last weeks suggestions I had plenty of fodder for my reviews, but the time got past me.

No, that's not entirely true.

I've been grazing on amazing insight from Award Winning Author, Susan May Warren. I LOVE her books! Not a book this time, but pages of chats and invaluable notes from her My Book Therapy sessions. I investigated suspense, sifted through characterizations and settings, and even dallied with a little romance.

With sparkling eyes and dimpled cheeks, I told my
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Christian Fiction Book Opinions

What to do? Whatto do?
I love doingbook reviews. I’ve learned so much this summer about writing and publishing! Ithas given me a deep respect for the authors who pour their time, energy, andalmost their own blood into the books that I’ve read. But right now, I’m in a quandary.
I try to do myreviews on just released books or those about to be released in order to helpthe authors as much as possible. At this point though, the only books I have inmy e-reader are a little older, so I’m in need of some assistance.
Which of thebooks below have you read and would you recommend it, OR which of these booksare you most interested in learning about? I’ve given a little blurb about eachof them from their back covers.

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