Marji Laine

I Love a Good Mystery!


Book Review – Peril (And A TREAT!)

I spent the most delightful weekend with my girls, chilling and reading a book that I’d wanted to read for some time. Peril, by Suzanne Hartmann had a delicious mystery mixed with suspense, and a setting that I drool over: NASCAR races!

From the back cover: Continue reading


Interview with Historical Romance Author Keli Gwyn

I’m delighted to have Keli Gwyn visiting today. Her debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California has become one of mine and Precious Redhead’s favorites. There’s nothing better than finding a book you can share with your daughters, but I’ll expound on that another time. You can find my review of Keli’s book HERE. Continue reading


Historical Romance at its Best!

I stayed up way too late last night finishing debut author, Keli Gwyn’s, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California. What a delightful story; three crying opportunities! LOL!

This book is propelled by its characters. And such characters! A widow/single mom with bull-dozing determination insists on proving her capabilities. A fastidious widower harboring a guilt-filled secret refuses to revisit the vulnerable position in which affection places him. An adoring mother whose meddling ways instigate complicated interaction. A talkative nine-year-old with the sincerity and wonder of one much younger, but the intellect and daring of one much older.

A Bride Opens Shop follows Elenora Watkins to the rather new California town of El Dorado where she finds disappointment, unwarranted suspicion, and discrimination. Rather than allowing the attitudes to defeat her, Elenora used them to strengthen her resolve to prove to the townspeople, and maybe more to herself, that she has the capabilities to accomplish her goal.

What I loved most about this book was the consistency of the characters. Not that they remain the same, both main characters complete a satisfying arc. But as they adjust and redirect, they stayed true to their personalities. For example, only a desperate emergency would persuade the always well-dressed Miles Rutledge to disregard his appearance.

In fact, Elenora stays so true to her character, she builds up regrets about it. I must say, during a special contest, I had hopes that she would step down rather than risk injury to someone else, but true to form, she can’t seem to shrink from a challenge.

These people seemed so real in their reactions, they make the reading easy, the changes believable, and the story an absolute gold mine, worthy of the name El Dorado! Five hearts! ♥♥♥♥♥

From her bio: Keli Gwyn writes stories that transport readers to the 1800s, where she brings historic towns to life, peoples them with colorful characters, and adds a hint of humor. A California native, she lives in the Gold Rush-era town of Placerville at the foot of the majestic Sierra Nevada Mountains. Her debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, set in the heart of the Gold Country where she lives is currently available.

When Keli’s fingers aren’t hovering over the keyboard of her newfangled laptop, she enjoys strolling past stately Victorian houses in her historic town, burying her nose in reference books as she unearths interesting facts to include in her stories, and interacting with other romance readers. Her favorite places to visit are her fictional worlds, the Coach factory outlet store, and Taco Bell.

Website and Social Media Links

Website –
Facebook Timeline –
Facebook Page –
Twitter –!/KeliGwyn
Goodreads –
Title: A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California

The story is a sweet romance with hints of humor that readers of Margaret Brownley, Erica Vetsch, or Karen Witemeyer’s work might enjoy.

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!


Review – Wildflowers from Winter

I had a lovely time this summer reading books til I turned purple. Okay not quite. But I did read several books. I didn’t review all of them, but for a while, book reviews were a weekly event at my blog. I’ve compiled those reviews on my new page, For Readers. Hope you enjoy browsing!

And in that same spirit, I’m utilizing my A2Z Blog hop article to share a Review of a new favorite!


Wildflowers from Winter: A Novel

Wildflowers from Winter: A Novel by Katie Ganshert
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Halfway through this book, I stopped and told my daughter, “Katie Ganshert is Michelangelo with words.”

I’m in total awe! Her main character, Bethany Quinn, is terribly realistic. I say terribly because she alternates between sweet and self-absorbed. She proves easy to identify with (I hate to admit) but not always easy to like. Her personal agendas and hidden pain provide many of the conflicts in the story.

But those same flaws make her real. Keep her true to her character throughout the story. And though the story, for the most part, is told in third-person, Ganshert’s delve into 1st person flashbacks are masterful. The connection to Bethany Quinn strengthens as each layer rolled back.

The hero with a past, Evan Price gives a good balance to Bethany, but I really connect with her best friend, Robin, and look forward to reading more about her – hopefully in future books!

I’ve found a new favorite author and can’t wait to keep reading!

Wildflowers From Winter is available TODAY! Celebrate it’s premiere by ordering your own copy!

Barnes & Noble
Books a Million
Parable Christian Stores
Powell’s Books
Random House

Special thanks to the author for an advanced copy for an impartial review!

View all my reviews on Goodreads

Off on Mondays

I’m still getting used to staying off my blog on Mondays. I can’t help it; I miss the interaction when I’m not spending time with y’all. So I’m just popping by to let you know that I’m planning to review Wildflowers from Winter tomorrow. The book is available for pre-order today, but tomorrow … Yea! … it launches!


Blogger vs. WordPress

I’ve worked on Blogger for several years. For the last 8 months, I’ve been faithfully posting daily blogs and before that, I kept up a weekly scrapbooking blog. I thought I knew Blogger pretty well, but I learned a lot this weekend when I asked folks which they preferred.

I got feed back from all sorts, many of whom had used both. Only one
of them preferred Blogger over WordPress. I was so surprised! Here’s what I’ve learned:

Blogger is hard to comment on. I had no idea! But then I’ve had a Blogger blog for about 6 years. It’s easy for the Blogspot bloggers. From what I understand, though, it’s hard for everyone else. WordPress is fairly easy for a commentator using google profile, but I’ve been hearing that Blogger requires filling out an email with every comment. I’ve visited other sites like that – most annoying! Especially if I’m in a time constraint. Since I’m blogging to entertain others, that last thing I want to do is make it hard on them to chat back! NO BRAINER!

WordPress detailed designs come with a price tag. Blah. I’m not bringing anything in at the moment, so it’s pretty hard for me to justify spending money. Any money! But if I do, I want the cash to be well-spent. Paying to be able to choose a more detailed design or add CSS or change to fancy fonts is out of the question. I am a perfectionist, but I’ll deal with it. I might have been swayed if I had the option of changing font colors. I had to start from scratch more than once when the font colors and tab backgrounds didn’t match my header and background color. I ended up spending several hours making a full background image with the header embedded. I hope I’m done with that, but I’m not really satisfied yet, so I bet I’ll be adjusting more. STRIKE AGAINST SWITCHING!

Blogger offers more control over my site. I can adjust the margins – that’s huge to me. I can change font colors and styles on everything as well as the backgrounds for those fonts. I have the power to choose what data is included in my posts – name, date, links, etc. And I can work in the html side to make sure I get things just like I want them. It also offers a dynamic view of the content. I particularly like the mosaic for one of the pages I wanted to do. With Blogger, I can use the Mosaic instead of a drop-down menu. I’m leaning back the other way. LOVE THAT! Oh, wait. It won’t set that up under my header. Instead it eliminates my header completely along with my color scheme! Well that won’t work! And I have to recreate my header again. LEANING TOWARD WORDPRESS AGAIN.

Blogger has a following feature that shows me the faces of people who have followed my blog. I really like that because I will email those folks when they join with a personal thank-you. The only following I see on WordPress is the email following. Not nearly as personal from my side, but then it’s not about me. I do like the fact that I can track visits with WordPress along with page views. With Blogger, I could only view page views and couldn’t get a really strong vision for how many different people wandered over. And with that, I’d heard that WordPress blogs were easier to find by the tags in a search engine. Not sure that it’s true, but I had some new, and unexpected, visits from folks when I exported my Blogger articles over there. WAVERING.

WordPress allows for multiple pages that can link together in a website-type menu. Blogspot limited the pages to five when I first got on, but they seem to allow an unlimited number at this point. But there’s a difference. On Blogspot, while I can make as many pages as I want, only five will show up in the tabs. The others are hidden in a second row. I could probably change it in CSS, but I’m not really good with that, yet. In WordPress, I’m not only allowed unlimited pages, they’ll set up in multiple rows under my header. And a biggie for me is that I can nest the pages under parent pages to keep things together in one category. Add to that the ability to add a shopping link, when my books reach the publishing stage, and I’ll be set! PRICELESS!

This pushed me over the edge, proving my decision-maker to start moving over to WordPress. For now, a duplicate site is set up. Hope you come by and say Hi!


News. Reviews. Previews.

I had so much fun planning this week. I’ve got some new blog ideas and am actually considering moving my blog over to WordPress instead of keeping it here at Blogger. Have any of you done that? I’d love to hear your advice on the matter!

So I’ve got these new things that I’m so pumped about sharing. But I want to

wait to make it all just right before I do a grand opening! So excited!

Speaking of excited, did you notice the change in the header. I promise the picture that was there before was only a half-dozen years old, but it made me look much younger. So this one is only a few months old. My dinky twinky did a great job on it! (BTW, Dinky Twinkies is code for my twin girls. thus Dinky Twinky would be a single.) Precious Redhead said it made me look mysterious. I would be flattered except that yesterday she said my grin made me look constipated. I think I’ll go looking for compliments elsewhere – just sayin’. 🙂

This weekender will offer:

  • Some great blog articles from authors including Staci Stallings, Jody Hedlund, David Walker, and Julie Cantrell.
  • Last week’s blog review
  • ROW80 Update
  • Next Week’s Blog Expectations


I’m getting better at visiting blogs, this week. Of course with my Grace Readers’ Weekly, I don’t have to rely only on my own blog touring. Some Twitter buddies offer their favorites as well.


Last Monday, I got to share the Best Almost Kiss winner at the Clash of the Titles. I’m enjoying being part of their blog Alliance every other week. On Tuesday, I shared about my boy’s rugby team at the University of Texas at Dallas in G is for Grrrrr! Highs and lows and how to live through them was my topic on Wednesday with another ROW80 update. Then I shared all I’ve learned about writing a Synopsis on Thursday. An interview with author and missionary Zeke Lam rounded out the week with a discussion of his book, Submission. Please visit the links here if you missed one of the articles!

ROW80 Update

Like I said, I’m inspired. I’ve written about 5k in a new story and am in the process of laying it out. I’ve taken two of my other stories, along with a serial I wrote using one of the characters, and am in the process of weaving the serial into my second story to connect them in a series. This third one that I’m writing now will complete the set and I’m really excited how things are going with it.

I got better at blog visiting, started on Pinterest (I’m totally addicted!), began tweeting more regularly, and set up some new surprises for later. Oh and I also played volleyball for an hour and a half! So sore after sitting around for 2 weeks! Now if I could just get off of potatoes again!


I think my plans may change, but for right now, I’m planning to Review a brand new book by debut author Bonnie S. Calhoun on Monday. On Tuesday, I’ll be highlighting the letter H. Hmmmmmm. I’ll have another ROW80 update on Wednesday, along with an inspirational article about life and writing. On Thursday, I’ll be chatting about learning styles and how they affect adults as much as kids. Then Friday will hold an interview with Author Fay Lamb.

Hope you’ve had a productive week and will have a delightful weekend. I’m going to watch my Dear Boy beat up on the UT of San Antonio for the Texas State Rugby Championship! (That’s the way I’ve pictured it in my head anyway.)

Your Turn: Have you blogged with both Blogger and WordPress? Which do you prefer? Do you think I should switch to WordPress?


News. Previews. Reviews. And God is GOOD!

What an awesome week! I feel like a new woman. Seriously! After coughing my head off for a solid week, I get by with only about one to two coughs per hour and I’m finally able to sleep all night without interruption. Yippee! (Little things tickle the tar out of me!)

But there is more to cheer about.
God is so good! His faithfulness never quits! I’m in awe. Several connections, family members and family of friends have had intensive situations, surgeries or illnesses. In every case, God not only gave His blessings but showered exceeding abundant on the families. I love it when I can see His intentions and watch Him work in the lives of people I love.

What a great week!

This weekender has:

I love being able to put together this newspaper. I collect and search through hundreds of posts to find the ones I like the best for my headlines. Check them out!

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Inspired by other blogs and my F post I started my week with a post explaining what Faith-Driven Fiction means to me. I followed it up on Tuesday with a post about my family – they’re what I’m mostly about. On Wednesday, I continued my Monday post with an article on Purpose along with my ROW80 mid-week review. Thursday I skewed from my normal writing tip and posted about Holiness. The song by Sonic Flood has been churning through my head for days! Then I rounded out the week with an interview with a debut novelist from Saint Lucia who writes Christian Thrillers.
I’m so excited! I got a brand new idea last night and have been tapping away at the keyboard all day. Do writers really have to sleep? This new story pumps me up and drives me to my keyboard at every opportunity. Needless to say, I’m blasting my ROW80 writing goals off the charts.
Surprisingly, I’m also keeping my balance well. In fact, I’m able to spend more and more time with my sweet hubby and kids. (Can’t wait to go watch my boy in a Rugby match this weekend. Pictures to come!) The only thing I’m still working on is visiting other blogs. I’m visiting weekly, but not often seeking out new blogs to read. Oh, and now that my cough is subsiding, I need to get back to my exercise.
I’m adding a new goal. I have several books that I wanted to read before their debut. I WILL find a way to get those read. (Four in all) I want to have at least one of those read before March 1st.
Monday’s post will hold the latest winners for Almost Kiss at Clash of the Titles. What a fiery excerpt! On Tuesday, is my post for Patty Wysong’s A2Z blog hop. This week the letter is G, and my post is … well … unique to say the least. My ROW80 update will detail where I am on my writing goals on Wednesday. Synopsis writing earns the highlight on Thursday. I’m told that is the hardest writing I’ll do. On Friday, I’ll be hosting author and founder of Submission Ministries, Zeke Lam. This guy is amazing! By all means come back next week!

So what did you do this week and what are you looking forward to?


News. Previews. Reviews.

I read some great articles this week – well what else could I do? Stuck in bed, I couldn’t focus enough to write very much, so I read through blogs. Thomas Umstattd never ceases to amaze me! I know that I my little corner of the internet isn’t very crowded, but his suggestions always hit home with me. Logical, reliable, and reasonably within my grasp of understanding. Well, mostly. His information

certainly started me thinking about my blog and my marketing. Writing a great story is only part of the job of an author. Each one must also draw readers before the book ever hits the market.

One thing Thomas Umstattd said in his article is that over half of the books that are published lose money. There’s just something embedded in me. I hate to waste anyone’s time, and bend over backward to avoid making extra work for anyone else. And the thought of losing someone money? Well, that isn’t going to be me. That means I need to improve my blog now.

I’m hoping that my posts will tickle you and that you’ll share them on Twitter or Facebook. I also love to visit the folks who leave comments!

This weekender holds:

  • Awesome articles hand-picked by me!
  • Preview of next week’s blog posts.
  • Review of my best from last week.
  • ROW80 Update

Great Articles of Grace and Writing!

Next week …

… I’m really looking forward to reviewing a juicy mystery, but it’s going to have to wait. Since Valentine’s day is on Tuesday, I have a special post for then and my F entry for the Patty Wysong’s A2Z blog on Monday. Yeah, you’ll probably figure it out that they both start with F, so it was worth doing them at the same time. On Wednesday, I’ll post my ROW80 update and some musings about the journey. Thursday’s article will be a Writer’s Tip about Synopsis writing. Yikes! And Friday, Author Joana James visits.

I hope you’ll drop by for a visit!

Last week …

… in case you missed anything, I highlighted the Clash of the Titles Amish winner on Monday and discussed the benefits of an easy button on Tuesday. On Wednesday, I posted my ROW80 update with my top ten reason to stay in bed – yes I used some of them! Thursday‘s Writer’s tip touched on the polishing techniques I’m using for my manuscript, and Friday highlighted author Lee Carver.

ROW80 Update

My weekly expectations were blown to bits with a giant sneeze. Actually, a hundred giant sneezes. but I didn’t waste all of my time. Though the writing of the new story didn’t start, I have been able to set up some in depth details about the plot line and the character arcs. I also enjoyed touring through a multitude of blog articles. I learned a lot. And I have a lot to learn. I think I get freaked out by the techno-stuff. I know enough to scare me, enough to get around but not effectively nor efficiently. I don’t know enough to make a difference or even to know what type of questions I need to ask to improve myself.

Training continues.

So my goals for this week have changed a little. I want to improve my blog articles and interactions on a daily basis.

My second goal – or perhaps my first priority – is to complete the entry that I plan for a coming contest. I don’t want to blow this off, though I’m tempted to. My expectations are low, but I’m still searching for suggestions for improvements.

If I can complete those two tasks in my busy week, I’ll dance right out into the street – cold or no cold!

Your Turn: What are your weekend plans?