Monday, May 16, 2022

Witches at the Wedding by Alison Golden – Book Review

At last, here is my book review of Witches at the Wedding by Alison Golden.

I'm super happy to be part of Golden's street team to help her promote her books. And that's how I got a free copy of Witches at the Wedding. This has not affected my review in any way whatsoever.

 

Witches at the Wedding by Alison Golden blog banner

Synopsis:

A body in a barn. A secret from the past. Wedding plans can be murder...

Reverend Annabelle Dixon is back! A vicar with a taste for sweets and a nose for crime, Annabelle seems doggedly distracted from her impending wedding to Inspector Nicholls. Much to the dismay of her wedding organizer, Philippa.

Witches at the Wedding by Alison Golden book cover
So when a visiting priest stumbles over a corpse in a cow barn, Annabelle is all too eager to investigate. But when an ancient journal links the victim to a travesty from the past, Annabelle wonders if she’s in over her head. Meanwhile, the inspector has his hands full with potential suspects... And a troubling lack of clues.

Disgruntled laborers, absent relatives, a group of sinister travelers... The list of possible killers seems endless. But when someone burns down Annabelle and Mike’s wedding marquee days before the ceremony, they find themselves in a race against time.

Can Annabelle solve this disturbing crime, and banish her wedding day jitters once and for all, before it’s too late?

Witches at the Wedding is the eighth in a furiously fast-paced, funny new series featuring a young female vicar whose passion and dedication to her parish are matched only by her weakness for cake.

If you like quirky characters, clever puzzles, and a touch of sweet romance, then you’ll love Alison Golden’s deliciously addictive storytelling.

**This series of books are clean cozy mysteries that contain no swearing or graphic descriptions of violence or bedroom activities. There are even recipes in the back!**


Book Review of Witches at the Wedding

Is Annabelle running away from her wedding responsibilities or can't she just pass up another chance to solve a mystery?

Witches at the Wedding marks my 4th read in the Reverend Annabelle Dixon Mystery Series and overall my 9th read (!) for Alison Golden. It is sadly the final book in this fun series.

"Only three days left! And she's barely prepared anything!"

As you can see Witches at the Wedding starts off strong with the third person view of Philipa, Annabelle's and the Upton St. Mary Church's cook.

In this final book in the Reverend Annabelle Dixon Mystery Series, Annabelle has accepted Inspector Mike Nicholls' marriage proposal and they're due to get married. In three days!

And if you're wondering if Annabelle manages to land herself in a mystery within those three days… then you're right! She does!

"It's a strange case. Nothing stolen. A victim who seemed to have had little contact with the outside world. And yet such a violent, grisly murder. It almost feels personal, intimate."

Unlike previous books, the murder in Witches at the Wedding is pretty gruesome. Though as cozy mysteries go, we don't see the murder itself. Phew!




Annabelle seems to be running away from the responsibilities of getting married – I mean who hasn't chosen their cake or tried on their dress three days before the wedding?! So when a mystery knocks on her door, Annabelle dives straight in.

"Oh it was never a question of trust, Annabelle," Mike said. "I always have faith" –he winked at her– "that you'll get yourself into trouble eventually,."

There's lots hanging on this particular case. Inspector Mike Nicholls, Annabelle's husband-to-be, would get a promotion if he solves this case before his wedding day. And if the case is closed quickly, then Annabelle can get back to planning and going-on-with her wedding.

In their search for the killer, Annabelle and Nicholls come across a group of people – gypsies – living on the outskirts of the town. There, one of the women who is said to be a fortune teller, gives a reading to the couple, albeit separately, adding to the scary sense that Annabelle may not go forward with the wedding.

"You are a good, steadfast woman. There are dark forces at play. More than your people understand. These shadows are seeking, observing, and hiding in plain sight."

As always, Annabelle is funny but even more so is Philippa who is struggling to manage and prepare for the wedding.

I enjoyed this final conclusion to the Reverend Annabelle Dixon Mystery Series. Golden has a surprise and interesting ending so I'll leave it at that.

I find that Witches at the Wedding is a great conclusion to the series. Though I'd love to see more of the Annabelle-Nicholls couple having their own series again or making an appearance in another series by Golden.

 

Overall rating for Witches at the Wedding by Alison Golden: 4.5 stars

 

Note: I received a free copy of Witches at the Wedding from its author Alison Golden for being part of her street team. This in no way affected my review of the book.

 

Read more of my book reviews of Alison Golden's books:

Reverend Annabelle Dixon Mystery Series

-         Death at the Café (Book 1)

-         Horror in the Highlands (Book 5)

-         Killer at the Cult (Book 6)



Detective Inspector Graham Series

-         The Case of the Screaming Beauty

-         The Case of the Hidden Flame

-         The Case of the Broken Doll

-         The Case of Samson's Leap


Saturday, May 14, 2022

Killer at the Cult by Alison Golden – Book Review

I'm excited to be sharing a new review for Alison Golden! And there's another review on the way because I read these 2 books back-to-back!


Synopsis:

Killer at the Cult by Alison Golden
A sinister cult. A body in the woods. A mystery more devious than Annabelle’s diet…

Reverend Annabelle Dixon has pulled out all the stops to earn the affection of the handsome Inspector Nicholls. She’s even done the unthinkable, and sworn off sweets… for a bit.

But when all her efforts come to naught, Annabelle seeks comfort and distraction in the affairs of her parish. When she hears of strangers moving into a house on the edge of the village, Annabelle decides to pay these new residents a visit.

What she finds is a quirky cult, and a ritual that sends her fleeing into the woods…where she promptly trips over a dead body!

Local police make a hasty arrest, but Annabelle is convinced they have the wrong man. And she decides a murder investigation is just the thing to keep her mind off the absent Inspector Nicholls. But with an entire cult full of suspects, can Annabelle unravel the killer’s identity, before they strike again?

Killer at the Cult is the latest entry in the Reverend Annabelle Dixon series. If you like quaint English towns, mysterious characters, laugh-out-loud humor, and a touch of sweet romance, then you’ll love Alison Golden’s deliciously humorous storytelling.

This book includes recipes for some of Annabelle’s favorite treats:

·        Lovely Lemon Tart

·        Pious Plum and Almond Crumble

·        Reformed Rhubarb Flan

·        Soulful Scones


Book Review of Killer at the Cult 


"So who has motive?"

"They all do!"

"Alibis?"

"None of them have one."

 

Killer at the Cult by Alison Golden is the sixth book in the Reverend Annabelle Dixon Mystery Series. It's my third read in the series.

I'd originally planned to start my advanced reader's copy (ARC) of Golden's upcoming book Witches at the Wedding but thought I'd start Killer at the Cult first to refresh my memory.

Like all of Alison Golden's cozy mystery books, Killer at the Cult can be read as a standalone. You don't have to read other books in the series to start this one, though I highly recommend you read Death at the Café, the first book in the series because it's brilliant!

However, unlike previous books in the series, the murder mystery in Killer at the Cult doesn't take place the beginning.

In Death at the Café, the murder takes place in the first chapter or two, whereas in Killer at the Cult, the murder occurs in chapter 9. This doesn't put off the reader though, but I thought it was worth mentioning because I personally prefer when the murder takes place early on.

In Killer at the Cult, Annabelle investigates a group of people who come to her village and whom the villagers are weary of. The group seems to follow a strange saint – strange even to a Reverend like Annabelle.

Killer at the Cult by Alison Golden book quote


But they are a friendly group who invite her over for one of their – strange-is-an-understatement – rituals.

However, by the end of the ritual, the leader of the group Theo Westmoreland is discovered dead!

"But, but…There hasn't been a thorough investigation. You're making your facts fit your theory."

In this book, Annabelle meets police Inspector Ainslie – and he's totally urggh!

Unlike previous books, where Annabelle's beau Inspector Mike Nicholls is the inspector in charge, Ainslie thinks is a slam-and-dunk case. But Annabelle will set him straight – several times over! *go Annabelle*

Naturally, Annabelle decides to investigate the group more thoroughly to uncover the real killer. She delves into each person's past and how they got into the group.

"Annabelle seriously doubted [Suki's statement], but the alternative was to point out that Theo had been murdered and probably by one of the people he lived among."

Killer at the Cult comprises 31 fairly short chapters, making it easy for the reader to keep going till the end and finish the book in a few days.

One of the things I enjoy is Golden's description of setting and food – especially in the Reverend Annabelle Dixon Mystery Series. Annabelle adores sweets, especially cakes.

Here's an example:

"Annabelle pushed open the front door and marched down the hall to her rustic, cozy kitchen. It was her favorite room in the house. It had exposed beams running across the ceiling and down the walls. It was a place of calm, communion, and cupboards full of cake."

Am I the only one who wants to close their eyes and wake up in this kitchen?

Overall, I thought Killer at the Cult is an interesting read. I didn't get the killer right. I didn't expect THAT person to be the killer AT ALL!

So my overall rating for Killer at the Cult by Alison Golden is 3.75 stars.

 

Note: I received a free copy of Killer at the Cult from its author Alison Golden as part of her street team. This in no way affected my review.

 

Read more of my book reviews of Alison Golden's books:

Reverend Annabelle Dixon Mystery Series

-          Death at the Café (Book 1)

-          Horror in the Highlands (Book 5)

-          Witches at the Wedding (Book 8)

Detective Inspector Graham Series

-          The Case of the Screaming Beauty (Book 1)

-          The Case of the Hidden Flame (Book 2) 

-          The Case of the Broken Doll (Book 4)

-          The Case of Samson's Leap (Book 8)

 



Monday, May 9, 2022

Writers Helping Writers Are Running a MASSIVE Giveaway! Check it out!

I've got some exciting news to share today!

From 9 to 13 May, Writers Helping Writers, which was founded by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi, is celebrating their 10-year anniversary!

And no anniversary celebration is complete without a… GIVEAWAY!

I've been following the Writers Helping Writers blog for some time and they have tons of great and free resources for writers. You'll find tips and cheat-sheets on world building, writing, editing, characters arcs, and tons more.



Plus, authors Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi have published a series of helpful books about writing under the 'Thesaurus' series. I've read 1.5 of those books J

I've read The Negative Trait Thesaurus, which is amazing! And I've read most of The Emotion Thesaurus.

The first is about attributing character traits to your characters – with examples, while the second is about showing (not telling) emotions.

But I'm forgetting the main purpose of this post. It's The Ultimate Writer’s Toolkit Giveaway!


So here's the deal: 

As part of their 10-year anniversary for The Emotion Thesaurus, co-authors Angela and Becca are running a massive giveaway! (And I'm excited to be one of the hosts)

Angela and Becca have scoured the internet for the best tools to help writers, like YOU, strengthen their storytelling and give their career a boost. This includes software licences, subscriptions, course bundles, and even a full set of the Writers Helping Writers thesaurus guides.

And ONE lucky writer is going to WIN IT ALL!

To enter, head over to this post and enter by 13 May 2022. Good luck!

If you're struggling with how to show your character’s emotion, you may want to check out Angela and Becca's The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression.

The book includes 130 different emotions and gives you lists of ways to describe them through body language, thoughts, visceral sensations, dialogue cues, and more.  It’s helped me, and maybe it will help you!

Learn more about The Emotion Thesaurus by exploring a few sample entries from the book to see what these lists look like.

Don't forget to enter the giveaway!


 

Want to learn more about the craft of writing?

Check out these book reviews and blog posts:


The Writer's Body Lexicon: Body Parts, Actions, and Expressions by Kathy Steinemann

The Writer's Lexicon: Descriptions, Overused Words, and Taboos by Kathy Steinemann

The Negative Trait Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

Writing Fight Scenes by Rayne Hall

Writing About Magic by Rayne Hall

Writer Your Book in a Flash by Dan Janal

The World You Write In by R. Michael Phillips (Guest Post)

A Different Kind of Hero by Jennifer Carole Lewis (Guest Post)


 

Marketing

How My Blog Got 1 Million Views in 7 Months by Patric Morgan

Building Your Author Platform by Tiffany Shand

 

Monday, April 25, 2022

The Writer's Body Lexicon by Kathy Steinemann – Book Review

The Writer's Body Lexicon: Body Parts, Actions, and Expressions by Kathy Steinemann in the third book in The Writer's Lexicon Series. Each book offers a wealth of information to help writers write and edit their books.

This review is loooong overdue. I The Writer's Body Lexicon before it was published and had the honor to write its Foreword. :)

The book opens with a "Read this First" section, which explains how to use the book and where readers can find what they need.

Like many books about writing, The Writer's Body Lexicon is an encyclopedia-like volume. It will be very hard to read it all at once or as if you're reading a novel.

"Sometimes a figure of speech adds the perfect touch. Exercise caution, though. Provide enough imagery to stimulate the imagination, but not so much that you slow action or bore readers."

To get the most of The Writer's Body Lexicon, determine what area of the body you need help with and look it up.

Regardless of the book or blog post you're reading, Kathy Steinemann will always point out that you don't need to "bloat your writing with superfluous words."

"Note that a frown on one’s face can be shortened to a frown. No point in bloating your writing with superfluous words."

The Writer's Body Lexicon covers everything from opinion adjectives, stacked modifiers and how to arrange them, colors and variegations, facial expressions, body parts (and the naughty bits), and much much more!

I also like Steinemann's use of other authors' quotes in The Writer's Body Lexicon. She quotes Ovid and Stephen King and offers writing tips from them.

 

The Writer's Body Lexicon quote by stephen king

 

If you're writing a fantasy novel with muscled-warriors, you should definitely check out the "Body Build Cheat Sheet" chapter. (p. 86)

And don't forget the part about the abs, here's a tip from Steinemann:

"Abs, abdomen, stomach, waist, midsection … No matter what you call this area of the body or how you describe it, well-chosen words will strengthen your writing.

Abs often occupy center stage in romance novels. They also appear in historical fiction where scantily clad gladiators compete for their lives. And let’s not forget bikini-wearing beach beauties stalked by monsters in horror stories."

If facial expressions are your weak spot – I know they are mine – you may want to visit the relevant chapter. As an author, you don't want your reader to tire of repetition. Sometimes you don't need a facial expression where the dialogue suffices.

The Writer's Body Lexicon - Library image
The Writer's Body Lexicon and coffee in my library :)


I was recently reading a book where the main character "raised her eyebrows" over 35 times!  You can imagine how exasperated I was while reading it.

As a reader, I see lots of 'eyebrow raising' and 'nodding' and 'eyes widening.' So before you get your book published be sure to check out the chapter on Facial Expressions. Hint: It starts on p. 45.

 

“A new idea is delicate. It can be killed by a sneer or a yawn; it can be stabbed to death by a quip and worried to death by a frown on the right man's brow.” – Ovid


Although Steinemann offers hundreds of word options and descriptive alternatives in each chapter, she also encourages writers to create their own words like "flubbery --> flabby + blubbery" or "brawnilicious à brawny + delicious."

Think of The Writer's Body Lexicon as your go-to resource for descriptions, colors, and everything related to the body. 

 

The Writer's Body Lexicon - book quote

Steinemann goes on to offer suggestions and indicators for writers to use when they want to create a descriptive and emotional scene. In the section "Effective Writing Agrees with Itself," Steinemann says this: 

"In real life, scowls, smiles, and curling lips reflect underlying emotions. They should do the same in fiction or creative nonfiction.

A protagonist in pain is unlikely to smile. A deceitful character probably won’t maintain eye contact with others."

A tip: You want to read the section on colors and variegations starting p. 32. 

There are soooo many useful tips in The Writer's Body Lexicon, I feel like I can quote the whole book! And it's over 500 pages - so there's a wealth of tips in there. 

I also read the first book in this series The Writer's Lexicon, where Steinemann offers tons of word replacements.

Authors: You no longer have to say 'said' every time a character says something. Steinemann has over 200 alternatives to 'said' and many other verbs in The Writer's Lexicon. 

To learn more about The Writer's Body Lexicon, check out its Table of Contents.

Discover all 3 books in the series via Kathy's blog and I highly recommend you subscribe for weekly writing tips, prompts, and her redundancy quizzes :)

Get The Writer's Body Lexicon by Kathy Steinemann via Amazon.

Overall rating for The Writer's Body Lexicon by Kathy Steinemann? 10 stars. 




Sunday, April 17, 2022

Ghosts, Lore, and a House by the Shore by Nellie H. Steele - Book Review

  

Today, I'm featuring a book review of a new cozy mystery by a new author for me. 


Synopsis:

A new town.

A haunting legend.

New beginnings or the beginning of the end?

After Cassie MacGuire’s husband dies in a plane crash along with her father, both her and her mother, Lily Bennett, are left as widows. Looking to make a new start, they move together to the quiet seaside town of Hideaway Bay.

But their new home, Whispering Manor, has a reputation stretching back centuries. Legends of ghosts, paranormal disturbances and pirate treasure are all associated with the former sea captain’s mansion, starting with the death of its first mistress, Henrietta Blanchard.

When Cassie stumbles upon Henrietta’s journal and Lily uncovers a more recent tragedy in the home, they begin to wonder if the stories may be fact instead of fiction. When the strange occurrences turn dangerous, Lily and Cassie will have to investigate to save their home and possibly even their very lives!

Ghosts, Lore & a House by the Shore is the charming first installment in this small, seaside town mother-daughter cozy mystery series by Nellie H. Steele.

 

Book Review by Nadaness In Motion  

"I'd be careful about digging too deep in the past. You might end up regretting it."

Ghosts, Lore, and a House by the Shore by Nellie H. Steele is the first installment in a new mother-and-daughter cozy mystery series.

Ghosts, Lore, and a House by the Shore opens with Cassie and her mother Lily getting very-late calls informing them of the deaths of their husbands. In other words, Cassie is stunned to learn that she'd lost both her father and her husband in a plane crash.

Chapter 1 focuses on the death and its impact on the two women. It's a very long and painful chapter.

Lily and Cassie decide to leave their city and move to the much-smaller town of Hideaway Bay, where – unbeknownst to them – they buy a reportedly haunted house overlooking the ocean.

After they settle in, the two women learn that a few tragedies had taken place in their new home. But is the new house-by-the-shore really haunted?

 


"On the large mirror above the dresser, in dripping red blood was the word LEAVE."

 

What I liked about Ghosts, Lore, and a House by the Shore 

One of the things I liked about Ghosts, Lore, and a House by the Shore was the presence of the two diaries that Cassie and Lily uncovered in the library.

We get to learn about the mystery of Black Jack's treasure and the former occupants of Whispering Manor through these detailed accounts.

"Others would say it's whispers of past souls, long since forgotten, but not yet gone."

A few of the characters in Ghosts, Lore, and a House by the Shore reminded me of characters in the Hallmark sort-of-paranormal series The Good Witch.

Even the mayor, Tinsley reminded me of Martha Tinsdale from The Good Witch. It made me want to re-watch the show.

 

What I didn't like about Ghosts, Lore, and a House by the Shore

One of my biggest problems with this book was the number of times characters raise their eyebrows. You'd think that from the sheer number of times the characters do this, their eyebrows would be stuck to their hairlines by the end of the novel!

There were over 70 references of 'raised eyebrows' in the book! Seriously!

Another problem was that half way through the book, the reader isn't introduced to a 'real mystery.' It's only when Cassie and Lily hear of the tragedies that took place in Whispering Manor and discover the journals of Henrietta and Susan Davis (two women who died in their house) that they begin reading into the mysteries.

I'm not sure if my copy was an uncorrected proof or not but there were many grammatical errors and phrasing problems. Plus some illogical verb usage. (Does your cat 'sigh?')

Also, halfway through the book, I began to question the coziness of the story. It's significantly different from standard cozies because

1)    It opens with a heartbreaking event (two deaths for two family members)

2)    The mystery comes in very late in the book

 

Review sum-up

Overall, I think Ghosts, Lore, and a House by the Shore has lots of good potential. It can act as a prequel to the series, though not book 1.

As an Instagram follower of Nellie Steele, I learnt that Ghosts, Lore, and a House by the Shore is a spin-off of another historical fiction series featuring Henrietta and her brother Clifton and some piratey tales.

That said, I think there were many redundancies in the novel that could have been crossed out. I'd have liked to see more focus on the mystery and a faster pace.

 

Note: I received a free Advanced Readers' Copy (ARC) of Ghosts, Lore, and a House by the Shore by Nellie H. Steele as part of a blog tour by Lori Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours.

 

Overall rating for Ghosts, Lore, and a House by the Shore: 2.5-3 stars

 

About the author

An Indies Today finalist for Best Book of the Year 2020 with Cleopatra’s Tomb, Nellie H. Steele made the leap from science to art with her first book, The Secret of Dunhaven Castle.

An animal enthusiast, Nellie often features a version of one of her fourteen rescue animals in her stories, though the fictional pets are usually better behaved than her own fur-babies!  A literary split personality, Nellie’s work ranges from cozy mystery to supernatural suspense to riveting adventure.

She lives in the South Hills of Pittsburgh.  When she isn’t writing or engaging in animal care, she enjoys teaching Statistics and Data Science at a local university.

Check out all Nellie offers at www.anovelideapublishing.com/novels  or at her blog, Nellie’s Book Nook, available at www.nelliesbooknook.com

Connect with Nellie Steele via her WebsiteFacebookTwitterInstagramTikTokGoodreadsBookbub, and Amazon.

 

Publisher Website: www.anovelideapublishing.com