Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books with Halloween in the Title

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

This week is a Halloween freebie, so I decided to share books with Halloween in the title. So, here are the...

Top Ten Books with Halloween in the Title

Nancy Drew was a favorite of mine as a girl. Leslie Meier and I met at a writers conference and I own a few of her books. Have you read any of these? 

Sunday, October 24, 2021

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? and Mailbox Monday - Oct 25

Welcome to It's Monday! What Are You Reading? and Mailbox Monday.


It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week. It's a great post to organize yourself. It's an opportunity to visit and comment, and er... add to that ever growing TBR pile! So welcome in everyone. This meme started with J Kaye's Blog and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at the Book Date.

How is it Monday again? I hope you had a nice weekend. Mine was filled with college tours, house showings, and a bit of reading. We also got in a few good walks in the woods, and I set up a Halloween themed tree. 


Travis and Dwight think they are helping 

As far as reading, my reviews of Mercy Creek and The Moon Be Dared appeared last week.

I am in the middle of reading these two.

These are next. 

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came in their mailbox during the last week. Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists. 

Nothing in my physical mailbox this week, but I requested this one from an author whose books I've promoted in the past.

What have you received this week? Hope you'll share. 

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Book Review: The Moon Won't Be Dared by Anne Leigh Parrish

 A moving collection blending natural elements, human emotions, and powerful artwork is what the reader will find in The Moon Be Dared by Anne Leigh Parrish.

Poets amaze me with the way they string together words and connect to the world around them. It's a different art form than writing a story; one I never learned and cannot quite grasp except to admire those who make it seem easy.

Such is the case with Parrish's collection, The Moon Be Dared. Poems of earth's love and holding on, poems of broken faith and destroyed trust, poems of nightmares and dreams, fill its pages. So much emotion and exploration to inspire and engage, a story in free verse that takes a journey through the human experience and speaks of the challenges, yet still provides us hope.  

The Moon Be Dared is a beautiful collection that is complemented by the collages by Lydia Selk. Featured in black and white, they speak to you and you can almost imagine the colors were they there. 

This is my favorite poetry collection of the year. I look forward to reading more of Parrish's work. 


  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Unsolicited Press (October 14, 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 152 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1950730808
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1950730803

I received a copy of this book from the author through Poetic Book Tours. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Book Review: Mercy Creek by M.E. Browning


A heart-wrenching, intriguing, and horrifying story set in a small town is what you'll find in Mercy Creek by M. E. Browning. 

When eleven-year-old Lena Flores disappears, Detective Jo Wyatt is assigned to investigate. From the beginning, Jo knows it won't be an easy case. Past hurts don't fade in a small town, which impedes the investigation. The deeper Jo digs into Lena's fractured family, the darker the picture turns. And when a witness steps forward with a new revelation, Jo is forced to confront her doubts and her worst fears.

Wow! This was an engrossing but tough read for me. The pain and guilt Lena's mother, Tilda, feels after her youngest daughter's disappearance was so real to me that I couldn't help but wonder what I would do in her place. The author doesn't allow anyone to go unscathed, which in this story made it as superb as it is. There are so many emotions, lots of secrets, and a shocking ending that left me satisfied, but a bit raw. 

If you enjoy mysteries filled with secrets, tons of twists and turns, and powerful conclusions, you will want to grab Mercy Creek by M. E. Browning. I know I will be checking out more of her work. 

Read an excerpt

Chapter One

Everyone had a story from that night. Some saw a man, others saw a girl, still others saw nothing at all but didn’t want to squander the opportunity to be part of something larger than themselves. To varying degrees, they were all wrong. Only two people knew the full truth.

That Saturday, visitors to the county fair clustered in the dappled shade cast by carnival rides and rested on hay bales scattered like afterthoughts between games of chance and food booths, the soles of their shoes sticky with ice cream drips and spilled sodas.

Detective Jo Wyatt stepped into the shadow of the Hall of Mirrors to watch the crowd. She grabbed the collar of her uniform and pumped it a few times in a futile attempt to push cooler air between her ballistic vest and sweat-sodden T-shirt.

The Echo Valley Fair marked the end of summer, but even now, as the relentless Colorado sun dipped, heat rose in waves around bare ankles and stroller wheels as families retreated toward the parking lots. An older crowd began to creep in, prowling the midway. The beer garden overflowed.

Within minutes the sun dropped behind the valley walls and the fairground lights flickered to life, their wan orange glow a beacon to moths confused by the strobing brightness of rides and games. Calliope music and the midway’s technopop collided in a crazed mishmash of notes so loud they echoed in Jo’s chest. She raised the volume of her radio. 

The day shift officers had clocked out having handled nothing more pressing than a man locked out of his car and an allegation of unfair judging flung by the second-place winner of the bake-off.  

Jo gauged the teeming crowd of unfamiliar faces. Tonight would be different.


Carnival music was creepy, Lena decided. Each ride had its own weird tune and it all seemed to crash against her with equal force, following her no matter where she went. 

The guys in the booths were louder than they had been earlier, more aggressive, calling out, trying to get her to part with her tickets. Some of the guys roamed, jumping out at people, flicking cards and making jokes she didn’t understand while smiling at her older sister.

Marisa tossed her hair. Smiled back. Sometimes they let her play for free.

“Let’s go back to the livestock pavilion,” Lena said.

“Quit being such a baby.” Marisa glanced over her shoulder at the guy running the shooting gallery booth and tossed her hair. Again.

Lena rolled her eyes and wondered how long it would be before her sister ditched her.

“Hold up a sec.” Marisa tugged at the hem of her skintight skirt and flopped down on a hay bale. 

She’d been wearing pants when they’d left the house. The big purse she always carried probably hid an entire wardrobe Momma knew nothing about. Lena wondered if the missing key to grandma’s car was tucked in there too.

Marisa unzipped one of her boots and pulled up her thin sock.

Lena pointed. “What happened to the bottom of your boot?” 

Her sister ran her finger along the arch. “I painted it red.”


“It makes them more valuable.”

“Since when does coloring the bottom of your shoes make them more valuable?”

Marisa’s eyes lit up in a way that happened whenever she spoke about clothes or how she was going to hit it big in Hollywood someday. “In Paris there’s this guy who designs shoes and all of them have red soles. He’s the only one allowed to do that. It’s his thing.”

“But he didn’t make those boots.”

“All the famous women wear his shoes.” She waved to someone in the crowd. 

“You’re not famous and you bought them at Payless.”

“What do you know about fashion?”

“I know enough not to paint the bottom of my boots to make them look like someone else made them.” 

Marisa shoved her foot into her boot and yanked the zipper closed. “You bought your boots from the co-op.” She handed Lena her cell phone. 

“You should have bought yours there, too.” Lena dutifully pointed the lens at her sister.

 “Take a couple this time.” Marisa leaned back on her hands and arched her back, her hair nearly brushing the hay bale, and the expression on her face pouty like the girls in the magazines she was always looking at.

Lena snapped several photos and held out the phone. “All those high heels are good for is punching holes in the ground.” 

“Oh, Lena.” Marisa’s voice dropped as if she was sharing a secret. “If you ever looked up from your animals long enough, you’d see there’s so much more to the world.” Her thumbs rapidly tapped the tiny keyboard of her phone.

In the center of the midway, a carnival guy held a long-handled mallet and called out to people as they passed by. He was older—somewhere in his twenties—and wore a tank top. Green and blue tattoos covered his arms and his biceps bulged as he pointed the oversized hammer at the tower behind him. It looked like a giant thermometer with numbers running along one edge, and High Striker spelled out on the other. 

“Come on, men. There’s no easier way to impress the ladies.” He grabbed the mallet and tapped the plate. “You just have to find the proper motivation if you want to get it up…” He pointed with his chin to the top of the game and paused dramatically. “There.” He craned his neck and leered at Marisa. Lena wondered if he was looking up her sister’s skirt. “What happens later is up to you.”

 Never breaking eye contact, he took a mighty swing. The puck raced up the tower, setting off a rainbow of lights and whistles before it smashed into the bell at the top. He winked in their direction. “Score.” 

Twenty minutes later, Marisa was gone.


Lena gave up looking for her sister and returned to the livestock pavilion. Marisa could keep her music and crowds and stupid friends. 

Only a few people still wandered around the dimly lit livestock pavilion. The fireworks would start soon and most people headed for the excitement outside, a world away from the comforting sound of animals snuffling and pawing at their bedding. 

Marisa was probably hanging out near the river with her friends, drinking beer. Maybe smoking a cigarette or even a joint. Doing things she didn’t think her baby sister knew about. 

Lena walked through an aisle stacked with poultry and rabbit cages. The pens holding goats, swine, and sheep took up the middle. At the back of the pavilion stretched a long row of three-sided cattle stalls. The smells of straw, grain, and animals replaced the gross smell of deep-fried candy bars and churros that had clogged her throat on the midway. 

Near the end of the row, Lena stopped.

“Hey there, Bluebell.” Technically, he was number twenty-four, like his ear tag said. Her father didn’t believe in naming livestock, but to her, he’d always be Bluebell—even after she sold him at the auction to be slaughtered. Just because that was his fate didn’t mean he shouldn’t have a name to be remembered by. She remembered them all.

She patted his hip and slid her hand along his spine so he wouldn’t shy as she moved into the stall. She double-checked the halter, pausing to scratch his forehead. A piece of straw swirled in his water bucket and she fished it out. The cold water cooled her hot skin.

“You did good today. Sorry I won’t be spending the night with you, but Papa got called out to Dawson’s ranch to stitch up some mare.” 

He swished his tail and it struck the rail with a metallic ring. 

“Don’t get yourself all riled. I’ll be back tomorrow before you know it.”

If she hadn’t been showing Bluebell this afternoon, she’d have gone with her father. Her sutures had really improved this summer and were almost as neat as his. No one would guess they’d been made by an eleven-year-old. If nothing else, she could have helped keep the horse calm.

Instead, she’d go home with Marisa and spend the night at Momma’s. She wondered if Marisa would show up before the 4-H leader called lights out in the pavilion or if Lena would have to walk to her mom’s house by herself in the dark. 

She reached down and jiggled the feed pan to smooth out the grain that Bluebell had pushed to the edges.

“That’s some cow.”

The male voice startled them both and Bluebell stomped his rear hoof. Lena peered over the Hereford’s withers. At first all she saw were the tattoos. An ugly monster head with a gaping mouth and snake tongue seem to snap at her. It was the carny from the High Striker standing at the edge of the stall.

“It’s a steer,” she stuttered. “And my sister isn’t here.”

“Not your sister I wanted to talk to.” He swayed a bit as he moved into the stall, like when her mother drank too much wine and tried to hide it. 

Lena ducked under Bluebell’s throat and came up on the other side. She looked around the pavilion, now empty of people.

“Suspect they’re all out waiting on the fireworks,” he said.

The first boom echoed through the space. Several sheep bleated their disapproval and Bluebell jerked against his halter.

“Shhhh, now.” Lena reached her hand down and scratched his chest. “All that racket’s just some stupid fireworks.”

“Nothing to worry about,” the man added. He had the same look in his eyes that Papa’s border collie got right before he cut off the escape route of a runaway cow.

A bigger boom thundered through the pavilion. Halter clips clanged against the rails as uneasy cattle shuffled in their stalls. Her own legs shook as she sidled toward Bluebell’s rear. 

He matched her steps. “What’s a little thing like you doing in here all by yourself?” 

“My father will be back any minute.” Her voice shook.

He smiled, baring his teeth. “I’ll be sure to introduce myself when he arrives.” 

A series of explosions, sharp as gunfire, erupted outside. Somewhere a cow lowed. Several more joined in, their voices pitiful with fear. 

“You’re upsetting my steer. You need to leave.” 

“Oh, your cow’s just fine. I think it’s you that’s scared.” 

He spoke with the same low voice that Lena used with injured animals. The one she used right before she did something she knew would hurt but had to be done. 

“You’re a pretty little thing,” he crooned. “Nice and quiet.”

Her tongue stuck to the roof of her mouth. She stood frozen. A warm trickle started down her leg, and the wet spot expanded on her jeans.

He edged closer. “I like them quiet.”


Jo ran.

The suspect veered off the sidewalk and slid down the hillside toward the creek. 

She plunged off the side of the embankment, sliding through dirt and duff, closing the distance. She keyed her shoulder mic. “Entering the creek, heading west toward the Animas. I need someone on the River Trail.”  

Narrow-leaf cottonwood and willows shimmered silver in the moonlight and wove a thicket of branches along the water, herding the suspect toward the cobbled stream bed.

Jo splashed into the ankle-deep water. Close enough now to almost touch. 

Her lungs burned. With a final burst of speed, she lunged. Shoved his shoulder while he was mid-stride. 

The man sprawled into the creek. Rolled onto his feet with a bellow. A knife in his hand. 

Without thinking, she’d drawn her gun. “Drop it!” 

Flashlight beams sliced the foliage. Snapping branches and crashing footsteps marked the other officers’ progress as they neared. Estes shouted Jo’s name. Her eyes never left the man standing just feet away.

“Over here!” She focused on the man’s shoulder, watching for the twitch that would telegraph his intentions. “You need to drop the knife. Now.” Her voice rose above the burble of the stream. “Or things are going to get a whole lot worse for you tonight.” 

She shifted her weight to her front leg and carefully shuffled her rear foot until she found firmer footing and settled into a more stable shooting stance. “Drop the knife.” She aimed center mass. Drew a deep breath, willed her heart to slow. 

The knife splashed into the creek near the bank.

“On your right.” Estes broke through the brush beside her.

“Get down on your knees,” Jo ordered. “Hands behind your head.”

“It’s my friend’s truck,” the man said. 

Jo holstered her gun and moved forward while Estes covered her. She gripped his fingers and bowed the suspect backward, keeping him off balance while she searched him for weapons, then cuffed him. 

“Not according to the owner.” She double-locked the cuffs while Estes radioed dispatch they had one in custody.

An explosion above the treetops made Jo flinch. Fireworks slashed the darkness and burst into balls of purple and green and dazzling white that sparkled briefly, then disappeared.

Publisher ‏ : ‎ Crooked Lane Books (October 12, 2021)
Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 288 pages
ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1643857622
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1643857626 

I received a copy of this book from the author. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.

Monday, October 18, 2021

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? and Mailbox Monday - Oct 18

Welcome to It's Monday! What Are You Reading? and Mailbox Monday.


It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week. It's a great post to organize yourself. It's an opportunity to visit and comment, and er... add to that ever growing TBR pile! So welcome in everyone. This meme started with J Kaye's Blog and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at the Book Date.

Welcome back to Monday! I hope you had a great weekend. I didn't accomplish half as much as I planned, but that happens sometimes. I've been listening to some good podcasts and considering my 2022 business plan. 

The next few weeks will be hectic considering college tours, my trip to San Diego, a few closings, and many meetings. Pretty soon that will lead us into Thanksgiving and the holiday season. I know I could use some of that joy. How about you?

In my reading world, you should look for my review of this amazing book tomorrow.  

My review of this one is at my children's book blog

I am almost done with this one. This review will appear here on October 21. 

These are all next.

I haven't requested any other books to review, so maybe I will whack away at my TBR pile after that. 

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came in their mailbox during the last week. Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists. 

Nothing in my physical mailbox this week, but I grabbed these freebies, two of which I should be reviewing soon.

Have you read any of these? What genre are you reading the most of these days? 

Hope you have a fabulous week.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Favorite Book Settings

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

Welcome back to Tuesday! I hope you're having a nice week. I wound up with two appointments yesterday that I wasn't expecting. It is always a great day to show a house. 

I have such high hopes for this week's Top Ten Tuesday topic. Book settings are often part of the reason I buy a book. Favorite historical periods and favorite places call to me. Is it the same for you? 

Here are my...

Top Ten Favorite Book Settings

Prince Edward Island is home to everyone's favorite red-headed orphan, Anne "with an E" Shirley. Though the movies captured this beautiful countryside well, it was Lucy Maud Montgomery's descriptions throughout the Anne series that tempts me to visit--which I hope I will do one day. This lovely setting is one of the reasons I continued to read more of Montgomery's work after I finished the Anne series.

No matter the subgenre of the story, Colonial America remains one of my favorite settings. I've always been fascinated with American history--its founding and the country's early years when citizens were trying to figure out how to create a new country and what form of government would work best. The daily life of citizens also intrigues me, so whether historical romance or historical mystery, their daily lives come into play. 

America's Civil War has been the setting of too many novels to count. Some of my favorite historical romances have been set during the conflict--Shades of Gray by Jessica James and Corrigan's Pool by Dot Ryan. I still haven't read Gone with the Wind. Gasp! How is that possible? Michael and Jeff Shaara's trilogy--Gods and Generals, The Killer Angels, and The Last Full Measure--brought readers from the beginning to the end of the War. John Jakes also dedicated a trilogy to the North and South conflict. Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez, one of my favorite books, is set right before the Civil War starts, so I include it in this group.

The story of the pioneers first came to my attention thanks to Laura Ingalls Wilder. The western migration of American settlers was made possible by several political and social events. The darker side to that history is the breaking of treaties with Native Americans, the formation of American Indian Residential Schools, and senseless tragedies like the Battle of Washita. While Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote stories of family working together and battling against the odds with faith and optimism, Rose Wilder Lane's books ended up with more grit and tragedy. Into the West by Max McCoy (novelized after the popularity of the mini-series of the same name) told the story of western expansion as seen through two families--one white and one Lakota. The American Pioneer lives in a place where great stories are told.

The Outer Banks of North Carolina, also called the OBX, is the setting for all kinds of stories. Whether they be true stories of the Lost Colony or Blackbeard, historical novels, or mysteries, this beautiful eastern coast area is so enchanting that it is no wonder so many authors set their stories there. Maybe one day I will write a story set there. 

Christmas has to be my favorite holiday setting for a story. Not a surprise to anyone who knows how much I love celebrating it. Christmas romances are usually my favorite, but great family dramas like The Santa Letters by Stacy Gooch-Anderson and Santa legend stories like The Christmas Chronicles by Tim Slover will also make me happy. I pretty much think any story is better if it is set during the Christmas holiday. 

What is it about small towns that readers find so attractive? Is it how quaint they are or how all the people seem to know each other? I love them too, especially if they are a setting for a cozy mystery. I am a huge Murder, She Wrote fan. Duffy Brown's Cycle Path Mysteries are set on Mackinac Island. Debbie Macomber created the fictional town of Cedar Cove for her characters. Selling Christmas by Angelina Goode was a small town romance set during Christmas. Can't get much better than that in my book.

Though I am not really a huge fan of fantasy, I enjoyed Harry Potter so much I would say that magical schools are a favorite setting. Can you imagine the untold Hogwarts stories there are? Though I haven't read Princess Academy or the Finishing School series, both sound intriguing. 

I would put boarding schools right there alongside magical schools for favorite settings. Though I did not read A Little Princess, I did listen to its sequel, Wishing for Tomorrow by Hilary McKay. The girls living at Miss Minchin's Seminary for Girls helped me perform some research for a middle grade novel I'm working on. A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro is on my wish list.

A farm or ranch is a neat setting for romance novels. I tend to like cowboy romances, even though I don't often read them. I think romance novels are just lower on my list than mysteries or thrillers. Love on the Menu by Ellen March and The Cowboy's Christmas Miracle by RaeAnne Thayne are both great books. 

So, what do you think of my list? Do we share some of the same favorites? If you could only read books set in one place or time period, what would it be?