Jillie finds the ultimate treasure

JillieJillie by Olive Balla
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow. This story is packed with interesting characters and suspense. It’s a story about sisters, family ties, survival and obsession.

Jillie, the main character, is a spunky eleven-year-old, who while defending her sister as she is being beaten to death, kills a man. Forced into an unbearable situation she runs away, trying to get back to her sister in the hospital. What Jillie encounters on her journey should never be experienced by someone so young.

Along the way, she meets elderly twin sisters, one the polar opposite of the other. Frankly, these characters are funny and amazing and just as likable as Jillie. I’ve always been interested in the bonds between siblings, and twins especially. Balla captures these relationships with elegance and humor.

When a rumor is started about a found treasure by Jillie’s now dead father, some very nasty people are determined to find it, no matter who gets in their way.

Thanks for a great read!

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A Stranger in the House – you never know!

A Stranger in the HouseA Stranger in the House by Shari Lapena
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow. There’s a lot of twists and turns in this suspense novel. It kept me turning the pages! While I suspected a couple of things (like the nosey neighbor), I didn’t expect the ending. Thanks for a thrill ride, Shari Lapena. This was a very good read.

A seemingly normal housewife receives a call that sends her dashing out of the house. It’s obviously an emergency because she forgot to lock the door, take her purse or her cell phone. None of which are at all like her.  When the police call hubby to say her car has been in an accident he rushes out to see if the woman in her car, in a very hinky part of town is really his wife. Not only is it his wife, but the police suspect her of no good. Why was she there, otherwise? And when a dead body is found near where she lost control of her car she becomes a suspect. There’s just one problem. She doesn’t remember anything that happened that night.

This lady gets into deeper and deeper trouble as they investigate, her and her husband’s “perfect” record. Nothing sticks out, which in itself seems strange. Add a nosey neighbor, a stalker and you have a bit of suspense that will keep you reading all night.

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Excerpt from “Feisty Family & Friends” the third book in the series.

The next morning Tillie woke with a start. “What time is it?” The clock read nine and she was impossibly late with deliveries to the café. “Oh, no. I’ve never been late before. This is so bad. Joe!” She jumped out of bed and looked down at her sleep shirt. It read: I can’t adult today.
“Bad omen.”
She dove into her slippers and dashed into the kitchen. “Joe!”
The room was clean, with lingering scents of cinnamon and butter.
Opening the door to the garage, Tillie poked her head out and found her SUV missing. She grabbed the wall extension and dialed Joe’s cell.
He picked up after two rings. “Good morning, sunshine. You finally woke up!”
“Oh, Joe, what have I done? What’s Peggy’s going to do without pastries today? Where are you, by the way?”
He chuckled. “I took care of this morning’s baking while you slept, delivered today’s goodies, ran an errand and I’m on the way home.”
“Thank, God. I never even heard the alarm this morning.” Tillie felt like crying. This was not a good way to start the day.
“That’s because I woke up before it sounded and flipped it off. You were snoring so nicely I didn’t have the heart to wake you up.”
“You did? But you didn’t have to. I love getting up with you and baking in the morning.” Tillie couldn’t believe she was complaining about getting to sleep in. “I’m sorry. I’m an ungrateful wretch.”
“Ungrateful, maybe, wretch – never! Go get a shower and I’ll see you in a couple of minutes. I have one more stop to make before I get home. Love you.”
“I love you, too. And, thanks.” Tillie hung up and shook her head. “I’m losing my mind. Maybe a little hot water will help to clear my brain.” She started the shower and dragged her silly tee off and into the laundry basket. “I’m saving you for day time, no more jinxed sleep.”
The water felt wonderful sluicing down her head and back. She squirted her scrub with lavender scented soap and rubbed everywhere. After washing her hair and rinsing all over she sighed. “I don’t remember the last time I took a shower and got dressed so late. It feels positively indecent.”
A tall silhouette approached the steamy shower door. “Want some help drying off? I have a nice fluffy towel all warmed up for you,” Joe said. “Come and get it!”
She slid the door open wearing nothing but a grin and walked into the towel he held out to her. He wrapped her tightly and slowly rubbed his hands all over her to banish the wet and to warm her skin.
“How’s that?” he asked.
Her eyes were closed, and she sighed. “Wonderful. You should pamper me more often.”
Joe laughed. “That’s my plan.” He ruffled her short white curls with the towel and kissed her nose. “Better?”
Tillie wiggled her arms free of the fabric and hugged his neck. “You smell good, like chocolate and cinnamon. Did you try a new recipe?”
“No. I’m not that brave, I’ll use your recipes a while if you don’t mind.” He scooped her up in his arms and carried her to the bedroom. “Want to mess around?”
“As tantalizing as that sounds, I think I need to eat. I’m getting dizzy from hunger.”
Reaching into her drawer Joe pulled out her long-sleeved Mighty Mouse tee shirt and handed it and some underthings to her. “How about some sweats and wooly socks?”
“Sure,” she said, donning the appropriated clothing as quickly as her chilled fingers would move. When the last sock was on, Joe picked her up again and carried her to the dining room.
“Put me down, you lovely dolt. I can walk.”
“I know, but let me play the gallant servant today, okay? Just one day.” His eyes pleaded with her.
“Okay.” Tillie laid her head on his shoulder, reached up and kissed his strong jaw and smiled when goose bumps flashed on his neck.
He cleared his throat and gently set her on one of the dining chairs. “I’ll get you something to eat, but coffee first?”
“Definitely, coffee first.” She grinned and pulled her stocking feet up onto the lip of the chair seat, hugging her knees.

Fun ride through the past to change the present.

The Perfect Comeback of Caroline JacobsThe Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs by Matthew Dicks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While looking through the stack of mysteries on my bookshelves I rediscovered this little gem of a book. I needed something fun and it fit the bill nicely. It’s difficult to pinpoint the time when we took the wrong turn or when an event derailed us, but a series of events when she was fifteen causes Caroline Jacobs to become a doormat. When she finally has enough she embarks on a journey, taking her daughter in tow to rectify the situation.

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Faithful, a novel by Alice Hoffman is a must read

FaithfulFaithful by Alice Hoffman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Alice Hoffman writes so well, I always enjoy her books.

When an ordinary girl is involved in a life-changing accident and her best friend is damaged beyond repair, she is overcome with guilt and despair. With the help of her mother, strangers, and rescued pets she eventually realizes she is a good person with something to offer and is no longer defined by the tragedy she survived.

A story of family, faith, forgiveness, and survival – something we can all relate to.

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Shanghai Girls, an amazing read.

Shanghai Girls (Shanghai Girls #1)Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lisa See has recreated Shanghai China in the 1930’s and the escape from the Japanese invasion by two sisters. Their experience is compelling. They eventually make it to Los Angeles and Angel Island. Although they are married (arranged by her father) to young Chinese American men, they struggle with interrogations and accusations by the authorities. Their new lives in America are difficult and opportunities become fewer as World War II rages. They are able to maintain a semblance of Chinese tradition and culture by living in Chinatown and working there. This story centers around the sister’s stories, their closeness, and their difficulties. It is not always an easy relationship because they are very different. One sister bears a child then the other raises it. The other sister loses her child. When one sister betrays the other once again, the results are catastrophic.

I was mad when I came to the end of this novel. There was so much more to the story. That’s when I found “Dreams of Joy” the second book and read it in two days also. Thank you, Lisa See for bringing such richness to the story, the people, the places and the time.

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New Author of Historical Fiction: Z. Minor

Please help me welcome: Louise Pelzl who is writing under the name of Z. Minor. She’s a delightful lady that I’ve known for a very long time and has been supportive of my writing journey. She’s past president of the Kansas Writer’s Association and a dear friend.

What parts of you and your background feed your imagination?

Everything around me; people, TV Shows, the what-if when I see or hear a headline either on the news or in a magazine.

Tell us a little about the very first story you remember writing?

The Sisterhood of the Coin. It was my first endeavor into writing a novel and it got published!

Creative people are often creative in other ways, besides writing what else does the muse encourage you to do?

I do decorative painting on wood – my favorite is snowman or Christmas decorations. I love to garden. I love having my home-grown cut flowers in the house. I plant a lot of flowers so when I bring them in the house my garden doesn’t look bare.

What genre(s) do you like to write?

Historical romantic suspense
Contemporary mystery novels
Play at sci-fi for fun
Most of my stories have murder and mayhem in them.

Tell us a little about your novel, its plot and the main character(s).

Sisterhood of the Coin is a series of three historical romantic suspense books.
The second book – I just sent my edits back to my editor, while I’m working on the third.

The stories involved three foster sisters who are interesting in finding out who their birth parents are for various reasons. The books take place between 1820 – 1824. When the women were young they formed a club called the Sisterhood of Coin. Each has an old Roman Coin. If they are ever in trouble, they only have to send their coin to another sister, and she will come to their aid.

Nicola Highbridge is the main character in the first book. She comes to London to help her younger sister and meets Clay Barber. He appears to be a common laborer but in reality, is a titled Earl. He helps her find her birth parents and in the process discovers who is one of the leading players in the Cato Conspiracy (a true fact from 1820).

My second book, Mara’s Legacy is about Mara Highbridge and what she discovers when she sets out to find her birth parents.
My third book, Emmy’s Discovery is about Emmy and an archeology opportunity that might just set the world of literature in a tailspin. And of course, as I have introduced new characters major and minor in my current works I see other books taking shape.Which might mean there will be more than three books in the series.

Are any of the characters like you and if so in what way?

I don’t think so. I think my characters are how I wish I could be.

What genre(s) or author(s) do you like to read?

I don’t have a favorite author. As long as the book is interesting, I will read it.

Where and when do you find the best ideas or inspiration for your stories?

I like to use historical facts that are not known to most people. I research the events and then add my own twists, while keeping the historically portion accurate.

If there were a message you could share with other writers what would it be?

Don’t give up on your writing- not ever!!!

Where can readers go to learn more about you and your work?

I write under the name Z. Minor (middle initial and maiden name). Find me on Amazon, or my website www.zminor.com. I’m also on Facebook under Z. Minor.

Welcome to the Lowcountry versus upper Midwest

By Invitation OnlyBy Invitation Only by Dorothea Benton Frank
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Like the stars say, I really liked this book. When I open a Dorthea Benton Frank novel I feel like I’m visiting friends in the Lowcountry. She makes you feel right at home. Thanks again, Dot.

Shelby and Fred are in love. They’re from vastly different places, Shelby was raised in Chicago with money, culture and social standing. Fred’s family are southern farmers, with down-home attitudes of hard work and being kind to everyone, no matter what their station in life. To say that the two families have a bit of trouble relating to one another is an understatement. Planning for the wedding gets totally out of control, pretention abounding. But things can change and do when Shelby and Fred say enough. As always, there are a wonderful set of quirky characters and sticky situations that impact everyone. It’s fun. It’s funny. It’s sad. And it’s well worth reading.

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Inspired by a Dreamer

The Last LectureThe Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Randy Pausch was a scientist, a father, a husband and an inspiration. He chose to be Tigger instead of Eyeore and dealt with cancer and death with humor and found fun and loving in every one of his limited days. He shared his experience, his dreams and lessons learned with honesty. I’m sad that he was burdened with this disease, but honored to have been able to read what he shared. Truly a great book.

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