December Book Reviews @dlfinnauthor @jacqbiggar @1rburkey

Hey, everyone. Last year I read over sixty books, something I haven’t done in a while. I wrote and posted reviews for the majority of them.

This year, I’m doing things a bit differently. Rather than posting individual reviews (except in some cases), I plan to write a monthly review post. Also, I’m only posting four-star and five-star reviews.

Since I took a blogging break at the end of December, this post is for books I read that month.

Autumn Paths

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Autumn Paths is a collection of nine short stories. The majority of them come from Canadian authors. The stories are different genres, but each has a common theme—life’s pathways.

As with most collections, there are some stories that stood out to me above others. Chuck Bowie’s Footfall had an enjoyable and somewhat surprising twist at the end. I also enjoyed The Booksellers Secret Octavo by Angela Wren. The Maze by Monique Thébeau touches on a situation that is unfortunately all too common.

Each story is short enough to read during lunch break or for a quick read before turning in for the night.

A Long Walk Home

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Kenzie is a young woman who feels alone and betrayed on Christmas Eve. She’d lost her parents in a house fire two years earlier, was dumped by her fiancé who ended up engaged to her best friend, Joy. With all the festivities of the season, all Kenzie wants to do is go home and hibernate until Christmas is past.

But when she runs into Joy, her anger turns into much more. Kenzie goes to a nearby park and decides to end it all. Enter Thomas, an angel who has been watching her every move. Desperate to save her, Thomas gets Kenzie’s attention with an abandoned cat and her kittens. Kenzie’s life changes for the better that night.

This story has a bit of sadness, a touch of magic, and a big lesson on forgiveness. If you like a feel-good Christmas read, I recommend this short novelette.

Hot Chocolate

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Continuing with the Christmas theme, my next review is a short story written by Rox Burkey and Charles Breakfield.

Hot Chocolate is a Christmas story that’s centered around family. The main characters, Jacob and Petra, come from different cultures so there is a blend of both in their holiday celebrations. They also have a tradition of surprising one another with a unique Christmas gift.

This short story is a delightful, heart-warming read with a surprise ending. Perfect for the holidays.

Love, Me

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Love, Me is a heartwarming romantic story set at Christmas time. But the thing that drew me to the book was the fact the lead character’s daughter has leukemia. As the wife of a two-time, twenty-eight-year cancer survivor, I can relate to a family member’s plight as they watch their loved ones battle this dreadful disease.

Knowing the child had cancer, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book. Would I shed a lot of tears? Would it rekindle memories that are still painful? No, the book was quite the opposite. From Grace’s unconditional love toward her daughter, to Cassie’s selfless letter to Santa, to Kyle’s love and generosity, Love, Me stirred up feelings of warmth and hope—something we need more of today.

While there is a feel-good message, the author also calls attention to childhood cancer awareness. The book is easily read in a couple of hours, and I recommend it for any time of year.

Book Review #An Unwanted Guest

Hey, everyone. It’s no secret I love a good, page-turning mystery. I scored big time with this one.

A weekend retreat at a cozy mountain lodge is supposed to be the perfect getaway . . . but when the storm hits, no one is getting away


It’s winter in the Catskills and Mitchell’s Inn, nestled deep in the woods, is the perfect setting for a relaxing–maybe even romantic–weekend away. It boasts spacious old rooms with huge wood-burning fireplaces, a well-stocked wine cellar, and opportunities for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or just curling up with a good murder mystery.

So when the weather takes a turn for the worse, and a blizzard cuts off the electricity–and all contact with the outside world–the guests settle in and try to make the best of it.

Soon, though, one of the guests turns up dead–it looks like an accident. But when a second guest dies, they start to panic.

Within the snowed-in paradise, something–or someone–is picking off the guests one by one. And there’s nothing they can do but hunker down and hope they can survive the storm–and one another.

My Review

I love it when I come across a book that I don’t want to put down. An Unwanted Guest is one of them. I read it in two days and the only reason I didn’t finish in one night was because I had to sleep.

It sounds like the perfect weekend getaway—a quaint old-fashioned hotel where there is no cell phone service and no Wi-fi to distract its guests. The registry isn’t computerized, and instead of magnetic cards, rooms are locked with an old-fashioned key.

To top it off, the guests arrive during the middle of a winter storm. It’s so bad, in fact, that some of the hotel staff aren’t able to make it to work and a few guests canceled their weekend plans.

Lucky them.

A power outage changes the atmosphere from pleasant to ominous. It’s not long before murder is afoul. First one victim, then two, then a third…

Each of the guests, as well as one staff member, has things from their past to hide. But aside from the companions they arrived with, none of them knew one another before coming to the hotel. Are the murders connected? If so, why?

Written in present tense from varying points of view, this book held my attention to the end. I had suspicions about several of the characters and kept hoping it wasn’t a particular character that I instantly liked. While I figured out the murderer’s identity, there was a totally unexpected jaw-dropping twist at the end.

Unquestionably five stars for this one!

My 2020 Reads #TuesdayBookshare

Hey, everyone. Wrapping up the last Tuesday book share with my 2020 reads. I’ve seen a few posts out there with people naming their top ten reads, but I decided to share my entire list.

As in previous years, I took part in the Goodreads Challenge. Because I don’t have a lot of time to read, I usually set my goal low. This year, I set it for twenty-five books. I’m happy to report I surpassed that number by ten.

My favorite genre is mystery and suspense, but this year I branched out into some other areas. For instance, I’ve never been much of a Sci-fi reader, but D L Cross (Staci Troilo) changed my mind. Her Astral Conspiracy series is among my favorite reads of the year.

I read some new to me authors, several short stories, found a few books that had been on my TBR for several years, and purchased older publications by a couple of my all-time favorite authors. I even threw in a couple of non-fiction stories.

Here’s the list in the order I read them. Amazon links are included except for one that is no longer in publication. (Yes, it’s been on my Kindle that long!)

Some books I loved, others not so much, and a couple I stuck with to the end. I had a few books on my Kindle that I began reading but weren’t worthy of finishing. All in all, it’s been a good year for me reading-wise.

I haven’t set my 2021 goals. I thought of increasing it to fifty books (roughly one per week) but that wouldn’t leave me much time to write.

How about you? What are some of your favorite reads for this year? What are your reading goals for 2021?

Book Reviews: Brazos Wind & Brothers Keeper by @JanSikes3 #TuesdayBookShare

Hey, everyone. Today I want to share reviews of two short stories written by Jan Sikes. Though they are completely different genres, both are highly enjoyable.

Brazos Wind:

War-torn drifter, Jack McClean is left with nothing but bad memories, scars, and a restless soul. When he stumbles upon a burning homestead, and an unconscious woman, beside the Clear Fork of the Brazos River, he stops to render aid. Grieving widow, Savannah Logan, sees no reason to live, and only wants to join her husband and children in their graves. But, Jack refuses to let her die. In saving her, he might somehow find redemption for himself and hope for a new tomorrow. Is it possible that both Jack and Savannah can find a new destiny in the changeable flow of the Brazos wind?

My Review:

Fifteen years after the Civil War, Jack McClean is still searching for a place to settle. One day, on the Clear Fork of the Brazos River, he comes across the burned-out house of Savannah Logan and stops to render aid.

Savannah sees no reason to live, having lost her husband and two children. But Jack takes her into the nearby town of Albany, where he finds lodging and medical care for her.

Both Jack and Savannah are haunted by the past, but can they find redemption in the Brazos Wind?

I thoroughly enjoyed this short read. Set in Texas, I’m familiar with the places. I would love to see more of these characters in a longer book, and the author left it open for the possibility.

If you’re looking for a well-written and enjoyable short read, I highly recommend Brazos Wind. Five stars!

Purchase Link

Brother’s Keeper Blurb:

Quentin Marks’ mother can only love one son, and from the day Rowdy was born, she makes Quentin, his little brother’s keeper. She demands that Quentin fix every problem for Rowdy and that he also protect him. The truth is, after a deadly snakebite, Quentin owes his very life to his little brother, a debt that will never be paid in full. Only now a man is dead, and once again, their mother calls on Quentin to make the problem go away and save Rowdy from prison. When is enough enough, and how much of his own life will Quentin Marks have to sacrifice?

My Review:

Brother’s Keeper is the story of two brothers – Quentin and Rowdy.

After Rowdy saved his life years earlier, Quentin believes it’s his duty to protect his younger brother. Their mother was responsible for this belief and insisted Quentin take on the role of Rowdy’s keeper from the day he was born.

But Rowdy is spoiled and often gets into trouble. One day, he makes a colossal mistake, and Quentin ends up paying a high price. How far will he go to protect Rowdy?

The story is short but well-written. The author did a remarkable job of developing the characters. It was as easy to love Quentin as it was to hate the mother. Five stars for this one.

Purchase Link


Review: Finding Hunter by @MarciaMeara #TuesdayBookShare

Hey everyone. It’s Tuesday, which means it’s time for another book share. I read Finding Hunter last fall. Due to my blogging break during NaNoWriMo, I didn’t post the review here. Better late than never.

My Review:

After reading and thoroughly enjoying the first book of Marcia Meara’s Riverbend series, I eagerly awaited this one.

Hunter Painter is the youngest of three brothers, much different than his siblings. Where they are bold, brash jocks, Hunter is quiet, reflective, and somewhat shy. He’s been in love with Willow Greene since high school, but always thought he wasn’t good enough for her.

When a friend encourages him to call her, Hunter discovers the feeling is mutual. All too soon, their happiness is put to the test with a tragedy strikes Hunter’s family. He blames himself and leaves Riverbend. Some, including his brother Forrest, believe he may have committed suicide. But Willow refuses to give up, and after months Hunter returns—a broken man.

I have to be honest—parts of this book weren’t what I expected. However, Meara is a talented writer who does a fantastic job of tackling some genuine issues that face many people today—PTSD, depression, dysfunctional families. The suspense is there in the form of the mysterious “traveling man” who is bent on killing someone. And of course, there is the romance between Willow and Hunter.

If you like character-driven fiction, you’ll love this one. The third book of the series is coming up on my TBR list, and I look forward to reading it.

Five stars for this one.


Before, I never thought about taking a life. Not once.
Now, the thought fills my mind day and night, and
I wonder how I’ll hide that terrible need,
As an old car swings to the shoulder,
And stops.

~ Traveling Man ~

Hunter Painter’s darkest fears have shaped his offbeat personality since he was a child, crippling him in ways invisible to those unable to see past his quiet exterior. In a sleepy Florida town known for its eccentric inhabitants, he’s always been a mystery to most.

Only one person sees beyond Hunter’s quirky facade. Willow Greene, the new age herbalist who owns the local candle and potpourri shop, has secretly loved him since they were in high school. When, sixteen years later, she discovers Hunter has loved her just as long, Willow hopes her dreams are finally coming true.

Willow soon learns that Hunter fears happiness at her side isn’t in the cards for him. With her natural optimism and courage, she almost convinces him he’s wrong—that they can really have that life together they both long for—but even Willow can’t stop what Hunter knows is coming.

One by one, his worst nightmares become reality, culminating in an unthinkable tragedy, which devastates everyone it touches. Willow’s battle begins in earnest as Hunter is plunged into a bleak, guilt-ridden despair, threatening to destroy not only their love but Hunter, himself.

Finding Hunter is the story of a lost man’s desperate struggle to make his way home again, and one woman’s unshakeable faith in him and the power of their love.