Book Reviews: Call Down the Hawk by Maggie Stiefvater and War Spies by Daniel Polansky @mstiefvater @DanielPolansky @Scholastic

Call Down the Hawk
The Dreamer Trilogy, Book 1
Maggie Stiefvater
Scholastic Press, November 2019
ISBN 978-1338188325

There’s an inexplicable way that Ms. Stiefvater wields her words so that the reader is comforted by the cadence and speeds along the stripped-down, short statements that say so very much. If this book were a car, it’d be the 2020 Lotus. Call Down the Hawk doesn’t warm up, it’s already impatiently revving, mirroring the barely-held-back growl that vibrates inside of Ronan Lynch.

Yes, my fellow Raven Cycle fans, Ronan Lynch is back! And, we are in his world now. Beyond the barns.

Ms. Stiefvater, of course makes no time for traipsing down memory lane, but there’s no need. New readers won’t need the background of The Raven Cycle to thoroughly enjoy this story centered around the Lynch brothers. I will not be surprised however, if readers of this first tantalizing tale in the Dreamer Trilogy seek out Raven Cycle series while waiting for the second, simply Stiefvater, Dreamer Book.

Ronan Lynch is a Dreamer. But that isn’t what makes him so surly and somewhat terrifying. Those traits are mainly because he is always thinking. Working out complicated puzzles in his head means that any interruption, even as innocuous as a casual greeting, is enough to have him snarling.

Declan, the eldest Lynch sibling, exists in a severely serious state of being. His dogged determination to be boring infuriates Ronan, while Ronan’s recklessness gives Declan heartburn. But both brothers adore their younger brother Matthew. The elder siblings are viciously protective of the blissfully unaware boy, in his constant state of content.

Despite their differences, the brothers Lynch are going to have to find a way to work together. The recent loss of both parents has made the trio a target. Turns out, Dreamers aren’t quite as secret or unique as the boys had been led to believe. In fact, there is a group of people banded together for the sole purpose of finding and eliminating all of the Dreamers.

If the brothers Lynch are to survive the assault, they will have to finally be completely honest with each other. Facing the folks set out to obliterate Dreamers could be exponentially easier than unleashing the secrets each sibling has been desperately trying to keep.

Reviewed by jv poore, November 2019.


War Spies: One Mission, Six Bios
Daniel Polansky
Scholastic Paperbacks, November 2013
ISBN 978-0-545-57655-0
Trade Paperback

Spies seem to have always been significant in warfare, serving not only to steal and share information, but often sabotaging plans as well. This non-fiction collection contains six scintillating, snap-shot bios of some of the most effective double-agents throughout history.

While this may have been written with Middle-Grade and Young Adult readers in mind, this Not-So-Young reader found it to be incredibly interesting and enlightening. I know many of “my” students will definitely dig it.

From the ‘original spymaster’ to the ‘limping lady’, fascinating facts fill the pages. I even re-read the section on the British spy agency’s first female operative. Although I knew a good bit about Belle Boyd, I was delighted to discover the first crime she committed: as a child, she taught a young slave to read.

War Spies is the 7th book in the Profiles series and I learned so much, so quickly that I’m going back for more.

Reviewed by jv poore, January 2019.

A Crafty Christmas Crime @Anasleuth

USA Today bestselling and award-winning author Lois Winston writes mystery, romance, romantic suspense, chick lit, women’s fiction, children’s chapter books, and nonfiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. Kirkus Reviews dubbed her critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” In addition, Lois is a former literary agent and an award-winning craft and needlework designer who often draws much of her source material for both her characters and plots from her experiences in the crafts industry.


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Most people don’t associate Christmas with crime, but when you write a mystery series, murder is never far from your mind, even at Christmas. As the author of a cozy mystery series, I’m always thinking up both new ways to kill people and new ways for my amateur sleuth to solve the murder.

However, since I write a crafting cozy series, I also have to come up with new craft projects for each book. Unlike most crafting cozies where the amateur sleuth works in one craft or owns a shop that features a specific craft, I made Anastasia the crafts editor of a women’s magazine. That way I could feature a different craft with each book.

In Handmade Ho-Ho Homicide, the eighth book in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, I chose to feature crafts made from Christmas greeting cards. Many people save some or all of the cards they receive each year, either for sentimental reasons or because they’re too pretty to toss into the recycling bin come January, but they usually wind up in a shoebox on a shelf, rarely to be seen again.

All of the crafts I feature in the series are easy enough for even the most novice crafter to finish with a sense of accomplishment. The last thing I want to do is frustrate any of my readers. One of the craft ideas in Handmade Ho-Ho Homicide is to fashion greeting cards into Christmas ornaments. This is also a perfect craft to do with children or grandchildren of just about any age, and you get to enjoy those beautiful cards each year when you decorate your tree.


There’s no one right way to make these ornaments. You can use craft materials you have on hand for decorating or purchase small amounts at any craft store. Be creative, and have fun!

Christmas Card Ornaments

Christmas cards
patterned scrapbook paper
index stock
glue stick, tacky glue, and gem glue
approximately 9” of thin ribbon for hanging loop
rick-rack and other assorted trims
a variety of embellishments such as small pompoms, buttons, charms, and flat-backed acrylic gemstones

Trim the front from the back of the card, then trim the card to the desired size.

Cut a piece of printed scrapbook paper slightly larger than the card. Glue the card to the scrapbook paper. Glue the scrapbook paper to the index stock. Trim the index stock to the scrapbook paper. (If desired, you can glue the half of the greeting card with the message and signature to the back of the index stock to remember the sender.)

If desired, glue rick-rack or braid around the perimeter of the card.

Glue the ribbon to the back top corners of the card for a hanging loop.

Decorate the cards with various crafts materials. In the ornaments shown the Merry Christmas Reindeer card ornament is embellished with a white snowflake charm and gold braid. Red pompoms were glued to the Songbird card ornament for the berries. The Happy Holidays Berries card ornament was trimmed with green rick-rack. Small red gemstones were glued over the berries.

For more easy-to-make craft projects, check out the Monday posts on Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers, the online version of the women’s magazine where Anastasia works.

Handmade Ho-Ho Homicide
An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 8

Two and a half weeks ago magazine crafts editor Anastasia Pollack arrived home to find Ira Pollack, her half-brother-in-law, had blinged out her home with enough Christmas lights to rival Rockefeller Center. Now he’s crammed her small yard with enormous cavorting inflatable characters. She and photojournalist boyfriend and possible spy Zack Barnes pack up the unwanted lawn decorations to return to Ira. They arrive to find his yard the scene of an over-the-top Christmas extravaganza. His neighbors are not happy with the animatronics, laser light show, and blaring music creating traffic jams on their normally quiet street. One of them expresses his displeasure with his fists before running off.

In the excitement, the deflated lawn ornaments are never returned to Ira. The next morning Anastasia once again heads to his house before work to drop them off. When she arrives, she discovers Ira’s attacker dead in Santa’s sleigh. Ira becomes the prime suspect in the man’s murder and begs Anastasia to help clear his name. But Anastasia has promised her sons she’ll keep her nose out of police business. What’s a reluctant amateur sleuth to do?

Buy Links

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The Times, They Are A’Changing @kdkoppang

Kathleen Delaney, author of Murder Half-Baked and other books, retired from real estate to pursue writing full time. She’s here today to talk about what the holidays have meant to her in the past and today.

Purebred Dead, the first in the new Mary McGill series, was released in August 2015 and Curtains for Miss Plym was released in April 2016. Blood Red, White and Blue was released in July 2017 and was a finalist for best canine book of the year in the Dog Writers of America annual writing contest. Kathleen’s newest book in the series, Dressed to Kill, was released in the UK on August 1, 2019 and in the US on November 1, 2019.

Thanksgiving is upon us once more and Christmas is waiting impatiently in the wings. This will be my 83rd holiday season and I find myself reflecting on holidays past and comparing them with those we celebrate today.

Things have changed. Personally, our holidays have gotten smaller, meaning fewer people. That is, of course, to be expected. Children grow up and establish their own family traditions, grandmothers and grandfathers are no longer with us, others move out of easy traveling distance so this year there will only be 5 of us around the Thanksgiving table and hopefully 7 around the Christmas tree. Time was when Thanksgiving meant a gathering of 20 – 30. One year, when I think we only had 16, we also had 9 dogs. That was an interesting year. I think that was the year we stopped up the garbage disposal and had several of the guys on the roof, trying to unstop it.

Christmas, when my 5 kids were little, meant midnight Mass, then the morning was free to focus on the presents Santa had left. They were always the good ones. Bikes, skates, wagons, a Chatty Cathy doll, good stuff. The ones Mom and Dad gave ran to books, underwear, slippers and brownie or cub scout socks with maybe a Barbie or a GI Joe. But they were star studded mornings that have left me with a lot of wonderful memories. In the afternoon the grandparents arrived, and we did it all over then sat down to a huge dinner.

It seems now the day isn’t a success unless you have enough stuff under the tree that it takes two days to open it all.

The years have brought other kinds of changes besides the ones at my house. It seems that Thanksgiving is now almost a forgotten holiday. It’s just a jumping off point for the start of Christmas shopping. Stores are even open Thanksgiving Day, so you won’t miss a bargain and Friday is a mad house. The stores have all been decorated for Christmas since before Halloween. Personally, the only purchase I make the day after Thanksgiving is poinsettias for a dollar at Home Depot. I go early and get home before the crowds overwhelm me. Most of my shopping will be done online. When my kids were little, online meant something you dried your clothes on.

Change can be good, though. I can still remember the pile of dishes at the end of the day. No dishwasher then, only me and whoever I could corral into helping me. Mostly my mother and mother-in-law. I give thanks every year for the dishwasher. I no longer have a double oven but during the years we had huge crowds it did double duty. Now we have gas barbeques that can grill the turkey and other things and they are a blessing indeed. But my favorite new thing is the cell phone. Used to be, if you were apart for the holidays, a card had to suffice. Not now. Thanksgiving Day and Christmas day the phones will be out and the camera’s on. We will share everything across the country except the turkey.

One last thing. Thanksgiving and Christmas are special days of joy and love, family and friends, giving and being thankful for the many blessings we have. That will never change.

For our family, neither will the number of dogs that will celebrate with us. Only 4 for Thanksgiving, but probably 6 for Christmas. I know it doesn’t come out even, but don’t worry. The person left over with no dog will get the cat.

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and that the turkey turned out perfect. Christmas, here we come.

Before I forget. Books are the perfect Christmas present. So if you have someone who likes dogs, small towns and a great puzzle to solve, please consider the Mary McGill canine mysteries. You just might find one of the dogs who will be around my Christmas tree lurking in the pages.

Short Story Review: A Charming Christmas by Tonya Kappes @tonyakappes11

A Charming Christmas
Magical Cures Novella
Tonya Kappes
Cozy Mystery Publishing, November 2014

From the author—

Whispering Falls is having a winter storm warning. Not only from a blizzard, but a thief. . . the Whispering Falls Grinch. Sheriff Oscar Park is snowed in the nearby town of Locust Grove and unable help catch the unwanted visitor in their magical town. It is up to June Heal and her familiars, Mr. Prince Charming and Madame Torres, to put their amateur sleuthing skills to work and bring the Whispering Falls Grinch to justice.

Psychic June Heal is on her own, sort of, in finding a local thief who’s messing with Christmas in the magical town of Whispering Falls. She’s on her own because her beloved wizard sheriff is snowed in in another town but she does have her familiars, Mr. Prince Charming and Madame Torres, to give her an assist.

This town of spiritualists doesn’t really celebrate Christmas usually but the Village Council decided to have a month-long bazaar to draw in shoppers. A few citizens are disgruntled about it but most get into it with lots of decorations, caroling, festive street lights and the like. Too bad some misguided grinch is stealing the shop decorations; is this thief all that upset about celebrating the season? Then again, perhaps June will discover something else entirely and save the bazaar.

There are no murders here, just a fun little story to enjoy along with a cup of cocoa and a Christmas cookie; fans of the series as well as new readers will relish this visit to Whispering Falls  😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, December 2019.

Spotlight on All Lies by Andrew Cunningham @arcnovels @GH_Narrator @AnAudiobookworm


Title: All Lies
Series: Lies, Book 1
Author: Andrew Cunningham
Narrator: Greg Hernandez
Publication Date: December 22, 2017
Genres: Mystery, Thriller



“I come from a long line of idiots.”

Those were the last words his father uttered before dying, and from what he knew of his family tree and the unfortunate end that came to so many of his ancestors, Del Honeycutt couldn’t disagree. What he didn’t know was that his family held dark secrets – secrets that were about to come crashing down upon him.

A seemingly innocent date gone tragically wrong plunges Del into a web of murder, lies, greed, and a hidden fortune dating back to a crime committed 85 years earlier by his great-grandfather. Accompanied by Sabrina, the sister of Del’s brutally murdered date, a violent journey of discovery and fear begins. Pursued by vicious killers intent on eliminating anyone with knowledge of the 85-year-old crime, their only hope of survival is to find the reason behind the original crime and why, decades later, someone is still willing to kill to keep it hidden. But Sabrina is concealing a monstrous lie of her own. Is she who she says she is?


Purchase Links:
Audible // iTunes


About the Author

I’m the author of novels in several genres, including, mystery, thriller, and post-apocalyptic science fiction. Under the name A.R. Cunningham, I’ve also written the Arthur MacArthur series of mysteries for children.

I was born in England, but have spent most of my life living in the U.S.—including 25 years on Cape Cod before moving to Florida. A former interpreter for the deaf and long-time independent bookseller, I’ve been a full-time freelance writer and copy editor for many years. A 4th-degree Master Black belt in Tang Soo Do, I finally retired from active training when my body said, “Enough already! Why are you doing this to yourself?” I’m married, with two grown children and two awesome grandsons. My wife and I spend as much time traveling as we can, and are especially fond of cruising the Caribbean.

​I have been gratified by the response to my books. When I published Eden Rising back in the spring of 2013, I had no idea what to expect. When I sold my first few copies, I was excited beyond belief that someone was willing to take a chance on it. Numerous books and thousands of copies later, I am still humbled by the emails I get from readers telling me that my books kept them up late into the night.

In October of 2014, Wisdom Spring made me an official Amazon Bestselling author, a thrill I never thought would happen. But it still comes down to being able to bring a few hours of escape to a reader. That’s what it’s all about for me.

I hope you will try my books. Please feel free to email me with your comments.

Website // Twitter // Facebook // Goodreads // Amazon


About the Narrator

Author-preferred Narrator of Mysteries & Thrillers

Narrating audiobooks is highly gratifying.  I immerse myself into an author’s story in order to bring it to life for the listener.  I’ve enjoyed working with Andrew Cunningham for several years. His books are filled with rich characters, and the stories keep me turning the pages.

I also work as a background actor in movies and TV shows.

For more than 20 years, I worked as a radio news reporter and news writer.  I spent half of my broadcasting career at ABC News Radio in the Washington, D.C., bureau.  I covered all the federal agencies as well as Congress and the White House. I reported on a wide range of stories during my career, including financial and entertainment industry news.

For nearly 24 years, I worked as a federal government spokesman at three separate agencies—National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Mint and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).



Play an excerpt here.


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$25 Amazon Giftcard
Runs December 1st to 22nd
Open internationally

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Mystery Writer Tackles Cold Case Series

Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, and Thorny Rose Mysteries—over twenty titles across three fast-paced mystery series filled with twists and turns!

Now, Lauren has added one more hit series to her list with the Chris Matheson Cold Case Mysteries. Set in the quaint West Virginia town of Harpers Ferry, Ice introduces Chris Matheson, a retired FBI agent, who joins forces with other law enforcement retirees to heat up those cold cases that keep them up at night.

Book reviewers and readers alike rave about how Lauren Carr seamlessly crosses genres to include mystery, suspense, crime fiction, police procedurals, romance, and humor.

Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She lives with her husband, and three dogs on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

Visit Lauren’s websites and blog at:

Gnarly’s Facebook Page:
Lovers in Crime Facebook Page:
Acorn Book Services Facebook Page:
Twitter: @TheMysteryLadie

Cold case mysteries are hot.

As a fan of mysteries, I have always been intrigued with the unsolved cold case. I still remember the chills that would go up and down my spine when I’d pick up a Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys book to discover that the plot revolved around an unsolved mystery from long ago.

As an adult, I’d wait anxiously every week for Robert Stack to pull me in for an hour of Unsolved Mysteries. Now, I’m able to satisfy my cravings with other cold case enthusiasts via the internet which offers a ton of websites and blogs where amateur and even some professional detectives offer tips and theories in hopes of thawing out cases that have turned to ice.

So it should not be any surprise that I would eventually endeavor to tackle a mystery series that revolves around a cold case squad. The Last Thing She Said is the latest installment in the Chris Matheson Cold Case Mysteries.

“I’m working on the greatest mystery ever,” was the last thing noted mystery novelist Mercedes Livingston said to seven-year-old Chris Matheson before walking out of Hill House Hotel never to be seen again.

For decades, the writer’s fate remained a puzzling mystery until an autographed novel and a letter put a grown-up Chris Matheson on the trail of a cunning killer. With the help of a team of fellow retired law enforcement officers, each a specialist in their own field of investigation, Chris puts a flame to this cold case to uncover what had really happened that night Mercedes Livingston walked out of Hill House Hotel. Watch out! The clues are getting hot!

Frankly, the Chris Matheson cold case series is not my first endeavor into cold cases. My first novel, A Small Case of Murder dove into a series of cold cases dating back over fifty years. The plot for Shades of Murder involved two seemingly unconnected cold cases, including a missing painting. A Fine Year for Murder takes the Thorny Rose detectives to the Virginia wine country to investigate the brutal murder of a family from Jessica Faraday’s childhood.

While the excitement of solving a cold case mystery makes for thrilling plotlines, they do present their own unique challenges.

For one thing, the writer penning the cold case has to ask the all important question, “What makes a cold case, especially a decades old cold case, turn hot?”

In recent years, science has played a major role in solving cold cases. Police departments across the globe have been dusting off cold cases and sending evidence to labs in hopes that advances in forensics since the crime had been committed will provide that breakthrough needed to identify the killer.

That’s an ideal situation in real life, but not necessarily a page turning plotline for a fictional mystery. Luckily, life and time offer many other scenarios that can—and have―heated up cold cases.

Death Bed Confession: Still, this can be too easy—or maybe not. In one case I researched, an elderly woman confessed to her daughter that her son had killed a young woman decades before. In this true case, the daughter was not surprised. She had often suspected that her brother had committed the murder. The problem was that her brother had an airtight alibi. In spite of the mother’s deathbed confession, the police couldn’t arrest her son, who had gone on to establish a highly respected life since the murder. First, they had to reopen the fifty-year-old case, break the suspect’s alibi, and find proof that he had committed the murder.

Changed Circumstances/Relationships: One cold case murder that I had researched was blown wide open when the prime suspect landed in jail for an unrelated crime. As is so often the case, the police in the small town were certain about who had murdered the victim, a witness in a burglary case. The defendant he was testifying against had an airtight alibi, but not the defendant’s brother, who had a long violent history. Unfortunately, everyone in the small town was terrified of the suspect. The police believed many people had knowledge of the murder but were too scared to come forward. After all, the murderer had already killed one witness. Many years after the murder, the prime suspect was arrested for an unrelated crime. With him locked up, suddenly witnesses poured out of the woodwork—including the brother who the victim was going to testify against.

Long Lost Evidence Discovered: In May 2016, the Plumas County Sheriff in California announced the discovery of a hammer that they believed to be the murder weapon in the thirty-five-year-old murder of Glenna Sue Sharp, her son and a friend of his. Her missing daughter’s remains were discovered three years after their murders. The hammer was discovered over three decades later a stone’s throw from the cabin where the two prime murder suspects resided. Unfortunately, both suspects had died before enough evidence was collected to bring them to justice. This tragic murder case became known as the Keddie Murder Mystery. The discovery of the hammer, resting not far from the crime scene, inspired my second Thorny Rose Mystery, A Fine Year for Murder.

That is often how it happens.

Days turn into weeks, which turn into months, which turn into years, which turn into decades. Suddenly, something somewhere happens—when you least expect it. That unexpected event acts like a flame to make those clues hot again.

Counting Our Blessings

May you and yours have a
most wonderful Thanksgiving!