Tag Archives: Canadian authors

Review: Crafting Deception, by Barbara Emodi

Crafting Deception, by Barbara Emodi (C&T Publishing, 2023)

“Help me.” The words, spoken to Valerie Rankin as a man she trusts is arrested for murder, leave her wanting to help without knowing how. Circumstantial evidence and a criminal past make Rankin’s General Store employee Duck MacDonald the prime suspect in a murder.

In the small fictional town of Gasper’s Cove, on Nova Scotia’s Atlantic Coast, everybody knows everybody’s secrets… or so they think. Yet past generations’ rumrunning and other illegal acts have influenced the present. Suddenly it seems to Val that strangers and friends alike are on the search for hidden treasure. And nobody’s concerned about clearing Duck’s name.

Author Barbara Emodi has a keen sense of descriptive details that bring the town and its characters to life. As an example, chapter 12’s scene at a fundraiser with “church-basement, made-by-the-women’s auxiliary sandwiches” will have Atlantic Canadians of a certain age nodding and remembering. She also includes a fair sprinkling of humour.

Protagonist Val is a sewing instructor and an empty-nest single mother. Her way of solving a mystery is to jump to a series of wild (and wrong) conclusions, embarrass herself by insisting the police should act on what she says, be proven wrong, and try again. Until she accidentally stops the killer and solves the case. She’s persistent, determined, and she genuinely cares for the people in her community.

She’s also a character I need to take in small doses. By hyper-focusing on her current stress or idea, she misses social cues and responds inappropriately. Like the brisk brush-off to a date invitation from a man she likes. Or like dashing off to confront her son in person when he sends a text asking for a bit of space.

Book 1 in the series is Crafting for Murder. As well as her Gasper’s Cove mysteries, Barbara Emodi has written instructional books on sewing. To learn about the author and her work, visit babsemodi.com.

[Review copy from the public library.]

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Review: A Tiding of Magpies, by Steve Burrows

Greyscale book cover featuring two black and white birds in flight.

A Tiding of Magpies, by Steve Burrows (Dundurn Press, 2018)

This time, DCI Dominic Jejeune (a Canadian working in England) and his team work to solve a local murder while he’s involved in an investigative review of the high profile case that launched his career. Jejeune is not the only one with regrets about that case… or with a suspicion all might not have been as it seemed.

I’m really enjoying the Birder Murder Mystery series. Each book has a strong sense of place, engaging characters with depth, clever turns of phrase, and complex crimes. The characters and plots keep me thinking about them when I’m not reading.

I’m not a birder (although I do like birds) but it’s interesting to see how they keep finding their way into the books. Also interesting are the environmental and social threads that appear.

A Tiding of Magpies is Book 5 in a series I’d heartily recommend you start from the beginning (A Siege of Bitterns). Or you could dive into this one and then go back to the start.

It’s rare for me to find a longer series that I feel committed to finishing, but this is one of them. Clean and not gory, brutal, or creepy. No risk of nightmares or vicarious trauma. Just good reads mostly set in the British countryside. I’m trying to ration them so I don’t finish too quickly. Thank you, Steve Burrows!

For more about the author and his work, visit steveburrows.org.

[Review copy from the public library.]

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Review: Renaissance, by Susan Fish

book cover: huge tree, stone wall, golden grass, blue sky

Renaissance, by Susan Fish (Raven, 2023)

First things first: this cover, on the paperback held in my hand, is absolutely gorgeous. The golden light (especially on the grass), the huge tree, the stone wall and clouds. It speaks rest to me, and warmth.

The story also brings rest. Evocative prose draws us into Liz’s struggles and into the beautiful Italian setting. If you haven’t (yet) experienced any mid-life reshapings of your identity, you’ve likely felt the hurt of being left out, misunderstood, or betrayed.

This is literary women’s fiction with an almost languid feel to it… never boring, just slowly and gently inviting readers in.

It’s a story of self-discovery, family, and forgiveness, with a thread of faith—wrapped up in a virtual tour of Florence, Italy. My only caution is there are a few pages of profanity near the end, catching both Liz and the reader off-guard. I understand why Liz surprises herself by lashing out in this way, and how she finds it entirely appropriate to the situation, but it jarred my peace and could be a deal-breaker for some.

Favourite line:

His words fell into a deep place in me, like olive oil finding every hole in a piece of bread, saturating it.

[page 57; context: Italian gardener was talking about pruning olive trees, while Liz sees a meaning for her own life from his words.]

For more about Canadian author and editor Susan Fish and her other books, visit her website. You can also see my reviews of two of her other books: Seeker of Stars and Ithaca.

[Review copy from the public library.]

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Review: The Elisha Code and the Coming Revival, by David Kitz and Dr. Ed Hird

Book cover with lightning striking a burning bush.

The Elisha Code and the Coming Revival, by David Kitz and Dr. Ed Hird (Word Alive Press, 2023)

If John the Baptist fulfilled the role of the Old Testament prophet Elijah, was there a corresponding prophet Elisha to follow him with a double blessing of power? The authors of The Elisha Code and the Coming Revival point to Jesus as a type of second Elisha—not in the sense of denying His deity, but as continuing and building on John’s call to repentance and allegiance to a new Kingdom.

They are very clear in affirming that Jesus is indeed the Son of God. Their call is for readers to be “Rediscovering Jesus’ Blueprint for Renewal” and to follow in His way.

The opening chapters of the book trace a number of parallel miracles between Elisha and Jesus (those of Jesus being greater). I’m familiar with comparisons between Jesus and Moses, and Jesus and Joshua, but this connection with Elisha was new to me.

The book also delves into past spiritual awakenings, outpourings, and renewals. For Christians praying for revival, it echoes that longing and points us to inspect our own hearts: are there aspects needing repentance and to come (back?) under the Kingdom authority of Christ?

Despite possible first impressions of the title and cover, this is no trendy, hype-driven “new” revelation. The truth it contains may well be a catalyst, but as the natural result of considering Jesus and His work.

In fact, the introduction explains, “To fulfill its divine mission, the church of the twenty-first century does not need to discover new and different truths for this current age. It needs to return to and rediscover lived truths taught by Jesus and the apostles of the first century church, and put into practice by leading men and women of God down through the ages” [Introduction, page 3 Kobo version].

The book’s premise is that the key to revival is the “return to a Holy Spirit-powered church growth” [chapter 18, page 4 Kobo version]. As readers accept the challenge to seek God and be found by Him, and to prepare their own hearts for what He may be about to do, may we see results in keeping with the truth of the Gospel.

David Kitz is an award-winning author and Bible dramatist. Dr. Ed Hird is a writer and speaker and former pastor. Each is an ordained minister in his respective denomination. This is their first book collaboration.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

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3 Fun Mysteries Set in Nova Scotia

Out of the many mysteries set in Nova Scotia, here are three I’d suggest you try (in alphabetical order):

Book cover with crafting supplies, dressmaker's form, and a large dog.

Crafting for Murder, by Barbara Emodi

Secrets and schemes and small-town murder. Read my review.


Book cover with small yacht and crime scene tape.

Murder in Hum Harbour, by Jayne E. Self

Mystery and romance in a small coastal town. Read my review.


Book cover with ocean waves, trees, locket.

Oak Island Revenge, by Cynthia d’Entremont

Coming of age in the 1950s. Small-town secrets–with rumours of treasure. Read my review.


Hmm… sensing a “small coastal town” theme here… and that’s what I write in my Green Dory Inn mysteries too. I’d better go on record as stating that Nova Scotia is more than just a string of villages along the Atlantic coast! We have a city, Halifax (current population 423,000), as well as a number of large towns and inland agriculture.

Come see what we’re all about at the Nova Scotia tourism site, then maybe plan a visit! Or at least you’ll be better able to picture the settings when you read our fiction.

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Review: The Color of Sky and Stone, by Sara Davison

Book cover: The Color of Sky and Stone, In the Shadows, Book One, by Sara Davison.

The Color of Sky and Stone, by Sara Davison (Three Dreamers Press, 2023)

Part thriller, part romance, and part Christian women’s fiction, The Color of Sky and Stone is a beautiful story that’s clearly hard for me to categorize. (Although I’ve learned a couple of new terms: this can be called upmarket fiction or book club fiction, since it’s designed to stimulate thought and discussion.)

Thriller: Tane is a secret operative in a Canadian organization tasked with taking down drug lords and crime rings. The brief scenes from the enemy’s point of view had me very nervous reading this book. I’m left with an unanswered question, but as an increasingly-timid reader I don’t think I’ll be brave enough to read the sequel in search of an answer. If this is the last high-suspense novel I read, though, I’m glad to have ended with one so appealing. [Note that only portions are intense; most scenes engage the heart and spirit. Also, what I feared didn’t transpire… yet.]

Romance: Lia and Tane are both isolated by their roles in life. Their relationship begins as two strangers exchanging letters. In the honesty and vulnerability of what they write (they’re not expecting to meet) watching them fall in love is sweet.

Christian women’s fiction: Themes of forgiveness (of self and others), honesty, secrets, identity, faith, childhood trauma, risk-taking, and emotional healing make this a book where readers walk with the characters and perhaps find something that makes a difference in their own lives. Discussion questions at the end offer additional opportunities for personal reflection and/or group discussion.

Lia and Tane’s experiences leave them both questioning their chosen roles. What makes the story beautiful is the honesty they risk sharing and the way it frees Tane from hurts he’s carried for years. None of this is contrived or pushy; it’s an organic outcome of their shared experience.

The Color of Sky and Stone is book 1 in the “In the Shadows” series. Sara Davison is an award-winning Canadian author of romantic suspense. Visit her website to learn more about her and her books: saradavison.org.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

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Review: Crafting for Murder, by Barbara Emodi

Crafting for Murder, by Barbara Emodi (C & T Publishing, 2023)

Secrets and schemes and small-town murder.

Empty-nester Valerie Rankin has returned to the tight-knit—and tiny—community of Gasper’s Cove on Nova Scotia’s Atlantic coast. She’s housesitting for her vacationing aunt and teaching sewing classes and trying to set up a crafter’s co-op to boost tourism.

But home isn’t the stable, unchanging place she remembers. Suddenly, she’s trying to save the family store and investigate a murder. The locals she’s known all her life aren’t who she thinks they are. At least one is a killer.

I really enjoyed this book and will definitely read the next one. The town feels like a character in its own right, and I like how ordinary Valerie and her rescue dog, Toby, are. The mystery is solid, but it’s the interpersonal relationships that unfold that make the story stick with me.

This isn’t one of those stories where the amateur sleuth has a knack for quietly finding and piecing together the clues. Valerie is impulsive, she jumps to conclusions, and she antagonizes a lot of people in her quest for justice.

One of the people she accuses says, “Maybe you should slow down on trying to figure people out and maybe notice who they are more.” [p. 157]

In short, Valerie’s a lot like most of us would be in her situation. And she has a good heart. She may be going about this the wrong way, but she’s sure it’s for the right reasons.

Crafting for Murder is sure to appeal to fans of small-town cozy mysteries. You don’t have to be a crafter or a Nova Scotian to engage with this story, but if you are you’ll feel an extra connection.

As well as her mysteries, Barbara Emodi has written instructional books on sewing. To learn about the author and her work, visit babsemodi.com. Book 2 in the Gasper’s Cove Mysteries series, Crafting Deception, is scheduled for release in December 2023.

[Review copy from the public library.]

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Review: Risking Rest, by Carolyn J. Watts

Book cover: Risking Rest: Embracing God's Love Through Life's Uncertainties, by Carolyn Watts

Risking Rest: Embracing God’s Love Through Life’s Uncertainties, by Carolyn J. Watts (hope*books, 2023)

The best memoirs let us experience something of the writer’s world but also invite us to apply some of the life lessons to our own hearts, however different our circumstances.

Risking Rest is a memoir in two parts, linked by the imagery of pregnancy and birth from Dr. Carolyn Watts’ obstetrics training. The first two-thirds of the book revisit her brief years serving in a medical mission to Afghanistan’s “hidden women” in a remote village. A sensitive soul with an as-yet-undiagnosed illness that taxed her body, she nonetheless proved wrong the assessing psychologist’s declaration that she’d never make it—never make meaningful connections there.

For North Americans, this glimpse into the harsh beauty of rural Afghanistan and its courageous women will help us better appreciate the needs. And it helps us see some of what these women have since lost under the restrictive Taliban regime.

For non-medical readers, the narrative of serving 24/7 with never enough staff—or heat!—and while working in a language not their own is the stuff of heroes. But Carolyn Watts is quick to deny the heroic—they served because the need was great, even when exhaustion wore their compassion thin and government officials threatened to shut them down.

In the middle of this intense season, Carolyn wrestled with Jesus’ invitation to rest: “How did ‘my yoke is easy, and my burden is light’ mesh with words about taking up your cross and sharing in Christ’s sufferings? [Page 128]”

She describes feeling a strong call from God to this part of Afghanistan, and that call kept her focused through the hard times—until her deteriorating health brought her back to Canada.

Enter part two of the memoir, learning to let go of the first calling—to focus on the One who gave the call and who was now giving a new call: to be cradled in His love and to learn that weakness could be a gift.

When the outward things that define you are stripped away, who are you?

Favourite lines:

…the One who brings life into being in us, tending it gently and with great skill, is little worried about the mess of the process. [Page 12]

Cling not to the call but to the One who called. [Page 166]

There are times grace hurts. [Page 167]

Risking Rest is a transparently vulnerable account of one Christian’s lifelong desire to grow closer to God. Each chapter opens with a heart-warming Scripture pointing to how she experienced God’s care even in the hard places. The book concludes with some practical and personal questions to help readers consider their own faith journeys and how they might apply the same lessons for themselves.

Dr. Carolyn Watts is a Canadian writer and blogger. You can find her at Hearing the Heartbeat, which she describes as, “Listening together to God’s heart and making our home in Christ’s love.” I highly recommend subscribing to follow her hope-filled blog posts. To view the trailer for Risking Rest or to download a free chapter, visit hearingtheheartbeat.com/risking-rest.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

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99-cent Ebook preorder!

99-cent Ebook preorder! And not for the book you were expecting!

I don’t do 99-cent preorders anymore.

So why am I doing one for this book?

And what book is it, if it’s not the next Green Dory Inn mystery?

Announcing the Expanded Anniversary Edition of Heaven’s Prey,
now with 6 new chapters + prologue.

Expanded Anniversary Edition of Heaven's Prey preorder sale: ebook 99 cents. Ends Nov. 1/23.

So, why 99 cents? I hope many of my followers have read the earlier version. Why should I ask you to pay full price for a story when you know how it turns out?

For that matter, why suggest you buy it at all? 

How about those 6 extra chapters I mentioned? Plus the prologue.

If you’ve been with me awhile, you may have noticed my books combine mystery/suspense with a strong serving of Christian women’s fiction. It took time for me to discern the pattern, and by then Heaven’s Prey was already out there in the world. It’s not completely lacking in that aspect, but I had cut out the first part of Ruth’s story before submitting it to the publisher.

Last year, I reread the book. Reached the end, and started asking, “What about this part? Or this one? I didn’t see them anywhere.” And I realized they deepen who Ruth is. And they match my pattern of blending the mystery/suspense with Christian women’s fiction.

They also give readers the opportunity to walk with a Christian who’s grieving. Who’s angry. Whose faith shakes but ultimately stands. 

You know what? That’s me some days. And I suspect it’s you too. So let’s start the story with “everyday” Ruth. Before she becomes the prayer warrior God sends like Ezekiel to call a wicked man to repentance. 

May we never encounter a person with this depth of evil. And yet, may we trust our God and rely on His faithfulness to carry us through whatever paths He brings us into.

If Heaven’s Prey is new to you, be aware the subject matter is darker and more intense than my later books and comes with a content warning. The villain is a serial rapist-murderer. Not a nice man. But he’s a soul in need of salvation.

Not for you? I get it. I couldn’t read something like this if I hadn’t written it (because I know what does and doesn’t happen). Even so, it took a long time to write because I’d tiptoe through scenes and have to go back and deepen them. 

If you can, please pick up a copy and consider leaving a review to raise visibility. If you can’t, please share with any friends who read darker fiction.

The print book will release later in November, but the ebook 99-cent preorder sale ends November 1. The buy links are collected here: books2read.com/heavens-prey-special.

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99-cent Ebook Sale (Ends Aug. 27/23)

If you were waiting for a sale to get your copy of Bitter Truth, now’s the time. The ebook is 99 cents until end of day Sunday, August 27 on Apple, Google Play Books, Kindle, Kobo, Nook, Smashwords, and probably a few more. To make it easy for you, here’s a link that will let you choose your preferred store and country: books2read.com/bitter-truth.

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