No Charm Intended – REVIEW

4 out of 5 stars.

No Charm Intended is the second book in the Cora Crafts Mystery series by Mollie Cox Bryan. It was a delightful read and I definitely enjoyed it more than the first book.

Book Cover: No Charm Intended - A Cora Crafts Mystery by Mollie Cox Bryan - Front of a house with pots of flowers sitting on the steps. A tabby cat is sitting in the foreground.

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Brief Synopsis

Settling into her new life and career in small-town Indigo Gap, North Carolina, Cora Chevalier is preparing to host a “wildcrafting” retreat at her Victorian home. But a specter hangs over the venture when beloved local nanny Gracie Wyke goes missing. Amidst leading their guests in nature hikes, rock painting and making clay charms, Cora and her business partner, Jane, team up with Gracie’s boyfriend, Paul, to launch their own investigation into her disappearance when the local police prove unhelpful.

Cora and her crafters take Paul in, believing he is in danger and not the suspect police have made him out to be. However as they uncover new clues and a body turns up at a local abandoned amusement park, Cora and Jane begin to question their decision. With more questions than answers arising, is Cora crafty enough to untangle a knot that could put an innocent in jail—and permanently destroy her reputation? (Source: Amazon)

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No Charm Intended was a delightful read. I was a little bit leery when I picked it up because I hadn’t really enjoyed the first book of the series, but this one was definitely better and I enjoyed reading it. There were three reasons this book did not get a 4.5 or 5 star rating. 1) It lagged a bit in the middle section, though it does pick up speed again. 2) There just isn’t that extra “pizzazz” that I need for 5 stars. 3) The way mental illness was dealt with in this book, which I explain below.

While we do end up with a murder in this one, the main story line is that of an abduction. I was thrilled with that. Sure, murder makes one of the more “tantalizing” mysteries, but I’m always thrilled when an author decides to go with an abduction or a robbery so something besides just murder as it’s a nice change of pace.

I enjoy our main characters for the most part. They’re well-developed and complex characters. I enjoyed some of the side characters in this book as well.

The setting descriptions are adequate. I wouldn’t have minded a few more details, but it wasn’t too sparse. I was able to imagine most of the places described in the book.

The plot line moved along mostly at a steady pace. There was a small section in the middle where it seemed to lag, but then it picked up again.

The biggest issue I had is with Jane’s reaction to the news of the abducted young woman having a mental illness. We’re made to understood that if Jane had known, she wouldn’t have hired the young lady. Now, I understand that she’s worried about the safety of her daughter, but having a mental illness should NOT be the sole reason you don’t hire someone. I have five mental illnesses. Yes, five. Yet, I spent many years babysitting children and still babysit from time to time with no issues. I understand wanting assurance that the person watching your child isn’t going to have a meltdown. However, instead of just dismissing them out of hand, talk to the person. Is the person taking their meds as prescribed? Are they seeking help for their condition? If they are, there’s very little to worry about. Would you dismiss someone just because they’re diagnosed with cancer or diabetes? Probably not. Those with mental illnesses deserve the same respect.

Other than that, this was a fun book to read and I’m now looking forward to more in the series. 🙂

*** I received an ARC of this book from the author. I was not compensated for my review. All opinions and conclusions expressed are my own. ***

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About the Author

Photo of Mollie Cox Bryan - middle-aged white woman with short brown hair, no glasses, and smiling, standing against a door jamb wearing a black top with a v-neck.Mollie Cox Bryan writes cozy mysteries with edge and romances with slow, sweet burn. She wrote the Agatha-award nominated Cumberland Creek Mysteries. Several of the books in that series were short-listed for the Virginia Library People’s Choice Award. She makes her home at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the Shenandoah Valley, Va.

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Armada – REVIEW

5 out of 5 stars.

Armada by Ernest Cline Book Cover - black background with a fleet of green triangle spaceships at the top and 6 tiny white triangle ships at the bottom

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Zack Lightman has spent his life dreaming. Dreaming that the real world could be a little more like the countless science-fiction books, movies, and video games he’s spent his life consuming. Dreaming that one day, some fantastic, world-altering event will shatter the monotony of his humdrum existence and whisk him off on some grand space-faring adventure.

But hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little escapism, right? After all, Zack tells himself, he knows the difference between fantasy and reality. He knows that here in the real world, aimless teenage gamers with anger issues don’t get chosen to save the universe.

And then he sees the flying saucer.

Even stranger, the alien ship he’s staring at is straight out of the videogame he plays every night, a hugely popular online flight simulator called Armada—in which gamers just happen to be protecting the earth from alien invaders.

No, Zack hasn’t lost his mind. As impossible as it seems, what he’s seeing is all too real. And his skills—as well as those of millions of gamers across the world—are going to be needed to save the earth from what’s about to befall it.

It’s Zack’s chance, at last, to play the hero. But even through the terror and exhilaration, he can’t help thinking back to all those science-fiction stories he grew up with, and wondering: Doesn’t something about this scenario seem a little…familiar?

At once gleefully embracing and brilliantly subverting science-fiction conventions as only Ernest Cline could, Armada is a rollicking, surprising thriller, a classic coming of age adventure, and an alien invasion tale like nothing you’ve ever read before—one whose every page is infused with the pop-culture savvy that has helped make Ready Player One a phenomenon


Armada by Ernest Cline is Mr. Cline’s second novel. His first novel, Ready Player One, was quite successful and is being made into a movie. I’ve heard from many colleagues and friends that they didn’t like this one as much as the first book, but I felt differently. I really enjoyed Ready Player One, but I loved this book. I was riveted from the start and had a hard time putting the book down.

I think  part of the reason I liked this one even more is because this one seems more plausible than Ready Player One. Sure, it’s still fiction, but it’s not too far out of the realm of possibility of what could happen in the near future. It’s not likely to happen, but it could and that gave it an extra level of excitement for me.

I felt the characters were very “real” and not too “perfect” or too horrible. The main character, Zack was very believable as a 17/18-year-old. He was brash, somewhat arrogant, reacted without thinking at times, thought his way was better sometimes to the detriment of others, etc. – all things I’d expect from someone of his age.

The settings were realistic and the plot line moved along at a good pace. It wasn’t so fast that you were confused about what was happening, but it certainly wasn’t a slow book! Plus, the ending was a twist that I didn’t really see coming.

I would definitely recommend this to others who enjoyed Ready Player One or just enjoy science fiction in general. One of the best books I’ve read in a long time!