Books & Beers on the Beach

Summer is here!

Time to relax on the beaches and shores of Minnesota's (way more than) 10,000 lakes! Minnesota is teeming not only with lakes but a stunning number of talented authors! Why not work your way through some of their books this summer? 

On Thursday, June 14, Michael Agnew and I will bring a taste of our Books & Brews to WCCO's Morning Show to give you some great summer books and great summer brews to enjoy while you read. Summer brings a little extra time to read--a great time to enjoy light mysteries and romances, or savor fantasy, adventure, or even a good biography or memoir.

A Book A Week:

Blue Bells of Scotland, history, time travel and a tale of redemption, by Laura Vosika

I'll start the list with the three books featured on WCCO. I'm biased, of course, being the author, but what I think many people like about The Blue Bells Chronicles, which starts with Blue Bells of Scotland, is that it's a fun read--time travel, history, an obnoxious arrogant womanizing musician who gets his comeuppance, that can simply be enjoyed as an adventure with plenty of historical detail, which can also be enjoyed on a deeper level.

From amazon: Shawn Kleiner has it all: money, fame, a skyrocketing career as an international musical phenomenon, his beautiful girlfriend Amy, and all the women he wants-- until the night Amy has enough and leaves him stranded in a Scottish castle tower.

He wakes up to find himself mistaken for Niall Campbell, medieval Highland warrior. Soon after, he is sent shimmying down a wind-torn castle wall into a dangerous cross country trek with Niall's tempting, but knife-wielding fiancee. They are pursued by English soldiers and a Scottish traitor who want Niall dead.

Thrown forward in time, Niall learns history’s horrifying account of his own death, and of the Scots’ slaughter at Bannockburn. Undaunted, he navigates the roiled waters of Shawn’s life-- pregnant girlfriend, amorous fans, enemies, and gambling debts--- seeking a way to leap back across time to save his people, especially his beloved Allene. His growing fondness for Shawn’s life brings him face to face with his own weakness and teaches him the true meaning of faith.

Blue Bells of Scotland is both a historical adventure and a tale of redemption that will be remembered long after the last page has been turned.

What happens to a modern man caught in medieval Scotland? Follow the story of redemption: The Minstrel Boy, The Water is Wide, Westering Home, and The Battle is O'er. For associated recipes, history, songs, and poems: Food and Feast in the World of the Blue Bells Chronicles.

Of Mourning Doves and Heroes, a mystery by Ross Tarry

I've been familiar with, and enjoyed, Ross's writing for nearly a dozen years. His writing style is crisp and sparse, as he tells the stories of (usually) older men who are pulled into a mystery.

From amazon: In the small tight-knit town of Lawrence a paraplegic is found dead. Was it an accident or was it murder? The daughter of the town's only law officer, fifty-nine year old Titus Closson, is forced off the road and nearly killed. 

Titus, who's been contemplating retirement. is forced to put his plans aside to catch a killer and save his daughter's life.

If you like Ross's writing, you'll have plenty more to choose from, with 
Eye of the Serpent set in Mexico, 
Last Cry of the Whipoorwill in Baja Mexico,
Cardinal Red, a story of family secrets,
and several more coming soon!

Ross is an original member of the 30+ year Maple Grove writing group, Night Writers.

Silence, a mystery/adventure by Lyn Miller Lacoursiere

The Lindy Lewis stories now span many novels. It all started when Lindy's husband died, leaving her with their lovingly restored home--now infested with carpenter ants. "You may as well burn it," the pest inspector jokingly says. Lindy does, collecting a million dollars from the insurance company. Through the course of the series, Lindy travels the country and into Mexico, toting her million dollars in a shoe box, and running into one adventure after another.

Featured on WCCO this morning was Silence, the sixth in the series: The sixth book in the Lindy Lewis adventure series. This was the one big reason she had been forced to change her life so drastically, Lindy Lewis cries. Heartbroken, and furious at Reed Conners for his thoughtlessness and lack of consideration, believing he just hadn’t cared enough to inform her months ago of his arrangement with the FBI, Lindy leaves his bed in Birch Lake and drives away.

"I see you dead!" And old woman declared when she appeared at Lindy's door in Hilton Head and insisted she had something very important to tell her. Lindy is wary of this woman's insistence, and totally exhausted from loss of sleep after being plagued by the same three men chasing her again in her nightmares. And after hearing what just might be her demise, she panics. Was this it? Had Mario's family finally won and they would kill her too?

If you enjoy Lyn's writing, she has many more books following Lindy and the town of Birch Lake: Almighty, Moonbeams, the original Lindy Lewis story Nightmares and Dreams, and more.

Love in a Tuscan Kitchen, memoir by Cheryl Ness

Cheryl Ness says of her memoir: My book takes you on a beautiful journey to Italy. It’s my story of falling in love with an Italian chef and living in a little village in Chianti. Love in a Tuscan Kitchen: Savoring Life Through the Romance, Recipes, and Traditions of Italy 

From amazon: Chocolate cake makes sweet dreams come true.

In a real-life fairy tale, author Sheryl Ness shares how she fell in love with Vincenzo, a chef in a quaint Tuscan kitchen, over his decadent hot chocolate cake.

This enchanting memoir will transport you to the cobblestone streets, lush hillsides dotted with grapevines and olive trees, and unique characters that create the backdrop for Sheryl’s Italian love story.

Love in a Tuscan Kitchen is sprinkled with traditional recipes she collected along the way and flavored with rich accounts of how her dreams were fulfilled many times over while living in a picturesque village in Chianti.

Raise a toast and taste pure joy as Sheryl opens her heart to love, and in turn finds herself on a remarkable journey of discovery through the people, traditions, and customs of Italy as the blond Americana fell in love with the chef with twinkling eyes.

Going Coastal, short stories by nine Minnesota authors.

My take: After a lifetime in the military, I moved to Duluth several weeks before starting seventh grade. I fell in love, as many Minnesotans do, with the beautiful old houses, the hills, the character of the town, and of course the beautiful expanse of one of the world's largest lakes--second only to the Caspian Sea, in fact. I would love to read a collection of stories set in this beautiful area.

From amazon: Lake Superior—its people and places—feature in this anthology of short stories by nine writers from Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The power of stories lures an aging man on a road trip back home, north on Highway 61. Through her painting of a river, an Ojibway woman teaches a historian about himself and her culture’s connections to the land and water. A woman confronts a suicidal man on Stoney Point, led by the mystical power of water to magnify her psychic abilities. Another woman finds meaning in the intricate curves and fiery bands of an agate. A shoreline boulder offers its magical views on human life. A ship captain from long ago faces a coldwater death in Whitefish Bay. Life comes full circle in the currents of the lake for a young man from Two Harbors. A ghostly fur trapper haunts Madeline Island. A family’s powerful saga unfolds on the shores of Lake Superior.

The Face of God, novel by Agnes Maria Trifontaine

From amazon: This fictional journal depicts the spiritual transformation of a painter. Rolanda Tribault is the very epitome of the American Dream. Everything she desires is obtainable. Her father, an influential attorney, has protected her from sorrows and vagaries, and she has learned to fill her time with distractions, so even a twitch of dissatisfaction can be ignored. 

She dances on the surface of her nirvana-like life. But she has paid a price. She has lost her artistic vision and compensates by obsessively copying and re-copying the face of God from one of Peter Paul Rubens' paintings. 

It has been said that we grow into true humanity by suffering. Although Rolanda has blithely denied such a premise, the truth of it catches up with her and her carefully constructed life begins to unravel as she is forced to face deeply buried grief. A transformation begins which extends over a period of nine months, the gestation period of the fetus. In real life it takes, of course, much longer, a lifetime, in fact. What the author wants to show in this narrative is the complex progress of learning to face the truth about oneself and the world and point out the courage it takes to accept all of life's gifts, be they success or failure, laughter or desperation.

Agnes also has a number of children's detective novels which would be fun summer reads for kids:
Stradivari Don't Grow on Trees There is Music in All Things and more.

Murder on Madeline Island, an Emily Swift mystery by Lorrie Holmgren

I enjoyed having Lorrie on Books and Brews in early 2017, talking about Murder on Madeline Island. It was especially fun as I'd been there. If you like mysteries, check out Lorrie's writing!

from amazon: When travel writer Emily Swift agrees to join her boyfriend Chet for a romantic getaway on Madeline Island, she has no idea she will end up accused on murder. But that's what happens when she finds a dead lawyer stashed in an abandoned refrigerator. Who could have killed him? Could the fact that he was on the island to help Chet's grandmother rewrite her will be a motive? Chet's family is outraged by a will that excludes them unless they find Gram's Ojibway half-brother. But surely they aren't angry enough to kill. Or are they? When everyone on the island assumes that Emily and Chet are engaged and the victim's blood stains are found in her car, she quickly becomes the prime suspect. Can Emily clear herself and solve the case in time to prevent the killer from striking again? Or will her sleuthing lead her into a new romance and even greater danger? Find out in Murder on Madeline Island.

Bitter or Better, life wisdom by Caryn Sullivan

While we often think 'light' for summer reads, it's also a perfect time to read more deeply, when we have time to savor a book, consider its words, and contemplate. Bitter or Better, about the choice in how we face the circumstances life hands us, is exactly one such book.

From amazon: Well acquainted with family drama and adversity since childhood, newspaper columnist Caryn Sullivan continued to encounter an overlapping string of family crises with a stoic resolve that left her in an emotional cocoon.

A few months after joining what she called the ''freakin' widows club'' in 2009, she met a priest at a social function and unloaded her grief, seeking answers. Sullivan embraced his life-changing advice: ''In the face of adversity, we have a choice. We can be bitter, or we can be better.'' His message became the theme in many columns she wrote about kindred spirits: Bret Baier, Vince Flynn, Temple Grandin, Lee and Bob Woodruff, and more. Encouraged by bestselling author Vince Flynn's generous assessment of her lyrical writing style, Sullivan has woven together her own personal experiences as a life crisis survivor with those of the people behind many columns she wrote for the St. Paul Pioneer Press opinion page.

By sharing stories of those who faced adversity and went on to do remarkable things, Sullivan discovers the healing power of both words and action.

Of Beasts and Beauties: a re-telling by Emily Gorman

What an interesting concept! A classic tale is re-told by multiple authors! As both author and reader, I'm interested to read the multiple versions found here!

Minnesota author Emily Gorman's version features in this box set of five full length novels.

From amazon: Amid the love roses and razor-sharp thorns, love tangles between beasts and beauties in the romantic tale that transcends time.

Five novels retell the classic story of Beauty and the Beast, each with its own twist. 

Meet a dark-elf prince, a dragonian princess, a brooding vigilante, mighty superheroes, and futuristic guards, and watch as Beast meets Beauty, falling in love across fantasy, science fiction, and romantic suspense.

And of course, you don't get just Emily's story, but four more, too!

Her Dark Inheritance, Book 1 of the Willoughby Chronicles by Meg Hafdahl

From amazon: On the day her mother died, Daphne Forrest learned the devastating truth. She’d never really known the women who raised her, not even her real name. Fueled to unravel the tragic mystery behind her mother’s secrets, Daphne abandons all she knows, traveling to the bucolic yet sinister town of Willoughby, Minnesota.

Navigating through the memories of her own bloody legacy, Daphne throws herself into the insular and haunting small town of her ancestors. She investigates the murder that led to her mother’s shame, with the help of charming, yet tortured, local Edwin Monroe. Edwin has a unique understanding of the darkness in Willoughby, and how the town holds a lurking threat more foreboding than any unsolved murder. 

As Daphne gets closer to the truth, Willoughby itself rebels against her. She bears witness to terrifying scenes from the past. Is her mother a murderer? Is this Daphne’s dark inheritance? Is she strong enough to battle an evil more frightening than her own past?

If you enjoy Meg's writing, she has more! Twisted Reveries, Eve's Requiem, and more.

Where the Heart Is, Christian romance by Brenda S. Anderson

From amazon: 
RISKING LOVEBank employee Lissa Morgan likes all the columns of her life to add up. From her job to romance, every major decision is planned out. But before she can go out on a date with Mr. Perfect, she attends a charity auction with her meddling mom who wins Lissa a date with thrill-seeker Caleb Johnson.

Caleb lived for adventure until heart disease stole his wife’s life. Then debt closed his business and now threatens to take his home. With a toddler to raise, he vows that his risk-taking days are over. But then he meets the cautious yet curious Lissa Morgan and decides it’s time to take one more risk—this time on love.

When Lissa learns the extent of Caleb’s debt, she wonders if she can collect on his heart if she forecloses on his home. And why is she falling for the wrong man—one who challenges her to leap from her orderly life and into his waiting arms?


Photographer Haven Carlysle is a changed man. Six years earlier, he had run from his tragedy-filled life in Duluth. Now he's back in town to capture the North Shore's beauty ... and to recapture the love of his son. But that means making amends with his ex-girlfriend too. When camera-leery Callie Beaumont steps in to bridge the relationship between Haven and his former family, he's wary, but she's his only hope.

Callie Beaumont is surrounded by beauty. Her parents are local news celebrities. Her sister is a model. And Callie is ... Ordinary. All her life, Callie has longed to work outdoors soaking up God-breathed beauty, and the opportunity is finally on the horizon. But being the liaison between the handsome photographer and his son has thrown her dreams, and her heart, into chaos.

Can Haven capture her heart when she won't let him capture her image? And will his poor choices cost Callie her dream job and him the love of his son?


When flowers and chocolate collide, romance is sure to bloom.

Family has always been the one constant in Jess Beaumont’s messy life, so when her parents separate, she puts “Operation: Planting Hope” into action. All she has to do is recreate the circumstances that helped her parents fall in love. Unfortunately, that includes the daunting task of restoring the family cabin’s gardens. When the handsome candy store owner shows up to help, she’s certain she has all the elements required for her parents’ love to bloom again. After all, flowers and chocolate are the perfect ingredients for romance.

Luke Harrison has spent his life trying to win his father’s approval, and a promotion in the family land development business would be a step in that direction. But when he inherits Gran’s candy store, his dreams of being promoted start melting away. Then his dad dangles a Vice President position in front of Luke, with one caveat—acquire the land on both sides of Gran’s store within five months, including the Beaumont cabin, and the promotion is his.

What at first seemed a simple challenge for Luke becomes a tangled mess. Buying the Beaumont cabin and land will nip his blossoming romance with Jess in the bud. Even worse, it could end her parents’ marriage. But if he doesn’t succeed, he could be trading in his corner office for the corner candy store.

Wild Ways: Mystery of the Hanging Tower by Dale Swanson

From amazon:

A loudmouthed gray squirrel named Chatter, a fidgety gopher named Archie, a raccoon with special powers named Ring, and all the animals living on Enchanted Island select Oscar Johnson to receive the Wild Ways. 

They must solve a riddle before their island is destroyed and they loose everything including their lives. Given the power to talk to all creatures, Oscar receives a series of clues provided by the animals and learns that a suicide thirty years in the past was actually a murder. 

This knowledge draws the FBI agent Jim Brandt into the story. Together they race the clock to discover the final piece to a puzzle that reaches into the highest seats of power within the US Government.

If you enjoy Dale's writing, he has other books, too, including The Thirty-ninth Man and Tears of Sorrow,. both of which are historical novels.


The Battle is O'er is now available!
Start from the beginning: Prelude One 
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  1. Thanks for the mention, here, Laura! So many new authors & books--I can't wait to sample them all!

    1. Hi, Brenda, thanks for stopping by! Yes, so many books from local authors and this list only scratches the surface!


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