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Monthly Archives: October 2017

A Toast to Murder–mystery set in a bar

A Toast to Murder

by Allyson K. Abbott

A Toast to MurderThere are suspects galore. The wannabe detective actually gets unwanted official recognition. The setting is interesting—a bar whose owner caters to the Capone Club, an informal crime solving group, by providing a room in the bar for their gatherings. There is a lot to like about this book.

You know what’s coming up next…a medium sized “but.” Yes, I liked the book, but it was not an “I just can’t put this down” mystery despite the fact that lives were hanging in the balance. This is not a case of book bashing because a serial book does not work well as a standalone: A Toast to Murder can stand on its own. The author actually does a good job of bringing the reader up to speed, but it is a constant process and becomes slightly intrusive. Because this mystery seems to occur over several books, it just doesn’t have a comfortable cohesiveness. Another problem I have with the book is that many of the suspects are not fleshed out enough for the reader to invest interest in the probability of their being the criminal. There are two love interests for bar owner Mack, but I had a hard time caring about her relationship with either of them. Perhaps that would be different if I had read previous books in the series.

On the positive side, the main character, Mackenzie “Mack” Dalton, has an interesting neurological disorder called synesthesia. In Mack’s words, “It causes one’s senses to get mixed up or cross-wired so that any sense I experience—smell, for instance—is manifested through a second sense at the same time. For instance, I not only hear people’s voices, I often taste them.” Although this disorder can be stressful for Mack, she has learned to use it to her advantage in solving crimes. The author deserves kudos for her creativity in constructing a plot that would focus on Mack’s skills in this area.

I would like to extend my thanks to and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: 1. #5 in Mack’s Bar Mystery Series

  2. Bonus section with mixed drink recipes

Publication:   July 25, 2017—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

They hung around for an hour or two, chatting about the letter writer, speculating about motive, comparing whoever was behind it to Sherlock Holmes’s nemesis, Professor Moriarty. By inference, it meant they were comparing me to Sherlock Holmes, and I had to admit that I found the analogy a little flattering.

Knot What You Think–piecing together a mystery and a quilt

Knot What You Think

by Mary Marks

Knot What You ThinkMartha Rose takes center stage in the cozy mystery Knot What You Think by Mary Marks. Martha has been quilting with a small group of friends in L.A. every Tuesday for seventeen years. They also form her support group as she investigates mysteries that come her way. She is an observant Jew, and so there are a lot of Yiddish phrases that spice up the writing with meanings inserted in a non-intrusive way. There are two love interests: Arlo Beaver, the straight shooting LAPD homicide detective and “Crusher,” a secret ops/undercover ATF agent.

This cozy mystery swirls with personal threads—weddings, funerals, ex’s, health issues, quilting, swindles, and dogs in fancy dress. Usually that would be too much distraction for me from the main point of the book: discovering the identity of a murderer. Surprisingly, Mary Marks is able to put it all together and make it work. The side issues are, in fact, important to Martha’s process of investigation. In spite of the fact that I was reading it during some traveling, I always enjoyed coming back to it until the mystery was solved.

There were interesting notes about quilting scattered through the story. The book ended with an epilogue that tied up some of the personal stories with promise of more to come.

I would like to extend my thanks to and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #5 in the Quilting Mystery Series and good enough as a standalone to make me want to read more in the series.

Publication:   July 25, 2017—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

I found endless fascination in the geometry of traditional quilts. Depending on how you placed quilt blocks next to each other in the top, secondary overall patterns could emerge.

Besides, even if I did want to get married, whose proposal should I accept? A generous, laid-back undercover ATF agent with a secret life and Israeli connections he refused to discuss or an upright, uptight LAPD detective with Native American roots, whose life was an open book? A future filled with anxiety and uncertainty or one that was reliable and predictable but not as exciting? A three-carat flawless diamond sitting in a black fuzzy box or my favorite German shepherd?

I was less interested in the hapless Kaplan and more interested in reading the whole three-volume story passing over Beavers’s face.

Superman and the Miserable, Rotten, No Fun, Really Bad Day

Superman and the Miserable, Rotten, No Fun, Really Bad Day

by Dave Croatto

Superman and the MiserableAs you were growing up, did your storytime include Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst?  Or maybe you read it to your kids. As a teacher, I saved it for a really bad day for the initial read in my classroom. It’s one of those special books that puts problems in perspective and a smile on your face.

With those memories in mind, pick up Superman and the Miserable, Rotten, No Fun, Really Bad Day. MAD promotes it as 100% parody, and I think you will get a kick out of the story and illustrations. Poor Superman is just having one of those days. He wakes up to broken glasses and cell phone. Kids on the bus and the other superheroes don’t give him the respect he deserves. He gets a lousy assignment at work. You just need to read it yourself to learn of all the “miserable, rotten, no fun, really bad” things that happen to the Man of Steel. Maybe your problems won’t seem so bad!

I would like to extend my thanks to and to DC Entertainment/MAD for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Comics, General Fiction

Notes: Parody

Publication:   October 17, 2017— DC Entertainment/MAD

Killer Party–a good one!

Killer Party

by Lynn Cahoon

KillerPartyI had read the eighth book in the Tourist Trap Mystery Series by popular cozy mystery author Lynn Cahoon and was not excited as it focused more on extraneous details of the main character’s personal life and less on the mystery. I am so glad I gave this series and author another chance with Killer Party.

Set at The Castle, a luxurious resort/museum in South Cove, a small town in California, this tale finds Jill Gardner, owner of Coffee, Books, and More celebrating the upcoming marriage of her boyfriend Greg’s old college buddy. Cahoon does a great job of familiarizing the reader with old characters and introducing new ones, while jumping right into the plot. My favorite new character and coffee shop employee is Deek, who initially appears to be a disaster in the waiting. Despite calling everyone “Dude,” Deek is a talented, well-educated young man with great enthusiasm for his work.

There are lots of suspects and threads to the plot. Greg, who is the local police chief, is forced to investigate informally with Jill since he is a friend of the victim. Side issues evolve with Jill’s Aunt Jackie who is planning her own wedding.

Killer Party is fun, interesting and an all-round good cozy mystery. What’s next, Ms. Cahoon? I’m ready!

I would like to extend my thanks to and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #9 in the Tourist Trap Mystery Series, but works as a standalone 

Publication:  July 18, 2017—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

Actually I wasn’t sure why I was apologizing to this woman I’d never met before. I’d read a book that said one of the ways women give up their power is by saying I’m sorry for things that weren’t their fault.

I needed to have one good meal before we started skirting the law. It was part of the investigators handbook. Or at the least the one I was going to write someday after I made all the mistakes first.

I liked doing laundry. It calmed me in some weird way. Take something dirty and stained and make that all go away. Too bad life wasn’t like that.

Dead Storage–dangerous secrets

Dead Storage

by Mary Feliz

Dead StorageWhat do you do when a good friend who also happens to be a really good person gets involved in a murder and asks you to keep a secret from his husband? If you are Maggie McDonald, professional organizing consultant, wife, and mother of two boys, you keep the secret, investigate the murder, and try to get your friend out of jail.

That is the short version of a fast-paced cozy mystery entitled Dead Storage. At times I was a little irritated with the way Maggie accepted red tape and being put off by those she was interviewing. Then I thought about three months this summer and the runaround I received in trying to get two birth certificates and repairs accomplished on a motorcycle under warranty. Actually what Maggie went through was pretty believable.

I recommend this book for its intricate mystery and interesting social elements. You will especially like it if you have a heart for the homeless, empathy for those with PTSD, and a passion for dogs.

I would like to extend my thanks to and to Kensington Books (Lyrical Underground) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #3 in the Maggie McDonald Mystery Series, but works as a standalone

Publication:  July 18, 2017–Kensington Books (Lyrical Underground)

Memorable Lines:

Clutter costs time and money. Even if you aren’t renting extra storage, if you’ve got so much stuff that you don’t know what you have or where it is, or you can’t find it when you need it, it’s nearly the same as having nothing at all.

Neighborliness wasn’t restricted to streets with single-family homes and gardens. Apartment buildings, parks and anywhere that people came together could provide community too.

While electronic communications are great for efficiency purposes, any emotional or dicey situation is so much better handled face-to-face.

Room for Doubt–does the motive justify the crime?

Room for Doubt

by Nancy Cole Silverman

Room for DoubtWhen is a murdered person not a victim? Who is Mustang Sally? Why would a policeman turn a blind eye to a crime?

There are lots of questions to be answered in the fast-paced cozy mystery, Room for Doubt,  by Nancy Cole Silverman. Carol Childs is a single mom trying to make a living as a reporter for talk radio when she finds herself hosting a late night talk show. Throw into this mix a handsome PI, an aging “Psychic to the Stars,” and some bizarre murders and you have a recipe for a mystery you won’t want to put down.

There is not a lot of deep character development, but you won’t miss it because the plot has the focus. The reporter Carol and PI Chase, who would like to get to know Carol better, are both likable. Supporting characters add interest as they move in and out of the action. The setting provides a realistic touch as it is the L.A. area where the author currently lives.

I would like to extend my thanks to and to Henery Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery, General Fiction (Adult)

Notes: #4 in the Carol Childs Mystery Series, but works well as a standalone

Publication:   July 18, 2017—Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

Whoever said fashion made the woman certainly knew the right outfit could cover a world of insecurities, and right now I felt like I needed all the help I could get.

“I thought the arguments and his escalating violence was my fault and that I could fix him. So I didn’t leave. I thought I could make it better. Abusive men can do that to you.”

“Things have changed some today but not enough. Abuse is a social stigma. A lot of women are too embarrassed to tell their friends and family the truth about what’s happening. Most end up living in fear.”

To Kill a Hummingbird–the middle is good

To Kill a Hummingbird

by J.R. Ripley

To Kill a HummingbirdI enjoy word play so I was immediately attracted by the title of J.R. Ripley’s To Kill a Hummingbird. This is the fourth book in his Bird Lover’s Mystery Series with two more waiting in the “wings.” This cozy mystery gets off to a slow start with rather stilted dialogue. Ripley spends the requisite amount of time introducing his characters and setting the stage, but the story just seems to drag as the former professor of Birds and Bees shop owner, Amy Simms, arrives in Ruby Lake, North Carolina, for a book signing. The book rambles on for four chapters with the only suspense being the alcoholic state of the professor.

The author includes some interesting information on hummingbirds, but often the inclusion seems forced. I do think, however, that this is a book bird aficionados will really enjoy. My opinion of the book grew steadily more positive as the plot increased in complexity and as the characters interacted with each other. There were interesting twists to the plot as Amy and her boyfriend Derek try to determine who is responsible for several murders. Unfortunately, after the mystery is solved, the author attempts some comic relief which is both unsuccessful and unwanted.

I would like to extend my thanks to and to Kensington Books (Lyrical Underground) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 3/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #4 in the Bird Lover’s Mystery Series

Publication: July 11, 2017— Kensington Books (Lyrical Underground)

Memorable Lines:

“Sometimes when you see a hummingbird hovering over a flower, it isn’t because it’s about to feed on nectar—it could very well be that the bird has spotted a tasty spider or even an insect trapped in a spider’s web.”

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