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Monthly Archives: June 2018

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Picked Off–vegan running a goat dairy

Picked Off

by Linda Lovely

Picked OffI enjoyed Picked Off, a cozy mystery by Linda Lovely, but I didn’t love it and I didn’t think it was as good as the first book in the series.

On the positive side, it has an interesting plot, likable characters and appropriate injections of humor. In fact, there is an exciting escape scene that is as funny as all get out! It’s worth reading the book just to experience that piece of writing. There are lots of fun, folksy figures of speech to roll off the tongue and stir the imagination. 

On the negative side, Brie, who is helping her Aunt Eva with Udderly Kidding Dairy, is as enmeshed as ever in her attractions to Paint and Andy who are best friends to each other. The irony of a vegan who runs a dairy farm and engages in cheese and meat curses is lost on no one and remains amusing in the second book. The romantic triangle, however, is losing its appeal. Brie, along with the author, appears stuck on the fence. My other criticism is that there were a few loose ends that did not get tied up. I am especially interested in the missing backpack containing evidential video footage. It seems to have dropped off the radar.

The basic plot is interesting: Carol Strong is campaigning for South Carolina governor and her son, football star Zack, is attacked during a Halloween themed rally for her benefit. There is more mayhem, lots of entanglements, and plenty of folks to accuse. Imagine trying to identify suspects when most guests are wearing masks.  Brie, her friend Mollye, and Aunt Eva find themselves overly and dangerously involved, but the reader benefits by enjoying the plot’s development.

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

Rating: 4/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #2 in the Brie Hooker Mystery Series

Publication:  June 5, 2018—Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

My nerves jangled. Who could blame me? Yesterday’s assault would have scared the beans out of a bowl of chili.

Eva returned around lunch time, exhausted. Airlines could assess a surcharge for the size of the bags under her eyes.

…we were more out of our depth than a vegan at a wienie roast.

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Rockets’ Dead Glare–deadly blaze in South Cove

Rockets’ Dead Glare

by Lynn Cahoon

Rockets' Dead GlareI am not usually attracted to novellas, but I really enjoy Lynn Cahoon’s cozy mysteries so I decided to give Rockets’ Dead Glare a try and I’m glad I did. A short, but satisfying mystery with a different sort of resolution and a happy ending.

There are a number of suspects with good reasons to want to see Barry, South Cove’s volunteer fire chief, dead, but who would actually commit the horrifying deed? Two members of Barry’s volunteer fire department have shady backgrounds, but neither Jill, owner of the local coffeeshop and bookstore, nor her detective boyfriend Greg thinks either one is capable of murder. Who wanted Barry dead and how was the murder committed? Will the toxicology reports produce evidence? The answers lie in this outstanding novella.

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: This novella is part of the Tourist Trap Series, but works well as a standalone.

Publication:  June 5, 2018—Kensington Press (Lyrical Underground)

Memorable Lines:

The smell of french fries makes me happy. I’m not proud of this fact, but it’s the truth. I needed the salt, carbs, and fat today. Stress eating is my specialty.

And as I leaned into him, I realized it was a happy day. And for a second, I let the gratitude of the moment wash over me. Life right now was perfect and wonderful. Tomorrow’s problems could wait until tomorrow. Today I was happy.

A Literary Tea Party: Blends and Treats for Alice, Bilbo, Dorothy, Jo, and Book Lovers Everywhere

A Literary Tea Party

by Alison Walsh

A Literary Tea Party2A Literary Tea Party, subtitled Blends and Treats for Alice, Bilbo, Dorothy, Jo, and Book Lovers Everywhere, is a delightful book tantalizing the senses with beautiful color photos and delicious themed recipes. The Table of Contents categorizes the recipes into Savories, Bread and Muffins, Sweets, Homemade Tea Blends, and Tea Alternatives. Each recipe is then listed by its themed name and the book or author associated with it. For example, Savories includes Poetical Egg Salad Sandwich referring to Anne of Green Gables.

Although many of the books referenced are childhood favorites, this is not a children’s recipe book. The recipes are of various difficulty levels and although they generally are aimed at sophisticated tastes, the whole tea party atmosphere is so special it would entice children to sample something a little different. Most recipes include a photograph, a quote tying in the literary reference, a note about the recipe, a listing of ingredients, and clear directions followed by a serving note that again references the literary work. Sometimes important cooking notes are added and highlighted. For some recipes a tea pairing is included. There is also a section of the book which gathers five or six recipes together into a theme for a tea party. Some draw on recipes that refer to one book. Some refer to a theme such as murder and draw from a variety of authors.

The author, Alison Walsh, displays her creativity and artistic skills in the various dishes she shares as well as her photography. Walsh is a self-taught food blogger (Alison’s Wonderland Recipes) who also loves books. In the process of writing A Literary Tea Party, Walsh researched the science behind cooking and devoted herself to developing her culinary skills. The result is a beautiful book that any food lover or book lover would  appreciate; it is a magnificent combination of culinary and literary interests immersed in a refined, but fun, atmosphere only achievable in a tea party setting.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Skyhorse Publishing for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Cooking and Food

Publication:   June 5, 2018—Skyhorse Publishing

Memorable Lines:

Note that accompanied “Candied Nuts with Meadowcream” from The Legend of Luke: A Tale of Redwall by Brian Jacques: Most Redwall recipes are simple, rustic dishes, and dessert is no exception. In fact, sugar doesn’t even make an appearance in this recipe. Instead, lightly honeyed spiced walnuts are the star of this dish, accompanied by a generous helping of Redwall’s famous meadowcream. This dessert’s cozy flavors and homey feel make it a perfect Redwall dish!

Note that accompanied “Dark Chocolate Earl Grey Lavender Truffles” from “The Naval Treaty” by Arthur Conan Doyle: There’s nothing more British than Earl Grey tea or Sherlock Holmes, so why not bring them together? These dark chocolate truffles use cream steeped in tea to get that distinct Earl Grey flavor.

Note that accompanied “ Fairy Dust Star Cookies” from Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie: This imaginative take on the linzer cookie features a raspberry jam center and silver sprinkles. Delicately sweet with an otherworldly twinkle, they’re a dessert even Tinker Bell couldn’t resist.

Burning Meredith–police procedural

Burning Meredith

by Elizabeth Gunn

Burning MeredithWith the interruptions common in daily life, I never finish a book in one sitting, and I rarely complete a book the same day I start it. Burning Meredith was an exception. I did stay up late to finish reading it because it was such a good mystery. Due to its focus on police investigative techniques, it is considered a police procedural by those who like to subdivide the genre.

Burning Meredith centers around a huge forest fire in the south-central Montana mountains, destroying many acres and threatening little Clark’s Fort. If it is possible for a bad thing to be good, then this forest fire was it. The disaster breathed new life into the little weekly Clark’s Fort Guardian and provided opportunities for young, local photo-journalist Stuart Campbell to shine. Not afraid of hard work and familiar with the mountains, he manages to put the Meredith Mountain area on the map nationally.

I like the journalist character, but I truly associate with retired teacher Alice Adams who works for the paper as an editor, initially only a few days a week. As she says, “After thirty-two years of catching kids passing crib notes, you didn’t just stop on a dime. Shouldn’t there be a twelve-step plan for this transition?” She is a respected fixture in the community, as she has taught English and social studies to several generations of Clark’s Fort middle schoolers. She encourages her nephew Stuart in his journalistic efforts, and she provides invaluable assistance in solving the mystery of an unidentified man whose body is found after the fire has been controlled.

There are two major threads to this plot; the author initially shares these in separate chapters as unrelated storylines. The reader gets caught up in the reporting of the fire, and then suddenly there is this other direction that appears like an itch waiting to be scratched. Author Elizabeth Gunn’s writing is excellent in terms of the general plot and how it plays out and also in her turn of phrase. Some of Gunn’s prose is so good that I found myself rereading parts just to enjoy her choice of words, her descriptive excellence, or her metaphors. Many mysteries do not allow for much in the way of character development or they expend too much energy on the characters at the expense of the plot. Gunn hits the mark with her writing style. Her main characters are developed and interesting; her minor characters provide a nice backdrop.

Elizabeth Gunn has two series of police procedurals. Will Burning Meredith begin a new series? I could find no indication that it would or wouldn’t, but my opinion is that this book is a good basis for one.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Severn House for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery, Police Procedural

Publication:   June 1, 2018—Severn House

Memorable Lines:

Like a bonus for a job well done, Clark’s Fort got a second freaky dose of luck. A surprise deflection in the polar vortex brought cold, moist air and a drastic dip in air pressure down across Canada and pouring into Montana.

“As you well know, Clark’s Fort doesn’t generate much news.”  “For sure. My street gets so quiet on August afternoons, I swear I can hear the bluebirds planning their trip south.”

She gave him the English teacher look that had brought silence to rooms full of eighth-grade miscreants for a generation.

…when the weather warmed up the country roads became mud-holes even  more impassable than the snow-drifts had been. People still had to get around, so they chained up and churned out, making ruts you could lose a spring calf in.

Don’t Believe It–an unexpected murderer

Don’t Believe It

by Charlie Donlea

Don't Believe ItThere is so much to recommend in Don’t Believe It by Charlie Donlea. The initial setting is exotic: Sugar Beach in St. Lucia in the Eastern Caribbean. This mystery begins immediately with action and suspense. The main character, Sidney Ryan, is a smart, talented, ethical filmmaker. The documentary she is producing is presented almost in real time: the audience gets to learn the results of Sidney’s investigations and interviews in the same week they occur. Out of appeals, an old friend who has been incarcerated for murder for ten years in St. Lucia asks for Sidney’s help in drawing attention to her case as Sidney has done in three prior films that resulted in each instance in freeing the accused.

The story effectively jumps around to various locations and times and uses a variety of styles to convey the events. Designations for places and times  are clearly and helpfully added to the first of each chapter. The inclusion of documentary episodes based on interviews is very effective as a storytelling tool.

Don’t Believe It is fast-paced, and the author knows just where to break the chapters so the reader wants more. The mystery is engaging and suspenseful, and the various threads all come together in the end. There were a lot of plot inversions and surprises. I would rate this mystery highly until the end when the crime puzzle is solved, but there is no closure to two major threads. What is the point? Is the author being artsy by leaving the reader dangling? Perhaps he is letting the reader mentally finish the book according to the way the reader wants it to end. Maybe this open-endedness is preparation for a series. Whatever the reason, I was a happy reader for most of the book, disconcerted by but accepting of a sudden change in direction, and then unsettled by the ending. Charlie Donlea proved he has good skills as a mystery writer, and I would like to read more of his work to get a comprehensive feel for his talents.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com 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: Some swearing

Publication:   May 29, 2018—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

The detectives did exactly what they’re trained not to do. They picked a suspect first, and then looked for evidence that supported their theory. And the problem with investigating a crime in that manner is that any evidence they came across that didn’t support their theory was ignored or discarded.

But she had found over the years that inmates, deprived of just about every luxury in life, possessed a great deal of patience. They never expected anything to happen quickly, and took news of delays in much the same fashion as finding the bathroom stall occupied. They simply took a breath and waited.

If I could start my career over and take a path that more closely represented my interests, I’d do it in a second.

Murder with Cinnamon Scones–set in the tearoom of my dreams

Murder with Cinnamon Scones

by Karen Rose Smith

Murder with Cinnamon SconesMurder with Cinnamon Scones is the tale of an art dealer’s death, suspicions placed on those he loved, and the struggles we all go through in trying to make sense of our lives. As with most cozy mysteries, this one is set in a small town trying to survive. In Willow Creek, Pennsylvania, as January surrounds the town with cold and some intermittent snow, small business owners are cooperating to draw in more tourists through Quilt Lovers Weekend. Daisy, who owns Daisy’s Tea Garden, is one of the leaders of this group. She finds her time divided between running the tea shop, investigating a murder to clear her friend Tessa, and developing friendships with two handsome men. She also devotes time to her two teenage daughters, the quilting weekends, her extended family, and her cats. Oh, and she also has to stay alive!

As busy as Daisy is, she still has the time and skills to maintain her tearoom as a successful business. With an emphasis on customer service, the tearoom draws visitors and locals for its delicious formal teas as well as soups, breads, and more casual tea service. Daisy and others at the tearoom are constantly experimenting with recipes, and the various types of teas mentioned in the book are so appealing. If this weren’t fiction, I’d be eager to visit this delightful tearoom housed in an updated Victorian house.

I highly recommend Murder with Cinnamon Scones for a good mystery, a surprising resolution, and interesting characters and settings. In it lies a poignant reminder that in relationships, things are not always what they appear to be. I’m glad it is part of a series because I was sad to reach the end of the book.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com 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: 1.  #2 in the Daisy’s Tea Garden Mystery Series, but works well as a stand alone.

  2. Look for recipes in the back of the book.

Publication:   May 29, 2018—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

Quilting shouldn’t be about finishing. It’s about putting your heart into each stitch and just relaxing and doing your best in that moment.”

“You should know by now,” Rachel said, “that should and shouldn’t after the fact do no good when you’re a mom. You just start from where you left off, and you try to do better.”

Oh, to be nineteen again, and to know exactly what to do or what was right, Daisy thought.

Bear Witness to Murder–teddy bear themed cozy

Bear Witness to Murder

by Meg Macy

Bear Witness to MurderBear Witness to Murder is set in little Silver Hollow where Sasha Silverman, owner of Silver Bear Shop and Factory, is one of a number of local entrepreneurs trying to survive through foot traffic, bulk sales, and special  events like the village’s Oktobear Fest. This is a town where gossip reigns and the locals are family or longtime friends. Generally this is a quiet and peaceful place to live—until Sasha’s childhood nemesis Holly returns bringing her nasty attitude, a shop in direct competition to two others, and an assistant who is suing the mayor during his re-election campaign.

Meg Macy has a chatty style to her writing and sets the background well so that we are surprised along with Sasha when she discovers a dead body. The mystery centers on this event, but swirling around it are family and romantic entanglements as well as Holly’s backstabbing efforts against the Silverman family. Other characters that play a major role are Sasha’s sister Maddie, and the girls’ boyfriends Kip and Jay. All three are artists and contribute their efforts to the festival.

I like this book. As a teddy bear enthusiast, I found the theme charming. I also appreciate the main characters, who are fairly well developed.  There are, however, a lot of minor characters, and I found myself referring back to review their relationship to the main characters. The ending is surprising, startling even, but does not provide satisfying closure for Sasha and Maddie.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com 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: #2 in the Adorable Teddy Bear Mystery Series, but it is good as a standalone.

Publication:   May 29, 2018—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

It seemed to fit with my memories of Holly’s personality. Sweet to your face, but ready to change in an instant or stab you in the back.

He had a true gift, seeing an animal or object hidden within wood, and then bringing it into clear focus with such talent and skill.

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