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Monthly Archives: July 2018

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The Summer Nanny–relationships and their impact

The Summer Nanny

by Holly Chamberlin

The Summer NannyThe term “women’s fiction” can connote quite a broad range of books. Thus I was unsure what to expect from The Summer Nanny by Holly Chamberlin. This story is actually two tales in one as best friends Amy and Hayley, from very different backgrounds and with very different prospects, decide to accept employment for the summer as nannies for wealthy vacationing families. Hayley is a product of a dysfunctional family with an alcoholic and abusive father. She loves academia, but rather than finish college has to work cleaning houses to support her family. Amy’s father passed away when she was a baby, but her mother, a gifted crafter of fiber arts, has raised her in a small but comfortable home in a loving atmosphere.

Amy and Hayley find personal challenges in their summer jobs. Naive Amy is hired by a narcissistic and controlling successful businesswoman who claims to want to mentor Amy. Hayley, on the other hand, finds relief from her home environment in her job as a nanny for two year old twins whose mother is teaching French at a community college as a favor to a friend. Both girls experience personal growth as a result of their jobs. Romance plays a role in this novel, but so do family connections.

The style of The Summer Nanny with its short chapters keeps the plot moving as the focus of the chapters alternates between the two main characters. The book is interesting, but some of the scenes could have been omitted without sacrificing the integrity of the plot or the points the author wants to make.

Although this book could be considered a “beach read,” it is not really fluff. The author encourages the reader to examine questions of the causes and results of two abusive situations and the responses of the characters involved in them. There are definite themes of right and wrong and the importance of choices.

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: Women’s Fiction

Notes: One of the recurring characters in the book is a lesbian and a subplot concerns her relationship status, but there are no descriptions of a physical relationship.

Publication:   June 26, 2018—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

Hayley was smart enough to know there was no possibility of completely throwing off one’s past, but there had to be ways to move into the future relatively unencumbered by traumas experienced when one was young.

Love and admiration transformed an average-looking human being into an angel of beauty. Contempt and dislike transformed an average-looking human being into a goblin.

“What with arts education funding being cut so drastically, I feel I have to do something. Kids need to learn visual thinking and creative problem solving.”

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Staged for Murder–danger on the catwalk

Staged 4 Murder

by J.C. Eaton

Staged 4 MurderSophie Kimball really just wants to do her job as an accountant and bookkeeper for the Williams investigations firm. She gets roped again, however, into doing some sleuthing on her own as the members of her mother’s book club in Sun City West, a retirement community in Arizona, recruit her to help discover the murderer of a member of a community acting troupe.  Avid readers, they branch out as performers and crew in a production of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap.

There are lots of twists and turns to the plot of Staged 4 Murder with suspicion cast like a shotgun blast in multiple directions. Just when you (and Sophie) think the murderer has been found, new evidence comes to light. Sophie is an interesting main character, and the interactions with her mother are humorous. This book is not destined to be a classic for the ages, but it is an enjoyable cozy mystery, and I look forward to the next in this series written by a husband-wife team under the pen name J.C. Eaton.

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: #3 in the Sophie Kimball Mystery Series, but delightfully fun as a standalone

Publication:  June 26, 2018 — Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

I got up from my chair, took the list from my mother, and muttered six regrettable words before heading home for the night. “I’ll see what I can do.”

“My God! Now you’re sounding like my mother. Next thing I know you’ll be reusing paper plates.” “Whoa. That was unfair.”

My mother tried calling the dog, but he ignored her. Selective hearing must apparently run in our family.

Murder Made to Order–good basic cozy

Murder Made to Order

by Lena Gregory

Murder Made to OrderIf you have ever wondered what it would be like to move from cold, urban New York to small town Florida complete with snakes, alligators, and monkeys, try reading Murder Made to Order. In this cozy mystery, Gia’s diner, the All-Day Breakfast Café, is in danger of being shut down because of zoning regulations. When Gia finds the town council’s president dead, things get complicated. 

Not even sure she wants to live in Florida, Gia finds herself in the middle of a forest fire, a tornado, and a murder investigation. On the plus side, however, are her supportive friend of ten years Savannah, her potential boyfriend Hunt, and a lot of encouraging townsfolk.

Author Lena Gregory draws the reader into Murder Made to Order with a good background, interesting characters, and surprising complications. Along the way you learn a lot of interesting things about life near the Ocala National Forest.

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:  #2 in the All-Day Breakfast Café Mystery Series, but works as a standalone.

Publication:  June 19, 2018 — Kensington Press (Lyrical Underground)

Memorable Lines:

Gia stood in the middle of the living room and stared out the window. Rain pounded against the house. Lightning flashed, bolt after bolt, illuminating the yard. Mesmerizing. The tall, thin palm tree outside her front window bent in half.

“Twenty-one years old, barely old enough to drink, and he struts in like he owns the place. Drunk as a skunk and dumber than a bag of rocks, carryin’ on about how his daddy was going to own the place.”

Gia watched them walk away, realizing nothing united a community the way tragedy did. It seemed the need to help others brought out the best in people.

Shadow Dancing–society mom meets teenage prostitute

Shadow Dancing

by Julie Mulhern

Shadow DancingWould this book be THE ONE? Would the seventh book in the Country Club Murder series be the one that would let me down? Would that great sense of humor mixed into a fascinating mystery fall flat? Would the 70’s backdrop become cliché? Would I tire of Ellison’s love affair with Mr. Coffee or her battles with her imperious mother? The answer to all of these questions about Julie Mulhern’s Shadow Dancing is a resounding “NO!”.  I enjoyed the book all the way through and was sad when it came to an end.

As usual, the pace is perfect and the storyline is inventive. Mulhern’s use of descriptive language puts the reader in the scene as she transports Ellison through high society cocktail parties and into the danger of the night. This story focuses on homeless girls forced into prostitution and drug addiction; the seriousness of the theme gives an edge to the book with its fast-moving plot. Detective and boyfriend Anarchy Jones plays an important role in providing physical and emotional support for Ellison who finds herself in the role of protector as the murderer challenges her. This cozy mystery is full of surprises and suspense.

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: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #7 in the Country Club Murder Series

Publication:   June 19, 2018—Henery  Press

Memorable Lines:

Aggie marched up to a second librarian—one who made the woman downstairs look like a congeniality winner in a beauty contest. The librarian on the second floor looked like the woman in American Gothic by Grand Wood: close-set eyes, marionette lines that dragged the corners of her lips into a frown, and a long, thin neck. The expression in those close-set eyes could have scared General Westmoreland into immediate surrender.

Winstead’s didn’t sell hamburgers; it sold steakburgers. The burgers were cooked to a deep shade of brown and flavored with salt and grease. They arrived at the table wrapped in wax paper sleeves and the first bite could change a life.

Outside, the night swirled with a heavy, cold mist. March deciding lion or lamb. The mist clung to my hair, and lashes, and coat. The click of my heels echoed on the pavement. The darkness breathed—thick and dangerous. I shivered.

Death and a Pot of Chowder–cozy with guns, lobsters, and a foodie

Death and a Pot of Chowder

by Cornelia Kidd

Death and a Pot of ChowderI know very little about Maine—small, cold, and famous for lobsters. All of that information is verified in Death and a Pot of Chowder, but I absorbed so much more about Maine by reading this cozy mystery by Cornelia Kidd. The characters are very interesting, especially the likable main character Anna Winslow. Having lost her job when her stepfather died, she is a stay-at-home mom to fourteen year old Jake and wife to Burt, a lobsterman. She enjoys her quiet life until she finds herself thrown in the middle of a murder investigation to clear Burt of charges at the same time she discovers she has a half-sister Ozzie, a young, ambitious, and talented chef.

I enjoyed the community of Quarry Island and references to Anne of Green Gables. I can identify with Anna turning to chocolate in times of stress! As an educator, I appreciate that the students on the island are cocooned a little as they attend school there through junior high and only travel to the mainland for high school. In such a setting I can conceive of the freedoms Jake and his friend Matt enjoy to roam the island.

The characters are not goody two-shoes, but most do have appeal as direct people who care about their neighbors. Anna is a strong woman, but also a woman who is willing to expand outside her current boundaries. She is open to new challenges and new relationships. I did wonder about her ties with her “stepfather” Seth. She was raised from birth as his child, but when she discovers that he is not her biological father, she never calls him “dad” again. Although I understand many children long for a relationship with their biological parents, it seems cold and out of character for her to emotionally discard him. As she was working for him as an office manager at the time of his death, I assume he did not respond by cutting ties with her. This is an interesting, but disappointing, twist to the story.

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: 1. # 1 in the Maine Murder Mystery Series.

  2. Recipes are found in the back of the book.

  3. As Izzie is interested in historical cookbooks, each chapter starts with a quote from a cookbook which also includes tips for managing a household.

Publication:   June 12, 2018—Crooked Lane Books

Memorable Lines:

People joked that islanders had salt water in their veins. We were different, separate, and wary of off-islanders who commented on the beauty of the island, wondered at our isolation, and then left.

But first I was going to eat chocolate. If ever there was a day for chocolate, this was it.

I’d been like a mussel, glued to the rocks I’d always clung to. Now, everything had changed. I’d been tossed into the waves to survive. Would I find a new rock to cling to? Or be found by a laughing gull and dropped onto a ledge, smashed, and devoured.

As the Cookie Crumbles–food oriented cozy, but so much more

As the Christmas Cookie Crumbles

by Leslie Budewitz

As the Christmas Cookie CrumblesIt’s a tie! I can’t decide what I like best about Leslie Budewitz’s As the Christmas Cookie Crumbles: her winning way with words or her skill in creating an intricate plot. I felt a little funny as I crossed the Mexican desert in 90 degree temps on my trek north to the States as June began to press in. I was immersed in a cozy mystery with a Christmas backdrop complete with snow set in Jewel Bay, Montana, but that is what good fiction can do.

The main character is Erin, manager of the “Merc” aka Murphy’s Glacier Mercantile. She is weeks away from a wedding to fiancé Adam, a very likable guy. Erin has investigative skills that she truly enjoys exercising and which cause others to try to engage her in solving crimes based on her reputation. In this book she befriends a newly returned citizen of Jewel Bay, Merrily, who has relationship issues with her parents and is discovered dead on their property.

There are a lot of suspects for perpetrator of this crime, but the criminal can not be found until the past is revealed. Erin is indubitably nosy and that characteristic could help solve the crime and restore long broken relationships. It also could lead her into potentially deadly situations. Can she balance her curiosity with reason and avoid disaster?

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes:  This book is good as a standalone. It is the second in the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, but I didn’t feel like I had missed out on anything. There is also a “cast of characters” if you get confused. The book concludes with a recipe section.

Publication:  June 8, 2018—Midnight Ink

Memorable Lines:

As surely as you can count on holidays sparking family crises, you can count on cocoa.

In these days of space stations and hybrid cars, stagecoaches seem like figments of Western movie makers’ imaginations, but the valley is criss-crossed with roads named for long-ago stages. They remind me to slow down, and take the long view.

Adam went downstairs to hook up the TV. Going wireless involves a lot of cables.

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