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Monthly Archives: November 2018

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Killalot–Oi! Cockney accented belly dancer?

Killalot

by Cindy Brown

KillalotOne of the things I like best about the Ivy Meadows Mystery Series is the breadth of concept, the latitude, that the author Cindy Brown has given herself and her main character, Olive Ziegwart, known by the stage name of Ivy Meadows. Ivy is an aspiring actress and to put bread on the table while working whatever roles she can nab, Ivy works part time for her Uncle Bob, who owns his own P.I. agency. Uncle Bob has always been nicer to her than her own parents, and he is training her in detective work. Because of her dual employment, Ivy legitimately encounters lots of interesting cases, and the books can have a variety of settings and characters.

In Killalot, the title being a takeoff on Camelot, Ivy is hired to investigate a murder which she and the rest of the audience at a jousting contest actually witness at a Renaissance Faire. You would think it would be easy to solve a crime you observe, but that is not the case.

I learned quite a bit about Renaissance fairs and birds of prey which were popular in medieval times such as falcons. There is quite an intermix of interesting characters between the Faire and Ivy’s work for a playwright who is trying to create an innovative musical production based on both the Kennedy’s and Camelot. Ivy gets to stretch her acting talents as a belly dancer and as “Marilyn Monroe.”

Danger lurks in the darkness and secrets abound in both worlds. Meanwhile, Ivy has to reach deep inside herself to conquer an old phobia and discover what is more important in her personal arena—her career or her relationship with Matt. Both her mentally disabled brother, Cody, and her Uncle Bob have some words of wisdom for her as she struggles in body, mind, and soul for resolution and peace in this cozy mystery. A good series; a good book!

I would like to extend my thanks to Edelweiss 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: #6 in the Ivy Meadows Mystery Series, but works well as a standalone.

Publication:  November 15, 2018—Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

I knew that living in denial was no good, but I also knew that it was a valuable tool, a way of putting off the tough emotional work until you were strong enough to tackle it.

“After Cody’s accident you went from being a sunny outgoing kid into a little snail curled up in a shell. The only time you poked your head out was when you were onstage. And even then, that was as a character, not as yourself.”

A ball of warmth began to glow inside me, making me warm and light and near to bursting with happiness, like Scrooge when he realizes it’s still Christmas; like George Bailey when he realizes he still has his wonderful life.

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Murder with All the Trimmings–catering mystery with a focus on dancers

Murder with All the Trimmings

by Shawn Reilly Simmons

Murder with All the TrimmingsOne of the appealing things about the Red Carpet Catering Mystery Series is that as a caterer associated with a movie star, Penelope Sutherland works in a variety of settings, each with its own catering problems. This setup allows the author, Shawn Reilly Simmons, opportunities for exploring  various kinds of offenses without the main character seeming to follow or be followed by crime. In Murder with All the Trimmings, the setting is the old Vitrine Theater where the Big Apple Dancers perform a show that is a holiday tradition for many locals and a big attraction for tourists. Trouble plagues the show with murder and accidents. Penelope herself is endangered as she tries to get to the bottom of this mystery which involves a missing girl, a neighboring homeless shelter, fraud, and a dine and dash artist.

Murder with All the Trimmings has a complicated plot with lots of interesting threads. In spite of my having lots of interruptions due to travel, I enjoyed this book and had no problem picking up where I left off each time. Although the action occurs at Christmas time, it doesn’t have any warm and fuzzy Christmas connections, but it is a good mystery.

I would like to extend my thanks to Edelweiss 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: # 6 in the Red Carpet Catering Mystery Series, but acceptable as a standalone.

Publication:  November 13, 2018—Henery Press

The Hope Jar–longing for love

The Hope Jar

by Wanda E. Brunstetter

The Hope JarSara grows up with her mother, her stepfather (from age six), and her doted upon half-brother. She has lots of unanswered questions about her biological father. When her mother passes away, Sara learns she has grandparents she has never met. In a letter her deceased mother encourages her to find them.

Michelle was taken away from abusive parents and separated from her brothers as all the children were put in foster care. As a young adult she finds herself unemployed, out of money, and in an abusive relationship with a boyfriend.

Through a misunderstanding, these two girls’ lives cross in Amish country in Pennsylvania. Just how long can Michelle, craving love and family, deceive Sara’s Amish grandparents? She is overridden with guilt. How will Sara feel about this familial triangle of which she should have been a part? Along the way in this interesting story, Michelle and the reader learn a lot about the Amish way of life. There is potential romance with an Amish man who is considering leaving the Amish traditions to become “English” and with a seminary student studying to be a pastor. Unfortunately Michelle’s deception makes it difficult for her to form relationships. 

The Hope Jar by Wanda E. Brunstetter has a few problems. The first should have been caught by an editor (and may have been in the edited final version). At one point Michelle, talking to herself, lists her abusers  and includes her foster parents. This contradicts all the other references to the foster parents which indicate a fairly normal teenage/parent relationship.  The second is the length of time it takes Michelle to leave her newly adopted home. Within the story that period gets a little repetitive although the author does add events to try to move the story along. Thirdly, things are left unresolved for both Michelle and Sara in respect to the Amish community and the grandparents. Those issues, however, will probably be resolved in the next book in the series, The Forgiving Jar, which is due for publication on February 1, 2019. I do like The Hope Jar well enough that I will be reading the next book.

I particularly like the device this book employs—prayer jars. These are old canning jars containing slips of paper that someone has written Bible verses and prayers on. Through reading a few of these at a time, Michelle begins to learn about the Christian faith, the desperate writer of the notes, and the way to healing for her soul.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Barbour Publishing (Shiloh Run Press) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Christian, General Fiction (Adult)

Notes: Although marketed as General Fiction, it is really a book women would prefer. There is romance, but the book is free of sex, profanity, and violence. It is the first book in The Prayer Jars Series.

Publication:   August 1, 2018—Barbour Publishing (Shiloh Run Press)

Memorable Lines:

Brad had the gift of discernment, and his intuitions about people were usually correct. His mother often said he would make a good minister because he understood people and could almost see into the windows of their souls. Brad saw his intuitions as a gift from God—one that would help him counsel and minister to people.

It hurt to think that her own flesh-and-blood parents had never cared much about nurturing their children or meeting their needs. Michelle’s mom and dad had so many problems they could barely function at times, much less provide a stable environment for their family.

“I don’t mean to feel bitter, but the hurt in my heart has festered like an embedded splinter. I heard it said once that hurt fertilizes bitterness, making it grow like a weed.”

‘Twas the Knife Before Christmas–a Christmas cozy mystery

’Twas the Knife Before Christmas

by Jacqueline Frost

'Twas the Knife Before ChristmasI have to applaud Jacqueline Frost for ’Twas the Knife Before Christmas, the second book in her Christmas Tree Farm Mysteries. Full of the Christmas spirit, it is a fun read and a delightful cozy mystery. The story begins with an introduction to the engaging town of Mistletoe, the main character Holly, and the setting of Reindeer Games which is Holly’s family’s Christmas tree farm. Unfortunately, a murder is discovered at a very Christmasy unveiling. Holly is determined to find the murderer who is also trying to frame Holly’s friend Caroline. Sheriff Evan Gray is equally determined to keep Holly alive despite her dangerous investigative efforts.

’Twas the Knife Before Christmas is a solid mystery with interesting and well-developed characters. The plot has twists and turns, some romance, and a little Christmas magic, making it a cozy mystery you won’t want to miss this Christmas season.

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: #2 in the Christmas Tree Farm Mystery Series but works well as a standalone.

Publication:  November 13, 2018—Crooked Lane Books

Memorable Lines:

…she’d taught me to love art the way she loved life: voraciously and with spirit.

Unfortunately, Mom and I also shared a soft personality. We were bleeding hearts, givers of fifteenth chances, and avid avoiders of conflict, at least when the problem only concerned ourselves. Basically, we’d fight black bears with our hands for someone else, then let the bear eat us if we thought he was hungry.

The homes in Derek’s neighborhood were oversized and overpriced. It was the kind of place where people with four-car attached garages parked outside all summer just to show off their vehicles and further inflate their already out-of-control egos.

Night of Miracles–tales of sweetly intertwined lives

Night of Miracles

by Elizabeth Berg

Night of MiraclesOne of the most interesting things in the world is people. Elizabeth Berg created a gentle, touching world in The Story of Arthur Truluv. Then she expanded on the core characters, adding more characters that tie into one another in Night of Miracles. The chapters are short; the novel is a character driven set of tales of common people living out their interesting lives looking for meaning in the everyday circumstances and the extraordinary ones.

Arthur Truluv’s legacy of calmness and kindness lives on in the family he adopted. His neighbor Lucille’s legacy is the culinary wisdom she imparts during an age of “fast” everything. Neighbors Jason and Abby learn the importance of living in the present. Tiny and Monica learn to share the love that has been in front of them all along. The chapters bounce back and forth from one storyline to the next. This is one of those stories I had to keep reading. I read the last of the book with tissue in hand, not because it is tragic, but because there is sweet sadness in knowing that life keeps progressing toward an inevitable conclusion and we can find happiness by reaching out to share life with others.

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: Women’s Fiction

Notes: For those who enjoyed The Story of Arthur Truluv, this is not a sequel in the traditional sense. It takes a few of the characters from that book and builds a story around them. Although it could happen, I wouldn’t expect any more stories in this line. From my perspective the story has been told.

Publication:   November 13, 2018—Random House

Memorable Lines:

It was true what they told her on the first day of teachers’ college: you never forget some of your students. For Lucille, it was the cut-ups she could never keep from laughing at, the dreamers she had to keep reeling back into the classroom, and little Danny Matthews, with his ragged heart of gold.

At least Link loves to read. There’s always hope when a kid—or an adult, for that matter—likes to read.

All those years, and not one person that she had truly opened up to, or kept up with. Probably she expected her husband to be everything to her when it wasn’t his place to do that, even if he wanted to or could. Another thing she regrets: having made him feel that he was failing her when she was the one failing herself.

Reason to Doubt–stopping a serial killer

Reason to Doubt

by Nancy Cole Silverman

Reason to DoubtIn Reason to Doubt, Carol Childs, a forty year old divorced mother of two works as an investigative reporter for a small southern CA talk radio station. She is currently involved in trying to find the serial killer known as Model Slayer because of his choice of victims and his trademarks at the crime scene. This investigation takes Carol into some seedy places and dangerous situations. It also puts her in direct conflict with her daughter Cate at the same time she is trying to prove Cate’s boyfriend’s innocence. She finds herself in conflict with the official investigation as she protects her confidential sources.

The plot is complicated and although the crimes are solved, the psychological motivation is hinted at but not specified. At times it feels like the investigation is circular, not really going anywhere. Cate is a major driver of the storyline, but she is not well developed. What I knew of her, I didn’t like; she is immature and selfish. On the positive side, she does  stand up for the person she believed in, but she could be a poster child for a “love is blind” movement. The ending is a surprise because it is not a conclusion you would expect from Carol’s research, but I had my suspicions about that character from the time of his introduction into the plot. Despite those criticisms, I did like the book and would recommend it.

I would like to extend my thanks to Edelweiss 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: #5 in the Carol Childs Mystery Series

Publication:  November 6, 2018—Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

As a reporter, it was my job to take what a confidential informant gave me, verify that information with a second and third source, and report it. If word got out a reporter had rolled over and given up to the police what information had been given to us in confidence, that reporter would be burned and the station toast.

I had reported on enough police investigations to know how overworked many LAPD detectives were and how easy it was to coerce a nervous witness. Under the right circumstances, people confessed to all kinds of things.

Tyler didn’t have to tell me reporters who squealed to the police about their confidential sources and what they told them would be out of luck when it came to finding another job. Sources wouldn’t trust them, and potential employers had a pool of fresh young talent to choose from as opposed to a reporter who had burned her sources.

A Cold Brew Killing–political aspirations turn deadly

A Cold Brew Killing

by Lena Gregory

A Cold Brew KillingA group of former high school friends converge on their hometown in Florida as two of their number compete for the job of mayor. As all eyes are focused on the politics, one is found murdered in the ice cream shop belonging to Gia’s friend, Trevor. Trevor appears guilty, and Gia wonders if she knew him as well as she thought she did.

If you have read other books in the series, you will remember the regular cast of characters. In A Cold Brew Killing, author Lena Gregory gives more depth to these characters as she reveals some of their background. She also adds many more characters for this storyline. The author boldly dances between plot threads and the importance of characters, intertwining the two into an inseparable and fascinating storyline. Are secrets of the past playing out in the present? How far should one go to keep a secret that protects someone else?

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: 1. #3 in the All-Day Breakfast Café Series, but can be read as a standalone

2. If you are not a coffee drinker or are an old school coffee drinker, you can learn about something new: cold brew coffee!

Publication:   November 6, 2018—Kensington Press (Lyrical Underground)

Memorable Lines:

“I believe there are a few people we meet in our lives who are meant to be a part of something special. Sometimes lasting friends, other times just part of an important event in your life. Either way, I think we recognize those people when our paths cross.”

Her mental to-do list was getting longer and longer. If she didn’t start writing this stuff down somewhere, there was no way she’d remember to do it all. She hadn’t even remembered she was supposed to go away in less than a day.

Sometimes you didn’t need a friend to interfere; sometimes you needed them to stand by while you made a mess of your life, then jump in and help pick up the pieces.

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