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Monthly Archives: February 2019

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Corned Beef and Casualties–St. Paddy’s Day novella

Corned Beef and Casualties

by Lynn Cahoon

Corned Beef and CasualtiesHow about a quick and easy read? Corned Beef and Casualties is good for St. Patrick’s Day or any day you want a brief distraction. It is a fun little novella from one of my favorite cozy mystery authors Lynn Cahoon. It is part of the extensive Tourist Trap Mystery Series.

Cahoon does a great job of making the novella into a standalone with necessary information about the characters relayed succinctly. We witness  unusual cooperation between the main character, Jill, who owns a bookstore/coffee shop and Darla, the proprietor of a winery and also a reporter for the local paper. Be ready for a surprise ending!

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. A Tourist Trap Novella

2. Cheesecake recipe included

Publication:   February 5, 2019—Kensington Press (Lyrical Underground)

Memorable Lines:

“You need to stop worrying about her and get on with your life.” The look he gave me was filled with such love and sadness I almost teared up. “Miss Gardner, that sounds like a perfectly logical thing to do. Unfortunately, the heart isn’t logical.”

“Some couples just fight…I see couples at their worse. They get a few too many into them, and every slight becomes a big deal.”

Darla was always preaching about the free press and her responsibility to the newspaper-reading public, but deep down, she knew not to release something that might ruin someone’s life. Especially if he was innocent.

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The Puppy Who Knew Too Much–Chattanooga setting

The Puppy Who Knew Too Much

by V.M. Burns

The Puppy Who Knew Too MuchChattanooga, Tennessee, is my hometown, and it is also the setting of V. M. Burns’ The Puppy Who Knew Too Much. Although I know Chattanooga has changed since I moved away from the South, this book became a trip down memory lane. There are many factual details that make the book more realistic—the scary winding roads leading up to beautiful and tony Lookout Mountain, interstate highways that ease traffic across the Scenic City, and greasy burgers and delicious shakes in East Ridge. Other aspects are altered but have a basis in truth, particularly the fictional Chattanooga Museum of Art, situated on the bluff overlooking the Tennessee River and backed by the Hopewell family. When I lived in Chattanooga, it was actually the Hunter Art Gallery. From there you can see the Walnut Street Bridge, now a pedestrian bridge, that I crossed every day in our family VW to attend school. Other authentic tips of the hat are extended to Moon Pies, Southern hospitality, and great weather (compared to the Midwest and Northeast). As well as providing me with an outlet for my nostalgia, all of these smile provoking memories are related to reassure the reader of the authenticity of the setting.

As to the other aspects of this cozy mystery, the plot is intricate with several murders and the strong possibility that the crimes are related. Lilly has recently moved to Chattanooga with her toy poodle, Aggie, to push the restart button on her life. Just a few moths prior, she was jailed for the murder of her philandering husband. She is convinced by her friend Dixie to relocate in Chattanooga, and she finds a temporary job as an accountant at the museum. Life becomes “interesting” for her quickly as she informally investigates a murder with the help of her lawyer daughter Stephanie and her friend Dixie. Along the way, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation officer Red joins forces with the group and romance is on the horizon.

The best part of this book is the role of various dogs. There is a lot of information about dog training to be picked up by osmosis as Dixie is a dog trainer. The story features a K-9 officer and Aggie, a smart puppy desperately in need of training. There is also a rescued dog with a surprise involvement.

The Puppy Who Knew Too Much barks out: Welcome to the South, one that has moved along with the times, but has retained beautiful views, the friendliness it is famous for, as well as a slower pace of life! 

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 Dog Club Mystery Series, but works quite well as a standalone.

Publication:  February 12, 2019—Kensington Books (Lyrical Underground)

Memorable Lines:

…she had the You poor pitiful thing look in her eyes that she always gave me before she said, “Bless your heart,” which I’d learned was Southern speak for You’re an idiot.

I always thought the Midwest was a relatively friendly area, but two weeks in Chattanooga showed me the South was on a totally different level of friendliness. Complete strangers talked to you.

“It’s a Southern thing. We’re always trying to feed people and get them married off.”

“Honey, you’re in the South. We believe in hugs.”

Kissed by the Country Doc–snowed in romance

Kissed by the Country Doc

by Melinda Curtis

Kissed by the Country DocThe Monroe family is the center of this new Heartwarming Harlequin series The Mountain Monroes. The first novel, Kissed by the Country Doc, by Melinda Curtis, opens with the reading of Grandpa Harlan Monroe’s will. Full of surprises for the Monroe heirs, the will sends some of the younger generation of Monroes off to Second Chance, a small mountain town in Idaho. One of them is Ella, a Monroe by marriage, but widowed for two years, with an adorable two-year old. What will happen when Ella, after a childhood of foster homes and seeking a love that will last, encounters Dr. Noah Bishop, whose successful career as an orthopedic surgeon was crushed in an accident?

As snow strands the four Monroes in Second Chance, we learn more about them, the inhabitants of the town, and its mysterious history. In fact, we discover just enough to pique curiosity about the origins of the town and why Grandpa Harlan left the town to his grandchildren. The Monroes are divided about what should be done about the town—sell it off, try to inject new life into it, reinvent it as a high-end tourist destination, or some other solution. Their inheritance could be a blessing or a disaster, and perhaps the hardest part will be to get all of the grandchildren to agree on a decision.

Since sixteen relatives of Harlan Monroe are shown on the handy family tree included in the book, I feared I would have trouble distinguishing and remembering all of the characters. That actually is not a problem as only four of them, plus Ella, are characters in this book.

Ella is a very likable character as is her daughter Penny. More of a puzzle is Dr. Noah Bishop who struggles with his identity as a former surgeon whose hand injury keeps him from what he and his family view as his full potential. The author cleverly helps the reader understand the dual nature of Noah as he struggles to disassociate the man who falls hard for Ella and her daughter from the jaded, self-loathing failure, Dr. Bishop, by sharing the reactions of both. For example, “Dr. Bishop fell off his stool in a dead faint. Noah’s reaction was equally shocking. His mouth dropped open and his waffle-loaded fork hung in midair.” Both Ella and Noah have issues to overcome to be able to give and receive love. Read Kissed by the Country Doc for a sweet romance in a snow-covered mountain setting. Add in a lovable two year old and an injured dog and hang on to your heart so you don’t lose it in Second Chance. I am looking forward to more stories about members of the Monroe clan and the fate of this little town and its residents.

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: Romance, Women’s Fiction

Notes: 1. #1 in The Mountain Monroes series

  2. Clean and heartwarming romance

Publication:   February 1, 2019—Heartwarming Harlequin

Memorable Lines:

“My four sons are too old to unlearn the privilege of the silver spoon, too busy to enjoy the priceless beauty of a mountain sunrise, too calloused to appreciate the comfort that comes from loyalty, or the joy that love for love’s sake can bring.”

“Don’t get attached to people. They always leave. And when they go, they take a piece of you with them until you feel like you’re dying inside.”

The dog did what Ella and Noah couldn’t. Penny’s sobs subsided. She snuffled and buried her hands in Woof’s fur, her lower lip trembling.

On the Internet: Our First Talk About Online Safety

On the Internet: Our First Talk About Online Safety

by Dr. Jillian Roberts

illustrated by Jane Heinrichs

On the InternetWhen we put technology in the hands of children, we need to do it with the awareness that social media involves a lot of concepts that children are not prepared to handle. Many parents did not participate in social media themselves as youngsters, and so they are not always prepared for the difficulties that may arise. With that in mind, Dr. Jillian Roberts, a former schoolteacher and practicing psychologist has written a book to help guide the needed discussions. The book is illustrated with both photographs and child friendly drawings. It includes questions children might ask, answers that an adult can help to interpret, and explanations for terms like “boundaries,” “inappropriate,” and “online bullying.” It also includes positive examples of using social media for good. It is a book intended to initiate discussion between parent and child.

On the Internet: Our First Talk about Online Safety is well written and illustrated, and I recommend it. My personal opinion, however, is that children in grades one through three, the suggested audience for this book, are too young to use social media independently. I suggest that it is not too early to begin the discussion as social media and its accompanying problems are pervasive in our society. Young children hear others talking about this technology and may see older siblings using it. Discussion of online issues not only prepares children for future exposure, but also opens up opportunities to discuss the basics of friendship and bullying as they occur outside of social media.

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: Children Nonfiction, Computer and Internet

Notes: Age Range suggested by publisher: 6-9 years

Grade Level suggested by publisher: 1-3

Publication:   February 19, 2019—Orca Book Publishers

Memorable Lines:

THINK before you post:

T: Is it True?

H: Is it Helpful?

I:  Is it  Inspiring?

N: Is it Necessary?

K: Is it Kind?

Hot Fudge Murder–fashion and food

Hot Fudge Murder

by Cynthia Baxter

Hot Fudge MurderThe first chapter of Cynthia Baxter’s Hot Fudge Murder efficiently brings readers up to speed on the characters while beginning the action of the new plot. Kate McKay, owner of Lickety Splits, is hired by fashion designer Omar DeVane to cater an affair at his vacation home, throwing her into the world of the rich and famous. His favorite treat is hot fudge sundaes which Kate is glad to provide. 

There is a murder at the event, and the important tourist trade in Wolfert’s Roost plummets, threatening the business interests of Kate and other locals. Kate begins an informal investigation in an effort to save her town financially.

Hot Fudge Murder has two potential love interests for Kate; they are in and out of the plot as Kate interviews suspects. Another character is Emma, Kate’s niece who lives with Kate and works for her in the ice cream shop. Also on the Cream Team are Willow, a yoga instructor and Katie’s best friend, and Ethan, Emma’s current crush. 

The fashion world setting is interesting with some humorous elements such as when a fashion model appears clueless as to where she should look in  a kitchen to find ice. In her world it was always provided in a bucket. Character-suspects include Omar’s personal assistant, his financial manager, an elegant magazine editor, and his favorite model.

Kate does most of her investigating through interviews—with a little deception thrown in. Consistently, as she is talking to other people, Kate’s mind is tossing around ideas for innovative ice cream flavors. A few sound like winners, but many sound disgusting (e.g. Pear with Blue Cheese). I think they are included to be outrageous and showcase Kate’s creativity Occasionally, however, that aspect of the story seems overdone.

Hot Fudge Murder is fun. I look forward to the next book in the series.

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: 1. #2 in the Lickety Splits Ice Cream Shoppe Mystery Series, but works well as a standalone

  2. Each chapter starts with interesting historical notes about ice cream.

  3. The book includes a recipe for hot fudge sauce and also for a peach and basil sorbet.

Publication:  January 29, 2019—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines: 

…by making and selling ice cream, I was doing much more than living out a longtime fantasy. I was providing people with the ultimate comfort food, one that was unique in its ability to serve as a treat, a reward, a celebration, a way to feel better on a bad day—or a way to simply enjoy life.

Chloe was curled up in a chair, just watching us. Sometimes I felt that cats were actually creatures from another planet, sent here to spy on us earthlings.

The problem was that with men, as with ice cream, no matter how many delectable possibilities there were, in the end you had to make a choice.

The Forgiving Jar–the power of forgiveness

The Forgiving Jar

by Wanda E. Brunstetter

The Forgiving JarMysterious prayer jars filled with Bible verses and notes of faith are an inspiration to two young ladies whose paths cross when one, in an act of desperation, assumes the identity of the other. Michelle, who pretends to be Sara, finds a hope jar in the barn of the Amish couple she is deceiving. Sara, their true granddaughter, finds a forgiving jar in the basement of their house. Regardless of who hid the treasure filled canning jars, God uses the messages in the jars to give hope, inspire forgiveness, and lead the women into a relationship with Him.

Having enjoyed The Hope Jar, I looked forward to continuing the tale in The Forgiving Jar and was not disappointed. Unanswered questions in the first book were mostly answered in the second, and closure was brought to all of the relationship issues. The characters in the first book continue into the second like meeting up again with old friends. I especially like the loving and patient spirit of Sara’s Amish grandparents, Will and Mary Ruth Lapp, who, according to Amish tradition, do not evangelize but “tried by their actions and deeds to be an example of what it meant to be a Christian.” The characters are realistically portrayed as they struggle to overcome old, deep-seated hurts through forgiveness which is not depicted lightly as an easy thing to do.

I recommend The Hope Jar and The Forgiving Jar as a pair. Readers will smile, root for the characters at various times in the story, be saddened over events past and present, and be happy that, as promised, God works out even the bad in their pasts for good.

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: General Fiction (Adult), Christian

Notes: 1. The Prayer Jars #2. I strongly recommend reading The Hope Jar first.

  2. There are recipes and discussion questions at the end of the book.

Publication:   February 1, 2019—Barbour Publishing (Shiloh Run Press)

Memorable Lines:

Michelle took a deep breath, enjoying the scents of the season. The fragrance of dried leaves still lingered from autumn, and the tang of wood smoke drifting out of chimneys from nearby homes permeated the air.

“The problem with guilt is until we let go, our thoughts can be consumed with it—sometimes to the point of it making us sick or affecting our relationships with others.”

She wished she could shut the door on her memories as easily as she closed the door on the winter’s cold.

Death by Committee–a mastiff mix takes center stage

Death by Committee

by Alexis Morgan

Death by CommitteeLooking for an exciting cozy mystery? Death by Committee has more action than is normally found in a cozy mystery. It is for sure a page turner.

Death by Committee by Alexis Morgan features likable characters with some depth to them that makes you want to get to know them even better. Its setup has potential for lots of variety in future stories. Main character Abby McCree, recently divorced, inherits her aunt’s house in a small town. She finds herself landlady to Tripp, a handsome veteran who lives in a cottage on her property. Abby has plenty to do sorting through her aunt’s possessions, but Aunt Sibyl’s elderly friends expect her to step into her aunt’s shoes as head of the quilting guild and as a civic leader.

A body is found buried on Abby’s property wrapped in a quilt. This gruesome discovery leads to her informal and unsanctioned investigation to clear her aunt’s name, but there is more intrigue to follow. A side mystery involves the disappearance of thirteen quilts. The quilts are valuable, but are they worth the penalties for theft? 

My favorite character is the huge, slobbery Zeke: a mastiff cross who is Abby’s best buddy and defender. He is a constant throughout the story providing interest and humor. Zeke adores both Tripp and Abby (and treats) as much as the pair loves him. The book is filled with humorous repartee as Tripp and Abby struggle to understand each other, and fireworks of various kinds fly.

I did figure out before the reveal who the murderer is, but not the motive. I think this was intentional, making the final scenes even more dramatic. Abby put herself in danger sometimes through her own actions, but it does make for an exciting story. I am looking forward to the next book in the series. This one did not change my world, but it is a lot of fun, and it left me with a satisfied smile and wanting more.

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. #1 in the Abby McCree Mystery Series

  2. The cute cover doesn’t depict what actually happened in the book.

Publication:   January 29, 2019—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

If she didn’t know what a sweetheart he was, she might have been just as leery of a dog of his size, too. The truth was, the only real threat the bighearted fellow presented to the world was his ability to produce an excessive amount of drool, which often left behind an icky trail of mastiff goo wherever he went.

The day hadn’t gone well at all, and her reward was a crushing headache. For now, she wasn’t going to think about anything more complicated than what flavor of tea would go best with ibuprofen.

“Don’t worry. We’re fine, boy. Just out for a drive.” Okay, that was a lie, and not even the dog was buying what she was selling.

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