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Haunted House Ghost–convoluted plot

Haunted House Ghost

by James J. Cudney

FHaunted House Ghostor readers who enjoy a complex mystery, I recommend Haunted House Ghost for a plot that is intricate and convoluted, but in the best possible way. Author James J. Cudney takes plot complexities to a whole new level with family relationships taking center stage as past and current marriages and paternity issues come to light when victim remains from cold murder cases are discovered. 

Murder and intrigue play out in the setting of a haunted house that the main character Kellan is trying to restore as a home for his growing family. Weird sightings, threatening messages, and a locked basement set the stage for a ghostly mystery. Is a ghost actually haunting the house? Is Madam Zenya really a psychic medium? In true Agatha Christie style, the main players in the mystery are gathered to force the truth to emerge. 

There are so many surprises in Haunted House Ghost that I watched in amazement as the mystery developed. Fortunately, the author helps with a recap of possible suspects and motives as Kellan meets with the sheriff (his girlfriend April) and the case detective (his best friend Connor) to convince them to try his clever idea to force the murderer into the open. The murderer’s identity is surprising and unpredictable as are the final pages that make the perfect setup for the next book in the series.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: I am behind in my reading and reviewing but really wanted to be caught up with the Braxton Campus Mystery Series before the sixth book in the series, Frozen Stiff Drink, is published on March 18, 2020. Therefore, Haunted House Ghost (#5 ) snuck up to the top of my reading queue. All of the books in this series can be read as standalones as the author provides a lot of support in the form of a character list and an area map as well as explanations of character relationships in the context of the ongoing plot. My personal preference in reading this series, however, is to read the books in order as there are so many interesting characters and lots of developing relationships.

Publication:  October 1, 2019—Next Chapter

Memorable Lines:

“It’s sealed tighter than Scrooge’s wallet.”

Instinct suggested there were many threads to this conundrum, and if I pulled on a few random ones, I might unravel the whole knotted ball of yarn soon enough.

My skin prickled as if thousands of tiny insects crawled up and down my body. A drafty wind whistled through the stairwell as the steps creaked.

Penny for Your Secrets–post World War I England

Penny for Your Secrets

by Anna Lee Huber

Penny for Your SecretsI do so enjoy historical fiction with more than a touch of mystery. Penny for Your Secrets by Anna Lee Huber is that kind of book. Unfortunately, and perhaps it was just me, but this novel seemed to drag a bit. The premise is interesting and becomes increasingly complicated as more murders occur. The Kents, Verity and Sidney, can’t get away from their heroic pasts. Each played a critical undercover role in World War I, and their friends, the media, and their own souls will not let them forget it. In this book, issues from World War I resurface in various ways and involve current MI5 operatives as well.

Although I like the Kents, their relationship issues play a role that is too prominent at the expense of the plot. I understand their angst over past decisions, but sometimes I just wanted to tell them how lucky they are: they emerged from a horrific war with no major physical injuries, considerable financial wealth, and a marriage intact. So many could not claim any of those benefits after World War I.

Kudos to the author for an intricate plot, an appealing setting, and historical accuracy. It will be interesting to see what adventures await the fashionable Kents next.

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: Historical Fiction, Mystery

Notes: #3 in the Verity Kent Mystery Series, but works as a standalone

Publication:   October 29, 2019—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

My skin prickled at being in such close proximity to so much anger, as if the daggers aimed at others had been deflected on to me.

“…my father always did have a different standard when it came to what he and his peers were allowed to do as opposed to the rest of the world.”

“In some situations, there is no winning. No right way. You can only make the best choices you can, and hope the people your decision might have harmed will forgive you in the end.”

Death at Sycamore House–cozy mystery/police procedural

Death at Sycamore House

by Betty Rowlands

Death at Sycamore HouseJust when Sukey Reynolds begins to feel work as a Detective Constable has slowed to a snail’s pace, her team gets called in on a murder investigation in the quiet area known as Sycamore House. In a case that initially appears to Sukey to be easily solved, a number of secrets surface along with an increase in suspects and a second murder. The team has to try to sort through multiple red herrings to arrive at the truth.

Sukey cooperates with her newspaper reporter boyfriend, but she shares a limited amount of research results, always taking care not to leak information. The characters in Betty Rowlands’ Death at Sycamore House are interesting, and the plot is engaging. The outcome is an enjoyable, police procedural.

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: This book is #12 in the Sukey Reynolds Mystery Series. I started into the series late and have only read a few, but I find that I don’t need to have background on the characters to enjoy or understand the individual books. The focus is on solving the crime.

Publication:  October 28, 2019—Bookouture

Memorable Lines:

“She’s probably regretting not having made an effort at reconciliation and now it’s too late.”

“She must have spent most of her life desperately seeking the love she never got from her own mother.”

“Now and again you pick up a piece that doesn’t seem to fit anywhere, almost as if it belongs to another puzzle and has somehow got into the wrong box. Then you suddenly see its connection with another piece that you haven’t noticed before.”

Silent Knit, Deadly Knit–knitting with friends

Silent Knit, Deadly Knit

by Peggy Ehrhart

Silent Knit, Deadly KnitVarious cozy mystery series stand out for special strengths. The strong point might be humor, breathtaking setting, fast pace, intricate plot, or interesting characters. Peggy Ehrhart’s Knit & Nibble Mystery Series is different from most in its genre. The main character, Pamela, is calmer. The pace is slower. The descriptions of everyday life are more detailed. And somehow the combination works. Ehrhart’s latest mystery, Silent Knit, Deadly Knit, is no exception. Set in the Christmas season, we get to join Pamela, her daughter Penny who is home from college, and their friends and neighbors as they celebrate the Christmas season while trying to discover who murdered their friend.

Silent Knit, Deadly Knit provides a nice break from the overly sweet seasonal romances. The characters are not depicted as saints. Pamela  struggles with letting her daughter gain her independence. Bettina pushes her friend Pamela to make a connection with a single neighbor. The plot does not get lost in all the character interaction, however. There are deadly doings in little Arborville, and Pamela and her friends are caught up in the action. My favorite character is Bettina’s retired husband, Wilfred—always a helpful gentleman, but never stuffy.

As the crime is being solved, Pamela and the reader work through various theories. When the character who appears to be the murderer is found murdered, the investigation takes a whole new direction resulting in a surprise ending.

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.  #4 in the Knit & Nibble Mystery Series, but is excellent as a standalone!

  2. At the end of the book, there is a recipe for a poppy seed cake and directions for knitting fingerless gloves.

Publication:   October 29, 2019—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

A soft form stirred at her feet, migrated up the side of her leg, and inched its way delicately across her torso. It eased its head out from under the down comforter that Pamela used on chilly winter nights. Two amber eyes stared at her from a heart-shaped face covered with silky jet-black fur.

Pamela was a kind person, but she occasionally enjoyed the slight feeling of power that came from having a secret to share. Bettina’s lips, which today were a shade of deep orange that matched her coat, curved into a tiny smile that acknowledged she knew she was being strung along.

It was tempting, especially at holidays, to imagine a past in which joy had been unalloyed. But Pamela knew she’d been happy about some things, worried about others then too, just like now.

Christmas at Silver Falls–saving the family heritage

Christmas at Silver Falls

by Jenny Hale

Christmas at Silver FallsFrom Jenny Hale, author of books set in summer and at Christmas time, comes another “heartwarming, feel-good Christmas romance” in the form of Christmas at Silver Falls.  Scarlett Bailey realizes that this Christmas will probably be the last Christmas gathering of her family at her Gran’s beloved White Oaks Inn. Gran will be forced to sell because she is unable to compete with the newer resorts springing up in the area. Charles Bryant, one of the developers of the popular resorts, shows up unexpectedly in the area, and Scarlett determines to enlist his help in saving the Inn. The complicated becomes even more so when Julie and her young son Trevor, who have obviously undergone hard times, make a dramatic entrance that changes everything.

Christmas at Silver Falls is a fun Christmas read with a beautiful setting. Not all the characters were as well fleshed out as they might have been, but you can not come away without feeling for them in their predicaments.

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

Rating: 4/5

Category: Romance, Women’s Fiction

Publication:   October 15, 2019—Bookouture

Memorable Lines:

“We all go through things like that in life, and the good news, at least from what I’ve found, is that after the lows you notice the highs, and when you’re up there, it feels so good. Just hang on. It’s coming.”

Scarlett felt hope surge in her veins like rocket fuel.

“In an old run-down cottage, you are like fresh bouquets; you’re like a misty-morning view, a sunrise, a barefoot dance in a field of wildflowers…”

A Very Mummy Holiday–runaway bride

A Very Mummy Holiday

by Lynn Cahoon

A Very Mummy HolidayJill, a passionate reader and the owner of Coffee, Books, and More in a small, coastal, tourist town in central California, takes off for Thanksgiving week with her boyfriend Greg who is a very capable detective. They go with another couple to stay at a large cabin on the Oregon Coast. A Very Mummy Holiday by Lynn Cahoon is a little novella packed with action and mystery as the focus turns to the case of a runaway bride. Things turn from sad to deadly as a corpse is found. Danger seems to surround the visitors in the subtle form of threats from the Devil Riders motorcycle gang. Jill and Greg work with the local police to bring justice to the fiancee and avert a kidnapping—all before more friends arrive to celebrate with a big dinner.

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: A Tourist Trap novella, but it works well as a standalone.

Publication:   October 28, 2019—Lyrical Underground (Kensington Press)

Memorable Lines:

“Everything okay?” Blake called out. “Just wondering if you locked the cabin.” Greg lied. And he did it so calmly. I was beginning to see a new side of my boyfriend. I wasn’t sure I liked it.

“You know this isn’t your investigation.” Sheriff Anderson’s eyes went flat and hard. “I’ve been looking for that girl for years and for what it’s worth, only one man had motive and opportunity to kill. And he’s sitting on that porch.”

Some days the best conversations I had were with my dog.

Finding Christmas–a holiday romance

Finding Christmas

by Karen Schaler

Finding ChristmasThe beginning of this Christmas romance is overly sugar sweet—or I was a tad “Grinchy” at that particular time. It isn’t long, however, before the conflict is presented and the interest level ramps up. Emma Sanders (aka Miss Christmas) loves Christmas as did her parents whose memory she tries to honor in her devotion to all things Christmas. The other thing she is devoted to is the community center she runs and the people it serves. The story centers around Emmie, her boyfriend Grant who is a lawyer, and Sam, a writer who mistakenly follows clues for a scavenger hunt intended to inspire Grant with the Christmas spirit.

Although the reader can quickly predict the outcome, the rest of the story is quite engaging as you watch the conflicts and misunderstandings of the romance play out. All of the characters are altruistic, but you’ll soon pick your favorites. Yours might even be Dasher, a border collie mix who adds fun to the story.

Finding Christmas has a beautiful Christmasy setting. Author Karen Schaler will lead you through a wonderland of snow, twinkling white lights, and evergreen decorations to a satisfying conclusion as the characters find Christmas. 

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to HarperCollins (William Morrow) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Romance

Publication:   October 15, 2019—HarperCollins (William Morrow)

Memorable Lines:

Grant gave her a look. “Emmie, this is where I work. I don’t need…decorations.” Emmie’s eyes grew huge, and she looked at him like he’d just said he didn’t like puppies.

She loved seeing firsthand how even the smallest gift of kindness could make such a difference in someone’s life. She had seen over and over again the power of reaching out to someone, offering comfort when they needed it the most—how even the simplest gesture could connect people and give them hope.

After her parents passed away, Emmie had promised herself never to put off doing the things she really wanted to do, knowing tomorrows are never guaranteed. She had learned that saving something to do “someday” meant you were risking never having that special experience happen at all.

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