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In Cold Camomile–a second chance for Iphy

In Cold Camomile

by Joy Avon

In Cold CamomileCallie Aspen and her great-aunt Iphy, who own the book-themed tea shop Book Tea, are managing a Valentine-themed fundraiser for lovely Haywood Hall. Callie is supervising the whole event with its many volunteers, and Iphy is providing her beautiful tea creations.

Unfortunately, there is a murder at the tea, and a long lost acquaintance of Iphy’s is a major suspect. The book includes several mysteries. Iphy is quite secretive about her relationship with the baritone guest singer. There are a pair of women overheard plotting revenge. No one seems to like the murder victim. 

Callie risks her relationship with Ace, acting sheriff, to insure her aunt’s safety. Both ladies act rather rashly and contrary to Ace’s advisement as they investigate.

I enjoyed Joy Avon’s In Cold Camomile but never quite felt the thrill of the investigation. It is clear that Callie and Iphy are overstepping their bounds and that there will be negative consequences. This mystery is diverting, but not gripping. I look forward to the next book in the A Tea and a Read series as several personal relationships are at the cusp of transition.

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

Rating:  4/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #3 in the A Tea and a Read Mystery Series 

Publication:   February 11, 2020—Crooked Lane Books

Memorable Lines:

The wind played around them, and the darkness seemed to squeeze just a little tighter. Sometimes happiness seemed just out of reach, so tantalizingly close and yet too far away to ever grab hold of.

Callie had the unpleasant sensation that everyone was different that day than they usually were, and not in a good way.

She didn’t feel like eggs and yogurt with walnuts and honey anymore. Her stomach seemed too full to eat anything. Full of murder and manipulation, with no clear clues leading her anywhere.

A Field Guide to Homicide–writing retreat you’d love to attend

A Field Guide to Homicide

by Lynn Cahoon

A Field Guide to HomicideAs a book lover, to hear an author’s thoughts on writing embedded in a cozy mystery is a special experience. Lynn Cahoon provides just such an opportunity through her Cat Latimer Mystery Series, but there is even more sharing of the writing process in the latest installment of the series. Cat Latimer, a former professor, conducts writers’ retreats in her restored Victorian mansion one week per month while she continues her own writing. She appreciates that she has the best of both worlds, authoring her own books while helping other writers develop their unique potential.

In A Field Guide to Homicide, Cat is hosting an unusual group that has two writing couples and a rather awkward college student. She is just beginning to recognize the different dynamics of this group and attempt to mesh them into a working team, when they have to cut an outing short due to a gruesome discovery. Seth is Cat’s boyfriend. He restores old homes and helps out with the retreats. Suddenly he finds himself in the middle of a mystery that seems to revolve around some old army buddies who are gathering for a reunion. Cat’s Uncle Pete plays a role too; as chief of police, he attempts to solve the crime and keep everyone safe. At the same time, he tries to entertain his girlfriend Shirley, a retired Alaskan deputy and aspiring writer, who is in town for the week.

A Field Guide to Homicide is structured so that as you finish one chapter, you absolutely must keep reading into the next. The characters are likable. The relationships are complicated, but not overly so. Although the writing process is a major theme, the all-important mystery takes the lead as it  heads in unexpected directions. The setting is a writer’s dream come true with Cat having her special writing space on the third floor with both a view and privacy. Her best friend and business partner, Shauna, cooks for the trio of Cat, Seth, and herself as well as providing breakfast and delicious snacks for the retreat group. This is a bookish mystery you won’t want to miss.

I would like to extend my thanks to Netgalley 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: #6 in the Cat Latimer Mystery Series, but holds up well as a standalone. Cahoon has a talent for jumping right into the plot while bringing readers up to speed on the characters.

Publication:  January 28, 2020—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

…she settled onto a living room couch and got lost in a futuristic world where good did conquer evil, even if it took three hundred pages.

She was sitting in the living room, in what she liked to call a good book coma or hangover. Where her mind didn’t want to leave the magic of the world she’d just created as she read the story.

Some people never found their true voice because they want to write what they think will sell or worse, what they think they should write. People needed to realize that writing is all about telling the story. And if you don’t like the story you’re writing, write something different.

Much Ado About Nutmeg–senior athletic competition

Much Ado About Nutmeg

by Sarah Fox

Much Ado About NutmegThe Golden Oldies Games have come to Wildwood Cove, and Marley, owner of the pancake house aptly named The Flip Side, anticipates and receives a bustling crowd as tourists and participants and their families converge on the beach town. Marley has excitement in her personal life too as she prepares for her wedding to Brett.

Sarah Fox’s Much Ado About Nutmeg has an interesting plot with several crimes and lots of suspects. Marley’s natural curiosity pulls her into investigating, mostly by interviewing, but that propensity draws her some potentially deadly attention. An enjoyable read, the book’s downside is a little too much description of Marley’s walk on the beach and to work, what she had to eat, and her attentions to her pets in her spare time.

This cozy mystery did not hold a lot of suspense, but its ending was a surprise. I’ll be back to discover how Marley’s life changes with marriage and if it dampens her enthusiasm for sleuthing.

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

Rating: 4/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: 1. #6 in the Pancake House Mystery Series, but the author provides background information so it is good as a standalone.

  2. Recipes included for scones and waffles

Publication:   January 14, 2020—Lyrical Underground (Kensington Press)

Memorable Lines:

I floated on my back for a few minutes, rising and falling with the waves. For the first time since I’d learned Yvonne was murdered, I relaxed and my racing thoughts slowed down. That was the magic of the ocean and Wildwood Beach. No other place brought me such peace.

Her determination was eerily familiar. I’d have as much luck keeping her out of the investigation as I would keeping myself out of it.

“We both know my reputation. I would have ended up looking into things even if you hadn’t asked me to. I’m drawn to mysteries like a moth to a flame.”

Lady Clementine–frustrated power

Lady Clementine

by Marie Benedict

Lady ClementineI had to work hard as I read Lady Clementine by Marie Benedict to differentiate my feelings about Clementine Churchill as the wife of a historical figure, Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of England during World War II, and Clementine, a character of historical fiction fleshed out by the author based on background information. In this book, which was both interesting and informative, I struggled because I just didn’t like Clementine. The story of her fight to be a changing force in a time when women had no power seems genuine, but I just could not identify with her inner turmoils. Part of her stress is a result of the “poor little rich girl” syndrome. For example, she complains multiple times of the difficulties of trying to live the rich life style her husband’s rank and tastes demand while on a limited budget and with an inadequate number of domestic servants. My biggest moment of disgust was when, for her nerves, she has to get away from it all for an extended retreat by herself at a facility in France and bemoans the fact that she can only afford to take her personal maid with her to care for her needs. She has to leave the rest of the domestics at home to care for the house, Winston, and the children. I realize that as I am not part of the aristocracy, understanding her dilemma is a reach for me, but I find it ironic that Clementine focuses much of her time and energy on helping women who can’t take fifteen minutes to themselves much less several months. The part I can empathize with is her struggle to balance efforts to promote and aid her husband with her own self-efficacy and the responsibilities of her family. Her family, except for her youngest daughter Mary, turn out to be the losers in this battle.

Although not a page turner, Lady Clementine  is well written and prompts me to want to read some nonfiction about the Churchills. There is no doubt that they played a pivotal role in the defeat of the Nazis in World War II. If I don’t find them very likable, despite the more intimate conversations between them as “Pug” and “Cat,” the fault may be that they are both politicians, but in different ways. Politicians, in general, are self-concerned, and Winston and Clementine live that out in the pages of this book. They do good works but are always concerned about how those works reflect back on them.

I would like to extend my thanks to Netgalley and to Sourcebooks Landmark for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Historical Fiction

Publication:   January 7, 2020—Sourcebooks Landmark

Memorable Lines:

“Since I was a young boy, I’ve had the unerring sense that my future and that of Great Britain were inextricably intertwined. That I would be called upon to rescue our nation in a time of tremendous turmoil.”

My husband’s discerning eye perceives all but the threats standing right in front of him, and it seems that I may have to serve as the sentinel of his personal landscape and the gatekeeper of our shared ideals and our marriage.

If he had slapped me, I could not have been more wounded. He only thinks about my identity and my worth in terms of the possessive, in terms of what I mean and what I do for him. I realize for the first time how dependent I’ve been on Winston for his admiration and how reliant I am for his permission to assume my own power, even if it is power derived from his own. No longer.

A Baby for the Mountain Firefighter–tick-tock for babies and fires

A Baby for the Mountain Firefighter

by Melinda Curtis

A Baby for the Mountain FirefighterWhen Aiden, known as “Spider” in his Hot Shot crew, has a little R & R in Las Vegas, he follows his usual pattern of “love ’em and leave ’em” with a beautiful woman. When Becca, whose biological clock is ticking, searches out the casinos and bars in the same city for a baby daddy, she thinks she has found the perfect voluntary and unwitting sperm donor in Aiden, a handsome and charming younger man. He need never know the consequences of his one night stand.

When Aiden and a very pregnant Becca meet up again, he doesn’t recognize her, and she absolutely does not want him to discover she is carrying a child he helped to create. Obviously their relationship is at the center of Melinda Curtis’ A Baby for the Mountain Firefighter, but there are other major threads woven into the plot. Aiden’s family life as a child was less than stellar and Becca, a Fire Behavior Analyst, has personal reasons for her emotional involvement in each fire. This romance includes a lot of insight into the movement of mountain forest fires, the dangers involved, and the expertise of the various crews and their responsibilities. The struggles of women in that male dominated field are also highlighted.

This was a quick read with a predictable and hoped for ending. The fun of the book was watching the characters work through their issues both personally and professionally and discovering their motivations. There are some exciting adventures as fires are fought in Idaho, but the dangers are experienced from the safety of the reader’s armchair.

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

Notes: #3 in The Mountain Firefighter Series but works well as a standalone.

Publication:   April 20, 2020—Purple Papaya

Memorable Lines:

The new fire toyed with the Hot Shots for only a moment before bending across their six-foot-wide break and igniting a fresh blaze on the opposite side with a heated kiss.

There was a difference on the fire line between being brave and being stupid. Jack hadn’t learned that difference, had probably never scrambled up a steep slope praying that he could outrun the fiery dragon at his heels. To him, being cautious was a sign of weakness.

“It was an accident. Patience is a virtue of good leaders and good parents.” She berated him as if she were his second-grade teacher, appalled that he’d eaten paste.

Fatal Roots–mystery of fairy forts

Fatal Roots

by Sheila Connolly

Fatal RootsMaura Donovan is as American as can be until she inherits a pub, house, and assorted pasture lands in Ireland from an Irish friend of her grandmother’s. In Fatal Roots by Sheila Connolly, Maura has lived in Ireland about a year and is becoming comfortable with her new country, role of ownership, and relationship with her boyfriend Mick and other new friends in the small town in Cork.

Life gets more complicated for Maura when Ciara, a post graduate student in archaeology shows up on her doorstep requesting permission to examine Maura’s early Irish fairy forts. Maura doesn’t know where her various acreages lie and doesn’t know what a fairy fort is or anything about the superstitions surrounding them. In the process of rolling out this tale, there is a grizzly discovery, Maura’s mother who abandoned her as a child comes to Cork on business bringing Maura’s half sister, and Maura makes changes to the pub so she can sell food.

Throw in Mick’s grandmother Bridgett and Old Billy who lives above the pub and you have a good basis for a plot. I liked the story, but repetition hampered the enjoyment for me. I had to hear over and over again of Maura’s background, the Irish attitude toward fairy forts, Maura’s angst about…everything—her family, her relationship with Mick, superstitions, decisions about kitchen remodeling, the student archaeologists. The plot was wrapped up nicely, and the epilogue provided emotional closure for characters that I really liked. I also enjoyed learning about fairy forts, which are a mystery in themselves and go by many names.

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

Rating: 3/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #8 in the County Cork Mystery Series

Publication:  January 7, 2019—Crooked Lane Books

Memorable Lines:

But it was beginning to seem like any time anything happened, it was like scraping off the present to see pieces of the past.

“I could show yeh, but it really doesn’t have an address.” “Neither does my place. So far it’s ‘the cottage halfway up the hill, past the yellow cottage. If you reach the piggery you’ve gone too far.’ This is all so not like Boston.”

Life was too short, with too many unexpected twists and turns, to wait for the one perfect moment, if there even was such a thing.

 

 

Theater Nights Are Murder–elder sleuths

Theater Nights Are Murder

by Libby Klein

Theater Nights Are MurderPoppy, a plus size single in her forties, and her Aunt Ginny, a red-headed octogenarian with all kinds of spunk, are the main characters in Theater Nights Are Murder. There is a huge cast of supporting characters sporting lots of quirks. Topping the list are Gia, an Italian barista, and Tim, a chef with romantic ties to Poppy’s youth; both men are vying for Poppy’s heart, and six months after her move back to her hometown, she remains indecisive. Also, front and center, are the “biddies,” friends of Aunt Ginny who manage to get into all kinds of trouble. Figaro, her cat, has a mind of his own and has free run of the Victorian house the two ladies are trying to convert into a Bed and Breakfast. Aa a pastry chef, Poppy divides her time between Gia’s coffee shop, Tim’s restaurant, and her own B&B.

As if friends, family, and business are not enough to keep Poppy busy, author Libby Klein immerses her and the biddies in the senior center’s production of Momma Mia, starring Royce, an aging, homegrown,  Shakespearean star. The plot of this cozy is complicated by old rivalries, reignited loves, and mysterious men who appear in the audience during practices. All is fun until one of the cast members falls to his death from a catwalk. Is it a suicide, an accident, or murder?

The biddies are so funny as they investigate, bringing in Sponge Bob walkie talkies and applying tips they have picked up from Murder She Wrote and other television shows. Meanwhile, trolls are scattering bad reviews under various names across social media. They focus on criticizing Poppy’s pastries at all three establishments while actual demand for the goodies and praise at the restaurants remain consistently high. A frustrated Poppy has no idea how to stop the false reviews, uncover a murderer, or solve her love dilemma.

Theater Nights Are Murder is packed with fun situations and dialogue. The plot and quirky characters will keep you turning the pages to help out the likable, down to earth, pastry chef who ironically is confined to gluten free treats. Throughout this cozy mystery, Aunt Ginny and her pals prove that octogenarians can enjoy fun, romance, and some senior humor at their own expense.

I would like to extend my thanks to Netgalley 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 Poppy McAllister Mystery Series, but OK as a standalone as the author fills you in as you read.

  2. Recipes are included at the end of the book.

Publication:   December 3, 2019—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

I was a little stunned, the way Miss Piggy was a little self-involved.

I can barely control myself, let alone a group of stubborn biddies who have their minds made up. In their heads, those ladies were conducting an FBI sting rivaling that of capturing Osama Bin Laden, and they were going to get their man.

The peachy-pink glow is a bouquet of empty promises of warmth and comfort mocked by the frigid wind blowing off the Atlantic Ocean. Even the seagulls sit with their wings wrapped around themselves, too disgruntled by the cold to dive-bomb passersby for potential smackerals.

Sell Low, Sweet Harriet–mid-winter estate sale

Sell Low, Sweet Harriet

by Sherry Harris

Sell Low, Sweet HarrietWhen Alicia Arbas was murdered, the Fitch Air Force Base community turned out in support, including Sarah Winston who only knew her in passing. To Sarah’s surprise, she is recruited by Pellner who works for the local Ellington Police Dept. and Special Agent Bristol, an investigator with the Air Force OSI, to keep her ears open to any talk around base that might help them solve Alicia’s murder.

As the ex-wife of an Air Force security officer, Sarah still volunteers at the base thrift store and has maintained some of her social contacts. She also has been involved in informally investigating other local crimes.

Sell Low, Sweet Harriet is a cozy mystery with lots of fascinating threads. Sarah has a garage/estate sale business and in this book is hired to sell off goods that belong to former CIA agents who recently passed away in a faulty gas line accident. The house is full of interesting items from their travels around the world. so while Sarah is involved in a murder investigation and a mid-winter estate sale, she is trying to pinpoint her feelings for District Attorney boyfriend Seth and help her friend and landlady Stella with her relationship with an enforcement officer whom Sarah has nicknamed “Awesome.” Mike Titone, a mobster has also complicated her life by moving into the other apartment on her floor—again.

This mystery moves quickly; the characters are interesting. I hated to get to the end although I enjoyed the surprise. I want to see this series continue, but I am a little concerned about the direction it may take. Sarah makes it clear that as time passes, she has fewer genuine connections to the Air Force base. I wonder if the author will continue to rely on these tenuous connections or focus on Sarah’s new relationships and her business. I like Sarah because, despite various personal digs and a betrayal, she takes the high road, never seeking revenge.

I would like to extend my thanks to Netgalley 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. #8 in The Sarah Winston Garage Sale Mysteries, but works quite well as a standalone.

  2. Includes tips for holding a winter garage sale.

Publication:  December 31, 2019—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

And every time someone opened the door the wind nipped at my ankles like an overenthusiastic puppy.

“It’s hard enough to feel judged when it’s just you, but then worrying about tanking your husband’s career too? It feels like you’re walking a minefield of rules no one gave you.”

Pellner’s expression didn’t change. He kept his cop face locked and loaded. I thought his dimples deepened just a bit, but his impassiveness was impressive.

Matchmaking Can Be Murder–Amish and Englisch worlds collide

Matchmaking Can Be Murder

by Amanda Flower

Matchmaking Can Be MurderAlready familiar with the little town of Harvest through Amanda Flower’s Amish Candy Shop Mystery Series, I was a a little confused when I found myself in a familiar town, but with a new main character, Millie. Then I remembered that Matchmaking Can Be Murder is the first in a new series. Many of the characters in the first series, which focuses on Bailey, an Englisch candy maker are back in this series. The new series features a sixty-seven year old Amish woman with a knack for knowing if two people are compatible. She returns home after years of caring for Amish kin in various communities.

Harvest is a mixed community with its Amish and Englisch citizens getting along fairly well. It is interesting to learn more about the Amish while watching their interactions with their non-Amish friends and neighbors. Especially fun is the reunion of Millie with her childhood friend Lois, a gregarious lady who has had a lot of husbands and is quite outspoken. Her clothing and jewelry are as eye-catching as Millie’s style of dress is plain. Lois makes many references to contemporary technologies and cultural icons that go right past Millie. More humor is found in the trained goat duo of Phillip and Peter who are Millie’s pets, guard goats, and lawn keepers.

Although Millie is the main character, the mystery centers around her niece Edy, a young widow with three children, whose fiancée is discovered dead in her greenhouse shortly after she breaks off the engagement. Millie and Lois attempt to discover who murdered Zeke, but they uncover more crime and convoluted personal relationships than they could ever have predicted.

It is interesting watching Millie in action as she tries to find out the truth while staying within the limits of what is right. She and Lois have to work at keeping each other in check and out of trouble. A nice touch is the author’s inclusion of Amish proverbs as they come to Millie throughout her day. I enjoy the Amish Candy Shop Mysteries, but this spinoff series is even better!

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: The first book in the Amish Matchmaking Mystery Series, it is a spinoff but it is not necessary to read the series it came from.

Publication:   December 31, 2019—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

Sometimes it worked to a person’s advantage to be friends with the biggest gossip in the district. I just had to feed Raellen the right information, and she would take care of the rest.

…”they can only fully commit to the Amish life when they know what the Englisch one is like. If they see the way the rest of the world lives and then commit to our ways, they are more likely to stay here.”

There was no way to rebuild what was shattered, but what we could make was something brand-new, something that was different but stronger than before. That’s what I hoped for the very most.

This Road We Traveled–“Mother of Oregon”

This Road We Traveled

by Jane Kirkpatrick

This Road We TravelledThe wilds of the western United States were conquered by the strengths, sacrifices, and sometimes deaths of women as well as men who left the security of their homes for adventure and, for some, a better life. Women often made the dangerous journey solely because their husbands made that decision for them. Women of that day had no vote and no right to apply for the free land being apportioned in Oregon. Oftentimes heart wrenching decisions were made for them, leaving them to trust in God for the consequences.

Jane Kirkpatrick researched the history of Tabitha Brown carefully and then brought her story to life in a fictional account of her actual travels from Missouri to Oregon in 1846. Never wanting to be dependent on her grown children, or perhaps because her independent nature carved from early widowhood drew wedges between her and her sons, Tabitha (Tabby) took responsibility for her decision to accompany part of her family on a harrowing journey and also care for her elderly brother-in-law on this long and dangerous trip.

This Road We Traveled gives insight into the physical, emotional, and spiritual struggles the various characters endure as seen through the eyes of Tabby, her daughter Pherne, and Pherne’s daughter Virgilia. These three generations of women are united in their love for God, family, and each other. Each struggles with different challenges and their characters are formed in the forge of the many tests they endure.

Kirkpatrick is a skilled storyteller cycling through the main characters’ points of view revealing the events occurring in each life without getting bogged down in any one character’s difficulties. None of the issues are simple, varying from choosing the correct fork in the road to discovering God’s will for the future. One woman dealt with reining in her tongue so that her words matched the kindness in her heart. Another struggled with the importance of possessions, and the third had difficulties with friendships. 

The pacing of the plot is good and the characters are well developed. Although there are many Christian themes emphasizing moral choices, the book is not about a cookie cutter religion; the characters have various attitudes about their relationship with God and how they should live out their faith. The author describes the desert landscape, the treacherous mountain passes, and the homes, both humble and more luxurious with equal skill. Slavery, an issue that is being stiltedly worked out during that time period, crops up several times. The various Indian tribes are not stereotyped. Some are quite generous to the travelers who are in the throes of desperation and others are violent and aggressive. Politics also play a role as the U.S. is afraid the British will cut off routes in the west. 

This Road We Traveled  brings to life an important part of history. Tabitha was a real person who actually made this journey at the age of 66. She had hardships on the journey and went on to help many in the state of Oregon which publicly acknowledges her contributions with the title “Mother of Oregon.” I learned a lot about her life, travels in the 1840’s to the west, and the difficulties of settling into a new community. Tabby’s story is an inspiration, and I am grateful to Kirkpatrick for sharing it.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Christian, Historical Fiction

Notes: 1.Questions for discussion are included. 

  2. I read this book as the first book chosen for a book club newly formed by friends at church and held via Zoom meetings. I think the consensus was that we all enjoyed the book. There was plenty of depth for discussion on a variety of topics.

Publication:   September 6, 2016—Revell

Memorable Lines:

“Your sadness, your anger at Orus, at me, those are losses reaching out like the gnarled hands of Shakespeare’s witches. They seek something to hold on to, but there is only air.”

Oh, she’d prayed and asked for guidance but didn’t see the clarity she would have liked. Some choices were like that. God left her to step into uncertainty. She guessed that’s where faith grew strongest.

“In the end, things don’t really matter. We think they do, but they don’t. What matters is keeping those we love alive.”

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