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Shake Down–reality TV is so fake!

Shake Down

by Kendel Lynn

Shake DownElliott Lisbon is the director of the billion-dollar Ballantyne Foundation and is also a very frustrated PI-in-training. There are plenty of cases to work on, but her boyfriend Lieutenant Ransom and other law enforcement officers do not share much information with her. So, Elliot enlists her best friend Sid, and the pair hone their investigative skills in the complicated search for Daphne who has a reputation for going missing and following her whims without warning. Would she do that with her friend’s wedding less than a week away?

In Shake Down by Kendel Lynn, lots of plot lines intersect. The Ballantyne Foundation is sponsoring a BBQ fundraiser honoring families who host the homeless. We are also introduced to Daphne who disappears shortly before she is to be maid of honor for her best friend Juliette. The girls met on a reality TV show where they were competing for an eligible bachelor. Much of the plot is centered around the town’s search for Daphne. That part of the book drags just a bit, but the pace and action pick up later and culminate in a conclusion I could never have predicted.

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 Elliott Lisbon Mystery Series but OK as a standalone as characters from previous books in the series are clearly reintroduced.

Publication:   March 17, 2020—Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

She stopped as if her soles had been superglued to the asphalt. She seemed to be experiencing the second half of fight or flight. Freeze or faint.

“He’s being all cagey and friendly. Helpful in a distinctly not very helpful way.”

The shot was beyond loud. Like saying a hurricane was breezy or a ghost pepper had a little kick.

My Fair Latte–coffee, wine, and classic flicks

My Fair Latte

by Vickie Fee

My Fair LatteHere’s an opportunity to get in on the ground floor of a new cozy mystery series by an established author, Vickie Fee. In My Fair Latte, Halley Greer inherits an old theater from an uncle she barely knew. Immediately, the reason for this bequest to Halley arises as a background puzzle, but the real mystery centers around vandalism and murder in the theater that  Halley is working hard to resurrect as a business that combines her two passions—old movies and coffee.

The residents of the little tourist town of Utopia Springs, Arkansas, welcome Halley and encourage her in her new business. She has to clean up both the theater and the upstairs apartment, quite an undertaking as her uncle was a hoarder. Favorite characters are George and Trudy, local artists who take her under their wing, and Kendra who owns the escape room business across the street. There are several romantic interests as well.

I enjoyed meeting the residents of Utopia Springs and watching Halley develop her creative ideas on a shoe string budget. It was great to witness her new friends pitching in to help, building community around her. As the police seem to suspect Halley, she and Kendra investigate to try to put the focus on other possibilities. I found myself doing that myself, but missed the mark until the end. Eartha Kitty, another inheritance from Uncle Leon, has an important role in the story. I am looking forward to the next book in the series, but hoping that I won’t gain weight just reading about the huge, fresh cinnamon rolls that are a staple in Halley’s breakfast routine.

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: #1 in the Café Cinema Mystery Series

Publication:   March 3, 2020—Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

While it may have been a glamorous leading lady in its prime, the Star Movie Palace was now a faded beauty whose slip was showing from beneath its tattered couture.

Their fanny packs and I-heart-Utopia-Springs t-shirts were like tattooing tourist on their foreheads.

“I dearly love George, but this morning he started tap dancing on my last nerve before I’d even had a cup of coffee.”

Death by Chocolate Frosted Doughnut–explosive action

Death by Chocolate Frosted Doughnut

by Sarah Graves

Death by Chocolate Frosted DoughnutJake and Ellie continue to make delightful chocolate goodies at The Chocolate Moose when they are not being shot at, run off the road, or drowned. In Sarah Graves’ Death by Chocolate Frosted Doughnut, there is more than enough action, some strong female characters you will want to see survive, lots of suspects, and some confusing motives. I could relate more to the chocolate than the many nautical references which are, in fact,  extremely important to the plot.

Jake lives in an old home bursting at the seams with extended family. Her sidekick Ellie is instrumental and often the leader in Jake’s dangerous investigations. As you read about the remote town of Eastport, Maine, where Jake put down roots twenty years before, you can understand why she decided to stay. As autumn closes in, the town is hosting the Eastport Pirate Festival which draws a huge tourist trade and, in this case, provides the perfect atmosphere for explosive action.

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.This is #3 in the Death by Chocolate Mystery Series, but the author does an excellent job of supporting the reader so that this book can be a standalone.

  2. The book concludes with a recipe for Double-Chocolate Ginger Cookies, featuring chocolate chips, white chocolate, and crystallized ginger.

Publication:   February 25, 2020—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

His face, furrowed and grooved by age and the outdoors, was like something you might find carved into an old tree trunk, and his grip had felt as tough as bark.

I took a gulp of my hot drink and felt the brandy molecules percolating through my collapsed brain cells, reviving them. Or at least making them dance around very happily indeed, which was enough for me at the moment.

She was an overbearing old fussbudget, our Bella, but she would have stepped in front of a freight train for any one of us.

Dead Ringer–yellow carnation

Dead Ringer

by Annelise Ryan

Dead RingerMattie Winston is overcome with personal problems as well as a case with far reaching consequences.  She spends her days off on a murder investigation that might prove the innocence of a man in jail for life as a convicted serial killer. In a strange twist of affairs, Mattie finds herself at odds with her husband Hurley, a homicide detective. She is fulfilling a gift to him but has misgivings about the promised present and her abilities as a mother. Hurley is jealous and suspicious. How did the loving couple get so out of sorts with each other?

In Dead Ringer by Annelise Ryan, Mattie takes the investigation of the serial murders to nearby Eau Claire, ruffling the professional feathers of the coroner and the district attorney there. Both are up for re-election, and neither is happy with the new forensic pathology program being developed in their county. Meanwhile, the morgue in Sorenson holds a druggie killed in the same manner and following the same profile as those killed years ago. It is up to Mattie to determine if there is a copycat killer on the loose or if the wrong man is behind bars.

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: #11 in the Mattie Winston Mystery Series, but works as a standalone.

Publication:   February 25, 2020—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

My son is a constant ball of energy and inquisitiveness, a cross between two of his favorite cartoon characters: the Tasmanian Devil and Curious George.

My mother wasn’t one for praise or approval. The woman is better at finding faults than a seismologist.

“Do tell,” Brenda says, feigning high interest. She not only bats her eyelashes, she manages to look alluring doing it. I’m impressed, because whenever I try to do it, I look like I’ve got a bad nervous twitch.

Dressed Up 4 Murder–Chiweenie in a fashion parade

Dressed Up 4 Murder

Dressed Up 4 Murder

Sun City West, a retirement community in Arizona, is the setting for a cozy mystery series featuring Sophie Kimball, an accountant for Williams Investigations. Sophie uses her deductive reasoning skills to help with cases that her boss Nate and boyfriend Marshall are called upon to investigate, often by the county sheriff’s office.

Dressed Up 4 Murder is a combination of humor, thanks to Sophie’s persistent mother Harriet and her gossipy friends, and mystery involving murder, affairs, and seafood. The star of the book in so many ways is Harriet’s chiweenie, Streetman. He competes in a series of doggy parades dressed in themed costumes designed especially for him by Harriet’s friend Shirley. When Streetman literally uncovers a body, Sophie and Marshall are on the scene. Harriet depends on Sophie to solve the case and, meanwhile, keeps Sophie regularly updated on the developments of Streetman’s costumes.

The doggy parade and the banter of Harriet and her friends will leave you smiling and chuckling, while the red herrings will keep you turning pages to solve the mysteries. Do all the threads tie together or are there actually several cases and multiple villains?

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 Sophie Kimball Mystery Series, but works well as a standalone.

Publication:   February 25, 2020—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

…my mother used all of her available time to drive me nuts. Endless phone calls about doggie designer clothes and the Halloween pet parade. I was looking forward to this first spectacle of the Precious Pooches Holiday Extravaganza as much as a root canal.

…I got to enjoy three or four minutes of blissful silence. Until my mother opened her mouth. “Phee is investigating those poisonings. It’s very hush-hush.” If it’s so hush-hush, why is she announcing it at gossip’s epicenter?”

By now I was getting really antsy, and apparently I wasn’t the only one. “Dish the dirt, Myrna,” Louise said, “while most of us still have our hearing.”

On the Lamb–deadly beach party

On the Lamb

by Tina Kashian

On the LambThere is a lot of fun to be had in Tina Kashian’s latest cozy mystery, On the Lamb. Lucy Berberian, who manages her family’s Mediterranean restaurant, Kebab Kitchen, in the small Jersey tourist town of Ocean Crest has a reputation for solving mysteries with the help of a sidekick. Her best friend Katie fills the bill, only this time Katie’s husband Bill, an Ocean Crest police officer, is not assigned to the case so they are on their own in their informal investigations.

There are many suspects in the murder case as no one seems to have positive feelings about the victim Gilbert, not even his wife. You’ll want to read On the Lamb to find out what hold Gilbert had over various characters and watch the course of the duo’s inquiries that turn dangerous.

On the fun side is Eloisa Lubinski, a widow in her eighties who isn’t letting life pass her by. Lucy rents out Eloisa’s very pink upstairs apartment with an amazing oceanfront view and a sixties decor. Other interesting characters include Azad, chef at the Kabob Kitchen and Lucy’s former boyfriend, and Madame Vega, a longtime psychic on the boardwalk whose powers of observation and perception exceed any claimed clairvoyant  abilities. The boardwalk setting is a fantastic backdrop and critical to the events of the story.

This cozy mystery checks off all the boxes for a fun afternoon read. My one issue is that Lucy, a former patent attorney, and Katie, the wife of a police officer, clearly break the law on several occasions. They were more concerned about how to safely share their criminally obtained information with the police than with their committing the crime. Cozies often have the main character walk in grey areas or put their own lives in danger; this one went a little too far. I still enjoyed the story very much for its interesting plot, characters, and setting and recommend it as well as the whole Kitchen Kabob Mystery Series.

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: 4/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: 1. #4 in the Kitchen Kebab Mystery Series, it will be fine as a standalone as the author gives lots of background as she begins the plot.

  2. The book is wrapped up with some delicious sounding Mediterranean recipes.

Publication:   February 25, 2020—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

It was old lady décor. Sixties kitchen with a limegreen refrigerator, tiered curtains, wallpaper with roosters and matching decorative wall plates displaying more roosters. One of the cabinet doors had been left open to reveal a shelf liner with a print of—she could have guessed it by now—roosters. It smelled like old lady, too. A combination of Jean Naté and BENGAY.

As she gazed at the delights behind the glass counter, she could almost feel the added extra inches on her waist and hips. The candy store took temptation to a different level.

The creamy chocolate and peanut butter combo danced like a ballet on her tongue.

Under the Radar–extreme bullying

Under the Radar

by Annette Dashofy

Under the RadarWith a full-time job with the Monongahela County EMS and a “part-time gig as deputy coroner,” Zoe Chambers has reason to be on the scene when bad things happen. In Annette Dashofy’s Under the Radar, murders abound. Zoe’s friend from high school, the much bullied Horace, turns himself in for the murder of long-time tormentor Dennis Culp. Did Horace snap under the continued violent harassment?

Under the Radar contains lots of twisty paths in the criminal investigations with several major surprises along the way. In addition to murder and burglaries, there are personal issues as Zoe plans her wedding to Vance Township Police Chief Pete Adams. She somehow manages to become involved in a deadly scenario while trying to track down a half brother she has never met. There is a little comic relief via Zoe’s interactions with her mother Kimberly and a “girls’ road trip.” Local politics works its way into the story as Zoe’s boss has to compete for his job, and the election results could also affect Zoe’s employment. 

The books in this series are page turners and Under the Radar is no exception.

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: #9 in the Zoe Chambers Mystery Series, but can be read as a standalone because the mystery is the strong part of the plot and much background information is supplied at the beginning of the book.

Publication:   February 25, 2020—Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

Pete didn’t need to tell Horace to stay close. If he’d been any closer, he’d have been in Pete’s back pocket.

He hated to wish ill on anyone, but he hoped someone requested assistance or needed an officer for something—anything—minor. Paperwork sucked.

Kimberly had two large suitcases, a massive carry-on, and what Zoe guessed was a makeup bag big enough to stock the Dior counter at a department store.

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.”

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