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Death by Chocolate Chip Cupcake–literally a cliffhanger

Death by Chocolate Chip Cupcake

by Sarah Graves

Most cozy mysteries are fairly tame. They have an interesting plot with a great whodunnit puzzle, a little action, and a sprinkling or two of danger. With Death by Chocolate Chip Cupcake, you can take those expectations and turn them upside down. Then double the pace, add lots of adventure, and throw in some creepiness.

The settings are extremely important to the plot. Main character Jacobia (Jake) and her friend Ellie own a chocolate-themed bakery, The Chocolate Moose, in the island village of Eastport, Maine. A lot of the action takes place at a remote cliffside house recently purchased by Ingrid Merryfield, a past-her-prime actress. Formerly glorious but currently decaying, Cliff House sits at the end of a narrow peninsula. With one way in by car, boat access when the tides are right, earthquakes, swamps, and secret tunnels, Sarah Graves has created a setting that is the perfect background for her plot.

Merryfield is hosting a party to ostensibly show off her new house to old friends even before any remodeling has been done. The guests who are staying overnight are plunged into sudden danger as they are trapped when a ginormous tree is uprooted and blocks the egress just as someone starts murdering them one by one. Instead of a locked room mystery, we can call it a sealed island mystery.

Ellie and Jake have been hired and paid well to provide chocolate desserts with the proviso that they stay overnight to serve and clean up. Things go from bad to worse as Jake tries to save Ellie, Jake’s stepmother, and Jake’s daughter-in-law and get them off the island. Graves goes into great detail with the setting helping the reader picture the dangerous cliffs and rising tides.

Sorting through the characters, their motivations, and the numerous plot twists is a full-time job. In the conclusion, everything is spelled out and loose ends are tied up. Jake and Ellie are brave, self-sacrificing, and ingenious ladies, but two of my favorite characters critical to the plot are not main characters. My semi-heroes are Igor the Irish Wolfhound who has a recurrent role and Jake’s elderly father who should not be underestimated. Death by Chocolate Chip Cupcake is not the book for a calm afternoon’s read, but a cup of hot tea might go with it well as there are some wet, cold scenes.

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. #5 in the Death by Chocolate Series. It could be read as a standalone, but would be enjoyed better with more character background.
2. Minor swearing (about 5 occasions)

Publication: March 29, 2021—Kensington

Memorable Lines:

…there are no dumb housewives in Maine. If there were, they’d get eaten by bears, poisoned by toadstools masquerading as mushrooms, or bled dry by mosquitoes so big they could stand flat-footed and look right over the barn at you.

So the whole line of thought was a vicious circle and for now I set it aside turning instead to thoughts of our imminent journey: Life jacket, check. Iron grip on the rail, check.

On the hearth, flames licked hungrily at the logs, curling their splinters to frizzled wisps.

Saddled Up 4 Murder–horse thieves in AZ

Saddled Up 4 Murder

by J.C. Eaton

Sophie (Phee) Kimball is an accountant for Williams Investigations in Glendale, Arizona. She often finds herself unofficially in the middle of murder investigations at the urging (make that insistence) of her mother and her mother’s friends who all live in the popular retirement area of Sun City West. As usual, Phee’s trying to work around the seniors, and their involvement in her investigation is always a source of humor.

In Saddled Up 4 Murder, there are dual mystery threads. Billie, a very unpleasant deli worker, is murdered. Sophie needs to find the perpetrator before one of the elderly ladies who was in the area at the time of the murder is attacked to silence her. Also, and very importantly, the Bye, Bye Birdie Festival is coming up soon when the full-time residents say farewell to the snowbirds. They have a deadline for purchasing balloons for the event and Phee’s mother wants it to be such a success that she gets interviewed on TV. None of this can happen if the crime scene remains cordoned off with yellow tape. The other thread is a string of horses being stolen. Nate, the owner of the detective agency and Marshall, Phee’s fiancé, are hired to track down the horse thieves. It is a hard job given the large area of rugged land they need to cover. In addition, there is no clear motive as these are not expensive race or breeding horses; they come from ranches all over Arizona.

At first I was a little irritated by the amount of time spent in the book on the lack of cellular connectivity and the trouble it causes. Upon further thought, having lived in the West for over 30 years (i.e. since before there were cell phones), I realized that their connection problems were actually very realistic and, in this case, pertinent to the plot. So often I see shows where the main characters are out in the middle of nowhere and have cell phone service. Even in 2022, that is not a realistic scenario.

As always with a J.C. Eaton cozy, the mystery is solid, the descriptions are on target, the characters come alive, and both the situations and dialogue are funny. No Sophie Kimball mystery would be complete without Phee’s mother’s dog, Streetman. The little Chiweenie plays a major role in this book! So, put on your cowboy hat and boots and saddle up for a fun, western cozy mystery.

I would like to extend my thanks to NetGalley and to Beyond the Page Publishing for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: 1. #9 in the Sophie Kimball Mystery Series, but could be read as a standalone.
2. Only found in this book in the series, there is a large gathering of several Wiccan covens which is depicted as a fun, family festival. I was uncomfortable with the involvement of the occult. In the book their role and actions are only positive, but I found that to be a deceptive and naive viewpoint. I hope this is an isolated inclusion of a Wiccan event, and I don’t expect this theme to appear in future books in the series.

Publication: March 15, 2022—Beyond the Page Publishing

Memorable Lines:

“What about the field rep from the Department of Agriculture?” “About as useful as a toad on an iceberg.”

“Did you say finagling? Don’t you mean breaking and entering? Good grief! That’s the most preposterous thing you’ve come up with. Compared to that, the other two plans look like masterpieces.”

…people who hide important items sometimes stick them in their freezers. The exception being my mother. There was a no room under those layers of frozen dinners, cookies that had passed their expiration dates, boxes of matzo that had crossed the Red Sea with Moses, and ice cream that had crystalized.

Lemon Drop Dead–love for a child

Lemon Drop Dead

by Amanda Flower

Although she still films her TV series “Bailey’s Amish Sweets” in New York City, Bailey is currently back in Harvest, Ohio, where she helps her grandmother operate the local candy shop, Swissmen Sweets. One of the shop assistants, Emily Keim, was taken under Bailey’s wing when her hateful sister and brother kicked her out of their pretzel shop business and home. Now Emily is married to a wonderful Amish man who knows that when she was young she had a baby out of wedlock and gave it up for adoption.

When an Amish woman, a stranger, shows up at the town’s baby shower for Emily and then is found dead in the pretzel shop, the little tourist town of Harvest is turned upside down. Everyone knows Bailey will investigate. The search for the killer turns personal as Bailey has a sweet, deaf, six year old girl, Hannah, thrust on her. Jethro the polka-dotted, pot-bellied pig saves the day as he comforts and amuses the child in the midst of the chaotic situation. Bailey is horrified by the insensitive, rude comments made about the child as if she is somehow “less than” because she can’t hear. The Amish do not like government interactions, but the social worker must get involved because of various laws to ensure the welfare of the child. Thankfully, she does try to be sensitive to the Amish culture and to not disrupt the child’s life any more than it already has been.

Along the way, Bailey encounters both Englisch and Amish who are breaking laws and hurting others. There are lots of threads and themes: Amish harness racing in carts, gambling, unwed mothers, adoption, deafness, generosity, paternal responsibility, and love of all types. There are developments in the relationship of Deputy Little and Bailey’s cousin Charlotte as she wrestles with whether to remain Amish or not. Bailey’s boyfriend Aiden has to decide whether to remain in a frustrating job in Harvest’s sheriff’s office or accept a position that is an advancement but would take him away from Harvest…and Bailey.

Lemon Drop Dead is a good story. Both the plot and characters pull the reader in. The reveal of the murderer is surprising. I am looking forward to my next visit to Harvest. Lois, who is a hoot in the Amish Matchmaker series which is also set in Harvest, surprises everyone in this book with her knowledge of sign language. She is sweet and supportive. I learned more about Amish customs, but the biggest surprise for me was finding Amish young men competing at the race track in special carts designed for that purpose and utilizing bicycle tires. Who knew?

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. #6 in the Amish Candy Shop Mystery Series. It can be enjoyed as a standalone, but the whole series is good. Some of the books have more humor, but this one does deal with some serious issues so is a little less lighthearted.
2. Clean and wholesome read.
3. Recipe for Lemon Drops included.

Publication: April 27, 2021—Kensington

Memorable Lines:

Gott gives each and every one of us gifts. Each is different. Each is special. It is up to you what you do with them.”

For her and my grandfather to be proud of me was all I’d ever wanted. I’d thought for a very long time that I had to earn that pride by becoming the top chocolatier in New York City. I had since learned my grandparents were prouder of me when I cared for others.

I winced. Hollywood was harsh if it was even asking pigs to lose weight.

Picture Perfect Frame–art with a twist

Picture Perfect Frame

by Lynn Cahoon

Spring has arrived in South Cove, a small coastal town in California. Tourists are showing up, and businesses are gearing up for the St. Patrick’s Day Street Fair and the many festivals that will follow. Jill, avid reader and owner of Coffee, Books, and More, stays busy juggling her personal life centered around Emma her Pomeranian and Greg her boyfriend who heads up the police department. Her staff, including a new member Evie, work well together sharing responsibilities and functioning as a family. Jill’s best friend Amy is a bit of a bridezilla as she sets ups a second attempt at the perfect wedding; her fiancée’s family cancelled on the first scheduled ceremony.

Despite Jill’s acclaimed lack of creativity, she and Greg attend a painting event at the new Drunken Art Studio. Jill is unable to follow the directions that should result in a seascape, but her strengths as a nosey informal investigator are in full display when one of the guests shows up dead at the studio the next day.

Esmeralda, who handles administrative tasks for Greg, is a self-proclaimed psychic and also Jill’s neighbor; she is accused of the murder. Jill is convinced that the laid back Esmeralda, who catches flies and drives them to the mountains to release them, is innocent. Jill devotes herself to finding the real killer. In the process she discovers that some of her suspects have pasts they want to keep hidden as well as motives for killing the victim. Clearly, one of them is a murderer, and the identity is a surprise. There is also a happy personal twist at the end of Picture Perfect Frame that both provides closure and segues into the next book in the 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: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: 1. #12 in the Tourist Trap Mystery Series. Lynn Cahoon is good at providing background so it could be read as a standalone, but there are a lot of references to characters in previous books. My advice: Go back and read some of the earlier books in the series first. It is worth the time and effort.
2. Includes a delicious sounding recipe for “Chocolate Gooey Butter Cake.”

Publication: March 16, 2021—Kensington

Memorable Lines:

“As a lawyer, a lot of times the decisions the courts made weren’t about the truth. I don’t want someone to die and have the wrong person in jail for it. Or worse, for no one to be brought to justice. It doesn’t seem right.”

“I’ve always heard you can’t run from your problems because everywhere you go, you’re still there.”

“Of course we’ll schedule that lunch.” And then she opened the book and started reading. As a reader, I knew a dismissal when I saw it. I’d done it to others before too.

Batter Off Dead–disappointing

Batter Off Dead

by Maddie Day

Robbie runs a breakfast and lunch restaurant in South Lick, Indiana. It has gained quite a reputation for its good food and the antique kitchen goods and local products sold in a dedicated part of Pans ’N Pancakes. Robbie also has a three bedroom B&B above the cafe. Locals love to meet to chat and eat there. Tourist buses often stop with excited visitors keeping the versatile staff on their toes. The reputation extends to Robbie who is even known in the bordering state as a detective.

Batter Off Dead is the tenth book in this series by Maddie Day, but the fourth one for me. I don’t like the way the series is developing. There is a violent crime and the local enforcement officers, Robbie herself, and the citizens of South Lick expect Robbie to find the criminal. She does this by picking up on clues she overhears in the restaurant. She also butts in on conversations there questioning anyone and everyone with even a remote connection to the case—all the while running around with coffee carafes in hand and telling the reader how busy the restaurant is. Meanwhile, Lt. Bird with the South Lick Police Dept. and Oscar Thompson, a detective with the Indiana State Police, come by the restaurant at least once if not twice a day asking Robbie what information she has for them, in addition to emailing, texting, and phoning her for information. They are not portrayed as bumbling, but the direction of information is almost always one way with Robbie leading and solving while the interested detectives follow along.

The reader is fed detailed descriptions of Robbie’s day: prepare, open, go crazy with breakfast, lunch and investigating, clean up, prepare for the next day, visit someone to nose around, dinner and drinks with new husband, and crash in exhaustion. Repeat. I am sorry to see a series I enjoy disintegrate. There is a good plot, but it was too drawn out to hold my interest to the end. There was action in the conclusion, but not much of a surprise. By that point, I didn’t really care whodunit.

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: 3/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: 1. #10 in the Country Store Mystery Series
2. Cookie and crepe recipes included

Publication: February 22, 2022—Kensington

Memorable Lines:

I took her hand and felt her soft, parchment-like skin, which had first seen light when automobiles were new, when white women first won the vote, when the technology we so relied on today was a science-fiction dream.

“Dessert before the meal?” “Hon, I come by my silver hair honestly. At this stage of life, I figure I can do pretty much what I want, as long as it’s legal.” She winked. “And sometimes when it isn’t.”

His face took on a sorrowful look. “So, I can’t get me a pile of lunch? My stomach’s got a hole in it bigger than the Grand Canyon with no tourists, and it needs filled.”

Antique Auctions are Murder–very funny, cozy mystery

Antique Auctions are Murder

by Libby Klein

I always look forward to a visit at the Butterfly Wings B&B in Cape May, New Jersey. Poppy and her octogenarian Aunt Ginny operate their bed and breakfast that is beginning to show success. Poppy makes breakfast treats for the B&B and gluten-free muffins for her boyfriend’s espresso shop.

While I had no trouble remembering the major characters, I actually took some notes on the other characters in this book because there are so many of them. One of the major threads involves the dysfunctional Whipple family and those they know in the antique world. The patriarch and all of his children are more concerned about possessions than people.

This is the tourist season, and there are a lot of guests at the B&B. With all of the visitors’ quirks, Poppy stays busy sorting everyone out. The wine bottle and huge chunk of cheese disappear daily from the happy hour setting. Takeout orders are delivered in the middle of the night. Two guests bring their female cats, including one very large Maine Coon, who try to impress Figaro, Poppy’s male cat, who’s not having it.

Humor is all through the book, from smile-inducing to laugh out loud scenes. Some of the humor comes from the characters. Red-haired, feisty, little Aunt Ginny and her three senior sidekicks (aka “the biddies”) manage to draw Poppy into all kinds of situations. Victory, the Ukrainian chambermaid with narcolepsy, still works at the B&B. She is treated like part of the family, but her accent, misunderstanding of idioms, and the situations she gets into are hilarious. Some of the humor also comes from Poppy’s inner dialogue—what she is thinking but doesn’t verbalize. Incredibly, there is another very funny subplot related to a threat left for Poppy on her front lawn. It should be serious, but with Aunt Ginny’s “help,” it goes viral and the B&B guests and staff jump into the situation with a profit making scheme.

Gia and Poppy are officially a dating couple, but it seems doubtful that his mother and sister will let him go and accept Poppy like his melt-your-heart sweet little boy has. On Poppy’s side, Georgina, her mother-in-law from her only marriage, shows up unexpectedly at the B&B. Poppy is a widow and Georgina has a 10% interest in the business. She is high maintenance and has servants at home, but Poppy puts her to work as a chambermaid when Victory is out of commission in yet another humorous situation.

With all that’s going on, you might wonder how there is any room in Antique Auctions are Murder for a murder mystery. That’s where the author’s fine art of plotting comes in. There is a murder and Poppy’s solving the mystery is front and center in the book with all of these characters and situations moving in and out and then actually coming together. So many people with motives! So much greed and a plethora of secrets! The murder weapon is unusual. The killer is not someone you would suspect and you might even have sympathy for. Perhaps my favorite part of the book is the Epilogue. It not only ties up some loose ends and clears up a few major misunderstandings on the part of the characters, but it reveals one last surprise that will knock you over!

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. #7 in the Poppy McAllister Mystery Series. It could be read as a standalone, but at this point in the series I think a new reader would have some trouble isolating the recurring characters. The whole series is so good, that my recommendation is to start at the beginning and ENJOY!
2. The book ends with a lot of Jersey boardwalk inspired, gluten free recipes. An example is “Unicorn Cotton Candy CuppyCakes.”

Publication: February 22, 2022—Kensington

Memorable Lines:

My chambermaid hobbled around the corner with her arms sticking straight out and her legs wide like a zombie. “I weill sue sunscream companee. I am shreemp.” I think you mean lobster.”

Aunt Ginny cocked her head to give me a gleeful smile. I hadn’t seen her this excited since the Entenmann truck broke down around the corner and the driver had to give away fifty boxes of raspberry Danish twist.

Mrs. Davis gave me a look that was so pitiful it would put a basset hound to shame.

Murder on the Menu–21st century Nosey Parker

Murder on the Menu

by Fiona Leitch

A delightful British cozy mystery, Murder on the Menu takes us to the fictional town of Penstowan in Cornwall where Jodie Parker and her daughter Daisy have returned to Jodie’s hometown after years on the police force in London. Wanting to remain safe for her daughter’s sake, Jodie retrained in culinary school and plans on starting a catering business. She gets her first job (from an old friend getting married) with little notice, but is anxious to prove herself.

The case of a murdered ex-wife and a bride who may have done a runner returns Jodie to her investigative roots. As she tries to discover the who and why, Nosey (as her childhood nickname used to be) Parker meets the handsome DCI Withers who really wishes she would stay out of his investigations and crime scenes.

I enjoyed all the Britishisms. I know biscuits in England are cookies in the U.S., but terms like “Jammie Dodgers,” butty with brown sauce,” and “ponce” sent me scurrying to the Internet. I love sleuthing words!

The characters are interesting and humor in dialogue and plot is sprinkled throughout. I enjoyed the Cornish accent and word choice like “guv” and “copper;” They are stronger in some of the characters than others depending on their backgrounds. Her mum and Daisy are appropriately supportive of Jodie’s passion for police work that she has trouble leaving behind. Jodie, to the delight of Daisy, adopts a Pomeranian when its human mom is murdered. An expert at “escapology,” the white fluff ball becomes a constant companion and essential to the plot.

The plot is complicated and Jodie is good at both finding clues and deducting their meanings. Our perception of DCI Withers develops from that of an “annoying git,” to a fair and honest investigator.

The setting includes the many varied locales from the town of Penstowan to tourist campsites and from the hotel for the wedding reception to the church hall for the weekly women’s coffee group.

The next three books in the series have already been published as there was lots of time for writing in New Zealand during the lockdown of 2020. This poses a task that I look forward to handling.

I would like to extend my thanks to NetGalley and to Harper 360 (One More Chapter) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: General Fiction (Adult), Mystery

Notes: 1. #1 in the Nosey Parker Cozy Mystery Series
2. Some questionable language

Publication: February 15, 2022—Harper 360 (One More Chapter)

Memorable Lines:

“This is your first major case here—definitely your first murder case; we don’t get a lot of those down this way—and you want to make a good impression by solving it quickly. But this is Cornwall. We don’t do things quickly here, and we don’t expect you to, either. We just want you to do it properly.”

“Are you all right, love?” she said, offering me a wine gum before adding with typical Cornish understatement, “That were a bit intense, weren’t it?”

I was excited about my new catering business,…but this got my adrenaline pumping in a way that making a velouté never could. I’d never been a detective, as such, but I’d always been nosey.

Put Out to Pasture–a victim’s startling past

Put Out to Pasture

by Amanda Flower

Since I enjoy Amanda Flower’s cozy mysteries, I left the first one in her new series Farm to Table Mysteries scratching my head in wonderment that this book, although satisfactory, was just not up to the standards I expect from this author. Fortunately, the first book was just a rough patch as she got started on the series. The second book, Put Out to Pasture, is everything I want in a cozy.

Flower turned around the pervasive and ugly negativity that permeated Shiloh’s return to her home town of Cherry Glen in Michigan from L.A. In this story there continue to be antagonists, but not everyone is pitted against Shi. When a dead body is found on her farm and her best friend Kristy is accused of the murder, Shi is doggedly determined to clear her name. There are a lot of clues that lead Shi and the reader to suspect various people. Having spent years with the Hollywood crowd, Shi knows that many seemingly good people may just be good actors.

Meanwhile, on the personal front, Shi’s best and favorite sidekick, her pug Huckleberry, continues to bring humor through Shi’s descriptions of what he appears to be thinking. She continues to clean out her grandmother’s cabin and finds a note to her with a mysterious riddle. She has a new neighbor who at first appears to be a bright light, but later seems to have greedy intentions. Shi’s deceased boyfriend’s best friend is working through the deaths of his friend and his own wife. Hazel, his daughter continues to be a breath of fresh air as the tween struggles to find a new normal with her firefighter dad’s erratic schedule and her grandmother’s protective strictness. Shi’s father, who was immersed in his Michigan history collection for most of Shi’s life might be coming out of his shell.

In this book, Shi is a likable character and we can see potential for her goals of revitalizing the family farm. The story is fast-paced with a web of threads and interesting characters. The author ends by dangling several hooks, any one of which is sufficient to reel the reader into the next book in the series.

I would like to extend my thanks to NetGalley and to Poisoned Pen 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 Farm to Table Mystery Series, but can certainly be read as a standalone.

Publication: February 22, 2022—Poisoned Pen Press

Memorable Lines:

The one anomaly in the gravel lot was my car, an expensive sports car that would be as practical in a Michigan winter as a snow blower was in LA.

“She seems calm to me.” “That doesn’t mean she’s not mad. Trust me, I know. When she is really, really mad she gets cold. She’s like the iceberg that took out the Titanic.”

“I think the thing I got most out of my parents’ death is cutting people a break. You don’t know what they have been through or are going through. Everyone could use a little kindness.”

A Fatal Family Feast–a wedding at stake

A Fatal Family Feast

by Lynn Cahoon

If you want a feel-good cozy mystery series with villains juxtaposed with some really nice main characters and an intricate plot, you’ll find it in Lynn Cahoon’s Farm to Fork Mystery Series. In A Fatal Family Feast, Angie Turner, owner of the County Seat restaurant in Idaho, is maid of honor for Felicia, her best friend and business partner who has won the heart of Estebe, a gruff chef who is really a softy. Unfortunately, he is accused of murder by a detective with a grudge. Angie, her boyfriend Ian, Felicia, and Estebe, who jokingly call themselves the Scooby gang, have to find the real murderer or there won’t be a wedding in Idaho or a honeymoon in Spain.

With the clock ticking, they divide up their time between the restaurant, which will be closed for the week of the wedding, and their investigation which uncovers the secrets of several dysfunctional families. The more Angie learns of Felicia’s family, the prouder she is of the family she is creating from her County Seat team; they work together well and support each other. The story also includes positive examples of families. Angie’s boyfriend Ian manages the town’s farmers’ market, and is less concerned about making money than about helping others. Ian’s uncle and his wife are fostering a teenager with great success. Estebe is part of an enthusiastic Basque community who love family, food, fellowship and their Basque culture. They welcome Felicia with open arms.

Certainly the theme of family is an important one to the author. She gives plenty of attention to the characters and to Angie’s animals: Dom, her St. Bernard; Precious, a goat; and Mabel, her hen. The animals don’t play critical roles but are referenced throughout. The plot is always central, and the fun for the reader is in the discovery of clues and eventually the murderer.

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: 1. #6 in the Farm to Fork Mystery Series. Although this book could be read as a standalone, the series would be more enjoyable if read in sequence with the added background on the characters.
2. A risotto recipe is included.

Publication: January 4, 2022—Lyrical Press

Memorable Lines:

The hen clucked her disbelief that the goat could even know the word responsible, which made Angie laugh. “I know the two of you can’t really understand what I’m saying, but sometimes, you make me feel like you can.”

“I think we’re better at finding clues because we’re less people orientated. We’re both introverts, so we were born with the watcher gene. We see things most people ignore.”

Everything’s going to be all right.” “You say that a lot. Even when all the facts go against that premise.” He kissed her cheek. “I have something better than facts. I have faith.”

Farm to Trouble–saving the family farm

Farm to Trouble

by Amanda Flower

Amanda Flower has written several series that I enjoy very much. Her new series, the Farm to Table Mysteries, has some room for growth. Farm to Trouble is only the first book in the series. So far, there are very few characters that I like. The memories of Shiloh’s (Shi’s) deceased grandmother depict her as a woman of strength and character and a great role model for Shi. The protagonist, Shi, is well-meaning, but as she returns to her childhood town she struggles to find her place as most of the residents view her as an outsider. Her father and her cousin are not nice to her, and her deceased fiancé’s best friend Quinn is still struggling with emotions he should have dealt with fifteen years ago. There are a few old friends who truly welcome her back, and some new residents who are quite hateful. Quinn’s daughter Hazel finds a kindred spirit in Shi because they both lost their mothers as children, and they both love animals. My favorite character is an empathetic pug, Huckleberry. The author has great descriptions of him and of Shi’s interpretation of what he is thinking. This is a cute approach to having Huck as an active participant throughout the story.

Shi’s father has let the family farm go to ruins and resists her plans to transform it into an organic farm. She has naively signed a contract with a businessman who is buying up property in Cherry Grove so that he can inundate the area with wind turbines. The terms of the contract are not favorable to Shi, but she is desperate. When she signs the agreement, she has not yet seen the extent of deterioration on the farm. Her pushing forward with this bad deal, after throwing lots of money into the farm over the years to cover her father’s debts, does not seem to be in line with the persona of Shi, a successful Hollywood television producer.

The book deals with murder and identifying the killer, the survival of the Bellemy Farm and of the town of Cherry Grove, lots of liars, the restoration of the local theater, and unresolved feelings of guilt and resentment. There are plenty of plot threads in this book. I’m hoping for more positive character development in the next book in the series, Put Out to Pasture, which is scheduled to be published on February 22, 2022.

I would like to extend my thanks to NetGalley and to Poisoned Pen 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 Farm to Table Mystery Series

Publication: February 23, 2021—Poisoned Pen Press

Memorable Lines:

Now I realized the effort I’d have to put in to care for my ailing father, save the farm, and face the memories that I had buried in my tinsel town life for the last fifteen years. It would be no small feat.

“I haven’t read a book since college. It’s a complete waste of time when everything you need to know is on the internet.” That’s when I knew Laurel and I could never be friends.

I set the pug on the grass. He looked up at me and cocked his head one way and then the other. Even when I was in the worst spots, Huckleberry had the power to cheer me up.

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