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Tilling the Truth–civic action by the garden squad

Tilling the Truth

by Julia Henry

Tilliing the TruthWhen I met the Garden Squad in Pruning the Dead, I was charmed by this group of Goosebush denizens who anonymously take on gardening projects and accomplish them at night for the good of the community. In Julia Henry’s sequel Tilling the Truth, the Garden Squad which is led by Lily, a prominent senior citizen in Goosebush, gets involved in solving murders and uncovering shady real estate deals. At the same time, Lily is acting as the executor of a friend’s estate which includes a controversial bird sanctuary.

The main characters do not appeal to me. They seem cliquish and concerned with their own prominence. They love to eat and a lot of the book’s activity centers around food as much as gardening.

Setting is very important in this book, and the author describes the individual locations quite well. Unfortunately, the locations of the houses in relation to each other, to various businesses, and to the town center is not defined adequately, and that is a distraction for me in trying to picture the action.

Although there are many potential suspects, the investigative path is not terribly complex and not very surprising. The action scene that reveals the murderer is well-written and satisfying.

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: 3/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: 1. #2 in the Garden Squad Mystery Series

2. There is an addendum of interesting gardening notes.

Publication:   August 27, 2019—Kensington 

Memorable Lines:

“She is such a miserable woman. Honestly, when she comes into my store the flowers wilt.”

“Braden was born on third base and acts like the world owes him a home run.”

But hosting a fundraiser? That felt like the seventh circle of hell closing in.

Death by Jack-O’-Lantern–vets helping vets

Death by Jack-O’-Lantern

by Alexis Morgan

Death by Jack-O'-LanternOstensibly a Halloween cozy mystery, Death by Jack-O’-Lantern by Alexis Morgan is so much more. In addition to a great mystery, there is a budding romance between Tripp Blackson and his landlady Abby McCree and lots of small town activity as Snowberry Creek in the Pacific Northwest pulls together to make their Halloween Festival a success. In the midst of a murder investigation, pumpkins carved to resemble townspeople crop up all over town, produced by an anonymous artist. There are lots of supportive new friends for Abby as she tries to settle into her new town, but there are also some puzzling characters. The overarching serious questions are important ones: How can we help returning veterans with PTSD? To what extent does a person go to help and protect his friend?

Abby goes too far in her investigations, stirring up danger for herself and anger in Tripp and the local law enforcement officers as they fear for her safety. Zeke, her mastiff mix, plays a recurring role as her buddy and protector. Abby, an excellent manager and organizer, spends a lot of her time coordinating volunteers for several committees. She also loves to bake, especially for her friends, and to consume copious amounts of caffeinated coffee and sweet treats.

I enjoyed this top notch cozy mystery, and I’m looking forward to the next one in the series. Kudos to the author as this story’s ending was one I didn’t see coming!

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: #2 in the Abby McCree Mystery Series. It would be OK to read as a standalone, but I think it would be more enjoyable if you read #1 in the series first.

Publication:   August 27, 2019—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

“Connie has a real talent for ‘volunteering’ people. I swear, you walk into city hall to ask a simple question about property taxes and somehow walk out in charge of a major town event. You’re even grateful for the chance to help out.”

Abby used artificial sweetener in her coffee to help compensate for the huge chocolate chip macadamia nut cookies she’d ordered. Yeah, it was a bit silly, but logic didn’t play a big part in her need for chocolate in times of stress.

She’d let Zeke outside for his usual morning patrol around the yard, but he hadn’t come trotting back in to inhale his breakfast…When she finally spotted him, her heart almost broke. He was sitting on Tripp’s front porch and staring at the door as if sheer determination would make his friend appear. How on earth was she supposed to explain to him that his buddy had been locked up in the people pound?

Molded 4 Murder–suffocation by clay

Molded 4 Murder

by J.C. Eaton

Molded 4 MurderSophia (Phee) Kimball is a full-time bookkeeper for Williams Investigations located in Glendale, Arizona. Nate, a retired police officer, moved to Arizona from Minnesota and persuaded Phee to work for his agency. Later he hired Marshall to join the group. They all knew each other from their jobs in Minnesota, but Phee and Marshall now have a romantic relationship. Phee lives close to her mother who, in league with her book club, keeps drama and gossip stirred up in the retirement community of Sun City West.

Phee finds herself drawn into an off-the-books mystery when two ladies she met on an airplane ask her to find out who is pilfering odd items in their resort retirement community. At the same time, Nate and Marshall are called in by local law enforcement as consultants when a semi-retired art teacher is found suffocated. Both mysteries get more complicated as the story progresses forming an intricate web. Not everyone is who they seem to be, and Phee’s favor to the ladies turns deadly. J.C. Eaton’s Molded 4 Murder includes quirky characters, humorous dialogue, investigators who know how to work as a team, and a lot of plot twists. It’s a cozy mystery that will leave you wanting more of the fun and action that this husband/wife writing duo dishes up so well.

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: #5 in the Sophie Kimball Mystery Series, but could be read as a standalone.

Publication:  August 27, 2019—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

We’ve got enough sugar cookies to set an entire classroom of kindergartners spinning for hours.

You give up a lot of things when you get old. You shouldn’t have to give up your privacy.

That girl can pick up gossip quicker than a black sweater picks up lint.

Penne Dreadful–a delicious cozy mystery

Penne Dreadful

by Catherine Bruns

Penne DreadfulA cozy mystery about a chef whose heritage and passion is Italian cuisine? Count me in! Penne Dreadful by Catherine Bruns is filled with food references from the beginning “Italians are passionate about almost everything in the world, and food is at the top of the list” to recipes for sauce, pizza, and stromboli at the end. In between, you will find a solid plot and interesting characters. 

Five weeks prior to the story’s action, Tessa’s husband, Dylan, was killed in a car accident. Tess walks around in a trance until she learns that the crash may not have been an accident and neither her husband nor her marriage was what she thought they were. Secrets and evil minded souls abound, and it seems her husband was one of them. The discovery jolts Tess out of her grieving stupor and into action putting herself and her friends in danger as she tries to uncover the truth.

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #1 in the Italian Chef Mystery Series

Publication:   July 30, 2019—Sourcebooks Landmark

Memorable Lines:

Luigi’s V-8 engine noises continued while I filled his food dish with star-shaped kitty crunches, and then he couldn’t scramble out of my arms fast enough.

“…you don’t ever want to get on Izzy’s bad side. That broad has enough venom in her to make a snake jealous.”

That was one of the beauties about New York weather. It might be ninety degrees one day, and forty the next. Unpredictable, the same as life.

Let’s Fake a Deal–murder in the Air Force

Let’s Fake a Deal

by Sherry Harris

Let's Fake a DealYou can get a fairly good look at life on a U.S. Air Force base from reading Let’s Fake a Deal by Sherry Harris. Details range from the Spouse’s Club (formerly known as the Officers’ Wives Club) with its social structure and infighting to the legal processes within the enlisted and officer ranks. Much of it is accepted as “that’s the way it is” and some if it, sexual harassment, for example, is undergoing a slow evolution.

Sarah Winston, ex-wife of an Air Force security police force commander, lives between two worlds with loosening connections to the military and strengthening bonds with her new family of friends in the town she stayed in after her divorce. She owns a garage sale business, helping others sort through the excess in their lives, and lives in a tiny apartment furnished with garage sale findings.

Let’s Fake a Deal finds a shocked Sarah being arrested for selling stolen goods at one of her sales. Not only could she be convicted of a felony, but she could also damage her boyfriend Seth’s political chances as a District Attorney. At the same time that Sarah tries to locate the mysterious “aw shucks” couple who set her up, in more ways than one, she is also investigating the murder of Major Blade whose body was found in her friend Michelle’s car. Michelle is an Air Force light colonel enduring an IG investigation, but does not even know what the charges are. The Air Force judicial system works in powerful and mysterious ways.

Ride along with Sarah in this rollercoaster of a tale that involves a lot of investigation and interviews along with some action and romance. I think you’ll like both Sarah and this cozy mystery.

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. #7 in the Sarah Winston Garage Sale Mystery Series, but works well as a standalone. I have only read a few in the series and have no problem following the plot.

  2. The author includes a lot of acronyms that are common in military life, but she  also gives good explanations for them.

Publication:   July 30, 2019—Kensington

Memorable Lines:

Going to garage sales was like finding a good partner. You had to kiss a lot of frogs before you found a treasure.

“Purple looks great on you,” I said. Way better than envy green did on me.

Maybe poor in money, but rich in family and friends. Loved. Isn’t that all any of us really wanted?

Mistaken Identity Crisis: Death on the Cable Car

Mistaken Identity Crisis: Death on the Cable Car

by James J. Cudney

Mistaken Identity CrisisI am sure that I have not read a more complex cozy mystery with regard to characters than Mistaken Identity Crisis. Author James J. Cudney had my head spinning with all of the intricate relationships in his story. Fortunately, he includes a categorized list of characters with brief descriptions for support if you get confused. To my surprise, I only referred to it a few times as the characters appear multiple times and Cudney puts them in context with references to their relationships and backgrounds. Therefore, they rapidly take on unique identities for the reader.

Along with an emphasis on characters, Cudney has devised a complicated plot with more than one mystery. Hop aboard the campus cable car to find a dead body, intrigue with stolen jewels, and symbolic black calla lilies. Kellan, a professor at Braxton, comes closer to resolution with his presumed dead wife Francesca and two warring mobs. Feisty Nana D takes office as the new mayor, and Kellan sees a new side of April, the local sheriff.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: 1. #4 in the Braxton Campus Mysteries, and I recommend reading this series in sequence.

  2. Includes a helpful map and list of characters

Publication:   June 30, 2019—Creativa

Memorable Lines:

I could only conclude that he was a bit of a chameleon, depending on the situation and balance of power in the relationship.

You are right, Kellan. I’ve been giving you mixed signals,” April said, offering one of the rare concessions I’d usually witness only during full moons in a leap year once a millennium.

Stress and fear plummeted inside me until they knocked my body out of balance and sent me careening against the stone pillar in the Stanton driveway.

Needled to Death–accidental OD, suicide, or murder?

Needled to Death

by Annelise Ryan

Needled to DeathWelcome to the first book in The Helping Hands Mystery Series by Annelise Ryan. This series and its premier tale, Needled to Death, share some characters with Ryan’s Mattie Winston Mystery Series. As is true in the real world, people in a fairly closed community, like those who deal with crime and its victims, such as evidence technicians, detectives, and those in the Medical Examiner’s office, frequently have intersecting spheres. Experience with that series is not necessary to enjoy this one.

In Needled to Death, the main character is Hildy Schneider, a social worker for the hospital. Hilda is a flawed protagonist if ever there was one, and you will quickly come to love her, quirks and all. A product of the foster care system since a young age, she has been passed through more homes and psychiatrists than most people can count. Hildy, however, has emerged strong, but vulnerable, with an insatiable curiosity and a desire to help others.

A woman in Hildy’s grief support group at the hospital is convinced her son was murdered, and Hildy agrees to try to get the police to reopen the case. Hildy manages to get involved in the investigation as well as with the investigators on a personal level. There are a lot of interesting characters including P.J., a neighbor girl with Asperger’s, and Rosco, Hildy’s golden retriever whom she sometimes uses with clients as a therapy dog. Hildy goes from no social life to attracting the interest of two men who admire her smarts and spunk.

Author Ryan has a talent in her writing style that makes it hard to put this book down. I really needed to stop reading to attend to another task. Unfortunately for the other project, I would end a chapter, peek at the next, and off I went into the plot again. It was at least five chapters later before I managed to get tough and close the book. Another feature I like about this book is the humor scattered throughout. The ending of one chapter (no spoilers here) was a surprise that was laugh out loud funny. With a great plot and characters with interesting backgrounds, Needled to Death skyrockets for me, and I can hardly wait for the next book in the series to make an appearance!

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 in the Helping Hands Mystery Series, but Annelise Ryan’s third series.

Publication:   July 30, 2019—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

These glimpses of family life both warm and depress me. It’s a life I’ve never had or experienced, and I feel the lack of it at times. I try not to dwell in the land of self-pity too much, though, and if I do linger there overly long, Roscoe seems to sense it, and he’ll nudge me out of my depression.

I hate being so paranoid, someone who always suspects the motives of others as nefarious, but my experience, both in the foster system and as a social worker, bears it out. I’ve been lied to, ripped off, and manipulated by some of the best. 

I loved books and the stories I read. They provided me with an escape, with adventures I might not otherwise have, and with characters whose lives I could step into and borrow for a time to replace my own.

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