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Thanksgiving in Paradise–Serenity doesn’t live up to its name

Thanksgiving in Paradise

by Kathi Daley

Thanksgiving in ParadiseThe gang is all back in the township of Serenity located near Paradise Lake when danger explodes, quite literally, in the town hall. Tj, a P.E teacher who helps her family run a resort, and her wealthy, tech savvy boyfriend, Kyle, team up with Deputy Roy Fisher to get to the bottom of the mystery. Was the explosion aimed at the building or at an individual? How was the bombing achieved? There are certainly more questions than answers as the shady side of quiet Paradise comes to light.

The plot elements are well done, and I enjoyed reading Thanksgiving in Paradise. I had two issues which I was willing to overlook as I do enjoy the series. One problem arises from the ease with which Deputy Roy shares information with Tj and Kyle, who then share it with family and friends. I had to keep reminding myself that they are close friends, it is a small town, and the deputies are shorthanded. Although skeptical, I must admit that the team effort pays off. Another minor irritation is the number of times author Kathi Daley tells the reader that Tj pauses giving herself or the person she is talking to time to gather their thoughts. Otherwise, Thanksgiving in Paradise is a fun read with a complicated plot and a successful resolution.

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: Could be read as a standalone, but be advised that it is #10 in the Tj Jensen Mystery Series.

Publication:   October 8, 2019—Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

I’m the worst person ever,” I said to Jenna two hours later after we settled in at her kitchen table with cups of coffee. “The worst person ever? Wow, that’s quite a claim. I imagine you have some sort of evidence to back up such a grandiose statement?”

I knew that I was doing what I have a tendency to do, which was to make things a lot more complicated than they needed to be.

It’s rare for the entire staff of a high school to be a fan of the principal, but in Greg’s case I can’t think of a single staff member who doesn’t admire and truly like him.

Snowed in with the Single Dad–twins and more twins

Snowed in with the Single Dad

by Melinda Curtis

Snowed in with the Single DadLaurel, who frequently acts as a double for her famous actress twin Ashley, takes her role too far on a date with handsome actor Wyatt with some lasting consequences. She escapes to Second Chance where she meets Mitch, a lawyer who is managing the inn and his just turned teenage daughter Gabby who has perfected eye rolls. Laurel is a creative dress designer, but she always puts the needs of others, especially her sister Ashley, ahead of her own. Among the locals, the quirky but artistically talented sisters Odette and Flip are mainstays in Second Chance and are instrumental, along with Mitch, in helping Laurel find her own dream as Second Chance lives up to its name in this sweet romance. 

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 (Clean)

Notes: #2 in the Mountain Monroes Series but works as a standalone. There is a chart showing the family relations and the author provides any background from previous books that is needed.

Publication:   June 1, 2019—Harlequin Heartwarming

Memorable Lines:

She’d seen Mitch smile before. Kind smiles. Polite smiles. Rueful smiles. But never a smile like this. A smile of pure, unapologetic joy. That smile. It reached into her chest like a heart-to-heart hug. It said everything was going to be all right.

He laid his cell hone faceup on the table, the sure sign of a man who considered whatever might happen in the world more important than the person they were dining with.

Her mother was a master manipulator. She recognized the dead end they’d come to and took on a new attack as smoothly as a shark circled back for the kill.

The Subject of Malice–professional jealousy

The Subject of Malice

by Cynthia Kuhn

The Subject of MaliceAn academic like Lila Maclean is highly suitable to detective work; many of the same skills are required to interview witnesses, deduce events from clues, and analyze situations as she employs in her profession. It doesn’t hurt that Lila has a propensity for finding dead bodies thus putting her on the scene where all the evidence is.

In The Subject of Malice by Cynthia Kuhn, the police chief actually recognizes the valuable contributions Lila has made in the past and gives Detective Lex, her boyfriend, the nod to include Lila as a consultant. As an English professor, Lila’s focus on the genres of gothic and horror brings her to a convention as an organizer, presenter, and participant. The ugly side of the academic world is on full display as professors compete for publication which in turn helps them achieve tenure. In fact, the atmosphere turns nasty and downright deadly. As the convention winds down, the complications, both personal and professional don’t. With interesting characters and dramatic plot twists, Kuhn creates a story you’ll want to keep at all the way to solving the murders and a surprise twist.

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: #4 in the Lila Maclean Academic Mystery Series; works well as a standalone

Publication:   July 23, 2019—Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

“Merrie’s the dearest friend—“ Simone mused, sweetly. She said most things sweetly, which was a misdirection of epic proportions.

“There has to be more to it than that. He doesn’t look like a cheater.”

“What does a cheater look like?”

“Good point.”

Sometimes I forgot who she’d shown herself to be and trusted her again. Which usually didn’t turn out very well. She had a tendency to shift behaviors right when I’d let down my guard.

Killer in the Carriage House–saving a village

Killer in the Carriage House

Killer in the Carriage House

Lisbeth invites her friend Kate to Asheboro to try to save the town. The only industry, a shovel factory, has long since closed its doors. Kate’s only work experience has been in managing large hotels, but she thinks she could possibly turn the town into a replica of a Victorian village. The source of the idea is the Victorian mansion left to the town by the deceased factory owner.

There are many unanswered questions involved in this project. Kate needs to get the townspeople, especially the shopkeepers, on board. She needs to research the history of the period and develop resources to help put the plan into action. Meanwhile, she finds herself in the middle of a murder mystery when she discovers the body of a young man she encountered the day before at the library. She also wants to learn more about the factory owner and his connections with both Clara Barton and Thomas Edison.

The storyline of Killer in the Carriage House is acceptable, but I had a hard time with the main character Kate. She isn’t believable to me as a project manager. She wastes a lot of time just waiting for things to happen and then complains that there are so many things to do. She also says that in her former position she was told what she had to do and was never in charge of initiating events. That does not seem in line with a hotel manager’s responsibilities. Her personal relationships are weak and not well defined.

The plot is better developed than the characters. I liked the plot resolution but was surprised that certain characters’ presence in town hadn’t been questioned earlier.

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

Rating: 3/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: Although this book is the second book in the Victorian Village Mysteries, it is the first book in the series for me. It was easy to pick up with the plot and characters and move into the tale.

Publication:  July 9, 2019—St. Martin’s Press

Memorable Lines:

But to have someone—or in this case, something like an entire town—hand the whole unwieldy mess to me and say, “Here, make this nice, and don’t spend too much money”? I was left floundering.

“So, are you going to tell me about this new murder?” 

“You mean the body in the library? Sounds like an Agatha Christie novel, but unfortunately it’s true.”

“You got tossed into a difficult situation, one that kept changing about every ten minutes. You did the best you could.”

A House Divided–historical tale by a Lincoln scholar

A House Divided

by Jonathan F. Putnam

A House DividedI was surprised to find myself trudging through A House Divided by Jonathan F. Putnam, an author with an outstanding legal and historical background. This is the fourth book in this series, but I did not feel that my not having read the previous books was a hindrance. There just seemed to be a disjoint between the history and fiction of the tale. None of the characters were fleshed out with emotion for me, and so I did not identify with any of them. I really wanted to like this book, but it was difficult when  the characters’ motives were rarely disclosed. Lincoln and his friend Speed are competitors for the affections of Mary Todd, but even Mary’s character holds no depth.

The mystery was interesting and based somewhat on history, although the narrator Speed, a major actor in the story, was actually not a part of the real events of the crime and trial. Perhaps that alteration of the facts added to the difficulty of creating an interesting work of historical fiction. Perhaps the problem lies in timidity in assigning thoughts and feelings to major historical figures. Authors may find that easier to do when the main character is either a minor figure on the historical stage or the creation by the author of a composite character based on what a person in that role at that time of history would be like. 

I did appreciate the author’s efforts to include the plight of Irish workers and their families. They were caught in the middle of a web of corruption and greed on the part of politicians and bankers. Another positive of the book is the writer’s style which is appropriate to the period.

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

Rating: 3/5

Category: Historical Fiction, Mystery

Notes: #4 in the Lincoln and Speed Mystery Series 

Publication:   July 9, 2019—Crooked Lane Books

Memorable Lines:

The Globe…As a feeding station for hungry village residents or residence for travelers, it was inferior in every respect to the sparkling new American House. Its only advantage at this point was familiarity, like a pair of shoes that slipped on easily despite worn-away soles.

Springfield…But citizens hoping to find entertainment that did not arrive in a bottle or cask were destined to be disappointed. Except when the circuit court was in session to adjudicate the county’s legal disputes. Then, the entire human condition, comedy and tragedy alike, was on display and free for all to watch.

Every turn in the road, every little rise of the prairie, might reveal a clutch of deadly and determined men, ready to hazard their own lives and reckless to mine.

Toxic Toffee–Jethro and Puff add humor

Toxic Toffee

by Amanda Flower

Toxic ToffeeAs I read Amanda Flower’s latest cozy mystery, Toxic Toffee, I was delighted to see familiar characters, like Jethro the polka dotted pig. I was amused by the introduction of a huge fluffy pet bunny named Puff and intrigued by the mysterious death of a rabbit farmer whom everyone loves. Reading about the construction of a ten foot toffee rabbit and other Easter treats was appealing to this chocoholic as well.

All of this sweetness is wrapped up in an intriguing mystery that starts in New York City where Bailey, chocolatier extraordinaire, and her naive Amish relative Charlotte have been filming candy making for a TV show. They soon leave the fascinating Big Apple where Charlotte’s Amish is frequently “showing” as she encounters a very unfamiliar world. They return to Holmes County, Ohio, where they help Bailey’s grandmother in their Amish candy shop. Bailey is approached by the son of a murdered man with a request that she help solve the mystery of his death. She agrees because of her community ties. Although “Englisch,” her ancestry is Amish and her grandmother is very respected in the community.

Threatening notes and a late night attack ramp up the danger level for Bailey and the concern level for her boyfriend, Deputy Aiden Brody. There are plot twists, turns, and surprises all the way to the end. Suspense, humor, and interesting characters make Toxic Toffee a must read for cozy mystery lovers.

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: 1. #4 in the Amish Candy Shop Mystery series. 

             2. I believe this could be read without reading the previous books in the series, but I think this is one of the best so far in the series.

Publication:   June 25, 2019—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

“Not lucky. Blessed. Luck is an Englisch idea, not an Amish one.”

…I couldn’t live in fear. I would be afraid enough to be careful, but I would not allow myself to be stifled by fear.

“In my opinion, it’s better for a young person to leave the faith and be Englisch than force themselves to be Amish and make everyone around then miserable.”

Sweet Tea and Secrets–a web of lies

Sweet Tea and Secrets

by Joy Avon

Sweet Tea and SecretsLike the main character, Callie Aspen, the plot of Sweet Tea and Secrets seems to exist in limbo in Joy Avon’s latest cozy mystery. Callie has quit a job she loves as an international tour guide and moved back to Heart’s Harbor to help her Aunt Iphy run Book Tea, the local tea shop. She is waiting for a local rental to be restored to livable condition. She doesn’t actually contribute much help to the tea room in this book. To top it off, Deputy Falk, an additional enticement when she decided to move, seems less than enthusiastic about Callie’s return to town.

The plot follows the same erratic pacing and intensity as we see in Callie’s personal life. Callie gets pulled into the investigation of a cold murder case that revolves around a web of lies. It is hard for Callie and the reader to know which characters are reliable. My interest would ramp up, and then I would find myself wondering when the book would end. The ending was a surprise in regards to the mystery, and the author didn’t leave any loose ends. There were a number of subplots that were interesting but sometimes too distracting when acting as red herrings.  I was glad Callie’s personal relationship with Falk showed forward progress. I would read another book in the series, but I hope it will have more of a focus on the tea room like the first books in the series do.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com 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: #2 in the Book Tea Shop Mystery Series

 

Publication:   June 11, 2019—Crooked Lane Books

Memorable Lines:

But nothing happened. Just those lights teasing her from the darkness. Telling her she wasn’t alone.

“So far everybody seems to have been lying about everything.”

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