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Sconed to Death–another fun writers’ retreat

Sconed to Death

by Lynn Cahoon

Sconed to DeathIt’s hard not to want to be Cat Latimer. Who wouldn’t enjoy living in a small Colorado college town far enough from Denver to avoid the big city traffic but close enough for occasional trips for shopping and dining? Oh, to completely own a large Victorian house where you can write in a third floor turret and host periodic writers’ retreats! What satisfaction in sharing your business with your best friend who manages the household and cooks gourmet foods for you on a daily basis. She also feeds breakfast to the retreat guests while keeping the retreat stocked with drinks and homemade goodies. The only thing better would be to reconnect with your handsome, very nice, high school heartthrob who can landscape, perform handyman jobs, and chauffeur guests to the airport. Cat has it all!

In this engaging mystery, Cat’s guests are a group of cozy mystery writers from Chicago. They thoroughly enjoy their week at the retreat with an additional day devoted to cooking lessons by resident chef Shauna who is also writing a cookbook. I think I gained ten pounds just reading about all the delicious cookies they consumed.

The murder of a famous Denver chef is the central focus of Lynn Cahoon’s Sconed to Death. What is he even doing in little Aspen Hills and who would want to kill him? Despite Uncle Pete’s warning to stay out of the investigation, Cat finds herself asking questions and using her online research skills to assess motives and alibis. Look out for a dramatic surprise ending to this page turner that’s sure to appeal to mystery lovers and especially cozy aficionados.

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. #5 in the Cat Latimer Mystery Series, but works quite well as a standalone as Lynn Cahoon has a talent for bringing the reader up to date without boring.

  2. Includes a recipe for Cranberry Scones.

Publication:  May 28, 2019—Kensington 

Memorable Lines:

“So, cozy mysteries? What are those?” Seth had finished the paper and pushed it into the center of the table as he finished his breakfast. “Low on gore, low on sex, high on fun.”

The trees were just starting to drop leaves and the crunch of dried leaves under her feet made her think about all things autumn. Chilly nights with a bonfire. Hot chocolate in the evening by the fire. More time to read. All these memories made her happy.

She took a big bite of the pasta. This was one of her favorite dishes that Shauna made, and yet, today, it tasted like sawdust. She kept her head down and willed away the tears.

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Crêpe Expectations–unauthorized sleuthing

Crêpe Expectations

by Sarah Fox

Crepe ExpectationsGood, but not excellent—that’s how I rate Crêpe Expectations by Sarah Fox. Unlike the other two cozy mysteries I have read by this author, I just didn’t find this to be a page turner. Despite that, I do plan on reading the next book Sarah Fox publishes.

In this book, Marley McKinney, owner of the Flip Side pancake house, spends her spare time trying to solve a cold case after she discovers a skull in the woods near the Wildwood Inn, a B&B that is about to open. Demetria, who disappeared when she was eighteen years old after a party, was assumed to be in New York starting a modeling career. So even the original investigation was delayed. At the same time she is investigating the murder, Marley is trying to discover who sabotaged the local amateur chef competition by making several contestants sick. Could the crimes be related?

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com 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: #5 in the Pancake House Mystery Series but the author brings the reader up to speed even as she starts the action of the current plot.

Publication:   May 28, 2019— Lyrical Underground (Kensington Press)

Juana and Lucas: Big Problemas

Juana and Lucas: Big Problemas

Juana & Lucas

I had a blast reading Juana and Lucas: Big Problemas. Author and illustrator Juana Medina, like the main character in her book, is from Bogotá, Columbia. I know some bilingual teachers who would be uncomfortable with the code switching in this book; I love it. For me, inserting some Spanish words in places where the context or illustrations make the word meanings plain adds color and flavor to this chapter book written mainly in English.

Juana, her Mami, and her dog Lucas have an almost perfect life together. They have a routine and a support group of family and friends that keep them happy. Things start to change when Mami gets a new hairstyle and starts wearing more perfume. The new man in Mami’s life is Luis, an architect. Juana likes him but she doesn’t want things to change, and she doesn’t want Mami and Luis to get married. We learn about Juana’s dad who passed away and about the sadness of not having a father. We share in the characters’ preparations for the wedding and the move. All of this is portrayed sensitively, but also with humor. The illustrations fit the book well.

I learned about a favorite Columbian soup, ajiaco. It is creamy and made of several types of potatoes that cook to various consistencies. It has corn on the cob, capers, chicken, sour cream, and herbs, and is topped with a slice of avocado. The other unfamiliar food to me is chocolate con queso. This special treat consists of hot chocolate with chunks of cheese—chihuahua, queso fresco, or mozzarella. Evidently it is a delight of sweet and salty and is served with bread. I’m ready for a trip to Columbia!

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: Children’s Fiction

Notes:  Age Range: 5 – 8 years

Grade Level: Kindergarten – 3

Publication:  May 14, 2019—Candlewick

Fair Game–fun and danger at the fair

Fair Game

Fair Game

The county fair is the setting for Annette Dashofy’s mystery Fair Game. It is part cozy and part police procedural. Fair Game is a page turner with two murders and several viable suspects. Complications keep arising as EMT and deputy coroner Zoe Chambers has duty at the county fair where she is also showing her quarter horse. Some of the crimes occur in neighboring jurisdictions so her boyfriend Pete Adams, police chief in Vance Township, Pennsylvania, as well as several other law enforcement colleagues are called in.

Threads include 4-Hers, a family with a child in rehab due to a horse accident, Zoe and Pete’s romantic relationship, abusive boyfriends, teenagers attracted to the carnival, and a school bus demolition derby. Zoe tends to see the best in people and her intuition sometimes gets her in trouble. She is smart, fearless, and caring and those characteristics make her a heroine you will root for. Chief Pete Adams, a thorough investigator who loves Zoe and is supportive of her and her passion for horses and her work. He wants the best for her as she struggles to overcome a less than perfect past.

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: 1. #8 in the Zoe Chambers Mystery Series, but can be read as a standalone.

  2. There was more bad language in this book than is usual in a cozy or than I prefer, but not enough to preclude me from reading more by this author.

Publication:   May 14, 2019—Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

Before Zoe could ask anything else, he spun and trudged away in the head-down, slouched posture of one used to dodging emotional bullets.

Close enough that Zoe could smell the stale sweat on her clothes, the alcohol on her breath, and the anger radiating from her soul.

Silent Footsteps–admirer or stalker?

Silent Footsteps

by Jo Bannister

Silent FootstepsHazel Best, a personable young constable with aspirations to be a detective, finds herself the focus of an admirer turned stalker. The investigation heats up when the stalker enter her home and later her friend Ash is bludgeoned. Saturday, a young man Hazel befriended, suddenly reappears in Norbold, having gotten his life together. There are two murders that are possibly related to Hazel’s stalker, but no one knows how the events could all be tied together. As tension mounts, Hazel’s friends and even a local businessman with a dark background gather around to support and protect her. It is a race against time as Hazel and her friends try to identify the mysterious attacker.

A fun part of this book is Patience, Ash’s very likable lurcher. Ash is gradually overcoming the town view of him as mentally unstable. At one time he earned the nickname “Rambles With Dogs,” but has since tried to rein in his public dialogues with Patience. Ironically, he does, in fact, talk to his dog, and Patience replies but only Ash can hear her.

Silent Footsteps is a police procedural that will keep you turning pages as the police investigate the various threads to try to make sense of them. The characters are interesting and continue to develop in this latest mystery. I figured out the murderer before Hazel, her friends, or the police did, but that is understandable considering the timing of the revelation of various facts. This discovery in no way mitigated my enjoyment as I still had to anticipate a resolution—and it was quite surprising.

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #6 in the Gabriel Ash and Hazel Best Mystery Series. I have only read one other mystery in this series. This book works quite well as a standalone, although I must admit it makes me want to read the first books in the series to get more understanding of the characters. That does not take away from the mystery at all, however.

Publication:   May 1, 2019—Severn House

Memorable Lines:

“You’re far too honest to be any good at it,” said Ash. “Spies have to be able to lie convincingly. You lie as convincingly as my eight-year-old when the biscuit barrel is empty and there are crumbs on his T-shirt.”

With the best will in the world, Ash in a blonde wig was never going to be mistaken for a twenty-eight-year-old policewoman. There wasn’t enough rope in Norbold to suspend disbelief that far.

“…the sheep people are constantly trying to keep their stock from committing suicide. Dropping dead from no appreciable cause is the average sheep’s highest goal in life.”

Penguin Days–autism spectrum disorder

Penguin Days

by Sara Leach

Illustrated by Rebecca Bender

Penguin DaysLauren’s family makes a difficult two day car trip to North Dakota for Auntie Joss’ wedding because flying has been a disaster before for Lauren who has Autism Spectrum Disorder and is learning how to control her reactions to changes and to certain things that make her uncomfortable. She takes things literally and doesn’t always understand jokes or react instinctively to facial expressions or body language. She is, however, an intelligent child with a passion for reading and insects.

Several problems arise in Penguin Days with the whole wedding scenario. Lauren is under the impression she will be the only flower girl when, in fact, she is one of three. She doesn’t like her dress because it isn’t comfortable and itches. Without meaning to, Lauren ruins the dress. Lauren’s mom has several solutions up her sleeve because she works hard to understand what Lauren is thinking. You’ll enjoy learning how the parents solve these problems and enlist the help of extended family members. Lauren even begins to make friends with her cousins as the story comes to a close.

If you are ever in public and you see a child having a meltdown, don’t judge. Maybe he is a child who needs more discipline and boundaries, but maybe, just maybe, you are witnessing a child on the Autistic Spectrum. If the child is lucky, like Lauren, she is receiving professional help to learn how to control her inner fireworks and to interact with others socially. In the U.S., where for whatever reason autism is on the rise, we are becoming more aware of autism and learning how to manage its effects better. Not everyone, however, has the money or skills to navigate that system. Also, the intervention is most effective when it happens early, and the changes do take hard work, consistency, and time. Meanwhile, Penguin Days is a wonderful, sensitive tool to help the child with autism and the rest of us to understand how autism plays out on the inside and manifests itself on the  outside of the child on the Autistic Spectrum.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Pajama Press (Myrick Marketing) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Children’s Fiction

Notes: 1. Very good illustrations

  2. Sensitive book sharing the perspective of both the autistic child and her family.

Publication:   January 18, 2019—Pajama Press (Myrick Marketing)

Memorable Lines:

“You’re precious.” “Gems are precious,” I said. “I’m not a gem. But I would like to be an amethyst. They are purple.”

Mom and Dad always say my brain works differently than other people’s brains because I have Autism Spectrum Disorder. They say my different brain is one of the things they love about me.

The barn got really noisy. Mary Lou mooed. Kevin yelled. And somebody was screaming. I lay on my back in the prickly hay. Mary Lou stepped toward me. I curled into a ball, covered my head with my arms, and started rocking back and forth.

Thread on Arrival–helping the helpless

Thread on Arrival

by Lea Wait

Thread on ArrivalI’m so happy to have read Thread on Arrival, the latest in the Mainely Needlepoint Series, by Lea Wait. Angie Curtis, with some private investigator training in Arizona, has returned to Maine to run the Mainely Needlepoint group formerly run by her grandmother who raised her. She finds herself involved in several simultaneous investigations in this mystery, but they all spring from a runaway boy, Leo, who is in a panic because the homeless man who has taken him under his wing has been brutally murdered. To prove Leo did not murder his friend, Angie must find the real killer and suspects abound. I did guess the murderer before the end of the book, but I still have trouble understanding how anyone could be so cruel. If you like watching how investigative clues are put together, you’ll enjoy this book.

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:  #8 in the Mainely Needlepoint Series

Publication:   April 30, 2019—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

As long as men and women made a living from the waters, mourning and remembering would continue, and names would continue to be carved on the monument.

Being a teenager was never easy. But it was much harder when you weren’t like everyone else in your town or school.

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