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Fatal Cajun Festival–Louisiana backdrop

Fatal Cajun Festival

by Ellen Byron

Fatal Cajun FestivalIf you are charmed or captivated by all things Cajun, from zydeco music to Jambalaya with shrimp and sausage, you will enjoy Ellen Byron’s Fatal Cajun Festival. The Louisiana plantation setting is a great backdrop for a mystery that centers around Tammy Barker, hometown girl who made it big in the music industry. She returns to the small town of Pelican to give back, gloat, or maybe exact revenge at the Cajun Country Live Festival.

Local artist, Maggie Crozat, who also helps out at her family’s B&B, is caught up in deciphering the motives of Tammy and her entourage and in clearing her friend Gaynell of suspicion. There is a tangle of relationships which won’t be resolved until the end. Meanwhile, Maggie and her fiancé Bo Durand, a detective, try to keep the peace and everyone alive in Pelican. Maggie’s family has a booth at the festival selling Maggie’s artwork and as many pralines as she can make. There is also a brief side story about a mysterious Carina who may have been involved with Maggie’s now deceased Grand-père. This is an all round fun cozy mystery with lots of Louisiana flavor and interesting characters. 

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: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: 1.  #4 in the Cajun Country Mystery Series, but works as a standalone as the author includes a list of characters with notes about them.

2.  Recipes are included at the end of the book.

Publication:   September 10, 2019—Crooked Lane Books

Memorable Lines:

“You used refined oil, didn’t you?” Nanette flashed a devilish grin. “Chère, that oil’s so refined it could be a debutante.”

“Remember his favorite saying…”  “In Louisiana, we only follow the rules we like,” the couple said simultaneously.

Bo once told her that humiliation was the main motivation behind most murders.

The Brides of the Big Valley: Three Romances from a Unique Pennsylvania Amish Community

The Brides of the Big Valley: Three Romances from a Unique Pennsylvania Amish Community

by Wanda E. Brunstetter, Jean B. Brunstetter and Richelle B. Brunstetter

The Brides of the Big ValleyThree different Brunstetter authors have combined to create three equally good short Amish romances all set in Big Valley located in Mifflin County. The Amish situation that is unique in this area is that in the 1840’s the congregation broke into three groups based on beliefs, customs, and later the colors on the tops of their horse drawn buggies.

Deanna’s Determination by Wanda E. Brunstetter tells the story of Deanna Speicher, a young Amish widow with a sweet little boy who has Down syndrome. She lives with her father and contributes to their support by creating quilted goods to sell at the local flea market. Her deceased husband’s best friend, Elmer, is the romantic interest in this story until tragedy strikes again. Will Deanna and Elmer’s love survive the new crisis?

In Rose Mary’s Resolve, by Jean B. Brunstetter, we are introduced to a family that was mentioned in the first story, the Rennos, who own a furniture company. With older sister Linda getting married, Rose Mary is learning the ins and outs of the show room so she can help in the family business. Romance is in the air as Tom Yoder courts Rose Mary, but problems arise as Tom thinks of going Englisch and pressures Rose Mary on all of their decisions. Meanwhile Kevin literally drops out of the sky as he crash lands in the Renno field and develops an interest in Rose Mary and the Amish way. Will Rose Mary stay true to God and her family customs?

Leila’s Longing by Richelle Brunstetter is the story of Leila Fisher, a shy young lady who was bullied at school when she was younger and now carries the emotional scars of those experiences. She is a gifted artist, creating sketches and making greeting cards and selling them. Will her new friends Aden and his sister Sue and her new employee Mollie be able to help her emerge from her reclusiveness? Will anyone ever want to court her?

The Brides of the Big Valley is comprised of three novellas, gentle stories combined to make an interesting tale for a calm afternoon’s reading. The characters are likable and the plots are not overly predictable. God and faith are an important part of these tales.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Barbour Publishing (Shiloh Run Press) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating:  4/5

Category: Christian Fiction, Romance

Publication:   June 1, 2019— Barbour Publishing (Shiloh Run Press)

Memorable Lines:

I bet Rose Mary would say anything is possible with the Lord’s help. But can He truly help me through my relationship with Dad, by repairing the bridge across the chasm that exists between us?

She’d been too trusting of others when she was young, which caused her to be suspicious of disloyalty. No matter how nice she was to others, she didn’t receive kindness in return. That was why it was easier for her to not even try.

When life gets at its worst or drags us down, reading God’s Word provides guidance on good living.”

State of the Stacks: Too Soon Edition

I’m reblogging this essay to share with my readers because it contains a great discussion on developmental reading and book choices. I hope you find it as interesting as I do.

Plucked from the Stacks

As a child, reading is a constant period of transitions. A kid usually starts with someone reading picture or board books to them. From there, they might try to tackle wordier texts like easy readers and chapter books. Before long, there’s a pull for longer stories with more complex plots, and that’s when middle grade novels kick in. And as they grow and develop as readers, young adult works wait for them before they drift into the wild and untamed world of adult books.

Of course, every reader is different and, just because a kid moves toward a different style of book, it doesn’t mean they can’t return to an old, trusted format. So while each type of book represents a door for readers, it’s an open one— one they can pass back and forth to suit their moods. It’s how adults can still find joy in picture books.

However…

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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.

Disorderly Conduct–murder on the ridge top

Disorderly Conduct

by Mary Feliz

Disorderly ConductI am of two minds about Mary Feliz’s latest cozy mystery Disorderly Conduct. As a mystery, I think it is top notch. It has interesting, likable characters, from Maggie, a professional organizer, right down to three lovable dogs who play a big part in the story. The setting is compelling as the story plays out in the middle of fire threats in California and involves the tech world of highly paid engineers on software campuses. The plot has twists and turns. Even after the suspects are narrowed down to three, it is hard to guess which one is the murderer and certainly the motive remains a major puzzle.

Unfortunately, I have two problems with Disorderly Conduct. One is that each chapter begins with a tip from Maggie McDonald’s notebook compiled for her company, Simplicity Itself Organizing Services. At first I enjoyed the tips, most of which deal with emergency preparedness. As the book progresses and becomes increasingly more intense, however, the tips become longer and more of an interruption. 

 

The second problem is the large number of social issues Mary Feliz stuffs into this cozy mystery. Don’t get me wrong; I am fine with a themed cozy. I think social issues are important, but the time I spend reading is my pleasure time. I don’t want to feel like someone is either lecturing me or trying to forward an agenda through a cozy mystery. Gun control, gay marriage, discrimination against Muslims, domestic violence, bullying, Olympic competitions, drug cartels, the environment. Choose one, choose two, but not the whole package, please!

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: #4 in the Maggie McDonald Mystery Series, but works as a standalone.

Publication:   July 10, 2018—Kensington Press (Lyrical Underground)

Memorable Lines:

If eye rolling was an aerobic activity, no high school on the planet would need to worry about physical education credits.

Rationally, I assumed he was here to update us with news of the investigation into Patrick’s death, and possibly to report on firefighting efforts. But my lizard brain was trying desperately to convince me to flee from a danger and tension in the air that I could feel but couldn’t see.

I glanced at my watch again, having already forgotten what it said when I’d checked the time just seconds earlier. My short-term memory had gotten lost somewhere in the swirl of dreadful events.

39 Winks–cozy mystery with a scientific edge

39 Winks

by Kathleen Valenti

39 WinksIn the first book of this series, Protocol, Maggie O’Malley gets drawn into a complicated and deadly abuse of power in her job as a pharmaceutical researcher. I assumed that in the second book in the series she would continue her work in the pharmaceutical industry. The author explains what happened: “Blame for the downturn was laid not only at the feet of the guilty but the person who had revealed their culpability. Coworkers stopped collaborating. Managers ‘forgot’ to invite her to meetings. Invitations to after-work drinks dried up and blew away with the prairie wind. It was The Great Corporate Freeze Out.”

As 39 Winks opens, Maggie is working at a lingerie shop when she learns that her boyfriend’s Aunt Polly, found her husband murdered and is asking for Maggie. Meanwhile, Maggie finds herself jobless again as she stands up for a coworker. Free to help Aunt Polly, Maggie is thrown in the middle of an investigation that gets more and more complicated. I couldn’t imagine how the author would tie up all the loose ends, but she does it masterfully.  39 Winks is a really good cozy mystery. It involves many serious social issues as well as medical issues. Maggie’s pharmaceutical expertise, her common sense, and courage are all called into play. She also has help from her computer genius boyfriend Constantine. This is a mystery I did not want to put down.

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: General Fiction (Adult), Mystery

Notes: #2 in the Maggie O’Malley Mystery Series and not really dependent on reading  the first book in the series

Publication:   May 22, 2018—Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

She’d built the Wall, the secret place at the back of her mind where she corralled uncomfortable feelings, when she was eleven. She fortified it at every opportunity. She knew it was getting crowded back there, that she was quite possibly a hoarder of denial. She shoved that knowledge behind the Wall, too.

A look of revulsion crossed her face. “Is that a mouse?” Constantine looked down. Miss Vanilla peered from her tiny fabric lanai, whiskers dancing. “Hamster,” he corrected, “but she thinks she’s a gerbil.” He winked. “We humor her.”

“Another report? What do they plan to do, fend off the bad guys with paper cuts?“

Murder at the Mushroom Festival–beautiful setting for terrible mayhem

Murder at the Mushroom Festival

by Janet Finsilver

Murder at the Mushroom FestivalMurder, poisoning, blackmail, theft, destruction of Native American lands, assault, and threats! There’s plenty of action in Redwood Cove, a coastal town in northern California where lots of folks are gathering for the Mushroom Festival. Kelly Jackson, new manager of the Redwood Cove Bed-and-Breakfast finds herself in the middle of trouble when she and the Silver Sentinels, a group of amateur sleuths with wisdom and connections on their side, try to find a murderer and determine if the other crimes are related.

Murder at the Mushroom Festival kept me wondering at the identity of the villain as suspicion was thrown on various characters. The solution is much more complicated than one might imagine. Kelly and her Miss Marple-like fellow sleuths are likable. Two children, several dogs and a truffle snuffling pig add further interest. I enjoyed learning about mushrooms and about sinker redwood as the mystery progressed.

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: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #4 in the Kelly Jackson Mystery Series, but worked well for me as a standalone.

Publication:   April 17, 2018—Kensington Press (Lyrical Underground)

Memorable Lines:

He parked, and we got out in what I felt was an enchanted forest. I breathed in the life of the woodland around me. Musty, sweet, earthy, topped off with a sprinkling of salt from the nearby ocean. Spears of sunlight cut through the towering redwoods like beacons to highlight certain areas. A raven cawed, loud and raucous, as we walked through a sunlit glen. A hawk drifted overhead, soaring on the wind currents.

The waves varied in intensity. When a strong one hit the rocky shoreline, water exploded high into the air. The rise and fall of the swell, like a creature breathing, made the ocean a living body.

People who were sure their way was the only way could make life unpleasant.

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