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Murder in the Wine Country
by Janet Finsilver
Redwood Cove is an isolated community in northern California. The wealthy Michael Corrigan, owner of Resorts International, is not the stereotypical rich businessman with cutthroat motives and actions. He is boss to Scott, manager of Redwood Cove Community Center, and to Kelly, manager of Redwood Cove Bed and Breakfast. Always looking for ways to help others, especially veterans, Michael is hosting an exclusive event for other wealthy philanthropists with the goal of providing a model of community support that he hopes will inspire them to implement similar programs in their own communities.
Problems have arisen in the little town with the presence of plant poachers who are digging up a certain plant that is popular in China and smuggling them out of the country. In the midst of this event, wardens warn visiting chefs, who are encouraged to forage for edible plants in the area to showcase in their culinary creations, of potential danger from these smugglers. When there is a death, a robbery, and three missing people, Kelly and the Silver Sentinels, a group of seniors who use their skills to help solve crimes, gather at Kelly’s B&B and get to work.
Other mainstay characters are involved in Janet Finsilver’s Murder in the Wine Country. My favorites are Tommy, a sweet boy with Asperger’s, and his Basset hound Fred. Deputy Stanton enjoys spending time with Tommy working on projects and with Tommy’s mom Helen, a widow who works at the inn. There is certainly potential for romance between them in future books. Scott and Kelly also have romantic inclinations, but the author doesn’t rush the characters into relationships. Another interesting character is Julie, a visiting chef who has a service dog Rex, who is not only a faithful companion, but can warn her of an impending epileptic seizure. He plays an important role in the story.
The plot moves along at a nice pace. Kelly’s investigations are successful to the point of putting her in danger of losing her life. The Silver Sentinels are ready to help at a moment’s notice as are other community members who aren’t even involved. The setting is great, but it’s the people who make Redwood Cove the kind of place you might want to live.
I would like to extend my thanks to Netgalley and to Lyrical Underground (Kensington Press) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: #6 in the Kelly Jackson Mystery Series, but as the author provides good support for readers who are just beginning the series, I have no hesitation in recommending it as a standalone.
Publication: April 28, 2020— Lyrical Underground (Kensington Press)
I had my own rescue bag of sorts. Years ago, I had vowed I would always stop to help a loose animal that was in danger, even if it meant missing an important appointment or an airplane flight. This was after watching car after car whiz by a shaking dog stranded on an island of a busy street, no one stopping to help.
Mary handed me a plate with a chocolate brownie studded with chunks of chocolate. Coffee and chocolate, my two favorites. I might recover after all.
For a split second, I considered not saying anything regarding the incident but immediately rejected the thought. He’d asked about the rest of the afternoon. Omitting was a form of lying, and I wouldn’t go there.
by Carol Ross
Fiona, the youngest of the Harrison sisters, is somewhat of a free spirit. She gets along with everyone, likes to move around, and excels at her jobs as a professional waitress. She also makes bad relationship choices due to her kind heartedness—a nice way of saying she dates losers. Fiona is convinced by Rudy Harrison, the man she always thought of as her dad, and Big E Blackwell, her biological grandfather, to come to Falcon Creek to change her ways by finding a “suitable” man and profession.
In the middle of online dating efforts, she meets Simon who is currently helping out his cousin Ned in his bar. Simon and Fiona both discover the advantages of being truthful to oneself and to others. A heartwarming book with a beautiful setting and characters you’ll want to meet, Montana Match has a plot with just the right amount of entanglements. Fiona wants so badly to do everything right from helping out at the ranch’s petting zoo to making Thanksgiving dinner for a crowd. Without giving anything away, I’ll just say that “pigs and eggnog,” even separately, can be problematic. Both Simon and Fiona love antiques and golf, but will that be enough to bring them together? Carol Ross has woven a wonderful tale that will leave you wanting more of The Blackwell Sisters.
I would like to extend my thanks to Carol Ross and to Harlequin Heartwarming for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Contemporary Romance
Notes: #4 in The Blackwell Sisters series. This is a clean and heartwarming romance. Plenty of background support is included by the author to make it enjoyable as a standalone, but I think you’ll find yourself wanting to read the others in the series of 5 books with the last to be published in December.
Publication: November 1, 2020—Harlequin Heartwarming
But the good memories were tightly bound with the painful ones. Like trying to untangle fine silk that’s been woven with razor wire, it was impossible to separate the two and come out unscathed.
Uncertainty swept through her with the force of an ocean wave, knocking her off balance and leaving her head swimming.
“A bit of trouble?” Luke repeated the words while his mouth curled slowly at the corners. “You could call it that. Be sort of like calling a hurricane a bit of a storm, though.” He chuckled and shook his head.
Corned Beef and Casualties
by Lynn Cahoon
How about a quick and easy read? Corned Beef and Casualties is good for St. Patrick’s Day or any day you want a brief distraction. It is a fun little novella from one of my favorite cozy mystery authors Lynn Cahoon. It is part of the extensive Tourist Trap Mystery Series.
Cahoon does a great job of making the novella into a standalone with necessary information about the characters relayed succinctly. We witness unusual cooperation between the main character, Jill, who owns a bookstore/coffee shop and Darla, the proprietor of a winery and also a reporter for the local paper. Be ready for a surprise ending!
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.
Notes: 1. A Tourist Trap Novella
2. Cheesecake recipe included
Publication: February 5, 2019—Kensington Press (Lyrical Underground)
“You need to stop worrying about her and get on with your life.” The look he gave me was filled with such love and sadness I almost teared up. “Miss Gardner, that sounds like a perfectly logical thing to do. Unfortunately, the heart isn’t logical.”
“Some couples just fight…I see couples at their worse. They get a few too many into them, and every slight becomes a big deal.”
Darla was always preaching about the free press and her responsibility to the newspaper-reading public, but deep down, she knew not to release something that might ruin someone’s life. Especially if he was innocent.
Getting Old Can Hurt You
by Rita Lakin
This is my first opportunity to read a book in the Gladdy Gold Detective Agency Mystery Series. I found it amusing, but not hilarious. The main characters in Getting Old Can Hurt You by Rita Lakin are a group of seniors who consider themselves a detective gang under the leadership of Gladdy. Just as young people are not all alike, neither are these seniors. They run the gamut from down to earth to not quite all there. They are generally up for an adventure even if it is limited by arthritis, pee breaks, and walkers and canes.
A long-lost granddaughter arrives at the senior apartments looking for the grandmother she hates. It seems, however, that she has other plans in mind besides reconnecting with her grandmother. Having survived a difficult childhood, she travels across the country to solve her personal mystery, hiding the fact that she is being followed. Will Gladdy’s gang be able to help her? They are determined to try!
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.
Notes: #8 in the Gladdy Gold Detective Agency Mystery Series. I had no problem understanding the story as a standalone, but readers might enjoy it more with additional background on the characters.
Publication: October 1, 2018—Severn House
We know we’re all in the checkout line for the big deli in the sky, but until then we are totally involved in the Gladdy Gold detective agency. Our motto, “Never Trust Anyone Under Seventy-Five.” Senior Sleuths to Senior Citizen. Our slogan—“We Take Care of Our Own.”
Lola never says much when Hy’s around. There’s only room for one ego.
“When I got older I found my happy hobby. Stealing do-re-mi to help old folks who needed surgery.” Sophie adds, gushing, “You were so good at it. Loved the plastic gun in the pastrami sandwiches.” Izzy blushes, pleased with the compliment. He shrugs. “Jail time reformed me finally, and now you’re caught up. Here I am. I’m looking into another happy hobby.”
Crux: A Cross-Border Memoir
by Jean Guerrero
Crux: A Cross-Border Memoir attracted my attention because I live part of each year in Mexico and part in New Mexico, U.S.A. After five years of cross-border experiences, I have such mixed feelings because I love the U.S. with its fairly balanced mixture of freedom and order, but I also have enjoyed the kindness and diverse cultures of the Mexican people.
Crux, however, addresses cross-border experiences on a whole different level. The author Jean Guerrero is the daughter of a Puerto Rican mother and a Mexican father. Guerrero survives a dysfunctional childhood to become a journalist. This book is an effort to understand herself through an attempt to understand her father, a brilliant man who at various times is addicted to drugs, and alcohol, believes the C.I.A. is performing experiments on him, and is schizophrenic according to her mother, a medical doctor.
Guerrero longs for her father’s affection. She received it when she was very little, but most of her memories are of an unpredictable and often hateful man who occasionally dropped in and out of her life. Guerrero tries to win her mother’s affection and approval through scholastic achievement. In the process of becoming an adult, she is always introspective but she experiments in dangerous arenas—drugs at raves, trips to dangerous areas of Mexico, bad boys and sexual exploration, and the occult. The occult is tied in with her heritage as she had a great-great grandmother in Mexico who was a healer and diviner and other Mexican relatives who were involved in similar activities.
Crux contains a lot of family stories: Guerrero’s own memories, interviews with her father and his mother, and trips to Mexico to discover the truth of her roots. It also includes some of her philosophical thinking at various times in her life as well as information from her neurological studies in college. She minored in neurology as a part of her efforts to understand her father’s schizophrenia and her genetic predilection to become schizophrenic herself.
As a cross-border tale, Crux is sprinkled with Spanish, some of it translated, some not. I am not fluent in Spanish, but I appreciated the authenticity added to Crux by including Spanish. I do wonder, however, if understanding the book would be affected by a reader’s not being able to translate as they read. One could, of course, use an online Spanish dictionary to help, but that would definitely interrupt the flow.
Crux is a very personal memoir exploring the raw feelings of the author. The point of view changes in the latter part of the book as Guerrero addresses her father. There is also a maturity and cohesion in that part of the book not present in the first. Perhaps that is appropriate as she was initially relating experiences as remembered from a child’s point of view. Readers who enjoy history will receive historical background to provide context; it is interesting and succinct. All in all, Crux is a good read. There are very few heart-warming moments, but that was her life.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to One World (Random House) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: There are some sexually explicit portions and offensive language in Crux. The treatment of women is particularly disturbing.
Publication: July 17, 2018—One World (Random House)
Life was not turning out as we had hoped. Creativity was a crime. Innocent creatures were mortal. Fathers left their daughters and broke their mother’s heart.
I had grown accustomed to the idea of my father as dead. If he was dead, he wasn’t willfully ignoring us. This belief had become a sinister source of comfort.
He persisted without pausing for protest, the same anger he had directed at me when he was driving me to my riding lessons as a teenager. I stared at the table, steeling myself. The numbness came naturally—a habit of my adolescence.
Pairing a Deception
by Nadine Nettmann
Have you ever met a wine snob? You know, the person who likes to show off their knowledge of wines? Well, I am the exact opposite. If you ask me what my favorite wine is, I would be likely to reply with (cringe)…a color choice or a description of a cute label. Not bad considering I came to the game rather late in life.
Enter Nadine Nettman with her latest cozy mystery Pairing a Deception. Nettmann, a Certified Sommelier from California has all the knowledge needed to create an interesting mystery based on the amazing varieties of wines available at a food and wine festival.
The main character, Katie, is studying for her three day Advanced Sommelier exam, but decides to squeeze in a festival in Santa Barbara with her selfless boyfriend, Detective Dean. While there, Katie gets to practice blind wine tasting skills, share her enthusiasm for wines as an emergency substitute speaker, and investigate a murder. Katie has a background of karate as a child and attended the Police Academy. Skills learned in both venues come in handy when she discovers the murderer.
I thought I might be overwhelmed or bored with all the wine talk, but it seemed natural considering the setting. I learned a lot about wine, especially wine tastings, liked the main characters, and found the plot interesting. The ending was a surprise, but believable.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Midnight Ink for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: General Fiction (Adult), Mystery
Notes: #3 in the Sommelier Mystery Series, but worked well for me as a standalone
Publication: May 8, 2018—Midnight Ink
The opportunity to taste the exact same grape grown in different areas, therefore each creating a unique wine, was one of the key elements I loved about wine and food festivals.
“We’d like to order wine. Which ones do you have?” “Oh, we have all the colors,” the waiter remarked. I paused, not sure how to respond.
I like helping people learn about wine and choosing the right one for their meal as I share the story of each bottle.
The Otter of Death
by Betty Webb
Teddy is a zookeeper at the Gunn Zoo in San Sebastian, CA. She lives on a houseboat and is engaged to Joe, the local county sheriff. She also volunteers conducting a census for the Otter Conservancy, a marine life rescue group. Trouble occurs during her routine survey when she discovers an otter with a cell phone. More troubling is a selfie on the phone that seems to indicate a crime.
The victim is well known, but not very popular, so there are a lot of suspects. Teddy puts herself in danger with her investigations, much to the dismay of Joe and her mother Caro. There are a lot of other characters in this book, including fellow zookeepers, neighbor liveaboards at the harbor, and the wealthy of San Sebastian. The author, Betty Webb, does a good job of defining the characters and subtly reminding the reader of who they are, as necessary.
I found all aspects of The Otter of Death fascinating, starting with the mystery to be solved, but also including the inner workings of the zoo and information about the animals, especially the otters.
Despite the appealing cover, I went into this cozy mystery wondering if I would like it. I emerged ready to read more of this series.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Poisoned Pen Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: 1. #5 in the Gunn Zoo Mystery Series
2. This is my first book in the series, but it worked great as a standalone.
3. You can read the first chapter of this book at bettywebbzoomystery.com.
Publication: May 2, 2018—Poisoned Pen Press
“I love your mother’s house. It’s so tiny and cute.” Tiny? Cute? For an eleven-room—not counting the kitchen and six baths—antiques-stuffed mansion on a shaded hillside overlooking the Pacific? Only a Betancourt could make such an outrageous statement.
I expected a thunderbolt from Heaven to strike me dead any second, but it didn’t happen. Instead, Frasier—thrilled as any man would be to be called fascinating and mysterious—started talking about his job. It was almost, but not quite, as boring as his wails about his blood-sucking ex-wife.
Trumpeter swans may be beautiful, but they are quick to defend their babies with beating wings and slashing bills. The injuries inflicted by these large birds aren’t as minor as you might think. A peck from a swan’s bill can take out an eye, and a blow from an enraged trumpeter’s four-foot-long wing has been known to break an adult human’s leg.
by Lynn Cahoon
I had read the eighth book in the Tourist Trap Mystery Series by popular cozy mystery author Lynn Cahoon and was not excited as it focused more on extraneous details of the main character’s personal life and less on the mystery. I am so glad I gave this series and author another chance with Killer Party.
Set at The Castle, a luxurious resort/museum in South Cove, a small town in California, this tale finds Jill Gardner, owner of Coffee, Books, and More celebrating the upcoming marriage of her boyfriend Greg’s old college buddy. Cahoon does a great job of familiarizing the reader with old characters and introducing new ones, while jumping right into the plot. My favorite new character and coffee shop employee is Deek, who initially appears to be a disaster in the waiting. Despite calling everyone “Dude,” Deek is a talented, well-educated young man with great enthusiasm for his work.
There are lots of suspects and threads to the plot. Greg, who is the local police chief, is forced to investigate informally with Jill since he is a friend of the victim. Side issues evolve with Jill’s Aunt Jackie who is planning her own wedding.
Killer Party is fun, interesting and an all-round good cozy mystery. What’s next, Ms. Cahoon? I’m ready!
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.
Notes: #9 in the Tourist Trap Mystery Series, but works as a standalone
Publication: July 18, 2017—Kensington Books
Actually I wasn’t sure why I was apologizing to this woman I’d never met before. I’d read a book that said one of the ways women give up their power is by saying I’m sorry for things that weren’t their fault.
I needed to have one good meal before we started skirting the law. It was part of the investigators handbook. Or at the least the one I was going to write someday after I made all the mistakes first.
I liked doing laundry. It calmed me in some weird way. Take something dirty and stained and make that all go away. Too bad life wasn’t like that.