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A Cold Brew Killing–political aspirations turn deadly

A Cold Brew Killing

by Lena Gregory

A Cold Brew KillingA group of former high school friends converge on their hometown in Florida as two of their number compete for the job of mayor. As all eyes are focused on the politics, one is found murdered in the ice cream shop belonging to Gia’s friend, Trevor. Trevor appears guilty, and Gia wonders if she knew him as well as she thought she did.

If you have read other books in the series, you will remember the regular cast of characters. In A Cold Brew Killing, author Lena Gregory gives more depth to these characters as she reveals some of their background. She also adds many more characters for this storyline. The author boldly dances between plot threads and the importance of characters, intertwining the two into an inseparable and fascinating storyline. Are secrets of the past playing out in the present? How far should one go to keep a secret that protects someone else?

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: 1. #3 in the All-Day Breakfast Café Series, but can be read as a standalone

2. If you are not a coffee drinker or are an old school coffee drinker, you can learn about something new: cold brew coffee!

Publication:   November 6, 2018—Kensington Press (Lyrical Underground)

Memorable Lines:

“I believe there are a few people we meet in our lives who are meant to be a part of something special. Sometimes lasting friends, other times just part of an important event in your life. Either way, I think we recognize those people when our paths cross.”

Her mental to-do list was getting longer and longer. If she didn’t start writing this stuff down somewhere, there was no way she’d remember to do it all. She hadn’t even remembered she was supposed to go away in less than a day.

Sometimes you didn’t need a friend to interfere; sometimes you needed them to stand by while you made a mess of your life, then jump in and help pick up the pieces.

Killed on Blueberry Hill–murder at the Blueberry Blowout

Killed on Blueberry Hill

by Sharon Farrow

Killed on Blueberry HillOh, yes! I have a new series to add to a favorites list for cozy mysteries. Although I jumped into Sharon Farrow’s Berry Basket Mystery Series with the third book, I had no trouble following the storyline of Killed on Blueberry Hill. At first, given the theme of the book and the series, I was afraid blueberries would be overdone in this book. While they do take center stage as a motif, the emphasis is not forced because the setting is Oriole Point’s Blueberry Blow Out festival. It is, in fact, integral to the plot. Although blueberries are found all through the book, their inclusion is not repetitious because of the variety of ways the theme is used—food, drinks, atmosphere, businesses, costumes, and carnival fun.

The plot of Killed on Blueberry Hill has lots of threads that tie together well…in the end. Along the way they seem contradictory and confusing, pointing a finger at many suspects with plausible motives. This cozy mystery contains a wonderful assortment of characters, but many are not who they seem to be. Secrets and deceptions underlie the festive atmosphere. Marlee is the owner of The Berry Basket, a store in town that sells blueberry products, so she knows the three major producers, all family-run businesses. Her fiancé Ryan is a member of the close-knit Zellar family. Why is he pushing Marlee so hard on the wedding date, selling her family home, and just about every other decision in her life? When the owner of another blueberry farm is murdered on his own carnival ride, who will get the blame? There are several deaths in Oriole County. Who is set to inherit the wealth? This cozy has an exciting, action packed ending and major surprises. Along the way we meet Natasha, the recently widowed Miss Russia, with her delightful accent and choice of words. Not only does she add humor to the book, but she is instrumental in helping Marlee. I don’t know if Natasha will be included in future books in the series, but I hope so. She ramped up the book from 4 stars to 5 for me.

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: #3 in the Berry Basket Mystery Series, but works well as a standalone. Added to the book are three delicious sounding recipes that were featured in the story—blueberry, of course.

Publication:   October 30, 2018—Kensington Publishing

Memorable Lines:

When I came to a stop in front of the yellow farmhouse, I could almost see my younger pigtailed self on the bottom porch step, eating fresh-picked blueberries from a pail. It seemed a lifetime ago. But also as recent as last month.

“Don’t be such a snob. Not everyone was born with an entire set of silver spoons in their mouth.”

I threw myself into work with such single-minded dedication, Ebenezer Scrooge himself would have given me a raise. And he wouldn’t have needed any visits from ghosts to prompt it.

Getting Old Can Hurt You–light, humorous, senior mystery

Getting Old Can Hurt You

 by Rita Lakin

Getting Old Can Hurt YouThis 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.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Mystery

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

Memorable Lines:

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.”

Burning Ridge–searching for family

Burning Ridge

by Margaret Mizushima

Burning RidgeThe action starts in Burning Ridge in the first chapter where readers also get filled in on the series background and meet some of the characters. From a rough and tumble bar fight, this novel moves on to a bright and sunny horseback ride for Cole, the local veterinarian, and his daughters in the Colorado mountains. The family ride turns dark and the mystery begins.

Margaret Mizushima has written a K-9 police procedural. No cozy mystery, this work of fiction looks at an evil-plotting mind plagued by excesses of greed. Main characters Deputy Mattie Cobb and her K-9 partner Robo find themselves in danger as she tries to solve a horrific crime that turns personal. Many are involved in finding the murderer, and there are a variety of suspects. Get ready for a surprise ending. In the process of the investigation, Mattie discovers parts of her past that she never knew as well as secrets buried deep in her psyche. She learns to accept help and to expand her ideas of what constitutes a family.

Burning Ridge is a page turner as are the other books in this fast moving series. It contains lots of information about K-9 officers shared in a non-didactic fashion.

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, Thriller

Notes: 1. This is #4 in the Timber Creek K-9 Mystery Series. It is good as a standalone, but be aware that each book reveals a little more about Mattie’s past as she comes to grips with it.

2. This contains more upsetting violence than I usually read, but it is within the acceptable boundary for me. Everyone is different so be aware that it contains some torture.

Publication:   September 11, 2018—Crooked Lane Books

Memorable Lines:

An occasional clump of young aspen shot up toward the cloudless blue sky. Spring leaves, bright green and as yet unblemished by summer dryness, quivered at the ends of branches, their spade-like shape seeming to catch even the slightest of breezes. “Look at the aspen leaves, girls. They’re dancing.”

Robo lay on his cushion, his eyes pinned on her every move. She’d learned from experience that her emotions went straight to her dog.

“Life can be full of regrets if you focus on them. We make decisions for whatever reasons we have in the moment, not because we have some superhuman vision of what will happen in the future.”

Rooted in Deceit–the value of a painting

Rooted in Deceit

by Wendy Tyson

Rooted in DeceitWendy Tyson’s Rooted in Deceit is another stellar cozy mystery in The Greenhouse Mystery Series. Megan is the owner of Washington Acre Farms, a farm that supplies organic produce for her own café and organic store in Winsome as well as several restaurants in Philadelphia. 

Tyson dumps the reader into the story immediately with four major plot pieces. Megan’s mini-enterprise is almost ready to expand as her crew puts the finishing touches on the long awaited pizza farm restaurant. Her father Eddie and his wife of two years, Sylvia, arrive from Milan on business, swirling up lots of emotions and relationship issues. They will be staying in nearby Dartville at Peaceful Summit Yoga Retreat Center and Spa which may be competition for Megan’s café. Thrown into this mix is an artist and middle school friend of Megan’s, Thana Moore, whose work will be on display at the center.

Before you know it, Megan is up to her eyeballs in a murder investigation, without the help of boyfriend, veterinarian Denver, who is called to Scotland when his sister is in a serious accident. Megan has to come to grips with her feelings about her own family past as well as middle school shenanigans that come back to bite her and her former friends.

You’ll enjoy watching the plot unfold as Megan follows various leads. Some go to dead ends and others branch off into new possibilities. There’s never a dull moment in Rooted in Deceit.

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 Greenhouse Mystery Series, but works as a standalone

Publication:  September 4, 2018—Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

The day was hot and humid, a soupy late August afternoon that teased a cooling rain but delivered little more than sweat and sunburn.

“You and I both know people do inconceivable things for rational reasons, and conceivable things for irrational reasons. Crime rarely makes sense.”

…the right choice wasn’t always obvious at the time you were forced to make it. Life got complicated.

A Bridge for Christmas–rescuing with love

A Bridge for Christmas

by William Schwenn

A Bridge for ChristmasThe first part of A Bridge for Christmas is fairly easy going, setting the stage for a novel about a widower who shuffles through life a day at a time, apparently without purpose or direction. Dave finds himself adopting two dogs, and that one action changes his life. The plot progresses to include a low water bridge destroyed by flood, almost isolating Dave and a small group of his neighbors. There is also an introduction to several people with various approaches to animal rescue work.

Background set, the author William Schwenn picks up the pace, and Dave finds himself in the midst of a mysterious, secretive transport network for rescue dogs. Is the traditional North Carolina mountain community of Calvert County attracting a criminal element focused on dangerous drugs and horrible animal abuse? Will the Bear Creek Bridge be finished in time for Christmas relieving the residents of a one hour dangerous ride to get supplies and conduct business? Can Dave open up his heart to love again?

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

Rating: 4/5

Category: Literary Fiction

Notes: This book contains a number of instances of swearing.

Publication:   August 6, 2018—Brighton Publishing

Memorable Lines:

Dave knew and loved the nature of dogs—they’d forget all about this in a day or two, and move on. Life for them was a fresh adventure every day. Win some, lose some, get confused by some, but no worries—tomorrow will be another day.

Tough mountain boys, Dave thought, and smiled gently. They’ll go through women and wives with the wind, reluctantly trade in trucks, but give up their dogs?

He always found it necessary to remind rookies in his department after their first encounter with particularly nasty elements of the human race, “Don’t think about it too much. Let the Almighty take care of His job, and let’s concentrate on doing ours. We’ll be busy enough with just that.”

Midnight Snacks are Murder–humor shares the spotlight with mystery

Midnight Snacks are Murder

by Libby Klein

Midnight Snacks are MurderAs Poppy McAllister struggles to renovate a Queen Anne Victorian into a B & B to support herself and her aunt who raised her, she finds herself in the thick of a lot of situations. Personally, she is torn between her old flame Tim, a local chef, and Gia who owns a coffee shop and has commissioned Poppy to make gluten-free treats for his shop. Poppy is also juggling some pretty quirky characters on the home front: Smitty, a handyman reminiscent of the Three Stooges; Aunt Ginny, an eightyish aunt determined to live life to the fullest; Georgina, her domineering mother-in-law; and Figaro, her cat who is always in the middle of things. Unfortunately, Poppy, recently returned to Cape May, finds herself embroiled in the second murder in less than a year. This time, however, she is not a suspect, but has to clear her rather kooky aunt of charges.

Libby Kein’s Midnight Snacks are Murder is a very funny cozy mystery with lots of amusing zingers sometimes addressed to others, but more often what Poppy is thinking. The plot moves along quickly as blame passes to a number of characters and the victim is shown in various lights ranging from evil to saint. Poppy has to find out the complex truth about him in order to vindicate her aunt. The first book in the series was lots of fun and so is this one. 

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 Poppy McAllister Mystery Series but works well as a standalone.

Publication:   July 31, 2018—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

I had a better chance of teaching a badger to ride a bike than winning an argument with Aunt Ginny.

Her supermodel good looks made me feel more schlubby the moment she floated into the kitchen. But then I was too tired to grouse this morning about what God had given me and Betty Crocker had perfected, so I moved on to acceptance faster than usual.

Those kids could text the Constitution in thirty seconds using just emojis.

Crux: A Cross-Border Memoir

Crux: A Cross-Border Memoir

by Jean Guerrero

CruxCrux: 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.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Memoir

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)

Memorable Lines:

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.

As the Cookie Crumbles–food oriented cozy, but so much more

As the Christmas Cookie Crumbles

by Leslie Budewitz

As the Christmas Cookie CrumblesIt’s a tie! I can’t decide what I like best about Leslie Budewitz’s As the Christmas Cookie Crumbles: her winning way with words or her skill in creating an intricate plot. I felt a little funny as I crossed the Mexican desert in 90 degree temps on my trek north to the States as June began to press in. I was immersed in a cozy mystery with a Christmas backdrop complete with snow set in Jewel Bay, Montana, but that is what good fiction can do.

The main character is Erin, manager of the “Merc” aka Murphy’s Glacier Mercantile. She is weeks away from a wedding to fiancé Adam, a very likable guy. Erin has investigative skills that she truly enjoys exercising and which cause others to try to engage her in solving crimes based on her reputation. In this book she befriends a newly returned citizen of Jewel Bay, Merrily, who has relationship issues with her parents and is discovered dead on their property.

There are a lot of suspects for perpetrator of this crime, but the criminal can not be found until the past is revealed. Erin is indubitably nosy and that characteristic could help solve the crime and restore long broken relationships. It also could lead her into potentially deadly situations. Can she balance her curiosity with reason and avoid disaster?

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.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes:  This book is good as a standalone. It is the second in the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, but I didn’t feel like I had missed out on anything. There is also a “cast of characters” if you get confused. The book concludes with a recipe section.

Publication:  June 8, 2018—Midnight Ink

Memorable Lines:

As surely as you can count on holidays sparking family crises, you can count on cocoa.

In these days of space stations and hybrid cars, stagecoaches seem like figments of Western movie makers’ imaginations, but the valley is criss-crossed with roads named for long-ago stages. They remind me to slow down, and take the long view.

Adam went downstairs to hook up the TV. Going wireless involves a lot of cables.

Burning Meredith–police procedural

Burning Meredith

by Elizabeth Gunn

Burning MeredithWith the interruptions common in daily life, I never finish a book in one sitting, and I rarely complete a book the same day I start it. Burning Meredith was an exception. I did stay up late to finish reading it because it was such a good mystery. Due to its focus on police investigative techniques, it is considered a police procedural by those who like to subdivide the genre.

Burning Meredith centers around a huge forest fire in the south-central Montana mountains, destroying many acres and threatening little Clark’s Fort. If it is possible for a bad thing to be good, then this forest fire was it. The disaster breathed new life into the little weekly Clark’s Fort Guardian and provided opportunities for young, local photo-journalist Stuart Campbell to shine. Not afraid of hard work and familiar with the mountains, he manages to put the Meredith Mountain area on the map nationally.

I like the journalist character, but I truly associate with retired teacher Alice Adams who works for the paper as an editor, initially only a few days a week. As she says, “After thirty-two years of catching kids passing crib notes, you didn’t just stop on a dime. Shouldn’t there be a twelve-step plan for this transition?” She is a respected fixture in the community, as she has taught English and social studies to several generations of Clark’s Fort middle schoolers. She encourages her nephew Stuart in his journalistic efforts, and she provides invaluable assistance in solving the mystery of an unidentified man whose body is found after the fire has been controlled.

There are two major threads to this plot; the author initially shares these in separate chapters as unrelated storylines. The reader gets caught up in the reporting of the fire, and then suddenly there is this other direction that appears like an itch waiting to be scratched. Author Elizabeth Gunn’s writing is excellent in terms of the general plot and how it plays out and also in her turn of phrase. Some of Gunn’s prose is so good that I found myself rereading parts just to enjoy her choice of words, her descriptive excellence, or her metaphors. Many mysteries do not allow for much in the way of character development or they expend too much energy on the characters at the expense of the plot. Gunn hits the mark with her writing style. Her main characters are developed and interesting; her minor characters provide a nice backdrop.

Elizabeth Gunn has two series of police procedurals. Will Burning Meredith begin a new series? I could find no indication that it would or wouldn’t, but my opinion is that this book is a good basis for one.

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, Police Procedural

Publication:   June 1, 2018—Severn House

Memorable Lines:

Like a bonus for a job well done, Clark’s Fort got a second freaky dose of luck. A surprise deflection in the polar vortex brought cold, moist air and a drastic dip in air pressure down across Canada and pouring into Montana.

“As you well know, Clark’s Fort doesn’t generate much news.”  “For sure. My street gets so quiet on August afternoons, I swear I can hear the bluebirds planning their trip south.”

She gave him the English teacher look that had brought silence to rooms full of eighth-grade miscreants for a generation.

…when the weather warmed up the country roads became mud-holes even  more impassable than the snow-drifts had been. People still had to get around, so they chained up and churned out, making ruts you could lose a spring calf in.

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