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Death by Chocolate Frosted Doughnut–explosive action

Death by Chocolate Frosted Doughnut

by Sarah Graves

Death by Chocolate Frosted DoughnutJake and Ellie continue to make delightful chocolate goodies at The Chocolate Moose when they are not being shot at, run off the road, or drowned. In Sarah Graves’ Death by Chocolate Frosted Doughnut, there is more than enough action, some strong female characters you will want to see survive, lots of suspects, and some confusing motives. I could relate more to the chocolate than the many nautical references which are, in fact,  extremely important to the plot.

Jake lives in an old home bursting at the seams with extended family. Her sidekick Ellie is instrumental and often the leader in Jake’s dangerous investigations. As you read about the remote town of Eastport, Maine, where Jake put down roots twenty years before, you can understand why she decided to stay. As autumn closes in, the town is hosting the Eastport Pirate Festival which draws a huge tourist trade and, in this case, provides the perfect atmosphere for explosive action.

I would like to extend my thanks to Netgalley 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.This is #3 in the Death by Chocolate Mystery Series, but the author does an excellent job of supporting the reader so that this book can be a standalone.

  2. The book concludes with a recipe for Double-Chocolate Ginger Cookies, featuring chocolate chips, white chocolate, and crystallized ginger.

Publication:   February 25, 2020—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

His face, furrowed and grooved by age and the outdoors, was like something you might find carved into an old tree trunk, and his grip had felt as tough as bark.

I took a gulp of my hot drink and felt the brandy molecules percolating through my collapsed brain cells, reviving them. Or at least making them dance around very happily indeed, which was enough for me at the moment.

She was an overbearing old fussbudget, our Bella, but she would have stepped in front of a freight train for any one of us.

Death by Chocolate Malted Milkshake–delicious cozy mystery

Death by Chocolate Malted Milkshake

by Sarah Graves

Death by Chocolate Malted MilkshakeJake (Jacobia) relates this tale from the first person point of view as she and her friend Ellie struggle to survive the low tourist season in Maine. In this delightful cozy mystery, Jake and Ellie own their dream shop, The Chocolate Moose. Having recently purchased a vintage, mint green milkshake maker, they have added chocolate milkshakes to the treats featured in their chocolate themed bakery. Unfortunately, an abusive local drunk is found dead with one of their milkshake cups beside him.

In Death by Chocolate Malted Milkshake by Sarah Graves, questions swirl like a milkshake in a blender. Was the victim poisoned by the milkshake? Will the tampered milkshake rumors prove deadly to their struggling business? The ladies are counting on a whoopie-pie wedding cake to keep their business afloat; but with the groom suspected of murder, will the wedding even take place?

There are other suspects, interesting extended family members, a competent, sympathetic sheriff, lots of action, and more than a little danger as Jake and Ellie try to save their shop, keep Ellie and her family from having to move, discover the murderer and stay alive. I was surprised by the ending and the revelation of the murderer.

I would like to extend my thanks to 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 Death by Chocolate Mystery Series, but will work as a standalone.

It features a recipe for Ginger Chocolate Biscotti.

Publication:   January 29, 2019—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

The landlady’s glare was so cold, you could’ve used it to freeze fish.

An old railroad trestle crossed the gap between two high bluffs over a grassy salt marsh. In the moonlight, the cattails in the marsh stood motionless as if at attention.

Basically, I thought, frogs lived in a puddle, ate flies, and never got warm; still they yelled out their happiness in doing it and I found that encouraging.

Thread Herrings–innocent beginning to a deadly plot

Thread Herrings 

by Lea Wait

Thread HerringsHow could a faded and deteriorated needlework piece featuring a coat of arms possibly be the motive for murder? Join Angie as she goes to her first auction with her friend Sarah, an antiques dealer. When Angie buys a large, framed work of needlecraft that others pass over, she is getting more than she bargained for—including trouble and danger.

Thread Herrings’ author Lea Wait delves into the world of auctions, Maine history, and embroidery samplers in this interesting cozy that ties several modern day crimes into a mystery from the 1700’s. Angie, whose business, Mainely Needlepoint, is located in the small coastal town of Haven Harbor has returned to the frigid north from a stint as assistant to a private investigator in Arizona. With that background she takes more chances than perhaps are wise. An appealing setting, a plot with plenty of twists and turns, and characters that are likable wrap up this cozy mystery like a package just waiting to be opened by the reader.

I would like to extend my thanks to 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: #7 in the Mainely Needlepoint Mystery Series, but works surprisingly well as a standalone

Publication:   October 30, 2018—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

I was certainly nervous. The haddock I’d eaten for lunch was swimming circles in my stomach.

True, February in Arizona was warm and bright, but nothing was warmer than this room full of friends on a snowy night in Haven Harbor.

Tonight’s snowstorm would only result in four to six inches. (My friends in Arizona would have been freaked out by that much, but in Maine it was only borderline “plowable snow.”) Nothing to worry about.

Death and a Pot of Chowder–cozy with guns, lobsters, and a foodie

Death and a Pot of Chowder

by Cornelia Kidd

Death and a Pot of ChowderI know very little about Maine—small, cold, and famous for lobsters. All of that information is verified in Death and a Pot of Chowder, but I absorbed so much more about Maine by reading this cozy mystery by Cornelia Kidd. The characters are very interesting, especially the likable main character Anna Winslow. Having lost her job when her stepfather died, she is a stay-at-home mom to fourteen year old Jake and wife to Burt, a lobsterman. She enjoys her quiet life until she finds herself thrown in the middle of a murder investigation to clear Burt of charges at the same time she discovers she has a half-sister Ozzie, a young, ambitious, and talented chef.

I enjoyed the community of Quarry Island and references to Anne of Green Gables. I can identify with Anna turning to chocolate in times of stress! As an educator, I appreciate that the students on the island are cocooned a little as they attend school there through junior high and only travel to the mainland for high school. In such a setting I can conceive of the freedoms Jake and his friend Matt enjoy to roam the island.

The characters are not goody two-shoes, but most do have appeal as direct people who care about their neighbors. Anna is a strong woman, but also a woman who is willing to expand outside her current boundaries. She is open to new challenges and new relationships. I did wonder about her ties with her “stepfather” Seth. She was raised from birth as his child, but when she discovers that he is not her biological father, she never calls him “dad” again. Although I understand many children long for a relationship with their biological parents, it seems cold and out of character for her to emotionally discard him. As she was working for him as an office manager at the time of his death, I assume he did not respond by cutting ties with her. This is an interesting, but disappointing, twist to the story.

I would like to extend my thanks to 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. # 1 in the Maine Murder Mystery Series.

  2. Recipes are found in the back of the book.

  3. As Izzie is interested in historical cookbooks, each chapter starts with a quote from a cookbook which also includes tips for managing a household.

Publication:   June 12, 2018—Crooked Lane Books

Memorable Lines:

People joked that islanders had salt water in their veins. We were different, separate, and wary of off-islanders who commented on the beauty of the island, wondered at our isolation, and then left.

But first I was going to eat chocolate. If ever there was a day for chocolate, this was it.

I’d been like a mussel, glued to the rocks I’d always clung to. Now, everything had changed. I’d been tossed into the waves to survive. Would I find a new rock to cling to? Or be found by a laughing gull and dropped onto a ledge, smashed, and devoured.

The Fast and the Furriest–not quite the Purrfect Crime

The Fast and the Furriest

by Sophie Ryan

The Fast and the FurriestLooking for a cozy mystery with a good plot, interesting characters, and humorous overtones? Do you enjoy reading a story that features a cat as a supporting character? If so, then Sophie Ryan’s The Fast and the Furriest fits the bill.

This mystery will keep you guessing as Sarah, owner of Second Chance repurpose shop joins with her grandmother’s friends (Charlotte’s Angels) to help prove that her employee Mac is innocent of murder. Sarah’s sidekick is an endearing, Jeopardy-watching cat named Elvis who accompanies her almost everywhere. Sarah discovers she knows almost nothing about Mac, and Mac discovers that he does not really know his friends and family members as well as he thought he did.

I’m already looking forward to reading the next book in this series for some relaxing fun. Meanwhile there are several other books in this series purring out an enticing welcome.

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #5 in the Second Chance Cat Mystery Series, but works well as a standalone.

Publication: February 6, 2018—Berkley Publishing

Memorable Lines:

I’d worked in radio after college, eventually hosting a popular evening program playing classic rock and interviewing some of the genre’s best musicians. Then one day I was replaced by a syndicated music feed out of Los Angeles and a nineteen-year-old who read the weather twice an hour and called everyone “dude.”

She made her way over to him, a tiny woman with short, white hair, warm gray eyes and a stubborn streak that made a mule look easygoing.

“He can walk, Rose,” I said. “The pavement is too hot for his feet.” She picked the cat up and Elvis meowed and wrinkled his whispers at me, cat for “nyah, nyah, nyah.”

Death by Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake–delectable adventure

Death by Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake

by Sarah Graves

Death by Chocolate Cherry CheesecakeIf the phrase “chocolate cherry cheesecake” is enticing, then you will love the cozy mystery Death by Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake. In the tiny island village of Eastport, Maine, bakers and best friends Ellie and Jake (Jacobia) fill The Chocolate Moose with delectable and aromatic chocolate goodies. Their biggest baking challenge is preparing 22 cheesecakes to be auctioned off to pay for the Coast Guard’s firework extravaganza which also includes a treat for the town’s special education students. They get to view  the display from a barge.

If this were not challenge enough, Ellie and Jake discover a murdered man in their kitchen and Ellie becomes the prime suspect. This is not a simple mystery as various others in the town have links that Jake and Ellie must ferret out involving them in some life threatening situations. Jake is also in the middle of family crises, and Ellie has secret expansion plans for their business. All of these events occur during a brief time span, with little sleep, and an impending hurricane. Accompanying Jake and Ellie in pursuit of the real murderer provides the reader with exciting rides by boat and car. I’m looking forward to the next adventure in this new series.

I would like to extend my thanks to 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: Recipe for Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake is included at the end of the book.

Publication:  January 30, 2018–Kensington

Memorable Lines:

Once upon a time, Ma Bell ran the phone system with ruthless, utterly monopolistic efficiency. Now any fool can start a phone company and provide the kind of high-class personal communication service once offered only by two tin cans and a length of string.

When the door banged shut behind me, I must’ve jumped a foot. But it was only the wind blowing through the sliding-glass panels that looked out over the water, skittering the scattered papers like dry leaves across the slate-tiled floor.

I followed, with my heart pulsing crazily in my throat, thinking that if only I’d known how exciting the baking business would be, I’d have taken up some more sensible activity. Sword swallowing maybe, or milking poisonous snakes for their venom.

Twelve Slays of Christmas–a holiday treat

Twelve Slays of Christmas

by Jacqueline Frost

Twelve Slays of ChristmasIf you are someone with magical memories of Christmas, you will enjoy being immersed in the first Christmas Tree Farm Mystery. We are taken to a Christmas wonderland where the Whites try to keep the family business, Christmas Tree Farm, open in spite of dwindling tree sales by offering a twelve day tourist Christmas extravaganza in the little town of Mistletoe.

Holly returns home after nine years in the big city when her fiancé dumps her a week before the wedding. Murder threatens what should be a happy season for the tourists and locals. Both Holly and the tree farm are in danger. Sheriff Evan Gray makes a believable love interest as they get acquainted quickly through her investigations of several crises. The plot is interesting, the main characters are likable, and the setting is as Christmasy as you can get in a murder mystery.

I would like to extend my thanks to 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 in the Christmas Tree Farm Mystery Series

Publication: October 10, 2017—Crooked Lane Books

Memorable Lines:

“I have two cups of Santa’s cinnamon tea, one spicy apple cider, and a peppermint twist hot cocoa,” I said, setting the mugs on the table surrounded by rosy-cheeked women wearing matching holiday sweaters. They leaned forward at the sight of my mother’s specialty drinks. I slipped cinnamon sticks into the tea and cider, then popped a candy cane into the cocoa.

“Everyone’s capable of something they never thought they could be.”

“You have to make things happen, not wait around hoping something might happen to you.”

Tightening the Threads–family secrets abound

Tightening the Threads

by Lea Wait

Tightening the ThreadsTightening the Threads is a very good cozy mystery, set in Maine and focusing on family relationships Most of the characters in the story are the product of dysfunctional to nonexistent relationships with their parents. Some emerge from childhood with pain and an inability to have meaningful connections. Others find solace and stability with extended family or build strong bonds with friends.

There are mysteries to be solved that tie into the relationship issues; these crimes center around the patriarch Ted Lawrence, son of famous artist Robert Lawrence. The novel shows us once more that money and fame do not necessarily insure happiness or wisdom.

This author obviously has an interest in needlework in general and needlepoint in particular as evidenced by her main characters belonging to a group called the Mainely Needlepointers. She displays her historical interest by starting each chapter with a quote from a child’s sampler as well as a description of the sampler and information about the creator as available. I enjoyed this book and am definitely interested in reading more by author Lea Wait.

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

Rating: 4/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #5 in the Mainely Needlepoint Mystery Series, but works as a standalone.

Publication:   March 28, 2017–Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

During the ten years I’d lived in the almost perpetually neutral shades of Arizona, I’d missed seeing Maine hills glowing with gold and scarlet and orange in late September.

“Love you, too. As always, for always.”

“I think all families have mysteries, and secrets, and stories. I don’t think they’re all meant to be uncovered.”

Families weren’t simple. They weren’t like television show casts where everyone supported everyone else and laughed over dinner.

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