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Fatal Roots–mystery of fairy forts

Fatal Roots

by Sheila Connolly

Fatal RootsMaura Donovan is as American as can be until she inherits a pub, house, and assorted pasture lands in Ireland from an Irish friend of her grandmother’s. In Fatal Roots by Sheila Connolly, Maura has lived in Ireland about a year and is becoming comfortable with her new country, role of ownership, and relationship with her boyfriend Mick and other new friends in the small town in Cork.

Life gets more complicated for Maura when Ciara, a post graduate student in archaeology shows up on her doorstep requesting permission to examine Maura’s early Irish fairy forts. Maura doesn’t know where her various acreages lie and doesn’t know what a fairy fort is or anything about the superstitions surrounding them. In the process of rolling out this tale, there is a grizzly discovery, Maura’s mother who abandoned her as a child comes to Cork on business bringing Maura’s half sister, and Maura makes changes to the pub so she can sell food.

Throw in Mick’s grandmother Bridgett and Old Billy who lives above the pub and you have a good basis for a plot. I liked the story, but repetition hampered the enjoyment for me. I had to hear over and over again of Maura’s background, the Irish attitude toward fairy forts, Maura’s angst about…everything—her family, her relationship with Mick, superstitions, decisions about kitchen remodeling, the student archaeologists. The plot was wrapped up nicely, and the epilogue provided emotional closure for characters that I really liked. I also enjoyed learning about fairy forts, which are a mystery in themselves and go by many names.

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

Rating: 3/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #8 in the County Cork Mystery Series

Publication:  January 7, 2019—Crooked Lane Books

Memorable Lines:

But it was beginning to seem like any time anything happened, it was like scraping off the present to see pieces of the past.

“I could show yeh, but it really doesn’t have an address.” “Neither does my place. So far it’s ‘the cottage halfway up the hill, past the yellow cottage. If you reach the piggery you’ve gone too far.’ This is all so not like Boston.”

Life was too short, with too many unexpected twists and turns, to wait for the one perfect moment, if there even was such a thing.

 

 

Theater Nights Are Murder–elder sleuths

Theater Nights Are Murder

by Libby Klein

Theater Nights Are MurderPoppy, a plus size single in her forties, and her Aunt Ginny, a red-headed octogenarian with all kinds of spunk, are the main characters in Theater Nights Are Murder. There is a huge cast of supporting characters sporting lots of quirks. Topping the list are Gia, an Italian barista, and Tim, a chef with romantic ties to Poppy’s youth; both men are vying for Poppy’s heart, and six months after her move back to her hometown, she remains indecisive. Also, front and center, are the “biddies,” friends of Aunt Ginny who manage to get into all kinds of trouble. Figaro, her cat, has a mind of his own and has free run of the Victorian house the two ladies are trying to convert into a Bed and Breakfast. Aa a pastry chef, Poppy divides her time between Gia’s coffee shop, Tim’s restaurant, and her own B&B.

As if friends, family, and business are not enough to keep Poppy busy, author Libby Klein immerses her and the biddies in the senior center’s production of Momma Mia, starring Royce, an aging, homegrown,  Shakespearean star. The plot of this cozy is complicated by old rivalries, reignited loves, and mysterious men who appear in the audience during practices. All is fun until one of the cast members falls to his death from a catwalk. Is it a suicide, an accident, or murder?

The biddies are so funny as they investigate, bringing in Sponge Bob walkie talkies and applying tips they have picked up from Murder She Wrote and other television shows. Meanwhile, trolls are scattering bad reviews under various names across social media. They focus on criticizing Poppy’s pastries at all three establishments while actual demand for the goodies and praise at the restaurants remain consistently high. A frustrated Poppy has no idea how to stop the false reviews, uncover a murderer, or solve her love dilemma.

Theater Nights Are Murder is packed with fun situations and dialogue. The plot and quirky characters will keep you turning the pages to help out the likable, down to earth, pastry chef who ironically is confined to gluten free treats. Throughout this cozy mystery, Aunt Ginny and her pals prove that octogenarians can enjoy fun, romance, and some senior humor at their own expense.

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. #4 in the Poppy McAllister Mystery Series, but OK as a standalone as the author fills you in as you read.

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

Publication:   December 3, 2019—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

I was a little stunned, the way Miss Piggy was a little self-involved.

I can barely control myself, let alone a group of stubborn biddies who have their minds made up. In their heads, those ladies were conducting an FBI sting rivaling that of capturing Osama Bin Laden, and they were going to get their man.

The peachy-pink glow is a bouquet of empty promises of warmth and comfort mocked by the frigid wind blowing off the Atlantic Ocean. Even the seagulls sit with their wings wrapped around themselves, too disgruntled by the cold to dive-bomb passersby for potential smackerals.

Sauvigone for Good–chocolate creations

Sauvigone for Good

by J.C. Eaton

Sauvigone for GoodNorrie, part owner of Two Witches Winery in Penn Yan, New York, is doing her part to facilitate the wintery Chocolate and Wine Festival that is sure to draw a crowd to the benefit of the wineries on Seneca Lake. Three world class chocolatiers will be competing for a large cash prize plus lots of media attention. First, there will be three days of demonstrations and wine pairings at the wineries. Norrie has a great crew who can manage normal issues that might arise. No one is prepared, however, for murder, scheming, and sabotage.

To counter bad publicity that is sure to arise, Norrie sets out to investigate a puzzle that involves the chocolatiers and other mysterious guests from Europe. Her friends Don and Theo at a neighboring winery offer support, and Gladys, who works for the county sheriff, can be counted on for the occasional leak of information. Norrie has had run-ins with Deputy Hickman before. He associates her with disasters and repeatedly warns her off her attempts at investigating.

Although the plot centers on murder and intrigue with lots of red herrings, there are side threads as well. Norrie, while “babysitting” the winery in her sister’s absence, has a job and deadlines as a screenwriter. In addition, she is sorting through her feelings for Godfrey, a young entomologist friend who is very helpful whenever called upon, and for Bradley, a lawyer she is dating. 

I recommend Sauvigone for Good by J.C. Eaton as a fun cozy mystery, clean and interesting. I’m looking forward to the next whodunit by this husband and wife writing team.

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 Wine Trail Mysteries but could be read as a standalone.

Publication:   December 10, 2019—Lyrical Underground (Kensington Press)

Memorable Lines:

“Do you want any of us to go with you?” Stephanie asked. “It’s not a problem for me. My husband can put the boys to bed instead of having a love affair with the remote.”

It was another frigid morning and the snow in our vineyards glistened from the crust of ice that had formed on top of it. Another picture-perfect postcard for the Finger Lakes, unless you actually had to be outdoors.

“…And she’s got a smirk on her face that makes the Cheshire Cat look like an amateur.”

Have a Deadly New Year–Christie-inspired plot

Have a Deadly New Year

by Lynn Cahoon

Have a Deadly New YearToday was a great day to read a novella—short and complete in one sitting. Lynn Cahoon’s Have a Deadly New Year found Angie Turner and her staff of chefs at The County Seat restaurant offsite at a combination catering event and retreat. After providing a fancy multi-course meal to kick off a famous band’s reunion, the chefs were looking forward to a week’s working vacation in the huge, glamorous mansion. Complications arise when one of the band leaders is murdered and no one can go anywhere. The house is in a remote area, a blizzard strikes, and they are mandated to stay until the police return from another emergency. Are they under lockdown with a murderer and who might it be? 

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: This is a Farm to Fork novella. I love this series, and I normally find Lynn Cahoon’s books effective as standalones. I would not recommend it for this novella, however. It is just too short to comprehensively make all of the connections necessary for full enjoyment.

Publication:   December 3, 2019—Lyrical Underground (Kensington Press)

Memorable Lines: 

“I have a personal motto that it’s all about me.” “You’re the leading man in your own play.”

“I suppose you’ll be doing New Year’s resolutions during your week? Make sure they’re about you and not what others think you should do.”

“Negative energy never produces a positive outlook.”

Penny for Your Secrets–post World War I England

Penny for Your Secrets

by Anna Lee Huber

Penny for Your SecretsI do so enjoy historical fiction with more than a touch of mystery. Penny for Your Secrets by Anna Lee Huber is that kind of book. Unfortunately, and perhaps it was just me, but this novel seemed to drag a bit. The premise is interesting and becomes increasingly complicated as more murders occur. The Kents, Verity and Sidney, can’t get away from their heroic pasts. Each played a critical undercover role in World War I, and their friends, the media, and their own souls will not let them forget it. In this book, issues from World War I resurface in various ways and involve current MI5 operatives as well.

Although I like the Kents, their relationship issues play a role that is too prominent at the expense of the plot. I understand their angst over past decisions, but sometimes I just wanted to tell them how lucky they are: they emerged from a horrific war with no major physical injuries, considerable financial wealth, and a marriage intact. So many could not claim any of those benefits after World War I.

Kudos to the author for an intricate plot, an appealing setting, and historical accuracy. It will be interesting to see what adventures await the fashionable Kents next.

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: 4/5 

Category: Historical Fiction, Mystery

Notes: #3 in the Verity Kent Mystery Series, but works as a standalone

Publication:   October 29, 2019—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

My skin prickled at being in such close proximity to so much anger, as if the daggers aimed at others had been deflected on to me.

“…my father always did have a different standard when it came to what he and his peers were allowed to do as opposed to the rest of the world.”

“In some situations, there is no winning. No right way. You can only make the best choices you can, and hope the people your decision might have harmed will forgive you in the end.”

Better Watch Out–all’s well that ends well

Better Watch Out

by Christina Freeburn

Better Watch OutIf you want a sweet, Christmasy read, then choose another book. In Christina Freeburn’s  Better Watch Out, Merry is the main character; her business is handcrafting. As she specializes in Christmas items, her focus as well as the town’s is the same. The town is even named Season’s Greetings. With several murders and embezzlement happening in their town, lots of people are feeling more Grinchy and Scroogey than normal. Even the parishioners of Harmony Baptist are displaying a very mean spirit. 

Better Watch Out has a complicated plot. Merry tries to do the right things, but just makes situations more convoluted. She is also dealing with personal issues. Possibly her divorce from her second ex-husband was not finalized. She is still sorting through feelings for her first ex-husband, the father of her grown children. Lottery money is at stake, and trust and friendship fall victim to greed.

I should have liked her guinea pig, Ebenezer, but he just seems to be a squeaky irritation rather than the rescue from loneliness that Merry desires. My favorite part of the book is the ending with a resolution worthy of people with good intents.

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: 4/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #2 in the Merry and Bright Handcrafted Mystery Series

Publication:   October 15, 2019—Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

Now, I felt like I was in a snow globe. Every time the world settled, it got shook up and all the pieces swirled around and all I could do was remain frozen until everything settled back down.

I was thankful the pastor didn’t follow me inside, though his words had come with me, shoving out the Christmas joy from my heart. Nope. I wasn’t going to let it happen. No one would put a damper on my happiness of spending the morning teaching my mom and her friends a new craft.

The first year after a loss was gut-wrenching. It was hard enough to remember to breathe, trying to celebrate something—anything—could make you feel like your lungs were being crushed.

Thanksgiving in Paradise–Serenity doesn’t live up to its name

Thanksgiving in Paradise

by Kathi Daley

Thanksgiving in ParadiseThe gang is all back in the township of Serenity located near Paradise Lake when danger explodes, quite literally, in the town hall. Tj, a P.E teacher who helps her family run a resort, and her wealthy, tech savvy boyfriend, Kyle, team up with Deputy Roy Fisher to get to the bottom of the mystery. Was the explosion aimed at the building or at an individual? How was the bombing achieved? There are certainly more questions than answers as the shady side of quiet Paradise comes to light.

The plot elements are well done, and I enjoyed reading Thanksgiving in Paradise. I had two issues which I was willing to overlook as I do enjoy the series. One problem arises from the ease with which Deputy Roy shares information with Tj and Kyle, who then share it with family and friends. I had to keep reminding myself that they are close friends, it is a small town, and the deputies are shorthanded. Although skeptical, I must admit that the team effort pays off. Another minor irritation is the number of times author Kathi Daley tells the reader that Tj pauses giving herself or the person she is talking to time to gather their thoughts. Otherwise, Thanksgiving in Paradise is a fun read with a complicated plot and a successful resolution.

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: 4/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: Could be read as a standalone, but be advised that it is #10 in the Tj Jensen Mystery Series.

Publication:   October 8, 2019—Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

I’m the worst person ever,” I said to Jenna two hours later after we settled in at her kitchen table with cups of coffee. “The worst person ever? Wow, that’s quite a claim. I imagine you have some sort of evidence to back up such a grandiose statement?”

I knew that I was doing what I have a tendency to do, which was to make things a lot more complicated than they needed to be.

It’s rare for the entire staff of a high school to be a fan of the principal, but in Greg’s case I can’t think of a single staff member who doesn’t admire and truly like him.

Trap Lane–confusion in Folly

Trap Lane

by Stella Cameron

Trap LaneI’m disappointed. I was sure that Trap Lane by Stella Cameron would be another puzzling, exciting mystery in the Alex Duggins Series. It was indeed puzzling all the way through. I felt like I was missing the backstory, but that was not the case. In fact the characters, including the investigators and the reader are clueless all the way through. Even at the conclusion of the tale, not all of the ends are tied up; and the status of most of the characters (those who are not dead, of course) is unknown.

Setting, mood, and dialogue are all well executed, but the characters fumble around trying to protect each other from various unknown dangers. Secrets obviously abound, but they are vague enough to be uncompelling. The characters don’t seem to understand “obstruction of justice” to the point that they obfuscate the many murder investigations with the end result being more harm than good to those they are trying to protect.

The main characters, Alex and Tony, are likable, but I wished I could alternately shake them into reality or plop them in a new setting. The elderly sisters who run a tea shop have the potential to be interesting characters, but serve more as background. Annie, who is supposed to garner sympathy, is never fully explained and appears a wimp. I like her even less than the stereotyped villainess Neve. Even the thread of the forensic pathologist could have been developed to be interesting. Instead, her potential problems and relationships are mentioned and dropped. 

Although disappointed, I will continue to read the Alex Duggins Series, hopeful that the next book will restore my confidence in this series.

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: 3/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #6 in the Alex Duggins Series

Publication:   October 1, 2019—Severn House

Memorable Lines:

Accepting that there was nothing she could do to change whatever inner battles he was fighting did nothing to soothe her jumpiness.

So true that love and hate are close neighbors.

What Alex felt for him wasn’t pity, it was closer to grief for the loss of his youthful optimism.

Let’s Fake a Deal–murder in the Air Force

Let’s Fake a Deal

by Sherry Harris

Let's Fake a DealYou can get a fairly good look at life on a U.S. Air Force base from reading Let’s Fake a Deal by Sherry Harris. Details range from the Spouse’s Club (formerly known as the Officers’ Wives Club) with its social structure and infighting to the legal processes within the enlisted and officer ranks. Much of it is accepted as “that’s the way it is” and some if it, sexual harassment, for example, is undergoing a slow evolution.

Sarah Winston, ex-wife of an Air Force security police force commander, lives between two worlds with loosening connections to the military and strengthening bonds with her new family of friends in the town she stayed in after her divorce. She owns a garage sale business, helping others sort through the excess in their lives, and lives in a tiny apartment furnished with garage sale findings.

Let’s Fake a Deal finds a shocked Sarah being arrested for selling stolen goods at one of her sales. Not only could she be convicted of a felony, but she could also damage her boyfriend Seth’s political chances as a District Attorney. At the same time that Sarah tries to locate the mysterious “aw shucks” couple who set her up, in more ways than one, she is also investigating the murder of Major Blade whose body was found in her friend Michelle’s car. Michelle is an Air Force light colonel enduring an IG investigation, but does not even know what the charges are. The Air Force judicial system works in powerful and mysterious ways.

Ride along with Sarah in this rollercoaster of a tale that involves a lot of investigation and interviews along with some action and romance. I think you’ll like both Sarah and this cozy mystery.

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. #7 in the Sarah Winston Garage Sale Mystery Series, but works well as a standalone. I have only read a few in the series and have no problem following the plot.

  2. The author includes a lot of acronyms that are common in military life, but she  also gives good explanations for them.

Publication:   July 30, 2019—Kensington

Memorable Lines:

Going to garage sales was like finding a good partner. You had to kiss a lot of frogs before you found a treasure.

“Purple looks great on you,” I said. Way better than envy green did on me.

Maybe poor in money, but rich in family and friends. Loved. Isn’t that all any of us really wanted?

Needled to Death–accidental OD, suicide, or murder?

Needled to Death

by Annelise Ryan

Needled to DeathWelcome to the first book in The Helping Hands Mystery Series by Annelise Ryan. This series and its premier tale, Needled to Death, share some characters with Ryan’s Mattie Winston Mystery Series. As is true in the real world, people in a fairly closed community, like those who deal with crime and its victims, such as evidence technicians, detectives, and those in the Medical Examiner’s office, frequently have intersecting spheres. Experience with that series is not necessary to enjoy this one.

In Needled to Death, the main character is Hildy Schneider, a social worker for the hospital. Hilda is a flawed protagonist if ever there was one, and you will quickly come to love her, quirks and all. A product of the foster care system since a young age, she has been passed through more homes and psychiatrists than most people can count. Hildy, however, has emerged strong, but vulnerable, with an insatiable curiosity and a desire to help others.

A woman in Hildy’s grief support group at the hospital is convinced her son was murdered, and Hildy agrees to try to get the police to reopen the case. Hildy manages to get involved in the investigation as well as with the investigators on a personal level. There are a lot of interesting characters including P.J., a neighbor girl with Asperger’s, and Rosco, Hildy’s golden retriever whom she sometimes uses with clients as a therapy dog. Hildy goes from no social life to attracting the interest of two men who admire her smarts and spunk.

Author Ryan has a talent in her writing style that makes it hard to put this book down. I really needed to stop reading to attend to another task. Unfortunately for the other project, I would end a chapter, peek at the next, and off I went into the plot again. It was at least five chapters later before I managed to get tough and close the book. Another feature I like about this book is the humor scattered throughout. The ending of one chapter (no spoilers here) was a surprise that was laugh out loud funny. With a great plot and characters with interesting backgrounds, Needled to Death skyrockets for me, and I can hardly wait for the next book in the series to make an appearance!

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 in the Helping Hands Mystery Series, but Annelise Ryan’s third series.

Publication:   July 30, 2019—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

These glimpses of family life both warm and depress me. It’s a life I’ve never had or experienced, and I feel the lack of it at times. I try not to dwell in the land of self-pity too much, though, and if I do linger there overly long, Roscoe seems to sense it, and he’ll nudge me out of my depression.

I hate being so paranoid, someone who always suspects the motives of others as nefarious, but my experience, both in the foster system and as a social worker, bears it out. I’ve been lied to, ripped off, and manipulated by some of the best. 

I loved books and the stories I read. They provided me with an escape, with adventures I might not otherwise have, and with characters whose lives I could step into and borrow for a time to replace my own.

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