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Snowflakes at Mistletoe Cottage–treasuring Grandma’s recipes

Snowflakes at Mistletoe Cottage

by Kate Ginger

Snowflakes at Mistletoe CottageIf you enjoy a book that starts with personal disaster and ends in triumph, a tale with sadness underlying humor, and a story that emphasizes the good in people, you will have an enjoyable read with Snowflakes at Mistletoe Cottage. Esme Kendrick is a food technologist; she creates the delectable dishes shown on the famous Felicity Fenchurch’s cooking show. Esme’s life is headed for disaster, however, when she stands up against the theft of her beloved grandmother’s recipes and her long time boyfriend has a less than pleasant surprise for her—all in the same day.

She heads home to Sandchester in defeat, but regroups determined to find success. Fortunately, her lovable and crazy (in a fun way) parents are supportive as are a small group of quirky friends who drive in from London periodically. Esme is a likable character, but you may find yourself yelling at her periodically to stop as she heads for catastrophe.

Will she return to her controlling ex-boyfriend? Can she help her teenage crush recover from a past that haunts him? Is it possible to create a successful blog and find happiness outside of bustling London? Can Esme layer up enough clothes to survive the winter in quaint, but unheated Mistletoe Cottage? Join a cadre of happy readers as you immerse yourself in this Christmasy read that is perfect for any season of the year.

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

Rating: 4/5

Category: General Fiction (Adult), Romance

Notes: Contains some bad language, including British vulgarisms

Publication:   October 11, 2019—HQ Digital

Memorable Lines:

This was why Esme loved cooking so much. It was history, their history. It meant her grandma who had helped her through so much, whose loss she had felt so deeply, would never be forgotten if her recipes were still being cooked, and the love that went into them still existed.

“If I lived near him I’d key his car—”   “He doesn’t own a car, Mum. No one does in London.”   “Well then, I’d put itching powder in his underpants and cut the arms and legs off all his suits.”   Esme suppressed a smile. “Has Dad only stayed married to you all these years because he’s too scared to leave?”

Life was a large dark hole that she was falling deeper and deeper into, and at the moment there didn’t seem to be a bottom, or a way back to the top. She was just tumbling endlessly downwards.

Some Choose Darkness–very twisted serial killer

Some Choose Darkness

by Charlie Donlea

Some Choose DarknessI am very conflicted as I finish Charlie Donlea’s Some Choose Darkness. The reason? It turned out to be more of a thriller than I had anticipated. This reader’s taste leans towards Agatha Christie and cozy mysteries. I cut my teeth on Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. I avoid thrillers because they stir me up too much. I chose to read Some Choose Darkness because I had read a book by Donlea previously and enjoyed it. Somehow I did not expect an intense work of fiction about a serial killer. The problem is that although in some ways I didn’t enjoy reading it, I felt compelled to finish the tale, to make all of the pieces fit together. Donlea has masterfully crafted a thriller with so many layers and connections that rapid page turning is a necessity. Add to the plot not one, but two characters with autism and obsessive/compulsive disorder and this retired teacher is all over it.

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 and Thriller

Publication:   May 28, 2019—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

With Lane’s reputation as a forensic psychologist and criminal profiler for the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit, and Rory’s credentials as a reconstructionist who pieced together the very findings the algorithm looked for, they made the perfect team. Police departments listened to their conclusions, and many had started using Lane’s software to track homicides on their own. 

Like a tuning fork that has been tapped, the vibration from the mystery surrounding the woman was at once barely audible but yet impossible to ignore.

Rory’s greatest gift was her ability to piece together cold cases, to pore over the facts and discover things other investigators missed until a picture of the crime—and sometimes the perpetrator—became clear in her mind. Her understanding of a killer’s thinking and motive came from examining the carnage he left behind.

Silent Footsteps–admirer or stalker?

Silent Footsteps

by Jo Bannister

Silent FootstepsHazel Best, a personable young constable with aspirations to be a detective, finds herself the focus of an admirer turned stalker. The investigation heats up when the stalker enter her home and later her friend Ash is bludgeoned. Saturday, a young man Hazel befriended, suddenly reappears in Norbold, having gotten his life together. There are two murders that are possibly related to Hazel’s stalker, but no one knows how the events could all be tied together. As tension mounts, Hazel’s friends and even a local businessman with a dark background gather around to support and protect her. It is a race against time as Hazel and her friends try to identify the mysterious attacker.

A fun part of this book is Patience, Ash’s very likable lurcher. Ash is gradually overcoming the town view of him as mentally unstable. At one time he earned the nickname “Rambles With Dogs,” but has since tried to rein in his public dialogues with Patience. Ironically, he does, in fact, talk to his dog, and Patience replies but only Ash can hear her.

Silent Footsteps is a police procedural that will keep you turning pages as the police investigate the various threads to try to make sense of them. The characters are interesting and continue to develop in this latest mystery. I figured out the murderer before Hazel, her friends, or the police did, but that is understandable considering the timing of the revelation of various facts. This discovery in no way mitigated my enjoyment as I still had to anticipate a resolution—and it was quite surprising.

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

Notes: #6 in the Gabriel Ash and Hazel Best Mystery Series. I have only read one other mystery in this series. This book works quite well as a standalone, although I must admit it makes me want to read the first books in the series to get more understanding of the characters. That does not take away from the mystery at all, however.

Publication:   May 1, 2019—Severn House

Memorable Lines:

“You’re far too honest to be any good at it,” said Ash. “Spies have to be able to lie convincingly. You lie as convincingly as my eight-year-old when the biscuit barrel is empty and there are crumbs on his T-shirt.”

With the best will in the world, Ash in a blonde wig was never going to be mistaken for a twenty-eight-year-old policewoman. There wasn’t enough rope in Norbold to suspend disbelief that far.

“…the sheep people are constantly trying to keep their stock from committing suicide. Dropping dead from no appreciable cause is the average sheep’s highest goal in life.”

The One Saving Grace–love or lust?

The One Saving Grace

by Julie Houston

The One Saving GraceAs I went through each one of three books I chose to read as an introduction to author Julie Houston, I watched her develop as a writer. Her plots have become more complex, her characters have more depth, and she has found a balance that uses less vulgar language.

The One Saving Grace is the second book about Harriet and her long-time friend Grace. They did everything together as children, adored and hated “Little Miss Goodness” Amanda in unison as teenagers, and now they find themselves torqued around as adults by Amanda again. But Amanda is the least of their worries as the past becomes enmeshed in the future with unpredictable romances popping up and Harriet’s husband’s ex-girlfriend lurking the the background with revenge on her mind.

In the first book about Harriet and Grace, Harriet is confronted with an unplanned pregnancy she can not cope with on many levels. In this book, her moral dilemma is an affair. As I read the book, the author led me to somewhat understand Harriet’s temptation. As I stand back, book finished,  and look at her predicament, however, I have a hard time reconciling the Harriet who was devastated by the suspicion of her husband having an affair with the the Harriet who is willing to lose her family to temporarily satisfy her carnal desires. Sex is a major theme in the book, but is never described in detail.

The best part of The One Saving Grace is the surprises that reveal motivation and the resolution of conflicts. The theme of postnatal depression is also important in this book and one not to be overlooked as it affects not only Grace, who desperately wanted a baby, but also her family and friends.

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: General Fiction (Adult), Romance

Notes: This is the second book about Harriet and Grace, but works great as a standalone as Houston inserts background information as needed.

Publication:   February 19, 2019—Aria

Memorable Lines:

I actually felt a bit miffed that someone else was after Mrs. Doubtfire…like when you were a teenager, you might not fancy that spotty, tongue tied guy with the bum fluff on his top lip who’s been drooling over you for months, but you certainly don’t want him going off with anyone else.

I’d make my way up to the gym machines to face Tina Trainer, who had obviously taken her instructions at the same place Dante got his inspiration for the Inferno.

Envy I’d always reckoned to be the most corrosive of all emotions, eating into one’s soul like a particularly pernicious acid….Envy is a mere novice, a total non-starter compared to her grown-up sister, Guilt.

Kindred Spirits–stolen art with deadly consequences

Kindred Spirits

by Jo Bannister

Kindred SpiritsGabriel Ash, formerly a security analyst with the British government, has recently been released from mental health care. He has opened a second hand book shop, Rambles with Books. He has also been reunited with his two sons after a four year separation as a result of his wife’s illegally taking the boys.  All should be relatively smooth sailing in the Ash household, but that is not the case. Ash’s good friend, Constable Hazel Best, drives to school to pick up the boys, and she sees them and their nanny being accosted in what appears to be a kidnapping attempt.

The plot of Kindred Spirits rapidly becomes complicated as the older boy, Gilbert, insists that only the nanny was being forced into the van. This fast-moving police procedural by Jo Bannister puts on display not only how the police investigate crimes, but also the behind-the-scenes politics. Neither Hazel nor Detective Inspector Dave Gorman are armchair detectives. The same can be said about Ash when those he cares about are personally threatened. All three are motivated by doing what is right. When an old case clashes with the events of a new case, they refuse to turn a blind eye. The results are dangerous, and you won’t want to stop reading until the mystery is resolved.

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

Notes: #5 in the Hazel Best and Gabriel Ash Mystery Series. This was the first book in the series for me to read, and I had no problem catching up with the background.

Publication:   September 1, 2018—Severn House

Memorable Lines:

Perhaps he was the last man in England—the last man in the civilized world—to enjoy the sensation, both sensual and intellectual, of paper pages curling away under his fingers. Of words, and the ideas they encoded, waiting for him to find them—and staying close at hand after he’d read them, in case he needed to flick back a page or two to check something.

She had less and less patience with hard feelings and petty jealousies. She did her job, and did it well; being liked was an optional extra. It wasn’t something that she’d ever struggled with before, but if it came to a choice between being popular and doing what she believed to be right, she had broad shoulders.

Gorman knew that Jerome Harbinger was sixty-eight. If he hadn’t known, he’d have thought he was ten years older than that. His craggy face was savaged by deep lines that had nothing to do with laughter and everything to do with bitter unhappiness.

Murder on the Rocks–serving up a satisfying mystery on a base of cuisine with a dash of tennis

Murder on the Rocks

by Shawn Reilly Simmons

Murder on the RocksMurder on the Rocks is an engaging and relaxing cozy mystery. It begins with a motorcycle chase and moves on to a relaxing gathering of friends for brunch at a Glendale, New Jersey, café. Violent crime enters the picture and follows Penelope all the way to Vermont where her catering company has been hired to provide food for a movie production. The movie stars her friend and roommate Arlena for whom Penelope also acts as personal chef. Arlena portrays Helen Mills, tennis star from the 1930’s and 1940’s.

I have read another mystery in this series and from a comparison of the types of services provided in the two books and a short Internet search, I discovered that the sorts of food and service provided by companies like Penelope’s vary widely depending on the event, location, and needs and desires of the hiring group. That part of the story is almost as fascinating as the mystery. Penelope and her crew necessarily display a huge amount of professional flexibility. I recommend this book for both the mystery and the culinary background.

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: # 5 in the Red Carpet Catering Mystery Series

Publication:   February 6, 2018—Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

Francis shifted his weight and Lewis cleared his throat, the universal signs of being witness to an uncomfortable encounter.

“You’re here because Arlena believes you’re up to the challenge of nurturing our crew, providing our film family with life-sustaining fuel, nourishing our bodies and souls while we embark on this artistic venture together.”

Penelope’s thoughts drifted and grew soft around the edges as she fell asleep.

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