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Ripe for Vengeance–love for a pot-bellied pig

Ripe for Vengeance

by Wendy Tyson

Ripe for VengeanceMegan is a commercial organic gardener with an organic store and café in Winsome where it seems everybody has at least heard of everyone else. She has a handsome, charming boyfriend in Dr. Denver Finn, the local vet. When some of his friends come to town, however, it seems that a cloud of confusion and possibly evil has arrived with them as one of the group is murdered.

In Ripe for Vengeance, author Wendy Tyson has created yet another cozy mystery that is a page turner. The character of Dillon, a high IQ young man suffering from PTSD after witnessing family trauma, is an oxymoron. Is he a mild-mannered introvert as some believe or did he snap in response to an emotional trigger? This cozy is replete with twists and turns revolving around a special school for students like Dillon and drug trials for a startup pharmaceutical company. The introduction of a Pot-bellied pig into the story adds a little humor and softness. Tyson resolves the plot’s mysteries quite well, even picking up one tiny thread at the end that I had completely forgotten about. In doing so, she actually ties up three threads into a nice bow. As I finish each book in this series, I’m always looking forward to the next one.

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:  #5 in the Greenhouse Mystery Series, but can be enjoyed as a standalone.

Publication:   July 16, 2019—Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

If hope were a season, it would be spring.

Despite working with the public at the café and farmers markets, and years of practicing law before that, she wasn’t particularly extroverted, and walking into a party that was already underway lived between root canal and scrubbing toilets on her favorites list.

“Rough neighborhood. Kid born there is already a few football fields behind their peers in the game of life.”

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 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 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.

The Rancher’s Rescue–the vet comes home

The Rancher’s Rescue

by Cari Lynn Webb

The Rancher's RescueBig E (Elias Blackwell) left the Blackwell Ranch in financial difficulties, took off in his RV with his extravagant fifth wife, Zoe, and nobody in Falcon Creek nor any of his grandsons knows where he is. Big E and his mysterious disappearance is the thread that holds this “continuity series” together.

Jon, as related in The Rancher’s Twins, is the only one of the Blackwell brothers remaining in the area. He has a full time job with his own ranch, twin daughters, and a new wife. He does what he can to keep the Blackwell Ranch above water, but calls in brother Ethan, a newly graduated veterinarian, to troubleshoot various problems including the opening of the Blackwell Guest Ranch and gaining access to more of Big E’s funds to meet expenses.

In The Rancher’s Rescue, Ethan arrives in Falcon Creek and is surprised to learn that the quiet and reliable Grace Gardner is carrying his child. Both Grace and Ethan must come to grips with what a baby means to them, their career goals, and their families. Will love play a part in their decisions about the future?

The first book in this series, The Rancher’s Twins, has a lot of action and cute five year old twins. The main characters are obviously dealing with serious issues in their backgrounds. The Rancher’s Rescue is more subdued. There is less action, fewer events, and more soul searching by the main characters as they waffle back and forth without talking anything out with each other. They have important decisions to make, but they aren’t being honest with each other or themselves. At times it almost feels like Hamlet’s soliloquy on continuous repeat. At other times the plot and interaction are quite enjoyable. The last third of the book is the most interesting as other characters intervene and force a confrontation. Things begin to happen quickly and a resolution occurs. 

Author Cari Lynn Webb brings in interesting supporting characters like Katie, manager of the Blackwell Ranch; Judge Myrna Edwards, second wife of Big E—for five days; and Sarah Ashley, Grace’s sister who was Ethan’s high school sweetheart. I appreciate that there were no characters competing for Grace or Ethan romantically. That is a complication that would not have added to the plot: a triangle is not always of benefit to a romance novel.

As in the first book in the series, there is an epilogue that focuses on Big E, and this one holds a huge surprise! Although The Rancher’s Rescue is not as much of a page turner as the first book in the series, it is well-written and I enjoyed it. It also segues nicely into the next book, The Rancher’s Redemption. 

I would like to extend my thanks to the author, Cari Lynn Webb for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Romance

Notes: #2 in the Return of the Blackwell Brothers series. This could be read as a standalone, but is more enjoyable if read as part of the sequence since the town and its residents are introduced in the first book.

Publication:   September 1, 2018—Harlequin Heartwarming

Memorable Lines:

Curse words banged around inside his mouth like popcorn kernels chipping his teeth, but he located his inner gentleman before he spewed any into the air.

That thought bothered him like an unseen puncture in a horse’s sole, that by the time it was discovered, the horse had developed an abscess that could cause severe damage and even death.

“We have to love and live for the moments now so that we have memories to carry us through later.”

A Midwinter’s Tale–love the dogs as characters!

A Midwinter’s Tail

by Bethany Blake

A Midwinter's TailDaphne Templeton, owner of Lucky Paws Pet Sitting Service and of Flour Power, a bakery specializing in pet treats, is surrounded by four-legged friends in A Midwinter’s Tail. Bethany Blake brings her readers quickly up to date on her series’ background as Daphne finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation. CeeCee French wants to return to her hometown, which caters to pets, bringing her flagship mega pet store with her. The potential for destroying the local pet-related businesses looms large. CeeCee was also involved in conflict going all the way back to high school. Are these threats related to current issues or metaphorical ghosts of the past? 

You will either love the way this story is told or you won’t. Each of the animals is truly a character in this tale. My favorite is the Basset hound Socrates. Rarely aroused, he is Daphne’s patient, laid-back sidekick. He expresses his emotions and opinions subtly, but Daphne can interpret them easily. Other characters include Snowdrop, a fashionable trained poodle; Tiny Tim, a mischievous pug; Tinkleston, a disdainful feline; and my least favorite, Sebastian, her friend Moxie’s white rat. Each one is truly a developed character and plays an important role in the story. The dogs accompany Daphne almost everywhere she goes and contribute in many ways to the story, including acting as a sounding board for Daphne. I think this way of telling the story works well in the Lucky Paws Petsitting Mystery Series. I have particular fondness for Basset hounds, and so I particularly enjoy the character of Sebastian. Although perhaps the effect is slightly exaggerated, Sebastian is portrayed fairly accurately for a Basset. It is almost impossible not to attribute feelings and thoughts to Basset hounds as they are so responsive to human emotions.

Clues abound and the spotlight shines on a variety of characters, some more likable than others. The plot has twists and turns but is never dull. Grab this cozy with a Christmas setting for an entertaining evening of mystery with a little romance thrown in.

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. #4 in the Lucky Paws Petsitting Mystery Series, but the author does a fantastic job with background so it works well as a standalone.

2. Pet treat recipes are included in the back of the book.

Publication:   November 27, 2018—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

Piper looked like she wanted to thunk her head against something, while Socrates lay down, whined, and placed his paws over his muzzle. Snowdrop, who was unfamiliar with Fidelia—but who had barked with disapproval at the accountant’s droopy cardigan—appeared confused.

Her tone was so vitriolic that Snowdrop stood up and backed nervously away on her delicate white paws. Socrates rose, too, stepping gallantly between the poodle and the woman who continued to glower at her.

The heart of the storm had passed overnight, leaving Sylvan Creek glittering like a town in a softly swirling snow globe, and I went to the French doors to look down at Market Street, where icicles dripped like jewels from the storefronts and the Bijoux’s marquee was glowing.

Penned–animals play important roles in this mystery

Penned

by Eileen Brady

PennedA clever murderer is on the loose and his endless killing seems to extend over the years. How do you stop a murderer who is a master of disguise? What do you do if you feel like someone is watching you—only to have him disappear? Dr. Kate in Eileen Brady’s Penned, after briefly befriending a senior with a memory for faces who is in the beginning stages of dementia, has to confront these questions.

Dr. Kate gets along well with the residents of Oak Falls where she serves as veterinarian, taking over an established practice for a year. The book has interesting characters and some romance, but the true focus is the mystery. I thought I had solved the crime only to be surprised at the end. I highly recommend this page turner.

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.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #4 in the Kate Turner, DVM Mystery Series, but works well as a standalone.

Publication:   October 9, 2018—Poisoned Pen Press

Memorable Lines:

“I don’t make any money. I’m a writer. The only people who are poorer than writers are actors. One night I calculated all the hours I put into my last book and how much I made, minus the cash off the top that my agent and publisher took. I would have been better off working at McDonalds.”

“What idiot uses a match to kill a tick? You could have set our dog on fire and burned down the house.” “I blew out the flame before I squished it,” Amos countered. This time I swear the dog rolled his eyes.

I remember arrogantly thinking I knew the answers to everything when I was a in my teens, and now…now I realize I hadn’t even understood the questions.

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.”

Picked Off–vegan running a goat dairy

Picked Off

by Linda Lovely

Picked OffI enjoyed Picked Off, a cozy mystery by Linda Lovely, but I didn’t love it and I didn’t think it was as good as the first book in the series.

On the positive side, it has an interesting plot, likable characters and appropriate injections of humor. In fact, there is an exciting escape scene that is as funny as all get out! It’s worth reading the book just to experience that piece of writing. There are lots of fun, folksy figures of speech to roll off the tongue and stir the imagination. 

On the negative side, Brie, who is helping her Aunt Eva with Udderly Kidding Dairy, is as enmeshed as ever in her attractions to Paint and Andy who are best friends to each other. The irony of a vegan who runs a dairy farm and engages in cheese and meat curses is lost on no one and remains amusing in the second book. The romantic triangle, however, is losing its appeal. Brie, along with the author, appears stuck on the fence. My other criticism is that there were a few loose ends that did not get tied up. I am especially interested in the missing backpack containing evidential video footage. It seems to have dropped off the radar.

The basic plot is interesting: Carol Strong is campaigning for South Carolina governor and her son, football star Zack, is attacked during a Halloween themed rally for her benefit. There is more mayhem, lots of entanglements, and plenty of folks to accuse. Imagine trying to identify suspects when most guests are wearing masks.  Brie, her friend Mollye, and Aunt Eva find themselves overly and dangerously involved, but the reader benefits by enjoying the plot’s development.

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: 4/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #2 in the Brie Hooker Mystery Series

Publication:  June 5, 2018—Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

My nerves jangled. Who could blame me? Yesterday’s assault would have scared the beans out of a bowl of chili.

Eva returned around lunch time, exhausted. Airlines could assess a surcharge for the size of the bags under her eyes.

…we were more out of our depth than a vegan at a wienie roast.

Who Moved My Goat Cheese?–starting a new restaurant

Who Moved My Goat Cheese?

by Lynn Cahoon

Who Moved My Goat CheeseI am delighted to share a new cozy mystery series created by an established author, Lynn Cahoon. Who Moved My Goat Cheese? introduces Angie Turner, a chef who returns to her hometown in the Treasure Valley of Idaho after the death of her grandmother. She, along with fellow culinary expert and best friend Felicia, is opening a new restaurant, The County Seat.

Angie skillfully negotiates the ins and outs of starting a new enterprise in a small town where everyone knows everyone else’s business. Just as she begins to progress in lining up suppliers of fresh food at the local farmer’s market, one of the suppliers dies. As Angie is one of the last people to see him, she is considered a suspect. She has a soft spot for the elderly victim, however, and although she prefers cooking, she feels forced at least temporarily into the role of Nancy Drew.

Who Moved My Goat Cheese? is an interesting cozy with just the right amount of romantic interest, investigations, and excitement. The author obviously has a love of food and animals and while these are major elements throughout the book, they are not overemphasized. I’m looking forward to Cahoon’s next book in this series.

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.  #1 in the Farm-to-Fork Mystery Series

2.  A recipe for Lynn Cahoon’s favorite comfort food, a family version of potato soup, is included.

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

Memorable Lines:

You developed bonds with the people you worked with in the trenches day in and day out. Those were the people you trusted.

Her day was planned. What could go wrong?

Instead of worrying about it, she went to her kitchen and did what she always did when the world didn’t make sense. She cooked.

Chained–a really good veterinary cozy mystery

Chained

by Eileen Brady

ChainedChained is a cozy mystery about a veterinarian, Kate Turner, written by a veterinarian, Eileen Brady. When you read a book like this one, you can be sure that the animal and medical details are accurate. But can a scientifically inclined person author a work of fiction with interesting characters and a complex plot? Perhaps even some romance? The answer in this case is a resounding yes.

We follow Kate and her assistant Mari as they attend to a variety of animals both in and out of the animal hospital. One of her “patients” digs up a human bone, and Kate finds herself being asked by the family to discover the murderer in a ten year old cold case. There are a lot of suspects, many lies, and countless emotions rising to the surface as Kate and others deal with both the present and the past.

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.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #3 in the Kate Turner, D.V.M., Mystery Series, but worked well for me as a standalone

Publication:   December 5, 2017—Poisoned Pen Press

Memorable Lines:

“Come on. Come here, Mr. Katt.” I patted the corner of the desk. He looked away in disdain, but it was all an act. The next moment a plump load of furry feline landed full-force on my lap. As soon as I stroked him, his purr motor began to rumble.

Dina narrowed her eyes. A pink fingernail lightly caressed a loose curl. Her focus tightened, like a lioness on the Serengeti Plain noticing an antelope separated from the herd.

After we hung up I thought about all the angst of high school, and the crazy meaningless ups and downs that enveloped students every day. Between classes, wave after wave of raw emotion flowed like lava down the halls. Imagined slights. Painful encounters. Bottled up feelings. They all added up. Some of us carried those slights around for years and others never put them down.

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