Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Going Organic Can Kill You (A Blossom Valley Mystery #1)

Author:  Staci McLaughlin
Genre:   Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9780758275004
Kensington Publishing
294 Pages
$7.99; $1.99 Amazon
July 3, 2012

As Dana readjusts to life back home with her recently widowed mother, her latest career move isn't exactly a piece of cake.  In fact, it's all tofu fish sticks, stuffed squash blossoms, and enough wheat grass shots to scream bloody murder - especially when Dana discovers the body of Maxwell Mendelsohn, Hollywood producer and opening weekend guest, deader than a yoga corpse pose.  While Dana pens the Spa's blog and balances the attentions of the local police and reporter Jason Forrester, her escalating job duties now include finding clues, motives and suspects.  One thing's for certain, she better act fast before all this healthy living kills her.


Dana has moved back home after she lost her job and her father died, and her mother got her a job at a new Spa and Farm that has recently opened.  She's the marketing person and has been hired to promote the new business.

She's also been railroaded into chasing an errant pig and helping put towels in guests' rooms.  It's this last act that brings her to the fact of find a dead guest; a murdered dead guest, to be exact.  Now she's trying to figure out who killed him and how she's going to get another job if this one doesn't pan out because dead bodies have a way of making things go south...

This is the first book in the series and I thought it had a pretty good premise from the blurb, but I was wrong.  Dana is rather a snob, her ‘inner person’ making snide comments about people.  Supposedly this is an organic farm and spa, but nowhere does it say this is (to put it bluntly) a fat farm.  So why is the cook serving the guests inedible food?  Nothing sounded the least bit appetizing - even Dana couldn’t stand it; and none of the guests seemed to be eating it, yet the cook wasn’t replaced and she was still serving them garbage fit for their pig, Wilbur.  A spa, in case the author doesn’t know, quite often has wonderful, world class cuisine, because they want the guests to return.  This place, it seems, caters to having one-time only guests since they don’t feed them properly and can’t keep their farm animals penned.  This is not a place I’d want to visit, even if it was free.

The proprietor, Esther O'Connell, is completely scatter-brained and we’re given to understand that she’s a blithering idiot since her husband died.  So did her husband take care of everything while his “little woman” didn’t have to "worry her pretty head" about anything?  Because that’s the impression I got right away from the first chapters.  That the woman is incapable of running a business at all - and she should have sold it immediately.

The manager, Gordon Stewart, is a pompous ass who has no place at the farm.  He seems to think helping when it’s needed is beneath him, and therefore, he too should have been replaced.  I couldn’t stand his character, and was hoping he’d be the next body discovered.  I also wanted to know what a marketing person was doing serving guests and then given housekeeping duties.  I would have flat out refused.  People are hired for specific jobs, and if they can’t do them, they need to be let go.  This is the worst-run business I’ve ever read about, and I’m not even twenty pages into it, which pretty much tells you my opinion of the book.  How did it get five-star ratings with things like this?

Her sister is horrible.  Harassing Dana to tell her all about a dead man instead of being sympathetic.  What kind of person does that?  Dana’s mother should have sent her to her room.  Speaking of which, why are two adult daughters living at home with their mother?  I get that Dana was out of work for awhile, but Ashlee has a job, sooo....not to mention the two girls act like teenagers instead of adults, taunting each other.  Honestly?  This is supposed to pass for humor?  Or are we supposed to figure out that Ashlee is a witch?  Also, Dana is twenty-eight, and her mother is telling her what to eat.  So skinny is healthy?  She basically said if she had an ounce of fat on her, Dana couldn’t get a man.  How offensive is that?  On so many levels, yet.  (As far as cereal goes, unless you’re eating an entire box at breakfast, it’s not going to harm you physically as much as sucking down diet sodas, fast food and junk food all day will).

Also, I would like to believe that people aren’t so ghoulish as to want to stay in a room where a man was murdered the day before.  I’d also say that it’s probably not plausible.  Even the most seasoned ghost hunter would wait until the corpse wasn’t around anywhere close.  We're supposed to believe that people are lining up to sleep in a room where the man was murdered.  Even the famous Hollywood Hotel doesn't get this kind of action.  At any rate, I couldn’t stand any of the characters, so this series is a no-go for me.

I wish I had something good to say about this book, but there just isn't anything at all.  The manager is pompous, the cook a glorified hippie who wants to serve people lawns, the maid lazy, the owner flaky, Dana's mother pushy, her sister nasty, the boyfriend even has a nasty streak, and Dana is snide and thinks she's better than anyone else.  All the secondary characters are unlikable, too.  There are a lot better books out there, and I'm not wasting any more time reading this series. 

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Cold-Brewed Murder (Coffee Cup Mysteries Book Two)

Author:  Neila Young
Genre:   Mystery

Trade Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781948051231
Red Adept Publishing
288 Pages
$13.99; $7.99 Amazon
November 15, 2018


Blake Harper doesn't need any more excitement, especially the kind that comes with murder.  She only wants to run her business and focus on her love life.  But on the night of Mystery Cup Café's big Halloween bash, she sees a clown stab a masked man in the chest.

Blake calls her sister, the town's lead detective, but when the police arrive, there is no killer...and no body.  While everyone blows the whole thing off as a prank, Blake knows the truth.  When the clown makes an appearance at her home Halloween party, she realizes the killer may be out to eliminate any witnesses.

Blake must figure out not only who the killer is, but also who first the victim was.  Will she be able to solve the murder when she's faced with a town full of people who don't even believe a crime happened?  And can she unmask the killer before he stops her once and for all?


Blake Harper owns Mystery Cup, a coffee shop in a small town in Missouri that's known for being haunted.  It's nearing Halloween, and Blake is readying her rooftop for a party, when she uses a pair of binoculars her employee Giselle has, to look around her neighborhood with a birds-eye view.  She centers in on an apartment nearby that's above another shop, and sees what appears to be a clown murdering a phantom of the opera.  But no one will believe her, and when her sister Kyle - a police officer - checks out the apartment, there's nothing there that points to murder.  But Blake knows what she saw, and she's determined to find out who the victim was.

When she manages to get a peek inside the apartment she doesn't find anything suspicious, but she knows someone was killed and is determined to find out who.  When a curious conversation reveals something she never considered, Blake finally is able to find out who the victim was - but at the cost of making herself the target of a killer who thinks she knows more than she does.  Now she needs to find out who wanted the victim dead and why, and if she doesn't find out soon, it won't matter because she won't be around to tell anyone...

This is the second book in the series and I really wanted to like it as much as the first.  Unfortunately, Blake and her family members (Rachel and Kyle) haven't grown up at all; they're still talking like high school girls crushing on boys.  There was a lot of "hottie" thrown around, and I expected them to throw their fists in the air and scream 'woot-woot' at any minute.  Example:  Her sister-in-law Rachel talks about having sex with Blake's brother.  That’s just cringe-worthy.  I noticed it in the first book and it’s not any funnier now than it was then.  I was hoping the author wouldn’t go there again.  Also, it’s pretty immature if you think it’s hilarious.  Does her brother think this is a fun hobby, too?

I also wondered why she was having a rooftop Halloween party in October.  In Missouri the average temperature would be in the 40's, pretty cold at night, so why are they having a party on a rooftop?  You can't see a costume if everyone is wearing coats, and if they're not, they'd be spending the majority of their time shivering and moving around trying to stay warm.  I'm big on details, and these are the kinds of things I notice.  Sorry.

I really, really hate love triangles.  You'd think three women would be able not to think about hooking up with some guy 24/7, but aside from talking about the murder (which took second place to the 'hotties'), this is all they talked about - whether Blake should hook up with Seth or Adam.  Rachel actually wanted to make a 'visual graph' of the pros and cons of the two men interested in Blake.  Seriously?  These women have too much time on their hands.  They need hobbies.  Right now.  And everyone is 'hooking up' with someone else; obviously it's a crime to be single in this town.  The baristas, shop owners, waitresses - no one was spared from Rachel and Blake giving each other glances or wondering who was seeing whom.  Also, two guys fighting over a woman is not hot.  It's juvenile, but explains a lot about Rachel and her attitude about men.  (Although I do wonder if Sabrina will wind up with one of Blake's cast-offs.  Hmmm...I wonder why I thought that at all...)

On top of that, Blake is annoying.  She does whatever she wants - including walking into danger - regardless of what the consequences might be.  Not only that, she actually tells people she's going to do it, and then when they try to talk her out of it or make her promise not to, she ignores them.  She also tells us she's a "strong, independent woman" but then makes rash decisions that put her in situations that make her dependent on someone else having to get her out of them, which belies that statement.

But even with all of this I was determined to finish the book because I knew a mystery was somewhere in between all the talk of who's seeing who and who's hot.  Just when I thought it was starting to get interesting, the book completely lost me:  The women were at a self-defense class, and Sabrina - the 'evil nemesis' because we must have one, right? - out and out deliberately assaults Blake, and the cops see it and don't do anything.  Are you kidding me?  They don't need to have Blake's permission to arrest Sabrina.  It. Was. Deliberate.  They were witnesses.  It literally made me angry that this violence was allowed without any repercussions.  It's one thing to be in the cross hairs of a killer where there might be violence, but this was an actual assault.  The excuse?  Blake was nosing around.  Seriously? 

So not only do we have the extremely unlikable character of Sabrina, she's also allowed to physically assault the protagonist and get away with it.  What's in the next book?  Sabrina runs over Blake's cat?  Sets fire to her house?  No, that pretty much ruined it for me.  I can't like a book where there's no comeuppance for someone who does something like that.  Kyle should have arrested her right there.  The fact that Sabrina had no problem attacking Blake right in front of Kyle, and then was surprised that there might be a chance she'd get arrested but didn't...well, that's not only brazen, it shows that she can do whatever she wants with impunity, and I'm not interested at all.

While the killer was revealed and caught, we were given that resolution, which was a good thing, but in it's place the book left us with a mini-cliffhanger - one more thing I dislike in mysteries.  Unfortunately, after this - the love triangle, the evil nemesis; purposeful attack on Blake that the cops see and don’t arrest anyone for; so many extra characters to keep track of; puerile behavior by Rachel - I don't care enough to read the next, and for that I am sorry, because the mystery would have been more interesting without all the conflicts going on.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Fair Game (A Zoe Chambers Mystery #8)

Author:  Annette Dashofy
Genre:   Mystery

Hardcover; Trade Paperback
ISBN #:  9781635115024; 9781635114997
Henery Press Publishing
286 Pages
$29.80; $15.95 Amazon
May 14, 2019


Paramedic Zoe Chambers hoped a week at the Monongahela County Fair, showing her horse and manning the ambulance, would provide a much-needed diversion from recent events that continue to haunt her.  An old friend, a bossy nemesis, and a teenage crush from her 4-H days fail to offer the distraction she had in mind.  But ever the caregiver, she soon bonds with a troubled teen and a grieving father.

Back in Vance Township, a missing woman turns up dead, leading Police Chief Pete Adams into a journey through her mysterious final hours.  With each new clue, the tragic circumstances of her death grow increasingly muddied.

A cryptic phone call leads Pete to join Zoe for an evening at the fairgrounds where the annual school bus demolition derby concludes with a gruesome discovery and a new case that may or may not be connected to the first.  Pete's quest for the motive behind two homicides -- and Zoe's stubborn determination to reunite a family - thrust them both onto a collision course with a violent and desperate felon.


Zoe Chambers is a paramedic in rural Pennsylvania.  She owns a farm that needs work before she can move in, but it is where she houses her beloved horse Windstar.  Her cousin Patsy is showing her own horse Jazzel at the county fair, and has convinced Zoe to do the same.  Because of this, Zoe has volunteered to work her shift at the fair, which will allow her to do both.

Zoe is also an ex-4H member who learned under Diane Reynolds, who is still teaching and at the fair.  She's also surprised to find out that her ex-crush Cody DeRosa is the judge, and quite a hit with the ladies.  Add to that an old nemesis in Merryn Schultz, a woman who's been in and out of jail and whose teenaged son is at the fair hanging out with her partner Earl's boys, much to the dismay of his mother.  You would think this would be enough to keep Zoe busy, between her horse and work, but more awaits her...

Meanwhile, Pete Adams, Zoe's boyfriend and Vance County sheriff, has received a visit from a businessman informing him of an argument at a local hotel where two men were talking and one threatened to kill someone.  Pete, of course, is going to investigate and see if there's anything to the threat, but doesn't expect much will come of it.  Then he receives a phone call from a local waitress of an abandoned car.  When he investigates that, he discovers the body of a woman in the brambles of wild roses.  It doesn't take long to find out she's Vera Palmer, and her husband Jack is at the fair.

When Pete locates her husband through Zoe, he's devastated by the news.  Jack had recently helped Zoe corral a young girl's runaway pony.  Zoe, also a deputy coroner, wants to attend the autopsy to find how Vera died.  For all intents and purposes, it appears she was struck on the back of the head and fell into the brambles.  But who would want to kill this woman, who apparently had no enemies?  From everything Pete has learned, she wasn't much of a drinker, and everyone liked her.  Yet there's a body in the morgue that states at least one person wasn't happy with her...

Zoe's also had an offer that could change her life forever - and Pete's, too; and Pete has a decision of his own to make that will change their lives regardless of the outcome.  With both of them wrestling with their personal dilemmas, it only adds to the chaos going on around them, including another relative of Zoe's, who surprised her by showing up and telling her she was getting married.

When there's another murder at the fairgrounds and Zoe discovers it to be someone she knew long ago, she can't imagine anyone wanting him dead, either.  But it soon becomes more of a puzzle than she thought when both she and Pete start coming to the conclusion that the two deaths might be related.  Their personal lives are on hold while they try to find out the truth and discover why two people have died who didn't seem to have any enemies at all...

I loved this book.  The story line was intriguing, and there were plenty of subplots that wove themselves in with all the threads beginning separately and twisting together slowly.  Starting with the beginning thread - a man reporting a possible murder - it began a chain of events that deliberately initiated this thread and made for a riveting tale that keeps one engrossed in the tale.

Zoe's wrestling with the decisions she needs to make in her life coincide with the decision that Pete needs to make in his.  While Pete's is almost immediate in the story, it takes some time before we get to Zoe's.  But we find that both of them are wondering about the path their lives will take if changes are made; and we also see that both of them - without actually speaking to each other about it - are committed to the fact that whatever decisions are made, they aren't willing to do so without considering the other person.  It's done so well that you would think the author was actually on speaking terms with both Pete and Zoe (which, of course, Ms. Dashofy is indeed); and it attests to the fact that she knows her characters well and their actions and reactions to any situation.

The same can be said about these characters regarding the deaths of two people; Zoe and Pete have very different reactions but it all winds up in the same place.  Yet Zoe has more on her plate by far, and she's trying very hard to do the right thing while questioning her own judgment.  It's a dark place she's in, and not one in which I would want to find myself.

I love Zoe and Pete, and even Wayne.  You can easily tell that he value's Pete's friendship and his input.  Zoe and Pete are intelligent, caring; while Pete can keep his personal life out of his professional one, Zoe differs in that she allows her emotions to enter into her actions.  Never does it infringe on her professional status as a paramedic/coroner, but it attests to the fact that because chosen a career in which she helps others that she is also willing to help others in her daily life.  It makes for two very dynamic people who are very different externally and internally.

The story was taut and written well; the mystery itself was quite different and believable; while there were a few red herrings strewn about, the ending came as quite a surprise and was both sad and bittersweet, making one wish the outcome could have been different while understanding just the same.  Yet there was still another surprise to come that gives us something to look forward to in the next in the series.  Highly recommended.


Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2779529384

More on Annette Dashofy's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/d/annette-dashofy/

Friday, April 5, 2019

Cut to the Chaise (A Caprice De Luca Home Staging Mystery #8)

Author:  Karen Rose Smith
Genre:   Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781496709790
Kensington Publishing
352 Pages
$7.99; $5.99 Amazon
November 27, 2018


With her wedding day mere weeks away, home stager Caprice De Luca is busy arranging every last detail for the reception at Rambling Vines Winery - a stylish venue she redecorated two years earlier.  But the closer the bride-to-be gets to saying, "I do," the more a celebration at Rambling Vines seems like a terrible mistake.  As financial mishaps and unhappy customers put the winery in the red, an unidentified criminal plots to sour the business's already ailing reputation.  Dodd's past could leave a permanent stain on Caprice's best friend's current love life.  When Michelle's aloof husband is found stabbed to death on a chaise lounge in the tasting room, Caprice vows to name the calculating culprit and set things right before her dream nuptials dissolve into a deadly nightmare...


Caprice De Luca is finally getting married to the love of her life, Grant Weatherford.  She's got everything arranged - or at least think she does - when one of the owners of the winery where she's going to have her reception is murdered.  Now she wonders if his wife killed him, and if not, who did.  If she doesn't figure it out in a few short days, not only will her wedding be a disaster, but the wrong person might be arrested for the crime...

I used to love this series so much, and I hate to say that in this last book, which I am guessing is an end to the series since another hasn't been written since last year and the author is carrying on with a new one; had a disappointing finale.  So much so, I couldn't even read it all the way through and wound up skimming the pages.

The plot was weak.  There is a scene where a teenager is about to pour something into a vat of wine (that will obviously taint it) but when he is caught, states he didn't know he was doing anything wrong.  And for this he was going to get $500.  Right.  A teenager is offered $500 to pour something into a vat of wine, and he thinks it's on the up-and-up?  Is he the dumbest kid in this city?

Then, when Vince received the phone call about Travis's murder, he would have stated that he was going to act as Michelle's attorney, not as her lawyer.  Attorneys do not refer to themselves as lawyers.  Lay people refer to them as that.  Vince also should have found her another attorney immediately since he was once involved with her and that could give the prosecutor ammunition in the case (even if he didn't think it would go to trial).  If you've dated or are dating a client, you should never be the one to defend them as it's a conflict of interest.  I would think even this author would know that.

Roz was acting like a 16-year-old with a new boyfriend who found out another high school girl was making a play for him.  Doesn't she believe that Vince loves her?  Has he given any indication that he was still interested in the ex-girlfriend?  I don't think so, considering that Roz never knew Michelle existed.  Which tells me that Vince has never even mentioned her.  Which says that Vince hasn't thought about her since they broke up.  So why is Roz in a panic?  Doesn't she trust Vince?  Maybe Roz should have just walked away from Vince right then and there if she didn't trust him.  You can't have a decent relationship without trust.  But then I soon began to realize the reason there was distrust.  It was the main plot of the story, not the murder.  It was here the book lost me.

Not a moment too soon, either.  Caprice is way too dependent on her family and what they think.  She even states that she wants a 'perfect' marriage like her parents or grandparents.  Really?  So her parents have never had a single argument?  Have always acted like roses and sunshine around each other?  No marriage is perfect, and I think Caprice needs to get the blinders removed from her eyes.  She's also 'breathless' over Grant like a teenager (maybe that's why she likes Roz so much).  She's an adult and is mooning over him.

She also didn't want to sell her small home and move into a bigger one with Grant so he could have room for a home office, so what does she do?  He's going to build an addition to the house.  His office will be...behind the garage.  Not an additional room onto the house itself, but behind it.  He doesn't even rate having an office in the main part of the house.  She thinks this is a compromise (!) for them.  No; no it's not.  It's Caprice getting her way again, as in all things.  I would have liked to have seen them start their new life together in a new home.  Selling both their places could have given them enough to do so.  After all, I'm guessing Grant has furniture, too.  Is he going to sell all his stuff?  Because it won't all fit in one room, and Caprice's house isn't that big.  (Whatever are they going to do if they have children?  Just keep on adding additions?)

I'm also slightly suspicious about her family and wondering if her sisters are going along with them on their honeymoon, since she does everything she can with her family.  One sister is even making her dress because she couldn't find a vintage gown.  I guess she never heard of the Internet.  Out of curiosity, I searched and even found ones near my home.  I'm also wondering if Bella has had 'the talk' with her about her wedding night.  It's just so weird that she won't make a move without them, and I've noticed this in other books but always let it pass.  I had to laugh out loud when I read about her gown, "the sweetheart neckline did not show cleavage."  Really?  (I'm saying that a lot here).  She's afraid to let anyone know she possesses breasts?  That will make her wedding night interesting.  Caprice is a prude!

Unfortunately, I think I've given enough of my opinions of this book, which is corn on the cob of the worst kind.  The mystery wasn't enough to hold the book together - it was more of a device to further solidify the relationship between Roz and Vince.  Caprice is childish, boring, selfish, and self-centered.  Grant is practically non-existent unless he’s fawning over Caprice and doing everything she wants.  It’s like he’s got no mind of his own.   This series used to be so good but I'm guessing this is the last one; it just became so saccharine that it was difficult to read.  It was a sad ending to what once was a good series.  If it does by any chance continue, I will not read another.


Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2776137637

More on Karen Rose Smith's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/s/karen-rose-smith/

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Better Than Nun (A Giulia Driscoll Mystery #6)

Author:  Alice Loweecey
Genre:   Mystery

Hardcover; Trade Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781635114829; 9781635114799
Henery Press Publishing
284 Pages
$31.95; $15.95; $4.99 Amazon
May 21, 2019


Giulia Driscoll used to say running a detective agency was the busiest job she'd ever had.  Then the ghosts showed up, and she figured now she's the busiest er.  This of course challenged the Universe to say, "Hold my beer."

Today she's running the agency, sleuthing on behalf of the ghosts, and being the mother of a two-month-old.  At last she understands those 5-Hour energy commercials.

The Universe then dropped two clients in her lap for Mardi Gras: a family greedy to find hidden money and the son of her least-favorite person, Ken Kanning of The Scoop.  The positive: a date night!  The not-so-positive: it's a working date night.  Driscoll Investigations is joining the big Mardi Gras costume charity gala to search for potential thieves.  Kanning Junior will be at the party showing off his tame ghost.

The Scoop, a few hundred drunk revelers, a mercenary family, and a ghost who isn't as tame as the kid thinks.  What could possibly go wrong?

Did someone just hear the Universe say, "Hold my beer"?


Ex-nun Giulia Driscoll is a new mom of a two-month-old son and owns DI Investigations, which has just taken a strange turn...it seems Giulia has the ability to communicate with ghosts.  Still new to this fact and adjusting, she's set ground rules for when they can contact her, and so far, they've agreed to abide by them.

But then she gets a bigger surprise: Ken Kanning of The Scoop has arrived on her doorstep and wants to hire her.  She dislikes him, and he knows it.  But he needs her help with his 11-year-old son, Kord.  It seems Kord has created a whiteboard that he uses to communicate with the dead.  At least that's what it appears to his viewers on YouTube.  Seeing the video, Giulia reluctantly agrees to help.  But what she learns isn't what she expects at all.

Then, two other clients show up at her office wanting to hire her team to find out where their late relative hid money in a home.  A home that's infested with creepy items everywhere, most of them supposedly haunted.  It will be decorated for Mardi Gras, and it's DI's job to come in costume and try to ferret out where the cash is hidden and also keep greedy guests away from stealing anything.  Again, Giulia gets a bigger surprise than she expected - and she thought just seeing the house of horrors itself was a surprise.

She also learns that Kord and his friend Shiloh will be at the gathering.  Shiloh is Kord's babysitter, and distraught at the sudden death of her father.  She's using the board to contact him, but even Kord doesn't know to what extent she's gone to get her father back in her life.  Giulia knows Shiloh may be in trouble, but won't accept her help.  All these things are connected, and Giulia is about to find out how, when she attends the party.

But the biggest surprise is yet to be revealed, and it's more than she either wants or expects, but with the help of her team and a few tricks of her own up her sleeve, Giulia has plans to take down any thieves she encounters and protect her clients as best she can, not realizing that it's her own self that might need the protecting most...

This series is one of the most interesting that I've encountered, and getting more so each time I read it.  Giulia is once again finding out that her life is becoming far too interesting and she's not sure how to handle it.  She'd rather spend her days as a new mother, but it isn't to be so.  She's now got several clients on her hands, and she's not fond of any of them.

It's no secret she dislikes Ken Kanning, believing The Scoop no more than a gossip magazine.  While Kanning knows this, he still wants his son to have her help, since the boy wants to get into a prestigious school and needs the exposure to do so.  Her other clients are unlikable as well.  Owen is greedy, nasty and snide; his aunt Blossom is snippy. 

What follows is a dark tale of greed, ghosts, and Giulia adjusting to her newfound abilities.  While it has its light moments, it's an intense tale that keeps you riveted to the page as you follow Giulia navigating her way through the chaos that ensues when she finds herself in the middle of the surreal diorama before her.

The tale is an esoteric one that draws you in almost from the first scene, and is extremely difficult to put down.  For those who are faint of heart or dislike creepy dolls, I suggest you read this during the daytime.  Reading it at night probably won't do much for a restful sleep.

However, it is masterfully written, tightly woven, and the threads of the tale start at the beginning and slowly weave together until you reach the end.  The surprises don't end until nearly the very last page, and they're worth waiting for, so do not be tempted to peek and find out the outcome ahead of time.  I loved the story and am anxiously waiting for the next installment, which I hope will be soon.  Highly recommended.


Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2775130638

More on Alice Loweecey's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/l/alice-loweecey/

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Curiosity Thrilled the Cat (A Magical Cats Mystery #1)

Author:  Sofie Kelly
Genre:   Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9780451232496
Berkley Obsidian
324 Pages
$7.29; $1.99 Amazon
February 1, 2011


When Kathleen Paulson leaves her life in Boston and moves to Mayville Heights, Minnesota, she has no idea that two strays will muzzle their way into her life.  Owen is a tabby with a catnip addiction, and Hercules is a stocky tuxedo cat who shares Kathleen's fondness for Barry Manilow.  But beyond all the fur and purrs, there seems to be something more to these felines.

When murder interrupts Mayville's Wild Rose Summer Music Festival, Kathleen finds herself the prime suspect.  More stunning is her realization that Owen and Hercules are truly special - perhaps even magical.  Suddenly she's relying on their skills to solve this crime and save her reputation.  With a little legwork from her four-legged friends, Kathleen may be able to solve this purr-fect murder...


Kathleen Paulson has left Boston to accept a position as head librarian at the Mayville Heights, Minnesota library.  She's also overseeing the renovation of said library, and that's not without its problems.  On this morning Kathleen hears a commotion in the library and goes to check it out, only to find one of her employees trying to explain to Gregor Easton, a visiting conductor, that the library is under renovation and the Internet is not yet connected.  Easton, however, is having none of it.  Since he was informed they did indeed have Internet, he wants to use it, and can't seem to understand that even if computers are available, the Internet might not be (not very tech savvy at all?).

But someone doesn't like the arguing - Owen, one of Kathleen's two cats, suddenly appears on Easton's head, and what follows is disaster.  After Easton is calmed down, Kathleen offers to have breakfast sent to his hotel room the next morning by way of apology.  Mollified, Easton leaves.  Kathleen, though, has no idea how Owen got into the library in the first place.

The next morning Kathleen needs to find Oren, a local handyman, and she thinks he might be at the theater working, so heads over there.  But Oren's truck isn't in the parking lot, and even so, she enters the theater but instead finds Easton, slumped over the piano - dead.  After calling the police and answering questions, she returns to the library.

Then things start getting strange.  The lead detective, Marcus Gordon, is questioning her and she thinks that she's probably the prime suspect, even though she only met Easton one time and managed to find his body.  Her work crew at the library arrives sporadically; accidents keep happening to her that manage to cause minor injuries; and her cats - Owen and Hercules - well, that's a story:  She found them as kittens on the grounds of Wisteria Hill, the abandoned estate of her employer, Everett Henderson.  They followed her home and she adopted them.  But she's now noticing that they have very special magical powers.

Kathleen realizes that in order to get herself out of hot water with the police, she'll need to figure out who had the best motive to kill Easton.  Unfortunately, it could be any one of her friends, and while she doesn't want to believe it, she knows that someone out there is framing her for a murder she didn't commit...

This is the first book in the series, and I thought it was a very good beginning indeed.  Our protagonist has her hands full with library renovations when Easton shows up, and when he's killed she suddenly moves to the top of the list as a person of interest.  But since she had no reason to kill him, she figures out that someone in town knew things she'd said to Easton and used them to draw him to a death trap.

I thought the book was written well, although I also thought it was a little heavy on non-essential things to the plot.  We really don't need to know about her Tai Chi class, nothing happens there that makes a whit of difference, and it certainly didn't matter to me.  Yes, it introduced other characters, but they could have been introduced at a cafe or the library just as well.  It bogged down the tale a tad.

The only other thing that bothered me is when one character tells Kathleen that she "wouldn't understand because she's from away."  This is not a phrase they use in Minnesota (I know because I grew up there).  When someone moves to town, we don't say they're 'from away.'  That's strictly an east coast phrase (and since the author is from the east coast, I would have expected her to know this).  Minor, but it bothered me, since when someone moves to town we merely say that 'you're new here'.  I was also a bit surprised not a single person spoke as if they actually grew up in the state.  But hey...

Anyway, I absolutely loved Owen and Hercules.  They've decided to adopt Kathleen, and they help her in her investigation, and she reacts much as the way anyone would when they find out the truth.  They point her in the right direction by bringing her clues, and even act as her protectors when need be.  Without them, the story wouldn't be half as interesting as it is.

When the ending comes and we discover the murderer it came as rather a surprise, yet I didn't feel that the reason for the murder was enough of one to kill for; but that's my own opinion.  There was also another surprise in store, and that was an interesting red herring.  Still, the climax was done well and everything was explained in a satisfying manner. 

All in all, I enjoyed the book and the introduction to Owen and Hercules, and look forward to reading the next in the series.  Recommended.


Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2766829253

More on Sofie Kelly's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/k/sofie-kelly/

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Catering to Nobody (Goldy Schultz Book 1)

Author:  Diane Mott Davidson
Genre:   Mystery

Hardcover; Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9780312042776; 9780553584707
Bantam Books
266 Pages
$21.23; $$7.19; $3.99 Amazon
July 1, 1990

Catering a wake is not Goldy's idea of fun.  Yet the Colorado caterer throws herself into preparing a savory feast including Poached Salmon and Strawberry Shortcake Buffet designed to soothe the forty mourners.  And her culinary efforts seem to be exactly what the doctor ordered...until her ex-father-in-law gynecologist Fritz Korman is struck down and Goldy is accused of adding poison to the menu.  Now, with the Department of Health impounding her leftovers, her ex-husband proclaiming her guilt, and her business about to be shut down, Goldy knows she can't wait for the police to serve up the answers.  She'll soon uncover more than one family skeleton and veritable slew of unpalatable secrets - the kind that could make Goldy the main course in an unsavory killer's next murder!


This is going to be one of the shortest reviews I've ever done, because I just couldn't stand Goldy.  So, instead of a traditional review, I'm just going to list the talking points that lead up to the reason I gave this book one star only, instead of leading in with an intro:

Goldy is a whiny, self- absorbed protagonist who allows her abusive ex-husband to continue to abuse her; she has an eleven-year-old son who is being bullied at school and she leaves him to work it out himself (and, I'm guessing, continue to be bullied) instead of informing the school to take measures or speak to the other boys' parents; she does nothing at all.

I found it odd that the recipes are in the middle of sentences!  Not at the end of chapters or even paragraphs - but in the middle of sentences.  Oh.  My.  God.  Also, who on earth puts mayonnaise in guacamole?  You have to wonder how far she'll go as a caterer with this recipe.

Her ex-husband is a well-heeled doctor but she doesn't make him pay child support on a regular basis even though she's struggling as a caterer to make ends meet.  She'd rather keep the peace than pay the bills!  She's never taken him to court about paying support on a regular basis, gotten a restraining order against him for physically assaulting her, nor told him never to speak to her that way again.  Her name should be on doormats sold countrywide.  But it's contradictory when she just tells people what to do, like taking her ex-mother-in-law's car and refusing to give it back.

She's not even conscientious as a caterer.  She runs out of supplies.  I'm a home cook and I check my cupboards and refrigerator on a regular basis, and if I'm running low I replenish, and if I use a can of anything I replace it the next time I go to the store! 

She allows her son to call his grandparents by their first names because apparently neither she nor her husband could teach him otherwise.  It might not bother others, but I find it disrespectful, the same as if they wouldn't call a teacher by their first name.  Her son also speaks and acts like he's twenty, not eleven.  It makes you wonder if the author has children of her own.

She's only investigating because her business is on the line, she doesn't really care otherwise, and she has no problem breaking into Laura's home and taking things, including smoking the dead woman's cigarettes; nor going through confidential patient files.

She's a horrible human being and unlikable in the extreme.  It makes you wonder how there are so many books in this series.  No, I will not read any more of them and I'm sorry I even read the first one.


Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2765680078


Going Organic Can Kill You (A Blossom Valley Mystery #1)

Author:  Staci McLaughlin Genre:   Mystery Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book ISBN #:  9780758275004 Kensington Publishing 294 Pages ...