Friday, June 27, 2014

Paw Enforcement

Author:  Diane Kelly
Genre:  Mystery

Two Stars


Officer Luz is lucky she still has a job after tasering a male colleague where it counts the most.  Sure, he had it coming-which is why the police chief is giving Megan a second chance.  The catch?  Her new partner can't carry a gun, can't drive a cruiser, and can't recite the Miranda Rights.  Because her new partner is a big, furry police dog.  So that's what the chief meant when he called Megan's partner a real b*tch.

With Brigit out on the beat, Megan is writing up enough tickets to wallpaper the whole station.  But when a bomb goes off at the mall's food court, it's up to Megan and Brigit to start digging-and sniffing-for clues.  With the help of dead-sexy bomb-squad expert Seth Rutledge and his own canine partner named Blast, Megan finds herself in a desperate race to collar a killer.  Will justice be served-or will she end up in the doghouse?

********

Megan Luz tasers her partner, Derek "Big Dick" Mackey in the place it will hurt the most.  Why?  Because he was making sexual remarks to her all day, and when she collared a woman for crystal meth, he suggested that the two of them basically give him a sex show using her digits, if you get my drift...this should have been my first clue, but I kept reading...

So, after she tases him, he runs to their chief; and when she tries to defend her actions, she's partnered with a dog the chief calls a "b*tch."  Hmmm...Derek cop is obviously sexist, and because he's 'brave,' they keep him on in the department with no reprimand of any kind.  Megan, however, is in effect punished by becoming a K-9 officer...with no training...and no police car...(which she gets later on, but not the night she needs either); she takes the dog home in her 'smart car,' in which he doesn't really fit nor has any kind of restraint.  Did I mention this is in Fort Worth, Texas?  Where there's a huge police force and I'm sure they can locate a police car for her somewhere?

On top of that, she takes the dog home to her 'tiny apartment.'  I'm pretty sure no one with a small apartment would be assigned a 97 pound dog as a partner.  They need room to run, and are usually kept in outdoor kennels.  Not small cages, which is where she tries to make Brigit sleep, and what follows is a very unfunny (inane) scenario.  As if that weren't bad enough, she takes the dog out to the apartment pool and goes swimming with her.  Didn't anyone tell Megan that you can't have dogs go swimming in apartment pools?  There are laws.  The hair could clog the equipment, and there are people who are allergic to dogs who might want to use that pool.  I love dogs, but an apartment pool?  Not likely.  If that were so, then every complex that allowed animals would have their pools filled with them.

Then, the dog chases a squirrel.  That's right, folks; a trained police dog..chases..a..squirrel.  This dog has no self-control - it is a police dog, right?  It obviously has no control of any kind, considering she puts her paws on the window of a pet store - I'm pretty sure police dogs are trained better than that.  Megan also mentioned that "while on duty she window-shopped, looked for bargains on sale racks and sampled testers at Macy's."  Another hmmm...is this what the taxpayer's money is going for?  Maybe the chief should have fired her when he had the chance.  Plus, obviously she has no patrol route, because she decided on her own to patrol the mall, even though 'they had their own security team.'  And she spends a lot of time at the mall.  I live in a big city, and I've never seen a police officer patroling any of the malls.  She's right;  they do have their own security, and the cops are only called in an emergency.

She lets us know Brigit is misbehaved (chewing on Megan's things when Brigit is angry), and that her days are spent patroling the mall (which I've already covered).  But the worst is when she starts picking on the Catholic religion.  I am not Catholic, but I would never denigrate anyone's religion or beliefs.  I was completely offended by some of the things she said, especially comparing herself to the Son of God. (Yes, she did).  AND she takes the dog to church with her!  Who does that?  Are you kidding me?  Dogs in church?  This isn't a helper dog, it's a POLICE DOG!!!

I gave it two stars because the author is obviously trying, but for a first attempt, it's a pretty poor one.  By the end of the book, I really didn't care about the bomber or anything else.  Too many unbelievable scenarios.  One of the last scenes has a particularly distasteful exchange with Mackey; something I seriously hope will never happen on our police department - because if that's how she proves she's a good cop, then it's a sad statement indeed.  Hopefully the next in the series will improve, with Megan actually acting like a police officer and not some teenager hanging out at the mall.

 http://www.amazon.com/Paw-Enforcement-Diane-Kelly/dp/1250048346/

The Death of Pie: A Pennsylvania Dutch Mystery

Author:  Tamar Myers
Genre:  Mystery

Five Stars

When a best-selling novelist falls face-down dead into Magdalena Yoder's prize-winning apple pie during the village of Hernia’s 110th Annual Festival of Pies, there is no shortage of suspects in the subsequent murder investigation. A former guest at Magdalena’s PennDutch Inn, the author had made many enemies on publication of her subsequent tell-all book, exposing the faults and foibles of members of the local Amish/Mennonite community, and mocking their way of life. But who was enraged enough to poison the acid-tongued writer?

Hopelessly out of his depth, Hernia’s inexperienced young Chief of Police requests Magdalena’s help in uncovering the answer. As she sets about questioning her friends and neighbours, Magdalena discovers that more than one villager has a secret to hide.

********

Magdalena Yoder is the Mennonite owner of the PennDutch Inn, where guests can pay upwards of $400 a night to have a "real Amish experience."  She is married to a Jewish doctor (retired), and mother to one-year-old Jacob and thirteen-year-old Alison.  She is also the town's mayor and a millionaire.  She has engaged a police chief, Toy, and paid for his salary, office, and uniforms herself.  She also owns quite a bit of the town she lives in, Hernia, herself.

Therefore, when Ramat (the novelist) is killed, Toy goes to Magdalena and asks if she will help him investigate the murder.  He has a list of suspects, but since they are all friends of hers, he wants her to approach them, figuring that she'll have better luck than he will.  In order to sweeten the deal, he offers to deputize her and let her drive the police cruiser (that she bought), since he purchased a nice Mercedes for himself and had it "decked out."

Well, what woman could resist that?  The only thing he asks is that she wear a semi-official outfit, so she wears a navy skirt and white blouse while she goes about her business.  However, that business isn't well-received by her friends as she questions them.  While she's ruffling feathers she's having to brush them calm at the same time in order to keep everyone happy.

And if that isn't enough, she has a crazy mother-in-law to deal with, who has started her own cult (although she calls it something else entirely - the Sisters of Perpetual Apathy).  The problem is that her mother-in-law, Ida, isn't apathethic about anything and has no problem showing her dislike of Magdalena while trying to figure out ways to end the marriage.

Her daughter Alison (adopted daughter, but that's another story entirely) speaks in malapropisms but Magdalena and her husband "the babester" Gabe, completely understand everything she's trying to say, even if the people around her don't.

The book is a real page-turner and I had a hard time putting it down (even to sleep).  It's quite amusing to read, the characters truly are characters, and when the killer was revealed, and the reason why the murder occurred, made a kind of wacky sense and increased my thoughts that the people in this town indeed have some problems going on that need to be dealt with.  But I definitely enjoyed the book and this newest edition to the Pennsylvania Dutch mysteries was well worth the wait.  Highly recommended.

http://www.amazon.com/Death-Pie-Pennsylvania-mystery-Mystery/dp/072788381X/

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Death in Perspective

Author:  Larissa Reinhart
Genre:  Mystery

Four Stars

The curtain rises on Cherry Tucker’s debut as a high school set designer at the posh Peerless Day Academy. Cherry’s been hired for an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, but the drama director is hoping Cherry can also turn the spotlight on a malicious social media bully who’s sending poisonous texts to the faculty. The director’s got his own drama to hide, and the phantom texter seems eager to spill school secrets. When the principal’s secretary commits suicide, Cherry suspects foul play.
Deputy Luke Harper is ready to return as Cherry’s leading man. He’s eager to assist in finding the phantom culprit, but Cherry fears family secrets may doom them to the role of star-crossed lovers. Offstage, Cherry’s searching for her missing brother whose vendetta might doom Cherry and Deputy Luke Harper as star-crossed lovers. With the bully waiting for a murderous encore and her own family skeletons to hide, Cherry scrambles to find her brother and the mysterious texter before the phantom decides it’s curtains for Cherry and forces her to take a final bow.

********

Cherry Tucker is an artist who is hired by the prestigious Peerless Academy to do set decoration for a modern version of Romeo and Juliet.  When she arrives, she finds out that Mr. Tingley, head of the drama department, hired her not only for her skills, but because she has "had some success" in the past with solving murders, and he thinks he's next on a stalker's list.  While she is reluctant to try and find out who's stalking him, she needs the money and decides to accept.  What she doesn't know though, is that there is more than meets the eye.

The day she arrives, there is a suicide, and what she finds out from this is that someone at the academy is sending the faculty and staff threatening emails.  No one wants to talk about it, and Assistant Principal Cooke is downright hostile toward her, so she figures it's best to stay out of  Cooke's way.  However, in trying to find out who wants to do Mr. Tingley harm, she might also be putting herself in the way of danger.

However, I don't get why Cherry and Luke Harper, her ex-boyfriend deputy sheriff can't date.  So what if his mother married a Branson.  HE'S still a Harper.  He's also an adult, and should be able to date who he wants.  He's a Deputy Sheriff, supposedly good at his job but doesn't want to confront his family and tell them it's none of their business?  Not a good man to have around in a crisis if he's afraid of hurting someone's feelings. 

So you see, the backstory is what kept the main story from being excellent.  All this my family/your family stuff from the 1930's probably wouldn't be so today, unless you were really backwoods somehow.  (I can truthfully say I've never disliked someone just because I didn't care for their family background).  And it distracts from the story, which didn't pick up and get to the heart of the matter until the last third of the book.

Although I believe Ms. Reinhart has a flair for mysteries, and this one was really good, I'd rather see some resolution and have either Cherry or Luke (or better yet, both of them) stand up to their families and to what they want, not what their families want.  It might be nice to keep peace in the family, but it sure doesn't help if you're living with someone you really don't want.

Four stars for the mystery, a decent read if you can get past all the ridiculous family dynamics.

http://www.amazon.com/Death-Perspective-Larissa-Reinhart/dp/1940976189/

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Nine Lives to Die

Author: Rita Mae Brown
Genre:  Mystery

Five Stars

Winter has come to Crozet, Virginia, bringing with it a fresh blanket of snow. Harry and her husband, Fair, are hip deep in their usual end-of-the-year activities: distributing food to needy residents, and shopping for outfits for the Silver Linings youth organization’s annual fundraising gala. But buried beneath the white stuff are dark secrets from Crozet’s past—and Harry and her posse of pet detectives are determined to sniff them out.

Two Silver Linings mentors have been found dead in suspicious circumstances. If that weren’t enough to chill the bones of the locals, a pair of severed human fingers has turned up in a pencil jar in the bookkeeper’s office at St. Cyril’s church. What does this grisly display have to do with the mysterious disappearance of Harry’s voluptuous high school Latin teacher, a quarter of a century ago? Maybe nothing. But when the animals make another gruesome discovery in the woods behind Harry’s farm, it becomes clear that terrible crimes have been committed in Crozet—and somebody’s gone to great lengths to cover them up. It’s time to stop shoveling snow and start digging for clues.

The truth will be revealed.  A cold case will be solved. And a twenty-five-year-old love triangle is about to get untangled. The weather outside may be frightful, but Harry and her four-legged friends refuse to be spooked off the case.

********

Harry Haristeen and her friends are preparing for Christmas by packaging food and goods to deliver to the needy around them.  With the holiday fast approaching, the women are on a tight schedule, and the weather isn't cooperating, turning cold and snowy.

One night after Harry and her vet husband, Fair, attend a fundraiser for the church, her friend Charlene's husband disappears.  When the local deputy Cooper receives a call from a motorist, she arrives to find Charlene's husband Pete dead - and with two of his fingers missing.  While unofficially deemed a heart attack, officially the police discover it's a murder.  When another man turns up missing and is killed the same way, the police are completely sure.

To complicate matters, Harry's animal friends Mrs. Murphy, Pewter and Tee Tucker find a Christmas present for Harry - one that fell off the arm of a skeleton.  When a coyote tells them where the rest of the bones are (after they promise to feed him for the winter), they discover what used to be a living, breathing person - and a mystery that's been secret for 25 years.

So while the police are trying to solve one murder another old one will soon be discovered and also must be solved.  While Harry and her friends are trying to do their best for everyone during the holiday season, things are said and seen that can't be undone, and lead to something deeper and darker.

There are really no clues given as to the murderer of the two men, so like Harry and her friends, you struggle along looking for clues right with them.  For myself, I was more interested in the old murder, and when the truth came out, I can't say I was completely surprised, but the journey getting there was indeed worth the effort.

A top-notch novel from a top-notch author.  Ms. Brown has given us an intriguing, semi-dark novel of friends, betrayal, secrets and murder.   Highly recommended.

http://www.amazon.com/Nine-Lives-Die-Murphy-Mystery/dp/0345530500/

Friday, June 13, 2014

Bread Making: A Practical Guide to All Aspects of Bread Making

Author:  Jane Eastoe
Genre:  Cooking & Baking

Five Stars

Bread is one of the oldest prepared foods and one of immense social and political significance.  In Britain we eat about 8 million loaves a day, most of it shop bought. But more and more people are now making their own bread. In this book, all the techniques, ingredients and the science of bread making are explained and in addition, a range of recipes are featured, including some from the National Trust.

The recipes include the basics such as Wholemeal, Granary, Rye, Corn and Farmhouse bread but there are also many regional specialities, such as Barmbrack, Bara Brith, English Muffins, Crumpets, Pikelets, Beer Bread, Welsh Cakes and Bath Buns too.  This attractive little book contains everything you need to inspire you to start  making your own bread.

********

Since you're never going to have a long, protracted review of a cookbook, I will get right to the point:  A lovely book regarding the art of making bread.  There are some terrific recipes, and I especially like the English Muffins, Crumpets and Bath Buns.  None of the recipes are too difficult (at least the ones that I have already tried), and are even easy enough for a somewhat novice baker.  For anyone who has ever wanted to branch out their baking skills, this is highly recommended.

http://www.amazon.com/Bread-Making-Recipes-Perfect-Home-made/dp/1907892788/

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Engaged in Murder

Author:  Nancy J. Parra
Genre:  Mystery

Three Stars

Event planner Pepper Pomeroy is making the most of her current unemployment by arranging a surprise for her sister, Felicity.  Warren, Felicity's boyfriend, plans to lure his lovely lady into a private jet, propose, and whisk her away on a romantic vacation.  He just needs Pepper to handle all the find details in order to make it the perfect proposal - and it is.  Everything goes so well when Warren pops the question that he suggests Pepper do this sort of thing professionally.

But before she can get her new business off the ground, there are some disturbing questions.  Like who's the dead guy Pepper finds in the ladies' room of the jet hangar?  Is it possible Felicity's high-flying fiancĂ© has been hiding more than the engagement ring? Pepper’s not married to the idea of having a criminal in the family, so in order to protect her sister, she takes off in pursuit of a killer...

********

Pepper Pomeroy has recently lost her job and is stuck in a dead-end relationship with her boyfriend Bobby.  So when Warren, her sister Felicity's boyfriend, asks her to plan the perfect proposal, (and carte blanche as to cost) Pepper agrees.  However, while preparing everything abroard the little plane, she uses the restroom in the hangar and sees a man in there, someone she assumes is drunk.  Figuring that she'll call the police about it after the proposal, she waits until everything is a done deal and Warren and her sister take off.

However, when she enters the restroom again, the guy hasn't moved...and his lips are turning blue.  So she calls the police in a panic, reporting a dead body.  With the cops wanting to know why she didn't report it earlier, and generally everyone around her suspicious, she finds out Warren is the most likely suspect and sets out to prove him innocent.

Oh, this book had many possibilities - but a lot of them weren't made clear.  First, Pepper is in a dead-end relationship with her boyfriend, whom she has dated supposedly since high school (or I got the distinct impression from what was said that they started dating in high school).  So she's been dating him for eight years - but she's thirty.  You do the math.  And the facts that the police think she's a suspect?  She has never been to that airport before, doesn't know anyone there, yet she might be the killer of an employee she doesn't know or has no connections to?  The fact she was even considered seemed ludicrous.  She considers herself smart, yet she acts before she thinks, and some of her actions just aren't suited to an intelligent person.  Plus, all the outfits anyone wears (or nearly so) seemed to be blue.  If not the outfits, their accessories (like ties) were blue or had blue in them.  This girl needs to figure out there are other colors that are out there.

But the mystery itself was good.  There were people that could have - and should have - been suspects.  But it appeared Pepper was the only one who considered them so.  Yet when the killer was revealed, (I had already figured it out a chapter earlier because it was the only one that made sense), well, that's the truth.  After everything was said and done, it made sense, although it seemed kind of extreme to me.

Not a bad cozy for the first of a series, and I have read others that started off the series so-so and improved as they went along.  Let's hope this is one of them.

http://www.amazon.com/Engaged-Murder-Perfect-Proposals-Mystery/dp/0425270351/

Monday, June 9, 2014

Independence Slay

Author:  Shelley Freydont
Genre:  Mystery

Five Stars

With Independence Day fast approaching, Liv Montgomery is swamped with coordinating one of the town's biggest festivals.  In addition to the traditional July Fourth events, the town stages a spooky Revolutionary War reenactment that can't be missed.  Every year, the ghost of local war hero Henry Gallantine - played by his eccentric descendant of the same name - appears at the top of the family mansion, kicking off the night's revelries.

But Henry's annual cameo goes awry after the ghost signals SOS instead of his traditional cue.  When Liv rushes to the rescue, she finds Henry missing and a real dead body instead of a fake haunt.  Now she will have to hunt down both a murderer and a missing person quickly before unwanted political fireworks ignite and someone else winds up as local history...

********

Liv Montgomery moved from Manhattan to Celebration Bay, where she works as the town's event planner.  It sounds like an easy job, but it isn't.  Especially when, while watching the July Fourth battle reenactment with her assistant Ted, both notice that there is an SOS signal coming from the top of the Gallantine mansion, which holds the festivities outside every year.  When they rush to find out why there was an SOS, they find instead a dead body on one side of the parapet, and on the other, a very scared, huddled teenager, Leo, who is holding the murder weapon.

Both Ted and Liv agree that Leo, who is 'a gentle soul,' could not possibly have committed the murder.  But when he insists that "the ghost did it," everyone is puzzled.  While Liv's instincts tell her to stay out of it, she is asked by Leo's friend Roseanne to help him, and soon the other town residents are hinting at it too.  So Liv finds herself smack dab in the middle of the murder investigation, all the while trying to find a place for Leo to stay, and get her friend Chaz (who runs the local newspaper whenever he feels up to doing so) to help clear Leo from suspicion.  While no one really believes Leo is the killer, they do know that someone was murdered, and that the killer could also come after Leo.

This was actually a lot of fun to read.  Although it started out slow - I really didn't get too interested until after the murder was committed - it picked up really fast after that.  There is enough going on with the secondary characters - retired schoolteachers Ida and Edna (Liv's landladies), Chaz, Bill, and even Hildy, Henry's housekeeper, that you become immersed in the town and its residents.  While Liv doesn't exactly dig for clues, they seem to find their way to her, and Sheriff Bill Gunnison just rolls his eyes and threatens to lock her up if she doesn't stop it.  (An idle threat, of course).

With one occurrence rolling into another, and all connecting together somehow, this is a really fun and quick read.  I intend to 'backtrack' to the first in the series so I can get to know everyone better.  I think you'll find it enjoyable.

http://www.amazon.com/Independence-Slay-Celebration-Bay-Mystery/dp/0425252566/

Scene of the Climb

Author:  Kate Dyer-Seeley
Genre:  Mystery

Five Stars

But a girl needs a job, so Meg bluffs her way into writing for Northwest Extreme magazine, passing herself off to editor-in-chief Greg Dixon as an outdoor adventure enthusiast. Never mind that Meg's idea of sport is climbing onto the couch without spilling her latte. So when she finds herself clawing to the top of Angel's Rest - a two-thousand-foot peak - to cover the latest challenge in a reality TV adventure show, she can't imagine feeling more terrified. Until she witnesses a body plummet off the side of the cliff. Now Meg has a murder to investigate.  And if the climbing doesn't kill her, a murderer just might...

********

Meg Reed lives with her friend Jill and sleeps on the couch.  She lives in Portland, Oregon and needs a job so she can get a place of her own.  One day, while out for coffee, Meg trips on the rain-slicked floor and a hunky man helps her up.  He starts talking to her, learns she's the daughter of a well-known newspaperman and tells her he is the editor of an outdoor magazine.  When he hears that she herself is a writer, he offers her a job on the spot...of course, she kind of fudges a little bit to get the job - she tells him she loves the outdoors and sports.

So when Meg finds out that she has an assignment covering Race the States, a reality show filming the finale in Oregon, she thinks, Great!...until she finds out she has to go along with the racers up a mountainside and get pictures and story background.  Did I mention Meg is afraid of heights?  Terrified actually?

But she decides to fake it as much as she can.  When she hikes as high as she can without passing out, she decides to "fake a fall," and slide down the mountainside a little.  Upon doing this, she sees a body pass by.  Someone fell, or was pushed, as Meg is sure happened.  When her new boss, Greg, hears what happened, he tells her to keep quiet and not say anything to anyone.  Meg knows what she saw; she's sure Greg is suspicious too.

I was first interested because I've done quite a bit of hiking myself (not in Oregon, but other western states), so I know something about the equipment and safety measures you need to take. The author has done a wonderful job with explaining and visualizing the terrain and vistas of the area in the mountains near Portland. By the end of the book, I've decided that it's definitely on my list of places to visit.

The story is certainly one that keeps you reading.  The action moves fast, and there is a lot going on:  people who aren't the nicest and seem to have something to hide; friends who are willing to help her out while still trying to protect her; a grandmother (Gam) who has spiritual powers; and a nice blend of plot twists all the way through.  When the ending came, I was surprised; there were enough red herrings that you weren't sure who the killer was, and everything was tied together nicely.

I definitely plan on reading the next in this series and highly recommend this for anyone who likes mysteries, hiking, or just reading a good book.

http://www.amazon.com/Scene-Climb-Pacific-Northwest-Mystery/dp/0758295316/

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Tempest In a Teapot

Author:  Amanda Cooper
Genre:  Mystery

Four Stars

Tucked away in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York is the charming town of Gracious Grove, where time moves slowly, gossip spreads quickly, and the scones are to die for...

When her fashionable Manhattan restaurant goes under, Sophie Taylor retreats to her grandmother's cozy shop, Auntie Rose's Victoria Tea House, where serenity is steeped to perfection in one of her many antique teapots.  The last thing Sophie expects is a bustling calendar of tearoom events, like her old friend Cissy Peterson's upcoming bridal shower.

Not everyone is pleased with the bride-to-be's choice of venue-like Cissy's grandmother, who owns a competing establishment, La Belle Epoque, and has held a long simmering grudge against Rose for stealing her beau sixty years ago.  Tensions reach a boiling point when Cissy's fiancĂ©’s mother dies while sampling scones at La Belle Epoque.  Now, to help her friend, Sophie will have to bag a killer before more of the guest list becomes a hit list...

********

Sophie Taylor is a chef whose restaurant, In Fashion, is a bust.  She grew up rich, and her mother wants her to get married, preferably to a rich man, but Sophie is tired of the blind dates and decides to lick her wounds privately at her grandmother's in Gracious Grove.

Grandma Rose has a delightful tearoom where she not only shows off her own baking skills, but her wonderful teapot collection.  Sophie has a collection also, not as extensive, but quite as nice, that she began when Rose gave her a teapot many years ago.  After she settles in, in her room above the shop, she ventures out and meets her friend Cissy, who tells her she wants her bridal shower in Auntie Rose's, and that she wants Sophie to help Gretchen, the matron of honor, host it.  It turns out Gretchen is not Cissy's choice, and she doesn't even want her as the matron of honor, but feels obligated to do so, since Gretchen's husband is Frankie's (Cissy's fiance) best man.

It turns out that Cissy's grandma, Thelma, is a horrible cook and downright nasty; but to placate her she has a 'pre-bridal shower' at Thelma's shop.  While there, Frankie's mother Vivienne drops dead.  Hearing the screams from the shop next door, Sophie rushes over and see's the woman's demise.  Convinced that it wasn't an accident, Sophie decides to find the killer, since the police don't seem to be making much headway.

There is an entire cast of potential killers here, all who might want the woman dead.  While it appears that Vivienne was actually a nice woman, there are people in town who didn't enjoy her philanthropic activities and wanted her out of the way.

The book started off slow and I would have liked to have known more about Sophie's restaurant.  We know that it was in Manhattan and went bust, but why?  If Sophie is an excellent cook, people would have flocked to the place (people will always go where the food is).  So did she have bad employees?  Bad hours?  Dirty restaurant?  We never do find out, and I wish we would have.  Just hinting that she wanted to expand wouldn't close a GOOD restaurant - I've seen people here (in Las Vegas) waiting outside a restaurant to eat for over an hour because the place didn't have enough seating to accommodate everyone.

Plus, this is supposed to be a small town, yet everyone flocks to tearooms for events.  I guess I really don't understand this.   Now don't get me wrong;  I'm a HUGE tea drinker; and I collect tea-for-one sets, so I was really interested in this book.  We even have tearooms here.  But it appeared that every event that wasn't at the Country Club was held at the tearoom.  That must be some good food!  On the flip side, Thelma not only is a terrible cook, she buys past-date and uses frozen food; yet for years her tearoom has remained open, right next door to Rose's.  Huh?  To be fair, it was also run as an inn, so I suppose that guests wouldn't know how bad the food was until they stayed there.  But they wouldn't be coming back.

Aside from those few things, I truly enjoyed the book.  While I felt at times that Sophie was a little too obvious in questioning people, the plot was interesting and kept me reading to see how it all turned out.  There were sub-plots woven in which were just as interesting, and the way it all tied in at the end was believable.  There is a nice recipe for scones in the back, with a guide for brewing the perfect cup of tea, for all the tea drinkers out there. 

I look forward to the next book in this series, and Ms. Cooper is a welcome addition to the cozy genre.

http://www.amazon.com/Tempest-Teapot-Collector-Mystery-ebook/dp/B00EOARZFA/

The Accidental Duchess

Author:  Madeline Hunter
Genre:  Historical Romance

Three Stars

When Lady Lydia Alfreton is blackmailed over the shocking contents of a manuscript she once wrote, she must resort to the most desperate of measures to raise the money to buy back the ill-considered prose: agreeing to an old wager proposed by the arrogant, dangerous Duke of Penhurst.  At least Penhurst is a man she wouldn't mind fleecing-and she's confident she'll win.

Penhurst long ago concluded Lydia was a woman in search of a ruinous adventure, but even he is surprised when she arrives at his house ready to bet her innocence against his ten thousand pounds-a wager only meant to warn her off gambling.

When she loses to a simple draw of the cards, Lydia is shocked.  Now, her problems are twofold: a blackmailer determined to see her pay and a duke determined to tame her rebellious ways.  One misstep and Lydia could find herself ruined-or bound to the seductive man who would make her his duchess.

********

Lady Lydia Alfreton loves gambling.  So much so, she forgoes other obligations to do so.  Even though she is very good at winning, in fact 'never losing,' she does this with her brother's knowledge and his hope that she will lose a great deal and stop it.  Yet it appears he has absolutely no power over her to keep her from doing so.

When Lydia is accosted one night at the gambling hall by Algernon Trilby, claiming he has her journal, which Lydia corrects him as having her novel - he tells her that some of the passages may be misconstrued and she could be seen as spy for the French - he tells her that in order for her to retrieve the book, she must pay him ten thousand pounds, which, he says, is what is cost him to purchase it.

But Lydia believes she can solve the problem herself and remembers an old wager she had with Penhurst, and wagers her virginity against winning ten thousand pounds.  When she loses, she is stunned; but more than that, she realizes she needs to find a way to avoid the same.

When she agrees to meet her blackmailer, the stakes have upped:  he attempts to abduct her and wed her, deciding that being the brother-in-law to an earl would be so much more desirable than his present position.  However, Penhurst has followed them and stops the abduction before it begins.

From here on in we have a battle of wits between Lydia and Penhurst, their growing attraction to each other fairly obvious.  While Lydia is fighting her attraction to the man, she is drawn ever closer to him; while Penhurst, for his part, is attempting to keep Lydia from trying to ruin herself, even while she is ignoring those attempts.

This will be a fun read for anyone who is interested in Historicals, and if you have not read Ms. Hunter as yet, it will be a good start.

http://www.amazon.com/Accidental-Duchess-Fairbourne-Quartet-ebook/dp/B00EOARZN2/

The Baron Next Door

Author:  Erin Knightley
Genre:  Regency Romance

Five Stars

After an exhausting Season, Bath's first annual music festival offers Charity the perfect escape.  Between her newly formed trio and her music-loving grandmother, Charity is free to play the pianoforte to her heart's content.  That is, until their insufferably rude, though undeniably handsome, neighbor tells her to keep the "infernal racket" to a minimum.

Hugh Danby, Baron Cadgwith, may think he's put an end to the noise, but he has no idea what he's begun.  Though the waters of Bath provide relief from the suffering caused by his war injuries, he finds his new neighbor bothersome, vexing, and...inexplicably enchanting.  Before long, Hugh suspects that even if his body heals, it's his heart that might end up broken.

********

Charity Effington has gone to Bath to visit with her grandmother after an unfortunate broken betrothal.  Not that it is unfortunate for her, considering that she realized they would not suit, but in everyone else's eyes, it was unfortunate.  But she is consoled in the fact that there is going to be a music festival, and not only does Charity play the pianoforte, she composes her own music.  Her happiest times are in the music room losing herself in the sound.

Or it was...until Hugh Danby moved into the townhouse next door.  The new Baron it seems, cannot stand the sound of music and makes a visit to her and her grandmother to virtually tell her to stop playing.  Which, of course, she will not do, especially since she considers him rude to even suggest it.  So, of course, Charity continues to play, and loudly.  Thus begins a battle between the two that soon turns into something a little more friendly.

I was pleasantly surprised by this book for various reasons, the first being that it is a sweet romance, with little more than kissing taking place.  With less attention being focused on sex scenes, more will be focused on characters and plot, in my opinion.  In this, Ms. Knightley fares well.  Charity is a shy girl and will rarely, if at all, speak up for herself.  Yet she knows an injustice has been done to her, and she fights back the only way she knows how, with her music.  The baron, however, is suffering from severe wounds he suffered during the war (unbeknownst to Charity), and the music brings on violent attacks and headaches which may last from hours to days.  Unwilling to share this information, he goes from being rude to cajoling to kind toward Charity, which confuses her no end.

The day-to-day interaction between the two could lead to no less than a mutual attraction in the end, which we all know.  But it is the journey towards so, and the supporting characters of her friends Sophie and May, who make that journey more pleasant.  I will say my favorite character was Thomas, Hugh's young vicar relation, who acts and thinks as anything such.  I would have liked to have seen more of him, but we can't have everything! 

In all, this was a delightful book, my first read by this author, but definitely not the last.  For anyone who is interested in Regency, I think this will be a nice addition to their collection.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Baron-Next-Door-Prelude/dp/0451466780/

The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day

Author:  Toby Amidor
Genre:  Cooking, Food and Wine

Five Stars

Greek yogurt has quickly become America's favorite health food, its tangy, luscious taste going far beyond a typical breakfast or simple snack. Thanks to its health benefits, this power food has become a staple. Greek yogurt's protein quantity builds muscles and regulates metabolism and the probiotics help maintain a healthy digestive tract and boost the immune system. Greek yogurt is also an excellent source of calcium and very low in sodium-and it's lactose-intolerant friendly too!  Why wouldn't you want it in every meal?

Now, in THE GREEK YOGURT KITCHEN, nutrition expert Toby Amidor shows readers how to cut back on fat and calories without compromising flavor. She shares how to use this most versatile and healthful ingredient in unexpected ways, making even the most bad-for-you foods healthier, tastier, and more satisfying. Recipes include:
--Lemon-Blueberry Stuffed French Toast
--Herbed Goat Cheese and Red Pepper Crostini
--Penne Bolognese
--White Margarita Pizza
--Spiced Chocolate Cupcakes
--And more!
Greek yogurt has quickly become one of America's favorite foods, its tangy, luscious taste going far beyond a typical breakfast or simple snack. Thanks to its health benefits, this power food has become a staple. Greek yogurt's protein quantity builds muscles and regulates metabolism and the probiotics help maintain a healthy digestive tract and boost the immune system. Greek yogurt is also an excellent source of calcium and very low in sodium-and it's lactose-intolerant friendly, too! Because it is strained, resulting in very low water content, the ingredient is thick, creamy, and indulgent. Why wouldn't you want it in every meal?
********

Okay, this is the first cookbook I've reviewed, but since I love to cook and bake and probably own upwards of over 500 cookbooks, I'm going to be reviewing them more often.

Since I make my own yogurt - both regular and Greek, I was looking for a cookbook that would enable me to do more than just snack on it: in other words, mix it up a little so that I could get my dear husband to eat it (not that he doesn't, but not as much as I do).

The author discusses the types of yogurts, serving size, the process and sugar content.  She also gives instructions on how to make your own (I cheat; I have two electric yogurt makers - one that makes seven individual servings and one that makes a quart at a time).  Even though the instructions are thorough, I take the easy way out!

There are recipes to add to nearly everything from dressings to popsicles, which I have never thought of.  And the recipes themselves, for the ones that I have tried, are very good.  I'm fond of the cranberry scones, zucchini bread, mascarpone stuffed mushrooms, and chicken with mushroom sauce.

With over 100 recipes, you should find quite a few to try, and I am sure all of them are good (although I haven't yet had time to find out!)

Recommended for anyone who loves yogurt, loves to cook, and is willing to try new recipes.

http://www.amazon.com/Greek-Yogurt-Kitchen-Delicious-Healthy-ebook/dp/B00EXTVS82/

The President's Ladies

Author:  Bernard F. Dick
Genre:  Biography, Filmography

Four Stars

Ronald Reagan, a former actor and one of America's most popular presidents, married not one but two Hollywood actresses. This book is three biographies in one, discovering fascinating connections among Jane Wyman (1917-2007), Ronald Reagan (1911-2004), and Nancy Davis (b. 1921).

Jane Wyman, who married Reagan in 1940 and divorced him seven years later, knew an early life of privation. She gravitated to the movies and made her debut at fifteen as an unbilled member of the chorus, then toiled as an extra for four years until she finally received billing. She proved herself as a dramatic actress in The Lost Weekend, and the following year, she was nominated for an Oscar for The Yearling and soon won for her performance in Johnny Belinda, in which she did not speak a single line. Other Oscar nominations followed, along with a Golden Globe for her portrayal of Angela Channing in Falcon Crest.  Conversely, Nancy Davis led a relatively charmed life, the daughter of an actress and stepdaughter of a neurosurgeon.  Surrounded by her mother's friends--Walter Huston, Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Lillian Gish, and Alla Nazimova, her godmother--Davis started in the theater, then moved on to Hollywood, where she enjoyed modest success, and finally began working in television. When she married Reagan in 1952, she unwittingly married into politics, eventually leaving acting to concentrate on being the wife of the governor of California, and then the wife of the President of the United States.  In her way, Davis played her greatest role as Reagan's friend, confidante, and adviser on life and in politics.

This book considers three actors who left an indelible mark on both popular and political culture for more than fifty years.

********

I wasn't really sure what to expect from this book, but the end result is that it is more a filmography of these three actors than anything else.  The book is mainly devoted to Jane Wyman - since she is, of the three, the one who had the longest film career.  It definitely is a biography, but quite a bit of detail is given upon each of their films, the cast, the plot, and any other information the author deems relevant.  I have seen most of the films that are listed, so this information isn't anything new.  It was interesting to hear about some of the films Ms. Wyman made and who the original stars were intended to be before the roles fell to others.

However, the author gives us the reasons why each person was the way they were.  The fact that Jane grew up without really knowing who she was certainly didn't help her personal life any.  What she was searching for, and what she got, were two entirely different things.  There is no doubt that when she married Ron, she loved him.  But Jane had determined that he was smarter, and therefore, superior to her; and when he discovered politics she had no interest anymore and wanted to end the marriage.  Ron, for his part, was devastated.

When he met Nancy, she was a minor actor - and I will infuse my own opinion here - and a mediocre one, at that.  I have seen her movies and her performances are average.  Yet she fell in love with him and he her, and that was that, as they say.

He does explain why every performance Jane gave was nothing less than her best:  she wanted to be a top flight actress, and this she achieved, finally winning an oscar for The Yearling.  She put her career before her marriage, and perhaps if Ron had not had the feelings he did for politics, and stayed an actor, things might have turned out differently; but we will never know.  I do wonder, though, if she fell out of love with him because of him, or because of his strong interest in politics.

Perhaps I would have enjoyed the book a tad more if I didn't have to hear every single detail of every single radio and television show any of these three were in - it seemed kind of superfluous to me - and, I admit, since I never watched Falcon Crest I really didn't care.  Someone else might, however.

Recommended for anyone who has an interest in movies or biographies.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Presidents-Ladies-Wyman-Nancy/dp/1617039802/

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Murder Pit: A Moose River Mystery #1

Author:  Jeff Shelby
Genre: Mystery

Five Stars

Daisy Savage finally has everything she wants.  A new husband.  A bunch of kids.  A charming old house. 

When a frozen pipe in the basement of her century-old home leads her and her husband downstairs into a newly discovered crawl space, they find a coal chute they didn't know they had. And a corpse inside of it.

Things become complicated when Daisy realizes she knew the victim. And things get even worse when it becomes increasingly clear that the body was placed there to make Daisy look like the killer.

Against her husband's advice and her own common sense, Daisy makes it her mission to prove to the denizens of Moose River that she is innocent.  But doing so may be more dangerous than she planned.

********

Daisy Savage and her husband Tom have just purchased a 150-year-old house in Moose River, Minnesota.  It's winter, and the kitchen pipe has frozen, so they attempt to thaw it with a hair dryer.  Since Tom is too large to fit into the crawlspace in their basement where the pipe is, Daisy does so.  But she also sees something both they and the home inspector missed: another door leading to?...when Daisy pries open the door she sees a pair of shoes...with feet in them.  Hightailing it out of there, they call the police and find a dead body.

Not any dead body, but someone Daisy knows, and dated once before she started seeing Tom, her high school sweetheart.  So, since there is a connection there, albeit a tenuous one, not only do the police suspect her of the murder, but obviously everyone else in town, who proceed to distance themselves from her.

She tries not to let it bother her, but when that "distancing" begins to include her four children, then Daisy knows she has to do something to clear her name, even when Tom tells her to let the police handle it (and really, do they ever listen?).

The kids are home-schooled, save Emily, who is now a teenager and has decided to go to high school.  They take 4-H classes, and Daisy even teaches one, or did, until the murder and the other mothers won't let their kids sign up for her class.  Which sets Daisy off even more on determining to find the killer, because it's one thing to blacklist her, but another entirely when it affects her kids.

I loved this book.  It was well-written, had a tight murder plot and great character development.  I liked it so well I read it in one night (right up until the wee hours of the morning).  You get drawn into Daisy and her blended family (her three kids, his one) as if you were right there with them.  And he writes about Minnesota winters exactly as they are (I know this because I grew up in Minneapolis).  Mr. Shelby does well with this novel and I fully intend to read the next in the series.  Highly recommended.

http://www.amazon.com/Murder-Moose-River-Mystery-Book-ebook/dp/B00K6N75LS/



The Tell-Tale Tarte (A Five-Ingredient Mystery #4)

Author:  Maya Corrigan Genre:  Mystery Hardcover; Paperback; Digital Book ISBN #: 9781432840457; 9781496709172 Kensington Publishing 3...