Thursday, November 30, 2017

Slay Bells Ring (A Caprice De Luca Mystery #7)

Author:  Karen Rose Smith
Genre:  Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781496709776
Kensington Publishing
352 Pages
$7.99; $5.99 Amazon
October 31, 2017

✮✮✮


It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, especially now that Caprice De Luca has wrapped up her holiday-themed staging gig at a stunning historic home in downtown Kismet, Pennsylvania.  Behind all the red ribbon and glowing string lights, homeowners Chris and Sara Merriwether have it all.  But Chris, a Vietnam vet who plays Santa every year at the community park, has been displaying strange behavior after a recent trip to Washington, D.C.

The joy of the season vanishes entirely when Chris is found murdered on Santa Lane, leaving behind his loyal malamute and lots of unfinished business.  As Caprice uncovers hidden secrets in Santa's workshop, the pressure is on to catch the candy cane-wielding-culprit--before she's next on a killer's deadly wish list...

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

Chris Merriwether and his wife Sara have hired Caprice to stage their home for a quick sale.  Chris, more so than Sara, wants to move into a condo, but she has her doubts although willing to go along with it.  Chris is a toymaker who plays Santa every year in the Christmas parade, and it is shortly after this that he is found dead, killed with a heavy wooden candy cane.

While at first no one can believe such a wonderful man was killed, it soon becomes apparent that there were enemies of his; and Caprice begins to wonder if any of those enemies were in his own family.  Even though the police are investigating the murder, because Chris was a friend of her father's she feels the need to do a little sleuthing herself.

So in between helping her sister Bella's Christmas program, staging a home for sale, and looking after her own pets and planning her sometime-future wedding, she noses around people who knew Chris to see if any of them can give her a clue as to why.  But if she's not careful, her questions might lead her to the wrong party - the killer...

I have to say that I have always enjoyed the Caprice De Luca mysteries; have read every one of them, and therefore I was looking forward to this one being just as wonderful.  Unfortunately, there were a few things that took away my enjoyment of this mystery.  One was that the mystery took a back seat to the dilemma Caprice feels in planning her wedding - she needs to find a dress, is waiting for an annulment, and she really, really loves Grant as we are reminded often.

Every time we were learning something about the murder, the next paragraph was about her family or Grant.  It was just overwhelming to the mystery.  I understand her strong family values, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.  But it was getting to the point that I got the idea her family would be the ones to decide on a wedding date, where she would honeymoon, and so forth; because she wouldn't think of making those decisions without their help.  I also have a hard time believing her family has no conflict between them at all.  It seemed just too perfect.

This was far too saccharine for me this time around.  Caprice loves Grant so much she can't stop telling us - ever.  She wants to marry him, but wants to wait until his annulment comes through.  Annulments can take up to three years.  So she's willing to wait up to another three years before she gets married or has sex?  (Not to mention he's been married before, so the fact he's willing to wait that long truly makes him a paragon among men - and as a side note, I don't read a lot of romances, so it's not that I want them to have sex; it just doesn't seem quite realistic).  How old will that make her when she finally has children?  Plus, she acts like she's eighteen in this book - gushing over Grant, her wedding gown, pearls, etc.; and then has a panic attack because Grant wants to move into a home big enough for both of them, not just her.  She just seemed so immature in her attitude toward Grant and her wedding.  Regrettably, it just didn't ring true to the real world, and it should have.    

What I am saying is that unless the main character is having a personal crisis, it shouldn't take away from the main issue - which in this case is a murder.  Aside from that, the writing was very good and Ms. Smith is a talented writer that I hope to hear more from in the future.

https://www.amazon.com/Slay-Bells-Ring-Caprice-Mystery/dp/1496709772/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2200217815

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

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Cremains of the Day (A Tallie Graver Mystery)

Author:  Misty Simon
Genre:  Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781496712219
Kensington Publishing
293 Pages
October 31, 2017

✮✮✮


For Tallulah Graver, marrying wealthy Waldo Phillips seemed like the best way out of the family business, the Graver Funeral Home.  But when her marriage falls apart and Tallie is left with next to nothing, she turns to cleaning houses to make ends meet.  As humbling as it is to tidy the mansions of the snobby socialites she used to call friends, at least she doesn't have to be around dead bodies.  Until...

She discovers one of her employers lying in a closet with a knife sticking out of her chest.  This unpleasant shock seems to be part of a web of weird experiences:  Tallie's friend Gina's shop is broken into, her ex is stun-gunned where it hurts the most, and now she's receiving flowers from the dead woman.  Granted the deliveryman is handsome, but seriously, that's enough to cast a pall over anyone's day.  Now Tallie needs to dig deep to clean up this mess - before she finds herself in a grave situation.

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

Tallie Graver's family owns a funeral home, and after a messy divorce from a wealthy man, she decides that it's better to clean the homes of people she socialized with rather than take a job working for her family, even though she lives above the funeral parlor.  One evening while helping her friend Gina with catering the meal after a funeral, she rushes to Gina's restaurant to retrieve some items and finds Gina's cousin Katie in the shop, tied up with her mouth duct-taped.  She also finds her ex-husband Walden (whom she calls Waldo) behind the shop, and he's been tased where no man wants to be.

Detective Burton thinks Tallie might be lying - he thinks she tased Walden on purpose, and tied Katie up to cover her tracks.  Burton doesn't like her - supposedly because when she was married, her husband's money got her out of parking tickets, and he had also been called to their house on numerous occasions for noise disturbance.  Then, the next day when one of her employers is found dead, Burton also thinks she's the prime suspect.

When a mysterious man named Max shows up and is everywhere Tallie is, she finds out that he's an old friend of her brother's who now is on Waldo's trail because he owes a lot of unpaid taxes and is suspected of embezzlement.  Max is there to try and keep Tallie out of it, since she's not married anymore and trying to stay away from her old life.

But it's not easy when things keep happening to her; things that keep her in Waldo's vicinity; so she decides to find the killer herself rather than be put in jail, with or without Burton's help.  All she has is the fact she's a maid and that she's still able to access her old home - that and Max, who may be more of a help than she realizes...

While I agree that this is a good start to a new series, there were several things that bothered me.  First, she'd rather clean other people's toilets than work in a funeral home?  It's not like she'd be embalming bodies (you have to be a professional to do that; ditto with the makeup).  She lives above the home, works there part-time already, but would rather scrub toilets, floors, and clean up others' garbage; it is so much better.  This just didn't make sense.

Then, Burton is willing to nail her for a murder because of parking tickets?  Really?  That seems like a stretch.  And calling her 'girly' repeatedly?  That grated on me.  I've never had a friend or relative call me that, and if they did, I can guarantee it would only be once.  It's condescending and rude.

I get that she's attracted to Max, but in practically every other paragraph she kept talking about it in one way or another.  Man, she was so concerned with him that I wondered how she could keep her thoughts straight during the investigation.  There was so much about this that I think it took time away from the mystery.  There also wasn't any geographical info.  What does the town look like?  Is it historic?  New buildings?  Old?  It was hard to get a feel for place.

So, while I would really have liked to enjoy this book more, I just couldn't get past these points.  Hopefully in the next book she's able to realize her dream of a tea shop, and perhaps we'll learn more about the town and get to know her family.  A nice, quick read, although with a heads up, there is some cursing throughout.

https://www.amazon.com/Cremains-Day-Tallie-Graver-Mystery/dp/1496712218/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2130820317

More on Misty Simon's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/s/misty-simon/

Monday, November 20, 2017

Nightshade for Warning (An Enchanted Garden Mystery #2)

Author:  Bailey Cattrell
Genre:  Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; Audio CD; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9780451476890; 9781494568245
Berkley Publishing
336 Pages
$7.99; $29.99; $7.99
May 2, 2017

✮✮✮✮


Ellie's business and personal life have been flourishing in her hometown of Poppyville, California, since she opened Scents & Nonsense.  She uses her very special skills to craft perfumes that almost magically ease heartache, inspire change, and bring joy - and her customers love to relax in the beautiful garden behind her shop with her corgi, Dash, and her cat, Nabokov.  She even lives right next to the garden, in a compace "tiny house" - and she's excited to hear that a journalist is going to write a feature about her home and garden for a national magazine.

But then the journalist is found dead, and suspicion falls on the last person to see him - who just happens to be Ellie's brother's girlfriend.  So before everything goes to seed, Ellie must rely on her powers - observational and otherwise - to pick out the real killer from an ever-expanding bouquet of culprits...

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

Ellie owns Scents & Nonsense, a shop that sells oils, lotions, soaps, etc., in Poppyville, California.  She bought it with the money she received from her ex-husband when he bought out her half of the restaurant they owned together.  She's been happily creating personal scents for people, along with allowing them to relax in her Enchanted Garden behind the store - complete with miniature furniture and trees with tiny doors.

She's looking forward to a journalist writing a story about her tiny home (a converted garden shed) behind her shop, and her garden for a magazine.  She's also pleasantly surprised when she spots her brother Colby's van outside her home; and he has a second surprise for her: his girlfriend Lark.

But during a disastrous meeting with Blake Sontag, the writer, during dinner the evening before, Lark has a minor confrontation where she tells Blake he's a 'horrible person' and stomps off.  The next morning Blake doesn't show up for the interview, and it's only when Ellie hears sirens at the hotel that she finds out that Blake isn't coming - he's dead, and from what she can tell of the murder scene, he's been poisoned with Deadly Nightshade, also known as Belladonna.  It's not a nice way to die.

Now the police think that Lark may have committed the murder because she had given Blake an herbal tea to help him sleep, and Colby begs Ellie to help clear her name.  What can she say?  He's her brother, and he's in love with Lark. 

So Ellie starts looking around and finds out that more than one person had a reason to want Blake dead; and she's pretty sure the reason is a parcel of thirty acres that's ripe for development.  Could one of those people be his reclusive sister Joyous, who wanted to sell when Blake didn't?  Or the mysterious Vaughn, who's been seen in the realtor's office?  Or even her ex-husband Harris, who's been seen several times with Vaughn...

I have to say that I enjoyed this book more than the first in the series.  While it's still centered on aromatherapy, you're not so inundated with Ellie looking at every plant in her garden, telling us the meaning and then using that as a guide to what she should do next.  Yes, we still have the lovely garden, and yes, there's still plants and their meanings; but this book is more centered on the murder, which is what a mystery should do.

While Ritter, Ellie's boyfriend, is missing in this second in the series (he's off on his own job in Alaska and won't be back for several months), she's being almost-pursued by a genial photographer who's in town to help with the story of her tiny home, so we don't really have a progression of their still-new relationship to each other, although it seems to be committed so far.

I like the fact that while Ellie investigates she's never pushy with people.  She doesn't peek in windows or break into buildings, and that's a plus.  It shows she has intelligence, and that's always a good sign in a mystery.  She's not weak-willed nor mealy-mouthed around men, even Detective Lang (as she was in the first).  Ellie's growing up, and that's a good thing.

When we finally find out the killer, and the reason why, it's as old as time itself, but still quite a surprise, and one I don't think anyone would suspect.  I found it to be an easy read and quite enjoyable indeed.  As of right now, I don't see a third book in the offing, but since the author also has another series she's penning, that could still be yet to come.  I certainly hope so.  Recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/Nightshade-Warning-Enchanted-Garden-Mystery/dp/0451476891/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2190136033

More on Bailey Cattrell's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/c/bailey-cattrell/

If the Haunting Fits, Wear It (A Haunted Vintage Mystery #5)

Author:  Rose Pressey
Genre:  Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book
#9781496705556
Kensington Publishing
304 Pages
$7.99; $5.99 Amazon
June 27, 2017

✮✮✮✮


When Cookie Chanel lands a dream assignment of providing vintage hats for a high-society Kentucky Derby party, she;s brimming with excitement.  Leaving her mother and best friend to mind the store at It's Vintage Y'All, Cookie packs up her psychic cat and races to Kentucky.  But before she can hang her hat, her enthusiasm is dampened when the rider of the potential Derby-winning horse is put out to pasture.  Now she's saddled with the jockey's ghost, who insists she find his killer.  With suspects ranging from an odds-on favorite to a dark horse, Cookie may just find herself in a dead heat before the photo finish...

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

Cookie Chanel has landed a plum gig - she’s attending the Kentucky Derby with her rich friend Danielle, and all she has to do is help Danielle choose outfits and hats.  Because of this, she’s in the attic of a home recently purchased, and the owner said she could take whatever she wanted.  Before she’s able to do so, however, she’s confronted by a ghost named Maureen who informs her that the hats belong to her and Cookie can’t have them.  But after a confrontation with Cookie and her resident spirit Charlotte, Maureen agrees if Cookie will find out who murdered her.

So Cookie, Charlotte, Maureen and Wind Song, Cookie’s cat/grandmother, have been booked into a very odd B&B with a nasty-tempered host, but other than that, she’s looking forward to spending time there.  However, during her first event with Danielle, she finds the body of Ramon Gooden, a jockey.  Now Cookie has three spirits hanging out with her, because Ramon expects her to help find his murderer too.  

But not knowing anyone in Kentucky, Cookie might find things more difficult - especially since the B&B owner is giving her such a hard time.  Still, she manages to catch bits of conversation here and there, and is pleasantly surprised when Detective Dylan Valentine shows up; she knows he can get information from the police she’s not able to do.  Unfortunately, Attorney Ken Harrison shows up also; both men are worried about her when they hear she’s found a body so hightailed it to Kentucky to see if she's alright.

So now Cookie has three ghosts to contend with, two men wanting to occupy her time, and one unhappy B&B owner who's suspicious of her.  At least she's able to delegate somewhat - she has her friend Heather and her mother back in Sugar Creek looking into Maureen's death, but trying to find a killer at the Derby isn't easy, especially when she doesn't know anything about the victim - and he won't say much at all.  It's going to take all her sleuthing skills to find out the truth and keep herself from permanently joining her temporary trio of ghosts...

I found this to be an entertaining read, and this time around she has two ghosts who need to find out who murdered them.  I always enjoy reading Rose Pressey's books, and this one was no different, but I did wonder why the ghosts didn't help out more.  As an example, she was trying to solve Ramon's murder, so why couldn't he go into the black truck and see if he recognized the driver?  Ramon appeared to be hindering instead of being helpful to Cookie's investigation by not being truthful.

Aside from that, it was a quick read and engaging enough to keep me reading it in one sitting.  This is the fifth book in the Haunted Vintage Mysteries, a cute paranormal series that has a little romance in it, too.  I look forward to reading the next in the series.  Recommended.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Altered to Death (Faith Hunter Scrap This Volume 6)

Author:  Christina Freeburn
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Trade Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781635112825; 9781635112795
Henery Press Publishing
276 Pages
$31.93; $15.59; $4.99 Amazon
November 28, 2017

✮✮✮✮✮


Faith Hunter, who is supposed to be planning her wedding, instead finds herself distracted by the town scrapbook she was commissioned to create.  Eden's oldest mystery, the founding family's exodus nearly a hundred years ago, remains unsolved.

A search through the family's abandoned mansion leads to the uncovering of bones on that very property.  And then ex-boyfriend Steve Davis announces a surprise heir has staked a claim.

How can Faith not be distracted?  Now she's determined to dig up the truth left behind.

Because scrappers are multi-taskers extraordinaire, Faith can't say no when family friend Wyatt Buford asks her to look into his deadbeat father's disappearing act and his connection to the murder.

Her quest for answers unearths secrets past and present that some would prefer stay buried at any cost.  Faith's resolve to present the facts and nothing but about Eden's history could lead to her own future being cut short.

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

Faith Hunter, co-owner of Scrap This scrapbooking store (along with her two grandmothers) is preparing for her wedding to homicide Detective Ted Roget.  She's also working on a town scrapbook, so has been busy.  When one of her employees, Sierra Brodart, asks Faith if she can stop by her mother-in-law's home and pick up a box that might be useful to the project, Faith reluctantly agrees.

But while there, Georgia Brodart tells Faith that her late husband Edward was murdered, because he knew that Georgia was related to the Evertons and had a diary for proof.  Faith at first believes she might just be having delusions, but when Georgia's son Hank shows up - Sierra's husband - and becomes angry that Faith is even there, she begins to wonder.

Meanwhile, the Buford brothers, Wayne and Wyatt, are renovating the Everton home for the town Historical Society.  But while Faith is there to pick up items that might be useful to her project, one of their workers digs up a skull in the yard.  After calling the police, it's determined that it's a crime scene and work has to stop.  To make matters worse, Faith's ex-boyfriend Steve Davis shows up with a court order stopping work indefinitely because, as he tells them, the house has a potential heir.

It seems the Everton family picked up and left Eden almost a hundred years ago, and no one knows why.  There were rumors, of course, and Faith, always curious by nature, isn't about to let something as an old skull stop her from getting to the truth.  With the help of Wyatt, she's going to find out - if she can- who the bones might belong to, and who the rightful heir is.  Georgia is claiming she is, and her sons Hank - who hates Faith - and Matthew agree.  But Faith isn't so sure.

When Faith starts searching for the truth, things start heating up.  The closer she gets to finding the answers she's looking for, the closer she gets to digging her own grave.  And if she's not careful, it won't matter who the rightful heir is, because she won't be around to find out...

I absolutely loved this book.  The plot was well thought out, well-written and intriguing.  A nearly hundred-year-old mystery and old bones, both connected, both tied to the present day; it was done so well you really didn't even notice that there wasn't a present-day murder to solve until you finished the book.  (Although there were a few close calls, of course). 

Merging the past with the present has always been a favorite of mine in books; probably because I love history so much (even fictional history) and enjoy seeing it woven together in stories both real and imagined.  This book brought those two together in a very pleasing way, and I think it is my favorite out of all the Faith Hunter books I've read.

Ms. Freeburn is indeed a talented writer who continues to give us an entertaining mystery to fill our time, and her books never disappoint.  When the ending comes and the mystery is solved, it is twofold - for we know all along (for the most part) where most of the mystery lies; but the ending was satisfying all around.  I look forward to the next in the series.  Highly recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/Altered-Death-Faith-Hunter-Scrap/dp/1635112796/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2187262854

More on Christina Freeburns's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/f/christina-freeburn/

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Daisies for Innocence (An Enchanted Garden Mystery #1)

Author:  Bailey Cattrell
Genre:  Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; Audio CD; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9780451476883; 9781494568238
Berkley Publishing
336 Pages
$7.19; $23.13; $7.99 Amazon
January 5, 2016

✮✮✮


The Enchanted Garden behind Elliana Allbright's perfume shop draws people of all ages with its fragrant flowers and lush greenery.  But when the magical serenity is interrupted, it's up to Ellie to sniff out a killer.

Ellie's life has blossomed in Poppyville, California, since she opened Scents & Nonsense, a custom-made-perfume store.  Her skills with aromas and botanical essences - some from her very own garden - seem almost...supernatural.  Her perfumes can evoke emotions, bring about change, or simply make people happy.  Customers are flocking to the store to buy her wares or just to sit in her beautiful garden, sip tea and enjoy homemade cookies. 

But she smells trouble when she learns that her part-time assistant Josie is dating her ex.  And before she can tell the young woman to beware of his charms, she finds Josie dead in the Enchanted Garden.  Now the prime suspect in Josie's murder, Ellie must search for the real culprit in Josie's past - because it'll take a miracle to nip this problem in the bud...

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

Elliana Allbright owns a shop that makes perfumes, soaps, body lotions, etc., in the town of Poppyville, California.  She opened it after a messy divorce from her husband Harris; one in which he kept the restaurant they owned together and bought her out.  She has a part-time employee named Josie, and one day she tells Ellie that she's been dating Harris and asks if it's a problem.  Ellie assures her it isn't, Ellie leaves to run some errands and leaves Josie handling the shop.

She doesn't see Josie again that day, and the next morning her little Corgi Dash goes outside and won't stop barking.  Ellie follows, and finds Josie's body just outside the gate to her Enchanted Garden which is in the back of her shop.  She calls the police and is questioned.  Detective Lang, a friend of her ex-husband Harris, is convinced she murdered Josie out of jealousy; convinced because Harris told him Ellie was extremely jealous and probably did it.

Since he's not looking elsewhere, she figures it's up to her to find out who the killer is.  At least his partner, Detective Lupe Garcia, is rational and helpful, which gives her hope.  When Garcia tells her that it appears Josie was stabbed in the park, but died in the garden, you'd think Lang would realize that it wasn't her fault, but he doesn't.  So Ellie starts doing what she can to find out who would want Josie dead, and hopes to find out before Lang puts her behind bars for life...

I really liked the title of the book and the fact of the garden in the back, filled with plants that Ellie uses to make her concoctions.  A lot of the book was good, but then there was the taint of Detective Lang...(To see a spoiler on my thoughts about Lang, please see my review on Goodreads).

While the plot was decent, there wasn't really a lot of alternative suspects.  No one stood out, and nearly everyone was nice.  Those that weren't all seemed to have alibis the night Josie was killed.  I didn't feel that we were given enough clues to get close to finding the killer ourselves (and isn't that why we read mysteries?)  It was as if people were there, and then discarded along the way - no one was really questioned by Ellie, she just observed them, or pretty much said hi - in other words, they wouldn't have been viable suspects anyway.

This is a light-hearted read and a decent start to a new series.  I would have liked to have seen more emphasis on character development and perhaps a little less on the power of aromatherapy.  I didn't get the feeling of knowing any of the characters, but perhaps that will be remedied in the next book in the series.  A cute cozy mystery for a lazy evening.

https://www.amazon.com/Daisies-Innocence-Enchanted-Garden-Mystery/dp/0451476883/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2185549227

More on Bailey Cantrell's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/c/bailey-cattrell/

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Bones to Pick (A Brie Hooker Mystery #1)

Author:  Linda Lovely
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Trade Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781635112627; 9781635112597
Henery Press Publishing
286 Pages
$20.92; $15.95; $2.99 Amazon
October 24, 2017

✮✮✮✮


Living on a farm with four hundred goats and a cantankerous carnivore isn't among vegan chef Brie Hooker's list of lifetime ambitions.  But she can't walk away from her Aunt Eva, who needs help operating her dairy.  Once she calls her aunt's goat farm home, grisly discoveries offer ample inducements for Brie to employ her entire vocabulary of cheese-and-meat curses.  The troubles begin when the farm's pot-bellied pig unearths the skull of Eva's husband, who disappeared years back.  The sheriff, kin to the deceased, sets out to pin the murder on Eva.  He doesn't reckon on Brie's resolve to prove her aunt's innocence.  Death threats, ruinous pedicures, psychic shenanigans, and biker bar fisticuffs won't stop Brie from unmasking the killer, even when romantic befuddlement throws her a curve.

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

Brie Hooker is a vegan chef who comes to her twin aunts' goat farm for the funeral of one of them.  When the will is read, she discovers that they bought her a (needs tons of work to be inhabitable) large house she wants to eventually turn into a B&B.  She decides to stay at the farm and help the surviving twin, Eva, run the place while she uses her spare time to work on the place.

When, during the wake, a pot-bellied pig named Tammy uproots a human skull, it is eventually determined to be that of Eva's runaway husband, Jed.  The sheriff - who's kin of Jed - decides that Eva must have murdered the man over forty years ago and didn't expect his body to be found.  But Brie isn't going to see her aunt railroaded for something she didn't do, and with the help of old and new friends, she sets out to find the killer.  What she doesn't know is that finding a killer isn't that hard if you know where to look...

This is a new series, and I think that it might need a bit of honing.  I was a little concerned when Brie was shown a newspaper headline that read "Murdered Corpse Dug Up on Udderly Property."  How does one murder a corpse?  Oh, well...anyway, after Jed's remains are discovered, other people start dropping like flies.  I don't mind a murder or two, but when what seems like half the town is disappearing...

Then Eva is arrested for Jed's murder, and Brie decides it's time to dig a little deeper.  Luckily, she has the help of the town's two most eligible bachelors, Paint and Andy, and also has their undivided attention toward her personally; which she needs because it seems she's also become the target of a crazed killer.  It doesn't matter that she wasn't around for the original murder, but the fact that she's living at the farm includes her as someone to get rid of; and whoever it is, is doing their best to remedy the fact that she's still alive...

I thought the book was written well, and the plot was fairly decent, but things just didn't seem to come together completely enough for me.  I must truthfully also say that I absolutely abhor love triangles.  I always wonder if it were one man and two women if the reader would think it was cute - especially if he was speaking of them the way Brie was speaking of Paint and Andy.  They’d be calling the guy a dog.  So yes, unfortunately, that tempers my view of a book when it’s a prominent part of it.

I also get that Brie's a vegan, but I don't understand why she'd be so willing to sell cheese or other products, especially since she thinks dairy 'contaminates' food.  It just didn't ring true true for me.  I couldn't see that a true vegan would be so willing to sit down with meat eaters and have no problem with it.  Again, it just doesn't seem believable.

All in all, the mystery was done well and the ending was very good, but I just couldn't get past the points I mentioned above.  Very good for a new series, and hopefully the love triangle will be resolved in the next book.  Recommended.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Booked for Trouble (A Lighthouse Library Mystery #2)

Author:  Eva Gates
Genre:  Mystery

Paperback (LP); Mass Market Paperback; Audio CD; Digital Book; Audiobook
ISBN #:  9781410486585; 9780451470942; 1515900450
Berkley Publishing
304 Pages
$22.94; $7.99; $33.25; $5.99 Amazon
September 1, 2015

✮✮


Lucy has finally found her bliss as a librarian and resident of the Bodie Island Lighthouse.  She loves walking on the beach, passing her evenings with the local book club, bonding with the library cat, Charles, and enjoying the attention of not one but two eligible men.  But then her socialite mother, Suzanne, unexpectedly drops in, determined to move Lucy back to Boston - and reunite her with her ex-fiancé.

To make matters worse, Suzanne picks a very public fight at the local hotel with her former classmate Karen Kivas.  So, when Karen turns up dead outside the library, Suzanne is immediately at the top of the suspect list.  Now Lucy must hunt down a dangerous killer - before the authorities throw the book at her poor mother...

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

When Lucy's mother Suzanne comes for a visit, Lucy is sure that she's there to take her back to Boston to marry her childhood friend Ricky.  Shortly after arriving at her hotel, Suzanne encounters Karen, a friend from school she'd rather not see, and makes a snarky remark to her about being a hotel maid.  The next evening, the two meet again at Lucy's book club, and the morning after that, Lucy finds Karen's body outside of the lighthouse.

It also turns out that a valuable necklace is missing from the hotel, and due to a suspected theft over thirty years ago, Suzanne is considered the likely culprit.  Lucy, of course, refuses to see her mother unjustly accused, and decides to find the killer herself.  But she also has to convince Suzanne she's not returning home and juggle two potential suitors in the process (and I can do without love triangles, thank you very much).

This is the second book in the Lighthouse Library Mysteries, and I really wanted to like it.  Sadly, I like Lucy less than I did in the first book.  She seems superficial - obsessed with everyone's looks and what they're wearing.  She even mentions how she's a "winter" (do we care?) but we've never gotten a clear view of what she looks like except for her curly black hair.  There is more than enough descriptions of clothing but not enough of people themselves.  We really never get to know much of anything about anyone; there's no character development.  And Lucy, the woman who lives alone in a lighthouse, is (still) afraid of ghosts.  Really?

The plot itself is decent in the beginning, but we never learn much about Karen except that she was a habitual complainer and no one cared for her.  Still, Lucy thinks she needs to find the killer and goes about trying to do so; but honestly, her thoughts wander and she sort of bumbles her way through things.  She doesn't seem very intelligent, which is unfortunate; because she's really bad at managing her own life, even if she's good at being a librarian.  I honestly would have liked to see her develop a backbone along the way.

I just didn't feel this book 'grab' me in any sense of the word.  The murder seemed to take second place to Suzanne trying to get Lucy to come home with her; she didn't seem to care that Lucy didn't want to marry Ricky.  Mothers like that I can do without.  There was so much focused on this subject that I lost interest in the murder.

In the end, finding out the killer and the reason why seemed rather weak to me.  It just didn't appear to be too realistic.  I never felt Lucy (or her mother's) life was truly in any danger, and there was no leading up to the climax.  Suzanne seemed just as gullible as Lucy, so at least I know who she gained her lack of intelligence from. 

All in all, an okay read for an evening, and since I've already bought the third book in the series I will read it, but unless it seriously improves I probably won't follow it past that point.  For the record, I do like this author; I just don't care for this series.

https://www.amazon.com/Reading-Storm-Lighthouse-Library-Mystery/dp/0451470958/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2183166369

More on Eva Gates's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/g/eva-gates/

Friday, November 10, 2017

By Book or By Crook (A Lighthouse Library Mystery #1)

Author:  Eva Gates
Genre:  Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; MP3 CD; Digital Book; Audio CD
ISBN #:  9780451470935; 9781494564667
Berkley Publishing (Tantor Audio)
352 Pages
February 3, 2015

✮✮


For ten years Lucy has enjoyed her job poring over rare tomes of literature for the Harvard Library, but she has not enjoyed the demands of her family's social whorl or her sort-of-engagement to the staid son of her father's law partner.  But when her ten-year relationship implodes, Lucy realizes that the plot of her life is in need of a serious rewrite.

Calling on her Aunt Ellen, Lucy hopes that a little fun in the Outer Banks sun - and some confections from her cousin Josie's bakery - will help clear her head.  But her retreat quickly turns into an unexpected opportunity when Aunt Ellen gets her involved in the lighthouse library tucked away on Bodie Island.

Lucy is thrilled to land a librarian job in her favorite place in the world.  But when a priceless first edition Jane Austen novel is stolen and the chair of the library board is murdered, Lucy suddenly finds herself ensnared in a real-life mystery - and she's not so sure there's going to  be a happy ending.
✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

Lucy Richardson has moved to the Outer Banks from her comfortable home in Boston, ostensibly to escape an unwanted marriage proposal.  She's been lucky enough to find a job working for a library in a renovated lighthouse, her last library job was at Harvard.

This library has been able to secure a set of first edition Jane Austen books, and a notebook written by the lady herself.  On opening night, the library chair makes a few choice remarks about Lucy receiving her job over a local resident - even though Lucy has a degree and the local, Louise Jane, does not.  Mr. Uppiton, the chair, also gets into an argument with the head of the library, Bertie, very loudly, with Bertie making a threat toward him.

Later on that evening, Mr. Uppiton is found dead, Bertie is in the room with a broken bottle in her hand (most likely the murder weapon, but we are never told so), and Lucy, along with the rest of their friends, is convinced she's innocent of the crime.

But finding the killer isn't going to be easy when you're the 'new kid in town'.  Especially since Lucy is still on the suspect list herself.  All she knows is that in order to keep the library alive she needs to keep Bertie out of jail, and she'll do whatever it takes, even if it nearly kills her...

I really wanted to like this book.  It's got books, a cat named Charles, and Jane Austen.  What could be better?  Unfortunately, there's so much wrong with it.  With Lucy living in the lighthouse on the fourth floor, she has to climb 100 steps (she said herself) several times a day and isn't even winded?  Can you imaging climbing that several times a day?  How did they get plumbing all the way up there?  I wouldn't think it would be feasible.

Louise Jane was just a nasty piece of work.  There wasn't a single redeemable quality about her that I can think of.  As for Lucy, she's dumber than a box of rocks.  She lives alone in a lighthouse but is afraid of ghost stories?  She knows Louise Jane baits her and takes it every time instead of walking away?

She says she's never had a date, but recounts a story about an evening out with an ex-boyfriend - an ex-boyfriend she's slept with, no less.  What does she consider dating?  Also, there are two men chasing her practically right from the first pages of the book.  I can see this turning into a love triangle - and that's never good in the long run.  Really, how happy would you be if the situation were reversed and it was a guy and he was dating two women at the same time?

Unfortunately, the library in a lighthouse just didn't make sense, and all the to-do about people visiting merely because of the Jane Austen collection - and Jane Austen did not live by sea.  She lived in Chawton, Hampshire, which is inland; and this is a big deal if you're speaking of Jane Austen.

I felt the mystery wasn't given as much attention as it should have, with more being paid to what people were wearing and what they ate, so when we finally figure out who the murderer is I really didn't care; and the reason why didn't seem believable.  Sorry, but this book just wasn't my cup of tea; hopefully the series will improve with the next book.

https://www.amazon.com/Book-Crook-Lighthouse-Library-Mystery/dp/0451470931/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2180520099

More on Eva Gates's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/g/eva-gates/

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Hank and Jim: The Fifty-Year Friendship of Henry Fonda and James Stewart

Author:  Scott Eyman
Genre:  Biography/Film

Hardcover; Audio CD; Digital Book; Audiobook
ISBN #:  9781501102172; 9781681689623
Simon & Schuster Publishing (Highbridge Audio)
384 Pages
$18.90; $39.99; $14.99 Amazon
October 24, 2017

✮✮✮✮✮


Henry Fonda and James Stewart were two of the biggest stars in Hollywood for forty years.  They became friends and then roommates as stage actors in New York, and when they began making films in Hollywood, they roomed together again.  Between them they made such memorable films as The Grapes of Wrath, Mister Roberts, Twelve Angry Men, and On Golden Pond; and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Destry Rides Again, The Philadelphia Story, It's a Wonderful Life, Vertigo, and Rear Window.

They got along famously, with a shared interest in elaborate practical jokes and model airplanes, among other things.  Fonda was a liberal Democrat, Stewart a conservative Republican, but after one memorable blow-up over politics, they agreed never to discuss that subject again.  Fonda was a ladies' man who was married five times; Stewart remained married to the same woman for forty-five years.  Both men volunteered during World War II and were decorated for their service.  When Stewart returned home, still unmarried, he once again moved in with Fonda, his wife, and his two children, Jane and Peter, who knew him as Uncle Jimmy.

For Hank and Jim, biographer and film historian Scott Eyman spoke with Fonda's widow and children as well as three of Stewart's children, plus actors and directors who had worked with the men - in addition to doing extensive archival research to get the full details of their time together.  This is not another Hollywood story, but a fascinating portrait of an extraordinary friendship that lasted through war, marriages, children, careers, and everything else.

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

If anyone knows classic films at all, then these two actors' names will be right up there with John Wayne, Humphrey Bogart, Spencer Tracy and Cary Grant.  While their films, for the most part, of all these actors were very different, their onscreen presence was palpable.  There was no mistaking that you were in the presence of a great actor when you sat down to watch.

I have always known that Fonda and Stewart were best friends - anyone who claims to be a classic film buff would know this.  And, I must say, I knew quite a bit about their professional lives, and their personal, as far as marriages.  I also knew that they both served in World War II, Fonda in the Navy and Stewart in the Army Air Corps.  However, Mr. Eyman has gone far deeper into their pasts.

He begins right where they do - from birth; and tells us of their very different upbringing in life.  He goes on from there to their early life on the stage, and their eventual move to Hollywood.  But their lives take very different turns.  Hank was married five times - he was wound too tightly most times to make a marriage stick; his emotions stayed beneath the surface and were rarely exposed; Jimmy was married once, when he was 41 - Gloria was the love of his life and the marriage was a happy one.

Their careers took different turns, also:  Hank preferred stage to screen; Jimmy stayed in Hollywood and made many memorable films (and a few he probably wished he hadn't).  But the films Hank made were, for the most part, memorable also, and I am sure everyone has that particular film of both of them that stays with you and you will watch over and over.  I love Hank's films The Mad Miss Manton, Mister Roberts, and The Rounders (not a spectacular film, but very funny).  For Jimmy's films, I love The Shop Around the Corner, Rear Window, and The Rare Breed.  

It is obvious that Mr. Eyman has done extensive research on his subjects.  The book is neither cloying nor filled with Hollywood gossip; it gives us an honest and well-written biography about two remarkable men, the like of which will never be seen again.

While I've read other biographies of Fonda and Stewart, I believe that Mr. Eyman's is the best by far.  While I am sure there are those who like only one or the other, I consider myself a true classic fan, and while I may not like an actor personally, I can watch their body of work and appreciate it for what it is.

While this book points out that Hank wasn't the best father in the world, he also changed as he got older, and his loyalty to his friends was always unwavering.  Perhaps because they never expected anything from him, knowing he didn't offer up as much of himself.  Jimmy, on the other hand, seems more open and giving to both family and friends.

They were there for each other through triumphs and tragedies; through good times and bad; and never allowed their personal politics or personal demons stand in the way of their enduring friendship.  One can only hope for a friendship in their life as strong as the one between these two.

I am grateful for this book, for giving us the insight into two remarkable men who became extraordinary actors and had an exceptional friendship.  Highly recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/Hank-Jim-Fifty-Year-Friendship-Stewart/dp/1501102176/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2135608274

More on Scott Eyman and His Books:  https://www.amazon.com/Scott-Eyman/e/B001H6N7F6

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Ax to Grind (A Kenni Lowry Mystery Book 3)

Author:  Tonya Kappes
Genre:  Mystery/Suspense

Hardcover; Trade Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781635112504; 9781635112474
Henery Press Publishing
256 Pages
$31.91; $15.95; $4.99 Amazon
September 19, 2017

✮✮✮✮✮


Ever daydream about taking a little revenge?  Lifting a corner of that precious rug everyone's busy sweeping secrets under?  Well, let me tell you about Beryle Stone.  She was a bestselling author and the most famous citizen to ever come out of Cottonwood, Kentucky.  She knew everyone in town and they knew her.  And when she died, she put all her worldly possessions up for auction.  All but one.

She left behind a hidden tell-all about Cottonwood that's got more gossip than a ladies' luncheon.  Oh, Lordy, does that make the town hot.  I'm not talking Deputy Finn Vincent hot, I'm talking hot under those Southern collars hot.  And since revenge is a dish best served cold, things turn ugly.  Someone gets an ax to the back and the only witness gets put in a coma.

Enter Sheriff Kenni Lowry.  She reckons someone in town will do anything to keep the manuscript from seeing the light of day.  And it's her job to find out who.  She starts uncovering as many secrets as there are suspects.  Of course her poppa's ghost returns to help.  He pieces together the life of the Beryle he once knew, but his memory's a little foggy, and any misstep could cause them a world of trouble.  Can Kenni sort through the secrets buried in Beryle's books, or will this be her final chapter?

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

Kenni Lowry, Sheriff of Cottonwood, Kentucky, has her hands full.  On top of her attraction to her deputy, Finn Vincent, her ex-deputy Lonnie Lemar is running against her.  Cottonwood's most famous citizen, Beryle Stone, has died and left her estate to various charities - with her cousin Ruby Smith as executor - which is causing an influx of tourists and problems among the locals.

Beryle had an assistant, Cecily, who's insisting there's a missing manuscript that needs to go to the publisher and not be part of the estate to be auctioned off.  It seems the manuscript is possibly a 'tell all' about people in the town.  Beryle, a famous writer, based her books on the people of Cottonwood; even though she changed names and altered details, someone doesn't want the truth known - enough to kill.

So late one night Beryle's assistant Cecily is found dead in an alley, and Lonnie's wife Paige injured inside Ruby's antique shop, sending Lonnie into a frenzy and Kenni up to her ears in suspects.  What she discovers along the way is that Beryle's mentally disabled sister, thought long dead, is still alive and being cared for at a local inn - and Kenni (and the town) have known her for years under another name.  Then there's also the little thing about an unpublished manuscript that Beryle left...the one everyone seems to be after, and Cecily was probably killed for.  But no one knows where it is, and with the help of her Poppa's ghost, Kenni learns that nothing good can occur when buried secrets are unearthed, and she needs to find a killer before they have a chance to permanently write her off...

Cottonwood, Kentucky is a small town with an eccentric population.  Kenni followed in her grandfather's footsteps to become sheriff and nearly sent her mother into an apoplectic fit.  But since she's running for re-election, her mother is her staunchest supporter.  Her mother is a hoot and the purest form of Southern lady I've ever known.  The interaction between these two is alone worth reading the book.

But it's the ghost of her grandfather 'Poppa' that gives life to the story (see what I did there?) as he helps her solve the crimes.  In this book, Kenni has figured out a key fact about her Poppa being there that neither of them knew, and her relationship with Finn is undergoing some major changes along the way.

This is the third book in the series, and it keeps getting better as it progresses.  Kenni is capable, smart, stubborn and attractive to boot; and Finn seems to have settled into Cottonwood quite nicely after moving from Chicago.  The mystery is written well and plenty of curve balls along the way to keep it going.  Once we learn about Beryle's sister being alive, it's interesting to watch all the pieces come together slowly, until it's almost too late.

When the murderer is revealed, it comes as a complete surprise.  While the clues were there (and I figured out those pretty quickly since I read a lot of mysteries) the identity of the killer was still a little staggering.  What seems to be the truth isn't, and what seems hidden is sometimes right out in the open.  The reason for the murder was a little sad; it all seemed so senseless in the end.

All in all, an excellent mystery with believable and convincing characters.  Ms. Kappes has written another tale that is suspenseful and enjoyable.  The books just keep getting better and I hope this series stays around for a long time.  I look forward to reading the next in the series.  Highly recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/Ax-Grind-Kenni-Lowry-Mystery/dp/1635112478/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2177120204

More on Tonya Kappe's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/k/tonya-kappes/

Monday, November 6, 2017

Twelve Slays of Christmas (A Christmas Tree Farm Mystery)

Author:  Jacqueline Frost
Genre:  Mystery/Christmas

Hardcover; Audio CD; Digital Book; Audiobook
ISBN #:  9781683313175; 9781538452141
Crooked Lane Books (Blackstone Publishing Audio)
309 Pages
$19.75; $69.00; $9.99 Amazon
October 10, 2017

✮✮✮✮✮


When Holly White's fiancé cancels their Christmas Eve wedding with less than two weeks to go, Holly heads home with a broken heart.  Lucky for her, home in historic Mistletoe, Maine is magical during Christmastime -- exactly what the doctor prescribed.  Except her plan to drown her troubles in peppermints and Snickerdoodles is upended when local grouch and president of the Mistletoe Historical Society Margaret Fenwick is bludgeoned and left in the sleigh display at Reindeer Games, Holly's family tree farm.

When the murder weapon is revealed as one of the wooden stakes used to identify trees on the farm, Sheriff Evan Grey turns to Holly's father, Bud, and the Reindeer Games staff.  And it doesn't help that Bud and the reindeer keeper were each seen arguing with Margaret just before her death.  But Holly knows her father and is determined to exonerate him.  The jingle bells are ringing, the clock is ticking, and if Holly doesn't watch out, she'll end up on Santa's naughty list.

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

Holly White has just returned home to Mistletoe, Maine - she's miserable because her fiancé jilted her in favor of a yoga instructor.  Still, she's not there to lick her wounds and feel sorry for herself.  It's Christmastime, and her parents own Reindeer Games, a tree farm.  They're doing what they've done for years:  During the twelve days of Christmas, they have games and surprises for locals and tourists alike.  Everyone is gearing up for the holiday, and Holly pitches in to help.

But there's a different surprise in store:  Margaret Fenwick, a member of the local Historical Society, has been a thorn in everyone's side for years.  But this year, it's gotten worse.  She's issuing citations anywhere she can, and to everyone she can.  She's even telling Holly's father Bud that he needs to remove fencing that he just erected.  It appears to Holly that everyone is angry with her for one reason or another, and some are fighting back.  But one is fighting back more than the others.  While taking a walk with her friend Cookie, she finds Margaret's body in one of the farm's sleighs.

When the sheriff is called in to investigate, Holly sees that he's new to the area.  Sheriff Grey is young, handsome, and possibly thinks someone at the farm killed Margaret.  At any rate, he's shut the farm down to investigate, and Holly knows that without the money this time of year brings in, her parents livelihood will suffer.  So she decides to do a little investigating on her own - just to give the sheriff a different suspect, of course; someone not connected with her family.

When the sheriff finds out what she's doing, he warns her to leave it alone.  But he's not the only one.  Someone else knows what Holly's doing, and begins warning her away too - but in a much more sinister fashion.  Now Holly realizes that there's a very real danger, and it's her own life at stake.  If a killer is found soon, she won't have to worry about Christmas, because she won't be around to enjoy it...

This is the first book in a new series, and although the author has written several books under another name, this is her first under this pseudonym.  It's rare that a new series has such a promising start.  I'm not saying that new series aren't good; of course they are; I'm merely saying that many times the author still has to find their way and hone the characters.

Not so with this book.  I found the dialogue witty, engaging and amusing.  The banter between Holly and Evan was always engaging, and quite fun to read.  Two people who were after the same thing, but in very different ways.  And oh, what a delight to read.  He was never nasty or mean; she was never pushy or invasive.

Holly is a joy of a character.  She never became obnoxious in her questioning; it never seemed to me that she was overly invasive to other characters.  Quite refreshing, actually, from other protagonists who practically accuse everyone else of the crime in order to save someone they care about.  Holly never seemed to go that route, and I appreciated that fact.

The characters are well-defined, credible and three-dimensional.  You feel as if you really get to know them; these are not cardboard characters.  While we don't really get to know the town of Mistletoe (because most of the action takes place at the farm) we do have fun learning about all the activities her family has planned for the holiday.  It makes one wish to be a part of it and in a way, we are.

When we get closer to discovering the identity of the killer, it was a surprise.  The reason was believable, and I loved the ending.  To say any more would be giving too much away; you will have to read the book to find out why.  This is definitely a very good beginning to a new series and I hope the next one isn't too far in the future.  Highly recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/Twelve-Slays-Christmas-Tree-Mystery/dp/1683313178/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2073902745

More on Jacqueline Frost:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/f/jacqueline-frost/                                                       

Friday, November 3, 2017

Protocol (A Maggie O'Malley Mystery Book 1)

Author:  Kathleen Valenti
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Trade Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781635112429; 9781635112399
Henery Press Publishing
276 Pages
$31.91; $15.95; $2.99 Amazon
September 5, 2017

✮✮✮✮


Freshly minted college graduate Maggie O'Malley embarks on a career fueled by professional ambition and a desire to escape the past.  As a pharmaceutical researcher, she's determined to save lives from the shelter of her lab.  But on her very first day she's pulled into a world of uncertainty.  Reminders appear on her phone for meetings she's never scheduled with people she's never met.  People who end up dead.  With help from her best friend, Maggie discovers the victims on her phone are connected to each other and her new employer.  She soon unearths a treacherous plot that threatens her mission - and her life.  Maggie must unlock deadly secrets to stop horrific abuses of power before death comes calling for her.

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

Maggie O'Malley, fresh out of college, lands a job at a prestigious pharmaceutical company, Rxcellence.  She's really interested in working toward a cure for cancer, which killed her mother, but winds up working on an acne drug.  Not an auspicious start, but the pay is good and there's room for advancement.

She has a second-hand cell phone and one night while out with friends from work, receives an appointment reminder for a meeting with a woman she's never met nor an appointment she never made.  Shortly after she's stunned to find out the woman was killed, apparently in a hit-and-run accident.  Then a day or so later she receives another reminder, and this person is killed as well.

You'd think that would be mystery enough, but it's not.  Maggie herself becomes the target of something sinister, she is suspended from work, and discovers that the dead people have a connection to Rxcellence.  With the help of her childhood friend Constantine, she's trying to find out what the connection means, and who is framing her.

I really wanted to like this book more, but Maggie doesn't seem capable at all.  She's clumsy, breaks things, spills things, etc.; not the type of person anyone would want to have in a lab around breakable items.  By the frequency of her little accidents, every vial and test tube should have winded up on the floor in pieces at some point.  This is the one area I had problems with.

Aside from that, the plot was very good, and there was just enough intrigue and suspense to keep one interested.  I think my favorite character was Constantine, and I hope to see a lot more of him in future books.  This is a first novel by this author, and as such, a worthy effort.  I look forward to the next in the series.  Recommended. 

https://www.amazon.com/Protocol-Maggie-OMalley-Mystery-1/dp/1635112397/ref

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2173136465

More on Kathleen Valenti:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/v/kathleen-valenti/

Mew is for Murder (A Theda Krakow Mystery #1)

Author:  Clea Simon
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781590581650; 9781464201172
Poisoned Pen Press
224 Pages
Various Prices
July 1, 2005

✮✮


Boston freelance writer Theda Krakow thinks the local "cat lady" Lillian Helmhold will make a good story.  But Theda's assignment takes an unexpected twist when she finds the old woman dead on the floor of her rambling old Victorian.  Of course, Theda immediately begins snooping - as milling cats and a ripe mystery pique her interest.

The victim's young friend, a punk rock waitress named Violet, tells Theda that someone has been breaking in to the house, but she couldn't say what they were looking for.  Adding to the complexities are Lillian's mentally challenged son and a greedy real-estate developer.  Yet, as Theda soon discovers, Lillian's breathtaking secret was hers alone - until a killer found out.  Curiosity may not kill any of the cats, but it might just prove fatal to Theda.

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

Theda Krakow is a writer who has quit a permanent job and taken a freelance one.  After having an encounter with an older woman over a kitten, she asks her editor if she might write a story about her.  She discovers the woman takes in unwanted cats and cares for them.  Trying to decide if the woman is truly caring for the cats or a hoarder, she soon finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation when what the police think is an accident seems more like something else.

First off, let me state that I love books with animals, so I was really looking forward to reading this.  But I just couldn't get interested in the plot nor in Theda.  She seemed rather boring, honestly.  And the plot, while intriguing, couldn't keep my interest.  It took me several times to finish this book, and that's never a good sign.

While I know that Ms. Simon is a prolific author, and this is the first in the series, I'm hoping that others will prove to be better (as they usually are); I at least plan on giving one more a shot in the hopes I'm right.  When we come to the end and all is discovered, it seemed okay, but sort of as if something was missing.  Not one of my favorites, but perhaps others will like it better.

https://www.amazon.com/Mew-Murder-Theda-Krakow-Mysteries/dp/1590581652/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2173025908

More on Clea Simon's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/s/clea-simon/

For the Last Time (Sharyn Howard Mystery #5)

Author:  Joyce and Jim Lavene
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Paperback
ISBN #:  9780803495487; 9780373268344
Worldwide Mystery
251 Pages
Prices Vary
June 1, 2002

✮✮✮✮


Buried in the past - An unsolved murder closed the Bell's Creek campground 25 years ago, and now, despite rumors that the land is haunted, the camp is about to be reopened.  Final preparations are underway when a woman's bloodstained dress is found in a tattered old suitcase.  The discovery means that Sheriff Sharyn Howard will have to solve the murder that confounded her grandfather, the sheriff who investigated the crime.  At the time, there were no clues, no motive and no witnesses.  The new evidence leads Sharyn to consider a shocking possibility -- a double murder.  But digging into the past does more than reopen old wounds, it lures a killer out of hiding...a killer who's still desperate, still depraved -- and more determined than ever to eliminate any chances of getting caught.

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

Sharyn Howard is the sheriff of Montgomery County and has a couple of problems.  She hasn't decided whether she's going to run for another term; and more pressing, her younger sister Kristie is opening a youth camp that's been closed for 25 years.

Bell's Creek campground was shut down when a 12-year-old girl was murdered, and the killer was never caught.  At the time, Sharyn's grandfather was sheriff, and not being able to find the killer haunted him so much that he didn't run again.  Even though Sharyn's not happy with the reopening, she can't stop it.

When a reporter is injured shortly before the opening - tripping over an item that turns out to be a suitcase long-buried - Sharyn opens it and discovers a bloody dress and other items.  Sending it to the coroner for examination, she finds that the blood doesn't match that of the dead girl, and now they have what is possibly two unsolved murders.

When Sharyn and her crew begin investigating, they find that someone else was missing from the camp; someone who was never reported.  And from all appearances, the killer is more than likely the same one who killed the little girl - and is still out there.  Will Sharyn be able to find a killer who's managed to stay hidden for a quarter of a century?  Or will she be the next victim...

I felt that this book was written very well, and I enjoyed it quite a bit.  This is the fifth book in the series, and I have not read any of the others.  While I wouldn't be opposed to reading more, I will probably not seek them out.  Sharyn and her deputies have a strong relationship with each other, but as for her personal relationships - with her mother, sister, and Nick, who wants to be more than friends - I didn't feel there was any connection; or in Nick's case, any attraction to each other.  In fact, Sharyn seemed rather bloodless.  Her emotions are so under control (even in a harrowing situation she feels no panic at all) that it was difficult to get to know her, to understand what drove her to act the way she does.  Yes, we are given background on why she became sheriff; but it doesn't seem enough to tell us why she stays

The mystery was interesting, and I was surprised at the murderer and the reason for the killings.  I felt that it never really made any sense, but then again, a killer's mind doesn't have to.  Still, a very good mystery.  Recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/Last-Time-Joyce-Jim-Lavene/dp/0373268343/ref

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2172994758

More on Joyce & Jim Lavene's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/l/joyce-and-jim-lavene/

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Merry and Bright: A Novel

Author:  Debbie Macomber
Genre:  Romance, Christmas

Hardcover; Large Print Paperback; Audio CD; Digital Book, Audiobook
ISBN #:  9780399181221; 9780525493068; 9780525491736
Ballantine Books/Random House Publishing
$13.98; $14.95; $23.97; $10.99 Amazon
272 Pages
October 3, 2017

✮✮✮✮✮


Merry Knight is pretty busy these days.  She's taking care of her family, baking cookies, decorating for the holidays, and hoping to stay out of the crosshairs of her stressed and by-the-book bosss at the consulting firm where she temps.  Her own social life is the last thing she has in mind, much less a man.  Without her knowledge, Merry's well-meaning mom and brother create an online dating profile for her - minus her photo - and the matches start rolling in.  Merry is incredulous, but she reluctantly decides to give it a whirl.

Soon Merry finds herself chatting with a charming stranger, a man with similar interests and unmistakably kind soul.  Their online exchanges become the brightest part of her day.  But meeting face-to-face is altogether different, and her special friend is the last person Merry expects - or desires.  Still, sometimes hearts can see what our eyes cannot.  In this satisfying seasonal tale, unanticipated love is only a click away.

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

Merry Knight  is a young woman who's almost finished working a temp position at a consulting firm.  There's only a few days before Christmas, and she has a deadline at work, along with helping her disabled mother Robin and Down Syndrome brother Patrick decorate for the holidays.  Her father, a pharmaceutical salesman, is away quite a bit, and they've only the one car, she depends on public transportation to get anywhere.  She thinks her boss is mean-spirited and has it in for her, and she's just trying to stay employed until her contract is finished.  Her life is definitely complicated right now.

Jayson Bright, a young executive working for his uncle Matthew at Matt's company, has a potential contract with the Boeing Company, if he can make the deadline.  So he's pushing his employees to get the data finished before Christmas Eve, even if it means working mandatory overtime.  He has no time for nonsense, and believes in following everything by the book.  He's a hard worker and serious about his life.

But Merry's best friend is happily married and now pregnant.  She found her spouse on a dating website called Mix & Mingle, and Robin wants Merry to sign up, but Merry insists she's too busy.  Since her birthday is coming up close - December 26 - Robin and Patrick sign her up as an early birthday gift, and rather than use a photo of her, use one of their Golden Retriever, Bogie.  Merry, while surprised and not too happy about it, decides to see what just might be out there for her...

Jayson, receiving a surprise visit from his cousin and best friend Cooper, is stunned to hear that Cooper is getting married.  Both of them had lousy childhoods with multiple-married parents, and they decided early on that neither one would even start looking for a spouse until they were in their forties.  But it turns out that Cooper, on a fluke, met his soon-to-be wife on Mix & Mingle, and better yet, it's someone from his past.  After Cooper leaves, Jayson, realizing his life is empty, decides to take a look and see what might be just around the corner.  He sees Bogie, fills out an online form, and uses a photo of his own late retriever in return...

Soon Jayson and Merry are communicating without either knowing who the other is.  The more they talk, the more they like about each other.  But will deciding to meet face-to-face change their budding relationship?  Will they be able to survive the knowledge of knowing how they feel about each other?  Will they each decide to go their separate ways or will Christmas light its magic and bring two lonely people together?

Debbie Macomber has a lovely tradition of writing an annual Christmas story that touches your heart and brings warmth to the season.  This one is no different.  We read the story, chapter to chapter, from both Merry and Jayson's points of view.  Each one shows us their lives and the changes they are going through.  We watch their relationship begin warily, and then, as they start to trust each other, change slowly.  But it isn't an easy change.  Anyone who's seen the film The Shop Around the Corner will notice the similarity, but I don't think it matters if you enjoy anything of that nature.

It's a lovely book for the holidays, and I enjoyed reading it.  I have no doubt that everyone who has read it - or is going to - knows that the magic of Christmas will bring a happy ending.  But then again, isn't that what we want to see anyway?  A warm, inviting book that will have you longing for snow and a glowing fire to read by.  Highly recommended.  (To see a hidden spoiler regarding this book, please look for it on Goodreads).

https://www.amazon.com/Merry-Bright-Novel-Debbie-Macomber/dp/0399181229/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2172026964

More on Debbie Macomber's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/m/debbie-macomber/

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Fireworks in Paradise (A Tj Jensen Mystery #8)

Author:  Kathi Daley
Genre:  Mystery

Hardcover; Trade Paperback; Digital Book; Audiobook
ISBN #:  9781635112580; 9781635112559
Henery Press Publishing
242 Pages
$31.75. $15.95; $6.99 Amazon
October 10, 2017

✮✮✮✮


While on vacation in South Carolina, Tj Jensen receives a call that her father has been left in a coma after a devastating car crash.  Back home in Paradise Lake, Tj learns the accident that killed family friend Judge Harper and left her father clinging to life wasn't an accident at all -- someone cut their brake lines.  To make matters worse, her friend and police contact, Deputy Roy Fisher, is working with a new partner who has no intention of letting Tj anywhere near the case.  Facing an investigation more explosive than the annual fireworks show, Tj enlists the help of her best friends to unravel the mystery, all the while navigating a new romance and the thought her father may never wake up.

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

Tj's on vacation in South Carolina when she receives a call telling her that her father's been in a car accident and might not make it.  Hurrying home, she discovers he's in a coma, and Judge Harper, who was driving, was killed.  She also discovers it wasn't an accident - the brake lines were cut; meaning someone wanted the judge to die...

Roy Fisher, deputy assigned to the case, has no problem with Tj's help in solving it, since she's helped him many times before.  But this time is different - he has a new partner who wants nothing to do with 'civilians' and threatens to report Roy if he allows Tj and her friends near the case.

But Tj isn't giving up.  After all, he father was nearly killed, so this hits close to home.  When Tj and Kyle, her new boyfriend, start investigating on the sly, they discover that the judge was looking at several old cases that weren't resolved the way he thought they should be, and wanted to reopen them again.

Could any of these people have caused the accident?  If so, she's got her work cut out for her, since she also has to help run her family's resort for the Fourth of July weekend and worry about her father until he's out of danger.  But will she discover the truth before the new deputy - Kate - discovers what's going on and arrest her for obstruction?

While I enjoyed the book for the most part, I don't understand why anyone would tell the new detective that Tj investigated crimes.  She's not a PI, not a police officer, so really she has no business doing so at all.  Yet her friends - and Roy - seem proud of that fact and naturally, it rankles the new detective.

Secondly, I didn't like Kate at all.  She's too hard-nosed to be a police officer.  She has no compassion, understanding or humor in her, and she seems like the type of person that would arrest someone for sneezing in her direction.  She's ungrateful to boot.  Not a nice person and I couldn't see any redeeming qualities for keeping her in future storylines.

Aside from that, there were several subplots going on at the same time - the Fourth of July festivities, Tj's new relationship with Kyle, and family drama, along with trying to find out who the murderer is.  There's no lack of suspects, and Tj has plenty of help from townspeople to get any information she might need.

When we finally discover who the murderer is, there is no sympathy for the killer.  In fact, one feels he pretty much deserved everything that happened to him.  While this book was more family centered than mystery centered, it was still an interesting way to spend an evening.  Recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/Fireworks-Paradise-Tj-Jensen-Mystery/dp/1635112583/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2170851963

More on Kathi Daley's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/d/kathi-daley/

Curses, Boiled Again! (A Lobster Shack Mystery #1)

Author:  Shari Randall Genre:   Mystery Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book ISBN #:  9781250116703 St. Martin's Publishing 290 Pag...