Friday, August 30, 2019

Pastrami Murder (Darling Deli Book #1)

Author:  Patti Benning
Genre:   Mystery

Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781523677498
CreateSpace Publishing
98 Pages
$6.99; $0.99 Amazon
January 24, 2016




The shores of lake Michigan form the backdrop for smart and sassy Moira Darling's thriving deli shop.  Moira's small town world is turned upside down when one of her cross-town rivals is found murdered.

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

No.  Just no.  The police do not give inside information about an ongoing murder investigation to reporters.  The news would not have reported that a bowl of soup from Darling's was found at the scene for two reasons:  1) it was an ongoing investigation and was evidence; and 2) if it turned out that no one from Darling's was guilty, and Moira's business closed as a result, she could sue both the police and the news agency; especially since the news agency was practically accusing Moira of killing the victim to save her deli.  This is just sloppy.

But, to make things even more unbelievable - Moira, whom we know owns a deli, is served by Danielle what is essentially a Cheesesteak - with the on;y differences being olive bread, steak sauce and no peppers - and she's floored by it.  Seriously?  She owns a deli but have never heard of a Cheesesteak?  She never thought to even make a roast beef sandwich with onions and cheese?  Not a very good deli if she doesn't offer this or has never thought of any variations herself.  If Moira is described as 'smart and sassy' I sure never saw it.

But the real kicker is the fact that the cops think she did it because of the takeout container.  Um, I believe I mentioned above that it's a deli.  She sells food and soups to go.  To.  Take.  Out.  Did the police think that anyone at all could have purchased the soup and left?  Did they question every single customer (because you'd have to).  Did they wonder why she would be stupid enough to leave her own container behind?  To leave incriminating evidence behind?  What a sorry excuse for a police department this is.

Nope.  I'm not buying it.  Learn your facts before you write.  This is a short book but not even worth the time it took to read it.  I don't know how it got any five star reviews.  I'm sure never going to read anything else by this author.

https://www.amazon.com/Pastrami-Murder-Book-Darling-Deli/dp/152367749X/ref

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2957554355

More on Patti Benning's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/b/patti-benning/

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Assault and Beadery (A Cora Crafts Mystery #4)

Author:  Mollie Cox Bryan
Genre:   Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781496716446
Kensington Publishing
299 Pages
$5.62; $5.92 Amazon
September 25, 2018

⭐⭐


All of Cora Chevalier's dreams are coming true.  Since moving to Indigo Gap, North Carolina, the busy crafting maven has been blessed with a great boyfriend, a lovely home, and a booming craft retreat business.  But on the eve of her first Crafty Mom's Escape Weekend, tragedy strikes again in Indigo Gap.  This time, it's curtains for Stan Herald, the disagreeable director of the local theater group, who's murdered on the opening night of their new production.  Worse, Cora's friend Zoe is accused of the crime.

Cora is determined to prove her friend's innocence, but Zee's mysterious past is making that difficult.  And with a list of suspects longer than a double spool of cording, getting a bed on the real culprit won't be easy.  With her friends Jane and Ruby at her side, Cora must string together the clues and solve Stan's murder before the killer gives an encore performance.

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

Cora Chevalier owns an old Victorian home which she's turned into a crafting retreat.  Women sign up for classes and stay at her home for a few days while learning a new skill.  Right now, though, she and her friend Jane are decorating a stage for the local playhouse.  The director is not a well-liked man, and they're doing it as a favor to their friend Zee, who is also the owner of a B&B.  One night while waiting for Zee, Cora receives a frantic telephone call from the woman who informs her that the director is dead and she's been accused of the murder.  Now Cora, along with Jane and her other friend Ruby, are determined to find the real killer instead of watching Zee go to jail for a crime she didn't commit.

I used to enjoy this series, but this fourth and last one, not so much.  Honestly, people read to get a bit of an escape from reality, and I'm getting tired of Cora.  She has panic attacks and anxiety and never seems to take her medication so she doesn't have them.  That just seems stupid, and when she's involving herself in a murder investigation (as we know she will) wouldn't it make sense to make sure she's on her top game?  I can't help but wonder a bit about the author, though: I read the first in another series she has and that protagonist was suffering the after-effects of Lyme Disease.  Is she interested in writing about a protagonist who doesn't have one affliction or another?  Because this isn't interesting, just depressing.  I've never really warmed up to Cora because of this.  I've also said this, before, too: I don't like Adrian, he seems really dull.  I like Cashel much better; he, at least, has a personality.

I also wasn't invested in the mystery.  The victim died after speaking one or two lines, and we never got to know anything about him.  We never saw him interact with anyone, so I didn't really care about the victim one way or another.  I much prefer when the victim actually has interaction with people, so I can get a sense of the type of person they were - not told, but shown.

Then, and this is where the book pretty much had me rolling my eyes, was the fact that Cora receives the telephone call from Zee, and one of the guests for the retreat arrives early.  So she just up and leaves the woman alone in her house without knowing anything about her.  Who in their right mind would do that?  What if the woman had sticky fingers?  What if she wasn't really who she professed to be?  She could have robbed her blind and just walked out before Cora got back.  How dumb is she?   

But not long after that we find out that Cora, with a murderer on the loose, leaves her back door unlocked.  Cora mentions as how there have already been three murders in this town, but she doesn't lock her doors?  Seriously?  Who does that?  But I guess I didn't expect much else from her.  You'll lose me right away with messy details like that.  She leaves home with a stranger in it, and leaves her back door unlocked so anyone can walk in.  Sure, that makes sense.

I also get that she has a crafting retreat, but I've never understood why she's just allowed people to run rampant in her house and take whatever they want in the kitchen.  It's not their home, it's hers.  She should treat it as such.  It's not that difficult to make a pot of coffee or a pitcher of iced tea and offer them to someone.  It also doesn't make any sense that she's hiring a caterer instead of a cook.  It would be cheaper all around, people could eat together and talk (and the guests wouldn't be running through her kitchen).  She also might save some money by hiring a part-time cook while the retreats were taking place.  Caterers are expensive.

Okay, now here's a personal opinion, but since it's my review, I'm allowed this:  I also get really tired of characters who constantly drink.  How does that help?  It doesn’t take away the problem, it only makes it harder for your body to recover.  I much prefer mysteries where they don't sit drinking all night.  There are other ways to relax without it.   Things that happen when you stop drinking:  Your heart and liver get healthy, and it eases depression, anxiety, and raises self- esteem.  Cora might want to put down the booze for awhile.

Also, how are they crafting while getting drunk?  Go ahead and try stringing those beads when you can't see properly.  I wouldn't want to see the finished product, that's for sure.  I'm a huge crafter, and staying sober is probably a very good idea. I get so tired of them always opening a bottle of wine like they can’t have a conversation without it. Have a glass of iced tea or water once in a while.  Your body will thank you.  

At any rate, this book was the only one of the four that couldn't hold my attention - especially after what I mentioned above.  I just didn't care who the killer was, or the reason why.  I just wanted it to end.

https://www.amazon.com/Assault-Beadery-Cora-Crafts-Mystery/dp/1496716442/ref

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2955729431

More on Mollie Cox Bryan's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/b/mollie-cox-bryan/

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

A Pie to Die For (A Bakery Detectives Cozy Mystery #1)

Author:  Stacey Alabaster
Genre:   Mystery

Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781530717606
Createspace Publishing
160 Pages
$7.99 Amazon
March 19, 2016




Rachael will do anything to protect her bakery from the evil Bakermatic Baked Goods Company, but does that include murder?  When a food critic dies after sampling a pie from Rachael's Bakery, she is quickly labeled the prime suspect.  When the police doubt her story of innocence, she has no choice but to find the real killer.  With carefree best friend, Pippa, Rachael sets out on a mission to save her bakery, but it could ultimately cost her and her best friend everything.
                   
✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

First off, I should have known from the cheesy blurb, but I didn't.  Evil?  Seriously?  Also, the woman was a blogger, not a critic.  They are two different things.  Anyway...

Premise:  A local food blogger, Colleen, tells Rachael (our protagonist) - whom Rachael dislikes and vice versa - that she has to try something from every stall at the food fair.  That same night she learns that Colleen has died, and she is brought to the police station for questioning.  She's told she's a suspect, and she points out that Colleen ate at every booth and is told they're aware of it.  Then she discovers that a rival business - Bakermatic - is telling everyone she's a suspect in the murder.

Excuse me, but isn't Bakermatic also a suspect?  How can she be targeted as a killer if the woman ate at every single booth before dying?  Don't the police in this town do their job?  ALL the vendors would be suspects.  The police would do an autopsy (except in this town, I guess) to see what actually was in her stomach and what the cause of death was.

Following is the reason why this was so ridiculous:

 

FYI:  How did they know she ate at Rachael's booth?  Who told them?  If it was a rival business owner, wouldn't they have to admit she bought their food, too?  Wouldn't the police be a teensy bit suspicious of that person?

None of it makes any sense.  Not even when she forced her best friend Pippa to take a job at the Bakermatic and convinces her to let her in after hours and, of course, they get caught immediately.  These two women are dumber than a box of rocks.  The police department is inept.  People in this town are willing to take Bakermatic's word for it that Rachel's is to blame and eat at their store without proof that she's a murderer?  I'd steer clear of anyone who was at the fair until the killer was actually named and arrested.

Speaking of Pippa, she's labeled a "free spirit."  Every time I hear those words, I think of irresponsible, and I'm never disappointed.  'Free spirit' means 'doesn't want to hold a steady job and is somewhat of a flake.'  I'm not fond of free spirits.   Anyway...

I gave up and skipped to the end and it didn't make any sense.  In the beginning Rachael states she pays her employees a living wage, but in the end her only employee is Pippa - and she just hired her.  So who are these imaginary employees to whom she was paying a living wage?  (However, to be fair, it may have been somewhere in the middle; but this book was so bad I couldn't make it past chapter two, and even that was too far.)

The author obviously has no idea what goes into a murder case except for the fact that there needs to be a dead body.  She has no idea how to structure the story so it's believable.  Details are important, and there aren't any here.  I don't even know what state this takes place in, or any anything about the characters that define them (except for the fact that Pippa has red hair).  Sorry, but I will never read this author again.

https://www.amazon.com/Pie-Die-Bakery-Detectives-Mystery/dp/1530717604/ref

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2949739837

More on Stacey Alabaster's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/a/stacey-alabaster/

Thursday, August 22, 2019

A Crafter Quilts a Crime (A Handcrafted Mystery #3)

Author:  Holly Quinn
Genre:   Mystery

Hardcover; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781643852904
Crooked Lane Books
[Pages TBA]
$26.99; $12.99 Amazon
February 11, 2020

⭐⭐⭐


Snowcapped pines and glittery dusted sidewalks adorn tranquil Heartsford, Wisconsin, while residents cuddle beneath heirloom quilts in front of cozy wood fires.  But come the next day, the below-zero temperatures won't keep the locals away from Heartsford's annual Fire & Ice event.  To boost customer traffic at Community Craft's one-night-only sale, Samantha "Sammy" Kane persuades a few of the craftspeople who sell their wares at the store to participate in a live mannequin window display contest.

Local quilter Wanda Wadsworth emerges as a favorite to win the contest, as she manages to not move a muscle for an unusual amount of time.  Onlookers outside the window try everything to get her to crack -- tapping on the glass and making funny faces -- but nothing disrupts Wanda's stillness.  When the eagle-eyed spectators realize Wanda isn't breathing, a blanket of grief and fear descends upon the wintry town.

Detective Liam Nash can't seem to piece the clues together.  Fortunately, Sammy's cousin Heidi, and her sister, Ellie, are on hand to reconvene their detective team, S.H.E.  They set out to solve Wanda's untimely death before the case grows as icy as a sub-zero Wisconsin winter.  But they are all too aware that the killer is too close for comfort.

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

It's the one night of the Fire and Ice event, and every store in town stays open until midnight, including Samantha "Sammy" Kane's craft store.  She has a unique idea to bring people into her store: she's invited the craftspeople to take part as being live mannequins, for twenty minutes each, and the person with the most votes for best one will get a gift certificate.

Everything seems fine when the first contestant - her cousin Heidi - manages to get through, but the second contestant - Wanda Wadsworth - seems to outdo Heidi.  That is, until Heidi notices Wanda's lips have turned blue and calls an ambulance.

Then no one can reach Wanda's husband Marty, and now the search is on and they're wondering if he killed her, and why.  So Sammy decides that she, her sister Ellie and Heidi - the members of S.H.E. - need to get back together to solve a murder and find a killer...

I have hidden below in a spoiler things that bothered me because I do not wish to ruin the book for those who haven't as yet read it:



However, the mystery itself was written well, I liked the plot, and it seemed that the members of S.H.E. weren't really involved in this one, and it was Sammy alone who happened to come across evidence which was fine with me, as it more or less brought Sammy and Nash to a better understanding of each other.

When the ending comes and the killer is revealed it's rather sad; but the clues were there to follow and that's the main thing.  Although I enjoyed the first two books in the series more, I will read another because of that reason alone.

https://smile.amazon.com/Crafter-Quilts-Crime-Handcrafted-Mystery/dp/1643852906/ref

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

The Whole Cat and Caboodle (A Second Chance Cat Mystery #1)

Author:  Sofie Ryan
Genre:   Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book; Audiobook
ISBN: 9780451419941;
Berkley Obsidian Mystery
336 Pages
$7.89; $7.99 Amazon (Also available in Audio CD)
April 1, 2014

⭐⭐


Sarah Grayson is the happy proprietor of Second Chance, a charming shop in the oceanfront town of North Harbor, Maine.  At the shop, she sells used items that she has lovingly refurbished and repurposed.  But her favorite pet project so far has been adopting a stray cat she names Elvis.

Elvis has seen nine lives - and then some.  The big black cat with a scar across his nose turned up a local bar when the band was playing the King of Rock and Roll's music, and he hopped into Sarah's truck.  Since then, he's been her constant companion and the furry favorite of everyone who comes into the store.

But when Sarah's elderly friend Maddie is found with the body of a dead man in her garden, the kindly old lady becomes the prime suspect in the murder.  Even Sarah's old high school flame, investigator Nick Elliot, seems convinced that Maddie was up to no good.  So it's up to Sarah and Elvis to clear her friend's name and make sure the real murderer doesn't get a second chance.

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

When Sarah Grayson returned home after her radio show was cancelled she decided to open a second-hand shop, and seems to be doing pretty well.  On one morning she's giving a class at the local retirement home, and her friend Maddie doesn't show up - which isn't like her.  So after the class Sarah and her elderly friend Charlotte go to Maddie's home and find her sitting in her backyard alongside her boyfriend Arthur Fenety...who happens to be dead.  When the police suspect Maddie of the murder, none of the women can believe it.  Since the three elderly friends - Charlotte, Rose, and Liz - are determined to find the killer, all Sarah can do is stick by them and hope for the best...

First off, I'm going to say that I absolutely love cats.  I have several of my own, and they are indeed quirky characters with a mind of their own.  However, since my cats aren't magical, and Sarah's cat Elvis isn't either, I have to wonder why he watches Jeopardy.  Cats aren't big on television.  They'd rather eat, sleep, and play.  They aren't too fond of being unable to move, so I can't imagine that any cat would take kindly to being carried around in a duffel bag tied up to their neck with only their head poking out.  There would be a fight about that one.  So no, I didn't get the feeling that Elvis was "real."

Then, I am honestly really, really, tired of protagonists proclaiming they can't cook.  It's not that hard to make basic food and no one has to be a gourmet cook, but it's pretty easy to make a hamburger, chicken breast, or even salmon.  Personally, I think Sarah is just lazy and would rather eat out.  Making scrambled eggs isn't even worth cleaning the pan.  If you're setting off fire alarms, you're not paying attention, which brings me to another another thing: (and proves Sarah just doesn't want to learn to cook). 

Mac remarks that Sarah pays more attention to detail than he does.  No, she doesn't, or she'd be able to cook.  That statement was just blown out of the water.  Also, if he's going to build a boat of his own, shouldn't he be paying attention to details himself and be able to paint those details.  Also, why would you paint a beautiful wood table?  Varnish it to its original color.  I wouldn't buy a wood table from a second hand store that I'd eventually have to strip the paint from to return it to its original glory.  Just sayin'

I also didn't understand why Sarah spent her time hanging around with three elderly women.  Yes, I get they were trying to solve a murder together, but from conversations it's apparent that these ladies are probably most of her social life.  Who hangs around with someone who's nearly sixty years older than you are?  Yes, be fond of your grandparents by all means; but their friends shouldn't be your social life.

Also, the book was more centered on Rose, Liz, and Charlotte, who seemed to blend into each other and they're just not that interesting.  If this book had been labeled as being about senior sleuths we would have been forewarned, because honestly, it really is about them in the long run.  Sarah's love interest just floats in and out of the book when he's needed to make an appearance, as does her friend Jess.  I also didn't get why Sarah would allow the three women to 'create an office' at her place of business.

The murder investigation itself didn't really begin until almost half of the book, around page 190, and by then I'd already lost interest in the book.  When I did get to the end it felt forced and as if the author just needed to find someone as the murderer.  We weren't really given clues so it wasn't pointing toward anyone at all, which was disappointing.

The book would have been better, in my opinion, if Sarah actually had a reason to investigate instead of just keeping an eye on the three women (and, I have to wonder, since Maddie was the one suspected of murder, why wasn't she helping find the killer? - after all, it would have been her head in the noose, not her friends').  I also would have liked to have more descriptions of the town and the harbor, which were practically non-existent here.  This one, unfortunately, was a letdown, but I will perhaps try the second in the series as many times the author hones the characters and the books.  Hopefully this will be the case in this series.

https://smile.amazon.com/Whole-Caboodle-Second-Chance-Mystery/dp/0451419944/ref

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2946638215

More on Sofie Ryan's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/r/sofie-ryan/

Monday, August 19, 2019

Murder, She Knit (A Knit and Nibble Mystery #1)

Author:  Peggy Ehrhart
Genre:   Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781496713278
Kensington Publishing
288 Pages
$7.99; $1.99 Amazon
March 27, 2018

⭐⭐⭐



Pamela is hosting the next Knit and Nibble meeting and can't wait to liven up her otherwise empty home with colorful yarn, baking, and a little harmless gossip.  She even recruits Amy Morgan, an old friend who recently moved to town, as the group's newest member.  But on the night of the gathering, Amy doesn't show.  Not until Pamela finds the woman dead outside - a knitting needle stabbed through the front of her handmade sweater...       

Someone committed murder before taking off with Amy's knitting bag, and Pamela realizes that only she can spot the deadly details hidden in mysterious skeins.  But when another murder occurs, naming the culprit - and living to spin the tale - will be more difficult than Pamela ever imagined...

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

Pamela Paterson is a widow who lives in a small town with a daughter in college and whose social life consists of a knitting group that meets once a week.  It's a varied group that includes both the wealthy and those not so much, but they all have one thing in common, and that's their knitting.

When Pamela is leaving the local co-op grocery she sees an old colleague of her late husband's who helped her get through her grieving, and invites her to join the group.  But Amy Morgan never shows up, and Pamela wonders what happened.  She doesn't have long to wait, as when she's searching for the small kitten she's been feeding outside, she comes across Amy - dead in the bushes, stabbed with a knitting needle.

Now Pamela is curious who wanted to kill Amy, and why.  And when there's another murder, she's convinced the two are connected, even though the police don't.  So it's up to Pamela and her friend Bettina to find the truth before someone else gets killed...

This book could have had so many possibilities, but wasted them.  It wasn't a bad book, not at all; but it missed opportunities and there were several things that bothered me.

First, I don't really approve of underage drinking.  Her daughter is eighteen, and Pamela has no problem giving her wine, because he daughter thinks since she's a college student it somehow makes it okay for her to do so.  Really?  Underage drinking is fine in Pamela's book?  It's not in mine.  Sorry, but I wouldn't give a teenager a drink any more than I'd hand a twelve-year-old my keys and tell them to take the car.

Secondly, Pamela was extremely rude to her neighbor, Richard Larkin.  She just decided that her friend Bettina was 'setting her up' so when he asked a couple of the neighbors in the day after Thanksgiving for an after-Thanksgiving dinner, she decided not to go because of it.  That's just so rude.  She doesn't want to have anything to do with him because after her husband has been dead five years, she's not ready to date.  Fine.  But to not go?  Not fine.

Then, where were the police in this story?  They were rarely in it at all, and only on the periphery.  It's as if they didn't care that people had died, they didn't give any indication they were investigating.  We were told they were asking questions, but we weren't made a part of those questions so we could figure out for ourselves who the murderer was by the responses.  In a mystery, the police shouldn't maybe be omnipresent, but they should at least be there.

But, in the end, it didn't matter.  I knew who the killer was almost immediately - and it was from a single paragraph spoken by one of the characters (and I'm not saying who it was) and it was pretty obvious and also the reason for the murder.

However, one fact did change in the book, and it has to do with the reason for the murder and also indicates what was said, so please do not read it if you haven't read the book:



Other than that, I did like Catrina the cat, although Penny got on my nerves somewhat.  She seemed slightly self-centered, and trust me, not all teenagers are self-centered; Penny was concerned with what Penny wanted, and didn't even ask how her mother was doing living by herself.  She just didn't seem to care.  Pamela needs to socialize more than she does; go to dinner out once in a while, go somewhere other than the co-op.  When she's not investigating, she's a recluse.  She's also emotionless.  Did her emotions die when her husband did?  Because she never seemed happy nor excited nor anything, really.  Pamela is a pretty bland character.

All in all, while I knew who the killer was, it wasn't a bad book, and it had a decent plot.  It just could have been so much better.  I will read the next in the series in the hopes that it will improve.

https://www.amazon.com/Murder-She-Knit-Nibble-Mystery/dp/1496713273/ref

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2943880566

More on Peggy Ehrhart's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/e/peggy-ehrhart/

Friday, August 16, 2019

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 Pages
$7.99; $7.99 Amazon
January 30, 2018

⭐⭐


Allie Larkin was living her dream as a ballet dancer when a bad fall put her out of business.  Now she's back home in Mystic Bay to heal a broken ankle while also helping her Aunt Gully get her Lazy Mermaid Lobster Shack off the ground.  Nothing would help Gully more than winning the local food festival's Best Lobster Roll contest.  The competition is sure to be killer - especially after one of the contest judges dies after eating a roll from one of Gully's biggest rivals.

Soon, all eyes fall on Gully as the prime suspect.  Allie may only have one good leg to stand on, but she's not going to let her aunt go down for a crime she never could have cooked up.  Can Allie, along with her devoted crew of friends, family, and customers, find a way to trap the killer and claw herself out of this hard-boiled murder case?

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

Allie Larkin is a ballerina who injured her ankle and has gone back home to Mystic Bay to heal.  She's also going to spend time helping her aunt with the Lazy Mermaid Lobster Shack, along with her older sister Lorel.  Her aunt has been asked to submit her lobster rolls in a contest being held to find the best one.  But when the judges all keel over after eating the first contestant's entry, and one of them dies, Allie decides to see if she can ferret out a killer before the fallout puts her aunt out of business before she even really begins...

Well, I really wanted to like this book because it had a different premise - Allie didn't run home penniless needing to start over because her relationship broke up, she actually has a job as a ballerina.  But, unfortunately, it started to fall apart almost immediately.

Lorel is a harridan.  (I was going to use the "B" word, but don't want to offend those who don't like cussing.)  Verity was right when she called her cold.  Lorel has all the warmth of a reptile, and no personality otherwise.  It's never said whether Aunt Gully bought the Mermaid herself or if Lorel and Allie contributed, but if Lorel didn't invest any cash, then why does she care if people take time to grieve for the dead instead of pushing Gully to continue in a contest that might not continue anyway?  I didn't get her interest in the restaurant unless she's actually paid into it (or maybe I just didn't read far enough, because her personality completely turned me off from the book).  She's just not a likable person, and you need that.

Then, Allie is a dancer, but rarely spends any time practicing while she's healing.  She does know that dancers practice every day, right?  It's a job, and you have to do it if you want to stay on top of your game.  She's also probably making a decent salary, so why would she spend her time working at the shack - on her injured foot instead of trying to heal?  I once broke my foot, and I was laid up for weeks and not walking well enough in a boot for a long time.  I certainly wouldn't be in a job that had me putting pressure on the foot - which I imagine this would do.

Since Allie also mentions that the house she grew up in is just a couple of blocks away, I wondered why she'd rather stay at her aunt's house (where there was no barre to practice) and share a room with Lorel instead of going back to her own home.  That didn't make sense.  Who would rather share a small room than have their own?  Especially when the homes are that close?    But even Aunt Gully is annoying.  Who wants to be around someone who can't sing yet won't stop?  No thanks.  I like my eardrums.

At one point the book was getting past boring, so I gave up and went to the back to find out 'whodunit' and why.  The ending.  Ho hum.  I've put it in a spoiler so as not to ruin it for anyone, but it just wasn't believable to me.  Not at all.  Please be aware that the spoiler does contain parts of the ending, including the murderer, so do not read it if you have not read the book!



While I find it unfortunate, there just wasn't any real conflict, and I wasn't enthralled with this book, so won't be reading any more in the series.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Murder with Lemon Tea Cakes (A Daisy's Tea Garden Mystery #1)

Author:  Karen Rose Smith
Genre:   Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781617739606
Kensington Publishing
296 Pages
$7.59; $1.99 Amazon
December 26, 2017

⭐⭐


Daisy, a widowed mom of two teenagers, is used to feeling protective - so when Iris started dating the wealthy and not-quite-divorced Harvey Fitz, she worried...especially after his bitter ex stormed in and caused a scene at the party Daisy's Tea Garden was catering.  Then there was the gossip she overhead about Harvey's grown children being cut out of his will.  Daisy didn't want her aunt to wind up with a broken heart - but she never expected Iris to wind up a suspect in Harvey's murder.

Now the apple bread and orange pekoe is on the back burner while the cops treat the shop like a crime scene - and Daisy hopes that Jonas Groft, a former detective from Philadelphia, can help her clear her aunt's name and bag the real killer before things boil over...

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

After her husband's untimely death, Daisy moved with her two daughters from Florida back to Pennsylvania to open a tea shop with her aunt Iris.  With her oldest daughter Violet at college she knows something is bothering her youngest daughter Jazzi but isn't sure what it is.  But that has to be on the back burner because she's more worried about Iris, who seems totally in love with a married - but separated - man who owns a mens' clothing store.

She's also hosting his twenty-fifth store anniversary at her shop while going through his divorce.  It's not pleasant when his almost ex-wife shows up demanding more from the divorce than he's already given her.  When she's escorted out, everything seems to go back to normal.  But then Harvey is found dead, and Iris is the main suspect.  Now Daisy's determined to prove her aunt innocent, but that means finding a killer - who doesn't want to be found...

Since I've read Ms. Smith's other series and it was fine as far as easy reads go (until the final book, which I felt was too full of unicorns and rainbows) I thought I would give this one a try.  Now I wish I'd read something else.  The book was all over the place.

First, we're given descriptions of everything people are eating, and honestly, we really don't care.  We don't care about the menu the tea room is serving every day.  I'm just surprised they don't serve a traditional tea room menu, which certainly doesn't consist of soup or salad.  It's things like scones, finger sandwiches. tarts, cakes, etc. - but not soup or salad.  In fact, I don't know anyone who has soup and salad with hot tea.  It seems very odd to me.  Oh, well, to each his own.

Then, the story line seems not to be centered on the murder, but on Daisy's relationship with her daughters.  She misses her older daughter and now, for some odd reason, her fifteen-year-old has decided to look for her birth mother.  The reasoning didn't make sense to me, and it really took away a lot of time from the murder investigation.

I basically skimmed through the book because the plot line wasn't that interesting.  The conversations were rudimentary and it was almost as if the author didn't want the characters to feel any real emotion.  It felt as if everyone were just walking through their scenes. 

Just like the previous series, this one is more family-based than mystery.  What I mean by that is they're written more about the family life of the characters and the mystery seems almost as an afterthought - just something to pass the time while we decide what the family unit is going to do next.  This one is no different.  If you want a story about a widow with two daughters and her coping with life without her husband, this is for you.  If you're looking for a murder mystery you can sink your teeth into, you might want to pass.

https://www.amazon.com/Murder-Lemon-Daisys-Garden-Mystery/dp/161773960X/ref

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Staged 4 Murder (A Sophie Kimball Mystery #3)

Author:  J.C. Eaton
Genre:   Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781496708595
Kensington Publishing
300 Pages
$7.59; $1.99 Amazon
June 26, 2018

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


Sophie "Phee" Kimball wants to get some work done at her private investigation company in Arizona - and she's distracted already by her old crush, who's arriving from Minnesota to join the staff.  The last thing she needs is constant updates from her mom on the local production of Agatha Christie's "The Mousetrap."  Practically everyone from Mom's book club and retirement community, with the possible exception of her chiweenie, Streetman, wants to join the cast and crew.  But someone's playing the role of the killer for real.

After a much-despised cast member is found dead on a catwalk in the theater, Phee has no choice but to be drawn into all the backstabbing and backstage gossip.  Especially if her drama-queen mother is right about the vaguely threatening note left on her windshield, which could mean curtains for another victim...

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

Sophie "Phee" Kimball works for a private investigator in Arizona.  Her mother lives in a retirement community, and is the bane of Phee's existence.  Harriet is a drama queen, and is always dragging Phee into things she'd rather be left out of altogether.

Harriet is excited that she and her friends are going to try out for a play in the local community center.  It's Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap, and they all want to be a part of it, whether it's in front of an audience or behind the production.  Luckily, her mother gets a role, but no one can stand the diva who landed the main part - Miranda Lee.  Still, everyone's surprised when Miranda is murdered, and they're wondering if there's a serial killer on the loose.

Phee, though, is having problems of her own.  There's a new investigator in her office - Marshall Gregory, and it's got her in a tizzy.  She had a crush on him back when they both worked for the police department in Mankato, Minnesota, and now he's going to be working in their office as a private investigator.  Hopefully, she'll be able to keep her head on straight and able to deal with her mother as well.

When a series of accidents befall the theater and two of the ladies believe they've seen the ghost of Miranda, things start heating up.  They decide to hire the PI firm to investigate, and that puts Phee in the middle of it, alongside Marshall, who's been assigned the case by their boss, Nate Williams (another Mankato transplant).  But after a near-collision with a car, and the scent of Miranda's perfume following them around, both Marshall and Phee become suspicious that someone's out to kill again.  The trouble is, with so many suspects, which one hated the woman enough to permanently remove her from the playbill?...

This is the third book in the series and I really enjoyed it.  I like the character of Phee, mainly because she's human.  She loves her mother even though Harriet makes her crazy, and is willing to do whatever it takes to keep her happy.  She's got a good relationship with Nate, and is treading lightly with Marshall, afraid he might actually find out how she feels about him.  You can feel her frustration with Harriet, but their relationship is actually slightly endearing.

Phee is never intrusive; she doesn't go around accusing people of murder or asking them personal questions that will upset them; she's out for information and because of the way she questions them, she gets what she wants.  Harriet's friends are an interesting bunch, and it was humorous that the women preferred one restaurant while the men preferred another.  I'm beginning to appreciate the sense of humor that the men have. 

The plot was done well, the writing flowed and the budding romance didn't get in the way of the mystery, just as it should be (which doesn't mean I'm not enjoying it, because I am).  It's a fun series that has rousing characters who have a tendency to grow on you the more time you spend with them.

When the ending comes and the killer is revealed, the clues were there earlier if you noticed them; while it's fun to watch Phee figure it out.  She's no shrinking violet and can think on her feet.  I like the fact that she's intelligent and doesn't fluster easily.  It makes for a very good book.  I look forward to the next in the series.  Highly recommended. 

https://www.amazon.com/Staged-Murder-Sophie-Kimball-Mystery/dp/1496708598/ref

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2935946186

More on J.C. Eaton's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/e/j-c-eaton/

Monday, August 12, 2019

Skinny Dipping With Murder (An Otter Lake Mystery #1)

Author:  Auralee Wallace
Genre:   Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781250077776
St. Martin's Publishing
305 Pages
$7.99; $7.99 Amazon
March 1, 2016

⭐⭐



Erica Bloom is in no rush to return to Otter Lake, the site of her mother’s spiritual retreat for women.  Erica met her inner goddess years ago and she’s happy to have forged a new identity on her own, thank you very much.  But her new-age-y, well-meaning mother is losing her grip on the business, and needs Erica’s help.  So she heads back to her New Hampshire hometown, where nothing much has changed - except for maybe the body in the well.

When Erica was a teenager, she fell prey to a practical joke that left her near-naked in Otter Lake’s annual Raspberry Social.  The incident was humiliating, but it wasn’t like anyone got killed - until now.  Those who were behind that long-ago prank are starting to turn up dead, and Erica’s appearance in town makes her a prime suspect.To make matters worse, the town sheriff just happens to be Erica’s old nemesis, Grady Forrester - who also happens to be hotter than ever.  Can Erica find a way to dig up the truth - before someone digs her grave?

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

Erica Bloom returns to Otter Lake, New Hampshire after eight years.  She hasn't been back since she was a teenager, and wishes she wasn't now.  The only reason she's come home is because her mother called and said she really needed her there.

But when she arrives, she waits on the dock for her mother and the first people she sees are a trio whom she wishes she hadn't - considering they're part of the reason she left in the first place.  Tommy, Dickie, and Harry.  (Seriously?  I'm guessing this was supposed to be humorous.)  Her mother runs a retreat for women on the island where she lives, and when Erica arrives, she discovers the 'emergency' is that the psychologist for her business departed suddenly and she needs Erica to fill in.  Erica, who isn't a psychologist, but a court stenographer.  But her mother figures since she took a class in psychology she can pass for one (I took a class in biology but that doesn't make me a doctor).

But then when she's needing a bit of a break from her mother, she comes across the body of Dickie, who'd been impaled with a skewer.  Then Harry is attacked, and now everyone wonders if Erica's not a killer.  Everyone, it seems, except her mother and her mother's friends.  Fending off the sheriff, Grady Forrester, who wants to talk about the fateful night that sent her running, she decides to find a killer herself so she's not nailed for it.  But it seems the killer may not be done yet, and they know what Erica's up to.  Either she'll have to be careful or she'll never return to the mainland...

First off, her mother is a complete nutcase.  (Summer Bloom?  Really?)  A woman's retreat is fine, but you'd like to feel that at least the woman you're talking to can carry on a rational conversation.  This woman seems to hear only what she wants to hear, and acts like finding a killer is a big adventure.  She runs around in caftans and I almost expected her to put her hand to her head dramatically and say how ungrateful a daughter Erica could be.  She should be named Daffy because she's a Looney Tune.  I sure hope in future books she turns it down a notch.

I also didn't much care for the fact that we were over halfway through the book before we learned what the humiliating episode was.  It was alluded to, but we didn't find out until then.  Unacceptable.  This is the kind of thing you tell people right away so they know what's going on with the protagonist and why they didn't want to come home.  (I do agree with the PR guy, though, that someone should have stepped up and helped her out.  It really doesn't say much for the men in this town.) 

Public humiliation is not funny.  It's not the kind of thing someone would want happening to them.  Then when she gets back, she finds nothing has changed.  The trio of men who have never evolved into adults are still using her as a source of amusement.  How is this supposed to be funny?  Keeping her humiliation alive for everyone?  Real hilarious, that.

Erica has some serious anger issues and might want to take a class to deal with that.  It's immature, and you'd think she would have dealt with it by now.  We get that Grady is hot, but I wasn't interested in Erica - and nearly every other woman - constantly lusting after him. 

I felt that most of the book was spent on this incident that occurred eight years ago, and suspecting her of murder because of it seemed a bit of a stretch.  It seemed she was the only one they were only asking questions.  Actually, there weren't any other suspects except Candace - who was another person from out of town.  It's as if Grady were thinking it was impossible that anyone who lived in Otter Lake could be a killer.  Heavens!  It must be either Erica or the newcomer!  There were no other suspects to speak of, and when the killer was revealed everyone seemed completely thrown by it.  Seriously? 

Hopefully in the next book more time will be spent on the murder, people in this town will have moved on from continuing to bring up Erica's public humiliation,  Erica will harness her anger, and her mother will have actually developed a few brain cells.  I will read the next in the series in the hopes that it improves.

https://www.amazon.com/Skinny-Dipping-Murder-Otter-Mystery/dp/125007777X/ref

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2934545278

More on Auralee Wallace's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/w/auralee-wallace/

Miss Ruffles Inherits Everything

Author:  Nancy Martin
Genre:   Mystery

Hardcover; Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:
St. Martin's Publishing
320 Pages

August 30, 2016



When flamboyant Texas millionaire Honeybelle Hensley dies a suspicious death, everybody in town is shocked to learn that the sole beneficiary of her worldly fortune is none other than Miss Ruffles - her dog.  Miss Ruffles liked nothing better than terrorizing Honeybelle's many gentleman callers who came knocking at cocktail hour, to say nothing of digging up her famous rose garden after breakfast.  And chasing the UPS man.  And causing commotion, generally, in Mule Stop, Texas.  So what gives?

This is the question that Sunny McKillip, Miss Ruffles' unwilling dog sitter, is trying to answer.  Suddenly Miss Ruffles is in grave danger, and it's up to Sunny to protect her - at all costs.  But Sunny, still new to town, can't make heads or tails of the town's colorful characters, from the sweet-talking yet ruthless ladies of the garden club to the tobacco-chewing curmudgeon at Critter Control.  With a killer on the prowl - and a handsome cowboy lawyer with an eye on her every move - there's clearly more to Honeybelle's death than Sunny could have imagined.  If she's not careful she might just get killed...or her heart lassoed...

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

Sunny McKillip is the personal assistant to the late Honeybelle Hensley, and now dogsitter to her mutt Miss Ruffles.  Very few people like the dog; in fact, it seems that only townspeople do - all her friends and relatives hate the dog and it's mutual.  So much so, that Honeybelle's daughter-in-law nearly causes a scene at Honeybelle's funeral when Sunny shows up with Miss Ruffles.

But then Sunny is given a surprise:  Honeybelle's attorney tells her, along with the cook and butler, that if they'll live in the mansion for a year they'll each get a million dollars.  Of course, Miss Ruffles comes along with the deal.  So Sunny agrees to do it, even though it means animosity and hatred from Honeybelle's son Hut and his family.  But then, Miss Ruffles goes missing and it's up to Sunny to find her before something even worse happens to her...

I don't know if this is the first in the series, and honestly I don't care.  The beginning of the book started out fine, but then it went downhill toward the middle, so I just scanned the rest.  What I did read from then on made me glad I didn't waste time reading the entire book.

There's a ridiculous scene with the Department of Agriculture digging up Honeybelle's garden because Honeybelle supposedly sent roses from Germany.  Sunny tells the woman that Honeybelle is dead and couldn't have sent the roses, but the woman "looks at her blankly" and continues to dig.  She's not even concerned that the roses were sent by someone else, that the roses could have been sent there to hide the real destination (after all, someone could have shown up and said the roses were sent by mistake) - anyway, there could have been all kinds of explanations, but it never occurred to her that dead people can't mail things from another country.  This seemed kind of odd because if I was told the person couldn't have sent it because they were dead, a whole other set of questions would certainly arise.

But the worst thing was the case of animal abuse and animal cruelty.  I don't know why this didn't bother anyone else (of the reviews I read, not a single one mentioned it) but it always bothers me.  Especially when it's not necessary to the story. Any book that has animal cruelty that isn't necessary - and it wasn't - will automatically get one star from me.

I've hidden it in a spoiler, but here it is if you want to read it:



Then we get to the ending, if you can call it that.  There was a horrible surprise (which I didn't find amusing in the least) and all the questions throughout the book weren't answered.  It's like the author didn't care any more and just wanted the book to be over.  What a waste of time.  I will never read another book by this author.

Friday, August 9, 2019

The Quiche and the Dead (A Pie Town Mystery #1)

Author: Kirsten Weiss
Genre:   Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781496708960
Kensington Publishing
288 Pages
$7.99; $5.99 Amazon
October 31, 2017



Owning her own business seemed like a pie in the sky to Valentine Harris when she moved to the coastal California town of San Nicholas, expecting to start a new life with her fiancé.  Five months - and a broken engagement - later, at least her dream of opening a pie shop has become a reality.  But when one of her regulars keels over at the counter while eating a quiche, Val feels like she's living a nightmare.

After the police determine the customer was poisoned, business at Pie Town drops faster than a fallen crust.  Convinced they're both suspects, Val's flaky, seventy-something pie crust maker Charlene drags her boss into some amateur sleuthing.  At first Val dismisses Charlene's half-baked hypotheses, but before long the ladies uncover some shady dealings hidden in fog-bound San Nicolas.  Now Val must expose the truth - before a crummy killer tries to shut her pie hole.

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

When Valentine Harris opens her new pie shop, she's happy to do so, but also worried about the bills that need to be paid.  She has an elderly regular customer named Joe who owns a comic book shop next door, and a pie crust maker named Charlene who's also in her seventies.

She's made a quiche for a new shop owner who refuses it, but Joe eats some and passes out on the floor.  When the police investigate, they assume it is homicide and close the shop.  Charlene, who had a past with the dead man, bribes Val to help her investigate.  Val does so because she knows that she doesn't have a choice if she wants her shop to open again and be successful.  But there's a killer on the loose, and if they find out she's looking, she might not live long enough to open up again anyway...

Well, I didn't even get through the first chapter before I knew this book would be a no-go.  When I read the first paragraph of the book, I was stumped.  Val has a quiche in her hands, of which she is holding by wearing oven mitts.  Then, in the next sentence, she is putting that same quiche inside a glass display case.  One would think that if she's using oven mitts, the quiche is hot (because why would she wear them otherwise?  Mitts are unwieldy.)  Therefore, one must come to the conclusion that she is putting a just-from-the-oven hot quiche into a cold glass display case.  There are a possible two things that can happen: either the hot quiche will crack and/or break the case, or, at the very least, cause it to fog up the case and get everything else in there soggy.  This is an error that should have been caught the minute the words were put to paper.  After that paragraph, I struggled with the decision whether to keep reading this book or not.  Unfortunately, I made the wrong decision.  I kept reading.

Why does every author think all seniors wear track suits?  I have a 93-year-old aunt who doesn't even own one.  In fact, the only time I've ever seen a senior wear one is when they're out power-walking, and that's not even very often.  Mostly, they dress just like everyone else.  Trust me, there are a lot of seniors where I live, and if they wear track suits, they sure don't wear them in public.

Then, the woman who works the cash register, Petronella, is a smoker.  In a pie shop.  I don't know if the author knows it, but smokers reek.  It's on their clothing, and you can tell when they're standing behind you or even if they pass you in a store.  It's not a smell that can be disguised.  If I was waited on even once by a smoker, I probably wouldn't go back to that establishment.  Sorry.  Just telling it like I see it.

Then, this is one of the kickers: the new owner of the health food store who moved in after Val was already there, comes by to demand she change the sign outside on the building.  Because it offends her.  Huh.  She. Demands. That. Val. Remove. Her. Sign. And. Change. Her. Logo.  Considering the pie shop was there first, did Heidi not see that before she rented her space?  Nope, wouldn't stand up in a court of law.  So yeah, the book was pretty much over for me at that point.  A new record.  Done with the book on the second page.

But then, I still decided to read on...which was a big mistake.  The guy dies in her shop, and the police arrive.  They tell her it was homicide.  Immediately.  By looking at the body of a man who hadn't been shot or stabbed or strangled.  No outward appearance of trauma.  A man in his seventies.  The cops just decide it was a homicide and close the shop.  How did the detective know it wasn't a heart attack?  How could he tell it was a homicide just by looking at him?  He hadn't been on the floor very long, so rigor hadn't even set in.  Nope, I'm not buying it.

When you have this many glaring errors in the first chapter alone, I don't want to read the book.  So I was done.  But, being a reader, I went to the back of the book to see who the murderer was, and I wish I hadn't.

This next is hidden because it contains a part of the ending, although it does not contain the name of the killer or motive, it is something else entirely that bothered me and made me grateful I did not finish this book:



https://www.amazon.com/Quiche-Dead-Pie-Town-Mystery/dp/1496708962/ref

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Grounds for Remorse (A Tallie Graver Mystery #2)

Author:  Misty Simon
Genre:   Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781496712233
Kensington Mystery
281 Pages
$6.47; $6.15 Amazon
May 29, 2018

⭐⭐⭐⭐


Best friends Tallie Graver and Gina Laudermilch both seem to spend a lot of time around urns.  For Tallie, they're part and parcel of the family business, Graver's Funeral Home.  Even though she's traded ashes for dusting with her own cleaning business, she still works part-time for her folks and lives above the funeral parlor.  For Gina, they're the vessels that contain her heavenly brew at her coffee shop, Bean There, Done That.  And both women are learning that owning a business can mkae finding time for romance challenging.

But when Gina's new beau turns out to have a wife, who barges into the coffee shop to take him home, she can't contain her bitterness and loudly threatens to poison his cup or boil him in a vat of coffee.  So when Mr. Wrong turns up dead at the bottom of a staircase inside Gina's locked home, she finds herself at the top of the police's suspect list.  Tallie needs to sweep in to save her friend.  But she'll need to watch her step, or she may go from being a funeral home employee to becoming their next client...

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

Tallie Graver lives above her family's funeral home and works there part-time while also running her own cleaning service.  Today though, she's helping at her friend Gina's coffee shop across the street while Gina is getting ready to go on a date.  Tallie knows that Gina's new boyfriend Craig Johnson is attractive enough and attentive enough, but she still feels there's something "off" about him.  Gina's mother Shirley feels the same way, but neither are mentioning it.

Gina seems all happy smiles when she talks with Craig, but that happiness is short-lived.  A woman comes in screaming and attacks Gina for seeing her husband - who happens to be Craig.  Gina, who had no idea, starts screaming herself and making threats toward Craig.  After he leaves with his wife, Gina is rightfully incensed.

Tallie's boyfriend Max is also visiting from D.C., which is three hours away.  They have ten whole days together, and Tallie's happy as a clam.  But that doesn't last long when she tells him to meet her at Gina's, and he does - after he's had a vase of flowers thrown at him and slugged in the jaw.  It turns out Craig just isn't going to give up, regardless of Gina never wanting to see him again.

But she does...at the bottom of her stairwell, dead.  And while Tallie is told in no uncertain terms to leave it alone, she's not going to, especially when Gina is suspect number one, and the widow is determined to see her jailed.  Now Tallie's out to find a killer, but it's not easy when it turns out Craig had more than one secret...so which one got him killed and by whom?

First, I have to say this (and get the negative stuff out of the way):  I'll never understand why women go after the 'other woman' instead of their cheating husbands.  He's the one who's married.  He's the one who disrespected his wife and his vows.  But yet they attack the girlfriend without even finding out if she knew he was married.  Why aren't they blaming their rotten husbands?  Just sayin'

There were a couple of errors in the book such as using the word 'collaborate' instead of 'corroborate' - collaborate means to work with, while corroborate means to verify.  Any good editor should have been able to correct these before it went to print.  However, I didn't allow it to spoil my enjoyment at all, since I knew what was meant.  (Spellcheck wouldn't work since they're both words, but an editor should have known better).

I also get that Gina's in trouble, but Tallie hasn't seen Max in three weeks, and she pretty much foists him off on anyone so that she can try to find a killer.  Max is a pretty nice guy and understands Tallie's need to help Gina, but he winds up spending practically his entire vacation working and Tallie never even brings it up or makes it up to him.  She doesn't even think that 'hey, Max is on vacation so why am I making him work instead of enjoying it?' and Max's response is he's still spending time with Tallie, so it's okay.  No, it's not.  He'll need a vacation when he goes back home to get over this one.

But I did like the fact that Burton isn't the 'evil nemesis' he was in the first book.  He's beginning to allow Tallie a little more room, and she, in turn, is keeping him in the loop with what information she uncovers.  (I really, really, hate the 'evil nemesis' that seems prevalent in a lot of books - it detracts from the story and adds absolutely nothing).  We see a lot of transformation in the story from several different characters, and it opens things up to new beginnings, which will be interesting in future books.

While there isn't a lot of intrigue, there is an interesting plot, and I enjoyed following Tallie from person to person, gleaning what information she can.  Every encounter she has she thinks about what she can ask that person to help prove Gina innocent.  Tallie has a devious mind.  It's rather fun to watch her go about it.

When the ending comes and the killer is revealed, it's a motive as old as time, but the story was done well, and while it started out slow I stuck with it and it became more absorbing as I read.  I'm glad I didn't stop reading, because the ending was worth it and I look forward to the next in the series.  Recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/Grounds-Remorse-Tallie-Graver-Mystery/dp/1496712234/ref

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2929465502

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

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Bread of the Dead (A Santa Fe Café Mystery #1)

Author:  Ann Myers
Genre:   Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; Digital Book; Audiobook
ISBN #:  9780062382276
William Morrow Mystery
368 Pages
$7.99; $1.99 Amazon
September 29, 2015



Life couldn't be sweeter for Tres Amigas Café chef Rita Lafitte, decorating sugar skulls and taste-testing rich, buttery pan de muerto in anticipation of Santa Fe's Day of the Dead bread-baking contest.  That is, until her friendly landlord, Victor, is found dead next door.

Although the police deem Victor's death a suicide, Rita knows something is amiss.  To uncover the truth, she teams up with her octogenarian boss, Flori, the town's most celebrated snoop.  The duo begins to sift through long-buried secrets and to take full measure of duplicitous neighbors, but the clock is ticking and their list of suspects is growing ever longer.  Just as the clues get hotter than a New Mexican chili, one of their main suspects winds up dead.  Rita fears that the killer is dishing out seconds - and her order might be up.

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

When Rita Lafitte moved to Santa Fe from the Midwest, it was in hopes of saving her marriage.  But her cheating husband never changed, and she decided to call it quits.  She and her teenage daughter Celia live in a mother-in-law cottage behind the large home of her landlord Victor.  Rita and Victor are also friends, which makes it nicer for her.

While visiting Victor, she's witness to a dispute between his brother Gabriel - who lives in the other half of their sprawling home - and another neighbor, one with a gun and the other armed with a knife.  When she convinces the neighbor to put down his knife, all returns to normal.  But later that evening she hears her daughter screaming for her, and looking into Victor's window, they see him lying on the floor of his home, obviously dead.

The police are saying it's suicide, but Rita has questions, and she wants answers.  That is, unless the killer gets to her first...

I really wanted to like this book and, hopefully, begin a new series, but it lost me shortly into it - right after the murder.

Rita's ex-husband is a tool.  Manny states he'll take Rita's statement at the station - no, he won't.  She didn't see anything related to the murder, and whatever she has to say can be done right at her home.  Any information she gives him - including the aforementioned fight - she can give him right there.  I suggest these authors watch Discovery ID programs for a season or two and see how real homicide detectives do it...and how they dress.  If he's a homicide detective, he's wearing a suit and not a weapons belt.  Street officers wear them - detectives wear shoulder holsters. 

Manny also knows she's living in the casita and is the tenant of the owners, so to call her "that woman" to Gabriel is patently ridiculous.  Who would do that?  Yup, a tool.  And then yelling at her to 'Open up!' was over the line.  She wasn't under suspicion, so he needed to treat her with respect like he would any witness - knock politely and ask first if she was okay.

But her daughter Celia is an even bigger jerk - and obviously takes completely after her father.  She brings the girlfriend of her dad's to her home?  Regardless of the fact her mother wanted the divorce, did she ever hear of the word 'respect'?  Did she ever ask her mom why she divorced her dad?  She has very little intelligence if she thinks because her mom wanted the divorce that everything would be just hunky-dory with her.  Actually, she shouldn't even be "besties" with her dad's girlfriend as long as she's living with her mom.  She's an ass and I don't like her.  Who does this?  Just accepts that their dad is seeing someone almost their own age and that's fine with them?  She doesn't resent her dad for his part in the divorce?  Blames it all on her mom?  Fine - she can go live with her dad and drive his car and let him put her through college if she wants to disrespect Rita so much.  This alone was enough to make me dislike the book completely.

But I was done with this book when Manny just decided to take Celia home with him "after what she'd seen" and she went, not even caring that her mother had seen it too and might have needed some comfort and support that night.  Two selfish, self-centered people that deserved each other.

FYI, any cop worth his or her salt would listen when someone tells them that the victim was left-handed and the gun was in their right hand.  How did Manny become detective if he doesn't pay attention to details?  Does he hate his ex so much he'd rather railroad an innocent person than pay attention to clues that are presented to him?  He should have lost his job over sloppy investigating - or at least get a warning in his file of which the reader should be made aware of.

Nope, I have better things to do than waste my time on a book that is seriously going to tick me off.  Or spoiled kids who live off their parents but don’t care about them or their feelings - or ex-husbands who treat them like crap and the kids allow their dad to treat their mom that way.  Bottom line:  Manny treats her like garbage.  Her daughter treats her like garbage.  No wonder she's the way she is.  She's been beaten down by her family.  I didn't finish this book and won't read any more in the series.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Claws of Death (A Cat Lady Mystery Book 2)

Author:  Linda Reilly
Genre:   Mystery

Trade Paperback; Digital Book
ISBN #:  9781516104208
Lyrical Underground
214 Pages
$15.00; $0.99 Amazon
June 26, 2018

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐



Whisker Jog, New Hampshire, is a long way from Hollywood, but it's the place legendary actress Deanna Daltry wants to call home.  Taking up residence in a stone mansion off Cemetery Hill, the retired, yet still glamorous, septuagenarian has adopted two kittens from Lara Caphart's High Cliff Shelter for Cats.  With help from her Aunt Fran, Lara makes sure the kitties settle in safely with their new celebrity mom.

But not everyone in town is a fan of the fading star.  Deanna was in Whisker Jog when she was younger, earning a reputation for pussyfooting around, and someone is using that knowledge against her.  After being frightened by some nasty pranks, Deanna finds herself the prime murder suspect when the body of a local teacher is found on her property.  Now, it's up to Lara, Aunt Fran, and the blue-eyed Ragdoll mystery cat Lara recently encountered to collar a killer before another victim is pounced upon...

✽✽✽✽✽✽✽✽

First off, I want to say that I need to correct something in the blurb - the Ragdoll isn't a cat that Lara recently encountered; it's the ghost of her own Ragdoll, Blue, who died several years ago.  This is important to the story, so thought I should set that straight.

Lara and her Aunt Fran are excited when a Hollywood actress decides to move back to Whisker Jog and adopt one of their rescue cats.  When Deanna Daltry arrives, she's more down-to-earth than they expected, and tell her that she grew up there.  Deanna decides on a pair of kittens who are brother and sister, and as soon as her application goes through she'll be able to take the furbabies home.

Deanna also tells them that they're invited to a tea given by a local women's club even though they're not members.  When they arrive they're just happy to be there.  But there's an occurrence when an elderly man enters the premises and seems to have words with Deanna, and he's soon asked to leave.  Then Deanna asks Lara to take her handbag out to her car but before she can do so, there's a slight incident regarding the bag but it soon passes and Lara does as asked.  However, once outside she sees another elderly man looking into her own car and they have a short conversation and he leaves.  When Lara finds Deanna's car, there's a threatening message on the window written in lipstick.


Needless to say, the party ends quickly, the police are informed, and Deanna is shaken up.  Later, when Lara and Fran take the kittens to Deanna's mansion, Lara sees the ghost of Blue sitting near a window.  Lara looks out and sees a body in the cemetery, and once again, the police are called.  It turns out to be the man Deanna was arguing with, and now Deanna is the main suspect.

Lara has misgivings about the kittens but Deanna begs to keep them, so Lara decides to keep an eye on the situation.  But then things start to spiral out of control when Lara - even though the police have asked her to stay out of the investigation - allows her curiosity to get the better of her.  She starts looking into Deanna's past and the dead man's past, and a series of seemingly random encounters sends her running in different directions to find the truth.  But will it be enough?  And more importantly, could someone's life depend on what she discovers?...

This is the second book in the series, and I really enjoyed it; more than the first one, I think.  I'm beginning to like the characters of Lara and Aunt Fran, but I do think Fran acts a lot older than someone in her fifties.  When I first met her I thought she was in her seventies, and she really doesn't act much younger here.  Lara seems surprised that Fran is wearing makeup, doing her hair, and dressing nice - like she's never seen her do it before.  It seemed odd to me (since almost every woman I know wears makeup).

Other than that, I felt the story was well-written, and I did like the mystery and felt it was genuinely strong; having to go into the past to solve something that happened in the present.  I always like tales that merge past and present anyway, so I wasn't disappointed in this.

We also see that Lara is still having some insecurity in her new relationship with attorney Gideon, but they're learning to find their way and even Fran is in the beginning of a relationship herself.  There were a couple of tear-jerking moments, which wasn't a bad thing, (bringing up memories of my own parents) so that only added to the story.

I loved the interactions with the cats, and was surprised that someone would balk at having to fill out an application to adopt a cat.  You always have to fill out an application when you adopt a pet at any shelter.  Although I have never heard of supplying references and found it odd.  For myself, I adore cats and have several (including a couple well into their teens - and yes, all indoor.)

In the end though, I felt it came together smoothly.  The reason for the murder seemed twisted, yet I do understand the reasons why.  One's past always has a bearing on one's future, whether we wish it or not, and it colors our life. A fact that isn't always pleasant, but is always true.  Highly recommended.

https://www.amazon.com/Claws-Death-Linda-Reilly/dp/151610420X/ref

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2920818686

More on Linda Reilly's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/r/linda-reilly/

Dance of the Scarecrows (A Jonathan Wilder Mystery #1)

Author:  Ray Sipherd Genre:   Mystery Hardcover; Paperback; ISBN #:  9780312143060; 9780373262878 Worldwide Mystery 252 Pages Various...