Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Murder Lo Mein by Vivien Chien

Murder Lo Mein (A Noodle Shop Mystery, #3)
Murder Lo Mein by Vivien Chien is the third A Noodle Shop Mystery.  Lana Lee is the manager of her family’s restaurant, Ho-Lee Noodle House in Asia Village.  The restaurant is participating in Cleveland’s Best Noodles contest which will be held at Asia Village.  Peter Huang, their chef, and Lana want to win this year.  They have come in second and third in the past, but they believe this is their year to take home the prize.  After the first round in the competition, Norman Pan—a judge and food critic—finds a fortune cookie next to his plate with a threatening message inside.  Later at the after party at the Bamboo Lounge, Norman is found face down in a bowl of noodles.  Detective Adam Trudeau, Lana’s boyfriend, is lead on the investigation and warns Lana to stay away from the case.  Lana, of course, has no intention of listening to Adam and immediately starts a list of potential suspects.  She soon discovers that Norman was not well-liked and gave critical food reviews (even to his own niece).  Lana visits each contestant’s restaurant to ask questions and look around for clues (a bonus is checking out the competitor’s food at the same time).  Then another judge receives a killer fortune and is later found dead in her hotel room.  Lana is piecing together the clues when she receives a forbidding fortune.  Will Lana be the killer’s next victim? 
Murder Lo Mein can be read as a standalone if you have not read the previous novels in A Noodle Shop Mystery series.  The author provides everything a new reader needs to know.  I enjoy the author’s casual writing style.  It makes for an easy to read story.  There are numerous suspects since the victim was obnoxious.  There is one, though, that stands out from the crowd. I liked that all the details of the mystery are wrapped up at the end of the book.  I did not appreciate the number of times Lana is told to not investigate and we are reminded that she is an amateur sleuth (I got it the first five times).  I did find there to be too many extraneous characters in this story.  It can be hard to keep track of all of them (do we need to know every shop owner in Asia Village).  There is a subplot involving Lana’s grandmother who does not speak English.  It turns out she was lonely back home and life is much livelier for her in Cleveland.  I found grandma to be a cute addition to the book.  The food descriptions will have your mouth watering.  Lana gets to eat a variety of dishes while digging into the suspects lives.  I hope we get see Lana start developing as an individual.  She is nearing thirty and it would be nice to see some maturity (less spaciness).  There is family drama, romance, friendship, food, a cute canine and a noodle contest in this new cozy mystery.   Murder Lo Mein is a light-hearted cozy mystery that left me craving Chinese food. 
The first two books in A Noodle Shop Mystery series are Death by Dumpling and Dim Sum of All Fears.  The next installment is Wonton Terror (great cover) which comes out August 27.  I want to thank you for visiting today.  I will be joining the Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour tomorrow with my review of Designs on Murder by Gayle Leeson.  Have a charming day and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader
Dxexdd iino me dejo oca

Monday, March 25, 2019

Canyons, Caravans and Cadavers by Tonya Kappes

Canyons, Caravans, & Cadavers (A Camper & Criminals Cozy #6)
Welcome!  The Memory House by Rachel Hauck will be published on April 2 with A Silken Thread by Kim Vogel SawyerBat Wings, Rings and Apron Strings by Erin Johnson releases on April 6.  It is the final book in the Spells & Caramels series starring Imogen Banks, Hank and the bakers.
Canyons, Caravans and Cadavers by Tonya Kappes takes us back to Normal, Kentucky.  Mae West receives the key to the city for her work in transforming Happy Trails Campground which helped increase the town’s economy.  The shops in town are now thriving thanks to Mae and her creative ideas.  Principal Donald Bass invites Mae to teach a six weeks economics course at Normal High School, and she cannot wait to get started.  After the party, Mae decides to take some food over to Coach Scott Goodman, the high school’s economic teacher, to see what he thinks of her ideas.  She finds him on the floor of his trailer with an arrow in his back.  Scott was also the coach for the Archery and Rifle Club.  Immediately people start phoning the camp and canceling their reservations.  If tourism does not pick back up, Mae could lose her beloved campground.  Mae and the Laundry Club gather together to work up a plan to solve Scott’s murder.  Violet Rhinehammer, new editor-in-chief of Normal Gazette, wants them to join forces and Mae reluctantly agrees.  Mae soon has a list of suspects that include angry parents, disgruntled students, and the victim’s wife.  Her investigation takes a turn when the killer strikes again.  Mae needs to work quickly to find the executioner before she ends up his next target.
A Camper and Criminals Cozy Mystery
It is always a delight to visit Normal, Kentucky with its charming shops and quirky residents.  Canyons, Caravans and Cadavers is the sixth book in A Camper & Criminals Cozy Mystery series.  I suggest that you read the series in order.  It will give you a better understanding of Mae, her friends, the campground and the town.   Canyons, Caravans and Cadavers contains good writing and a snappy pace.  Mae West is quite a character (starting with her name).  She loves her trailer, her friends, boyfriend and her dog, Fifi.  Mae is happy that she has been able to turn Happy Trails into a thriving enterprise and it has helped improve the town’s economy.  The last thing she expected is a key to the city and an opportunity to teach economics at the high school.  The murder of Scott Goodman is threatening her livelihood and that of her friends.  Mae and her close group of friends (called the Laundry Club) are quick to gather together and form a plan.  Mae and her friends never fail to entertain.  I like that they have such a close friendship.  There are three murders in the book which is not good for tourism and Violet, of course, is reporting all the details in the Normal Gazette.  There is active investigating with Hank repeatedly telling Mae to quit (she is not going to listen, but he wants to keep her safe).  The mystery is clever, and I believe some readers will be surprised when the solution is revealed.  I enjoy the descriptions of the picturesque Normal.  The Laundry Club sounds like a cozy establishment.  I would love to work on a puzzle there and catch up with friends while doing my laundry.  I had to laugh when the ladies discussed getting detective licenses (Hank would have a fit).  The beauty shop, Cute-icles sounded unique (poor Mae ended up with an unfortunate nail polish color).  Tonya Kappes conversational writing style along with her friendly characters and attractive town will keep you riveted until the very last word.  Do not miss out on Mae’s latest adventure in Canyons, Caravans and Cadavers. 
Hitches, Hideouts, & Homicides: A Camper and Criminals Cozy Mystery Series Book 7 by [Kappes, Tonya]
There are recipes and helpful RV tips (hacks) at the end.  Canyons, Caravans and Cadavers is available on Kindle Unlimited. The next A Camper & Criminals Cozy Mystery is Hitches, Hideouts and Homicide which comes out May 28. Thank you for visiting me today.  I hope you will consider following my blog (upper right--various methods) so you can know when I will have contests and feature different books.  I plan on reviewing Murder Lo Mein by Vivien Chien tomorrow.  It is the third book in A Noodle Shop Mystery series.  Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader
The Long, Long Trailer Book

Sunday, March 24, 2019

With Winter's First Frost by Kelly Irvin

With Winter's First Frost (Every Amish Season #4)
Good Day!  Chutes and Ladder by Marc Jedel is now available.  It is the second book in A Silicon Valley Mystery series.  Murder from Scratch by Leslie Karst comes out on April 9 with Deadly Vows by Jody Holford and A Dream of Death by Connie Berry.    
With Winter’s First Frost by Kelly Irvin is the final book in An Every Amish Season series.  Laura Kauffman has been a widow for the last eight years.  She has retired as a midwife and the arthritis in her hands limits her activities.  Laura is at loose ends and wonders what God has in store for her next.  She is visiting Rosalie and Ben Stutzman’s home when Rosalie goes into early labor with twins.  They need someone to stay and watch the three other children plus Ben’s grandfather, Zechariah who has Parkinson’s.  Laura volunteers herself for the job and looks forward to fulfilling days.
 Zechariah is a widower who has been moved out of home since his Parkinson’s started to worsen and forced to live with his various grandchildren.  He loves each and every one of them, but Zechariah misses his independence.  There is a long list of activities that he is not allowed to do including chopping wood, drive, build fires, and touch the cookstove (can you tell there was a fire incident at his last residence).  Zechariah has become grumpy and disgruntled.  He wonders if he has outlived his usefulness.  Zechariah does not feel he needs Laura’s help with the house and kinner, but he soon finds that he enjoys her company.  The days are filled with activities and the evenings with companionship.  Too soon Rosalie and Ben return home with their new babies and Laura is sent back to her own home.  Zechariah misses her company and their busy days.  When Zechariah’s family starts making new plans for his life, he feels defeated.  Laura has been missing Zechariah and decides to take matters into her own hands.  Is it possible to find love in your twilight years?
With Winter’s First Frost is a charming story.  If you have not read the other books in An Every Amish Season series, you will be fine.  Each book can be read on its own.  However, I do want to say that they are lovely to read as a collection (enjoy the four seasons with this delightful collection of characters).  Characters from the first three books appear in With Winter’s First Frost.  Winter refers not only to the season in which this book takes place, but to the later (or winter) years of our life (I like it phrased that way).  I found the characters and situations to be realistic and relatable.  I liked that With Winter’s First Frost features older main characters.  They have wisdom, knowledge, and understanding.  Just because they are over 65 does not mean they have nothing to contribute (or need to be put out to pasture).  Laura has had a busy and satisfying life as a wife, mother and midwife.  Now that arthritis has affected her hands, she finds her days empty.  She may not be able to knit or quilt, but Laura can assist with many other tasks.  Zechariah lost his wife two years prior and he has Parkinson’s disease.  His family was worried about him living alone and moved him in with one of his grandson’s.  After several months at that house, Zechariah is now living with Ben, Rosalie and their three children.  There are a number of rules for Zechariah and he is not allowed to do any of the activities that he enjoys.  Zechariah feels inept which has made his grumpy (a sourpuss).  No matter what our age and issues, we like to be helpful and busy.  No one wants to be burden on their family.  With Winter’s First Frost is well-written with a gentle pace.  While the story focuses on Zechariah and Laura, there are subplots involving members of their families as well as the picking of a new bishop.  With Winter’s First Frost we get to see that we are never to old to learn, adapt or find love.  God is full of surprises and has a plan for our lives as we see in With Winter’s First Frost.  We just need to trust Him.  If you are looking for a heartfelt Amish romance, pick up With Winter’s First Frost. 
Canyons, Caravans, & Cadavers: A Camper & Criminals Cozy Mystery Book 6 by [Kappes, Tonya]

The three other books in An Every Amish Season series are Upon A Spring Breeze, Beneath the Summer Sun, and Through the Autumn Air.  I hope you check out this engaging Amish series.  Tomorrow I am showcasing Canyons, Caravans and Cadavers by Tonya Kappes.  It is the sixth tale in A Camper & Criminals Cozy Mystery series.  Until next time, take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader 
Young Girl Reading By A Tree

Saturday, March 23, 2019

The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner

The Last Year of the War
Felicitations!  The Hidden Corpse by Debra Sennefelder will be out on March 26.  It is the second book in A Food Blogger Mystery seriesThe Last Second by Catherine Coulter and J.T. Ellison also releases on March 26 along with Half Finished by Lauraine Snelling (one of my favorite authors).  Southern Sass and Killer Cravings by Kate Young releases on May 28.  It is the first book in A Marygene Brown Mystery series. 
The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner takes readers back to 1943.  Elise Sontag was living in Davenport, Iowa with her father, mother and little brother, Max when World War II began.  Her parents were born in Germany, but they emigrated to the United States in the 1920s.  Then one day the FBI come to their home and arrested her father stating he was a risk to national security since he is a German sympathizer and the family assets were frozen.  To keep the family together, Otto Sontag requests that the family be sent to an internment camp. They arrive in Crystal City, Texas were everything they need is inside the camp which is surrounded by armed guards, a tall fence and barbed wire.  The Japanese-Americans outnumber the other internees of German and Italian descent.  Elise becomes friends with Mariko Inoue from Los Angeles.  They have much in common and dream of the future when they can be free to live their lives.  Having a friend makes life bearable at the camp.  But then something unexpected happens and the two girls are separated.  Learn what happens to Elise and Mariko in The Last Year of the War.
 Susan Meissner
The Last Year of the War has an interesting premise about families interned in a camp during World War II.  I like that we get to experience it from a young girl’s perspective.  Elise and Mariko were both born in the United States.  They enjoy the latest music, going to the movies, chatting with their girlfriends and eating Twinkies. Suddenly, their lives are forever changed.  They are taken away from their homes, their friends and extended family and thrust into a new world.  They live in small apartments without showering facilities, but there are shops, vegetable gardens, different types of schools, a pool and other amenities.  They have everything they need except the freedom to leave.  I found it intriguing to learn the details of internment camps (information not included in history class).  We get to see how people’s lives changed overnight and how they had no control over their future.  I found The Last Year of the War to be well-written with developed characters.  I did find the pace to be on the slow side.  The story alternates between 2010 and the past.  Just when you get involved in the past, we jump back to the present (and vice versa).  It was a little disconcerting.  I would then have to remember where we left off in the past and what had happened.  When I finished the story, though, I could see why the author laid it out in this manner.  The author captured the time period especially with her descriptions of the devastation in Germany.  I can tell that she did her research for this novel (very evident).  I especially appreciated the information she included at the end of the book (author’s note). I wish there had been more emotion in the story.  That is the one thing it lacked.  The Last Year of the War is a good book, but it is not my favorite by this author (Lady in Waiting and The Shape of Mercy are two of my favorites). I am giving The Last Year of the War 4 out of 5 stars.  Those readers who love historical fiction will find The Last Year of the War to be a compelling novel.  The Last Year of the War is a story of hope, friendship, promises and staying true to ourselves. 
Thank you for reading my review today.  I am featuring With Winter's First Frost by Kelly Irvin tomorrow. It is the final book in An Every Amish Season series.  I hope you will join me.  I am off to do a little yard word.  In my area the leaves are falling in droves (I have filled five cans this week).  My father rigged a device so I can pick up leaves without having to bend over (because of my back).  Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader
Wonderful Color Photos of Daily Life in Florida in the 1940s

Friday, March 22, 2019

Hetty's Secret War by Rosie Clark: A Review and Extract

Greetings!  Rosie Clarke is happily married and lives in a quiet village in East Anglia.  Writing books is her passion.  Rosie also likes to read, watch good films, shoes, holidays in the sunshine, and animals (especially dogs and squirrels). Rosie Clarke also writes The Mulberry Lane series (I just love it). Readers can follow Ms. Clarke on Twitter (@AnneHerries) and Facebook (@RosieClarke).  

Hetty’s Secret War by Rosie Clarke is the final installment in Women at War Trilogy.  It is early summer in 1939 in Yorkshire when Georgie Bridges receives the news that her husband, Arthur is ill and will soon pass away.  Georgie has had a good life with Arthur, and she will miss him when he is gone.  However, she has never stopped loving Ben Tarleton who is training for a special war mission.  Georgie is happy to reconnect with Ben, but their time is short.  Ben is soon sent overseas, and Georgie may never see him again.
 Jessie's Promise: From the bestselling storyteller (Women at War Series Book 1) by [Clarke, Rosie]
Beth Rawlings is nineteen and has just finished her secretarial courses.  Annabel offers her a job at Rowntree House Hotel, but Beth would like to spread her wings and help the war efforts.  She meets Captain Drew Bryant on the train and falls head over heels in love.  When they receive word, that Drew is being deployed, they quickly marry.  Beth keeps busy at her job with Arnold Pearson, but she soon discovers that she is with child.  Just before Beth is due, she receives a telegram that Drew is missing in action.  Will Drew be found, or will Beth become a war widow?
 The Runaway Wife: A powerful and gritty saga set in 1920's London (Women at War Series Book 2) by [Clarke, Rosie]
Hetty Tarleton has been living in Paris for ten years when war breaks out.  She is a free spirit and artist.  Her friends encourage her to return to England, but Hetty does not wish to leave.  With the Germans about to enter France, Hetty departs in her car where she navigates roads clogged with people trying to get out of France before it is too late.  After a horrific incident, Hetty meets Pierre de Faubourg who takes her to his family’s home, Chateau de Faubourg.  Hetty becomes close with Pierre’s mother, Adele.  She joins the resistance where she meets the enigmatic Stefan Lefarge.  On one mission Hetty encounters the last person she expected to find in France.  Hetty takes great risks fighting the German invaders.  Will she make it through the war alive?  Join Hetty, Beth, and Georgie as they struggle to survive World War II in Hetty’s Secret War.
 Women at War Series
Hetty’s Secret War can be read as a standalone, but you will find it confusing in the beginning. I suggest you read Jessie’s Promise and The Runaway Wife before embarking on Hetty’s Secret War.  You will have a better understanding of the characters and their situations.  I have always found World War II a fascinating time period (I would not have wanted to experience it though).  Women were encouraged to work outside the home and take on tasks that were previously done by men.  It was a difficult time, but people rallied together for the war effort.  This is what we see in Hetty’s Secret War.  I found the story nicely written with a variety of characters in different situations.  There is foul language and intimate scenes included in the book (fair warning).  While the book focused on Hetty, Beth and Georgie, we also catch up with Annabel.  I like how the separate characters stories intertwined to create one charming book.  They face losses and experience heartache, but there is joy as well.  Hetty experiences danger and life threatening situations.  Despite the hardships, they continued to have hope and faith as well as the comfort of family and friends.  The ending had me smiling.  Hetty’s Secret War is an emotional novel that will touch your heart. 

Here is an extract from Hetty's Secret War to entice you:

‘But it makes no sense for you to stay here in Paris, ma chérie,’ Madame Arnoud said and spread her hands in an expression of disbelief. ‘You are English not French. You should go home, get away from this madness before it is too late. Believe me, I am old enough to remember the last time the Germans paid us a visit. It was not pleasant.’  Although well into her middle years the Frenchwoman’s clothes, make-up and dark brown hair followed the latest mode and she looked both stylish and attractive.

‘But I feel more French than English these days,’ Hetty replied, wrinkling her nose at the older woman’s comment. ‘I have so many friends here and I love the life I’m leading – why should I give it all up?’
‘Because the Germans will make you suffer if they catch you out,’ Madame Arnoud said. ‘You will probably be sent to an internment camp, that’s if you’re not shot as a spy.’  ‘Perhaps they won’t invade…’
‘Pouff!’ the Frenchwoman snorted her disbelief. ‘It is more likely that pigs will sprout wings. They will come, Hetty, believe me – it is merely a question of when.’

They were sitting in Madame’s private parlour drinking wine, something they often did in the evenings when Hetty called to discuss her latest designs or simply to talk about what she had seen or done. They were good friends and had been for some years, since Hetty had first approached her rather tentatively with a design for an evening gown.

‘Yes, perhaps,’ Hetty agreed. ‘But there’s time yet, madame. I shall think about leaving when it becomes inevitable. Not that I’ve any idea of what I’ll do when I get back to England. It will be difficult to settle anywhere else but Paris. Oh, it’s such a shame that wars have to happen! Why must the Germans be so awful? Why can’t they just leave us alone?’

‘If we knew the answer to that the world would be a different place,’ Madame Arnoud said and offered a world-weary smile. ‘It is men who make wars, ma chérie, and we all know about them, do we not?’
Hetty laughed. At twenty-six years of age she had matured into a woman of some style, her hair a rich honey blonde that she wore long and in soft waves rather like Marlene Dietrich, the German film star with the gravelly voice, who had first made her name in the 1930 film The Blue Angel.

When at the age of seventeen she’d eloped to France to be with Henri, Hetty had been pretty rather than beautiful, but now she was stunning. Many of the artists she knew begged to paint her portrait, but these days she preferred to use the brush herself and earned a precarious living drawing quick sketches of the tourists, supplementing her meagre income with the work she did for Madame Arnoud.

‘Yes, of that there is no doubt,’ Hetty agreed. She had learned how selfish a man could be the hard way, weeping bitter tears the first time she’d discovered her lover, Henri, had been unfaithful to her with his latest model. She’d given up everything to come to Paris with him – her family home, the chance of marriage and a normal life – but she’d adored the fascinating artist who had challenged her to be bold. His betrayal had almost torn her in two that first time, making her weep into her pillow. He had told her he was sorry afterwards, swearing that the girl meant nothing and that it was her he loved. Hetty had forgiven him, but it had happened again, and again, until she woke up one day to discover that he no longer meant anything to her. It was over – the passion and love she’d had for him gone, destroyed by his lack of care for her. In the end, he was the one who had wept when she walked out on him, begging her to reconsider.

It had been hard at first without Henri, difficult to find work, her income barely enough to keep body and soul together, and lonely too. She had thought about going home to England, but something inside her had refused to give in – just as she had refused all the offers from Henri’s friends to take his place in her life. Whether that had been from pride, a lack of interest sexually in the men themselves or her fierce independence, she had never been sure, but she had remained alone. And gradually she had found a new life and new friends; she had won respect for her own work, both as an artist on the Left Bank and as a dress designer for Madame Arnoud.

She could have worked full-time for the woman who had become both a friend and almost the mother Hetty felt she’d never had, if she’d wanted to be a model or a vendeuse, but neither of those things appealed to her. Besides, she now earned enough to pay the rent of her little apartment and to be able to buy food and clothes. She had no interest in more and found the relaxed, pleasant way of living suited her nature.

She might not always have been happy, but her life was busy, interesting, and she made sure it stayed that way. Love was something she’d learned to do without when she was a small child. Her father had been a kindly but remote figure, her mother cold and severe; both Ben and Annabel had been generous and kind, but they were twins and closer to each other. In the early years she had wept bitter tears over her mother’s lack of affection, but then she had come to realise that it was something lacking in Lady Tarleton: she was a woman incapable of loving anyone other than herself and treated Annabel even worse than Hetty. Becoming independent and resourceful beyond her years, Hetty had found the best times were when she was in the kitchen with Cook and the maids who always had a soft word and a smile for her. And then Henri had come into her life and she’d given her innocent heart to him – a gift he’d taken and discarded without thought.

But Madame Arnoud was talking to her, scolding her, giving her the advice she knew she ought to take but was stubbornly resisting. Here in France she had a life, but there was nothing waiting for her in England.
The Last Year of the War by [Meissner, Susan]
Hetty's Secret War is available at Amazon, Kobo, Google Play, and iBooks. I hope you take the time to visit the other stops on the tour for Hetty's Secret War (see below).  Thank you for joining me today.  I will showcase The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner next time.  I hope I have helped you to find a new book and author.  Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader