Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Kneaded to Death: A Bread Shop Mystery

Happy Book Release Day and Fat Tuesday!  It is the last day before Lent begins. A Ghostly Mortality by Tonya Kappes, Everything Belongs to Us by Yoojin Grace Wuertz, Kneaded to Death by Winnie Archer, Banana Cream Pie Murder by Joanne Fluke, More Than A Marriage by Amy Lillard, Annie's Recipe by Lisa Jones Baker, Murder at an Irish Wedding by Carlene O'Connor, and Treasured Grace by Tracie Peterson are a few of the books that were released today.   I hope you find a few books to add to your TBR pile.

Kneaded to Death by Winne Archer is the first book in A Bread Shop Mystery series.  Ivy Culpepper has returned home to Santa Sofia, California after the unexpected death of her mother, Anna.  She was killed in a hit-and-run accident in the high school parking lot, and the killer has yet to be apprehended.  Ivy’s grief has only been soothed by the bread from Olaya Solis’ bakery, Yeast of Eden.  When Olaya offers a breadmaking class, Ivy is quick to sign up.  Ivy is hoping it will help provide her with inspiration for her photographs and photography blog.  She has not been able to get inspired since the death of her mother.  Ivy and six other students are in the class.  Just before the break, Jackie Makers, a fellow student, must take a call.  They are getting ready to start up again, but Jackie has yet to return.  The group hears raised voices outside, and they head outside to find out what is happening.  Ivy sees her old high school beau, Miguel Baptista arguing with Randy Russell, co-owner of the local antique mall.  Miguel is attempting to calm the man down.  When Randy is finally subdued, the group notices Jackie sitting in her car.  It looks like Jackie will not be finishing the class.  When it is discovered that Jackie was poisoned, Olaya ends up at the top of the suspect list.  Ivy knows that Olaya would not harm a soul, and starts asking questions around town.  Ivy gets pulled into a controversy on historic Maple Avenue where Jackie owned a beautiful house (that Ivy would love to own). Santa Sofia is not the quiet town Ivy left when she went off to college.  Will Ivy be able to capture the killer or will she end up getting burned?

I found Kneaded to Death to be nicely written and easy to read.  I liked the characters (especially Mrs. Branford) and the hint of magic.  The description of Maple Avenue was delightful.  There are some beautiful historic homes on the street (especially Mrs. Branford’s Victorian).  I thought the mystery was well crafted, and it kept my interest (hooray).  The author provided some nice clues that will help the reader identify the killer (you must pay very careful attention).  I give Kneaded to Death 4 out of 5 stars (are you shocked)!  My one complaint is Ivy’s obsession with Miguel Baptista.  They dated in high school, but Ivy has never gotten over him (in eighteen years and now we understand why she is divorced).  I thought her ogling of Miguel to be a little over-the-top (once would have been fine).  I hope that Ivy’s grief is lessened in the next book.  It is quite prevalent in Kneaded to Death which is understandable.  There is another subplot in Kneaded to Death that is equally intriguing.  There is not, though, too much going on in the book.  I could keep track of the storylines and the characters.  I thought Kneaded to Death was a good first cozy mystery.  The series has potential, and I am looking forward to the next book in A Bread Shop Mystery series.

I hope you have a delightful and fun filled Tuesday.  I have review work to do today (posting reviews and sending the links to the publishers).  I am currently reading Bel of the Brawl by Maggie McConnon.  I will see you tomorrow when I review another new novel.  Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Monday, February 27, 2017

War, Spies and Bobby Sox

Salutations!  Today I am celebrating the release of Libby Fischer Hellmann's new book War, Spies and Bobby Sox.  It is available on Amazon for $.99 (Kindle version).  Libby Fischer Hellmann has also written Jump Cut, Havana Lost, and Double Back. Here is a picture of a woman wearing bobby socks.

War, Spies and Bobby Sox by Libby Fischer Hellman contains three stories about life in America during World War II.  The Incidental Spy is the first story (and the longest).  Lena Bentheim is in love with Josef in Berlin, Germany in 1935.  But Lena is only sixteen years old and her parents believe she would be better off in America.  Lena is send to Chicago, Illinois to live with her cousin (who is like an aunt to her) Ursula.  There she learns English and secretarial skills.  Lena gets a job with the physics department at the University of Chicago.  She meets and falls in love with Karl Stern who becomes involved in the nuclear weapons project.  Life soon takes a dangerous turn for Lena, and she must decide where her loyalties lay.  P.O.W. is the second story and revolves around Mary Catherine O’Rourke who lives on her family farm outside Chicago.  The local German POWs are brought to the farm to help with the apple harvest.  Reinhard Deschler catches Mary Catherine’s eye.  Nothing but trouble can follow.  The final story is The Day Miriam Hirsch Disappeared.  The story tells of what happens to a beautiful Yiddish actress in Chicago’s Lawndale community.

War, Spies and Bobby Sox is well-written and has a good pace.  I found the first two stories to be engaging (they held my attention).  The scientific “stuff” in The Incidental Spy was not for me (regarding the discovery of nuclear weapons), but you can do what I did and skim over it.  I do, though, wish the author had focused on stories that showcased women’s strengths and their accomplishments during World War II (the first one does in the end).  Instead, we get to see how women lead with their heart instead of their mind (Mary Catherine is a woman who makes many wrong choices).  I give War, Spies and Bobby Sox 4 out of 5 stars.  It is nice to see a different aspect of World War II.  Many people do not know that we had POW camps (German and Italian) in the United States and the soldiers worked on local farms.  The author did a very good job with the history from that time-period.  War, Spies and Bobby Sox are stories that many readers will enjoy reading.  I believe I am just burned out on stories from this era.

I do appreciate you visiting and reading my review.  I am currently reading Pekoe Most Poison by Laura Childs (and loving it).  I will return tomorrow to review Kneaded to Death by Winnie Archer. May each of you have a very special Monday.  Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Annie's Recipe: Hope Chest of Dreams

I hope everyone is having a lovely Sunday.  I am still suffering from my cold.  I suffer from asthma and allergies which means I get sick easily. The colds tend to migrate to my chest and linger (lucky me).  One year I had bronchitis four times (it is like trying to breathe with an elephant on your chest).  What do you have planned for today?  

Annie’s Recipe by Lisa Jones Baker is the second book in the Hope Chest of Dreams series.  Annie Mast and Levi Miller were childhood best friends.  Then one day Levi was gone.  Levi’s father, John, had broken the rules of the Ordnung and was shunned.  John quickly packed up his family and moved away.  Ten  years later, Annie is at the wedding of Katie and Jeremiah when she notices an Englischer in the crowd.  Upon closer inspection, she notices that it is Levi.  They agree to meet at their special place at Pebble Creek.  When they meet, it is like they have never been apart.  Over the next few days, the two meet whenever Annie can get away.  Levi wants to spend the rest of his life with Annie, but, there is a big obstacle in the way of their happiness.  Levi does not feel he can return to Arthur, Illinois and live.  He feels he will always be known as the son of the shunned man.  Levi knows that Annie would not be happy in the Englisch world and asks if she would be willing to compromise.  Annie’s heart, though, is in the Amish world where she grew up.  Annie believes that God can work miracles and, if she is meant to be with Levi, God will find a way.  Is there a happily ever after in the future for Levi and Annie? 

Annie’s Recipe is nicely written and is easy to read.  It  can be finished in just a couple of hours.  The book reminds me of a sappy romance novel with Christian/Amish faith and theology tossed in.  Annie’s journal entries remind me of those written by a lovesick teenager.  Well, technically she is a teenager (only eighteen).  Annie’s sponge cakes are mentioned frequently throughout the book.  I wondered if she could cook or bake anything else (it did not seem like it).  I give Annie’s Recipe 3 out of 5 stars.  It is a sweet book with a good lesson about having faith and believing in God (just not my type of Amish novel).  We are provided updates on the characters from the first book.  I like the character of Old Sam Beachy.  He crafts beautiful chests with custom designs on the tops (I would love one).  I just wanted a little more in Annie’s Recipe.  It seemed like the same details were discussed over and over throughout the story.  Levi and Annie love each other, but sometimes love is not enough (especially when one person refuses to compromise).    Annie's Recipe will be out on Tuesday, February 28.  The first book in Hope Chest of Dreams series is Rebecca's Bouquet.  The next book in the series is Rachel's Dream (out in late April).

Thank you for reading my latest book evaluation.  I need to run an errand and then pick up leaves outside.  The latest rain storm dumped another big load of leaves on our yard.  I hope all of you have a very special day. Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Golden Hour

Greetings!  I am reviewing a novel by T. Greenwood today.  Ms. Greenwood has also written Where I Lost Her, Bodies of Water, Grace, The Glittering World, and The Forever Bridge.  You can find her other books on Amazon and follow her for updates.  T. Greenwood is also on Facebook (a good place to connect with authors).

The Golden Hour is a new novel by T. Greenwood.  Wyn Davies is a struggling artist is in her early thirties and lives in Queens, New York.  Wyn lives in one half of a duplex while her husband, Gus lives on the other side.  The pair split recently over a silly disagreement.  Their daughter, Avery lives with Wyn during the week and Gus on the weekends.  Wyn is an artist who has been busy making commissioned birch tree paintings that go with her client’s rooms.  Gus feels that Wyn has sold out (at least she is earning money).  Wyn finds out that Robby Rousseau might get a new trial.  The Innocence Project has gotten involved in Robby’s case and they are testing the DNA from the case. The DNA was never tested because they had a confession. Wyn has never told anyone the truth about what happened that day twenty years ago in Haven, New Hampshire.  When she receives a threatening phone call, it spurs Wyn to flee.  She takes her friend, Pilar up on her offer to spend the winter in her home on Bluffs Island in Maine.  Avery and Wyn head up to Bluffs Island.  It can only be reached by ferry and there is no Wi-Fi service.  It sounds perfect to Wyn.  In the basement, Wyn discovers a box labeled “Epitaphs and Prophecies”.  The box is full of undeveloped film rolls. The rolls are labeled with dates starting with 07/12/76.  Wyn is intrigued and sends off two rolls to get developed (a friend develops the rest later).  The film belonged to the former owner who disappeared thirty-five years ago.  The pictures are unusual and Wyn gets a glimpse of her life.  Wyn wants to find out more about this woman and starts seeking answers.  Will the answers Wyn seeks help her with her own life?  What happened to Wyn twenty years ago?  

The Golden Hour is an odd novel.  It sounded like a good mystery/suspense novel, but the execution was severely lacking.  Wyn is a hard character to like.  I know she suffered a horrible trauma, and I believe she could benefit from therapy.  Her character reminds me of a person who might have a mental health problem. Wyn smokes pot (more than once when children are nearby), drinks, has trouble communicating (especially with her husband), pushes everyone away, prefers to flee than deal with life, jealous of her best friend’s success and lacks some common sense.  Wyn goes to a house that has been deserted for thirty-five years with her four-year-old daughter (would you take a child to this house).  I would make sure to arrive in daylight so I can what needs to be done.  I am sure that the house would be dilapidated and filthy.  Wyn has no idea how to turn light a pilot light for the heat and imagines there is a master switch (not on a system that old).  She does not bring in the clothes from the car before falling asleep (guess what they need in the middle of the night).  Wyn also fails to bring needed cleaning supplies (despite being told about the lack of shops and supplies in the “town”).  Wyn seems more concerned about her needs than those of her daughter.  In a way, I wish the author had not included a child in the story.  I found some inconsistencies regarding the legal case.  A thirteen-year-old boy confessed to the crime and then goes to trial.  He gets a lengthy sentence and is still in jail twenty years later.  Normally, if the perpetrator confesses, there is no trial.  It would go to sentencing.  Also, why would a juvenile still be in jail after the age of 18 (or at the latest 21).  I am curious how he was convicted if Wyn did not testify and the DNA evidence was never tested. The incident that happened to Wyn is slowly revealed over the course of the novel.  Most readers will be able to figure it out long before all the information is revealed.  I give The Golden Hour 2 out of 5 stars (I did not enjoy it).  I found the pace to be slow (good if you wish to go to sleep) and the pictures described are unusual (downright strange and inappropriate).  I thought the novel to be dark and the ending disappointing.  What happened regarding the prior owner is very upsetting and disturbing.  I was just not drawn into this book.  I kept hoping it would get better, but it did not.  The Golden Hour was not the right novel for me.  The Golden Hour will be out on Tuesday, February 28.

I appreciate your visit.  May you have a very special Saturday.  I am off to enjoy my day and read War, Spies and Bobby Sox by Libby Fischer Hellmann.  Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Friday, February 24, 2017

Banana Cream Pie Murder: A Hannah Swensen Mystery

Happy Friday!  Can you believe it is the last Friday of February? The month is almost over and Lent begins next Wednesday.  There are several new books releasing on Tuesday, February 28.  Some of the titles are Fatality by Firelight by Lynn Cahoon, Death by Chocolate Lab by Bethany Blake, Murder on Location by Cathy Pegau, Kneaded to Death by Winnie Archer, Murder at an Irish Wedding by Carlene O'ConnorTreasured Grace by Tracie Peterson, Annie's Recipe by Lisa Jones Baker, and More Than a Marriage by Amy Lillard.  I have reviewed a couple of these titles already and I will review more in the coming days.

Banana Cream Pie Murder by Joanne Fluke is the twenty-first book in A Hannah Swensen Mystery series.  Hannah Swensen is enjoying a honeymoon cruise with her new husband, Ross Barton.  It is the last night of the voyage when they receive a message from Delores Swensen, Hannah’s mother.  Delores found the body of her downstairs neighbor, Victoria “Tori” Bascomb and she wants Hannah to return home right away (to investigate).  Tori Bascomb is the sister of Lake Eden’s mayor, Richard Bascomb.  Tori was a retired actress who settled in Lake Eden and provides private acting lessons.  Tori also directs the Lake Eden Players and teaches drama at Jordan High School.  Hannah and Ross return home the next day and find the whole family waiting for them at Hannah’s condo.  As a wedding gift, Hannah’s condo has been completely redecorated (except the kitchen for which Hannah is very grateful).  The following day Hannah is ready to get updated on the case and to start sleuthing.  Tori was not a well-liked woman which leads to a long suspect list.  Hannah is busy questioning suspects and looking into Tori’s movements on the day of her death.  Hannah also has to adjust to having a husband.  Hannah is used to making her own decisions, but now she must consider Ross (and consult him).  When Hannah gets a little too close, the killer strikes back.  Join Hannah along with her family and friends in her latest adventure in Banana Cream Pie Murder

I thought that Banana Cream Pie Murder had a good pace which makes it an easy and quick novel to read.  Hannah is not her usual confident, independent self in this book.  Hannah is used to making her own decisions and living independently.  She now has another person to consider.  Hannah and Ross rushed into marriage and they never discussed what happens after they are married (like does Ross want children or does he mind Michelle staying in the guest room). Mike and Norman know more about Hannah than Ross (like how Hannah dislikes sweeping).  I did not feel any chemistry between Ross and Hannah.  I did not like how Hannah is portrayed as technologically incompetent.  She cannot figure out how to use her phone (change ringer, get her messages, etc.).  Another un-Hannah moment is when Hannah is shopping for pale for a beer muffin recipe.  Hannah has never purchased lager previously.  I would expect Hannah to figure it out on her own (that she just needs to look at the labels) or ask someone in the store.  Instead, she is blindly picking out different beers. Hannah has never been helpless or a dimwit.  Hannah does little cooking or baking in Banana Cream Pie Murder.  Michelle, Hannah’s sister, is in town and has taken over breakfast (and the majority of the baking in this book).  Michelle is the more self-possessed sister in this story (especially since Andrea is MIA).  I give Banana Cream Pie Murder 3 out of 5 stars (I am being a little generous with the rating).  Banana Cream Pie Murder was more cozy than mystery.  Every chapter revolved around the baking, making, or eating of food with recipes at the end of the chapter (which interrupts the flow).  There are twenty-one recipes in Banana Cream Pie Murder.  The murder investigation does not ramp up until a reader is about 70% of the way through the novel.  That is when the author starts introducing the suspects.  It does not take much brain power to identify the guilty party.  I kept hoping for a nice twist that would pin the murder on the mayor’s wife (this is not a spoiler).  One thing that really bugged me was Ross calling Hannah--Cookie.  I do not believe that Ross ever called Hannah by her given name.  It is cute that he gave her a nickname in college, but does he have to use it all the time.  I can see using it when they are alone, but not out in public (I found it annoying).  Banana Cream Pie Murder seemed to be written by someone other than Joanne Fluke.  Banana Cream Pie Murder is nothing like the earlier books in the series.  I did not appreciate the cliffhanger ending.  I am hoping that the person involved (spoiler) will get bumped off (a girl can dream).  Because of the cliffhanger, I will be reading the next book in A Hannah Swensen Mystery series.  If you have not read any of the books in this series, I do not recommend starting with Banana Cream Pie Murder.  I suggest you read the earlier books in the series (which I really enjoyed).

I appreciate you taking the time to read my lengthy review (I got on a little bit of a rant).  May each of you have an enjoyable Friday. Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Murder on Location: A Charlotte Brody Mystery

Welcome!  Since it was raining yesterday, I have to go out and run errands today.  I am not allowed to drive in the rain.  My father always said that he would prefer that the car and I arrive home in one piece and that is better accomplished when the roads are not slick.  It was his way of stating I do not drive well in wet weather (which is true).  

Murder on Location by Cathy Pegau is the third book in A Charlotte Brody Mystery series.  Charlotte Brody is out on a cold day in mid-march to watch the arrival of the film crew and actors from California to Cordova.  Charlotte’s boss, Andrew Tolliver assigned her to cover the event.  They are going to be in the area for two weeks for the filming of North to Fortune and Charlotte will be reporting all of it for Cordova Daily Times.  It seems, though, that not everyone is happy with their arrival.  The Alaskan Natives are not happy with how they are being portrayed in the film and the members of the Alaska Eyak Council are out in protest.  Wallace Meade, the producer, agrees to hire locals to act in the film.  One of the citizens chosen is Becca Derenov, Charlotte’s ward.  Charlotte and Becca pack up and head out with the crew to Childs Glacier for location filming.  The next morning everyone is waiting for Stanley Welsh, the director, to show up.  When he is not located within the camp, the group fans out to search for him.  Welsh is found down in a crevasse.  It is assumed that the medicine he takes made him disoriented and he fell into the crevasse during the night.  Charlotte is not sure the solution is so straightforward.  She sends Becca to town for Deputy James Eddington (also her beau) and Charlotte’s brother, Dr. Michael Brody (who acts as coroner).  After the group returns to town, the crews rooms are ransacked and a threatening note left behind. It turns out that this is not the first incident this cast and crew has experienced.  Charlotte is determined to get answers before the cast and crew returns to California--and the killer with them. 

I thought Murder on Location was nicely written and it had a good flow or pace.  It is a little slow in the beginning, but picks up pace after the murder occurs.  This is the third installment in the series, but Murder on Location can be read alone.  There is some information about Charlotte’s past that is not completely explained in this edition (why she is afraid to be intimate with James Eddington).  Unlike other cozy mysteries, Murder on Location contains foul language (mild words) and intimate situations.  There is even a discussion between Charlotte and the local madam on how to prevent pregnancy. I give Murder on Location 3 out of 5 stars.   I felt that the characters lacked depth.  The author did not provide details on the characters added in this story.  We just get the basics on them (like they are actors from California).  The mystery was not complicated (unfortunately).  It was obvious which character would be bumped off.   I want a complicated, twisty mystery that will mystify me.  I do not wish to be able to identify the killer before I am halfway through the book.  There is a little extra something at the end that might surprise some readers.  Avid mystery fans will figure it out before the reveal (especially if you have read Agatha Christie’s books).  There is, of course, the requisite romance in the novel between Charlotte and James Eddington.  Charlotte has to decide if she wants to take their relationship to the next level.  I would have preferred if the author had let the romance play out a little longer in a more traditional manner.  I would have liked to see James and Charlotte go out on dates and get to know each other (and then maybe get married) slowly throughout the series.  I think it would have fit better with the time period.  I was never drawn into Murder on Location.  It is a nice book to read, but I was not fully engaged in it.  It is the type of book I can read while watching a television show.  The first two books in A Charlotte Brody Mystery series are Murder on the Last Frontier and Borrowing Death.  Murder on Location will be out on Tuesday, February 28.

I hope you enjoyed my review.  I am currently reading Everything Belongs to Us by Yoojin Grace Wuertz.  I will see you when I return on Friday with another one of my book critiques.    Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Fatality by Firelight: A Cat Latimer Mystery

Greetings!  I hope everyone is having a wonderful day.  It is raining in my area today.  It gives me an opportunity to catch up on my computer work and reading!

Fatality by Firelight by Lynn Cahoon is the second book in A Cat Latimer Mystery series.  Cat Latimer is welcoming a new group of writers to her second writer's retreat in Aspen Hills, Colorado. After inheriting the beautiful Victorian from her ex-husband, Michael, Cat turned the home into the Warm Springs Writers Retreat.  On the first full day of the retreat Cat and her boyfriend, Seth (also the handyman) take the writers up the mountain for a day of skiing.  After enjoying the slopes, Cat and Seth enter the lodge to find the writers enjoying the bar.  Christine, one of her guests, is in a clench on the sofa with local, Tommy Neil. It will not go well for Tommy when his fiance, Brit finds out.  Upon arriving back home, Cat tries to warn Christine about Tommy.  Christine, though, does not wish to listen.  She feels he is the one.  The next day the group goes to the local library.  When they are finished, Christine takes off with Tommy.  Cat is woken in the middle of the night by the arrival of her Uncle Pete, Chief of Police.  Tommy was found murdered in his room at the ski resort.  The last person seen with Tommy was Christine.  Christine is not in her room, but she soon stumbles into the house.  She is cold, crying, and has blood on her shirt.  Christine insists that Tommy was alive when she left him. Cat does not see Christine as a killer and starts asking questions around town.  In addition to the murder, Uncle Pete is busy investigating the theft of a rare Hemingway book from the library (and the librarian is really pushing Pete to find the culprit and the book).  Cat thought that writer's retreats would be quiet and leave her plenty of time to write.  Cat is in for a surprising week in Fatality by Firelight.

I thought that Fatality by Firelight was better than A Story to Kill (the first book in the series).  I found the story easy to read, nicely written, and it has a beautiful setting (I would like to visit).  The book has far more has far more going on in it that I summarized above. The romance between Seth and Cat is prominent in the book (just my personal opinion).  Cat is not ready for a relationship with Seth.  She has yet to resolve her feeling for her ex-husband, Michael.  Cat needs to find out what really happened to Michael and why he pushed her away before she moves on with Seth.  The storyline regarding Michael started in A Story to Kill and continues in Fatality by Firelight.  The storyline of Michael shares the spotlight with the murder of Tommy Neil.  I hope the author wraps up this particular storyline soon.  I think it needs its own book (book three perhaps).  I am curious, though, to see how the mob ties in with Michael's demise.  I give Fatality by Firelight 3.5 out of 5 stars.  I wish the mystery of Tommy Neil's death had been more challenging.  I could identify the culprit early in the book (might as well have been a neon sign hanging over the killer's head).  I am having a little trouble liking Cat.  She is not happy with how much time she has to spend interacting with her retreat guests.  Cat did not realize how much time she would have to spend socializing and helping her guests.  Cat seems to have formed the idea that guests would spend their time locked in their rooms writing or researching at the library (and Cat would spend her time writing in her attic office).  It seems that Cat did not fully think out the idea of her retreats. I am a fan of Shauna.  She is more than a housekeeper and cook.  Fatality by Firelight is best read after reading A Story to Kill.  I will be reading the next book in A Cat Latimer Mystery series.  I am curious to see what happened to Michael and what role Dante Cornelio (a handsome mob guy) will play in the next book. Fatality by Firelight releases on Tuesday, February 28.

I appreciate your visiting.  I am currently reading The Golden Hour by T. Greenwood (slow starter).  I will see you next time when I return to review another new novel.  Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Monday, February 20, 2017

Twelve Angry Librarians: A Cat in the Stacks Mystery

Happy President's Day!  I spent the day doing chores around the house. There are always chores to do when you have a home. Today I was dusting and sweeping.  I also baked cookies for my mother.  She loves her chocolate chip cookies.  Do you have a favorite cookie or fresh baked treat?

Twelve Angry Librarians by Miranda James is the eighth A Cat in the Stacks Mystery novel.  Charlie Harris in is the interim library director at Athena College in Athena, Mississippi.  Charlie must prepare a short speech to welcome the librarians to the Southern Academic Library Association Annual Conference. Charlie is shocked when he finds out that the keynote speaker is Gavin Fong.  Charlie went to graduate school with Gavin over twenty-five years ago.  There was an altercation between the two men after Gavin hit on Jackie, Charlie’s wife.  After the opening speeches, the guests are mingling when Gavin approaches Charlie.  Gavin has not changed one bit since college.  He is still arrogant, condescending, and difficult. When Gavin tries to hit Charlie (three times), Charlie is forced to defend himself.  This is not a good start to the conference.  The next day Gavin is giving his upsetting keynote speech.  After taking a drink of water, Gavin starts to choke and clutch at his throat while gasping for air.  Gavin dies in front of the audience.  Chief Deputy Kenesha Berry quickly arrives at the Farrington House (where the conference is being held).  Kenesha has an unusual problem with this victim.  Usually, she lacks for suspects.  This time there are too many people who disliked Gavin (and would not mind seeing him dead).  Charlie is a prime suspect after his altercation with Gavin the day before.  Charlie wants to find the real killer before the conference ends and the killer gets away (or he ends up head librarian at the local prison).  Things take a turn for the worse when another librarian is found dead in her hotel room with a water bottle nearby.  Charlie has some personal matters that are diverting his attention.  Charlie is in for a challenging weekend in Twelve Angry Librarians.

I found Twelve Angry Librarians to be my favorite book in A Cat in the Stacks Mystery series.  It is well-written and pleasurable to read.  I also found it to have a good pace which makes it easy to read.  Twelve Angry Librarians may be the eighth book in the series, but a reader can enjoy it as a stand-alone.  Miranda James provides all the information a reader needs.    Twelve Angry Librarians contains relatable characters that readers will love.  Diesel, the Maine Coon Cat, is especially enjoyable (with his little chirps and trills).   I give Twelve Angry Librarians 5 out of 5 stars.  I especially appreciated the well-crafted mystery in Twelve Angry Librarians.  It was puzzling (in a wonderful way). I do not believe that many people will be able to figure out the whole solution.  I wish more authors would create out-of-box murder mysteries that are complex and difficult for the reader to crack.  Twelve Angry Librarians has good characters, a little romance, family situations, and a perplexing mystery.  All these qualities make for a delightful cozy mystery.  I hope you let Miranda James transport you to Charlie and Diesel’s world in Twelve Angry Librarians.  Twelve Angry Librarians will be out on Tuesday, February 21.

I appreciate you stopping by to read my latest book critique.  I am off to my monthly book club chat on The Book Club Network, Inc.  I sincerely hope all of you have a very nice night.  Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Whale of a Crime: The Gray Whale Inn Mysteries

Welcome.  I sincerely hope you are having a good Sunday.  I worked on cleaning my bedroom closet.  I have not ventured into it since I moved into this room a little over a year ago (it is packed full of stuff)!  So far I have discovered Christmas lights, a Build-a-Bear Cow (not mine), books (some of them are mine), a tool box, Buckopoly, and many items belonging to my mother.  Who knows what is lurking in the hidden depths!

Whale of a Crime by Karen MacInerney is the seventh book in The Gray Whale Inn Mysteries. Natalie Barnes’ Gray Whale Inn on Cranberry Island, Maine is stuffed to the gills with guests from Northern Spirit Tours.  The group gets to whale watch on the Summer Breeze.  Though Natalie does have her hands full, she manages to take a few hours to enjoy the experience.  Things get tense when Captain Bainbridge gets too close to the whales (breaking the law) and gets into an argument with naturalist, Alex van der Berg.  The next day the group is ready to depart on the schooner for the day, but Carl Bainbridge has yet to arrive.  First mate Martina Garza takes charge of the party and weighs anchor.  There is a little hitch when the anchor comes out of the water with Captain Bainbridge attached to it.  The top suspect is Alex who happens to be dating Charlene, Natalie’s best friend.  Charlene is upset and needs Natalie to sail Alex off the police’s radar.  Natalie and John (her husband) have some problems of their own.  Bridget, Natalie’s sister, shows up after hearing about her daughter’s (Gwen) engagement to local lobsterman, Adam.  Bridget is determined to return home with Gwen in tow.  The night before the death of Captain Bainbridge, Natalie discovered a six week old kitten on their porch.  Natalie is in the laundry room with the sweet, little baby when she feels water falling on her. It is raining indoors.  Natalie rushes upstairs to find a guest bathtub overflowing (the wood floors in the bedroom are ruined).  This incident is just the first for the Gray Whale Inn.  Natalie’s livelihood is in jeopardy.  Things cannot get any worse, or can they?  Natalie is in for a rocky ride in Whale of a Crime

Whale of a Crime is an entertaining novel.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I believe Whale of a Crime is my favorite book in the series.  The book is easy to read and well-written. I felt it was just the right length. Whale of a Crime has nice, likeable characters and a beautiful setting.  There is quite a big going on in the book, but it was not overwhelming (I did not even mention the poor baby whale that needs assistance).  I give Whale of a Crime 5 out of 5 stars.  The murder mystery was complex and twisty (which you know I love).  One teeny, tiny little clue provided the key (at least for me) to solving the murder portion of the book.  While Whale of a Crime is the seventh book in the series, it can be read alone.  The author provides the necessary background information.  I do, though, recommend the other books in The Gray Whale Inn Mysteries.  I have read and enjoyed all of them.  I will be reading the next book in The Gray Whale Inn Mysteries when it releases.  The other novels in the series are Murder on the Rocks, Dead and Berried, Murder Most Maine, Berried to the Hilt, Brush with Death, and Death Runs Adrift.  Whale of a Crime is available on Kindle Unlimited.

I appreciate you taking time out of your day to visit my blog.  I am currently reading Banana Cream Pie Murder by Joanne Fluke.  I am going to go enjoy my dinner and then watch Mercy Street, Victoria and When Calls the Heart.  May each of you have a relaxing evening.  Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Death by Chocolate Lab: A Lucky Paws Petsitting Mystery

Salutations!  It has been a rainy day in the Tampa Bay area of Florida.  A perfect day to get some work done in the house and to read.  I spent some time trying to figure out drill bits.  I was rehanging a shelf with toggle bolts.  The package directions stated to use a 9/16" drill bit.  Upon inspection of my father's numerous drill bits, I did not find one that was 9/16".  So I kept trying different bits until I achieved a big enough hole! The trial and error method--worked for me.  I discovered a drill bit guide in his shop later in the afternoon, and there is no mention of a 9/16" bit.  I think there is something wrong with the package directions (unless they invented a new bit size recently)!

Death by Chocolate Lab by Bethany Blake is the first book in A Lucky Paws Petsitting Mystery series.  Daphne Templeton lives in Sylvan Creek, Pennsylvania with her sister, Piper (their mother, Maeve lives in the town as well).  While Daphne has a PhD in philosophy, she runs Daphne Templeton’s Lucky Paws Pet Sitting (now many job opportunities for someone with a degree in philosophy).  Her sister, Piper owns Winding Hill Farm (and is the local veterinarian) and is hosting a dog agility trial competition the next day.  Late that night, various vendors show up to set up their tents.  Steve Beamus, owner of Blue Ribbon K-9 Academy arrives to set up the course.  Steve is not well-liked because of his condescending, superior attitude and womanizing ways.  The next morning, Daphne is out early with her dog, Socrates and her foster dog, Arnie (a little Chihuahua with an overeager personality and an unfortunate overbite).  Arnie enters the course and dives in a red tunnel.  When he does not exit, Daphne crawls in to get him.  She gets a shock when she discovers the body of Steve Beamus.  The new to town Detective Jonathan Black is in charge of the case and happens to hear a private conversation between Daphne and Piper that puts Piper at the top of the suspect list.  Daphne is determined to prove her sister’s innocence to the detective.  There is no shortage of suspects for the murder of such an unlikeable victim.  Daphne, with the help of her canine sidekicks, starts questioning her list of suspects.  When Daphne is out late one night for a clandestine meeting, she discovers the body of Virginia Lockhart in the park.  Virginia must have stumbled upon the killer and paid the ultimate price.  Daphne will need to up her game if she is to find the killer before he strikes again (and she stumbles across another body)!

I found Death by Chocolate Lab to be easy to read.  I like the various dogs included in the story (can you tell I am trying to list the positive attributes first) and there are some good recipes for dog treats included at the end of the book (I will have to try them out).  I enjoyed the mystery that Bethany Blake created in Death by Chocolate Lab.  I do not think that many readers will guess the identity of the murderer.  You will need to utilize deductive reasoning to identify the perpetrator (really think about all the people in the book).  I give Death by Chocolate Lab 3 out of 5 stars.  I thought that Daphne was too quirky (nicest word I can use).  Daphne has a PhD in philosophy (she is also a vegetarian).  It takes intelligence and time to get a doctorate degree.  But the author then made her out to be a babbling idiot who cannot remember to keep gas in her car.  Daphne has not managed to get her life together and lives with her sister who likes to remind her of this frequently (that she does not pay rent).  She drives a 1960s era VW bus that breaks down as frequently as it runs out of gas (she puts in $5 and then drives 10 plus miles and is shocked there is no gas).    The car has the worst paint job on the planet.  It is supposed to depict a dog (for her business), but it looks like a horse (of course).  I wish the author would have let Daphne be an intelligent, confident woman.  It would have made for a more appealing story.  Then there is the situation with Jonathan Black.  It seems he is very handsome and Daphne cannot help but notice him.  A reader is subjected to the many fine attributes of Detective Black several times throughout the novel (every single time Daphne and Black encounter each other).  I like a little romance in cozy mysteries, but I do not feel the reader needs to be hit over-the-head with it (and we do not need the main character to be drooling over him). Detective Black is not the only hunky man in the book (there are two others).  While Death by Chocolate Lab is not the right book for me, I believe others will enjoy the humor.  The next book in the series is Dial Meow for Murder (releases September 26).  Death by Chocolate Lab releases on February 28.

I hope each of you has a lovely evening.  I am going to enjoy my dinner and watch Ransom.  I will see you when I return to review another novel. Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Friday, February 17, 2017

A Death in the Dales: A Kate Shackleton Mystery

Happy Friday!  I hope all of you have had an enjoyable day.  I spent the day doing some chores around the house.  I am starting to feel a little better (thank goodness).  Do you have any special plans for your weekend?  I have plans for relaxing and more housework (the two will have to find a way to mix).

A Death in the Dales by is the seventh book in A Kate Shackleton Mystery series.  Kate Shackleton is taking her niece, Harriet on holiday to recover from her bout of diphtheria.  They are going to stay in Lilac Cottage owned by Dr. Lucian Simonson, Kate’s beau.  He inherited the cottage six months prior when his Aunt Freda.  Kate is hoping for a relaxing fortnight in Langcliffe, but the fates are not with her.  Kate and Harriet have barely arrived when Mr. Bradley Wigglesworth arrives.  Wigglesworth had been a friend of Freda’s, and she had entrusted a box of papers with him before her death.  Freda had witnessed the murder of Rufus Holroyd in 1916, but her testimony was discounted.  The case haunted Freda for the past ten years, because she knew the wrong man was convicted and hanged for the crime.  Kate feels compelled to look through the papers and the case peaks her interest.  Harriet meets Beth Young in the village.  Beth is worried about her brother, Martin.  After the death of their mother, the two siblings were brought to town and put to work.  Martin is working at Raistrick Farm.  Martin was supposed to show up for the May Day festivities and he never arrived.  When he fails to show up soon thereafter, Kate agrees to drive out to the farm to inquire about the young boy.    Unfortunately, Kate’s profession as a detective has gotten out in the village and soon she is approached by Mrs. Victoria Trevelyan about a delicate situation.  Someone is trying to blackmail Mrs. Trevelyan about letter she wrote to a past lover.  Mrs. Trevelyan would like Kate to obtain the letters.  It is not turning out to be much of a holiday for Kate.  Harriet, though, is thrilled.  She is fascinated by her aunt’s business and believes it might be the right profession for her.  Harriet wishes to act as Kate’s assistant. Langcliffe may be a small village, but it is rife with secrets.  This trip is also about Lucian and Kate making decisions about their future.  It does not look promising when Lucian objects to Kate’s exploring the murder of Rufus Holroyd.  This holiday is not turning out the way Kate expected.

A Death in the Dales was easy to read and well-written.  I have not read the previous books in A Kate Shackleton Mystery series, but it was not a deterrent. The author provided all the information a reader needs to enjoy this novel.  I liked the main character, Kate Shackleton.  She is a smart, strong woman (thank heavens) and a good example to her niece, Harriet.  I liked Harriet as well.  I hope the author includes her in future books.  I believe A Death in the Dales is the type of book you want to curl up with in a cozy chair on a rainy afternoon (and do not forget to have your favorite beverage and snack nearby).  The author did a superb job at capturing the time and place.  You can tell that Frances Brody did her research.  I give A Death in the Dales 4 out of 5 stars.  There is a lot going on in this book, but I was able to keep track of the various storylines and their characters.  There are a couple of slow spots, but they did not bother me.  The romance portion of the book seemed off.  I did not feel any love or passion between Kate and Lucian.  It felt like the writer seemed there should be a romance in the book and, therefore, included one.  Kate and Lucian did not seem compatible, and I could not see Kate becoming a doctor’s wife (especially since she has no clue about shopping, cooking, and village politics).  The murder mystery was entertaining and I liked the puzzle.  I was able to figure out the killer before the reveal (you know I love solving the mystery).  I believe most readers will be surprised.  I am definitely going to read the other books in A Kate Shackleton Mystery series.  

Thank you for your visit.  I am currently reading Fatality by Firelight by Lynn Cahoon.  I am going to watch Grimm, MacGyver, and Sleepy Hollow while enjoying Chinese.  When I am sick, Chinese food is the only thing that tastes good to me. May each of you have a special evening. Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Green Mill Murder: A Phryne Fisher Mystery

Welcome!  I am starting to feel better and not a minute too soon. The dogs and cats ran out of wet food, and I needed to run to the store.  My cats get very vocal if they are not fed on time (one of them can be heard on the opposite side of the house)!  My oldest dog, Wolfie, follows me around and stares at me until her dinner appears.  Animals can be extremely entertaining (and sometimes a wee bit aggravating)!

The Green Mill Murder by Kerry Greenwood is the fifth book in The Phryne Fisher Mystery series.  Phryne Fisher is out dancing the Green Mill with Charles Freeman.   A forty-eight-hour dancing marathon is winding down with just two couples left on the floor.  Phryne is enjoying the music of Tintagel Stone and the Jazz Makers (they are without their singer, Nerine, though).  Phryne is dancing with Charles to “Bye Bye Blackbird” when a man collapses on the floor behind her.  The man did not fall down from exhaustion. He appears to have been stabbed in the chest.  The police are called and soon Detective Jack Robinson arrives on the scene.  He is, of course, not surprised to see Phryne on hand.  Phryne hangs out with the band while waiting her turn to be questioned (and manages to ask some probing questions of her own).  Charles who was quite squeamish at the sight of a body, bolted off towards the gent’s room.  When it is finally time for Phryne to leave the dance club, Charles has failed to return.  Charles has disappeared which does not bode well especially for Phryne who will have to explain to Charles’ overanxious mother. Charles fails to return home to his mother by the next morning, and Phryne is hired to locate him.  After some investigation, Phryne discovers that the older Freeman son, Victor is not dead.  Mrs. Freeman now wishes Phryne to locate both of her sons.  Phryne will take to the skies in her Gypsy Moth Rigel to get the answers Mrs. Freeman seeks.  Join Phryne on her latest adventure in The Green Mill Murder.

The Green Mill Murder is well-written, has a wonderful (and engaging) main character, and a beautiful setting.  I appreciate and enjoy the other characters as well (Mr. Butler, Dot, Bert, Cec and especially Jack).  I loved the complex mysteries and the unique method of murder (the writer came up with a good one this time).  There was more than one case for Phryne to solve in this novel.  She ends up having to find an errant husband and help the dance competition winners get their prize.  I give The Green Mill Murder 4.25 out of 5 stars (I liked it).  The Green Mill Murder has blackmail, murder, a romantic liaison, two missing people (well, technically one is hiding), a jazz band, and a high-flying adventure.  The readers are also provided descriptions of Phryne’s gorgeous clothes and the scenery she views from her airplane.  I loved the addition of the fun-loving wombat who loves potatoes (thankfully).  I look forward to reading the next book in The Phryne Fisher Murder Mysteries.  

I hope you have a satisfying evening.  I am off to watch my shows and finish reading Death by Chocolate Lab by Bethany Blake.  I will return tomorrow to review A Death in the Dales by Frances Brody.  Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Always by Sarah Jio

Greetings!  I hope all of you had a wonderful Valentine's Day.  I have been under the weather today so I took it easy.  My mother always knows when I am really sick, because I do not read.  It is the only time you will find me without a book in my hand or nearby.

Always is the latest novel by Sarah Jio.  Kailey Crain is a journalist with the Herald in Seattle, Washington in 2008.  Kailey and her fiancĂ©, Ryan are leaving a restaurant when she spots a homeless man outside.  Kailey walks over to give him her leftovers, and discovers it is Cade McAllister.  Cade and Kailey were very much in love and she had just discovered she was pregnant when he disappeared.  Kailey has not heard from him since early August of 1998.  Cade had co-owned Element Records with his best friend, James.  Cade’s Aunt Fay had lent them the money to start the company.  But, the business relationship between Cade and James started to deteriorate rapidly when James wanted to take the company in a different direction.  Kailey is shocked to find Cade in such a state.  She slowly wins his trust and gets him to a doctor.  It turns out that Cade suffered a TBI (traumatic brain injury) which has left him in a state of confusion (has Swiss cheese memory).  The doctor recommends a new program for Cade that will help him recover and get back the skills he has lost.  Over time, he might regain his memory.  Cade re-entering her life creates a dilemma for Kailey.  She thought she had moved on from Cade, but seeing him has brought all the feelings back to the surface.  Kailey, though, is also in love with Ryan.  Kailey needs to make a choice.  Which man has captured Kailey’s heart?

I look forward to Sarah Jio’s new book every year.  But I did find Always to be a disappointment.  I found Always to be a clichĂ© romance novel.  It is nicely written and had a good pace (for the most part).  The story is somewhat intriguing (especially in the beginning), but then it turns into a predictable romance novel.  There are some interesting music references in the book based on Cade’s love of music.  I did find the characters to be a little flat (one-dimensional).  I give Always 3 out of 5 stars (there are readers who will enjoy it).  It is easy to figure out what happened to Cade in 1998.  I was a little disappointed that Ms. Jio finishes the book with unanswered questions.  The reader never finds out how Cade survived the ten years on the street especially with his injuries.  There are areas that will have you shouting at Kailey.  Cade just enters the program and Kailey is the only person he knows.  He counts on her to visit him.  But, Kailey goes on a vacation to Cabo with Ryan.  Is this the best time for a romantic trip to Mexico?  Does she really think Cade will handle not seeing her?  Another moment that was odd (and had me shaking my head with disbelief) is when Kailey finally tracks down Cade (not the first night she sees him outside the restaurant).  Instead of taking him somewhere to get immediate assistance, she takes off to visit James.  If you had been hunting for this man, would you just leave him again?  Kailey had no idea if she would be able to locate him once again.  I wish less time had been devoted to Kailey thinking about Cade (how he looked, his charm, etc.).  It reminded me of the Harlequin romance novels I read as a teenager.  Always was not up to Sarah Jio’s normal standards (like The Violets of March or Blackberry Winter).  I will, of course, order Ms. Jio’s next book.  Always could have been an off novel for her. 

I appreciate you visiting and reading my latest review.  I will be back tomorrow to review The Green Mill Murder by Kerry Greenwood.  May each of you have an enchanting evening (I am heading back to my bed). Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader