Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Secret, Book and Scone Society

The Secret, Book and Scone Society by Ellery Adams is the first book in Miracle Springs, North Carolina series.  Nora Pennington owns Miracle Books in Miracle Springs, North Carolina.  The town is known to be a place of healing and Nora is known locally as a bibliotherapist.  A man in the park wishes Nora‘s help, so she suggests that he pick up a comfort scone from Gingerbread House and come to her shop.  Before he can get to Nora for assistance, Neil Parrish is found dead on the train tracks.  When the police rule it a suicide, Nora along with Estella, June and Hester form The Secret, Book and Scone Society.  Their purpose is get the truth about the man’s demise.  They delve into Neil’s life to uncover what could have gotten him killed.  They knew he came to town ahead of his partner’s and he was wrestling with a problem.  When the four ladies meet to discuss what they have uncovered, each member of the group reveals the secret that brought them to Miracle Springs.   These four women band together to get justice for one man and find themselves embroiled in a corruption scandal.  The best thing to come out of this is four lone woman find friendship, love and acceptance.

The Secret, Book and Scone Society is well-written and engaging.  My attention was captured right away with Nora’s description.  I found the four main characters to be personable yet flawed from life’s tragedy.  They were fleshed out and given life—very realistic.  Each one is unique.  There are also some characters (namely Sheriff Todd Hendricks) that readers will really dislike and wish to maim.  I did not like how the police treated women in this book (I know it was part of the story, but it was offensive).  I liked the description of the town, the Gingerbread House, Nora’s home (it is in a red train caboose) and, most especially, Miracle Books.  My rating for The Secret, Book and Scone Society is 4 out of 5 stars (I liked it).  The book contained more cozy elements than mystery.  I was hoping for a more complex whodunit (like is Ms. Adams Murder in the Mystery Suite).    I did like the authors use of misdirection in this book.  I will be reading the next book in this series.  I am curious what these ladies will get up to next time.  

Thank you for visiting today. By the way--What did the mummy say to the detective?  Let's wrap this case up!   May each of you have a wicked Halloween!  Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Monday, October 30, 2017

The Amish Christmas Candle: Three Amish Novellas

Greetings!  Knit to Kill by Anne Canadeo along with The Quiche and the Dead by Kirsten Weiss will be out tomorrow (October 31).  

The Amish Christmas Candle contains three Amish stories written by Jennifer Beckstrand, Kelly Long and Lisa Jones Baker.  Snow Shines on Ice Mountain by Kelly Long is set in Ice Mountain, Pennsylvania.  Naomi Gish makes and sells candles in her shop.  She has been trying to convince her father, Bud to give up running moonshine.  Bud hires Grayson Fisher to work in Naomi’s shop during the day and run moonshine for him at night (sneaky).  Gray is bitter from an accident when he was fourteen that lost him the use of his right arm.  During the holiday season miracles can happen.  Is it possible for these two to find love and happiness this Christmas season?

A Honeybee Christmas by Jennifer Beckstrand tells the story of Bitsy Kiem.  Bitsy is on her own now that the three nieces she raised are happily married.  One day, Yost Weaver stops by with his grandson, Levi.  Levi “borrowed” some bee equipment from Bitsy and needs to make restitution.  Bitsy wants to start a candle making business and Levi can be her apprentice.  Yost will not allow his grandson to spend time alone with the unconventional Bitsy and insists upon accompanying him.  Yost and Bitsy become reacquainted.  Can these two very different people find a way to be together?

The Christmas Candle by Lisa Jones Baker revolves around Lydia Schultz.  Lydia injures her ankle on the way home and John King (King’s Bakery) stops to assist her.  King’s Bakery provides cinnamon rolls for Christmas treats for those in need every year.  This year the list has doubled and they might not be able to provide them.  Lydia misses her sister, Anna since she married and moved to Ohio.  Every Christmas they would decide on a Christmas blessing and make it happen.  Lydia and John team up to help each other and other this Christmas.

The Amish Christmas Candle has three heartwarming Amish stories.  My favorite is A Honeybee Christmas.  It is well-written, has delightful characters and plenty of humor.  Bitsy is quite a character (I wish I had her gumption and zest for life).  I am glad the author gave us Bitsy’s story (from the Honey Bee Sisters trilogy).  All three novellas are easy to read and have good life lessons (honesty, truth, love, value of compromise, true meaning of Christmas).  Snow Shine on Ice Mountain is heavy on romance (a little sappy), but the father was so mischievous.   I liked the bayberry candle (it was interesting to find out they were made) and the Christmas miracle.  There is a preview of An Amish Courtship on Ice Mountain at the end which tells the story of Bishop Umble.  The Christmas Candle had a slower pace than the other stories, but it has a lovely ending.  There is a recipe for the cinnamon rolls and an excerpt for Rachel’s Dream.  I give The Amish Christmas Candle 4 out of 5 stars (I liked it). 

Thank you for visiting today.  I will be featuring The Secret, Book and Scone Society by Ellery Adams on Halloween.  By the way--Which ghost is the best dancer?  The Boogie Man!  May you have a witchingly good day!  Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Seashells, Spells and Caramels: Spells and Caramels (Cozy Witch Mystery)

I hope that you are having a lovely, uneventful Sunday.  Vannetta Chapman has her new Defending America series available for pre-order on Amazon. The two titles are Coyote's Revenge and Roswell's Secret.  They will be released on December 20.  

Seashells, Spells and Caramels by Erin Johnson is the first book in the Spells and Caramels series.  Imogen has almost enough money saved to open the bakery she has been dreaming of for years.  Catering her difficult boss’s rehearsal dinner will give her the last bit of funds needed.  At the party she is given a flyer for a baking contest to become the next Royal Head Baker.  After a fire destroys her apartment and wipes out her savings, Imogen is delighted to find out that she has been accepted into the contest.  She takes the last of her money and flies to France that night.  Imogen discovers that magic is real and that she is a witch.  With no clue how to work her magic, Imogen struggles with the various contest challenges.  It is especially difficult since her flame, Iggy is unwilling to cooperate (they do not have electricity).  After a particularly difficult challenge, one of her fellow competitors drops dead from poisoning and Imogen is the prime suspect.  Imogen will need to find the guilty party while keeping herself in the competition.   Is there a chance of Imogen winning the competition?  Who is behind the murder? 

Seashells, Spells and Caramels is a fast-paced novel that I found thoroughly entertaining.  It is nicely written, has great characters, magic, mayhem, a little romance, mischief, humor, and murder.  I started reading this book late one evening and did not go to sleep until I finished it.  Iggy, the flame, was a unique character.  He had such personality and the author really brought him to life for me.  Erin Johnson has a great writing style that make for a fun, enjoyable read.  I laughed out loud many times (there was giggling and chuckling too) while reading this paranormal mystery.  Imogen’s clumsiness reminds me of my own (I am lucky I have not set fire to my kitchen.  There have been some singed paper towels, food and dishtowels.).  The mystery was intriguing, but it can be solved before the reveal (but it did not hinder my enjoyment).  I appreciated the misdirection employed in the story.   I was delighted with the unique world the author created.  My rating for Seashells, Spells and Caramels is 5 out of 5 stars.  I am eager to read the next magical installment in the Spells and Caramels series which is Black Arts, Tarts and Gypsy Carts.  Both books are available through the Kindle Unlimited Program on Amazon.

I will return tomorrow with my evaluation of The Amish Christmas Candle by Kelly Long, Jennifer Beckstrand and Lisa Jones Baker.   By the way--What did one library book say to the other?    Can I take you out?   Have a spooktacular day and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Holiday Murder: Two Lucy Stone Christmas Mysteries

Happy Saturday!  Threads the Halls by Lea Wait will be out on Tuesday, October 31 along with Slay Bells Ring by Karen Rose Smith (and many others).  So many delightful books to add to my TBR pile.

Holiday Murder by Leslie Meier contains Mistletoe Murder and Christmas Cookie Murder (two Lucy Stone Mystery novels).  Go back to the very beginning of the Lucy Stone Mystery series in Mistletoe Murder.  Lucy works nights in the Country Cousins call center while her children are at home sleeping with her husband, Bill.  Lucy steps outside the call center (needs the cool air to help wake her up) and finds Sam Miller, one of the Country Cousins founders, dead in his car.  The police suspect suicide, but Lucy is not so sure.  Lucy works with Officer Barney Culpepper to discover what happened to Sam.  In between she must get ready for Christmas (clean the house before family arrives, wrap presents, bake cookies) and help her mother, Helen who is still grieving for her husband who passed away earlier in the year.  Can Lucy wrap up her investigation in time for a happy Christmas with the family?

Christmas Cookie Murder is the sixth book in the Lucy Stone Mystery series.  Lucy Stone is assisting Sue Finch at the day care center when Officer Barney Culpepper stops by with news that Tucker Whitney was found strangled.  Tucker was Sue’s assistant at the center.  Dr. Steve Cummings is the prime suspect and ends up arrested.  Lucy, who just loves a good mystery, starts nosing around trying to find clues to the real killer’s identity.  Who could have wanted Tucker dead and why? 

Holiday Murder was just delightful.  I had read both books previously, but it was nice to revisit them.  I had forgotten many of the details on how the series started (like Lucy working at Country Cousins).  I found Holiday Murder to be well-written, contain great characters and have a nice flow.  Leslie Meier has a great writing style which makes for an easy to read story that is enjoyable and entertaining.  I like how the author mingles the mystery with Lucy’s daily life.  It is a great combination.  We get to know Lucy, Bill, her kids and their friends.  My rating for Holiday Murder is 5 out of 5 stars (I loved it).  I was hooked on this series from the moment I picked up and read Mistletoe Murder (many years ago when I discovered the series in my local library).  There is a preview of Turkey Trot Murder at the end of the book.  For those of you who have not read the whole series, pick up Holiday Murder for two delightful Christmas cozy mysteries.  

By the way:   How do you write a book about Halloween?   With a ghostwriter!  I couldn't resist.  I will be sharing my review of Seashells, Spells and Caramels by Erin Johnson on Sunday.  May you have a haunting day and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader                                                                                         

Friday, October 27, 2017

The Silver Gun: An Art Deco Mystery

It's Friday!  The Nightingale Christmas Show by Donna Douglas will be published on November 16. It is the ninth book in the Nightingales series.  It is such a wonderful historical fiction series of books.  

The Silver Gun by L.A. Chandlar is the first book in An Art Deco Mystery series.  Lane Sanders is aide to the 99th New York City Mayor Fiorello “Fio” LaGuardia.  It has been busy with Fio’s efforts to stop the various gang enterprises in the city (slot machines for example) and his many reform ideas.  One night at the scene of a fire, Lane is grabbed and threatened.  One of the gangs is trying to scare off Fio through Lane.  This is just the beginning of their efforts to scare Lane and get Fio out of office.  Lane and her friends work to find out which gang leader is behind the attacks and stop them before the violence escalates.  Lane has noticed a handsome man that seems to be following her.  Is he out to help her or a part of the conspiracy?

The Silver Gun has a wonderful, strong female main character in Lane Sanders (well thought out and developed).  Lane is spunky and has moxie.  L.A. Chandlar did her research for An Art Deco Mystery series.  She captured the era, the city and did a wonderful job at portraying the dynamic Fiorello LaGuardia.  My rating for The Silver Gun is 3 out of 5 stars.  I did think that the pace of the novel was slow.  The author put so many details, events, and characters into the story that it made the story seem lengthy (and at times it read like a book on the history of the era).  I wish the author had a different writing style.  It would have made a world of difference (if she wrote like Leslie Meier, Laura Childs, Ellery Adams or Kate Carlisle for example).  The mystery seemed complicated, but it is easily solved early in the story.  I did find it unusual that Lane seemed to meet the same people no matter where she was in the city. Fio seemed to arrive at any incident in the city within minutes of it being reported (sometimes faster).  I was curious how Fio showed up before Lane has been rescued from the train tracks.  Her family also arrived equally as quick.  I thought adding the famous painter (name would be a spoiler) to the story was a bit of a stretch (just made me roll my eyes in disbelief).  

Thank you for reading my latest review.  I will be featuring Holiday Murder by Leslie Meier tomorrow.  Have a charming day, take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Thursday, October 26, 2017

March of Crime: The Murder-By-Month Mystery

I hope everyone is having a good week (not too stressful).  We are actually enjoying some cool weather--70s (I am loving it).  Eaves of Destruction by Kate Carlisle will be released on November 7.  It is the fifth book in A Fixer Upper Mystery series (Hallmark Movies and Mysteries has done movies based on this series).  

March of Crime by Jess Lourey is the eleventh installment in The Murder-By-Month Mystery series. Mira James is at the Turtle Stew with Ron Sims, owner of Battle Lake Recall, discussing a series of articles he wants written.  She is shocked when she discovers the “person” next to her is actually one of Ida Gilbertson’s life-sized dolls that she is displaying around town.  When Mira attempts to flee the Turtle Stew without encountering Mayor Kennie Rogers (she might have another unusual business idea), she knocks over the doll and gets a surprise.  They discover a corpse inside the dolls clothes.  Chief of Police Gary Wohnt is happy to blame Mira for the crime (of course).  Mira sets out to find the killer and avoid being locked up in the poky.  It would be difficult to continue her career if she was in the hoosegow plus what are the chances of conjugal visits from Johnny.

March of Crime is different from the earlier books in The Murder-By-Month Mystery series.  It fell outside the cozy category with the foul language, intimate relations and the crude references (phone sex line for example).  I thought the pace was slow which made the book seem so very long (it was only 266 pages).  I am amazed my eyeballs did not pop out from the number of times I rolled my eyes.  The over-the-top characters (everyone seems “quirky” or eccentric) and Kennie Rogers idiotic business ideas were not humorous to me (my mother, though, laughed through the whole book).  There is little action until the very end of the book.  I felt like Mira opened her mouth on the first page (told from first person POV) and never stopped talking (what is called “verbal diarrhea”).  March of Crime can be a stand-alone novel.  Mira and her history is thoroughly discussed in the first chapter.  The mystery is not one easily solved unless the reader is a master mystery sleuth.  I will tell you that one clue is the key to solving it.  My rating for March of Crime is 3 out of 5 stars (I gave it a 2 and my mother a 4). If you have a delicate stomach, I would suggest not reading the food descriptions (Minnesota Hot Dish for example).  I did like Ida’s comment that dolls make people happy—I totally agree (I prefer Raggedy Ann).  March of Crime is for readers who prefer zany over-the-top characters, hare-brained business ideas and ribald humor.

Thank you for visiting today.  I will be sharing my thoughts on The Silver Gun by L.A. Chandlar.  It is the first book in An Art Deco Mystery series.    May you have a remarkable day. and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Merry and Bright: Debbie Macomber's 2017 Christmas Novel

Salutations! There are some delightful new cozy mysteries coming out in November.  They include A Deadly Eclair by Daryl Wood Gerber, X Marks the Scot by Kaitlyn Dunnett, Death Comes to the School by Catherine Lloyd, The Plot is Murder by V.M. Burns, Full Bodied Murder by Christine E. Blum, and Canal Days Calamity by Jamie M. Blair.  Check out this new titles on Amazon.

Merry and Bright by Debbie Macomber is set in Seattle, Washington.  Merry Knight is a temp at Matterson Consulting.  Her contract will be up on December 23 and Merry will be glad for the break.  Her by-the-book boss has been pushing the workers and the mandatory overtime has put a kink in her social life.  Merry’s mother (Robin) and brother (Patrick) set up a profile for her on Mix and Mingle with a photo of their dog.  They want to find someone for Merry who will be interested in her as a person (not her outward appearance).  Merry is stunned, but, to her surprise, one man stands out to her.  He did use a photo of himself either (his childhood dog).  The pair start chatting online at night while Merry deals with her difficult boss during the day.  After getting to know each other, they agree to meet in person and Merry is astonished by the man’s identity.  It is the last person she expected to see or wanted to.  To find out what happens between Merry and her online suitor, pick up a copy of Merry and Bright.

Merry and Bright is a fun, entertaining story (Debbie Macomber never disappoints).  It has good characters, a lovely city (I want to live there), a cute premise, and a set during a magical time of year--Christmas.  I liked the themes presented in the story—Christmas is a condition of the heart (isn’t that just beautiful), kindness, generosity, openness, showing love to those we cherish, bad things about assumptions, misconceptions and judgements can be harmful/detrimental.  I found Merry and Bright to be well-written with a nice ease to the writing (it flowed nicely).  My rating for Merry and Bright is 4 out of 5 stars (I liked it).  My one critique is the story is predictable.  Once I started reading, I accurately predicted the rest of the story.  Merry and Bright is a lovely, heartwarming Christmas tale that will delight fans of Debbie Macomber.

Thank you for visiting today.  I will return tomorrow with my review of March of Crime by Jess Lourey.  Have a beautiful day and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Dial Meow for Murder: A Lucky Paw Petsitting Mystery

Thank you for visiting today.  Can you believe that the Hallmark Channel Christmas movies are about to begin?  This year has just flown by so quickly.  A Bella Flora Christmas by Wendy Wax will be published on November 6.  It is the latest novel in the Ten Beach Road series.

Dial Meow for Murder by Bethany Blake is the second book in A Lucky Paws Petsitting Mystery series.  Daphne Templeton owns Lucky Paws PetSitting in Sylvan Creek, Pennsylvania.  Daphne is setting up her table for the Fur-ever Friends Pet Rescue gala fundraiser at Flynt Mansion which is being hosted by Lillian Flynt who is currently MIA.  Daphne gets tasked with tracking down Lillian’s missing cat, Tinkleston and discovers Lillian dead in her bathroom (found the missing CD players too which explains the lack of electricity).  Detective Jonathan Black is assigned the case and Daphne is happy to leave the sleuthing to him.  However, when Maeve Templeton, Daphne’s mother, ends up at the top of the suspect list, Daphne has no choice but to start prowling for clues.  Daphne has her hands full with her business, moving into the caretaker’s cottage, tetchy Tinkleston and tracking down a killer.  Then she discovers that Maeve’s new client who wishes to purchase the Flynt Mansion is Jonathan’s ex-wife, Elyse Hunter.  What is Daphne willing to do to expose a killer?  Find out in Dial Meow for Murder.

Dial Meow for Murder is a cozy mystery for readers who like hilarity and hijinks.  Daphne is flighty, bumbling, reckless, and scattered (lost her new business cards, trouble with cell phone, daydreams frequently, stole evidence from crime scene, disregards chain of custody for evidence and so much more).   Would you trust your precious pet (i.e. your baby) with this woman?  I would not trust Daphne to watch a cactus. On the flip side, I do like Daphne’s interactions with her dog, Socrates.   My rating for Dial Meow for Murder is 3 out of 5 stars (okay, but I am the wrong audience for this book).  The killer stood out like a red wine stain on a white tablecloth.  There are two big clues that provide the answer (if you need them).  I wanted less silliness and more mystery (more action and less zany).  I found Dial Meow for Murder to be cliché and predictable.  I felt the writing lacked polish.   I do enjoy light-hearted stories (Seashells, Spells and Caramels for example), but Dial Meow for Murder was not one of them.  Even my mother (who normally likes this type of book) found Dial Meow for Murder over-the-top.  Dial Meow for Murder can be read alone.  All the details a reader needs are provided.  The first book in this series is Death by Chocolate Lab.  The next book in A Lucky Paws Petsitting Mystery series is Pawprints and Predicaments (I will skip this one).  

May each of you have a remarkable day.  I will return on October 25 with my review of Merry and Bright by Debbie Macomber.  Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader