Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Matchmaking Can Be Murder by Amanda Flower

Matchmaking Can Be Murder (An Amish Matchmaker Mystery #1)
Everything You Need to Know About the Boer Goat - Wide Open Pets
Matchmaking Can Be Murder by Amanda Flower takes readers to Harvest, Ohio.  Millie Fisher is sixty-seven year old widow who moved back to Harvest from Michigan at the beginning of the year.  Millie has a knack for matching up couples.  She just knows when two people belong together.  Millie is worried about her niece, Edith who is betrothed to Zeke Miller.  She knows that Zeke is the wrong man for Edith and wants to find a way to talk to her niece about her choice. Millie is surprised and relieved when Edith tells her that she is planning on calling off the wedding when Zeke returns to town that afternoon.  On Sunday when Edith fails to show up for church, Millie knows something is wrong.  She rushes to Edith’s where she finds her in the greenhouse standing over a dead Zeke Miller.  Millie knows she needs to solve this case if she is to keep Edith from going down for the crime. 
A backroad getaway in Holmes County, Ohio, reveals the quiet life and artistry of Amish shops, restaurants and homes.
Matchmaking Can Be Murder is the debut of An Amish Matchmaker Mystery series.  It is a spin-off of An Amish Candy Shop Mystery series set in Harvest, Ohio with chocolatier, Bailey King operating Swissmen Sweets with the aid of her grandmother and cousin.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading Matchmaking Can Be Murder.  Millie Fisher is a spry sixty-seven year old woman who is a widow living on her own.  Her sister for whom she was caring for the last ten years recently passed away, so Millie has moved back her hometown of Harvest, Ohio.  Millie is a warm and likeable protagonist who has two mischievous goats named Peter and Phillip.  They are Boer goats who provide many laugh out loud moments especially when chasing the bishop’s wife, Ruth.  I like that the author took the time to develop the main characters and establish the setting.  She provided us with lavish descriptions which brought the story alive for me.  Millie reconnects with her old friend, Lois Henry.  The pair are as opposite as they can be, but they make a great team.  There are some familiar characters from An Amish Candy Shop Mystery series in Matchmaking Can Be Murder.  Juliet Brody and her polka dotted pig, Jethro along with Deputy Aiden Brody, Bailey and a couple of others pop up when Millie is in Harvest.  The mystery was thought out and developed.  It is a clever whodunit that will have readers guessing up until the reveal (I just loved it). Many armchair sleuths will be surprised by the killer’s identity.  Millie and Lois worked to prove Edith’s innocence.  Their investigation was entertaining, and I was giggling frequently.  I thought it was clever for Lois to nickname Millie the Amish Marple.  Matchmaking Can Be Murder is an entertaining cozy mystery that I did not want to end.  It was a pleasure to read this story and I am very eager for the next tale in this delightful new cozy mystery series.  Millie has a couple of matchmaking requests to handle plus she just matched herself with an adorable kitten named Peaches.  Matchmaking Can Be Murder has galloping goats, cavorting kittens, generous gossip, several secrets, and a meddling Amish Miss Marple.  
So cute   #cutekittens #kittens #catsandkittens cute kittens | cute fluffy kittens | kittens cute | cute baby kittens
You can find Matchmaking Can Be Murder at Amazon* (Amazon UK) and other booksellers that carry cozy mysteries.  You can find An Amish Candy Shop Mystery series here (five titles at this time).  I hope that you have a happy and safe New Year Holiday!  I will return on January 2 with my review of Murder Ink by Lorraine Bartlett with Gayle Leeson.  It is the 6th A Victoria Square Mystery.

The Avid Reader
A Happy New Year | Isabel Santos Pilot | Flickr

*This post contains affiliate links.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Husband Material by Emily Belden: Excerpt, Q & A, and a Review

Welcome!  Emily Belden lives in Chicago.  She is a journalist, social media marketer, and storyteller.  Emily is the author of Hot Mess and Eightysixed:  A Memoir about Unforgettable Men, Mistakes and Meals.  You can visit her website plus find her on Twitter (@emilybelden) and Instagram (@emilybelden)
Q & A with Emily Belden
Q: When did you know you wanted to become an author? What are you currently reading and what's on your TBR list?
A: It’s been my only god-given talent since I was a little kid. It started with really creative letters to Santa or the Tooth Fairy. I won a contest to be a kid reporter for the Chicago Tribune when I was 12 years old and after that, my fate was sealed. I knew I wanted to write at the highest level I could! I am currently reading a book called Lulu’s Cafe by an author who is also repped by my agents, Browne & Miller. I really love it and can picture it as an adorable Hallmark Movie.
Q: Do you prefer to write by planning ahead (ie outlining, etc) or just go with the flow as inspiration hits?
A: I prefer to go with the flow. My general writing pattern is banging out 1-2 chapters at a time and then ending my work with a bulleted list of what I think needs to happen next. That way, when I open up my laptop and start to write the next 1-2 chapters, I’m not totally lost or forgetful of where I left off. It helps me figure out what would make sense in the flow of the pages.
Hot Mess
Q: What inspired you to write Husband Material?
A: I heard a news story on the TV when I was doing dishes at my (former) home in San Diego. It was about a developer who wanted to buy the land a mausoleum was on so they could tear it down and build luxury condos overlooking the ocean. I thought, how crazy if your loved one’s ashes just got mailed back to you one day and the resting place you thought was final, wasn’t. It wasn’t easy, but turned that general premise into a light-side-of-heavy rom-com.
Eightysixed: A Memoir about Unforgettable Men, Mistakes, and Meals: Emily Belden: 9781517402051: Amazon.com: Books
Q: What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?
A: Over all, that second chances at love take all different forms. You never know the circumstances someone has found themselves in, so be kind. For Charlotte, I intentionally wrote the first few chapters as if she was divorced--talking about her “first marriage”. Then you find out “Oh, sh*t, she’s a widow,” and all the sudden your emotional connection with her changes. I also find it interesting writing about death. We don’t talk about it in society, especially not in contemporary women’s fiction. A tragic, unexpected death is the crux of this book. Let’s dig in!

Q: What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?
A: I am working on a third novel at my own pace right now. I’m very excited about it and just exploring where the plot takes me. I would love to work on a film/TV/podcast adaption of any of my existing works as a next step, too. I also got married nine months ago and am enjoying life with my soulmate, Matt.
Laced in Weddings

About Husband Material

Twenty-nine-year-old Charlotte Rosen has a secret: she’s a widow. Ever since the fateful day that leveled her world, Charlotte has worked hard to move forward. Great job at a hot social media analytics company? Check. Roommate with no knowledge of her past? Check. Adorable dog? Check. All the while, she’s faithfully data-crunched her way through life, calculating the probability of risk—so she can avoid it.

Yet Charlotte’s algorithms could never have predicted that her late husband’s ashes would land squarely on her doorstep five years later. Stunned but determined, Charlotte sets out to find meaning in this sudden twist of fate, even if that includes facing her perfectly coiffed, and perfectly difficult, ex-mother-in-law—and her husband’s best friend, who seems to become a fixture at her side whether she likes it or not.

But soon a shocking secret surfaces, forcing Charlotte to answer questions she never knew to ask and to consider the possibility of forgiveness. And when a chance at new love arises, she’ll have to decide once and for all whether to follow the numbers or trust her heart.
Handmade Individual Cremation Urns: 150 to 200 ci | Handmade Cremation Urns For Ashes | ARTISURN
Handmade Urn
My Thoughts

Husband Material by Emily Belden has Charlotte Rosen thrown for a tailspin when the ashes of her deceased husband show up on her doorstep.  She thought she had put the past behind her, but Charlotte had just put it off.  With two weeks off to get her life together, Charlotte sets out to get answers with the assistance of her husband’s best friend.  Husband Material is a romantic comedy that has some deep moments.  Charlotte has been a widow for five years, but no one in her present circle knows that she as married.  She moved to different apartment, learned how to code software and began working at The Influencer Firm.  Charlotte may have been moving on, but she never dealt with her feelings about her husband’s death.  We get to see her face some hard realities.  Charlotte has been using numbers and algorithms to avoid getting close with a man or anyone else for that matter.  She is now getting a second chance.  If Charlotte wants to have a meaningful future, she needs to resolve her feelings of loss and guilt.  Charlotte is a hard character to like, but she does grow on you as the story progresses.  I found Charlotte’s roommate, Casey to be quirky and tell-it-like-it type of woman.  I felt bad for her at times because Charlotte really takes advantage of Casey’s kindness.  Charlotte was lucky to have such a kind boss in Zareen.  It was interesting to learn what about influencers and the type of work Charlotte did to promote businesses.  Husband Material is an emotional story about dealing with the past, letting it go, and embracing the future.  I was surprised with the ending and some of the choices Charlotte made.  I enjoyed the humor throughout the story which lightened some of the darker subjects.  Husband Material is an engaging, uplifting story about second chances, forgiveness, taking risks, introspection, and moving forward. 
Husband Material by [Belden, Emily]
Excerpt from Husband Material

Well, that’s a first.

                And I’m not talking about the fact that I brought a date to a wedding I’m pretty sure didn’t warrant me a plus-one. I’m talking about grabbing a wedding card that just so happened to say “Congrats, Mr. & Mr.” on my way to cele­brate the nuptials of the most iconic heterosexual couple since George and Amal. This—and a king-sized KitKat bar from the checkout lane—is what I get for rushing through the greet­ing card aisle in Target while my Uber driver waited in the loading zone with his flashers on.

It’s Monica and Danny’s big day. She’s my coworker, whose gorgeous face is constantly lining the glossy pages of Luxe LA magazine. Not only because she’s one of the leading ladies at Forbes’s new favorite company, The Influencer Firm, but because this socialite-turned-CEO is now married to Dan­iel Jones—head coach of the LA Galaxy, Los Angeles’s pro­fessional soccer team. If you’re thinking he must look like a derivative of an American David Beckham, you’re basically there. Let’s just hope their sense of humor is as good as their looks when they see the card I accidentally picked out.
               Excited to share this item from my #etsy shop: Gifts and cards sign - rustic sign - rustic wedding - wedding decor - gift for her - wedding shower gift
Before I place it on the gift table, I stuff the envelope with a crisp hundred-dollar bill fresh from the ATM. Side note: I think wedding registries are bullshit. Everybody wants an ice cream maker until you have one and never use it, which is why I spring for cold, hard cash instead. I grab a black Sharpie marker from the guest book table, pop the cap off, and attempt to squeeze in a nondescript after the second “Mr.,” hoping my makeshift, hand-drawn serif font letter doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb. I blow on the fresh ink, then hold the pseudo Pinterest-fail an arm’s length away. That’ll do, I think to myself.

I lift a glass of red wine from a caterer’s tray as if we cho­reographed the move and check the time on my Apple Watch, which arguably isn’t the most fashionable accessory when dressing for a chic summer wedding. But aside from the fact that it doesn’t quite match my strapless pale yellow cocktail dress, it serves a much greater purpose for me. It keeps my data front and center, right where I want it, not on my phone buried somewhere deep in my purse. Bonus: the band, smack-dab on the middle of my wrist, also covers a tattoo I’ve been meaning to have lasered off.
Other than telling me the time, 7:30 p.m., it also serves up my most recent Tinder notifications. I’ve gotten four new matches since this morning, which isn’t bad for a) a Saturday, since most people do their Tindering while zoning out at work or bored in bed at night; and b) a pushing-thirty New York native whose most recent relationship was the love-hate one with a stubborn last ten pounds. That’s me, by the way. Charlotte Rosen.

Though present and accounted for now, the battle of Tide pen vs. toothpaste stain went on for longer than I intended back at my apartment, causing me to arrive about half an hour late to the cocktail hour. Which means I for sure missed Monica and Dan’s ceremony in its entirety. I, of all people, know that’s rude. I’m someone who is hypersensitive to people’s arrival ten­dencies (well, to all measurable tendencies, to be honest; more on that later). But I’m sort of glad I missed the I Dos, as there is still something about witnessing the exchange of vows that makes me a little squeamish. I got married five years ago and, well, I’m not married anymore—let’s put it that way.
bride and groom wedding photo 2
The good news is that with time, I can feel it's definitely getting easier to come to things like this.   To believe that the couple really will stay together through it all.  To believe that there is such a thing as "the one"--even if it may actually  be "the other" that I'm looking for this next go-round.  

Late as I may be to the wedding party, there are some perks to my delayed arrival. Namely, the line at the bar has died down enough for me to trade up this mediocre red wine for a decent gin and tonic. Another perk? Several fresh platters of bacon-wrapped dates have just descended like UFOs onto the main floor of the venue, which happens to be a barn from the 1800s. Except this is Los Angeles, and there are no barns from the 1800s. So instead, every creaky floorboard, every corroded piece of siding, and every decrepit roof shingle has been sourced from deep in the countryside of southwest Iowa to create the sense that guests are surrounded by rolling fields, fragrant orchard blossoms, and fruiting trees. The reality being that just outside the wooden walls of the coveted, three-year-long-wait-list Oak Mill Barn stands honking, gridlocked traf­fic on the 405 and an accompanying smog alert.
Bartender pours a glass of red wine at a bar by Cara Dolan for Stocksy United
As I continue to wait for my impromptu wedding date, Chad, to come back from the bathroom, I robotically swipe left on the first three guys who pop up on Bumble, another dating app I’m on, then finally decide to message a guy who looks like a bright-eyed Jason Bateman (you know, pre-Ozark) and is a stockbroker, according to his profile. We end up matching and he asks me for drinks. I vaguely accept. Wel­come to dating in LA.

I’ve conducted some research that has shown that after the age of thirty, it becomes exponentially harder to find your fu­ture husband. What number constitutes exponentially? I’m not sure yet, but I’m working on narrowing in on that because generalities don’t really cut it for me. Thinking through things logically like this centers me, calms me, and resets me—no matter what life throws my way. All that’s to say, I’m officially in my last good year of dating (and my last year of not having to include a night serum in my skin care regimen), and I’m determined not to wind up with my dog, my roommate, and a few low-maintenance houseplants as my sole life partners.

"Sorry that took so long," says Chad, returning from the men's room twenty minutes after leaving.  Did you know the bathroom at this place is an actual outhouse?  Thank god it was leg day at the gym--I had to squat over the pot.  My quads are burning noce now."

Confession. I didn’t just bring a date to the wedding, I brought a blind date.
Le top 10 des restaurants insolites à Lyon - OUI.sncf
No worries, though. Monica knows how serious I am about the path to Mr. Right and supports the fact that I go on my fair share of dates to get me there quicker. Plus, he isn’t a total stranger; she knows him—or, she met him, rather. He attended her work event last week at the LA County Museum of Art and is supposedly this cute, single real estate something or other. Of course he tried to hit on her and, unlike most beau­tiful people in Los Angeles, Monica actually copped to being in a committed relationship with Danny. (Who doesn’t like to brag they’re marrying Mr. Galaxy himself?) So she did the next best thing and gave him her single coworker’s Instagram handle and told him to slide into my DMs. It’s a bold move on her part, but I appreciate her quick thinking and commit­ment to my cause, Operation: Reclassify My Marital Status.
Did that tempt you to grab a copy of Husband Material?  You can acquire a copy at Amazon*, Harlequin, Barnes & Noble, Indie Bound, Kobo, Amazon UK, and Google Books.   Thank you for joining me today.  I will return tomorrow with my review of Matchmaking Can Be Murder by Amanda Flower.  It is the debut of An Amish Matchmaker Mystery series.
The Avid Reader

Woman reading a book in cozy bed at home - Illustration price | Minty
*This post contains affiliate links.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

The Liverpool Girls by Pam Howes

The Liverpool Girls (Mersey, #3)
Welcome!  On Sunday's I highlight books that I was unable to review when they were released.  Today I am sharing The Liverpool Girls by Pam Howes*.  Pam Howes was born in Cheshire, England.  She is an interior designer who began writing seriously in the 1990s.  Pam's first novel is set in the 1960s and inspired from her time as a teenager when she worked in a local record store.  She hung out with musicians who were in the industry and continues to be a fan of music from the 60s.  Pam is the mother of three adult daughters, has seven grandchildren and roadie to one musician partner.  In addition to The Mersey Series, Pam has written The Lark Lane series.  Readers can follow Pam Howes on Facebook and Twitter (@PamHowes1).
Lewis's department store in Liverpool. General view of the sales floor in the1960's
Lewis's Department Store
Summary of Book

The Liverpool Girls by Pam Howes takes us back to 1966 in Liverpool, England.  Jackie Evans lives at home with their mother, Dora.  Jackie is studying her O levels, but she would rather be studying drama which is her passion.  Jackie dreams of a career on the stage.  Mrs. Faraday offers Jackie the job of setting up the St. Paul’s Players for the church.    Carol Evans has a job at Lewis’s Department Store and loves the new Mod fashions.  She still lives with her father, Joe and his new wife, ivy.  Carol has been dating Alex who has been standoffish as of late.  The two sisters soon learn that they have been dating the same man.  When one of them becomes pregnant, a rift forms between the sisters.  Dora and Joe, the girls’ parents want to help them during this trying time.  They must find a way to overcome the past if they are to help their daughters.  The situation escalates until a decision can cause a dangerous consequence.  Can the sibling bond be restored?  How will things turn out for the Evans family?
Fashion 60s 1960s Shape 26+ Ideas #fashion
Mad for Mod Fashions
My Review

The Liverpool Girls by Pam Howes is the third book in The Mersey Series.  It can be read as a standalone for those new to the series.  I have read all the books which I found beneficial to understanding the characters and what they have experienced.  I enjoyed reading this historical saga.  I thought the characters were developed and realistic for the time period.  Pam Howes captured the era (the late 60s) especially with her descriptions of the clothes, the music, the theater, and the slang.  The problems the Evans family faced were representative of the 1960s.  We see that choices have consequences especially when a decision is not thought through completely.  Carol grew into a stylish young woman who lived with her father and his new wife, Ivy.  She has a job she enjoys at Lewis’s and is stepping out with Alex.  Jackie is sixteen and living with her mother, Dora.  She is completing her schooling while dreaming of being on the stage.  Jackie is dating Sandy.  Lo and behold, Alex and Sandy are the same person.  Personally, I would have ditched the cheating so and so.  These sisters fight for the man which is what causes numerous problems.  I liked stepping back in time to see how people lived and how they handled different situations like a pregnant unwed daughter.  The Liverpool Girls is an emotional story that will tug at your heartstrings.  It all came together with a worthy ending.  The Liverpool Girls is a dramatic tale with sibling strife, boyfriend bruhaha, the swingin’ sixties, pestiferous pregnancy, heartrending hubbub, and lasting love.
Sandy/Alex worked here!
The Liverpool Girls can be purchased here* (Amazon UK).  The Lost Daughter of Liverpool and The Forgotten Family of Liverpool are the first two books in The Mersey Series.  If you enjoy historical novels, there is still time to win a digital copy of Christmas is for Children by Rosie Clarke.  Leave me a comment with your email address (so I can contact you if you win). The contest ends when the New Year begins (EST United States).  You can email me your information at Doodlesink@hotmail.com if you prefer.  Thank you for stopping in today.  I will be back tomorrow to feature Husband Material by Emily Belden. I hope you have a merry day.  Take care and Happy Reading!


The Avid Reader

*This post contains affiliate links.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Address for Murder by Tonya Kappes

Address For Murder (A Mail Carrier Cozy Mystery #2)
Good Day!  Tonya Kappes has written more than fifty southern cozy mysteries.  She is best known for stories with southern charm, humor, emotion, and flawed characters.  Tonya lives with her husband in Northern Kentucky. Her house is much quiet now that her four boys have flown the nest. Tonya writes A Killer Coffee Mystery series, A Magical Cures Mystery series, A Camper & Criminal Cozy Mystery series, and A Kenni Lowry Mystery series.  Readers can find Tonya and her books here on Amazon.  Tonya is on Facebook, and Twitter.  You can visit her website for more information about the author, her books and to sign up for her newsletter.
Lady Postman circa 1880s
Address for Murder by Tonya Kappes returns readers to Sugar Creek Gap, Kentucky.  Bernadette Butler is a mail carrier who cares about her customers.  She takes the time to chat with the residents on her route and help them out when they need a little something extra.  Bernadette heard that Lee Macum is not eating properly, so she picks up some food from her parents’ diner to deliver to him along with the mail.  She also makes sure to have some dog biscuits in her pocket for his fur baby, Buster.  Carla Ramey is the president of the Beautification Committee and she is working diligently to make sure the town will win the Make Kentucky Colorful award.  There will be not be messy yards or weeds on her watch if she has her way.  The only problem is Lee Macum and his yard of “treasures”.  One morning Bernadette notices Buster in the post office parking lot.  She takes him to Lee’s house to find the gate open as well as the front door (uh oh).  Bernadette finds Lee dead in an empty spot in his living room with a stamp in his hand.  She quickly calls 9-1-1 and Sheriff Angie is quick to arrive.  When Bernadette is told that Lee died from foul play, she rallies Vince and the Front Porch Ladies so they can expose the killer. 
The Merry Dressmaker: The Progressive Era: A Portrait of a Lady
Address for Murder by Tonya Kappes is the second A Mail Carrier Cozy Mystery.   It can be read as a standalone, but I recommend reading Stamped Out first (it is such a charming book).  Tonya Kappes has given us another engaging cozy mystery.  Bernadette Butler is fifty years old and a widow who lives in a farmhouse outside town with her cat, Rowena.  Bernadette is a kind woman who cares about her friends, family and those on her postal route.  If someone is ill, she takes them chicken soup.  Bernadette especially makes sure that the older folks on her route are alright.  She inquires about their health, their families and their day (I wish she was my postal carrier).  When she discovers Buster, Lee Macum’s dog, behind the post office, she adjusts her mail route to return him.  Bernadette finds his gate open and the door open.  She is distressed to find Lee dead in his overcrowded living room.  Bernadette liked the cranky man and is determined to find who murdered him.  She gets assistance from Vince at the senior living facility and the Front Porch Ladies who live on the same street as Lee.  While I could easily identify the guilty party, there were some clever aspects to the crime (I just love a unique whodunit).  I was curious to see how this tale would play out and see Bernadette get justice for Lee.  The Front Porch Ladies are so cute, and they add levity to the story.  Vince uses his FBI contacts and database to help Bernadette get information on her suspects.  Tonya Kappes has an engaging writing style.  It reminds me of talking to an old friend.  I started reading and did not stop until I finished the story.  Romance is in the air for Bernadette with her old friend, Mac Tabor.  The trick is seeing if they can transition their friendship into a relationship.  I liked the scenes with Rowena and Buster.  The author captured how cats and dogs react when they first meet.  The dogs are excited while the cat hisses and raises its back with fur standing on end.  There are lovely heartwarming moments in Address for Murder along with a special surprise.  I look forward to reading the next installment in A Mail Carrier Cozy Mystery series.  Address for Murder is a delightful story with swift scuttlebutt, a cute canine, an astonishing announcement, unwanted weeds, and a compassionate mail carrier.  
Getting the Mail to Your Home Is Way More Complex Than You Might Think
Address for Murder can be purchased here* (Amazon UK).  It is on Kindle Unlimited for those who are members or thinking about joining.  Stamped Out is also available on Amazon (and through Kindle Unlimited).  Thank you for reading my review today.  Since tomorrow is Sunday (the day I share books that I was unable to when they were released), I am featuring The Liverpool Girls by Pam Howes.  I hope that you have an enchanting day. Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader
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Friday, December 27, 2019

The Skeleton Stuffs a Stocking by Leigh Perry

The Skeleton Stuffs a Stocking (Family Skeleton Mystery #6)
Welcome!  Leigh Perry is the author of A Family Skeleton Mystery series.  Sid, the walking and talking skeleton, is the best friend of Dr. Georgia Thackery.  Leigh Perry was born in Pensacola, Florida and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina.  She has been living in Boston, Massachusetts for the last twenty-six years.  Leigh lives with her husband, two daughters, two guinea pigs and a ludicrous amount of books (there is no such thing). While the number of people and guinea pigs remain constant, the number of books continues to rise. Sid was inspired old television shows Leigh watched like Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie and The Ghost & Mrs. Muir (great movie).  She writes A Family Skeleton Mystery series under the pen name of Leigh Perry because they were a departure from the type of novels she had written previously.  Under Toni L.P. Kelner she has eleven novels along with twenty something short stories.  She also co-edited five urban fantasy anthologies with Charlaine Harris.  Readers can follow Leigh Perry on Facebook and visit her website.
30 HILARIOUS "Elf on the Shelf" Ideas for your Halloween skeleton - Uplifting Mayhem
The Skeleton Stuffs a Stocking by Leigh Perry has Dr. Georgia Thackery along with her daughter, Madison and her best friend, Sid living back at home with her parents in Pennycross, Massachusetts.  Georgia is working as an adjunct at nearby Bostock College.  The family is looking forward to a joyful holiday where Sid can take part in all the festivities.  Sid has been searching online for the perfect gift for each family member.  Georgia arrives home from work to find an upset Madison pacing on the front porch.  It seems that one of her parents’ grad students let their dog, Byron slip out the door (again).  They locate Byron a short time later with a femur in his mouth.  The go to apologize to Sid only to discover that he has all his bones.  The retrace Byron’s path with Sgt. Louis Raymond and discover the rest of the bones buried in front of where the old Nichols house used to be.  Georgia has every intention of not investigating until she learns that her friend, Dr. Charles Peyton could be implicated in the victim’s death.  Sid is raring to go, and the pair set out to catch the killer before the Christmas.
30 HILARIOUS "Elf on the Shelf" Ideas for your Halloween skeleton - Uplifting Mayhem
The Skeleton Stuffs a Stocking by Leigh Perry is the sixth novel in A Family Skeleton Mystery series.  It can be read as a standalone, but you will be missing out some fun adventures with Georgia and Sid.  Georgia and the Thackery family are looking forward to a merry holiday season with Sid by their side.  This will be the first Christmas they have all been together since Madison learned of Sid’s existence.  Then Byron is found with a femur bone in his mouth and it is not one of Sid’s (this time).  It seems that Byron stumbled upon a victim who has been dead at least ten years.  Georgia would like to sit out this case, but then her friend, Dr. Charles Peyton tells her information that if he shares with the police could get him arrested.  Georgia wants to solve the case and clear Charles.  Sid is thrilled that Georgia has changed her mind especially since he already has a spreadsheet started.  Can Georgia and Sid wrap up this chilly case before the holidays?  The Skeleton Stuffs a Stocking has such great characters.  I just love Sid.  He is such a unique character being a walking, talking skeleton.  He holds himself together by force of will.  I like that the family has outfitted his attic for him.  He has a busy online where he takes classes, communicates with friends, plays games, does research, and shops.  The mystery was interesting.  I like that it is a cold case which is harder for the duo to solve.  There is active investigating, good clues and even a twist that some people may not expect.  I like that Georgia meets up with Brownie once again.  There is only one thing standing in the way of Georgia having a fulfilling relationship with Brownie—Sid.  I love the humor in the story that has me laughing frequently.  The Thackery’s have a grad student who cannot stop talking about his dissertation or eating all the Thackery’s food.  He provided some snarky comments and amusing moments.  The Skeleton Stuffs a Stocking is a lively tale with staff on strike, a cold case, a previous paramour, an abandoned abode, and happy holiday happenings.
30 HILARIOUS "Elf on the Shelf" Ideas for your Halloween skeleton - Uplifting Mayhem
The Skeleton Stuffs a Stocking can be picked up here* (Amazon UK).  You will find the rest of A Family Skeleton Mystery series here (available in digital and paperback).  Thank you for stopping by today and reading my review.  I will return tomorrow with Address for Murder by Tonya Kappes.  It is the second novel in A Mail Carrier Cozy Mystery series (Stamped Out is the first book & it is available on Kindle Unlimited).  I hope that you have a happy day.  Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader
Reading skeleton illustrated by Cyril Bouda, from The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde, 1957 edition*
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Thursday, December 26, 2019

The Candy Cane Caper by Josi S. Kilpack

The Candy Cane Caper (Cozy Culinary Mystery Book 13) by [Kilpack, Josi S.]
I hope that everyone had a wonderful Christmas.  Josi S. Kilpack has written twenty-five novels, one cookbooks and several novellas.  She is a four time Whitney award winner.  Josi loves to bake, eat, read, sleep, travel and watch television--none of which she gets to do as much as she would like.  She dislikes talking on the phone (I can relate), learn how to do new things and sweep.  Josi along with her husband and four children live in northern Utah.  You can find out more about Josi and her books by visiting her website.  Josi also has a blog.  Readers can also follow her on Facebook.
1890's Vintage Antique 4.5" High Symmetrical Oval Red Mercury Glass Grape Kugel | eBay! #vintage #antique #christmas #decoration #ornaments #christmastree
Kugel Ornament (like Mary's)
The Candy Cane Caper by Josi S. Kilpack has Sadie Cunningham worrying about the upcoming combined family holiday celebration in Fort Collins, Colorado while her husband, Pete is out of town.  She has agreed to provide food for the party and is preparing favorites from both sides of the family.  Sadie has also agreed to help her dear friend, Mary Hallmark decorate her Christmas tree.  Mary moved into Nicholas House after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  Sadie knows this will be her friend’s last Christmas and wants to make sure it is special.  Sadie is surprised when she unwraps the ornaments to discover they are vintage from French and German.  Mary’s father brought them home after World War I and worth over $46,000.  Though Mary cannot see the ornaments, she can touch them and share her memories.  Mary plans to pass them along to her great-granddaughter, Joy on Christmas Eve.  The next morning, Sadie receives a call from Joy saying that some of the ornaments are missing.  Sadie intends to find them and restore them to tree without telling Mary.  The last thing anyone wants to do is spoil Mary’s last holiday.  Sadie whips up some cookies and sets out to tempt answers from people with her tasty holiday treats.  Can Sadie recover the ornaments before Christmas Eve?

DRESDEN Christmas Ornament - Early 1900s - 3D BOAT / GONDOLA w CHROMO Sailor
Dresden Paper Ornament (similar to one in story)
The Candy Cane Caper by Josi S. Kilpack is the thirteenth A Culinary Mystery.  It can be read as a standalone for those new to the series (like me).  Sadie Cunningham is a retired detective who now uses her expertise to craft culinary mysteries when not whipping up baked goods.  Sadie takes time out of her baking schedule, to help her dying friend, Mary decorate her Christmas tree.  Mary has a collection of vintage ornaments that her father brought over from Germany and France after World War I.  When eleven ornaments are found missing the next day, Sadie works to get them back.  She does not want Mary’s last Christmas ruined by a thief.  Sadie bakes up some special cookies and sets out to wheedle answers out of suspects.  I liked that Sadie actively investigated the crime.  There are good clues that help readers follow the path to the guilty party.  I appreciated that this mystery was a robbery instead of a murder.  I enjoyed the descriptions of Mary’s beautiful vintage Christmas ornaments.  It is a shame that they do not make ornaments (kugel and Dresden paper) like this any longer.  Mary’s collection is rare and valuable.  There are some humorous moments in The Candy Cane Caper with my favorite being when Mrs. Claus got her bustle stuck on a chair.  Candy Cane Caper is a lighthearted cozy mystery that reminds me of Ellie Alexander’s A Bakeshop Mystery series with Jules.  There are recipes included for the various items that Sadie baked.  The Candy Cane Caper is charming Christmas cozy with a salacious Santa, a bothersome bustle, a bevy of baked goods, a kugel loving criminal, and a tight timeline.

Smash up those broken candy canes and make a Candy Cane Buttercream Stripe Cake! Learn two simple decorating techniques that produce impressive results.
Christmas Candy Cane Cake (Sadie was making one)
The Candy Cane Caper can be purchased here* (Amazon UK).  You can find the complete list of A Culinary Mysteries here. Thank you for reading my review today.  I plan on featuring A Skeleton Stuffs a Stocking by Leigh Perry tomorrow.  I am trying to share the last of the Christmas themed books. I hope that you have a restful day (we need it after the bustle to get ready for the holidays).  Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader
Reading | Two children read during recess on a cold January … | Flickr
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Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!  I hope that each of you have a very happy holiday.  I am taking the day off to watch Christmas movies, read, and, of course, cook Christmas dinner.  May you have a joyous day.  Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

'Tis the Season Murder by Leslie Meier

'Tis the Season Murder (A Lucy Stone Mystery)
Happy Christmas Eve!  I just love the cover of 'Tis the Season Murder with the elf and the deceased one's legs sticking out of the box.  I will be spending the day stuffing gifts into gift bags (something I do everything Christmas Eve).  For some reason, I always forget about the wrapping part.  I will then spend the afternoon at my sister's house.  It is such a long trip!  I have to go down to the end of the street, make a left, turn right at the second road and travel to the end of the block.  Barely enough time to listen to a page in my audio book.  Are you ready for the big day?  I am hoping the last gift for my mother will arrive today (keep your fingers crossed).
‘Tis the Season Murder by Leslie Meier contains two previously published Lucy Stone holiday mysteries.  New Year’s Eve Murder has Elizabeth and Lucy traveling to Manhattan.  Elizabeth won winter mother/daughter makeovers from Jolie magazine along with five other pairs.  The winning mother/daughter team receives $10,000 which will help with Elizabeth’s unexpectedly high tuition bill.  Lucy is looking forward to some pampering, but instead finds herself searching for a killer.
Dickens' "Bob Cratchit's Christmas Dinner" by Harold Copping {c.early 1900's}
Christmas Carol Murder has Lucy Stone acting as Mrs. Cratchit in the Community Player’s production of A Christmas Carol.  Tinker’s Cove has their own version of A Christmas Carol going on in.  The economy has taken a downswing and many of the town’s residents are having a hard time.  Downeast Mortgage owned by Jacob Marlowe and Ben Scribner are foreclosing on numerous properties which has led to the demonstration being held that day.  Lucy is shocked to see her daughter, Sara taking part.  There is a big boom and Jacob Marlowe’s house is in flames with him inside.  The suspect list is longer than Santa’s naughty list and Ben Scribner is quaking in his boots worried he will be next.  Can Lucy wrap up this case before the holidays or will it be a blue Christmas for Tinker’s Cove?
But the most exciting way to participate is by booking a ride on one of the two Casco Bay Lines ferries allowing visitors to view all the action from the water. And, all profits from ticket sails go to SailMaine, an organization that provides scholarships for sailing lessons to local kids.
‘Tis the Season Murder by Leslie Meier contains two Lucy Stone holiday mysteries.  Christmas Carol Murder (Book Twenty) and New Year’s Eve Murder (Book Twelve) give us a look back at Lucy at different stages in her life.  While I had read both books previously, it did not hinder my enjoyment.  I had a good time reading about Lucy’s adventures.  New Year’s Eve Murder has Lucy and Elizabeth heading to Manhattan for a winter makeover that Elizabeth won from Jolie magazine.  There are some humorous situations in this story that had me giggling.  Lucy was looking forward to spa treatments and instead receives harsh criticism from Jolie magazines editors.  Her lobster watch and duck boots garnered quite a bit of attention.  Christmas Carol Murder has Lucy taking to the stage in the local production of A Christmas Carol as Mrs. Cratchit.  When Jacob Marlowe ends up dead, many of the town’s residents believe it is karma.  Jacob and his partner, Ben Scribner at Downeast Mortgage have been raking in the dough with the foreclosure of properties (and then selling them off for a profit).  Lucy has her work cut out for her if she is going to solve this crime.  The suspect is longer than Eloise’s Christmas list (I like the movie version with Julie Andrews playing Nanny).  I found both stories to be well-written and engaging.  It amazes me at how far Lucy Stone has come since Mistletoe Murder.  There is a preview of Invitation Only Murder at the end.   If you are looking for two entertaining Christmas cozy mysteries, then check out ‘Tis the Season Murder. ‘Tis the Season Murder has murder, mayhem and merriment.
'Tis the Season Murder as well as the other A Lucy Stone Mysteries are available on Amazon* (Amazon UK).  You can find a complete list of A Lucy Stone Mysteries here. I hope that you and your family have a very jolly holiday season.  Take care, stay safe and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader
Kids sledding vintage Christmas card image
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Monday, December 23, 2019

Murder in the First Edition by Lauren Elliott

Murder in the First Edition (Beyond the Page Bookstore Mystery, #3)
Good Day!  Lauren Elliott is a USA Today bestselling author who grew up devouring Nancy Drew stories.  She then moved up to Agatha Christie, Lynn Kurland, Victoria Holt, and Michael Crichton (to name just a few).  Lauren studied journalism in college because it seemed like a natural choice since she had been writing as long as she could remember.  After graduation, Lauren worked for a small publication where she discovered that reporting did not fuel her writing passions.  As someone with a strong background in theater plus a love of storytelling, her fiction career took center stage.  Lauren's dog, Marley is her faithful writing companion.  Check out Lauren's website for more information on her books plus see pictures of Marley.  You can follow Lauren on Facebook and Bookbub.
Title page of first edition, 1843.
Murder in the First Edition by Lauren Elliott is the third A Beyond the Page Bookstore Mystery.  Addie Greyborne owns Beyond the Page in Greyborne Harbor.  Addie has donated an 1843 first edition of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens to the hospital foundation for the upcoming Christmas Charity Auction.  The proceeds of the benefit are for the new pediatric wing.  Addie is looking over the appraisal when she notices Jonathan Hemingway, her deceased fiancé’s father, outside.  He wishes her good tidings for the holiday before departing for a lunch date with Teresa Lang, charity fundraising coordination for the hospital foundation. Addie arrives at the hospital after lunch for her meeting with Teresa and finds her dead at the bottom of the stairwell.  The first edition of A Christmas Carol is missing from the locked case in Teresa’s office.  Chief of Police Marc Chandler is on the case and he wants Addie to keep her nose out of it.  Addie is not about to sit idly by especially with her emotions running high over Jonathan who has taken up with Addie’s friend, Catherine since a blizzard has him stranded in town.  Addie begins asking questions and digging for clues to uncover who harmed Teresa and took the rare Christmas tale.
Murder in the First Edition by Lauren Elliott may be the third A Beyond the Page Bookstore Mystery, but it can be read on its own.  Addie Greyborne donates an 1843 first edition of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens to the Christmas Charity Auction put on by the local hospital foundation.  She takes the appraisal to her meeting with coordinator, Teresa Lang.  Teresa is not in her office and neither is the rare book in its locked case.  Addie finds Teresa dead at the bottom of the steps with alcohol on her breath.  Addie believes it is murder since the book disappeared at the same time, but Police Chief Marc Chandler must deal with facts.  Addie, of course, quickly begins investigating despite being warned off by Marc.  I like the town of Greyborne Harbor and the descriptions of the shops including Addie’s Beyond the Page.  It sounds like a cozy small town where gossip spreads rapidly.  The Christmas decorations along with the snow enhanced the Christmas feeling.  The one problem I have with this story is Addie Greyborne.  I do not care for her the way she treated the two love interests.  Both Simon and Marc are interested in Addie.  She seems to be toying with them.  I just do not like the way the two love interests are being handled.  I also did not appreciate how she treated Jonathan Hemingway (her almost father-in-law).  She should get all the facts before making assumptions.  I know part of it is her grief over the lost fiancé, but Addie would not want to be on the receiving end of that type of treatment.  I do like Serena, who owns the tea shop, and Addie’s assistant, Paige Stringer.  The mystery was complex, and I liked how the deed was done. There are red herrings to distract the reader.  It will depend on your sleuthing level on whether you solve this one completely before the reveal.  Personally, I would have liked a surprising twist.  I could have done without Addie being constantly told to stay out of the investigation (it gets tiresome after the third time).  I like the book references and the wonderful descriptions of the rare books.  I enjoyed the happy ending and I hope to see a different Addie in the next A Beyond the Page Bookstore Mystery.  Murder in the First Edition is an enticing cozy mystery with a treasured tome, an inconvenient in-law, a bothersome blizzard, a vexed friend, and Christmas chaos.
The colour illustrations by Arthur Rackham for  the First Edition of "A Christmas Carol" (1915) -- '''How now?'' said Scrooge, caustic and cold as ever. ''What do you want with me?'''
Murder in the First Edition can be purchased here*.  The other two novels in A Beyond the Page Bookstore Mysteries are Murder by the Book (available on Kindle Unlimited) and Prologue to Murder.  The next A Beyond the Page Bookstore Mystery is Proof of Murder which comes out on April 28, 2020.  Thank you for joining me today.  I am featuring 'Tis the Season Murder by Leslie Meier tomorrow.  It contains two previously published A Lucy Stone Mysteries which are New Year's Eve Murder and Christmas Carol Murder.  I hope that your day is not too hectic (they all are leading up to Christmas).  Take care and Happy Reading!

The Avid Reader
Reading a Book, James Tissot
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