The Valentine Candy Murder @LeslieMeier

I know, I know, you’re gearing up for Christmas and here I am writing about Valentine’s Day. It’s just one of those days where everything up is down. ūüėČ Actually, I was looking for an interesting cosy for Valentine’s Day and happened upon The Valentine Candy Murder which will be published in December.

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The Valentine Candy Murder is a compilation of two previously published works by Leslie Meier. She did something similar for Halloween and now we have this, two books in one. The first is Valentine Candy Murder in which a librarian is murdered shortly before a library board meeting. Newly appointed board member, Lucy, searches for answers when she believes the local detective has arrested the wrong person for the murder. The second, Chocolate Covered Murder, revolves around a rather intense rivalry between two chocolate shops in the small town of Tinker’s Cove. Lucy, a freelance reporter for the Pennysaver newspaper, begins her own investigation once again.

If you already are a fan of Meier’s work and/or have followed along the amateur sleuthing of Lucy’s, then having these two holiday themed books under one cover will be delight for you. The characters are vivid and fascinating and the plots themselves lend well to a cosy type read.

I came into these books fresh having never read about Tinker’s Cove or Lucy before now. The first, originally published long ago, felt a bit dated to me. If I had known that the action was taking place in, say, the 80s then I would have better understood perhaps. As it was, there are multiple references to the computer and searching for things online that came across as very antiquated – appropriate for the 80s but not for today. Because there were so many of these references, I found them a bit distracting. The second book skips ahead considerably on Lucy’s timeline so I found myself, once again, rather confused. The toddler in the first book is now a teen and the son is grown and married. I just don’t think that putting these two books together was wise given their vast time difference – at least not for new readers.

If you already are a fan then I’m quite sure you will enjoy these two books together. For the rest of us, I would suggest starting at the beginning of the series and read each individually. The writing is good and cozy and the characters are interesting.

Thank you to #Netgalley and #Kensington Press for my advanced copy.

Murder With All the Trimmings by Shawn Reilly Simmons

Murder With All the Trimmings is quick, fun, holiday cozy mystery.

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I want to reiterate that, for my reviews, a 5 or 6 is not a bad book, it merely is in the middle ground for all of the books of that genre that I have read.

The story revolves around a murder that occurs in a Broadway theatre. There is confusion over the actual identity of victim, who was a dancer with a troupe similar to the Rockettes. The cop who is investigating the murder is also the boyfriend of the main character who happened to discover the body. She is the chef for her dearest friend who is filming a documentary on the theatre and the troupe.

Everything about this book was interesting – the setting of the old theatre, the dancers, the holiday season and the life of a famous chef. However, none of it actually ever clicked for me, I never connected to the story’s characters. I’m unsure if it the manner in which they were drawn, or if I’m simply not into the lifestyles of the rich and famous. I suspect that there many other readers who will find this to be a very enjoyable, delightful read. I, however, was left wanting more.

My advanced copy was furnished by #Edelweiss and #HenryPress

 

 

Ghost Busting Mystery: A Shady Hoosier Book by @DaisyPettles

I moved to Indiana for my son, I stayed for the humor. Seriously. Midwesterners, Hoosiers particularly, are some of the funniest people I ever have met! It is that side-splitting, tongue-in-cheek humor that you will discover in the Ghost Busting Mystery: Book 1 of the Shady Hoosier Detective Agency series by Daisy Pettles, aka Vicky Phillips.

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A fellow blogger suggested that I read Ghost Busting Mystery¬† since I’m always on the hunt for good Midwestern books and authors. I was dubious based on the title and, okay, the description itself. Boy, was I ever glad that I read the book anyway! This is one of my Top Ten Books of 2018 and one of the funniest books I ever have read! As in, EVER!

Ruby Jane, known as RJ to all who know her, and her best friend for life, Veenie, are natural born snoops. They work part-time at the Shades Detective Agency in an extremely small town in Southern Indiana called Knobby Waters.¬† What it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in colorful characters who reside there. RJ and Veenie are on the far side of “elderly,” although that’s not even a word that I ever would use to describe them. They like to snoop for Shades in order to get “twinkie money” that they use for, yes twinkies, emergency pie runs and “mystery meat” sandwiches at the local bar. They have agreed to take the case of the glowing bottomed ghosts hanging out in their neighbor’s orchard.

The author creates a cast of characters, including a drunk wiener dog, and a depiction of rural Indiana, chicken houses resembling the Senate building, so brilliantly and perfectly that I swear I have been there and met these folks. They will have you laughing out loud before you’ve finished the first chapter. Yes, there is a very fine plot/mystery but it is the humor, wit and sarcasm that will keep you glued to the pages of this comedy. It’s like Garrison Keillor meets Mel Brooks: folksy, irreverent, hilarity with a whole lot of Midwestern charm.

If you don’t read one other book before this year ends, you have to read Ghost Busting Mystery. I promise that RJ and Veenie will make glad that you did. If you need me I will be down in southern Indiana looking for the Pie Hut for emergency pie runs!

Loads of thanks to #Netgalley, @DaisyPettles, and #HotPantsPress,LLC for my copy of this comedic tale!

And Then There Were Ten, #AChristmasGift @SueMoorcroft

The Countdown Continues with Ten Weeks to Christmas…

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I seriously cannot believe it is just TEN WEEKS until the big day. It’s a good thing that I celebrate the entire holiday season or I would be in a panic. Wait! I already am in a panic! No, no, not really. The fact that I’m decorating trees in secret, in my closet, so they will be ready to go the day after Halloween means nothing. Nah….¬† One thing that does not wait, however, is my passion for holiday reading and Sue Moorcroft has given us another outstanding Christmas book this year: A Christmas Gift!

Georgine loves Christmas. As the artistic director for a private arts school, she is in charge of the annual Christmas pageant. Regardless of anything else going on in her life, each Christmas she completely immerses herself in the organization of the holiday production. Over the past year, she has encountered financial problems as her former boyfriend left her with a mountain of debt – and the collectors that go with it. Also compounding the problem is her sister who has barged back into her life, bringing her financial woes as well. Having been raised quite wealthy in a family that eventually lost everything, Georgine is terrified of being financially destitute. Georgine also cares for her elderly father who has had a stroke. Thrown into this mixed bag of emotions is “Joe,” whom her boss has given to her as an assistant for the play. Joe feels familiar to Georgine but she is unable to place where she has known him from in her past. Who “Joe” is will turn Georgine’s world upside down along with much hilarity, angst, sadness and joy.

A Christmas Gift is exactly the type of holiday book that I love. Of course there is a bit of romance, lots of crossed signals, and ultimately a happy ending. However, Moorcroft’s style of writing also lends itself to explore deeper undercurrents that we all face. With Georgine and Joe, we see how extreme poverty can manifest itself throughout a lifetime, how fleeting wealth can be and how tenuous relationships are, whether they with the opposite sex, parent-child, or sibling relationships – they all take a lot of work to maintain. Moorcroft deftly handles each of these topics and allows the reader to look beyond the surface of the “happy holiday” stereotype.

I loved A Christmas Gift and, if you like holiday stories, I think you will enjoy it as well. Let me know if you’ve read this book or any of Moorcroft’s other books. Are you reading holiday tales yet? Share them with me – I’d love to hear from you!

Thanks to #Netgalley, @AvonBooksUK and @SueMoorcroft for my copy of this delightful tale.

 

 

 

Two Shorts for Sunday: One Man’s Meat and The Naked Nuns by Colin Watson #FarragoBooks #FlaxboroughSeries

Two more fabulous British mysteries in the #Flaxborough series.

Originally published in the 1960s and 70s, the Flaxborough Series by Colin Watson are traditional British mysteries at their finest. Watson used satire and a biting sense of humor to captivate readers across the globe. Thankfully, Farrago Books has reprinted these classics and made them available as e-books as well so that a new generation of readers can enjoy Watson’s tales of hilarity and skullduggery.

In One Man’s Meat, DI Purbright is back, this time investigating the strange case of a young man who has died while on a carnival ride. While this may seem like a simple, straight forward accident, nothing ever is simple or straight-forward in Flaxborough. Ever. As Purbright soon discovers, murder is afoot along with corporate espionage, “professional correspondents” and tainted dog food. For those of you who might equate “professional correspondents” with modern-day journalists – think again. A “professional correspondent” is court lingo for the person with whom a spouse has had a liaison. Oh yes, One Man’s Meat makes The War of the Roses look like child’s play.

Although the bulk of the story is told from the perpetrator’s perspective, all of the humor and witty repartee are present throughout. This particular book in the series is a bit more difficult to follow, perhaps because of the selected voice used. It is, never-the-less a marvelous classic mystery that readers will enjoy.

Of all of the Flaxborough series, The Naked Nuns is my least favorite. However, that is like saying that vanilla is my least favorite ice cream – it still is tasty and fun!

The concern with The Naked Nuns is that the plot is too unbelievable. Okay, most of this series has convoluted plots, but this one is more so. The salvation to the book is that, as always, Watson is an incredibly funny writer which makes reading his books a little like watching the Pink Panther version of Christie’s Poirot. Silliness abounds, but it’s a worthwhile, fun read just the same.

If you are a fan of witty, well written, non-violent, no-gore, classic mysteries then I highly recommend both of these books and the rest of the Flaxborough Series as well.

A huge appreciation to #Netgalley and #Farrago for giving me the pleasure of reading these books!

Southern Saturday – Blazing Summer

I was raised in the south and honestly did not like the summers there. There were too many bugs, too much heat and far too much humidity to make me a happy southerner. Now the heat waves have moved north with me and I feel as though I am “back home” in Arkansas once more. All of this heat makes me want to do nothing except sit in the AC, sip lemonade and READ – and that is exactly what I am doing!

Blazing Summer – Darling Investigations 2 is the sizzling summer read – pun intended, of course. It’s hot, filled with tension and great for a quick read on a lazy summer afternoon. However….

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Blazing Summer is the second book in the Darling Investigations series by Denise Grover Swank however it also works as a stand alone since the first chapter is devoted to catching you up with Summer Butler since the last book. Summer is a former actress from a police show, a former beauty queen who worked the pageant circuit, who now has her own reality television show featuring her investigations in her Alabama hometown. In the reality show she investigates interesting but small time crimes while in reality she is investigating, and often solving, bigger cases. The cast of characters is rather typical: her cousin, Dixie, (of course it’s Dixie, right?) her former boyfriend with whom Summer is in an on-again/off again relationship and also just happens to be the Police Chief in the small town, as well as a horrific, infuriating producer who, while female, should be sued for her sexist remarks. But then again, it is the south and that’s how they typically roll. In the second installment, Summer’s former television co-star has joined the reality show which leads to more drama, more angst and more sexist dialogue.

Blazing Summer is a good “cozy mystery.” If you like that genre then you will find this book enjoyable. Perhaps it is because of my dislike for typical southern anti-woman comments which I had to endure for most of my life, I found the book very irritating, especially considering that it is written by a woman. While Summer is portrayed as very strong and capable of handling herself, she rarely (never?) speaks up for herself when these verbal abuses are hurled her way. I get that this is supposed to be a “cute” book but messages repeated over and over soon become the norm and the manner in which Summer deals – or not – with the stereotypical southern sexist remarks left me cold.

Denise Grover Swank, who is a southerner herself, perfectly captures the atmosphere of the small southern town, stereotypically develops the personalities of these characters and adds the prerequisite sexual tension needed for a cozy southern tale. I think it is because of all of the above that it left me wanting a glass of hard lemonade to cool off my hot head.

I can neither recommend or not this book to you. I am sure that there are readers who will enjoy it. It is well written, just not something that I care to read.

Thank you to Goodreads Giveaway program for the opportunity to read and review this book.

Happy Sunday to You All

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It is a lazy, hazy Sunday here in the Midwestern US as most of the country is celebrating Memorial/Decoration Day and the unofficial start to summer. In my town, we are geared up for the INDY 500 with race flags flying high. As for me, I’m reading of course. What else would you do on a long weekend? I still am playing “catch-up” from my long list of books that were neglected over the winter. One of those turned out to be real gem: Coffin Scarcely Used by Colin Watson, a republication by Farrago Books.

Coffin, Scarcely Used is a bona-fide, authentic police procedural at its finest. Originally published in 1958, the Flaxborough Chronicles are a mid-century nod to writers such as Agatha Christie where the police are in the spotlight but the townsfolk are the real stars. The book reminded me so much of Miss Marple with the characters in the town playing such an important role in the solving of the crime and these characters are what truly bring the book to life. You think you are reading just another simple cozy until you get to know the people of the town Рthe good and the bad.

I found this throwback to mid-century Britain a very welcome relief from hard core crime as well as from amateur detectives who apparently know more than real detectives about solving crimes. I also really enjoyed the fact that the book was extremely well edited and well written and it executed a dry, witty humor primarily  because it was from another era. These things are missing from many mystery/thrillers written today.

I highly recommend Coffin, Scarcely Used for anyone who enjoys mysteries, cozies or who is simply in the mood for some light summer reading. As for me, I’ve moved on to Book Number Two in the series. Happy Reading!