Review: Secrets Untold

30848365Secrets Untold by Brooklyn Shivers

I was offered a complimentary copy of this book by the author and after reading the premise, I was hooked. Lily Thomas runs an ice cream shop with her mom, Rose. After Lily has frightening visions of her mom’s murder, it sadly comes true one horrifying day. After the police close the case as a burglary gone wrong, Lily knows it’s up to her to find her mom’s killer.

Although a novella, there was a rich amount of detail to set the scene. I felt like I really got to know Lily, I really felt for her after she lost her mom and I admired her strength and perseverance. The mysterious detective, Jarred, was intriguing and I’m really interested to find out the secret he’s hiding. The other characters in the book weren’t as developed as the main characters, but I’m confident they will be in later books (which makes me want to read more!) The really satisfying ending made the book for me, solving the murder while making a cliffhanger for the next book. You can be sure I’m going to pick that up once it comes out.

Overall, a great debut and a very enjoyable read. I’d say this is more like a YA book and would be perfect for younger readers who enjoy paranormal romances/mysteries. There’s no bad language or sexual situations, so a parent could feel comfortable letting a teenager read this book.

Secrets Untold is available on Kindle at Amazon

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Review: The Cats that Stole a Million

29523165The Cats that Stole a Million by Karen Anne Golden
It took me awhile to get into this one, the first half of the book just wasn’t holding my interest.  Although it had a great plot, it just seemed a little unfocused; it didn’t flow as well as the other books in the series.

As I said, the plot was great.  Katz’s old school friend Madison shows up unexpectedly on her doorstep after her plane was diverted from Chicago to Indianapolis.  Russian mobsters, a missing package and lots of bullets ensue, all in the midst of a blizzard.  While the plot took awhile to get going, it made up for it in the last half of the book, with a satisfying ending.

I like seeing Stevie more in these books, he’s an intriguing, well-drawn character and really adds to the series as the tragic hero.  The addition of his daughter will be something to look forward to in later books.

And why doesn’t Katz just remove the doorbell if it’s such a problem?

Overall, an enjoyable read in a great series, and I recommend the series to cozy mystery fans.

The Cats that Stole a Million is available at book stores or on Kindle at Amazon

Review: A Story to Kill

28511625A Story to Kill by Lynn Cahoon

Small town secrets lead to murder in A Story to Kill, the first in the Cat Latimer series combines a superb plot with a dash of humor and a sprinkling of romance.

I’m a big fan of the Lynn Cahoon’s wonderful Tourist Trap Mysteries series, so I was excited to read this one. Set in a small college town in Colorado, author Cat Latimer returning from California after inheriting a big Victorian house from her ex-husband. Cat and BFF Shauna decide to turn the home into a B&B for writers. During the inaugural retreat, a famous author is killed in his room.

The intricate, multifaceted plot kept me guessing; there were no shortage of suspects in the murder of Tom Cook. The subplot surrounding the death of Cat’s ex-husband was a real cliffhanger, it added a big dose of intrigue to an already rich plot. Steady pacing kept the story on track, adding a lot of detail without dumping a lot of information into your lap all at once.

As always in Lynn Cahoon stories, the characters are always colorful and enjoyable. I loved the little old ladies who wrote romances, they were a hoot. The small college town setting was almost a character in itself; I could almost smell the leaves. (Autumn is my favorite season!)

Overall, an absorbing read perfect to sink into for an afternoon. I definitely recommend this book (and the author) to anyone who enjoys a good cozy mystery.

Thank you to Netgalley and Kensington Books, who provided an advance  copy of the  book in return for my honest review.

A Story To Kill is available at book retailers, or online at Amazon | Barnes & Noble

 

Review: The Woman in Blue

25942279The Woman in Blue by Elly Griffiths

An ethereal vision of a woman in blue in a graveyard one night leads to the body of a beautiful young model found dead in a ditch.  DI Nelson and his crew  find themselves in a new investigation to find who is strangling blonde women in the medieval pilgrimage town of Little Walsingham. At the same time, Ruth is contacted by an old university friend who requests Ruth’s help in tracking down the author of several threatening letters.

I really enjoyed this latest installment in the Ruth Galloway series. The main plot, the murders of two blond women, tied in with the sub-plot of the threatening letters so well that it was impossible to see a connection at first. All the clues were there, neatly woven into the story so well that you didn’t realize until much later how pertinent they were.

The great locale, the medieval pilgrimage town of Little Walsingham, oozed Ye Olde World Charm (I admit I fall for it every time. I’m a sucker for hedge lined country lanes, medieval churches and quaint English villages.)

Also, this time on Cheaters, Nelson and Michelle are forced to re-evaluate their relationship, while Ruth waffles between hating Nelson and hating herself for loving Nelson. Ruth is starting to irritate me; I just want to give her a shake and tell her to move on. I have to say, Ruth’s attitude towards Hillary was a little surprising to me. I know Ruth’s staunch disapproval of religion is a mainstay of the series, but I thought that her feminist ideology would at least recognize that female vicars don’t have it easy and to have some empathy.

Let me just say that I feel my life is severely lacking without a Cathbad to pop up randomly in a purple cloak to spout arcane wisdom and I’m not sure who to call to remedy that.

And just what did Nelson say to Ruth at the end?!

Overall, another great book in a series I highly recommend to readers.

The Woman in Blue is available at book stores everywhere and on Amazon

Review: Leading the Blind

30293136Leading the Blind: A Century of Guide Book Travel by Alan Sillitoe

“If the traveler will have a third golden maxim for his guidance it may be, “When fatigue begins, enjoyment ceases.”
– Alan Sillitoe, Leading the Blind

I requested this book from Netgalley because I was intrigued about tourism in the nineteenth and early 20th century. And I wasn’t disappointed, this well researched book details several of the popular travel guides of that period and highlights how little the vagaries of travel have changed, and yet how much it changed the world.

After the industrial revolution created an affluent middle and upper class with spending money, tourism to Europe steadily increased in the nineteenth century. Despite filthy lodgings, poor roads, and culture clashes, the popularity of traveling abroad grew, fed largely by the many travel guides published during the 1800s. I thought it was very interesting to see how the influx of tourists and travelers improved many aspects of life in Europe. Early in the 1800s there were few inns, particularly outside of the major cities. Those rest stops that were in business were usually squalid rooming houses with poor sanitation. By the end of the 1800s, the hospitality industry improved by leaps and bounds, no doubt spurred by the bad write-ups in travel guides and the lucrative competition for tourist money.

I enjoyed all the travel tips related from the original guides that instructed Victorian travelers how to avoid sea sickness, navigate customs, understanding passports and visas, exchanging money, the best places to stay and how to avoid being cheated by innkeepers. In Austria, for example, you could not bring playing cards or tobacco into the country, and in Switzerland, money wasn’t standardized across the country early in the nineteenth century.

Among the many fascinating aspects outlined in the guidebooks, it was amusing to see some aspects of travel are just the same now as it was then. Vandalism, such as taking pieces of monuments as souvenirs and tourists marking their names on landmarks was as much a problem in 1892 as it is today. It was outrageous how many artifacts and manuscripts were plundered by travelers to Egypt and Greece, I’m always dismayed and annoyed by how little regard the Victorians had for a site’s history, using it instead for their own gain.

Leading The Blind is a fascinating look into the history of travel and its social impact all over the world. Great for lovers of history, geography or sociology, it will enlighten readers today as much as the original guidebooks did for the Victorians.

Thank you to the publisher, Open Road Integrated Media and Netgalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Leading the Blind is available at book retailers or on Amazon

 

Review: The Black Cat Knocks on Wood

27177385The Black Cat Knocks on Wood by Kay Finch

The Black Cat Knocks on Wood the second book in the Black Cat Mystery series has Sabrina, hard at work on her second book, sidetracked when a local realtor is found dead and Aunt Rowe’s BFF Pearl is a suspect. Sabrina is compelled (re: emotionally blackmailed) to investigate with the help of her trusty feline sidekick, Hitchcock.

There was a lot to like about this book; the black cat adoption event was a cute idea, as was the senior rodeo (it would be a hoot to see Aunt Rowe and her elderly friends roping goats. Seriously, Sabrina, lighten up!) The enjoyable plot had no shortage of suspects with lots of twists and turns and it was almost impossible to zero in on the killer.

I have to say, Sabrina really diminished my enjoyment of the book.  From her snotty attitude towards Rita to nagging Aunt Rowe about the rodeo, to her whining about having to investigate the case, Sabrina is a real drag. Am I the only one who wanted Hitchcock to smack some sense into her? Probably, but I would’ve enjoyed that scene as much as seeing Aunt Rowe rope a goat.

Overall, a cute sequel and a very enjoyable cozy mystery.  This book can be read as a stand-alone, but it’s worth it to read the first book in the series.

The Black Cat Knocks on Wood is available at book retailers or on Amazon

 

Review: The Truth Is Beyond Belief

29984453The Truth Is Beyond Belief: Some thoughts to make you think about the power of your thoughts. by Jerry Durr

When I requested this book from Netgalley, the description was vague enough to make me curious to see what the book was about. The Truth is Beyond Belief is a short book of Christian inspirational messages meant to enlighten and relax the reader and would be ideal as an audiobook for use in meditation.

While the subject matter was not that interesting to me, the book was well written and relaxing to read. I think this book will appeal to people who enjoy a spiritual books or are looking for a mini-retreat to recharge themselves in busy times.

Thank you to Netgalley and Publish Green for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Truth is Beyond Belief is available in bookstores or from Amazon

 

Review: Death, Guns, and Sticky Buns

10595447 Death, Guns, and Sticky Buns by Valerie S. Malmont

Death, Guns and Sticky Buns is the 3rd book in the Tori Miracle series. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a copy of the second book, which wasn’t a huge problem but this book would’ve flowed a little better if I had. There are a few references to it sprinkled around that didn’t confuse the story in this book.  For me, I like reading a series in order, so I was a bit put out.

Tori, a recent transplant to rural Pennsylvania from New York City, is still adjusting to small town life.  Her new boyfriend, Police Chief Garnet, is headed to Costa Rica for a year. Tori consoles herself by throwing herself into work as temporary editor for the Lickin Creek Chronicle and promptly gets tangled in a suspicious death, Civil War artifact thefts, and sticky buns. Gooey, tasty sticky buns (recipes at the end of the book!)

The local women’s college is hosting a Civil War execution (Why a college for women was hosting this, I’m not exactly sure. Given the history of the college, it would’ve made more sense to host a re-enactment of the nurses who tended the wounded. But anyway…) A former Congressman and a college trustee Mack MacMillan insists on playing the deserter being executed and the spectators are shocked when he actually dies after someone replaced the fake bullets in the muskets for real ones. The resolution of the mystery was original and unexpected, as was the stolen Civil War artifacts subplot, and I really enjoyed it.

Tori is a likeable main character; smart, funny, easily distracted and just a little socially awkward.  I find her easy to relate to and very well drawn. The other characters in the story are really just wallpaper and I’m hoping they develop a little more in the coming stories.

What really irritated me was that an assistant in a medical office would be spreading gossip about a patient’s procedures and diagnosis.  HIPAA (US laws concerning health care) was enacted a few years before this book was written in 2000, so it’s not like privacy laws were anything new.  Even if it was used a tool to further the plot, it was just too unrealistic and pulled me out of the story.  I also thought the carousel plot thread was a little unrealistic.  How do you set up a working carousel in an Amish barn?

Overall, Death, Guns, and Sticky Buns was highly enjoyable, a light read that will appeal to fans of cozy mysteries and/or Civil War history.

Death, Guns and Sticky Buns is available at book retailers or on Amazon

Review: Engaged in Danger: A Jamie Quinn Mystery

26401450Engaged in Danger: A Jamie Quinn Mystery by Barbara Venkataraman

Entertaining and amusing, the Jamie Quinn series has intriguing plots, lots of laughs, great characters, and packed with action.

Jamie Quinn, a South Florida divorce attorney with a knack for finding herself in trouble, has her hands full in Engaged in Danger. After Jamie is contacted by a woman wanting to divorce her husband, a well-connected lawyer, Jamie enlists the help of BFF Grace and PI Duke in what will be a difficult court battle. As they work to build their case, they uncover evidence of financial crimes, Russian mobsters and murder.

This was the best book out of the series so far. Jamie seems to be doing a better job with coping with life’s up and downs. Despite an argument with Grace and boyfriend Kip leaving for 3 months on a Save The Wombat project, Jamie manages to soldier on without falling apart, while keeping her characteristic sense of humor. I have to say, there was more than one time in the book where I wanted to give Jamie a good shake and tell her to smarten up. But the taut plot with all its twists and turns kept me turning pages and guessing until the very end. I loved Precious Paws, the animal shelter that Jamie visits where all the dogs are named after British musicians.  I loved Jagger the terrier and long haired mutt Ringo Starr and the idea to use them to create paintings as a fundraiser.  What a great idea!

Overall, Engaged in Danger was a light, fast read and a great addition to a solid series. I definitely recommend this series to cozy mystery fans.

Engaged in Danger is available for Kindle at Amazon

Review: Two Birds with One Stone

24244297Two Birds with One Stone by Sigrid Vansandt

Not a bad book.. You know that episode of the Golden Girls where they go to a murder mystery weekend? The book was kind of like that, but without Blanche and Rose, it just wasn’t as funny. On one hand, it was a fun, quick read. On the other hand, the first half of the book was hard for me to get into and I nearly DNF’ed it. It was one of those where the story really didn’t pick up until about halfway through the book. I’m glad I gave it a chance though,  because the ending made up for it.

I really liked the plot; a man is found dead in a museum and American ex-pats and new BFFs Martha and Helen, both late middle aged, feel like they’re lacking a little excitement in their lives, start snooping to find a killer. I had no idea who the culprit was until the end of the book. The main characters were likable, if not a little ditzy and foolhardy.

There were a few plot threads that pulled me out of the story, though. The two guys who stole the manuscript out of the chief’s office was a bit much, as was Martha’s flirtation with the chief. In one scene, they run into him at a pub and Martha takes a swig of his beer. Seriously, who does that?

The scene I had a bigger issue with is where the chief locks them up in the jail after finding them at the crime scene. Who lets the police throw them in jail without calling a lawyer? Not me, that’s who. I’d be screaming for a lawyer before they closed the door of my cell.

Overall, Two Birds with One Stone was an entertaining read, and good enough that I’ll read the next book in the series.