Murder Gone A-Rye – Nancy J. Parra

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2/5 Gluten-Free Bakeries

On The Back:

Toni Holmes is the best gluten-free baker in Oiltop, Kansas—okay, she’s the only one—but when her grandmother becomes a murder suspect, she’s more concerned with keeping Grandma free…

When Toni’s beloved—and eccentric—grandma Ruth is arrested for the murder of her archenemy, Lois Striker, it’s time for a senior moment of truth. Telltale tracks from a scooter like the one Grandma Ruth rides lead the police to suspect the outspoken oldster, but Toni knows her grandmother wouldn’t burn a cookie, let alone extinguish a life.

In fact, the case has Grandma more revved up than her infamous scooter. A former investigative journalist, she decides to solve the murder herself—with help from Toni—by digging up long-buried town secrets. But as Grandma scoots in where others fear to tread, Toni needs to make sure she not only stays out of jail but out of harm’s way…

My Thoughts:

In Murder Gone A-Rye Toni is a busy baking at her bakery before the huge Thanksgiving rush, but when her Grandma gets taken tot he police station for questioning in a murder Toni finds herself investigating the murder. I really didn’t care for this book. The first book in this series, Gluten for Punishment, was a pretty good read, but this one simply wasn’t. I felt like it took me forever to get through.

I really liked the main character, Toni, to begin with, but as the story progressed I liked her less and less. She just seemed to give in to her family way too often for my taste. Her Grandma Ruth  was extremely annoying, she was supposedly well-respected and liked in her town, but I don’t know how. She didn’t listen or even try to listen to people who tried to help her, and she didn’t care about what trouble she got in, thinking it was all a big joke or experiment when she did get into trouble. Tasha, Toni’s best friend was also an annoying character in this book for the simple reason that her last boyfriend was a class-A jerk (it’s explained in Gluten for Punishment) yet a month later she starts going out with another man and after the first date is talking about how much she loves him. I just didn’t think that it was the most realistic portrayal in this situation.

However, there were some redeeming characters in this book. Meaghan is funny and I really wish she would be shown more, same with Aunt Phyllis and Bill, but how Bill can stay with Grandma Ruth I will never know. Brad and Sam are also good characters, though if the author tries to even begin a love triangle I think I’ll scream.

The mystery was pretty good, I didn’t know who the killers were gonna be until the reveal happened. But there were really no clues that I picked out.

Overall a below-average book. I don’t know if I’ll read the next one. Murder Gone A-Rye only gets 2/5 stars.

Mr. Churchill’s Secretary – Susan Elia MacNeal

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5/5 London Townhouses

On The Back:

London, 1940. Winston Churchill has just been sworn in, war rages across the Channel, and the threat of a Blitz looms larger by the day. But none of this deters Maggie Hope. She graduated at the top of her college class and possesses all the skills of the finest minds in British intelligence, but her gender qualifies her only to be the newest typist at No. 10 Downing Street. Her indefatigable spirit and remarkable gifts for codebreaking, though, rival those of even the highest men in government, and Maggie finds that working for the prime minister affords her a level of clearance she could never have imagined—and opportunities she will not let pass. In troubled, deadly times, with air-raid sirens sending multitudes underground, access to the War Rooms also exposes Maggie to the machinations of a menacing faction determined to do whatever it takes to change the course of history.

Ensnared in a web of spies, murder, and intrigue, Maggie must work quickly to balance her duty to King and Country with her chances for survival. And when she unravels a mystery that points toward her own family’s hidden secrets, she’ll discover that her quick wits are all that stand between an assassin’s murderous plan and Churchill himself.

My Thoughts:

In Mr. Churchill’s Secretary Maggie Hope is hired as a typist for the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. A murder has already been committed and as the Nazis start bombing London each night more conspiracies are found and soon Maggie finds herself in the thick of it. This was an amazing start to a series that I’m sure I’ll love.

Maggie was a wonderful MC, she’s smart, brilliant actually, but yet she finds herself in a situation because of her gender, however she fights through the prejudice against her and shines. I also really loved the supporting characters, John, Paige, Sarah, and Chuck were all extremely three dimensional characters that I enjoyed reading about.

The mystery was amazing, there were actually a few mysteries going on at once and I must say that I was surprised more than once by the events that turned out. The author did a great job of turning you in the wrong direction, then the right direction, then the wrong direction until you had no idea who did what.

Overall a superb book, I honestly have no complaints. Definitely a 5/5 star read. Highly recommend!

The Julius House – Charlaine Harris

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4/5 Hidden Secrets

On The Back:

Love at first sight turns into newlywed bliss for former librarian Aurora Teagarden-until violence cuts the honeymoon short.

Wealthy businessman Martin Bartell gives Roe exactly what she wants for their wedding: Julius House. But both the house and Martin come with murky pasts. And when Roe is attacked by an ax-wielding maniac, she realizes that the secrets inside her four walls—and her brand-new marriage—could destroy her.

My Thoughts:

In yet another wonderful installment to Charlaine Harris’s Aurora Teagarden mystery series Aurora finds herself a newlywed with a lot of time on her hands, since she quit her job at the local library. To satisfy her own curiosity about the homes previous owners, the Julius family, who disappeared without a trace 6 years before, she enlists the help of her new neighbors and Martin’s friends the Youngbloods. This was a fun mystery and I can honestly say that the ending surprised me.

Two new major characters are introduced in this book, Angela dn Shelby Youngblood, a young married couple who are old friends of Martin’s. I really liked this couple, they were fun and mysterious, especially Angel. I really want to know more about these two in the next books, let’s hope they reappear! Martin kind of annoys me, I wish he’s just tell Roe all about him, instead of continuing to hide parts of himself from her.

The mystery, however, was the real star of this story. It was hands down one of the best plotted and most surprising and twisted mysteries I have ever read. The killer took me completely by surprise, and I found that I sat there gaping after I found out who it was.

Another fast-paced book in a really enjoyable series, with some great characters, yet some annoying ones, too, a simply wonderful mystery The Julius House gets 4/5 stars! On to the next one!

Murder at the Brightwell – Ashley Weaver

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5/5 Seaside Holidays

On The Back:

Amory Ames is a wealthy young woman who regrets her marriage to her notoriously charming playboy husband, Milo. Looking for a change, she accepts a request for help from her former fiancé, Gil Trent, not knowing that she’ll soon become embroiled in a murder investigation that will test not only her friendship with Gil, but will upset the status quo with her husband.

Amory accompanies Gil to the Brightwell Hotel in an attempt to circumvent the marriage of his sister, Emmeline, to Rupert Howe, a disreputable ladies’ man. Amory sees in the situation a grim reflection of her own floundering marriage. There is more than her happiness at stake, however, when Rupert is murdered and Gil is arrested for the crime. Amory is determined to prove his innocence and find the real killer, despite attempted dissuasion from the disapproving police inspector on the case. Matters are further complicated by Milo’s unexpected arrival, and the two form an uneasy alliance as Amory enlists his reluctant aid in clearing Gil’s name. As the stakes grow higher and the line between friend and foe becomes less clear, Amory must decide where her heart lies and catch the killer before she, too, becomes a victim.

My Thoughts:

Amory is a rich socialite whose husband is famous for cheating on her, so when an old flame comes back asking for a favor she decides to give her husband some of his own medicine. But little did she know that a body would turn up on this seaside holiday, and then her husband shows up, simply complicating things. I had heard nothing but good things about this book, so the last time I was putting in a request to my library I requested this one. It came on Friday and I must say, I absolutely loved this book. It was all good.

I absolutely loved Amory, she was a strong character dealing with a lot in her life, but yet she was raised to be strong and not show many emotions, so much of what she feels ends up inside of her. She proved to be a resilient, at times funny, and extremely smart character with tons of common sense. Even though her husband, Milo, was famous for cheating on her I found that I also really liked him. He was slick, sure, but at the same time you could see where he tried to impress Amory. I really hope we see more of them as a couple in the next book coming in October.

The mystery was also very good. I had a slight guess of who the killer turned out to be, and I was right, but it was nothing more than a lucky guess on my part, because the mystery was wonderfully plotted.

Overall a superb, above-average book. I really can’t wait for the next book in October. With great characters, laugh out loud moments, and a superb mystery Murder at the Brightwell gets 5/5 stars.

Small Haul

Another small haul from a used bookstore and thriftbooks. Enjoy!

Total Spent: Around $20

Books Bought: 8

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Mysteries:

The Heist — Janet Evanovich & Lee Goldberg Supposed to be great

Grave Sight — Charlaine Harris Another really popular book that’s supposed to be great

If Walls Could Talk — Juliet Blackwell I’ve been looking for this one for forever, it sounds amazing

Dead Bolt — Juliet Blackwell Bought this in the hope that If Walls Could Talk will be great

Feta Attraction — Suzanne Hardy Sounds great, I mean a mystery in a Greek restaurant. What’s not to like?

YA:

Leaving Paradise — Simone Elkeles This is supposed to be really good.

Maybe a Miracle — Brian Strause Crossing my fingers that this one’s great.

Other:

Julie & Julia — Julie Powell After mysteries and YA food memoirs are my favorite.

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Hopefully all of these are well worth my money and are enjoyable!

Review for Murder at the Brightwell coming in the next few days.

Death of a Crabby Cook – Penny Pike

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3/5 Food Festivals

On The Back:

At the San Francisco Seafood Festival, someone is steamed enough to kill a cook….

When restaurant reviewer Darcy Burnett gets served a pink slip from theSan Francisco Chronicle, she needs to come up with an alternative recipe for success quickly. Her feisty aunt Abby owns a tricked-out school bus, which she’s converted into a hip and happening food truck, and Darcy comes aboard as a part-timer while she develops a cookbook project based on recipes from food fests in the Bay Area.

But she soon finds someone’s been trafficking in character assassination—literally—when a local chef turns up dead and her aunt is framed for the murder. The restaurant chef was an outspoken enemy of food trucks, and now Darcy wonders if one of the other vendors did him in. With her aunt’s business—and freedom—on the line, it’s up to Darcy to steer the murder investigation in the right direction and put the brakes on an out-of-control killer….

My Thoughts:

Darcy is a newspaper journalist who recently lost her job. With nothing else to do she soon starts working part-time for her aunt on her aunt’s food truck. But soon a body of a rival appears, and then another body appears. Can Darcy stop the killer before it’s too late, or will she be the next on his hit list? This was fun-filled debut to a new series. Death of a Crabby Cook, was a fast-paced interesting read that left me craving Crabby Cheerleader Grilled Cheese and Science Experiment Spaghetti.

I really liked Aunt Abby, every story needs one character that you sometimes question if they’re crazy or not, and Aunt Abby is that character in this book. She is a smart, funny former cafeteria worker who isn’t afraid to speak her mind. Jake and Dillon, the love interest and Aunt Abby’s son, respectively are also really good characters. Dillon reminded me a lot of a person I know and Jake filled the cozy mystery’s mold of what a love interest should be. Some of the background characters, Willow especially, I really want to hear more about in future books.

However, I really did not like the main character, Darcy. I found her to be arrogant and just really dumb at times, she didn’t use bluntness when talking to her suspects, which was a good thing, but yet she made some extremely rude comments to her family and about other people multiple times.

The mystery was okay, I didn’t see the killer but it really lacked that “wow” factor that I like in my mysteries. There were also a few small editing errors, for instance Dillon is Aunt Abby’s son, but yet Darcy calls him her cousin in one part of the book, and in another part Jake says he noticed one of the suspects carrying trashbags, when really it was Darcy who noticed it.

Overall, however this was actually better than I expected. With great characters and a good mystery, but an annoying main character and multiple editing errors, I give Death of a Crabby Cook 3/5 stars.

A Fatal Chapter – Lorna Barrett

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4.5/5 Silk Flowers

On The Back:

While out walking Sarge, her sister’s bichon frise, Tricia is led by the agitated dog to a man lying in a gazebo. She’s startled when she recognizes Pete Renquist, the president of the Stoneham Historical Society, who appears to be suffering from cardiac arrest. When Pete later dies in the hospital, the discovery of a suspicious bruise and a puncture mark on his arm suggests he may have been murdered.

Haunted by Pete’s enigmatic last words to her, Tricia begins to consider who had a motive to kill her friend. Did Pete take his flirting too far, only to have a jealous husband teach him a lesson? Or did he discover something in the town’s historical records that his killer wanted kept secret? Tricia is determined to get to the bottom of things before someone else becomes history…

My Thoughts:

***This review contains a spoiler from Book Clubbed the previous book in this series. Read at your own risk***

It’s been awhile since I’ve read a book in the Booktown series, and I can honestly say that I forgot how great they were! A Fatal Chapter was a fast-paced, riveting thrill of a read that left me wanting more!

Tricia is a great MC, she’s strong-willed and independant, something that is practically required for a mystery, and she can be hilarious. Angelica is the best. Period. She is hilarious, smart, and caring all wrapped into a perfect package. We see more of Christopher in this book, and I really liked him. Of course the rest of the crew, Ginny, Mr. Everett, Grace, and Pixie all also reappear.

This book takes us through the semi-long-term aftermath of her store burning, as it takes place 6 months after, and Tricia’s insurance still hasn’t settled. It was frustrating because I loved Haven’t Got A Clue and hoped to see it, but it really didn’t take away from the story.

The mystery was probably the only drawback of the book; it was extremely predictable and, though the ending was amazing and terribly heartbreaking at the same time, the mystery and the identity of the killer really fell flat, at least for me.

Overall great characters, an amazing town, but a semi-weak mystery give A Fatal Chapter 4.5/5 stars. Please pick up a copy of the first book in this series and read it, if you haven’t already. You won’t regret it!

Buried in a Book – Lucy Arlington

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3.5/5 Yellow Vespa Scooters

On The Back:

After receiving her first pink slip at the age of forty-five, former newspaper journalist Lila Wilkins is desperate for work, even if it means taking a pay cut. After combing through the classifieds, Lila accepts an internship at A Novel Idea, a thriving literary agency in the utopian town of Inspiration Valley, North Carolina.

Lila can’t imagine anything better than being paid to read, but with a crew of quirky co-workers and a sky-high stack of query letters, she doesn’t exactly have time to discover the next great bestseller—especially when a penniless aspiring author drops dead in the agency’s waiting room.

No one else seems too concerned about the man’s demise, but when Lila uncovers a series of threatening letters, she’s determined to uncover what—or who—killed the man’s dreams of literary stardom…

My Thoughts:

In Buried in a Book Lila is fired from her job as a small-town journalist and finds herself needing a job. That job comes in the form of an internship at the Novel Idea Literary Agency in the nearby town of Inspiration Valley. With a eccentric cast of characters, a great setting, and a good mystery Buried in a Book was a strong start to a series.

I really liked Lila, she was funny, and slightly older than the average cozy sleuth, which I really liked. It seems like 40+ sleuths are prone to less ditzy moments than other sleuths, but that’s just what I’ve seen, especially recently. Lila’s mother was also a very strong character. She was absolutely hilarious, and at the same time she gave good advice, without being overbearing, which is a trend that seems to be overtaking the cozy mystery subgenre. However, ;I found Lila’s son Trey an absolutely horrible son, he crashes his mom’s car and acts like it’s no big deal, runs off without leaving a note, and acts like everything is an inconvenience, I know the authors are trying to write a “normal” teenage boy but 90% of the teenagers I know wouldn’t do some of the stupid things he did in this book.

The setting and mystery were both good, though the mystery was slightly transparent. Lila does a bit of forceful sleuthing, which isn’t my favorite, but in the end it wasn’t so bad that it made me hate the book. The killers were kind of obvious, though not glaringly so.

Overall with some really strong funny main characters, however an annoying son, a very strong setting and a wonderful plot idea, yet a semi transparent mystery, Buried in a Book gets 3.5/5 stars.

The Distance Between Lost and Found – Kathryn Holmes

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4/5 Lost Stars

On The Back:

Ever since the night of the incident with Luke Willis, the preacher’s son, sophomore Hallelujah Calhoun has been silent. When the rumors swirled around school, she was silent. When her parents grounded her, she was silent. When her friends abandoned her … silent.

Now, six months later, on a youth group retreat in the Smoky Mountains, Hallie still can’t find a voice to answer the taunting. Shame and embarrassment haunt her, while Luke keeps coming up with new ways to humiliate her. Not even meeting Rachel, an outgoing newcomer who isn’t aware of her past, can pull Hallie out of her shell. Being on the defensive for so long has left her raw, and she doesn’t know who to trust.

On a group hike, the incessant bullying pushes Hallie to her limit. When Hallie, Rachel, and Hallie’s former friend Jonah get separated from the rest of the group, the situation quickly turns dire. Stranded in the wilderness, the three have no choice but to band together.

With past betrayals and harrowing obstacles in their way, Hallie fears they’ll never reach safety. Could speaking up about the night that changed everything close the distance between being lost and found? Or has she traveled too far to come back?

My Thoughts:

You know you’re hooked when you find yourself feeling angry and sad in the first few chapters of a book, and I was hooked by The Distance Between Lost and Found. Hallie is a bullied girl who has withdrawn inside of herself. She has no friends to speak of and is forced to go on a church youth trip with her tormentors, the biggest of which is Luke. But a new girl, Rachel, a former friend, Jonah, and Hallie all get separated from the group and are forced to forge their own way through the woods and fight to survive in the wilderness of the Smoky Mountains. This was an excellent debut YA novel and I really hope to hear more from this author.

I really liked Hallie, she was a relatable and heartbreaking character that anyone could find themselves pitying, at first, but then willing her to survive. Rachel was the quirky, sort of annoying, but irreplaceable friend that most people have, she pressed Hallie for the story of what really happened, and was the first person to really try and talk to Hallie. Jonah was the funny, mysterious person in the trio and throughout the story as you learn why he abandoned Hallie as a friend, it was heartbreaking, sad, and wonderful all at the same time.

This plot was really unique for this type of YA novel, slightly like Gary Paulsen’s Brian novels, but at the same time very different. I found myself cheering the teens on throughout the book, at the high points I smiled and felt like cheering out, but at the low points I willed them to survive.

However there was a few down points to this book, the major one, and really the only one worth mentioning, is Hallie’s attitude toward Jonah. There are only a few very small remarks about what she thinks of Jonah before Jonah tells her how he feels about her and why he stopped being her friend, and all of a sudden she loves him? I wish the author would’ve added a few more hints about how Hallie felt about Jonah before, instead of having no feelings, no feelings, boom, feelings.

Overall however a very good, very fast read. With amazing characters, a very good and interesting plotline, yet a few small down points, The Distance Between Lost and Found gets 4/5 stars. Recommend!

Murder, Plain and Simple – Isabella Alan

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4/5 Amish Quilt Shops

On The Back:

When Angela Braddock inherits her late aunt’s beautiful Amish quilt shop, she leaves behind her career and broken engagement for a fresh start in Holmes County, Ohio.

With her snazzy cowboy boots and her ornithophobic French bulldog, Angie doesn’t exactly fit in with the predominantly Amish community in Rolling Brook, but her aunt’s quilting circle tries to make her feel welcome as she prepares for the reopening of Running Stitch.

On the big day, Angie gets a taste of success as the locals and Englischtourists browse the store’s wares while the quilters stitch away. But when Angie finds the body of ornery Amish woodworker Joseph in her storeroom the next morning, everything starts falling apart.

With evidence mounting against her, Angie is determined to find the culprit before the local sheriff can arrest her. Rolling Brook always appeared to be a simple place, but the closer Angie gets to the killer, the more she realizes that nothing in the small Amish community is as plain as it seems….  

My Thoughts:

A wonderful start to a cozy series, Murder, Plain and Simple was a book that I devoured.

I absolutely loved Angie, she was funny but at the same time realistic, in fact, all of the characters were well-written and realistic. Anna, Rachel, and Jonah were all very fun characters, that I hope we see again. There was hints of conflicting interests when it came to the MC’s love life, but yet nothing that would turn out to be a love triangle.

The mystery was good, but the killer was sorta out-there in the fact that their reasons were not really murder-worthy in my eyes. The MC is a little too blunt, when questioning suspects, but nothing that can’t be overlooked, and definitely not the worst I’ve read.

Overall not a bad book at all; a lot of semi-mysterious characters that served as suspects, and other funny, friendly characters, yet a mystery that wasn’t the best leads me to give Murder, Plain and Simple 4/5 stars. I’ll be looking for the next one!