Category Archives: Reviews

Review of books

My Musing ~ Wagging Through The Snow by Laurien Berenson

Wagging Through The Snow by Laurien Berenson is the 21st book in the “Melanie Travis” mystery series. Publisher: Kensington, coming September 26, 2017

Melanie Travis needs a little peace from her busy life this Christmas. But the usual holiday hubbub is a joy compared to the killer surprise she finds tucked underneath the tree . . .

With a demanding teaching job at Connecticut’s elite Howard Academy and five poodles scampering around the house, Melanie barely has energy for the upcoming Christmas rush. But she unwraps an unexpected challenge when her brother and ex-husband, elated by the recent success of their country café, make a spontaneous bid on a dilapidated pine tree farm. Although the ten-acre lot had been a popular seasonal destination while the original owner was still alive, it’ll take some sprucing up—and a small miracle or two—before the neglected place is in shape for December.

Unfortunately, the impromptu business venture goes cold when the group discovers a purebred Maltese whimpering in the snow-covered grove—right beside a dead body. Pete, a squatter who camped out on the land, apparently met his end after a fallen fir tree branch knocked him on the head. But as Melanie and Aunt Peg investigate Pete’s history and the terrible habit that cost him everything, it’s clear his death was no accident. Now, Melanie must run through a flurry of likely suspects and muzzle a dogged murderer in time—or she’ll be next on someone’s deadly list.

The latest adventures with Melanie and her friends quickly embroiled me in all that was happening, making it hard to put down until the last page was read. The author did a great job in telling this story with narrative that was visually descriptive and dialogue that was engaging and humorous at times. The mystery was well-written and I like that the author keeps me in suspense mode with how Melanie’s investigative efforts will turn out. I also love the family dynamics that plays heavily in this story which always warms my heart. This was an enjoyable read and I look forward to the next book in this endearing series.

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FTC Full Disclosure – I received an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) from the author.

My Musing ~ The Persian Always Meows Twice by Eileen Watkins

The Persian Always Meows Twice by Eileen Watkins is the first book in the NEW “Cat Groomer” mystery series. Publisher: Kensington, coming September 26, 2017

Cat lovers are thrilled to welcome an expert groomer to the picturesque town of Chadwick. But scratch below the surface, and unmasking a killer becomes a game of cat and mouse . . .

Professional cat grooming isn’t all fluff—when the fur starts flying, Cassie McGlone, owner of Cassie’s Comfy Cats, handles her feistiest four-legged clients with a caring touch and nerves of steel. While these qualities certainly help keep her business purring, they also come in handy when she makes a house call to her best client, millionaire George DeLeuw, and discovers his murdered body next to his newly orphaned Persian, Harpo.

To help the local police find the actual killer, Cassie begins her own investigation. But no one, from George’s housekeeper to his vindictive ex-wife, is giving up clues. Not until Cassie is given permission to temporarily board Harpo does anyone show interest in the Persian’s wellbeing. Someone is desperate to get their paws on Harpo before the feline helps untangle a felony. Are there deadly truths that a cat whisperer like Cassie can coax out? She needs to tread lightly and remember she gets one life, not nine. . . .

This was a fun and enjoyable book to read. I love the comfortable tone and the pacing of this whodunit, creating an easy story to follow from beginning to end. The mystery was nicely done with a slew of suspects and I liked the clues kept me busy trying to figure it all out with a few red herrings that enhanced the telling of this tale. The narrative was visually descriptive putting me right there in the middle of all the action as Cassie groomed her pets (I liked that the author gave me an inside look at this), queried the suspects, confronted a person from her past, and worked with the police. This I liked, that she worked cooperatively with the local police. I enjoyed meeting Cassie, Dawn, Sarah and Mark which I look forward to seeing their relationship grow. Boasting a lovable cast of characters that also included the furry ones, engaging dialogue and a small town atmosphere, this was a great debut story and a welcome addition to the cozy genre.

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FTC Full Disclosure – I received an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) from the author.

My Musing ~ Gia In The City Of The Dead by Kristi Belcamino

Gia in the City of the Dead by Kristi Belcamino is the first book in the “Gia Santella” crime thriller series, coming September 18, 2017

Someone is killing everybody Gia loves

When Gia Valentina Santella’s parents died four years ago, she fled small town Monterey to pursue the high life in the big city where she could smother her grief by playing house in a luxurious high-rise apartment with sweeping views of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Armed with a hefty inheritance, it didn’t take long for Gia to carve out an empty life for herself in San Francisco, slumming at art school, racing her red Ferrari up and down the coast, and getting hammered at the city’s finest establishments.

Then one day, a letter comes in the mail and everything changes. The death of Gia’s parents was no accident. They were murdered.

Now, Gia must find who really killed her parents at the same time she’s frantically trying to keep one step ahead of the murderer who is now intent on making her his next victim.

This is another grippingly riveting drama from Ms. Belcamino that seeps into the crevices of my soul as I followed the trials and tribulation of her latest heroine.

Finding that her parent’s death was intentional, Gia is on a mission to find the person responsible and in her pursuit, those closest to her are in harm’s way as well. Family dynamics and self-discovery plays a part in this multi-plot, action-packed novel where every page turned intensified, especially when Gia faced the person responsible, and the truth set her free to be who she really was.

The author did a great job in staging this story where every scene, every clue, every dialogue, and every action was crucial to the outcome of this well-executed tale. Gia is vulnerable, yet strong and determined where finding the truth was paramount to her own existence. I do like that surprising twist that brought it all together and helped moved the drama to the conclusion befitting the person that Gia has become.

I enjoyed this debut novel and I can’t wait to read the next book and see what’s in store for Gia and her friends.

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FTC Full Disclosure – I received an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) from the author.

My Musing ~ A Part of the Pattern by L.L. Bartlett

A Part of the Pattern by L.L. Bartlett is the 7th book in the “Jeff Resnick’s Personal Files” mini-mystery series. Publisher: Polaris Press, coming September 18, 2017

Ex-insurance investigator Jeff Resnick finds himself drawn to solving crimes. His brother, Richard, thinks that could be the basis of a paying business. Reluctantly, Jeff agrees, and their first case is about a child who vanished more than two decades before. Meanwhile, Jeff bumps into an acquaintance whose history is very similar to that of the missing girl. Is it coincidence or is there a pattern that links him to her and his future?

In their latest adventure, Richard and Jeff have their first and only case and it is by happenstance that an acquaintance Jeff met years ago, plays heavily in this fast-paced short story. Fitting the pieces of the past and the present gives Jeff the ammunition he needs to solve this puzzle with an unexpected bonus in both his personal and professional life. I love this series and the author always grabs my attention with the narrative that keeps me engaged in this intriguing tale of confirmation. This is another great read and I look forward to more forays with R&A Insights.

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FTC Full Disclosure – I received an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) from the author.

My Musing ~ A Deadly Fundraiser by Mary Kennedy

A Deadly Fundraiser by Mary Kennedy is the 4th book in the “Talk Radio” mystery series. Publisher: Bleecker Street Books, September 2017

Radio talk show host Dr. Maggie Walsh finds herself in the middle of a murder—again! An invitation to a glitzy fundraiser at a south Florida mansion sounds like the perfect evening. Maggie and her pals are digging up clues for a scavenger hunt when a real mystery lands in their laps. Suddenly the party’s over, and the killer is playing for keeps. Will Maggie and her team be able to crack the case and solve the crime?

Dr Maggie is back and this time murder plays a deadly hand at a scavenger hunt gone wrong. A house full of suspects and the party is just beginning in this delightfully charming tale. I like the pacing of this whodunit that set the tone of how well this mystery was executed with plenty of suspects and a few twists and turns and kept me glued to the pages as I had to see how this will all play out. I liked that the main characters all had pivotal roles that kept me engaged in what they were doing and providing humor as well. The author knows how to tell a story that pulled me in and that ending. . .loved it. A great story and again, it was good to see Dr. Maggie, Lola and Vera Mae.

My Musing ~ A Christmas Peril by J. A. Hennrikus

A Christmas Peril by J. A. Hennrikus is the first book in the NEW “Theater Cop” mystery series. Publisher: Midnight Ink, September 2017

Sully Must Get Her Childhood Friend Off the Naughty List Before They’re Both Scrooged

When Edwina “Sully” Sullivan’s life imploded, she left behind her job on the police force and her unfaithful husband to start a new life as the general manager of her hometown theater, the Cliffside Theater Company.

For five years, she focused on budgets instead of crime and kept the Cliffside running alongside its mercurial artistic director. But when her childhood friend is suspected of killing his father, no one is looking for another culprit. So, in between keeping A Christmas Carol on budget and Scrooge sober, Sully dusts off her investigative skills to find a murderer. Her two lives collide when her ex-husband arrives on the scene to play lawyer and she’s forced to confront her past in order to save her present.

This is a great introduction to a new series where we learn all about Sully and her circle of friends. Sully is an ex-cop, current theater manager who have to use her old skills to begin an investigation in order to clear her cousin, who is the prime suspect. The fresh new drama was staged seamlessly with a comfortable tone and a nice pacing that made it an easy and enjoyable read. This finely tuned mystery had plenty of suspects and clues scattered throughout and some surprising twists and turns that enhanced how well this multi-plot story was told. The author did a great job in presenting a likable tale that had me wanting more. Boasting a great cast of characters, engaging dialogue and a perfect backdrop, this was a delightfully entertaining debut series and welcome addition to the cozy genre.

My Musing ~ Assaulted Caramel by Amanda Flower

Assaulted Caramel by Amanda Flower is the first book in the NEW “Amish Candy Shop” mystery series. Publisher: Kensington, August 2017

Sometimes you need a sweet tooth to take a bite out of crime . . .

Bailey King is living the sweet life as assistant chocolatier at world-famous JP Chocolates in New York City. But just when Bailey’s up for a life-changing promotion, her grandmother calls with news that her grandfather’s heart condition has worsened. Bailey rushes to Harvest, Ohio, where her grandparents still run Swissmen Sweets, the Amish candy shop where she was first introduced to delicious fudge, truffles, and other assorted delights.

She finds her grandfather is doing better than she feared. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for a local Englisch developer, whom Bailey finds dead in the candy shop kitchen—with Jebediah King’s chocolate knife buried in his chest. Now the police are sweet on her grandfather as the prime suspect. Despite the sincere efforts of a yummy deputy with chocolate-brown eyes, Bailey takes it on herself to clear Jebediah. But as a cunning killer tries to fudge the truth, Bailey may be headed straight into a whole batch of trouble . . .

Recipe Included!

Amanda has done it again. She’s created a delectably enticing new whodunit that was engagingly entertaining. I love the comfortable tone and how well it paired with the pacing as the story moved to its conclusion. The mystery was nice done with suspects aplenty and clues that were strategically placed with a few twists and turns that added to my enjoyment of this drama. The narrative pulled me in making me feel like I was in the middle of all the action as Bailey’s investigation took her closer to a killer who would do anything to stay hidden. The author did a great job in keeping my interest high and when I thought I had a handle on the killer, the author changed direction all to enhanced the telling of this tale. With a lovable cast of characters that included Jethro, good conversations and a small-town feel, this was a great read and I look forward to the next foray with Bailey and her friends.

My Musing ~ Asking for Truffle by Dorothy St. James

Asking for Truffle by Dorothy St. James is the first book in the NEW “Southern Chocolate Shop” mystery series. Publisher: Crooked Lane Books, coming September 12, 2017

When Charity Penn receives a letter saying she won a trip to Camellia Beach, South Carolina complete with free cooking lessons at the town’s seaside chocolate shop, The Chocolate Box, she’s immediately skeptical. She never entered any contest. Her former prep school friend offers to look into the phony prize—only to end up drowned in a vat of chocolate.

Struck with guilt, Penn heads to the southern beach town to investigate why he was killed. But as wary as she is of the locals, she finds herself lured into their eccentric vibe, letting her defenses melt away and even learning the art of crafting delicious chocolates. That is, until delight turns bittersweet as she steps straight into the midst of a deadly plot to destroy the seaside town. Now, only Penn’s quick thinking and a mysterious cask of rare chocolate can save the town she’s learning to love.

Rich and decadent, Asking for Truffle, the first in a new cozy series by Dorothy St. James, is sure to be a delectable read for fans of JoAnna Carl and Joanne Fluke.

Searching for answers to her friend’s untimely demise, Penn heads to the small town of Camellia Beach (fearing a scam being played on her) and discovers that something sinister is afoot and she is caught in the middle of it all.

This was a fun book and I so enjoyed the people that I met from Penn to Mabel to Granny Mae to Harley to Bertie to Athena and even Stella. From the opening paragraph to the conclusion, this book immediately grabbed my attention and I could not put it down until all was said and done and what a ride this was. The author did a great job in setting the stage for tightly woven mystery that kept me glued to the pages as Penn did her best amid her own personal baggage to find out what happened to her friend. Everyone is a suspect and the author penned it so that every person that I met had a motive for the killing, and I like that with each clue presented, the list of suspects got shorter and shorter until only one person was standing. The murder was a brilliant set-up by the author to make this an all-encompassing journey of self-discovery that had me rooting for Penn, especially with her upbringing of being abandoned by both her parents and an uncaring grandparent. I liked that she has flaws which more than endeared her to me. Boasting a friendly cast of characters, engaging dialogue and a small-town atmosphere, this was an exciting story and with that ending, I can’t wait to read the next book in this delightfully charming debut series.

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FTC Full Disclosure – I received a digital ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.

My Musing ~ A Tale of Two Kitties by Sofie Kelly

A Tale of Two Kitties by Sofie Kelly is the 9th book in the “Magical Cats” mystery series. Publisher: Penguin Random House, coming September 5, 2017

In this charming mystery from the bestselling author of Paws and Effect, two magical cats have powers of detection that prove indispensable to librarian Kathleen Paulson.

With a well-placed paw on a keyboard or a pointed stare, Kathleen’s two cats, Hercules and Owen, have helped her to solve cases in the past—so she has learned to trust their instincts. But she will need to rely on them more than ever when a twenty-year-old scandal leads to murder.

The arrival of the Janes brothers has the little town of Mayville Heights buzzing. Everyone of a certain age remembers when Victor had an affair with Leo’s wife, who then died in a car accident.

Now it seems the brothers are trying to reconcile, until Kathleen finds Leo dead. The police set their sights on Leo’s son and Kathleen’s good friend Simon, who doesn’t have much of an alibi. To prove her friend innocent, Kathleen will have to dig deep into the town’s history—and into her sardine cracker supply, because Owen and Hercules don’t work for free.

Whenever I read a book in this series, it takes me on a magical journey that is so comforting. In their latest adventure, Kathleen and her intuitive cats get involved in a murder case when the past and the present co-mingle and it’s up to them to bridge the gap and find a killer who is hiding in plain sight. The tone and pacing were perfectly matched creating a nice flow throughout this light whodunit. The mystery was expertly written with plenty of intrigue that kept me glued to all that was happening. The abundance of plot twists and turns, not only enhanced the telling of this tale, but set the stage for the outcome of this drama where all the main characters played pivotal roles. This is one of the best book in this endearing series and I can’t wait to see what’s next with Owen, Hercules and Kathleen.

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FTC Full Disclosure – I received an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) from the publisher.