Book Reviews: Pineapple Lies by Amy Vansant and Pineapple Mystery Box by Amy Vansant @AmyVansant @Rosemary_Benson

Pineapple Lies
A Pineapple Port Mystery #1
Amy Vansant
Amy Vansant, August 2015
Narrated by Rosemary Benson
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—

Growing up in one of Florida’s age-55-plus communities, Charlotte never expected life to be wild. Golf cart racing with her surrogate mothers Mariska and Darla was about as nutty as life got… until she found the hot pawnbroker’s mom buried in her backyard.

Talk about making a lousy first impression.

Armed with nothing but her wits, Pineapple Port’s questionable cast of characters and a growing crush, Charlotte is determined to solve the mystery of Declan’s mother’s murder.

Hey, at least this guy’s skeletons aren’t in his closet.

Sometimes it takes me what seems like forever to get around to reading a book I really wanted in the beginning. It isn’t usually because I lose interest, although that occasionally happens. Mostly it’s because I am constitutionally incapable of controlling my TBR hoard, a victim of my own book greed.

The result of this is that, once in a while, I’m completely blown away by a book I’ve put off for no good reason other than having too many books to read (!) and then I kick myself for missing out for way too long and that’s what happened with Pineapple Lies. It took me approximately 30 minutes of the audiobook to decide this was going to be a terrific read for three reasons:

1. I love the players and the premise of a youngish woman who lives in a retirement community in Florida being the sleuth. I live in Florida (but not in a retirement village) so I was already predisposed to like the setting and Ms. Vansant has created a bunch of characters who are a little stereotypical but in a very good way and who each bring something to the table, so to speak.

2. The mysteries are entertaining puzzles with the main one, the discovery of the local pawnbroker’s mom buried in Charlotte’s yard, keeping my little gray cells working while the side threads provide plenty of humor and distraction. The author’s pacing is especially good and not once was I the least bit let down as the plot progressed. There’s a budding romance, too, but it’s not obtrusive.

3. I’ve found an audiobook narrator to add to my list of favorites. Rosemary Benson is, in a word, amazing. Her ability to create individual voices is beyond that of most truly good narrators and I’ve listened to some I consider among the best. I’m very sure I would have fallen in book love with Pineapple Lies anyway but Ms. Benson brings it all to life.

So, big kudos to both author and narrator—this book is going on my list of best books read in 2021 and now we’ll see if the trend continues with the second book, Pineapple Mystery Box.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2021.

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Pineapple Mystery Box
A Pineapple Port Mystery #2
Amy Vansant
Amy Vansant, January 2018
Narrated by Rosemary Benson
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—

When a giant inflatable Halloween witch goes missing in the Pineapple Port retirement community, Charlotte’s eager to nab the culprit. Before she can lift a fingerprint, someone threatens to kill a new neighbor who looks like an adorable Pomeranian but possesses a disturbing talent for revenge. Moments later, a stranger demands the return of a mysterious wooden box – or else. 

Charlotte’s boyfriend, Declan, isn’t having a great morning either. His calculating ex-girlfriend has returned to claim she’s the rightful owner of his pawn shop. She’s livid he’s found a new lady, too.

Eh. Things could be worse. At least Charlotte doesn’t know that a mojito-swilling killer who fed his grandmother to a cat is on his way to Pineapple Port!

Some series suffer from sophomore slump but this one most certainly does not. Charlotte has decided that her calling is to be a private investigator after her achievements in the previous story and her senior citizen community is more than willing to send cases her way, things like who stole Darla’s Halloween witch and who is moving outdoor decor from one yard to another.

When pawnbroker Declan’s former girlfriend threatens to make his life miserable and a peculiar box draws unhealthy attention, he thinks things are weird enough but they can’t explain his uncle Seamus’s bizarre behavior. Throw in a potentially homicidal newcomer and Charlotte suddenly has a full detecting plate.

Following up on the first book, Pineapple Mystery Box is just as clever and filled with humor and I appreciated narrator Rosemary Benson’s talents every bit as much. I highly recommend this and I’ll soon be starting the next audiobook, Pineapple Puzzles.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2021.

Book Review: Not As We Knew It by F. M. Meredith @MarilynMeredith

Not As We Knew It
Rocky Bluff P. D. Mystery #16
F. M. Meredith
ISBN 979-8564552684
Trade Paperback

From the author—

The challenges come one after another for the Rocky Bluff P.D. to handle―from a missing woman to a fatal house fire.Detective Doug Milligan is faced with new and unusual problems to solve, some on the job and others related to his family.Gordon Butler isn’t too happy that his wife was chosen to train the latest new-hire.With the department shorthanded, Chief Chandra Taylor must make some hard decisions in order to protect the town of Rocky Bluff. Her romance with the mayor, which had been put on hold, is refreshed when she seeks his help.

One of the real pitfalls (for me) of accepting review requests from authors is the potential danger of having a request fall into a black hole because of backlogs that get worse and worse due to illness and life conditions in general (specifically the weird funk that has come with the pandemic, leading to a major reading slump and inability to focus). I have several books that have been wallowing in this pit, including this one, and I can only abjectly apologize for slacking off much too long. What’s really sad is that Not As We Knew It is a good book and it deserved better treatment from me.

Although some readers have said they don’t want the pandemic to play a role in the books they choose, Ms. Meredith opted to make it a part of her story and I’m glad she did. One of the hallmarks of police procedural is that they’re rooted in reality and this awful scourge is as real as it gets.

Ms. Meredith has a good hand with building characters we longtime fans love to spend time with and, besides the personal and societal complications of life brought about by Covid, our favorite detectives, such as Abel Navarro and Doug Milligan, are confronted by the crimes we might expect while Chief Taylor does everything she can to keep Rocky Bluff on an even keel, safe from criminals and overstressed, irrational citizens alike. You could say that Not As We Knew It is a police procedural very reflective of this odd world we’re struggling with. Well done!

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2021.

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Giveaway

To enter the drawing for a print copy of
Not As We Knew It, leave a comment
below. The winning name will be drawn
on the evening of Thursday, September 2nd.
US and Canada entrants only.

Book Review: Saving Irene by Judy Alter @JudyAlter

Saving Irene
A Culinary Mystery
Judy Alter
Alter Ego Press, September 2020
ISBN 978-0-9969935-6-2
Trade Paperback

Billed as a culinary mystery and set in Chicago, Saving Irene introduces us to Henny James whose job is to prepare ingredients for chef Irene Foxglove’s regional television cooking show.  Irene fancies herself a French chef trained at the famed Le Cordon Bleu culinary school in Paris but Henny doubts that.  Rather, she is convinced that Irene learned her cooking skills at a local junior college.  Nonetheless, Irene is the star and Henny the assistant.  Irene is married to Howard who is very protective, perhaps overly so, of Irene and since she has received at least one threatening letter Howard asks Henny to keep an eye on Irene and help protect her at work.  For me, this is a problem with this book’s premise for Henny is no more equipped to protect Irene than Irene’s daughter, the haughty and sullen Gabrielle is.  Nevertheless, Henny agrees to do so – at what cost to herself remains to be seen.

When Howard dies suddenly in what appears to be an accident Henny realizes that his protectiveness of Irene was perhaps not unwarranted, and it now falls to her to take on that job.  In the meantime, Irene’s publicist, Penny, is, on the one hand, urging Irene to write a cookbook while on the other scheming to advance another chef over Irene.  When Penny is eventually fired by Henny, upon whom Irene has come to depend for nearly everything, Penny’s determination to ruin Irene goes into high gear.

Meanwhile, Henny has become fast friends with her neighbor the handsome, helpful, and accommodating Patrick.  While Henny would love to become much closer to him, there is a problem – Patrick is gay – or at least so he seems but he is the nicest guy Henny has ever known.  And then, as if there isn’t enough going on, Gabrielle disappears without a word or a trace.

A lot of people on Goodreads, Amazon, and other sites loved this book.  I cannot go quite that far.  It does have interesting characters and it is well written.  But I could not quite suspend my disbelief enough to see Henny as a protector of the annoying, demanding, and often insulting Irene.  That said, I think this book would be a quick and fun read for the beach or sitting on the porch for an afternoon.

Reviewed by Melinda Drew, May 2021.

Book Review: Becoming Brooklyn by Amanda Deich @AmandaDeich @XpressoTours

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Title: Becoming Brooklyn
Author: Amanda Deich
Publisher: Park Bench Publishing
Publication date: January 5, 2021
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult

Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble  // Indiebound // Amazon

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Becoming Brooklyn
Amanda Deich
Park Bench Publishing, January 2021
ISBN 978-1-7361601-1-4
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Eighteen-year-old Brooklyn never knew her father. Rex Blackburn died in the 9/11 attacks four months before she was born.

And even though she never met him, she always dreamed about what he must have been like before he died. In her mind, he was a hero.

Little did she know.

After an attack at a 9/11 memorial gala, Brooklyn learns her father had been a member of an elite, anti-terrorism, military task force, made up of a very select group of people who had superhuman abilities. On the day the towers fell, he died using his power to save people.

The Army believes she inherited his gift, and Brooklyn is invited to train at West Point in order to hone her skills. Knowing deep down she is different than anyone else her age and wanting to learn more about a father she never knew, she readily agrees to become a cadet at the prestigious military academy.

She and five other 9/11 babies strengthen their superhuman abilities and spend weeks preparing themselves for their future in the army, fighting terrorists at home and abroad. And in the process of training, they identify with their deceased parents in a way they never knew they could.

Brooklyn knows she’ll go to war someday, but when terrorists find out about the group’s gifts, they don’t bother to wait.

They bring the war to West Point.

Despite all evidence to the contrary, a couple of good things came out of the pandemic and one, for me, was the cessation of the endless stream of superhero entertainment, especially movies but really all forms. Don’t get me wrong, I loved it all but, heavens, it seemed as though a new adventure was coming out every month. That’s what I call oversaturation of the market so, yes, I welcomed the break. Then came the second Wonder Woman and I was ready for more by that time but it was sadly disappointing.

Then I heard about Becoming Brooklyn and, once again, I was excited and hopeful and, lo and behold, the joy is back! This book is refreshing in its concept and execution and, while there are flaws, the storyline is as enjoyable as I could have hoped.

Imagine finding out that the dad you never knew was a real life superhero AND that you just might be one, too. Brooklyn is excited to find out more and get the training that’s offered at West Point and, when that venerable institution and the cadets become the focus of terrorists, well, she and her fellow students have to react much sooner than they anticipated. Mayhem ensues, as it always does in the world of superheroes and this reader had a high old time enjoying the adventure 😄.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2021.

About the Author

Amanda Deich is an author out of Littleton, CO. In her non-writer life, she is a teacher and coach to hundreds of kids, and she is a mama to two. If you meet her, she’ll talk Jesus and identity like no one’s business.

Get in touch with Amanda:

Website / Facebook /

Twitter / Instagram

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Follow the tour here.

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GIVEAWAY!

$20 Amazon gift card

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Book Review: Taking Notes on Murder by C.S. McDonald @CSMcDonald7 @iReadBookTours

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Welcome to one of the July 12th stops on the blog tour
for Maxed Out by C.S. McDonald with iRead Book Tours.
(Tour schedule linked.) There are multiple books being
reviewed on this tour and today’s post is my review
of Taking Notes on Murder. Be sure to follow the rest
of the tour for spotlights and reviews on all included
books, other bonus content, and a giveaway!
More on that at the end of this post.

************

Taking Notes on Murder
A Fiona Quinn Mystery #9
C.S. McDonald
C.S. McDonald, September 2020
Narrated by Maren Swenson Waxenberg
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—

Mysterious notes are showing up in Fiona’s kindergarten classroom, claiming a suicide from 2005 was actually a homicide. Detective Landry maintains the messages are too vague, possess no integrity, and do not warrant a review of the old case.

Fiona’s not convinced. She’s determined to find the author of the enigmatic notes and uncover the truth about a man who had many secrets and countless enemies, including Fiona’s mother and former suspect Nancy Quinn!

Can Fiona crack this cold case, and what will it take to get Detective Landry involved? Don’t miss taking notes on this murder!

Following their cruise in the last book, Fiona and Nathan are back home, keeping the secret that they got married. Fiona is once again in her kindergarten classroom and it isn’t long before she’s enticed into investigating another death, prompted by a series of notes claiming that a suicide from years ago was, in fact, not a suicide. Fiona needs nothing more to start snooping but her detective husband, Nathan, says the notes alone are not enough reason to re-open the case. Naturally, he changes his mind when Fiona herself is threatened.

As it turns out, high school teacher James Arnold was a most unlikeable man, a real creep, so there’s no shortage of suspects including his own family and colleagues. Fiona and Nathan have enough investigating to keep them busy but they also have to contend with the latest shenanigans of her unseen but present ghostly grandmother. Those interludes are refreshing and funny, helping to break the tension.

In my earlier review of the previous book, I mentioned that I was undecided as to whether I liked the narration of the audiobook. Unfortunately, this entry confirms my thought that the main character’s voice is really annoying—Fiona sounds like an overgrown version of one of those kindergartners she teaches. She plucks my last nerve but Ms. Waxenberg does a nice job with the other characters and maintains appropriate pacing so I was willing to overlook the distraction. All said, Taking Notes on Murder is a pleasant way to spend a few hours.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2021.

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Purchase Links:
Audible // Amazon

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About the Author

For twenty-six years C.S. McDonald’s life whirled around a song and a dance. Classically trained at Pittsburgh Ballet Theater School, The Pittsburgh Dance Alloy, and many others, she became a professional dancer and choreographer. In 2011 she retired from her dance career to write. Under her real name, Cindy McDonald, she writes murder-suspense and romantic suspense novels. In 2014 she added the pen name, C.S. McDonald, to write children’s books for her grandchildren. In 2016 she added the Fiona Quinn Mysteries. Presently, the Fiona Quinn Mysteries has nine books.

Cindy’s newest venture is The Owl’s Nest Mysteries. Once again, she has set her cozy mystery in Pittsburgh. The Owl’s Next Mysteries has a little grit, a little time travel, a little romance, and a whole lot of cozy!

Cindy resides on her Thoroughbred farm known as Fly by Night Stables near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with her husband, Bill, and her poorly behaved Cocker Spaniel, Allister.

Connect with the author:  Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook

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About the Narrator

Ms. Waxenberg is a voice over artist and presentation coach.  She serves as a consultant to the Professional Development Company, Inc. teaching presentation and interview skills seminars to a variety of clients, Columbia MBA, and SIPA graduate students.  Maren has a 30-year background in special events, performing arts production and the entertainment industry.   In 1996, she founded Maren Productions which produces audio books, radio and television voice-overs, and podcasts.  Maren Productions also offers special event production and consultancy services. 

Connect with the author:  Website  ~  Facebook

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Follow the tour here.

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Giveaway

Autographed copy of MAXED OUT, plus
other gifts (USA only) (ends Jul 23)

Enter here.

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Book Review: Bon Voyage to Murder by C.S. McDonald @CSMcDonald7 @iReadBookTours

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Welcome to one of the July 6th stops on the blog tour
for Maxed Out by C.S. McDonald with iRead Book Tours.
(Tour schedule linked.) There are multiple books being
reviewed on this tour and today’s post is my review
of Bon Voyage to Murder. Be sure to follow the rest
of the tour for spotlights and reviews on all included
books, other bonus content, and a giveaway!
More on that at the end of this post.

************

Bon Voyage to Murder
A Fiona Quinn Mystery #8
C.S. McDonald
C.S. McDonald, November 2020
Narrated by Maren Swenson Waxenberg
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

From the author—

Hooray! Fiona has finally convinced her boyfriend detective Nathan Landry to go on a romantic Caribbean cruise. Unfortunately, their fun on the high seas is interrupted by murder. It isn’t long before they discover a boatload of suspects, who have motives deeper than the ocean for wanting the victim out of their lives.

Pittsburgh teacher Fiona Quinn got her man, Nathan Landry, long ago and the pair have gone on a cruise with friends Julia and Rob Bell. Isn’t it handy to have a real detective nearby when a woman disappears, possibly overboard? Nathan’s presence gives Fiona entry to the investigation and Captain Baptiste is grateful for their help. Country singer Cassidy Kinsman was an aging, crabby drunk and there is no shortage of potential suspects but, as the sleuthing progresses, why would anyone want to attack a shy, skittish maid? Did she see or hear something she shouldn’t have?

The secondary storyline regarding Fiona’s brother, Chad, doesn’t add anything to the resolution of the mystery and I couldn’t help thinking she would never have left him to house-and-pet sit. These two are siblings so she would have known how out of touch with reality he is. Chad’s RPG buddies are pretty funny, though, and all these guys are like the modern day version of the Three Stooges so they’re worth a smile.

I haven’t quite made up my mind about Ms. Waxenberg’s narrative skills—there’s something a bit grating about Fiona’s voice in particular—but I’ll have another chance to evaluate when I listen to a second book next week. I do think Ms. Waxenberg handles the pacing nicely and does a variety of voices well.

All in all, Bon Voyage to Murder is a fun cozy, taking me back to my own cruising days, and I enjoyed the trip 🙂

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2021.

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Purchase Links:
Audible // Amazon

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About the Author

For twenty-six years C.S. McDonald’s life whirled around a song and a dance. Classically trained at Pittsburgh Ballet Theater School, The Pittsburgh Dance Alloy, and many others, she became a professional dancer and choreographer. In 2011 she retired from her dance career to write. Under her real name, Cindy McDonald, she writes murder-suspense and romantic suspense novels. In 2014 she added the pen name, C.S. McDonald, to write children’s books for her grandchildren. In 2016 she added the Fiona Quinn Mysteries. Presently, the Fiona Quinn Mysteries has nine books.

Cindy’s newest venture is The Owl’s Nest Mysteries. Once again, she has set her cozy mystery in Pittsburgh. The Owl’s Next Mysteries has a little grit, a little time travel, a little romance, and a whole lot of cozy!

Cindy resides on her Thoroughbred farm known as Fly by Night Stables near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with her husband, Bill, and her poorly behaved Cocker Spaniel, Allister.

Connect with the author:  Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook

************

About the Narrator

Ms. Waxenberg is a voice over artist and presentation coach.  She serves as a consultant to the Professional Development Company, Inc. teaching presentation and interview skills seminars to a variety of clients, Columbia MBA, and SIPA graduate students.  Maren has a 30-year background in special events, performing arts production and the entertainment industry.   In 1996, she founded Maren Productions which produces audio books, radio and television voice-overs, and podcasts.  Maren Productions also offers special event production and consultancy services. 

Connect with the author:  Website  ~  Facebook

************

Follow the tour here.

************

Giveaway

Autographed copy of MAXED OUT, plus
other gifts (USA only) (ends Jul 23)

Enter here.

************

Book Review: Maxed Out by C.S. McDonald @CSMcDonald7 @iReadBookTours

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Title: Maxed Out
Series: The Owl’s Nest Mysteries #2
Author: C.S. McDonald
Publication Date: May 2, 2021
Genres: Mystery, Cozy

Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble // Amazon

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Maxed Out
The Owl’s Nest Mysteries #2
C.S. McDonald
McWriter Books, May 2021
ISBN 979-8745992988
Trade Paperback

From the author—

The Owl’s Nest Couturier Shoppe is a huge success! Business is booming and Alexa Owl’s love life is heating up. Yet much to the seamstress’s dismay, Detective Bobby Starr is suddenly back again! Bobby isn’t your everyday gumshoe. Rather, he’s an angel who’s trying to earn a place in Saint Peter’s Guardian Angel Squad. He’s required to solve murders he had left unsettled from when he walked the earth in order to be accepted into this prestigious group. Of course, they will need to return to the time period in which the murder took place, and again, Alexa is a reluctant time traveler. Oh, and there’s one more little problem—this time, Bobby’s brought along a friend, Maxi Krogen, and she’s no angel!

Bobby Starr was a good enough detective during his time as a living, breathing human back in the 1950’s but he’s an angel now and really wants to become a member of the elite Guardian Angel Squad. To do so, he has to solve three of his old cold cases assigned to him by St. Peter. Maxed Out is the tale of the second case and, once again, he’s recruited shopowner Alexa Owl to help.

When Bobby shows up in Alexa’s life again, he’s not alone; tagging along is Maxi Krogen who spent years in prison for murdering her husband but she’s not exactly angelic, at least not in the pleasant way you might expect. No, Maxi is rude, cranky, secretive and anything but a cooperative ghost.

Modern day Pittsburgh gives way to the city of the 1950’s as the trio goes back in time to look for clues. Before long, they find themselves running into the mob and an apparent takeover of a popular pizza parlor but will they be able to ferret out the real killer?

This is a fun story and the reader who wholeheartedly throws out any sense of disbelief will have a thoroughly good time with these appealing characters and an intriguing puzzle. Note to self: go read the first book PDQ 😀

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2021.

About the Author

For twenty-six years C.S. McDonald’s life whirled around a song and a dance. Classically trained at Pittsburgh Ballet Theater School, The Pittsburgh Dance Alloy, and many others, she became a professional dancer and choreographer. In 2011 she retired from her dance career to write. Under her real name, Cindy McDonald, she writes murder-suspense and romantic suspense novels. In 2014 she added the pen name, C.S. McDonald, to write children’s books for her grandchildren. In 2016 she added the Fiona Quinn Mysteries. Presently, the Fiona Quinn Mysteries has nine books.

Cindy’s newest venture is The Owl’s Nest Mysteries. Once again, she has set her cozy mystery in Pittsburgh. The Owl’s Next Mysteries has a little grit, a little time travel, a little romance, and a whole lot of cozy!

Cindy resides on her Thoroughbred farm known as Fly by Night Stables near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with her husband, Bill, and her poorly behaved Cocker Spaniel, Allister.

Connect with the author:  Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook

************

Follow the tour here.

************

Giveaway

Autographed copy of MAXED OUT, plus
other gifts (USA only) (ends Jul 23)

Enter here.

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