A Passel of Teeny Reviews, Part 2

Once again, big surprise, I find myself with
an overload of books read but not yet reviewed
so I think it’s time for a roundup or two…

 

All the Little Liars
An Aurora Teagarden Mystery #9
Charlaine Harris
Minotaur Books, October 2016
ISBN 978-1-250-09003-4
Hardcover

Charlaine Harris has to work really hard to make me not like any of her books and this one is no exception. Aurora Teagarden is her fluffiest series and I was SO excited when she brought it back with this book, 13 years after the last one.

Roe is a librarian—now married and pregnant—in a small town in Georgia and, as librarians are wont to do, falls over dead bodies on a regular basis. This time, a bunch of kids have gone missing and her teenaged brother is somehow involved. I enjoyed this story even though I thought it was just a little weak but I chalk it up to the difficulties of rebooting a series and fully expect the upcoming Sleep Like a Baby to be back on top.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2017.

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Gizelle’s Bucket List
My Life with a Very Large Dog
Lauren Fern Watt
Simon & Schuster, March 2017
ISBN 978-1-5011-2365-8
Hardcover
Simon & Schuster Audio, March 2017
Narrated by Lauren Fern Watt
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

I both read and listened to this one and was glad I did because the audio edition added a strong connection between me and the author. This is a true story and, as you can guess from the title, it’s all about this wonderful dog’s last days. Get out a box of tissues because you’re going to need them. Yes, it’s terribly sad but also joyful and uplifting as Lauren helps Gizelle do the things she loves best and those Lauren is sure she’ll enjoy before it’s too late. The love and devotion between Lauren and Gizelle are as real as it gets and I appreciate the time I spent with them.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2017.

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Smugglers & Scones
Moorehaven Mysteries, Book 1
Morgan C. Talbot
Red Adept Publishing, January 2017
ISBN 978-1-940215-87-7
Trade Paperback

Moorehaven is a bed and breakfast in Oregon that caters to crime fiction writers—what a great setting for murder and mayhem, right? Pippa Winterbourne, manager, gets pulled into the investigation when a local is killed and a boat mysteriously crashes on the rocks, leaving her to house an intriguing injured man who just might be guilty of murder. This is a delightful tale full of the history of coastal Oregon and a beautiful setting and featuring some very appealing folks. The setup with the B&B is unusual in that a trust is actually in charge so this is not the typical scenario in which the innkeeper has to scrimp and save to keep things going. That frees Pippa to do some sleuthing on her own while she rides herd on her crochety great-uncle and the current group of author guests. This is a clever, charming series debut and I’m looking forward to the next one, Burglars & Blintzes.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2017.

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Still Life
A Chief Inspector Gamache Mystery #1
Louise Penny
Narrated by Ralph Cosham
Blackstone Audio, August 2006
Downloaded Unabridged Audiobook

When murder is done in a small town in the Quebec province, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is called in to investigate. Most of the villagers think it must have been a hunting accident but Gamache is quite sure something else is going on.

I’m hanging my head in shame, I think, because I’m apparently at odds with the mystery reading world. I’d always avoided this series ( now up to #13) for no particular reason other than I have a bit of distrust when everybody raves about the first book, then the second, the third… But, I finally started feeling kind of silly about it and bit the bullet and, well, I’m kind of underwhelmed. The narrator was quite good (I understand fans were devastated when he passed away a few years ago, after recording the tenth book) and the story was good but I just didn’t connect with it. Still, a gazillion readers can’t all be wrong so I’m going to try the second book.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2017.

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The Introvert
Michael Paul Michaud
Black Opal Books, November 2016
ISBN 978-1-626945-47-0
Trade Paperback

He’s a vacuum salesman, a quiet individual, kind of a loner but only because solitude is usually easier. He’s Everyman. He also has moments of inner rage so intense he imagines the other person “red and open” but he’s perfectly normal. Right? Well, there was that incident a couple of years ago…

{{Shudder }}

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2017.

 

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Book Review: The Beautician’s Notebook by Anne Clinard Barnhill

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Title: The Beautician’s Notebook
Author: Anne Clinard Barnhill
Publisher: Moonshine Cove Publishing
Publication Date: April 12, 2017
Genres: Mystery, Romance

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Purchase Links:

Barnes & Noble // Amazon // Chapters // Indiebound

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The Beautician’s Notebook
Anne Clinard Barnhill
Moonshine Cove Publishing, April 2017
ISBN 978-1-945181-11-5
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

When Willa Jo Temple is found stabbed through the heart on the floor of her beauty shop, the good folk of Summerset, NC are sent into a tizzy.

It’s up to her ex-husband, Sheriff Tal Hicks, to investigate. Evidence points to four possible suspects: Willa Jo’s business partner; a town socialite; a preacher’s wife; and Willa Jo’s live-in lover.

Willa Jo kept a notebook containing all the secrets she’s learned while doing hair. Rumor has it Willa Jo is going to write a book, exposing everything. But now, Willa Jo is dead and the incriminating notebook is missing, leaving the sheriff with very little to go on. As he interrogates the suspects, he finds himself attracted to newcomer, Clarissa Myers. He delves into her past only to discover she has deeper ties to Summerset than anyone imagined. Before the sheriff can complete his interrogations, however, another suspect, Avenelle Young, confesses.

The sheriff is skeptical about Avenelle Young’s guilt because she refuses to discuss what happened with Willa Jo. Her statement is a terse declaration of guilt, with neither motive nor method explained. The sheriff has no choice but to incarcerate Mrs. Young.

During the investigations, as the secrets of Summerset are slowly revealed, each family touched by Willa Jo’s death must come to terms with the new information being unearthed. The repercussions are far-reaching, and forgiveness hard to come by. However, at the heart of the book is the possibility of reconciliation among the town folk as they learn the real ‘truth’ about one another.

Nobody collects secrets quite like a beautician and Willa Jo might have been planning to spill those secrets so, when she’s found dead, there are plenty of reasons and suspects if, in fact, she was murdered. This is not going to be an easy one for Sheriff Tal Hicks, investigating the death of the ex-wife he never stopped loving, but the real story is how the townsfolk come to terms with those secrets and with life and death in a small town.

Tal’s investigation is important, of course, and there are a lot of red herrings here but I really got much more pleasure out of getting to know all these weird, wonderful, sometimes goofy characters. Summerset is a lovely little town, made more so by its citizens; there are inevitable reminders of Steel Magnolias (without the deep drama) and they’re not out of place but The Beautician’s Notebook stands on its own quite nicely. It’s the perfect book to wind up the summer.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2017.

About the Author

Anne Clinard Barnhill is an award-winning, internationally published writer who has published two historical novels (AT THE MERCY OF THE QUEEN and QUEEN ELIZABETH’S DAUGHTER), a short story collection (WHAT YOU LONG FOR), a memoir (AT HOME IN THE LAND OF OZ: Autism, My Sister and Me) and a poetry chapbook (COAL, BABY). She has also written hundreds of articles, features, book reviews and essays published in a variety of newspapers, magazines and blogs. Ms. Barnhill has received four regional artist grants, one writer’s residency and has taught writing and creativity workshops in various places across North Carolina, West Virginia, South Carolina and Mississippi. She has three grown sons and lives on the NC coast with her husband and a very energetic dog.

For more information please visit Anne’s website. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

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Follow the tour here.

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Book Review: Next Stop, Chancey by Kay Dew Shostak

Continue reading

Book Reviews: Mightier than the Sword by K. J. Parker and Murder at the Blue Plate Cafe by Judy Alter

Mightier Than the Sword
K. J. Parker
Subterranean Press, June 2017
ISBN 978-1-59606-817-9
Hardcover

From the publisher—

An Imperial legate is called in to see his aunt, who just happens to be the empress running the civilized world while her husband’s in his sick bed. After some chastisement, she dispatches her nephew to take care of the dreaded Land and Sea Raiders, pirates who’ve been attacking the realm’s monasteries.

So begins a possibly doomed tour of banished relatives and pompous royals put in charge of monasteries like Cort Doce and Cort Malestan, to name a few. While attempting to discover the truth of what the pirates might be after, the legate visits great libraries and halls in each varied locale and conducts a romance of which he knows but doesn’t care his aunt will not approve.

With enough wit and derring-do (and luck), the narrator might just make it through his mission alive…or will he?

Mightier than the Sword is a sort of Canterbury Tale-like retelling of “Concerning the Monasteries”, the personal document of the narrator that relates how he traveled  in search of the pirates who were attacking and pillaging monasteries throughout the Empire of the Robur in medieval times.  Our somewhat reluctant hero is the nephew of Empress Eudoxia Honoria Augusta and, along the way, he spends time with his aunt’s best friend, Svangerd, Abbess of Cort Doce, and his own best friend, Stachel, Abbot of Cort Sambic as well as others before discovering the truths behind the raids.

What ends with a number of surprises is mostly a pleasant story with interludes of off-scene violence at a handful of monasteries. The surprises, though, turn everything topsy-turvy but what happens to, and because of, our narrator are what had to be to complete the story and his destiny.

K. J. Parker is a pseudonym for Tom Holt, used for his fantasy writings. I first read Holt‘s many novels that are a wacky sort of science fiction and fantasy blend chock full of humor and satire and loved them so much that, when the bookstore was open, I had an account with a British book wholesaler just so we could stock his books (and a few others). The man makes me laugh out loud so I was not surprised to see hints of his comical side in Mightier than the Sword like this exchange:

“Rabanus isn’t a Mesoge name. What do they call you back home?”

He grinned. “I’m Hrafn son of Sighvat son of Thiudrek from Gjaudarsond in Laxeydardal.”

“Fine,” I said. “I’ll call you Rabanus.”

Although I don’t read a lot of high fantasy, this novella called to me because of the author but it also sounded like just the sort of thing to while away a couple of hours and, besides, how could I resist a tale that has so much to do with books? 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2017.

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Murder at the Blue Plate Cafe
A Blue Plate Cafe Mystery #1
Judy Alter
Alter Ego Publishing, January 2017
ISBN 978-0-9960131-6-1
Ebook

From the author—

Small towns are supposed to be idyllic and peaceful, but when Kate Chambers returns to her hometown of Wheeler, Texas, she soon learns it is not the comfortable place it was when she grew up. First there’s Gram’s sudden death, which leaves her suspicious, and then the death of her married sister’s lover. Kate runs Gram’s restaurant, the Blue Plate Café, but she must defend her sister against a murder charge, solve the murders to keep her business open, and figure out where the café’s profits are going. Even Kate begins to wonder about the twin sister she has a love-hate relationship with. Gram guides Kate through it all, though Kate’s never quite sure she’s hearing Gram—and sometimes Gram’s guidance is really off the wall.

Note: I read the digital copy of an old paperback edition that’s out of print but it appears the ebook listed above, with the same 2013 copyright date, is unchanged with the possible exception of some minor editing.

Judy Alter has written a ton of books including mysteries in three series and, when she wrote this one in 2013, it was the first in the Blue Plate Cafe series. Now, there are three books and it’s my own fault I lollygagged around for so long and have just now read this.

When Kate’s grandmother dies, she decides to leave her job as a paralegal—and an uncomfortable situation—and run Gram’s cafe but her twin, Donna, has her sights set on opening a bed and breakfast. That’s a good thing because the sisters are not at all alike and working closely together could be disastrous but it also adds to Kate’s growing suspicions about what really happened to Gram. Surely Donna didn’t do anything she shouldn’t, right?

Still, Donna’s attitude towards her life and family, her greed and her unrealistic ambitions are only part of Kate’s unease and Gram whispering in her head is unsettling at first until Kate begins to appreciate it. Is it possible that someone might have poisoned her? Then, when Donna is suspected of murdering her new B&B partner, all bets are off and Kate’s paralegal instincts kick in.

Now that I’ve met Kate and the people of Wheeler, I’d like to know more so I think I’ll pick up the second book as soon as I have a chance. Ms. Alter puts together a good mystery and I’m ready to see what’s happened with these folks and this little town while I’ve been dawdling 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2017.

Book Review: The Innkeeper’s Sister by Linda Goodnight

The Innkeeper’s Sister
A Honey Ridge Novel #3
Linda Goodnight
HQN Books, July 2017
ISBN 978-0-373-79947-3
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Welcome to Honey Ridge, Tennessee, where Southern hospitality and sweet peach tea beckon, and where long-buried secrets lead to some startling realizations…

Grayson Blake always has a purpose—and never a moment to lose. He’s come home to Honey Ridge to convert a historic gristmill into a restaurant, but his plans crumble like Tennessee clay when the excavation of a skeleton unearths a Civil War mystery…and leads him back to a beautiful and familiar stranger.

Once a ballet dancer, now co-owner of the Peach Orchard Inn, Valery Carter harbors pain as deep as the secrets buried beneath the mill. A bright facade can’t erase her regrets any more than a glass of bourbon can restore what she’s lost. But spending time with Grayson offers Valery a chance to let go of her past and imagine a happier future. And with the discovery of hidden messages in aged sheet music, both their hearts begin to open. Bound by attraction, and compelled to resolve an old crime that links the inn and the mill, Grayson and Valery encounter a song of hurt, truth…and hope.

In a nicely flowing blend of past and present, two stories intertwine after a skeleton is found beneath the old gristmill. Both stories revolve around a missing child, one a slave sold away from his family and white friend, the other Valery’s nephew, abducted years ago. Could these bones belong to that child, Mikey? The possibility sends Valery into a maelstrom of new grief as well as guilt that have lain just under the surface all this time, but it’s just as likely that this is someone else, someone from the farm’s Civil War-era family.

Secrets abound in both times and, in some ways, love is what holds the families together, if only by a thread. To be sure, the mystery of the discovered bones needs to be solved, but the growing connection between Valery and Grayson may very well bring the peace they so need. At the same time, the inn, once a farm, has its own colorful and emotion-wrought history and it’s the past and present of Peach Orchard that caught my attention the most.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, August 2017.

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Purchase Links:

Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Books-A-Million
Amazon // Indiebound

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About the Author

NY Times and USA Bestseller, Linda Goodnight writes novels to touch the heart as well as to entertain. Her emotional stories of hope have won the RITA, the Carol, the Reviewer’s Choice, and numerous other industry awards. A small town girl, Linda remains close to her roots, making her home in rural Oklahoma. She and husband have a blended family of eight, including two teenagers recently adopted from Ukraine. Many of her books are about family and children and rightly so, as she draws her deeply emotional stories from her surroundings, her great love of family, and from personal experiences as a nurse and teacher.

Connect with Linda:

WebsiteFacebook | Twitter

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Follow the tour:

Tuesday, July 11th: Mama Vicky Says – excerpt

Wednesday, July 12th: The Sassy Bookster – excerpt

Thursday, July 13th: Books a la Mode – excerpt

Friday, July 14th: Reading is My SuperPower – excerpt

Monday, July 17th: Book Reviews and More by Kathy – excerpt

Tuesday, July 18th: Black ‘n Gold Girls Book Spot – excerpt

Thursday, July 20th: Dwell in Possibility – excerpt

Monday, July 24th: Reading is My SuperPower

Tuesday, July 25th: Reading Reality

Wednesday, July 26th: Written Love Reviews

Thursday, July 27th: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

Friday, July 28th: Broken Teepee

Monday, July 31st: Rebel Mommy Book Blog

Tuesday, August 1st: Patricia’s Wisdom

Tuesday, August 1st: Let Them Read Books

Wednesday, August 2nd: Buried Under Books

Thursday, August 3rd: Just Commonly

Friday, August 4th: Books & Bindings

Monday, August 7th: The Romance Dish

Tuesday, August 8th: All Roads Lead to the Kitchen

Wednesday, August 9th: A. Holland Reads

Friday, August 11th: From the TBR Pile

Monday, August 14th: Ms. Nose in a Book

Tuesday, August 15th: Becky on Books

Wednesday, August 16th: A Chick Who Reads

Thursday, August 17th: Steph the Bookworm

TBD: Books and Spoons – excerpt

TBD: Book Mama Blog – excerpt

TBD: A Chick Who Reads – excerpt

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Book Review: Blood Red, White and Blue by Kathleen Delaney

Blood Red, White and Blue
Mary McGill Canine Mystery #3
Kathleen Delaney
Severn House, July 2017
ISBN 978-0-7278-8689-7
Hardcover

From the publisher—

It’s the 4th July and the town celebrations have gone off without a hitch. Except for the body in the oak grove, shot in the back. The unfortunate victim was a visitor to the town. Mary McGill and her cocker spaniel Millie had seen him only that morning, staring in the window of Lowell’s Jewellery store, his German Shepherd, Ranger, at his side. Could the diamond and sapphire necklace which caught his attention have some connection with his untimely death? What brought him to Santa Louisa in the first place?

Having agreed to look after Ranger temporarily, Mary is unwillingly drawn into the murder investigation. She never dreamed that her enquiries would lead her into serious danger … and more murder.

Santa Louisa’s 4th of July celebrations are underway when Mary and Millie have a casual meeting with Ian Miller and his German Shepherd, Ranger, in front of the jewelry store. Everything is pleasant among humans and dogs and, certainly, Mary has no inkling that the next time she sees him, Mr. Miller will be dead. The only good thing about it is that the glorious fireworks show went off without a hitch but, of course, it’s probably those very fireworks that covered up the shot.

Mary and her “crew” are soon doing what they do so well, sniffing out clues and even being a fair amount of help to Mary’s nephew-in-law, Police Chief Dan Dunham. Dan is a police chief with sense, recognizing that there are some things civilians can do better than the police can while he’s also cognizant of the dangers inherent in murder investigations. Mary is the one who’s most likely to figure things out with the information that comes her way but she couldn’t do it without the help of her family and close friends.

Mary is such a delight, thoughtful and intelligent without being ridiculously nosy, and she never lets the routines of life get pushed aside by snooping. Instead, she does much of her thinking about a crime while having her morning coffee or taking Millie for a walk. This time, there are repercussions beyond the community because it turns out that Ian was with the California Bureau of Investigations and was in Santa Louisa following up on leads about a series of jewelry store robberies. His death naturally brings state investigators to town, some helpful, some not but, once Mary suddenly sees the truth, it’s Ranger who becomes so very important.

Spending a few hours with Mary McGill and her friends and family is always so nice and I have fun with these people while I appreciate the camaraderie and the feelings they all have for each other, canines as well as humans. Kathleen Delaney‘s series is one of my favorites and I really, really wish that I could have their next adventure right now 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2017.

Book Review: Matrimony in Miniature by Margaret Grace

Matrimony in Miniature
A Miniature Mystery #9
Margaret Grace
Perseverance Press, September 2016
ISBN: 978-1-56474-575-0
Trade Paperback

Matrimony in Miniature, the ninth book in the Miniatures series, finds protagonist Gerry Porter hustling to wrap up plans for her wedding to Henry Baker. Or, more to the point, her friends are hustling  while Gerry pretty much goes about business as usual. The couple agreed to a small, low key wedding, but Gerry is beginning to suspect that with her friends involved, there will be all sorts of  added frills. She is okay with that as long as the wedding happens and everyone involved has a good time. However, Gerry’s hopes for that diminish considerably when she receives a phone call from the wedding’s venue alerting her that there has been an accident on the premises. Of coarse the accident turns out to be a murder and Gerry being Gerry, she is soon nosing around to see what she can find out. This leads to her granddaughter Maddie also becoming involved.

It’s always good to visit Lincoln Point, California and the cast of characters who range from police officers to small town business owners to the crafting group who meet regularly at Gerry’s craft store. While I am not into miniatures, I am fascinated with the ongoing project in each of the books. In Matrimony in Miniature, Maddie and Henry’s granddaughter Taylor are working on Maddie’s science fair entry, a miniature water treatment plant, while Gerry is working on a new Victorian home.  I am forever impressed by the creative use of everyday things in making props for miniature models and houses.

The murder in this book was a bit more personal to Gerry than in some books as it occurred at the location that was to host her wedding and the victim was the wife of one of her craft group. Those connections give Gerry a reason to be more than a bit anxious to have the case solved. She does try to discourage Maddie from becoming involved, but Maddie has picked up the “investigator bug.”  I hate seeing children in peril. Author Grace skirts dangerously close to that but manages to keep Maddie safe.

The one thing that is a bit of a distraction with this series and seemed especially so in this book, is that the author in an effort to portray the characters’ lives gives the readers a bit too much of their comings and goings. My head hurt from all of the shuffling back and forth of the girls to and from school, Henry’s house and so forth. It seemed like every time the plot was humming along, there would be paragraphs of interruptions while Gerry, Henry or both drive back and forth and numerous phone calls to coordinate the driving. It is a small quibble, but this reader found it distracting.

I suppose it wouldn’t be necessary to have read any of the previous books in the series to enjoy this one. Certainly a lot of the characters’ backstories are given to readers along the way, but I suspect if readers jump into the series with this book they will find themselves seeking out the earlier books.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Caryn St. Clair, June 2017.