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Murder, She Read

    Book Report: To Catch a Treat by Linda O. Johnston

    cover78455-mediumTo Catch a Treat is a cute cozy mystery, especially if you happen to be a dog owner. Honestly, it was the basset hound on the cover that convinced me to read this second book in the Barkery & Biscuits series. It was easy to pick up on the story line and become invested in the characters, even though I never read the first book.

    The main character, Carrie Kennersly, works as a tech in her town’s vet office and also is the (recent) owner of Barkery and Biscuits bake shop – a split bakery and shop that offers mouth watering options for those on two and four legs. Carrie comes across as independent, running her shops and balancing her part-time vet work, along with spoiling her own dog (Biscuit), and dating one of the town vets, Reed.

    At the beginning of To Catch a Treat, we find Carrie on a hike with her brother Neal, Reed, and the girl Neal recently started dating, a rather sad young woman named Janelle. We find that Janelle is one of the victims of a recent string of dog-nappings, following the suspected culprit, Ada Arnist, into town. When Janelle’s dog Goliath (Go for short) is dropped at the local shelter, Janelle finally confronts Ada. The celebration of recovering Go is short lived as Ada’s body washes up on shore the day after. With the police on the wrong path, Carrie is determined to help Janelle clear her name and locate the remaining dog-napped hounds.

    There are a few glaring issues in To Catch a Treat. The plot gets slow and Carrie is incredibly off-putting. Carrie describes the physical attributes of each woman she meets and believes that every man is flirting with her. For a woman who is suppose to be observant, Carrie comes across as incredibly shallow. Like a kiddie pool of depth. While it’s impressive that Carrie can juggle two shops and a separate part-time job, she stays so busy that the story gets repetitive – bakery from early morning till lunch time, maybe lunch at Cuppa-Joe, vet tech job where she drops Biscuit at the on-site doggy daycare, dinner with Reed. It made it easy to put the book down and pick it up later, but that’s not something I look for in a mystery. I want to be so drawn in that I can’t put the book down. Ending had a few twists and I’d read another book in the series, but I’d really like to see a bit more character development.

    3 out of 5

    You can purchase To Catch a Treat on Amazon.

    Book Report: The Obsession by Nora Roberts

    Holy introductionThe Obsession Batman! If the first section of The Obsession doesn’t grab you and pull you in, then you might as well put down this bestseller by Nora Roberts. Naomi Bowes, who at almost 12 is both a little naive and very mature for her age, discovers a secret her father’s been keeping and it’s far from the bike she was hoping to receive for her birthday. Instead, on a hot and muggy night in West Virginia, just a short walk from her family’s home, she follows him to the woman he’s been holding captive in a hidden and locked root cellar. Helping the young woman, Ashley, to safety, Naomi discovers this isn’t the first woman her father has tortured, raped, and killed. Her young life changes in almost an instant, as do those of her brother Mason and her mother.

    The hold Naomi’s father has over the family doesn’t change when the family takes her mother’s maiden last name, Carson, nor when they move in with her uncles and hop from West Virginia to Washington D.C. to New York to further escape the press. In fact, Bowes has a hold on Naomi’s mom that’s both hard to understand and reads as one of the most disturbing bits of the entire book. Unable to let go and move on, the Bowes family has a shadow that follows them constantly. While the book gives a pretty good look at Naomi in the direct aftermath of her father’s capture and until she graduates high school, it then skips ten years and the reader is reintroduced to Naomi in her late twenties.

    Naomi as an adult is a surprisingly complex and rootless woman, living her life behind the lens of a camera, capturing the world, but never really becoming a part of it. That is, until she finds a gorgeous old house to bring back to like in Sunrise Cove, Washington. As she breathes life into the house, the town and the incredible community in it, allows her to plant roots and become one of them. A woman who had no wish other than to be alone, now has a house full of repairmen, a loyal dog, friends and she’s caught the eye of the town mechanic Xander, although he’s so much more than a one-dimensional love interest. He’s also complex, interesting, and surprisingly imperfect. We’re also reintroduced to Naomi’s brother, now Special Agent Mason Carson.

    With Naomi’s new life comes new complications. Still running from her past, she’s not looking to come clean to Xander and then the impossible happens. Women are being abducted from Sunrise Cove and their bodies are found bearing her father’s signature trademarks. Her father who is serving a life sentence in a prison across the country. Naomi must now go deep into her past to find the answers to ensure her and those she loves, have a future.

    I appreciate that Nora Roberts doesn’t offer up a love story with the traditional perfect characters and circumstance. She offers up flawed, but interesting characters and a story so far from normal that it’s hard to get caught up in the steamy moments. The Obsession will make you lose sleep. The sections about rape and murder will make you feel sick. Having the perspective of the killer in the later part of the book made me feel more than a little uneasy.

    By the end of the book, which was slightly more predictable than I would have liked, those questionable sections felt worth it. I was reminded multiple times of The Witness, another Roberts’ book, while reading The Obsession. It seems as thought there’s a formula to the characters and plots in her books. Women experiencing trauma early in life, living extremely independent as adults, falling in love and finally trusting a man who helps them heal, surviving an attempt on their life, then living happily ever after. I’m not knocking it, the circumstances are certainly creative in each book and The Obsession was a solid read.

    four out of five

    Book Report: Most Wanted by Lisa Scottoline

    What if you founMost Wantedd out you were carrying the baby of a serial killer?
    That’s the central question that carries the plot of Most Wanted, a disjointed mystery by Lisa Scottoline. When we first meet the protagonist Christine Nilsson, she’s two months pregnant after having tried for a baby for years. With summer vacation a few days off and with no plans to return at the beginning of the next school year, she is celebrating her pregnancy with the teachers and other staff at the elementary school where she works. Her husband Marcus even surprises her by showing up, even though he’s still getting comfortable with their decision to use a donor.

    While cleaning up after the party, Christine looks up at the TV and sees a young man being put into a cop car. A young man that looks exactly like their donor. He’s been arrested for the murders of three nurses. This pushes Christine and Marcus to find out if their unborn child’s biological father, Donor 3319, is a murderer.

    When her doctor and sperm bank refuse to give her an answer, Christine ignores the pleas of her (incredibly immature, without any redeeming qualities) husband and caution from her (sadly, one of the few likable characters) lawyer and heads to the jail where the serial killer is being held with her best friend in tow to find out the truth. Read more

    Book Report: The Murder of Mary Russell by Laurie R. King

    The Murder of Mary RussellThe Murder of Mary Russell is built on the Sir Conan Doyle original, The Adventure of the Gloria Scott. The reader quickly learns that the man saved from the shipwreck of the Gloria Scott by the name of Hudson was none other than the father of the iconic Mrs. Hudson. We’re also taken back to the time a young Clarissa Hudson spent her days as a petty criminal, long before she met Mr. Holmes, Dr. Watson, and Mary Russell.

    I believe there has been a huge gap in my mystery library, as The Murder of Mary Russell has been my introduction to King and her wonderful take on the world of all things Holmes, including his captivating equal, Mary Russell. Mary is so much more than Mrs. Sherlock Holmes, she is bright, wise, strong, and interesting enough, that it leaves me feeling zero doubt that the series is truly focused on her, not her more well known husband. In this particular book though, the story is truly that of Mrs. Hudson, her relatively secret past, and how it influences her (and those she loves) in the present.

    A knock on the door of the country farmhouse where the Holmeses reside is opened by Mary to a stranger, a Mr. Samuel Hudson. He wastes no time in forever changing the lives of Sherlock and Mrs. Hudson as he holds his gun to Mary’s head and throws around a most particular set of demands. Mary plays along, biding her time as she prepares mentally and physically to fight for her life. What the opening scene sets in motion is a wonderfully written set of events that jump around in both time and location. Read more

    Stilettos and Scoundrels: Excerpt & Interview with the Author

    stilettos-laina

    I was recently offered the opportunity to interview Laina Turner, the author of the Presley Thurman mystery series. Laina recently released a re-edited version of the first book in the series, Stilettos and Scoundrels. Not only was the interview a ton of fun, but I can’t wait to dive into the book this weekend. Be sure to keep reading for an excerpt and a very special offer through Amazon.

    Stilettos and Scoundrels

    Presley tells her boss what he can do with her job in HR and embarks on a new career as a freelance journalist. What seems like a simple interview with a Senator turns to murder when the day after her interview the Senator turns up dead. Does the fact that Presley was one of the last people to see him alive make her a suspect? Her ex-boyfriend Cooper, who was in charge of the Senators security, might think so. Presley is determined to clear her name but can she do it and resist Cooper’s charms?

    Interview

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    Book Report: Crime and Poetry by Amanda Flower

    Crime and Poetry starts with a lie. The type of lie that gets the protagonist, Violet Waverly into her Mini Cooper and driving from Chicago, where she’s pursuing a doctorate in literature, to Cascade Springs, a small, but beautiful town near Niagara Falls. Cascade Springs, the town a young Violet was lost her own mom and then a handful of years later was blamed for her best friend’s death by the police chief, her boyfriend and then the whole town. Violet promised herself that she’d never come back, but a dozen years later, she finds herself standing in her grandmother’s bookstore, Charming Books, where the perfect book chooses you.

    Adorable, but strong Grandma Daisy needed Violet back home to tell her of her destiny, even if it took a whopper of a lie to get her there. Violet isn’t amused and intends on getting a shower, some sleep and then booking it back to Chicago. Unfortunately, the best laid plans and all. Violet wakes up to find Grandma Daisy’s man friend, Benedict, dead in the driveway with one of her grandmother’s scarves around his neck. With Grandma Daisy, her only living family member, as the main suspect, Violet feels that she must stay and find the real murderer. Read more

    Book Report: The Cracked Spine by Paige Shelton

    Delaney NicThe Cracked Spinehols is ready for a fresh start. One away from the life she knows in Kansas. When she’s let go from her job at a museum, she answers a curious job ad from The Cracked Spine (a small bookstore in Edinburgh, Scotland) and it’s mysterious owner Edwin MacAlister. With a taste for adventure and mysterious habit of “talking” to books, Delaney jumps at the opportunity of a lifetime to start anew.

    Landing in Edinburgh, she gets off the plane and happens to hop into Elias’s cab. He’s a father type- friendly and open. Elias drops Delaney off at The Cracked Spine. Immediately, she is welcomed and accepted by the others who work at the bookstore, Rosie, an older woman with a young spirit, who always has her adorable bundle of fur, Hector, near by and Hamlet, who true to his name is a theatrical young man with a rather shady past. Finally, she meets Edwin, the owner who promised her a dream job, where she would sit at the desk previously used by royalty. Edwin is seemingly intelligent, with an aristocratic air, opens up a hidden world of antique collectables to Delaney. A world that is full of secret societies, priceless treasures, and mysterious characters. Read more

    Book Report: No One Knows by J.T. Ellison

    No One KnowsNo One Knows was almost an amazing thriller. Much like Gone Girl, the story is narrated by more than one person, none of whom emerge as completely trustworthy. The story is based around the disappearance of Josh Hamilton and the ripple effect it sets in motion. We come in five years of his last sighting, on the day Josh Hamilton is officially declared dead. There are more than a few possible suspects, with more added to the list as the story slowly emerges.

    Aubrey Hamilton breaks down her life into three segments; seven, seventeen and five. The seven years before she knew her husband Josh, the seventeen years they had a relationship, and finally, the five years he’s been missing. Aubrey receives a letter in the very beginning of the book from her mother-in-law Daisy, informing her that Josh has been declared dead by the state of Tennessee and that Daisy will be fighting for his life insurance payout. A teacher who works a second job in a coffee shop, Aubrey has had a very difficult five years filled with internalized blame and shame. She’s finally rebounding with a new man in her life, Chase, who is hiding more than a few secrets of his own.

    The night her husband disappears, both of the Hamiltons are attending bachelor and hen parties for mutual friends at Gaylord Opryland. Except Josh never makes it to the bachelor party. The Hamilton’s home is a crime scene, splattered with blood, and Aubrey is arrested and put on trial for her husband’s murder. She’s found innocent, but not by all. In particular, Josh’s mom, Daisy. Read more

    Book Report: Mother Knows Best by Karen MacInerney

    Margie is balancing a job as a private investigator, figuring out her marriage to a man who happens to like other men (preferably in drag), and her eldest daughter is insisting she be called Fifi, allowed to wear a decorated dog collar and eat only white-toned foods in a bowl on the floor. So, yeah, pretty run of the mill stuff.  Add in a visiting mother who believes in the healing power of an all seaweed diet and its you’re in for one crazy ride. And we haven’t even gotten to the part where Margie manages to accidentally frame her best friend for the murder of the local school headmaster. It doesn’t help he’s found in a very, very difficult to explain situation. Or that her boss Peaches called her to help move the body.

    Mother Knows Best has plot lines that are so ridiculous that they almost beg you to keep reading to find out what happens next.  From attending ridiculously uptight parent meetings at her daughter’s new school, to getting dragged into a strip club’s amateur night, a retreat meant to “straighten out” her husband (on his insistence, not hers), to drug deals gone wrong, and a pig named Bubba Sue, there is no end to the laughs, plot twists, or moments that you really connect to Margie.  This mystery is incredibly well developed, with a huge dose of humor mixed into the moments that are emotionally driven. This might be one of the best written comfy-cozy mysteries I’ve ever read. Read more

    Book Report: Lie in Plain Sight by Maggie Barbieri

    Lie in Plain Sight

    Maeve Conlon’s got a lot on her plate. Her two daughters, a boyfriend who happens to be in law enforcement, an ex-husband she just slept with, a kidnapping that she’s being blamed for, a skeezy soccer coach, an older sister with a question mark when it comes to paternity, a best friend with baby-brain, a pair of bright pink sneakers she can’t seem to break in, oh, and her bakery to run.  Maeve sucks you into her world, the sleepy town of Farringville; a nightmare dressed as all up as a daydream (as my girl Taylor Swift would say,) where you can never quite be sure if the guy you pass on the street is friend or foe. Just below the surface of this idyllic appearing town lays a very darker reality and you get to follow Maeve as she starts exploring the shadows.

    After a bursting-at-the-seams-with-privilege parent college meeting at her daughter’s private high school, Maeve is impressed with a fellow single mom’s take no prisoners attitude and hires her on the spot to help around her bakery. Before Maeve can even decide if she made the right decision hiring a woman she barely knows, the school nurse calls saying her new employee’s daughter is sick. Put on the spot, Maeve agrees under pressure from the school nurse to let the girl, Taylor, walk home. Read more

    Book Report: The Passenger by Lisa Lutz

    It’s hard to imagine anyone being able to just up and disappear, especially in the day and age of constant surveillance and social media.
    But that’s exactly what Tanya Dubois did eight years ago and once she finds her husband dead at the bottom of the stairs in their home, it’s time for a repeat performance. While she swears up and down that she didn’t kill her husband, the questions the police are bound to ask risk exposing her and her dark past.

    Tanya finds herself once again on the run, changing hair colors, cars, staying off the grid, and making a mysterious call to a man who can both help and harm her. The man pulls through with a new identity and Tanya, now Amelia Keen makes her way to Austin, Texas. Where she runs smack into another woman running from her past, a bartender named Blue, and two men ready to kill her. Blue, who we find out is running from an abusive husband and Amelia help each other secure different identities and head off in different directions, this time with colored contacts in tow.

    It’s not long until our protagonist formally known as Tanya finds out that no matter what identity she takes, her past remains that, her past. Plus she gets to look forward to any surprises that come with her borrowed identities. Always looking over her shoulder and watching her lies slowly unwind, she travels across the United States simply trying to survive. Tanya/Amelia picks up a few more names, hair colors, and cars as the reader picks up more and more backstory. Her emails to her high-school sweetheart Ryan offer the best glimpse into Tanya’s motivations and really help pull you into the story and care about her, even as she makes rash decisions. Read more

    Book Report: The Night Charter by Sam Hawken

    The Night Charter Sam HakenAs much as Camaro Espinoza, the main character of The Night Charter is a modern, tougher (yes, tougher), more complex version of Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone, she is also very much her own character.  She was a soldier, has left a wake of bodies in her path, and she has no problem kicking butts and taking names. In the sizzling and muggy city of Miami, Camaro is embracing her new start. Living under the radar, all she wants to do is (catch and release) fish and take out a variety of run-of-the-mill charter guests.

    Trouble has a way of finding Camaro. This time it arrives in the form of ex-con Parker Story, who after staying on the straight and narrow for a few years has gotten in over his head. Parker has more than his life on the line, he is a single dad. After a very lucrative illegal run to Cuba to smuggle out an anti-Castro activist, the proverbial shit hits the literal fan.

    Camaro ends up on the run with Parker’s teenager daughter Lauren. Dodging the authorities, Cuban nationalists, Castro supporters, and murderous past partners, Camaro serves up her own form of justice. With the intriguing Cuban-US sub-plot, the novel capture and kept my attention from beginning-to-end. Read more