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Monthly Archives: July 2017

Mulch Ado about Murder–love the punny title

Mulch Ado about Murder

by Edith Maxwell

Mulch Ado about MurderThe Local Foods Mystery Series is set in the small Attic Hill Organic Farm in New England with  owner Cam Flaherty as the main character. In Mulch Ado about Murder, Cam (short for Cameron) tries to deliver some basil and lettuce seedlings to Nicole Kingsbury at her new hydroponic greenhouse. She is blocked by a group of protestors which includes her visiting mother. The bigger surprise, however, awaits Cam inside the greenhouse where she finds Nicole in a different state than she expected. This discovery sets in motion a series of events that spiral out of control mystifying Cam, the state police, including her boyfriend detective Pete, and local law enforcement.

There is a backdrop of Cam’s relationship to her parents that is integral to the mystery rather than a distraction for the reader. Cam has never had a close relationship with her parents, both anthropology professors. During their visit, Cam finds herself drawing closer to her father, but puzzled by her mother’s continued reticence about the past.

The reader is given critical information as Cam discovers it and so is able to try to solve the mystery along with her. There is action as well as sleuthing and the mystery ends on a satisfactory note. It was quite an enjoyable read.

I would like to extend my thanks to and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: 1. There are some recipes at the end of the book reflecting foods that Cam’s    father prepared or that the characters enjoyed at local restaurants in the story.

2. #5 in the Local Foods Mystery Series, but I enjoyed it as a standalone.

Publication:   May 30, 2017—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

A breeze picked up, fluffing the leaves on the old oak behind the barn like a teenager fixing her hair. A cloud blotted out the slanting sunlight. Cam sniffed. Let it be rain coming. Let it be rain.

The gentle spray from the watering wands arched over the table to wet the infant plants. Watering was definitely meditative for Cam. Watching the spray calmed and cleaned her jangled thoughts. Smelling the wet soil reassured her that life continues, that despite the apparent murder of a fellow grower, the cycle of growth was universal and never-ending.

“You can’t believe how good that smells,” Cam said. What it smelled like was her childhood. Every night her father would make them both toast before bed. Their similar tall, thin frames gave them similar appetites, what Albert used to call Hollow Leg Syndrome.

Hospitality and Homicide–does evil exist?

Hospitality and Homicide

by Lynn Cahoon

Hospitality and HomicideHospitality and Homicide is the eighth book in the Tourist Trap Mysteries. I have not read any others in the series, but the number of characters are limited and it was easy to jump into the story. The plot is fairly simple; too much emphasis is on the characters’ everyday lives, rather than on the mystery. Halfway into the book the reader knows with certainty Jill’s daily activities, her favorite dessert, her relationship issues, etc. Despite that, the author details them over and over throughout the book. There are undoubtedly some tense moments and some twists, but no cliffhangers. Another issue was the disappearance of a boy. It was unclear how long he had been missing, making that thread somewhat unbelievable. I did enjoy the book and was curious as to how the mysteries would be resolved, but it was not outstanding.

This book has two main plot threads—a brutal murder and a disappearance. One of them involves a psychic who communes with spirits. As a Christian, I usually avoid books with paranormal aspects, but this one slipped under my radar. Initially the theme seemed mild. At the end there was an unresolved issue as to why the psychic was successful in one case and not in another. Holding even more impact for me, however, was the statement made by police detective Greg about someone who committed a horrific, sadistic murder: “I don’t believe in evil, but if I did, this guy would be the picture next to the dictionary definition.” The Bible makes it clear that evil exists, and I would think that anyone who reads news reports would be convinced of that as well. Regardless, I want to clarify that the viewpoint of this book is not a reflection of my beliefs, nor is it a Biblical viewpoint. In looking at teasers of other books in this series, I did not see evidence that the other books in the series contain paranormal elements.

I would like to extend my thanks to and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 3/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #8 in the Tourist Trap Mystery series. Contains paranormal elements.

Publication:   May 16, 2017—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

“Honey, I don’t have to make you sound like a wimp. When it comes to other people, you are a pushover. Everyone in town knows that.”

I know, I own a bookstore and I should be anti-e-readers. But honestly, I’m more concerned that people read than exactly how they read.

A readers’s pride and joy is having an author personally sign their copies of well-loved stories. That’s the reason bookstores will never be replaced by the e-reader. People need their keeper shelves.

The Cutting of the Pine

We have two beautiful, large pine trees behind our house in New Mexico, and one slight problem. One of them leans. It leans towards the house. Eventually it will fall on the house. As much as I hate to see a tree cut down, this one has to go. We are blessed with the services and equipment of a local expert and his intrepid nephew.



Heading up!


Cutting branches going up


Watch out below!


Working his way down


Notching a bigger section

The boss makes the final cut

Our old Wheel Horse will help.


Saving sections for the neighbor


Processing to dry over the winter


A safer house and still lots of trees on the property

Murder Between the Lines–mystery with a backdrop of women’s suffrage

Murder Between the Lines

by Radha Vatsal

Murder Between the LinesMurder Between the Lines is the second novel by Radha Vassal about Kitty Weeks, a beginning journalist in an age when the rare female journalist is by default a writer for the women’s pages. The setting is 1915-1916, the U.S. has not yet entered the Great War, Woodrow Wilson is president, and women do not have the right to vote.

The “Kitty” in the first third of the book is a flat, undeveloped character. At first I thought this problem was a reflection of the way women were treated by men and by other women as a social norm. Later in the book, however, Kitty takes on some depth as the plot picks up its pace.

There are several plot threads. They deal with women’s suffrage, political intrigue and an anti-war movement, women as journalists, women’s education, Edison’s inventions, and several deaths. The author manages to tie the threads together, but some resolutions seem forced.

The author researched the era well, and the information was interesting. Of particular note was the apparent frailty of the “weaker sex” and doctors’ views on women’s health and recovery from accidents.

It is difficult to sort out attitudes about the characters given the freedoms and responsibilities women in the U.S. have today. Are the women in the book weak or are they victims of the time? I think the answer may be a little of both. Women were generally dependent financially on men, but there have been women of every era who were powerful and knew how to wield that power. In Kitty’s case, she has to break down social barriers to achieve financial independence.

I would like to extend my thanks to and to Sourcebooks (Landmark) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 3/5

Category: Mystery, Historical Fiction


1. At the end of the book, the reader will find Author’s Notes that stress the author’s use of primary sources as well as suggestions for further reading.

2. Beautiful cover art!

Publication:   May 2, 2017—Sourcebooks (Landmark)

Memorable Lines:

Half of our population cannot be treated as less than the other. The cause requires publicity as well as a definite program. My program is to champion a federal amendment to the constitution and to use my wealth and my position in society—for in the end, no one turns their back on money—to create news, to create publicity for us all.”

As far as Kitty could tell, men were just as petty as women, but when they didn’t get their way, they didn’t resort to intrigues—they started wars.

When it came to matters he cared about, the president didn’t hesitate for a moment to campaign around the country to sway hearts and change minds. But when it came to woman suffrage, he took refuge behind states’ rights. Somehow, war warranted the exercise of his powers of persuasion, while campaigning for half his citizens’ rights did not. No wonder so many women were enraged. No wonder so many felt they must browbeat and threaten, take matters into their own hands.

Watching the Detectives–a funny cozy mystery featuring the 70’s

Watching the Detectives

by Julie Mulhern

Watching the DetectivesWatching the Detectives is a funny, action packed, cozy mystery you don’t want to miss. In fact, you’ll want to read the whole series. Julie Mulhern continues to make the early 70’s come alive with details like plaid sports jackets for men, twin sets for women, and Polaroid cameras. She even jokes about squeaking naugahyde chairs at the hospital: “many nagas had given their hydes for that chair.”

The main character, Ellison, is a part of the country club world, but she is so down-to-earth and practical that she is endearing. Besides, you have to feel for anyone who stumbles across so many bodies. Yes, that’s Ellison!

A prominent feature of this book is the conflict between Ellison and her domineering mother. Her mother resembles Emily Gilmore in the TV show The Gilmore Girls—always right and very controlling. There continue to be two love interests in Ellison’s life—lawyer Hunter Tafft who is Ellison’s mother’s pick and Anarchy Jones who sets off fireworks in Ellison’s heart.

It is difficult to keep a constant underlayment of humor in a book that features serious issues such as murder and spousal abuse, but Mulhern does it respectfully and effectively and leaves the reader wanting more.

I would like to extend my thanks to and to Henery Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Historical Fiction, Mystery

Notes: #5 in the Country Club Murders, but works as a standalone

Publication:   May 23, 2017—Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

Mr. Coffee might not be able to solve all the world’s problems or clean the study, but things tended to look brighter after he’d worked his magic.

Reality was ex-wives living in efficiency apartments and spritzing perfume at makeup counters because they had no job skills. Reality was their ex-husbands reliving their youths with girls not yet old enough to know better. Reality was rather bleak.

“Your mother has a strong personality,” she said. Attila the Hun had a strong personality. Mother was a mile-wide tornado with hundred-fifty-mile-per-hour winds.”

Morgan’s Hunter–repetitive

Morgan’s Hunter

by Cate Beauman

Morgan's HunterBeautiful Morgan Taylor, a wildlife biologist from a wealthy and politically influential family, finds herself in need of an expert bodyguard, according to her father who hires the handsome Hunter Phillips. The title Morgan’s Hunter is a play on words as Morgan is herself hunted in the aftermath of the vicious killing of members of her team who work for a government environmental agency.

Morgan and Hunter both deal with guilt issues and a physical attraction to each other in what should be a professional relationship. The basic plot is well-conceived with twists along the way.

My major issue with this book is repetition, mainly in regards to the sexual attraction and encounters between Morgan and Hunter, but also with their guilt issues. I understand they are both perfect physical specimens. I am aware they are attracted to each other and engage in sex multiple times. Starting with Chapter One, I was informed about Hunter’s PTSD, and later about Megan’s feeling responsible for her team. As a reader I just don’t need the repetition ad nauseam. If the value of the book is its erotic aspects, then I suppose the multiple explicit scenes are important, but they do little to forward the storyline.

Looking ahead to summaries of other books in the series, it seems they all run along the same line: woman needs handsome bodyguard and their mutual lust will result in sex. I don’t mind a little romance in a mystery, but I really prefer the plot to take precedence. I was not forewarned that Morgan’s Hunter is an erotic romance.

I received the book as a gift from the author with no obligation to review it. The opinions about this book and the genre are my own.

Rating: 3/5

Category: Mystery & Thriller, Erotic Romance


  1. #1 int the Bodyguards of L.A. County Series
  2. Some bad language and multiple detailed descriptions of sexual encounters

Publication:   September 2012–It appears to be self-published, but the editor is Invisible Ink Editing.

Memorable Lines:

They came past the blackened remains of a truck three Marines died in yesterday. Like a mascot of death, the burned vehicle welcomed the recon unit to “The Danger Zone.”

The nightmares he woke from left him in panicked sweats for hours. Loud sounds spooked him, and at the strangest times, he swore he could hear Jake calling out to him. He was a mess—his life a disaster.

She looked forward to getting lost in a good novel and the problems of the characters for a while—and forgetting her own.

FREE this Weekend! Better Blogging with Photography by Terri Webster Schrandt | The Beauty of Words

Free download of this book July 8-10. I snatched it to get some good ideas, but I also want to publicize it because, as a former technology teacher, I wanted to remind everyone that just because you can say “it is on the Internet” or “I found it on Google” about a photo doesn’t make it free. Although copyright laws have gotten way out of hand from the original intent, thanks in large part to the movie industry giants, they are still laws. In the case of photography the photographer does own the picture. I’d rather use my own work or find a public domain site than risk stealing someone else’s work. And there is always an option to purchase stock images. Happy Blogging!

Ivy Get Your Gun–mystery with an “Annie Get Your Gun” twist

Ivy Get Your Gun

by Cindy Brown

Ivy Get Your GunWith Ivy Get Your Gun, don’t expect a suspenseful thriller with a philosophical bent. Look for a fun cozy mystery with lots of humor. Ivy Meadows is a medium level actress who also works as an apprentice private investigator in her Uncle Bob’s office. Being a part of both worlds opens up opportunities for the author to explore more diverse plot threads as Ivy engages with people she knows from both arenas. A third dimension is added as Ivy deals with the consequences of a youthful mistake, her difficult family relationships, and a blossoming romance.

Mystery is the priority of this book as Ivy combines her theatrical skills with her admittedly too naive and trusting nature. She goes undercover to play Western characters in a melodrama at Gold Bug Gulch, getting involved with some interesting but dangerous personalities. The short chapters and fast pace will have you flying through this book. Even when I knew I had to put it down, I couldn’t resist a peek at the next page!

I would like to extend my thanks to and to Henery Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery, General Fiction (Adult)


  1. #4 in The Ivy Meadows Mystery Series, but worked great as a standalone 
  2. Includes information contrasting Annie Oakley in the musical Annie Get Your Gun and the historical Annie Oakley

Publication:  May 16, 2017—Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

We ate in silence for a minute. Or I did. Frank chewed his Fritos noisily, with his mouth open. I got the feeling he’d lived alone for a long time.

Uncle Bob had taught me that most drives could be put down to power or passion. Power included money, prestige, and the need to one-up someone. Passion covered revenge, sex, and love.

Theater had been my safe place ever since Cody’s accident. A place I could relax and be myself, which seems odd considering that I was always playing a role onstage.

Uninvited–rejection and relationships


by Lysa Terkeurst

UninvitedAll of us have experienced rejection of some kind in our lives, sometimes deep and profound, other times more fleeting but still painful. Lysa TerKeurst is a Christian writer and speaker who steps in to examine her own feelings of rejection through a Biblical lens and shares in Uninvited what she has discovered.

Lysa falls short of the “holier than thou” Christian speaker with all the answers. As she examines her topic, she exposes herself to scrutiny, sometimes painfully, sometimes with humor, but always being real. That openness invites the reader to trust her and to listen to what God has laid on her heart about rejection.

In many ways the book is about relationships—our relationship with God as well as with others. TerKeurst draws heavily on her own experiences and on Biblical wisdom to help us take a fresh look at how we interact with others, sometimes allowing past rejections to influence current attitudes.

I read this book over a period of a few weeks, usually a chapter at a time, sometimes a few chapters in quick succession. Having finished, I know I will want to revisit this book several times to study in depth the precepts TerKeurst and God (via the Bible) put forth. The passages I marked as important in Uninvited are numerous, exceeding copyright standards for inclusion in this review. Some have personal importance, some theological value, while others stand out for their timelessness.

I would like to extend my thanks to and to Thomas Nelson for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Christian Living

Notes: Teachers, rejection walks hand in hand with bullying and we have to be sensitive to evidence of it in our students. TerKeurst shares with readers a special teacher in her life saying “I don’t remember a single classroom lesson she taught, but I very clearly remember the way she made me feel. She gave me hope that the worries weighing me down in the third-grade pecking order of my peers might not always be my reality. Yes, she made me feel exceptional.”

Publication:  August 9, 2016—Thomas Nelson

Memorable Lines:

Today’s rejections, big or subtle, are like stealth bombs that zing straight to my core, locating hurts from my past and making them agonizingly present all over again.

Rejection piggybacks on physical pain pathways in the brain. MRI studies show that the same areas of the brain become activated when we experience rejection as when we experience physical pain.

Rejection never has the final say. Rejection may be a delay or distraction or even a devastation for a season. But it’s never a final destination. I’m destined for a love that can’t ever be diminished, tarnished, shaken, or taken. With You, Jesus, I’m forever safe…Completely loved and always invited in.

The Spring Cleaning Murders–Cannell has a way with words!

The Spring Cleaning Murders

by Dorothy Cannell

The Spring Cleaning MurdersThe Spring Cleaning Murders carves out its own niche in the world of cozy mysteries. Ellie Haskell is the moderately well-off wife of a restaurant owner and the mother of twin three year olds. The book is indeed a mystery with multiple murders and Ellie playing the part of a sleuth. Unlike the typical cozy mystery, there is no relationship with a law enforcement officer. A lot of the story is centered around family ties and the various levels of society found in a small English town. Another strong emphasis of the book s a group of of cleaning ladies and a journal containing cleaning formulas collected by Abigail Grantham, the mistress of Ellie’s home during the first of the twentieth century. Each chapter begins with one of these tips, and making and marketing the products provides a cover story for Ellie and the cleaning ladies as they search for clues.

There are many quirky characters who strengthen the plot. The Epilogue provides closure for the familial tale after the mysteries have been solved satisfactorily.  I enjoyed reading this book and anticipate reading more from the series.

I would like to extend my thanks to and to Random House (Alibi) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: part of the 13 book Ellie Haskell Series, but works as a standalone

Publication:  May 9, 2017—Random House (Alibi)

Memorable Lines:

Feeling like a nun forsaking the convent, I went with my little girl and boy into a world painted with rainbow color for a picnic where dock leaves served for luncheon plates.

On the following Sunday, skies hung low, like soggy woolen blankets abandoned on a clothesline. The wind gurgled and moaned and rain drizzled drearily down the windowpanes.

Then I put the kettle on so I wouldn’t be the only thing steaming.

Freddy ambled over to the refrigerator to stand with the door open, peering inside with all the intensity of an anthropologist studying culture as evinced by an igloo.

Vanessa had a master’s degree in self-absorption.

“If I was a fairy godfather, do you know what I’d wish for her, Ellie girl?”  “Tell me.” “That she’ll grow up to be loving and loved. That’s enough for anyone in my book.”

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