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Murder Spills the Tea–baking competition

Murder Spills the Tea

by Vicki Delany

The way I judged Murder Spills the Tea was by my increasing frustration at the end of the book. With about 90% of the mystery read, I experienced an almost comical series of interruptions—the dogs wanted to go for a walk, my husband came in to say “hi,” the dryer buzzed urgently, and the timer for the tub of vegetables I was disinfecting dinged. I finally gave up and handled each issue culminating with the dog walk. I’m a fairly patient person, so I must have been really into the novel to get so irritated.

Lily is busy enough baking for and managing her own tea shop, but she also makes breakfast for her grandmother Rose’s B&B in exchange for lodging in a separate cottage on the grounds. All is well until her best friend Bernie and Rose convince Lily that participating in America Bakes!, a cooking “reality” show, will help promote her business. The event turns out to be rigged and full of competing ego-filled personalities. Lily does her best to “keep calm and carry on,” but that becomes difficult when she finds one of the judges dead in her tearoom. Sparks fly during the filming, some of the characters are less than truthful, and Lily is sure that the wrong person has been arrested.

Following the investigation is like watching a tennis match where the ball is lobbed all over the place. Things turn dangerous as the murderer gets more and more desperate. There are connections among the residents that are uncovered as Lily’s informal investigation progresses. Suspicions arise too about the film actors and crew, some of whom are staying at the B&B. Lily, Bernie, and Rose work well together as a team with Rose playing the age card when it suits her purposes. Murder Spills the Tea is an engaging and fun cozy mystery.

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: 1. #3 in the Tea by the Sea Mystery Series, but could be read as a standalone.
2. I have a particular fondness for tearooms, so I especially enjoy cozy mysteries set in tearooms.
3. Includes recipes for Herbed Cucumber Sandwiches, Coconut Lime Cake, and a coffee cake that is served at the B&B.
4. Lily has a dog that is featured throughout the book and Rose has a cat that, despite Health Dept. regulations, finds its way into the kitchen regularly. Both add interest to the book.

Publication: July 26, 2022—Kensington

Memorable Lines:

“This is called reality TV,” he said. “In reality, it’s anything but. The show’s not concerned about the quality of your food or the arrangement of the flowers on the table. It’s about creating drama and interest. Reality’s boring.”

“Afternoon tea’s all about tradition. About hospitality and taking time to gather with friends to enjoy the finer things in life. Afternoon tea, in my opinion, anyway, is a delicacy, an indulgence, and it should be treated as such.”

Robbie jumped onto the floor and hissed at Detective Williams. “Do pardon my cat, Inspector,” Rose said as she made her way out of the room. “He likes most people.”

The Littlest Cowgirls–new twins in Second Chance

The Littlest Cowgirls

by Melinda Curtis

Twins! Twins have an undeniable attraction for most readers, and there are a lot of them in Melinda Curtis’ The Mountain Monroes Series. In The Littlest Cowgirls, twins Ashley and Laurel have a sticky situation resulting from Laurel going on a date with famous actor and playboy Wyatt Halford—as a stand-in for her more reticent sister Ashley, an actress. Fast forward nine months when Wyatt is invited to attend a very pregnant Laurel’s wedding. Laurel has decided Wyatt needs to at least know of his paternity to twin daughters. Ashley, meanwhile, wants to change her image from “America’s Sweetheart” as a former child and teenage actress to that of a more serious and mature actress and producer. Life becomes complicated quickly for everyone in the story as they work through their personal pasts and how that will affect their futures.

You’ll need to read the book to find out if the sparks flying between Ashley and Wyatt can turn into a professional relationship, and if Wyatt wants to be part of his little girls’ lives. The members of the Monroe clan make a backdrop for the drama playing out in Second Chance, Idaho. Twelve-year old Gabby has big ears but has difficulty keeping a secret. Cousin Jonah has written the script about villain Mike Moody for a western whose origins come straight from the local mountains. There is lots of local color provided by adult and pint-sized cowboys and a few cowgirls as well.

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

Rating: 4/5

Category: Romance

Notes: #7 in The Mountain Monroes Series. Although it could be read as a standalone, this one is a little harder to read independently because there are so many Monroes converging on Second Chance for the wedding. Although the author provides a chart for the relationships of the original family members, the family has grown through marriages and engagements to include many more people. An expanded chart or extra notes would have helped for this novel.

Publication: February 21, 2021—Harlequin Heartwarming

Memorable Lines:

“But thanks for bringing us all down to earth, Mother.” “As the worst-case scenario thinker in the family, I live to serve.” Mom made her exit with a dramatic flourish of her hand.

Wyatt could feel a double cross in his bones better than his coal-mining father could feel the earth tremble before a cave-in.

An inkling that one of these days, he’d look in the mirror and find a gray hair. And his indestructible self-image, the one he used as a shield against his father’s bitterness, would crack. Then his position on top of Hollywood would tilt and crumble.

Staged for Murder–danger on the catwalk

Staged 4 Murder

by J.C. Eaton

Staged 4 MurderSophie Kimball really just wants to do her job as an accountant and bookkeeper for the Williams investigations firm. She gets roped again, however, into doing some sleuthing on her own as the members of her mother’s book club in Sun City West, a retirement community in Arizona, recruit her to help discover the murderer of a member of a community acting troupe.  Avid readers, they branch out as performers and crew in a production of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap.

There are lots of twists and turns to the plot of Staged 4 Murder with suspicion cast like a shotgun blast in multiple directions. Just when you (and Sophie) think the murderer has been found, new evidence comes to light. Sophie is an interesting main character, and the interactions with her mother are humorous. This book is not destined to be a classic for the ages, but it is an enjoyable cozy mystery, and I look forward to the next in this series written by a husband-wife team under the pen name J.C. Eaton.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com 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: #3 in the Sophie Kimball Mystery Series, but delightfully fun as a standalone

Publication:  June 26, 2018 — Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

I got up from my chair, took the list from my mother, and muttered six regrettable words before heading home for the night. “I’ll see what I can do.”

“My God! Now you’re sounding like my mother. Next thing I know you’ll be reusing paper plates.” “Whoa. That was unfair.”

My mother tried calling the dog, but he ignored her. Selective hearing must apparently run in our family.

The Boyfriend Swap–great beach, plane, or cozy afternoon

The Boyfriend Swap

by Meredith Schorr

The Boyfriend SwapI like to vary my reading occasionally by throwing in a Chick Lit book. Meredith Schorr’s The Boyfriend Swap was a good change of pace at the the right time. The first half established characters, varying the viewpoint in clearly marked divisions between elementary school music teacher Robyn and hard driven lawyer Sidney. It is quite funny as they both have family situations coming up at Christmas where they don’t want their families to meet their respective boyfriends for various reasons.

When the boyfriend swap occurs, the book still has humorous moments, but things don’t always turn out as expected so there are some anxious times as well. Is swapping boyfriends a good idea in anyone’s mind? Will it all work out in the end for Robyn, Sidney, and their boyfriends? Come along for a fun read, but don’t model your romantic life on theirs!

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: Women’s Fiction, Romance

Publication:   November 7, 2017—Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

How were children supposed to nurture their creative sides if schools focused entirely on academics?

Giving him a quick once-over as he absently pulled his finders through his longish hair, I was taken aback by his blatant beauty. The gods of looks certainly didn’t hold back the day Perry was born. Too bad they were so stingy with his humility.

Usually, the scent of garlic from my mom’s roasted chicken made my mouth water, but the guilt-and-anxiety cocktail I was drinking rid me of an appetite.

Indian Summer–a book of relationships

Indian Summer

by Marcia Willett

Indian SummerIndian Summer is one of those books that is difficult to categorize. Some call it a Romance, but it focuses more on relationships than on romance. Others see it as Women’s Fiction, and I agree that it would appeal more to women than to men, but I prefer to just call it a novel. Marcia Willett’s Indian Summer is the story of Sir Mungo Kerslake and his brother Archie who reside on the family property near a small town. The other characters’ lives intersect with the brothers’ in various ways. Some live on the property as tenants or renters. Others are visitors from outside the community. All have secrets.

Sir Mungo is a very social retired actor and director of some renown, and all of the characters relate to him in some way. Very likable, he is the ultimate good friend—hospitable, understanding, loyal, and trustworthy. He has the amusing penchant of looking at life through a director’s lens, seeing life events as the bits and pieces of a play. He adds a fun, dramatic flair to every situation.

Indian Summer was first published as a paperback in 2015. Thomas Dunne Books is now publishing it as a hardback. This my first book by this author, but won’t be the last. I enjoyed the gentle, understanding approach of the author to her characters. The story is written in such a way that it jumps between sets of characters within a chapter. That was disconcerting at first, but as the relationships became more apparent, these switches morphed into a flow appropriate to the plot.

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: Women’s Fiction, Romance

Publication:   June 27, 2017—Thomas Dunne Books

Memorable Lines:

Her own world has swung back into focus and she realizes how very precious it is to her. She mustn’t risk it for this chimera of excitement and fun; for some brief sexual gratification. Yet how to extricate herself?

The trouble is, he knows by experience that it’s this part of the creative process that he really loves: sitting in bars with his laptop open, jotting down ideas; walking around new places; watching people and inventing little scenarios for them. It’s rather depressing that, when the time comes to sit down and actually write the story, his enthusiasm wanes.

Perhaps, thinks Mungo, that’s why the friends of our youth are so dear to us. To each other we aren’t grey and old and dull. We remember times when we took chances, acted courageously, rescued each other and gave each other support. These things remain. In their company we are the people we’ve always been: viable and strong.

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