Don’t Believe It by Charlie Donlea – **Top Pick**

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ – 5 stars

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In the words of Joe Kenda of Investigation Discovery: “Well my, my, my.”

Charlie Donlea certainly knows how to spin a tale.

Following is confirmation that I loved this book:

1. I couldn’t wait for an opportunity during the day to read it

2. I couldn’t stop thinking about it

3. I kept inundating my husband with details about it

4. I opened it up at 3:00 a.m. and started reading instead of going back to sleep after using the bathroom

5. I wasn’t longing for it to be over so I could read something else

6. I kept thinking to myself, “this guy can write!” as the book progressed and I was flipping pages faster than my little arthritic pinky finger could handle

7. The final sentence sent a wave of exhilaration coursing through my body, making me wish I could call up Mr. Donlea ASAP and gush about my thoughts

8. My e-reader showed I’d reached 100%, but I was still attempting to find more pages

9. I’m poised to add it to my Best Reads list for 2018

Need I go on?  If those reasons don’t convince you, then I highly suggest that you read this book and see for yourself. (Don’t Believe It releases in the U.S. on May 29th.)

And now here’s a very brief summary of the plot….

Julian Crists’s body is washed up on Sugar Beach, part of an island resort in St. Lucia, where he was vacationing with his girlfriend, Grace Sebold, who is found guilty of his murder and spends a decade in a St. Lucian prison cell, all the while proclaiming her innocence. She’s exhausted her appeals and it looks likely that she’ll be living out her days locked up. Desperate, she reaches out to a former acquaintance, Sidney Ryan, by means of letters written continually asking for her help. Sidney is a documentary film writer whose films have exonerated a couple of wrongly convicted criminals. Sidney makes the decision to help Grace by producing a real-time documentary of her findings regarding Grace’s case; new episodes airing each week revealing her findings from the previous week’s research. The documentary is a monumental hit for Sidney, and fans of the show loyally tune in to find out the fate of Grace Sebold. Will Sidney’s instincts prove true regarding Grace’s innocence?

There’s so much more content, but this is all I can share without giving anything away. Charlie Donlea truly delivers with this one. And I just love his writing. His stories are riveting. He’s a new favorite suspense writer for me. Highly recommended.

Thank you Netgalley, Kensington Books, and Charlie Donlea for an e-ARC of Don’t Believe It. In exchange I have provided an honest review of my thoughts about it.

Have an awesome day everybody! And thanks so much for visiting Cozynookbks. 💕

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Meet Me on the Midway by Amie Denman

🎡🎡🎡.5 – 3.5 Ferris wheels

The ribbon cutting ceremony is underway for the new Starlight Point Marina. Evie Hamilton, part owner of the Starlight Point Amusement Park along with her two siblings, is convinced that the new Marina and eventual renovation of the century-old Lake Breeze Hotel will be the answer to Starlight Point’s financial struggles. Everything is set to go for the grand opening of the Marina until the fire inspector puts the brakes on, citing violations and refusing to sign off on an occupancy permit. Evie is worried. Revenue from the new Marina is necessary for the success of Starlight Point, and this project is exactly what’s needed to attain it.

Scott Bennett, fire inspector and the bane of Evie’s existence, is taciturn and distant. He seems displeased with any projects Evie plans to undertake to improve Starlight Point. Evie is convinced that Scott’s difficult and off-putting demeanor stems from something in his past that he’s keeping to himself, but what? Behind the brooding exterior is a caring, loving, protective man. He’s demonstrated these qualities with injured Starlight Point patrons and his sister, Caroline, an officer at the Point. Evie’s seen this side of Scott and it’s hard to deny the attraction she feels toward him. But are her instincts correct regarding his appealing qualities, or is she headed for further disappointment from the man who seems to live for the sole purpose of frustrating her plans?

I enjoy the Starlight Point series and it’s amusement park setting. Imagining the rides, games, food and crowds is fun and entertaining. However, in Meet Me on the Midway, it was a little difficult for me to envision Evie’s romantic interest in Scott when he presented nothing but trouble for her. I think there was just a bit too much conflict, and consequently the romance didn’t develop quite enough to be convincing to me.I did really like the behind the scenes look at the complexities of owning and running an amusement park. There are medical emergencies, fires, fights, malfunctions. We are rarely aware of these goings-on when we visit amusement parks. There’s so much happening during a typical jam-packed amusement park day, and I found myself thinking about how it’s at all possible to operate one smoothly. I wished the romance between Scott and Evie was as inspiring as the amusement park details.

Meet Me on the Midway was a good, wholesome read. But I have to admit that it wasn’t my favorite of the series because I thought the romantic element was lacking. However, I still enjoyed many parts of it, and I’m looking forward to reading book 4 in the series.

A picture from our somewhat recent trip to Myrtle Beach, SC.

Enjoy your day everyone!

I made a Wacky Cake!!

Hi all! For those of you who recently read my review of Do or Diner , I included a picture of a Wacky Cake because I’d never heard of one before and took an interest in it after reading about it in the book.

So I attempted it Wednesday night and wanted to share my results with all of you. Ready?

One dish with all ingredients mixed together in it….

2 2/3 cups flour, 2 cups sugar, 2/3 cups cocoa, 1 tsp. salt, 2 tsp. baking soda, 2 tsp. vanilla, 2/3 cup vegetable oil, 2 tsp vinegar, 2 cups water

Add dry ingredients to ungreased baking dish or pan. Make three wells in the dry mixture and put the vanilla in the first well, vinegar in the second well, and oil in the third well. Pour two cups of water over everything and mix with a fork until incorporated.

Bake on 350° for at least 40 minutes (mine took longer, but since ovens vary, look at the cake after 40 minutes).

My Wacky Cake after 50 minutes in 350° oven

It’s rather decadent by itself so I decided not to frost it. I just sprinkled a little confectioners sugar on top. I love that deep brown color from the cocoa (I used Hershey’s).

So there you have it. It’s rich, moist and delicious. In fact, I’m having trouble keeping myself away from it. 🤦🏽‍♀️ Seriously folks, you should definitely try it. No eggs, butter or milk, and perfectly respectable results. We loved it!

What do you think? Look good?

Have the best weekend ever everyone!!

Do or Diner by Christine Wenger

🥞🥞🥞🥞 – 4 pancake stacks

When Trixie Matkowski’s uncle dies, leaving her aunt Stella alone and uninterested in running their famed Silver Bullet Diner, Trixie finds herself the proud new owner of the Silver Bullet, her aunt’s vacated Victorian home, the bait shop, and twelve vacation cottages along Lake Ontario, in Sandy Harbor, New York. Aunt Stella is moving on with her life in a comfortable retirement home. Trixie’s elated about her new properties, known as the point, but upon sifting through a mass of mail that includes many past due bills and a list of violations by the health inspector involving the Diner, Trixie realizes that the Silver Bullet could be shut down faster than she can assume responsibility for it. Trixie begins to feel as though she’s taken on more than she bargained for. Since aunt Stella is on a cruise around the world and inaccessible, Trixie makes her way over to the Diner to do damage control. But on her way there she learns that the health inspector appears to have died in the Silver Bullet. Who killed Marvin Cogswell III, and can Trixie help solve the mystery before news spreads of the fatality and she’s put out of business for good?

I enjoyed this cozy, especially Trixie’s character. She didn’t have a clue about how to run a Diner, who her employees were, or much of anything else when the book started. But she was tenacious, generous and hardworking, and those qualities served her well. There was a handsome Deputy Sheriff, Ty Brisco, who Trixie kept referring to as Wyatt Earp in the book. 😂 He made all of the ladies swoon when he called them darlin’ and tipped that cowboy hat when departing from their presence. I had many chuckles while reading parts of their dialog. In fact, there were quite a number of LOL moments throughout this book. What I liked most was that it flowed really well, made me laugh, had fun characters, and kept me guessing as to who killed the inspector. The reveal was not earth shattering, but it didn’t change my overall enjoyment of the book. Definitely recommended.

Oh, and I learned something new. Does anyone know what a wacky cake is? Well, if you don’t, the short answer is it’s a cake that you can whip up with a few ingredients, without eggs, milk or butter, in just one pan. Apparently people prepared it during the Depression when food was in short supply. I’ll let you know how it turns out as I’m determined to try it.

Wacky cake

Thank you, Kathy, of Katie’s Cottage Books, for doing a buddy read with me, even though you’re a much faster reader than I am. 😉

Thanks for reading everyone.

Death in the English Countryside by Sara Rosett – (Audiobook – Tantor Audio)

A85657FC-69E1-4623-B1F4-CB3CFE01ED88⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 – 4.5 stars
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When Kevin Dunn, owner of Premiere Locations, a small location scouting firm, goes missing in the quaint village of Nether Woodsmoor in England while scouting out locations for their newest project, a Pride and Prejudice adaptation, Kate Sharp, Kevin’s employee, is sent from their office in California to locate her boss. Kate and the office manager, Marcy, are the only two who are aware of Kevin’s alcohol addiction and the problems it has caused him in his professional life in the past. Not wanting to stir up unnecessary negative publicity for some trivial impropriety and risk losing a project from a top Director, Kate heads off to England to find her boss and bring him back to California. But when she finally locates Kevin he’s not inebriated, he’s dead.
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There was so much to love about this book; all of the references to Pride and Prejudice, the beautiful location with its undulating green fields, golden stone cottages, groves of trees, flowering hedgerows and lush gardens; the snooty characters that made me feel like saying…
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It’s always an added bonus when I learn new things while reading a book. This book taught me a lot about location scouting, which I found quite interesting.  It was a unique profession that I’ve never seen used in a cozy mystery.  I was pleasantly surprised by how well the mystery was developed.  The ending was satisfying, although I did find it slightly difficult to piece together.  The audio narrator, Sarah Mollo-Christensen, has a soothing voice that was exceedingly pleasant to listen to, and aided in my complete enjoyment of this book.
I will be inquiring about book 2 in the series, Death in an English Cottage. That’s how excited I was about this book. Highly recommended.
Thank you, Tantor Audio, for a complimentary download of this book. In exchange I have provided an honest, unbiased review.
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Have a great week everyone, and thanks for visiting Cozynookbks. 😊

Hetty’s Farmhouse Bakery by Cathy Bramley

🍰🍰🍰🍰🍰 5 cake slices

Don’t let the sweet little innocuous cover fool you. Sure, there’s a sheep farm, homemade pies and a quaint little village called Carsdale in Cumbria, England, that’s filled with caring neighbors….

My vision of Hetty’s farmhouse

But there’s also secrets, bad decisions and the resultant consequences that will astound you…

When Hetty Greengrass learns that her daughter, Poppy, is inspired by her aunt Naomi, and not her own mother, Hetty feels inadequate and slightly jealous. She’s a sheep farmer’s wife, while Naomi runs the successful Sunnybank Farm Shop that she built from the ground up. Hetty re-evaluates her life; she wants to be her daughter’s role model. So instead of living to appease everyone else’s wishes and desires, she decides to finally put her own first. What can she do? Folks rave about her homemade sweet and savory pies, including Poppy, so she’s determined to bake pies, not just recreationally for charities and the village fete, but for profit. Everyone is supportive except the one person whose support means the most: her husband, Dan. He relies on Hetty to help with farming duties, and expresses his reluctance to allow her to pursue this new venture. But when she gets entered into the Cumbria’s Finest competition without her knowledge, Hetty’s life begins to change, in more ways than one.

I loved this book!! I learned a lot about the goings-on of a sheep farm. I got lost in the imagery of the beautiful Lake District with its rolling hills, valleys and meadows. And although there are witty and heartwarming scenes, there’s also the complexities of life that will take you on a roller coaster ride of emotions. I’m so glad I purchased this book, even if I had to wait for it to arrive all the way from across the pond. I think you will love it too. Highly recommended.

The beautiful Lake District

Do you enjoy books set in England and written by British authors? Please, share your thoughts.

Have a great day. And thank you for visiting Cozynookbks.😊