Blanche on the Lam by Barbara Neely – (Audiobook – Tantor Audio)

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 – 4.5 stars

When four of her employers go out of town without informing her, or paying her, sassy domestic worker, Blanche White, is forced to write a few bad checks that land her in hot water. She might be headed off to prison. Fortunately, a commotion surrounding an unfortunate event involving the county commissioner enables Blanche to make her escape from the courthouse without notice. What will she do? Where will she go? She finds herself in the home of a wealthy family, disguised as a former worker. Blanche figures she can make some money in the meantime before she’s found out and then move on with her life. But she’s chosen the wrong house to get lost in. Things are not what they appear to be in the household. So when two murders happen within her short stay at this hideout home, Blanche will need her quick wits to get away safe, and to uncover who did away with her newfound friend.

This book immediately drew me in. It was creative right from the start, which hooked me. And then Blanche’s personality, which mimicked some women I’ve encountered in real life and in the movies, entertained me. How can I explain her character? 🤔 It was a little like a mix of Octavia Spencer’s character, Minnie, from The Help, and Madea from one of Tyler Perry’s movies. One of my favorite characters was Mumsfield, a mentally challenged man with a big heart, a love of cars, and an instant attachment to and wholesome affection for Blanche. Mumsfield, although autistic, was very keen in many ways, and there was just so much to love about him.

I would not characterize this book as a cozy mystery because it contains some mature themes and serious subject matter; material that’s best suited for adult readers. It was not the comedic mystery that I thought it would be based on the cover. The setting was the Deep South, and if you are particularly sensitive about outspokenness regarding racial inequalities and prejudice, I’d think twice before picking up this one. Blanche can be a bit salty with her tongue, and other characters are not shy about expressing their feelings about minorities and using condescension in their tones. Nonetheless, the mystery aspect was top-notch, and I was both impressed and surprised by the outcome.

The audible narrator’s performance given by Lisa Reneé Pitts was OUTSTANDING!! She imitates male and female voices, dialects and accents with ease. As the villain, her maniacal laugh was priceless. I look forward to listening to other books she’s narrated.

Thank you, Tantor Audio, for a complimentary audio download of Blanche on the Lam. All opinions expressed about it are my own.

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The Dough Must Go On: (Oxford Tearoom Mystery – Book 9) by H.Y. Hanna

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5-stars

Gemma Rose gets the opportunity of a lifetime when a wealthy talent show creator, Monty Gibbs, chooses her Little Stables Tearoom to provide the daily catering for his show, From Pleb to Celeb.

A menagerie of contestants ranging from the talented to the eccentric, eager to get their chance at fame, are practicing their talents in preparation for their big chance at winning the show.

Gemma isn’t too keen on the show’s creator. She’s figured out that behind his magnanimous facade is an ambitious businessman more interested in sensationalism than the welfare of his contestants. He’s even resorted to embellishing their backgrounds and exploiting them for the benefit of ratings. And although some may have checkered pasts, Gemma is adamant that it’s no reason to take advantage of them. So when one of the contestants is found dead behind the stage, Gemma wonders just how far Monty Gibbs might go to advance his show. Or might there be some other killer lurking amongst them?

H.Y. Hanna has done it again. I was thoroughly entertained by The Dough Must Go On. The “old biddies” characters are always comical….

“The police are as effective as a chocolate teapot.”— Old Biddies

One of the highlights of this series is revisiting some of my favorite characters. Gemma’s geeky friend, Seth, always teaches some interesting scientific fact or lesson that enlightens me. And Gemma’s uppity but harmless, sweet mother is a great character whose appearance in the books always makes me happy. These Oxford Tearoom Mysteries never fail to provide a hilarious scene or three, and I can count on a great mystery and a top-notch narrating performance from the inimitable Pearl Hewitt. The Oxford Tearoom Mysteries is one of my absolute favorite cozy mystery series.

Thank you, H.Y. Hanna, for a complimentary download of The Dough Must Go On. All opinions expressed about it are my own.

Murder on Cape Cod by Maddie Day – REVIEW and GIVEAWAY

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – 4 stars

When bike shop owner, Mackenzie “Mac” Almeida, stumbles over handyman Jake Lacey’s body on the path behind her micro-home on Cape Cod, suspicion initially falls on her. Mac’s frustration with Jake over the low-standard job he did on her roof repair raised the eyebrows of Westham Police Chief, Victoria Laitinen. Might Mac’s dissatisfaction from the shoddy roof job be a motive for murder? Mac is not overly concerned about proving her own innocence. But how can she explain away the murder weapon that belongs to her brother, Derrick? Sure, Derrick’s had some alcohol problems in the past, but that doesn’t make him a killer. And he’s over all of that now….isn’t he? As Mac and the Cozy Capers book group, of which she is a part of, start piecing together clues in the hopes of finding out who murdered Jake, Mac learns things about her brother that raises concerns about his innocence. Could Derrick really do such a thing? Mac’s sleuthing, along with help from the Cozy Capers, directs her attention to a few individuals who may have had a motive for wanting Jake out of the picture, for good. But can she find out which one?

The Cape Cod setting, plausible suspects and little red herrings kept me guessing and jumping from suspect to suspect trying to identify the culprit. The author’s menagerie of characters was an indication that she heartily embraces diversity in many forms. There might have been a little over-eagerness to portray this, but it made for interesting reading. There’s an African grey parrot named Belle that I loved, and the descriptions of Cape Cod made me want to go there.

Murder on Cape Cod is a refreshing start to a new series.

Thank you, Kensington Publishing, for a complimentary copy of Murder on Cape Cod. All opinions expressed about it are my own.

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**GIVEAWAY**

Thanks to the publisher I have an extra ARC copy of Murder on Cape Cod to give away. (It is currently being sold exclusively at Barnes & Noble.)

Comment below for a chance to win. U.S. residents only. 😔 Winner will be announced on 1/18/19.

Amy by James Renner (Audiobook – Tantor Audio)

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 – 4.5 stars

This book is about a young reporter’s unceasing quest to find out what happened to Amy Mihaljevic.

Amy Mihaljevic disappeared in 1989 when she was ten years old. In early 1990 her body was found. James Renner, around the same age as Amy at the time, had been following the story about the cute little girl with the side ponytail. When Amy’s body was found James was devastated. The perpetrator was never caught. Sixteen years later, James, now a fledgling reporter for Scene magazine, revisits the story about Amy, hoping to uncover what really happened to her. As he gathers information from family members, friends and detectives who worked on the case, James quickly discovers there were a number of viable suspects who walked away, a few of them still living, and that one of them could be responsible for Amy’s death. As his investigation intensifies and he tracks down and interviews some of the suspects, along with those who knew them, James is struck by the deviance and depravity that surrounds him, and he becomes obsessed with finding Amy’s abductor.

James Renner’s tenacity in pursuing the Amy Mihaljevic case was captivating. Although a fledgling reporter at the time, Renner’s interviewing techniques were impressive. He cautiously spoke with anyone he could find that was connected to the case or considered a suspect, regardless of the danger to his own life. Each new chapter seemed to present another suspect or perspective regarding what happened to Amy, and I couldn’t stop listening to this book until I’d devoured the entire second half in one sitting. The suspense was such that I couldn’t tear myself away from it. There were real-life bogeymen, conspiracy theories, cover-ups, and almost too many suspects to keep straight. Some of it was very sad too though, like the impact that Amy’s death had on her mother, Margaret. She’d appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show in 1992—the show was about unsolved child murders. Margaret had a rough go of it after Amy died. I won’t divulge what happened to her, but it was sad.

It’s fascinating to me how some seemingly ordinary people are really cold, calculating, and manipulative at their core; capable of committing heinous crimes. People we see in restaurants or who we have casual conversations with as we go about our daily lives are these same people. It’s frightful imagining the number of disturbed individuals who lurk among us. Renner’s book exposes us to some of the personalities of such characters.

This book was compelling. In the end, I was hoping to learn that justice had been served for little Amy, but it was not to be. I didn’t receive the closure that I thought was sure to come. The investigation is still ongoing nearly thirty years later. Nevertheless, the story gripped me, enlightened me and educated me in a way that I won’t easily forget.

Thank you, Tantor Audio, for a free download of AMY, by James Renner. The author, whose voice is somewhat monotone but serene and welcoming at the same time, did a great job narrating his book.

Dangling By A Thread by Lea Wait (Audiobook – Tantor Audio)

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 – 4.5 stars

Angie Curtis, owner of Mainely Needlepoint, is intrigued by a mysterious loner, Jesse Lockhart, whom some refer to as The Solitary. He lives on isolated Kings Island, alone, and occasionally travels into Haven Harbor for his mail and other necessities. Mainely Needlepointer, Dave Percy, seems to be a friend of The Solitary, but when Angie enquirers about him, Dave Is elusive about the man. One thing’s for sure, Jesse isn’t enthused about anyone who tries to invade his island. He’s protective of the great cormorants that nest there, and won’t have them disturbed by intruders, especially not rich ones who want to buy his island right out from under him. There are a few who would gain from the sale of Jesse’s island. So when Jesse turns up dead, Angie is intent on keeping Jesse’s dream alive of protecting the birds, and of finding out who murdered him.

Dangling By A Thread is another solid mystery by Lea Wait that I enjoyed. In addition to the suspense leading up to the culprit, I was enlightened by the nesting habits of great cormorants and the uniqueness of their wings.

An additional delight of this series is that each new chapter opens with brief facts about an ancient needle-pointer and their work. I looked forward to learning about each and every one.

You can never go wrong with a Mainely Needlepoint Mystery, and this one is no exception.

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Christina Delaine has the perfect voice, pitch and pace for narrating this series. I always enjoy listening to her.

Thank you, Tantor Audio, for a complimentary download of Dangling By A Thread. All opinions expressed about it are my own.

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Apple Strudel Alibi – Oxford Tearoom Mystery series – Book 8 – by H.Y. Hanna (Audiobook)

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – 5- stars

H.Y. Hanna has done it again. Apple Strudel Alibi is another successful installment to the Oxford Tearoom Mystery series. In it we find ourselves on a trip to Vienna, Austria, where we’re introduced to a few new characters that become suspects in a murder investigation that Gemma Rose and the Old Biddies find themselves entangled in.

When Gemma’s planned holiday for a trip to Malta with her beau, Devlin O’Connor, is derailed yet again because of a last-minute work assignment she’s devastated. That is until her mother convinces her that it’s a perfect opportunity for Gemma to attend the rewards ceremony in Vienna. Gemma’s Little Stables Tearoom has won a contest for the best scones in Oxfordshire thanks to her dear senior citizen friends, the “Old Biddies,” who entered her tearoom in the contest without her knowledge. Gemma takes her mother’s advice and heads off to Vienna, availing herself of the invitation to stay in her mother’s friend’s newly-opened, pet-friendly hotel at a reduced rate, if ever she were in Austria. So Gemma finds herself in Vienna, sharing a suite with Muesli and the Old Biddies, and things seem perfect. That is until an art critic is murdered at the hotel, and the suspect could still be amongst them.

I thoroughly enjoyed this cozy mystery. I learned much about Austrian cuisine, culture, architecture and art. Of particular interest to me were facts about the Austrian artist, Gustav Klimt, and the Spanish Riding School where Lippizaner horses are trained to perform. Listening was like receiving a brief history lesson pertaining to these subjects and I loved it. Equally satisfying were the new characters, as well as those that’ve been present from the start of the series. And the mystery kept me in suspense until the jaw-dropping denouement. I appreciate H.Y. Hanna’s subliminal message of love, honor and respect for all humanity, and how everyone’s contributions to the world benefit all of mankind. It has been enlightening and gratifying becoming acquainted with characters from various countries and backgrounds while reading many of the books in this series.

Regarding the audio narrator, Pearl Hewitt, her voice is absolute perfection. Her depictions of the various characters, (including Muesli the tabby cat’s audible expressions), is incredible. Her masterful narration brings this series to life in a way that can only be fully described if you listen for yourself. Extraordinary talent. I always look forward to listening to Ms. Hewitt’s narration. I highly recommended Apple Strudel Alibi.

Thank you, H.Y. Hanna, for a complimentary download of Apple Strudel Alibi. In exchange I have provided an honest review.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone!! Thanks for stopping by. 😊

Death Over Easy by Maddie Day – Audiobook (Tantor Audio)

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ – 4 stars

The Bill Monroe Bluegrass Festival in Beanblossom, IN, is underway, and Robbie Jordan, owner of Pans n’ Pancakes, is excited since the venue will provide opportunities for a few musicians and dancers to stay at her newly opened B&B. Her boyfriend, Abe, is one of the performers at the festival, and she feels proud watching him from the audience. But when she and other observers see him arguing with one of the band members, and then that same member is found dead the next day, Robbie gets involved in the investigation since the suspects include her boyfriend, her father and a couple of guests staying at her small B&B.

Death Over Easy is Book five in the Country Store Mystery series. I enjoyed it despite having absolutely no knowledge of bluegrass music, banjos and whatnot. One of my favorite things about this series is revisiting with recurring characters, particularly Lt. Buck Bird, a tall, lanky Detective with a bottomless pit appetite and a deep Hoosier accent.

I liked that several of the characters were potential suspects, and it was interesting how various characters had different opinions of the victim; some thought she was a great person, others thought she was awful. I kept trying to ascertain her true nature. And even though I had an inkling of who the murderer was fairly early on, it didn’t lessen my enjoyment of the story.

I had a niggle with the occasional instances of sexual innuendo in the book. It was unnecessary. And since the audio narrator had a very senior voice those instances sounded a little ridiculous. The flirty exchanges between Robbie and Abe sounded like an overgrown school girl with a dirty old man and it was not appealing.

An issue I had with the audio narrator, Laural Merlington, was that her voice was not that of a person in her twenties or thirties, which I believe was the age of the protagonist. She sounded, at the very least, to be a woman in her sixties, maybe even seventies. It’s not that the narrator wasn’t perfectly capable or articulate, it’s just that she sounded much older than some of the characters, and as a consequence I found it difficult to connect with some of them. I kept thinking to myself that she’d be a lot more convincing as the voice of Jessica Fletcher, or possibly the book (not movie) version of Agatha Raisin—but not Robbie Jordan. I’d wished I had a paperback copy in addition to the audio version so that I could switch up when her voice began to harass me.

All things considered, Death Over Easy was an enjoyable cozy mystery and I will be on the lookout for further additions to the series.

Thank you, Tantor Audio, for a free download of Death Over Easy. In exchange I have provided an honest review.

Thanks for visiting everyone. 🤗