Éclair and Present Danger by Laura Bradford (Audiobook)

⭐️⭐️⭐️💫—3.5 Stars

Winnie Johnson has just inherited a vintage ambulance and a brown and white tabby cat, Lovey, from her elderly deceased neighbor, and friend, Gertrude. This is not what Winnie was hoping for, and she realizes that her bakery, Delectable Delights, won’t be salvaged financially after all. The increase in rent on the bakery by her landlord is too much for her to keep it running. When her neighbor, Bridget, unwittingly gives Winnie the idea for her emergency dessert squad service, things begin looking up. Using the ambulance to get delectable desserts with whimsical names like NEVER GIVE UPside Down cake, into the hands of people who are experiencing varying situations in life, can be a real hit. But in the midst of all the excitement with her new business, a dear friend on Winnie’s street is murdered, smothered with a pillow in his home, and Winnie feels an obligation to help find out who killed him so that her elderly friends on Serenity Lane can sleep better at night.

The Emergency Dessert Squad is a fun idea and it made me chuckle thinking about the ambulance coming to the rescue of people going through rough times and needing a sweets fix. There are desserts for celebrations too and that’s how Winnie meets a potential beau, Jay Morgan, a man who is not put off by her choice of friends. Winnie is an interesting character in that she’s a young woman but prefers elderly companionship. Her best friend, Reneé, and the men she usually meets have a difficult time understanding this. But Winnie doesn’t care. She loves the older ones who’ve embraced her and made her feel welcome in Silver Lake. I loved this aspect of Winnie’s personality. She readily defends her senior friends and lets her male acquaintances know that they can take a hike if they can’t understand why she prefers them as friends. Lovey the cat is a hilarious animal character in the book. She’s friendly with most people, but no matter what Winnie does to warm up to her, Lovey responds with an audible hiss. One wonders why Gertrude entrusted the cat’s care to Winnie.

Overall, I liked this cozy. Although at times I felt like the dessert squad and Winnie’s love life overshadowed the murder mystery in the book, it was still pretty good. I personally didn’t think the murderer was too hard to figure out, likely because there weren’t a whole lot of suspects, but it was still entertaining finding out the person’s motivation behind the killing. The audio narrator did a good job with the book. It took me a little time to warm up to her voice for some unknown reason, but once I did I determined she was okay.

Thank you, Tantor Media, for a free audio download of this book. In exchange I have provided an honest review.

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Have you read any books by Laura Bradford? What did you think dear readers? Have a wonderful day!!

Summit Lake by Charlie Donlea

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 – 4.5 stars

On Friday, Feb. 17, 2012, pretty, young law student, Becca Eckersley, died. Why did somebody take her life in such a passionate way? And why are the state police tight-lipped about any details surrounding Becca’s Murder?

Kelsey Castle, True Crime book author and journalist for Events Magazine, has just returned to work prematurely after a six-week leave-of-absence, having survived her own, as yet undisclosed, traumatic life event. Her boss informs her that he’s sending her to Summit Lake, a small town in the foothills of the beautiful blue ridge mountains of NC, to formulate a story about what might have happened to Becca.

Blue Ridge Mountains

Rewind fourteen months and we are introduced to Becca’s three best friends, and then we’re given a sequential account of Becca’s daily activities which consequently led to her demise. At the same time, Kelsey Castle is tracing Becca’s steps in Summit Lake; questioning her acquaintances, friends and significant others in an attempt to learn more about the girl that she’s becoming psychologically attached to. As she digs deeper into Becca’s life, she unmasks secrets, coverups and deceptions that just might explain what caused Becca’s death.

This book was perfect for me. It had just the right amount of mystery and suspense, and a more subtle thriller factor which I personally prefer. I really appreciate it when an author can create an amazing story without having to resort to needless shock value content in the way of excessive foul language, gratuitous violence or explicit sex scenes. Charlie Donlea accomplished this in a skillful way. There were a couple of unexpected twists that had me like …

Yup, I couldn’t believe it. Totally caught me off guard. I love it when an author can pull that off successfully.

This book was excellent. I was impressed, kept in anxious anticipation of what would happen next, and would jump at the chance to read another mystery/suspense book by Charlie Donlea. Highly recommended.

And finally, below is a trailer for Summit Lake.  Thanks, as always, for stopping by Cozynookbks.  Have a great week.

Killer Jam by Karen MacInerney – **TOP PICK**

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⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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I chose this cozy mystery to listen to on a whim, having downloaded it a while back from Amazon Prime Reading (audiobook version). What a pleasant surprise it was! I looked forward to my morning walks so that I could get caught up on what was happening with Lucy Resnick and Dewberry Farm. Here’s my synopsis of what it’s about….

Lucy Resnick, former Austin, Texas reporter turned homesteader, has purchased her grandparents’ farm in Buttercup, Texas. It had been sold 15 years prior after Lucy’s grandfather died. The new owner, Nettie Kocurek, has recently sold it to Lucy. But unbeknownst to Lucy, she was only sold the surface rights (what’s on top of the soil), and not the mineral rights (what’s beneath the soil). Nettie Kocurek wants to perform an oil exploration in the middle of Lucy’s pastureland with future plans to install an oil well if any oil is found there. Nettie is nursing a grudge against Lucy’s family because she was dumped by Lucy’s grandfather over 60 years ago. When Nettie turns up dead at the Founders’ Day festival and Jam-off, Lucy becomes a prime suspect. But with so few sympathetic reactions to the old woman’s plight from the Buttercup community, how will Lucy ever uncover the true killer and clear her name?

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I loved so many things about this book. The perfect country setting, Dewberry Farm in Buttercup, Texas, with residents that have names like Ursula, Opal, Rooster, Bessie Mae and Tobias. Lucy’s cow, Blossom, formerly known as Heifer #82, and her overweight, bald poodle, Chuck. The ongoing rivalry between the citizens of Czech and German descent, and laugh-out-loud moments reading about things like Lick Skillet Day, a bus that runs on fry grease, the real estate agent with the license plate that says BUY BUTT on it, and the mention of lots of kolaches. The murder mysteries were on point, and the colorful, quirky characters were amusing to say the least.

Kolaches

I LOVED Killer Jam. Karen MacInerney is a new favorite cozy author. Extremely highly recommended.

Have you ever read a cozy mystery by Karen MacInerney?  I’d love to hear what you thought about it.

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Muffins and Mourning Tea by H.Y. Hanna

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My synopsis: It’s May Day, first day of Spring in England, and Gemma regretfully agrees to celebrate it with her best friend, Cassie. The Oxford University tradition is to gather on Magdelan bridge (pronounced Maudlin) and listen to choristers sing from the Bell Tower above Magdalen College during the wee hours of the morning. When a young man hurls himself off of the bridge into the river Cherwell below Gemma isn’t initially alarmed since that is somewhat the custom. But until now everyone has succeeded in emerging from the river unscathed. Charlie Foxton was not as fortunate. A likeable young man by all accounts, Charlie didn’t seem the sort to participate in such foolish antics. It’s no wonder that what was initially deemed an accident quickly turned to a suspicion of murder.

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Kids jumping off of Magdelan Bridge into the river Cherwell below

My Thoughts:  HY Hanna delivers another stellar, clever mystery with international characters that add intrigue and spice to the story. (Her audible narrator, Pearl Hewitt, does an exquisite job at imitating the accents for the various Russian characters in the story.) I can depend on a solid mystery and some laugh-out-loud moments whenever the “old biddies” interfere in the murder investigation. Their practical, albeit unconventional sleuthing methods, are hilarious. The luscious tidbits about Oxford University and the surrounding area are always a plus in this series.  I liked Gemma’s transition from normally mild-mannered girl to imposing figure at times in this installment. There’s an inkling of trouble in paradise with Gemma’s boyfriend, Devlin O’Connor, and the suspicion still lingers beyond the conclusion of the book. Overall, I absolutely loved this cozy mystery (I think it’s my new favorite one of the series), and I look forward to the next book in the series, Four Puddings and a Funeral.  Extremely highly recommended.

Have you ever read, or listened to, any books in the Oxford Tearoom Mystery series?  If so, what did you think?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Bell Tower at Magdelan College – Oxford University

Till Death do us Tart by H.Y. Hanna

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 4.5 stars

Gemma Rose, owner of the Little Stables Tearoom in Oxford, has had her cat, Muesli, entered in the village fete cat show by her well-meaning mother, Evelyn Rose. Muesli, a common moggie cat, has no chance of winning this pure breed expedition. Dame Claire Eccleston, a snobbish, uppity opponent in the contest, makes this fact clearly known when she scornfully insults Muesli with the common farmhouse moggie designation. As Gemma anxiously awaits the judging of the cats, a scream rings out, and Dame Claire is knocked down in the crowd. But the woman doesn’t get back up. She’s dead, presumably of a heart attack, clutching an angina pill in one hand as she lay on the ground. She was at risk after all, being overweight and continually warned by her doctor to watch her intake of fattening desserts. She’d callously ignored his advice, even wolfing down rich cake she brought to the fete. But when her manner of death is called into question, Gemma sets out to uncover the real cause of death and the culprit behind the murder. This will prove to be a daunting task since Dame Claire Eccleston, Gemma quickly learns, was disliked by almost everyone she’d come in contact with.

Till Death do us Tart is another entertaining instalment in the Oxford Tearoom Mysteries series. H.Y. Hanna delivers yet another solid mystery, infused with intellect and wit that keeps you engaged from start to finish. Her audio narrator for the series, Pearl Hewitt, is outstanding. Her portrayal of the characters’ emotions—astonishment, exasperation, horror, chagrin, further enhances the story. Her impersonations can’t be beat, from the old biddies, to the maid at Eccleston House, and even Muesli the cat, are some of the best I’ve ever heard. An intrinsic quality that serves this series well.

If you enjoy well-crafted British cozy mysteries, you’ll love Till Death Do us Tart. And for those who like listening to audiobooks, this one is a winner.

Review: Pretty Baby

Pretty Baby
Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

💜💜💜💜💜 THIS WAS AN AUDIOBOOK. Heidi Wood can’t stop thinking about the homeless teenager with the little baby, so she eventually, and without consent from her husband Chris, decides to bring them home where her husband and 12-yr old daughter Zoë live. Chris and Heidi differ on their views regarding cohabitating with this strange girl, Willow Greer, and her infant. Pretty Baby is presented from the point of view of the three main characters: Heidi, Chris and Willow.  The Wood family are not privy to Willow’s past. They don’t even know if Willow is her real name. When we hear from Willow’s perspective we learn that she came from a loving family but was orphaned, separated from her younger sister Lily, and placed in a foster home where she was abused by the husband of the couple that took her in, Joseph and Miriam Zieger. Although Joseph continually abuses Willow he manipulates her into believing that she’s a bad girl if she doesn’t relent to his commands, and that god will punish her for disobeying. She feels helpless and confused, trying to do what she can to alleviate her situation by cooking and doing chores for the family (which also consists of the Zieger’s two boys) to appease Joseph, while also helping the wife to bathe and dress since she suffers from severe mental illness and barely functions. Pretty Baby starts in the present, but Willow’s testimony gives us the backstory of how she winds up homeless with an infant. As the story moves forward we see the Wood family dynamic deteriorating as Willow and the baby become a lingering presence much to the dismay of Chris and Zoë. Heidi puts her own needs ahead of her family, advocating that the two guests stay as long as she determines. But is it really the two that she wants to stay?

I really liked how the author built the story. There were plot twists that I didn’t foresee and that intrigued me as the book climaxed to culminate in a very satisfying, psychologically thrilling outcome. As the story progressed it just got better and better. And although I am not one to read a lot of thriller type books, this one was what I would consider a milder version which was more my speed.

Pretty Baby was a hit with me and I recommend it to those who have a penchant for psychological thrillers.

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Review: Seaside Secrets

Seaside Secrets
Seaside Secrets by Dana Mentink
My rating: 5  of 5 stars

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Dana Mentink has done it again. Whenever I read one of her romantic suspense books I know I’m about to be taken on a fast-paced, riveting, action-packed joyride. And that’s exactly what I got with Seaside Secrets.
Tank Guzman needs Angela Gallagher’s help, but not the help she’s accustomed to giving. As navy chaplain she’s assisted many to cope with their grief, but the pain of witnessing Tank’s brother’s death in Kandahar, Afghanistan has her wondering if she’s truly qualified to carry on that role. Julio Guzman, Tank’s brother, died while trying to protect her, and the guilt she carries, along with the PTSD, finds her stepping away from her duties as chaplain and into helping with her family’s detective agency in California, Pacific Coast Investigations. Tank Guzman contends that someone is trying to kill him, but his bitter attitude towards Angela because of his twin brother’s dying while trying to save her, along with his checkered past, makes Angela skeptical. Perhaps he’s setting her up to be harmed as revenge for his brother’s death. Nevertheless, she feels that Tank is telling the truth, and an obligation to help him because of Julio. Dan Blackwater, the heart doctor who served in Afghanistan with Angela and tried but failed to save Julio’s life, wants to help her get to the bottom of what’s going on with Tank, but Angela wants to keep Dan at arms length because of her attraction to him, unwilling to foster a relationship while she’s uncertain about her own life and future. But when a young woman, Lila Brown, narrowly escapes being blown to bits, and Angela’s life is eventually threatened, she concedes to a helping hand in Dan; one that might aid her in healing, and possibly in finding someone intent on murder.
Seaside Secrets starts off at a fast pace and keeps your heart pounding until the stunning conclusion. Dana Mentink is an excellent suspense writer.  I was thoroughly impressed by the revelation of why Tank Guzman was running; very creative. I loved this book and recommend it highly.

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