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.

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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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Review: Two Down, Bun to Go


Two Down, Bun to Go by H.Y. Hanna My rating: 5 of 5 stars

💜💜💜💜💜

Professor Quentin Barrow is found dead, stabbed to death with an Egyptian Dagger. Gemma’s former Oxford chum and still good friend, Seth Browning, is charged with the murder. Seth was seen arguing with professor Barrow before the body was discovered. A staunch advocate for the homeless and other such causes, Seth was getting pushback from the professor regarding a piece of college donated property that would have benefited the homeless. Barrow’s pompous, elitist attitude disgusted Seth, and his repulsion for the man was evident. Gemma knows her friend could not have committed the murder, although she must admit his current odd, uncharacteristic and mysterious behavior is quite alarming. But how can she prove his innocence when there is so much circumstantial evidence pointing to Seth? With the help of handsome CID Detective and former boyfriend, Devlin O’Connor, contending beau, Lincoln Green, and the meddlesome but lovable Old Biddies, Gemma uncovers a slew of others who might have killed the unpopular professor. The question is, which one of them actually did?

I don’t know how H.Y. Hanna manages it, but each successive book in her Oxford Tearoom Mystery series is better than the last. Don’t let the whimsical, cute little cover fool you. They rival other renowned and beloved writers of British mysteries hands down. Her characters’ magnetic personalities captivate; from the endearing to the villainous, they’re all equally entertaining. The way in which she describes her mother’s witty charms and hapless adventures, the antics of the Old Biddies, and little Muesli the cat, never fails to elicit chuckles. The plot moves along effortlessly as the reader is immersed in English life and subtly educated about the peculiarities and uniqueness of the University of Oxford—a real treat and added bonus.

Read it, you’ll LOVE it. And if you want an even greater experience, do yourself a favor and listen to the audio version. The narrator does a stupendous job of bringing the characters to life. Very, very highly recommended.

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Review: Tagged for Death

Tagged for Death
Tagged for Death by Sherry Harris
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

⭐⭐⭐⭐💫 Sarah Winston, 38, is devoid of a social life since divorcing her husband, CJ Hooker, former Air Force Base Security Forces squadron commander. Forced to retire for “misconduct” after having had an affair with a 19 year old airman, Tiffany Lopez. Sarah does, however, enjoy frequenting garage sales, and recently she’s snagged a great buy at one in particular, even managing to collect various free items for charity. Back at her small apartment, while sorting out the charitable items to be taken to the military base thrift shop, she finds a bloodstained shirt with her ex-husband’s initials on the monogrammed cuff, along with another piece of bloodied clothing, a maternity top, that belonged to his dismissed lover, Tiffany Lopez. Flabbergasted as to how either of the items wound up with her other collectibles, and in a panic, Sarah frantically tries to locate CJ. When he finally contacts her she shares what she found and he assures her he’ll figure out what’s going on. But when blood is found on Tiffany’s dorm room floor, and Sarah soon finds a skull and bones on the thrift store grounds where she volunteers, will she be able to prove that her ex-husband didn’t have a motive for murder?

I really enjoyed Tagged for death. The mystery of what happened to Tiffany Lopez unfolds gradually while we simultaneously gain a window into Sarah’s life as an ex-military wife, and how she is forced to redefine herself after losing much of her identity after moving off the military base. While Sarah has to learn to adapt to life as an ordinary civilian and divorcee, she’s savvy when it comes to using her wits to investigate the murder of her ex-husband’s lover. The struggle to rid herself of the love she still has deep down for her cheating husband, while endeavoring to make a little money to sustain herself by setting up garage sales for friends and acquaintances, endeared me to her character. She’s a fighter, determined to overcome adversity, and I admired that quality. Tagged for Death is not a whimsical cozy. It has a mature theme that held my attention as much as the mystery aspect. There are a few twists that I didn’t expect, and that makes me curious and eager to move on in the series, as these twists warrant further development. A great story. I am definitely interested to see how Sarah gets on with her life. Recommended.

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Review: The Julius House

The Julius House
The Julius House by Charlaine Harris
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ I love the Aurora Teagarden Mystery series. I would classify The Julius House as a conventional mystery, although I find it along the lines of cozy-ish. Charlaine Harris knows how to assemble intricately contrived, yet plausible murder scenarios that definitely excite and entertain the reader. I’ve been astounded by the outcome of the murder mystery each time I’ve read one of the books in this series. Thankfully, she’s adding new books to the series and I eagerly await what she will cook up in the ones that are to come. And now a synopsis of The Julius House…

Aurora (Roe) Teagarden’s new husband, Martin, has bought her The Julius House as a wedding present. But this is no ordinary house. The Julius House was home to a family of three that disappeared approximately six years before. It’s like they just vanished into thin air. The only relative who can relate what happened on that fateful day is Melba Totino, the mother of one of the occupants, Hope, who was married to T.C. Julius. The two lived in the house with their teenage daughter, Charity. Melba lived in a little apartment above the garage adjacent to the house. On the morning the family vanished, Melba had stepped over to the house to cook breakfast for the family as usual. According to her statement to police, when she went there that morning nobody was in the home. The couples’ vehicles were in the garage, the house was undisturbed, but the family was gone. Six years later they’re still missing.

Roe feels unsettled and determined to find out what happened to the Julius family. Could they be dead somewhere on or around the property? She’s determined to do some digging to put her mind at ease. Unfortunately, the Julius family is not the only mystery she’s interested in solving. It seems her new husband has got some secrets of his own. For instance, just who is the mysterious, odd married couple that Martin has informed Roe will be living with them in Melba’s old apartment over the garage? Why is he vague about who they are and why they’re there? It becomes clear that Roe just might have her work cut out for her as she goes on a mission to uncover both mysteries.

I can always count on being fully immersed in an Aurora Teagarden murder mystery. I enjoyed this book immensely. Most definitely recommended.

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Review: The Secrets She Kept

The Secrets She Kept
The Secrets She Kept by Brenda Novak
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Josephine Lazarow had a lot of secrets….

The Secrets She Kept, book 2 in the Fairham Island series, picks up 5 years after The Secret Sister. Josephine Lazarow is dead. Her death has been ruled a suicide, but her son, Keith Lazarow, is not convinced. His mother would never take her own life, he insists. Once a down and out addict, Keith has turned over a new leaf. Turns out he has a knack for real estate and operates a multimillion dollar company in California. His newfound wealth gives him the means to delve deeper into his mother’s death. After consulting with his sister Maisey regarding the mysterious circumstances surrounding their mother’s death, she supports Keith’s decision to pursue a more thorough investigation. If only he could persuade the beautiful, highly intelligent and efficient Chief of Police, Harper Underwood, to get on board. Keith realizes that his negative reputation precedes him, and that it will take great effort on his part to reverse others’ preconceived notions of him, including the police chief’s. Meanwhile, Keith is trying to contain his feelings for the woman whose heart he broke 5 years earlier before he got clean, Nancy Dellinger. Realizing he made a tremendous mistake in taking her for granted, he desperately wants to start over with her. But Nancy has continually resisted his attempts and Keith is having a difficult time accepting her rejections. Will these distressing circumstances in his life push Keith over the edge and back to the drugs he’s worked so hard to put behind him? Did Josephine take her own life or did someone murder her?

The Secrets She Kept was every bit as good as The Secret Sister, which was a 5-star read for me. In it we find a great mystery alongside a solid, second-chance romance story. Brenda Novak is very adept at conveying human emotion. Her characters’ feelings and expressions are authentic and relatable. I also appreciate how there’s a purpose for every one of her characters. At the conclusion of the book the reader is not left wondering “whatever happened to so and so?”. Everything comes together at the end, neat and tidy, with each person accounted for. Some of the characters that we were introduced to in The Secret Sister have evolved and matured in The Secrets She kept, and for that reason I recommend reading the books in order. If I had to list any cons for this book there would only be one. I wish it was free of the heavy petting and sensual scenes since I prefer wholesome romance. Just my own personal preference. Brenda Novak’s writing is so good it doesn’t even seem necessary. Being that the romance aspect shared space with the mystery, these scenes were few and I did my best to skip over them. Had everything remained the same, and the romance been strictly sweet, it would be a 5++ read for me.

Overall, The Secrets She Kept was an excellent read with a thoroughly satisfying mystery and a HEA that will melt your heart.

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Review: A Dark and Stormy Murder

A Dark and Stormy Murder
A Dark and Stormy Murder by Julia Buckley
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

⭐⭐⭐💫 Lena London’s life is about to change….in more ways than one.
When Lena brings her car to a halt in front of the large, ominous-looking mansion and home of her idol, novelist Camilla Graham, she still can’t believe her good fortune. Lena has devoured every one of Camilla Graham’s books since she was a young girl, and now she will have the privilege of living in her house as her personal assistant and ghost writer, thanks to her friend Allison who got her the interview that landed her the job. This apprenticeship is a dream come true for Lena, but as she gets started in her new role she finds that all is not well in the sleepy, blissful town of Blue Lake, IN. Nothing notable ever really happens in Blue Lake she’s been told, but in less than a day since Lena’s arrival a dead body is discovered on Camilla’s property, and she learns that their neighbor next door, Sam West, is suspected of killing his missing wife. And while walking Camilla’s feisty German Shepherds, Heathcliff and Rochester, in an attempt to acquaint herself with her new surroundings and neighbors, she meets several surly male residents and a few pleasant women in town who seem cordial and welcoming enough. But Lena’s on high alert. Can any of these townsfolk be responsible for the murder of Martin Jonas, waiter at the Wheat Grass restaurant? Did Sam West kill his wife who vanished a year ago without a trace?

This cozy started out well, and I liked the idea of an aspiring writer living with and working for her favorite novelist. Their interactions throughout the book were endearing, and it was nice to see how their relationship evolved from the time they met to the book’s end. Camilla’s dogs, Rochester and Heathcliff; and Lena’s cat, Lestrade, were a welcome addition to the story. Their antics were amusing and I never tired of reading about what they were up to. While the characters were interesting, I would like to have seen some of them more fully developed. There was so much more potential for fleshing them out. Perhaps we’ll learn more about them in book 2. What put me off a little with this book was the insta-love between Lena and one of the other characters, the double murder plot which at times made me wonder which one was taking center stage, the easy way I determined who the killer was, and the To Be Continued ending. All in all, I liked this cozy but I didn’t love it. I wanted to love it so much. It began on a high note but gradually started to lose steam for me when I was about 3/4 of the way in. Nevertheless it was a pretty good read. But hey, judging from the 4 and 5 star reviews it’s receiving you might think differently so I’d say give it a try. You may very well think it deserves more merit.

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