St Marins Cozy Mystery Series – ACF Bookens

Series Box Set, Volume One, Books One thru Three

five stars

I LOVE boxed sets, they make digging into a new series effortless AND binge-able!

Harvey fell in love with St Marin after a summer spent there as a child. When a divorce and job loss mean she needs to start over, it makes sense that she finally follows her dream and opens a book shop in that same small Maryland town.

In the first three volumes of this series we meet Harvey and Mayhem in the days before the Grand Opening of All Booked Up where, on the eve of the long-awaited day, she finds a dead body in her storage room!

And the excitement, intrigue, and investigation commence.

Bookens crafts her characters well, imbuing them with humour and moxie, and giving glimpses that make us fully invested, right from the start. As you make your way through these first three volumes, she will introduce townspeople who will become friends, but also you will learn about the people Harvey has left behind in San Francisco – some willingly – and why they ultimately make St Marin their home.

Great characters, unique and intriguing plots; these all come together in St Marins to form the basis of a series of mysteries that I guarantee will soon become favorites!

Secrets on Sunset Ridge – Christine Roney

Ellie Baye Mysteries, Book Three

five stars

Not everything is as it appears . . . especially when the truth is purposely hidden.

When Daniel’s wife prevails upon her to look into his death; Ellie is hard-pressed to disagree with the “official” verdict of accident.

As she starts to “look into things” just as pro forma, in hopes of satisfying the grieving widow, Ellie herself slowly becomes convinced that this was murder and resolves to get to the bottom of it, to find peace and justice for Daniel.

Roney once again has built a storyline that is different and that captures the reader. These characters are relatable and engaging. The snippets of the story as she unravels the clues for us are absorbing. Another great read, I’m looking forward to Ellie’s next adventure!

[I was fortunate to receive an Advanced Reader Copy of the book from the author, with no obligation to review. All opinions expressed herein are given freely and are entirely my own.]

Black Jade: A Daiyu Wu Mystery – Gloria Oliver

Daiyu Wu Mysteries Book One

five stars

A new kind of totally unexpected!

Daiyu Wu is a different sort of sleuth. Young, cerebral, unexpected, the blind Miss Wu uses her finely honed senses to help find the truth when others are content to look at the surface and call it done. In 1930s society this is hardly an acceptable pastime for a young lady; that Miss Wu is also of Chinese heritage muddies the waters further still. For “them”.

But a mere chapter or two into the reading of Oliver’s book, and you will know – as I did – that there is nothing to be discounted about this discerning young woman and her intrepid defender Prince Razor. And we must remember Jacques as well.

Carefully crafted characters – I especially loved Dr Aiden Campbell – that will keep you engaged as their story unfolds. An intriguing storyline that never ceases to amaze. And a historical setting that has been well researched and brought to life. These are some of the attributes of Black Jade, and they are the reason that I will look forward to many more of Daiyu’s escapades as she leaves law enforcement befuddled in her wake.

[I was fortunate to receive a copy of this book from the author via Cozy Mystery Review Crew, with no obligation to review. The opinions expressed herein are given freely and entirely my own.]

The Babbling Book Naked Poker Club – Ann Warner

Boxed Set, Books One thru Five – the complete series

Five stars

While the first book was a bit slow off the mark, it didn’t take long to grab my interest, and you’ll find that The Naked Poker Club are some of the most entertaining retirees you’ll ever have the good fortune to meet!

In Book One, the residents of Brookside Retirement [otherwise known as Babbling Brook] are being taken advantage of so Josephine and her Poker Ladies have decided they’re going to put a stop to it. What happens as they put their plans in effect will have you alternating between gasping with worry and chortling with laughter.

Warner’s characters jump off the page. They are wise cracking, smart, and funny, and amazingly agile for a group of “elderly” folk. They will have you on the edge of your seat with their antics. Best part? There are a few books in this series so there’s no waiting between episodes!

Heart warming moments intermingle seamlessly with snapshots of underhanded dealings. But there is no doubt as to who the good guys are, and which side you are firmly on. Of course, the ending will bring you to tears . . . but, in a very good way!

Warner hits it out of the ballpark with series. I moved quickly along to each next episode. If you haven’t already, get your hands on Babbling Brook . . . you won’t regret it!

The Heirloom Garden – Viola Shipman

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

“But once we rid ourselves of something, we can no longer get it back … We think we can re-create everything, but we can’t.”

The Heirloom Garden is populated with intricately drawn characters that embed themselves in your heart and draw you inexorably into the tapestry that is their lives.  Tears fall for Iris, as they fall for Abby; for what might have been, indeed what SHOULD have been, but for the fickleness of war.  But smiles will fill your heart as well.

The juxtaposition of the two main characters, who, though decades apart in age, share an eerily similar story of what draws you into this story right from the start. A story that is told with compassion and empathy, yet does not hold back from shining an insightful light on the harsh realities of our times.

Shipman’s narrative is heart wrenching while allowing us to see glimmers of hope woven amid the threads like shiny gold filaments.  Healing is written between the rows of The Heirloom Garden; Shipman is masterful at sowing hope and casting sunlight where it’s needed most.

Read this one knowing that you will come away changed. 

PS – have tissues handy!

The Malhoa Connection – Estelle Ryan

A Genevieve Lenard Novel

Five stars

I first met Genevieve Lenard – and incidentally her chronicler Estelle Ryan – on the wings of an email from one or the other of the free ebooks services I subscribe to.  Volume One of what was at the time, a five-volume series, was free for the weekend.  Never one to turn down a FREE book, I went for it.  That was Friday evening.  By Sunday afternoon, I had purchased and indeed read all five of the books available.

Genevieve is a multiple-degree doctor, who specializes in reading body language and non-verbal communications.  Genevieve is also high-functioning autistic.  I don’t know much about what that entails, but over the years of reading Ryan’s work, I feel I’ve come to understand it more, to learn more about this multi-faceted, not-pigeon-hole-able trait.

Clearly, as I’ve developed and grown in my knowledge, so too has Genevieve grown in her abilities and interactions and acceptance of the neuro-typical not only in her world, but in her life.  And any day that a fiction-thriller-novel of any sort can teach us something, THAT is the sign of an exceptional writer.

Ryan is that and more.  Her attention to detail, her limitless search for ALL the information and her dedication to passing it ALL along to her readers, is what makes The Connection series one that I will advocate always.  Write as many as you wish, Estelle, I will read them all, promise!

“A decades old crime.  A torment not forgiven.  Ice-cold revenge.”

When I started reading Malhoa, I had no idea how correct that chilling tagline would be.  Genevieve – at the beginning of the series – was an insurance fraud investigator who, over the years, has developed an affinity for solving crimes on the international level, especially with an artistic bent of some sort.  Through the years, she’s put together a team of experts who complement her skills admirably.  Together, they “get their man”.

But this latest in the series is an investigation with a twist.  Right from the start, her own team is put in harm’s way when one of them is taken hostage in his own apartment.  And in order to get to the bottom of the larger plot that she “sees” is there, the team finds itself cooperating with a thief and his associates.  All the way to the streets of Lisbon.

As always, Ryan’s narrative is filled with information.  About the particular artist highlighted.  About how our minds work.  About how painstakingly Genevieve continues to learn to adapt and involve herself in a neuro-typical world.  All while keeping us turning pages obsessively till the very last one.

Stellar development of characters and storyline, such that you ARE immersed in the story, in their lives and loves, and invested in ensuring that everyone comes out the other end all in one piece – even if there will always be a telltale scar or three.

The Malhoa Connection – another masterpiece of craftsmanship – well-developed, thoroughly researched, impeccably written.  Don’t hesitate to pick it up; and then, treat yourself by going back to the beginning and learning to love these characters the same way I have, one mission at a time.  I cannot wait for the next adventure!

2021 Winter Games Reader Challenge

The final reviews – I managed twenty-one books in the month long FB challenge, some have been posted here individually.

Beautiful Boy – Kathi Goldwyn – four stars

Beautiful Boy is one of those stories that capture your heart and runs away with it.  Goldwyn has created characters that resonate and inspire the reader to keep reading and to root for their ultimately winning.

A dysfunctional family, an escape to a “better place”, but the one left behind that still owns your heart.  There are strength and determination in this story, Goldwyn masterfully weaves danger and disillusionment and heartbreak into a tapestry that gives a fitting end to Sam’s story.  Definitely recommend!

*****

Your Words – Louise Belanger – five stars

I’m not usually a reader of poetry . . . but I found Belanger’s work easy to read and enjoy.  Some of these really spoke to me, highlighting parts of my own life and feelings, and isn’t that what we look for when reading anything?

I’m hard-pressed to name a favourite, so I won’t, but I know there are pieces here that I will come back to again and again.

*****

Texas My Texas – Caryl McAdoo – four stars

Book Two in the Cross Timbers Family Saga . . . Texas My Texas does well as a standalone too.  a sweeping story of new beginnings, McAdoo doesn’t sugar-coat the hardships endured by these characters.  And yet, through disappointment and loss, their spirit and faith are such that they persevere and even overcome.

A good read, with well-drawn characters, Texas My Texas felt like a glimpse of history in my hands.

*****

Lucy the Clarinetist – Judy Ann Davis – five stars

A Musical Christmas Series, Book Three

Take a mystery, add a touch of romance, and set it around Christmas time and you have the makings of a great cozy read!  Third in the series, Lucy the Clarinetist stands alone perfectly.  We’re introduced to a young lady in a boring dead end job, but with a dream.  We meet her “adoring-from-afar” friend Andre, and the excitement starts. 

Andre has bought an old barn that he hopes to convert to a theatre.  That barn harbours a hidden world renowned clarinet that must be found; and of course, Lucy is enticed by the mystery.

Davis has created some interesting and fun characters that pull you into their story and keep you reading.  You want to know if they get their happy ending.  A good story, that I’m sure you’ll enjoy, as I did.

*****

Igniting Love – Sara Ohlin – five stars

Rescue Me Series, Book Two

I have always loved a starting over story and Igniting Love hits that twice when both our heroine and hero are starting again and healing from old wounds.

Katie is a young widow, uncertain that a new love is a good idea, especially with three little girls.  Leo is an artist, recently moved back to the area, nursing a betrayed heart.  Though the sparks are undeniable, are they ready to place their trust in someone else’s hands?

Ohlin draws her characters with great sympathy and understanding; you want them to overcome the past and move forward.

I enjoyed Igniting Love, I think you will as well.

*****

Round of Applause – Marilyn Barr – four stars

Strawberry Shifters, Book Two

I used to read Kelley Armstrong – a Canadian writer of paranormal romance – and immensely enjoyed her work, though I haven’t read any of her for a long while.  This is why I was surprised that while reading Applause, I felt it very much in the Armstrong style.  A conflict, some romance, and a rather unconventional resolution.

Barr has made her characters amiable and endearing and intriguing enough to entice me to read Bear With Me though Round of Applause reads perfectly well as a stand-alone.  But I do love me a series!

An excellent paranormal read that I’m sure you’ll also enjoy.

*****

Fatal Obsession – Casi McLean – five stars

Her Silent Shadow Box Set

A psychological thriller that pulls you along on its trajectory and doesn’t loosen its grip till it’s done with you.  McLean packs Fatal Obsession with revenge, intriguing characters, and fast-paced action; you will not want to miss this rare treat!  AND there’s a dog in the story!

*****

Spring Upon a Crime – M L Erdahl – four stars

Seattle Wilderness Mysteries, Book Two

Spring Upon a Crime is Book Two in the series but is easily read as a stand-alone.  This episode finds Crystal leading a tour into the Olympic Rain Forest, where along with flora and fauna, they find a dead body and Crystal’s friend Roxie holding the murder weapon.

And so the investigation starts.  But there just might be too many suspects for this one to be an easy case.  Erdahl’s characters are quirky and fun, making this cozy mystery a great read.  I enjoyed Spring; I’m looking forward to more of Crystal’s adventures.

*****

[I was fortunate to receive a copy of the book from the authors of these books, through the 2021 Winter Games Reader Challenge, with no obligation to review.  The opinions expressed herein are given freely and are entirely my own.]

Danger Signs – Fiona Quinn

Delta Force Echo, Book One

Five of five stars

When Ty is pegged for a new CIA joint mission, his first thought was that he’s tactical and K9 ops, not psyops.  He is, however, the best one for this assignment – to make the target fall in love with him, thus giving him access to the terrorist the mission is tasked with taking down.

His target – Qatari royalty with a dilemma of her own to face.  She’s an American, born in America of Qatari parents, but her father has passed away.  Which, now that she’s done her Ph.D., puts under the aegis of her uncle.  In Qatar, under Sharia law.  And he’s found her an acceptable husband, so she’s been ordered home; back to the family compound.  After close to thirty years with no one to answer to, does she accept marriage to the stranger chosen by her uncle or face certain death by honour killing?

There is much at stake – including the lives of innocents – when her uncle’s marriage plans for her coincide with Ty’s mission. 

Quinn has once again penned a story that packs a powerful punch of both intrigue and romance.  The research this author invests in each new volume of her Iniquus World is simply daunting and what keeps this reader always coming back for the next one.  Danger Signs isn’t just about the danger encountered every time these men and women are out in the field, but also about the danger that threatens the heart – when the last thing your mission needs is for your heart to be entangled.

Par for the course with Quinn’s books, Danger Signs kept me up all night till the threads were all woven together.  A page-turning, unputdownable, wild ride you will not want to miss, promise!

pick up your copy here: https://www.amazon.com/Danger-Signs-Delta-Force-Echo-ebook/dp/B08PTMDRGT/

[I was fortunate to receive a prepublication copy of the book from the author with no obligation to review.  The opinions expressed herein are given freely and are entirely my own.]

The Silent Speak – Val Collins

An Aoife Walsh Thriller, Book Three

Five of five stars

An investigative journalist and a Detective Inspector – what could possibly go wrong?

Aoife Walsh has been hesitant to “seal the deal” in her relationship with Conor Moloney. She has baggage from her previous abusive husband. He has a teenage son who seems to despise Aoife. Add to this tumultuous existence a demand by the sister of a man who stands accused of having killed his family in cold blood; Aoife finds herself enmeshed in the investigation. Which doesn’t make Conor happy at all.

The Silent Speak is the first time I’ve encountered Val Collins‘ work. She weaves her tale well and peppers enough nuggets of previous books in the series that though I started at number three, I felt the characters were clear and engaging. A great story and skillfully written, I happily recommend this book!

[I was fortunate to receive a copy of the book from the author via BookSirens, with no obligation to review. The opinions herein are given freely and are entirely my own.]

Preserved – Fiona Sherlock

Five stars

A new-to-me author with a great fun read!

Right upfront with full-disclosure, I admit that I am predisposed to love books set in Ireland.  Pair that with a good whodunnit, old-fashioned detective story and you’ve got me!

January Quail is a journalist who writes about antiquities.  When a “bog body” is found in Ardee, January is dispatched to get the goods.  What she gets is a mystery, when it’s quickly discovered that this is no 1,000 year-old corpse, though it’s been staged as one.  Can she find out the truth when even the Gardai seem uninclined?

Sherlock [what a great name for a mystery writer!] pulls it all together with red herrings, more dead bodies, and a secret so old it would never have been unearthed otherwise.  Preserved is a fun read that will keep you on the edge of your seat.  Highly recommend!!!

[I was fortunate to receive a copy of the book from the author via BookSirens, with no obligation to review.  The opinions herein are given freely and are entirely my own.]