JaneReads

Avid reader, of mostly mysteries, especially cozies, and romantic suspense.

Occasional blogger and reviewer.

More at janereads2.blogspot.com

Summer Book Bingo Update 2

 

Forgot to update my card after finishing my last book.. The e-book was published on 6/1, and the print edition will be out on 6/15.

 

 

20 Books of Summer

 

1. New to You Author, Murder on the Menu by Zanna Mackenzie

2. First Book of a New Series, Stabbing in the Senate by Colleen J. Shogan

3. Published June, July, or August 2016, Homicide in the House by Colleen J. Shogan

Reading progress update: I've read 28%.

Homicide in the House (A Washington Whodunit Book 2) - Colleen J. Shogan

I'm liking this one a lot, #2 in the Washington Whodunit series. It's a new release this month. I will be reviewing Homicide in the House on June 14 for a Virtual Book Tour. 

Summer Book Bingo Update

 

 

20 Books of Summer

 

1. New to You Author, Murder on the Menu by Zanna Mackenzie

2. First Book of a New Series, Stabbing in the Senate by Colleen J. Shogan

First Bingo Square!

I have joined the Summer Book Bingo created by Moonlight Reader for her 20 Books of Summer challenge.

 

Book #1, New to You Author = Murder on the Menu by Zanna Mackenzie

 

Jingle Bell Bark

Jingle Bell Bark (A Melanie Travis Mystery) - Laurien Berenson

The best book yet in the series! 

Stay (The Command Series) (Volume 1)

Stay (The Command Series) (Volume 1) - Karyn Lawrence 3.5 stars

Murder at Morningside

Murder at Morningside - Sandra Bretting I really enjoyed Murder at Morningside by Sandra Bretting, Book 1 of the Missy DuBois Mysteries. The series has an original concept, revolving around murders committed at Southern plantations located along the Great River Road of Louisiana.

Missy, a fashion design major and maker of hats in college, has a hat shop in Bleu Bayou, on the Great River Road. Missy's shop, Crowning Glory, specializes in custom-made wedding veils and fascinator hats for brides. The shop next door, Allure Couture, is owned by wedding-gown designer Ambrose Jackson, who soon becomes Missy's best friend.

Missy and Ambrose are staying at Morningside Plantation for the wedding of Trinity Solomon and Sterling Brice. Missy created the bridal veil plus hats for the bridesmaids, and Ambrose designed the wedding gown and bridesmaids' dresses.

Missy meets the bride's stepmother, Ivy Solomon, the morning of the wedding, waiting for the plantation's hat competition to start, as they are complimenting each other's hat. They quickly bond as they get to talking, and realize just how many folks they have in common (Missy's neighbors / Ivy's family).

After the bride's body is found, Missy takes it upon herself to help Ivy solve the murder. As Missy puts it, "How could I ever look my new neighbor, that sweet Maribelle Girard, in the eye again unless I tried to help find the killer?"

Missy is aided in her sleuthing by the criminal-defense course she took at Vanderbilt University, before she changed her major from pre-law to fashion design. She questions a lot of people, getting witness statements and alibis. There are twists and turns in Missy's investigations, as she uncovers plausible explanations for several people to have committed the murder. Whodunit? Can you figure it out before Missy does, in the climactic ending to the murder storyline?

There is a subplot involving a fashion show, which comes about when Missy takes it upon herself to help, not just one person this time, but an entire congregation of people. Missy's just a very helpful sort of person, you know? (I guess she can't help herself.)

Murder at Morningside is a fun, quick read. It was hard for me to put it down, and I finished it in two days. The settings of Morningside Plantation and the other locations in Riversbend, LA are described realistically, and in depth enough that I can picture them in my mind.

The story is told from Missy's point of view, in first person. The characters are genuine, memorable, and likable, especially Missy and Ambrose (my favorites). Author Sandra Bretting's sense of humor shines through in her writing.

Some of my favorite parts include:
• Missy's encounter with a "Civil War Reenactor" outside her room, and the unexpected aftermath
• The behind-the-scenes action at the fashion show, and how all the plans come together at the last minute
• What happens when Ambrose asks for ketchup for his steak in a fine-dining establishment

Since I don't reveal spoilers, you'll have to read the book to find out the details!

Book 2 of the Missy DuBois Mysteries, Something Foul at Sweetwater, will be released in December 2016. I'm dying to read it! The first two chapters were included with my e-copy of Murder at Morningside from NetGalley.

I recommend Murder at Morningside to all fans of cozy mysteries. I think it will have special appeal to fans who like cozies set in the Southern US, and weddings, and fashion shows, and plantations, and....

I really enjoyed Murder at Morningside by Sandra Bretting, and grant it Four Kitties!


Note: I received a complimentary copy of Murder at Morningside from NetGalley and the publisher, in exchange for my honest review. All opinions shared are 100% my own.

Originally published on my blog Jane Reads

Lowcountry Bordello

Lowcountry Bordello - Susan M. Boyer Oh, what fun
It is to read
A Liz Talbot Mystery
Set at Christmastime!

The murders take place at The Best Little Whorehouse in Charleston. Liz, with Nate's able assistance, figures out whodunit, of course.

Colleen has a much bigger part to play in this book. She even lets herself Be Seen!

And the best part of all is the ending. Liz gets married ‒ to the right Andrews guy this time.

Lowcountry Bordello is amazing! I totally recommend it. I can't wait to read the next book in the Liz Talbot Mystery series, Lowcountry Book Club, due out in Spring 2016.

Rosemary and Crime

Rosemary and Crime - Gail Oust I enjoyed Rosemary and Crime by Gail Oust. It is an excellent start to a new series, the Spice Shop Mysteries.

Piper Prescott is recently divorced, after being married to attorney CJ Prescott for 20+ years. He decided to trade up for a newer model -- or beauty queen, rather -- twenty-four-year-old Amber Leigh Ames. Piper put her entire divorce settlement into beginning her dream business of a spice shop, Spice It Up!, in Brandywine Creek, Georgia.

For the big draw of the Grand Opening of Spice It Up!, Piper has scheduled a cooking demonstration of Roast Lamb with Juniper and Rosemary by Mario Barrone, owner and chef of local fine-dining establishment Trattoria Milano. Mario is as renowned for his temper as he is for his cooking, and redhead Piper has a bit of a temper herself.

On the eve of the grand opening, Mario has a big argument with Piper in her shop, about the condition of the juniper berries for his demo. Mario and Piper end up on the sidewalk in front of the shop as the argument draws to a close, with a crowd of passersby to watch the fireworks.

Piper finds Mario's body in his restaurant the next morning, and it appears that he's been murdered. Piper must still proceed with her grand opening because she needs the customers, and their purchases. Since she still needs a big draw, she realizes she will have to do the cooking demonstration.

Unfortunately, Piper has never prepared Roast Lamb with Juniper and Rosemary. Her demo doesn't go quite as smoothly as Mario's would have. The account of her disastrous demonstration is one of my favorite parts of Rosemary and Crime.

Because of the public argument Piper had with Mario, and a few other reasons, the new police chief Wyatt McBride believes that Piper is the prime suspect for Mario's murder. Piper, with her BFF and sidekick Reba Mae, decide to investigate the case on their own and discover the real culprit.

Piper and Reba Mae think they're being Nancy Drew and Bess Marvin, but they're more like Lucy and Ethel with their madcap misadventures, as they sleuth to uncover Mario's killer. Piper's detective work builds to an exciting climax.

I really like the way Rosemary and Crime ends:

"Thanks again, McBride," I called out.

He paused and shot me a killer smile over his shoulder. "See you around. And, Piper, just for the record, I do have a first name. It's Wyatt. Feel free to use it."

Hmmm ...

It leaves me eager to read the next book in the series!


[Note: I received a complimentary copy of Rosemary and Crime in exchange for my honest review. All opinions shared are 100% my own.]

The Body in the Landscape (A Cherry Tucker Mystery Book 5)

The Body in the Landscape (A Cherry Tucker Mystery Book 5) - Larissa Reinhart I really enjoyed The Body in the Landscape, the fifth book in the Cherry Tucker Mystery series by Larissa Reinhart. It's an amazing Five Star Read, as are the previous books in the series. [NOTE: This book can be read as a stand-alone, as far as the mystery itself; however, to fully appreciate all that is Cherry, and to understand the back-story of all of the characters, I recommend reading the series books in order.]

Unlike the previous books, none of The Body in the Landscape takes place in Cherry Tucker's hometown of Halo, Georgia. Instead, all of the action occurs at Big Rack Hunting Lodge, Swinton, Georgia. Big Rack is the site of a special weekend boar hunt for "Hogzilla," a giant feral European boar. Two of the hunters have a side bet going, that one of them will bag Hogzilla. Cherry, a struggling artist, is there at Big Rack because she has been commissioned by these two hunters to paint the Kill Portrait of the winner with Hogzilla.

While waiting for the hunt to begin, Cherry goes out into the woods to paint an autumnal landscape, because painting clears her mind from all the goings-on in Halo. Her mind gets so clear that she includes a royal blue blob that she sees in the distance, without realizing just how out of place it is. When she checks out what the blue object is (a ball cap), she discovers "the body in the landscape."

The Swinton police rule the death an accident, but Cherry gets it in her head that the victim was murdered. Then she takes it upon herself to "help" the police with their non-investigation into his death, by asking a lot of questions of the lodge staff and the other hunt participants.

Other incidents occur, sometimes with unclear targets. The lodge staff says they are just pranks, but Cherry believes the incidents are intended to maim or kill. The other folks at Big Rack aren't used to Cherry, and the way she gets when she involves herself in what may or may not be crimes. Some of the others even suspect Cherry herself of being the "prankster."

Are these incidents just pranks, or murder attempts? Who's the target? And who's the perpetrator? For the answers to these questions, read The Body in the Landscape by Larissa Reinhart, rated an amazing Five Star read.


[Note: I received a complimentary copy of The Body in the Landscape in exchange for my honest review. All opinions shared are 100% my own.]

A Body in the Belfry

A Body in the Belfry - J.B. Hawker I just read a really good book, y'all — A Body in the Belfry by J.B. Hawker. Let me tell you a little about it. A Body in the Belfry is the second book in The First Ladies Club Mystery series, following book one, The First Ladies Club, also really good.

In the prologue of A Body in the Belfry, the reader learns how the body in the belfry came to be — how the victim succumbed to the unknown assailant and ended up at the end of a rope — how, but not why. The prologue hooked me, and I remained engrossed in the story lines until the end. I was so caught up that I didn't want to put it down, and finished it in two days.

The main character, and my favorite, is the Reverend Doctor Indigo Merrillanne Bishop. Yes, Indigo. Her two brothers are named Sage and Wolf. Their parents were going through a hippie phase at the time. She goes by Merrill now.

Other primary characters are the ones in the First Ladies Club, "a support group for pastors' wives" who "also do community service projects." The various first ladies are unique, realistic, likable, and well-rounded. They are friendly and welcoming to Merrill, and she is very thankful for their support.

Author J.B. Hawker has created a very believable world of Bannoch, Oregon. She describes it with just the right amount of detail, so that I can picture it — and want to visit there. The citizens of Bannoch are all three-dimensional and realistic, including the secondary characters.

I liked how everything — all of the sub-plots — comes together at the end. You won't want to miss the thrilling climax! I really love that part, with its edge-of-your-seat excitement.

A Body in the Belfry is a fast-paced and enjoyable read. After finishing the book in two days, I was a little sad to leave the First Ladies Club that I have grown to love. I'm looking forward to Author J.B. Hawker's current work in progress, A Corpse in the Chapel.

To sum it all up, I really enjoyed A Body in the Belfry by J.B. Hawker, and grant it Four Stars!


Note: I received a complimentary copy of A Body in the Belfry in exchange for my honest review. All opinions shared are 100% my own.

Originally published on my blog Jane Reads

Accused

Accused - Wendy Byrne
I read a really good book, y'all — Accused, by Wendy Byrne. Let me tell you a little about it.
 
Accused, a romantic suspense novel, is Book One in the Troubled Boys, Strong Men series. This is the first book by Wendy Byrne that I've read, but it won't be the last. [Commercial Break: I just purchased her Hard Targets Trilogy Boxed Set (published by Gemma Halliday) which is sale-priced (as of this writing) at $2.99 — that's less than each book sells for individually!]
 
Accused is a really good book. (I just said that, didn't I.) From the very first sentence, I was hooked. I finished it in two days, only because I very reluctantly put it down so I could get some sleep. You can get hooked, too — go to the Excerpts section of Author Wendy Byrne's website, to read the first chapter of Accused.
 
The main characters are Jillian Beckett, her son Travis Beckett, and his football coach Sam Carter. The story is told in third person, mostly from these three characters' points of view. All of the characters are realistic and believable.
 
The suspense at the beginning of the book is quite suspenseful and mysterious. I kept wondering what happened to Travis and who framed him. The romance is nicely romantic, behind closed doors. The book is fast-paced, with plot twists every so often to keep the readers on their toes. The suspense at the end of the book — WOW! What a climax!   
 
I really enjoyed Accused by Wendy Byrne, and award it Four Kitties out of five! I recommend it to all fans of Romantic Suspense.
 
 
Note:  I received a complimentary copy of Accused in exchange for my honest review. All opinions shared are 100% my own.
 

Before the Storm

Before the Storm - Leslie Tentler I just read an amazing book, y'all — Before the Storm. Let me tell you a little about it. Before the Storm is a romantic suspense novel, the first book in the Rarity Cove series by Leslie Tentler.

Before the Storm features Samantha Marsh and Mark St. Clair in the starring roles. Mark's family (daughter, sister, brother, and mother) are featured in supporting roles.

Samantha, formerly known as Trina Grissom, needed to assume a new identity due to ugly events from her past in Memphis. Samantha knows that she must avoid any more relationships, in order to keep her past life a secret.

Mark lost his beloved wife in a car wreck. Mark believes that no one could possibly take her place in his heart.

When Sam and Mark meet, however, their good intentions become harder and harder to follow. It's at this point when someone from Samantha's past finds her, and threatens her future. The climax of this story line occurs at the same time that Hurricane Gina is about to hit the Charleston area, including Rarity Cove.

The book begins with Trina in a very suspenseful situation, which grabbed my attention immediately. The fast-paced action is told in third person, primarily alternating between Samantha's and Mark's points of view. I remained caught up in the story, and finished the book in two days.

The romantic parts contain great romance, with just the right touch of spice. The suspense is appropriately suspenseful. Once I got to the really suspenseful part of Before the Storm, I couldn't put it down. The ending is very satisfying.

I recommend Before the Storm to all fans of Romantic Suspense books. I loved Before the Storm by Leslie Tentler, and grant it our highest rating of Five Stars!


Note: I received a complimentary copy of Before the Storm in exchange for my honest review. All opinions shared are 100% my own.

Previously published at Jane Reads.

Guaranteed to Bleed

Guaranteed to Bleed - Julie Mulhern I just read an amazing book, y'all — Guaranteed to Bleed by Julie Mulhern. Let me tell you a little about this cozy mystery.

Guaranteed to Bleed is the second book in Author Julie Mulhern's The Country Club Murders mystery series, starring Ellison Russell. Book one in the series, The Deep End, takes place in June, 1974, in Kansas City, Missouri. Towards the end of The Deep End, Ellison, a widow, and Grace, her teenage daughter, are making plans to "spend the rest of the summer in Europe, far away from vicious chatter" and gossip about them, concerning the events in The Deep End. When Guaranteed to Bleed opens, school is back in session for Fall 1974. Ellison and Grace have been home for about two weeks, after their "summer of wandering through Europe."

Author Julie Mulhern has done her homework regarding 1974, and it shows. She's quite a name-dropper for early 1970s fads, fashions, politics, music, TV shows, TV commercials, fragrances, and decor. All the references are spot-on, making the world-building for Guaranteed to Bleed first rate.

The supporting cast of characters from The Deep End have returned, and are still depicted as realistic, distinctive, and likable. Ellison has continued her personal growth that started in The Deep End. In the words of Virginia Slims® cigarettes, "You've come a long way, baby." Ellison's mother, Frances Walford, is one of the pillars of Kansas City upper-class Society, and is notorious for getting things done, right away and, of course, properly. Ellison used to cringe inside when her mother threw her weight around. Now, Ellison has reluctantly begun to follow her mother's example by, for instance, invoking her mother's name and reputation to get some information from an uncooperative receptionist at the hospital.

The plot of Guaranteed to Bleed is well-crafted, interesting, and fast-paced. There are fewer murders this time, so Author Julie Mulhern includes other kinds of despicable crimes instead. Because this book addresses some serious social/personal issues, it's not-quite-cozy. Even with the serious subject matter, Julie still lets her sense of humor show, through the voice of Ellison.

Ellison's sleuthing is done for the best of intentions. First of all, Ellison has to find out who the "she" is, in Bobby's dying declaration, so she can pass along his message. She has to do some digging before she gets to the truth. Secondly, she gets this request from the detective in charge:
"No one is talking," Anarchy said. "The kids cross their arms and slouch and roll their eyes and wait for their fathers' lawyers to show up. Their parents aren't talking either. I need your help, Ellison."


Speaking of Bobby's message, Ellison is asked at least seven times, by different people, some variation of "Did he say anything?". Author Julie Mulhern is serving up some red herrings — just to keep her readers on their toes. She also includes clues to the actual evil-doers. I really like the way Ellison's murder investigations are resolved. Can you figure out the mysteries?

In summation, Guaranteed to Bleed is great — a fantastic book! I can't wait to read the next book in The Country Club Murders series, Clouds in my Coffee. Author Julie Mulhern is still writing it, though, so I'll have to be patient somehow, until Book #3 is released in May 2016.

I recommend Guaranteed to Bleed to all fans of cozy mysteries. I think my fellow Baby Boomers, especially, will enjoy the setting. Younger readers who are into all things retro, and/or who enjoyed That '70s Show on TV, will also especially like it.

I love Guaranteed to Bleed by Julie Mulhern, and grant it our highest rating of Five Stars!


Note: I received a complimentary copy of Guaranteed to Bleed in exchange for my honest review. All opinions shared are 100% my own.

Originally published at Jane Reads

Exposed

Exposed - Karyn Good I read a good book recently, y'all — Exposed, by Karyn Good. Let me tell you a little about it. If you're in the mood for a mystery-suspense book with a touch of steamy romance, look no further.

Exposed stars Kate Logan, a former model who has returned to her home town of Aspen Lake, in the Canadian prairie. Kate's career washed up after a car crash, while driving drunk, made public her alcoholism. She has turned her life around and opened a boutique ladies' clothing store, Kate's Closet. As you can imagine, Kate-the-former-model is quite beautiful, but more than that, she is a genuinely nice and likable person. As our story opens, Kate has just had a break-in, theft, and general destruction at her boutique.

Co-starring in Exposed is Seth Stone, a carpenter employed at Kate's father's lumberyard. Bill Logan has sent Seth over to do the necessary repairs for Kate, like install a new back door. Seth is also an artist, specifically a wood-carver and -sculptor. He eventually persuades Kate to let him design a new display case, replacing the one destroyed. Oh, and yeah — Seth's tall, handsome, and sexy, just like a leading man should be.

Check out the Cover picture. The row of buildings reminds me of the small town where I grew up — but the overall effect.... Isn't it creepy? A mysterious watcher threatens Kate — until one day, when he does more than watch.

The climax of Author Karyn Good's Exposed is suspenseful and exciting. I was surprised by whodunit. Read it for yourself, and see if you can figure it out!


Note: I received a complimentary copy of Exposed in exchange for my honest review. All opinions shared are 100% my own.

Originally published on my blog Jane Reads

A Peach of a Pair

A Peach of a Pair - Kim Boykin I just read a really good book, y'all — A Peach of a Pair by Kim Boykin. Let me tell you a little about it.

A Peach of a Pair is a little different from my usual read. Instead of a romantic suspense or mystery, cozy or otherwise, A Peach of a Pair by Kim Boykin is Southern women's fiction. I wanted to read this book for review because most of A Peach of a Pair takes place in or near my home town of Columbia, South Carolina.

A Peach of a Pair tells the story of Nettie Gilbert's journey, both literal and figurative, taken to recover from her fiancé's and sister's betrayals. Nettie is a music education and piano major at Columbia College, just weeks away from graduation. Nettie receives news of her sister Sissy's pending (and necessary) nuptials to Nettie's fiancé Brooks.

Overwhelmed by this announcement, Nettie feels she cannot face her old life for a while. She is granted a leave of absence at college, and applies for work as a caregiver in nearby Camden, SC. She learned of the job from a help-wanted ad posted at her college by Katie Wilkes, on behalf of her brother Dr Remmy Wilkes, for his elderly patients, the Eldridge sisters. Live-in help is needed for the sisters because Miss Lurleen is in failing health due to a heart condition. (Her sister, Miss Emily, is totally against hiring outside help. She is perfectly capable of taking care of her sister all by herself, thank you very much.)

The story is told from four characters' points of view. Nettie tells her part in first person. The parts of Emily, Lurleen, and Remmy are told in third person. The POV changes are clearly noted with the character's name as a sub-title.

These POV changes allow the reader to get only bits and pieces of the characters' back-stories. We don't get the whole picture right away, and thus there are mysteries of a sort, such as:
• What caused the seven years of silence between the Eldridge sisters, even though they still lived together in the same house?
• What happened to their brother Teddy?
• What transpired between Lurleen, her beloved John, and Emily?
• Why is Katie Wilkes confined to a wheelchair? How was Remmy involved?

A Peach of a Pair by Kim Boykin is a realistic, genuine look at the world of genteel Southern women of the early 1950s. There is joy, sadness, laughter, and tears, just like in real life. Most of all, I found A Peach of a Pair by Kim Boykin to be a feel-good novel, one that I thoroughly enjoyed reading, and one that I think you will enjoy also.

To A Peach of a Pair I give Four Stars out of five — I really enjoyed it!


Note: I received a complimentary copy of A Peach of a Pair in exchange for my honest review. All opinions shared are 100% my own.

Originally published on my blog Jane Reads.

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