Book Review: Death of a Red-Hot Rancher – Intriging New Cozy Mystery

Brody Pierce is a sight to behold. Every female in the small town of Tinker’s Creek, Ohio takes notice of this tall piece of eye-candy when he comes to town. He made his fame and fortune in Hollywood as the hunky, rough and tumble actor in a truck commercial. This allowed him to purchase a ranch in Tinker’s Creek where he raises bison.

Lizzie Hale, the owner of the most successful romance bookstore in the Midwest, is not immune to Pierce’s rugged good looks, but tries to remain calm when he enters her store. All of her female customers, including her aunt, Charmaine, practically swooned at his feet. Yes, everyone loved and admired him – with the exception of at least one person. The one that killed him.

Unfortunately, Lizzie is the one that finds his body. She is obviously upset, but it is evident this is a murder and now she is in the thick of it. Quietly tallying up the clues she has observed, Lizzie begins to do a bit of sleuthing. Unfortunately, the clues start to point at one of the people in town she knows and cares for.

The setting of this small town and the bookstore Lizzie owns enhances the depth of characters and plot. It was quite enjoyable picturing the rooms in the bookstore as well as the bison ranch. The extra touch of Lizzie taking care of Brody’s orphan dog was heartwarming. Even though he left dog hair every place they traveled together. The requisite touch of romance is present in this cozy and I am looking forward to see how the characters develop in future books in this series.

This fast-paced cozy mystery is full of twists and turns. Usually, the killer is easy to spot, but there are so many people that had it out for Pierce, it was impossible to figure out who the killer was until the final chapters.

Mimi Granger aka Connie Laux is a new author to me as this is the first book of hers that I have read. She is an established mystery writer, and Death of a Red-Hot Rancher is the first book she has written as Mimi Granger, one of her many pen names. This is the first cozy mystery she has written, previously focused on romance novels. If you love cozies, you will love this book. I’m looking forward to more books in this series.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2021 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Till Daph Do Us Part – Perfect Cozy Mystery

As Daphne and John Jones make their way to a wedding that Daphne is going to officiate, she reflects on how much she loves her new job as an officiant for weddings and funerals, Her website has filled her calendar with future nuptials and new places to see as she and John travel in Bluebell, their caravan (a camper to us in the States).Daphne muses that weddings bring out the best and the worst of people.

Unfortunately, this wedding also brings a murder. Keen to find out what happened, Daphne begins to investigate on her own. She has observed the feud between the bride and groom’s families. Apparently, it has gone back several generations and doesn’t seem it will be forgotten anytime soon. How many people will end up dead before Daph (as she likes to be called) can climb back safely into Bluebell and drive off, leaving the feud and deaths behind her? Will she be on the killer’s list as well?

Till Daph Do Us Part is set in Australia. Author Phillipa Nefri Clark strives to give readers a true Aussie/British English experience. In my estimation she has done a smashingly good job of bringing readers into the caravan with Daphne and John Jones.

Like all cozy mysteries, Till Daph Do Us Part has an amateur gumshoe on the case. Dogging suspects and digging in the past, Daph wiggles her way into the investigation. The local police are kind and allow her to give them her thoughts and suggestions but warn her to stay away from potentially fatal situations. Of course, she carries on.

This is the first book in the Daphne Jones Mystery Series. The setting and characters are fun and interesting. It is brilliant that Ms. Clark has them traveling in the caravan so the murders take place in different towns and settings, allowing readers to come along on the adventure. This is the first book I have read by this author. She has written several other mysteries, suspense and romance novels. I am anxious to check them out as well.

If you like Murder She Wrote, you will love Till Daph Do Us Part. It is a fun cozy mystery, plotted perfectly and always interesting to have the main character born in my generation, proving retirees can do crazy things including solve murders. I can’t wait to check out her other books, including the next two books in this series.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Reedsy Discovery in exchange for a fair and honest review. You can find it here:

Copyright © 2021 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Wish You Were Here- Fabulous New Novel By Jodi Picoult

Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult

Diana always wanted to be an artist like her father, and has created a definite plan for her life, both personal and professional. After school she became an associate specialist at Sotheby’s in New York. She is on the fast track to success. She and Finn, her boyfriend, are currently living together and she is sure they will be married soon. Finn is a surgical resident and has the same drive and ambition as Diana.

The couple’s plan to go to the Galapagos is the one of the boxes they plan to check off this year. Soon in fact. Even though the trip is expensive, they have decided it is worth it. Of course, that is before a virus begins to plague New York and the rest of the world. Plans begin to disintegrate both personally and globally for the couple. Finn is working double shifts and is afraid to come home and expose Diana. He insists that she needs to go to the Galapagos and he will meet her there once the virus is contained. Reluctantly she decides to go alone.

Once Diana gets to the island, she realizes she cannot leave. Nor can Finn – or anyone else join her. Restaurants and hotels are not open and her luggage has been lost. So begins her journey she never planned to be a part of, but is now required to continue.

From the first pages I was hooked on Jodi Picoult’s story and characters. She is an expert at drawing readers into the story with true to life fiction that grabs you in the first few pages and doesn’t let go until the last words. There is a fabulous twist in the end of Wish You Were Here that will shock and surprise readers. I highly recommend this book to men and women alike – all readers love a masterpiece of fiction and Wish You Were Here is truly one of the best.

Ms. Picoult is one of my favorite authors. She has total mastery of the words and stories she writes that keeps readers anxiously waiting for her next book. She always delivers books that readers will think about long after the last pages are finished. I have met her at book signings, attended book talks and chatted with her at a book fair – and it won’t come as a surprise to most of you – she is charming and quite nice. It is not surprising to hear she has had twelve books that have debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. Five of her novels have been made into movies (read the book first – the movies are good but the book is exponentially better).

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2021 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: The Santa Suit – A Charming Romance

The Santa Suit by Mary Kay Andrews

Ivy Perkins’ dreams of living in a farmhouse situated in a small town have prompted her to purchase one sight unseen. As she approaches her dream home with her dog Punkin and a box of baby chicks, she realizes there may be some flaws in her new house that the pictures sent by the realtor did not show. That is the first sign that she may have bitten off more than she could chew.

Ezra Wheeler, the realtor, is there to welcome her. After helping her open the front door with a quirky lock, they walk into her new home. It is still full of the previous owner’s furniture, clothing and dishes as well as Christmas decorations. Apparently, her new home was renowned for the annual Christmas decorations. The former owners portrayed Mr. and Mrs. Claus every year. Ivy doesn’t have time for Christmas decorations this year. But when she finds the legendary Santa suit with an old note in it from a youngster, she feels something inside of herself telling her to find the child – now adult – that wrote it.

This is a delightful tale of a woman reborn into the life she always dreamt she wanted. The characters are quirky and fun. Ivy is a dreamer, and is determined to make her life and new farmhouse work out. She has to learn to adjust and fit in all the while staying true to herself. With the help of Ezra, the house is shaping up and he is becoming more attractive to Ivy every day.

Mary Kay Andrews has written 24 New York Times best-selling books. The Christmas Suit is destined to be #25. I have read many of her previous novels, enjoying each and every one. Her plots and characters are relatable and fun to read. I highly recommend this author and her newest novel.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2021 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: You Can Run – Fabulous Fast Paced Thriller

by Karen Cleveland

You Can Run is a fast-paced thriller that will leave you breathless. Jill Baily was a CIA operative before she had her son, Owen. While still working for the organization, she now sits at a desk vetting new sources. Much different, and safer, she no longer puts herself or her family in danger. Or so she thinks.

Every day during her lunchbreak, she watches the live cam of her son at daycare. But today she is horrified to see he isn’t there. When her cell phone rings and she hears “We have your son” her world collapses. She must do as they say if she ever wants to see Owen again. She is instructed to verify a source without vetting him within three minutes. It is against all of her training, but she will do anything to get her baby back – even though she is compromising the country she vowed to protect.

So begins her life on the run. Terrified to even tell her husband, she insists they move to another state. Her husband goes along with the move, and quietly Jill scrubs her identity. All is well, she has another child and the past is gone but not forgotten. Until the day she sees someone following her and the children. Her world comes crashing down again, but this time she is going to fight for her family with every fiber of her being.

The chilling theme of someone holding an infant hostage ramps up You Can Run to a whole different level. The characters are interesting, scary, intriguing and realistic. Even though Jill is a CIA agent, she is a wife and mother, so she is relatable on many levels. The last few chapters will leave you breathless and unable to stop reading until the end. I loved it.

Karen Cleveland is a former CIA counterterrorism analyst, which brings a scary realism to her novels. She has written two previous books, Need to Know and Keep You Close, both of which are New York Times bestsellers. I have read and thoroughly enjoyed Need to Know. Thriller fans will love You Can Run as well as the other books she has written.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley and the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2021 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: The Art of Betrayal – Tantalizing Twist of History and Mystery

The Art of Betrayal

A Kate Hamilton Mystery

By Connie Berry

The Art of Betrayal is a tantalizing twist of history and mystery. It begins on a beautiful spring day in the small village of Long Barston, in Suffolk, England. Kate Hamilton is minding The Cabinet of Curiosities, the antique shop that she has worked in since arriving from the U.S. An odd customer ventures in with a rare ancient Chinese funerary jar that she wants to sell at auction. Kate’s acceptance of the jar is the catalyst that begins in theft and ends in deception and murder.

While the village is holding an annual fair based upon a folktale, the jar is stolen from the shop in a break-in. Simultaneously the woman who brought it to Kate is murdered during the pageant, uttering one word before collapsing and dying. Leading the theft and murder investigation is Tom, who happens to be the local cop and Kate’s love interest. Because she is an expert in antiquities, she is called upon by the police to catalog the remainder of the treasures in the home of the murdered woman. The arrival of the eccentric dead dowager’s long-lost daughter brings more questions than answers. Something just isn’t adding up, even with Kate and Tom teaming together to solve the case. Will someone else die before they figure it out?

This is the third book in the Kate Hamilton Mystery series. It is the first one I have read. It works well as a standalone novel, I was never confused or “lost” for not having read the previous two in the series. I love the characters. They are interestingly quirky as you might expect in a quaint English town. It is a solid, interesting mystery that had me guessing

who the killer was until the last pages. The history of the antiquities Kate encounters along the way adds another level of interest to the story. I can’t wait to read the previous two books in this series and will be watching for the fourth to debut soon.

Connie Berry’s debut novel, A Dream of Death, was the first Kate Hamilton Mystery, winning the IPPY Gold Medal for Mystery award for it. It was also a finalist for the Silver Falchion and Agatha awards. Ms. Berry lives in the U.S. and studied in Germany and the UK. Her love and knowledge of antiques stems from her parents. She says she was “raised by charmingly eccentric high-end antiques dealers who instilled in her a passion for history, fine art, and travel”.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy from publicist Maryglenn McCombs in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2021 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: The Quest for the Golden Plunger – YA/Teen Adventures

By Jackson Dickert

The Quest for the Golden Plunger is full of sarcasm, innuendos and misfits trying to out scout the other teams. The teens in Troop 99 have an agenda this year. They need to find the Golden Plunger – the prize is an all expense paid trip to the high-adventure camp later that summer. Each Adventure Ranger in Troup 99 wants another week together away from home before life takes them in different directions.

The characters all have nicknames like Ducky, Do-Over, Uncle Ruckus and Shovel to name a few. The usual teenage boy antics occur throughout the book. One of them falls for the nurse, one of the leaders has a bad attitude, there is a bully, smart guy and a younger Ranger who has to learn the ropes. Troop 100 has the precision of a military school along with a superior attitude and ex-military leader.

Life lessons are learned while in the woods. The characters learn who they can depend upon as well as who not to trust. There are a couple of twists in the book. One of which involves a character that basically makes a guest appearance which kind of confused me. The other twist was a surprise. That character added depth to the rest of the book, which I enjoyed.

If you are a fan of Bill Murray’s movies like Caddy Shack and Stripes, this book is for you. Sophomoric comedy with sexual innuendoes and potty humor reign supreme in The Quest for the Golden Plunger. The targeted audience is teen and young adult. I agree, but will caution allowing younger teens to read this as there are adult themes and adult humor liberally sprinkled throughout the story.

This is Jackson Dickert’s debut novel. Per his bio, he likes to make people laugh. Kudos to Mr. Dickert for writing a very funny book.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Reedsy Discovery in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2021 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: The Essence of Nathan Biddle – Must Read Debut Novel

By J. William Lewis

The Essence of Nathan Biddle is a literary coming of age novel that is destine to be a best seller. It begins with Nathan mourning the death of his cousin on the first anniversary of the event. Seemingly inconceivable to everyone, especially Nathan, that the boy he’d grown up with has been slain. So begins Nathan’s journey through the last of his teenage years, trying to make sense of this senseless act as well as how to move on from the stigma that shrouds his family because of it.

Life goes on no matter what personal problems Nathan is dealing with. He has fallen in love with a girl that once reciprocated his affections, but now she is moving on. He is obsessed with her which begins to color every decision he makes, both good and bad. Once a scholar, his junior year of high school was a disaster. If he doesn’t start working to his potential, college will be questionable at best. He was a track star until he stopped going to practices, prompting the coach to threaten to cut him from the team if he doesn’t get his head straight soon. When tragedy strikes again, Nathan will have to sink or swim in the life he has instead of the life he wants.

It is hard to believe that The Essence of Nathan Biddle is J. William Lewis’ debut novel. It is a beautiful work of fiction with characters that come alive on the pages. From the first pages, the reader is invested in the characters and enthralled with the plot. This is one of those books that keeps you thinking of it long after the last pages are read. I highly recommend it and cannot wait to read the next book written by this author.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy from publicist Maryglenn McCombs in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2021 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Murder She Wrote: Killing in a Koi Pond – Iconic Cozy Mystery Series

By Jessica Fletcher and Terrie Farey Moran

Jessica Fletcher is excited to visit her dear friend Dolores in South Carolina. What she didn’t bargain for is stumbling upon the body of Dolores’ new husband, Willis, dead in the Koi Pond. Sheriff Halvorson is quick to target Dolores as the killer, which Jessica isn’t having any part of. She begins to investigate, immediately discovering a long list of people that hated the victim. In order to clear her friend from suspicion, Jessica sets out to find the real killer.

Willis held many secrets, and used them to get what he wanted from his friends and business associates. Jessica and Dolores begin looking through his business and personal files, peeling back the layers to find a motive for his murder. Unfortunately, the list of suspects keeps growing, and the stakes of finding the killer are getting higher every day.

This cozy mystery series is as delightful as the popular television series of the same name. It is true to form for the cozy mystery genre. The murder is done “off stage” and found by Jessica Fletcher. She begins sleuthing when her friend is in trouble. There are several suspects, and the end is always tied up neatly.

It is fun to read as well as trying to figure out the identity of the killer and his or her motive before the reveal in the final chapters. If you are a fan of the television series, like me, you may just hear Angela Lansbury’s voice in your head when reading Jessica’s conversations.

Killing in a Koi Pond is not Shakespeare, nor are is intended to be. It is a perfect cozy, containing one of the most iconic amateur sleuths ever immortalized in print. The solid plot and engaging characters are satisfying and entertaining. I highly recommend it.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2021 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: By the Way – Eclectic Short Story Compilation – Loved it!

By: Caperton Tissot

Caperton Tissot gives readers an interestingly eclectic mix of topics in her latest book of short stories. Each one is unique, fun to read and often shows us glimpses of real people we have encountered or perhaps we are related to.

There are seventeen stories just waiting to be read. It is hard to pick a favorite because I enjoyed them all. I will pick a few of them that really stand out and give you a quick, one line review of each.

“Pea Soup”: This story has a quirky end that made me laugh – I enjoy dark humor.

“Rose Hall”: Set in 1935, the author reminds us that the good old days may not have been so good.

“Beauty and the Frog”: Some people never learn.

“Out of Bounds”: A little excitement can cause a lot of trouble.

“Slip Sliding Away”: It reminds us that there are precious things in life that often are overlooked in the frenzy. This is my favorite story in the book, I really loved it.

I personally love to read books of short stories. Life is busy for many, and to be able to read a long book is often difficult due to everyday interruptions. By the Way is perfect little snippets of life that you can read while waiting in a car pool lane or during the baby’s nap. My favorite escape is reading during lunch either at work or home. Finishing a complete story is satisfying and relaxing and gives you something to think and talk about the rest of the day.

This is the first book I have read by Ms. Tissot. She has written several others that I am interested in reading as well. Her other books include essays, history, poetry and fiction.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Reedsy Discovery in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2021 Laura Hartman

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