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Book Review: Murder Off the Page: A Full Serving of Who Done it with a Side of Cozy Mystery

Murder Off the Page

By Con Lehane

Raymond Ambler and his close friend Adele have solved a few murders before. This time the amateur sleuths are taking it personally. One of their close friends, bartender Brian McNulty, is wanted for murder and is on the lam. They are certain McNulty is innocent, but Mike Cosgrove, the officer in charge of the case, thinks differently. To complicate matters, Cosgrove, Ambler and Adele are more than acquaintances, they have “worked” other cases together, much to Cosgrove’s displeasure.

McNulty contacts Amber, asking him to look in on his elderly father and gives him little to no information other than he is innocent. As more bodies pile up, it is beginning to look worse for McNulty by the day. The dead woman at the center of all this has led a secret life in the open confusing police and McNulty’s friends. Her husband claims to know of her infidelities and looks the other way. Suspects are piling up like cord wood and the deeper Cosgrove and Ambler dig, the more disturbing the victim’s life becomes. Unfortunately, McNulty isn’t off the hook. He refuses to turn himself in and is on a personal mission to find the real killer himself.

Murder Off the Page is the third book in the 42nd Street Library Mystery Series. Both Adele and Ambler work in the Library and the plot winds in and out of the Special Collections reading room, painting the picture of a place I want to visit. Even though it only exists in Lehane’s pages, the Library is another character I adore.

Ambler and Adele are cantankerous and charming respectively. They have a close friendship and at times are on the verge of a deeper relationship. Miscues and misunderstandings have left them as close friends for the time being. I love the way that their interactions adds to the plot. Murder Off the Page is a full serving of who done it with a side of cozy mystery.

This is the second Lehane book I have read. Previously I read and thoroughly enjoyed Murder in the Manuscript Room which is the second book in the series. Both of the books read well as standalone novels, but I am sure you will enjoy reading this entire series, and like me, search out his other works, a trio of mysteries featuring bartender Brian McNulty that were written before the 42nd Library Mystery Series.

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 © 2020 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Back to Christmas – A Fun Holiday Frolic Full of Love and Redemption

Back to Christmas

By Dennis Canfield

The Krumwerth family is in deep trouble but they don’t even know it. Why you ask? Because they are on Santa’s naughty list for what will be the third year in a row. And everyone knows that that means they got on each other’s last nerve with bad behavior for the last time. After three years on the naughty list in a row, you are destined to be on it for all eternity. No more Christmas spirit and no way to get back on the nice list.

The head sorting elf, Marmel, gives Santa the bad news. But Santa is a compassionate man, he wants Marmel to give the Krumwerth’s one last chance for redemption, even though Marmel thinks it is futile.

The family is comprised of twelve-year-old Amanda, her younger brother Patrick and her always busy parents. All four of them are plugged in to electronics and tuned out of each other’s lives. Marmel appears to Amanda foretelling their future of hating Christmas due to landing on the forever naughty list. She is afraid, but what can a kid do to save Christmas? With the help of Santa’s younger brother RC, Marmel just might be able to help the Krumwerth Family and save himself while doing so.

Written as a children’s book, Back to Christmas brings the spirit of Christmas to all ages. Canfield reminds readers that the true gift of Christmas is the love, hope and charity surrounding the season, not the newest electronics or gift cards from the mall.

The characters are true to life and fun. Especially the elves and Santa’s younger brother. I would love to have some of his magic green cinnamon to help me wrangle penguins and get where I am going faster.

This adorable Christmas tale should be on everyone’s bookshelf or wish list. It will undoubtedly become a Christmas classic. Be sure to read the book before the movie (which will be fabulous) is optioned for the big screen.

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 © 2019 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Southern Harm – Murder Too Close to Home in this Cozy

Southern Harm

A Southern B & B Mystery

By Caroline Fardig

Finding the perfect Christmas gift for her boyfriend Tucker’s Aunt Lela perplexed Quinn. When Tucker come up with the idea of making an outdoor firepit for his aunt to enjoy during the colder days in Savanna, Quinn knew it would be perfect. They started right away, even though a hot spell was blanketing the area. The sweltering heat had them sweating in Lela’s back yard, but when human bones were dug up as the work began things really heated up.

Aunt Lela is promptly arrested after the bones are identified as her teenage neighbor that went missing years ago. Apparently, Lela thought her ex-husband had a fling with the young girl and went so far as torching her car to keep her away from him. That gave the police motive and opportunity for the arrest.

Tucker is devastated, but reluctantly agrees to let Quinn and her sister, Delilah do some amateur sleuthing to see if they can turn up any evidence that his aunt is not guilty. Even though he is uncomfortable with the situation, the girls convince him to let them dig into the dead girl’s past. This ruffles the feathers of more than one of Savannah’s elites, including his parents.

The further the investigation progresses, the closer it gets to home. Two more people are arrested in conjunction to the murder, making it more personal to the girls than before. They will not stop digging into the past, no matter how dangerous it is, until the truth is revealed.

This fast-paced cozy mystery is full of red herrings and plot twists. Each of the suspects have motive and opportunity. Like all cozies, the main characters only solve mysterious murders in their spare time. Quinn and Delilah are the owners of a B&B along with their grandfather. True to life, they have to make the guests breakfast and work the check-in desk, making them well rounded and interesting.

Fardig is a prolific writer and her expertise as a cozy mystery author shines in this series as well as the others she has written. I have read several books in her Java Jive series and thoroughly enjoyed them. Southern Harm is the second book in the series, but read well as a stand-alone cozy. I highly recommend this book as well as this author.

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 © 2019 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Patchwork Quilt Designs Coloring Book – Inspiration For Your Next Quilting Project

Patchwork Quilt Designs Coloring Book

By: Carol Schmidt

Patchwork quilts are a piece of American history dating back to the eighteenth century. Our forefathers knew how to reuse and recycle before it became popular today. It was a necessity and way of life.

Quilting has made a resurgence. Works of art are created with bits of fabric thoughtfully planned and placed together to create a beautiful mosaic. Quilters are inspired by new and old patterns, much like the ones depicted in Carol Schmidt’s Patchwork Quilt Designs Coloring Book.

 The 31 pages of designs to color represent many of the classic quilting patterns. Everything from Tumbling Blocks to Dutch Rose are included. Each perforated page can become your personal work of art by using pens, crayons, markers or colored pencils.

Perhaps you are a quilter. The pages might inspire you to try a new design. Or maybe you are contemplating a new color scheme. What better way to work it out than on one of the quilt designs in this book?

Non-quilters will also enjoy the classic, simple shapes on the pages. Unlike most adult coloring books, most of these designs are not comprised of small spaces. There are a few pages that have smaller details, but for the most part the use of color and shades will be the star of your completed pages. This is a plus for anyone that may have trouble seeing the smaller spaces as well as those that want the colors to be the focus of the finished page.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy from Dover Publications in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

 

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Book Review: Butterflies in Origami – Simple Beauty Made from Paper

Butterflies in Origami

By: Nick Robinson

The beauty of butterflies is indisputable. Robinson brings them into your homes with the ancient art of origami. He gives us detailed, illustrated instructions to create 20 projects, each one more delightful than the next.

Step-by-step he walks you through folding each butterfly. With written instruction as well as diagrams with arrows showing you how to fold each piece, your butterflies will come alive.

The paper is not included in this book, but there are clear instructions for choosing the proper paper to ensure success. Origami paper is inexpensive and easily purchased at craft stores or on the internet. The most import thing is that it has to be perfectly square. You can use other types of paper if you choose, as long as it is “crisp” and will be able to “remember” a crease.

If you are into butterflies, this is the origami book for you. Perhaps you have a young child that would love having them hanging from their bedroom ceiling, floating with the breeze. It is an inexpensively beautiful way to brighten up a room.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy from Dover Publications in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

 

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Book Review: There is a Fighter in My Room – Perfect Bedtime Picture Book

There is a Fighter in My Room

By Megan Kjarbo

Illustrations by Penny Weber

Matthew is afraid to go to sleep because there is a fighter in his room. First, he asks his big brother to help him, but he cannot help because he says he is too small. Then his father cannot help him because he has to take out the garbage. Hopefully his mother can help him, she is the only one left to come to his rescue.

This is a cute bedtime story. The fear of a “monster” in the bedroom is real for some children. By reading about it, children may be comforted in the fact that someone they love can help them if they are afraid. There is a Fighter in My Room has a surprise ending that younger children will enjoy.

This is definitely “a read to me” story for preschoolers.  Some of the words are too difficult for early readers to read themselves, such as “approached” and “cautiously”. But that being said, it is a great way to introduce words to expand their vocabulary.

The illustrations are delightfully adorable, they bring the words alive for children and the adults that read to them. I recommend this book for young children. Especially those that have trouble going to sleep at night.

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 © 2019 Laura Hartman  https://reedsy.com/discovery/book/there-s-a-fighter-in-my-room-megan-kjarbo

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Book Review: My Fair Latte – Fabulous First in a New Cozy Series

My Fair Latte (The Café Cinema Mystery Series #1)

By Vickie Fee

Halley Greer’s Great-Uncle Leon bequeathed the Star Movie Palace to her. Far past it’s prime, the theater is a faded princess that time has not been kind to. But there is something about the small town of Utopia Springs and the hopes of reviving the theater that makes Halley want to stay. She has dreams of playing old classic movies and serving wine and coffees in the lobby. She is a great barista and wants to use her talents to support herself doing something she loves.

After a rocky start, she begins making friends and connections in the tourist laden town. When someone vandalizes her newly renovated theater, she begins to wonder if her dreams will be dashed, but she perseveres.  Having high hopes for opening night, Halley was elated when locals and tourists filled the theater. Unfortunately, during the intermission, one of the patrons was found dead in his seat.

When the police department focuses on her as their main suspect, Halley and her new friends begin a bit of sleuthing. Will she become the next victim by getting too close to the truth?

Ms. Fee drew me into the story immediately. The characters are quirky, funny and realistic. I was amused by the hotel owner who pretends to be British. And who doesn’t like a cat with the name Eartha Kitty? Like all cozies, there is a bit of romance flirting at the edge of the mystery. There is also a great historical twist featuring the infamous outlaw Jesse James that is totally plausible.

The small-town setting is perfect for a new cozy series. It is vintage but not old fashioned. There is entertainment for tourists and locals alike as well as eateries and shops. The nostalgic nod to the past with classic movies is interesting and fun. It reminded me of more than one classic film I would love to see again on the big screen.

Vicki Fee is the author of the A Liv and Di in Dixie Mystery Series. My Fair Latte is the first book in the Café Cinema Mystery Series and the first one I have read from this author. Her sharp wit, interesting story and fun characters are perfectly balanced and I am looking forward to reading more from this author.

 DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Edelweiss in exchange for a fair and honest review. Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

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