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Book Review: Plotting for Murder – Book #1 in New Cozy Series

Plotting for Murder

By Tamra Baumann

Moving back to Sunset Cove was never part of Sawyer Davis’ plan. She is a chef, not a bookstore owner. Unfortunately, the death of her mother brought her back home, at least until she can figure out how to access the monies from her mom’s trust fund that are tightly held by her conniving uncle. The only thing her mother’s brother wants is the other half of the family’s money instead of  just the half he deserves. Her mom left some clues as to how Sawyer can use her inheritance to buy her own restaurant, but will she ever be happy in the small town she escaped from when her fiancé left her at the alter?

She is overwhelmed with the trust fund restrictions, the crumbling home she now lives in, running the bookstore that was her mother’s passion. Oh, and trying to figure out just where her life is going. Her mother has been lovingly meddling from the grave. She leaves a riddle for Sawyer to solve that promises funding for the restaurant she longs to open. Her mom has arranged for a puppy to be delivered, and to top it off, she has arranged for two men to become necessary in Sawyer’s life, one new and one from Sawyer’s past.

Gage, the lawyer in town assigned to help her is handsome, kind and doesn’t hide his attraction to Sawyer. To make matters worse, the sheriff is Dylan, the gorgeous guy who got cold feet and ran out on her. Sparks begin to fly but Sawyer does not have time for romance with either of them. Unfortunately, her life and livelihood depends upon working with these two men. And just when she thought life could not get more complicated, someone is murdered during book club at her store. Sawyer isn’t about to hide in a corner waiting for something to happen. She begins her own investigation much to Dylan’s chagrin. Lucky for her, there are plenty of locals that love to gossip, so she enlists her book club buddies to help catch the killer. Who can she trust? Will the killer strike again and will Sawyer be the target?

Plotting for Murder has all the essential elements of a great cozy. The setting is interesting, small town America is a treasure trove of small shops full of quirky characters and adorable men vying for her attention, Sawyer is surrounded by a rich cast. It is fun to meet them and see the connections they have to Sawyer’s past.  I am looking forward to seeing how they will grow and evolve during the series. One of my personal favorites is Cooper, the puppy. He is a gift from Sawyer’s mom from beyond the grave and hopefully will play a part in solving the mysteries to come.

This is the first in the Cozy Mystery Bookshop Series by award winning author Tamra Baumann. It is also the first book of Ms. Baumann’s I have read. It is no secret that I love cozy mysteries and to find a new series is like Christmas morning for this bibliophile. I’ll be watching for the next one in this series as well as checking out the other cozy series written by Ms. Baumann.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley and Book Buzz in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Lessons From Lucy – This Old Dog Can Teach You New Tricks

Lessons From Lucy

By Dave Barry

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.

Dave Barry is a well-known humorist. He has authored many books, both fiction and non-fiction. His accolades are sung throughout the land and rightly so. He has a Pulitzer Prize, is a NYT Best Selling Author, and even had a sitcom based on a couple of his books. As a columnist his funny takes on life and whatever else was in his head at the time have appeared in over 500 newspapers. Suffice it to be said lots and lots of people think he is funny, and I am certainly one of them.

Lessons from Lucy is a self-help book. Normally I look at self-help books as though the pages are laced with arsenic and leave them on the shelves in the bookstores to die a slow and painful death sad and alone. But I have finally found a self-help book full of useful information that should be read by anyone and everyone. Especially if you are in what poets call the “sunset years”, but Lucy and Barry refer to as getting old. Everyone gets old and this book gives us all great insights to navigate old age with a lot more fun than you might think.

Dogs are basically happy creatures. Barry captures the essence of happiness by studying Lucy’s reactions to situations such as meeting new people (or dogs). Lucy has an open mind about it once she sniffs them out. So should people. Not the sniffing part, but new friends and experiences are so much better than sitting around watching reruns all afternoon. So make some new friends and stay in touch with those you have. It will make you happy.

Be present in the moment is another gem of wisdom. Be happy with who you are with and what you are doing and for goodness sakes put down that cell phone and actually have a conversation. See? Lucy is brilliant and she has a happy life because of her willingness to be happy where she is and with whom she is with.

Each lesson is relatable and will stick with you, such as dealing with anger. Lucy gets mad at the garbage man, and then lets it go. People get mad and let it simmer all day, telling everyone about the horrible thing someone else did or did not do. Who doesn’t yell at the guy on his phone in front of you texting at the green light? Does it do any good? Nope, that guy is gonna do what he’s gonna do. Why get your blood pressure to the top of the chart over something you can’t do anything about? Be like Lucy and let it go.

Barry might be a grumpy old man (his assessment, not mine) but he is still one of the funniest writers I have ever read. His take on life will leave you thinking about it long after you have stopped laughing at the hysterical delivery of his message.  As he states, “getting old sucks” but goes on to tell the reader how to make it fun. Really, really fun.

I recommend you grab this book and read it at least once, maybe twice because we all get old and you are going to need this info at some point. I am going to try and not be so grumpy, so opinionated and get out meeting more people and doing more things. I’ll stay connected with my friends and make new ones. Laughing more and living more sounds like the best advice I’ve ever read in a self-help book. I should have known a dog would make me a better human, but it took Dave Barry pointing it out for me to see it.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Burning Ridge – Nail Biting, Page-Turning K-9 Mystery

Burning Ridge

By Margaret Mizushima

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Deputy Mattie Cobb loves what she does. Her K-9 partner, Robo, has helped her out of scrapes with criminals and supports her through the residual trauma from her unhappy childhood. They love and depend upon each other both on and off the job.

Cole Walker, the local vet, has grown very fond of Mattie. Mattie cares for him also, but has learned to keep her emotions in check. What if he finds out about her childhood? She can barely live with the things that happened, especially being abandoned by her mother when she was very young, so it is hard for her to allow Cole into her life despite the strong feelings for him.

When the beauty of Colorado’s mountains becomes stained with murder, it hits Mattie close to home. Dead bodies begin surfacing, some old and one painfully new. Physically and emotionally she will be pushed to the limits – will she ever be the same again once her past comes to light? And will she survive to find out?

Mizushima brings the magnificence of the Colorado Redstone Ridge to life in the pages of her book. The insanity of a murderer is played out amidst tall fragrant pines and longhorn sheep innocently grazing the ridge. The juxtaposition of these images in the readers minds magnifies the best of nature and the worst of man, making both memorable in the twisted tale.

The characters are rich and full. Mattie’s past also includes Mama T, her beloved foster mom. Her sidekicks at the sheriff’s department are interesting. I especially like Rainbow and how yoga helped Mattie survive.

Mizushima has written three previous Timber Creek K-9 Mysteries and this is the first one I have read. It worked perfectly as a stand-alone mystery I was not confused and never felt anything was missing from the story. As a matter of fact, when I got to the last 50 pages, I had to keep slowing myself down because the action was so intense I had to know what was going to happen.

I highly recommend Burning Ridge and cannot wait to read the first three books in this series. If you are a fan of Longmire, you will love this book. If you are a great mystery fan, you will love this book. And last, but not least, if you love dogs – this is the book for you!

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: A Fatal Twist – Yoga, Puppies, Babies and a Murder!

Karma's a Killer

Kate Davidson is a multi-tasking maven. She juggles owning and teaching classes at her yoga studio with her busy personal life. She has a beloved dog Bella, who isn’t really too fond of other dogs, some people, has separation anxiety and to top it off lacks an essential enzyme which makes mealtime dicey at best. Kate also has a live-in boyfriend, Michael who is pretty understanding considering Kate has stumbled upon more than one dead body. He is less happy about her urge to jump in and help solve the crime.

You might be thinking that you are as busy as Kate (minus the dead bodies of course) but she stepped up her game in this book. She is dealing with a young woman that she really doesn’t like, but has agreed to let her work at the studio to pay off a debt. Again, what could really go wrong?

Kate’s best friend Rene is expecting twins. So, Kate agrees to be her Doula (a non-medical person that gives moral support during and after the birth of her child, or in this case children). And the cherry on the top of Kate’s crazy triple scoop sundae of her life – Michael brings home a pair of adorable abandoned puppies. They wiggle their way into Michael and Kate’s hearts, but unfortunately also wiggle their way out of an escape proof crate and proceed to leave a path of destruction in their wake.

As if this wasn’t enough to wear out our favorite Yoga instructor, during the open house for the brand new birthing center where Rene will have her babies, a dead body shows up. Then someone Kate knows is arrested, but she knows her friend is innocent and sets out to prove it with an unlikely accomplice. Michael has warned her against sticking her nose in where it shouldn’t be, but Kate can’t help herself. Will this be the time she steps over the line?

Tracy Weber’s Downward Dog Mystery series is entertaining and fun. She also treats readers to a solid mystery. By the end of the book, before the crazy climax of finding out who the killer is there are no less than eight plausible suspects. And we aren’t talking way out, red herring, reader groaning connections. LOTS of people wanted to kill this guy and they all had good reason. But it was only one of them. It took until the very end to figure it out. The clues were laid out perfectly, as a mystery buff, it is satisfying to realize I could have figured it out, but didn’t.

Weber’s characters are people you would meet every day at work or in your social life. I didn’t necessarily want to spend time with some of them, but others seem like they’d be really fun to invite to a party. Each book adds more layers to the main characters, but you could honestly read these as stand-alone cozy mysteries. This is the fourth book in Weber’s series, so you may want to start at the beginning, but you really don’t have.

If I haven’t convinced you to give this series a try, I only have one more thing to say – babies and puppies. Both adorably cute, frustratingly funny if they aren’t yours. I highly recommend this fast paced cozy mystery.

Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

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Book Review: Karma’s a Killer – Cozy Mystery Full of Critters and Karma

 

Karma's a KillerKarma’s A Killer
By Tracy Weber
277 pages

Yoga teacher Kate Davidson has her plate full. She owns and teaches classes Serenity Yoga and even though she is successful, owning a business is not a walk in the park. That is why she wonders why she is standing in Seattle’s Green Lake Park getting ready to teach a “Doga” class, which is basically yoga for dogs. It is against her better judgement, but she is willing to look silly to help raise funds for Dogma a local no-kill animal shelter. And her boyfriend Michael organized the event so naturally Kate wants to help make the event fun and profitable.

Right away her Zen is challenged by a group that is protesting the idea of a shelter, especially one with animals other than dogs and cats. An altercation soon has the potential to turn dangerous when the protesters become reckless. During all the mayhem that ensues, someone dies.

Kate finds out the woman arrested is claiming to be her estranged mother, Dharma. She is conflicted over helping the woman that abandoned her, but Kate cannot let an innocent person go to prison for a murder she didn’t commit.

Once again, Kate knows better, but has to jump into an investigation to find the real killer. She enlists the help of Michael, who is a reluctant participant. She assures him all will be well, especially with her protective German Shepherd Bella on the job. But when someone messes with Bella, Kate throws caution out the window to find the perp before someone else is hurt.

This is a perfect cozy mystery. Kate is an entertaining amateur sleuth. She is funny, flawed and loveable. Her past isn’t really pretty, but she doesn’t dwell on it. Her relationship with Michael isn’t always a romp in the park, but true to life. Then there is her pogonophobia, which leads to humorous situations. I love the rest of the characters. A particular favorite of mine is Dale Evans, the goat farming lawyer. He is a hoot and even bakes Bella goat cheese treats.

Karma’s a Killer is the third book in the Downward Dog Mystery Series. I have not read any of the other books in the series, but was not confused or “lost” at any point. I highly suggest this book if you are a fan of cozies, animals and/or are into yoga.

Copyright © 2016 Laura Hartman
DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.


 

 

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Oh Christmas Tree

Friday before our youngest son and wife left for home we went to Kuiper’s Farm to get our Christmas tree. Since it had been raining all day. we decided a pre-cut tree was our best bet. That way no one had to get soaking wet laying in the ground cutting our own.

They were not as happy to pose for a picture, but indulged me anyway.

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Due to the rain, it stayed in the back of our truck until today. The good news was it was nice and dry. The bad news was all of the boys were home so the hubby had to haul it to the patio and cut off the end by himself. Lucky for him Mea was there to make sure nothing was hiding inside the branches.

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It is in the house, but decorations won’t be added until this week.

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Snow!

IT IS COMING! I’VE HEARD ALL THE REPORTS!!!!

jim

If you live in the Midwest, you have to have heard about the SNOW. Not just snow; SNOW. The weather people on the news and internet and the amateur meteorologists around the water cooler have been bemoaning the upcoming snow storm for the last week.

I got a “breaking news” alert in my email today that said – if you are faint of heart you may want to sit down – it COULD be a bigger storm than we got in 1940!

All I have to say is really? We live in Northern Illinois. It is November. More than likely there will be snow.

Do I like driving in it? Nope. Do I like shoveling it? Nope. Do I like looking at it? You betcha. It is beautiful. I have a love/hate relationship with snow.

The hubby worked for 35 years plowing snow. He was gone for days when we had storms like all of the other guys in the department. Plans during snow season were unheard of. But now he is retired, so the snow I hated that took him away on weekends and nights is getting more like the snow I loved as a kid. Until I have to drive in it. 🙂

Even though we are only having flurries right now, the experts and amateurs agree that by tomorrow at this time we’ll have to pull out the snow blowers and put bells on the dogs to find them in the drifts.

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Welcome winter, I hope you are kind to us this year.

 

 

 

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