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Book Review: Death al Fresco – Delicious Cozy Culinary Mystery

Death al Fresco

By Leslie Karst

Sally Solari is back in the third cozy mystery written by Leslie Karst. Death al Fresco finds her torn between helping out her father and the police. She is happy distancing herself from her father’s restaurant to focus more on her own restaurant, which is doing quite well. But things could be taking a bad turn. Her chef is itching to begin a new phase of his culinary career just as her father is hosting a huge party and desperately needs her help to pull it off.

As if that were not enough stress, Sally’s dog finds the body of a local fisherman on the beach. It doesn’t look accidental and her father may be the prime suspect! Against her better judgement, Sally realizes she has to investigate the murder in order to save her father’s restaurant and more importantly, keep him out of jail.

While looking for the killer, Sally has to fit in trying to manage her restaurant, dealing with protesters at her father’s restaurant – who knew Columbus Day would become such a political nightmare and trying to relax a bit by taking a painting class with her ex. She is as busy as her readers, which makes her character come to life. Honestly, who can’t identify with the juggling most women do today to keep things on an even keel?

Karst writes the perfect cozy mystery. She begins with a delicious storyline, mixes in a bit of murder, sweetens it up with a pinch of romance and then bakes it to perfection when the plot heats up. This is the second book in her series I have read. It works well as a stand-alone novel, but you might want to start with the earlier book(s) because I am sure you will be hooked and want to read the whole series.

The added bonus to this series is the recipes at the end of the book. The Spinach Salad with Orange, Fennel and Black Olives sounds delicious. Since you can make the dressing a day ahead, it would be perfect for company. You will wow your guests and maybe loan them Death al Fresco so they can fall in love with the series too.

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. Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: A Deadly Eclair: A Delicious Cozy Mystery

A Deadly Éclair (A French Bistro Mystery)

By Daryl Wood Gerber

Mimi Rousseau is living her dream – until the nightmare of murder darkens her door. Her life has known sorrow before; namely the unexpected death of her husband that revealed they were broke and deep in debt. Coming home to Napa Valley isn’t easy, but when she is introduced to Bryan Baker she dares to think her dreams of owning a successful restaurant might come true. Baker is willing to finance the bistro as well as the attached inn because he believes in Mimi.

With her every step of the way, he encourages and supports Mimi both financially and emotionally. Like a big brother, he is always there for her – until he is found brutally murdered the night before the first wedding planned at Bistro Rousseau.

Mimi is devastated by the loss of her mentor and is determined to find out who could possibly do such a thing. Unfortunately, there is a smorgasbord of suspects staying at the inn for the wedding that was preempted by Baker’s death. That doesn’t stop Mimi’s investigation, much to the local law enforcement’s chagrin. She is hoping to serve up justice with a side of incarceration to the person responsible. The killer isn’t about to take her meddling laying down – will she be the next victim?

This delightful cozy mystery has more ingredients than a French pastry and is just as delicious. The main characters are quirky, fun and likable. Of course there are a few that I wouldn’t want to eat lunch with, slimy characters that are absolutely necessary for a great cozy mystery.

Another great addition to this delightful mystery is the recipes the author has included at the end of the book. It is always fun to have the recipes discussed in the book available to enjoy. Seriously, who doesn’t crave a delicious éclair or creamy, crunchy topped Crème Brulee after reading about the characters enjoying these decadent treats?

I really enjoyed A Deadly Éclair. It is the first book in the French Bistro Mystery Series, and the first book I’ve read by award winning author Daryl Wood Gerber. She writes two other series, the Cookbook Nook Mysteries and the Cheese Shop Mysteries (writing as Avery Aames). I plan to check out both of these series in the near future.

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. Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: A Measure of Murder – Cute Culinary Cozy

A Measure of Murder

By Leslie Karst

Sally Solari has more on her plate than the delicious meals she is serving at Gauguin, the restaurant she recently inherited. Her schedule is full with the management of Gauguin. She is also helping her father at Solari’s, the restaurant her family has owned for years. Sally is slowly trying to find a replacement for herself so she can focus more on Gauguin, but her father is resisting her efforts. He is sure no one can take his daughter’s place in their family’s Italian restaurant.

Even though Sally loves the restaurant business, she decides to carve out a bit of her precious free time to do something for herself. Deciding she will spend some of the precious few hours of her free time by joining a local chorus that needs members.

Like any social group, the choir has personality conflicts, but overall they are a great bunch of dedicated vocalists that enjoy each other and their craft. The director has found fame with the discovery of some sheet music by a famous composer making the pull to be a part of the choir more desirable. Unfortunately their first rehearsal ends in tragedy. One of the tenors falls to his death. His girlfriend seeks out Sally and asks her to investigate the accident because she is sure it was murder.

The police have closed the case, but Sally agrees to switch her chef’s hat for a deerstalker a la Sherlock Holmes because she doesn’t think the evidence adds up to an accident. That means that one of the members of her choir could be a murderer. Let’s all hope Sally isn’t the next victim.

Karst writes a meaty cozy mystery. Her characters are strong, multi-faceted and interesting. Sally juggles her career and personal life just as most of us. She loves the restaurant business, her family and friends. It is refreshing to read a cozy mystery without the main character being a bit ditzy. Her father and grandmother enforce the family values she believes in as well as adding humor to the story.

The plot is interesting and solid. There are several suspects, all of them likely killers. As Sally quietly works the case in her spare time, the motives are varied and believable I was convinced I knew who the killer was until a new theory was introduced that was as likely as the previous one making me change my mind in an instant.

A Measure of Murder is the second Sally Solari Mystery by Leslie Karst. It is the first one I have read, but it worked well as a stand-alone novel. That being said, I enjoyed it so much I plan to read the first in this series, Dying for a Taste. It was really a sweet treat to get to the end of the book and see that some of the delicious recipes discussed in the novel were in the final pages. All of them look delectable. I can’t wait to try the Grilled Salmon with Papaya and Avocado Pico de Gallo.

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. Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Lazy Crafternoon – Tons of Cute, Affordable, Easy Crafts

Lazy CarfternoonLazy Crafternoon

by Stella Fields

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from the publisher in connection with NetGalley  & Capstone in return for my review. Copyright © 2016 Laura Hartman

Lazy Crafternoon made me want to pull out the craft supplies, call a few friends and have a fun crafty day. Fields has compiled a collection of crafts that are easy to make, useful and don’t cost an arm and a leg.

She begins with explaining supplies and how to use them. They are common in most if not all households (scissors, glue, paintbrushes) or easily purchases at your local craft, hardware or even grocery store. The most exotic thing she discusses is decoupage glue, so you won’t have to order something from an expensive craft house to complete her projects.

The projects are divided into different sections:

Accessories includes headbands, decoupaged shoes (I cannot wait to do this to a pear of my favorite flats that are looking tired!) and a diffuser necklace that uses essential oils to name a few. There are a total of 10 crafts in this section.

Decorate gives the reader instructions for ribbon wreaths (think Christmas gift!), no sew pillows and cute flower pot makeovers. There are a total of 14 crafts in this section.

Study is the section of school supplies that can be used for many other purposes also. My favorite in this section is the cinch sacks – they can carry so much more that books – think knitting! They are perfect for the project on the go. There are a total of 10 projects in this section.

Celebrate is all about party decorations and gifts wrappings. The coolest trick to make wrapping paper with a lint roller will absolutely be used this Christmas in our house! You can celebrate with all 11 of the projects included here.

Food is the final section. Why food in a craft book? Remember the title is Lazy Crafternoon and in order to have a Crafternoon you have to add friends and food to complete your day. There are 7 crafty type recipes that look yummy and perfect for your crafternoon or for giving or just plain enjoying yourself. The one I can’t wait to try is sun tea in mason jars. How fun to personalize each one for the person that is going to enjoy it?

Overall, this is the best, most versatile craft book I’ve read lately. The ideas are fresh, easy and Fields reminds us how fun it is to spend time crafting with good friends and of course good food. This is written for teens/young adults but adults will find plenty of projects they will want to do – I did!

Watch for Lazy Crafternoon at your local bookstore or online, it is available on August 1, 2016 but can be pre-ordered now.

 

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Book Review: The Crepes of Wrath – A Pancake House Mystery

Crepes of WrathThe Crêpes of Wrath

A Pancake House Mystery

by Sarah Fox

Random House Publishing Group – Alibi

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from the publisher in connection with NetGalley in return for my review. Copyright © 2016 Laura Hartman

Marley is no stranger to Wildwood Cove. Her favorite cousin, Jimmy and his wife live there and own a popular breakfast restaurant, The Flipside Pancake House. She hasn’t been in the quaint little town as much as she would have liked since Jimmy’s wife passed away but her job in Seattle kept her away. But Jimmy’s recent bout with pneumonia landed him in the hospital so Marley stepped in to help.

Then the unimaginable happened. Cousin Jimmy died the day he was released from the hospital. Was it a tragic accident or murder? Marley was suspicious as were the local police. Soon foul play was confirmed. But what motive could anyone have to murder a beloved member of the quaint little village? Unfortunately, suspects started coming out of the woodwork.

Could it have been an old love interest of Jimmy’s? Or perhaps someone who wanted to shut down the popular restaurant? Or maybe one of the residents lusted after the beautiful old home on the perfect piece of property he lived in? Or even worse – could Jimmy’s less than legal past have caught up with him and was he the upstanding citizen everyone believed him to be?

Determined to find out what happened to Jimmy and dispel any rumors that were swirling around his death, Marley decides to do a bit of investigating on her own. Between a couple of gentleman friends that have popped up expectantly and the time she is spending at the restaurant that she now is in charge of, she quietly starts probing. Unfortunately, the killer is looking for something that he or she thinks is either in Jimmy’s home or the restaurant. Marley is in the way so will she become the next target?

Sarah Fox’s cozy mystery has all the elements I love. An unlikely detective, a few handsome men and an interesting setting round out a perfect cozy and The Crepes of Wrath has all of them. She also adds a few yummy sounding recipes to the end of the book, which I can’t wait to try. Seriously, who would not love to have Bacon Cheddar Waffles for breakfast on a Sunday Morning?

The Crepes of Wrath is the first in Fox’s Pancake House Mystery Series and the first book I have read by this author. I recommend it to anyone that enjoys a cozy mystery. Her other books include three titles in her Music Lover’s Mystery Series. Watch for the release of The Crepes of Wrath on September 20, 2016 or pre-order from Penguin Random House, Amazon, Google Play or Barnes & Nobel. It is a fun, fast cozy mystery perfect for fall.

 

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