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Friday, May 20, 2022

Book Blitz & Giveaway: IT'S A MAD, MAD MURDER (A Maddie Montgomery Mystery) by CINDY VINCENT

IT'S A MAD, MAD MURDER
A Maddie Montgomery Mystery
by
CINDY VINCENT


Cozy Culinary Mystery / Women Sleuths / Amateur Sleuths
Publisher: Whodunit Press
Date of Publication: November 15, 2021
Number of Pages: 303 pages
 
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Things are a little too hot to handle for famous culinary-mystery author, Maddie Montgomery, in her normally quiet neighborhood set in the Houston suburb of Abbott Cove. Especially after her neighbor, Randall Rathburn, has a heart attack and rams his vintage car into a light pole. Though his death is ruled an accident, another of Maddie’s neighbors insists that Randall was murdered, and he implores her to investigate. But Maddie isn’t on board with the half-baked idea, not until she attends the over-the-top funeral where she develops some suspicions of her own. That’s when she decides to take the leap from crime writing to crime solving. After all, she doesn’t exactly want a killer running around her cul-de-sac . . .

But the murder of her neighbor isn’t the only mystery she’s got cooking. When her publisher goes belly-up and her agent happily dumps her in favor of younger, dystopian authors, Maddie boils over into a full-blown career crisis. And while she tries to simmer down, her new role as amateur sleuth only stirs the pot even more. Then from car chases to stakeouts, and from a neighbor who owns a suspicious amount of spy gadgetry to a widow who seems a little too merry, Maddie’s first case has her head spinning like the beaters on her handheld mixer. And soon Maddie finds that solving a crime in “real life” is a lot more difficult . . . and a lot more dangerous . . .

 
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Cindy Vincent is the award-winning author of the Buckley and Bogey Cat Detective Capers, and the Tracy Truworth, Apprentice P.I., 1940s Homefront Mysteries. She is also the creator of the Mysteries by Vincent murder mystery party games and the Daisy Diamond Detective Series games for girls. She lives in Houston, Texas with her husband and an assortment of fantastic felines.  Cindy is a self-professed “Christmas-a-holic,” and she starts the planning for her ever-expanding, “extreme” Christmas lights display sometime in the early spring.
 
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GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY!
THREE WINNERS!
1ST PRIZE: 
Signed copy of It’s a Mad, Mad Murder, a sweetheart-neckline apron, a set of multicolored, Farberware measuring cups, and a set of stainless steel, oblong measuring spoons. 
2ND & 3RD PRIZES:
Signed copies of It’s a Mad, Mad Murder and novella, Yes, Carol...It’s Christmas!, which features a heroine trying to get back home to Texas
(US only; ends midnight, CDT, 5/26/2022)

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Twelfth by Janet Key

TwelfthTwelfth by Janet Key
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Easy to read and with a satisfying storyline, I was delighted, inspired, and still very entertained.

The summer is not starting well for 7th grader Maren Sands. Her popular older sister, Hadley, had returned home to Boston after a disastrous first semester away at college in New York and had since withdrawn from her friends and family and life. She shut herself in her bedroom and did not talk to anyone or even get out of bed. It was all their mother could do to tend to whatever was up with her until it became apparent the girl desperately needed professional help. The girls’ parents had divorced years earlier, and their musician father, who was on the road for days at a time, couldn’t take Maren with him or let her stay alone at his place. Their mother’s solution was to pack Maren off to the same summer theater camp Hadley had attended throughout her childhood so she could focus on Hadley’s recovery.

Theater camp was so not Maren’s thing. To make the situation worse, when Maren gets to her cabin, she finds out her bunkmate is truly one-of-a-kind. Theo, with their ever-present camera in hand and they/them pronouns, has already attracted the scorn of some of the other campers. Maren, wanting to just fade into the background of camp life and wait for the summer to be over, realizes her proximity to Theo will absolutely shove her into the limelight.

But almost immediately, a mystery surrounding the camp commands Maren and Theo’s attention. Not only is there a famed diamond ring that legend says is hidden at the camp and tales of a ghost sighting on the property, but the acting teacher has mysteriously disappeared, her car still in the parking lot. When Maren receives an unsigned card with a mysterious quote on it, and she and Theo secretly overhear an ominous conversation in the costume storage building where cellphones aren’t supposed to work, they are thrust into the mysterious past of Goodman’s Camp.

Twelfth, a reference to Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and the play the campers are to perform at the end of camp, is a unique middle-grade novel of mystery, suspense, self-awareness, and the need each person has to be seen for who they are. Told in dual timelines, one set in the summer of 2015 and the other beginning in the early 1940s and continuing into the 1950s, two distinct plots wend their way toward each other until they come together in one remarkable story. I was completely immersed in both tales and appreciated how the characters from each one experienced similar struggles. I was gripped by how each set of characters chose to handle being outside societal norms and the impact on their choices that a 60-year separation in time had.

Maren and Theo are great characters. Maren arrives at the camp in a total funk, but she is actually pretty game to get things going and the summer done. She’s never sullen or whiny, just really disappointed, confused, and torn about what is going on with her family. She’s ready just to endure it all and surprises herself with what a good time she has as she works through the mystery and her personal feelings. Theo is so upbeat and delightfully driven to follow their dreams. I loved their daily vests and quest for extras in the cafeteria. I admire anyone who can take on the opinions of others like they did and come out on top. Allegra is perfect as the pair’s antagonist; we all know THAT girl.

Most of all, I loved the twists and turns the story makes. Just when I thought I knew where things were going (and they eventually do get there), the author threw a fantastic curveball. Easy to read, with a satisfying conclusion, I was delighted, inspired, and very entertained.

Diverse and well-drawn, the characters in Twelfth felt realistic. I thought they could easily match the random makeup of people and personalities one finds in real life. The exciting story held my attention; I would have happily read the book in one sitting, and I feel even reluctant readers would stick with it. I recommend TWELFTH to readers who enjoy a fun and exciting mystery with true-to-life personal issues complicating characters’ lives and those who want some insight into the hearts and minds of someone who doesn’t fit society’s gender molds.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the publisher through TBR and Beyond Tours.




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Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Giveaway & Blog Tour: FATAL CODE (The SNAP Agency Series, Book 2) by Natalie Walters

FATAL CODE
The SNAP Agency Series, Book 2
by
NATALIE WALTERS

Fiction / Christian / Suspense / Romance
Publisher: Revell
Date of Publication: May 1, 2022
Number of Pages: 320 pages
 
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In 1964, a group of scientists called the Los Alamos Five came close to finishing a nuclear energy project for the United States government when they were abruptly disbanded. Now the granddaughter of one of those five scientists, aerospace engineer Elinor Mitchell, discovers that she has highly sensitive information on the project in her possession--and a target on her back.

SNAP agent and former Navy cryptologist Kekoa Young is tasked with monitoring Elinor. This is both convenient since she's his neighbor in Washington, DC, and decidedly inconvenient because . . . well, he kind of likes her.

As Elinor follows the clues her grandfather left behind to a top-secret nuclear project, Kekoa has no choice but to step in. When Elinor learns he has been spying on her, she's crushed. But with danger closing in on all sides, she'll have to trust him to ensure her discoveries stay out of enemy hands.

Natalie Walters sucks you into the global race for space domination in this perfectly paced second installment of her SNAP Agency romantic suspense series.

PRAISE FOR FATAL CODE:
"Fatal Code is reminiscent of cold war spy thrillers and riveted me to the page as I rooted for Kekoa and Elinor to expose secrets, survive danger, and fall in love." -- Elizabeth Goddard, bestselling author of the Rocky Mountain Courage series

"Warning: once you pick it up, you won't be able to put it down!" -- Andrew Huff, author of the Shepherd Suspense series

"Enough suspense to make you need warm milk and a cozy blanket to calm you down." -- Jaime Jo Wright, author of The Souls of Lost Lake and the Christy award-winning novel The House on Foster Hill
 
 
Natalie Walters is the author of Lights Out, as well as the Harbored Secrets series. A military wife, she currently resides in Texas with her soldier husband and is the proud mom of three. She loves traveling, spending time with her family, and connecting with readers. 

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TWO WINNERS!
Each receive copies of Lights Out and Fatal Code!
(US only; ends midnight, CDT, 5/20/2022)

Monday, May 16, 2022

Cookies and Milk by Shawn Amos

Synopsis from the publisher:

It’s a summer of family, friendship, and fun fiascos in this semi-autobiographical novel that’s as irresistible as a fresh-baked cookie.

Eleven-year-old Ellis Johnson dreamed of spending the summer of 1976 hanging out with friends, listening to music, and playing his harmonica. Instead, he’ll be sleeping on a lumpy pullout in Dad’s sad little post-divorce bungalow and helping bring Dad’s latest far-fetched, sure-to-fail idea to life: opening the world’s first chocolate chip cookie store. They have six weeks to perfect their recipe, get a ramshackle A-frame on Hollywood’s Sunset Boulevard into tip-top shape, and bring in customers.

But of course, nothing is as easy as Dad makes it sound, even with Grandma along for the ride. Like she says, they have to GIT—get it together—and make things work. Along the way, Ellis discovers a family mystery he is determined to solve, the power of community, and new faith in himself.

Partially based on Shawn Amos’s own experiences growing up the son of Wally “Famous” Amos in a mostly white area, and packed with humor, heart, and fun illustrations, this debut novel sings with the joy of self-discovery, unconditional love, and belonging.

My Review:

A unique story of growing up in the mid-70s that is still relatable today – to both the young and the young at heart.

In Cookies and Milk, Shawn Amos relates the feel of the middle school years during the mid-1970s perfectly. His main character, Ellis Johnson, is looking forward to a great summer and turning 12, spending time with his best friend, Alex, listening to their favorite music, and just being kids. Didn’t we all, and wouldn’t we still? You can feel his disappointment and restlessness when things don’t go as planned.

I love how he was able to adapt and “get it together,” wanting to make his father’s dream come true but still being a little grumpy about the whole thing. His introduction to Wishbone was a great plotline, and I never expected where this eventually led, but it was an extremely satisfying surprise. I loved Grandma with her fearsome cane and intriguing slips of paper with the secret acronyms for Ellis and his father to puzzle out. And I so wanted everything to go right for his father from the very start. I enjoyed the supporting characters that arose out of the Sunset Boulevard neighborhoods. They were a great mix of people in various circumstances, and I loved that they formed a sort of “found” family.

My favorite part of the story was Ellis’s increased exposure to his family’s culture, something he really missed out on growing up in a primarily white neighborhood and school. He was at the perfect age to learn and soak up the views and lifestyles different from his small family. The author wonderfully conveyed Ellis’s excitement and the wonder he felt.

With its blend of historical fiction, life in the 70s, and family mystery, I recommend COOKIES AND MILK to middle-grade readers and those with an interest in music (contemporary of the time and the blues from even earlier decades), and since it is semi-autobiographical, to those who enjoy some excellent chocolate chip cookies.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the publisher through TBR and Beyond Tours.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Deathwish (Superhero, #2) by Justin Richman

Deathwish (Superhero, #2)Deathwish by Justin Richman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fast-paced and exciting, Adam's a regular guy with a superhuman ability and his story may even be better than the super series debut.

Adam’s body has the unexplainable ability to heal itself almost instantaneously, and he’s been supplementing his income from his retail position by fighting for money in the alley behind his best friend’s bar. But one night after an encounter in Decker City with the vigilante crimefighter, known as The Gray Hood, he begins to consider the possibility that he, too, could put his special ability to better use. After he loses his day job, he goes on a ride-along with a police friend, Lt. Shane Cranston, and he’s smitten: he wants to fight crime.

At this time, Decker City is a hotbed of violence and criminal activity but Adam’s hometown, nearby Mapleton, is fairly quiet until Adam and Shane get involved in some of Decker City’s investigations. Suddenly, both their lives are on the line and Adam is finding out firsthand how much damage his body can take and still come back.

Deathwish is the second novel in author Justin Richman’s great new Superhero series, and I believe it is even better than his debut outing. It’s a fast-paced, exciting, and entertaining story about a regular guy with a superhuman ability to instantly heal even his most grievous wounds. Adam was dealt a tough hand when the ability was discovered and has really been on his own his whole life, and I really liked the clever and snarky guy, even his (at times) “Dad joke” dialogue. He’s an extrovert and ready to take action, shake things up, and make things work. I loved that he jumped into action even as bullets were flying, knowing absolutely nothing about what he was doing or heading into. I laughed out loud quite a bit and would have read this book cover to cover in one sitting if I hadn’t had to deal with real life.

As in Richman's first Superhero book, there are some great secondary and supporting characters. Shane Cranston, Adam’s friendly connection in the Mapleton PD, is a nice guy who is good at this job and genuinely tries to help the wayward Adam find his way. The same can be said for Adam’s best friend, Chuck, who is the only other person that knows Adam’s secret. I liked Adam’s flirtation with Kate Phillips and would love to see that go somewhere for Adam. However, there is a particularly interesting, lock-picking officer, Liz McKenzie, that would be fun to know better.

I also enjoyed the crossover between this and book one, The Silver Hood. Usually series will maintain the same setting throughout, but in the second Superhero book, we’re actually in a nearby city. It was interesting to see the towns all used the same radio dispatcher until Decker City got so busy and crime-riddled that they had to set up a separate system. It was reasonably true-to-life regarding the lack of cooperation and exchange of information that can arise between agencies. I appreciated that the author didn’t let Shane and Adam “poach” on Decker City’s jurisdiction without the DC PD initially asking for assistance and later the two rightfully anticipating repercussions for overstepping.

The action in the story is steady with exciting, almost frantic moments regularly kicking the pace up a notch (to “Eleven”). A major plot twist made me exclaim aloud; I was that surprised. There is a bit of a cliffhanger ending, and there are still some shadowy things and people lurking in the background that predicts this author has much more planned! There is also an intriguing explanation for how Adam acquired his unique healing ability.

With its entertaining premise and non-stop excitement and action, I recommend DEATHWISH to readers who enjoy fantastic superhero tales. (This book has some death and destruction and drinking, but no drugs or “kissing scenes,” if that is a consideration for sharing with a younger audience.)

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from Reedsy Discovery.


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Saturday, May 14, 2022

The Silver Hood (Superhero, #1) by Justin Richman

The Silver HoodThe Silver Hood by Justin Richman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It is a very entertaining story of a regular guy who gains a superpower and uses it to fight crime and help his hometown.

Raised by his grandfather after the loss of his parents, Devin Shephard has lived in Decker City all his life. But the hometown he loves has been plagued by wave after wave of violence and crime, businesses are shuttering, and fearful residents are fleeing to safer towns. The police are critically understaffed, and the city is quickly headed to destruction.

Devin has worked hard for where he is in life. He’s now a successful financial manager at TruGuard Investments. He is looking forward to a comfortable future, hopefully, including Lara, his best friend, and the girl he’s secretly loved for years. One night, driving home after a hockey game in the city, Devin’s car is hit by another and ends up plummeting off the roadway and into the river. Unconscious, he is in the submerged vehicle until he’s rescued by emergency personnel. Miraculously, he survives being underwater for an estimated 20 minutes. But as he recovers, he discovers something in his brain was affected. He is now able to move objects with his mind!

Devin secretly decides to put his newfound powers to good use. After improving his fighting abilities and with his grandfather at his side, he dons a gray hoodie to hide his features and heads out into the city at night to wage his only personal war on the criminals destroying his beloved hometown.

The Silver Hood was an entertaining story of a regular guy gaining a superpower and using it to better his community. The book was easy-to-read and really held my interest as it offered a great back story for Devin and included a clean and sweet romance. I liked the nerdy Devin a lot, but my favorite character has to be his grandfather. I enjoyed their scenes together the most.

Love-interest Lara was a pleasant surprise. She’s sweet, attractive, and intelligent. I enjoyed their long friendship, and its slow transformation to something more, both characters worrying about ruining a perfectly good friendship should things not work out. Their coworker, Tommy, was funny but aggravating (in a fun way)! I could relate to both Lara and Devin’s ambivalent feelings about him.

As mentioned previously, there is a clean and sweet romance in the plot, but I wouldn’t label The Silver Hood as a “kissing book,” as they call it in The Princess Bride. However, there is drinking and drug use in the story if that is a consideration, especially for those wanting to share this with a younger reader. The book is classified as Sci-fi/Fantasy but also contains a good mystery. With its fun premise, likable characters, and fast-paced action, I recommend THE SILVER HOOD to readers that enjoy superhero stories.

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving a review copy from the author through Reedsy Discovery.




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Friday, May 13, 2022

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson

Major Pettigrew's Last StandMajor Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand was a delightful, addictive story of second chance romance and a family dealing with changes in the makeup of the family order.

After the death of his wife of many years, Major Ernest Pettigrew soldiered on with his orderly life of retirement in the English countryside village of Edgecombe St. Mary. He found pleasure in gardening, maintaining the family home, playing golf with old friends at the local club, and looked forward to a bit of hunting during the season. When his younger brother passed away unexpectedly, he was shocked and grieved but anticipated finally receiving the completed legacy from their father’s estate – his brother’s half of a matched pair of Churchill rifles. Each had agreed to leave the other their rifle upon their death. Unfortunately, his sister-in-law had other plans. She and her daughter and even Ernest’s son wanted Ernest to immediately sell the Churchills as a pair to reap a higher profit.

Meanwhile, the major had struck up an acquaintance with the local village shop owner, Mrs. Jasmina Ali, and in time had discovered they shared many common interests, views, and opinions. But the villagers of Edgecombe St. Mary and the golf club members viewed Mrs. Ali as a foreigner and as a shopkeeper of a lower class than themselves, littering the path of their budding relationship with prejudice and many tiresome stumbling blocks. In addition, Mrs. Ali’s own extended family, especially her nephew, Abdul Wahid, who she wanted to take over the shop, expressed their disapproval of her relationship with the English major.

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand was a delightful, addictive story: one I didn’t want to put down until it was done. The major is such a good guy! Yes, he is a little strait-laced and uptight, but he means well and tries hard. Jasmina Ali is a lovely woman, someone I would love to know in real life. Their growing affection for each other was wonderful, and I rooted for them to work out from the start.

The author has excellent supporting characters, especially Grace, Abdul Wahid, Roger, and Sandy. However, I enjoyed the family of caterers with their older family members still working in the business they founded quite a lot.

I felt the whole Mughal-themed dinner dance was a recipe for disaster, and I was not disappointed with the results. Abdul Wahid was a source of surprises, though, throughout. One of my favorite exchanges occurred between him and the major.

“But I must ask you. Do you really understand what it means to be in love with an unsuitable woman?”

 “My dear boy,” said the major. “Are there any other kind?”

I was on the edge of my seat during the major’s confrontation with Abdul Wahid at the cliffs in the park.

I recommend MAJOR PETTIGREW’S LAST STAND to fiction readers who enjoy stories set in small English villages, tales of different cultures trying to find their comfort zone in established communities, second chances at romance, and family, both the kind you’re born into and those you find and form later in life.


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