Review: Blue Steal

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: Blue Steal
Author: Marnie St. Clair
Publisher: Escape Publishing
Release Date: September 2016
Length: 260 pages
Series?: no
Genre: Romance, Mystery

A witty, sexy and suspenseful story about a stolen necklace, a doomed hotel, and two people determined to get their hands on the jewels—at any cost.

Selina Migliore is smart and streetwise—with an ill sister and an elderly grandmother relying on her, she has to be. When fate hands her a chance to change her life, she’s determined to seize it. All she has to do is retrieve a long-lost sapphire necklace before the Empire Hotel is blown to smithereens. Nothing’s going to get in her way…

…except Jack Tierney, PI, who’s also on the hunt for the stolen jewelry. Jack is amused by his clashes with the pushy brunette, but as he continues to bump into Selina at strange times and in odd places, he starts to question who she is and what she’s doing at the Empire.

The pressure cooker really heats up when a new player enters the scene and it becomes apparent that Jack’s not the only one keeping an eye on Selina…

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

my review

The Skinny

Selina Migliore is on a mission. She sets out for the once-grand Empire Hotel, where her immigrant grandmother fell in love with one of the hotel owners’ sons fifty years before. Now she is ailing in health and Selina’s sister has a serious illness that requires much more money than Selina makes as an executive administrator. Now that the ring in the famous Petrovsky sapphire collection has been found in the hotel where it went missing the night Nonna’s lover died all those years ago, Selina is there to find the matching sapphire necklace. It will solve all of her sister’s medical finances. There’s just one problem: Selina only has one week before the Empire is demolished.

Little does she know that fellow Empire resident Jack Tierney, P.I., is also at the hotel on behalf of the Petrovsky family to find the necklace stolen fifty years before. Once he finds inconsistencies with Selina’s story, they “team” up to find the necklace. Suddenly Selina’s great-uncle Lewis, her grandfather’s twin, finds an interest in Selina and establishes contact. While trying to riddle out the necklace’s possible hiding places, Jack and Selina both discover the mystery surrounding her grandfather’s death due to the Petrovsky sapphires just doesn’t add up. And Jack’s not going to let that go.

The Quote

Why they bothered creeping, he didn’t know. They could have banged around like a herd of baby elephants and no one would have batted an eyelid.

The Highs and Lows

  • Selina. She puts on a good front to Jack when caught red-handed searching for the sapphires. At this point, I’d already read about her botched engagement to a rich man (to pay for her sister’s medical needs), so it was saddening to hear her valiantly selling herself as a heartless gold digger to Jack in the linen closet. She’s such a good person, kind and caring and loving, that she is eager to please her great-uncle Lewis when he comes calling, no matter how socially awkward and strange he is.
  • Jack. He is a PI with a past he projects upon Selina, especially the money bit. While I could understand his pain from the previous relationship he denotes, I couldn’t quite grasp how after three years he hadn’t started moving past that and opened up even a little smidge to the possibility of a new person. Instead, he projected that old relationship onto Selina and continued to make ultimatums with her and with himself about trusting her. Despite this, he is drawn to her like a moth to a flame. As he digs deeper into the old police report about the stolen jewels and Andrew Holloway’s death (along with the Empire’s security guard), Jack begins his own investigation and uncovers some unsavoury tidbits that he is concerned about bringing to Selina’s attention, but he had already threatened her requiring some information after the night she gave him the slip…and slipped him something!
  • Lewis. For all these years he’s acted like a lone Holloway, turning Nonna away when she came to him and the family about her pregnancy. That doesn’t sit well with Selina and is the one thing she can’t let go of. Consequently, she is now a Holloway and named Lewis’s heir. She will inherit everything – as long as she doesn’t disappoint Lewis. His nature and mannerisms are slightly unsettling, but Selina chalks it up to living for fifty years without his twin.
  • Pacing and Mystery This is a fast-paced story without much deviation or subplots. The story brings in some of the hotel staff and Jack’s partner, Charles, into the investigation. When the original cop on the Holloway scene and a childhood acquaintance turn up, the mystery of what happened the night Andrew died intensifies and starts crystallizing into a third story than the two previously told.
  • The Ending. It was spectacular! There were so many elements to the ending that brought Selina back to the Empire. The ending was fitting and perfect. I did, however, wonder why the Empire hadn’t been torn down weeks after its closing like stated in the beginning of the book.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Marnie grew up in country NSW but now lives in a lovely leafy suburb of Melbourne with her husband and two gorgeous daughters. Apart from a deep and abiding love of all things romance, she has a wide array of embarrassing and/or unusual passions including playing Bridge, growing succulents, visiting deserts and getting down on the Zumba floor. No points for guessing which passion is the embarrassing one.

Find the author: GoodreadsWebsite 

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Review: Regarding Anna

Title: Regarding Anna
Author: Florence Osmund
Release Date: February 2015
Length: 3273 pages
Series?: no
Genre: Mystery

ABOUT THE BOOK

25059492Things that happen to you in the past can mold you into someone you’re not.

Grace discovers a box in her parents’ attic that contains enough suspicious items to cause her to believe that the people she had called Mom and Dad her whole life may not have been her real parents.
After recovering from the shock of her parents’ deaths, Grace Lindroth is tormented by the uncertainty of her identity and begins an arduous search for answers. When certain clues draw her to a boardinghouse once owned by Anna Vargas, she becomes convinced that Anna was her real mother. She believes the boardinghouse walls have been harboring vital secrets for years, but when she meets up with the cantankerous old woman who had bought the place after Anna’s death, she questions whether she’ll ever be able to peel back all the layers surrounding her parentage.
The lies and deceit that Grace unearths in her pursuit to validate her identity are shocking, complicated, and not all buried in the past. Does this force Grace to back down, or just heighten her determination uncover the whole truth?

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

my review

The Skinny

When seventeen-year-old Grace finds her adoptive parents dead in her childhood home it sets in motion a series of events she questions and uncovers years later. But the wheels had already been set in motion nearly twenty years earlier in a boarding house across town.

After finding over 100 items including photos, receipts, business cards from Mexico, and a piece of old wallpaper from her parents’ house that Grace dubs her Attic Finds case, she sets off to piece together the oddities left behind that connect the two households of her adoptive parents and that of the woman she believes to be her birth mother. Add to the mix the Mexican oil industry, beautiful and expensive stolen artwork, the Irish sweepstakes, several unsavory characters, and many unanswered questions.

Along the way she uncovers a few friends who help further her cause and discover the truth.

The Players

Grace – 22 year-old plain-Jane PI, runs NSU Investigative Services

Elmer – the attorney Grace is renting office space and an apartment from

Minnie – the new owner of Anna’s house, Grace befriends over a winterberry bush, helps Grace investigate

Flora – a friend who works at the County Clerk’s Office and does many favors for Grace

Tymon – Anna’s handyman who ends up aiding Minnie and Grace

Naomi – the new girl hired for Elmer’s office, she befriends Grace and also comes to her aid in a number of ways

 

From the Boarding House – 1943:

Anna Vargas – young single mother murdered in her home

Al – the mysterious married boarder with a staircase to Anna’s bedroom, rumored to be having an affair with her

Henry Sikes – pale-faced busybody in everybody’s business (aka Mouse-face)

Mark Smith – a recluse who paid his rent early, died in the boarding house

Dorian Ross – a cross-dresser who lived in the boarding house

The Quote

And if my parents hadn’t died in March of 1960, I wouldn’t have found what I did in their attic leading me to believe a woman named Anna Thalia Vargas was my real mother – and that she was murdered, and I was kidnapped, when I was seven months old.

The Highs and Lows

  • Grace. She is young…and a little dumb. While she has gone to school for her PI services, she isn’t very experienced and doesn’t always seem to think things through before she runs off. She could land herself in some very sticky situations on the wrong side of Chicago, but she never really thinks about that before she runs off on the No. 54 bus.
  • The Characters in the Woodwork. There were a handful of characters that emerge from the woodwork who all have a hand in Anna’s past. I was very interested in Tymon and Minnie’s characters and how they have nothing to gain from assisting Grace, yet they are wholeheartedly supporting her efforts.
  • Complexity. There are so many layers to this book it can be mind boggling. It starts out simple: a young girl looking for her real mother. And then things get complicated quickly. The more information Grace unearths, the harder it is to see how it all fits together for the longest. At the very end when all the pieces are revealed, I was mind-blown.
  • Grace’s Dad. In the beginning when Grace is recalling her parents and her childhood, she made several comments about her dad being overbearing and controlling with her mother. It didn’t click right away and it still didn’t click at the end of the book when it should have. Instead, when I was going back and looking through my notes I had a lightbulb moment and things fit together even better.
  • Minnie and Tymon. They are incredible friends who rally around Grace after hearing her story. Tymon is from the days before. He knows the house and he knew Anna and he is now there for Grace trying to help in any way he can. Minnie is a Scotch-drinking, tough old lady that allows Grace into her heart and is dead set on helping her uncover the mysteries of the boarding house.
  • The Ransacking. There is something that someone thinks is in the boarding house that Minnie now owns – and they want it back. Perhaps it is what Anna died for but was never found. After Grace is kicked out of her living and work space, someone has made it clear they are still looking for whatever was left behind.

The Take-Away

This is a fascinating read with more than one mystery woven into Grace’s story.

Recommendation – Buy, Borrow or Skip? 

Definitely buy or borrow! I highly recommend reading!

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

5831857After more than three decades of working in corporate America, Florence Osmund retired to write novels. Her notable website is dedicated primarily to helping new authors—offering advice she wishes she had received before starting her first novel. All of Osmund’s novels have earned the BRAG Medallion, an honor awarded to less than 15% of books submitted. She currently resides in Chicago where she is working on her next novel.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Review + Giveaway: Caught Bread Handed

CaughtBreadHanded_BlogTour (2)

81wXanl2xQLTitle: Caught Bread Handed
Author: Ellie Alexander
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Release Date: June 2016
Length: 320 pages
Series?: Bakeshop Mystery #4
Genre: Mystery

Find the book: Goodreads |Amazon

Welcome to Torte—a friendly, small-town family bakeshop where the oven is heating up as high as the body count…

Jules Capshaw is still chewing over her husband Carlos’s return to Ashland, Oregon. Could there be too many cooks in the kitchen? Whatever is stirring between those two will have to wait. Despite the Oregon Shakespeare Festival being dark for the winter, the bakeshop is bustling, the dough is rolling, and there’s no rest for the weary… especially when murder is thrown into the mix.

When Mindy Nolan, the owner of a new restaurant in town, turns up dead, the batter at hand thickens. Jules knows that there was bad blood between Mindy and others in town, and tracking the killer could prove to be an unwelcome treat. And to top it all off, there’s Carlos, who is pleading—with those delicious dark eyes and sexy Spanish accent—for Jules to take him back. Is home where the heart is or will she make a fresh start… and risk getting burned?

 

REVIEW

The Skinny

A week following Jules and Andy’s secluded catering gig, things have returned to normal in Ashland. Relatively. Everyone around town is in love with Jules’s estranged husband, Carlos.

A new fast-food burger chain buys out a local resident’s restaurant and opens up in downtown that has the business community up in arms. Once again, Jules is right in the thick of things the day following a major town meeting bashing Mindy. Rumor has it a fight went down and two particular residents seem to have it out for Mindy and her business partners.

When Jules walks in on the unthinkable, she is swept up in the investigation once again.

The Players

Jules – Jules is the sweetheart of Ashland that everyone keeps their eyes on. She is the hub and hum of her parents’ bakery, Torte, that she is trying to get into the black and get back on track to being financially successful. She is on a cusp with her relationship with her estranged husband. With the renewal of her friendship with high school sweetheart, it puts Jules in a strange place.

Sterling – Torte’s frontman employee, charged with manning the cash register and pastry case. He is growing as a chef and baker as well, taking large direction from Jules’s husband, who is also helping him with his love life.

Stephanie – Torte’s backup baker in the kitchen. She follows Jules’s direction and is a developing baker. She also still has a soft spot for Sterling.

Andy – Torte’s barista boy. He is known for making new drinks that he shares with Torte’s customers.

Carlos – Jules’s estranged husband turned up in Ashland and has stayed. He is very respectable and compassionate. He also diligently mentors Sterling both as a chef and as man. He wants to reconcile with Jules.

The Professor – The Professor’s real name is Doug. He is the Ashland’s chief of police, and the “unofficial Shakespeare aficionado.” It is his norm to quote The Bard and other philosophical individuals. He is a charming, friendly man who has captured Mrs. Capshaw’s attention.

Thomas – Thomas is The Professor’s right hand man, and also Jules’ high school sweetheart. They left things unresolved back then, and Thomas clearly has the highest regard for Jules. He comes running when Jules calls, and tries to back off and give Jules some space to handle her situation with Carlos.

Alan – Local town favorite who shut down the Jester and sold to Mindy. He is a very laid back dude who is exuding a high level of anger at the town meeting.

Mindy – A new business owner in downtown Ashland. She brings in a fast-food chain, Shakesburgers, and is the target of the town.

Matthew – Mindy’s business partner.

The Quote

Lance leaned toward my ear. “First rule of fashion. Never pair a cheap T-shirt with an even cheaper suit. He looks like a walking pickle.”

The Highs and Lows

  • Carlos. He is a refreshing surprise. I expected things to be tense again with him around, but he didn’t pressure and push Jules as much as he did in the previous installment. He is kind to everyone he meets and wants to be a good mentor to Sterling. I feel like he added a lot of meaning to the book.
  • Sterling. He is growing so much as a character and I love seeing that.
  • Depth. I didn’t feel there was necessarily as much depth to the story as the previous installments, but that didn’t stop me from devouring the book.
  • The Twist. While Alan sold the Jester to Mindy, he reveals a surprising twist after her death. It changes the game entirely and points Jules in the right direction.
  • Financials. While the financial status of Torte weighs heavy on Jules since they only have one working oven, the town junkie finds a way to make something good out of Mindy’s death. There is grant money to keep the downtown businesses in line with the city council’s Shakespearean theme. Since Jules has been working toward something like this for four books now, it’s good to see it finally happening!

The Take-Away

I just love Jules and her entire little family at Torte: her mother, Sterling, Stephanie, and Andy. They each have such interesting and fun personalities and they mesh so well. They support one another and

Recommendation – Buy, Borrow or Skip? 

Borrow. This is not one you’d want to skip, and if you aren’t a collector of the series, this may be one you just want to read once.

About the Author

Ellie Alexander is a Pacific Northwest native who spends ample time testing pastry recipes in her home kitchen or at one of the many famed coffeehouses nearby. When she’s not coated in flour, you’ll find her outside exploring hiking trails and trying to burn off calories consumed in the name of research. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter to learn more.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

 

Giveaway

Click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway!

bread giveaway

  • Signed copies of all 4 books in the Bakeshop Mysteries,
  • Cupcake tea towel and pot holder
  • Love cake topper
  • Bakeshop page flags
  • Assortment of gourmet lemonade
  • Triple Chocolate Chunk cookie mix

US only. Giveaway ends July 20th. Must be 13 or older to enter and have parental permission if under 18. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary to win.

 

This event was organized by CBB Book Promotions.

Guest Post + Review + Giveaway: On Thin Icing

Welcome to my tour stop for On Thin Icing by Ellie Alexander! This is the third book in the Bakeshop Mystery series and released December 29th, 2015.  The tour runs from January 4 – 15 with reviews, guest posts, interviews and excerpts.  This is an adult cozy mystery from St. Martin’s Press.

I have previously reviewed Meet Your Baker (#1) and A Batter of Life and Death (#2).


cover - On Thin Icing 8-11-15Title:
 On Thin Icing
Author: Ellie Alexander
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Release Date: December 2015
Length: 304 pages
Series?: A Bakeshop Mystery #3
Genre: Mystery

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N 

It’s the dead of winter in the sleepy town of Ashland, which means no tourists-and fewer customers-for Jules Capshaw and her bakery. But when she’s asked to cater an off-season retreat for the directors of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, business starts heating up…until Jules finds a dead body in the freezer.

Someone at the retreat has apparently iced the bartender, a well-known flirt with a legendary temper-that is, before a killer beat him to the punch. Then, from out of nowhere, Jules’s own ex-husband shows up at the shop-and soon becomes a suspect. With accusations piling up higher than the snow-and thicker than a chocolate mousse cake-Jules has to think outside the (recipe) box to find the real culprit…and make sure he gets his just desserts.

***** Excerpt*****

How do you keep ideas and plot lines fresh and new with writing a small-town cozy series?

Great question! Ask me again after a few more books and maybe I’ll change my answer. In all seriousness, one of the things that really appeals to me about writing a small-town cozy series is that I get to develop an entire cast of characters. The series has already become much more than just Jules’s (the heroine) story. Her team at Torte, the family bakeshop that she’s returned home to help run, are all an integral part of the plot. I’ve become attached to them—from her mom, Helen, to Andy the barista, to Lance, the overly dramatic artistic director, and her nemesis Richard Lord. It’s so much fun to chart out each character’s development. Over the course of the series we’re going to get to know them even more. Every time I sit down to work on a new book it feels like coming home. Sometimes I forget that the characters are figments of my imagination because they feel like old friends.

Ashland, Oregon is the perfect setting for the series because it is a small town with a vibrant community of artists, actors, playwrights, college students, retirees, and outdoor adventure lovers. It’s also a very eclectic town themed around the Oregon Shakespeare Festival with charming old world shops and restaurants. You might even think you’ve traveled back in time to Shakespeare’s England when walking around Ashland’s downtown plaza where storefronts are designed in Elizabethan architecture. The theater attracts visitors from all over the world, which is great because there are constantly new people arriving which means an ever-rotating supply murder suspects.

The other way I intend to keep the plot lines fresh is to send Jules out of town every once in a while. In On Thin Icing, the third book in the series, she’s been asked to cater a retreat at Lake of the Woods Resort, a high mountain lodge tucked into the Southern Cascade Mountains. Baking at altitude is going to test her culinary talents and give readers a taste of the gorgeous landscapes of the region and some delicious winter recipes for savory soups and hearty stews.

Since Jules spent ten years working as a pastry chef on a prestigious cruise line I think it will be natural for her to find her way back on the ship in a future book. I’m already dreaming about all the tropical desserts she can whip up while she sails under sunny skies!

Wishing you happy reading,

~Ellie

***** Review *****

The Skinny

Torte has shut down after the tourist season in Ashland, and when the Oregon Shakespeare Festival board of directors schedules a weekend retreat, Jules is asked to cater the getaway. This is just the kind of business Torte needs.

It would be the perfect weekend…except for the dead body in the marina freezer. Jules discovers the body and immediately calls Thomas and The Professor. She learns this is out of their jurisdiction, follows their directions, and spends the remote weekend with a killer.

With a kitchen to run, ovens that won’t heat properly, and the loss of power, Jules has her hands full. Add to it the responsibility of maintaining the integrity of the crime scene, one ex-husband showing up and landing himself as a suspect, her best friend at odds with her, and avoiding a killer and it makes for one long weekend.

The Players

*There are many more characters in the book, however, I have cut down to include those most prominent in the book. For a fuller list of characters, visit my review of A Batter of Life and Death.

Jules – Jules is a young woman who has seen the sights of the world thanks to her profession as a cruise-line chef. It is also how she met her husband, Carlos, whom she has separated from. She returned home to take refuge in Ashalnd and Torte, the family owned bakery. whom is still out traversing the seas as she has quietly come to settle and take refuge in Ashland and Torte. She receives an amazing opportunity to cater a weekend getaway for the board of OSF.

Sterling – Torte’s newest employee, charged with manning the cash register and pastry case. He was “adopted” by the Capshaws and Torte earlier that summer. Sterling is working hard to change his life and has been invited to be the sous chef on the trip with Jules.

Carlos – The mysterious husband turns up in Ashland and is sent after Jules and Sterling to the retreat. He is very respectable and compassionate. He also diligently mentors Sterling both as a chef and as man. He does push Jules to face their issues and the reason why she left him and the cruise ship.

Lance – Lance is Ashalnd’s theater director, and has arranged for an OSF board meeting weekend retreat in a remote area. He is the classic man on the run who throws lavish parties. Naturally, he has a flair for the dramatic.

Whitney – Whitney has been hired as Lance’s assistant. She was recommended by Dean Barnes, and she is also his niece. She is a very nervous sort, and constantly running around with her tablet. She fears being fired due to all the mishaps of the trip.

Dean Barnes – The only board member who is singled out as a character. He is Whitney’s uncle and also the first board member to arrive at the retreat. He is the quintessential English chap, and very insistent upon things. He has a love of rifles and hunting, as was common in his English countryside.

Mercury – Mercury owns Lake of the Woods Lodge with her husband, who is not present during the book. She is completely spineless and lets people run all over her. In terms of managing the resort, she acts like she hasn’t got a clue. She’s also trying desperately to keep it afloat and have it making money. The resort has slowly started returning to what it used to be when Jules was a child.

Gavin – Gavin is the marina manager at Lake of the Woods Lodge. Interestingly, this has been his only job his entire life. He’s pretty much lived at Lake of the Woods Lodge since he was a young adult. He is highly trusted by Mercury and has some scuffles with Tony about work-related business. He also keeps to himself a lot.

Tony – Tony is the bartender at Lake of the Woods Lodge. Although he is the server of alcohol, he is also the number one consumer of it as well. He has a nasty temper and makes extremely inappropriate sexual innuendos and comments to any and all women (except Mercury).

The Professor – The Professor’s real name is Doug. He is the Ashland’s chief of police, and the “unofficial Shakespeare aficionado.” It is his norm to quote The Bard and other philosophical individuals. He is a charming, friendly man who has captured Mrs. Capshaw’s attention. He poses a very important question to Jules about his relationship with her mother.

Thomas – Thomas is The Professor’s right hand man, and also Jules’ high school sweetheart. They left things unresolved back then, and Thomas clearly has the highest regard for Jules. He comes running when Jules calls, and seeing Carlos face to face sets off some jealous overtones.

The Setting

Lake of the Woods sits almost five thousand feet above sea level. The lake was formed from a volcanic eruption thousands of years ago. Getting to the high-altitude lodge was an adventure in itself. The most direct route from Ashland would take us on Dead Indian Road. The road cuts through the Siskiyou National Forest, twisting past sharp corners and down curves without a shoulder. Its name pays homage to the Native Americans who belongs to the land long before white settlers made their way west. I couldn’t help wonder as I navigated the dangerous road if there was more to its meaning.

Lake of the Woods Resort was originally built as a fishing retreat in the 1920s. At just under five thousand feet in elevation, the natural lake is a popular destination all year round. During the summer months vacationers swim off the lake’s shallow banks, fish for rainbow trout, and tool around on party boats. In the winter the lake freezes over, making it a prime location for ice-fishing.

Quotes

I was home again, but I was an entirely different person.

 

“That’s cooking. Feel it. I always say to my new student chefs that food is love. You must infuse the food with love. You cook angry – the food, it will know.”

 

Had I really changed this much since I’d been home? I knew I was different, but having Carlos here made me feel like an entirely different person and the same all at once.

 

“Whoa. Slow down, Jules. A murder? Why are you calling me? Hang up and call the police.”

“You are the police, Thomas.”

 

Carlos says that food is love. I say it’s memory.

 

The Highs and Lows

  • + Sterling. The young man who recently has come into the Torte family is fantastic on this catering trip! Before he’s been kind of hit-and-miss as a character, but this is where he shines. He is installed as the sous chef and he rises to the task beautifully. He keeps Jules on level and is her spiritual guide at the retreat.
  • – Lance. Readers didn’t get to see a lot of Lance in this installment, which disappointed me because he is one of my favorites. He also was not knocking Jules over to be “in the know” about the murder. He had bigger fish to fry with the OSF board.
  • – Whitney. I don’t think the girl has got a clue. At all. She seems like an idiot. I hope Lance does fire her.
  • – Thomas. He was a complete jerk to Jules in this installment. Sterling pointed out the hot situation Jules was in between the two men in her life. For the first time in over six months, Thomas acts like he’s more than her friend and putting her in a very awkward position. He was a jerk to Jules over honing in on Carlos as the number one suspect.
  • – Carlos. Carlos pushes Jules when she is clearly overrun and busy with this catering gig in the wilds of Oregon. This was the worst and yet perfect time for him to approach Jules. Yet, he pushes Jules for answers when he isn’t ready to give her his own. It felt like he was swooping in to dazzle and charm her, with no real relationship meat behind the heat.
  • + The Professor. He is such a wise, thoughtful and kind man. Why can’t Thomas take some lessons from him? The Professor puts Jules en garde over his relationship with her mother, and it gets her pondering some serious things she’s never even asked her mother.
  • + Carlos. He is such a help to Jules and Sterling on the catering end. With the less than desirable circumstances, and especially during the loss of power, he helps out where he is needed and services Mercury’s guests well. He also takes Sterling under his wing and mentors him as a master chef, but also as a man.
  • + Reflection. Jules has a lot of thinking to do with Carlos at the resort, and pushing her for acceptance. She reflects a lot more in this installment than in previous ones about their life at sea, and their married life. She reminisces about how Carlos proposed, her wedding day, and that fateful day she left the ship. Jules has a lot of adult decisions to make.
  • – Blasé. No one really seemed overly concerned that there was a dead body in the marina freezer, they were trapped on this snowed-in mountainside, and the killer was among them. They all continue to go about their business like absolutely nothing has happened (with the exception of Jules). It was very disconcerting.
  • + Vivid Details. The descriptions are beautiful. Alexander really sets the scene and keeps it moving throughout the book without being too much or too little. The writing style is superb.

The Take-Away

The two things I loved most about this book were the scenery descriptions and Sterling. The descriptions are so beautiful and woven perfectly throughout. They are not overdone, but instead short quick snippets to set the scene. Sterling was an absolute doll in this installment. He kept Jules afloat in the kitchen, and also acted as her conscious when it came to Carlos and Thomas. He kindly pointed out the things she wanted to ignore, and has been for months. As Jules said, he is wise beyond his years.

Recommendation – Buy, Borrow or Skip? 

I highly recommend buying this one!

 

***** About the Author *****

Ellie Alexander is a Pacific Northwest native who spends ample time testing pastry recipes in her home kitchen or at one of the many famed coffeehouses nearby. When she’s not coated in flour, you’ll find her outside exploring hiking trails and trying to burn off calories consumed in the name of research. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter to learn more.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

 

***** Giveaway *****

Triple chocolate cookie mix, Alpine spiced cider, Collection of Stash teas, Collection of gourmet hot chocolates, Oxford tea towel, Signed copy of On Thin Icing. US only. Ends Jan. 20, 2016.

Prizing provided by the author. Must be 13 or older and have parental permission if under 17. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary to win.

Click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway! 

This event was organized by CBB Book Promotions.

 

Review: Frankie Dupont and High Seas Heist

25820644Title: Frankie Dupont and High Seas Heist
Author: Julie Anne Grasso
Publisher: Independent
Release Date: July 2015
Length: 148 pages
Series?: Frankie Dupont Mysteries #4
Genre: Children’s, Mystery

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

Frankie Dupont seems to catch odd-ball cases in the most unlikely places. You would think he would be used to it by now.  When his next case lands him on a luxury cruise liner full of devious chocolatiers with ulterior motives, Frankie will be expected to solve the crime, even before it’s committed.  Although his mind is certainly up for the challenge, Frankie realises his stomach is yet to find its sea legs.

***** Review *****

The Skinny

The Duponts are celebrating Fankie and his father’s birthdays at Enderby Manor when they open a mysterious package sent by Madame Marie Fontaine with four VIP cruise passenger tickets and four airline tickets for the entire family to come to her aid. The original plan changes change, and Mr. Dupont sets off to Antarctica with Frankie, Kat, Amy and Sherlock. When they arrive, no one is more surprised than Frankie to see Inspector Cluesome sitting on Madame Marie’s couch, let alone the tale they are about to tell of a suspected robbery about to occur. It turns out Madame Marie’s granddaughter also has her own reasons for calling Frankie and his dog to the ship.

The Players

Frankie Dupont

Sherlock – Frankie’s canine companion and investigative pal

Kat – Frankie’s cousin; friend’s with Amy; on Frankie’s investigative team

Amy – Kat’s friend; Angus & Archie’s sister; also part of Frankie’s investigative team

Mr. Dupont – Frankie’s father; a very thorough investigator

Madame Marie Fontaine – a wealthy woman who owns a cruise ship; reaches out to the Duponts for help

Madeline – Madame Marie’s granddaughter; she has a secret reason for wanting Frankie on the case

Vincent – a new employee on the cruise ship

Inspector Cluesome – an inspector from the Dupont’s hometown; involved in several of Frankie’s previous cases

Emmaline Legrand – a notorious thief and chocolatier; suspected of making a soon-to-be hit on the Fontaine family fortune

Hugh Legrand – brother of Emmaline; also a chocolatier

The Quote

“On the contrary, madam.” Cluesome stroked his mustache. ” I personally will vouch for the lad and lasses, and for what you plan for us to undertake, it’ll be a good idea to have some little eyes and ears on the ground.”

The Highs and Lows

  • + Plot. What more elaborate scheme to pull off than a high-stakes robbery on none other than a cruise ship? It’s incredibly hard to steal such a delicate item in a highly public and visible situation. And that is exactly what Frankie, his dad, and the investigative crew are there to prevent. Madeline’s story, the reason she has called Frankie, Kat, Amy and Sherlock to the ship, is also intertwined. As Inspector Cluesome and Mr. Dupont investigate the case for Madame Marie Fontaine, Frankie and his team investigate the case for Madeline.
  • + Inspector Cluesome. Inspector Cluesome has never been nice to Frankie, and yet he has an about face in this installment. While Madame Marie is dead set against something, Cluesome surprisingly swoops in support of Frankie. Perhaps the man has something to him after all.
  • + Sherlock. Sherlock steals the show in this installment. He is all over the place, and might as well be Kat’s lap dog when all is said and done, yet he saves the day!
  • – Madame Marie Fontaine. The wealthy chocolatier is very blunt, almost to the point of insulting and impolite. The way that she treats Frankie is one thing, and then the way she treats her own graddaughter is an entirely other.
  • + Vincent. Vincent, the brand new employee, is a minor character. However, he is very helpful and loyal to Madeline without question. He naturally picks up this role. He covers for her and helps her without expecting or asking anything in return.
  • + Frankie. Frankie is in his prime in this installment. His work on Madeline’s case is very heartwarming. Given the limitations they are working with on the cruise ship, it still seems that he is firing on all cylinders and going above and beyond.
  • + Madeline. Madeline is incredibly sweet, but a very pressured little girl. She is always doing “schoolwork” and has such a big responsibility on her hands. I don’t blame her for going behind her grandmother’s back.
  • + Stakeout! The stakeout cropped up naturally. The girls were talking and something clicked and the stakeout on deck was born. Who doesn’t like stakeouts?

The Take-Away

The plot of this installment was a quite elaborate, much like the first two books in the series. I was instantly drawn in. Who wouldn’t be with a high-stakes heist about to go down? And in such an isolated locale to boot. But it was when Madeline started sharing her case for Frankie and team to investigate that I knew something either amazing or disastrous was going to happen. I liked that Frankie, Kat and Amy were so willing to help Madeline solve her case and all the efforts they put into it. The fact that they were foiled over and over again just made it that much more angsty.

Recommendation – Buy, Borrow or Skip? 

If you’re not up for buying, definitely borrow. This is not one you want to skip!

***** About the Author *****

With a background in paediatric nursing, Julie Anne Grasso spent many years literally wrapping children in cotton wool. Every day she witnessed courage and resilience from the tiny people she cared for, which inspired her to write stories to entertain them. A science fiction nerd (she even owns a TARDIS), cupcake enthusiast and lover of all things mystery, she lives in Melbourne with her husband Danny and their little girl Giselle. Most days she can be found sipping chai tea and dreaming up wonderful worlds that often involve consumption of cupcakes.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Review: Frankie Dupont and The Science Fair Sabotage

Title: Frankie Dupont and The Science Fair Sabotage
Author: Julie Anne Grasso
Publisher: Independent
Release Date: May 2015
Length: 134 pages
Series?: Frankie Dupont Mysteries #3
Genre: Children’s, Mystery

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

Frankie Dupont is less than impressed when he has to attend the Sustainable Science Fair with Kat and Amy. Upon his arrival, he learns that Amy’s brothers have had their robotics chip stolen. Keen to recover the chip, Frankie questions the kids in the competition, but everyone seems to have a motive. When baffling clues start rolling in via “Snap-Goss” instant messages, Frankie realises it will take all of his detective muscles to solve this case. An illustrated mystery for ages 8-12.

 

***** Review *****

The Skinny

There are a wealth of inventors and science geeks convening in town, more specifically at Enderby Manor, which Frankie is very familiar with. For the kids the prize is a whopping $300 and tickets to the science camp. For the adults, who have come from all over, the prize is a $50,000 grant to begin production on their invention. The bar is set high and the ante is up. Everyone has a motive for murder and misconduct – of a science fair project. Frankie, paired up with his dog Sherlock, cousin Kat, and friend Amy, must solve the mysterious disappearance of Angus and Archie’s robot microchip so they will not be disqualified. It’s not easy when the twins have played semi-serious pranks

The Players

Frankie Dupont

Sherlock – Frankie’s dog; his investigative pal

Kat – Frankie’s cousin; friend’s with Amy; on Frankie’s investigative team

Amy Appleby – Kat’s friend; Angus & Archie’s sister; also part of Frankie’s investigative team

Angus & Archie – Amy’s younger twin brothers who are entering their robot in the science fair; their project has been sabotaged and their microchip stolen

Colonel Forsythe – Enderby Manor concierge; retired Special Forces

Ms. Chestnut – a teacher; in charge of the science fair

Mr. Mulberry – a teacher; in charge of the science fair

The Suspects

  • Rodney Butterworth – fellow contestant with a soda can violin with a string-tuning security device; broke up the fight between Angus & Archie, who mistuned his violin at a recital
  • Heather Chapman – fellow contestant with a balloon recycling service that turns balloon remnants into Recyc-bling jewelry; had karate boards glued together by the twins at a tournament
  • Joseph Fishburne – fellow contestant with some magician’s tricks up his sleeve and a stroke-ometer for swimming ; did not make it onto the swim squad due to the twins disrupting his time clock at swim trials
  • Harrison Danbury – fellow contestant with edible “Legos” made from Stevia plants
  • Nakano Riku – fellow contestant with cloned salmon, turned blue thanks to the twins

The Quote

“You’re always going on about fashion and karate, and Jason Buber, that kid that sings as though he has two X chromosomes.” He chuckled at his own joke.

The Highs and Lows

  • + Parodies. Snap-Gross…Jason Buber…So perfectly placed. I know what Julie Ann thinks of these two things…
  • + Enderby Manor. A return to a previous case site, one that Frankie and Kat are well familiar with. This also brings back a host of characters from the first book (at least those who are still employed at the manor).
  • + Double Trouble. The twins, Angus and Archie, are not always on the same page, adding to or creating more conflict, despite their dire circumstances. They have also sprung spoofs on all of their fellow science fair competitors, making it hard to eliminate motives.
  • – Amy. Each time another of the twins’ pranks were revealed, Amy acted aghast that her younger brothers would behave so. Anyone who has siblings knows exactly how their siblings behave, both at home and in public, and this should not have been a recurring shock each time a prank was uncovered. It just didn’t ring true to the authenticity of their familial relationship.
  • – Plot Development. I feel this installment was not fully developed in terms of plot. It felt like the plot was extremely simple for a mystery, leaving very little anticipation to be built up in the story arc. Judging by the writing, I would expect this to be the first book in the series, not the third.

The Take-Away

The twins are hilarious. Each time a new “suspect” reveals how the twins have sabotaged them in some way, they always enthusiastically scream that the new suspect is the thief. At one point, one of the twins even tries to high five a competitor who said the twins’ attempt to ruin their project actually helped the project along. They think everything is fun and games until they are wronged in some way, but they are also very good-natured about things at the same time. It’s an odd mix, and since they seem so…removed (is that the right word?) it makes things even funnier.

Recommendation – Buy, Borrow or Skip? 

This installment did not have me as excited as the previous two, so for this reason I recommend borrowing.

 

***** About the Author *****

With a background in paediatric nursing, Julie Anne Grasso spent many years literally wrapping children in cotton wool. Every day she witnessed courage and resilience from the tiny people she cared for, which inspired her to write stories to entertain them. A science fiction nerd (she even owns a TARDIS), cupcake enthusiast and lover of all things mystery, she lives in Melbourne with her husband Danny and their little girl Giselle. Most days she can be found sipping chai tea and dreaming up wonderful worlds that often involve consumption of cupcakes.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Review + Giveaway: The Soul Summoner

Welcome to my tour stop for The Soul Summoner by Elicia Hyder. This is an adult contemporary fantasy (rated PG13). The tour runs November 9-20 with reviews, interviews, guest posts and excerpts. Check out the rest of the tour schedule here.

Title: The Soul Summoner
Author: Elicia Hyder
Publisher: Forge Creek Press
Release Date: November 2015
Length: 290 pages
Series?: The Soul Summoner Series Book #1
Genre: Contemporary Fantasy

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

Blessed–or cursed–with a connection to the souls of others, Sloan Jordan can see the best in people… and the worst. For twenty-seven years, she’s kept her ability to judge the innocent from the wicked a secret, but eleven young women have been murdered in the mountains of North Carolina, and Sloan may be the only hope of finding their killer.

She has just agreed to help Detective Nathan McNamara with the case, when a stranger–who is as alluring as he is terrifying–shows up at her doorstep with a dark past and another puzzling mystery: she can’t see his soul at all.

Now, Sloan is on the hunt for a deadly psychopath with two irresistible men. One of them would die for her, and the other would kill to keep her safe.

***** Guest Post *****

I asked Elicia a few questions for this guest post, based on Sloan’s abilities. If she had the, would she keep them completely secret? If not, who would she share them with? How would she decide to use them? Would she ever use them for personal advantage or gain?

These were the things she said.

Sloan has the ability to summon people to her just by talking about them, so I can imagine that this would be a very problematic gift to have if a lot of people knew about it. When I released chapter one of this novel to my readers, a comment storm happened that went something like this…

“Can you have Sloan summon Chris Hemsworth for me?”

“Tell Sloan I need her to summon Richard Armitage.”

Someone even posted a photo of a shirtless male model with the caption, ‘Dear Sloan, all I want for Christmas is…”

Those were funny, but some of the comments were tragic. One was, “Can she summon back my dad?” Ouch! Another was, “I’d like to tell my mom I love her one more time.” That went right in the feels!

It was then I decided if I had her gift, I’d keep it a secret for as long as humanly possible. Unfortunately, I’m a bleeding heart that can’t say no to someone in need, so I doubt I’d be very successful at keeping my mouth shut.

On the other hand though, her gift could be very useful to me. I have five children who are all going to be teenagers very soon and I’m already having trouble keeping up with them as it is! Being able to summon them to me–no matter where they are or what they are doing–at any given moment would be awesome! They would probably hate me for it though.

Aside from my kids (and possibly Johnny Depp or Thor), I like to think I wouldn’t use the gift for my own personal gain… unless I also had the ability to summon more hours in the day, lost socks from the dryer, or millions of dollars into my bank account. Sadly, I’m pretty sure that’s not how the gift works!

 

***** Review *****

The Skinny

Sloan is freaky-weird, called a witch by her best friend. The problem is she doesn’t know what she is. She’s lived her whole life thinking she’s the only one like her, and she can’t even tell her parents. They just know that there are odd coincidences about their daughter. The new detective in town has caught her attention, and he knows there’s something different about Sloan. When Sloan meets a total stranger at a festival her world completely changes.

The Players

Sloan – a not-so-average hometown girl; she has a few abilities that make her very different

Nathan – the hunky detective who derails Sloan’s life

Warren – a dark and brooding figure; he has a soul that Sloan can’t read

Adrianne – Sloan’s best friend for most her life

I thought Sloan’s relationship with Nathan was the most natural of all. I felt they were in sync in more ways than just for the investigation.

First Impressions

It’s like Cold Case meets Theresa Caputo. I knew there would be intrigue about Sloan’s abilities and the case of the missing girls. The cover did throw me off a little, but after reading the book it makes more sense.

Second Thoughts

Sloan’s parents have always thought everything that happens around Sloan is an odd coincidence, never wanting to confront it. Sloan has learned never to talk about it with her parents.

I could tell my father didn’t believe me, but he didn’t push the subject. My parents enjoyed their voluntary ignorance concerning the oddities that always seemed to follow me. If they didn’t bring it up, they knew I wouldn’t. And our mutual silence on the matter would allow them to keep on believing there wasn’t anything medically or psychologically unsound about their child.

The plot was very well-developed, and each character served a specific purpose in the story. There were other things sprinkled in throughout, but Sloan, Nathan and Warren are integral to solving the missing cases/murders.

Nathan is hot on the trail of these missing persons reports. He has broken it down into a theory, and is based in Asheville where he predicts will be the site of the next person. After Sloan makes a slip-up and helps Nathan with one individual case, she is pressured and agrees to help Nathan with his investigation. The more she learns of the circumstances surrounding the cases Nathan has pieced together, the more she is convinced there is a serial killer in their midst.

Sloan’s abilities allow her to discern good or evil in others. Essentially, she can read their souls, which is an incredible power she has used to steer others (ahem, Adrianne) away from others. She has never known a stranger in her life. However, it has it’s own drawbacks, like when she has to visit the jail with Nathan. Too much evil takes its toll on her.

I hugged my arms to my chest as we passed down the fluorescent lit hallway that reeked of antiseptic and sickness. “What are they saying?” I asked. 

He looked over at me with an expression that made it clear he was worried I might either cry or punch him in the face. 

As the title suggests, she can also summon people. It obviously doesn’t work to summon Johnny Depp, but it has proven useful and dreadful in equal measures.

Sloan and Nathan have this incredible relationship they just easily slide into. It’s like they know each other so well, the kind of way you would know someone after years. There is a brewing issue beneath the surface between them that is compounded when Sloan meets Warren, who has a soul she cannot read. Enter the love triangle.

Sloan has her hands full when she meets Warren. Their stories intertwine in a way that leads to a sense of security but also more questions. The abilities that Sloan and Warren posses made me think good and evil, light and dark. Their abilities parallel and mirror one another, like two pieces that compliment and complete the other. Sloan is referred to as an angel, and Warren’s dark disposition seems to repel others.  She is like an angel of light, and he is like an angel of darkness.

I typically hate love triangles, but this was a hard one to dislike because both of the guys were so great. Nathan is that wholesome, all-around good guy you can’t help but root for and Warren is that dark, brooding bad-boy type who isn’t so bad at all. I found the friendships that formed to be one of the best outcomes of Nathan’s investigation.

The Soul Summoner is humorous and suspenseful in equal amounts. Each piece of the mysterious puzzle all fall into place in the end, and it was such a glaring truth that I never even suspected it. It was there all along. This is another wonderful read for the fall months that I highly recommend.

***** About the Author *****

Elicia Hyder is the author of several contemporary fantasy novels such as The Soul Summoner, The Siren, The Angel of Death, and The Daughter of Zion as well as a few contemporary romances, The Bed She Made and To Be Her first. Elicia studied American Literature and Creative Writing at the American Military University. She lives with her husband and five children in central Florida.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

 

***** Giveaway *****

$50 Amazon Gift Card (INT)

Ends November 25th

Click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway! 

This event was organized by CBB Book Promotions.