To Hell and Gone in Texas by Russ Hall

22538055Russ Hall does it again! He pulled off another rootin’ tootin’ rollercoaster ride of a thriller—complete with helicopter explosions, forest fires, shoot-em-up car chases and even a little bit of fishing. True, this is far outside the realm of chick lit, but I just have to spread the word about this fantastic Texified mystery!

An avid fisherman and animal lover, Al Quinn is a man after my own heart. After an ugly divorce and a monumental falling out with his deadbeat brother, he’s quite content to live out his retirement years in total solitude at his lake-front house. Well that is if you don’t count his pet, Bob, the three-legged deer.  This hardened retired detective may look tough, but he has a real soft spot for wayward animals and family members.

Despite all the nastiness that went down with his brother, Maury, Al couldn’t bring himself to leave him in the lurch during a time of crisis. Maury is not only a lousy brother, he’s also in cahoots with some dangerous criminals. Oh and did I mention that he’s a raving nymphomaniac? Gee, what a catch.

Russ (far left) at the Texas Book Festival.

Russ (far left) at the Texas Book Festival.

Karma rears its ugly head when someone tries to snuff him out with a heaping dosage of Viagra, rendering him bedridden and completely vulnerable to another attack. Unable to let his own brother die, Al has to hang up his fishing rod and dust off his gumshoes.

As he questions Maury’s many lady friends, he finds more questions than answers about his brother’s shenanigans with the Mexican mafia.  Why on earth was Maury living in a retirement home? And how could he even afford it? What’s the deal with Maury’s strange obsession with sea shells? You’ll have to read the book to find out?

There’s even a dash of romance between Al and his fellow investigator, Fergie. Things heat up pretty fast, leaving Al even more confused about his future…if he even has one.  Is it worth the risk to welcome another woman back into his life? Is a life of solitude really what he wants? If he and his team of sidekicks can live through this harrowing ordeal with the Los Zitos drug gang, perhaps he’ll sort it all out. But first things first, he must take down the Los Zetos before they throw down the gauntlet.

Warning—when you get to the last few chapters, be sure to free up your schedule. It’ll be nearly impossible to set the book down when all hell breaks loose! And just when you think the white-knuckle ride is over, another shocking twist will knock you off your seat. Seriously, y’all, I did not see that one coming.

If you’re ever in the mood for a character-driven action thriller, check this book out. Fans of Texas-based mysteries by authors like Jeff Abbott and Rick Riordon are sure to enjoy this one.   Read my reviews of his other books here and here.

Meow If It’s Murder Review & Giveaway!

21911690How lucky am I to get a first peek into this brand new kitty-themed mystery series! I came home from another long day at work only to find an advance manuscript sitting on my doorstep. Ah the perks of book blogging! The book doesn’t drop until Dec. 2, but you can score an ARC (that’s book blogger talk for advance reader copy) by entering my giveaway contest.  Just name your favorite sub shop sandwich in the comment section below and the winner will be picked at random!

So what do sandwiches have to do with the book? Well as with many cozies, this Nick & Nora series revolves around a quaint shop in a charming little hamlet filled with colorful characters and small town charm. In this case, it’s a family-run sandwich shop in a sleepy little corner of Northern California. Our leading lady, Nora Charles, returns to her hometown to take over her mother’s sandwich shop after a long, exhausting stint on the Chicago Tribune crime beat. Her quiet life of sandwich artistry lasted about 10 minutes until she found herself smack dab in the middle of a cold case mystery involving the curious death of socialite Lola Granger.  Just goes to show, you can take the girl out of the crime beat, but you can’t take the crime beat out of the girl!

Don't let that grumpy face fool you. Gizzy is a fan of Nick & Nora!

Don’t let that grumpy face fool you. Gizzy is a fan of Nick & Nora!

As she probes into the Lola’s mysterious cruise ship drowning, she finds more questions than answers. Why would someone with an irrational fear of the ocean jump off a cruise ship in the middle of the night? And how is Lola’s missing sister connected to all this? Is the smoking-hot Paul Walker lookalike detective really trying to help? Or does he have ulterior motives for keeping tabs on Nora’s sleuthing?

The specialty sandwich shop recipes are an added bonus. My chef husband was kind enough to make the Michael Buble burger, which I highly recommend!

The specialty sandwich shop recipes are an added bonus. My chef husband was kind enough to make the Michael Buble burger, which I highly recommend!

Adding to the mystery is the appearance of a portly little tuxedo cat on Nora’s doorstep.  She tries to shoo him away, but he’s intent on being her cat. Of course she succumbs to his cuteness and allows him to rule the sandwich shop.  How could she not? Turns out, he isn’t your ordinary alley cat. In fact, he once belonged to a private investigator who was looking into Lola’s murder mystery. With his uncanny talent for sleuthing, Nick uses Scrabble tiles to literally spell out clues for Nora.  He even warns her when she’s about to put her life at risk. How’s that for a kitty sidekick?!

Everything comes together in the end, but yet I’m still plagued with questions about the cat. How did he know to find Nora when she was hot on the case? And what is with his resemblance to his former owner? Is this a case of reincarnation or soul transference? I guess I’ll have to read the next book to find out!

I highly recommend this one to all my fellow kitty cozy mystery lovers.  Heck, even if you don’t like cats (which is crazy by the way), you’ll enjoy this book. There are plenty of suspects to consider and even a hot little romance simmering between Nora and the hot detective. I especially enjoyed Nora’s psychic best friend, Chantel, who was constantly torturing Nick with her fussy blinged-out kitty collars. I sure would love for her to make one for my Gizzy!

What’s your favorite sandwich? Post a comment and tell me all about it. Giveaway closes on Friday, Nov. 28.

 

Gizzy’s Cozy Kitty Corner

019 (2)We may be in the dog days of summer, but this long, hot August has gone to the cats! Gizzy says that if you want to beat the heat, grab yourself a fruity umbrella drink and a cozy mystery filled with fiendish killers and feline shenanigans!  Here are a couple of his favorites from my summer reading list.

The Cat Sitter’s Nine Lives (A Dixie Hemingway Mystery #9)

18404321Even though Blaize Clement has passed on into the great beyond, her gifted son is keeping the beloved cozy mystery series alive. Dixie is still stumbling into mysteries in her trademark white Keds and cargo shorts. Her humble abode overlooking the tranquil ocean in Siesta Key is just as cozy as ever. Her boy troubles continue to get more and more complicated. Her regular customers are still counting on her to deliver quality service to their cherished pets of all shapes, sizes and species.

Yep, it seems as though John Clement has found a way to seamlessly continue his mom’s adorable cozy series without a hitch. In fact, this might be my favorite installment because of all the puzzling subplots. The various obstacles seemed totally random and unrelated, yet the pieces all had a way of fitting together toward the very end.  Well played, Mr. Clement!

Right after Dixie fearlessly rescued a man from a burning vehicle, the questions just kept multiplying.  Why is a strange man in a hospital bed insisting that Dixie is his wife? Did the missing bookstore clerk skip town, or is he sleeping with the fishes? The bloody paw prints on the checkout counter sure aren’t a good sign.

And in the midst of murder and mayhem, an unopened letter from Dixie’s ex-boyfriend could potentially ruin the good thing she’s got going on with Mr. Perfect. Should she open Pandora ’s Box or let sleeping dogs lie? You’ll have to read the book to find out! Trust me, this one is definitely worth your time if you’re a fan of strong female characters and four-legged sidekicks.

Lending a Paw (A Bookmobile Cat Mystery #1)  

17707766I love this series for several reasons. One: the picturesque Upper Peninsula setting invoked my happiest summertime memories at Mackinac Island. Oh how I was craving homemade fudge while reading this thing!

Two: the leading lady, Minnie Hamilton, is a cat-rescuing, bookmobile-driving, crime-solving librarian. Enough said.

Three: Minnie’s rescue kitty plays a big role in nabbing the killer. I’ll stop right there before giving anything away, but I will say that this little hero has some seriously impressive sleuthing skills. It’s also very amusing when he responds to his humans with a resounding “merr.”

Four: There’s a twinge of spookiness when Minnie discovers her houseboat neighbors might be potential killers. How very Cape Fear! Okay, so maybe there isn’t a blood-soaked Robert De Niro clinging to the undercarriage of her car, but there’s still something very creepy about sleeping alone in a houseboat with a killer on the loose!

And need I say that the story revolves around a library on wheels? What more could any cozy fan ask for?

So there you have it. Two incredibly paw-some cat-infused mysteries that are bound to make you purr as you’re whizzing through the pages.  Gizzy says, “GOW.” In translation that means, “You’re welcome.”

CeeCee’s Dog Days of Summer Reading Roundup

10351599_530856277043177_2547800760911905463_nSometimes I feel as though I’m the only Texan who loves the dog days of summer. When I hear the locusts playing their summer symphony in the pecan trees and gaze up at the big, cloudless Texas sky, I wax nostalgic about my happiest childhood memories at summer camp.  Oh how I miss those long hot days filled with ice cream socials, campfire ghost stories and cheesy sing-along songs. So when the barometer reaches an all-time high, I always go for books that invoke that carefree summertime feeling.

Although my assistant, CeeCee Honeycutt Sinn, isn’t a fan of hot weather, she loves good stories about island adventures and steamy romance. If you’re looking for a fun, light read to stash in your beach bag, she highly recommends checking out these titles.

15812854Killer Honeymoon by G.A. McKevett

This is my first foray into the Savannah Reid mystery series and it won’t be my last. Although I solved the mystery long before the fearless Southern sleuth closed in on the killer, I was thoroughly entertained by the colorful cast of characters and witty dialogue. The tranquil West Coast setting took me back to Catalina Island, where I would eat my weight in ice cream underneath a thatched roof to the ever-present sound of Jimmy Buffet’s greatest hits. Ah memories…but I digress. This book is a fantastic beach read that will get you in the perfect summertime state of mind. The constant bickering between the two honeymooning protagonists was mildly annoying at first, but eventually I started laughing along at their zippy little quips. Fans of Janet Evanovich and Laura Levine are sure to enjoy this series.

16101148 Five Summers by Una Lamarche

Let me begin by stating that this book is going on my Best Books of 2014 list. My happiest childhood memories took place at Camp Marston, a sleepaway camp nestled in the mountains of Julian, California. This book rekindled so many memories of the deep friendships that were forged over burnt marshmallows and capture-the-flag games. In this book, the four girls were lucky enough to stay in touch throughout the years and help each other through the trials and tribulations of young adulthood. Each girl is holding back a deep, dark secret and it all comes to a head when they reunite at their beloved Camp Nedoba. I really liked how the author used the third-person narrative to weave each of the girls’ past and present summer camp experiences in every chapter. I loved getting to know all the characters and reminiscing about my carefree summers at camp, where I only had to worry about hiding contraband candy from the counselors and getting caught on a night raid to boys hill!

17568234The Blue-Ribbon Jalapeño Society Jubilee by Carolyn Brown

How could I resist a Steel Magnolia-esque story set in an idyllic small Texas town? Like a big ol’ slice of pecan pie, this book is oozing with saccharin sweet Southern charm. But anyone who isn’t privy to the complexities of Texas women should know that phrases like “bless her heart” or “aint that nice” have a double meaning.  It’s a jungle out there below the Mason-Dixon line—especially at the Cadillac Diner, home to the hottest jalapenos in Texas! The three women who run the diner are constantly sparring with the indomitable queen of the elite jalapeno club, Violet Prescott. She will stop at nothing to take home the blue ribbon—even if it means shutting down the town’s beloved diner. This woman is about as evil as a Pixar villain. In fact, her nefarious antics are so over-the-top, it’s hard to really take this book seriously. There’s a lot of characters thrown into the mix, and it’s hard to really get a good grasp on the reasons behind their bizarre behavior, but the multiple subplots kept me reading up until the rather anticlimactic standoff at the jalapeno jubilee. Yes, I do think the characters needed to be fleshed out more. And yes, the story seemed a little disjointed. But all in all, it was a fun, fast read for a day by the pool. Please be advised that if you’re looking for a tear-jerking story about love, loss and friendship, you’re not going to find it here. But if you want to read something on par with Sweet Home Alabama or Hart of Dixie, this book will not disappoint.

Audiobook Pick of the Month: Booty Bones: A Sarah Booth Delaney Mystery

18404222From the Publisher:  Sarah Booth Delaney’s fiancé, Graf Milieu, has become depressed while recovering from a severe leg injury, but Sarah Booth knows just how to help him heal. She’s arranged a romantic getaway for the two of them at a lovely beach cottage on Dauphin Island off the Gulf Coast. On the first day of their island adventure, they take a historical tour led by Angela Trotter, a young woman well-versed in local lore, including rumors of pirate treasure hidden somewhere on the island. In fact, Angela confides to Sarah Booth and Graf that her father, a sailor and treasure hunter, was murdered just when he thought he was closing in on the treasure. Angela’s convinced that the wrong man was imprisoned for her father’s murder, and she manages to persuade Sarah Booth to take the case. And Sarah Booth soon realizes that there’s much more going on than meets the eye. With untold amounts of treasure offering plenty of motive for murder and a fiancé falling deeper into depression, Sarah Booth’s peaceful island vacation is quickly spinning out of control.

Why I liked it:   As always, Carolyn Haines delivers a puzzling mystery filled with complex characters, four-legged sidekicks, ghostly shenanigans and intriguing subplots.  The mystery in this installment is twofold: Who killed the treasure hunter? And what in tarnations  is wrong with Graf?  With a big storm a’brewin and a slew of dark secrets about to bubble up from under the surface, our sassy Southern sleuth is in for a wild ride!

What really shines in this book is the foreshadowing, which is a key ingredient in a quality whodunit. As Sarah Booth navigates the rocky waters of her relationship with Graf, I couldn’t think of a more perfect setting than a beach town under the threat of a monster hurricane.  At the risk of revealing any spoilers, I’ll leave it at that. But I will say that you’ll have a very strong opinion about him after she weathers the storm.

What irked me: Normally I love Jitty’s antics, but in this book she seemed to be tormenting Sarah Booth with her cryptic warnings. She’s known for popping up at random moments in outlandish outfits only to offer a few pieces of advice and puzzling riddles . This time, she’s appearing as iconic celebrities in mourning, hinting that death and despair is just around the corner.  So while Graf is inexplicably withdrawing from Sarah Booth, Jitty is constantly torturing her with bad omens. Of course, they finally stopped dangling their carrots at the end of the book. But it just didn’t seem right for them to keep her in the dark for so long. There were many points in the story when I wanted to shake Graf and Jitty and scream, “Out with it already, you fools!”

The narrator: Kate Forbes is the perfect narrator for the Sarah Booth Delaney mysteries. She does a fantastic job performing each of the characters’ voices in a believable way, which can be rather tricky when you’re dealing with a broad range of personalities. Her pensive, somber tone was the perfect match for Sarah Booth and Jittie, who were both in the midst of exposing some serious life—and afterlife—revelations.

Summed up in three words: Suspenseful, foreboding, intriguing.

 

Lay Death at Her Door by Elizabeth Buhmann

17991758Do you ever get sucked into one of those indie movies with meandering plots and questionable characters? You know the kind I’m talking about, right? Sometimes I’m just too tired to change the channel, or I become strangely enchanted by the bizarreness of it all. What makes or breaks these movies is a plot twist that brings it all together. And that, my friends, pretty much sums up what happened with this book.

Looking at the back cover, I assumed it would be a cat-and-mouse type thriller about a woman running from a fiendish stalker while getting romanced by the hunky town sheriff. Turns out, this book was quite a departure from the formulaic romance/thrillers that line my bookshelf. Was that necessarily a good thing? Eh, I suppose. It’s good to break out of our comfort zones every now and then, right? At least that’s what my dad says when he tries to push one of his hard-boiled detective thrillers on me.

Let’s start from the beginning, shall we? The first few chapters are pretty darn slow. After 50 pages of “My dad is controlling me…my house is a prison…I’m repressing the past…,” I was growing a little tired of the ongoing monologue. But once the story started to develop, I was sucked into Kate Cranbrook’s dark web of secrets. The only problem with Kate is that she has the personality of a sea slug. In fact, she’s everything I despise in a human being.  She’s totally in love with herself and uses people without giving anything in return. But yet, I was oddly intrigued by the motives behind her bizarre actions. That right there is what kept me reading tearing through the pages until the very end.

What really happened when she and her father fled from Africa? Why won’t she run away from her controlling father and get a place of her own? Did she really put an innocent man in jail? I didn’t have questions to those answers until the very end—and trust me—it’s worth the wait. I’ll stop right here before I give anything away.  But I will say that the ending will certainly give people lots to talk about. I certainly have some choice words about some of the characters, but I’ll keep them to myself to save you from any spoilers.

Although I loathed the main character and found the first few chapters to be in dire need of editing, I have to tip my hat to the author for crafting a tale that breaks the boundaries of genre fiction. It’s not a classic mystery, nor is it a typical thriller. So if you’re looking for a break from the monotony, give this book a try. I’m quite certain you’ll have a strong opinion of Kate and her creeptastic father after polishing off the last chapter.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Chick Lit Cafe’s Book of the Month: Murder and Moonshine by Carol Miller

murder-and-moonshine-a-mystery-416948-3d2bd95f279b0f78a91eI must confess, I totally bought this book based on its cover. It looks like a Sookie Stackhouse story—sans the bad boys with pointy fangs. I just love mysteries set in the rural South, so when I saw this gorgeous cover on the new release shelf at BookPeople, it was a done deal. Was it worth the hardback price? Keep on reading my review to find out!

The mystery begins one fateful morning at the H & P Diner, a greasy spoon known for Daisy’s prize-winning pastries. It’s the kind of place you see in the movies where all the local yokels stop and stare at any strange interloper who walks through the door.  Daisy’s busy going about her morning routine when an old hermit, Hank Dickerson, staggers up to the counter, mutters the word “burger” and drops dead.

Soon, people start talking about death-by-poison, and the possibility of H&P closing down for good. This doesn’t bode well for Daisy, who has been left penniless after her no-good husband skipped town. She depends on her meager paycheck to pay for her ailing mother’s medical bills and hopes to save up enough money to open her own bakery. But without a steady job, how will she ever scrape by? Little did she know, that was the least of her problems.

Things go from bad to worse when she makes connections between her boss, Hank Fitz, and the dead man. Still grieving over her father’s tragic death at her former family homestead, she’s unwilling to believe that a longtime friend could be capable of cold-blooded murder. Why would he have any reason to poison the town recluse?

Hank’s stories aren’t adding up, but Daisy just can’t find a motive. The local bad boys, however, certainly seem capable of murder. Somehow, the tobacco-chewing Balsam brothers managed to buy her family property, acres upon acres of valuable rolling green hills and cornfields. According to local gossip, they’ve been doing some dirty dealings with some city folk. There sure seems to be a lot of interest in her childhood stomping grounds, and somehow old man Dickerson got in the way of their money-making schemes.

The plot thickens when a handsome stranger from the city walks into the H&P. When Daisy finds out that he’s an ATF agent, she immediately regrets flirting with him over a hot plate of peach cobbler. You see, she has some bad history with the ATF and refuses to have anything to do with a member of a federal agency that ripped her family apart.

But as the mystery intensifies, she reluctantly enlists his help in hunting down clues, which all seem to lead straight to her old family homestead. How did the Balsam brothers manage to buy such an expensive piece of land? And why would a dying man order a burger in his final moments on earth? You’re going to have to read the book to find out!

Aside from the murder mystery, Daisy sure has a lot to figure out. She’s got a sexy bad boy on one side and an irresistibly handsome federal agent on the other. They’re both hers for the taking, but she’s too mixed up with bad memories to make a move. Plus she’s got to look after an invalid mother and a zany, gun-toting aunt. To say that she has a lot on her blue plate special is an understatement!

What I love about Daisy is that she puts family first and is willing to stop at nothing to clear her beloved boss’ name. I was rooting for her every step of the way. Hopefully we’ll get to see her open up a bakery in the next book. As for the love triangle, the jury’s still out on those guys. If she ends up with the Balsam brother, I hope he changes his redneck ways. I may live in Texas, but I’m sorry, there’s nothing sexy about a wisecracking good ol’ boy who whores around with the town tramps and makes unwanted advances toward hard-working waitresses. No thank you!

All in all, I must say that this is a mighty fine mystery that is sure to win over fans of authors like Jana Deleon, Cathy Pickens and Riley Adams. There’s romantic tension, small town mystique, and downhome Southern cooking. Who could ask for anything more?

“Dance on His Grave” Review & Audiobook Giveaway!

14538706Well butter my buns and call me a biscuit! Oh how I love Southern mysteries set deep in the heart of the hauntingly beautiful East Texas-Louisiana borderlands.  Sylvia Dickey Smith has mastered the art of evoking a sense of dread in her lyrical atmospheric descriptions of the mysterious bayou country.  Moody atmosphere, colorful characters, good food and one heck of a strong-willed protagonist are all key ingredients for a quality Southern fiction novel. This author delivers all of these things in spades in her Sidra Smart mysteries. That’s why I put Sidra Smart on the top of my list of favorite Southern detectives—right next to David Robichauex, Hap Collins and Leonard Pine. If you haven’t heard of those other guys, I advise you to Google James Lee Burke and Joe Lansdale immediately!

In this first installment of the Sidra Smart Mystery Series, Sid has emancipated herself from a loveless, sheltered marriage. No longer an obedient preacher’s wife, she’s thrust into a whole new world of independence and opportunity.

She reaches a crossroads when she inherits her dead brother’s PI business. With zero knowledge of how to run a business—let alone solve mysteries—she’s ready to sell it off to the lowest bidder. Yet when her controlling ex-husband tries to push her into doing just that, she decides to slap on her gumshoes out of sheer defiance! And really, that’s what I love about Sidra Smart. She’s bold, brave and ready to take on new adventures, despite the legions of naysayers who will stop at nothing to watch her fail.

Before she’s ready to pick up a  copy of “How to Run a PI Business for Dummies,”  her first client walks in with a cold case that would stump even Sherlock Holmes. Despite her best interest, Sidra agrees to look into the 30-year-old mystery revolving around two innocent girls caught up in an unimaginable world of horrors.  The horror show intensifies as she looks deeper into the case and discovers a tangled web of town secrets, torture and arson. Trust me, once you get to know the villain, you’ll understand the meaning of the book’s title, “Dance on His Grave.”

The plot thickens when Sid finds a connection between the bizarre cold case and her brother’s mysterious car accident. And just with any good thriller, the danger heats up as our heroine gets closer to the truth. Who is sneaking into her home and leaving ominous threats? Is it her ex-husband’s God-fearing disciples, or could it be a demented child-abusing killer? You’ll have to read the book to find out!

With some help from her newfound friend and fellow PI, George Leger, she carries on with the case—even when all hope seems to be lost.  She also gets a little help from her meddlesome Aunt Annie, who is always there to help Sid pick up the pieces when the chips are down. I’m especially fond of the Cajun-speaking George, who’s interesting enough to have his own spinoff story.

This is not your typical amateur sleuth mystery, mainly because there are some really weighty issues at the core of the story. Some of the descriptions of are rather dark and disturbing, so this book is not for the squeamish. Filled with punchy dialogue, cliffhanger chapter endings and unspeakable crimes, this book is somewhat of a mash-up of Karin Slaughter meets Gillian Flynn with a Cajun twist. Hard-boiled mystery fans are sure to enjoy this puzzling whodunit.

Enter to Win a Free Audiobook!

imagesU9JY9PEDI should also mention that the author gave me this book via Audible.  The narrator did a fantastic job unfolding the story in a somber tone. Unlike other narrators who drive me bonkers with their rapid-speed chipmunk-on-crack storytelling, she did a stellar job keeping the pace and capturing Sid’s voice.  I highly recommend listening to this on audio. In fact, the author has offered to give away a free audiobook. All you have to do is post a comment answering the following question and the winner will be picked at random. Don’t fret if you’re not an Audible member.  You can still receive the audiobook without an account.

Who is your favorite thriller author?

The Clue is in the Pudding by Kate Kingsbury

13542759It isn’t Christmas without a Kate Kingsbury mystery! And at the Pennyfoot Hotel, the holiday shenanigans don’t begin until someone gets bludgeoned with a nutcracker or incinerated by a flaming Christmas tree. Nestled in a quaint little coastal English hamlet, the Pennyfoot may look like something straight out of Dickens’ Village, but if you plan to spend the holidays there, you’re goose might just get cooked!

When the guests start streaming into the hotel for the Christmas holidays, Cecily Sinclair Baxter worries about the inevitable Christmas curse. Like clockwork, her loyal crew of housemaids will stumble upon a dead body, and she will have to take it upon herself to hunt down the murderer.

You see, in this tranquil seaside village, the police force leaves much to be desired. Oh and you can forget about her milquetoast of a husband helping her out. While she’s out in snowstorms chasing down murderous fiends, he’d much prefer to settle down by the fireplace with his newspaper. For once, I would love to see him take the initiative and tag-team these murder mysteries with his wife instead of constantly lecturing her to stay out of harm’s way. Hello! The cops are useless, so do you prefer to be a sitting duck?

Wow, that was quite the tirade. Sorry, Kate. I love your mysteries, I really do. But can you please make Baxter man up in the next book? Aside from my minor gripes, these mysteries are perfect holiday reads. There’s nothing I’d rather do on a cold winter’s night than nestle down into my comfy couch with some fireball whiskey, a tubby gray housecat and a Pennyfoot Hotel mystery. The author does a fine job unraveling just bits and pieces about the eclectic cast of hotel staff and dangling that carrot as their love stories develop. In this book, I finally got to see some sparks fly between Gertie and the enigmatic groundskeeper, Clyde. I promise to not give anything away, but I will say that there was a moment between them that was so incredibly sweet, I had to re-read it several times!

This is how I picture The Pennyfoot.

This is how I picture The Pennyfoot.

So this year, the Christmas curse comes in the form of a dead actor named Archibald Armitage. Seriously, what mother would name her kid Archibald? Well, I guess you could nickname him Archie like that cute freckled redhead dude in the comics…but I digress. So when the maid stumbles upon Archie’s dead body, it appears he was poisoned by a lethal dose of arsenic-laced plum pudding. All eyes point to the temporary head housemaid Beatrice Tucker (aka Tucker the Terrible), who personally served him the plum pudding up in his suite. She may be a tyrant, but is she capable of murder?

As Cecily hunts down the clues, she finds that several houseguests – and even some of her staff – have a beef with Archie. While her staff prepare for the holiday festivities, and her husband continues to sit on his ass with the newspaper, she will stop at nothing to ferret out the killer before he (or she?) strikes again.

I raise my mug of spiked cider to the author for delivering a deliciously atmospheric Christmas mystery filled with loveable characters, red herrings and romance! I look forward to meeting up with my old friends at the Pennyfoot next December.

Merry Christmas to all – and be sure to not accept unsolicited puddings from frienemies.

Gizzy’s Christmas Reading Roundup!

gizchristmas3_zpsf679dc40Christmas is s almost here and I’m scrambling to get all of my holiday reading done before the fat man in red drops down my chimney with a bag full of more books! I love the holidays, I really do, but December is becoming a dizzying month of nonstop rush, rush, rushing.  Can you believe I haven’t even had time to get a stinking tree? But don’t fret, my dear readers. I do have  priorities, and I vow to never let the holiday chaos interfere with precious reading time. If you’re looking for something Christmassy to read by the fire after battling it out at the mall, here are some hits and misses.

The Twelve Clues of Christmas by Rhys Bowen

13542533I scored this on Audible for a mere five bucks, and it’s worth every penny and more! The narrator is top notch, and the characters are highly amusing.  This is my first venture into the the Royal Spyness mystery series, and I assure you it won’t be my last! Set in the Great Gatsby era, the irrepressible Lady Georgiana is stuck in Scotland with her bumbling brother and his odious family. Seriously, these creatons could give the Dursleys a run for their money.  As luck would have it, she gets hired as a holiday party hostess at stately old manor in a picturesque English village. It all seems too perfect, until the dead bodies start stacking up. From the moment she arrives, people drop off like flies in a series of “accidental deaths.” Do these freak accidents have something to do with a long-standing witchy curse? Or are escaped prisoners to blame? You’ll have to read the book to find out!  If you like jigsaw puzzle mysteries with a dash of humor and romance, this book’s for you.

13586680Elvis and the Blue Christmas Corpse by Peggy Webb

I must confess, the cover is the reason why I bought this book. How can you go wrong with a dog detective who might just be the reincarnation of Elvis Pressley? The slapstick humor is front and center of the mystery, so this should appeal to those who like their whodunits loaded down with zany hijinks and slapstick banter.  Amidst the silly shenanigans, there’s a mystery involving a murderous Ebenezer Scrooge with a vendetta against mall Santas. The mystery begins when Callie’s beloved uncle Charlie almost dies in an “electrical accident” while sitting in Santa’s throne.  The hijinks ensue when she teams up with her binge-eating cousin/BFF to ferret out the killer. Complete with a cast of eccentric Southern women, this series is somewhat of a mashup of Steal Magnolias and Janet Evonovich’s Stephanie Plum series. The off-the-wall antics got a little tiresome, but I’d be lying if I said that some of the girls’ ill-fated escapades weren’t amusing. Plus there’s some romantic intrigue going on between Callie and her soon-to-be ex hubby.

Call Me Mrs. Miracle by Debbie Macomber

7957814I don’t typically read Debbie Macomber books because they tend to be a little too sugary sweet. I also shy away from any story that revolves around a struggling mother with needy little children. Sorry to be a total grump, but I don’t like whiney kiddos muddling up a romantic moment. But when Christmas rolls around, I turn into a softy and end up reading one of her cozy little romance novels. To be honest, the Lifetime movie version of this book was more entertaining, mostly because the kid was a lot less annoying. Yes, the movie was contrived and somewhat silly, but Lauren Holly really stole the show as the over-the-top dragon lady boss. She was HILARIOUS!  Oh and Doris Roberts is just the perfect master manipulator/guardian angel. I loved how she seamlessly moved things in the right direction while completely befuddling people in the process. In the book, however, the stoic Mrs. Miracle takes more of a backseat to the paint-by-the-numbers love story. My advice: skip the book and watch the movie. I know that seems very backwards, but I’m just being honest!