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Mark Baker (Santa Clarita, CA United States)

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Trixie Belden and the Mystery at Saratoga
Trixie Belden and the Mystery at Saratoga
by Kathryn Kenny
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars Mystery from Regan's Past, 29 Jun 2014
It's August, and with Jim, Brian, and Mart at camp, it's quiet in Sleeyside. That is until Honey calls Trixie with horrible news - Regan has vanished. The Wheelers' groom has left a note saying he hopes to be back soon, but he hasn't explained where he went or why.

However, a trip to the library puts Trixie and Honey on his trail. It seems seven years ago, before he went to work for the Wheelers, he was working with race horses in Saratoga. One of them was drugged, and suspicion fell on the then teenager. Now, Regan has gone back to clear his name. Trixie and Honey manage to get a trip to Saratoga as well. Can they track down Regan and prove his innocence?

I'm really torn on this book. The second half is very fun and fast moving, so I usually leave this book feeling like it was a good read. The characters are their better selves as well. But then there's the fact that Dan, Regan's nephew, is left at home. Really? This would have been a great book for him to be more involved. The first half is fairly slow including the standard for the series travelogue chapter (although it has some pretty funny moments to it). And the ending? The writer clearly wrote themselves into a corner and cheated their way out. It also shows just how much coincidence is involved in the story.

Young fans of the series will certain enjoy this book. However, this isn't the place to start or the strongest book in the series overall.

Basil Instinct
Basil Instinct
by Shelley Costa
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £4.66

5.0 out of 5 stars Is Nonna's New Club Dangerous?, 25 Jun 2014
To Eve Angelotta, it was a normal Monday, but her world was about to be turned completely upside down.  Maria Pia, her Nonna and the founder of the family Italian restaurant Miracolo, gets an invitation from Belfiere, a secret society of highly skilled female chefs.  Membership in the society is completely secret and involves a tattoo, an initiation meal, and who knows what else.  Based on what Eve and her cousin Landon find, it might even mean death.

However, Nonna is thrilled as she begins to prepare dinner for her 50 new sisters.  While Eve and Landon are trying to figure out how to keep her safe, the unthinkable happens.  Will Nonna's day go off without a hitch?  What is this society really all about?

While I enjoyed the first book in the series, I liked this one even more.  Yes, there are still too many supporting players/family members at the restaurant, but I was able to follow who the important ones to the story were much easier.  The plot was great, with some nice twists before we reached the logical conclusion.

However, what really sealed the deal for me was the humor.  I don't remember the first book being this funny.  I laughed quite a bit at this one and enjoyed myself along the way.  Heck, at one point the comedy almost hits the level of farce, which I absolutely loved.

Those looking for a comedic culinary mystery need look no further than this fun book.  I am making my reservation now to dine on the next mystery featuring Eve and her family.

NOTE: I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. 

A Sense of Entitlement (Hattie Davish Mysteries)
A Sense of Entitlement (Hattie Davish Mysteries)
by Anna Loan-Wilsey
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.45

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Murder is in this Season, 25 Jun 2014
While it isn't quite what she expected when she arrived in Newport, Rhode Island, for the summer, Hattie Davish has landed a job as the social secretary for Mrs. Mayhew. A confirmed social climber, Mrs. Mayhew throws lots of parties in hopes of making it into the upper, upper crust of society.

However, not everything is blissfully peaceful this season. Not too long after Hattie arrives, she learns that the telegram workers are going on strike. In fact, there is a labor organizer trying to talk the household staffs at the various "cottages" (read mansions) into striking as well. After an explosion and a murder, Mrs. Mayhew decides that having the inside scoop on what is happening will increase her social standing, so she adds investigation to Hattie's duties. But can Hattie uncover the truth?

While this is the third in the series, it was my first visit to the 1890's with Hattie. I enjoyed this look into a different time in our country's history, and I found the labor issues that were addressed interesting. Hattie was a wonderful main character, and I felt the rest of the cast came to life as well. The only issue was the pacing, which was off a couple of times. Still, by the end I was turning pages to find out who done it.

I don't always hear about historical mysteries, so I'm glad I took the chance to read this one. If you are looking to travel back in time via the page, be sure to check this series out.

NOTE: I received an ARC in exchange for my honest review.

Bran New Death (Merry Muffin Mysteries)
Bran New Death (Merry Muffin Mysteries)
by Victoria Hamilton
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £4.68

5.0 out of 5 stars Merry Makes a Fun Debut, 20 Jun 2014
After months of trying to sell it, Merry Wynter has no choice but to go visit her inheritance. Located by the small town of Autumn Vale, Wynter Castle is just that - a castle in the middle of upstate New York. Even after seeing it, Merry still feels the need to sell it. The upkeep on it alone would be more than her savings would tolerate.

However, she quickly realizes the grounds and house need some serious repair. After all, someone has been digging holes in the yard. That someone turns out to be Tom Turner, and after they have a very public fight, Tom turns up dead in the bottom of one of those holes. Can Merry navigate the new small town and find the killer?

Yes, there is muffin making in the book, but it is a sideline, and Merry falls into it almost by accident. After a start with a bit too much back story, the book took off. The plot kept me entertained with several good twists and confusing behavior. The characters were quite eccentric and yet believable. I even laughed a few times along the way.

The ending definitely left me wanting to know more about Merry and her new friends, so I will be back for the next book. This is a fun debut that cozy fans will certainly enjoy.

Dead Man's Switch: A Kate Reilly Mystery (Kate Reilly Mysteries)
Dead Man's Switch: A Kate Reilly Mystery (Kate Reilly Mysteries)
by Tammy Kaehler
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.89

3.0 out of 5 stars Race to Solve the Murder, 18 Jun 2014
Kate Reilly is going from track to track in the American Le Mans Series, hoping that being in the right place at the right time will land her a permanent job racing. Sadly, it also lands her at the wrong place at the wrong time when she finds the body of Wade Becker under her car. The silver lining in this cloud is that she gets his spot on the racing team.

However, she also lands on the official and unofficial suspect list for Wade's murder. Not only are the police interested in her whereabouts and motives, but rumors on the track are swirling as well. So Kate takes it upon herself to investigate Wade's death. The more she investigates, the more she learns that Wade wasn't a nice man with too many enemies. Can she find the killer before her reputation is dead while still being ready to race?

Not being a fan of racing, I was a little reluctant to pick up this book. And maybe that was one reason I didn't quite connect to it. I found many of the passages designed to explain the sport to newbies like me long and tedious, slowing down the plot. The characters were a bit underdeveloped as well.

However, things definitely came together for the climax, which not only featured a great racing scene, but a logical conclusion to the mystery.

Overall, I think this debut needed a little more work. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't as polished as it could have been either.

The Reversal
The Reversal
by Michael Connelly
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.59

5.0 out of 5 stars Haller and Bosch Team Up, 17 Jun 2014
This review is from: The Reversal (Paperback)
24 years ago, Jason Jessup kidnapped and killed a young girl. Now, new DNA evidence has freed him, but the LA County DA is going to retry him. In an effort to avoid any association with some bad practices from the first trial, the DA asks Mickey Haller to cross over from the defense and act as a special prosecutor. Mickey gets talked into taking the job on two conditions - his ex-wife Maggie McPherson is his second chair, and his half-brother Harry Bosch of the LAPD as his investigator.

The trio has a long, hard road ahead of them. After 24 years, some of the witnesses are dead or hard to track down. Will they be able to build a case that will put Jessup where he belongs?

While I am not really familiar with Bosch, this is now my first book about Mickey Haller. I enjoyed watching Michael Connelly's two characters teaming up on one case and felt I got to know both of them in the alternating view point chapters.

The plot was great with many twists and turns, some I saw coming and some I didn't. I was even riveted during the courtroom scenes and was cheering at one part.

Anyone looking for a can't put down mystery will be glad they picked up this book.

Kingdom keepers VII
Kingdom keepers VII
by Ridley Pearson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Ultimate Showdown Where It Began, 15 Jun 2014
This review is from: Kingdom keepers VII (Hardcover)
It's been three years since we last saw the Kingdom Keepers - three years since the events in a Mexican jungle. In fact, Finn and the others are about to graduate from high school.

Then the attack comes. The five friends are quickly crossed over to battle a group of Overtakers trying to break into the achieves - a group lead my Wayne. Wait, what? But the real threat is coming toward Disneyland. Will the group be able to stop the Overtakers once and for all?

I have felt this series has been uneven (in fact the last book was the weakest), but I am glad to say I found this one to be much better. Yes, it did feel a bit too long at times, but for the most part, the plot moved forward at a steady pace. It was nice to see the characters acting as friends more than they have in the past books. I even found myself tearing up a few times as the book progressed.

I've always wondered why we didn't see more of the good characters in this series, and I was pleased that more of them appeared in this book. That was a nice touch that I hope continues in the follow up series.

For now, fans who have followed these characters through six previous books will be glad to know how the initial struggle against the Overtakers ends.

Melissa Explains It All
Melissa Explains It All
by Joan
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.59

4.0 out of 5 stars Melissa Talks About Life - Hers That Is, 6 Jun 2014
Melissa Talks About Life - Hers That Is

Since I'm about the same age as Melissa Joan Hart, it was only natural I'd become a fan early on, and I've watched most of her work, including some of all three TV shows (didn't watch much TV growing up, so I've only see a few episodes of Clarissa) and her one big movie. Naturally, I was interested in reading this book.

Starting with her career in commercials, Melissa talks about everything in her life, from her big hits to her parent's divorce and meeting the love of her life. It's pretty much what you'd expect from a celebrity autobiography, which can be good and bad. As a fan, I enjoyed it, however if I weren't a fan, I wouldn't be that interested.

A couple of the chapters were filled with a bit too much information for my tastes, and she does have a story or two that puts celebrities in a not so flattering light. However, she doesn't spread too much dirt around.

My bigger disappointment was that I wanted more info on what happened behind the scenes on her shows. She shares some, but I wanted more. Heck, I could take an entire book about the behind the scenes decisions on Sabrina alone.

Still, I am glad I read this book and I enjoyed getting to know an actress I like a little bit better.

Mr. Monk Is Open for Business
Mr. Monk Is Open for Business
by Hy Conrad
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.30

5.0 out of 5 stars Mr. Monk and the Silent Suspect, 5 Jun 2014
It's a big day for Monk and Teeger, Consulting Detectives - it's the first day in their new office. But before Natalie can even throw a proper grand opening party, they have their first client. Daniela Grace, a local lawyer that Natalie has met, has been hired by a man accused of murder. After all, he was found with a shovel in an empty field dragging a recently deceased body. While maintaining his innocence, he refuses to say what he was doing in the lot.

They are just beginning to investigate this case when they are called to the scene of an office shooting. Amy Devlin has been in charge, and somehow the suspect slips right by the police. Miraculously there is one survivor, and Monk immediately takes to her. However, there is no trace of the gun man. Can Monk find this mysterious murderer?

As you can imagine, these two cases are more than enough to keep Monk and Natalie busy through the entire book, and they are also enough to keep us very entertained. While I did have one part of one of the mysteries figured out, I still missed big chunks of things until Monk gave us his summation. As for character development, I'm wondering just where the next book will go since several things are left up in the air. The comedy was still here as well. When I wasn't laughing out loud, I was smiling at most of the pages.

Whether you were a fan of the show or are just a fan of these fantastic tie-in novels, you won't be disappointed with the latest in this great series.

Clobbered by Camembert (Cheese Shop Mysteries)
Clobbered by Camembert (Cheese Shop Mysteries)
by Avery Aames
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £4.67

4.0 out of 5 stars Why Would a Returnee be Murdered?, 5 Jun 2014
It's February, which means it is time for Providence, Ohio's Winter Wonderland faire. All the town merchants set up tents, and Charlotte Bessette and The Cheese Shop are no exception. One night, she is busy setting things up when Kaitlyn Clydesdale walks into the tent. This woman, a stranger to Charlotte, claims to know details about the accident that killed Charlotte's parents many years before. Something seems off about Kaitlyn, like she isn't quite what she appears, but Charlotte is so anxious for the information she is willing to overlook it.

Before Charlotte and Kaitlyn can really talk, Kaitlyn is murdered. Police Chief Umberto Urso zeros in on Ipo Ho, the boyfriend of Charlotte's assistant Rebecca. With Rebecca demanding that Charlotte solve the crime, she begins to gather clues. But do they add up to a killer?

The author has created quite a cast of characters, and I enjoyed getting to see them all again. There are some on going stories that I enjoy, and it was fun to see what happened next with those characters. Unfortunately, I did feel that Rebecca was over the top here. Usually, I enjoy her antics, but this time they were just too much. The mystery was great, with several viable suspects along the way until we got to the logical climax.

Overall, this was another fun enjoy in a great series. I'm glad I'm working to catch up on Charlotte's adventures.

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