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Mark Baker (Santa Clarita, CA United States)

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An Appetite for Murder (Key West Food Critic)
An Appetite for Murder (Key West Food Critic)
by Lucy Burdette
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £4.67

4.0 out of 5 stars Leaves You Hungry for More, 8 Mar 2014
Hayley Snow has had a rather rough time in the last few months. After moving down to Key West to move in with her new boyfriend, she found him in bed with another woman, Kristen. Now living with a friend on a houseboat, Hayley is hoping to land a job as a food critic for a new magazine run by…you guessed it, Kristen.

After a run in with her ex and Kristen at a restaurant, Hayley is surprised the next day when she finds the police on her houseboat. It seems Kristen was murdered and Hayley is the number one suspect. Now she has to land her dream job and stay out of jail so she’s not reviewing the cafeteria food. Can she do it?

I actually came to this book after reading the latest in the series, definitely backwards I know. Still, I enjoyed seeing how it all began. I found Hayley and her struggles very believable. In fact, I think I related to her a bit too much. The story was a bit slow at the beginning, but it picked up speed near the end and reached a wonderful and logical climax.

I’m glad I got hooked on this series even if it was backwards. I’ve already got the next in the series and am looking forward to reading it soon.

NOTE: I was sent this book by the author in hopes I would read and review it.

Dummy of a Ghost (Novella) (A Ghost of Granny Apples Mystery Series)
Dummy of a Ghost (Novella) (A Ghost of Granny Apples Mystery Series)
Price: £1.16

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Haunted Puppets, 4 Mar 2014
Kelly Whitecastle is home in Los Angeles for Spring Break and enjoying a chance to catch up with her friends. One of those friends is Chris May, a ventriloquist who has a promising career in front of him. But as Chris's show is ending, Kelly sees a familiar glow from the puppet he was using.

Investigating further, Kelly learns that there is indeed a ghost living in the puppet - a ghost with a warning that Chris is in danger. Kelly quickly enlists the help of her mother, Emma, and Granny Apples to try to protect Chris. But since Chris isn't talking and the ghost doesn't know what is happening, can the trio help him?

This is the second novella set between the third and fourth book, and it again focuses on Kelly. Once again, I liked getting to know her better, although I really enjoyed seeing her work with her mom, and series main character Emma, on this case. All the characters, series and new, are strong, and I really cared about the outcome.

The plot was great as well. In unfolds in a logical way with some good clues and twists along the way.

As a novella it was a quick read, but it was well worth it. I can't wait for the new novel next month.

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

City of Darkness and Light (Molly Murphy Mysteries)
City of Darkness and Light (Molly Murphy Mysteries)
by Rhys Bowen
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.73

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Leaping from Danger to Danger, 4 Mar 2014
Daniel has spent the last few months hard at work trying to stop a new Italian gang that is infiltrating New York City. After their leader is arrested, they make good on their threat to retaliate, and the results put Molly and Liam in danger as well. With a need to get out of town and away from danger, it seems like a great time to take Sid and Gus up on their offer to join them in Paris, so Molly and Liam board a ship.

Molly’s friends and neighbors have been over there so Gus can work on her painting, so they are deep in the flourishing and swirling artistic movement of the time. However, Molly’s reception on her arrival is not what she expected. Can she navigate these unfamiliar shores and figure out what is happening? Is she in more danger now than if she had stayed home?

I was quite anxious to dive back into Molly’s world, and I was richly rewarded. The setting of 1905 Paris was brought to rich life, and I was so pulled into the world I often had a hard time returning to my own when I set the book down. The characters are fully developed as well, and this includes many real people as well as fictional ones. I bet I missed some of the cameos, but I was proud of myself for spotting many of the real artists who populated the pages.

The pacing in the first part of the book could have been a little stronger, but every time I began to feel that way, things would pick up again and have me turning pages. I was surprised by the outcome of the story but the ending had been well set up before hand.

Now comes the wait until I can visit Molly again. If you enjoy some history with an enjoyable mystery plot, this book is definitely for you.

Note: I was sent an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

The Chase (Kate O'Hare 2)
The Chase (Kate O'Hare 2)
by Janet Evanovich
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Fun Second Book in This New Caper Series, 2 Mar 2014
The Smithsonian has a bronze rooster on display, an antique from China. China has decided they would like it back to display with the other bronze animals in the set, which is no problem at all.

Or at least it shouldn’t be.

The rooster was actually stolen several years ago and replaced with a fake. Now, FBI Agent Kate O’Hare and master criminal and fugitive Nick Fox must put their new partnership to the test to retrieve it before the fake is sent back to China and an international incident starts. Nick comes up with a risky plan even if things go smoothly, but as things begin to unravel, will the duo be able to pull off the switch?

This book delivers on the set up of the first novel with a great caper filled with plenty of twists and set backs. Just as I think things are getting too easy, a complication ensues and everyone is off scrambling again. That kept the pages turning quickly. The liberal dose of humor certainly helped as well.

I do feel the characters are still a bit shallow, but they are just real enough to keep me entertained.

This is a fun caper that will easily keep you turning pages. I'm looking forward to see what this duo has to tackle next.

NOTE: I was sent an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Murder Past Due (Cat in the Stacks Mysteries)
Murder Past Due (Cat in the Stacks Mysteries)
by Miranda James
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £4.94

5.0 out of 5 stars Author’s Death Equals New Bestseller?, 2 Mar 2014
Of all the people from his past Charlie Harris never wanted to see again, Godfrey Priest topped the list. The guy was a complete jerk when they knew each other in high school and college, and his status as a best selling thriller author has done nothing to deflate his raging ego. Yet Godfrey is back in town and appearing at the local college where Charlie works part time in the library achieves.

But with Godfrey’s return, secrets start coming out of the wood work. Then, Charlie finds Godfrey dead in his hotel room. With the investigation circling around Charlie’s boarder, the son of an old friend, Charlie starts poking around. Still, it won’t be easy to find the killer of a guy no one seems to have liked. Can Charlie do it?

While this is a first in a series, it is obviously not the first by the author. The plot starts strongly with plenty of twists early on. While things slow down a little later on, they still move along at a quick pace. There are clues buried throughout, and the ultimate solution makes sense. Likewise, the characters are so strong and developed I was feeling for them by just a few chapters into the story.

I can see why this series is so popular, and I wish I hadn’t waited so long to start it. This book is a strong start to what promises to be a fun series.

Fairest of All (Whatever After)
Fairest of All (Whatever After)
by Sarah Mlynowski
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.14

5.0 out of 5 stars Accidental Fairy Tale Fractures, 20 Feb 2014
Abby is not adjusting well to the recent move her family has made from Chicago to Smithville. Everyone does things differently, and she hates change. But then her brother, Jonah, wakes her up because the mirror in the basement is acting funny. Yes, you read that right.

And Jonah is right because the next thing Abby knows, the two of them are in a forest. They stumble upon Snow White just in time to keep her from eating the poison apple. But now that they’ve changed the story, will Snow get her happy ending? And how can Abby and Jonah return home?

This was a fun take on a familiar fairy tale with lots of unique twists to the story even before Abby and Jonah start messing with it. The changes to the story twisted things in few new ways as well, and I enjoyed seeing how it all played out. It was all held together with a sense of humor that I really enjoyed.

I found it to be a quick read, which means it would be perfect for those moving up to longer chapter books. I’m anxious to find out what happens next, so I’ll be checking out the sequel soon.

NOTE: I won this book in a contest. My opinion is my own.

Mayhem at the Orient Express (League of Literary Ladies)
Mayhem at the Orient Express (League of Literary Ladies)
by Kylie Logan
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £5.09

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars All That for Chinese Take Out, 15 Feb 2014
Bea has left her life in New York behind to open a bed and breakfast on South Bass, an island on Lake Eire. Unfortunately, her new island life isn’t off to a great start since she already has running feuds with her two neighbors, Chandra and Kate. When their latest squabble lands them in court yet again, the judge sentences them to one year as a weekly book group.

Their first choice is Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, but all their first disastrous meeting does is make them hungry for the orange/peanut chicken that is the specialty of the new Chinese restaurant called Orient Express. When they arrive for a late dinner, they find Peter, the owner, dead behind the counter. With events that remind them of the book, will they be able to work together to find the killer?

Having never read the Christie classic, I wasn’t sure how I would take to this book, but I need not have worried. Yes, it does spoil the ending of that story (although I did already know that much), but all the other allusions are spelled out for the reader, so you can enjoy it even if you haven’t read the other before.

Not that you need any knowledge to follow the story. The clues are unique and the solution is original as well. I do wish the plot were more evenly paced. Some of that is the set up of the series, introducing characters, etc. Still, there are plenty of twists and turns. The characters are delightful, although I am glad that the trio didn’t spend the entire book sniping at each other. Plus there is a delightful bit of humor in the narration and some of the character exchanges.

I already can’t wait to move on to see what befalls Bea, Chandra, and Kate next. If it is this delightful, I’m in for another great read.

Moriarty Returns a Letter: A Baker Street Mystery (Baker Street Letters)
Moriarty Returns a Letter: A Baker Street Mystery (Baker Street Letters)
by Michael Robertson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.42

5.0 out of 5 stars Danger 100 Years in the Making, 12 Feb 2014
All that Reggie Heath is focusing on is his upcoming engagement trip with Laura to her family estate to officially announce their upcoming marriage. Unfortunately, the Sherlock letters rear their head again as he needs to help prepare a special display with many of the old ones before he can go.

However, one of the old letters he unearths contains a secret connected to Moriarty, and events begin to unfold that might bring the secret to light. By the time it all settles, who will be left standing?

Yes, I’m being a little vague here because the novel unfolds in a great way, but it’s hard to say much without spoiling much of the book. In fact, the book starts in the past, so we do know much of what is happening and the fun is watching the characters figure it out. Still, I don’t want to spoil it.

Speaking of spoiling, the book definitely spoils the second book in the series, so you really should read that one first.

Even though this isn’t a mystery in the traditional murder and 5 suspects format, it is very entertaining and suspenseful. I was enjoyed from start to finish. The characters are great as always as well and are a pleasure to spend time visiting.

So if you are looking for something fun this is definitely for you. I couldn’t put it down and suspect you’ll be turning the pages just as quickly.

Killing Cupid (Jaine Austen Mysteries)
Killing Cupid (Jaine Austen Mysteries)
by Laura Levine
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.87

5.0 out of 5 stars New Death on Valentine’s Day, 6 Feb 2014
Always in need of a paycheck, Jaine Austen jumps when she gets a referral to Dates of Joy, the premier matchmaking service in Beverly Hills. Joy Amoroso, the owner, wants Jaine to write a new brochure and some copy for the website.

However, Joy is a bear to work for, scams her clients, and hordes her chocolate. And those are her good points. It’s hardly a surprise when Joy drops dead in the middle of her annual Valentine’s Day party. In fact, the list of suspects includes everyone who ever met Joy. Since Jaine is one of the suspects, she decides to jump in and find the real killer while dodging her new geriatric suitor, a man who is dating Jaine to get close to her cat, Prozac. But who actually killed Joy?

This is another fun, wild, and wacky adventure in Jaine’s murder solving life. I was laughing from start to finish and smiling when I wasn’t laughing. The humor is charming and fun as always, and the characters are as crazy as ever. I suspected who the killer might be early, but I wasn’t sure until just before Jaine figured it out herself.

There’s also a sub-plot involving Jaine’s parents in their retirement center in Florida. It may be my favorite one yet, and I was laughing at them like always.

If you enjoy light hearted comedy along with your dead bodies, this is definitely the series for you. Jump in anywhere and be prepared to laugh at Jaine’s wild antics.

Murder with Ganache (Key West Food Critic Mysteries)
Murder with Ganache (Key West Food Critic Mysteries)
by Lucy Burdette
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £4.88

5.0 out of 5 stars Missing Step-Brothers are Danger, 4 Feb 2014
Hayley Snow is the maid of honor in her best friend Connie’s wedding. Since Connie and Hayley’s family are so close, they are all flying in for the ceremony. That includes Hayley’s step-brother Rory. In the time since Hayley’s last seen him, he’s turned into a typical surly teenager who doesn’t seem that interested in spending time with family even though he wanted to come on the trip.

The night of the bride and groom shower, Rory begs to go off on his own so much that his mother and Hayley finally relent. However, he doesn’t return by the time the party is over. Where is he? What kind of danger has he found in the few hours he’s been on the island?

This was my introduction to Hayley and her friends in Key West, and I enjoyed it. Occasionally, I felt I was a step behind since I hadn’t read the previous three books, but the characters were introduced well enough and are so strong that I was soon able to follow along just fine. The plot was great and kept me turning pages as quickly as I could. The ending was a big rushed and weak as a result, but everything did make sense. And, being a culinary cozy, there are some delicious sounding recipes at the end.

I have obviously been missing out on a great series. Now that I’ve discovered this, I will need to backtrack and read Hayley’s three previous adventures.

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

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