Mardi Gras Murder by Ellen Byron

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It’s Mardi Gras season on the bayou, which means parades, pageantry, and gumbo galore. But when a flood upends life in the tiny town of Pelican, Louisiana—and deposits a body of a stranger behind the Crozat Plantation B&B—the celebration takes a decidedly dark turn. The citizens of Pelican are ready to Laissez les bon temps rouler—but there’s beaucoup bad blood on hand this Mardi Gras. Maggie Crozat is determined to give the stranger a name and find out why he was murdered. 

Review

The story starts with a body that turns up behind the Crozat Plantation B&B at the same time that the town is preparing for their Mardi Gras celebrations and beauty pageant. Maggie Crozat’s grandmother usually deals with the Miss Pelican Mardi Gras Gumbo Queen pageant, but now she is sick in the hospital and left it to Maggie to coordinate the event.

Maggie feels overwhelmed. She is not really a fan of beauty pageants and is determined to find out the identity of the body that turned up behind her family’s plantation. So, she starts a little investigation of her own. Her relationship with Bo, the official cop in Pelican, is rocky, her father is busy trying to win the Gumbo cookoff and when things seemed like they couldn’t get any worse, one of the judges at the beauty pageant is also found dead. Now Maggie and Bo have to rush against time to find out if these two murders are connected.

What I think worked well in this novel was Byron’s wonderful characterization of the South. The descriptions of the people, the foods, the preparations for celebration–everything was so on point that it transported me back to Louisiana. I love New Orleans, and I really enjoyed learning more about that culture and the fact that although most people are familiar with the more over-the-top Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans, smaller towns in Louisiana celebrate what’s called Courir de Mardi Gras–which translates to “Fat Tuesday Run.” I really appreciated all the research she put in writing this story and all the bonus recipes at the end of the book.

Mardi Gras Murder is book four of the Cajun Country Mystery series, but I was able to follow along fine–even though I haven’t read the other books in the series. This is a great cozy mystery! I read the entire book in one sitting, and I really enjoyed the ending.

I would like to thank Crooked Lane Books and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


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Our House by Louise Candlish

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When Fiona Lawson comes home to find strangers moving into her house, she’s sure there’s been a mistake. She and her estranged husband, Bram, have a modern co-parenting arrangement: bird’s nest custody, where each parent spends a few nights a week with their two sons at the prized family home to maintain stability for their children. But the system built to protect their family ends up putting them in terrible jeopardy. In a domino effect of crimes and misdemeanors, the nest comes tumbling down.

Now Bram has disappeared and so have Fiona’s children. As events spiral well beyond her control, Fiona will discover just how many lies her husband was weaving and how little they truly knew each other.

Review

Imagine you come back from a vacation, and you find that someone has moved into your house, except that your house was not for sale. This is how Our House by Louise Candlish starts. We are introduced to Fionna Lawson, aka Fi and her horror when she enters her house to find another family moving in and all of her furniture gone. Her children are nowhere to be found, and neither is her husband, Bram.

The magic of this book was Candlish’s ability to take you on this ride with Fi as her life spirals out of control and the reader feels every bit of desperation that Fi feels. Is she insane? Is she dreaming? Is this some prank someone is pulling on her? The premise of the book is genius and you can’t help but keep on reading.

What I enjoyed about this book was how the story was told from Fi’s perspective via a recording of the podcast The Victim, tweets that people posted based on Fi’s recorded story, and Bram’s word document explaining what had happened. I think this was an interesting, although not the first author to do it, way to tell a story.

Unfortunately, I felt that the story dragged on and on towards the end. Although the ending was surprising, when it finally came it was not strong enough to pull the story through.

I would like to thank Berkley Publishing Group and NetGalley for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

 

Secrets, Lies, & Crawfish Pies

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Romaine Wilder, a big city medical examiner with a small-town past, has been downsized and evicted. With few other options, she’s forced to return to her hometown of Robel in East Texas, leaving behind the man she’s dating and the life she’s worked hard to build. Suzanne Babet Derbinay, Romaine’s Auntie Zanne and proprietor of the Ball Funeral Home, has long since traded her French Creole upbringing for Big Texas attitude… But her plans are derailed when the Ball Funeral Home, bursting at the seams with dead bodies, has a squatter stiff.

Review 

Romaine Wilder is a medical examiner living in Chicago who seems to have the perfect life until she is evicted and has to move back to her hometown in Texas. Romaine moves in with her Auntie Zanne “Babet” who owns and runs a funeral home. Death is no stranger to this medical examiner who comes from a line of morticians, but when a body is found at her family’s funeral home, Romaine, cousin Sheriff Pogue, and Auntie Zanne join forces to try to solve the mystery in time for the Tri-County Annual Crawfish Boil and Music Festival.

This is book one of the Romaine Wilder Mystery series. Although Romaine is the main character, I have to say that Auntie Zanne is the star of this story. She is absolutely hilarious. This book has several out loud laughing moments, and I honestly enjoyed reading about French Creole traditions and Southern life.

I loved this fun cozy mystery, and I look forward to reading more books in this series. This book is scheduled to be published June 12th, 2018.

I would like to thank Henery Press and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


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The Circle Game by Tanya Nichols

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Bernadette “Bernie” Sheridan, has the Carlos Luna case in the bag. She’s smart, confident, and fueled by personal tragedy. She knows all too well what’s at stake for the five-year-old, Mexican-American boy, who lost his parents to a negligent driver. After all, her own mother and father—her adopted parents—died tragically when she was only thirteen, and she’s been struggling with the emotional loss ever since. Now, nearing forty and jaded as ever, she’s adamant about saving Carlos from a fate similar to her own, even if only by winning him a healthy monetary settlement. 

Review

Bernie is a successful, yet idealistic attorney who takes on the Carlos Luna case. Carlos is a little five-year-old boy whose parents were killed by a reckless driver. This case is very close to Bernie’s heart since she also lost her adoptive parents when she was just thirteen years old, and because of the struggles she went through as a child, Bernie is determined to win Carlos a fair settlement for his loss.

Bernie’s only family is her beloved grandmother Noni. And although Bernie has always longed to know more about her biological parents, grandma Noni has never encouraged Bernie to seek out her biological mother. Now, thirty-seven years later Bernie’s biological mother Julie threatens to re-enter her life and everything she thought she knew about herself is about to change.

The narrative is told from two viewpoints. One is Bernie’s account of the present day and the other is Julie’s account of decades ago. The Circle Game is a beautiful novel with well-developed characters and a heartwarming plot about the power of forgiveness.

I would like to thank Alternative Book Press and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

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The Favorite Sister by Jessica Knoll

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When five hyper-successful women agree to appear on a reality series set in New York City called Goal Diggers, the producers never expect the season will end in murder…
Brett’s the fan favorite. Tattooed and only twenty-seven, the meteoric success of her spin studio—and her recent engagement to her girlfriend—has made her the object of jealousy and vitriol from her castmates.
Kelly, Brett’s older sister, and business partner is the most recent recruit, dismissed as a hanger-on by a veteran cast. The golden child growing up, she defers to Brett now—a role which requires her to protect their shocking secret.
Stephanie, the first black cast member and the oldest, is a successful bestselling author of erotic novels. There have long been whispers about her hot, non-working actor-husband and his wandering eye, but this season the focus is on the rift that has opened between her and Brett, former best friends—and resentment soon breeds contempt.

Review

I’m probably one of the few people who did not rave about Jessica Knoll’s debut novel The Luckiest Girl Alive (you can read my review from 2015 here). I decided to give Knoll another try and I’m glad I did.

Knoll doesn’t seem to write warm and fuzzy characters, but her style of writing is pretty unique and gritty. The Favorite Sister starts off a little confusing. With the introduction of several different characters in the very beginning of the book, I found myself having to take notes to keep up with the story. Once you get over the initial introduction, you are led through a series of bickering and backstabbing catty drama that is actually very entertaining. I’m not particularly fond of reality TV, but Knoll did a superb job capturing that world. This is a suspenseful story full of twists. I can’t say I particularly loved the characters, but that is exactly the point. Kudos to Knoll’s novel for being authentic and creative and for keeping you immersed in this twisted drama. I highly recommend it!

I would like to thank Simon & Schuster and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


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A Tiding of Magpies (A Birder Murder Mystery #5) by Steve Burrows

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When his most celebrated case is suddenly reopened, Detective Chief Inspector Jejeune‘s long-buried secrets threaten to come to light. Meanwhile, his girlfriend, Lindy, faces an unseen threat of her own, one from which even Jejeune may not be able to protect her. Between fending off inquiries from the internal review and an open murder case that brings more questions than answers, Jejeune will have to rely on the help of the stalwart Sergeant Danny Maik more than ever. But Maik is learning things that cause him to question his DCI‘s actions, both past, and present. In the current case, and in the former one, the facts seem clear enough. But it is in the silences, those empty spaces between the facts, that the truth is to be found.

Review

This is book 5 in the Birder Murder Mysteries series. I must admit that I’m always fearful to read books in a series, especially when I haven’t read the previous books. Occasionally books can stand on their own and you don’t really need to have read the previous books.

Unfortunately, that was not the case with this novel. What first attracted me to this book was the fact that I’m also a bird watcher and I thought it would be cool to read a mystery that brought together both of my passions.

The book starts with Detective Chief Inspector Domenic Jejeune working together with Sergeant Danny Maik to resolve a murder of a young man in a Polish community in Canada. The positive aspects of this book are the fact that the mystery starts off strong and really picks up midway through the book. The extensive descriptions of birds, and I particularly enjoyed the explanation on Eurasian magpies.

Unfortunately, the fact that most of the important characters had been introduced in previous books really made understanding and even sympathizing with them extremely difficult to me. Jejeune seemed flat and unrealistic as a character, and I spent most of the book trying to understand the references to events from previous books. It is almost unfair to properly rate a book that I could have enjoyed better had I read at least one of the previous books. My advice is to read the other books in the series to get a better appreciation for this novel.

It is in the silent spaces between the facts that the truth often lies.”

I’d like to thank NetGalley for providing me with a free early copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


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Review: Strange Things Done by Elle Wild


As winter closes in and the roads snow over in Dawson City, Yukon, newly arrived journalist Jo Silver investigates the dubious suicide of a local politician and quickly discovers that not everything in the sleepy tourist town is what it seems. Before long, law enforcement begins treating the death as a possible murder and Jo is the prime suspect.

Review

Strange Things Done is Elle Wild’s debut album and what a great debut! The story starts in the in the small town of Dawson City, Yukon, Canada. I love the dark and tense atmosphere that builds up in her narrative. I liked the way Elle Wild developed her characters, but I have to admit that I never quite warmed up to Jo. The chilling small tall narrative reminded me a bit of some of Stephen King’s great classics such as Salem’s lot. For that same reason, at times the story was a little slow for my taste. Overall, I highly recommend this dark and chilly novel.

I would like to thank Dundurn and NetGalley for allowing me to read an early copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


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Review: Those Summer Nights by Mandy Baggot

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Imogen Charlton is sorted. Dead-beat husband? History. Dream job? Application sent. But then her impulsive brother, Harry, spends every last penny on a Greek restaurant in Corfu, and is determined to run it himself. It’s up to Imogen to bring him to his senses. When sexy millionaire Panos Dimitriou offers to buy back his family taverna, Imogen wonders if all her prayers have been answered (and all her fantasies about to come true). But Harry won’t budge, and his enthusiasm is infectious. Bright pink bougainvillea tumbling over whitewashed walls, endless blue skies, the sparkling Mediterranean; it’s hard not to fall for Corfu. And that’s not all Imogen is falling for…As the sparks of passion fly between Imogen and Panos, is Imogen having second thoughts on selling the restaurant? Will she have to choose between love and a new dream?

Review

Last year I had the pleasure of reviewing Mandy Baggot’s Truly, Madly, Greekly . It was my first book by Baggot and I simply loved it. This time around she comes back with a new summer read, Those Summer Nights, and I jumped right in to request this ARC. One of the things that keep me bringing back to her books is Baggot’s ability to transport the reader to Greece with her detailed descriptions of Corfu and the delicious Greek food.  I love Greece, and I had the opportunity to go to Corfu many years ago. Unfortunately, Corfu is nowhere near my future travel plans so reading this book really made me go back to that place and experience a little bit of Greece one more time. I liked Imogen and Harry a lot. I had very mixed feelings about Panos at first, but I loved Imogen and Panos interaction as the book went on. This is another great summer read. It’s sexy, its exotic, and romantic. I definitely recommend it.

I would like to thank Bookouture and Netgalley for allowing me to read an early copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

 

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Review: The Night Bell by Inger Ash Wolfe

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The new novel in this acclaimed series is brilliantly paced, addictively suspenseful—the author’s best yet. Hazel Micallef (played by Susan Sarandon in the recent film of the series’ debut, The Calling) has become one of crime writing’s most memorable detectives. The Night Bell moves between the past and the present in Port Dundas, Ontario, as two mysteries converge. A discovery of the bones of murdered children is made on land that was once a county foster home. Now it’s being developed as a brand new subdivision whose first residents are already railing against broken promises and corruption. But when three of these residents are murdered after the discovery of the children’s bones, frustration turns to terror.While trying to stem the panic and solve two crimes at once, Hazel Micallef finds her memory stirred back to the fall of 1959, when the disappearance of a girl from town was blamed on her adopted brother. Although he is long dead, she begins to see the present case as a chance to clear her brother’s name, something that drives Hazel beyond her own considerable limits and right into the sights of an angry killer.

It seems that lately I have been giving books in a series a try. I used to only read books in a series if they were the first book in the series or if I had read the previous books. Well, The Night Bell doesn’t fall in either one of my categories as it is book number four of the Hazel Micallef series, but I still gave it a try. This novel employs the narrative technique of past and present times. The book starts in 1957 when Hazel was a young girl and introduces the story of the unsolved crime of child, which Hazel’s brother may or not have been a part of. Wolfe does a good job at telling these two parts of the story, the past 50 years ago, and the present times in 2007 and skillfully merges these two parts of the story for the great finale. Overall, this is a great mystery book with wonderful twists and an intricate plot. Does it do a good job as a stand alone novel? I didn’t think so. By book 4 of a series, there were a lot of characters that jumped in the story and that I had no clue who they were. It would’ve worked better if the author had re-introduced some of the characters for the people (like me) unfamiliar with the previous books. My bet is if you read the other books in the series you are going to love this new installment.

I’d like to thank NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

3 star