Cozy

“Custom Baked Murder” by Liz Mugavero

 

Book Cover - Custom Baked Murder

Kristan (Stan) Connor is back in “Custom Baked Murder,” this time with more furry friends in residence and a love life that is heating up. Kristan is busy getting ready to open her long-anticipated pet café, with specially designed display cases, and new ideas to make both human and furry customers happy. She has two new backers for the business – one she’s happy about; the other she puts up with in order to realize her dream.

 

Her mother, ever detail oriented and still driving Stan crazy, is getting engaged to the Mayor and the big announcement will be made at a blowout party at the groom-to-be’s house. But the Mayor doesn’t show, and Stan’s irritating former colleagues do – along with her former fiancée. Talk about cringe worthy events. Oh, and there’s the murder at the party. Certainly, a memorable evening. And not in a good way.

 

The murder victim isn’t well-liked, so the question the police must answer is not who killed her, but instead, which one on the long list of enemies got to her first? Rumors fly and suspicions drive wedges into the small community, with several misunderstandings and family surprises thrown into the mix. Kristan must shield her mother from the press, while trying to prove her own former fiancée innocent. The overlapping story-lines are intriguing and keep the pages turning in this well-plotted mystery.

 

Including old friends and enemies in “Custom Baked Murder” adds a delicious twist. Sometimes we hope that the oldies (but baddies) will fade away from our lives forever, or that they might have changed, but wham! There they are, creating havoc yet again when least convenient. Mugavero captures this dynamic perfectly as she delivers the multiple red herrings.

 

Mugavero has expanded the relationships among the ensemble characters throughout the Pawsitively Organic series, evolving them in a natural way as time has passed. One gem of a character is Cyril, the reporter. Anyone who has ever met a small-town journalist will recognize the dogged chase after any detail that will make headlines. His shifts between investigation and bargaining for information are spot-on. And, then we have Stan’s hunky love interest, Jake, who keeps proving why he’s one of the good guys. The sisters have a larger role this time and fans will love that the series has become an engaging family affair.

 

Never fear, dogs and cats play important roles, including when Kristan throws a fund-raiser for a K-9. Mugavero continues to show us ways we can help the real-life animals in our lives. Happily, “Custom Baked Murder” includes more healthy pet recipes. The blueberry biscuits look tasty enough to be people food.

 

Don’t miss “Custom Baked Murder,” the fifth in the highly entertaining series.

 

Read my review of the Agatha nominated, “Kneading to Die,” here.

 

Read my review of “A Biscuit, A Casket” here.

 

Please visit www.lizmugavero.com for more information about Liz and her future projects, as well as her continuing work in Animal Advocacy. :-)

 

 

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Greatest Love Stories of All Time

 

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It’s the time of year when bouquets of flowers fill the stores, the gift of a box of chocolates takes on new meaning, and love songs (and movies) fill the airwaves. Swoonworthy stuff, ya’ll.

 

Instead of creating a post about current titles that inspire hearts to flutter, I put out an open call for men and women to name their favorite Greatest Love Stories of All Time. Thanks to Mari Barnes*, Sarah Bewley, Leah Canzoneri, Kait Carson, Peggy Clayton, Joy Ross Davis, Missy Davis, Laura Di Silverio, Saword Broyles Ellis, Terri Gault, Courtney Carter Girton, Sherry Harris, Cynthia Kuhn, Joyce Laferrera, Marj Lilley, Alice Loweecy, Gary Miller, Sylvia Nickels, Debbie York Parker, Nanci Rathbun, Jeanie Smith, Ellis Vidler, and Lynn Chandler Willis for their wonderful suggestions.  *drawing winner  :-)

 

Books are listed in alphabetical order by title, and where available, links to the Greatest Love Stories are included.  Click on the titles and read more about them.               

 

At Home in Mitford” by Jan Karon

“Cinderella Story” by Wendy Logia

Come Rain or Come Shine” by Jan Karon

Dr. Zhivago” by Boris Pasternak

Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte

Lonesome Dove” by Larry McMurtry

Outlander” by Diana Gabaldon

Persuasion” by Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen

Sense and Sensibility” by Jane Austen

Shadow of the Moon” by MM Kaye

Somewhere in Time” by Richard Matheson

Soulless” by Gail Carriger

The Far Pavilions” by MM Kaye

The Last of the Mohicans” by James Fenimore Cooper 

The Notebook” by Nicholas Sparks

The Princess Bride” by William Goldman

The Scarlet Pimpernel” by Baroness Orczy

The Second Coming” by Walker Percy

The Thorn Birds” by Colleen McCullough

 

Are you thinking romantic, weak-at-the-knees thoughts?

Our work is done.  😉    

 

Photo credit:  Patti Phillips

 

 

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The Agatha Awards for 2016

 

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The nominees for the Agatha Awards for 2016 (named for Agatha Christie) have been announced. The awards are bestowed upon mystery and crime writers at the annual Malice Domestic conference in late April, 2017. The nominated books were first published in the United States by a living author between January 1 and December 31, 2016.

 

The Agatha Awards recognize the "traditional mystery," meaning that there is no graphic sex and no excessive violence in the writing. Thrillers or hard-boiled detectives cannot be found here, but instead, picture Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot at work.

 

Click on the author’s name for more information about the book and the rest of the author’s work.  Congratulations to all the nominees!  :-)

 

Best Contemporary Novel

“Body on the Bayou” by Ellen Byron
“Quiet Neighbors” by Catriona McPherson
“A Great Reckoning” by Louise Penny
“Fogged Inn” by Barbara Ross
“Say No More” by Hank Phillippi Ryan

 

Best Historical Novel

“Whispers Beyond the Veil” by Jessica Estevao
“Get Me to the Grave on Time” by D.E. Ireland
“Delivering the Truth” by Edith Maxwell
“The Reek of Red Herrings” by Catriona McPherson
“Murder in Morningside Heights” by Victoria Thompson

 

Best First Novel

“Terror in Taffeta” by Marla Cooper
“Murder in G Major” by Alexia Gordon
“The Semester of Our Discontent” by Cynthia Kuhn
“Decanting a Murder” by Nadine Nettmann
“Design for Dying” by Renee Patrick

 

Best Short Story

"Double Jinx: A Bellissimo Casino Crime Caper Short Story" by Gretchen Archer

"The Best-Laid Plans" by Barb Goffman in Malice Domestic 11: Murder Most Conventional

"The Mayor and the Midwife" by Edith Maxwell in Blood on the Bayou: Bouchercon Anthology 2016

"The Last Blue Glass" by B.K. Stevens in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine

"Parallel Play" by Art Taylor in Chesapeake Crimes: Storm Warning

 

Please visit www.malicedomestic.org for the nominations in the Non-Fiction and Children/YA categories for the Agatha Awards-2016.

 

 

Time to get reading. Enjoy!  :-)

 

 

 

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Top 10: The First Four Years of Nightstand Book Reviews

 

Book Cover - Cold Dish

The first four years of Nightstand Book Reviews delivered a wide range of books to my doorstep and to my email inbox. Right from the beginning, I have received more than 100 requests a month (once over 400) from writers and publicists and friends of writers and publicists to review the latest book they had to offer.

 

It has been a fun problem to have. The strategy was (and remains) to choose great reads to chat about and share with the thousands of Nightstand Book Reviews followers around the world. The books on the site are by and large fiction, and tell a well-plotted story involving nicely developed characters. The authors are a mix of bestselling writers of longstanding, and newbies to the field when I first met them. Traditionally published or ebook only? Both happily co-exist on NBR. Occasionally I highlight biographies, great cookbooks, and helpful gardening books. A new feature in 2016 was Author Profiles. You’ll see more of those in 2017.

 

Below is the list of Top 10 books reviewed on Nightstand Book Reviews over the last four years, listed in ABC order by author. These were the books that garnered the most interest on NBR from the worldwide audience during the four years. Six books on the list were the debut novels from those authors. Some powerhouse writers (long, successful careers with great popularity) mixed in with newbies? A good book is a good book.

 

All of these authors now have multiple books out. Click on the book title to read the review.

 

Lee Child – “The Killing Floor”

 

Robert Dugoni – “My Sister’s Grave”

 

Robert Dugoni – “The Conviction”

 

Sherry Harris – “Tagged for Death”

 

Sue Harrison – “Mother Earth, Father Sky”

 

Erin Hart – “Haunted Ground”

 

Tami Hoag – “Alibi Man”

 

Craig Johnson – “The Cold Dish”

 

Leigh Perry – “A Skeleton in the Family”

 

Andy Weir – “The Martian”

 

 

Have you read any of the titles on the list? Wildly different books to be sure, with thrillers, sci-fi, traditional mysteries, and cozies in the group. 

 

And soooo much fun to read.  :-)

 

Thank you all, kind readers, for being part of the Nightstand Book Reviews community during the first four years. Your comments and participation make me smile as I search for the next great read to share with you.

 

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Literary Cookbooks

 

 

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What cook can resist a great new cookbook?

Even better, what foodie/avid reader can resist a cookbook created by his/her favorite author?

 

The following twelve cookbooks have been recommended by the readers of Nightstand Book Reviews as part of their literary and/or cookbook collections. The cookbooks would definitely make a fun gift to a fan of any of the authors. There are some pretty famous writers in the mix and many of the cookbooks have been nominated for awards.  :-)  If you have tried any of the recipes, please let us know in the comments.

 

Click on the book title to learn more about the featured recipes.

 

"Cooking with Jane Austen" – Kirstin Olsen

 

"Food to Die For" – Patricia Cornwell, Marlene Brown

 

"Goldy’s Kitchen Cookbook" – Diane Mott Davidson


"Jan Karon’s Mitford Cookbook and Kitchen Reader" – Jan Karon

 

"KP Authors Cook Their Books" – 11 Kindle Press authors

 

"Mystery Writers of America Cookbook" – Kate White, editor; famous mystery writer contributors

 

"The Cat Who Cookbook" – Lilian Jackson Braun

 

"The Cozy Cookbook" – Laura Childs & other bestselling cozy writers

 

"The Hemingway Cookbook" – Craig Boreth

 

"The Outlander Kitchen: The Official Outlander Companion Cookbook" – Theresa Carle-Sanders

 

"Yashim Cooks Istanbul: Culinary Adventures in the Ottoman Kitchen" – Jason Goodwin

 

"Winnie the Pooh’s Teatime Cookbook" – A.A. Milne
 

 

Happy cooking!  :-)

 


 

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Halloween Mystery List – 2016

 

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Halloween will be here before you know it and if you’d like to pick up a fun read with a seasonal theme, here are forty-two titles in our updated 2016 Halloween Mystery List.

 

Some have been around for ages, but others have recently been published or re-published. There are dozens more books with a Halloween theme, so if your favorite is not on the list, please let us know the title and author in the comments.

Click on the bold titles to read more about the individual books.

 

Stacey Alabaster – The Pumpkin Killer

Susan Wittig Albert – Witches' Bane

Ritter Ames and 8 others – Midnight Mysteries: Nine Cozy Tales

Susan Bernhardt – The Ginseng Conspiracy

Susan Boles – Death of a Wolfman

Lilian Jackson Braun – Cat Who Talked to Ghosts

Rita Mae Brown – The Litter of the Law

Anna Celeste Burke – All Hallows’ Eve Heist

Jessica Burton – Death Goes Shopping

Nora Charles – Death with an Ocean View

Laura Childs – Frill Kill

Agatha Christie – The Hallowe'en Party

Susan Rogers Cooper – Not in My Backyard

E.J. Copperman – Night of the Living Deed

Kathi Daley – Haunted Hamlet; Murder at the Witching Hour

Carole Nelson Douglas – Cat with an Emerald Eye

Janet Evanovich – Plum Spooky

Connie Feddersen – Dead in the Pumpkin Patch

Vickie Fee – It’s Your Party, Die If You Want To

Honora Finkelstein – The Lawyer Who Died Trying

‘Jessica Fletcher’ & Donald Bain – Trick or Treachery

Daryl Wood Gerber (aka Avery Aames) – Stirring the Plot

Sarah Graves – Nail Biter

Carolyn Haines – Hallowed Bones

Ellen Hart – Sweet Poison

Lee Hollis – Death of a Pumpkin Carver

Carolyn Q. Hunter – Pumpkin Pie Waffle

Ellen Elizabeth Hunter – Murder on the Ghost Walk

Daniel Judson – The Violet Hour

Heather Justesen – Muffins & Murder

Andrew Klavan – The Animal Hour

Joyce & Jim Lavene – Ghastly Glass

James Lilley – Death Knocks Twice

Ed McBain – Tricks: an 87th Precinct Mystery

G.A. McKevett – Poisoned Tarts

Leslie Meier – Wicked Witch Murder

Liz Mugavero – A Biscuit, a Casket

Julie Mulhern – Send in the Clowns

Leigh Perry – The Skeleton Haunts a House

Rebecca Tope – Death in the Cotswolds

Diane Vallere – Masking for Trouble

 

If you've read any books in the Halloween Mystery List for 2016, please let us know what you thought.

 

Happy Spooky Reading!  :-)

 

 

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“Just Killing Time” by Julianne Holmes

 

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Ruth Clagan’s grandfather, a clockmaker, dies during a robbery in “Just Killing Time” and leaves his Massachusetts clock shop, the Cog & Sprocket, to her. A rift between them caused by her ex has kept her away from the Berkshires for five years and now she has been robbed of a chance to reconnect. Why would anyone do this to a lifelong member of the community?

 

To complicate matters, the business is a puzzle, the shop is a mess and Ruth must deal with the oddly massive inventory as well as her grandfather’s widow. It makes sense to sell the Cog & Sprocket and get on with her life, but does Ruth really want to? Why did her grandfather have so much inventory? Could it be the reason he was killed?

 

“Just Killing Time” is complete with small town politics, reunions with old friends, and beautifully written dialogue that makes you feel as if you could join the conversation and fit right in. The wonderfully diverse cast of characters made me yearn for the days of small towns and friendly neighborhoods, where everybody knows your name. There is a real connection to the past with Orchard’s grandfather clocks and clock towers and small businesses on Main Street. Ahhh… life as it used to be outside the metropolitan areas of the country, before big box stores and fast food joints.

 

I connected immediately with Ruth, a fellow coffee addict. 😉 Julianne Holmes’ richly drawn Clagan clicks as a character trying to begin again, sorting through her life’s complications, but adapting as she sees alternate paths to follow. How many of us are given the opportunity to go back home to something familiar when life has taken an unexpected turn? And this clockmaker is always late? A giggle of a quirk.

 

We learn a great deal about the fascinating world of clocks – how they function and what makes the business model succeed in a time where digital seems to rule our lives. Grandfather’s repair specialty was clock towers, which require a tremendous amount of skill to maintain. Coincidentally, I saw a TV show about Big Ben (the clock tower in London) at the time I had started reading “Just Killing Time.” There’s more to its operation than climbing the steps to wind the clock or replace the parts. Wind can catch at the hands, pulling at them and slowing down the time. Minute changes in the atmosphere can affect the clock time. When I picked up “Just Killing Time” again, I found that it wove technical information in with the clever plot, giving us a clear understanding of why the Clagans love the business they’re in.

 

The layered storyline in this Agatha nominated debut novel involves possible fraud, people with hidden agendas, a tug-of-war between those that want a more modern town and those who wish to create an historic district. Happily, there is the potential for a little romance with a suitably hunky barber. “Just Killing Time” also includes some deviously nasty characters who will do anything to get what they want, including murder.

 

The second book in the series, “Clock and Dagger,” has recently been released and you should make time to read both.

 

Please visit www.jahennrikus.com for more information about Julianne Holmes and her alter ego, J.A. Hennrikus.

 

 

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