cozy

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.

 

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!  :-)

 


 

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!  :-)

 

 

“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.

 

 

“Drizzled with Death” by Jessie Crockett

 

Book Cover - Drizzled with Death

“Drizzled with Death” opens as Dani Greene temporarily escapes the holiday mania afflicting her family. She catches up on work in the sugarhouse at Greener Pastures maple syrup farm, annoyed at being ignored at the age of 26. She is the youngest in the family, and at less than five feet tall, she finds it hard to be taken seriously, despite her business savvy that has transformed a family hobby into a thriving business.

 

Sounds like the start to a pleasant read about a young woman making her way through life in the small town of Sugar Grove, New Hampshire. More like a side-splitting read. During her musing, Dani is startled by a mountain lion peering at her through the sugarhouse window. Gulp. She calls for help, but the Fish and Game Warden sent out to investigate, Graham Paterson, doesn’t believe her. The mountain lion is long gone, the Fish and Game guy is smirking and she loses all credibility when he spies the wine glass. Yup, wine always makes me see mountain lions. How about you?  😉

 

If being dismissed by the Game Warden isn’t enough to make Dani spit maple syrup, the next day at the Sap Bucket Brigade annual fundraiser pancake breakfast, a contestant pitches face first halfway into the seventh syrup-dripping stack of pancakes. Death by pancake? I’d be pitched over after the second stack, but that’s just me.

 

Graham Paterson reveals that a truckload of exotic animals has been released and are running all over the area – caused by a talkative parrot. You have to read “Drizzled with Death” to find out how the parrot is involved. There are some really funny scenes that involve chasing wacky animals with nets and LOTS more.

 

There is a great deal to recommend in “Drizzled with Death,” not the least of which is a very engaging Dani, and the relationships with the ex-boyfriend and the Game Warden. Dani uncovers some skullduggery that affects the area, and particularly Greener Pastures’ livelihood. She needs to uncover the culprit/motivation before the family name is ruined and before she winds up dead herself.

 

There are zany characters with hidden agendas, decidedly wacky animals, and a clever subplot that will keep you intrigued to the end. Crockett has a witty way of turning a phrase that reminds us how funny life can be – after we have survived the crazy, of course.

 

Happily, there are also recipes at the end, including a concoction called “Who’d a Thunk It.” It’s a sandwich created with an apple, bacon, waffles and maple syrup. Me, oh , my, doesn’t that sound like a delicious combo?

 

“Drizzled with Death” is the first book in the Sugar Grove series. There are two later books, and hopefully, more to come.

 

Please visit www.jessiecrockett.com for information about Jessie Crockett’s other books as well as her work with the Wicked Cozys. 

 

“The Longest Yard Sale” by Sherry Harris

 

Book Cover - The Longest Yard Sale

Sarah Winston is back in “The Longest Yard Sale,” the second installment in Sherry Harris’ habit-forming Garage Sale Mysteries. In addition to conducting her usual private home tag sales, Sarah has taken on the enormous job of running a one-day, town-wide event. And almost everybody has a great time. Including the thief that steals a valuable painting from an art studio belonging to Sarah’s friend, Carol. Law enforcement is focused on putting out fires as well as the Yard Sale crowds, so they don’t have quite as much fun.

 

Art theft? Fires? Add in a murder, a mayor who is never where she’s supposed to be, embezzlement, possible forgery, a ‘framed’ body discovered the day after the theft occurs, and we have a great mystery that intrigues and satisfies. Why was the body found at Carol’s studio? Is the body connected to the theft or merely a wild coincidence? And, what’s really going on in that studio?

 

CJ, the Chief of Police and Sarah’s ex, warns Sarah to stay out of it, but she can’t help herself. She needs to collect information to save Carol from being prosecuted and her own reputation from being smeared. There are plenty of suspects to go around in “The Longest Yard Sale,” and Harris deftly deals with throwing suspicion in all the right places while the layered plot unfolds.

 

Although Sarah has divorced her former Air Force husband, she still has ties to the local Base and the thrift store there, and maybe even to said hubby, CJ. Just because she now has to be buzzed onto the Base to gain access to the thrift store (and a possible new crime) Sarah’s interest in getting to the bottom of the bargain bins and ferreting out suspicious scams never wanes.

 

Life in and after the Air Force is further explored in “The Longest Yard Sale,” and all is not as it should be. One of the subplots discusses a normal real-life pre-retirement activity:  officers that use military connections to help set up post military life. In this case, people may have lost money in the process, but were they actually swindled? How? By whom?

 

There is a new guy in Sarah’s life, but is CJ still in the picture as well? She struggles with why she was so quick to believe the worst about him and so ready to divorce. Harris creates a believable mental tug-of-war for Sarah, with CJ and the new guy playing strong male roles, each unaware of the feelings that Sarah may have for the other. An interesting balancing act that adds another layer to the tale. Which guy will she choose? Will she wait too long to make that decision? Does she need to make any decision at all?

 

The great dynamic between Sarah and the men in her life, the nicely developed cast of characters, the twists in the engaging plot(s) in “The Longest Yard Sale,” all drive me to one conclusion: can’t wait to see what happens in the next book! 

 

Harris’ debut novel, “Tagged for Death,” an Agatha Award nominee, is reviewed here.

 

Please visit www.sherryharrisauthor.com for more information about Sherry Harris and her work.  :-)

 

 

“Musseled Out” by Barbara Ross

 

Book Cover - Musseled Out

Julia Snowden is back in “Musseled Out,” the third installment of Barbara Ross’ great Maine Clambake Mystery series.

 

The Maine summer tourist season is winding down and it’s time for Julia to make a decision. Should she stay around until the next season to help the family with the Snowden Clambake business or go back to her venture capital job in New York City? Her boss will only hold her spot open for so long – just until the end of the week. She’s got five days to choose between two jobs and lifestyles that could not be more different.

 

Now that the family livelihood has been saved, about the only thing that really holds Julia to Busman’s Harbor is her boyfriend, Chris. But, is that relationship really just a summer fling? Can she count on him to hang around? Is his constant disappearing act over? In a half-hearted attempt to force herself into making a decision, she looks at places to live in town. She doesn’t like the apartments she’s seen, and her boyfriend’s cabin is a little rough (translation – gutted while being rehabbed) for her taste. Plus, she has to find work in the off-season. Is that a sign?

 

The thing is, as in any good series, there has to be motivation for the out-of-town main character to hang around. We don’t want Julia to go anywhere, so Ross has to give this smart, savvy gal in “Musseled Out” an authentic reason. How about the body of a potential competitor, David Thwing, tangled up in the lines of a lobster boat she sees drifting off her beach? Julia has helped the local police successfully before, so they trust her not to be involved in Thwing’s death, but there are plenty of people (including her brother-in-law) in her circle that could have done the deed.

 

What follows is a beautifully crafted plot, with surprising twists and turns, and impeccably placed events that foil the bad guys’ plans. There is even a page-turning rescue scene that left me stunned, with the life and death struggles reading like an actual Coast Guard response.

 

Ross has developed the core characters of the series even further in “Musseled Out,” giving Gus and Mrs. Gus a storyline of their own that affects Julia and Chris in a profound way. The book not only explores what happens when key personnel in a family business are sidelined, and the serious decisions that must be made, but also how bad decisions can wreck havoc on the lives of everyone involved.

 

 

The motivations for everything that happens are as current as the latest news cycle, but if that’s not enough, there are some serious cooks in this series. Techniques are shared as part of the storyline, and I plan to try the one for fried eggs. Recipes for main dishes and desserts are included at the end of the book. I made lobster mac & cheese from “Clammed Up,” (delicious) and I can’t wait to try the pumpkin whoopee pies from “Musseled Out.”

 

Well done!

 

Read the review of “Clammed Up,” the first in the series, here.

 

For more information about Barbara Ross and her next book, “Fogged Inn,” please visit www.maineclambakemysteries.com