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Thursday, November 28, 2013

Review - A Cookbook Conspiracy

I have been following this series for a while.  I have reviewed #6 Peril in Paperback (click here), #4 One Book in the Grave (click here), and #3 The Lies That Bind (click here).  This week we return to San Francisco and our brave book restorer in a celebrity chef murder.

Author: Kate Carlisle

Copyright: April 2013 (NAL/Signet) 320 pgs

Series: 7th in Bibliophile Mysteries series

Sensuality: n/a

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy

Main Characters: Brooklyn Wainwright, expert book binder and restorer

Setting: Modern day, San Francisco

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

Savannah, Brooklyn’s sister, graduated from the prestigious Cordon Bleu school in Paris. Savannah and her old classmates have gone on to successful careers, particularly the superstar Baxter Cromwell -- Savannah’s ex-boyfriend.

Baxter invites the group of old friends to his new restaurant’s spectacular opening in San Francisco.  Savannah asks Brooklyn to restore a very old cookbook, once a gift from Baxter, for a present for Baxter. Brooklyn realizes the book is a rare find and probably valuable.  Derek notices strange notes and symbols scrawled in the margins of the book as being a code and his brother Dalton can’t resist coming to the States to see the code…and Brooklyn.

Shortly after Savannah presents Baxter with the gift, Baxter is dead, with Savannah found kneeling over him with the bloody knife.  The rare cookbook has disappeared as well. Of course Savannah didn’t kill Baxter.  So, Brooklyn is determined to figure out who the killer is and get the cookbook back. Fortunately, Brooklyn had made a copy of the cookbook and Dalton works on the code.

Brooklyn is becoming more secure in her relationship with Derek with this book.  Derek is right beside Brooklyn rather than nagging to not get involved, which makes the book enjoyable.  Gabriel is a no-show is this addition to the series, so Gabriel fans take note.  Savannah is developed far more than in past books and proves to be quite interesting.  Dalton, Derek's brother, adds some fun to the storyline, and some romance for Savannah.  I have to mention Brooklyn’s mom is getting to be caricature more and more, thus loosing the quirky charm and just being insulting.

San Francisco was not used much itself, mostly the posh restaurant.  The reader spends more time in Baxter's restaurant and Brooklyn's apartment with an outing to her parents place.  The plot is classic cozy with a handful of suspects and clues scattered throughout.  The killer confrontation had some twists and was emotional.

This is a classic cozy mystery with an interesting plot and varied characters that present an entertaining puzzle. This series is always a winner for an enjoyable mystery.

Ratings: Excellent - Loved it! Buy it now and put this author on your watch list

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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thankful For You!

Thank you dear readers!  I am amazed at how many people want to share the reading journey with me.  You warm my heart and remind me that, no matter what happens in life, I am never completely alone in my walk on this planet.  That is an amazing gift.  Reading is an adventure, but sharing books and thoughts crosses so many boundaries and borders. You guys ROCK.

And just for the funny bone - these recipes could probably work for leftover turkey as well :-)

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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Make Holidays Easier

We are just a few days from the U.S.'s Thanksgiving holiday where a big dinner is anticipated, and yes, expected.  Too often the cook(s) spend more of their time preparing the feast rather than enjoying family and friends.  This holiday season, consider preparing as much of your meal ahead of time as possible.  

Here is a handy webpage with many make ahead recipes ranging from appetizers and side dishes to breads and desserts (click here.)

I found this recipe years ago and lost it.  I finally found it again.  This is delicious.

              Pecan Pumpkin Pie Recipe


         Pastry for single-crust pie (9 inches)
        2 eggs
         1 can (15 ounces) solid-pack pumpkin
         1/2 cup maple syrup
         1/4 cup sugar
         1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
         1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
         1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    2 Eggland's Best Eggs, lightly beaten
     1 cup chopped pecans
     1/2 cup sugar
     1/2 cup maple syrup
    Whipped topping, optional


    Line a 9-in. pie plate with pastry; trim and flute edges. In a large bowl, beat the eggs, pumpkin, syrup, sugar, cream, cinnamon and nutmeg until smooth; pour into pastry.
    For the topping, in a large bowl, combine the eggs, pecans, sugar and syrup; spoon over top.
    Bake at 425° for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°. Bake 40-45 minutes longer or until crust is golden brown and top of pie is set.
    Cool on a wire rack for 1 hour. Refrigerate overnight. Serve with whipped topping if desired.

Enjoy your holidays.

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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Review - The Pumpkin Muffin Murder

I got into a muffin baking mood, and with the Thanksgiving holiday approaching this book seemed perfect.  The included recipes where mouth watering to just read.  Tired of jumping from Halloween right into Xmas?  Enjoy a little Harvest and Thanksgiving time with this book.

Author: Livia Washburn

Copyright: November 2010 (NAL) 272 pgs

Series: 5th in Fresh Baked Mystery series

Sensuality: n/a

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy

Main Characters: Phyllis Newsom widowed retired school teacher

Setting: Modern day, small town Weatherford, Texas

Obtained Through: Library

The premise is simple for this cozy, it is the big fall festival and  Phyllis discovers one of the scarecrows scattering around the grounds for decoration is actually a dead man, realtor Logan Powell. To make matters worse, the victim has one of Phyllis' pumpkin muffins she was entering in the baking contest crammed in his mouth.  The police are looking solely at this wife, a teacher and acquaintance of Phyllis'.  Phyllis begins asking questions because she doesn't feel it is so simple.  A side story is Phyllis caring for her young grandson Bobby throughout the investigation.  Did Logan cheat on his wife, or was he involved in a lucrative but unethical real state deal that got him killed?

Phyllis lives with several other retired teachers in her large home, does community service, and bakes delicious goods like muffins. But I could not tell you about her inner struggles of feelings.  Carolyn seemed to be a live-wire and passionate about people.  Dana, the accused seemed too downtrodden to get a sense of anything else about the character.  Sam, who everyone in Weatherford considers Phyllis' boyfriend, was nice, kind, easygoing...and rather bland - in this book at least.

The setting is standard small town fare with the common festival/fair as the social event for the murder.  The plot is to prove the innocence of an accused, who really looks guilty from the circumstantial evidence. The plot remains uncomplicated and true to a cozy.  The pacing remained steady, although it was a bit tame for my taste (not enough sense of urgency or tension).  The climax had some good moments. 

If you want a light cozy to curl up with, this is a good standard cozy that will deliver the expected characters and small town drama.  No surprises for those who like a more wholesome mystery.

Rating: Good - A fun read without complications.

Here is a Pumpkin Muffin recipe video for your Thanksgiving dinner enjoyment.

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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Mystery & Crime Fiction Blog Carnival - November 2013

It is the first Monday of the month...or a smidgen late - time for another highly anticipated Blog Carnival. 

Please help the newsletter for the blog carnival to get more subscribers.  If a blog reviews mystery/suspense/thrillers (even occasionally) then I would like to feature those reviews.  I send the newsletter out once a month announcing the deadline for submitting to this blog carnival.  Multiple entries from a blog are welcome.

Subscribe to our carnival reminder mailing list

Now on to this month's blog carnival.  Click on the title or author's name to go to that link.

Police Procedural / PI Book Review / Legal

Back to Books reviewed Unseen by Karin Slaughter

Back to Books reviewed Joe Victim by Paul Cleave

Back to Books reviewed How to be a Good Wife by Emma Chapman saying, "This would be classified Psychological Thriller."

 The Crime Scene reviewed The Jewel That Was Ours by Colin Dexter (Inspector Morse #9) saying, "The Jewel That Was Ours is a classic Inspector Morse novel."

Amateur Sleuth / Cozy book Review

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed A Skeleton in the Family by Leigh Perry

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed Opal Fire by Barbra Annino

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed Bled and Breakfast by Michelle Rowen

Mysteries and My Musings reviewed A Potion to Die For by Heather Blake

Thriller/Suspense Fiction Book Review

Author Interview

The Crime Scene presents Author Interview: Michael J McCann  saying, "Michael J McCann is a Canadian author of crime fiction. He writes the Donaghue and Stainer series about two US cops."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

A huge "Thank You" to all the wonderful bloggers out there who contributed to the carnival.  Keep them coming.

Let's make next month's Carnival even better. For more information on the specifics of the Carnival and how to submit your posts go here.

Submit your blog entry for next month's Carnival here: (

Spread the word far and wide!!!
Post a widget on your blog for this carnival here (
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Friday, November 1, 2013

Review - Charms and Chocolate Chips

Finishing up the month of paranormal books is the newest from the Magical Bakery series.  I reviewed the prior book, Bewitched, Bothered, and Biscotti (#2) (click here) as well as interviewed the author (click here.)

Author: Bailey Cates

Copyright: November 2013 (Signet Publishing) 336 pgs

Series: 3rd in Magical Bakery Mystery series

Sensuality: n/a

Mystery Sub-genre: Paranormal Cozy

Main Character: Katie Lightfoot, co-owner of the Honeybee Bakery

Setting: Modern day, Savannah GA

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

Katie has been volunteering at the Georgia Wild Conservation group.  Showing up to volunteer, she finds the director, Autumn Boles murdered and a strange origami bat in red paper clutched in her hand. This clue suggests that the Fegan Swamp, with reported sightings of an exstinct maroon bat, are central in the murder...which means that Steve Dawes' father could be involved as he is attempting to purchase and develop the land as a golf course.  Since Steve chose to join with his father and the Dragoh all-male druid group, Katie has avoided Steve.  On top of this, Katie's mother makes a surprise visit to try and patch the strained mother-daughter relationship.  Her mother has some magical surprises of her own.

Katie is a common sense character I can relate to. I like her level-headed outlook and gusto for life.  Declan, the firefighter boyfriend, is tested in this book regarding how well he can accept who Katie really is.  Steve Dawes makes it clear that he wants to remain friends if that is the only way he can be in Katie's life.  Steve is the wildcard still in the deck who works magic by Katie's side and understand that side of her.  Mary Jane, Katie's Mother, added great depth to the Katie and I hope to see her more in future novels.  Wren Knowles, Mimsey's granddaughter and the new head of Georgia Wild Conservation, was timid at first and began to blossom.
The "Book Club" members' cohesiveness is tested as well: Lawyer Jaida who specializes in tarot, Bianca is wealthy and works with moon magic, Cookie is the free spirit who uses Voodoo, matriarch Mimsey uses a crystal ball plus color & flower magic, and Aunt Lucy is a hedge-witch working with plants.

Fegan Swamp and the eerie Cypress tree were great settings, but other than Katie's mom taking a tourist bus through Savannah there is still now distinguishing the location from any southern town.  I find it interesting that Savannah is supposed to be a good sized city of 131,510 people, you get the sense of a much smaller town in this book. 

The plot is a solid cozy concept and plays out logically. There are a few misdirects for surprises.  The pacing kept my interest easily.  The climax had some excitement, but the prior book had such a hard-to-follow climax it seemed not as big as it could have been.  The wrap-up tied loose ends but no real cliff hangers.

This series produces another rock solid hit with mystery and magic in a dynamic combination.

Rating: Near Perfect - Buy two copies: one for you and one for a friend. 

With the holiday season fast approaching, there will be family gatherings and potlucks aplenty.  Try this recipes out.

Crumb-Topped Apple Slab Pie

Prep: 45 mins     Bake: 40 mins 375°F


    2 1/4  cups  all-purpose flour
    3/4  teaspoon  salt
    2/3  cup  butter-flavored shortening
    8 - 10  tablespoons  cold water
    2/3  cup  sugar
    1/3  cup  all-purpose flour
    1  teaspoon  ground cinnamon
    3 1/2  pounds  tart cooking apples (such as Rome Beauty or Granny Smith), peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices (10 cups)
     Crumb Topping


1. Line a 15x10x1-inch baking pan with 18-inch-wide foil, extending the foil up over the edges of the pan; set aside. For dough: In a large bowl, stir together the 2-1/4 cups flour and the salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the cold water over part of the flour mixture; gently toss with a fork. Push moistened dough to side of bowl. Repeat, using 1 tablespoon cold water at a time, until all of the flour mixture is moistened. Using your fingers, gently knead the dough just until a ball forms.

2. Preheat oven to 375F. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a 19x13-inch rectangle. Wrap it around the rolling pin; unroll it into the prepared baking pan. Ease dough into the pan and up the sides, being careful not to stretch it. Trim dough to 1/2 inch beyond edge of pan. Fold dough edge over and flute as desired.

3. In an extra-large bowl, combine sugar, the 1/3 cup flour, and the cinnamon; add apples. Toss lightly until apples are coated. Spoon apple mixture into dough-lined pan; spread evenly. Sprinkle with Crumb Topping (pan will be full).

4. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until apples are tender. If necessary to prevent overbrowning, cover top with foil for the last 5 to 10 minutes of baking. Cool slightly in pan on a wire rack.

5. Serve warm or cool completely. Cut into rectangles. Makes 25

Crumb Topping

    1  cup  quick-cooking rolled oats
    1  cup  packed brown sugar
    1/2  cup  all-purpose flour
    1/2  cup  butter
    1/2  cup  pecans

1. In a large bowl, stir together quick-cooking rolled oats, packed brown sugar, and all-purpose flour. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until topping mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in chopped pecans.

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