Hemlock for the Holidays (A Fine Art Mystery Book 3) by Paula Darnell –#BookReview – #cozycrafts

Book Blurb:

Hemlock for the Holidays by Paula DarnellAs Lonesome Valley kicks off the holiday season with its annual parade, artist Amanda Trent embraces the Christmas spirit, happy that her family will be coming to town to celebrate the season with her and her loyal pets, Laddie, a friendly golden retriever, and Mona Lisa, an independent calico cat.

Amanda has just one nagging concern: her art sales have stalled, so her checking account is starting to look a bit puny. Her financial woes pale, though, in comparison to her concern when several people eat carrot bars laced with hemlock at the high school’s arts and crafts fair, resulting in one unlucky man’s death. Was the poisoning an accident, or did someone with evil intent deliberately spike the sweet baked goods?

Leads the police follow don’t pan out until Amanda puts the puzzle together. But, sometimes, knowledge can be a dangerous thing. . . 

My Review:

Amanda Treat is getting ready for the Christmas season in Lonesome Valley. She is a fairly new resident, divorcée, and starving artist. She is expecting both her parents and her children for the holidays and looking forward to a high school arts and crafts fair, in which she participates with her co-op Roadrunner Gallery. A slump in her sales, she is sweating having enough income to get through the next couple of months.

Hemlock for the Holidays by Paula DarnellAmanda has a golden retriever named Laddie and a “mercurial” calico cat named Mona Lisa and interaction with her animals, their feeding, playing, and pet sitting is featured in the narrative as well as the struggles for sales of both her landscapes and pet portraits, with the mystery the other third of the novel. I’m thinking that was part of my problem with this one, the third in the series. My first.

Several high school students are poisoned at the art fair and a few days later there is a death, which becomes her focus when not dealing with the other two. I could not relate well to Amanda and felt few of the support characters stood out. Dialogue was awkward at times, but worse (for me) was the excessive description of minutia.

While the novel was well-plotted, I found the pace slow and had difficulty retaining interest. I just couldn’t get immersed sufficient to care which character was dog-sitting and I’m not a person looking for recipes at the end. Not a cozy for me, but I’m sure there are many who will enjoy.

I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher and NetGalley and these are my honest thoughts.

Rosepoint Rating:  Three point Five Stars

3 1/2 stars

Book Details:

Genre: Cozy Crafts & Hobbies Mystery, Cozy Craft & Hobby Mysteries, Cozy Animal Mystery
Publisher: Campbell and Rogers Press
ASIN: B09645DYV5
Print Length: 192 pages
Publication Date: August 5, 2021
Source: Publisher and NetGalley

Title Link(s):

Amazon   |   Barnes & Noble  |  Kobo

Paula Darnell - authorThe Author: An instructor at five colleges over the years, Paula Darnell most often taught the dreaded first-year English composition classes, but she’s also been happy to teach some fun classes, such as fashion design, sewing, and jewelry making. Paula has a Bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Iowa, Iowa City, and a Master’s degree in English from the University of Nevada, Reno.

Like Laurel, the main character in Death by Association, Paula enjoys all kinds of arts and crafts. Some of her memorable projects include making a hat and a cape to wear to Royal Ascot, sewing wedding gowns for both her daughters, exhibiting her textile and mixed-media artwork in juried art shows, and having one of her jewelry projects accepted for inclusion in Leather Jewelry, published by Lark Books. She sells some of her jewelry and hair accessories in her Etsy shop.

Paula’s interest in DIY craft projects and fashion led to her writing hundreds of articles for print and online national publications.

She is the author of the cozy mystery series, DIY Diva Mysteries, and a historical mystery, The Six-Week Solution. Her new cozy mystery series, Fine Art Mysteries, is in the works for 2021.

Paula lives in Las Vegas, Nevada, with her husband Gary and their 110-pound dog Rocky, whose favorite pastime is lurking in the kitchen, hoping for a handout.

©2021 V Williams V Williams

Paw and Order (A Dog Club Mystery Book 4) by V M Burns – a #BookReview #cozymystery

Book Blurb:

Dog-loving divorcée and amateur sleuth Lilly Echosby is not the only one who wants her new foster poodle. Some are willing to kill to have him . . .
Paws and Order by V M Burns
Lilly’s best pal Scarlett “Dixie” Jefferson has done it again! She’s convinced eccentric poodle-loving billionaire Archibald Lowry to sponsor a grand fundraiser for the Eastern Tennessee Poodle Rescue. Tragically, it’s too late to rescue Lowry, who is murdered at the event. His pet poodle is now orphaned, so Dixie begs Lilly to foster the adorable pup. Of course, she already has a poodle—her beloved Aggie, named after Agatha Christie. Fortunately, Aggie seems to like the new addition to the family, whom Lilly renames Rex, after her second favorite mystery author, Rex Stout.

But she’s barely welcomed Rex into her home when there’s an attempted poodle-nabbing, foiled with Aggie’s help. As desperate characters try to get their hands on the canine cutie, Lilly turns to Dixie’s dog training class to help her sort through a litter of suspects. Ultimately, she may have to unleash Rex as bait to collar the killer . . .

My Review:

Paws and Order by V M BurnsLillie Ann Echosby moved from Indiana to a new life in Chattanooga,TN. She became involved in a local poodle rescue having one of her own she calls Aggie (after Agatha Christie). She’s a little thing but feisty and full of heart and personality. Lillie is thrilled to be hosting an event for the local poodle rescue at the museum where she’s employed when a tiny poodle shuts down the event after he leads the curious back to his murdered owner, who it turns out is the billionaire sponsor for the event. Lillie is asked to foster the little thing until they can square away the details of the deceased. Of course, Lillie falls in love with him and promptly renames him Rex (after Rex Stout).

The two canines get along just fine but there are ensuing attempts to dognap Rex. In the meantime, Lillie’s daughter Stephanie comes for an impromptu visit. Lillie has a cadre of great friends and support that lend a sleuthing effort to solve the canine caper, and the reader is introduced to both Stephanie and Lillie’s romantic interest, Joe and Red, both in law enforcement.

Lillie is a great character surrounded by additional strong support characters, including Dixie, dog show judge and trainer and owner of a dog castle RV, and there are interesting tidbits of dog speak, which I always enjoy.

My first experience with this series, albeit not the author, and the storyline moves at a cozy pace while including the mystery with the appealing friend associates. There are details that bother me, including whipping around  in an RV for errands (at 6-7 mpg) and the conclusion that I found a bit contrived wrapping up a few loose threads but not all.

Receiving this digital ARC download from the publisher and NetGalley did not affect my opinion of the book or the content and this is my honest opinion. Recommended for all who enjoy cozy mysteries, especially including dogs.

Add to Goodreads

Book Details:

Genre: Cozy Culinary, Cozy Craft and Hobby Mysteries
Publisher: Lyrical Press
ASIN: B07ZPK3DCJ
Print Length: 225 pages
Publication Date: To be released August 11, 2020
Source: Publisher and NetGalley

Title Link(s):

Amazon   |   Barnes & Noble   |   Kobo 

Rosepoint Publishing: Four of Five Stars 4 stars

The Author: V.M. Burns was born and raise in the Midwestern United States. She received a Bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University, a Master’s degree from the University of Notre Dame and a Master of Fine Arts degree from Seton Hill University. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Dog Writers Association of America, Thriller Writers International and a lifetime member of Sisters in Crime. She is the secretary of her local chapter of Sisters in Crime (The East Tennessee Smoking Guns) and the Education Grants Coordinator for the national Sisters in Crime. She currently resides in the warmer area of the U.S. with her two poodles. Readers can visit her website at http://www.vmburns.com

©2020 V Williams V Williams

Murder in the Bayou Boneyard: A Cajun Country Mystery by Ellen Byron – a #BookReview Cozy Culinary Mystery

RosepointPub Crawl I thoroughly enjoy the sense of humor this author brings to her storytelling…with fully developed characters alive with Southern hospitality personality.

Rosepoint Publishing: Five StarsFive Stars

 Book Blurb:

Murder in the Bayou Boneyard by Ellen ByronMaggie Crozat, proprietor of a historic Cajun Country B&B, prefers to let the good times roll. But hard times rock her hostelry when a new cell phone app makes it easy for locals to rent their spare rooms to tourists. With October–and Halloween–approaching, she conjures up a witch-crafty marketing scheme to draw visitors to Pelican, Louisiana.

Five local plantation B&Bs host “Pelican’s Spooky Past” packages, featuring regional crafts, unique menus, and a pet costume parade. Topping it off, the derelict Dupois cemetery is the suitably sepulchral setting for the spine-chilling play Resurrection of a Spirit. But all the witchcraft has inevitably conjured something: her B&B guests are being terrified out of town by sightings of the legendary rougarou, a cross between a werewolf and vampire.

When, in the Dupois cemetery, someone costumed as a rougarou stumbles onstage during the play–and promptly gives up the ghost, the rougarou mask having been poisoned with strychnine, Maggie is on the case. But as more murders stack up, Maggie fears that Pelican’s spooky past has nothing on its bloodcurdling present.

My Review:

It’s nearing Halloween and Maggie Crozat and her parents, owner of the Cajun Country B&B, are gearing up along with the other B&Bs in Pelican, Louisiana to provide holiday specials along with festivities appropriate to the spooky, ghouly, and darker time of year. Maggie and the B&B community is working hard against Gavin Grody, better known for an agenda he calls, “Rent My Digs” as his endeavor has impacted their normally successful seasons, being one hour from New Orleans.

Murder in the Bayou Boneyard by Ellen ByronThey are promoting all manner of activities, including a play they are holding in an ancient graveyard, Cajun food in typical Louisiana amenities, and a pet parade. They will also have readings from a local VooDoo priestess, Helene, and Maggie has created a spa on her premises that she is hoping will be a major draw along with the masseuse she is bringing in–a remotely related cousin she has never met.

Her cousin, Susannah, brings her husband Doug and his twins. She outfitted her art studio in the old schoolhouse for the family and began to set appointments. Unfortunately, sightings been made of a rougarou, an old Cajun creature legend. Susannah announces her land runs through the schoolhouse making Maggie and the Crozat’s the obvious suspects of what is quickly assessed a murder.

Of course, her own Pelican PD doesn’t believe they would be involved. It is the neighboring jurisdiction that smells an easy solve and the murder happened there, so Maggie and clan will have to go looking to find the killer. In the meantime, her Grandmeré is becoming a bridezilla as she is planning a wedding with Maggie and her beau, Detective Bo Durand of their precinct. He has a young son, Xander who is looking forward to Halloween and planning his costume with the same fervor as her Gran the wedding.

I thoroughly enjoy the sense of humor this author brings to her storytelling, which is always well-plotted and easy paced, with fully developed characters alive with Southern hospitality personality. One of her guests has a parrot that often enlivens and entertains the others. The family melds easily as an enviable tight, happy clan, the occasion is atmospheric, and there are always tidbits of Louisiana Cajun folklore and culture, foods, descriptions of the land and people.

“In Louisiana…We only follow the rules we like.”

If I didn’t remember that humidity and those bugs so well, I’d be packing to head south.

The casual road to the conclusion sneaks up on you, as do the perps in the final reveal. I had my eye on one or two others, but was wrong and that doesn’t often happen. There is an explanation of particular custom or word origins and then the recipes. If I remember right it was after I read Fatal Cajun Festival that I ran out and bought ingredients for a Jambalaya. (I do love shrimp.) This novel includes more than one I’ll try (if I’m ever allowed to go grocery shopping again).

I received this digital download from the publisher through NetGalley and totally appreciated the opportunity to read and review Book 6. Engaging and entertaining, I greatly enjoy this author’s writing style, both this series and her new one, Catering Hall Mysteries (Here Comes the Body by Maria DiRico). If you haven’t yet discovered her books, now is the time. Highly recommended!

Book Details:

Genre: Cozy Culinary Mysteries, Cozy Craft and Hobby Mysteries
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
ASIN: B082H3BT6F
Print Length: 304 pages
Publication Date: September 8, 2020
Source: Publisher and NetGalley
Title Link: Murder in the Bayou Boneyard (Amazon)
Barnes and Noble
Kobo

+Add to Goodreads 

Rosepoint recommended

Maria DiRico - authorThe Author: [Ellen Byron] Author of MARDI GRAS MURDER, the 2018 AGATHA AWARD winner for Best Contemporary Novel. Also writes the Catering Hall Mysteries (HERE COMES THE BODY, #1) as Maria DiRico.

Ellen writes the USA Today bestselling Cajun Country Mysteries. MARDI GRAS MURDER won the Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel and was nominated for a Best Humorous Mystery Lefty Award by Left Coast Crime. A CAJUN CHRISTMAS KILLING and BODY ON THE BAYOU, both won the Lefty Award for Best Humorous Mystery, and were nominated for Agatha Awards in the category of Best Contemporary Novel. PLANTATION SHUDDERS, the first book in the series, was nominated for Agatha, Lefty, and Daphne awards. Cajun Country Mysteries offer “everything a cozy reader could want,” according to Publishers Weekly, while Library Journal says, “Diane Mott Davidson and Lou Jane Temple fans will line up for this series.” HERE COMES THE BODY, the first book in her Catering Hall Mysteries, debuted under her pen name, Maria DiRico.

Ellen’s TV credits include Wings and Just Shoot Me; she’s written over 200 magazine articles; her published plays include the award-winning Graceland and Asleep on the Wind. She is a native New Yorker who lives in Los Angeles and attributes her fascination with Louisiana to her college years at New Orleans’ Tulane University. She also worked as a cater-waiter for Martha Stewart, a credit she never tires of sharing. Have an early copy of Martha’s first book, ENTERTAINING? Ellen’s standing right next to her in the group shot.

©2020 V Williams V Williams