Monday, June 28, 2021

Book Review: SPRING CLEANING MURDERS (An Ellie Haskell Mystery) by Dorothy Cannell


When the ever-scrupulous and ever-caustic Mrs. Roxie Malloy leaves her employ in tears, Ellie Haskell—busy mother of twins—is forced to find another cleaning person. As she searches for someone who can at least aspire to taking Mrs. Malloy’s place, Ellie turns the household topsy-turvy, overcome with spring-cleaning fever. But when members of the Chitterton Fells Charwomen’s Association (C.F.C.W.A.) start biting the dust, Ellie swaps scrubbing for sleuthing to find out what dark secrets have been swept under the rug. 

With the help of her husband, Ben, her feckless cousin Freddy, and an assortment of homemade cleaning solutions, Ellie joins the C.F.C.W.A.’s roster and embarks on a brief stint as a mercenary maid—just long enough to snoop through her neighbors’ things and find out which one has more than dust bunnies and dirty dishes to hide. 


An English cozy, Ellie and Ben Haskell take care of their own, including their hired help. This becomes more evident with the murder murders. Ellie jumps right in with the ladies to find the killer, including going undercover. 

Readers get a slice of English culture, with its mannerisms and everyday comings and goings. The characters are likable and funny, especially Roxie. 

This is seventh in a series of at least twelve books by Cannell. It was an enjoyable escape and can be read as a stand-alone mystery. It might be even better though if you started with the first one. At a time when travel is somewhat testy, take a trip to England with Ellie and Ben and forget the daily stressors.

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book in the hopes that I would post an honest review. This has not affected the content of my review in any way.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Book Review: MURDER WITH STRINGS ATTACHED by Mark Reutlinger

Synopsis (from Amazon)

Sometimes even the most carefully conceived burglary can take an unexpected turn. Florence Palmer has her eye on concert violinist Aaron Levy's priceless violin.

Unfortunately, she finds it's already been stolen. Her surprise doubles when the virtuoso she'd planned to burgle offers to hire her to help him steal it back. 

But they're not the only ones looking for the missing violin. When Flo inadvertently becomes the prime suspect in a case of murder, she and Aaron need to clear her name. Will they find the real killer and get the violin back to its rightful owner without anyone else, especially themselves, being killed? 


This was a fun read with a twist. First, there's Flo, previously a domestic worker who discovered it was more profitable to be a thief. Then you have Aaron Levy, famous violinist, who plays a priceless Stradivarius. Flo does her homework, maps out his habits, and is set to steal the priceless violin. Only the one in his hotel room is a fake and she's caught in the act. Aaron surprises Flo by hiring her to steal back his precious violin and replace it with the fake. Then the fun begins.

This was an enjoyable read with great characters, humor, a steady pace and surprises to keep my interest. I'll be looking for more books from Reutlinger.

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book in the hopes that I would post an honest review. This has not affected the content of my review in any way.

Monday, June 21, 2021

Review: WHISKEY SECRETS (Whiskey Lies Book 1) by Carrie Anne Ryan

A bit of romantic suspense today... need to change things up some times....

Synopsis from Amazon 

Sparks fly between a former cop-turned-bartender and his new innkeeper in the first installment of a Montgomery Ink spin-off series from NYT Bestselling Author Carrie Ann Ryan. 

Dare Collins is a man who knows his whiskey and women—or at least that’s what he tells himself. When his family decides to hire on a new innkeeper for the inn above his bar and restaurant, he’s more than reluctant. Especially when he meets the new hire. But he’ll soon find that he has no choice but to work with this city girl and accept her new ideas and the burning attraction between them.  

Kenzie Owens left her old life and an abusive relationship behind her—or so she thought. She figures she’ll be safe in Whiskey, Pennsylvania but after one look at her new boss, Dare Collins, she might still be in danger, or at least her heart. And when her past catches up with her despite her attempts to avoid it, it’s more than her heart on the line. This time, it might mean her life. 


Dare Collins took over the bar and restaurant when he retired from the police force, and he's quite happy running the whole enterprise. His family has other feelings and the next thing he knows, they've hired Kenzie Owens. She not only invades his space but threatens his heart. By the time her past catches up, his protective instinct doesn't have a chance.

This was a good read and kept me interested. It is a "spin-off" of another series, but I never read that series. This is my first read by Ryan and easily could be read as a stand-a-lone. It is well-paced and the push and pull of Dare and Kenzie, on both sides, for similar but different reasons, is well orchestrated. A word of warning to my cozy/clean read readers, there is adult content.

Whiskey Secrets is the first of three in the Whiskey Lies Series. Although I can attest to being able to follow this one without reading the previous series, I always recommend you start with the first book in a series. 

The Whiskey and Lies Series 

Book 2: Whiskey Reveals 
Book 3: Whiskey Undone

Friday, June 18, 2021


There's an increasing demand for audiobooks and many questions about the process. Today Shaina Summerville is my guest to fill us in on the process from the perspective of the narrator. 

Greetings! My name is Shaina Summerville and I am an audiobook narrator with 50+ audiobooks available on Audible. I have narrated for indie authors in addition to publishers such as Simon and Schuster, Harper Audio, Houghton Mifflin, Tantor Media, and Hachette. You will often find me narrating YA and middle grade fiction…but I also adore narrating (and reading) cozy mysteries! 

Thus far I have narrated cozy mysteries for three different authors: The Taylor Quinn Quilt Shop Mysteries by Tess Rothery, Asbury High and the Thief’s Gamble by Kelly Brady Channick, and the Paige Mackenzie Mystery Series by Deborah Garner (soon to be released!). 

When I asked members of a cozy mystery audiobook group what they want to know, many questions came up about the audiobook creation process, so that is what I will address today. 

What does the audiobook creation process look like? 
The first thing to keep in mind is that one hour of audio takes many hours of work. The general estimate bandied about in the narration world is that one finished hour of audio can take up to six hours of work. This includes: 
• Prep: I pre-read the book prior to recording, taking notes of important events, words or names I need to get pronunciations for, and character or vocal descriptions in order to prepare my character voices. 
 • Preproduction sample: I record a small portion of the book for approval by the author. This is also where we will collaborate on character voices. 
 • Narration: Once my sample has been approved, I begin narrating the book. It typically takes about two hours to record one single hour. 
 • Post Production: This includes the proofing, editing, and mastering process. During this point the audio is compared to the manuscript for errors and corrections are made. The audio is also “prettied up” to make it sound its absolute best. While some narrators perform their own post production, many outsource this to a professional sound engineer as it a) guarantees the best possible sound and b) frees us up to spend more time on narration. 

How do I get chosen as a narrator? 
Typically, the first thing I do is record an audition sample for the authors to make sure my voice fits the vision in their heads of the character. Assuming that’s a go, we come to an agreement on our terms, sign a contract, and off we go!  

How do you handle character voices? 
Character voices are one of the first things I nail down with my authors. I’ll typically ask them to describe their characters for me—preferably describing vocal qualities rather than looks. I can often glean a lot about a character from what is written in the text, but sometimes an author will have a specific idea. I ask them to describe all of their characters, but often I’ve found that an author will want to nail down a small number of key characters who will appear throughout the series and they give me free reign on smaller characters.

As a female narrator with a higher pitched voice, male voices can be a bit of a challenge at times! However, the important things about male voices is to note that they don’t have to be low and deep! Many times, male voices are not all that different in pitch from many females but there are other characteristics of their voice to consider. Men typically use a smaller range of pitches when they speak. They are often more staccato in rhythm. The placement of their voice in their mouths is different as is their diction. 

As with my female characters I will take a large number of vocal qualities and combine them to create differing characters. I love cozy mysteries because there is such a large range of characters and I can sometimes make slightly larger choices on character voices than I might in say a typical romance. 

And that’s the narration process in a nutshell. I hope this has provided answers to questions you may have had about audiobooks. You can always feel free to reach out to me on social media or contact me at my website if there is anything else you would like to know!

Thank you, Shaina, for demystifying a process that is new to me and, I suspect, to other authors and readers. 

An important thing to note is that when audiobooks are released, authors and narrators usually get free promo codes for the new audiobook in hopes of garnering reviews quickly. Interested? Here are some sites where available promo codes may be posted, and possibly reviews as well:

Cozy Mystery Audiobook Lovers  

Stay tuned. . . Next month (7/19) Diane Weiner will share perspectives on the process from the author's perspective.

Here's some other cozy audiobooks available from your favorite authors:

Monday, June 14, 2021

New Release! LOVE AND MONEY, ANOTHER MURDER (Sheridan Hendley Mystery Book 6) by Christa Nardi


No one wants to believe murder can happen in their neighborhood. 

Murder is nothing new for Sheridan Hendley, amateur sleuth, or her husband, Detective Brett McMann. Still, shots fired add a layer of tension to babysitting and being neighborly. This time the murder is too close for comfort. There are no witnesses and no verified identification of the victim, not to mention the car accident prompting Sheridan to be next door. Questions are raised about an investment company and business practices. Could a kitten have the key to the motive and killer? 

As Sheridan works with the police to identify the murdered victim, she discovers investment scams that target the elderly with fake promises and visits a towering conglomerate in the middle of nowhere. What kind of company requires employees to sign a nondisclosure agreement, arranges for them to live in a designated subdivision, and plants listening devices in their homes? Was the victim killed because of what she discovered? As more information is revealed, Sheridan may be in danger.

It's always best to start a series at the beginning. The Sheridan Hendley Mystery series is a spin-off from the Cold Creek Cozy Mysteries. And the most exciting news is that the first in the Sheridan Hendley series is now available through Audible. Soon, the rest of the series will be as well.

Read an excerpt from Love and Money, Another Murder:

As I got ready to meet my colleague and friend, Leah Buxbaum, at the mall, my step-daughter, Maddie, came into the kitchen. Her nose wrinkled, brows knit.      

“What’s up? Something wrong?” She wrung her hands. “Mrs. Hamilton called just now and asked if I could babysit for Holly. I said yes and she hung up. I think she wants me to babysit now, but I’m not sure.” 

I opened my mouth and closed it, opting to go with a solution instead of chastising her for not getting the details. “Get your stuff and we’ll walk down to their house and find out what she wants.” 

She grabbed her backpack and phone. “Let’s go.” 

Nodding, I grabbed my stuff and we went outside. The Hamiltons lived in the same subdivision we did, four houses down. Maddie had babysat for them before, usually in the evening so the two young parents could enjoy a night out. 

The last minute request in the morning concerned me. I hoped everything was all right. “Did Heather say why she needed you today?” 

“No. She asked if I was available and then hung up. Something’s wrong, isn’t it?” 

We walked up to the door and Maddie didn’t even get to knock when the door opened. 

“Hi, Maddie. I’m so glad you were available.” She turned and walked into the house, Maddie and I following. She stopped, turned around, and stared at me. “Sheridan?” 

“Everything all right, Heather? I was worried with the short notice and Maddie didn’t get any information on how long you expected to need her.” 

She teared up and Holly decided to provide the background music. I moved closer and touched Heather’s arm. “Maddie, please try to calm Holly while I talk to Heather.” Maddie followed my directions. 

Between sobs, Heather blurted out, “The hospital called. Hank was in an accident. I need to get there. Please let Maddie watch Holly. I’ll call and let her know what’s happening….” Her sentence was cut off by what sounded like a gunshot. 

Maddie grabbed Holly and moved away from the windows. I stopped Heather as she moved toward the front picture window. There was another shot and I spotted somebody in baggy sweats and a hoodie running out of the house next door. “I’m calling 9-1-1.” 

I tapped on my phone. “Hello. Shots fired next door and someone is running down the street.” I gave them the address and ducked out the door, hiding behind Heather’s car in the driveway. She joined me and I relayed the message from the dispatcher. “Police are on their way. It looks like the front door is wide open.” 

Heather started for the house and I pulled her back. I peeked over the hood as sirens approached. Whoever it was had gotten away. As the sirens grew louder and the first police vehicle arrived, doors opened and our neighbors stepped out onto their porches or steps. And my phone pinged. It was my husband, Brett McMann, Detective with the Virginia State Police. 

“Hi. You calling about the shooting?” 

“How’d you know about it?” 

“I called it in, Brett. Maddie and I are at the Hamilton’s. I was about to leave to meet Leah and Heather needs to get to the hospital. Hank was in an accident.” 

“He all right?” 

“She got a call from the hospital. She’s not sure. Officers have arrived. I’ll check in later.” 

I yelled in to Maddie to stay in the house with Holly. Pulling Heather with me, I approached the officers as they got out of their car. 

“You the lady who called this in?” I nodded. “We heard shots fired and then saw someone run out of the house.” 

“Stay here.” He signaled to his partner and they approached the house. Although the door was open, he yelled, “Anyone home? Everything okay in here?” 

More officers arrived while we waited by the car. The newcomers worked to set up a perimeter, keeping the gawking neighbors at a distance. I recognized some of them, but not all. We stayed by the first car on the scene and waited. Paramedics arrived and disappeared into the house. Heather kept bouncing on her feet.

Excerpt from Love and Money, Another Murder. Copyright © 2021. All rights reserved.

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Sunday, June 13, 2021

Blog Tour and Review MURDER IN THE FAMILY : A Eve Appel Mystery by Lesley A. Diehl

About the Book

The past comes back seeking vengeance. To save her family and friends, Novice PI Eve Appel, pregnant with her second child, must outwit the bad guys in a final act of desperation, risking her life and that of the man she’s asked to help her, her mob boss friend, Nappi. 

Someone is targeting the friends and family of Eve Appel Egret, owner of a rural Florida high-end consignment shop and part-time private investigator. The intimidation includes stealing the horse of one of Eve’s rancher friends, forcing her car off the road, attempting to kidnap her daughter and leaving messages on her phone threatening more dreadful acts to come. Eve almost succumbs to gas inhalation when someone enters the consignment shop and cuts the gas line while she is in the shop. And just when Eve could use the help of her mob boss friend, Nappi, with his far-reaching resources, she discovers he has gone into hiding, himself a target. By the time she finds him, he has lost all his financial assets and his influence, but not his determination to help Eve. 

It’s clear to Eve that someone from the past has returned to seek vengeance on her and those she loves. Her hunches lead her to believe she can bring the person responsible for the threats into the open by setting a clever and desperate trap. She knows the bad guy will come with reinforcements, but she never counted on who they would be. 


Initially concerned with Nappi's disappearance, Eve's propelled into action when she receives threats and those close to her are in danger. It's obvious to her that the motive is revenge and that prompts her and Nappi to revisit previous involvements in crime. 

There are twists and turns as threats escalates and possible people behind the problems are eliminated. Family dynamics threaten to get in the way of the investigation and add an extra level of tension. The plot is quick and the characters are vibrant with realistic tensions, especially as Eve tries to both run a consignment shop and be and apprentice PI. 

There are several other books in this series, and the details needed as Eve and her friends try to identify the person behind the threats are provided. It can easily be read as a stand-alone mystery. Another engaging ready by Lesley Diehl.

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book in the hopes that I would post an honest review. This has not affected the content of my review in any way. 

About the Author 

Cows, Lesley learned growing up on a farm, have a twisted sense of humor. They chased her when she went to the field to herd them in for milking, and one ate the lovely red mitten her grandmother knitted for her. Determining that agriculture wasn’t a good career choice, instead she uses her country roots and her training as a psychologist to concoct stories designed to make people laugh in the face of murder. “A good chuckle,” says Lesley,” keeps us emotionally well-oiled long into our old age.” She is the author of several cozy mystery series and numerous short stories. 

Author Links 

Purchase Links