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Showing posts by: Doreen Sheridan click to see Doreen Sheridan's profile
Feb 22 2017 4:30pm

Cooking the Books: Mission Impawsible by Krista Davis

I’ve greatly enjoyed Krista Davis’s Domestic Diva series, so I was quite excited to check out her Paws and Claws series—even though I’m jumping in here on the 5th book, Mission Impawsible. In the pet-friendly but entirely fictional, alas, town of Wagtail, Virginia, Holly Miller runs the Sugar Maple Inn with her sprightly grandmother, Oma. They’re preparing the inn for Animal Attraction, a matchmaking event for pet owners, and have invited a celebrity matchmaker to assist with the proceedings. 

Oma is quite intent on matching Holly with someone new, despite Holly’s reluctance, which only deepens when her ex-boyfriend shows up in town needing a place to stay for the event. He claims to want her back, which puts her off the idea of romance altogether (and the guy that the celebrity matchmaker does wind up pairing her off with is no prize either, in my opinion). Still, Holly is determined to make the experience a terrific one for her guests, unwanted or otherwise, as she helps both the lovelorn and the meddling fumble their way towards happiness.

[Recipes and pictures included below!]

Feb 15 2017 5:15pm

Cooking the Books: Pop Goes the Murder by Kristi Abbott

The 2nd book in Kristi Abbott’s A Popcorn Shop Mystery series is a sassy delight. Set in Grand Lake—a resort town on the banks of Lake Erie, Ohio—Pop Goes the Murder features our heroine, Rebecca Anderson, and her poodle, Sprocket. Grand Lake was where Rebecca grew up, but she fled small-town life as soon as she could and married celebrity chef Antoine Belanger. Alas, the marriage was not to last.

So Rebecca came home to open POPS, a gourmet popcorn shop and cafe that serves the only decent coffee in town. Her sister, Haley, married Rebecca’s best friend while she was away and gave birth to Rebecca’s first nephew, and Rebecca is getting to know her family, old and new, all over again. Add to this a budding romance with the town’s only good lawyer, Garrett, and Rebecca is beginning to relish small-town life.

[Recipe and pictures below!]

Feb 8 2017 5:00pm

Cooking the Books: Dead Cold Brew by Cleo Coyle

It’s easy to see why Cleo Coyle’s Coffeehouse Mystery series is such a bestseller—16 books in and it's still going strong with terrific plotting and charm!

Dead Cold Brew finds our heroine, Clare Cosi, back in New York City running her coffeehouse, Village Blend, for her former mother-in-law, the beloved Madame. When a series of shootings that seems to be targeting cops comes to Clare’s attention, her boyfriend, NYPD Detective Mike Quinn, assures her that it’s all coincidental … until another shooting targeting Mike and his squad outside of Village Blend itself turns Clare into an eyewitness.

[Recipe and pictures below!]

Feb 1 2017 5:00pm

Cooking the Books: A Death at the Yoga Cafe by Michelle Kelly

It has been a long time since I’ve identified as readily with the amateur detective heroine of a cozy mystery novel as I have here with Keeley Carpenter, protagonist of A Death at the Yoga Cafe. Having left the village of Belfrey, England, as a teenager who was deeply affected by the recent death of her beloved father, Keeley went to India first to study yoga, then to New York City to teach it. When her somewhat estranged mother, Darla, contacts her to say that she wants to put up Keeley’s father’s butcher shop for sale, Keeley decides to return home and transform the space into a vegetarian cafe cum yoga studio.

In the 1st book of the series, Keeley was forced to solve a murder to save her own life. Now, in the 2nd book, Keeley has settled back into village life with her new boyfriend, Police Detective Ben Taylor, and is looking forward to the additional traffic a local arts festival will bring to her cafe. Business has been good, and she’s begun to turn a small profit despite the best efforts of her nemesis and childhood frenemy, Raquel, who also happens to own the local diner.

[Recipe and pictures below!]

Jan 30 2017 4:30pm

Review: Black Feathers, Edited by Ellen Datlow

Black Feathers: Dark Avian Tales is a dazzling anthology of avian-themed fiction guaranteed to frighten and delight, edited by Ellen Datlow, one of the most acclaimed horror anthologists in the genre (available February 7, 2017).

Is there any horror editor more acclaimed—and deservedly so—than Ellen Datlow? I’ve particularly loved her updated fairytale series, so when I heard she had an avian-themed collection of short stories coming out soon, I was practically shivering with excitement.

Horror stories are oftentimes crime stories exaggerated to grotesque proportions, with the supernatural and uncanny occasionally standing in for the unsolvable; as a genre, it’s a literary detour past thriller and a dive over the boundary into terror. Black Feathers is no different, with a collection of tales of murder and abductions and madness—with birds, helpful or sinister or often both, as its central theme—from authors as renowned for their non-horror writings as Joyce Carol Oates and Pat Cadigan.

[Read Doreen Sheridan's review of Black Feathers...]

Jan 25 2017 4:30pm

Cooking the Books: Crime and Catnip by T.C. LoTempio

Nick Charles has got to be the best crime-solving animal sidekick I’ve come across in ages. Here, in the 3rd installment of the Nick & Nora Mystery series (and yes, the name is a cute homage to the classic detective duo), the overweight cat is always on hand to help his owner Nora as she investigates a young woman’s disappearance at the behest of the woman’s wealthy aunt, Violet Crenshaw.

Violet also has another job for Nora: catering the local museum’s annual gala. Cruz, California might be a small town, but their museum boasts cachet enough to host an exhibit of items straight out of Arthurian legend from the catalog of a premier British collector. Since the unveiling of this exhibit will coincide with said annual gala, Nora’s menu is expected to reflect the Arthurian theme, presenting another layer of creative challenge.

[Recipe and pictures below!]

Jan 18 2017 4:30pm

Cooking the Books: The Good, the Bad and the Guacamole by Rebecca Adler

A music festival has come to the small town of Broken Boot, Texas, and while it’s certainly good business for our heroine Josie Callahan’s family’s restaurant, she’s still a little leery of musicians after her unhappy breakup with her musician former fiancé. Her best friend, Patti Perez, however, is not of the once-bitten, twice-shy inclination, as she’s only too happy to start things up again with her ex-boyfriend, the music festival’s headliner, Jeff Clark.

Hoping to get a scoop to jumpstart her own stalling career as a reporter, Josie heads over to Patti’s house the night after Jeff sleeps over to try to get an exclusive interview. What she gets instead is the discovery of Jeff’s corpse in the living room, face down in a bowl of guacamole.

[Recipe and pictures below!]

Jan 11 2017 4:30pm

Cooking the Books: A Killer Kebab by Susannah Hardy

This 3rd installment of the Greek to Me Mystery series sees our heroine, Georgie Nikolopatos, coming to terms with all the turmoil of the past books. With her mostly amicable divorce finalizing and her daughter returning soon to Bonaparte Bay, on the US-Canadian border, from the sunnier climes of Greece, Georgie is looking forward to hosting a nice Greek-influenced Thanksgiving dinner at the hotel she runs for her mother-in-law. All she needs is for the contractor to finish a long overdue renovation of the restrooms. Her plans, however, are put in serious jeopardy when the body of her divorce lawyer is found amidst the demolition.

When the no-good son of her beloved cook is arrested for the murder, Georgie reluctantly finds herself drawn to investigate, especially when other crimes—violent or otherwise—start breaking out around her. Worse, ugly surprises having to do with the events of the first two books show up when least expected. Soon, Georgie needs to put her life on the line not only to expose a network of ruthless criminals, but also to save the lives of those she loves.

[Recipe and pictures included below!]

Jan 4 2017 4:30pm

Cooking the Books: Magic and Macaroons by Bailey Cates

Our heroine, Katie Lightfoot, is just finishing up a meeting of her Spellbook Club (read: coven) at the Honeybee Bakery she part-owns when a sudden clamor at the door disturbs the circle. Katie and her friends discover a distraught young woman who claims, among other things, that she was sent to Katie for help ... right before the strange young woman falls into a coma.

If she hadn’t been inclined to help before, discovering that the newcomer is the niece of Detective Franklin Taite—a man dedicated to wiping out evil magic—certainly spurs Katie to look into the young woman’s desperate pleas. The woman wanted her to find a voodoo queen and a gris gris, neither of which terms—much less actualities—is Katie familiar with. One member of Katie’s coven has more of a passing familiarity with both, though: Cookie Rios’s father had been a voodoo priest back in Haiti, and his untimely death had been part of the reason Cookie turned her back on the religion of her youth.

[Recipe and pictures included!]

Dec 28 2016 3:00pm

Cooking the Books: Some Enchanted Éclair by Bailey Cates

Hollywood has come to Savannah, Georgia, making for hectic days at the Honeybee Bakery. Part-owner and former fire department chief Ben Eagel has been hired to provide security on the movie set that has shut down parts of the city. His niece and our heroine, Katie Lightfoot, is helping cover for him at the bakery when the film’s production coordinator, Simon Knapp, comes in asking whether the bakery can cater lunches. Apparently, the company they hired for craft services is doing a pretty poor job, both in food quality and in punctuality. Katie and her Aunt Lucy agree to cater for that day and the next, with a view to perhaps finishing out the rest of the week, when Simon is found murdered.

At first, Katie wants nothing to do with the investigation, but her deceased Nonna once again persuades her otherwise—this time through the intervention of a psychic attached to the set. The psychic also brings her startling news about Franklin Taite, the police detective who originally told her she was a lightwitch. And even more shocking revelations come to light about her boyfriend Declan’s history during a seance to find the killer.

[Recipes and pictures included below!]

Dec 21 2016 4:30pm

Cooking the Books: Charms and Chocolate Chips by Bailey Cates

Oh, thank goodness. This book laid to rest any concerns I had after reading its immediate predecessor, Bewitched, Bothered, and Biscotti.

Several months after the events of that book, our heroine—Katie Lightfoot—is busying herself with her work and spellcraft as well as volunteering with a local conservation group. She’s chosen firefighter Declan over druid Steve, and while I personally believe that she’s keeping herself so busy so she doesn’t have to spend more time than she has to with her boring boyfriend, I do understand how learning that she’s a lightwitch makes her feel more compelled to do good in the mortal realm than before.

[Recipe and pictures included below!]

Dec 20 2016 1:00pm

Review: Loyalty in Death by J.D. Robb

To celebrate the upcoming release of J.D. Robb's 44th Eve Dallas mystery, Echoes in Death, we're taking a look back at every single book in the In Death series. Today, Doreen Sheridan reviews #9, Loyalty in Death.

Despite my best efforts, I was unable to get my hands on the 8th book of the series in time, so I can make no grand pronouncements on this third “arc” of the In Death series. But I did very much enjoy reading Loyalty in Death on its own, especially since the scope of the homicides in this one go far beyond simple, or even serial, murder and explode into terrorism.

It starts simply enough. Lieutenant Eve Dallas of the New York Police and Security Department is assigned to investigate the death of an electronics tycoon at the hands of his steely-eyed lover, who called in the crime herself. Lisbeth Cooke is convinced that J. C. Branson was cheating on her and killed him in a fit of rage when he refused to admit it upon being confronted with the news. The jaded prosecuting attorney is happy to plead rich, connected Lisbeth down to manslaughter, which doesn’t sit well with Eve and her team.

[Read Doreen Sheridan's review of Loyalty in Death...]

Dec 15 2016 1:00pm

Review: Vengeance in Death by J.D. Robb

To celebrate the upcoming release of J.D. Robb's 44th Eve Dallas mystery, Echoes in Death, we're taking a look back at every single book in the In Death series. Today, Doreen Sheridan reviews #6, Vengeance in Death.

I’ve read that J.D. Robb writes the In Death books in threes, and it’s easy to see how this 6th book of the bestselling series continues a narrative arc that explores the power of belief in the year 2058. Whereas the 4th book, Rapture in Death, spoke of unwilling and unwitting mind control through technology, the next two discuss a different, willing adherence to a formal structure of belief—however perverted it might be made by those who claim to believe. Whereas Ceremony in Death discussed pagan religions, Vengeance in Death looks at Catholicism—and in particular the Irish version—as we dive into self-made billionaire Roarke’s criminal past.

Back when Roarke was first trying to establish himself in the underground of his Irish homeland, a horrifying crime was committed against someone beloved of both himself and his faithful now-butler, Summerset. When the investigating officer was paid off, Roarke took matters into his own hands, executing the perpetrators over the course of three years and ensuring that his tracks were completely covered … or so he believed.

[Read Doreen Sheridan's review of Vengeance in Death...]

Dec 14 2016 4:30pm

Cooking the Books: Curried Away by Gail Oust

The 4th book in the Spice Shop Mystery series finds our heroine, Piper Prescott, about to host a cooking demonstration at her specialty store, Spice It Up! It’s taken a while to coax Doug Winters, the guy she’s been dating, to share his “Spicy Chicken Curry” recipe with a rapt audience of her regular customers. He’s been pretty busy lately bonding with his teenage daughter, who’s just moved to the small town of Brandywine Creek, Georgia and seems determined to keep her father all to herself. But things look to be going well—both in the cooking demonstration and in Piper’s romantic life—when the presentation is abruptly interrupted by news of murder.

The director of the local amateur production of Steel Magnolias has been found dead in the opera house, and suspicion quickly falls on Reba Mae Johnson—Piper’s best friend—who said some rash things in front of the town gossip after being fired from a plum role. Piper races to clear her friend’s name as Thanksgiving rapidly approaches, bringing with it unexpected heartache but also, perhaps, better prospects for the future.

[Recipe and pictures included!]

Dec 14 2016 1:00pm

Review: Ceremony in Death by J.D. Robb

To celebrate the upcoming release of J.D. Robb's 44th Eve Dallas mystery, Echoes in Death, we're taking a look back at every single book in the In Death series. Today, Doreen Sheridan reviews #5, Ceremony in Death.

Another deficiency in my mystery-novel education to date has been the fact that I’d never read a J.D. Robb novel before this retrospective came around. Being the conscientious sort, I thought it best to start from the beginning—despite the first book I was assigned to review being this, the 5th in the series.

I’m very glad I did, however, because a large part of the appeal of this series—both to me and, I’m sure, to the average reader who’s helped make these books such bestsellers—is the continuing evolution of the relationship between Lieutenant Eve Dallas of the New York Police And Security Department (as New York cops are officially known in the year 2058) and the single-named billionaire, Roarke, who clawed his way out of poverty through means not necessarily legal.

[Read Doreen Sheridan's review of Ceremony in Death...]

Dec 7 2016 4:30pm

Cooking the Books: Bewitched, Bothered, and Biscotti by Bailey Cates

The second novel in the Magical Bakery series wasn’t the strongest installment for me so far. I wouldn’t exactly call it a sophomore slump, as it’s still a very enjoyable entry, but there were several things that I didn’t care for here as much as I did in the other books.

First, a synopsis: Katie Lightfoot, our professional baker and amateur hedgewitch heroine, is settling down to life in Savannah running the Honeybee Bakery with her aunt and uncle. She’s out on a picnic date with one of her suitors, Declan, when they come across a dead body in the bushes. At first, Katie thinks it’s just an unfortunate incident—that is until her eye is irresistibly drawn to an unusual tattoo on the corpse. Her investigation into the tattoo reveals the existence of a society of druids connected to her other suitor, Steve, and draws her into great danger, as it appears that the dead man is not the last person that a dangerous killer wants to destroy.

[Recipes and pictures below!]

Nov 30 2016 5:00pm

Cooking the Books: Brownies and Broomsticks by Bailey Cates

Several weeks ago, I had the pleasure of reviewing the latest in Bailey Cates’s Magical Bakery Mystery series, Spells and Scones. Today, I’m going to start reading and cooking my way from the beginning of this delightful series to see if there’s more magic to be had from where that 6th book came.

For those unfamiliar with this particular series, Brownies and Broomsticks tells the story of how our heroine, professional baker Katie Lightfoot, moves from Ohio—after her fiancé calls off their wedding—to Savannah, Georgia to help her newly retired aunt and uncle run the bakery they’ve always wanted to own. Soon after arriving in Savannah, Katie’s Aunt Lucy starts to broach the delicate subject of why Katie has always felt “different” all her life: she comes from a long line of witches and possesses mystical powers herself!

[Recipe and pictures included below!]

Nov 23 2016 4:30pm

Cooking Through The Nature of the Feast: A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is the last book in the Inspector Gamache series to date. It is the very satisfying culmination of several important series plot points, including the very puzzling question of why Three Pines—the peaceful, if occasionally murder-prone, village that provides safe harbor throughout most of the books—cannot be found on any maps.

After several of the Three Pines residents find a charming antique map that, surprisingly, depicts the area, it is presented as a gift to Armand Gamache, formerly a Chief Inspector of the Surêté du Québec. The occasion is the first day of his new job as Head of the Surêté Academy, the institution that trains all new members of Quebec’s provincial police force.

[Recipe and pictures included below!]

Nov 16 2016 4:30pm

Cooking Through The Nature of the Feast: The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny

Those of you who have been following this column will know that I was not particularly happy with the ending of the previous book in the series. I was very much looking to this one to assuage my fears as to whether Louise Penny was an author I could implicitly trust with the difficult, moral narrative choices. It was a great relief to find that my fears, while valid, had come to naught here, as The Nature of the Beast is another terrific installment of the award-winning Inspector Armand Gamache series.

It was also the first novel of the series where I genuinely had no idea who might have been the killer, right up to the thrilling conclusion. The amount of misdirection was superb, but I suppose that’s to be expected in a tale that encompasses clandestine operatives and their shady dealings stretching back decades.

[Recipes and pictures included below!]

Nov 9 2016 4:30pm

Cooking Through The Nature of the Feast: The Long Way Home by Louise Penny

I think this is the first time that I have vehemently disagreed with the direction an Inspector Gamache novel took. I mean, even in my disbelief at the ending of The Brutal Telling, I felt confident in Louise Penny’s storytelling skills that it would all eventually make sense (and it did in the novel that followed). But I felt oddly shortchanged by the ending of The Long Way Home, and I know there’s no coming back from this one.

Which isn’t to say that this is a bad book at all! On the contrary, I spent the first parts in a happy literary haze at the outright confirmation that Ms. Penny admires Marilynne Robinson, one of my all-time favorite authors, with whom she shares a similar outlook regarding humanity and empathy.

[Recipes and pictures below!]