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Slaves of an Alien Game: Book One by Nina R. Schluntz 

Surprising M/M sci-fi romance building up to an arena-style battle royale! 

Caden Francis was working his late-night shift at the diner in the truck stop when a handsome stranger asked for his help to look for something on the roof of the building: a scavenger hunt, he said. But when Caden picked up the small black orb, he suddenly became part of a deadly alien game. 

Partnered with the sexy Raghib against a seriously focused opponent, the two men faced a life-or-death, winner-takes-all struggle on a distant planet. But the real danger for the two may be falling in love. 

Slaves of an Alien Game: Book One is the debut novel in author Nina R. Schluntz’s new science fiction romance series of the same title. The story hits the ground running and never lets up, even as the two main protagonists navigate unfamiliar feelings for each other. 

Caden is fun, engaging, and unsure of himself, especially in the romance department, as he’s always thought of himself as strictly heterosexual. However, he’s kept the one girl he’s had any kind of meaningful relationship with at arm’s length for years. It seems everyone had assumed Caden was gay all his life, including the aforementioned girlfriend! Early on in the book, when he and Raghib are discovered to have spent the night together, Caden’s mother is hilariously giddy that her son has brought home such a desirable catch. I loved that she invited the whole family over to wish them well on their upcoming trip together. 

Raghib is the alien partner, born into slavery on his home planet, and a more serious character. He has trouble pinning down his feelings for Caden and vacillates between overt desire and adopted indifference; he doesn’t want to get hurt when Caden returns to Earth after they are victorious in battle. 

The author builds a fascinating and vivid world as the setting leading up to the Battle of a Thousand Deaths. My favorite aspect, though, has to be the lizard-like creatures called sahalias which are bonded to Caden as the finder of the black orbs. I couldn’t help but picture Great Dane-sized, velociraptor-type animals. 

The plot maintains a fast pace with preparations for the battle, Caden and Raghib getting to know each other, dealing with their differences, and inevitably falling in love. There are explicit sex scenes, most of which are intimate and tender, but a few are performed to repay a debt or requirement of another. Early encounters are enhanced by the exotic nature of the alien connection between the two men: they are bonded in a consensual owner-slave alliance, and there are some rules which structure and guide that particular relationship that end up having some surprising ramifications for both. Finally, with all the preparations and events Caden and Raghib must attend before the actual arena match, I was glad that the battle was presented the way it was: non-stop action, and it was over. I had become quite attached to Caden, Raghib, and the sahalias and was dreading the fight and the awful possibilities it posed. 

With its engaging boy-next-door main character and imaginative plot, I recommend SLAVES OF AN ALIEN GAME to readers who would enjoy a M/M SciFi romance with non-stop action and adventure. 

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through Goddess Fish Promotions Book Tours.

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I Will Find You Again by Sarah Lyu 

I Will Find You Again will mesmerize readers from start to finish. 

Chase Ohara has been driven to excel her entire life. Her dream is to attend Stanford University, and now, in her senior year of high school, that dream is almost within reach if she can improve her less-than-stellar SAT scores when she retakes the test in December. But if the pressure isn't already enough, she and her girlfriend, Lia, broke up at the end of junior year, and Chase is still grieving the loss of her best friend, confidant, and love. Not only that, Lia has a new girlfriend, and Chase is witness to her newfound happiness at school every day. 

Chase and Lia had grown up living across from each other in the exclusive Meadowlark area and had been best friends before their relationship progressed to the next level. Their breakup had been devastating, and the incident of the split itself had been particularly brutal, with each girl knowing exactly how to hurt the other the most. To cope with all that was going on, Chase had turned to the little pink pills hidden in an Altoid's tin. In fact, she was relying on the drug so much that even her supplier questioned her usage. Then came the text from Lia's mom, Jo; Lia was missing. Chase's life, already teetering on the edge, was about to go completely off the rails. 

I Will Find You Again by author Sarah Lyu is a brilliant contemporary young adult novel that will mesmerize readers from start to finish. What starts out as a well-told tale of the stresses and rigors of  the senior year of high school, deciding a path for the future and nailing down final details, is revealed to be so much more. It was like watching a duck paddling on a pond, calm on top but a flurry of motion under the water. 

Chase is a driven soul, trying to live up and surpass her parents' expectations, and doesn't understand her friend Lia's attitude toward life, her future, or her family. She sees what Lia has and thinks she's got it made. It seems that resentment and envy have been bubbling below the surface of their relationship from the start. When Lia goes missing, readers watch as Chase tries to find out what happened to her friend, not realizing that Part One of the book isn't the beginning of the story. That's when suspicions about Chase's involvement in Lia's disappearance take a big left turn. 

The writing is smooth, and every aspect of the story is realistic. I liked that the girls' relationship felt accepted. This isn't about their love being challenged, picked apart, or the girls being ostracized. Finally. Excellent descriptions, natural dialogue, and clever twists and turns move the story forward in one direction, only for the reader to realize that wasn't where things were headed after all. The tension in the story is there from the beginning and builds with every turn of the page. I couldn't put the book down, and I was completely invested. 

With its engaging, sympathetic main characters and riveting plot, I recommend I WILL FIND YOU AGAIN to readers who enjoy contemporary young adult fiction with an LGBTQ+ storyline. 

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author or publisher through TBR and Beyond Book Tours.

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A Cop's Necklace (Alex McNeil, #3) by Norm Meech 

Entertaining Canadian police procedural featuring retired police staff sergeant Alex McNeil. 

The missing person cold case of Police Sergeant Jennifer Thompson had been the big case Alex McNeil had failed to solve before retiring. Ten years had passed since she'd disappeared after a night out with friends, and with few leads, the investigation had languished. But when he received a mysterious package containing the necklace his missing coworker was wearing that night, Alex grabbed the opportunity to return to the police department and reopen the case that still weighed heavily on his mind. 

A Cop's Necklace is the third book in author Norm Meech's entertaining Alex McNeil series and is a surprising and shocking new case. Set in Bisson City in one of Canada's provinces, it gives readers an inside look at a police cold-case investigation of a missing police sergeant. The story becomes even more interesting when the original investigator on the case (Alex McNeil) is brought back out of retirement to help with the investigation when new evidence suddenly appears. 

Alex McNeil is an interesting man. He is quite content with his life, retired from the Bisson City Police Department but pursuing a second career in security, working for the multi-billionaire Gordon McPherson and safeguarding the life of Mia McPherson. However, he jumps at the chance to return to police work when a necklace belonging to the missing officer is mailed to him with a cryptic note. Alex is happily married to Karen, but when reunited with his old partner, Stephanie Foster, he daydreams about what it would be like to act on their flirtations. The bottom line, though, is together, he and Stephanie are a great team. 

The plot begins simply enough, but as the investigation follows the new clues, it splinters into additional lines of inquiry and starts to look like those responsible for Sgt. Jennifer Thomson's disappearance may be closer to the investigation than anyone would have ever dreamed. Although I sussed out the culprit from the author's clues, the entire story was a complete and utter surprise. My only beef with the book is that the author does an immense amount of telling rather than showing, and the work reads like a very long and complex police report. This is the third book featuring Alex McNeil, and although readers would enjoy it more if they read the previous two novels, it is enjoyable as a standalone. 

With an intriguing plot that gets even more fascinating as the detectives do their job, I recommend A COP'S NECKLACE to mystery readers who enjoy police procedurals, missing person cold cases, and fans of the previous books in the series. 

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through Goddess Fish Promotions Book Tours.


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Murder's Legacy (Tori Winters Mystery, #2) by Anita Dickason 

The delightful heroine, Tori Winters, returns, and it is non-stop excitement from the start. 

As Tori Winters and her close-knit group of women friends forge ahead with their plans to turn the old Leichter mansion into the upscale Red Door Inn B&B, they are surprised to learn that not everyone in the small Texas town of Granbury is thrilled with their decision. They knew going in that local developer Judd Swanson and his Queen-Bee-wannabe wife, Myra, opposed their plans; they had wanted the land themselves to build an exclusive housing development. But when they are met with unprecedented roadblocks at city hall and rumors fly that the property is unsafe and needs to be condemned, they realize someone is lurking in the shadows wanting them to fail. And when a skeleton is uncovered when a wall in the tunnel between the house and the old guesthouse suffers a collapse, Tori knows that there are still secrets yet to be revealed, and someone is prepared to kill to keep those secrets hidden. 

Murder's Legacy is the second book in author Anita Dickason's super Tori Winters Mystery series, and it is an exciting followup to the debut, Deadly Keepsakes. With its engaging main character and her growing group of friends and "found" family, I had been looking forward to her continued adventures since the last page of the previous book; I was not disappointed. 

Tori Winters, although hailing from Missouri originally, is a bit of a steel magnolia. Her early life and career, first as a nurse in an ER setting and later in hospice, have perfectly honed those tendencies. When she gets her dander up, get out of her way or suffer the tongue-lashing you will most certainly have deserved. 

I've really enjoyed her home renovations with the descriptions of the old and the upgrades, and I liked how she defers decisions to the friends who have thrown in with her to make the Red Door Inn a success and their future. Her relationships have grown immensely over the two books of the series, not only with her women friends and partners but with David as well. 

The fictional characters of the very real town of Granbury run the gamut of personalities, and much like any small town, they all know each other and their business. Mia is the one to go to for critical information and to understand the historically pivotal relationships; she's got her finger on the town's pulse, not to mention being completely in tune with Tori herself. They have developed a great partnership, and the five women together are a great team. 

The story's action starts immediately and never lets up. Once again, the house yields another long-held secret that drives the story's events. Recurring characters and new keep things moving ahead, and I never knew who was behind what was happening. I liked that the plot incorporates some of the realities of getting a new business up and running, along with permitting and working with a city. Hopefully, the actual Granbury isn't anything like what Tori is dealing with. Surely not. Myra continued to try to stir up ill will, and I laughed about the mayor's wife's visit and her failure to buy in to Myra's negativity. In the end, I was very happy with the outcome and am, again, left waiting with great anticipation for the next chapter in Tori's continuing story. 

With its delightful heroine, great small-town supporting characters, and exciting non-stop plot, I recommend MURDER'S LEGACY to cozy mystery readers who like strong female protagonists, storylines tied to factual events, and fans of the author's previous work, especially the previous novel in this series. 

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through Lone Star Book Blog Tours.

See my review of DEADLY KEEPSAKES (Book One of the Tori Winters Mystery series) here!

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Royal Blood (Royal Blood Trilogy, #1) by Aimée Carter 

A stellar start to this new contemporary young adult trilogy! 

When Evangeline Bright was eleven years old, she was finally told the truth about the father she had never known. He was actually the King of England and a married man at that, and Evan had a half-sister born the same day as she was. Her mother had had an affair with the young prince who was destined to sit on the throne one day, but his father, the current monarch, was still a young man and expected to reign for years to come. However, when he suddenly passed away, Alexander was rushed home to take up his royal duties and position, leaving Laura Bright, an American commoner and an unsuitable marital prospect back in the states. 

Heartbroken, Alexander had married appropriately, hoping love would follow. But a few years later, while visiting the U.S., Alexander and Laura rekindled their romance despite his marriage to Queen Helene: the result being Evangeline. As time went on, Laura began to suffer from schizophrenia, requiring treatment, and Evan was raised by her grandmother. But when her grandmother died, her father, now king and father to Evan’s half-sister, Maisie, stepped in and sent her to what would become a series of stateside boarding schools. Unhappy to be separated from her mother, Evan diligently devised ways to be expelled from each school in the hope of being sent home for good. 

Accidentally causing a fire at her latest school, Evan is arrested for arson. The king’s personal assistant, Jenkins, however, shows up at the police station, gains her release, and rather than Evan getting her wish, whisks her to Windsor Castle to become part of her father’s household. Unfortunately, in acting so quickly, he hadn’t cleared his plan with the king, and before he has the chance to break the news, Evan comes face to face with the father she’s never met. 

Royal Blood is the first book in author Aimée Carter’s new contemporary young adult series of the same name. The book is exciting and full of intrigue, and definitely not the typical fairy tale or rags to riches story; it addresses some very serious topics. Evangeline, or Evan as she is called, is a wonderful heroine with a quick wit and a kind heart and carries some heavy issues on her young shoulders. I was rooting for this unique and engagingly sympathetic underdog from the first page. 

Evan is surprisingly resilient and very understanding of the Queen’s and her half-sister’s feelings, even as they treat her horribly. So much information about her past, including her parents’ history with each other, had been kept from her, and it is no wonder that misunderstandings occurred. With the death of her grandmother, her mother’s mental illness, and her absentee father, she has way more hanging over her head than a child should ever have to handle alone. She deals with her situation the only way she thinks will be successful; she purposely acts out and gets expelled. Other than her having to change schools, though, her actions have no consequences. 

Once ensconced at Windsor Castle and among the family and their coterie of relatives and friends, Evan is targeted by the media and attracts all manner of abuse from the press and their followers. But the intrigue starts immediately and although, Maisie, Gia, and Rosie start out as typical ‘mean girls,’ they eventually start to relent, especially when Evan holds the key to keeping their princess out of serious trouble. However, she finally has something she’s not had in the past: a friend her age. 

The story includes an incident of drugging, attempted date rape, and death, and the author presents the events from Evan’s point of view without excuses from the perpetrator. As the tragedy unfolds, readers will recognize and relate to how easily the awful events happened. 

Each chapter starts with either a text message exchange between characters, a news story, or a media interview related to what is happening in the story. These add some fun insight or extra needed information in an interesting way. Each chapter ends on a small cliffhanger that worked like magic on me to keep reading! The story completely hooked me from the start, and those teasers had me reading page after page until done. I am looking forward to the next book of the trilogy with great anticipation. 

With its exciting plot, family intrigue, and great characters, I recommend ROYAL BLOOD to readers who enjoy contemporary young adult fiction, especially those who like a secret baby or fish out of water theme. 

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author or publisher through TBR and Beyond Book Tours.

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Fact and Fiction (Parker City Mystery, #3) by Justin M. Kiska 

Compelling dual-timeline plotting and engaging investigators in both past and present cases. 

When Detective Ben Winters and his partner Tommy Mason are called to the scene of a homicide at historic St. Paul's, the initial impression is that the priest was the unfortunate victim of a break-in gone very, very wrong. But a day later, when a popular morning radio talk show host is murdered under similar circumstances, they begin to doubt this too-simple explanation. 

When they uncover unforeseen common interests between the two victims, further investigation links the murders to Parker City’s past and secrets that have been hidden for over 100 years. 

Fact and Fiction is the third book in author Justin M. Kiska’s imaginative and impressive Parker City Mystery series. Like the previous novels, it perfectly combines past and present. The story unfolds through the eyes of modern-day Parker City police detective Ben Winters during the fall of 1984 and Deputy Sheriff Caleb Post, a predecessor in law enforcement in Parker County, in 1862. Both are young, barely into their 30s, and already have developed good reputations within their circles as forward-thinking investigators. 

The author’s writing style is easy-to-read, and I was thrust into both storylines from the beginning. The story switched from past to present and back in alternating chapters, but I had no difficulty keeping both tales in their own lanes. 

One of my favorite aspects of the more recent storyline was the relationship between Ben Winters and his long-time friend and partner, Tommy Mason. Their banter flowed naturally, and I was convinced these two characters actually knew each other from childhood, making them a great match as an investigative team. 

In the older case, the author established a palpable rigidity between the social classes presented in the story. In this, I was somewhat reminded of the social attitudes and consequences that Anne Perry’s characters contended with in her London-set Charlotte and Thomas Pitt series. I could almost feel the disapproval of the leading families and their staff that I was even reading about their being approached to answer questions. 

No matter which storyline I was currently reading, though, I was equally and immediately absorbed into the events. Secrets from the past have ramifications for the present, and I didn’t want to put the book down until I knew why. 

With its compelling dual-timeline plotting and engaging investigators in both the past and the present, I recommend FACT AND FICTION to historical mystery readers who enjoy stories with political intrigue, a Civil War era timeframe, and fans of the previous book in the series. 

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours.

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Charred (Whipped and Sipped, #3) by G.P. Gottlieb 

With a murder investigation edging close to home and all the balls Alene is juggling at once, CHARRED was an absolute page-turner. 

It’s the spring of 2020 in Chicago, and the COVID-19 pandemic is in full swing. Alene Baron’s Whipped and Sipped Café is getting by on pickup and delivery orders and reduced work hours for all employees. Alene’s three children are finishing the school year online with her father, Cal, supervising their daily activities while his own caretaker, Blanca, is fighting the virus in the hospital. Everyone is feeling the stress and other consequences of that time. 

A recent fire at a commercial, residential construction site belonging to her best friend and pastry chef, Ruthie, has Alene, her neighbor, Kasey, and Kasey’s artist boyfriend up at dawn and headed to the location. Kofi uses reclaimed and found materials in his art, and wooden pieces exposed to fire offer unusually creative opportunities. Alene drives them to the site in case Kofi finds a piece too big to carry home on foot and waits in the car while he sneaks in for a closer look. He’s not gone long before he’s back in the car, urging Alene to drive away. Kofi had uncovered a dead body among the rubble of the night’s fire! 

Charred is the third book in author G.P. Gottlieb’s’ culinary-themed cozy mystery series, Whipped and Sipped. With a plethora of engaging characters, enticing vegan dishes and desserts, and its replay of that iconic spring of fear, protests, and confusion, this latest story was unputdownable and sent me back in time as I tried to determine who the killer was. 

Alene is the owner of the successful restaurant and manages a large and varied staff of part-timers with a firm hand in a velvet glove. She must deal with so many personalities as she keeps everyone focused on their mutual goals. Ruthie is the yin to her yang, and together they are a great team. 

Besides the murder victims found on Ruthie’s husband’s projects, Alene struggles with withholding knowledge of the first crime scene, via the early morning foray with Kofi and Kasey, from her beau, Detective Frank Shaw. She finds herself in quite a dilemma, having promised Kasey and Kofi to stay mum while knowing from her own experiences with her ex-husband, Neal, that keeping secrets is hazardous to building and maintaining a trusting, loving relationship. 

Additionally, Alene’s Uncle Finn has contacted her father after an absence of over 22 years. Finn, a convicted bank robber, had spent his time in prison, returned home to his wife and child, and then mysteriously went missing. Alene’s father, Cal, his younger brother, is understandably conflicted over his actions and subsequent abandonment, so Finn has appealed to Alene to arrange their reconciliation. 

With a murder investigation edging closer and closer to home and all the balls Alene is juggling at once, the story was an absolute page-turner. The author also includes several great recipes at the end of the book for some of the dishes mentioned in the story. I recommend CHARRED to cozy mystery readers who enjoy culinary-themed stories, a Chicago setting, or a trip back to the summer of 2020. 

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours.

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The House That Whispers by Lin Thompson 

A marvelous story with the uneasy feel of a horror tale, but it turns out to be something very different haunting the Bradleys. 

It’s the fall break at school, and Simon and his two sisters, Talia and Rose, are spending the week alone with their grandmother, Nanaleen, at her big old house in the foggy little town of Misty Valley, Kentucky. Mom and Dad are staying home in Louisville to talk and “reset,” whatever that means. Since their father lost his job, money has been tight, stress high, and everything seems wrong. 

Eleven-year-old Simon is feeling the pressure, too. For quite some time, he’s known things weren’t right with him either. But with everything else that was going on, he didn’t want to be one more problem. Simon is one of three sisters, and no one knows Simon is the name he’s chosen for himself as the one that fits him best, as do the pronouns he and him. For a while, when anyone uses the name his parents gave him, he internally switches it to Simon; until now, it is immediate and natural. But the continued need to do so has sparked a growing anger deep within that is quickly becoming harder and harder to control. 

When the three siblings are dropped off at their grandmother’s, Simon notices that even things there are somehow “off.” Nanaleen is having difficulties physically and mentally, and even the atmosphere in the house has changed, with shadowy figures glimpsed just out of sight and an ever-present sour odor of old unwashed towels. 

With Simon’s older sister, Talis, spending less and less time with them and the odd scratching sounds coming from the walls, Simon and Rose investigate, worried that Nanaleen’s house is haunted by the restless spirit of her never-spoken-of sister, Brianna. But as the duo uncovers bits and pieces of Brie’s life, Simon starts to believe Brie is not the only spirit still around. There seems to be another presence in the house, and it is restless. 

The House That Whispers is a marvelous story with the uneasy feel of a horror tale, but it turns out to be very different. Dealing with gender identity, family dynamics, how relationships transition over time, and even the realities of aging, the book touches on so many life changes that readers of all ages can relate to something within its pages. 

Simon’s inner dialogue bounces around in much the same way as that of those struggling with ADD/ADHD. From the start, I sympathized with him, and that was just during the car ride getting to grandma’s. Readers are also privy to how his gender identity is in conflict, and middle-graders will get a glimpse into how he is affected. 

With Talia at 13, Simon at 11, and Rose, a precocious eight-year-old, the three siblings are quite young to carry the weight of their parents’ uncertainty about their future together. But that’s just true to life. The kids know something’s up, but both mother and father keep the truth to themselves, thinking they are preventing them from worrying. Still, the children know deep down, and their minds are working overtime, creating even more dire scenarios for what is going on. 

Grandmother Nanaleen is also declining before their very eyes, and it is confusing when the children notice some of the manifestations. The author does a stellar job revealing Nanaleen’s struggles and the children’s reactions and fears. 

I recommend THE HOUSE THAT WHISPERS to readers of contemporary middle-grade fiction, coming-of-age, or facts-of-life stories. With its immensely relatable characters and the life changes they are witnessing or experiencing, this wonderful book kept me glued to its pages. It offers something for everyone, even after the reality of what is really haunting the Bradley family comes to light. 

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author or publisher through TBR and Beyond Book Tours.

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Homicide Hérault (Hardy Durkin Travel Mystery, #6) by Bluette Matthey 

A compelling mix of old and new characters and cold and current crimes make for a riveting mystery set in the south of France. 

Hardy Durkin’s latest excursion was a cycling tour of the south of France, and with new as well as returning clients, Hardy had planned a full ten-day adventure of unique sights and experiences. However, on their very first outing, one of his charges stumbled across the remains of two men, one a French soldier and the other an American, in a wooded area adjacent to the river where the cyclists had paused for a break. 

When Hardy saw the corpses, he quickly realized these men were not victims of an accident but had been shot, execution-style, in the back of the head. The dog tags on their bodies placed their deaths almost 50 years earlier, and the hidden microfiche one carried hinted at the reason for their murders. 

Homicide Hérault is the sixth book in author Bluette Matthey’s international mystery series featuring former military turned computer geek turned tour company operator Hardy Durkin. The mystery includes both the cold case of the murdered soldiers and another, which occurs right in front of the tour group and an entire audience of festival-goers. 

The story is packed with tantalizing descriptions of food, drink, and the countryside of the Languedoc region through which the cyclists travel. The author slips in a wide range of interesting historical details about Roman settlements, the annihilation of the Catholic splinter sect, the Cathars, and the more recent and relevant to the story, events of the Algerian War, which ended in 1962. 

Hardy calls on his Legionnaire friends, Lieutenant Colonel Alain Clotiers and Captain Luc Buvain, introduced in book one of the series, to hand off the investigation into the dead men. This turns out to be a wise move as factions still exist in the area that have a lot to lose should the truth behind the soldiers’ murders come to light. 

The story takes a surprising turn when Durkin and the Legionnaires inadvertently uncover a human trafficking operation while investigating the cold case. The plot is compelling, with twists I never saw coming. 

With its unusual and historical setting and mix of old and new, I recommend HOMICIDE HÉRAULT to mystery readers interested in international, off-the-beaten-path travel, unique history, and fans of the previous books in the series.  

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours.

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Bakeries and Buffoonery (Magical Mystery Book Club, #4) by Elizabeth Pantley 

With its fun storyline and engaging group of recurring characters, it’s time for book club! 

A new week had come, and it was time for the next Magical Mystery Book Club meeting at the Snapdragon Inn. This week was slotted for the next book journey-adventure-pilgrimage, as the club members had eventually dubbed it—time to slip into the pages of a new book. 

Since their last adventure, Professor Atticus Papadopoulos had spent considerable time in the mysterious library below the Snapdragon Inn, researching the origins of the book club. He had discovered a way for Mollie, the young saloon girl-ghost they’d helped in book three, to cross out of her book and join them at their Colorado home base. 

As the club adjourned to the library today, Mollie and long-time member Frank, the talking Siamese cat, requested to join in selecting and presenting a cozy mystery for consideration for their book journey-adventure-pilgrimage, too. With Forrest’s assistance, Frank nominates The Great Cake Rivalry, a cozy mystery featuring a large, elaborately-decorated cake on its cover, which the club members unanimously choose. Reading the extensive Prologue, the group learns the story’s killer is narrating this particular book, and whoever it is, has plans to strike again soon! 

Bakeries and Buffoonery is the fourth book in author Elizabeth Pantley’s delightful Magical Mystery Book Club series. The book club characters from the previous story return in this one, and it was like visiting with old friends. Each outing further develops the growing relationships among the group while continuing with its ensemble-style story delivery. It is another fun adventure for the book club members and greatly adds to our understanding of the club itself. 

With Atticus joining the group and delving into the book club’s past, readers are treated to some of his findings during the day’s first club meeting. His presentation on his discoveries serves as an excellent explanation of how the library and club work. Paige also reminisces about her great-grandmother, GeeGee, finding her “forever book” and leaving the club to live out her life in another place and time. Her thoughts were bittersweet, and I knew we were preparing for another club member to do the same. 

In this book, the group is looking to prevent a murder rather than finding a body and investigating. To stop the killer, they must dive into the town of Frosting’s past and its wildly successful obsession, a highly competitive annual cake-baking competition. If you’re a fan of cake-baking television shows, this book is for you! The group researches, develops potential suspects, and even enlists the cooperation of the local investigator (who isn’t what he seems) to eventually get their answers. 

It was fun to learn that in her life outside of book club, my favorite character, motorcycle-riding Vee, works in a bakery. If you’ve read any of the previous books in the series, you’re aware of how big a part food plays in the club’s activities, making this quite a revelation. So, when our literary travelers touch down in the small town of Frosting on the eve of their big cake competition kickoff, she steps up to lead the group’s culinary efforts. Under these circumstances, Vee really shines. Zell and Frank, although still their wise-cracking selves, mellow out in this latest adventure, allowing for a more balanced focus on all the characters. 

The Great Cake Rivalry proves to be another paranormal cozy mystery adventure for the book club but with a fun twist. While this allows the book’s characters to see and accept Frank as a talking cat, the club members are surprised that not all of Frosting’s residents can see or hear Mollie, the young ghost. I won’t reveal the reason behind this twist but suffice it to say, the book they’ve chosen introduces a cool change to the range of paranormal beings they’ve encountered thus far. 

With its fun storyline and engaging group of recurring characters, I recommend BAKERIES AND BUFFOONERY to cozy mystery readers who enjoy a touch of the paranormal in their stories and to fans of the previous books in the series. 

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours. 


See my review for Shifting and Shenanigans, Book One in the series, here!

See my review for Vampires and Villains, Book Two in the series, here!

See my review for Cowboys and Chaos, Book Three in the series, here!