Merit Badge Murder (Merry Wrath #1) by Leslie Langtry

Merit Badge Murder (Merry Wrath #1) by Leslie Langtry

Do you think being a spy for the CIA is fun? Think of all the dangers you have to go through: other spies shooting at you, stabbing you, and doing whatever they can to kill you. Does that sound like fun? Well, Merry Wrath loved being a spy. She loved the action, the danger, and especially her CIA handler, Riley, although she would never admit that she’s attracted the blond, surfer-like Adonis, but she is.

Unfortunately, Merry was outed as a CIA spy and is no longer part of the agency. Instead of running around different countries chasing after bad guys she’s living in Iowa and she spends her time as a girl scout leader to 14 little girls. He co-leader, Kelly, is also her best friend since childhood. Merry loves being around Kelly again and she loves all the little scouts, kind off. She’s getting used to their screaming and calling her Mrs. Wrath instead of Ms. Wrath like she’s always asking them to do. But being a scout leader is something to do.

But suddenly foreign agents are turning up dead all around Merry. One of them was murdered where the girl scouts were having an outing; another was pushed in front of Merry’s car and she ran him over killing him; and a third agent somehow turned up dead in her house. Then, out of nowhere, her ex handler surfer-hunk Riley shows up with another ex foreign agent, blond bombshell Svetlana,  saying that she has to live with Merry because there are agents coming after her. Why does scout leader, Merry, have to take care of the agent? The two women have met during Merry’s spy days and they do not get along.

What is going on? Merry isn’t with the CIA anymore, why is Riley back in the picture, although Merry doesn’t really mind that, and why are all these foreign agents turning up in her life? Something is very wrong here and Merry’s getting very suspicious. It’s a good thing friend Kelly makes the best tater tot casserole in the world. Food always helps while trying to figure things out.

“Merit Badge Murder” by Leslie Langtry is the first in the Merry Wrath cozy series and it’s a really good book. The relationship between Merry and her friend Kelly is perfect. Both love being with with the little girl scouts and it’s obvious the girls love being with their leaders too.

The spy business is still calling out to Merry and she misses all the excitement although the girl scouts give her a little too much excitement at times. But all the dead foreign agents are starting to her along with Riley being around, and the CIA also back in her life. And living with Svetlana is no joy.

Leslie Langtry and her Merry Wrath books are my newest favorite cozy series. I’m now on the hunt to find the the next two and to read the other series Ms. Langtry writes.

Try this adorable series and see for yourself how much fun spy work can be.

Zombie, Ohio: A Tale of the Undead by Scott Kenemore

Zombie, Ohio: A Tale of the Undead by Scott Kenemore

College professor, Peter Mellor is having one bad day. He woke up on a road in front of a car that has obviously been in an accident. He doesn’t know who he is or his name until he finds his driver’s license. It looks like he went through the car’s windshield and has suffered some amnesia but at least he knows his name and address but how can he get home? He doesn’t even know where he is.

Professor Mellor grabs his hat and starts walking until he finds himself at a small college where the security guard recognizes him as a professor. Eventually some other professors, one of which is his good friend, Sam, see him and they all start talking.

Pete tells them of his amnesia and his fellow professors try to help him get some memory back but they can’t do much since they have to guard the nearby graveyard. His friends explain that there has been a zombie pandemic going on and when people die they eventually crawl out of their graves as zombies. The professors sit by the graveyard waiting for the zombies to come back to “life” and then shoot the undead in the brains. That’s the only way to kill a zombie you know.

After watching his first zombie kill Pete goes to the bathroom to clean up the zombie mess that splashed on him. Pete removes his hat and is somewhat surprised to see that the top part of his head is missing. Being a professor he realizes that he’s a zombie, but how? Do zombies talk? Can they think? Are they aware of things? Well, no matter what Pete concluded that he was definitely dead and definitely a zombie.

Sam drives Pete to his girlfriend’s sister’s house where he soon saves the life of one of his girlfriend’s nieces. Not from a zombie but from a human. Pete leaves the house and goes off on his own deciding that his mission in life as an undead will be to only kill and eat the brains of bad people not the good and never hurt any child. Things go well for him with this in mind until he finds out what really happened to his car and how he died and then things change. Pete feels that being a zombie is better than being a human and in his anger has decided to kill whomever he wants, except for children, after all, he does have his morals. Peter’s new life, so to speak, has begun!

“Zombie, Ohio: A Tale of the Undead” by Scott Kenemore is really a good book. It has lots of humor along with the gore and Pete, as a zombie, is rather a good guy, if you kind of don’t dwell on the fact that he does love eating brains. The book tells the tale of a zombie apocalypse from the eyes of zombie.

For those readers who wonder how Pete can be a rational thinking zombie, his friend Sam kind of explained it all. He compared Pete’s zombism to people who get the HIV virus but do not develop Aids. They can give it to others but do not get the disease themselves. Pete is dead and a zombie but can think, speak, and act like a living human. He does look like a zombie, though.

Readers watch as Pete becomes a leader to a huge group of zombies and the zombie that the US Government fears and needs to study the most. It also  shows that within his zombie heart beats (well, maybe not exactly beats) the soul of a good man.

Believe it or not but the book is also a murder/mystery and Pete is out to solve the murder.

This is a great book for zombie lovers but not for the squeamish. Lots of brain eating here not to mention gallons of blood but with it all a really fun read.

Pillar in the Sky by William R. Forstchen

Pillar in the Sky by William R. Forstchen

With all the problems facing Earth there’s only one place left to go – the sky. The space program has been gone for years but dreamers Gary Morgan, his wife Eva, and their daughter Victoria have plans to resume travel to the stars.

As graduate students, Gary and Eva conceive a plan to get humans back into space. They’ve thought of space elevator and have an ideas on how to get it implemented. With the help of their mentor Erich Rosenberg and billionaire Franklin Smith the couple will do all the research to make this dream a reality even though there are politicians and businesses against them.

As daughter Victoria gets older she becomes a true believer in what her parents need to do to get humanity above the clouds again and somehow get the space elevator into fruition.

“Pillar in the Sky” by William R. Forstchen is not the first book that talks about a space elevator. Kim Stanley Robinson, Arthur C. Clarke, Stephen Baxter, and Terry Pratchett are just a few writers who have mentioned an elevator like this in their books.

The concept of a space elevator was first proposed as far back as 1895, possibly earlier. In fact, a study says that an elevator like this could be built by 2035. This concept has always fascinated me. In a way, the coward that I am would love to go to Mars one day or at least the moon so when I heard about “Pillar in the Sky” I had to read it and find out what William R. Forstchen had to say about this possibility.

The book was filled with science that not surprisingly went way above my head. I tried to pay attention to what was being explained but I kind of kept drifting. The storyline was better. I liked the dynamics between the main characters Gary, Eva, and Victoria Morgan. Their dream was to help humanity and get the world back into space travel. Unfortunately, not everyone agreed with them. Some politicians were afraid that many people would lose their jobs if something like this were allowed to happen, others were afraid of the concept, and others were just naysayers in general.

The three protagonists fought for years to start the program and met with all kinds of problems along the way. Without the help of a few powerful friends they never would have gotten as far as they did. But they constantly had to prove themselves to the world.

Look, I liked this book. I like space travel. I like the idea of going to different planets. I also know this will never happen in my lifetime but I can dream about it and read books by authors who dream about it too.

The main problem I had with this novel was that it was very slow at times. Yeah, the science of it slowed down the reading for me but I guess you have to have the science for people who care about it. To me the slow parts were also the long speeches that the characters gave.

On the other hand the best parts were the space scenes. Now those were great and the pages flew by while I was reading them.

There is some gore, not much, but some gore because accidents do happen in space so it made sense to add in those scenes. I read those areas kind of fast because I’m not a gore-loving type of reader.

“Pillar in the Sky” is a good book if you like the idea of space travel, how to get up there, and the science behind it. If science is above your head, like it is to me, the plot line is interesting but you’ll wish for more of it.

Warning, warning Will Robinson, the novel has 400 pages to it but give it a go if you like the genre.

Lemon Chiffon Murder: A Donut Hole Cozy Mystery – Book 8 By Susan Gillard

Lemon Chiffon Murder: A Donut Hole Cozy Mystery – Book 8  By Susan Gillard

Donut maker extraordinaire, Heather Janke is in Paris, France with her fiance Ryan Shepherd, and their friends. Heather and Ryan will be getting married in a week and everyone is here at the St. James Hotel for their big engagement party. The hotel is allowing Heather and her assistant, Angelica,  to use the kitchen to make the very special wedding cake. It will be made up of Lemon Chiffon Donuts.

During the party Angelica was in the kitchen whipping up some yummy donuts when the police come storming in demanding that the party must come to an end. Heather and Ryan ask Police Detective Piti Brodoteau what is going on and why their special party has to end. Brodoteau says that one of the guests, news anchor woman, Jane Duvall, has been murdered. She ate a donut in the kitchen and died after eating it. This news was horrible for the couple to hear but then finding out that the police detective say that Heather’s assistant, Angelica, was the main suspect, shocked everyone.

Apparently, Jane went running into the kitchen saying that she needed to have a donut and then died. The police are sure that Angelica put poison in the icing thus killing Jane. Why would Angelica kill Jane? What could the motive possibly be?

Everyone knows that Angelica doesn’t have it in her to kill anyone or anything. But they are soon outraged to learn that the police arrested Angelica and she’s now stuck in a French prison until her trial. Even Dave, Heather’s faithful dog, is upset.

It’s one thing that all of this has ruined Heather and Ryan’s engagement party but sending her assistant to jail is way too much for Heather so she is going to find the killer herself and she’ll do it within the week.

“Lemon Chiffon Murder” is book 8 of this adorable cozy series by Susan Gillard. Once again Heather Janke, soon to be Heather Shepherd, is entangled in a murder mystery that she had nothing to do with.

Surrounded by a cast of great characters including her best pal Amy and her new boyfriend, Kent. Ms. Gillard has a way with names that make readers at least smile, if not giggle aloud. She introduces her fans to the hotel manager, Augustin Pepe Lepeu; Jane’s assistant, Lori Lisalot; and reporter/paparazzo, Roger “Bear” Trapp.

Oh, and there’s lots of evidence pointing to people other than Angelic as the murderer. There’s a cigarette butt by the murder area and Angelica doesn’t smoke but a couple of the other characters do making them prime suspects in Heather’s book. And have no fear, Heather along with Ryan, Amy, and Kent find the real culprit and still have time to make and eat some donuts. I want to hang out with this group.

The Donut Hole Cozy Series is worth the time to read. You don’t have to read them in order because Ms. Gillard gives enough information in each book to fill new readers in on the previous books. They’re all fun, easy page turners, filled with good characters made even better by Susan Gillard’s wonderful sense of humor.

Make friends with Heather and Ryan. One day they might have to help you out of a sticky situation and there will always be yummy donuts to nosh on.

Murder In Half Moon Bay (Jillian Bradley #1) by Nancy Jill Thames

Murder In Half Moon Bay (Jillian Bradley #1)  by Nancy Jill Thames

 

Jillian Bradley and her four friends, Nicole, Dominique, Ann, and Jillian’s cute little dog, Teddy are excited about the nice relaxing time they’ll be spending at Half Moon Bay for a garden society conference. Since Jillian writes a column about gardening called “Ask Jillian” she’s sure she’ll learn a lot of interesting facts that she’ll be able to share with her readers. Little did she know that she’d be learning more about murder investigations than gardening.

Almost as soon as she checks into the hotel she gets involved with things that have nothing to do with flowers. Walter Montoya, a bellboy, asks if she could speak to his father. His father loves Jillian’s column so she decides that she’ll go to the nursery business where Mr. Montoya works to meet him. But he has a problem that has nothing to do with gardens or flowers. He does the books for the shop and has discovered  that someone is stealing money. This has been going on for a while and Mr. Montoya hasn’t told the shop’s owners and now he’s afraid the owners will fire him thinking he took the money. Jillian agrees to help find out who the real thief is.

She returns to the hotel and meets all the other attendees including Spencer Hausman, who set up the conference and his assistant, Regina Anatolia. Regina confides in Jillian that she plans on quitting her job because she and Spencer don’t get along. But before she can quit Regina is murdered and of course it’s Jillian who finds the body.

Police Chief Frank Viscuglia is called in to investigate and the first person he speaks with is Jillian. She persuades the chief to allow her to investigate the murder with him and to sit in on all the interviews. Not only does she sit in on the interviews but she starts her own investigation asking all the suspects questions. Jillian also gets her friends to help investigate along with her.

Everyone at the conference is rather surprised that Jillian is suddenly some kind of police detective but they’re shocked when they find out that Spencer Hausman is soon found murdered as well and guess who found Spencer’s body? Yep, Jillian. Now she’s investigating two murders and wondering if the theft from the nursery business is related to the dead bodies.

“Murder In Half Moon Bay” by Nancy Jill Thames is the first in the Jillian Bradley cozy series. I hate to say this but I think that maybe Ms. Thames should end the series right here.

First of all, for a book with only 178 pages it took me a long time to get through it. It was boring at times because the author kept repeating what the readers already knew. And then to prolong the torture Jillian would write out lists of what she’s learned about the murders so the facts are being repeated yet again.

I’ve been reading cozies for more years than I’d like to admit and know that there’s a certain amount of “swallowing” that needs to be done. Yes, all cozies have the main character helping to solve the murders when their main occupation is really a baker, a coffee shop owner, or a garden column writer but this book goes a step too far.

Why is Jillian so involved here? It isn’t as if she or one of her friends have been arrested for the murders. And why did Mr. Montoya ask her to help figure out who was stealing money from the nursery business? Because she writes a column about flowers? Did I miss something here?

In other cozies the police detectives at least tries to get the protagonists not to investigate even though all cozy readers know that’s not going to happen but there is some kind of semblance of police procedure. But in “Murder In Half Moon By” the police chief just allows Jillian to start her own investigation into the murders? Why? Because he’s short staffed and can’t find any clues? Is that a reason to allow a gardening column writer to take over the investigation? This was way too much for me to just shrug off. The whole thing made me resent Jillian and all the other characters in the book except for Teddy the dog.

Yes, the murder is solved, everything was explained but it wasn’t worth the torture trying to get through this relatively short book.

“Murder In Half Moon Bay” is Nancy Jill Thames’ first cozy and she definitely has some potential to write a good one. Her writing talent is apparent but she can’t assume that her readers will shrug off reality as much as she expects us to. I can’t really recommend a book where the plot is so questionable and the only tolerable character is a dog.

Chocolate Tiramisu Murder: A Donut Hole Cozy Mystery – Book 9 By Susan Gillard

Chocolate Tiramisu Murder: A Donut Hole Cozy Mystery – Book 9 By Susan Gillard

Newlyweds Heather and Ryan Shepherd are in romantic Italy on their honeymoon. The wedding was beautiful but now all the couple wants to do is relax, start to enjoy their new life together, and of course eat donuts. But things start to run amok from the very beginning.

As Ryan and Heather check into their hotel room Heather sees some beautiful flowers so she goes over to smell them and take a better look. Suddenly a man crashes into her and the flowers and its vase fall on him soaking his suit with water. The man is furious with Heather and demands that she pay for the Armani suit that he says she just ruined. Everyone is trying to calm the man down as Heather and Ryan learn that this is famous Italian actor Gino Ginelli who also lives at the hotel. Gino soon storms out and things go back to normal for the newlyweds.

The next day Police Inspector Matteo Ajello goes to Heather and Ryan’s hotel room and says he has some questions for them. He knows that Heather has had an argument with the Gino Ginelli and informs them that Gino was found murdered by a blow to the head and the couple are now a suspect in his murder.

No one suspects Heather and her law enforcement husband of something so heinous as murder so she does what she does second best, investigate and find the real criminal. The first best thing she does is make donuts.

I really enjoyed reading “Chocolate Tiramisu Murder” by Susan Gillard. It’s filled with great characters some of which are really funny. The hotel maid, Mistico, is the best.

And since no one seems to have cared for Gino, there’s no loss of suspects like Gino’s daughter, Gia, Dante, the hotel’s chef, and Gino’s ex girlfriend Verdi Salsa. The good Police Inspector Matteo Ajello is an amusing character too although not a suspect of course. Each person adds a certain something to the story and some, like Mistico, makes you laugh. I like a little laughter with my murder mysteries.

If you’re a fan of the Donut Hole Cozy Mystery series you know that donuts are a huge part of the stories and donuts work their way in here too. Heather persuaded the hotel management t allow her to use part of their kitchen so she could cook up some of her luscious treats for herself and Ryan.

Author Susan Gillard does on nice job writing these books. She gives readers the facts, doesn’t repeat them a million times, and comes right to the point.

This is a nice series and great for a fast read but you better have some donuts around, preferably strawberry, because you are going to get hungry for them.

Calling All Cozy Authors and Readers…

Calling All Cozy Authors and Readers…

Sleuth Café would like to host a Facebook party for cozy mystery authors and readers on July 19th from 6 pm to 9 pm Eastern time.

Authors, you can giveaway anything you would like (there is no limit; the prize can be as small or as big as you prefer). We will be advertising about the party so if you want us to include your prize please pass it on to us. Please make sure to indicate if the prize will be US only or International.

In your 15 minute spot, the options are limitless – you can host games, ask questions, etc., as long as your focus is on cozy mysteries.

There are 13 spots for the party (15 minutes each author). If you would like a time please pick from below and let us know. In the event of multiple requests for the same time span, we will go with the first person to email with the time requested. The others will be emailed with an alternate time. (sleuthcafe@gmail.com)

Please note that all prizes and any additional costs, along with shipping the item to the winner(s), are the responsibility of the person giving away the prize. Sleuth Café will not be responsible for providing prizes to winners.

6:00 PM–Annie Kelleher
6:15–Julie Seedorf
6:30— D.E. Ireland
6:45–Patricia Rockwell & Edith Maxwell
7:00 Pm–CC Dragon & Mollie Cox Bryan
7:15–Jeffrey Marks & Mary Ann Carman & Cheryl Hollon
7:30– Lynn Cahoon
7:45–Jenny Kales & Kathi Daley
8:00 PM– J Rochelle Pearson
8:15–Karoline Barrett
8:30–Jane Firebaugh & Maya Corrigan
8:45 — Diane Bator
9 PM–Julie Moffett