Toasted Coconut Murder: A Donut Hole Cozy Mystery – Book 36 by Susan Gillard

Toasted Coconut Murder: A Donut Hole Cozy Mystery – Book 36 by Susan Gillard

Finally the Hillside Tea and Donut Fair 2017 is ready to happen and Heather Shepherd and her assistants at her bakery, Donut Delights, are working hard to make sure there’s plenty of treats for the hungry mob that will certainly be at the fair. But this is Hillside, Texas and it’s a new week and we all know what seems to happen every week. Yep, another murder.

This time their are two victims and it looks like they shot each other but Heather’s husband, Police Detective, Ryan Shepherd, thinks that something is off at the crime scene. He feels that the evidence was tampered with. Ryan knows that his wife is busy with the Tea and Donut Fair but he needs her private investigator skills to help him and asks if she can meet him at the crime scene, The Forest near South Bosque River.

The murdered men are Gerard Furrows and Charlie Pole, both independent contractors. Charlie had lived in Hillside and Gerard had lived in town for only a month.

Heather and Ryan had some ideas as to why they killed each other or were murdered by another person, but it’s all speculation. There was one witness who heard gunshots and there were two distinct bullet holes through each man’s heart. It would seem as if the two men fired at each other at the same exact moment except that a bullet hole was found in  nearby tree.

Why were the two men fighting and was this a deul that they planned? Heather, even though she’s busy with the Tea and Donut Fair, has to investigate.

The most interesting thing Heather discovers is a treasure map that Gerard Furrows was in possession of when he was killed and, according to Charlie Pole’s wife, Julie, Charlie was very interested in it too. Now what kind of treasure could be hidden in Hillside that would cause two men to kill each other?

There are quite a few suspects that Heather and her best friend and private investigator in training, Amy Givens, have to question as they sort out the murder.

Adding to their problems is Kate Laverne, another baker who threatened Heather because Heather and Col Owen, owner of the tea shop and collaborator of the Teas and Donut Fair, wouldn’t allow Kate to sell the donuts from her bakery at the Fair. Kate has followed through with her threats and now the Donut Delights bakers have to deal with the problems that Kate caused along with figuring out what was going on with the two murdered men.

“Toasted Coconut Murder” is the 36th installment of Susan Gillard’s A Donut Hole Cozy Mystery Series. This book has a few nice twists in the story which will thrill the fans of this series. And of course there’s a new donut for Amy and Dave, Heather’s dog, to nosh on to keep their strength up. All the usual wonderful characters return to help give suggestions on how to solve the murder.

This yet another good story that cozy lovers will enjoy. Grab a donut and some tea, relax for an hour or so, and settle down in a comfy chair and visit Heather and the gang on their new murderous adventure.

To see other reviews of Susan‘s books see Susan’s section on my blog.

“I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.”



Iced Under (A Maine Clambake Mystery #5) by Barbara Ross

Iced Under (A Maine Clambake Mystery #5) by Barbara Ross

Winter has come to Busman’s Harbor, Maine and to say it’s cold and snowy would be an understatement. Julia Snowden and her family run the Snowden Family Clambake Company which takes tourists on a clambake cruise to Morrow Island where everyone enjoys a real Massachusetts clambake. But a clambake is out of the question during a Maine winter so Julia and her mom, Jacqueline, are spending time together waiting for Julia’s sister, Livvie, to finally give birth. It’s been a long pregnancy.

One day, Jacqueline receives a package in the mail and when she and Julia unwrap it they find a 70 caret black diamond necklace worth $2 million dollars. Jacqueline knows that it belonged to her great grandmother but it went missing in 1920. The necklace was named “The Black Widow” and rumor had it that a maid stole it during a large party. Who possessed it all this time and why was it sent to Jacqueline?

Julia did some research and discovered that her mother had family living in Boston. After making sure that the necklace was safe in a deposit box at Busman’s Harbor, Julia drives to Boston to try to meet her relatives and figure out who sent the “Black Widow” to her mother.

In Boston she meets her newly found cousins and finds out a lot about her family’s history including cousin Hugh, who died just before Julia’s arrival. Hugh and Jacqueline were very close when they were younger but Hugh mysteriously disappeared during Jacqueline’s 21st birthday party. The police were called and there was search for Hugh but he was never found. Everyone believed that he drowned. But now it’s decades later and Julia discovers that he was alive all this time and never contacted his favorite cousin, Jacqueline.

Making things even more upsetting is that the police think that Hugh was murdered and did not die from the sickness that was killing him. But who would have murdered him? Hugh was in the house with the rest of his family and had been ill for a while and was dying so why would a family member want to murder him? Julia thinks the “Black Widow” might be a part of it all. There are too many questions that need answers and Julia plans to find those answers even though her life might be in danger.

“Iced Under” is the fifth and the best in the incredible Maine Clambake Series by Barbara Ross. I’ve been a huge fan of Ms. Ross since I read the first Maine Clambake book and I’m constantly looking for the next one in the series to be released.

Usually the books take place in Busman’s Harbor or Morrow Island where the clambakes are held but here most of the story is in Boston and not in Maine and I liked that. Don’t get me wrong, all the characters and stories that Ms. Ross has in Busman’s Harbor are wonderful but I enjoyed seeing how Julia handled herself away from the people and the area she feels most comfortable in.

I’m not sure what genre the clambake series belongs to. I’m going to say that maybe it’s a cozy but much more than a cozy. I put Susan Bernhardt and Susan McBride’s books in the same category because their books aren’t really cozies either. These three authors write a story with some meat on them, something you can sink your teeth into. These women are true authors. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a cozy lover from way back. There are times I need a fun book involving a baker who turns into a private investigator in between baking donuts. And there are some wonderful cozy writers out there but there are also times when I want a good book that doesn’t rely too much on, for a better word, fluff.

Barbara Ross’s books are different. Like Ms. Bernhardt and Ms. McBride, Ms. Ross has some “meat” in her stories. You can tell that a lot of research goes into the plot lines and her characters are not two dimensional. They are very solid and well thought out. I’m not just talking about Julia, the protagonist, but every person we meet in Busman’s Harbor are real people. I appreciate all the thought that the author puts into this series. The stories are filled with thought and Ms. Ross directs her characters to exactly where she wants them to go to create a great page turner.

Barbara Ross is a true writer and storyteller and definitely should be read by all book fanatics.  “Iced Under” is s gem in this wonderful series. I cannot wait until the 6th installment comes out and I hope that Ms. Ross includes some, if not all, of the new family members in future books in this series.



Stung by Alec John Johnson

Stung by Alec John Johnson

Honestly, not too much here. “Stung” by Alec John Johnson is a short story that leaves you hanging.

Some strange insects that are kind of like bees, but larger and blue in color, got into the country by a ship that came into Florida. The bees get out, start stinging people who then die a miserable, painful death and then the victims turn blue.

A woman is alone in her apartment with her son when she hears a news report telling the people in her area of Florida not to go out because of the killer bees. Her husband is at work and she has to protect herself and her son.

Suddenly she hears a buzzing sound and sees that one of these strange bees got into her apartment. After some close calls with the killer bee she gets out with her son, runs to her car, and drives off onto I-95.

And then what? I don’t know. The story ends there. Really I’m not giving the story away. I knew that somehow the mother and son would get out unharmed. But it was kind of exciting reading how they escaped. I would have liked to have read a little more about the situation. Like what happened to the bees. Does cold weather kill them? Are these insects on their way to New York because if they are I better buy a case load of insect spray killer.

The story left me wanting more and unsatisfied. It has a good premise but no follow through.

Dying With Cancer – A Plea For Help From My “Sista” Janette Broome

Dying With Cancer – A Plea For Help From My “Sista” Janette Broome

I’ve mentioned Janette a few times in the things I’ve written here. She lives in North Carolina, has three sisters, one of whom is her twin, and one brother. She also has three kids, loads of grand kids with a new little boy expected any day now, she loves Daryl Hall and calls him her “man.” Janette is a sweet woman who can kick anyone’s ass if they push too hard, and she a good friend to me. We, along with our friend Cathy, call each other “sistas.”

Why am I telling you so much about Janette? Because she called me at 10:00 this morning in tears. Janette has cancer and not just one cancer she has a few different ones. She was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma ten years ago. Then late last year she was diagnosed with Breast Cancer and had a mastectomy. The cancer has now spread to her liver and she just found out that it’s also in her Cervical Spinal Nerve 2. Out of all the cancers she’s been diagnosed with this cancer frightens her more than the others. Let  me just say that Janette is dying. Everyone knows it but even Janette never said it out loud to me until this morning when I told her I knew she was dying and have even spoken about it with our friend Cathy and to another of Janette’s friends. I admitted that I suspected that things were not going well to Cathy but never said it to Janette herself.

The reason for her tears this morning is that Janette’s having severe pain in her neck caused by the cancer in her Cervical Spinal Nerve 2. If you’ve ever had a pinched nerve in your neck you’ll understand had horrible the pain can be. Her doctors don’t seem to be taking her complaints seriously. Janette has told me multiple times that she feels as if she’s being brushed under the rug. I understand that.

I truly believe that when some doctors see a 66 year old woman with terminal  cancer they might not go out of their way to help much. Janette needs pain medication to control or even take the edge off the neck pain but she’s also given a million excuses why she can’t get a prescription. One excuse is that she might become addicted. For real? Becoming addicted to pain medication is the least of her problems.

Janette called and begged me to write about what she’s going through with her process of dying. She’s tired of platitudes, “the sun will come out tomorrow”, “you’re strong”, “keep fighting” and things like that. What Janette wants everyone to know is that she is not strong, she is not brave, and that whenever she seems that way it’s all an act that she feels she has to put on. The last thing she wants to do is upset her children, grandchildren, her sisters, and brother and the rest of her family so she smiles through it all but inside she’s terrified.

I tell Janette that she can call me anytime at all and she can feel free to get it all off her chest. That’s what she did this morning. My sister died from Colon Cancer seven years ago and I saw what a battle with cancer can and does do to the victim and their family.

She wants me to spread her story to other people fighting this disease. She needs help. Janette want to know how all of you fighting and all the caregivers get what you need? How do you get your doctor to listen to you and not brush you under the rug? How do you get your family and friends not to be afraid and to not try to sugar coat the fact that you’re dying and might not be around when Christmas rolls around this year? How do you explain to people that telling you not to be afraid does not work? How do you get people to understand that you’re afraid and need them to listen to you cry and to talk with you? How do you live with the fact that your time is limited?

I do my best when I speak with Janette. I never told her that she’ll be fine because I don’t believe that. I cry when I think of her but the last thing she needs is to comfort me because I have to be a part of her support group.

We’ve been on the phone for hours this morning. The only time we weren’t  was when she called her doctor’s office, stopped being nice, and told his nurse that she needed some relief from her pain. Today is her doctor’s day off but he called her back and told her to go to his office. That’s where she is now.

More than anything Janette wants whatever is left of her life to be lived with some sort of dignity and with some quality. She wants to be able to hold her new grandson when he’s born and tell him she loves him. She wants to be able to play with her little three-year old granddaughter, and she wants to be able to talk to her older grandchildren and tell them more stories about her life growing up. She wants to hold her children and tell them not to worry too much, and she wants to love her siblings and smile with them and maybe laugh a little too.

“How do I do this Sharon? How do I get people to listen to me, treat me with respect, understand what I’m going through? I’ve thought about this and the only option I see is to go to you and ask you to please write about me on your blog. Please ask people if they have an answer to the best way to die with cancer. I just want to wake up in the morning with little or no pain and to know that all my family and friends are supporting me and to not treat me like a child. I know I’m dying but I need a ton of support.”

So I’m asking you, cancer fighters, caregivers, friends and family of people who are going through what Janette is going through to please post on the blog and help Janette get through this hard time. I will make sure she sees your posts and I’m sure she will comment.

Thank you all.

UPDATE on Janette – The night this article was written Janette fell in her apartment and broke her back. She’s in the hospital now and is scheduled for back surgery next week. She will then be put in a back brace so she can heal and then she will have to go to a rehabilitation center. All this will take months.

I spoke with her late last night and she said that she thanks everyone for their beautiful comments. I’ll be sending her everything you’ve been posting. The only time she brightened up was when I told her how many people have read this article about her.

Please share this piece about Janette if you can. I’m so worried about her. Last night she said, “I’m in a real pickle now, Sharon.”



Pecan Nut Crunch Murder: A Donut Hole Cozy Mystery – Book 35 by Susan Gillard

Pecan Nut Crunch Murder: A Donut Hole Cozy Mystery – Book 35 by Susan Gillard

Heather Shepherd and best friend, Amy Givens, are very excited about their joint venture with Col Owen. Heather’s bakery and Col’s tea shop plan on having a Tea and Donuts Fair for their hometown of Hillside, Texas. Now they just have to figure out a date for it and Col wants the fair to be very soon because he wants to propose to his girlfriend, Mona Petrov. But there’s a little problem. Heather’s nemesis, Kate Laverne, wants her bakery included. That’s the last thing that Heather, Amy, and Col will agree to and Kate threatens them.

Kate isn’t the only problem with setting things up for up the fair; another murder has happened and Heather has to investigate and solve it.

Librarian, Helena Chadwick, was crushed by a bookshelf when it fell on her. Eva Schneider, Heather’s best and favorite customer, was at the library when the murder happened and is now a witness to the event. Helena worked at the library for only a week and not much was known about her except that she moved to Hillside from Dallas.

When looking at the fallen bookshelf Heather noticed that there were scratches on it, as if someone used a crowbar to tip it over causing it and another bookshelf to fall on the librarian. There weren’t any witnesses except for Eva who didn’t really see anything and another man who was sitting in the back in an alcove. Heather knew that nothing of the library could be seen there.

Eva did say that she spotted a man with a mohawk hanging out in front of the library. He looked suspicious to her but she didn’t know who he was. The other librarian, Martha Rizzo, said she heard the crash but didn’t see anything. After asking Martha more questions Heather found out that Martha didn’t like Helena and believed she had a shady past. Heather was thinking that might be true too. Helena had a diamond tennis bracelet on her wrist when she was killed and the outline of a ring on her finger. How could a librarian afford a tennis bracelet and a ring on her salary? And where was the missing ring? Heather spotted a diamond ring on Martha’s finger and thought that there just might be a connection.

Things get even more suspicious when Heather finds out that a jewelry  store, Krakowski’s, was recently robbed. The owner, Jones Krakowski, said someone broke into his store and took a lot of merchandise.

Heather and Amy asked him if he knew the victim and he said he did. He accused Helena of being the person who robbed his store. He said he didn’t know who killed her but said he didn’t and used his wife as an alibi. Mrs. Krakowski confirmed that her husband was with her. She wasn’t feeling well and he was there to give her some medicine.

So who murdered the librarian? Could it be the jeweler because he thought Helena robbed his store? Maybe it was the other librarian, Martha, who didn’t like her co worker, or was it that strange man with the mohawk who was hanging around outside the library when the victim was killed?

No need to fear,people of Hillside, Heather is on the case and will somehow solve this latest murder.

“Pecan Nut Crunch Murder” is the 35th Donut Hole Cozy Mystery by author Susan Gillard and it’s a fun, fast read like all the past installments in this series. It only takes an hour or so to read and it leaves you satisfied especially if you eat a donut or two, or three while you solve the latest murder along with Heather and Amy. The characters are likable and friendly and Heather’s donuts can’t be beat. Read any of the books in the series and like Heather’s donuts, you’ll be hooked.

To see other reviews of Susan‘s books see Susan’s section on my blog.

“I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.”


Sad Day in America – January 20, 2017

Sad Day in America – January 20, 2017

Sad day for America today.

I’m reading “In the Garden of Beasts” by Erik Larson. It’s a historical novel about Nazi Germany from late 1932 through the Nazi years.

The family of William Dodd, the US Ambassador to Germany during those years, moves to Germany, At first they thought that Germany was fine and that maybe the Jews “deserved” what Hitler was doing to them. But as the story goes on they realize how dangerous Hitler was and how his supporters just followed behind him without thought and not questioning all the terrible crimes he committed.

We never learn from history. Today Trump will be taking office and his followers refuse to see the possible dictator this man can become. They are being led by their noses. In Trump’s word, “Sad.”

I’m not saying that Trump is a Nazi or should be compared to Hitler and what he stood for … but I’m thinking it.

Horrible day The first day of some terrible times. History books will be filled with this. Comparisons will be made.


Thumbprint: A Story by Joe Hill

Thumbprint: A Story by Joe Hill

Mallory (Mal) returns from the Iraq War with some blood on her hands. She was never what you could say a “nice” person but the war brought out a special kind of evil in her. She worked in a prison where Iraqi soldiers were held and did her share of atrocities against them. She enjoyed the crimes she and her fellow soldiers committed there. It was just pure luck that there was no evidence that proved her actions which is the only reason why she left the war without handcuffs on her.

When Mal returned home she got her old job back working at a bar but was just as mean there as she was at war. One night she stole money and a wedding band from one of her very drunk clients, split the money with another bartender who was with her, and kept the wedding band.

Shortly after, Mal starts finding pieces of paper with thumbprints on them. A different print with every note she received. Whomever was sending her these thumbprints were getting braver and braver. The first one was in her mailbox, the second was slid under her door, and another was taped to a mirror in her home. Someone is sending her a message and Mal knows she better be on guard.

Thumbprint” by Joe Hill is a short story that can easily be read in under an hour. I’m not sure how I feel about it. The story shows some terrible things that were committed against the Iraqi soldiers by American troops. Even though I heard about these horrible acts it was something else to read about them and how the American soldiers felt about what they did. I’m not judging anyone here it was just disturbing to read about these actions.

The story was good enough and got me thinking a bit but it kind of ended abruptly for me. I’m not sure what more Mr. Hill could have written to conclude it so maybe it was best that it ended the way it did. The author let the reader know what was going to happen next so why bother going through it all?

“Thumbprint” is not Hill’s typical “horror” story like his novels. No ghosts, or goblins, or zombies running around only the real horror of what people can and do to others. That’s far scarier than running from a zombie.

If you’re a fan of Joe Hill then definitely spend an hour reading the story but just remember that it can be quite upsetting.