The Gem Connection by Michael R. Lane

The Gem Connection by Michael R. Lane is the first book in a three part series originally published April 2016.

Coined as a C.J. Cavanaugh Mystery this book completely threw me into C.J.’s world from the first page. Suddenly I was smelling expensive cologne and carrying a cognac leather shoulder holster- in my dreams. Really I could only dare to dream to be as slick as C.J.

This is a man’s world…

Not that C.J. would ever be so crass as to belt out the old James Brown classic.

But I am!

And in this man’s world he is no “regular degular” gumshoe private detective. He is a former DEA agent who has clearly been in some harrowing situations but survived with enough skills to actively pursue a contract killer while juggling two ladies who are vying for his love and attention. Oh and money, seeing as he is obligated to pay the woman who works for him. More on that later.

This isn’t a game of Bejeweled

C.J. is forced to work for an unknown employer who wants him to identify who killed Clinton Windell- who is a CEO of a jewelry dealer with a lot to lose. We know that Clinton has just returned from a trip in which he has collected $20 million in uncut gems through a killer deal and is hoping to use this great deal to keep his position.

Until he is killed of course. Which is why C.J. is hired sight unseen, literally or maybe not, by this mysterious employer. We can’t really tell. And the real fun is that I didn’t really want to. Seeing this former DEA Agent sliding into action as a private eye was pretty thrilling.

His leading lady… beautiful and more patient than I

Having a police detective for a girlfriend created a fascinating dynamic. Destini is described as being about as gorgeous as Naomi Campbell with a temper that possibly rivals the great diva supreme- but of course only when she is reasonably riled up. And I would say in my opinion she had every bit of a reason to want to cut up C.J.’s clothes after kicking Renita out of his house.

Also the fact that Destini is a member of law enforcement assigned to the Clinton Windell case creates an entire host of problems. It’s apparently hard to share small talk about your workday when you’re both holding onto confidential information. Talk about trust issues!

Destini handles finding C.J.’s junior partner living at his house with some anger but kept it down to a dull enough roar to the point where I wonder what dosage of Xanax is she on. Basically she was this version of Naomi…

naomi campbell television GIF by RealityTVGIFs

Whereas I think the average woman would have been more like this version of Naomi.

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Because moving beautiful subordinates into your home without your girlfriend’s knowledge is grounds for high treason at worst and destruction of property at best. I am team Destini. Now let’s meet her competition.

Renita… every girlfriend’s worst nightmare

Renita is clearly in love with C.J. and has the nerve to not hide it. While she is smart and competent in her role as a junior partner it is evident from the start that this is a woman who doesn’t mind showering in the office in hopes of giving C.J. a little peek. She is too excited to be invited to his place in order for him to protect her.

The good thing is that there is Naomi, I mean Destini, ready to clock her upon arrival.

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Yeah Renita, not so fast friend, you can keep your clothes in your duffle bag. You’re only here because of this high stakes case y’all are working on and should leave C.J.’s house in fear of Destini.

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By any means necessary

C.J. never seems to lack in confidence. His interrogation skills rely on instinct and experience. And I enjoyed watching him deduce and anticipate his opponents next moves every single time. He is also not bad with a gun and would be the guy you want on your side in any shootout.

It made me really wonder more about his DEA past which is briefly mentioned in flashbacks. This is a man who earned his stripes working undercover in South America so he’s certainly played with the big fish before. And it shows.

Case closed…

I really enjoyed this book. The pace was steady and kept me guessing until the end. Admittedly the love triangle made me chuckle. It was entertaining which is more than I can say about the majority of romances that appear in mystery novels. On the sunny side I am sure most of my male friends would be green with envy at the thought of two hot women living with them.

In future novels I do hope that the backstory of his prior detective work is explored. If it spanned an entire series I wouldn’t complain. I also hope to find out what happens with Destini and C.J. and wonder if they will ever bump into each other through their casework again. I hope I have a chance to read more of this series in the future. Thank you to the author for entrusting me with his book in exchange for a review.

May Releases… My Little Pre-Order Binge

I am going to preface this by saying that I am not a person who pre-orders often. In fact the first and last time I did so it was for the second book in The Children of Blood and Bone Series.

That was a Christmas gift to myself last year. Pre-ordering certainly has its benefits- at least from Amazon. But since I am a person who largely reads sporadically based on my mood I rarely feel a sense of urgency in getting a book as soon as it comes out.

This month is different. Maybe it is me. Maybe it is the quarantine. Either way I book binged on a small scale for three titles and authors that moved me.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

When I heard that Suzanne Collins was releasing a Hunger Games prequel I was just thrilled. I can’t really recall having read a dystopian book before The Hunger Games and I just couldn’t get the idea out of my head. I’ve seen the movie an embarrassing number of times.

I think the concept of such a world should horrify a person of any age. Despite not being part of the Young Adult target audience this series stuck with me. Like a bad dream or a train wreck. Only this time I loved it!

As far as I was concerned May couldn’t get here fast enough for the release of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.

A Deadly Inside Scoop by Abby Collette

But as I waited a couple of things happened. I saw this gorgeous book cover- hang on I’m not entirely vapid- and it intrigued me. A Deadly Inside Scoop by Abby Collette had my attention.

All I want to know is how was I to resist? We have a black main character in a mystery, that lovely pink background and ice cream.

Okay maybe I’m so lactose intolerant that saying ice cream makes me nervous yet hungry. Okay maybe I’m allergic to kitty cats. Let’s not get into it- okay? Do me that favor.

Because after I read the sample from the first chapter I knew that it would be worth it. It also may be the closest I can come to ice cream or cats without harming myself.

What You Don’t See by Tracy Clark

It is no secret that I love and adore Troi Towel. He is by far my favorite Booktuber. There are so many great authors that I have been introduced to through him.

I must admit that Tracy Clark is a prime example of the great reads he shares.

Troi Towel on Tracy Clark’s new series

I am currently finishing her book Broken Places and will hopefully have finished the next in the series, Borrowed Time, before I receive the upcoming release in the mail.

Keeping Essential Workers Safe is the Most Important Thing!

We live in a whole new world from the one we lived in when I made my first pre-order. And I almost forgot that until I saw my estimated delivery dates for these May releases. The earliest I can expect to receive them is in June.

But for me that is okay! I have plenty of other books to tide me over until that time. To me nothing is more important than preserving the lives and health of us all. I am truly thankful that we have people working to even produce these books from content creation to destination. Praying for all my family, friends and readers to stay safe, stay home and mask up.

Let’s keep the death in our lives limited to the pages of these mysteries as much as we can.

Murder, She Encountered by Peg Cochran

“Murder, She Encountered” by Peg Cochran is book number three in the Murder, She Reported series. It was released on December 3, 2019.

I have had the pleasure of reading book two in this series- “Murder, She Uncovered” and you can click here to read my thoughts on that book.

Murder… World’s Fair Style

Elizabeth “Biz” Adams is still finding herself in this world as we catch up with her roaming the popular World’s Fair hosted in NYC in 1939. This time my favorite newspaper photographer is closer to the action and danger than ever before. There is a murderer on the loose and even your pantyhose won’t safe you. In fact they could very well be used to kill you. Just ask the poor dead girl who was found with a pair choking the life out of her around her neck. Okay, obviously you cannot expect an answer but you get what I am saying here.

She’s got Leggs… who knew we didn’t always get to use them?

One of the things I love about historical fiction of any kind is the way in which I gain a greater appreciation for things that I absolutely do not appreciate in my everyday life.

A perfect example would be pantyhose. I used to laugh at those Leggs commercials with ladies doing unthinkable things in unthinkably uncomfortable control top pantyhose.

I have groaned and pouted over using clear nail polish to stop a run from making me look like I had been in a streetfight and never knew things could be far worse for me had I been born before nylon became a thing. Perhaps our struggles are not as bad as we think. Biz and her friends seemed to have had horrible trials with stockings and I envy them not.

Visiting the future while hanging out in the past

The World’s Fair actually sounded pretty neat. I loved seeing their take on what the future would hold. Unfortunately I don’t think it turned out nearly as great as they imagined. I am still waiting to buy this talking robot who compliments women that they were advertising. My husband would be totally free of me fishing for compliments and how can that be a bad thing?

Beyond the fair Liz was still living her pretty fabulous Park Avenue princess life. Full of galas and champagne and awful gelatin based foods like Perfection Salad prepared by her maid.

Mind you when I looked up Perfection Salad it seemed less like perfection and more like a living, possibly breathing, blob of imperfection.

It made me really appreciate the historical accuracy that the author puts into this series. People actually enjoyed this and some people still make it for special occasions even today. I am not one to judge anyones culinary choices, I am not even a picky eater, but this looks like a hard no to me. But again, I love that the author keeps it real.

Classism still stands…

Biz is really coming to the end of the road with her family situation and I really love seeing her grow as a person. She is still very much a young wealthy woman, quick to notice when someone is pretending to be rich while wearing worn down heels. She may be a working woman which is unheard of for people of her class but you can tell she smell a poor person from a block away.

This doesn’t keep her from venturing into some pretty dark places such as Hells Kitchen. Biz becomes brave enough to even brave such journeys on her own. She finds herself sitting in apartments with drunkards, worn furniture and threadbare bedspreads all to get a good scoop for her newspaper.

We also get to find out what challenges face Biz’s love life as she continues to date her police detective boyfriend, in spite of her parents disapproval. Normally I do not care for romances within cozy mysteries. I have no idea why they seem to go hand in hand with this genre. If I wanted to read a romance there is certainly no shortage of them on the market for me to explore. However this romance is not heavy handed or in your face and I greatly appreciate that. Her romance also touches upon the challenges of classism within the world of the haves and the have nots. And in the end I am rooting for love to win out above it all.

Case closed…

Murder, She Encountered serves up another solid entry into this lovable historical cozy mystery series. Biz Adams is back on the beat at the World’s Fair and not only is her account entertaining but also very informative.

The author never ceases to amaze me with her ability to convey the various elements of the 1930s era with great descriptions of clothing and the wonders of things we take for granted today such as nylon pantyhose. I really loved how those pantyhose were used as a murder weapon that eventually could tie everything together.

The mystery itself is a solid one and the conclusion was about as realistic as it could be. Biz is nobody’s superhero and I sincerely love that about her. Newspaper photography has never been so exciting as when I see it through her eyes.

Thank you to the publishers for providing me with an Advanced Reader Copy in exchange for my honest review.

Happy New Year! Happy New Decade

Can you believe it’s 2020 already? A whole new decade lies ahead.

But lets not get ahead of ourselves

I don’t want to state too many plans for the blog this year because I probably would not even accomplish half of them. I will narrow it down to one things I would like to see out of my blog within the next year.

My blog resolution

I have a long TBR list of authors who are very diverse. Part of the reason I started this blog is to highlight authors of color. As well as mystery characters of color. One day while searching for blogs that focused on what I was interested in I didn’t come up with a whole lot. If you can think of others feel free to share with me in the comments below. Where I saw a lack I also saw a need to create a space for diversity within the mystery genre.

Therefore this year my goal is to cover as many books focused on diversity as possible. I think it is important because many authors of such books simply do not get as much publicity as their peer. Too many people who love mysteries are simply not aware these books exist. There should be a place for such voices to flourish and be spoken about.

My sincere hope is that that place is here.

Happy New Year 2020… cheers to diversity.

Twelve Slays of Christmas by Jacqueline Frost

Twelves Slays of Christmas by Jacqueline Frost is book one in A Christmas Tree Farm Mystery series. It was originally published in October 2017.

Merry Christmas… what a great time to reevaluate life

I found the premise of this book to be very interesting. We meet Holly White just as she is on the heels of the nastiest of breakups. Well I take that back, being stood up at the alter is probably the very nastiest breakup. But being broken up with within days of your wedding is a close second. And that’s exactly what happens here. He even had the audacity to leave her for a yoga instructor and after reading this I don’t think Holly White is stretching more than her finger to grab some cookies.

The hometown that never forgets…

Holly finds herself now back in a town in which she seems like a celebrity. Everyone knows her wedding plans and everyone knows that they were broken at the last minute. Her family is practically famous because they own a tree farm which as you can imagine is a huge attraction. They even hold a Christmas ball and a somewhat terrifying downhill snowball rolling thing that I would never dare to sign up for. She seems to to have no problem jumping back into the world of work and busies herself creating neat jewelry items.

Stay out of it Holly!

I think one of my biggest takeaways from this novel was that Holly was blatantly told to mind her business in about 10 different ways. I honestly expected someone to shout it out to her in German at some point. It made me laugh every single time.

Sometimes it was a subtle “go away Holly” such as when she was low-key interrogating folks in Mistletoe.

At other times, such as when she would talk to the Sheriff as if she wanted to know more about him but we knew she really was digging for dirt, she was turned away with kid gloves.

Then there were times when her father would tell her to stop being nosey in a way that was a bit more forceful.

And of course there were people that were not even trying to play around with her and would have bludgeoned her if she said another word.

Case closed…

Perhaps I have not read any mysteries involving jewelry making but I thought that was a pleasant surprise. So many cozies involve cooking and I really appreciated that while this discussed holiday sweets it wasn’t the primary focus. I liked that the main character could be honest about the mistakes she made with her family and life that lead her back home.

The resolution of the mystery was an A+… it was very well crafted and I didn’t even see it coming. Well done in that regard for sure. I would read additional books in this series at some point in the future because I would like to see how many more ways Holly can think of to ignore “stay out of it Holly!”

I received this book in exchange for my review.

Mistletoe Murder by Karen MacInerney

Mistletoe Murder by Karen MacInerney is book number four in the Dewberry Farms Mystery series. This book was published in December 2017. It is the first book that I have read by this author.

Where does Lucy find the time?

The main character, Lucy Resnick, is a regular old Jackie of all trades. She does more before 8 am than I do in an entire week. She runs a farm, is overlooking the restoration of her grandma’s old home, she also makes soaps and other goodies that she sells at the store she owns in town while she is not solving murders. The only thing she seems to be struggling to do is to knit a scarf before Christmas. She’s just perfect now isn’t she?

Thankfully everyone else is a mess…

If it wasn’t for the rest of the town being a realistic mess this whole setup would have been way too perfect. The residents of this small Texas town go big in making up for the flaw of her impeccable nature. Who wants a perfect fairy tale Christmas in a place where it doesn’t snow? Lets throw in some cheating lovers to cheer us up and make the holiday really festive.

Lucy just doesn’t fit in with the dramatic shenanigans and that’s okay because it keeps the focus on the fascinating people who fill this world with bloodlust and adultery. To her credit we do get great descriptions of Lucy indulging in doses of spiked eggnog, exchanges of peppermint fudge recipes and even Blue Bell ice cream makes a cameo appearance. Ain’t that what the south is all about?

These men… are nightmares

I can’t say I have seen this many bad men assembled in one setting since Dallas was on tv. They were cheaters, liars and some were just plain broke. Suffice it to say I loved it! Give me that kind of drama any day of the week. Look, I want to be entertained by the cast of characters in my head for however many days it takes me to read each book. And in hindsight I can say I was highly entertained.

With that being said I do prefer these men all stay on the pages of this book and not actually venture out into the real world. But that is a whole other story for a whole other day and far outside the scope of this blog.

Deck the halls… and check the floorboards

This novel packs a lot in when it comes to skeletons and murders. Trust me. By the time the ending approached there was a lot on my mind. Some elements go back many years. Some deal with emotional ties that go back as far as high school. I didn’t feel like my head was spinning from the number of suspects along the way despite there being a lot going on. The novel, for me, flowed nicely.

Case closed…

I did not see the ending coming but did appreciate that things were wrapped up to my satisfaction. There were many moving pieces to bring together and I admired the way in which the author accomplished that. I would like to learn more of the backstory on Lucy and look forward to reading additional novels in the Dewberry Farms Mystery series in the future.

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

What can be cozier than Christmas? That’s right, nothing.

I wait all year for the holidays, especially Christmas. I love decorating my three Christmas trees. Yes, three of them.

For me Black Friday does not mean running out to the store. It means putting on Christmas pajamas and my elf slippers and making a whole bunch of noise when their bells jingle. Of course it takes me an entire day to put up everything.

Beyond wreaths and garlands there are also stockings to hang. And lights to string up. Not to mention the table decorations.

I don’t even ask my husband to help me beyond dragging down the huge containers in which the lovely decorations are held 11 months out of the year. Because I know exactly how I want things to be arranged. And more importantly, because I know I am crazy and he shouldn’t have to endure such annual insanity.

By the next day there’s a great chance my back will be killing me. Which puts me in the mood to read about murders. Cozy mystery murders of course.

You shouldn’t be surprised… after all, Christmas can be deadly!