Read and Review (R&R) – “The Lost Apothecary” by Sarah Penner

The Lost Apothecary
By Sarah Penner

I am a fan of historical fiction and when I read the synopsis of this book, it immediately caught my interest.

A female apothecary in 1791 dispenses poisons to women to liberate the women from the men who have wronged them.

During this time period, a woman could do little to remedy a horrible situation. That is where Nella, the apothecary came in handy. Her shop of poison remedies is discretely hidden in Bear Alley, a back street in London.

This story is written in first person and goes back and forth between three POVs:
Nella, the apothecary who dispenses the poisons;
Eliza, a twelve year old lady’s maid who comes to Nella’s shop seeking assistance for her mistress; and
Caroline, a present day woman traveling to London on her 10th wedding anniversary. Her plans and dreams however are ruined by the infidelity of her husband shortly before the trip causing Caroline to take a soul searching journey to London alone.

When Caroline is invited to go mudlarking (scrounging for treasures along the shoreline) of the Thames’ River, and discovers an old vial with a bear logo scratched into the bottle, the past and present collide.

I enjoyed this book and found the old natural remedies fascinating. Sarah Penner did a wonderful job of creating in her characters a likeability that I found myself rooting on even the apothecary, Nella.

Filled with mystery, murder, betrayal, heartache, and lost dreams, “The Lost Apothecary” is Sarah Penner’s debut novel and a New York Times Bestseller.

Read and Review (R&R) – “Prisoner 88” by Leah Pileggi

“Prisoner 88”
by Leah Pileggi

One of the authors at the Festival of Books in the Alleghenies that I talked to was Leah Pileggi. Leah is the author of “Prisoner 88,” a middle grade historical fiction novel.

It’s 1885. Ten-year-old Jake is sentenced to five years in the Idaho Territorial Penitentiary for shooting a man who had threatened his pa. From the very beginning, you can’t help but feel for and love Jake.

Although this book is primarily for young readers, adults will enjoy it as well. A quick read (142 pages), I found it hard to put down.

Inspired the by the real-life imprisonment of a minor in America’s Old West. This book is well-researched and detailed.

Leah does a wonderful job of conveying the prison system during this time period from the point of view of an uneducated, naïve, and impoverished little boy.

Strong characters, authentic dialogue, and well-developed setting make “Prisoner 88” a great read for you or the middle grade student in your life.

Read and Review (R&R) – Potluck and Pandemonium by S.C. Merritt

Potluck and Pandemonium

by S.C. Merritt

I won this book through a drawing held by Kim Heniadis in the Cozy Mystery Launch Party. This story came out in 2019 and there have been five books by S.C. Merritt in the Sweetwater Springs Southern Mysteries since then.

There is a prologue giving the background on Glory Harper, her late husband, and how she and her daughter Macy came back to Alabama. Because of this, I wondered if any of her husband’s past would play into the mystery, but it didn’t. At first, I assumed it was put there to show how she loves solving mysteries. But, now I am thinking that perhaps, in a future book in the series, I will find out the truth behind her mysterious husband’s life and death.

The story really heats up with a “Decoration Day” service at church where Glory discovers the dead body of J.R. Jenkins. When the murder weapon turns out to be Glory’s engraved letter opener, she finds herself on the top of the suspect list. Her brother, Jake, a detective on the local police force knows Glory’s love of mysteries. He makes her promise she won’t involve herself in the investigation. But, Glory simply cannot sit idly by. With the help of Momma, she is determined to solve the mystery and track down the killer before another dead body is found.

The town of Sweetwater Springs if very southern and charming. I loved the cast of characters that Glory meets and learning some of the southern traditions.

With more than a few suspects with motive and opportunity to kill J.R., the story and plot flowed nicely and kept me guessing at the killer.

Throughout the book there are light touches on faith and religion which I thought enhanced the story.

Macy starting a bakery is a nice subplot and leads room in future stories for her character development.

And, did I mention, there are some great recipes at the end of the book!

I would love to hear your comments. Have you read this book? Are you going to read this or any of the other Sweetwater mysteries after my review?

Read and Review (R&R) – “Winter Witness – By Tina DeBellegarde”

Winter Witness

By Tina DeBellegarde

Are you looking for a great fall read? “Winter Witness” is an intriguing, page-turning mystery.

Tina DeBellegarde’s writing shines in her first mystery novel. Her setting comes alive on the page, her plot is intriguing, and her characters so well-written. Small town life with characters who on the outside seem like everyday folks.

This is a story about a grieving widow who is considered a “outsider” in the small Catskill Mountain town of Batavia-on-Hudson.

The town of Bativia and its “locals” secrets are revealed with the death of an elderly loved nun and her closest friend, the local historian, that the villagers “loved to hate.”

The main character, Bianca, becomes intwined in solving the mystery and also in the troubled marriage of Sheriff Mike.

If you want to hear her first chapter read by Hank Phillippi Ryan, check out First Chapter Fun. Tina’s book was read on September 2nd.

Such a great story! I am hoping for another Bativia-on-Hudson mystery.

Read and Review (R&R) – “Beauty Expos are Murder- By Libby Klein”

A GIGGLE OUT LOUD COZY

I was excited when I was able to take out from my local library a book by Libby Klein. Below is my review of her latest Poppy McAllister Mystery.

This story starts out with the main character, Poppy, finding out that the man she has fallen in love with is married. Then, if that isn’t enough to make her heart crumble like a dry muffin, she must sell her paleo and keto delights at a Beauty Expo alongside her married boyfriend, while several booths away her “high school sweetheart” boyfriend and his girlfriend are selling competing baked goods. When the key-note speaker of the Expo is found dead, Poppy is determined to “unmask” the killer. To make matters worse, Amber, her frenemy enlists her help to prove her innocence in the murder of a young man.

This book is 438 pages and has a lot going on with an extensive cast of characters. I had not read anything before of Libby Klein, so I was glad she writes very vivid character descriptions and weaves in backstory. The car rides with Amber, and the bar scene where Poppy is sent into the police bar, I found hilarious.

I immediately liked the quant Jersey Shore setting and the Bed and Breakfast cast of characters.

Filled with funny quips, and humorous sarcasms, “Beauty Expos are Murder,” is a great read. When Aunt Ginny says, “She didn’t need a time-out, she needed arsenic and an alibi,” I couldn’t put the book down. Libby Klein is a very witty author and Poppy McAllister is one of my new favorite cozy protagonists.

The food served at the B&B sounded delicious. I have several friends who must eat gluten-free, so the included recipes definately gave me some “food for thought,” and ideas of dishes to make the next time we are together.

Read and Review (R&R) – Murder in the Bayou Boneyard

COZY MYSTERY LOVERS-Have you read Ellen Byron’s Cajun Country Mysteries? If not, I would recommend you check them out.

I picked up “Murder in the Bayou Boneyard,” which launched in the fall of 2020, won a “Lefty” Award, and was an Agatha nominee this year! It is the sixth book in this series, but can be read as a stand-alone.

With an engaging plot, inviting setting, kooky characters, and recipes, this book is a “delicious” read!

It is Halloween in Pelican, Louisiana and Maggie Crozat and her family own a B&B. To drum up business, the Crozat family and four other B&Bs host “Pelican’s Spooky Past” packages. Things get really hairy when guests start sighting a “rougarou.” A cross between a werewolf and a vampire, a rougarou is a local legend rumored to prowl the swamps and woods of Acadia and New Orleans.

A rougarou sighting turns deadly when one of them stumbles onto the stage of the “Resurrection of a Spirit” play. The neighboring town of Ville Blanc police think they have found the murderer in Maggie, and, as bodies pile up, she must prove her innocence and save her family’s B&B.

I loved the southern charm of Pelican and the crazy cast of characters. My favorite is Gran.

With southern cooking mentioned throughout the book, it was a bonus to see the recipes posted in the back.

Ellen Byron has a new book in this series coming out in August of this year called “Cajun Kiss of Death.” I will definitely put this new one on my “to be read” list!

Read and Review (R&R) – “A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder”

Five years ago, pretty and popular Andie Bell was murdered, and Fairview’s whole town is convinced her boyfriend, Sal Singh, killed her. Aspiring journalist, Pippa Fitz-Amobi cannot shake the notion that they are all wrong. Is Sal innocent and the killer still out there? For her senior project, Pippa starts an investigation into the murder that reveals a growing list of suspects and people who want to keep the case closed.

I read this 387-page mystery in five days. I couldn’t put it down. Suspense, suspense, suspense! Great storytelling and characterization on this roller coaster of a ride, cleverly written, YA mystery.

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder is Holly Jackson’s first novel. The sequel is “Good Girl, Bad Blood,” which I have ordered from my favorite local bookstore, Mystery Lover’s Bookstore and I cannot wait to read.

Read and Review (R&R) – “Punning with Scissors”

I was lucky and won a copy of “Punning with Scissors.” Becky Clark’s second book in her Crossword Puzzle Mystery series.

I call this book an “I can’t wait to see what happens next, whodunit!” A great read filled with puns and humor. It is an entertaining, page-turning cozy mystery with loads of suspects and a quirky cast of characters.

Quinn Carr works at the Chestnut Station diner and writes crossword puzzles for the Chestnut Station Chronicle. When the newest member of the “Retireds,” Hugh Pugh, is arrested for the murder of his husband, Quinn is determined to prove his innocence. She enlists the help of her police officer friend, Rico, and drops clues to the police chief in her crossword puzzles.

I hadn’t read the first book, “Puzzling Ink,” in her Crossword Puzzle Mystery series, so I was unfamiliar with this fun cast of characters. I especially loved the dog’s name “Virginia Woof,” his owner’s name “Hugh Pugh,” the back-and-forth prattle between the Retireds, the Chestnut Station diner, and its owner, Jake. Rico’s inability to tell a fib is an amusing character trait that is sure to bring lots of laughs in future stories.

This author did an excellent job of world-building and bringing to light the severity of true OCD. Quinn is a very interesting protagonist. I am looking forward to reading Becky Clark’s next book in this series. Will more than friendship develop between Quinn and Rico?

Read and Review (R&R)


I was so fortunate to receive an ARC copy of “Harm Not the Earth.” This is Liz Milliron fourth book in her Laurel Highland Mystery series set in beautiful Western Pennsylvania involving Sally Castle, a public defender, and Jim Duncan, a state trooper.

In “Harm Not the Earth,” two experienced outdoorsmen from an environmental group are found dead in the Casselman River. Jim and Sally both feel this was no accident, but Jim’s resources to investigate are limited as this is out of his jurisdiction. Never one to back down and both displaying resolve and ingenuity, Jim sets out to find the killer while Sally takes on the case of protecting an abused woman intertwined with the murders. Their personal lives become a bit more tangled however, when presented with new job opportunities. During the course of their investigations, they must be careful not to ruin their solid and growing relationship. But, can a public defender and a state trooper stay committed to their careers and each other?

Liz Milliron expertly introduces the characters, and the scenic landscape of Southwestern, PA. Then, ride along shotgun, as one by one she systematically examines each lead and ticks down the suspects. In her typical style, the reader feels the action and the characters come alive on the page.

Another great read in the Laurel Highland Mystery series!

Read and Review (R&R)

My latest read was a book by Maggie Blackburn called “Little Bookshop of Murder.” Below is my review~

Snobbish Summer Merriweather, a Shakespearean professor, is returning from England to her hometown, St.  Brigid’s Island, to attend her mother’s funeral. Her seemingly healthy, loved by everyone on the island, free-spirited mother, Hildy, has died of an apparent heart attack. Summer doesn’t believe the preliminary cause of death, as her mother had no underlying conditions or symptoms. When more than one note is discovered left to Hildy that says “Sell the bookstore or Die” Summer’s gut tells her someone very close to her mother put a permanent end to Hildy’s romance reading days. Summer believes her mother was murdered. She enlists the help of her Aunt Agatha, cousin, niece, and the members of Hildy’s beloved Mermaid Pie Book Club to sleuth out the killer. I suspected the perpetrator early on, but still enjoyed the array of beach town characters, including Hildy’s African grey parrot, Mr. Darcy, who I thought for sure would squawk out clues. Maggie Blackburn did an excellent job of bringing the town of St. Brigid Island, the quaint bookstore “Beach Reads,” and the boardwalk to life. I picked this book up at my local library and the one thing that caught me was the number of typos, mix-ups of characters, and repetition. There were more than a couple. Overall, I enjoyed this story and plot line. This is my first read of this author and I will pick up the next book in this series.

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