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Book Review: Muffin But Trouble by Victoria Hamilton

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Muffin But Trouble (A Merry Muffin Mystery Book 6)Muffin But Trouble by Victoria Hamilton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Muffin But Trouble is the 6th book in the Merry Muffin Mystery series written by Victoria Hamilton. The series takes place in upstate New York and focuses on Merry, a remarried widow in her late thirties or early forties (I believe, as I think the author might be leaving it open so she could have a child in the future) who inherited a castle and bakes muffins for local stores and organizations. And she solves crimes too… this time, it’s a cult that’s moved to town. Is it responsible for all the disappearing young girls? Merry and her young friend, Lizzie, are on the case.

Merry is a strong lead character. She’s smart and nosy, but only in a good way. She tries to figure things out on her own, and the police have learned to trust her more. She often goes down the wrong path yet it helps her find the right one. I like the balance between the two towns, Ridley Ridge (the ‘bad’ side of town) and Autumn Vale (where her castle is located), because we get a variety of people. It reminds me of towns I’ve visited in the Hudson Valley, so it’s on point. Another good aspect in the series are the side stories because we see so much evolution in the characters.

It’s been almost two years since the last book, and Merry has been married for nearly two years at this point (just under). It helped show how much change has happened in the town and in her life. Her best friend Pish has turned the castle into something wonderful, and seeing Merry become a stronger foundation in the town is heartwarming. In this caper, the cult is fascinating. So many of the lines and characters are awful (in a good way) that I got angry at the book… because it sorta sounded a bit like real life in some parts of this country. I was glad to see how Hamilton could push her readers to react, and it’s a result of strong writing and character dialog and development.

I look forward to more from this series… but will have to wait, as the next book bring released from the author is in another series of hers that I read (Vintage Kitchen)… so see ya again soon!

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About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations but with a twist. There are five books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, Mistaken Identity Crisis, and Haunted House Ghost. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

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Book Review: Muffin to Fear by Victoria Hamilton

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Muffin to Fear (Merry Muffin Mystery, #5)Muffin to Fear by Victoria Hamilton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Muffin to Fear is the 5th book in Victoria Hamilton’s ‘Merry Muffin Mysteries’ series. It takes place in Autumn Vale, New York, an upstate town with its very own Wynter Castle, Merry’s home after her great-uncle left it to her in his will. She’s been renovating it since moving to the small town, and now she just married the former sheriff. As a ~40ish former stylist from NYC, Merry’s enjoying a more relaxed life, except it’s not relaxed… bodies keep showing up!

This time, when she returns from her honeymoon, Pish (her late first husband’s gay best friend) has rented the castle out to a team of paranormal investigators who have a show on TV. They search for ghosts and hold seances. Two of the crew are killed. Who had it in for them? And was there some sort of other worldly interference? Doubtful, murder’s usually achieved (not really a goal I suppose) by someone quite angry or hurt. In this case, both! Merry solves the case with Virgil’s help as she earns the favor of the new sheriff. My favorite character is her friend at the library who always arrives at the last minute with all the answers. Then Lizzie… a somewhat troubled teen wise beyond her years. Will she be okay? It’s getting scary how close she is with a killer sometimes.

This is a great series. I love the supporting characters, but Merry is a true heroine. Sometimes flawed, occasionally a buddinski (sp?), but always on top of her game. Between the extensive cast of crew and paranormal investigators, she has her work cut out for her here. The best part: complexity in how all the team fit together. The not-so-great part: Too many characters to play detective. It got confusing way more than it needed to, and in the end, it was a 20 page explanation of ‘why’ the person was killed. Too much for one book.

But I’m a fan and I will be sticking with this series. I’m even more excited now that I’ve confirmed a 6th book is in the works for late spring. Now my weekend is complete… well okay… it’s a lot better!

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About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations. There are two books: Academic Curveball and Broken Heart Attack. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Much Ado About Muffin by Victoria Hamilton

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Much Ado About Muffin (Merry Muffin Mystery, #4)Much Ado About Muffin by Victoria Hamilton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Autumn Vale in upstate New York is the place [not] to be. I say that only because it seems you’ll be murdered if you visit too often. In Much Ado About Muffin, the fourth book in the Merry Muffin Mystery series by Victoria Hamilton, Minnie, the post office supervisor, is killed! We surely didn’t like her in the first few books because she was mean to Merry. ‘She deserved to die’ some might say, but there was the briefest moment in the beginning of this book where she was somewhat kind. Rest assured, then she was back at the nastiness, so we don’t feel all that guilty, right?

Hamilton’s created a wonderful town full of lovable characters. I am getting more and more connected to this cast of kooky inhabitants. Some are just plain old weird. Others are insufferable. Many are adorable. But no one will be spared, I suspect, except perhaps Merry. When she’s away visiting her late husband’s brother, the town is running amok. That is, its citizens are. Merry gets a marriage proposal while in Europe. Will she take it? Upon her return, Roma, a diva with a waning voice, is trying to recover in Merry’s castle simply until she can go back onstage in NYC. Unfortunately, Roma’s pissed off a lot of people, including Minnie. Did she then kill Minnie in revenge? Or is it one of her boarders who don’t seem to like Minnie other than she’s agreed to leave them her house if she dies. Then she dies! Ah, who would of guessed?

Hamilton’s writing continues to please. Her style and tone are always great. This is a wonderful series and I will keep reading the books. I’ve held back the full 5 stars because I think she’s capable of more. Merry has lots of connections about town. Build up the families. Add in some additional friends. Give her a stronger job. Make her truly ready to takeover the town. Then I’ll be so enamored with this series, I will re-read it many times!

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About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations. There are two books: Academic Curveball and Broken Heart Attack. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Death of an English Muffin by Victoria Hamilton

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Death of an English Muffin (Merry Muffin Mystery, #3)Death of an English Muffin by Victoria Hamilton

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

A strong cozy mystery [for me] must contain a complex mystery with a mean victim, a group of solid core characters, a bevy of potential culprits who are tied together in a fascinating manner, and an easily visible and charming locale. The third book in the Merry Muffin Mystery series by Victoria Hamilton, Death of an English Muffin, has all that and more. I give this one 4.5 muffins, I mean stars.

The Villain
A nasty old woman visiting the castle with her friends is killed. Cleta had some of the most offensive (for a cozy) and ruthless dialog I’ve ever seen. She’s a miserable lady who takes her frustrations out on everyone else, and therefore, she deserved to be the one to die in this book. Readers will love seeing her get her just desserts!

The Core Characters
Merry is awesome. She’s a realistic and smart woman who is trying to figure out her path. Sometimes she pushes too hard, others she backs away in appropriate measures. I like her character a lot and she makes me want to find my own castle to renovate. Her friends are growing and she’s building connections among the people in Autumn Vale. In the last book, I worried she didn’t have better ties, but they are growing. I like the budding friendship / relationship with Sheriff Virgil, too.

The Suspects
Cleta’s fellow 80-something gals from New York City came with her. Friends (or frenemies) for more than 50 years, they hold secrets over one another and use them to get whatever they want. Which one is lying? Which one is telling the truth? Why are they all so bitter? Oh, those high society biddies need to be taken down a notch or two, and Merry is just the gal to do it.

The Setting
Autumn Vale is in upstate New York. It’s a gorgeous and inspiring village. I love the landscape, the castle and the small-town feel. To see the rivalries with neighbor cities is also amusing. I feel immediately transported to it.

All-in-all, this series is developing strongly. I recommend it for most cozy readers. I can’t wait to pick up the next one.

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About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations. There are two books: Academic Curveball and Broken Heart Attack. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Muffin But Murder by Victoria Hamilton

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Muffin But Murder (Merry Muffin Mystery, #2)Muffin But Murder by Victoria Hamilton

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

I read the first book in the Merry Muffin series by Victoria Hamilton almost two years ago, then moved on to sample as many other cozy mysteries as I could. I’d also read another one of Hamilton’s series, Vintage Kitchen Mysteries, and am catching up on those now, too. I’m finally back to reading a few of the earlier ones from this series in publication order, which made Muffin But Murder (#2 of 5) next on my list. I’d forgotten enough about the characters and setting, but by about twenty percent into this book, it all came back… and it’s gotten even better in this edition.

Merry used to be a NYC fashion and style consultant. After a model falsely accused her of stealing something, and Merry’s great uncle passed away, she hightailed it to Autumn Vale in upstate New York to find out what she inherited and re-group. Surprise, he owned a castle! Merry decided to sell the estate and in this second book, she’s battling a supposed cousin for ownership, townspeople who think she’ll sell them out, and a killer with a vendetta. With her best friend’s help, Merry holds a costume ball to help showcase the estate to wealthy folks in the hopes they’ll buy the place, but when one uninvited attendee ends up dead at the end of the party, she’s back to sleuthing. What’s even scarier: the victim was the unknown twin brother of the guy who caused problems in the first book of the series!

Character – Good; they’re developing but we need a few more supporting ones
Writing – Strong; I enjoy the witty dialog and narrative / descriptions
Setting – Good; reminds me of my trips to Hudson, NY and its surrounding towns
Voice – Good; I like the tone of the books and the perspective changes on the action

The mystery was medium-complex. There were several red herrings, lots of potential culprits, a few side stories, a secondary mystery to keep us distracted, and a strong, clear finish. When the various side stories began to weave together, I figured out what was going on, but it was still fun to watch it finish. I will definitely continue reading the series and already ordered the next one to begin in late January.

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About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations. There are two books: Academic Curveball and Broken Heart Attack. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Review: The Distant Hours

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The Distant HoursMy rating: 4 of 5 stars to Kate Morton‘s The Distant Hours, a beautifully written and compelling story of sisters, mothers and daughters across two different time periods set in London and rural England.



Why This Book?
I’d read one of her other books, The Forgotten Garden, and fell in love with Kate Morton‘s style, effortless reads and vivid settings and characters. I had to continue absorbing as much of her books as I could, but given they are usually 500+ pages, and quite intense, I have to layer them in every few months. I happened to arrive in my building’s laundry room a few minutes early and perused the library’s bookshelves while waiting for the dryer to complete its cycle. Low an’ behold, there she stood.

Some kind soul had dropped off this book and it beckoned me to depart quickly with it. Well… as soon as I finished getting all my clothes out of the dryer. It sat on my living room’s bookshelves for a few weeks, until I’d seen a review of it this week and decided to move it up on my TBR list. SO GLAD I DID!

Overview of Story
Edie Burchill, a thirty year old book lover working in the publishing industry, recently split from her live-in boyfriend, is visiting her parents one weekend when a letter arrives in the mail, postmarked nearly 50 years ago. Edie’s mother, Meredith, tells her very little, only that it came from one of the Blythe sisters who live at Milderhurst Castle where Meredith stayed as an evacuee during WWII’s German Blitz. Though Edie and her mother aren’t very close, she knows Meredith hasn’t told her the entire story. And when Edie finds herself driving near the castle, and an opportunity to take a tour arises, she jumps on it. Inside Edie meets 85ish twins, Saffy and Percy, who care for their much younger sister, Juniper who is in her early 70s. All is not well with Juniper, who thinks Edie is actually Meredith from nearly 50 years ago. Edie visits local historians, presses her mother’s family and becomes closer to the twin sisters, in hopes she’ll discover what hides behind her mother’s wistful eyes. And as she falls deeper in the story, she learns of a broken engagement, a missing fiancee, a long-lost love, a crazy author, an affair and a few mysterious deaths. Not to mention the mystery of the “mud man” who the sisters’ father, Raymond Blythe, wrote a famous fiction (or was it?) story nearly 70 years before.

Approach & Style
The book alternates time periods every few chapters, showing what happened in 1939-1941 and what is happening currently in the 1990s. Chapters take on different points of view and focus from all of the core characters: Raymond Blythe. His 3 daughters, Saffy, Percy and Juniper. Edie spends time with her parents and her mother’s sister Rita. Mr. Cavill, the missing fiancee, has his own stories and connections, and his family is still looking for him in current time. The stories and characters unfold chapter by chapter, leading readers to discover all the covert relationships and actions that have occurred to bring everything to current times.

Strengths
Kate Morton is quickly becoming my favorite author. Her writing style, though a little exaggerated and too lyrical at times, is astoundingly beautiful. You will always picture the setting, the views and the backdrops. Her choice of words ranges from intoxicating to phenomenal. And her ability to stop the story at just the right moment before switching to a different character or point of view is dazzling. And sometimes, it’s not even a cliffhanger or point of suspense; it’s a mere change to give you a chance to breathe and let your imagination run free for a bit.

The plot is intricate, realistic and intense. You question with each chapter the motivation of the good people and the sentiment of the bad people. You wonder why they make the decision they make, only to find out later, you should never second guess it. I can imagine Morton writes very detailed outlines over several months, determining when to drop certain hints, and when to hold back for a complete and utter shock. She’s clearly writing in a forum and a genre that is well-suited to her strengths.

Open Questions & Concerns
At times, the story is a little too unclear. In 90% of the cases, it works to your advantage as your suspense and thrill increases; however, every so often, it goes a little too far, unravels more than it needs to and opens itself up to a few too many questions that don’t fully find resolution. In particular, with the ending of this one, I wasn’t sure of a connection to make with the delay that happens on the bus (no spoilers here!)… that said, it’s easily forgiven, but this reader wanted it a little more tidied up.

Empathy for the character of Juniper should have been a stronger theme. Readers will feel attached to her, but when you discover what truly happened to her in the end, and how it seems so much could have been prevented, you wonder whether she was just there to suffer. A tweak here and there might have made this a little more acceptable, but then again, reality doesn’t always work that way either. People have a misguided notion they are doing the right thing for the wrong reasons.

Final Thoughts
If you love flowery language, tremendous detail and an ethereal quality in a story, you must read Morton’s books. And this one in particular shows the push/pull between siblings and parents and children, all the things you never know even though you live together for so many years. We are all different people and despite sharing so much in common, our relationships are unique. This books shows us how to question why a sister can control another, how a mother can choose not to truly love her child… and how a man could go crazy over losing so much in a lifetime.

Go into this one expecting a long and intense journey, and you will be pleased. Go into this hoping for a thrilling ride of great leaps and shocks, you will be disappointed. This is not about how dastardly someone has behaved; this is about how people disappoint one another when they least expect to.

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures.

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