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Book Review: Deck the Hallways by Kate Carlisle

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Deck the Hallways (A Fixer-Upper Mystery, #4)Deck the Hallways by Kate Carlisle
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Deck the Hallways is the 4th book in Kate Carlisle’s ‘A Fixer-Upper Mystery’ series. This one has a Christmas theme as Shannon and her construction crew renovate a home for multiple low-income families to move into over the holiday. As a feel-good, cozy story about a small town and the fun inhabitants, I enjoyed this book. As a mystery, it fell short for a few reasons. Let’s dive in.

All the makings of a fine whodunit are in place. Shannon and several people clash with the executive from the bank who’s making their lives miserable as they rush to close on the renovations. A mysterious woman claims a Santa Claus helper inappropriately touched her during a meeting. Jewelry has been stolen. Many people want that banker to leave for good. At about 20% in, we’re prepped for a wonderful mystery full of culprits and side stories. Then things kinda fell apart for me, which is unusual. Rather than kill him off at the normal place in a story, it doesn’t happen until almost 50% into the book, allowing for more people to show potential motives. I would’ve been okay with this except more suspects kept creeping up rather than exploring the 4 or 5 already noted. And then the book quickly jumped through 7 days to get to Christmas Day, giving maybe a page to a few lines of narrative telling us what happened each day. There were lots of those “***” markings noting scene changes which didn’t work well in this style of book.

By the time the villain was revealed, it was a little too much for me. I normally try to find the reasoning and get on board, but in this book, it felt like this was rushed way too quickly. I saw several other methods including starting the book closer to Christmas, fleshing out 1 or 2 stories in more detail rather than add 4 or 5 odd red herrings, and adding more twists to the core action. A few items were also left a little too open, and I was jarred out of reading because of the frequent scene changes. All that said, it’s not bad… just not the normal caliber I’ve seen from the author. It felt sort of average, so I ended up with 3 stars on this one. Worth a read to see character growth, learn all about the remodels, and find some good mystery elements… just not complete enough to say it’s better than others.

On the good side, Shannon’s relationship with Mac changes. I loved the bonding scenes with her father. She and her core group of friends have a solid connection. The town feels real. I like the potential change between Whitney’s and Shannon’s tension, although it could go in either direction based on what happened in this book. I’ve already ordered the next one to read soon. I’m sure it was just a one-off, but I look forward to getting back on track.

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Book Review: Crowned and Moldering by Kate Carlisle

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Crowned and Moldering (A Fixer-Upper Mystery, #3)Crowned and Moldering by Kate Carlisle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Crowned and Moldering is the 3rd book in Kate Carlisle’s ‘A Fixer-Upper Mystery’ series, also adapted as a TV show on the Hallmark channel. I haven’t caught the shows yet, but as soon as I catch up on the books, I will check it out. I don’t want it to alter my perspective until I’m current. As a stand-alone book, this one was good and I’d recommend it to all cozy readers.

Shannon Hammer inherited a construction business from her father in California. She’s doing well, but a former high school student returns home and tries to put Shannon out of business. While she’s renovating the lighthouse home for new love-interest, Mac, she finds a dead body jammed into a unique, early twentieth century home feature. It’s actually just a skeleton that’s nearly ten years old. Unfortunately, one of her employees realizes it must be his long-lost sister. Without trying to get in the way, Shannon ultimately falls into the same social circle as the deceased girl when she visits the high school on career day. Was it the guidance counselor? The principal? A rival student? A secret older boyfriend? A teacher? This one is packed full of suspects and had a lot of complex angles to consider.

I enjoy the descriptions of the houses and construction projects. The characters are all good. None are super amazing stand-out, but they work well and make me want to read more of the books. The writing style is simple and clean making it a quick 3-hour read for me. I began and finished this one on two flights and a layover last weekend. Although there is a typical 3-way romance building that will push readers to choose sides, it’s not thrown directly at us, which makes the story-line easier to accept. I do like how genuine and kind Shannon is, allowing me to root for her despite how close she is to the investigation. I plan to get the next book at the library over the weekend.

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Book Review: This Old Homicide by Kate Carlisle

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This Old Homicide (A Fixer-Upper Mystery, #2)This Old Homicide by Kate Carlisle

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This Old Homicide is the second book in Kate Carlisle’s ‘A Fixer-Upper Mystery’ series about a young female contractor named Shannon who took over her father’s construction business in California. Shannon finds her elderly neighbor, Jesse, dead when she checks on him in his house. At first, it seems like natural causes, but as the cops investigate the holes in the walls and clutter all about the place, they know someone burglarized the joint. Could Jesse have found an expensive piece of jewelry during a recent underwater dive? There had been a Spanish shipwreck in the area many years ago!

This series is built on the friendship of five woman who supporting one another through babysitting, construction, store operations, heartache, and a whole lot more. Although we focus on Shannon, it’s a wonderful group of people to get to know throughout this series. This is one of Carlisle’s strengths in terms of building characters. Each feels unique, as do the remainder of the supporting cast from Shannon’s ex-boyfriend to her petty high school friends who still like to torture her. She will waffle between the mysterious writer and the handsome cop, find plenty of new murders in each of the houses she repairs, and develop ties to a seaside town in need of tourists. All the makings of a fine series… and of the two I’ve read, I preferred the first one, but this had a strong mystery.

I look forward to picking up the third book next month once I can get through the ~10 blog tours I signed up for this quarter. That’s the goal… to get current on this series before the end of the year. Anyone else reading them? Then, I can watch the TV show based off of these books. That sounds like fun to me!

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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 three books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, and Flower Power Trip. 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: A High-End Finish by Kate Carlisle

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A High-End Finish (Fixer-Upper Mystery, #1)A High-End Finish by Kate Carlisle

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Last month, I finished reading all the cozies I had on my bookshelf or Kindle. I had stopped buying them a while ago because it was getting out of control. Once I caught up, I decided I could start one new series a month… this month, it was Kate Carlisle’s Fixer-Upper Mysteries, and the first book is A High-End Finish. I’d previously heard good things about Carlisle through reviews or recommendations, and it has been a great suggestion. I enjoyed a lot about the book, saw a few things I hope settle in as the series continues, and look forward to the various plots that could come from a contractor being an amateur sleuth.

In this first book, Shannon goes on a bad date. He’s creepy, handsy, and basically crosses that border of anything considered acceptable. Luckily she gets a good kick to his shins to stop the jerk (in front of a crowd no less!), but unfortunately for her, he winds up dead a few days later. The new detective in town immediately thinks she’s guilty, but quickly decides he might’ve made a mistake. As she begins to ask questions around town, Shannon learns other women also experienced the same behavior from the awful man. Which one of them killed him? It doesn’t stop there, though, as another body turns up. And this one is a bigger connection to Shannon, someone she hated almost as much. Is there a killer trying to make her look guilty, or a Casanova from afar trying to make her happy in a psychotic sort of way? Shannon tries to stay out of the case, but she’s drawn back in each time something bad happens. In the end, she sees the killer trying to murder someone else and intervenes (what a good citizen) yet it puts her suddenly in the line of fire.

Carlisle’s writing style is great. It flows well, I like the balance of humor and seriousness, and there is witty dialog and wonderful narrative. Shannon’s relationships are developing nicely, and she has a lot of potential to be a great sleuth. I am thrilled to see a female contractor represented with both supportive and non-supportive men around her; it provides a good balance of different views. I love the decor and architecture being described, I felt like I was in southern California, San Francisco, or the 1920s seaside environments. Kudos to the author for all these wonderful things in a series I expect to love.

I was a little off-put by some of the interactions: some in a good way, some in a confused way. She has an instant connection with Mac (a famous writer), but he comes across too flirty and then too standoffish. I understand writers can be like that (no, not me!), but there wasn’t any explanation from him to her on why he acted so cold in one scene. Another instance was where the sheriff went from thinking she was awful to ‘let’s be friends’ without a smoother transition. In a single mystery with multiple characters and stages to be set, I understand this isn’t always the easiest, but I hope there’s a few less completely-180-degree turns happening. Some are fun to watch with forthcoming clarity, but it can’t become a common theme.

That said, it was minor, and I’m just being a tad picky since I’m on my 725th review at this point and now trying to share all the positives with one or two constructive ideas just in case readers want to know the potential areas of a book they might wonder about. But definitely a high recommendation read from me… I’ll be starting number two later this month.

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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.