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Mark Baker RSS Feed (Santa Clarita, CA United States)

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Death on Eat Street (Biscuit Bowl Food Truck)
Death on Eat Street (Biscuit Bowl Food Truck)
by Joyce and Jim Lavene
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $7.11
67 used & new from $1.84

4.0 out of 5 stars Dead Body in the Driver Seat, July 8, 2014
Dead Body in the Driver Seat

Zoe Chase has given up a job in a bank to pursue her dream of owning her own restaurant, much to her parents’ and boyfriend’s dismay. In order to raise the money she needs to finish the repairs on her building, she is running a food truck selling her biscuit bowls filled with various fillings depending on the day.

However, business is slow going with few people willing to give her new venture a try. After on particularly bad day, Zoe returns to her restaurant and begins unloading only to find a dead body in a driver’s seat when she goes to lock it up. The victim is Terry of Terry’s Tacky Tacos, and the two had a confrontation that day. Will the police consider her a suspect? Who really killed Terry?

Despite the body appearing in the first chapter, I felt the book took a little bit of time to truly get going. Once it did, the pace was steady with a surprising trail to the final killer. The characters were sharp and always entertaining; I just loved spending time with them. I did feel the narration had too many short, declarative sentences in it, something that distracted me at times as I was reading.

Overall, this was a fun debut by an author I hadn’t tried before. I will be back for Zoe’s next adventure.

NOTE: I won this book in a contest - no review was promised.

There's Treasure Everywhere--A Calvin and Hobbes Collection
There's Treasure Everywhere--A Calvin and Hobbes Collection
by Bill Watterson
Edition: Paperback
Price: $16.12
203 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars "I Don't Think You Should Have to do Something Unless You're Enthusiastic About It.", July 8, 2014
Hard to believe this is the next to last Calvin and Hobbes collection. For fans of the series, there isn't much to say but buy the book. You'll love it as much as the others. New to the comic strip? Here's why you should buy it.

Calvin is a typical overactive six-year-old. Hobbes is his best friend stuffed tiger who is alive thanks to Calvin's imagination. Together, they have all kinds of adventures, including enhancing Calvin's brain to give him an idea for a topic for his paper or fighting to keep Calvin from being bad leading up to Christmas.

Honestly, this book is more stand alone laughs that full on stories. That doesn't make them any less funny. And, while we have seen some of these set ups before, like Calvin's snow art, the punch lines still get laughs. Even though I've read this book countless times before, I still laugh at the familiar strips. And the social commentary, while 20 years old, is still spot on, sadly.

There is a weird time jump in this book since Bill Watterson took a nine month sabbatical before coming back for the final year. That's why spring is just sprouting in one strip and we're back to New Year's Resolutions in the next.

But as any fan of the strip will tell you, that hardly matters. There are laughs and quotable lines throughout this book. Read and enjoy today.

Death in Four Courses: A Key West Food Critic Mystery
Death in Four Courses: A Key West Food Critic Mystery
by Lucy Burdette
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $7.04
64 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Foodie Lit Conference Shouldn’t Include Murder, July 4, 2014
Every year, Key West hosts a literary conference, and this year, the theme is food. That’s perfect for Hayley Snow, who has just started her new job at Key Zest magazine. The conference includes restaurant reviewers like Hayley, cookbook authors, and novelists and poets who use food in their work. Even better, Hayley’s mom is in town. Hayley got her love of food from her mother, so the two are looking forward to some time together at the conference.

The key note speaker is Jonah Barrows, who has had a long career as a restaurant critic and as a chef, and he’s only in his 30’s. During his speech, he states that he is going to be brutally honest, essentially calling out some of the panelists on their secrets. At the opening reception later that evening, Hayley finds Jonah floating face down in a reflecting pool. With the police focused on one of Hayley’s friends, she and her mother feel the need to dig out the truth themselves. But did one of the panelists have a secret worth killing for?

This was such a fun book. The mystery started out strongly and keep right on going from one plot point to another. Several sub-plots added to the fun. The characters were strong with distinct personalities, which made it easy to remember who all of them were. The only potential downside would be Hayley’s relationship with her mother, Janet. Don’t misunderstand, it felt completely realistic. However, I cringed a few times at how Janet treated Hayley. Not that Hayley was perfect; she made me cringe, too. In the end, they do love each other, so this was just a small blip in the story.

I’m glad I broke down and started reading this series this year. They are a fun escape to a tourist destination that is much cheaper than a real vacation.

The Prime Minister's Secret Agent: A Maggie Hope Mystery
The Prime Minister's Secret Agent: A Maggie Hope Mystery
by Susan Elia MacNeal
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.49
44 used & new from $7.89

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Maggie Looks for Hope, July 1, 2014
It is November of 1941, and Maggie Hope has been in Scotland for a few months now training future spies and dealing with the fallout from her mission to Berlin. Among the students she is training to go on future missions, Maggie is known as Lady MacBeth because of her cold, exacting demeanor. She doesn’t even refer to them by name, only by number.

As Maggie deals with the pressure of her depression, Japan and the US attempt to negotiate their way out of a standoff. Prime Minister Churchill keeps trying to get President Roosevelt into the war because it is the only hope for England. But when one of Maggie’s friends becomes endangered, will she be able to focus to help her?

While classified as a mystery, the mystery plays a small part of the overall story. There are things happening on a global stage that Maggie isn’t even a part of. And yet, I don’t see how the author could have handled things any differently. Everything plays out in the usual gripping fashion that kept me turning pages as quickly as I could whether Maggie and her fictional friends were involved directly or not.

So much of what happens here builds from the previous books. It’s why I recommend you don’t start the series here. While fans will love the needed character development we get, anyone new to the series won’t appreciate what happens. Trust me, you’ll be on this book before you know it.

This series is like a trip back in time. Even when I know the historical outcome of the events, it only makes the book that much more gripping. If you enjoy World War II history at all, you need to read this series, and if you are already a fan, you’ll love the latest installment.

NOTE: I was sent an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Trixie Belden and the Mystery at Saratoga (No. 24)
Trixie Belden and the Mystery at Saratoga (No. 24)
by Kathryn Kenny
Edition: Paperback
39 used & new from $5.40

3.0 out of 5 stars Mystery from Regan's Past, June 29, 2014
It's August, and with Jim, Brian, and Mart at camp, it's quiet in Sleeyside. That is until Honey calls Trixie with horrible news - Regan has vanished. The Wheelers' groom has left a note saying he hopes to be back soon, but he hasn't explained where he went or why.

However, a trip to the library puts Trixie and Honey on his trail. It seems seven years ago, before he went to work for the Wheelers, he was working with race horses in Saratoga. One of them was drugged, and suspicion fell on the then teenager. Now, Regan has gone back to clear his name. Trixie and Honey manage to get a trip to Saratoga as well. Can they track down Regan and prove his innocence?

I'm really torn on this book. The second half is very fun and fast moving, so I usually leave this book feeling like it was a good read. The characters are their better selves as well. But then there's the fact that Dan, Regan's nephew, is left at home. Really? This would have been a great book for him to be more involved. The first half is fairly slow including the standard for the series travelogue chapter (although it has some pretty funny moments to it). And the ending? The writer clearly wrote themselves into a corner and cheated their way out. It also shows just how much coincidence is involved in the story.

Young fans of the series will certain enjoy this book. However, this isn't the place to start or the strongest book in the series overall.

Basil Instinct
Basil Instinct
by Shelley Costa
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $7.19
40 used & new from $0.36

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Is Nonna's New Club Dangerous?, June 24, 2014
To Eve Angelotta, it was a normal Monday, but her world was about to be turned completely upside down.  Maria Pia, her Nonna and the founder of the family Italian restaurant Miracolo, gets an invitation from Belfiere, a secret society of highly skilled female chefs.  Membership in the society is completely secret and involves a tattoo, an initiation meal, and who knows what else.  Based on what Eve and her cousin Landon find, it might even mean death.

However, Nonna is thrilled as she begins to prepare dinner for her 50 new sisters.  While Eve and Landon are trying to figure out how to keep her safe, the unthinkable happens.  Will Nonna's day go off without a hitch?  What is this society really all about?

While I enjoyed the first book in the series, I liked this one even more.  Yes, there are still too many supporting players/family members at the restaurant, but I was able to follow who the important ones to the story were much easier.  The plot was great, with some nice twists before we reached the logical conclusion.

However, what really sealed the deal for me was the humor.  I don't remember the first book being this funny.  I laughed quite a bit at this one and enjoyed myself along the way.  Heck, at one point the comedy almost hits the level of farce, which I absolutely loved.

Those looking for a comedic culinary mystery need look no further than this fun book.  I am making my reservation now to dine on the next mystery featuring Eve and her family.

NOTE: I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. 

A Sense of Entitlement (A Hattie Davish Mystery)
A Sense of Entitlement (A Hattie Davish Mystery)
by Anna Loan-Wilsey
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.66
30 used & new from $6.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Murder is in this Season, June 24, 2014
While it isn't quite what she expected when she arrived in Newport, Rhode Island, for the summer, Hattie Davish has landed a job as the social secretary for Mrs. Mayhew. A confirmed social climber, Mrs. Mayhew throws lots of parties in hopes of making it into the upper, upper crust of society.

However, not everything is blissfully peaceful this season. Not too long after Hattie arrives, she learns that the telegram workers are going on strike. In fact, there is a labor organizer trying to talk the household staffs at the various "cottages" (read mansions) into striking as well. After an explosion and a murder, Mrs. Mayhew decides that having the inside scoop on what is happening will increase her social standing, so she adds investigation to Hattie's duties. But can Hattie uncover the truth?

While this is the third in the series, it was my first visit to the 1890's with Hattie. I enjoyed this look into a different time in our country's history, and I found the labor issues that were addressed interesting. Hattie was a wonderful main character, and I felt the rest of the cast came to life as well. The only issue was the pacing, which was off a couple of times. Still, by the end I was turning pages to find out who done it.

I don't always hear about historical mysteries, so I'm glad I took the chance to read this one. If you are looking to travel back in time via the page, be sure to check this series out.

NOTE: I received an ARC in exchange for my honest review.

Bran New Death (A Merry Muffin Mystery)
Bran New Death (A Merry Muffin Mystery)
by Victoria Hamilton
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $7.10
72 used & new from $0.14

5.0 out of 5 stars Merry Makes a Fun Debut, June 19, 2014
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After months of trying to sell it, Merry Wynter has no choice but to go visit her inheritance. Located by the small town of Autumn Vale, Wynter Castle is just that - a castle in the middle of upstate New York. Even after seeing it, Merry still feels the need to sell it. The upkeep on it alone would be more than her savings would tolerate.

However, she quickly realizes the grounds and house need some serious repair. After all, someone has been digging holes in the yard. That someone turns out to be Tom Turner, and after they have a very public fight, Tom turns up dead in the bottom of one of those holes. Can Merry navigate the new small town and find the killer?

Yes, there is muffin making in the book, but it is a sideline, and Merry falls into it almost by accident. After a start with a bit too much back story, the book took off. The plot kept me entertained with several good twists and confusing behavior. The characters were quite eccentric and yet believable. I even laughed a few times along the way.

The ending definitely left me wanting to know more about Merry and her new friends, so I will be back for the next book. This is a fun debut that cozy fans will certainly enjoy.

Dead Man's Switch: A Kate Reilly Mystery (Kate Reilly Mysteries)
Dead Man's Switch: A Kate Reilly Mystery (Kate Reilly Mysteries)
by Tammy Kaehler
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.02
64 used & new from $0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Race to Solve the Murder, June 18, 2014
Kate Reilly is going from track to track in the American Le Mans Series, hoping that being in the right place at the right time will land her a permanent job racing. Sadly, it also lands her at the wrong place at the wrong time when she finds the body of Wade Becker under her car. The silver lining in this cloud is that she gets his spot on the racing team.

However, she also lands on the official and unofficial suspect list for Wade's murder. Not only are the police interested in her whereabouts and motives, but rumors on the track are swirling as well. So Kate takes it upon herself to investigate Wade's death. The more she investigates, the more she learns that Wade wasn't a nice man with too many enemies. Can she find the killer before her reputation is dead while still being ready to race?

Not being a fan of racing, I was a little reluctant to pick up this book. And maybe that was one reason I didn't quite connect to it. I found many of the passages designed to explain the sport to newbies like me long and tedious, slowing down the plot. The characters were a bit underdeveloped as well.

However, things definitely came together for the climax, which not only featured a great racing scene, but a logical conclusion to the mystery.

Overall, I think this debut needed a little more work. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't as polished as it could have been either.

The Reversal (A Lincoln Lawyer Novel)
The Reversal (A Lincoln Lawyer Novel)
by Michael Connelly
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $9.99
392 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Haller and Bosch Team Up, June 17, 2014
24 years ago, Jason Jessup kidnapped and killed a young girl. Now, new DNA evidence has freed him, but the LA County DA is going to retry him. In an effort to avoid any association with some bad practices from the first trial, the DA asks Mickey Haller to cross over from the defense and act as a special prosecutor. Mickey gets talked into taking the job on two conditions - his ex-wife Maggie McPherson is his second chair, and his half-brother Harry Bosch of the LAPD as his investigator.

The trio has a long, hard road ahead of them. After 24 years, some of the witnesses are dead or hard to track down. Will they be able to build a case that will put Jessup where he belongs?

While I am not really familiar with Bosch, this is now my first book about Mickey Haller. I enjoyed watching Michael Connelly's two characters teaming up on one case and felt I got to know both of them in the alternating view point chapters.

The plot was great with many twists and turns, some I saw coming and some I didn't. I was even riveted during the courtroom scenes and was cheering at one part.

Anyone looking for a can't put down mystery will be glad they picked up this book.

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