Friday, March 17, 2017

What I Read in April 2016 Part I

What I Read in April 2016 Part I . . .

Hannah Swenson Mysteries

Apple Turnover Murder (Hannah Swensen, #13)Apple Turnover Murder (#13)

It's a hot, muggy summer in Lake Eden and The Cookie Jar is swamped. The mayor's wife asks Hannah and Lisa to bake something for her new charity weekend event. Hannah isn't sure about baking cookies on such short notice but Lisa volunteers them to bake 1000 apple turnovers. Hannah has a big problem. She's never made apple turnovers and neither has Lisa. Lisa's mother-in-law, Marge and Aunt Patsy step in to help bake. Then Lisa's husband Herb begs Hannah to be his assistant for the talent show and she's faced with purple dress demons. Her love life is getting complicated: Norman is off to Minneapolis to a dental convention and comes back withdrawn and different while Mike behaves like a perfect gentleman. Then, her old professor and lover, Bradford Ramsey, turns up in Lake Eden. He also knew her sister Michelle very well and Hannah fears her secret will be exposed and she will be shamed in front of the whole community. When Bradford turns up dead, Hannah is not too sad. Mike asks Hannah for her help in solving the case since she knew the victim.

This has to be the worst entry of the series so far. I skipped it in chronological order - it was checked out of the library I guess. I had wondered why the issue of Michelle's friend coming for dinner was never addresses and here I have my answer. The who and why was so painfully obvious, I think even Hannah should have figured it out right away. Her sisters probably would have, especially Andrea. Hannah is a little slow and tends to confront murder suspects innocently even when it's obvious they are the murderer. I also figured out what trouble Hannah would get into and how she would be rescued. (That was way too convenient). The rest of the plot takes a backseat to the mystery. Her love life plot is tired. Norman cares more about his cat than Hannah and Mike is always the ever vigilant cop. Bill's plot is somewhat interesting but the reader is left hanging at the end.

Hannah annoyed me in this book. She becomes the grammar police and still acts like a much older lady. I find it hard to believe she's supposed to be around my age. Lisa didn't get enough time to tell her story. Her stories are always the funny highlight of the novel, along with Dolores and her antics. Dolores was conspicuously absent for most of the novel. There are only 3 new characters: Bradford Ramsey and a pair of orphaned teenage twin dancing sensations. Bradford was the classic sleazy predatory. He preyed on his students and made them believe he loved them. He took advantage of his research assistant, consistently lied and cheated. Why did no one report him to the Dean? The twins have little to do in the story. One is a naive young girl and the other is a hardened young man, bitter from his childhood spent in the Home. Stephanie Bascomb, the Mayor's wife, is smug and too wealthy but she deserves her happiness where she can get it. My favorite character is Dillon the Lab/terrier mix. He's so cute and funny.

As always, the best part of the book is the recipes. I need to try Chocolate Crack!

Red Velvet Cupcake Murder (Hannah Swensen, #16)
Red Velvet Cupcake Murder (#15)

It's hotter than hot in Lake Eden and Hannah has to suffer putting on dress clothes and pantyhose to attend the opening of the newly renovated Albion Hotel. The Cookie Jar is catering dessert and her sister Andrea is working for the owner, Roger Dalworth, to show the penthouse apartment. The event turns scary when the police secretary, Barbara Donnelly, falls off the roof. Barbara survives, but barely and her memory is impaired. She seems convinced someone is trying to kill her and there's a white monster invading her hospital room and only Moishe can ward it off. When Hannah discovers Doc Bev, Norman's ex-fiance and Roger's current one, in her car plunged into a pond, Hannah doesn't hesitate to come to the rescue. Sadly, Doc Bev is already dead when Hannah calls Mike and sadly for Hannah, she becomes the prime murder suspect. Hannah must put the clues together to crack the case and clear her name.

This was not one of the better entries in the series. It took too long to get to the actual murder and to connect the dots. The results weren't entirely unexpected though it did take me awhile to figure it out. I found very few of the recipes that I wanted to try. The love triangle is wearing thin. Either just be friends with them both or marry Norman and please stop being such a prude. I appreciate the clean story but Hannah acts so prudish when it comes to "compliancy." It's none of her business is her mother chooses to have sex with Doc Knight even though I would also be freaked out by that, Hannah can't even think the word let alone say it out loud. Hannah should be in her 70s the way she acts. She's still afraid of technology though at least she uses her phone in this book. She's still grammar police - this time waging war on cliches. She really really doesn't sound like a woman in her 30s. Are people in the Midwest really that different from those of us on the east coast?

I also think there's an inconsistency in the time line. Bethie is two but Tracy is still 6 when Tracy was 7 or 8 in the last book and Bethie was 2. I also found some of the small town stuff a little difficult to believe. Is there really only one doctor and one hospital? What hospital gives information out to people who claim to be family without proof? Also, I'm surprised prudish Hannah didn't have a heart attack that her precious 6 year old niece was riding in a convertible in the font seat and without a car seat/booster seat. Andrea should at least freaked out. If we're going to be subjected to inane dialogue, of which this series suffers too much, then at least let is be realistic. I missed the humor from Dolores's Regency obsession. Tracy provides some cute comments but she's a little too annoyingly precocious.

I was happy Barbara survived her fall. I like her a lot and I know the guys at the police station love her and rely on her. Roger is not a very nice person either and he and Bev deserved each other. I was sad Doc Bev was murdered. She wasn't a nice person but I hoped she would at least begin to show some compassion or even maturity. Even if she didn't, her mother and young daughter don't deserve that tragedy. Another new character is Jenny, a nurse at Doc Knight's hospital. She's new in town and it's too obvious she advances the plot by inadvertently sharing the clues. Hannah should have put it together sooner.

I will keep reading the series because of the recipes. I like the experimental baking parts and I wish Hannah would get back to doing more baking. There have been too many non-baked good recipes. I also wish Hannah wouldn't use mixes and pie fillings. As a professional baker, she should be better than that. Andrea, on the other hand, is learning from using mixes and experimenting with different flavors and additions so she has an excuse.

Wedding Cake MurderWedding Cake Murder

Hannah Swenson has been busy planning a small, private wedding to Ross Barton before she has to leave for New York for the Food Channel competition. Then she learns the Lake Eden gossip hotline has been busy speculating on why she's holding a quickie, private wedding. Hannah doesn't want anyone to get the wrong impression so she allows her mother and sisters to take over wedding planning, as long as she's married before the competition. Then the Food Channel calls to say they've bumped up the date of the competition and they've added a twist- the winner of the first challenge gets to move the remainder of the competition to their hometown. Hannah HAS to win! She's the only contestant from a small town and the only home baker. It would mean so much to Lake Eden to bring the competition to town, she can't let them down. The Food Channel will even film her wedding for TV since the last day of the competition is the day before. While in New York, she discovers that some of the other contestants are not as honorable as she is and Hannah becomes more determined to win. Before the second phase of the competition, the meanest judge, who was kind to Hannah, is found dead. Hannah feels compelled to solve the mystery of his murder.

This isn't the best story in the series. I don't get why Hannah loves Ross. I'm not into him at all. His character pops up out of nowhere in Cherry Cheesecake Murder and only appears in one other book before this one. He doesn't have an established character like Mike and Norman. Mike has a 6th sense that something is off about Ross and I do too. I just don't like him. Who leaves Hollywood after only a few years for a small town and then makes a move on an old college friend who already has 2 boyfriends? There was also a red flag about finances and the fact Hannah didn't even talk to him about his finances before setting the wedding date. It just seems weird to me. (I also find it odd that she claims not to have much money when she shares the business with Lisa and they don't have any permanent employees. Maybe if she stopped giving away so many cookies she'd have more money.) I also thought there should have been more time spent in New York. I wondered what Hannah's impressions of a big city where. I would also have liked to see Michelle's reaction to the theater district (does that girl ever go to school? Do theater majors not have classes to attend?)

The murder takes way too long to happen. Though I couldn't guess who did it, neither did Hannah. I had 2 main suspects in mind and I turned out to be wrong. This book happens to have the most stupid Hannah move yet. She confronts a suspected murderer on her wedding day only hours before she has to be at the church! Why on earth didn't she let Mike do his job? I honestly didn't even care who did it. The judge was only on page briefly and he wasn't a nice guy.

I also don't understand why Lake Eden keeps electing such a sleazy mayor.

The new characters in this book include the stereotypical reality show contestants. Some are nice and some will do anything to win. Even the judging panel includes the harsh judge everyone hates.

I read this series for the recipes and this book has the bonus of Hannah trying to figure out which recipes to bake for the competition and coming up with her own unique recipes. Some of the recipes sound pretty good but I don't know if I'd ever bake them. I hate that she sells Whippersnappers in the bakery. If I bought one and found out it was made from a box cake mix and Cool Whip, I'd be really mad. I don't pay for what I can bake at home.

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