BOOK REVIEW – Potions & Pastries

4.0 out of 5 stars

Potions & Pastries is the 7th book in the Magical Bakery Mystery series by Bailey Cates. I enjoyed this book a lot. This series just gets better and better.


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It’s been exactly two years since Katie and her aunt and uncle opened the Honeybee Bakery, where they serve delicious—and bespelled—treats to the good people of Savannah. After a dinner celebrating the bakery’s anniversary, they all take a stroll along the waterfront and meet Aunt Lucy’s friend Orla, a colorful character who has been telling the fortunes of locals and tourists alike for years.

The next day, Orla meets with what seems like a terrible accident, but Katie’s witchy intuition tells her it was something more sinister. Together with her trustworthy coven and her firefighter boyfriend, she’ll race to find out what happened to the unfortunate fortune-teller before the piping hot trail goes cold…



When I first started reading the series, I thought the stories were entertaining, but none of them seemed like anything to really “write home about”. But I kept reading the series because I liked the characters. These latest two books though have really been great and I’ve really enjoyed them.

In this particular book, Katie and her friends are trying to solve the mystery of Orla, Aunt Lucy’s friend’s death. It seems like a tragic accident, but Katie knows that something just isn’t right about it. But delving into this mystery almost makes Katie a victim!

The plot was well-written and well thought out. I wasn’t positive about the villain until it was revealed. I knew it was one of about 3-4 people but I just couldn’t settle on a particular person before it was revealed. This book definitely kept me on my toes with guessing!

The characters in this series are wonderful. They’re well-rounded, complex, developed characters who have their own sense of weirdness and fun. I find it very entertaining to read about them!  I recommend this series to any paranormal cozy mystery fan! Make sure you start at the beginning of the series with Brownies and Broomsticks in order to understand all the dynamics between the characters!

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About the Author

BaileyCates-CricketMcRaeBailey Cates is a pen name for Cricket McRae who enjoys home crafts like food preservation, cheese making, candle making, and fiber arts. She writes the Sophie Mae Reynolds Homecrafting Mystery Series. As Bailey Cates, she also writes the Magical Bakery Mysteries.

For two years Cricket managed her own soap making business, including all product design, manufacturing and marketing. The recipes included in her first book, Lye in Wait, are all Cricket’s original formulations. She has also worked in a variety of other fields ranging from drivers license examiner to program manager for a major software firm. This fulfills her mothers warning that shed never have a regular job if she insisted on studying philosophy in college.

BLOG TOUR – Vangie Vale & the Strangled Strudel – REVIEW, GUEST POST

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Welcome to another day and another tour! I love doing these Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours! They expose me to great authors and new series. Today’s tour is for Vangie Vale and the Strangled Strudel, the third book in the The Matchbaker Mysteries by R.L. Syme. I had mixed feelings about this book, which I’ll share below the guest post that R. L. Syme generously provided me! Enjoy!

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R.L. Syme’s Guest Post

On Facebook, I have a wonderful group of Vangie’s friends who all congregate with me to talk about the books and our lives. We occasionally talk about Vangie, and as I was preparing for this book tour, I asked them if they had any topics for me to talk about in my guest posts. I borrowed some of their questions to write about. Here are some of the ones they posted.

* Why can’t Vangie and the sheriff get along…?

I wondered if this would be a popular question, among the fans of the books. Vangie and Malcolm have sort of a love/hate relationship in the first three books, but there are definitely a swath of fans who are rooting for them to get past their differences and start a romantic relationship.

And I don’t blame them one bit. Malcolm is a hottie.

But of course, so is Derek. Her current boyfriend.

But let me take a serious stab at answering this question. I want to be honest in that Malcolm’s issues are just as much at play here as Vangie’s. In fact, maybe even more so. I think Vangie is curious about her neighbor, the Sheriff, and she finds him interesting. She finally feels like they are friends. But Malcolm is not a church guy, and he specifically has issues with pastors. You’ll find out more about those issues later. For Vangie’s part, though, she’s dating Derek.

* Where did she get her quirky charm?

That is a great question. I feel like it’s a combination of using sarcasm to deal with the difficult things in her life, and her personality making her different. She has a quick mind, too, so she does find herself speaking quickly, because she’s thinking quickly. That’s probably what I would attribute it to.

* What was her relationship with her mother like?

This is a great question. She lost her mother when she was a teenager, so she did have several years with her. But she had a solid relationship with her mom. She and Priscilla were both close with their mother, and it was part of what made the girls so close as they got older. She’s not very close with Laura—the woman her father married a few years after her mother died—and she doesn’t consider Laura to really be her stepmother, since Laura didn’t really raise her. But she’s glad her dad is happy.

These were great questions. It was a lot of fun seeing what Vangie’s fans wanted to know about her.

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Thank you to R.L. Syme for providing me with the guest post for today! Here’s information about the book followed by my review!

Vangie Vale & the Strangled Strudel (The Matchbaker Mysteries)
Cozy Mystery
3rd in Series
Setting – Montana
Hummingbird Books (January 4, 2018)
Print Length: 330 pages
E-Book ASIN: B077GK124B

Purchase Links: AmazonB&NKobo

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You could call it the straw that broke the camel’s back but it was more like a Montana forest timber.

Just when Vangie Vale’s life was getting back to normal after a murder that rocked her little Rocky Mountain tourist town, she found herself in the middle of another murder… as the chief suspect.

Vangie stood shocked on the side of the curb as the sheriff stretched yellow crime scene tape around the front of her new bakery. Wouldn’t this make a lovely headline in next week’s paper: Local Baker Kills Parishioner With Pudding. Vangie’s road back to good graces as a part-time pastor was bumpy enough already. This would be a roadblock. Can’t have that.

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4.0 out of 5 stars.

As I said above, I had mixed feelings about this book. I like Vangie as a character. I like Derek and I really love Malcolm. But Vangie’s tendency to be impulsive and not THINK when she goes to investigate drives me batty. I’ve read through all three books in this series hoping that over time she’d learn to at least stop to THINK before she rushes headfirst into danger, but so far she hasn’t.

The book is well-written and the plot line was great. I had no real ideas about who had done the crime until it was revealed at the end. Ms. Syme did a really great job with the villain. I don’t want to give anything away, but it’s not easy to write the type of villain that she had in this story and Ms. Syme did a fantastic job with it.

I haven’t decided if I’m going to continue with the series at this point. But I don’t want to dissuade my readers from it because it IS well-written and the characters are great. I just hate heroines who don’t think before rushing into danger. That’s my personal preference and has no bearing on my rating of the writing. If that type of heroine doesn’t bother you, then I recommend this series highly!

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Thanks for joining me today! If you wish to visit other sites on the tour, please click on the banner below to visit the main tour page!

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BLOG TOUR – Vangie Vale & the Murdered Macaron – REVIEW, INTERVIEW


4 out of 5 stars.

Today I’m pleased to be bringing you the latest stop on the Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour for Vangie Vale & the Murdered Macaron by R.L. Syme. This was a delightful book to read and I enjoyed it. Stay tuned for an interview with the author after the review.

** Update 8/7/17 ** Yesterday I still didn’t feel well, so updates to the post had to wait until today, but I’m happy to report that we now have more formatting, purchase links, a link to the item on Goodreads, and links to the author’s sites, plus graphics to help break up the text. Thank you for being patient as I dealt with my migraine and the aftermath.


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Small towns and gossip go together like flaky crust and sweet pastry cream. Between the police scanners, social media, and the senior center, it’s like a zombie apocalypse where they consume people’s secrets instead of living flesh. But Vangie Vale wants nothing more than to stay under the radar…especially the police radar.

So when her new bakery becomes linked to a murder investigation, nothing will stop the gossip mill from connecting her to the dead body. Can’t have that.

Forced back into the role of investigator, this newly-arrived-in-town part-time bakery owner has to become the very thing she hates–a nosy, small-town gossip–in order to clear her good name, and keep her face off the front page. But when a date-gone-wrong brings her face-to-face with the Sheriff, Vangie can’t ignore the fact that one of her macarons was involved in a murder. She has to find out who-dun-it.

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As I said above, the book was a delightful read and I enjoyed it. I like our main character, Vangie. Sometimes she drove me a little nuts because she had a tendency to put herself into situations that held the possibility of danger without really thinking too much, but she didn’t do that often, so I didn’t get too annoyed by it.

I had mixed feelings about most of the supporting characters throughout the book. As we got more into the back story of the town and its people, I understood the characters motivations better and started to like some of them more, but there were enough red herrings in this book that I was suspicious of most of the townspeople and characters until the villain was actually revealed.

The plot line moved along at a steady and somewhat quick pace, though it wasn’t so quick that you couldn’t keep up. This was a fun read and I recommend it to anyone looking for a good whodunit.

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First, let me say a huge thank you to R.L. Syme for being willing to answer my questions.


1) Do you have a day job in addition to being a writer? If so, what do you do during the day?  Do you enjoy your day job?

I don’t. I’m lucky enough to be able to write full-time. I love it. I used to have non-writing jobs, though, and I’ve done so many different jobs, mostly in the nonprofit arena. Theater, music, church, youth, restaurants… all great experiences for me to take from in the writing.

2) Do you set aside time to write every day or do you write more sporadically? When you write, do you aim to complete a set # of pages or words? How does music/other noise affect your concentration when you’re writing?

I write every day. Pretty much during the same hours every day, too, unless I’m on deadline, and then I’ll probably write more. I usually try to write a specific number of hours, rather than a word count. That way I know I’ll always get it done.

3) When you’re writing, do your characters seem to “hijack” the story or do you feel like you have the “reigns” of the story? Similarly, do you outline your book first or just sit down and write, seeing where it takes you?

With Vangie, I definitely feel like the story was hers, and she took over. It might be because I feel like I know her so well, I can predict what she does. I love knowing a character that well.

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4) How did you break into the publishing world? How many rejections did you go through before finding a publisher? Did you ever think about quitting? If so, what did you do to keep yourself hopeful?

I definitely went through a lot of rejections first. I never thought about quitting before…I’ve thought about quitting after. Lol. It’s definitely hard work. But I love it. To keep myself hopeful, I try to focus on the characters and the story I’m telling. I want to see them get their justice or their happy ending.

5) In general, how many revisions do you go through before a book is published? Do you have beta readers or is it just your editing team and their suggestions? Do you set your books aside for a period of time and then pick them up and edit them?

Macaron went through three pretty major revisions. Normally, I don’t do that many, but this book has a lot of moving parts. I have two editors and several beta readers, and they are so helpful. I definitely set the book aside after every draft or every read-through. I like it to be fresh when I look at it.

6) A good villain is hard to write. How did you get in touch with your inner villain(s) to write this book. Was there a real-life inspiration for him/her/it?

The thing I love about mystery is that the villain is usually someone who has a really good reason for doing what they did. They just got desperate. I think that’s what I like so much. I get to sort of write normal people who just get carried away because they want something so much. I think that’s what makes mystery so interesting.


7) Do any family members, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, etc. end up showing up in your work or are your characters all truly fictional?

My characters are definitely fictional. I try to make them as real as I can, so I almost always have pieces of something familiar in them, but I never write a one-to-one correlation of a person. I don’t think it’s fair to try to tell someone’s story so completely like that. But I also want them to feel real.

8) If you could write about anyone fiction/nonfiction, contemporary/historical who would you write about? Why?

That’s a great question. I’ve always wanted to do non-fiction, about TS Eliot. In fact, I worked on a fiction book about TS Eliot for a long time, but it never quite came to fruition. But there’s always a chance I will go back to that idea someday. I love TS Eliot.

9) What are some great books you’ve read recently?

I’m just finishing a re-read of Tana French’s The Likeness, and I’m really enjoying it. I’ve read all of her Dublin Murder Squad books, and I think they’re my favorite series out right now.


10) What books have influenced your life the most?

I’d be lying if I didn’t say The Bible, just because of my religious background. But in addition to that, I’ve been reading thriller and mystery for so long, I’d have a big list of those, as well. Nancy Drew would be up there, and Dean Koontz. John Grisham. But then, additionally, I was an English major, so I’ve read all the classics, and those have influenced me a lot, as well. Poetry, too. Eliot and Hopkins most notably.

11) If you could spend one day with a character from your book who would it be? And what would you do during that day?

It would absolutely be Derek Hobson. And I’d be okay with just riding on his bike. Although maybe a little B&E, too…. #sigh

12) Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Have you ever learned anything from a bad review and incorporated it into your future work?

I usually don’t respond to reviews. I did once, on one of my very first books, and I learned from the experience that it’s not my job to tell readers what they did and didn’t experience during my books. I’ve learned that I have to be really okay with putting the book out into the world and letting people think what they’re going to think. Not everyone will like every book, and reviews are supposed to help readers find the books they will and won’t like. As a good friend says, reviews are for readers, not for authors.


Thanks so much for having me!

And THANK YOU for being willing to answer my questions today!! 🙂

Author’s Links


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Cat Got Your Diamonds – REVIEW

4.5 out of 5 stars

Cat Got Your Diamonds is the first book in the Kitty Couture mystery series by Julie Chase and it’s delightful! I’ve been meaning to read it ever since it came out last spring and I finally was able to do so after finishing my latest round of blog tours. It did not disappoint!

Book Cover: Cat Got Your Diamonds: A Kitty Couture Mystery by Julie Chase - Store setting on cover with black & white cat on top of counter and beagle on the floor looking up at it.

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Brief Synopsis

Grandeur and opulence are everything in the famed New Orleans Garden District where pets are family and no bling is too big. Opening Furry Godmother, pet boutique and organic treat bakery, is Lacy Marie Crocker’s dream come true–until the glitter gun used to make her Shih Tzu tutus becomes a murder weapon. And Lacy becomes public enemy #1.

Now Detective Jack Oliver is hounding Lacy, and her Furry Godmother investor wants out before his name is tarnished by association. To make matters worse, a string of jewel heists with suspicious ties to the murder case has New Orleans residents on edge. To save her dream, Lacy must take a stand, put her keen eyes to work, and unravel what really happened at her shop that night. But can Lacy sniff out the killer cat burglar in time to get her tail-raising designs on the catwalk?

Witty and whimsical, Cat Got Your Diamonds, the first in a new cozy series by Julie Chase, will be the cat’s meow for fans of Rita Mae Brown and Miranda James. (Source: Goodreads)

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I love Lacy. She’s kind of quirky, sometimes absent-minded, and just totally lovable. I love her spunky spirit, her go-get-em attitude, and her stubbornness. Her interactions with Detective Oliver are pretty great as well. I like the two of them together. 🙂 The other characters are fun as well. They’re mostly well-rounded and developed. I’m sure the author deliberately left some things out in order to expand on them in later books in the series.

The plot line moves along at a decent pace. I never felt like the pace was dragging, but nor did I feel like the story was so fast-paced that I couldn’t keep up. I enjoyed the plot twists along the way. I didn’t have an inkling of the villain until he was revealed. Even then, I was completely surprised. I can’t wait to read the second one in another week or so for a blog tour to find out how all of it is going to affect Lacy and her business!

I love the New Orleans setting. I also love that it’s set in the Garden District and not just the Quarter which is where so many TV shows and books are set when they talk about New Orleans. The descriptions of the settings are lovely.

All in all it’s a delightful read and a fun first book to the series! The only reason I didn’t give it 5 stars is that it didn’t have an emotional “hook” for me – that little bit of extra pizzazz that will push it up to a 5 in my book. But it’s still a wonderful and fun book!

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About the Author

Author photo: Fall wooded background, young white woman with oval-shaped face, shoulder-length brown hair, no glasses, wearing a white top with a brown/tan cardigan and a gold necklaceJulie Chase is a mystery-loving pet enthusiast who hopes to make readers smile. She lives in rural Ohio with her husband and three small children. Julie is a member of the International Thriller Writers (ITW) and Sisters in Crime (SinC). She is represented by Jill Marsal of Marsal Lyons Literary Agency.

Julie also writes as Julie Anne Lindsey. (Source: Goodreads)

Vanilla Beaned – REVIEW

4 out of 5 stars.


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Melanie Cooper and Angie DeLaura are taking a gamble by opening their first franchise of the Fairy Tale Cupcakes Bakery, so where better to hit the jackpot than in Vegas? Business manager Tate Harper has lined up a meeting with Holly Hartzmark, a former showgirl who’s looking to bring Mel and Angie’s sweet treats to Sin City, but Mel isn’t so sure she’s ready to hand her recipes over to a complete stranger—especially one as brash as Holly.

But after the potential bakery location gets blown up, Mel begins seeing another side to Holly—one that reminds her very much of herself. Determined to help a kindred spirit, Mel sets out to discover who is trying to keep the bakery from cashing in. But with a murderous mischief maker on the loose, the odds are stacking up against a happy ending for Mel and her friends…

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Vanilla Beaned by Jenn McKinlay is the eighth installment in the Cupcake Bakery Mystery series.

Welcome to another fun, wonderful story about our bakers, Mel, Angie, and Tate and the troubles they always seem to find themselves in! This installment is filled with romance, intrigue, crime, cupcakes, and an adorable 5-year-old who is an expert in all things cupcake. Add in an Elvis impersonator competition, Mel’s employees, Oz & Marty, plus, the handsome police detective, Manny, and you’ve got one crazy, hectic, but thrilling and enjoyable book on your hands.

Our bakery owners find themselves in Las Vegas as they look to start their first franchise, owned by Holly, who is an entirely self-taught, but phenomenal baker. However, as they usually do, the situation goes awry when the first storefront being considered for the location blows up. While the quartet (Mel, Angie, Tate, & our new baker, Holly) try to figure out who is behind the mischief, Melanie finds herself entranced by the baker and her 5-year-old daughter. She decides that maybe franchising isn’t such a bad idea after all.

The story line in this book was wonderful. I did have an inkling of who the culprit was, but only because of something our adorable cupcake expert tells us. One of those details in the story where if you miss it, you’ll probably have no idea until the end who the culprit is, but if you catch on to it, it’s a pretty good clue.

Having a change in setting was great as well. Las Vegas is always a happening town. While the casinos and their shows, gaming floors, extravagant hotels, etc. were featured, you also saw the other parts of Las Vegas, the parts off “The Strip” that you don’t always see in books and movies.

The only criticism I have is that if you’re a long time reader of this series, you know that the seventh book ends on quite the cliff-hanger.  While it’s resolved at the beginning of Chapter 2, it was a little startling to me going from that cliff-hanger to nothing special happening at the very beginning of the book. It’s not a huge deal, but it bugged me.

All in all, it was a thoroughly enjoyable book in the Cupcake Bakery series, one of my favorites in the series, actually. If you like cozy mysteries, give this one a try! Then gobble up the rest of the books in the series too!

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