Christmas Cake Murder

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 28 Sep 2018

Member Reviews

I liked this book. It was fun to see/learn the back story of Hannah and how she came to the baker she is. The story was fun and well written, and, per usual, some really fun recipes!
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I was fully faithful to this series until Hannah's marriage and then quickly lost interest. This one just wasn't for me with all of the backstory rather than new developments.
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The Christmas Cake Murder
By:  Joanne Fluke
Published By:  Kensington Books
Published On:  September 25th, 2018
3 Stars

This installment of the Hannah Swensen mystery series takes us back in time to when Hannah’s dad has just died, Hannah has decided to drop out of her doctoral program, Andrea is pregnant with her and Bill’s first child, and Michelle is still in high school.  Hannah’s mom, Delores, is struggling to deal with her husband’s death and has holed herself up in her room.  At the same time one of Lake Eden’s beloved residents, Essie, has broken her hip and is in the hospital. While there, Essie keeps talking about her first Christmas Ball and how much she would like to go back and experience it again.  Two of Delores’s friends come up with an idea to help both women.  They ask Delores to help recreate the Christmas Ball that Essie is reminiscing about.  Delores agrees to help and enlists the help of her daughters.  Hannah is put in charge of baking the cakes.  It is here that her dream for opening the Cookie Jar starts to form.

Hannah doesn’t actually stumble upon a body in this book.  Instead, the murder takes place in a story within the story.  The story comes from notebooks the girls find in Essie’s apartment.  Each night the family sits down together and listens to Hannah read from the story.  It turns out to be a mystery and everyone is engrossed in it and can’t wait to see how it ends.  The problem is that Essie never finished the story.  It’s left to the girls to figure out what happens next.

In this story we see how the Cookie Jar comes to be.  It is Hannah’s dream, but Delores helps make it all come true.  One of Hannah’s complaints about her mom though is that she tries to take control of her life.  Delores takes some pretty big actions involving Hannah’s life in this story, but she doesn’t move forward with those ideas before checking with Hannah.  Hannah seems good with all that her mother is doing to help her create a life in Lake Eden.  Andrea doesn’t play prominently in this story, but we get the first inkling about her future realtor career. We see a fair amount of Lisa and Michelle, and it was fun to see how their younger selves acted.  Although it is much like their future selves.  Lisa’s mother is still alive in this story, but she is sick, and Lisa spends a lot of time with the Swensen family.  Many of Lake Eden’s secondary characters do not appear in this story, but that’s ok.  It is a great time to get to know the Swensens better.

I loved the story within the story in this book.  I’ve really enjoyed the past installments, but it was a good change up from Hannah always stumbling upon a body.  The story is intriguing and provides a much different setting than just Lake Eden.  Just like the Swensens, I wanted to keep reading to see what happened next.  

And like always, there are some yummy recipes included.

Fans of cozy mysteries and cooking mysteries will enjoy this book.  

Thanks to Net Galley and Kensington Books for an ARC of this book.  #NetGalley #TheChristmasCakeMurder
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Fluke takes us back in time again for this holiday tale. Hannah has a dream of opening a cookie store and Lake Eden is busy with holiday events. Hannah finds an interesting story in an old notebook and we're off.
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This was my first Hannah Swensen mystery and will probably be my last.

I love a cosy murder but the murder wasn't the most important part of the story and the story itself felt very short. I know the series has many fans and maybe if you've read the previous books it would be more fun.
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It's hard to believe that this is book #23 in the Hannah Swensen  cozy series.  I love them all and the recipes are always easy to make and yummy.  This story is a flash back to the beginning of the Cookie Jar Bakery and the start of Hannah's investigating career.  As indicated by the title, this is a Christmas tale and Hannah's first murder solving attempt.  It was a fun read to go back to the beginning and see how friendships developed and family interacted.  If you haven't read the series it's a great book to start, it's easily a stand alone.  I received a copy of this ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review.
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For longtime fans of the Hannah Swenson / Cookie Jar series, this book will introduce readers to how Hannah’s business got started. It also provides some insight into her siblings (Andrea and Lisa) and mother’s behaviors and personalities. We get to meet Lisa, Hannah’s future business partner, while she is still in high school and just Michelle’s best friend. 

The murder, because there is always a murder with the series, has a neat twist in that it  involves an unsolved one from years past. We learn about Essie and a story she has written but left the end unfinished. Hannah and her team of family and friends are able to help Essie finish the story and tie up quite a few loose ends in the process. Though some of it is easy to figure out, Fluke still manages to introduce a twist or two.

And of course, there are recipes, lots of recipes. Though most are desserts, there are a few for other meals. If you are a regular reader of this book series, by all means get a copy of The Christmas Cake Murder.
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This is the first book I have read in this series, though I have always thought I would like to try the series. Thus, when I got the chance to read and review Christmas Cake Murder on NetGalley, I jumped at the offer. After reading the book, I am not sure why so many reviewers raved about it.  I guess it provided some good back story, if you are a reader of the series and a fan of Hannah Swenson, but I found it difficult to get through it. First off, there really is a murder committed in the book, but it is not a major part of it.  Instead, what you have are recreations of events and opportunities leading to Hannah’s opening her bakery.  Fine, if that is what you want/expect.  However, with this title, I definitely looked forward to a murder, not some quickly put together memories and a sort of killing at the end of the book—put together very, very quickly, with little lead up. It almost seemed like the author stuck it in because she felt she had to because of the title. In this story, Hannah and her family are working to recreate a Christmas Ball, to honor the memory and selflessness of an elderly townswoman, Essie, who has fond memories of the ball as well as the eternal gratitude of the entire town, so because she had been injured, they decide to pump up her spirits with a recreation of the ball Of course, Hannah’s mother is running the project, a tribute to her wonderful organizational skills, while Hanna has been enlisted to provide the refreshments (lots of baked goods and many cakes for a ceremonial cake parade during the ball). This is the basic story. At the same time, Hannah is planning and bringing to fruition her bakery, also with the help of her family, which falls nicely in line with the plot. Throughout the story, Hannah reads excerpts from notebooks she finds out were written by Essie to her close family and friends. As the group listens to Hanna read the story of a woman escaping who knows what dangers, everyone wonders whether the story is a figment of Essie’s imagination or is somehow related to her mysterious past. Hannah spends some time puzzling over the story, aided and abetted by her family. Can they manage to put the pieces of this puzzle together and figure out 1) whether this is Essie’s story, 2) how it ends (Essie never wrote an ending) and 3) what it all means.

The book was not very long and was not very action filled.  The back story about Hannah and how she got her bakery probably interested regular readers of the series, but, as I had not read any of the other books, I found it difficult get into. As I said, the back story was somewhat interesting, but not what I expected.  The murder was, it seemed, hastily thrown in at the end to keep the book true to its name.  This book will probably be of interest to readers of the series.  As far as I am concerned, this was definitely not a good book to start reading the author’s works or the series, as I suspect it is not representative.  I might try another book, when I get a chance. I received this from NetGalley to read and review.
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This book was so fun because it was a prequel to the Hannah Swensen series, showing how Hannah came to open the Cookie Jar and start her cookie business.  We also see younger Dolores, Michelle, and Andrea pregnant with Tracy.  There is no romance dilemmas so it was just a fun read.  I do like books that have a story in the story and this one had that too, actually it was the mystery within.

Great addition (or was it the start?) of this series.
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Joanne Fluke continues to create a wonderful story while giving delicious recipes too through her characters including Hannah Swensen. The story is engaging and the writing is great as always with Fluke’s work. If you haven’t read any of her books in this series it is OK. You can fall in love with the character then pick up the other books. If you are a fan you’ll enjoy learning more about the characters and have a little different type of story with the same wonderful characters and addition of recipes. This is great for a quick read during the holidays with a Christmas flare.
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I know, I know.... I said that I was done with this series. I just can’t help myself. I’ve been with Hannah since her first adventures and I keep HOPING the storyline and the writing style will go back to the good ol’ days when this series was worth reading. I was thinking since this book was more of a prequel it would have a chance, but unfortunately I was wrong. But because I have so many good memories with Hannah I will probably read the next in the series. Like I said, I keep hoping! 

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for a copy of this book, which I voluntarily chose to review.
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The Hannah Swensen series of mysteries is one of my favorites series ever. I've always wonder how Hannah ended up opening her store The Cookie Jar and am happy to say with Christmas Cake Murder, we finally get all the answers.

I love the entire Swensen clan and loved going back to the beginning to see where it all started. We saw so many of my favorite characters in this flashback story of Hannah's life. As it takes place right after her father's death, it could have been a very emotional read, yet Joanne Fluke's voice brought so much humor along the way to the story. It was still very emotional to see Mrs. Swensen begin to step back into the land of the living, as she had been mired in grief for so very long. I loved seeing her daughters come together to help find ways to get her moving and out of the house and give her a purpose to live again. Of course not to be outdone by her daughters, she not only starts living again, but wants to help make each of her daughter's lives better along the way.

I loved seeing Mrs. Swensen step up to help make Lake Eden resident Essie's dreams come true by recreating the Christmas Ball. Of course she need each of her daughters help to make it a reality, as well as Michelle's best friend Lisa. I loved when Hannah found the story Essie had written; she shared it with her family in bits and pieces. I quickly realized there was way more to the story than it being just a work of fiction, but was happy to be surprised about some of the facts in the story. Once again we were given a wonderful mystery that pulled in Hannah and her family to solve. 

Christmas Cake Murder was a wonderful addition to the Hannah Swensen mystery series. Readers were given the complete background to how Hannah was able to start her business. I loved getting so see a younger Hannah to see how much she has grown as a person over the course of the series. I highly recommend the entire series of books to fans of cozy mysteries and while I generally don't believe in reading books out of order, if you wanted to read Christmas Cake Murder first, it would be a great way to get a feel for some of the characters in the series.


Rating: 4 Stars (B+)
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I really enjoyed the book. It was nice to see how Hannah started The Cookie Jar. The mystery was interesting and I enjoy following the story as Hannah narrated it. The biggest difference for me was not having Mike or Norman playing a pivotal role in the story.  I am waiting with bated breath for the next Hannah book, and this provided a taste of the characters that I love in the meantime.
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Get ready to grab the hot cocoa and a blanket as you read this book!  If you're just joining the followers of Hannah Swensen, or a devoted reader, this book will delight you.  

Step back in time and find out just how Hannah came to own the beloved Cookie Jar.  As you're reading this cozy, Christmas filled story, you will also get a peek at another shorty mystery.  But is this one real?  A character inside this book is writing a story herself, but just how much of that one is fiction?  You must read this book to answer that question.

Not only will you enjoy the characters and finding out how everything came to be, you always come away with scrumptious recipes.  My favorite part is reading the notes in the recipes from the characters themselves!  This gives the book such a nice little touch, it feels like you're literally sitting down swapping recipes with Hannah Swensen herself.

It's a perfect time of year to read this book and introduce yourself to this wonderful cast of characters!
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Another excellent edition to a wonderful series! Full of twists and turns that leaves you wanting more and enjoying each moment until the end when the killer is caught.
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Christmas Cake Murder by Joanne Fluke is about Hannah Swenson whose dad dies three weeks prior to the start of the story. Her mother, Dolores, is not grieving well. In the meantime, Hannah agrees to help recreate a Christmas Ball to honor a beloved woman, Essie Granger and encourages her mother to help. While reviewing Essie’s old notebooks, she stumbles on a story of a woman escaping danger on the streets of NY, but is surprised parts of the story turn real. I have enjoyed this author’s books for years. There are a lot of recipies and this is a very light read. There was a nice overview of the town and strong characters with a murder to solve. I enjoyed the Christmas festivities. Thank you to Net Galley for providing and ARC and allowing me to review this book.
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I always enjoy books by Joanne Fluke and this is no exception. I really enjoyed the prequel to her Hanna Swensen series. I really loved the story including in manuscript form. Hoping for more prequel titles in the future. #freefall #Joannefluke
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I was excited when I heard about this book.  I thought it would be fun to read about Hannah's life before she opened the Cookie Jar.   I had a hard time getting through this story.  There was no mystery to be solved until the last 20-30 pages and then it was solved so easily, it was not believable.  There was way too much description of what she cooked and baked and I just found myself slogging through this one.  This would have made a great short story, but as a full length novel, there was just  not enough meat to it.
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I have been a long time Joanne Fluke/Hannah Swenson fan. From the story lines to awesome cookie recipes every book has been a blue ribbon winner. The Christmas Cake Murder is the best one yet because it is the prequel. Before she was married, before the dentist and the cop, before the cookie truck and the shop there was a girl who loved to cook and was finished with school, who moved back home and suffered the loss of her father. To get her Mom to reengage life after the death of her husband Hannah, her two sisters and a couple of civic minded ladies. This is a story within a story quite literally as Hannah reads each night from Essie's story book journals. This is a great story and just in time for the holiday season. I for one cannot wait to try my hand at the hazelnut truffles.
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Christmas Cake Murder by Joanne Fluke
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s Christmas many years ago, and at the top of young Hannah Swensen’s wish list is to be the go to baker in Lake Eden, Minnesota. With her dream of opening The Cookie Jar taking shape, Hannah’s life matches the hectic Christmas hustle and bustle in Lake Eden especially when she agrees to help recreate a spectacular Christmas Ball from the past in honor of Essie Granger, an elderly local in hospice care. Instead of poring over decadent dessert recipes for the merry festivities, Hannah and her family become enthralled by Essie’s old notebooks that tell the tale of a young woman escaping danger in New York. Hannah is surprised by Essie’s hidden talent for penning crime fiction, she’s even more surprised when she finds out that the story is true. As Hannah prepares to run a bakery and move out of her mother’s house, it’ll be a true miracle if she can prevent another yuletide disaster by solving a mystery as dense as a Christmas fruitcake.

I've been a fan of the Hannah Swensen series since I first read book #1 back in 2013.Even though there are many culinary cozy mystery series on the market today, this series is still one of my favorites. Even though despite some disappointments in the last 2 or 3 books I won't go into a lot of detail so I don't spoil things for any newer readers who haven't gotten very far in the series of for those who haven't read the last 3 books. This is a prequel that takes place shortly after the death of Hannah's father, and before Hannah has opened her bakery The Cookie Jar.

First I'm going to list what I like about this book first, then get to what I didn't like about the book. I like that the plot of is a bit different a story inside a story that contains a mystery where Hannah doesn't discover the body as she usually does. I like the fact that this story was completely pre-love triangle, while Hannah is busy deciding what to do with her life. I like that the book gives us some insight into the lives of Hannah, her sisters and her mother. Since I've invested so much time with these characters it was nice to read about what things were like for them before Hannah opened The Cookie Jar.

Now it's time for the things that I didn't like about this book. I didn't like that the dialogue seemed to be clumsy, clunky, and overuses the names of the characters throughout the conversations. I also didn't like that the characters would unnecessarily be repeating conversations or situations to other characters. The last thing that I didn't like was that the author's writing style seemed to be different, and less polished than the books in the rest of the series.

All in all this was a nice Christmas story and mystery with some new elements that I did enjoy. I do have to be honest and say the story should've gone through another round or two of editing to tighten things up, and bring it up to the standard of the first 22 books of this series.

I got an ARC of this book from Netgalley and Kensington books for my honest review.

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