Cover Image: Christmas Dessert Murder

Christmas Dessert Murder

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Member Reviews

Christmas Dessert Murder by Joanne Fluke is a double header of two previously released holiday stories. It was kind of nice to reread these two novellas and be reminded of some delicious sounding recipes.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for allowing me to read this book.
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Two different stories that were previously released.  They are still great reads. The receipes are a delicious added bonus! Thanks #netgalley and #Keningston for the eARC in exchange for an honest review.
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I was confused at first upon starting Joanne Fluke's Christmas Dessert Murder, until I understood that these were re-releases of two previous novellas.  My confusion didn't go away with the prologue.  What was she doing with Ross???!!!  Other than that I enjoyed the review of the origins of Hannah's business and the nuances of her family life. 'Inspirations' from her father were especially tender to me.  I am always wondering what Hannah will decide about her personal life, and if she will suffer serious cardiac problems from the enormous amounts of coffee she drinks.  I still am onboard.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.  The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.
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I love the Hannah Swenson series and was excited when I saw a new one coming out for Christmas. Imagine my surprise when it wasn't a new story but bits and pieces of two older stories.  This book is made up of Christmas Caramel Murder and Christmas Cake Murder.  The recipes from those two stories are included but no new story about Hannah and her family and friends.  If you have already read these two stories you probably won't be interested in it but if you are new to Hannah then it is a good introduction to her and her story.
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Fluke's lighthearted, fun reads are always a good choice, even though they're about murder. The tale she weaves about an old case, prior to her and Ross, is perfectly executed. The whole blast from the past thing is a little weird because of the fact that Hannah was talking to two dead characters, who talked back, during the book. Possibly more. Anyway, it was good as always, but the Hannah stories are starting to run dry for me. She needs to stop stringing Norman around.  Make us want to read her story rather than another because I'm just about there.
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Christmas Dessert Murder is a collection of two previously released Hannah Swensen titles. I have read the entire culinary mystery series and enjoy catching up with characters we have come to know over the years and stories. There is nothing out of the norm for this book series. It is exactly what I expected and an enjoyable read!

Thank you to NetGalley and Kensington Publishing Corporation for the ARC!\
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This is a collection of previously published short stories with a Christmas theme. Long-time fans of Hannah Swensen will enjoy these little trips down memory lane.
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Joanne Fluke brings us back to Lake Eden with two stories.  Hannah and Lisa are getting ready for making the baked goods for the town's play.  Turns out, Mrs. Claus was not the most friendly person and paid for it with her life.  In the other story, Hannah agrees to recreate the first a Christmas Ball for a valued member of the community.  While researching, they come across an intriguing story that has them captivated.

Joanne Fluke brings us not only one story, but two stories.  She always gets your attention right away and keeps you wanting more.  The foods mentioned and recipes shared makes you want to try them out immediately.  It is like visiting with great friends and catching up with them.  I really enjoyed reading about Hannah, her family, and friends.  I look forward to their next adventure.

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.  I would like to thank NetGalley and Kensington for this privilege.
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*I received a free copy of this novel from NetGalley and Kensington for my honest review.*

I didn't realize that this book was a repub of 2 previous 'novellas' and I didn't realize that when I read the 2 previous books that they were only novellas. I feel a bit ripped off. The other thing I found annoying was that both books were written as flashbacks. And considering that the series is currently at #27, releasing a new book that combines 20 and 23 seems odd. They were not published alone that long ago to need a republication.

Hannah is telling stories in flashbacks in both novels. Someone is killed and Hannah bakes. The stories center more around food and eating and coffee than the murders. These stories are getting to be more young adult type writing and story lines and the series has jumped the shark in my opinion.
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I am typically a fan of Joanne Fluke but I was really disappointed in  these two classic Hannah Swenson stories.
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In this volume, Hannah Swensen, baker extraordinaire, reprises her roles in two Christmas stories.  

The first is Christmas Caramel Murder, from book #20 as told by Hannah to Ross Burton.  Should she, or shouldn't she make the fabulous chocolate caramel recipe only used once before, but associated (very loosely) with a chilling death in the snow?  Read about the path that led two people to meet on a cold dark night, that ended in murder.

The second story; Christmas Cake Murder #23, is the tale of Essie, the sweetest, kindest woman in Lake Eden, who dedicated her life to helping children whenever she could.  Telling stories to orphans from the Children's Home; watching over single parent kids while their parents worked.  Always a smile and a kind word.  Even those closest to her didn't know the poor conditions she lived in or why.  And no one knew the secret she might take to her grave.

However, some wonderful women heard about Essie's dream of a Christmas Ball like the one she attended in her youth.  Her happiest memory was of that night when the lights were turned down and only glowing candles illuminated a parade of grand Christmas cakes of different shapes and sizes, seemingly of every flavor, as they were carried around the ballroom.  If only they could recreate that for Essie, who had done so much for the community!

They are all in luck!  Because Hannah's mother, Delores takes on the task of organizing the event, and Hannah will be the head baker!  Now, if they only had a bakery she could work in...

As a long-time fan of this series, I enjoyed reading these stories again.  Joanne Fluke has her own special way of telling a story, and even if you figure out who committed the crime, it's always fun to go along for the ride!

I was hoping these were new stories, so it was a bit disappointing.  But well worth the read if you don't have the entire series or the books in question.  It's also a fun way to introduce a friend to these mysteries by giving it as a gift!

Great stories, but not new:  3/5 Stars
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This is an anthology, of two Christmas themed Hannah Swenson mysteries that had previously been released and been more novella in length. If you’re new to Joanne Fluke and the Hannah Swenson books, I’m sure they would be a nice fun read, Christmas themed, vanilla romance with a bit of mystery to solve, with recipes added each chapter to boot, which is always fun. If you’re already a Joanne Fluke fan and have read all the books in the series, as I have, then you were likely bitterly disappointed by these two novellas when they were originally released. They take place as flashbacks, because Fluke unfortunately wrote herself into a hole she cannot get out of, and chose to write these books as flashbacks so she could act as if she hadn’t made those fatal plot errors in the books preceding. Unsatisfying as someone who has followed the series, but as a stand-alone to a newbie, should be a decent read.
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Christmas Desert Murder by Joanne Fluke is a wonderful, festive collection of two Christmas-themed books in one of my all-time favorite cozy mystery series ever: Hannah Swensen series. 

This book consists of two books in one: Christmas Caramel Murder and Christmas Cake Murder. These books were previously released and are # 20 and #23 respectively. 

I have already read both of these in the past, however after reading all 27 books and the multiple novellas, I have begun to read several for a second time (yes I love this series that much!). 

It was great to revisit Lake Eden, Minnesota again and try to imagine feeling the chill in the air as it is warm where I am living at this time. 

Both are excellent additions to this impressive series, especially the Christmas Cake novel as it is a throwback to when Hannah was just starting down the infamous sleuthing path she has established by now. Both are equally enjoyable and I look forward to anything that Ms. Fluke writes. 

Truly scrumptious and has left me craving gingerbread as we speak.

5/5 stars 

Thank you NG and Kensington for this wonderful arc and in return I am submitting my unbiased and voluntary review and opinion.

I am posting this review to my GR and Bookbub accounts immediately and will post it to my Amazon, Instagram, and B&N accounts upon publication.
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Somehow I missed the fact that this is a reprint of two Hannah Swenson books from previous years. I am not a fan of reprints but I always love the books in this series so I will say that even though I have read both these books (and reviewed them) I will say again they are a joy to read. And the recipes that come with the book are an added bonus. But beware, these are NOT new books. A bit disappointing. Thank you NetGalley for the advanced readers copy for review.
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I love the Hannah Swensen series. I've been a reader since book one came out in 2000. It was literally the first cozy culinary mystery I ever read. I read every single book as soon as it comes out. And I've seen every Hallmark movie several times. Gotta get my Hannah fix! Each year there is usually a holiday story or novella at Christmas and a new book. This time, the holiday story is a reprint of two earlier books in the series. I have to say I was a bit disappointed to not get a new Hannah holiday treat. I don't necessarily dislike reprints, but if I was going to choose two earlier Hannah stories, it wouldn't have been these two. Just not my favorites....

This book includes: Christmas Caramel Murder (Book #20, published in 2016) and Christmas Cake Murder (Book #23, published in 2018). 

I'm a dedicated reader of this series. I will keep reading each new book until there aren't any more. The series went through a rough patch a couple years ago, but things seem to have improved. 

Readers will enjoy these two holiday cozy stories. The recipes sprinkled amid the stories are wonderful, as usual. And Hannah and her crew are awesome. I've been reading this series for more than 20 years -- what more can I say! :) I keep coming back again and again for Hannah, Mike, Norman and the whole gang....plus recipes from The Cookie Jar!

I, of course, reviewed both of these prior books when they came out. Here are those reviews: 

CHRISTMAS CARAMEL MURDER (Originally reviewed 2/2/2017)

Christmas Caramel Murder is the 20th book in the Hannah Swensen series. This story is a novella of only about 200 pages or so, including the recipes sprinkled throughout the book.

Hannah's new husband, Ross, asks her why The Cookie Jar won't be selling Christmas caramels for the holidays. Hannah replies that she and Lisa, her business partner and good friend, believe the candies they made last holiday season are bad luck. When she made them last Christmas, she found a bag of them near a dead body. Then she settles in to tell Ross the whole story of the murder case and a Christmas spirit that appeared to her.

This story at first reminded me a lot of a prior Hannah Swensen holiday novella, Candy Cane Murder. Hannah saw something in the snow and walked through the drifts down into a ditch and found a body. Both stories started out the same with a naughty Claus dead in the snow, but in Christmas Caramel Murder, it's the local slut who was playing Mrs. Claus in the Christmas play who got iced.

This story was short, but basically enjoyable. It's pretty much fluff with lots of recipes and subplot like what they are baking for the holidays, the broken popcorn machine at the high school and Norman's new huge television. The mystery is simple and not that involved. But, this is a cozy mystery....so fluff and light mystery is ok. That's how it's supposed to be. This would be a great cozy to read in front of the nice fire on Christmas Eve.

I was a little disappointed in this book. Mostly because it's so short. If you leave out the subplot unnecessary-to-the-mystery portions and the recipes, the mystery itself is maybe 50 pages tops. The rest is fluff stuff. And I found some parts of the plot to be just too cheesy -- like Hannah's father appearing as a ghost visiting her in the night to help her with the case. Really? At one point, he told her to throw a pen at him to prove he was a spirit. Umm....yeah. A bit too hokey for me. Plus, this story is told as a flashback to her new husband, Ross....the parts with Mike and Norman still acting all in love with her was just a bit weird since it was a story she was relating to her husband. I dunno....just seems like Joanne Fluke wrote this hurridly without paying too much attention. I feel like maybe she took the basic plot of Candy Cane Murder, replacing the victim with a woman and making little tweaks here and there to form a new story. Old hat. But.....the story would still be a nice cozy read during the holidays. It is what it is. After writing 21 books in this series, it might just be running out of steam a bit.

I'm surprised this wasn't another holiday collection like Candy Cane Murder that also included stories by Linda Levine and Leslie Meier. I could have justified the $20 price tag of the hardback book a little more if it had more than just the short, fluffy Hannah Christmas tale. But, it was an enjoyable read. I checked it out of the library, rather than buying it.

CHRISTMAS CAKE MURDER (Originally reviewed 8/2/2018)

I have been a fan of the Hannah Swensen series for years. Although there are a lot of culinary cozy series now, this series was one of the first. After 23 books, this series is still one of my favorites, despite some....disappointments....in the last couple of books (not going to say what so I don't spoil things for newer readers but those who have read the entire series know I'm talking about R.) This book is a prequel taking readers back to before Hannah opened her bakery, The Cookie Jar, ....so it circumvents the R debacle. I was so excited when I saw this available for review. A Hannah prequel! Yep -- I'm up for it!

I'm going to delve into what I love about this book first, then get to several problems I see. Always the good first! :)

I love the fact that the plot of this book is a bit different....a bit of a story inside a story. Hannah comes home after college, not sure what to do with the rest of her life. She settles back into life in Lake Eden, helping her mother and sisters after the recent death of her father. An elderly much-loved resident of the little MN town has fallen on hard times and is in the hospital recovering from a fall. Hannah and her mother discover that the woman has been living in squalor in the old theater building in town. They come up with a plan to recreate the annual Christmas Ball, an event that Essie remembers fondly. And, they go to the old building Essie has been living in to pack up some of her belongings to bring to the hospital. While looking for items Essie has requested, they find some old notebooks. Essie was writing a story. Hannah, her sisters and mother all get totally sucked into Essie's story, which turns out might be a real mystery about the past. So...a story within a story. Nice creative touch for a Hannah Swensen Christmas tale!

I liked the fact that this story was completely pre-love triangle. For those new to the series, through most of the series, Hannah was torn between two men in Lake Eden. Things just dragged on too long, and when it finally did resolve, it was disappointing. But, in this prequel tale, Hannah is busy deciding to open her bakery and coffee shop. No love triangle. No male competition. Not even Moishe, Hannah's kitty cat.

Lots of recipes! From pork roast to breakfast burritoes and peach pie to mint cookies, there is a recipe to tempt almost everybody!

There is some nice character development in this prequel. Dolores has just lost her husband and is having difficulty dealing with the loss. Hannah has just finished college and wants to change her life plan of teaching college to something she will actually enjoy -- baking. The story gives some nice insight into Hannah, her sisters and her mother. I'm invested in these characters after years of reading this series. It was nice to read about what things were like for them before Hannah opened The Cookie Jar.

Much as I love, love, love getting a Hannah-fix, I do have to give an honest review.... Some problems evident in the past several books in this series are still a problem with this one.
Clunky, clumsy dialogue. Overuse of characters' names. Over explanation of situations, or characters unnecessarily repeating conversations or situations to other characters. It's just different (and more amateurish) writing than what I'm used to from this series. I went to my library's digital site and downloaded an early book in the series to see if I'm imagining things.....and no, I stand by my analysis. The writing style is completely different, and much less polished than the rest of the series. The last 3 books have been problematic. Ghost writer? Different editor? Something has changed. I'm invested in this series after 23 books and years of reading, but I'm disappointed by the changes in quality of writing and in the characters' behavior.

But.....all in all....I love this series and the characters. This was a nice Christmas story with some new elements that I enjoyed. But I have to be honest and say that the story should have gone through another round of editing to tighten things up, bringing it up to the standard of the first 20 books or so of this series.

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Kensington. All opinions expressed are entirely my own**
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It's Christmas in Lake Eden! Christmas Dessert Murder combines Christmas Caramel Murder (#20) and Christmas Cake Murder (#23) into one book. These addicting mysteries are so festive, and have me cozying up on the sofa pretending it's the holiday season! It's always good to catch up with all of our favorite characters. I'm looking forward to the next Joanne Fluke release, and all of the tasty recipes that come along with it!
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Two Christmas mysteries in one. A gift for the cozy mystery lover.  

While I like this long running series and the whodunit are well written, I really feel like the actual text is being ghost written.  Not to mention that I am SO over the constant use of names in the dialogue.  Who keeps saying the other person’s name through a casual conversation?  It’s like nails on a chalkboard to me and I forget this fact until I start reading a new entry in the series.
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Two tales in one.

Welcome to the wonderful world of cozy mysteries. Joanna Fluke knows how to set a scene, create a character, make you feel like you’re right there next to them solving crime. Settle in for the day or night and read this fantastic page turner.
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Christmas Dessert Murder by Joanne Fluke is a reprint of two Christmas books previously released. Thank you Netgalley for the advance reader copy in exchange for an honest review. I started reading this book and realized I already had read it before. It was nice to reread it though. This was a great Christmas package. I always liked reading Joanne Fluke's books and loved the movies they have made from the books.
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Through NetGalley, I received a free copy of CHRISTMAS DESSERT MURDER (Two Christmas novellas in the Hannah Swenson Mystery Series) by Joanne Fluke in exchange for an honest review.  In CHRISTMAS CARAMEL MURDER, which I hadn’t read before, Hannah tells Ross a story about why she feels like caramels at Christmas are unlucky.  One Christmas, Hannah and Lisa agreed to provide treats for a local play.  When the woman portraying Mrs. Claus is killed shortly after publicly kissing Lisa’s husband, both Lisa and her husband become suspects in the woman’s murder.  CHRISTMAS CAKE MURDER, which was familiar to me, is the tale how Hannah ended up opening the Cookie Jar.  Hannah has just returned to Lake Eden following her father’s death and needs to get her mother to reengage in life.  The plan to do so, helping out a recently hospitalized town elder Essie Granger, results in the family persuading the town to recreate the historic Christmas Ball, which was one of Essie’s happiest memories.  As Hannah and her family prepare for the ball, they end up reading Essie’s personal papers, which contain an unfinished crime story.  When the Christmas Ball arrives, Hannah finds out the story was true crime and that Essie planned to conclude the tale at the Yule event.

I liked the stories.  I recommend this book to fans of the series and to fans of cozy mysteries featuring murder, Christmas time, family, and food.

#ChristmasDessertMurder #NetGalley
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