Saturday, July 15, 2017

Nightshade for Warning

Author:  Bailey Cattrell
Series:  An Enchanted Garden Mystery #2
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Berkley
Publication Date:  May 2, 2017

Description:  Elliana Allbright’s custom-made perfume shop and the Enchanted Garden behind it are garnering all sorts of attention, but a dead body could bury her in bad publicity. . . .
 Ellie’s business and personal life have been flourishing in her hometown of Poppyville, California, since she opened Scents & Nonsense. She uses her very special skills to craft perfumes that almost magically ease heartache, inspire change, and bring joy—and her customers love to relax in the beautiful garden behind her shop with her corgi, Dash, and her cat, Nabokov. She even lives right next to the garden, in a compact “tiny house”—and she’s excited to hear that a journalist is going to write a feature about her home and garden for a national magazine.
But then the journalist is found dead, and suspicion falls on the last person to see him—who just happens to be Ellie’s brother’s girlfriend. So before everything goes to seed, Ellie must rely on her powers—observational and otherwise—to pick out the real killer from an ever-expanding bouquet of culprits.

My Review

The first thing that really strikes me about books by this author (as well as her alter ego Bailey Cates), is that the covers are bright, whimsical and really draw the readers attention. Once she has your attention with her covers, she draws the reader in with well plotted mysteries set in charming locations with characters that are whimsical, likable and down to earth. This series is no exception.

If you enjoyed the characters in the first book Ellis and the cast of secondary characters all make a return in this installment.  I really like Ellie's character.  She is well written and comes across the page as warm, caring, likable with just a touch of other worldliness.  I wouldn't call this a paranormal cozy but Ellie does have a bit of what people might call a sixth sense.  This time around, we get introduced to her brother Colby and his girlfriend Larken, both of whom I liked and hope that we get to see more of in future books.

The mystery is well plotted and unfolds evenly throughout the course of the story.  Larken is accused of murder and of course Detective Lang is pushing hard for her as the prime suspect.  Ellie knows she is innocent and so she undertakes her own investigation to clear Larken's name.  The author provides us with plenty of diverse suspects both old and new and weaves her clues throughout.  The identity of the killer was revealed in a dramatic fashion and quite frankly, was a complete surprise to me.

This is a series that has quickly captured my attention and has me entertained with each new installment.  I love the description of Ellie's tiny house, garden and her shop.  The author's descriptive style allows me to picture them all clearly and has me wanting to make a visit to Poppyville.  The characters are well written and engaging.  The mysteries are well plotted and will keep the reader guessing.  I have really enjoyed both books and look forward to more from this author and this series.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

30 Second Death

Author:  Laura Bradford
Series:  A Tobi Tobias Mystery #2
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Lyrical Underground
Expected Publication Date:  July 11, 2017

Description:  When Tobi Tobias opened her own advertising agency, Carter McDade was there for her every step of the way. A brilliant hairdresser, Carter has just landed his dream project: doing hair and makeup for a theatrical production of Rapunzel. But the dream turns into a nightmare when he runs into Fiona Renoir, a cruel, talentless starlet who won’t let Carter touch a hair on her head.

To get Fiona out of Carter’s hair, Tobi hires the difficult actress for a bit part in her latest commercial. But true to character, Fiona is a terror on set, and Tobi is starting to think she’s made the biggest mistake of her life. But things get even worse when Fiona drops dead in the hairdresser’s chair, and the only suspect is the man left holding the tainted hair dye, Carter McDade. And unless Tobi can prove his innocence, he’ll never do hair in this town again.

My Review

I was highly entertained by the first book in this series, so I couldn't wait to dive into this second book.  I can definitely say I was not disappointed.

What I love about this series so far is that the characters are well written and developed.  You have a real sense of their history and personality after only two books.  Personally, I think Tobi is a great protagonist.  She has all the characteristics most fans look for in cozy mystery characters and she has great wit and humor.  Plus, who doesn't love a character that thinks you have a genetic flaw if you don't like chocolate.  What I was surprised at is how much I am coming to enjoy the relationship between Tobi and Sam.  While he is only a high school student he has a lot of wisdom and good advice for someone that young.  Their relationship comes across almost like a sibling relationship.  The rest of the characters are back for another adventure including Grandpa Stu and his burgeoning relationship with Mrs. Rapple (insert shudder here).

The mystery was well-plotted with plenty of twists, turns and suspects, as we have come to expect from this author.  The mystery unfolded throughout the course of the story at a nice pace.  The victim was not well liked so that provide the reader with multiple suspects to choose from.  I eagerly turned the pages as fast as I could read to discover the murder's identity and I have to say I really didn't see this one coming.  There is a little romantic curve ball for both Mary Fran and Tobi but I think the reader will be happy with how Tobi's is resolved.  I think we will see Mary Fran's play out over the next book or so.

If you were a fan of the first book, I suggest you add this one to the TBR pile.  It is as good as the first and will have you laughing while eagerly turning pages to see how the cast clears Carter of suspicion of murder. I voluntarily read an advanced reader copy that was provided to me by the publisher through Netgalley.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

A Crime of Passion Fruit

Author:  Ellie Alexander
Series:  A Bakeshop Mystery #
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  St. Martin's
Publication Date:  June 27, 2017

Description:  Jules Capshaw is trying to keep her cool as Torte gets set to make its transformation from quaint, local confectionary cafĂ© to royal pastry palace. Meanwhile, Jules’s estranged husband Carlos is making a desperate plea for her to come aboard his cruise ship and dazzle everyone with her signature sweets. She may be skeptical about returning to her former nautical life with Carlos but Jules can’t resist an all-expense-paid trip, either. If only she knew that a dead body would find its way onto the itinerary . .

Now, instead of enjoying tropical drinks on deck between whipping up batches of sea-salted chocolates and flambĂ©ing fresh pineapple slices in the kitchen, Jules is plunged into dangerous waters. Her investigation leaves her with more questions than answers: Why can’t anyone on board identify the young woman? And how can she help Carlos keep passengers at ease with a killer in their midst? Jules feels like she’s ready to jump ship. Can she solve this case without getting in too deep?

My Review

This has become one of my favorite culinary cozy mystery series.  The characters really make this such a highly enjoyable, fun read. They are well written and developed characters that come across the page as warm, friendly and likable.  One of my favorite aspects of the series is the mother/daughter relationship between Jules and Helen Capshaw.  It is written with a genuine, authentic feel that draws the reader into the story.  The secondary cast of characters are also coming into their own at this point in the series as well.  What I particularly enjoyed about this book was that there was a bit of change in store for most of the characters be it professional or personal.  I think this will allow the author to craft many more wonderful stories in this series. 

This time around, we find Jules, Helen and The Professor headed out to sea.  Unfortunately for Jules, her penchant for finding dead bodies follows her out to sea.  No sooner have they set sail then Jules finds a dead body and is drawn into helping The Professor solve the mystery.  A secondary plot woven throughout the mystery deals with Jules and Carlos and what will be come of their marriage.  At first, I wasn't sure about Carlos, but the more he is woven into the stories I am starting to route for them to stay together.  How that will work - I guess we will just have to see what the author has in store.

The mystery is sort of a play on the murder in a closed room theme.  After all, it occurs when the ship has sailed so there is really no where for the murder to go.  Because there is little known about the murder victim, this allows Ms. Alexander to provide us with plenty of suspects, which she does.  Throw in her usual clues and misdirection and you have a terrific mystery with the killer revealed in a dramatic fashion.

I found this story to be very entertaining and it kept me engaged right through the end.  These characters are warm, friendly, funny, quirky and very likable.  The mystery is well crafted and the plot had a steady pace.  I can't wait to see what this author has in store for this series next and I will definitely be back for a visit to Ashland.

I voluntarily read an advanced reader copy provided to me by the publisher through Netgalley. 

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Death in Dark Blue


Author:  Julia Buckley
Series:  A Writer's Apprentice Mystery #2
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Berkley
Publications Date:  May 2 2017

Description:  Things are beginning to go right for Lena. She’s got a new job assisting suspense novelist and friend, Camilla Graham. She lives rent-free in Camilla’s beautiful, Gothic house. She even has a handsome new boyfriend, Sam West.

After being under attack by the media and his neighbors, Sam has recently been cleared of suspicion for murder. Journalists and townsfolk alike are remorseful, and one blogger would even like to apologize to him in person. But when she’s found dead behind Sam’s house, Lena must dodge paparazzi as she unravels the many mysteries that threaten to darken the skies of her little town and her newfound love with Sam.

My Review

This is the second book in this series and as a reader I couldn't have hoped from more that what Ms. Buckley delivered.  Most of you probably know that I am one of those readers that has to read a series in order, even if the books can be read as stand alones.  This is not one of those series. If you haven't read the first book I would urge you to do that first as the second book contains some spoilers from the first book.

This second book picks up a couple of month after the first book ended.  It is just as entertaining, or more so, than the first.  It is a fast paced mystery with a touch of gothic, some romance and a suspenseful mystery that will keep the reader turning pages as fast as they can.  Lena London, our protagonist, is a young mystery writer apprentice who has landed her dream job with her favorite author Camilla Graham.  Set in picturesque Blue Lake Indiana, Lena starts to think things are finally going right when another murder related to her boyfriend, Sam West, occurs right on his front lawn.  Poor Lena has the misfortune of finding the body and another mystery ensues.  The secondary cast  of characters consists of a mix of those we met in book one and some new ones thrown in as well.  All of the characters are well written and help propel the plot to a very climatic ending.

The mystery was engaging with is share of twists and turns. I thought Julia Buckley did a wonderful job weaving a complex and layered mystery that unfolded throughout the entire story.  One clue would lead to the next until Lena, Sam, Camilla and the rest of the group solve the murder, and a larger mystery involving Sam's wife Victoria.  The ending does a nice job of setting up a carryover mystery for the next book.

I was very impressed with the level of writing and the overall strength of the characters and the mystery.  I am a big fan of this series and can't wait for the next book.